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Fantasy Football: Postseason rankings, strategy 01.02.14 at 10:27 am ET
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The fantasy football season has concluded, but as most of you know, fantasy football lives on with postseason leagues. We’€™re here to help you stack the odds in your favor or at least to avoid doing the opposite.

Playoff leagues can be a lot of fun, and they are completely different than regular-season fantasy football. The key difference is that predicting game outcomes is perhaps the key factor in your team’€™s success. In most situations, you’€™d rather have your player advance than have a big game and lose. That’€™s because once your player’€™s team is finished, so is the player. That means no more points and a big old dead spot in your lineup. For this reason, it is important to project the number of games each team will play.

You may think Philip Rivers is a better quarterback than Colin Kaepernick, but if you think the Chargers are a one-and-done team as I do, and if you think the 49ers have a chance to play four games (the maximum), as I do, then you’€™d be kooky to draft Rivers ahead of Kaepernick.  This is true even if you project Rivers to outscore Kaepernick by a factor of two on a per-game basis. This is how you must think in a playoff draft. Get in that frame of mind — the same frame of mind that makes you want LeGarrette Blount over Jamaal Charles. Yes, really.

Since leagues are different sizes and many use different sets of rules, I am going to keep the rankings somewhat general. The first thing you need to do is to decide how you think the playoff games will go, then follow those predictions. I’ve laid out my current take below, but I won’€™t lie to you, I could flip a few games this week as I continue to think about things and assess the injury situations. Some of these games are very close. Value players accordingly. For example, I think Kaepernick plays twice, but I also think he’€™s the player with the best chance at playing four times. It will take an upset of the Seahawks in Seattle to make that happen, but Frisco probably is the best bet to pull that off at this point.

GAMES PLAYED PROJECTIONS

Broncos, 3 games
Seahawks, 3 games
49ers, 2 games
Eagles, 2 games
Patriots, 2 games
Panthers, 2 games
Colts, 2 games
Bengals, 2 games
Saints, 1 game
Packers, 1 game
Chargers, 1 game
Chiefs, 1 game

If you look at the projections, you might assume that Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson are the players to own. And they certainly are players you’€™d like to have, but a few of the quarterbacks with two projected games played are potentially as or more valuable. I already mentioned Kaepernick, but Tom Brady will have a very good chance at a third game, and I see most of the early round games being competitive. For this, I suggest that you play your own hunches if you have strong ones and if you trust your instincts. That’€™s really what make these postseason leagues so much fun. You get to do more prognostication.

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Fantasy Football: Week 13 starts, sits 11.30.13 at 8:23 am ET
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Welcome to the starts and sits for Week 13. I’ll be featuring better players than usual because there are no more bye concerns and most fantasy teams, especially those still alive, will be looking at better players when it comes to lineup decisions.

For those who have more questions than this article has answers for, you have two places to go. First, you can hit Rotobahn and consult our full lineup rankings, which will give you a ranking and a “skinny” on just about any player you might be considering in any league. Second, you can come back to WEEI.com tomorrow and participate in our Sunday morning chat where I will answer all of your lineup questions. You’ll find a link to the chat on the homepage in the “This Just In” section.

QUARTERBACKS

START

Tom Brady, Patriots at Texans

Just kidding, folks. This one is an ultra-obvious freebie — meant to do nothing but point out that Rotobahn had the future Hall of Famer on our trade-for list when others were running for cover. For those who stuck with Brady … or dealt for him, enjoy the next few weeks. He’s a QB1, period.

Josh McCown, Bears at Vikings

How often do we recommend a backup quarterback playing on the road? Not that often, but McCown has been very good so far in terms of fantasy production and this matchup is very solid. Start McCown in any format this week and you are in pretty good shape.

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers vs. Rams

Two things factor into the decision to make CK a start. First, he looked much better last week. Second, he gets Michael Crabtree back this week. The Rams are not an easy mark, but they can be had, especially when on the road, and this one is at Frisco.

Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Titans

He may not inspire the kind of confidence that he did a few weeks back, but a lot of it is perception. Luck is still a very sound fantasy play in 12-team leagues and has produced good fantasy numbers in games that were pretty ugly from the Colts’ perspective. He was serviceable against the Titans on the road in Week 11 and he should be able to handle them this week in Indianapolis.

Andy Dalton, Bengals at Chargers

He’s been a strong option for most of the season and he gets a decent road matchup here. We expect the Bengals to be ready after having an extra week to prepare. Dalton can start for you in any format this week. He always has nice scoring potential due to the quality of the weapons around him.

Carson Palmer, Cardinals at Eagles

The matchup is mediocre, but he’s playing well and has tons of good places to throw the football in Bruce Arians’ offense. The Eagles are playing well, but they will have trouble matching up with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Palmer can help you in 12-team leagues this week.

Brandon Weeden, Browns vs. Jaguars

Here’s an option for those searching for an answer in a deep league. Weeden is not a great start, but he may be the best thing on waiver wires in 12-team formats and he could have a solid day at home vs. the Jaguars. Weeden can be your QB this week if you are hurting and he might just surprise you if he can get Josh Gordon going and hit on a few deep balls.

