Friday, December 24, 2010

Five Bold Predictions for Championship Week

Originally written for

Congratulations! If you're reading this, it means Week 16 still matters to your team. And yes, unless you've enjoyed watching guys like Jim Sorgi decide fantasy titles, Week 16 should absolutely be your league's Championship Week. So here's hoping you're in the title mix, but hey, Toilet Bowls can be a good source of second-rate smack talk as well.

I've spent countless hours this season meticulously breaking down box scores in search of exploitable trends to share with you. Some have come to fruition, and others have perplexed me to the point of considering a Glen Coffee-like early retirement from the industry. Listen, if you're alive in Week 16, the lineup decisions should be yours. Don't be a slave to the rankings -- go with your gut. It's a long offseason, and nothing will make it longer than going against your inclinations and getting burned. If you're in the championship, you're perfectly capable of making the tough calls, so spread your wings! With that said, I decided to have a little fun this week by concocting five bold predictions for Fantasy Super Bowls. This is not the type of speculation that you should go out of your way to set your lineups by. These are certified long shots. However, now that I've gotten my disclaimer out of the way, I wouldn't be making these predictions if I didn't think they were possible. They're educated guesses -- I'm not just throwing darts. Odds are that they’ll be wrong, but it gives you some insight into what I'm feeling for certain guys this week. So take these predictions with a grain of salt, but remember that if (and only if) they come true, you heard them here first! Don't try this at home, kids.

1.) Tim Tebow will account for 300 yards of offense and three touchdowns.
Nah, I’m not a big Tebow guy, but you can’t deny what we saw in the Christ child’s first extended action. Tebow passed for 138 yards and a touchdown, and added another 78 yards and a score on the ground. He’s clearly a better runner than passer at this point, but Houston can’t stop either. Moreover, Knowshon Moreno’s availability is in serious question this week, potentially leaving Tebow as the Broncos’ best rushing threat. The Texans’ pass defense ranks dead last in yardage and scoring, and they’ve allowed four rushing scores in their past three games. It would take a leap of faith to start him in your championship, but you'd have God on your side. Tebow gets his first full week of practice as the unquestioned starter under his belt, and the matchup couldn’t be better.

2.) Rob Gronkowski will score two touchdowns in Buffalo.
Fellow rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez got the money last week, scoring twice, but Gronkowski has some nice trends working in his favor here. Hernandez has scored four times in his past three home games, but he’s gone scoreless in his past three road games. Conversely, Gronk has notched exactly one catch in each of his past five home games, but over his past three road games, he’s scored four times, caught exactly five balls in each, and averaged 60 yards. Because of his versatility and polish, Gronk’s still getting significantly more snaps than Hernandez. Additionally, only the Eagles have allowed more than the eight touchdowns the Bills have ceded to opposing tight ends.

3.) Tampa rookies LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams, and Arrelious Benn will all score.
Combined with emerging second year quarterback Josh Freeman, the Bucs have a very nice core of young offensive talent at their disposal. This week it will all come together. The Seahawks are allowing an appalling 28 points per game on the road, and they’ll lose three hours of sleep traveling cross-country from Seattle to Tampa. That’s one of the longest flights in America! Only two teams have allowed more than the 18 touchdowns Seattle has surrendered to opposing receivers, and they’ve allowed multiple receivers to score in four games. That brings Williams and Benn both into play, and Blount will get a run defense that’s allowed 16 touchdowns to opposing backs in 14 games.

4.) Cedric Benson’s Week 15 rushing total will plummet by 100 yards in Week 16.
This one’s actually not much of a stretch at all. Benson broke off a 150-yard game last week (on 31 carries) while rotting on thousands of benches. It was a classic case of a blind squirrel finding a nut. Don’t even think twice about it -- leave him on the pine. He’d failed to reach 50 yards or top 2.6-yards per carry in three straight games prior to last week. This week he’ll be playing from behind against the Chargers No. 7 run defense. San Diego hasn’t allowed a back to top 40 yards in the past two weeks, and a legitimate case could be made that with the way this game will probably flow, Benson could be the fifth most productive back in terms of combo yardage (behind Mike Tolbert, Ryan Mathews, and even Darren Sproles and Bernard Scott).

5.) Larry Fitzgerald will emerge as an unlikely Fantasy Championship Week MVP.
It’s been a year to forget for Fitz. He’s actually still on pace for career-high 175 targets, trailing only Roddy White and Reggie Wayne, but Cardinals quarterbacks couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. Fitz’ looks have been remarkably consistent despite the quarterback carousel – he’s averaging 11 targets/game (153), and he’s only dipped below 10 three times. In his first 12 games with Derek Anderson and Max Hall, he tracked down just 63 of 131 targets (48%). Clearly, I’m using the term “targets” loosely. However, rookie 5th-rounder John Skelton has shown a knack for connecting with his playmaker. In Skelton’s two starts, Weeks 14 & 15, Fitz has reeled in 15 of 21 targets (71%), including last week’s season highs of nine catches and 125 yards against a top-10 Panthers’ pass defense. This week, Arizona will be playing from behind against Dallas. The Cowboys are far and away the worst team in the league at defending the wide receiver position. They rank dead last in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. This is Fitz’ best opportunity of the season.

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