Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:

NFL    NBA    MLB

Already have an account? Log in here.

[X]

Forgot Password


[X]

It's Fantasy Football Playoffs Time - Are You Ready?

By Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsWeek 14 was one of those weeks that looked more like what we all expected at the beginning of the year. Big days from Le'Veon Bell, Cam Newton, A.J. Green and Jamaal Charles showed us that stars do indeed show up when it counts in the fantasy playoffs…unless you’re named Peyton Manning, LeSean McCoy or Demaryius Thomas. Running into a fantasy dud in week 14 is just awful, so I offer my condolences to those of you who fell victim to these lackluster outings. My hope is that you survived despite the random duds, and are headed to the semi-finals. There weren't too many injuries or major news items to react to this week, so we’re going to get right into the games, touching on the guys that got banged up and potential personnel changes along the way.

 

Week 14 Game-by-Game Analysis & Fantasy Playoffs Prep

Cowboys @ Bears

Week 14 started with an extremely disappointing injury to Chicago wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall exited Thursday night’s contest due to broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Ouch. Marshall has since left the hospital but is indeed done for the remainder of the season. Fantasy aside, it’s a real bummer whenever a guy with Brandon Marshall’s popularity goes down. I suppose Marquess Wilson will see more playing time and targets as a result, but I’m not so sure I’d feel comfortable using him in a playoff matchup. Wilson would be a high-risk/high-reward play at best, with Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, and Martellus Bennett getting most of the looks from Jay Cutler.

It was a big day for the three big-name Dallas Cowboys in DeMarco Murray, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Romo threw for three touchdowns despite failing to hit Bryant in the endzone. He still finished the day with six receptions for 82 yards, so hopefully you benefited from that outing if you’re in a PPR league. Two of Romo’s touchdowns went to Cole Beasley, who has somehow turned into a touchdown machine over the last two weeks. I can’t possibly imagine adding or starting Beasley in any kind of fantasy matchup. You'd have to be truly desperate or in a super-deep league to even consider it. This is just one of those flukey stretches that could have happened on any team with any random receiver.

 

Jets @ Vikings

What’s worse football than Jets/Vikings? Jets/Vikings in overtime. When you see a game like this on your fantasy ledger, it’s likely you just ignored it completely, but if you actually paid attention, you’d have noticed Percy Harvin’s most productive game of the season. Harvin hadn’t done much of anything this year, so seeing his six receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown the week after the Jets seemingly refused to throw the ball was a big surprise. Ideally, you had better options than Harvin on a playoff roster, but hey, he outscored the aforementioned Dez Bryant this week… and then he hurt his ankle. Harvin gets banged up fairly often, and with the Jets being nowhere close to the playoffs, it’s possible they just decide to sit him for the last three games of the year.

The Vikings will be without Jerick McKinnon for the remainder of the year after sending him to the IR before this game started. McKinnon appeared to be the Vikings back of the foreseeable future after the Adrian Peterson mess. I still like McKinnon as a dynasty league stash; Matt Asiata will fill in at RB for the rest of this season. Ben Tate saw some action this week, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Vikings move closer to a split backfield or if they fully commit to Asiata for the last three games. The old “starting running back in the NFL has value” applies here, making Asiata a must-own for any team struggling at the position. I had mentioned wide receiver Charles Johnson as a potential add last week given his recent increase in targets, and it looks like I nailed that call, at least for one week. Johnson put up 103 yards on four receptions with a touchdown against that weak New York secondary. Minnesota has a tough matchup with the Lions next week, so it’ll be interesting to see whether or not this trend continues.

 

Colts @ Browns

In one of the more surprising outcomes of the day, the Colts barely beat the Browns in a one-point game on Sunday. Andrew Luck continues to turn the ball over with another two interceptions, though he still managed to get the ball to T.Y. Hilton a whopping 10 times for 150 yards and two scores. You’ll take that kind of production for sure, but the turnovers are extremely frustrating. There isn't much you can do about it though, since you’re not benching Luck in the playoffs.

I think it’s safe to say hanging on to Josh Gordon for all this time was a mistake. Brian Hoyer simply can’t get him the ball and it’s likely that starting Gordon netted you a loss this week (it did for me, at least). The Browns are heading in the wrong direction in the midst of a battle for a playoff spot, and they're about to turn to rookie Johnny Manziel. Manziel has QB2 value, but not much higher than that. He’s still a rookie on a team struggling at the wrong time. I suppose this is an upgrade over Hoyer, so maybe Gordon gets it together next week. I feel like this quarterback change will have more real-life entertainment value than it will for fantasy. We're just going to have to wait and see what kind of player Johnny Football really is.