SIT

Mike Glennon, Bucs at Panthers

The rookie has been pretty good so far, but he lacks the experience and the firepower to play against the Panthers defense on the road in a hostile environment. Look elsewhere if you can.

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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 3: Seahawks soar, Pats plunge 09.17.13 at 10:08 am ET
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It’s the best rivalry in football, but the Seahawks made it look easy in Sunday’s 29-3 thrashing of the Niners. Seattle soars to the top of the WEEI NFL Power Rankings following the statement win while the divisional-rival Niners drop to No. 3. The Broncos (2), Falcons (4) and Packers (5) round out the top five for a second straight week.

Despite being 2-0, the Patriots fall three spots to No. 9. After facing two rookie quarterbacks and two teams that combined for 20 losses in 2012, New England barely edged out victories in both games.

We’re just two weeks into the season, but if history tells us anything, the eight 0-2 teams have an uphill battle to climb. Since 1990 only 11.5 percent of teams that started 0-2 went on to make the playoffs. The Giants (18), Redskins (20), Vikings (24), Steelers (25), Panthers (29), Browns (31) and Jaguars (32) all have staggered out of the gate.

Seattle Seahawks1. (3) Seahawks (2-0) — Dominant. That’s the simple way to describe Seattle’s stifling defense. Pete Carroll‘s D already has forced seven turnovers, allowed just one touchdown, and given up a total of 10 points.

Denver Broncos 2. (2) Broncos (2-0) — This team is so talented offensively, it can afford to be flagged 13 times and still win by 18 points.

San Francisco 49ers 3. (1) 49ers (1-1) –  Some red flags were raised after the lopsided loss to Seattle. Colin Kaepernick already has matched his total number of interceptions all of last year with three on Sunday. Jim Harbaugh‘s team has been penalized 23 times in its first two games. Turnovers and penalties usually are something the defending NFC champs are used to seeing from their opponents.

4. (4) Falcons (1-1) — The defending NFC South champs will limp into Week 3 after losing several key players to injury. Starters Kroy Biermann and Bradie Ewing are done for the season. Asante Samuel, Sean Weatherspoon and Steven Jackson also were hurt in Sunday’s win.

Green Bay Packers5. (5) Packers (1-1) – It’s amazing the Packers have been able to win so many games over the last few years without having a productive run game. It’s goes to show how explosive their offense has been. On Sunday, James Starks rushed for over 100 yards, the first time a Green Bay running back has accomplished that since 2010.

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Peter King on M&M: ‘I just fear Colin Kaepernick a lot more than I would the San Francisco defense’ 02.01.13 at 2:30 pm ET
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Peter King

Peter King

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King spoke with Mut & Merloni Friday about HGH testing in the NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell’s State of the League address, the 49ers offense and the Ravens defense.

King said he thinks the idea of the Ravens as a “team of destiny” that will be driven to victory by intangibles isn’t the Super Bowl’s best storyline.

“I think the emotion’s a silly angle. Maybe the emotion helps you for five minutes, but you’ve got to play football,” King said. “I think we get these comfortable storylines – great defense versus an old defense – that’s the storyline down here, and I just say, have you watched the games? I don’t see, when I watch the San Francisco, a peerless defense. They’ve got eight sacks in the last five games. That’s a great pressure defense?

Aldon Smith, Justin Smith – no sacks in the last five games. Aldon Smith had a good game in the championship game, but I don’t know, I think we lapse into storylines too easy, and I pick the Ravens, too. I just fear Colin Kaepernick a lot more than I would fear the San Francisco defense.”

Following are some highlights from the conversation. To hear the entire interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On whether Ray Lewis’ legacy will be affected by the SI story: ”Not making any accusations, just stating a fact, but there is not currently a test in the NFL for HGH. So if there’s not a test, how do we know that 800 players don’t use HGH? So I’m not charging anybody with anything, but there’s a lot of things right now the NFL can’t test for, and so there are people who are going to believe what they want to believe and that’s it.”

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Heath Evans on M&M: Deer-antler spray ‘nothing, and I mean nothing’ like PEDs at 12:00 pm ET
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Heath Evans

Heath Evans

NFL Network analyst Heath Evans spoke with Mut & Merloni from New Orleans Friday about his own use of the velvet deer antler substance Ray Lewis reportedly used, how it differs from traditional steroids, and how the Ravens can beat Colin Kaepernick.

Evans said he has been taking the deer antler substance in tablet form, which is stronger than the spray, and that it’s made a significant difference in his cognitive function since he retired from football.

“I’ve had ADD since I was born, but probably only in 2009, 2010 – I would be lying if I said I didn’t have concern about maybe some of the cognitive stuff, just stuff you shouldn’t forget,” Evans said. “And over the last six months since I’ve been taking the velvet deer antler tablets, I sleep. I rest. I recall on-air on NFL Network, being sent downstairs at night by Beth and not forgetting what she sent me down there for.”

