Hot Hands: Who’s Ending the Season Right?
Every year there are a few players who “turn it on” and “finally start to get it” towards the end of the season. Every year heroes are made in the playoffs. Sometimes the players flash in the NFL postseason (Jordy Nelson, 2010) and sometimes players flash in the fantasy postseason (Arian Foster, 2009). Both these players went from relative obscurity to fantasy studs in just a few games. In this series I’ll help us track the players who are starting to heat up at the right time.
This isn’t a perfect science (Vernon Davis, 2011 postseason vs 2012 regular season) but it is very useful to track these guys and get a jump on your league. Whether you’re looking to keep tabs on players this offseason, or are looking for trade and waiver targets, this list can help you make the right investments.
Let’s break it down, this week, we’ll be looking at the AFC and NFC Championship Games, as well as the Super Bowl:
Ravens at Patriots
As we get deeper into the playoffs the better the games get, it seems. The final score on this game is a little generous to the Ravens as they were actually down at halftime, but by shutting out the Patriots in the second half and scoring three touchdowns for themselves they made it seem like a blowout. The Ravens recipe for success in the Playoffs has been a pretty even split of rushing and passing plays with no clear focus on who the offense runs through. Although Boldin really turned it on at the end of this game with two Touchdowns early in the 4th quarter, throughout the rest of the game he only had 3 receptions for 46 yards. He’s been a beast in the playoffs, but his days are numbered. He’s already gone on the record saying “It’s the last place that I will play. For me, I’ll retire a Raven, I’m not putting on any other uniform. .. We have a saying, once a Raven, always a Raven, and I’ll always be a Raven.” Depending on how the offseason shakes out he could be a useful WR3 for a contending team. The other Ravens worth taking note of are Pitta and Pierce, both of whom looked really good in the game. The best thing about watching them (and all Ravens) play is how physical they are. You could tell the Patriots were hearing footsteps by the end of the game with their inexplicable drops, but then you watch this huge hit on Pitta and he gets right back up and gets the go ahead touchdown that same drive. That type of heart and tenacity (not to mention trust from the QB) is something I look for in players.
For the Patriots here’s what I’m watching: Ridley and his concussions. Fortunately he won’t be forced to play anytime soon, but this hit on Ridley was brutal. Concussions are a red flag when evaluating any player, and his head was definitely rattled on that play. Additionally BB has been hard to trust when it comes to running back usage, and seeing any of his backs fumble isn’t something you want to see. At Ridley’s current asking price he’s not someone I want on my team. I’d be selling him if I owned him. It was encouraging to see some signs of life from Lloyd (7-70) but he’s been inconsistent all season, I think his value is tied to the big decision the Patriots have to make this offseason: Welker’s contract.
49ers at Falcons
Julio Jones exploded in the first quarter, going for over 100 yards and a TD in the first quarter alone. He ended the day at 11-182-2, a ridiculous stat line that every Jones owner has been dreaming about. While it’s hard for his stock to improve as he’s in everybody’s top 5 WRs, a few more games like this and the battle between him and AJ Green may finally be put to rest. The rest of the Falcons receivers had big days, as Gonzalez went 8-78-1 and White went 7-100, and they continue to look like a formidable force in both fantasy and the NFL. If the Roddy owner in your league is in rebuild mode or just wants to dump him before it’s too late I would inquire about him. There are few truly special talents who you shouldn’t mind riding until the wheels fall off, and Roddy is one of them. As far as the Falcons ground game went it was interesting to see Rodgers get more rushes than Turner, although he was slightly less effective. I’m a Quizz believer and think he can handle a full workload (check this out). With all the hype around the Falcons possibly drafting a RB in April his price is depressed to the point where he is a must buy. Admittedly he may go nowhere, but for the price he’s going at (pick 88.67, RB30) he has tremendous upside.
For the Niners it was the Gore and Davis show again, although LaMichael James made a nice cameo and made me regret cutting him earlier this year. While it remains to be seen how the SF rushing attack is going to play out next year, James and Kaepernick look like they could be a very dangerous combo. I’m not that high on either as I need to see them play this well more consistently, but if you liked what you saw James’ asking price is very reasonable right now (123.33, RB 43) and he could be worth acquiring. Don’t forget about Kendall Hunter though, as he might actually be the back to own and is valued only a little more than James (102.5, RB32). Crabtree had another 5+ catch outing which seems to be the norm nowadays. It’ll be interesting to watch how defenses gameplan for him next year.
Ravens vs. 49ers
Ahh, the Super Harbowl. What an awesome game this was! What looked to be a blowout from the get-go turned around quickly and became a nail biter that wasn’t decided until the final play. This game had a bit of everything (field goals, touchdowns, fumbles, interceptions, safeties) and revealed some very interesting nuggets to those paying close enough attention. Here’s what I took away from the game:
Jacoby Jones is fast. In return leagues I’d be thrilled to have him in my flex, as he doesn’t put up many points consistently, but can explode on any given week and get you a W.
Kaepernick is good but not great. When I first watched the game I was infuriated the Ravens seemed to keep making the wrong reads on the read-option plays the 9ers were running, but after rewatching the game I think it was actually by design. By having the DL and blitzers zero in on CK they forced the handoff. While surrendering 5.8 ypc doesn’t seem like success at first glance, for the Ravens it was. I expect other teams to mimic this and limit Kaep’s upside.
The 49ers are a run stopping machine. It was unreal to watch the Raven’s struggle to gain any yards on the ground. It’s not that there was much penetration, but that the 9ers seemed to control the first couple yards of the field. Rice’s long run was 12 and Pierce’s was 8 and they averaged less than 3.0 ypc. Hat’s off to San Francisco.
It’s time for Ray Lewis to retire. He was getting manhandled throughout the playoffs, but this game was the final nail in his coffin. Crabtree and Davis had his number dialed all day and were always open over the middle of the field. I’m sure there was a lot of Mojo he added to the team, but beneficial when on the field, he was not.
Boldin is always open. There is simply no one that wants the ball more than Boldin. Between his TDs in Foxboro and his play in the Super Bowl (check out 1:44) he’s proven he has the drive and ability to be a productive member of the team. I hope he restructures and sticks around for a few more years.
Torrey is still Torrey. While it has been great watching him produce in the playoffs, he is still prone to disappearing (2-35 in the Super Bowl).
Vernon Davis lives! He’s been the definition of streaky all season, but he ended another year right. Perhaps this time next year I’ll be thinking he fooled me twice, but I’m all in. TE is a position in flux and having a true, consistent starter is a blessing in this game. I think Davis can be that again.
That’ll do it for this weeks write-up! Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@BRonIsBoss) if there’s anyone you think I overlooked and I’ll be sure to keep an eye on him! I hope you enjoyed this Post Season as much as I did, there were some truly amazing games.