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TGIF: 2009 Fantasy Football Playoff Help

Alex Smith

It’s the most wonderful time of the yeeeaaaarrrrrr! With no disrespect to Any Williams, I am not referring to Christmas. Instead, I am celebrating the fantasy football playoffs.

While it looks like that my teams will be watching from the sidelines this season (thank you Steve Slaton, Jay Cutler, Eddie Royal, Eli Manning…what the hell!), I have not forgotten about my duty to every reader out there, and that is to provide you with advice and analysis every week.

So, playoff time means crunch time. Some leagues out there hold playoffs in Weeks 14, 15, and 16. Others do it in Weeks 15, 16, and 17. The important thing to look at are the matchups, especially with the end of the season taking its toll on the health of players and if a team wants to bench certain starters for the “real” NFL playoffs.

So here for you are a list of the worst pass defenses and worst rush defenses in football as of Friday, December 11th. Along with that are each team’s matchups for the next four weeks and who you should start, sit, or pickup.

Bottom 10 Passing Defenses

1. Detroit Lions (275 yds per game)

Week 14 – @ Baltimore

Joe Flacco has been hot and cold all season, but I think facing Detroit will produce a huge fantasy day. Look for Derrick Mason to rack up the yds and of course, RB Ray Rice will be running and catching it all day.

Week 15 – vs. Arizona Cardinals

Nothing much to say here as Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin will have fun all day against the Lions.

Week 16 – @ San Francisco 49ers

QB Alex Smith is flying under the radar and you will want to pick him up for his game against Detroit. Also of note is rookie WR Michael Crabtree, who may turn in a great performance if the Lions decide to gang up on TE Vernon Davis.

Week 17 – vs. Chicago

Even though Jay Cutler has been a terrible disappointment this season, I can’t see him missing this opportunity. Don’t be afraid to start him, even in your fantasy championship game. Receivers Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, and Earl Bennett should benefit from the matchup as well.

2. Tennessee Titans (267 yds per game)

Week 14 – vs. St. Louis

I really can’t endorse Kyle Boller as a legitimate starter for your team. The Titans may have lost last week to Indy, but Kyle Boller is no Peyton Manning.

Week 15 – vs. Miami

Chad Henne is coming off a career-best 335 yds and 2 TD against New England. Miami may have a great rush attack, but the Titans barely allow 100 rush yds to teams each week, so passing it will be a better idea. Henne has taken a liking to WR Davone Bess, so both are good pickups.

Week 16 – vs. San Diego

Not that you wouldn’t be doing so already, but Philip Rivers is an obvious “must start” if you are still in the playoffs. Tight End Antonio Gates is going to get most of the looks, but don’t be surprised if the Titans make this a high-scoring affair, which could lead San Diego to throw it more and involve the struggling WR Vincent Jackson a bit more in the game plan.

Week 17 – @ Seattle

QB Matt Hasselbeck hasn’t been outstanding this season, but he also hasn’t been terrible. He is a solid choice for a fantasy championship game, especially with receiving weapons at his disposal. This makes T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Nate Burleson great options as both teams have poor secondaries and will be throwing it around all day.

3. Arizona Cardinals (258 yds per game)

Week 14 – @ San Francisco

Again, QB Alex Smith is an underrated player, so you should stash him on your bench for the playoffs.

Week 15 – @ Detroit

Rookie QB Matthew Stafford is always playing hurt, so his availability for the game will be unknown. However, it is not like he hasn’t pulled out huge games before (Cleveland). If he plays, then he and WR Calvin Johnson could turn in big numbers.

Week 16 – vs. St. Louis

The last time the two teams faced, QB Kyle Boller wasn’t the starter, and the Rams relied more on RB Steven Jackson. Boller and any Rams’ receiver are not a good play at all for the rest of the season, no matter who they face.

Week 17 – vs. Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers and company will get to leave icy Lambeau field in December and play their final game in the warm comforts of Arizona. Rodgers should be a no-brainer to start, as should receivers Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and on the sleeper side, tight end Jermichael Finley.

4. Atlanta Falcons (255 yds per game)

Week 14 – vs. New Orleans

Do I really have to say anything about this one? Start all of your Saints! Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, and Devery Henderson should all be on somebody’s starting roster this week.

Week 15 – @ New York (Jets)

Mark Sanchez will probably be back in time for this game. The Jets are more successful at running the ball than throwing it, so Sanchez may not be putting up eye-popping numbers. If they choose to throw, then Jerricho Cotchery is your man to start. Braylon Edwards may get looks, but he will just drop them.

Week 16 – vs. Buffalo

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has proved that he can throw it well against bad secondaries (Jacksonville and Miami), so playing him is not a crazy idea. As disappointing as Terrell Owens has been, you should start him against this terrible defense.

