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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fantasy football: Playoff pools, top QBs and RBs

It was -- for what seems like the third consecutive season -- the Year of the Quarterback.

Drew Brees shattered Dan Marino's single-season record by throwing for 5,476 yards. Tom Brady also handily beat Marino's former mark of 5,084 by throwing for 5,235 yards, and Detroit's Matthew Stafford nearly reached Marino's 1984 record, finishing 46 yards shy.

It only makes sense, then, that if you play in a fantasy playoff league -- one in which you can select no more than one player from each NFL playoff team -- that you have to start with the quarterback.

Unless you believe the Steelers will make another Super Bowl run -- and to do so, they would likely would have to win at Denver, at Baltimore and at New England, in some order (well, we know the order starts with the Tim Tebows on Sunday) -- there are only three choices at QB.

Aaron Rodgers, Brees and Brady.

Take your pick.

We'll go with Rodgers for two reasons: 1. Despite sitting out the regular-season finale (and thus starting the Possibly Irrational Matt Flynn Is Going To Be A Free Agent! Frenzy), he accounted for 48 touchdowns (45 passing and three rushing) -- one more than Brees (46 passing, one rushing) and six more than Brady (39 passing and three rushing). 2. He plays for the team that seems most likely to win it all.

With that in mind, here are our rankings for the quarterbacks and running backs in playoff pools:

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
2. Tom Brady, Patriots
3. Drew Brees, Saints
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
5. Eli Manning, Giants
6. Joe Flacco, Ravens
7. Matt Ryan, Falcons
8. Alex Smith, 49ers
9. Matthew Stafford, Lions
10. Andy Dalton, Bengals
11. Tim Tebow, Broncos
12. T.J. Yates, Texans

1. Ray Rice, Ravens
2. Darren Sproles, Saints
3. Arian Foster, Texans
4. Frank Gore, 49ers
5. Michael Turner, Falcons
6. Isaac Redman, Steelers
7. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots
8. James Starks, Packers
9. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
10. Cedric Benson, Bengals
11. Willis McGahee, Broncos
12. Kevin Smith, Lions

More on the quarterbacks

Roethlisberger is banged up and isn't playing his best, but he does have the chance to play three times, even if the Steelers fall a game short of the Super Bowl. That possibility makes him the only real "sleeper" pick outside the top three. ... Brees is ranked third because of the combination of a second-round game at San Francisco and, should the Saints make it that far, an NFC championship matchup with the Packers at Lambeau. Advantage: Rodgers and Brady. One disadvantage for the latter: The Pats could face the Steelers and Ravens back-to-back, though both games would be at home. ... Stafford has the numbers, but his Lions, who play at New Orleans on Saturday, likely will be one-and-done. ... One outside-the-box candidate, if you believe the Giants can make a run in the NFC: Eli Manning, who finished 67 yards shy of 5,000 and threw for 29 scores.

Notes on the running backs

Rice likely will be the choice at one of the running back spots in the vast majority of playoff leagues. He has the numbers (a combined 2,068 rushing and receiving yards, and 15 TDs), and his team doesn't leave many other viable options aside from its defense and kicker Billy Cundiff. ... Sproles is a tempting choice in any league that awards a point for a reception. He had nine total TDs, rushed for 603 yards and caught 86 passes for 710 yards in the regular season. ... Foster is the best back other than Rice, but he will only play two games if his hobbled team can beat the Bengals on Saturday. ... Gore (1,211 yards rushing, eight TDs) and Turner (1,340 yards, 11 TDs) are the next-best selections. After that, it gets so dicey we ranked Redman No. 6. The latter is the Steelers' replacement for Rashard Mendenhall. You might remember him for fumbling twice against the Browns last week, but he was productive in a backup role prior to those miscues (479 yards, 4.4 yards per carry, three TDs).

NEXT: Wide receivers and tight ends

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