Fantasy Football: Best weekend of the season?

Wild-card weekend lived up to its namesake, featuring a historic upset of the defending Super Bowl champions and three road upsets.

First, we'd like to congratulate 'liquid872' for taking the $70 first-place prize with a dominating performance. Led by Michael Vick and LaDainian Tomlinson, 'liquid872' outpaced the pack by more than 20 points. We salute you.

This will be the last week for the fantasy football challenge, and we have no doubt it will be our best yet. The divisional round is almost always the year's best weekend of football, with four games (OK, three) featuring top-notch matchups. From those games comes a deep and talented pool of fantasy talent.

You can sign up here. And here. And here.

We are also running a "Beat the Experts" challenge for the NBA and NHL. If you are still looking to get your fantasy fix when football ends, those are your best bets. There is no better time than now to start.

Here is a look at the rest of the top 10 from last week, including a look at how our roster stacked up against 'liquid872':

The playoffs never unfold the way they are expected to. No better example illustrates that point than some of the names who made the top scorers list from the improbable, sensational and Vegas-killing games of the past weekend:


QB - Matt Hasselbeck - 25.87 points - 272 passing yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT; -1 rushing yards
RB - LaDainian Tomlinson - 21.9 points - 82 rushing yards, 2 TDs; 17 receiving yards
RB - Julius Jones - 20 points - 59 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 1 fumble; 61 receiving yards
WR - Pierre Garcon - 17.2 points - 112 receiving yards, 1 TD
WR - Jason Avant - 15.3 points - 93 receiving yards, 1 TD
WR - Devery Henderson - 13.7 points - 77 receiving yards, 1 TD
TE - John Carlson - 13.7 points - 17 receiving yards, 1 TD
K - (tie) Adam Vinatieri - 11 points - 1 FG 0-39 yds; 1 FG 40-49; 1 FG 50+; 1 PAT
Olindo Mare - 11 points - 2 FGs 0-39 yds; 5 PATs
DEF - Baltimore Ravens - 17 points - 7 PA; 3 INTs; 3 sacks; 2 fumble recoveries

It's no surprise that five of the 10 players on this list are either Seahawks or Saints. The game featured plenty of offense, little defense and one jaw-dropping run from the man with the golden teeth, Marshawn Lynch.

For all its beauty, Lynch's effort did not even place him as one of the two top scorers at running back. He was not even the top scorer at the position in his game, as Julius Jones proved to be the biggest bargain on the weekend. Jones ran for two scores and accounted for 130 yards out of the backfield. So much for Reggie Bush providing the most for your money...

At quarterback was Matt Hasselbeck, a man who is so injury-prone that he hurt himself running untouched into the end zone against Tampa Bay in Week 16. The Saints could not exploit this trait, with Hasselbeck throwing four touchdowns and leading Seattle to a shootout win.

Other surprises came at wide receiver. It's believable that Pierre Garcon could find a spot among the top three for the week. But Jason Avant and Devery Henderson? We did not see that coming.

In general, though, it was a low-scoring week for wide receivers. Top options like Greg Jennings, Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Bowe gave their owners basically nothing.



Bargains and Busts

Looking ahead to this weekend, we have some of the best talent the NFL has to offer. Tom Brady attempts to duplicate the Monday Night Football whipping he put on the Jets earlier in the season, and Aaron Rodgers faces off with Matt Ryan in Atlanta.

Even though some of the NFL's best defenses will be in action, we would not be surprised to have a fairly high-scoring weekend, even in the Pittsburgh-Baltimore slugfest. In the playoffs, what is expected to happen and what actually happens are polar opposites (just look at the Seahawks).

So, our bargains and busts for the divisional round:


QB - Ben Roethlisberger ($7,900)

Roethlisberger started off slowly after returning from suspension, and in Week 17 he found his groove in a tuneup for the playoffs. The Ravens' defense is still good, but they are beatable. With speedster Mike Wallace on the outside, there is a good chance Big Ben could find him deep for a score or two.