Week 17 – @ Tampa Bay

Trusting Josh Freeman may not be the best idea, but he did have a lot of success against Atlanta in their last meeting, throwing for 250 yds and 2 TD. His favorite target is tight end Kellen Winslow and WR Antonio Bryant has been sneaking his way back into the passing game lately.

5. Kansas City Chiefs (251 yds per game)

Week 14 – vs. Buffalo

I said it above, Ryan Fitzpatrick can throw it well against bad defenses.

Week 15 – vs. Cleveland

The Browns just beat the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers on Thursday, so they can move the ball against a struggling defense. That being said, they also ran the ball 37 times, so Brady Quinn may not be the focus. That is unless the Chiefs put up a fight, which they probably won’t. Sorry, but this game doesn’t exactly have “offensive showcase” written all over it.

Week 16 – @ Cincinnati

QB Carson Palmer has chosen not to throw it unless he has to this season (212 yds pr game), so expect a heavy dose of Cedric Benson against Kansas City.

Week 17 – @ Denver

This may also be a heavy display of running. Considering the Denver defense is playing well and the Chiefs offense can’t do anything, I can’t see QB Kyle Orton or WR Brandon Marshall beefing up the stat sheet.

6. San Francisco 49ers (251 yds per game)

Week 14 – vs. Arizona

Uhhhhhh…I shouldn’t have to tell you to start Kurt Warner and Company.

Week 15 – @ Philadelphia

Philly’s running game is not what it used to be, so passing is in the cards in this game. Hopefully DeSean Jackson is fully recovered by the time this game takes place. Rookie Jeremy Maclin should also be in store for good numbers.

Week 16 – vs. Detroit

Well, both teams have horrendous pass defenses, so a lot of points should be scored. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will be coming from Detroit. Whatever QB is at the helm, I would expect a mediocre day, but WR Calvin Johnson is always a good bet for solid numbers.

Week 17 – @ St. Louis

The Rams were held scoreless in a 35-0 loss during their last meeting and not much has changed since then. Avoid the Rams offense in this one.

7. Seattle Seahawks (244 yds per game)

Week 14 – @ Houston

The Seahawks are 1-5 on the road this season, giving up almost 26 points per game. Matt Schaub should be good to go as well as WR Andre Johnson. Kevin Walter may also be a nice surprise since Houston has absolutely no running game, which should translate to throwing it constantly.

Week 15 – vs. Tampa Bay

Josh Freeman may throw more interceptions than TD’s, but he will rack up yards. This won’t make Freeman himself a good play, but tight end Kellen Winslow and WR Antonio Bryant will have nice stat lines.

Week 16 – @ Green Bay

This is obviously just another feeding frenzy for Aaron Rodgers, Donald Driver, and Greg Jennings.

Week 17 – vs. Tennessee

The Seahawks don’t allow a lot of rushing yds, and QB Vince Young has shown us that he can throw it, and throw it well. A nice option for this game is rookie WR Kenny Britt, who has become Young’s go-to guy.

8. Miami Dolphins (243 yds per game)

Week 14 – @ Jacksonville

David Garrard is astronomically better at home than on the road. I would not hesitate to start him this week. This will also mean great things for breakout receiver Mike Sims-Walker.

Week 15 – @ Tennessee

Miami is 2-4 on the road this season and the Titans have won their last three home games. It is the Chris Johnson show in Tennessee, but given that both teams have poor secondaries, I wouldn’t be shocked if this came down to the QB’s.

Week 16 – vs. Houston

The Dolphins are giving up almost 26 points per game at home this season. Houston is 2-2 on the road, but are scoring 25 points per game on the road. I’d give the edge to Houston airing it out against Miami.

Week 17 – vs. Pittsburgh

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers have been struggling lately. They have lost five in a row including losses to Kansas City, Oakland, and Cleveland. Big Ben is actually putting up better numbers on the road this season. If Pittsburgh can show signs of improvement in the next few weeks, then start Roethlisberger and Hines Ward. Otherwise, stay away.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars (242 yds per game)

Week 14 – vs. Miami

Henne has been throwing it a lot lately and the Jaguars are allowing an average of 252 pass yds in their last three games.

Week 15 – vs. Indianapolis

Peyton Manning will continue to steamroll the competition. Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark are obvious starts, but if he is still available, pick up and start WR Pierre Garcon.

Week 16 – @ New England

The Patriots have had trouble lately, but even if they lose, it won’t be because of Tom Brady and the receivers. Start Brady, Moss, and Welker as you usually do, you won’t regret it.

Week 17 – @ Cleveland

The Jaguars are actually really good at stopping the run, so I think that Brady Quinn will put forth a solid game. Someone of note to add to your roster for this one is WR Mohamed Massaquoi, who is usually the recipient of the passing game.