 

Texans @ Jaguars

This game left us with little to react to. Arian Foster racked up 127 yards and a touchdown while DeAndre Hopkins had one of his more disappointing outings of the year. Andre Johnson left this game with a concussion, so monitor his status as the week rolls along. Concussions are funky since no two players heal the same, so it’s simply way too early to know whether or not he’ll suit up in Week 15. The Texans are a stud defense, but we're back to where there's no one on Jacksonville worth starting. The Denard Robinson ride was fun while it lasted. A total of 99 yards with zero touchdowns over the last three weeks means he’s headed back to my fantasy bench until further notice.

 

Buccaneers @ Lions

So Calvin Johnson is back and healthy, huh? 158 yards with a touchdown on eight receptions-- thank you very much, Megatron. The Lions had no problem taking out the Bucs in a 34-17 contest that also had Joique Bell rushing for 83 yards and a score. Reggie Bush was eased back into the lineup, but I still think Bell is the back I’d rather own in Detroit. He’s simply having the better year, and Reggie Bush can’t stay on the field. It looks like Matthew Stafford has stopped plummeting, at least for one week. You just have to accept the bad with the good as far as Stafford is concerned.

The Tampa Bay offense continues to be clouded in mystery with no one being able to do anything on the ground. Doug Martin and Charles Sims saw five carries apiece, with Martin out-gaining Sims 22 yards to NEGATIVE four. What a complete mess. Do not touch for fantasy purposes. Where Doug Martin ends up next year will be an interesting offseason story, and I don’t expect the team to hang on to him. Management drafted Sims this year, so my assumption is the team will want to see what they have in him for next year, making Sims an interesting keeper/dynasty league stash. The pairing of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans is equally perplexing, with Jackson having another day with a boatload of yards while Evans gets both touchdowns. Oh, well. Evans is a solid WR2, leaving Jackson as a WR3/FLEX play. You could do worse than either of these guys, for sure.

 

Giants @ Titans

Speaking of keeper and dynasty league stashes, how happy are Odell Beckham owners right now? 11 receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown is a big day for a guy who started the year injured. One of 2015’s offseason storylines will be the Giants wide receiver depth chart with Beckham, Rueben Randle, and a returning Victor Cruz. I think it’s safe to say Beckham has already surpassed Cruz in pure talent, so my money is on Beckham as the number one receiver. This offense could be something special if Eli puts it back together and Rashad Jennings stays healthy. Speaking of Jennings, he was active for this game, but he only saw three touches. The matchup was tasty with the Titans being particularly bad against the run. Andre Williams was the beneficiary of said matchup, piling up 131 yards and a touchdown. Williams is a rookie who had struggled while filling in for Jennings, but he took full advantage of the Swiss cheese Titans defense. Starting Williams would scare me in a playoff scenario; he just doesn't look to be all that good despite the big game on Sunday.

Zach Mettenberger re-injured his shoulder here, leaving room for Jake Locker to step back into the starting lineup. Mettenberger had given the Titans a boost on offense, so it’s kind of a bummer to downgrade back to Locker at this point. The only offensive player I’d even consider starting on Tennessee is tight end Delanie Walker. Despite the poor performance of 27 yards this week, Walker has quietly put together a solid season at a position that doesn't have much separation between players.

 

Rams @ Redskins

Can we all agree that the Washington Redskins are officially the most dysfunctional franchise in sports right now? And that includes the Jets, Browns and 49ers, in a year where all three have had bizarre situations throughout the season. How do you lose 24-0 to the Rams at home? That’s just plain embarrassing. The only bright spot here was that Pierre Garcon had a decent game with DeSean Jackson out, but you can’t feel good about starting him. Alfred Morris finishing with six, SIX rushing yards, in what was just a soul-crushing performance for any owner in the fantasy playoffs. Colt McCoy looked brutal out there before injuring his neck, so we’re likely headed right back to Robert Griffin III. That’s just what this team needs: more drama at the quarterback position.

Strangely, the Rams won decisively despite no huge offensive performances. Sure, Jared Cook might have scored you two touchdowns, but I doubt he was in many fantasy lineups anyway. Tre Mason remains the sole Ram worth starting on a weekly basis, and he's another huge victory for anyone in a keeper/dynasty league.

