PLAYOFFS? Yes, we can finally talk about playoffs.
Out of my six fantasy leagues, I’ve made the playoffs in three (first place in one). In my only money league, I sneaked into the sixth and final playoff spot after an awful loss last week where only one of my starters scored a touchdown (and that was Aaron Rodgers on a passing TD). Here’s hoping they got that out of their system and get back to beasting.
For some, the playoffs start this week. For others, this is the final week of the regular season and playoff spots are on the line. Either way, it’s very important to make sure you’ve got the best possible lineup set. I’m here to offer my thoughts on each game. Let’s go!
Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders
Comfortables: Peyton Manning, Knowshown Moreno, Darren McFadden (if active), Eric Decker, Demariyus Thomas, Brandon Myers, Denver Defense
Cautions: Carson Palmer, Marcel Reece (if McFadden is inactive), Darius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme, Oakland Defense
Casualties: Lance Ball, Ronnie Hillman, Taiwan Jones, Mike Goodson
Sleeper: Rod Streater
We might see the (not-so) triumphant return of Run DMC this Thursday. Darren McFadden owners can’t really say they were missing his production when he was healthy anyway. Carson Palmer had been a reliable fantasy starting QB, but I think his streak runs out against the staunch Denver defense. It certainly doesn’t help that his top WR target, Denarius Moore, is being disciplined. This muddies the waters a little bit on the WR front, opening up Rod Streater for possible sleeper potential for desperate Jordy Nelson owners. The real beneficiary is Brandon Myers, who caught the garbagiest of garbage time touchdowns last week. Oakland will most likely be down (what else is new?), so the passing game once again will get a boost. What more can be said about Denver? They’ve locked up the West but they’re still playing for seeding in the AFC, so start all your Broncos while you still can.
Prediction: Conventional logic says to take the home team on Thursday night, but with the Raiders, nothing is conventional. Broncos roll.
Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts
Comfortables: Andrew Luck, Chris Johnson, Vick Ballard, Kenny Britt, Reggie Wayne
Cautions: Jake Locker, Donald Brown, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, T.Y. Hilton, Jared Cook, Tennessee Defense, Indianapolis Defense
Casualties: Darius Reynaud, Delone Carter, Damian Williams, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener
Sleeper: Donnie Avery
What an amazing come-from-behind victory by the Colts last week against the Lions. Andrew Luck threw four touchdowns (amazingly, none of which went to Reggie Wayne…grumblegrumble). At one point, eight different receivers had a single catch, and nothing more. So to say Luck is generous with his targets is an understatement. That’s why it’s hard to trust anybody in Indy’s passing game aside from Wayne this week. Dwayne Allen was serviceable as a fill-in TE over the past few weeks, but that was only while Coby Fleener was sidelined, and Fleener (finally!) got his first TD catch last week. So aside from Luck, Wayne and Ballard, I wouldn’t feel comfortable starting any Colt. Nor for that matter do I feel great about starting any Titan other than Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt (who I debated moving down to a caution a couple times). The Titans are better than their record indicates, and I feel a shootout coming along for this game, so the points will be there…it’s just tough to figure out who’s going to get them.
Prediction: Indy continues their winning streak and gets a big division win over Tennessee.
Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings
Comfortables: Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, Brandon Marshall, Chicago Defense
Cautions: Michael Bush, Earl Bennett, Kellen Davis, Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Defense
Casualties: Christian Ponder, Toby Gerhart, All Vikings WRs
Sleeper: Jarius Wright
The Vikings’s season is pretty much over now that they put Percy Harvin on IR. No pass catcher can fill his shoes, especially against the Bears. Aside from AP, you’re not starting any Vikings. I’m not even that high on AP considering Chicago will block the box and make Christian Ponder beat them. I’m certainly more bullish on the Bears despite their OT loss to Seattle last week. You figure they’re going to be pretty upset, and they’ll take it out on poor Christian Ponder, who should be nowhere near a starting lineup, even in Superflex or two-QB leagues.