10. Cleveland Browns (238 yds per game)

Week 14 – vs. Pittsburgh

Already happened, Roethlisberger was sacked eight time.

Week 15 – @ Kansas City

Matt Cassel has been piss-poor this season, but he can deliver against Cleveland, I know he can. Chris Chambers has been Cassel’s favorite receiver. Don’t forget about Dwayne Bowe! His suspension will be over by this game and he may come back hungry for a chance to redeem himself.

Week 16 – vs. Oakland

Bruce Gradkowski has thrown 6 TD and 1 INT over his last three games, so he can clearly move the ball down field. I would start tight end Zach Miller since he has been the only dependable receiver on Oakland all season.

Week 17 – vs. Jacksonville

The matchup may look good, but David Garrard has only thrown one touchdown on the road this season. Yeah, six road games, 1 TD and 2 INT. Don’t even think about starting Garrard or any Jaguars receiver.

Bottom 10 Rushing Defenses

1. Buffalo Bills (172 yds per game)

Week 14 – @ Kansas City

I think the Chiefs will be playing from behind for the most part, but Jamaal Charles will get almost 20 touches on the ground and through the air. He is averaging 4.8 ypc this season, so a respectable performance is on the horizon.

Week 15 – vs. New England

The Patriots are known more for passing, but they have to take advantage of this opportunity. The backfield is headed by Laurence Maroney, who prior to last week, had scored eight touchdowns in his previous six games. RB Sammy Morris will be returning from injury and should seek his way to 10 touches.

Week 16 – @ Atlanta

Michael Turner is questionable for Week 14, so he may be all healed up in time for Buffalo. Turner would be the obvious play, but if he doesn’t go, then Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood would share duties.

Week 17 – vs. Indianapolis

By this time, the Colts will have the #1 seed and will want to rest their starters. That is unless they are still undefeated and want to make a run at the perfect season. If they are undefeated, then Addai is a great start. If they are resting starters, then pick up rookie Donald Brown, who will have a huge game.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (160 yds per game)

Week 14 – vs. New York (Jets)

You’d be crazy not to start Thomas Jones this week. Also look for rookie Shonn Greene in your free agent pool. This will be such a blowout that Greene is in line for 10+ carries.

Week 15 – @ Seattle

The Seahawks backfield is a mess. Head coach Jim Mora refuses to give the ball to Justin Forsett, who has outperformed Julius Jones in almost every way. Whoever gets the ball, they will have decent numbers, but trying to figure out who gets it is a mystery.

Week 16 – @ New Orleans

Pierre Thomas was thought to be the #1 guy coming into the season, but Mike Bell has gotten more carries over the past few weeks. Even if the two split the workload, they will both come up big against Tampa Bay.

Week 17 – vs. Atlanta

Michael Turner should be 100% by the time this game rolls around, so there is no question whether or not you should start him.

3. Oakland Raiders (158 yds per game)

Week 14 – vs. Washington

Washington has had a carousel of running backs this season. Most recently, Rock Cartwright has been disappointing, so now enter Quinton Ganther. Oakland’s giving up 168 rush yds per game over the past three weeks, so Ganther is a solid bet.

Week 15 – @ Denver

Knowshon Moreno will get the bulk of the work, but Correll Buckhalter has re-emerged as a nice compliment to the rookie stud. It should be an all-running game for Denver, so start Moreno and run to free agency and pick up Buckhalter.

Week 16 – @ Cleveland

As they showed on Thursday against Pittsburgh, Cleveland has no problem running the ball all the time. They ran it 37 times against the Steelers, with Chris Jennings getting 20 carries. There is no clear #1 back in Cleveland, so Jennings will split carries with Jerome Harrison, and even Joshua Cribbs will get some work out of the Wildcat.

Week 17 – vs. Baltimore

Simply put: Ray Rice will have one of the biggest offensive days for a running back all season that will shoot his stock through the roof for fantasy drafts in 2010.

4. Cleveland Browns (148 yds per game)

Week 14 – vs. Pittsburgh

Already happened. Steelers couldn’t do anything in the loss.

Week 15 – @ Kansas City

Jamaal Charles gets an easy schedule in the playoffs with back-to-back games against poor rushing defenses. This might just end up being a rushing game on both sides. Charles could be in line for 25+ carries.

Week 16 – vs. Oakland

I expect Oakland to throw it a lot more than running it. Justin Fargas would get the bulk of the carries, but don’t count on him carrying the ball more than 15 times.

Week 17 – vs. Jacksonville

David Garrard is terrible on the road while Maurice Jones-Drew is god-like away from home, averaging 104 yds per game with seven TD in six road games this season.

