And then there were four. After weeks of sweating lineup decisions, overpaying for free agents and reading my brilliant recaps (wink, wink), the 2011 Gulfman League fantasy football season comes down to a pair of semifinals and a championship. Before I put on my fearless forecaster cap and predict this weekend’s winners and losers, let’s take a looksee how each of our Final Four combatants reached this point.
Greenville Hartstoppers (11-3) – Finished with the best record despite losing first-round pick Jamaal Charles to a torn ACL in Week 2. Shrewdly snatched Cam Newton off the scrap heap, then promptly traded him for Fred Jackson to replace the fallen Charles. Was able to make the move because they wisely waited until the 8th round to draft quarterback Matthew Stafford, who finished sixth in total points. Stole Darren Sproles in the 13th round. Overcame injuries to Jeremy Maclin and Jackson.
Lame Excuses (9-5) – Raced out to an 8-1 record after engineering a fantastic draft that included Matt Forte in the 3rd, Jimmy Graham in the 6th, A.J. Green in the 8th, SeaBass in the 11th and Ryan Fitzpatrick in the 14th. If only they hadn’t wasted a fourth-rounder on Peyton Manning’s fused neck. Oh, what could’ve been. Survived injuries to Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte, but face the possibility of having neither fully healthy for the semifinals. Lost the total points title by six.
The Negotiators (8-6) – Started 1-3, but won five of their last six to earn a postseason berth and win the points title. Blew 4th and 5th round picks on Chad Johnson and Mark Ingram respectively, but made up for it by stealing Steve Smith in the 7th and Antonio Brown in the 11th. Dropped Antonio Gates the week before he returned, which was dumb. Drafted Michael Bush in the 9th anticipating the inevitable Darren McSofty injury, which was smart. Owns the hottest and healthiest roster entering the playoffs.
Indiana Obesities (8-6) – Lost five of their last six and finished seventh in total points. Their first seven draft picks were either injured or busts. So, how the hell did they qualify for the postseason? Two words: Cam Newton. The remarkable rookie finished number one in scoring and offset an otherwise mediocre roster. None of their runners and receivers rank in the Top 10. The outlook isn’t great, but all it takes is one or two monster performances to advance.
Behold, playoff predictions!
#1 Hartstoppers vs. #4 Obesities
Can a team win a championship with a starting backfield of Darren Sproles and C.J. Spiller? I sincerely hope not, but we’re about to find out. Both runners face Top 10 run defenses: Spiller draws the third ranked Dolphins who held Shady McCoy to 38 yards on 27 carries last week, while Sproles gets the tenth ranked Vikings. Jeremy Maclin is back, but he could be spending his Sunday visiting Revis Island. The schizophrenic Vinnie Jackson needs to come up large versus a tough Ravens secondary, as does Matt Stafford against a vulnerable Raiders defense.
The Lardasses face some difficult lineup decisions. Do they risk Mendenhall versus a Niners rush defense that yields 70 yards per game and has yet to be scored on? What about Ahmad Bradshaw against the ‘Skins? The human bruise Chris Wells has a beautiful matchup with the Browns 30th ranked run D, but he’s hardly reliable. Stevie Johnson had his worst game of the season last time he played Miami and the resurgent Roddy White draws the stingy Jaguars. Looks like Cam will have to be the man, again.
This has ugly written all over it. Methinks the Texans defense will lay an egg after clinching their first ever division title and Bean Wells will run wild on the Brownies. Number one seed goes down.
Indiana 85.6, Greenville 73.2
#2 Lame Excuses vs. #3 Negotiators
It appears Adrian Peterson will be back for the Lame ones. That’s the good news. The bad news is the Vikings will probably get destroyed by Drew Brees and Co., which could limit AP’s touches. Do they roll with a gimpy Jimmy Graham or a healthy Marques Colston? Can J-Stew find any running room against Houston’s third ranked rush defense? Will Mike Wallace regain he early season form? Can A.J. Green exploit a Rams secondary that has been burned for 19 touchdowns? Here are your answers: Graham, no, no, yes.
The Dealmakers enter the fray piping hot. Aaron Rodgers is, well, Aaron Rodgers and the woeful Chiefs will learn that on Sunday. Arian Foster beats up on bad defenses and the Panthers have one of the worst. Ndamokung Sue returns for the Lions, but I’m not sure he’ll be enough to slow down Michael Bush, who seems to produce no matter what the scoreboard says. Antonio Brown is ballin’, Julio Jones is shreddin’ and footie David Akers hasn’t netted fewer than 9 points since Week 8. In other words, this team is stacked.
Barring a monster AP performance, I can’t envision the Excuses notching a W. They’ll put up a fight, but Aaron and Arian are too much to conquer.
Negotiators 108.3, Excuses 96.7
Good luck to all involved. Toodles.