Monday, December 26, 2011

After the laughter, it’s time for a free-for-all

Aaron Rodgers earned his place on fantasy’s Mount Rushmore with his five-touchdown performance on Christmas night, propelling millions of gleeful owners to championship glory.

That’s the type of overwhelming firepower you’re dreaming of when you invest a first-round pick on a quarterback. Many of those who took that gamble are celebrating today.

Then again, if all they got from Rodgers’ masterful evening was a ticket to a Week 17 Super Bowl, they’d better party hearty now. Because their All World quarterback won’t be playing much, if at all, in the Packers’ meaningless regular season finale.

That’s why your league shouldn’t be playing for all the marbles, either.

With nothing at stake next Sunday, most Packers starters will undoubtedly hit the showers after a drive or two. Expect similar non-production from Arian Foster and his fellow Texans starters, who are locked in as the AFC’s No. 3 seed. There’s no telling how long, or hard, the Saints, Lions and Falcons will be battling, either.

Meanwhile, players from non-playoff bound teams may have already checked out mentally. (See Tampa Bay.)

Allow me to recommend a more enjoyable way to wrap up the fantasy season: The Free-for-All Bowl.

It’s simple. Everyone – including those owners who sat out the postseason – sets one final starting lineup. The top overall score wins five percent of the pot. (For non-money leagues, I suppose you could play for pride. Winning, in this case, would be much like hitting a perfect drive off the 18th tee after a lousy round of golf. It fuels hope for future success.)

We’ve played the Free-for-All Bowl in a couple of my leagues for as long as I can remember, because it’s a great way to keep everyone engaged while extracting one more competitive week out of the fantasy season. And I think we can all agree that’s a worthy objective.

If you can talk your fellow owners into staging a Free-for-All Bowl next weekend, I urge you to give it a try. Otherwise, be sure to lock it into your schedule next season.

Because Week 17 is a terrible thing to waste.

FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS

Hopefully you’ve already played, and won, your league’s championship. If you still have something on the line in Week 17, there’s not much help available on the waiver wire. But here are some marginal free agent recommendations anyway, along with two who would look better in someone else’s lineup.

Catch 'em while you can

Matt Flynn, QB, Packers. The highly regarded backup out-dueled Tom Brady in passing for 251 yards and 3 TDs last season when Rodgers was injured. Flynn has the talent, and presumably he’ll have enough receiving weapons at his disposal to make things interesting against the Lions. He’s the type of unheralded player that often tops the Week 17 passer rankings.

Evan Royster, RB, Redskins. Why not one more spin on the Redskins’ backfield rollercoaster? After combining for 147 yards against a solid run defense in his first NFL start, Royster has certainly earned another opportunity against the Eagles in Week 17. Of course, only the inscrutable Mike Shanahan knows if he’ll get the chance, and that decision hinges somewhat on Roy Helu’s health.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings. While we ponder the possibility that we may have just witnessed the beginning of the end to Adrian Peterson’s stellar career, it’s time again to make room for Gerhart on your roster. Now owned in less than half of all leagues, Gerhart will be called upon to finish off the Vikings’ disastrous season against the Bears next Sunday.


Don’t be fooled

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders. There’s chatter swirling in fantasy circles that RunDMC may be preparing for a Week 17 return to the field. While anything’s possible in Oakland, the possibility seems remote at best. Even more unlikely is the notion that McFadden would deliver meaningful production in his first action since injuring his foot in Week 7, particularly when Michael Bush has performed so well in his absence.

Jerome Simpson, WR, Bengals. Even the non-football fans gathered at my home on Christmas Eve were mesmerized by Simpson’s mind-boggling scoring leap. But don’t let his signature career highlight convince you that he belongs on your roster; especially with the Ravens coming to town for the Bengals’ finale.

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