5. St. Louis Rams (146 yds per game)

Week 14 – @ Tennessee

Chris Johnson is the NFL’s leading rusher, so this isn’t even up for discussion.

Week 15 – vs. Houston

Steve Slaton is on the IR, opening the door for Ryan Moats and Chris Brown. Together, both backs are averaging less than 4.0 ypc. If you need to choose one, then pick Brown, since he will get the goal line touches.

Week 16 – @ Arizona

You can’t go wrong with either Tim Hightower or Beanie Wells. In their last meeting in Week 11, the two combined for 184 yds on 28 carries (14 each).

Week 17 – vs. San Francisco

I see the 49ers going up big in this one and just running the clock out. Frank Gore has been a disappointment again this season, averaging only 66 rush yds per game. In this game though, I think he will take full advantage of garbage time.

6. Kansas City Chiefs (143 yds per game)

Week 14 – vs. Buffalo

Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch will split the work load. Jackson is clearly the better back, so he should have the better game rushing and receiving out of the backfield.

Week 15 – vs. Cleveland

I said it above, I think this will be an all-out rushing war. Chris Jennings and Jerome Harrison are wise pickups for this game.

Week 16 – @ Cincinnati

Cedric Benson looks to have another game with 30+ carries in this one…that is if he hasn’t been run into the ground by then. If he played every game this season, he’d be on pace for over 380 carries.

Week 17 – @ Denver

Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter will split duties. I’d actually go with Buckhalter since he is likely to catch more passes than Moreno.

7. Carolina Panthers (133 yds per game)

Week 14 – @ New England

Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris will do a 60-40 split of the carries. Maroney will have more rush yds and will be the one to score and Morris will catch more passes.

Week 15 – vs. Minnesota

If you actually bench Adrian Peterson, then you don’t deserve to play this game.

Week 16 – @ New York (Giants)

Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs are evenly splitting carries. I’d bet on Bradshaw having the more productive day since he is the better of the two.

Week 17 – vs. New Orleans

Mike Bell is getting more carries than Pierre Thomas, but I like both against a terrible run defense. As usual, the Saints will be ahead by the 4th quarter, so a heavy does of running late in the game will benefit both Bell and Thomas.

8. Chicago Bears (126 yds per game)

Week 14 – vs. Green Bay

Ryan Grant isn’t setting the world on fire this season, but he has been decent. In their last meeting all the way back in Week 1, Grant had 61 yds and a score.

Week 15 – @ Baltimore

Chicago is giving up 150 rush yds per game over the last three weeks. This is nothing but good news for Ray Rice.

Week 16 – vs. Minnesota

Not that you would bench Peterson, but he had 85 yds and a TD in their last meeting. Don’t neglect Chester Taylor as well. Taylor put together 84 total yds and a score when the two teams last met in Week 12.

Week 17 – @ Detroit

It may seem ridiculous, but Kevin Smith is a decent option for this one. His ypc were crap in their last meeting (1.6 on 19 carries), but he found the enzone twice in the first half before Chicago went on a scoring frenzy.

9. Washington Redskins (121 yds per game)

Week 14 – @ Oakland

Washington’s pass defense is in the top five in football, so Bruce Gradkowski would be wise to not throw it. Justin Fargas could get 20+ touches in a game where both teams will be running the ball constantly.

Week 15- vs. New York (Giants)

Brandon Jacobs got more carries when the teams first met this season, but Ahmad Bradshaw had the better day by rushing for 60 yds on 12 carries. Bradshaw is the better option again for this game.

Week 16 – vs. Dallas

Marion Barber will get the most carries and he had 99 yds in their last meeting. Felix Jones will get 12-15 carries and will make the most of it.

Week 17 – @ San Diego

LaDainian Tomlinson is not his old self, but he is still LT dammit! He’ll still carry 20 times and come close to 80 yds and a score. Darren Sproles will steal some carries and is always a threat to catch out of the backfield.

10. Atlanta Falcons (119 yds per game)

Week 14 – vs. New Orleans

Drew Brees will rack up the points early and often. Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas will also move the ball well and they will both run the clock down late in the game.

Week 15 – @ New York (Jets)

Thomas Jones should continue his great season in this one. I don’t see rookie Shonn Greene getting as many carries in this game, so he isn’t a good pickup.

Week 16 – vs. Buffalo

The Bills should concentrate more on exposing Atlanta’s poor secondary, so a heavy running game isn’t in the cards. Fred Jackson will be the more productive back since he is a good bet to get some catches out of the backfield.

Week 17 – @ Tampa Bay

I think the Falcons will be controlling this game, so Tampa Bay won’t have the luxury of displaying a potent rushing attack. Atlanta will lead this one and the Bucs will be forced to throw it rather than run it.

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