by Bill Barnwell
Well, we've made it to Week 14, and with it, the fantasy playoffs for most leagues are upon us. For those of you who made it this far and have reached the playoffs, congratulations; for those of you who didn't quite make it to the promised land this year, well, sorry about Larry Johnson. Better luck next year, I guess.
With the postseason about to begin, I decided to take this week and look back and the great performances of fantasy playoff yesteryear. Of course, when Jerry Rice scores 406 points in a year, it's not so extraordinary when he picks up 88 points in the three playoff weeks. I'm going to also pay attention to those players who put up big numbers that stood out amongst the rest of their season or their careers.
Jerry Rice had a gigantic year, putting up those aforementioned 406 points, and his 88 fantasy points were the most of anyone during the fantasy postseason. The unlikely fantasy stud was another veteran wideout, though: Tony Martin, who caught 26 passes for 357 yards and three scores before his breakout 12-touchdown campaign a year later. The biggest surprise player was Tampa Bay wide receiver Horace Copeland, who had a weird season -- five catches for 155 yards and a score in Week 1, and then no more than two catches, 40 yards, or any touchdowns in any other week until the playoffs began, when he had 19 catches for 274 yards and a score. Even when Week 17 rolled around, he was back to the one-catch guy.
By all counts, this was Steve Young's postseason. He missed about five games during the regular season with injury, but when he was healthy, oh, was he great. Young threw for 900 yards and ran for 128 more when the playoffs rolled around. The other player announcing himself to be a star was Antonio Freeman, who had been playing very well before an injury kept him out for several games. When he returned in Week 14, he put up 391 yards and four scores in the postseason.
This postseason belonged to a rookie: Corey Dillon. After putting up one 100-yard game before the playoffs, Dillon exploded with three during the playoffs, including a 246-yard, four-touchdown performance against Tennessee that helped earn him 90 playoff fantasy points, just about 40 percent of his yearly total. The other shocking overachiever was certainly not a rookie: Boomer Esiason. In his last season before retirement, Esiason lined up in front of Dillon for the Bengals and threw for 892 yards and seven touchdowns.
There wasn't the same sort of huge playoff breakout performance in '98 that had been seen previously. The star combination was Randall Cunningham and Randy Moss, who put up 83 and 74 fantasy points, respectively. The only players to really post an unexpectedly large fantasy postseason was retread Floyd Turner, playing out the string for an awful Baltimore team, as well as Tim Biakabutuka, who put together a healthy three weeks to win some teams a fantasy trophy.
Our first 100-point postseason came from Marshall Faulk, who put it up as part of a banner 400-plus-fantasy point campaign. The fantasy shockers, though, were a pair of unassuming wide receivers. Patrick Jeffers matured into a superstar wideout over the last five weeks of 1999, putting up five consecutive 100-plus-yard games while scoring eight touchdowns. He'd only catch fourteen more passes in his career because of injury. Qadry Ismail, meanwhile, didn't catch a single pass in 1997 or 1998, but started off the playoffs with a shocking day: Six catches for 258 yards and three scores. He added seven more for 115 and a score the next week, pushing him over 1,000 yards.
Marshall Faulk topped his previous postseason with 107 fantasy points as part of a 456-point campaign. The runner-up for fantasy point king, though, was Warrick Dunn, who put together the best three-game streak of his career. He had 210- and 145-yard games, scoring twice in each. Aaron Brooks also scored 55.5 percent of his fantasy points in the playoffs this year.
Guess who? Marshall Faulk upped it to 112 points this year, perhaps single-handedly winning some teams their leagues; no other player had more than 77 points in those three weeks. The random breakout performer was Jamel White, who didn't do very much all year, but put up 396 combined yards and three scores in a three-week stretch that would be his only signs of life in a short career.
Now that Faulk had descended from the heavens, we were back down to a mere 83 points for the star of the playoffs -- that would be Marvin Harrison, who was in his peak 143-catch season. His numbers aren't out of line for what was an absurdly good campaign -- nine and ten catches, right around 100 yards per game. A bigger surprise would have been Amani Toomer, who put up a monster 204-yard, three-touchdown performance against Indianapolis in Week 16 that should've earned him fantasy winnings.
The best fantasy playoff performance of the last twelve seasons? You'll never guess who. LaDainian Tomlinson scored an even 115 points in the three playoff weeks on the fantasy schedule. He actually fell short of double-digit rushing totals in Weeks 15 and 16, then exploded for 243 yards in Week 17. He also scored six times and had 510 combined yards from scrimmage. The two surprise packages that were astute waiver wire packages were 49ers: Jeff Garcia, who also scored 100 points, and Kevan Barlow, who made his career almost solely based upon a pair of 154-yard games he had in Weeks 14 and 16.
