Super Bowl Sunday represents the last chance to partake in the unique brand of fantasy football fun that is Rivalry Games Fantasy Football.
If you are unfamiliar, I already wrote about how I turned $70 into $288.50 over just two weekends playing Rivalry’s app-based fantasy football game during the NFL playoffs.
If you are familiar, and if you are planning to play some cash games during the big game tomorrow, here are three quick tips — about the three least glamorous positions on your roster — that could be the difference between winning and losing your matchups tomorrow.
1. Take Earl Thomas
When it comes to choosing defensive players, I do not chase sacks or interceptions. Those stats are just too unpredictable. Let your less odds-focused opponents concern themselves with these fickle football events.
(Note: The exception is that I might sub in a superior pass rusher in the 4th quarter of a game when his team has a big lead — which suggests that the other team will be dropping back to pass a lot and the pass rush will be unleashed.)
Instead, I focus on tackles.
In the two playoff games against the pass-oriented Broncos, the leading tacklers for the opposition have been defensive backs:
- San Diego: Jahleel Addae (8), Marcus Gilchrist (7)
- New England: Devin McCourty (10)
In Denver’s final regular season game, Charles Woodson led Oakland with 10 tackles. In Denver’s second-to-last regular season game, Darryl Sharpton (LB) led the Texans in tackles … but number two on the list was Kareem Jackson, just one tackle behind.
The lesson? A defensive back will almost always lead Denver’s opponent in tackles.
So why Thomas over, say, Dick Sherman? Because Thomas is the best safety in football and the second-leading tackler for the Seahawks on the season. And Sherman is likely to be avoided by Peyton Manning, at least some, reducing the chances for him to make tackles.
Plus, Thomas is a playmaker (five INTs on the year), making him the best of both worlds: a safe bet for 4-5 tackles per half with the upside to do a whole lot more.
2. Take Danny Trevathan
I know that it might be tempting to choose a Seahawks pass rusher, but I’m not going there. I respect Manning’s ability to avoid sacks with his quick decisions and release, and I always want to take the sure thing if it’s available.
What’s a more sure thing among front-7 players in this game than Danny Trevathan? He is far and away the Broncos’ leading tackler, amassing almost 40 more than the next-closest Broncos defender during the regular season.
Plus, consider that in the two playoff games against the run-oriented Seahawks, the leading tacklers for the opposition have been linebackers:
- New Orleans: David Hawthorne (9)
- San Francisco: NaVorro Bowman (14)
In the final regular season game, James Laurinitis led St. Louis with 10 tackles. In the second-to-last regular season game, Daryl Washington led Arizona with seven tackles.
You get the point.
(Notice the symmetry between these two sections?)
Consider Zach Miller (or even Jacob Tamme) at TE
Julius Thomas would appear to be the easy choice at TE. His numbers dwarf those of any other tight end in this matchup.
But hold on.
Didn’t you hear that Seattle’s defense is particularly adept at shutting down opposing tight ends?
Look no further than these last two playoff games. Seattle has faced two of the best tight ends in football, and here is how each has fared:
- Jimmy Graham: 1 reception for 8 yards
- Vernon Davis: 2 receptions for 16 yards
Granted, Graham and Davis did catch TDs against Seattle during regular season matchups, but neither had more than three catches or 42 yards.
The bottom line is that Seattle makes life tough on tight ends. And while the presence of Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker will help Julius Thomas find space, the fact that he only gives you 60 points per TD and 10 points for every 10 yards receiving creates the possibility that better value might be found elsewhere.
Zach Miller is one of Russell Wilson’s three favorite targets in the passing game. He caught 33 passes for 387 yards and 5 TDs during the regular season. Those are pedestrian numbers to be sure, but realize that he he provides 120 points per TD and 40 points for every 10 yards receiving.
If you think Julius Thomas is a good bet to be kept out of the end zone and limited in touches and yards, Miller offers tremendous upside if he can sneak into the end zone.
And then there is Jacob Tamme.
He caught a touchdown against New England, though he only caught 20 balls during the regular season and isn’t on the field as much as Miller. But if you’re bearish on Julius Thomas yet can’t stand the thought of taking a non-Broncos receiver, Tamme also provides 40-10 value for you.
I’m not completely sold on choosing Miller or Tamme over Thomas … but I’m strongly considering it.
As for the other spots? You’re on your own …
Come on now. I can’t give away all of my secrets.
Actually, I can. And I would … if I felt strongly about anyone at the QB, RB, and WR positions. But I don’t.
Even QB is a bit of quandary, because while Peyton is the obvious choice, the following factors all are giving me pause:
- Precipitation isn’t expected, but it will be frigid.
- Seattle has one of the best defensive secondaries in history.
- Russell Wilson delivers double the value (40-4) that Peyton does (20-2).
Same at RB, where Marshawn Lynch is the obvious choice, but the extra 20 points per yard that Knowshon Moreno provides is enticing.
And what about at WR? You know you are going with a Bronco, but I can make a convincing case for Demaryius, Decker, or Welker. Take your pick.
Oh, and I know there will be a lot of distractions tomorrow night — commercials, guests, Bruno Mars — but make sure you pay close attention to the actual game … so that you can take advantage of trends and game situations to optimize your 2nd- and 4th-quarter lineups.
… but here’s why I’m happy to divulge my secrets on D and at TE
Despite the difficulty of the choices at QB, RB, and WR, I’m set on D and almost positive what I’m doing at tight end.
Why am I so happy to divulge this valuable information to you, a potential competitor?
Because while I can make a decent sum winning challenges, I can make more money if you register to play for cash and then use the deposit code MIDWEST50.
It’s a win-win: you get a match of up to $50 on your deposit, and I get 25 percent.
And, obviously, I hope you are more likely to sign up and play for cash now that you have the benefit of my knowledge and experience to guide you on the positions that, for newcomers, are the hardest to choose. (They sure were for me when I started.)
Plus, Rivalry Games has a basketball game coming out soon (with a baseball game to follow), and you can roll your bankroll into those games to continue the fun once football ends.
Good luck, and may you win a nice handful of cash and have a lot of fun doing it. I have, for two playoff weekends running. That’s why I’m such a strong advocate for the Rivalry Games’ format.
Hope to see you in a challenge tomorrow!
Flickr Creative Commons Image by Anthony Quintano
Feb 2nd, 5:04 CT: Quick update regarding the bonus cash, from Justin Bauer (Rivalry Games CEO):
Bonus funds are withdrawn at 5% of the entry fee for each game played (e.g., if he competes in two $10 challenges, $1 of bonus cash will be made available in his account). We’ve implemented this system as we have had some users make a deposit and then withdraw the entire bonus amount after one game played (which benefits no one; affiliates are also not paid if a user does this and never returns).
So, basically, don’t try to use the bonus code and then withdraw the $50 bonus bucks really quickly.