We had three blowouts during Wild-Card weekend and one instant classic. Let's clear out the notebook, with an eye towards our fantasy futures.
• Start plotting your strategy and rigging your lottery if you plan on having a share of the Packers passing game for fantasy 2010. These guys are going to cost you, especially the triggerman, Aaron Rodgers(notes).
The Packers didn't get a victory in Sunday's desert duel but the Green Bay offense made an emphatic final statement (493 yards, 32 first downs, 45 points). Rodgers was the top scoring quarterback in most scoring systems this year and he's downright lethal now that his pocket awareness has grown up. His sneaky mobility (316 rushing yards) and handiness at the goal line (six ground TDs, including one Sunday) provide an extra push over the top – I can't see how Rodgers won't be the consensus No. 1 quarterback on everyone's board next spring (magazine season) and summer (drafting for keeps). A deep receiving corps doesn't hurt the cause.
Retire all that talk about Jermichael Finley(notes) being next year's tight end sleeper – the freakishly-talented Finley went off in the second half of 2009 and everyone noticed. Heck, even if you just watch the highlights, you'll see Finley a lot, he's always leaping over some defenders or running past another guy. Finley collected a tasty 38-416-4 line over his last seven games of the regular season, then tacked on 159 yards on six catches against the Cardinals. The Packers realize what they have in Finley; they move him all around the formation and use him as a wide receiver about half the time he's on the field. Finley figured to be a Top 5 tight end selection just about everywhere.
• The Cedric Benson(notes) story should roll into 2010. He just turned 27 a couple of weeks ago. The identity of the Bengals offense has shifted; this team runs first (usually with six offensive linemen), asks questions later. And the Bengals defense helps Benson as well, even if it's in a subtle way; you won't see a lot of blowouts in Cincinnati, which keeps the rushing game relevant for four quarters.
• The obligations of Saturday forced me to catch half of the Bengals and Jets in the car, and that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Tom Hammond, Joe Theismann and Joe Gibbs were one of the worst modern broadcast teams ever assembled for a playoff game.
• Kurt Warner(notes) should have been a walk-in Hall of Famer before a single play was snapped in 2009, but his strong season and brilliant performance Sunday will probably sway any of the doubters. How did Warner not get a perfect QB rating from this ridiculous line (29-for-33, 379 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT)?
• Anquan Boldin(notes) is a heck of a ballplayer but he's merely a luxury for Arizona at this point; Steve Breaston(notes), Early Doucet(notes) and Jerheme Urban(notes) give the Cardinals excellent depth behind Larry Fitzgerald(notes). Boldin has wanted a trade out of the desert for years; there's probably a good chance he gets his wish this time around.
• Beanie Wells(notes) is a far superior runner to Tim Hightower(notes), no one disputes this, but I won't be surprised if Wells is mildly overdrafted next year. Hightower is still a fantastic pass blocker, while Wells has a long way to go in that area, and Wells also has struggled with ball security at times this year.
• Joe Flacco's efficiency(notes) stats from 2009 were a little better than his rookie year, but that doesn't mean he's really improved as a passer; the emergence of Ray Rice(notes) (as a rusher and receiver) had a lot to do with the bump. Baltimore desperately needs to get a major vertical threat into their offense next year.
• The Jets did a fantastic job handling Mark Sanchez(notes) this weekend and the rookie stuck just about every throw – he was 12-for-15 with two drops – but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be a franchise player down the road. It's one thing to produce in a game where your rushing attack and defense help out; it's another thing to lift a team to victory on a day where nothing else is working. The Jets don't need Sanchez to steer the offense as a rookie, but in a few years he'll be expected to. It's too early to know if he can handle that sort of responsibility.
• The Jets backfield for 2010 will be a lot simpler if Leon Washington(notes) isn't able to come back from his broken leg. Shonn Greene(notes) has future star written all over him and Thomas Jones(notes) probably has at least one strong year left, especially when you consider the depth of New York's offensive line.
• It's been a steep fall for Marion Barber(notes) – he's clearly the No. 3 runner for Dallas when you consider the salaries of the backs, and even if the dollars are pushed aside, he still might be the third guy here. That said, the Cowboys need to be smarter with Felix Jones(notes); it was crazy to give him a carry inside of three minutes Saturday while the Cowboys were holding a 20-point lead. Jones is explosive and fragile, a sports car; handle with care.
• If we can all agree that choking exists in sports (hello, Neil Rackers(notes)), doesn't that sort of prove that clutch play exists as well? Look around your world, your job, your personal experiences – doesn't it seem like some people handle pressure better than others?
• No good team fails in the hurry-up offense quite like the Philadelphia Eagles.
• New England's no-show against Baltimore was only a mild surprise; the Patriots passing game wasn't consistent week-to-week in 2009 and the only thing the team really did well was dispose of weaker opponents. Decisively beating the early-season Titans or the sack-challenged Jaguars might earn you some respect with the power-rating crowd, but it doesn't mean you're going to beat good teams. No open-minded New England fan expected multiple wins in this year's AFC playoffs. Sunday was probably the Last Day of the Patriots Dynasty.
• The Bengals wasted their franchise spot on kicker Shayne Graham(notes) in 2009, a silly move when you consider how fungible the position tends to be. No skilled fantasy owner would make this same mistake. Know where to devote your resources.
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