Speaking of people making their careers based upon three weeks, try on Drew Bennett and Billy Volek. While the 2004 Titans were the collapse year of the great Titans teams from the late-'90s, Bennett led all performers with 99 fantasy points despite only catching two passes for 26 yards in Week 16. How did he pull that off? Try 25 catches for 393 yards and five scores in the two games prior.
Ah, the halcyon days of Larry Johnson. As part of his "Greatest Half-Season In NFL History" campaign, Johnson ran for 431 yards and seven touchdowns in the playoffs, throwing in 201 yards and three scores in Week 17 for good measure. This was the year of Chris Chambers' big playoff run as well, as he scored five touchdowns for fantasy teams worldwide despite only catching 17 passes.
Steven Jackson was the only player over 100 points in the 2006 playoffs, capped by his four-touchdown day against Minnesota to end the season. Jackson had 518 yards from scrimmage and scored six touchdowns during the playoffs. The big shocker was Ron Dayne, who put up a huge game against Indianapolis (which inspired the matchup column I wrote in this year's book), as well as Ronald Curry, who finally stayed healthy long enough to show off despite having to handle the Andrew Walter Experience.
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All the negatives, contrary to what some guys from Austin might've told you a few years ago, have not been destroyed. We've got a bunch this week.
QB: OK, well, if you chose Brett Favre, you're either a brave person, jaundiced and petty, or clairvoyant. Favre's disaster game against the Cowboys this week was good for a -2. He was joined by John Beck, who put up that performance against the freaking Jets. The Jets! -16.0 DPAR! That's grounds for getting Bob Griese in there. At least we know he's sober.
RB: Sadly, we did not see the same epic failure here that we did at quarterback, but when it comes to Reggie Bush... well, we'll get to him later. He scored a 4, one ahead of Jesse Chatman and Warrick Dunn, each of whom had 3. Julius Jones also had a 4.
WR: Get ready for this list of studs with a single point: Ted Ginn, Drew Carter, Keenan McCardell, Lance Moore, Derek Hagan, and Wes Welker. Well, Welker doesn't deserve to be lumped in there, especially with Ginn. That swap turned out well, huh?
K: No negative kickers, either, but we saw bad games from some old reliables: Josh Brown, Shayne Graham, Joe Nedney, and Rob Bironas all had 2s.
Keep Choppin' Wood
A lot of thought and debate went into KCW this week. Some people argued for Rex Ryan because of his fourth-and-1 timeout call, which is ridiculous. For one, Ryan designed a great game plan that limited the league's elite offense. Second, Ryan called a perfectly defensible timeout. The fact that the timeout was only granted after the play had been run and the Ravens had stopped Brady (literally the first time I've ever seen him not get the yard on a sneak) is irrelevant to the timeout decision.
More people nominated Joe Gibbs, for his timeout snafu at the end of the game on Sunday that cost the Redskins their game with the Bills. I wavered on this one all week. On one hand, yes, it was a boneheaded, stupid move that Gibbs should have known better than to make. Alternately, someone should have told Gibbs that the move was a bad decision, but based on previous communication issues detailed after last season, well, I'm not surprised no-one stopped him.
I can't give Gibbs the dubious honor, though. Not under the circumstances Gibbs has been under all week. It makes it easier, perhaps, that there's a coach who made a decision 95 percent as dumb, but with none of the related emotional draining that's taken place over the past week. There's been some talk of a Sean Payton second-year curse, based upon his performance as an offensive play-caller in New York and Dallas, and it seems to be rearing its head in New Orleans, where his offense clearly isn't anywhere near as effective as it was a year ago. Whether that had something to do with Sunday's abysmal play-call or not, I can't say, but Payton's call of a reverse while the Saints were running down the clock with a lead was among the worst I've ever seen. I happened to be tuned to the game when the play happened, and the reaction of everyone in the room to the fumble was just disgust. That's usually a sign that those involved should be chopping wood.
1-2 last week, 17-17-1 overall
Now, it's a battle to put up a winning record on the season. Otherwise, God, I'll just look like I'm Ian or somebody. Nobody wants that, least of all me.
GREEN BAY (-10.5) over Oakland
OK, so now, we have Josh McCown and/or JaMarcus Russell starting on the road? Yeah, I can bet against that pretty comfortably.
Cleveland (-3.5) over NEW YORK JETS
The Jets pass defense moved all the way up this week ... to 27th! If you're still awake in the Meadowlands, feel free to pat yourself on the back now, Barry Horowitz-style.
Kansas City (+6.5) over DENVER
This is just a feel bet for me. I really like Kansas City's defense and how it's developed as the season has gone along, and Denver just looks to be a team in disarray.