Hot/Cold List Playoffs – Conference Championships
And then there was four. Many high-powered offensive players were sent home last week. The Faulks, Holts, Greens, & Holmes won’t appear on the list this week. Being ranked 5th out of 372 Sharks is a nice place to be. I’m hoping for a Colts/Panthers Super Bowl which should lock up my share of the crown. Hopefully the Patriots and Eagles will do their part to make it happen.
With only four teams left, the list is reduced in size. Hopefully, you’ve got at least 3 players left on the hot side. Onto the list…
Tom Brady, New England (vs. Indianapolis): We all know what co-MVP Peyton Manning has done thus far in the playoffs and it’s been downright amazing. But in my opinion, the Pats/Colts game will be decided more how Tom Brady performs than Manning. If Brady can reproduce the effort from their last meeting (minus the INTs), he’ll not only have success moving the ball on a suspect defense, but the Pats will keep Manning and the high-powered offense off the field which is the best way to stop them. Don’t expect the weather to be much of a factor, but it certainly doesn’t hurt the Pats to have played in these temperatures last week as well.
Jake Delhomme, Carolina (vs. Philly): Delhomme has looked mighty impressive this post-season which is one of the main reasons the Panthers are still alive in the NFC. Delhomme now faces the tough task of winning on the road against a team that defeated the Panthers in Carolina back in week 13. The Panthers will emphasize the running game (whether it’s Stephen Davis or DeShaun Foster) as Ahman Green confirmed last week that the Eagles do give up yardage on the ground. Delhomme will see tons of pressure and will be prone to making a costly mistake. If the Panthers are to win, it’ll be because Delhomme avoids making those mistakes.
Stephen Davis/DeShaun Foster, Carolina (vs. Philly): With Davis suffering from a strained quad, his status still remains questionable for this weekend’s game in Philly. As DeShaun Foster proved once again last week with his 95 yards on 21 carries, he can step in and perform admirably if needed. As noted above, Philly is known to give up yards on the ground. If Carolina wants to advance to play in Houston, they will need to keep McNabb off the field and control the clock. That can be accomplished via the the running game.
Duce Staley/Correll Buckhalter, Philly (vs. Carolina): When the best chance a team had of advancing the ball on the ground is when the QB scrambles, it doesn’t say much for the running backs. Yes, Staley had some big plays in the game last week against the Packers including a 22-yard run and an 11-yard run that setup both the tying and game-winning field goals. But these backs split carries last week (Staley had five while Buckhalter had nine), and neither really shined. For the Eagles to advance it will be on the arm and legs of McNabb. End of story.
Steve Smith, Carolina (vs. Philly): Smith has had an amazing playoff run thus far compiling 11 catches for 298 yards and two scores including the game-winner in double overtime last week against the Packers. While the Panthers should try and emphasize the running game, when Delhomme does fade back to pass, you can guarantee he’ll look Smith’s way on those short slant patterns just hoping Smith is able to find the seam once again and bust off a long one. You should notice Smith’s name on most of the teams near the top of your playoff pool and for good reason.
Troy Brown, New England (vs. Indy): Call it hunch, but I have the feeling that old reliable Troy Brown will play a huge role in this weekend’s tilt with the Colts. The last few games, Brady has finally had a full set of receivers in which to work and he’s done a fine job spreading the ball around. While Brown only had two catches for 11 yards last week, I’m willing to bet that Brady looks his way not only on the crucial third down plays, but in the red zone as well which should translate to a nice performance from the crafty veteran.
James Thrash, Philadelphia (vs. Carolina): Thrash has been a non-factor in the Philly passing game for most of the season especially late in the year. Thrash’s value comes in the form of returning kicks which typically does not translate into success in the fantasy realm, unless your name is Dante Hall…and Thrash is no Dante Hall.
Muhsin Muhammad, Carolina (vs. Philly): Muhammad’s playoff numbers have been overshadowed by the gaudy stats posted by his teammate Steve Smith. Still, nine catches for 173 yards is nothing to shake a stick at. I never really understood that saying, but I still like to use it every once in a while. The overall passing numbers for the Panthers will be down this game meaning fewer opportunities for Muhammad and fewer stats.
Christian Fauria, New England (vs. Indy): Slim pickings from this TE crew leads me to pick Fauria as the best option out there. If Daniel Graham could figure out how to catch the ball, he would be the main weapon at the TE position for the Pats. Until then, Fauria will fill in nicely. He posted 42 yards on three catches last week including a 4th down conversion early in the game. Brady will use Fauria when needed this weekend as well.
Marcus Pollard, Indy (vs. New England): The last thing you want to do before heading into a conference championship game is give the opposing team anything for motivation. With a little trash-talking, Pollard has given a team that doesn’t need any additional inspiration, a little something extra. You can bet the Pats ‘D’ will be all over Pollard on Sunday proving once again why it’s best to leave the trash-talking for game time.