Jennings, Finley could be engaged in fierce fantasy battle

Posted Aug. 02, 2011 @ 2:38 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

A good old-fashioned knock-down, drag-out prizefight could be on the horizon for the Packers' fantasy heavyweight title belt in 2011.

In one corner, you've got WR Greg Jennings, who could not have been more deserving of the first Pro Bowl berth of his five-year career last season.

In the other corner, you've got TE Jermichael Finley, who entered the 2010 season as the designated offensive centerpiece in the defending league champions' potent spread offense.

Finley was doing a reasonably good job filling that role, averaging 5.3 catches in the first four games with a pair of 100-yard games while not dropping a single pass. But he was sacked with a season-ending knee injury for the second year in a row very early in Green Bay's Week Five loss to the Redskins.

When Finley went down for the count, Jennings' numbers went way up, much to the delight of his fantasy owners.

Jennings was not a happy camper in the 2010 campaign's first month, at one point venting his frustration over not getting enough receiving opportunities in his mind — a situation in great part due to the offense pointing its primary focus in Finley's imposing 6-5, 247-pound direction.

In the first four games when Finley was healthy, Jennings' fantasy stats were far from terrible. He did have a TD in three of the first four games and gained a respectable 13.4 yards per catch.

But they were peanuts compared to his eye-popping numbers in the last 11 games with Finley completely out of action.

Running picture-perfect routes and making great adjustments when necessary, Jennings went on to register five 100-yard receiving games, catch nine TD passes and gain a whopping 17.3 yards per catch in that span.

He picked up right where he left off in the playoffs with a pair of 100-yard games leading up to a stellar two-TD performance in the Super Bowl.

But will Jennings pick up where he left off in Super Bowl XLV with Finley back in the mix, hungrier than ever for as many receptions as possible entering his contract year?

Establishing a productive balance between Jennings and Finley could be a delicate task indeed, one made more intriguing by the fact Green Bay will have a new WR coach in Edgar Bennett, who is making the switch from RB coach, a job daily team observers believe he performed extremely well.

Will there be enough plays to go around for both Jennings and Finley to be big-time fantasy performers in 2011?

With Aaron Rodgers becoming increasingly adept at picking his poison, keeping opponents off balance with his precise distribution skills, it's certainly possible.

But Jennings, who has gained more than 1,100 yards in each of the past three seasons and averaged more than eight TDs in that span, is a great deal more dependable than the brittle Finley.

Finley, who underwent multiple surgeries on his torn meniscus, began running routes in late April and is expected to be fully recovered for the start of the 2011 season. But he has started only 16 games since being drafted in 2008, which is only a third of the Packers' games in that span.

While Finley very well could have a breakthrough season of major proportions, it's unfortunately a lot more likely that more injuries could continue to keep him from reaching his massive fantasy potential.