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Neil Peterson’s 2011 FFL Preview

By  Last updated: 6th September 2011

Neil Peterson sees Ben Roethlisberger and the 2011 Dallas Knights as a major contender for an FFL title. It would be the franchise's first championship in 16 years.

 

With regular season games less than a week away, it’s time for me once again to shine a light on each team in the Fantasy Football League and look for cracks.  Last season was hit or miss for me.  I correctly picked Phoenix, the eventual champion, as the team to beat in the AFFC, and their Fantasy Bowl opponent Montana to join them in the playoffs, but only one of my remaining four picks hit, leaving me with a .500 batting average.  I’ve fired my staff of research assistants in hopes of a stronger showing this year.  On to the picks…

NFFC Champion:  Connecticut Fancy Lads

Looking to make their third straight playoff appearance, Ben Fleming’s team is taking a traditionalist approach to the FFL.  In a league where running backs have usually reigned supreme, the Fancy Lads sport three of the best.  Adrian Peterson remains the most steady force in the league, Jamaal Charles provides the big play ability and LeGarrette Blount looks poised to break out and take his place among the league’s best backs.  After those three, things become notably more precarious for the Fancy Lads, with second year QB Sam Bradford as a question mark and no sure bets in the receiving corps.  Nonetheless, I expect things to work themselves out.  Chad Ochocinco should be able to get open downfield enough to keep the teams honest, and the three backs will get the
job done.

AFFC Champion:  Dallas Knights

The eldest Fleming must be feeling left out after seeing his brothers hoisting the Welburn Trophy in consecutive seasons.  The good news for him is that he’s put together a team that could get Tyler back to the big boys table this Thanksgiving.  Fleming wisely hedged his QB bets with two players that could see big spikes in their touchdown passes this season should they stay healthy.  I’m not sure if Ben Roethlisberger or Matthew Stafford will be the one who stays upright but the position should produce big either way.  The Knights also sport one of the most deadly crop of wide receivers in the league with Larry Fitzgerald poised to return to his typical glory with Miles Austin and Mike Wallace not far behind.  The biggest flaw for Dallas is the lack of a sure thing running back.  They should expect steady play from at least one of their backs, but none of them are safe bets for a big season.  Nonetheless, the run and shoot is the new wishbone in the FFL of the 2010s, so watch out for Dallas.

Wild Card #1:  Kansas City Cockblockers

Head coach Jason Leinwand won back some of the fans he lost by trading Adrian Peterson with a solid playoff season last year.  Still reaping the rewards from the biggest trade in franchise history, the Cockblockers hope to only build on last season’s success.  Philip Rivers remains the key cog and a model of consistency, always putting up gaudy touchdown numbers no matter who he’s throwing to.  Alongside the boring but always prolific Roddy White, Kansas City has added young playmakers AJ Green and Jimmy Graham.  It may take Green some time before he starts delivering, but expect Graham to come out of the gate as a big presence in the red zone.  Leinwand borrowed a page from Jason Zieger’s playbook in filling the role of running back.  Mike Tolbert, Brandon Jacobs and Willis McGahee are three guys short on talent but good at falling forward into the endzone.  Watch out, though.  If those guys can’t get it done at the goal line, they could be headed to the waiver wire sooner than later.

Wild Card #2: Waikiki Tsunamis

Joining the Cock Blockers in the playoffs will be their fellow expansion team, headed up by Mike Linnemann.  I’ve picked against them in back to back seasons and they proved me wrong both times.  And while in those seasons the Tsunamis scrapped their way in with unlikely performers, this season the Tsunamis have real star power to go along with fixture Tom Brady.  With a couple of opportunistic trades, Linnemann has brought known commodities Andre Johnson and Michael Turner into the fold — both are money in the bank to approach double digit touchdowns.  Look for second year tight end Rob Gronkowski to join them with some gaudy scoring numbers of his own.  I’m not a fan of the rest of Waikiki’s team; Dwayne Bowe and Fred Jackson will be hard pressed to duplicate their production from last season, but if the main players stay healthy, Waikiki will find themselves in the playoffs for the third straight year.  Only if the miles catch up to Brady, Turner or Johnson will things turn sour.

