The Playoff Challenge is a fun little "mini fantasy" game, where the challenge is basically to select the best overall lineup over the course of the NFL Playoffs. Each person can select their roster from the full list of eligible players, and each week you play a player in a row adds a multiplier to their total score for that week. This twist has the effect of making each team's long term prospects even more important than individual team and player match ups. Every week you select 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, a kicker, and a defense from the eligible list of players/defenses still left in the playoffs.
Here is a breakdown of my choices this week and their rational, if any:
Quarterback: Alex Smith (San Fransisco 49ers)After riding the wave of Drew Brees's offense to the lead over the first two weeks, this choice was a tough one. There are 4 quarterbacks left in the playoffs, two 'elite' quarterbacks and two 'game manager' quarterbacks. Of these, I am unable to select Tom Brady due to religious reasons, leaving me to choose between Eli Manning, a QB who I believe is in the top 5 in the NFL, and one of the two 'non-elite' QBs.
The choice ultimately came down to who I believe will be able to make it to the Superbowl (and therefore score double points for me next week.) I believe that the 49ers will be able to stop Eli and the Giants. In my opinion, the Packers team that Giants beat last Sunday was not playing at the same level that they were earlier in the season, and I am more impressed with the 49ers ability to keep up with the Saints, who where coming into Candlestick red hot.
Running Backs: Frank Gore (49ers) & Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens)This choice was a lot easier, Gore and Rice are the two best running backs left in the playoffs by a large margin, both because of their own ability and their offenses' reliance on the running game.
Gore was a given since I think the 49ers will be in the Superbowl, however Rice was not quite so easy. On one hand, he is clearly the best RB in the playoffs right now; on the other hand, I'm less confident that the Raven's excellent defense will be able to stop the patriotic juggernaut, making them a less certain pick for the Superbowl. In the end, I decided that no other running back would be able to put up more points over the next two games, even with the 2x bonus in the Superbowl.
Wide Recivers: Hakeem Nicks (NY Giants) & Deion Branch (NE Patriots)Since neither of the two teams I have picked for the Superbowl have strong passing games I decided to utilize the WR position to hedge my bets. I therefore selected the best receiver from each of the two best passing teams left in the playoffs. The injury to Branch worries me some, however the fact that the Ravens will be focusing on the center of the field in an attempt to stop the Patriot's dominant tight ends makes me optimistic.
Tight End: Vernon Davis (49ers)This was the hardest pick for me, as Rob Gronkowski is a VERY tempting selection. Ultimately, however, I decided that a Ravens defense that is going to be specifically targeting him makes him less attractive. Vernon Davis is Alex Smith's go to man, especially after his amazing performance last weekend. I expect excellent numbers from Davis, even if the 49ers lose, especially if the Giants get the lead early forcing Smith to throw the ball.
Kicker: David Akers (49ers)Akers was my pick from week one, even taking the bye in the first round. He will be scoring triple points for me this week, which I expect to make him my leading point scorer. He has been a dominant force for the 49ers all year thanks to their anemic offensive production.
Defense: Baltimore RavensI selected the Ravens' Defense last week, so they will be scoring double points for me this week. The Ravens defense is ranked 3rd overall in total yards allowed this season, and 4th in passing yards allowed. If anyone can stop the Patriots they can.
In retrospect I wish I would have picked the 49ers defense because of their excellent turnover ratio, however at this point I can either take 2x points for sure from the Ravens or hope for 2x next week from the 49ers. I decided to go with the sure thing.