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A few weeks ago, I sorted out the two types of questions you should always be able to answer; some off the top of your head, and some dependent upon factors like date and time. It was used to basically say that come the end of November, you should know how many leagues where you'll "make" the playoffs and how many leagues are lost causes. As I often do when I'm coming up with these sort of introductory paragraphs, I realized that a much more interesting question fell squarely in the first category, the types of questions you should be able to answer forever. "In all the time you've been playing, what player affected your fantasy playoffs most of all?"

Like any fantasy player with a pulse and a long track record, I have plenty of memories of unlikely wins and heartbreaking losses, especially when the prize is a game changer. In one league I have, where I co-own a team with my college roommate and long time close friend, we actually were in the same place for last year's Week 16 Monday Night Football game, where the performance of Dez Bryant would ultimately decide how happy our holidays would be. We gathered along with some other friends for wings and to roundly boo Dez, a player we were offered in trade earlier that year, who needed to account for a season-high 30 points to deprive us of our championship. If you were in the playoffs last year, you probably remember Dez having his best game of the season scoring-wise. At one point, Dez Bryant threw a touchdown, which caused our mood to go from jolly to begging the Buffalo Wild Wings employee to use their super powers to stop the game and bench Dez Bryant immediately. Funny enough, it wasn't exactly how it happened, but Dez didn't play the final drive, and we were spared by the difference of a few points. Accounting for the drama that led up to the moment, and the celebration that ensued, we'll forever remember as the "Dez Game."

Of course, this moment recreated itself this week, as we were one of the few teams who survived and advanced while facing Todd Gurley. And yes, we were offered him in a trade this year too, before the season began. I'll be accepting all trades going forward.

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Running Back Questions

______ will either be on my bench or will RUIN my week.

A: Carlos Hyde
B: Joe Mixon
C: Alex Collins
D: Samaje Perine

I'd be legitimately stunned if any of these guys were your RB1 and you're still in the playoff picture, but there are a ton of teams who had one of these guys play a supporting role on their team and are now wondering after getting burned last week, "Why would I do this to myself again?" The biggest offender here is Samaje Perinewho has registered three straight weeks with a generous workload and not a single rushing performance over fifty yards. Perine certainly stands out here as having earned less points than the other three, but by projected points, Perine is projected to be a peer of these talented RBs. Hyde, Mixon and Collins each could have columns devoted to what to do with them, but you're more likely than not still playing them in a RB2 role if you don't have a better option. Perine, however, is only going to get less work against a tough Broncos defense. If you can find a better option, I strongly suggest doing so.

 

Against all odds, should you take a look at ___________ now?

A: Danny Woodhead
B: Mike Gillislee
C: Mike Davis
D: Peyton Barber

So who do you replace a RB with? Well, in leagues without a keeper element, you'll see a trend of players being dropped who are (seemingly) not likely to be started in one of the final games. Save for Barber, I've owned the three other guys and I've dropped nearly all of them, and now they are once again relevant. Mike Davis is the most intriguing name on this list, simply because he's the one with the possession of lead back, despite J.D. Mckissic taking over second half duties for the Seahawks in an effort to play catch up against the Rams. I only recommend Davis if you're really desperate at the position, but it's certainly a matchup where he could shine.

 

Wide Receiver Questions

______ will either be on my bench or will RUIN my week.

A: Doug Baldwin
B: Devin Funchess
C: Marvin Jones Jr.
D: Kenny Stills

If I asked you "who is the outlier on this list," you might remark it's the guy who was drafted Top-10 at his position, or you could note it's the only guy who played on the west coast, or you could remember it's the guy who has been on this list more than once. No matter how you view him, Doug Baldwin and his very-low target numbers are concerning, especially in a blowout to the Rams that would've benefited from some good old "throwing the ball down field." Baldwin is touchdown dependent and could easily score vs the Cowboys, but the fact that Paul Richardson has more targets than Baldwin in three of the last four games puts a stamp on it; you cannot risk rolling out Baldwin in the playoffs if you can help it.

 

Desperate times call for a desperate use of ______.

A: Tyrell Williams
B: Kendall Wright
C: Sterling Shepard
D: JuJu Smith-Schuster

I wanted to do this with RB as well, but frankly, there are more options if you need some scoring magic at the WR position. If you were one of the many teams who are scrambling to replace Antonio Brown, then I'd actually add any and all of these guys and play them, in the following order.

JuJu Smith-Schuster will see an immediate workload takeover for Brown, and is the more talented pair of the hands on the team compared to Martavis Bryant. I like Bryant as well, but given the matchup JuJu could be magic here.

The Kendall Wright shift is real, and though I don't know what Chicago suddenly figured out, I do know that they've got an opportunity to utilize Wright in a matchup with the Browns that may end up being a shootout. Don't be surprised if Wright has his third game of over 80 yards, a real tempting asset in PPR.

Tyrell Williams could play a big role if Keenan Allen is indeed out for this game, as the Chargers have to beat the Jets to stay alive in the playoff picture. Williams is a classic boom or bust option, but with a bigger workload has shown that he's a fantasy heavy hitter before.

Sterling Shepard is seeing more work in the new regime, and frankly could use these last few games to really boost his stock in 2018 drafts. Given the Giants are just seeing what they have at this point, I'm less likely to rely on Shepard as the other three guys, especially on the road vs a still good Cardinals defense, but he is a fill-in in the deepest of leagues.

 

Tight End Question

In Week 16, I have given up on ASJ and my new best friend is _________

A: Eric Ebron
B: Austin Hooper
C: Vernon Davis
D: OJ Howard

I.... am I really recommending Eric Ebron in my list in 2017? As you can see from the new caption I'm officially done with first-half crush ASJ, and though Ricky Seals-Jones does fill my "love for acronym-based nicknames" sheet on my best friend list, Ebron keeps seeing more work in this offense, out-targeting all other receivers and backs in each of the last two weeks. That's insane, and I don't imagine it keeps up, but it does mean there is a TE1-potential player who is not largely owned, and you can get him for fantasy playoffs (that is, if you've finally given up on Jimmy Graham.)

 

More Week 16 Lineup Prep