Prediction: The Bears right the ship and get back on the winning track.
St. Louis Rams vs. Buffalo Bills
Comfortables: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Steven Jackson, CJ Spiller, Danny Amendola (if active), Stevie Johnson, Scott Chandler
Cautions: Sam Bradford, Daryl Richardson, Fred Jackson, Chris Givens, Donald Jones (if active), St. Louis Defense, Buffalo Defense
Casualties: Tashard Choice, Daniel Gibson
Sleeper: T.J. Graham
The Rams are a weird team. This is the same team that got absolutely embarrassed by the Patriots in London but still managed to go undefeated against supposedly the best team in football, the 49ers. A big key to St. Louis’s chances of producing is getting Danny Amendola back. He was listed as doubtful the past two games (playing two weeks ago but sitting last week). If he can play, he’s worth plugging into starting lineups. As for Buffalo, it’s absolutely maddening that they’re not feeding CJ Spiller more (perhaps they know the season is toast and they’re trying to preserve him). As a Fred Jackson owner, I’m not too bent out of shape about it, but even I have to admit that Spiller is the superior of the two backs.
Prediction: Spiller, Johnson and Chandler all hit paydirt as Buffalo wins a close one at home.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cleveland Browns
Comfortables: Jamaal Charles, Trent Richardson, Cleveland Defense
Cautions: Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, Dwayne Bowe, Josh Gordon, Kansas City Defense
Casualties: Everybody Else
Sleeper: Tony Moeaki
I’ll take this space to offer my thoughts and condolences to the families affected by the Javon Belcher murder-suicide over the weekend, especially little four-month-old Zoey, who will grow up without her parents.
As for this game, this is a game where you hope neither team gets in scoring position, which means you’d be forced to watch it on RedZone. Start the running backs and Cleveland’s defense, and call it a day from there.
Prediction: Cleveland continues its impressive streak with a home win.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers
Comfortables: Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Steve Smith, Tony Gonzalez, Greg Olsen
Cautions: Jacquizz Rodgers, DeAngelo Williams (if Stewart is inactive), Jonathan Stewart (if active), Harry Douglas, Brandon LaFell, Atlanta Defense, Carolina Defense
Casualties: Jason Snelling, Mike Tolbert, Louis Murphy
The Falcons have wrapped up the NFC South, but they still have seeding to play for, so all Atlanta starters are in play. Michael Turner is absolutely maddening. From all viewings, he looks cooked, but then he occasionally has a burst for a big gain, and of course there’s the goal-line TD which has become his specialty. Frankly, you can’t sit him, especially against the awful Panther run defense that has been gashed by Bryce Brown and Jamaal Charles respectively over the past two weeks. Cam Newton’s coming back to form, making better decisions with the football, but it certainly helps when you play an Eagles team that checked out and a Chiefs team that wasn’t that good to begin with. Temper your expectations this time, but he’s startable.
Prediction: The Falcons don’t let the Panthers get out of the gate, and they get a big road win.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Comfortables: Tony Romo, Andy Dalton, DeMarco Murray, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, AJ Green, Jason Witten, Jermaine Gresham
Cautions: Andrew Hawkins, Dallas Defense, Cincinnati Defense
Casualties: All Backups
Frankly I think this is the most exciting game of the week. These are two high-powered offenses and better-than-you-think defenses, both with playoff aspirations, so this has all the makings of a great game. I’ve flip-flopped about listing Andrew Hawkins as a Comfortable, especially now that Mohammad Sanu is out for the year, but if there’s any part of Dallas’s defense that could be troublesome for opposing offenses, it’s their stout secondary. DeMarco Murray is back to form, and running really well. Felix Jones, thanks for playing. With Miles Austin and Dez Bryant healthy, they’re really the only Dallas passing options other than Jason Witten that are worth considering for your fantasy lineup.
Prediction: It’s a tossup, but I’ll give the edge to Cincinnati because they’re home. But that’s really all I got.