“I’m, like, the least psychosomatic person in the world,” he went on. “The chips that [SWATS co-owner Mitch Ross] put on people’s wrists so they run faster and bench more, they didn’t work for me. And I think there are a lot of psychosomatic athletes, and I would not represent that product of his. But the deer antler was something I was introduced to in 2008 by a good friend of mine that runs Garden of Life, the multi-hundred billion dollar company, and I saw some good, actual things come out of it.

“I don’t use notes on air anymore. If I do, it’s once a week or it’s a longer-working subject. Last year, I was almost strapped to my notes at times.”

Evans said if Lewis did take the deer antler spray, it’s not worthy of the PED discussion it’s drawn.

“The PED word, steroids and all that nonsense – this is nothing, and I mean nothing, like that,” Evans said. “If that helped Ray recover, it was minimalistic. It probably did have some effects, but it was because Ray dieted perfect. He rested perfect. He did everything else they told him to do. He had surgery and he took care of his body, and he probably wasn’t out drinking and smoking and doing a lot of the stuff other NFL players do, and his body responded, because our bodies are amazing when we treat them right.”

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Boomer Esiason on D&C: Ravens are ‘team of destiny,’ but 49ers have better players at 9:26 am ET
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Boomer Esiason

Boomer Esiason

Boomer Esiason called in from New Orleans to talk with Dennis & Callahan about the state of the 49ers and Ravens as they head into the Super Bowl, and whether the Ravens’ intangibles or the 49ers’ talent will prevail.

In a week filled with off-field news items about Ravens and 49ers players, Esiason said he doubts the accusations of PED use will slow down Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, but that 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver seems shaken up by the media attention he’s gained this week for an anti-gay remark.

“Given all that Ray Lewis has been through, from the double murder back in 2000 to all of his gyrations during games and all of the publicity that’s he’s gotten, that’s the last thing that they worry about,” Esiason said.

“Now, on the other side, Culliver, who made the anti-gay statement, he was really uncomfortable and really felt badly about what he said. I don’t necessarily know that he understood the enormity of what he said. His situation’s a little bit different, and he’s probably going to carry that a little into the game, because I really felt that he he looked very very embarrassed and overwhelmed by the whole dust-up that his comments created.”

Asked about Ravens safety Ed Reed, whom Bill Belichick admires, Esiason said he could see Reed aiming to play with a quarterback like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning assuming he leaves the Ravens as a free agent this offseason.

“I’m sure that Ed Reed probably loves this experience that he’s having with the Baltimore Ravens right now,” Esiason said. “I would think he’d be willing to take a little less money — I imagine, I don’t want to put words in his mouth — to play for one of those franchises for a chance at a Super Bowl ring.”

Esiason’s Super Bowl prediction was a tight, defense-dominated battle: “This game should be a fourth-quarter game. It should be a relatively tight game. It should stay in the 20s. I’d be really shocked if somebody scores 30 points in this game, unless there’s some breakdown on special teams, which I really don’t expect.”

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Peter King on M&M: Joe Flacco ‘fearless about throwing the ball deep’ 01.18.13 at 2:00 pm ET
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Peter King

Peter King

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni on Friday morning to preview the NFL’s conference championship weekend.

King, who predicts a 31-26 Patriots victory over the Ravens, is leaving open the possibility of an upset.

“The Patriots have been so good in these championship games, so consistent,” King said. “It’s not going to be their mistake that’s going to beat them, if history is a judge. It’s going to be the Ravens playing well if they win.”

Joe Flacco‘s ability to test the Patriots secondary with the long ball is one of the keys to this game.

“I just think he’s a very good deep-ball thrower,” King said. “Throwing the deep ball twice to Torrey Smith and once to Jacoby Jones six days ago is why the Ravens won that game. If he doesn’t take chances downfield, they’re sitting home right now and it’s New England going to play at Denver on Sunday.

“We talk about players, who’s elite, who’s not elite — I don’t know who’s elite and who isn’t. All I know is that in this game — I don’t think Joe Flacco’s ever going to have the kind of great completion percentage or anything like that that’s going to make him one of the top-rated quarterbacks, but I believe that his team is always going to have a chance for a very simple reason: He’s fearless about throwing the ball deep and he’s the best deep-ball thrower both on percentage and in yardage in the NFL this year.

“I think the Patriots secondary is really going to have a lot to do with whether they move on.”

On the other side of the ball, the aging Baltimore defense will attempt to contain New England’s uptempo offense.

“They better have a lot left in their tank,” King said of the Ravens. “After having a much tougher road in the playoffs, obviously, than New England has had, they better have a pass rush on [Tom] Brady left, particularly when it comes to Paul Kruger. I think he’s the guy that — because right now Terrell Suggs just really isn’t himself, and I don’t know that he is going to be himself in this postseason at all — I think they have to rely on Paul Kruger to get to Tom Brady and do some damage. … In my opinion, that’s going to have a lot to do with who wins and loses this game — how much the Ravens have left in their tank.”

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