Wild Card #3: Atlanta Predators

Freddie deBoer has not put together a deep team this year and that could leave him scrambling during bye weeks.  Michael Crabtree has not shown himself to be a guy you can count on at all, let alone as your second wide receiver and there’s not much to like at backup quarterback, tight end or running back.  Still, top heavy has worked before in the FFL and the Predators top should be heavy enough to make the playoffs.  There’s not much to say about Aaron Rodgers that hasn’t been said, but it’s looking like he could have his biggest year yet since Atlanta unleashed him on the league four seasons ago.  Darren McFadden broke out in a big way last season and if he stays healthy there’s no reason to think he won’t be one of the most dynamic backs in the league once again.  The name deBoer is really banking on is Mike Williams, who had a surprisingly strong rookie campaign and is being counted on for even more.  He should continue to make his presence known in the red zone.  Don’t expect a lot of big weeks out of the Predators, but enough consistency to get to the postseason.

Wild Card #4: Montana Blazers

Last season I called the Blazers the best of the worst and expected them to only sneak into the postseason, but they put together a strong season and made it all the way to the Fantasy Bowl, so head coach Nick Surowiecki might be happy to see that I once again expect the Blazers to be the last team into the playoff field.  Montana fans will be happy to see Rashard Mendenhall more or less repeat his strong season from a year ago, although they shouldn’t expect him to take it to another level.  On the other hand, LeSean McCoy could take it to another level after his breakout season and find himself celebrating in the end zone with even more frequency.  Outside of those two stalwarts, there’s not much to love on the Blazers roster, but Matt Schaub, Anquan Boldin and Wes Welker should provide enough steady production to take Montana back to the postseason.  One wild card is Jahvid Best.  He has shown himself to be capable of big weeks and if he can stay healthy and find his role, he could be an important third cog and make the Blazers a real contender.

Also-Rans:

Readers may be surprised to see that I’ve pegged the Phoenix Conquistadors, the FFL’s reigning champions, to be outside looking in this postseason, but owner Adam Fleming may have made one too many moves this offseason, sending away Michael Vick and Andre Johnson, two big pieces in their championship run.  The player they stuck with, Arian Foster, has looked banged up and could regress in a big way this year.  Picking against the New York Z-Force in back to back seasons bit me last year as Jason Zieger’s team reeled off one of his patented hot starts and rode it into a first round bye.  Unfortunately his team lost some of its luster as the season wore on and now there’s some real concern that age might finally be catching up to Peyton Manning, the engine that has made the Z-Force go for so many years.  Expect a disappointing season in New York.  The Charleston Challengers look like a team that was slapped together without a real purpose.  You have to wonder if head coach Chris Bransfield wasn’t asleep at the wheel this offseason.  Hakeem Nicks and Santonio Holmes will have strong years, but don’t expect much more.  Jeff Zieger is now the only original FFL owner still active without a championship.  Look for that streak to continue, with his Miami Miracles looking like a one man show.  Ray Rice is poised for a huge year but there is no one else of particular interest on the Miami roster.  The Boston Thunder look a lot like last year’s disappointing team.  Calvin Johnson might take a step forward, but Greg Jennings could easily see a step backward and Steven Jackson has racked up a lot of miles.  Eamonn Wisneski will have to unearth some gems if his team is going to return to glory.  And finally, Hendrik deBoer has promised a return to the Golden Age for his Chicago Black Sox.  Critics question whether there ever was a Golden Age.  Regardless of what you think about the franchise’s storied history, the Black Sox look like a team where many things could go wrong in a big way.  The talent is there, but without any one player that you can really count on for a healthy, productive season, the Black Sox look like they’re closer to another last place finish than a Fantasy Bowl.



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