New York Jets vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Comfortables: Chad Henne, Shonn Greene, Jeremy Kerley, Justin Blackmon, Marcedes Lewis, New York Jets Defense, Jacksonville Defense
Cautions: Bilal Powell, Montell Owens, Stephen Hill, Laurent Robinson
Casualties: Mark Sanchez, Jordan Todman, Jason Hill, Chaz Schillens
Sleeper: Jeff Cumberland
Jets Coach Rex Ryan predictably tabbed Mark Sanchez as the starter again, because Sanchez apparently has blackmail on Rex (what it could be, I don’t know…we already know he likes sucking toes). Dustin Keller is out for this game, so people in need of a TE fill-in might want to look at Jeff Cumberland, who caught the only touchdown in last week’s abysmal game against the Cardinals. As for the Jags, continue to roll with the passing game, even though Cecil Shorts might be out with a concussion. Justin Blackmon’s been a revelation. The running game is an infirmary, and Montell Owens draws the lucky straw. Keep your eye on Jordan Todman out of UConn though.
Prediction: Sanchez blows, gets benched again, and McElroy leads the Jets to their second straight victory.
San Diego Chargers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Comfortables: Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Matthews, Jonathan Dwyer, Malcom Floyd, Danario Alexander, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Defense
Cautions: Philip Rivers, Ronnie Brown, Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Gates, San Diego Defense
Casualties: Chris Rainey, Jackie Battle, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, Plaxico Burress
Sleeper: Vincent Brown (if active)
Another week, another Chargers loss. How the hell does Norv Turner still have a job? Big Ben is coming back for the Steelers, who managed to weather the storm (sort of) with him being out with broken ribs. All starting passing options for Pittsburgh immediately get an upgrade to fantasy starters. Jonathan Dwyer has emerged from the quagmire that is the Steelers backfield to take the starting RB job, so feel free to roll with him as a RB2/FLEX. Antonio Gates is cooked, but I can’t imagine owners would have any better option considering he has the potential to catch one. I’m certainly not reaching for him in drafts ever again.
Prediction: Pittsburgh wins at home, and Norv Turner is fired (I hope).
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Comfortables: Josh Freeman, Bryce Brown, Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Defense
Cautions: Nick Foles, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, Philadelphia Defense
Casualties: Dion Lewis, LeGarrette Blount, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Taiquan Underwood
Sleeper: Dallas Clark
Philly has officially packed it in this year. Coach Andy Reid has already announced (in between bouts of him firing his defensive coaches) that Nick Foles will start the rest of the year. Considering how Bryce Brown has been producing (aside from the fumbles), I’d imagine they’ll shut LeSean McCoy down as well. I like all Buccaneers options here, including Dallas Clark, who has come on as of late.
Prediction: Bucs win, Eagles make tee time reservations.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Washington Redskins
Comfortables: Joe Flacco, Robert Griffin III, Ray Rice, Alfred Morris, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss
Cautions: Aldrick Robinson, Dennis Pitta, Logan Paulsen, Baltimore Defense, Washington Defense
Casualties: Bernard Pierce, Evan Royster, Keiland Williams, Jacoby Jones, Josh Morgan
Sleeper: Tandon Doss
After watching RG3 torch the Giants during the small moments he had on the field, I have to believe that the kid is for real. Baltimore’s defense isn’t what it used to be, and I have a feeling that Griffin will do more of the same as the ‘Skins make their playoff push. They’re also home again, and it’s a crosstown (sort of) rival, which means that Washington has a distinct home field advantage. You can’t sit your studs, which is why Ray Rice is a comfortable, but it’s worth noting that Washington has a better-than-average run defense, and the only place they’re gashed is through the air. Temper your expectations with Ray-Ray, and hope that he gets involved in the passing game.
Prediction: It’s not too much of an upset, but I’m a believer in the Redskins now. Go with the home team.
