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Neil Peterson’s 2010 FFL Playoff Field Predictions

By  Last updated: 25th May 2011

Another FFL season is set to kick off tomorrow night and before it does, I must once again endeavor to foresee the unforeseeable.  Last season, I correctly predicted 3 out of 6 playoff teams, including a spot on prediction of the eventual champion Connecticut as winners of the NFFC.  A late season collapse by Dallas and a historically unlucky season by Chicago kept me from a stronger record, but I still take pride in having the stones to pick against perennial playoff teams New York, Boston and Montana and seeing that risky wager fulfilled.

Has there been a change in the guard or will we see a return of more familiar faces this FFL postseason?  Here’s how one man sees it playing out:

Neil Peterson sees a huge breakout season for Thunder wideout Calvin Johnson.

NFFC Champion: Boston Thunder

The Thunder had a rough go of it last season and much of the blame can be put on Thunder mainstays Steven Jackson and Greg Jennings.  Normally consistent performers, both came crashing down in 2009 with pedestrian seasons at best.  While a more inexperienced head coach might have overreacted to a down year and made drastic moves, Coach Wisneski has been at this long enough to take a few bumps in the road in stride.  Jackson and Jennings are back and I expect them to return to the top of their games.  Fourth year receiver Calvin Johnson seems primed for a break out as a steady FFL contributor, rather than being known only for the occasional big play and while quarterback Carson Palmer won’t quite bounce back to his Pro Bowl days, he should still show marked improvement.  The Thunder’s main worry is a lack of depth, with a lot of question marks on the bench, but in a weak NFFC, I still expect them to take the crown.

AFFC Champion: Phoenix Conquistadors

After a thrilling run to the Fantasy Bowl, Conquistadors coach Adam Fleming had Phoenix fans teetering on the brink this off season with a prolonged contract dispute and hold out.  Fleming came back in style by announcing a trade that immediately put those fans back on the bandwagon and thinking Fantasy Bowl once again.  By acquiring exciting wide out Andre Johnson, the Conquistadors gained a big play threat in the receiving corps that they lacked last year.  Drew Brees and MJD remain two of the most consistent options in the league and if Vincent Jackson makes like his coach and comes back from a contract hold out in time to make an impact this season, Phoenix could be back in the Fantasy Bowl and this time winning it all.

Wild Card #1: Dallas Knights

The Knights came out at a furious pace last year and had everyone in Dallas thinking about an extended playoff run when the injury bug hit and the team wound up whimpering to a lottery pick.  It makes sense, then, that Coach Tyler Fleming made a concerted effort to build around young legs like powerhouse Shonn Greene and big wide out Mike Wallace.  I expect both to be difference makers this year who will be able to carry the team even if Frank Gore or Matt Schaub go down as they have in the past.  One player of interest is Thomas Jones, who has always had a knack for scoring, but some critics wonder if he’s anything more than a part time player at this point in his career.  If he can prove those doubters wrong and supply his typical stream of touchdowns, Dallas will have an even stronger lineup.

Wild Card #2: Chicago Black Sox

Several things went right for the Black Sox last year.  Chris Johnson bust out for a record setting season and staked his claim as the best back in the league.  Randy Moss defied age and injury concerns and remained the most dependable scoring receiver around.  Chris “Beanie” Wells had the exact type of finish you hope for from a rookie back, showing a rare combination of speed and power.  Despite these positives, the team managed to secure the worst record in the league, suffering one devastating loss after another.  For this reason, Chicago fans refuse to be optimistic about the upcoming season and it’s hard to blame them.  But from an unbiased viewpoint, there’s a lot to like about this team.  Adding to the youth movement, Chicago added not one, not two, but three electric rookies who pundits believe could be difference makers right out of the gate.  Just one of these youngsters panning out could pay huge dividends and even if they don’t, veteran Steve Smith provides valuable insurance and stability.  Along with the typical uncertainty of rookies, the big question mark for the Black Sox is Brett Favre, who played over his head last season and has nowhere to go but down.  Nonetheless, the last time Brett Favre was the starter in Chicago, the Black Sox won it all.

Wild Card #3: Connecticut Fancy Lads

This may seem low for the defending champions who are bringing back two unquestioned top 5 running backs in Adrian Peterson and Michael Turner, as well exciting young back Jamaal Charles, but Coach Ben Fleming was in “win now” mode last year and now he has to pay the bill.  He, and Connecticut fans, would do it again in a heartbeat, but it’s hard to imagine they can be as strong this year as last.  The receiving corps is a mix of no names and one notorious chemistry killer.  Their tight end spot is manned by a rookie and a guy who’s best years are well behind him.   Quarterback Joe Flacco should see a modest but significant increase in production this season, but if any of the three headline backs go down for Face Lads, it could be a very long season.  Luckily for Coach Fleming, the honeymoon is still on.

Wild Card #4: Montana Blazers

This seems like a top heavy year in the FFL to me, and my choice of Montana as the last Wild Card team isn’t so much a commendation of the Blazers, but a condemnation of the rest of the field.  I expect Tony Romo to have a big year, even for him, and that kind of consistent scoring might be enough to fill in some of the gaps that clearly riddle this squad.  Boldin should make a mini comeback, Rashard Mendenhall and Brandon Jacobs should be good for some goal line plunges and youngsters LeSean McCoy and Michael Crabtree both have a decent amount of upside.  That makes Montana look to be the best of the worst in my estimation, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Also-Rans

The Z-Force seemed to be asking for criticism by padding an already old team with even more geezers.  Former MVPs Ladanian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and Fred Taylor all on the same team seems like a publicity stunt.  They might get some fans in the seats, but they’re not good for many touchdowns these days.  The Predators have a stud in Aaron Rodgers, but no other player on their roster stands out to me as elite this year.  The Challengers continue their yearly tradition of focusing on acquiring a kicker when they still have numerous holes at positions that actually matter.  The Miracles are now the last original FFL team without a championship.  Too many gambles and not enough sure things on their roster will make sure that it stays that way. The Blockers are going to regret trading Adrian Peterson for a long time.  Exciting rookie CJ Spiller won’t change that.  Finally, the Tsunamis managed to make the playoffs last year but the cost of renting Ladanian Tomlinson last year will be heavy this season.  They’d better hope Willis McGahee has one more big season in him or they might want to start scouting for the first pick soon.



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