 

Ravens @ Dolphins

This game actually felt a lot closer than the 28-13 final score, and it would have been even closer if it not for a botched call that should have resulted in a Joe Flacco fumble. I don’t want to say the Dolphins got hosed since they did still lose by 15, but it was clearly a fumble to me. Either way, the Dolphins didn’t really do you any favors, with Lamar Miller and Mike Wallace both disappointing their owners. Miller ran 12 times for 53 yards while Wallace reeled in three catches for 39 yards. The real standout in this game was once again Jarvis Landry who continues to come into his own. Landry didn’t have a huge day by any means with just six catches for 55 yards, but you can’t ignore the fact that Tannehill is looking for him. With 28 targets over the last three weeks, Landry could easily be your third wide receiver or FLEX in next week’s playoff matchup.

Steve Smith benefitted from the Ravens' use of Torrey Smith as a decoy, but Baltimore will continue to frustrate owners of either guy with how they alternate having big weeks. This is a genuine toss-up when both guys are healthy, and I’m not even sure if I got this call right or wrong from the beginning of the year. My initial point is well documented, but let me revisit it: I didn’t think the Ravens could support two fantasy wide receivers, and I preferred Torrey Smith over Steve Smith due to the age difference and the fact that Steve was joining a new team. I guess I ended up half right? The team can’t support both receivers at the same time for fantasy purposes, but Steve Smith is the one having the better year. Let's call it a push.

 

Steelers @ Bengals

Boy, I sure hope you weren't playing against Le'veon Bell this week… because I was. Ugh. 235 total yards and three touchdowns. There's nothing you can do to combat that in a fantasy matchup. Antonio Brown had another big day as well, with nine receptions for 117 yards while the Steelers crushed the Bengals 42-21. Ben Roethlisberger has put together a nice bounce-back year, both in terms of real-life production and fantasy output. He racked up 350 yards with three TDs here to three different receivers, including a 95-yard bomb to rookie Martavis Bryant.  Bryant continues to be a boom-or-bust WR3/FLEX, so his 109 yards shouldn't come as a surprise.

This game featured tons of fantasy goodness for wide receivers with A.J. Green amassing 224 yards on 11 catches. It’s amazing to me how a guy like Green can put up those numbers while his quarterback only ends up with 302 yards. That means Andy Dalton was only able to spread the ball around for 78 yards to his other receivers. That would kind of scare me as a Green owner going forward. You’re obviously not benching Green, however, so just cross your fingers and hope that Dalton can get him the ball.

 

Panthers @ Saints

What has happened to the New Orleans Saints? 41-10? At home? Four home losses in a row?  Yikes. This NFC South is starting to look scary bad. Someone can win this division at 6-10 and they'd still end up hosting a playoff game. That is mind-boggling in today’s NFL where teams can go from worst to first in a year’s time. None of these teams should be this bad. Anyway, the Mark Ingram drop-off finally came this week, as he rushed for just 43 yards. The touches were there, with Ingram getting twice as many rushing attempts as Pierre Thomas. I had been saying for weeks that I want no part of Mark Ingram once Thomas and Khiry Robinson ultimately return to the lineup, and what do you know, in the first week of the fantasy playoffs Ingram evaporates. No, thank you, I’ll find my RB2 elsewhere. I don’t know what’s going on with Jimmy Graham, but unfortunately he’s another guy you just can’t bench. Just three targets over the last two games combined? What an enigma. There’s no word on whether or not Graham is hurt or if the Saints are simply trying to strategize differently, but whatever it is, it’s weird. You would think the team would try to get the ball to their best offensive weapon when they’re in a playoff race with just five wins on the year.

Raise your hand if you started Jonathan Stewart this week? I sincerely hope that was not a whole lot of you, but if you did, feel free to head down to your local convenience store and purchase a lottery ticket. You hit the jackpot with Stewart this week, as he went off for 155 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers are easily my number one running back situation to avoid, so I can’t even fathom having the guts to start him in the playoffs. If he won you your week this week, lucky you. Now don’t do it again.

 

Chiefs @ Cardinals

I genuinely feel for Arizona Cardinals fans. Their team was looking mighty just a month ago, and now they've lost Andre Ellington for the remainder of the year after already losing quarterback Carson Palmer. It’s a real shame to see a team with a lot of potential just get ravaged by injuries. Many thought the Cardinals would turn to a running back by committee in Ellington’s absence, but it was actually Kerwynn Williams who got the bulk of the work at RB. Williams had 19 carries compared to Stepfan Taylor’s six. It’s unclear if this was more of a game-flow decision or what, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Cardinals do next week. Williams is probably worth an add, given how shaky running back is, but I’m probably not starting him unless I own Andre Ellington and already struck out adding Taylor.