RB - James Starks ($7,200)

Starks' game last week was no joke - he is a talented back that was only lacking for health and opportunity. Watching him run against the Eagles made that obvious, although he certainly was helped by the fact that no defenders knew how to tackle. He will be heavily involved again in Atlanta.

WR - Johnny Knox ($5,600)

Knox has been Jay Cutler's favorite target on the year, and Seattle's pass defense is nothing special. At Soldier Field, we can see Knox catching a couple long completions, and he always has the chance to break one or more for a score.

TE - Greg Olsen ($4,300)

For a lot of the same reasons as Knox, Olsen could also have a productive game against the Seahawks. When Cutler decides to throw to Olsen in games, he looks his way often, which could mean at least a touchdown in the forecast for Sunday.

K - Mason Crosby ($5,200)

Crosby did not attempt a single field goal against the Eagles last week. That won't continue for a second straight week, and in the comfortable climate of the Georgia Dome, Crosby could be relied on greatly to provide important points for the Packers.

DEF - Chicago Bears ($6,200)

You have to give Seattle props for beating New Orleans last week, but traveling to Chicago will be a different animal. We simply don't trust Hasselbeck to protect the football, and the Bears' defense will be ready to play after a week off. Plenty of footballs could be coming their way.


QB - Tom Brady ($9,600)

Yeah, this is dangerous, we know. The Jets have spent much of this week taunting Brady, taking personal shots and letting it be known that they are coming to Foxboro with every intention of beating him up and shutting him down. Call it a hunch, but the Jets are going to do it. Brady won't be completely shut down, but he also won't come close to matching that Monday Night performance last time these teams met.

RB - Rashard Mendenhall ($8,400)

Mendenhall is a difficult back to project, as he does little when a lot is expected and has a big game when least suspected. He will be hit early and often by the Ravens' defense, and will not find a lot of running room.

WR - Roddy White ($7,800)

White is one of the best receivers in the NFL, no doubt, but it's hard to guess how the Falcons will react as the NFC's top seed. The Packers have Charles Woodson and Traemon Williams in their secondary, and with Clay Matthews chasing Ryan around, White could be quiet.

TE - Tony Gonzalez ($6,800)

Gonzalez has not done much recently, as he is no more than the third option in the Atlanta offense. He always has a chance to score in the red zone, but the Falcons may be content to hand the ball off as much as possible.

K - Billy Cundiff ($5,700)

Cundiff, surprisingly, has been very reliable for the Ravens this season. Is he worthy of being the highest-priced kicker this week though? We say no.

DEF - Baltimore Ravens ($6,900)

The Ravens were our pick last week, and all they did was force three interceptions and hold the Chiefs to seven points. With everyone expecting a low-scoring affair, this one naturally will be heavy on the offense. If that's the case, we like the Steelers, not Ray Lewis and Co. - especially if Ed Reed does not play.



Divisional Round Roster

Last week didn't turn out exactly as planned.

As we pointed out earlier, there were a lot of unusual names on our top performers list. The only thing they all had in common? None of them were on our roster. In this league, you can't win without getting a few (not just one) big games.

This week, we are going to try to redeem ourselves and end the season on a strong note.

Here is our roster as we head into the final week:

QB - Ben Roethlisberger (BAL@PIT) - $7,900

RB - Michael Turner (GB@ATL) - $9,400

RB - Danny Woodhead (NYJ@NE) - $5,700

WR - Greg Jennings (GB@ATL) - $6,800

WR - Mike Wallace (BAL@PIT) - $6,700

WR - Anquan Boldin (BAL@PIT) - $5,500

TE - Rob Gronkowski (NYJ@NE) - $6,400

K - Matt Bryant (GB@ATL) - $5,300

D - Chicago Bears (SEA@CHI) - $6,200

We want to thank everyone for playing this season, and don't forget to play in our beat the expert leagues, which will be going on throughout the NHL and NBA season.