Miami Dolphins vs. San Francisco 49ers
Comfortables: Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, San Francisco Defense
Cautions: All Starting Dolphins (including Defense), Vernon Davis
Casualties: All Dolphin backups, Brandon Jacobs, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Delaine Walker
Sleeper: LaMichael James
The Dolphins have been better than advertised, but they have to go all the way across the county to play a pissed off 49er team that couldn’t put away the Rams. I like the top 49er options at all positions except tight end. Who knows what the hell is going on with Vernon Davis? It’s absolutely maddening to see him not involved in the passing game. I have to rely on him in my only money league playoff, and I’m not happy about it. I also have to rely on Reggie Bush, who wasn’t producing even against marginal run defenses. But now he has to face the 49ers? Ugh, kill me now.
Prediction: San Fran makes a statement with this win.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks
Comfortables: Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Larry Fitzgerald (only if Kolb is starting), Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Seattle Defense
Cautions: Kevin Kolb (if starting), Beanie Wells, Andre Roberts (if active), Anthony McCoy, Arizona Defense
Casualties: Ryan Lindley (if starting), LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell, Robert Turbin, Michael Floyd, Braylon Edwards, Rob Housler, Zack Miller
Sleeper: Doug Baldwin
Let’s make this quick. Kevin Kolb is most likely not going to start. Seahawks at home against Ryan Lindley. You know what to do.
New Orleans Saints vs. New York Giants
Comfortables: Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Darren Sproles, Ahmad Bradshaw, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Jimmy Graham, Martellus Bennett
Cautions: Pierre Thomas, David Wilson, New Orleans Defense, Atlanta Defense
Casualties: Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, Devery Henderson, Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden
Sleeper: Reuben Randle
The most maddening thing about Big Blue’s close loss to the Redskins last week is that the Giants couldn’t figure out the zone read option, even after foiling it earlier this year against the Panthers. Here they face a more traditional quarterback. I’d stay away from either defense, as the two rank among the worst in the league. All starting offensive options are in play here, including Lance Moore, who has been going off lately.
Prediction: Giants win a shootout.
Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers
Comfortables: Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, Mikel Leshoure, Calvin Johnson, Randall Cobb, Greg Jennings, Brandon Pettigrew
Cautions: Joique Bell, Alex Green, James Starks, James Jones, Jermichael Finley, Detroit Defense, Green Bay Defense
Casualties: Kevin Smith, Donald Driver, Tom Crabtree
Sleeper: Tony Scheffler
That’s two bad performances in a row for Aaron Rodgers. I can’t expect to win a fantasy game when he’s not producing. He’s got Jennings back, but most likely loses Nelson for this game. Continue to roll with Randall Cobb, and Jennings gets a bump to fantasy starter. Hear that? That’s the sound of Jermichael Finley dropping another ball. Only running option worth starting is Leshoure. Detroit put both Ryan Broyles AND Titus Young on IR (although I’m not sure what kind of injury being a prima donna douchebag is), so Tony Scheffler becomes an interesting flex for the seriously desperate.
Prediction: Detroit’s given up on this season, so Green Bay wins because they still have something to play for.
Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots
Comfortables: Matt Schaub, Tom Brady, Arian Foster, Stevan Ridley, Andre Johnson, Wes Welker, Owen Daniels, Aaron Hernandez
Cautions: Houston Defense, New England Defense
Casualties: Justin Forsett, Ben Tate (if active), Danny Woodhead, Kevin Walter, Julian Edelman (if active), Brandon Lloyd, Deon Branch, Donte Stallworth, James Casey, Garrett Graham, Visanthe Schiancoe
Sleeper: Shane Vereen
What’s this? Another good Monday night game? Yep, it’s possible! Here you have two teams who have already clinched a playoff spot but are fighting for seeding. I expect a lot of offense, but when you’re this late in the season, you can only really trust the proven players. Hence why you can only start the top option at running back, wide receiver, and tight end. Sure, James Casey or Shane Vereen might vulture a TD, but are you really going to risk a playoff spot on them? I thought not.
Prediction: New England squeaks by at home to make the race for the number 1 seed more interesting.
Follow me on Twitter @PocketSeagull, and good luck in the playoffs!