What is there to say about the Kansas City offense? Jamaal Charles is a stud and Travis Kelce is a low-end TE1. Everyone else is irrelevant.

 

Bills @ Broncos

Peyton Manning. Yowza. I'd imagine that the most disappointed fantasy owners after Week 14 own Peyton Manning, myself included. Manning was held without a touchdown, and at home, no less. He even threw two interceptions in this game, devastating anyone who had the misfortune of owning him. There’s obviously no way you bench Peyton freakin’ Manning in the playoffs, so it’s probably best to just have yourself an adult beverage to alleviate the stress and go get ‘em next year. How about C.J. Anderson? Anderson didn’t exactly rack up the yards here, but he did rush for three touchdowns. It’s amazing to me how Montee Ball is seemingly the only Denver running back who can’t put up numbers in a Peyton Manning offense. I know Ball is still hurt, so it’s still temporarily moot for the time being. That said, however, I can’t see how the Broncos will turn back to Ball if and when he does come back. I’m sure the starter on this team will hold serious value in 2015, but good luck figuring out who that is. My guess is we’ll get some clarity on it as the summer arrives. Ideally, the Broncos just decide to part ways with some of these guys so we don’t have to guess.

As for the Bills, have I ever mentioned how much I love Fred Jackson? He’s consistently one of the quieter solid RB2s in the league, even when C.J. Spiller was healthy. He only rushed for 35 yards in this game, but he reeled in a whopping 10 receptions for another 37 yards. In a league where RB2s are to come by, FredEx is a godsend.

 

Seahawks @ Eagles

In what could easily be described as the game of the week, the Seahawks took down the Eagles 24-14, due in large part to who else, Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson. This team has shown that it never needed Percy Harvin in the first place, plugging in guys like Doug Baldwin without missing a beat. Seattle doesn’t have any fantasy-relevant wide receivers, but Wilson and Lynch are as dependable as it gets at their positions. It’s possible you have a better quarterback on your roster than Wilson, so he’s not exactly a must-start, but it’s worth at least checking out the matchups each week.

The Seattle defense looks to be back, holding the Eagles to just 14 points, mostly due to Mark Sanchez getting completely shut down. Sanchez only ended up with 96 yards, which hurt the entire offense as a result. Philadelphia obviously has one of the best offenses in the league thanks to Chip Kelly, so you kind of have to throw this game out or chalk it up to the strength of the Seattle defense.

 

49ers @ Raiders

For months now we’ve heard the rumblings that Jim Harbaugh is all but finished in San Francisco, and a loss to the Oakland Raiders has likely sealed his fate. The Niners will be an interesting team to monitor in the offseason, as they have several aging weapons in Frank Gore, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, with young usable pieces like Carlos Hyde and Michael Crabtree. This offense is going to look completely different come 2015, but unfortunately you just can’t depend on any of them in 2014. I’m rolling with Gore as an RB2 in one of my leagues, but I don’t feel good about it anymore. This is likely his last year in San Francisco even if he doesn't retire, so look for Carlos Hyde to step up and immediately become a hot keeper target.

The Raiders were quiet all week in regard to how they would use Latavius Murray, and sure enough they duped us all by indicating that he wouldn’t be given a full workload. Murray had a decent day with 76 yards, but it was the usage that gives us hope. 23 carries compared to just four for McFadden is the number to focus on. The Raiders have struggled to give us any usable fantasy options, so seeing Murray get a full workload is a huge plus. He’s solidly in the FLEX conversation for any team still in the fantasy playoffs.

 

Patriots @ Chargers

It only took several years, but it appears as if the New England Patriots have finally committed to one running back in LeGarrette Blount. It’s amazing how the NFL works out sometimes. Blount looked pretty much useless and done in Pittsburgh a month ago, yet now he’s getting 22 touches a game for 66 yards in New England on a team that could very well be playing in February. Julian Edelman had the other big performance here, with 141 yards and a score. Edelman has always possessed sneaky PPR value, so the yardage is an added bonus. Tom Brady, Edelman and Rob Gronkowski are the only Patriots you can start with full confidence, even with Blount getting all the carries. You just never know when Bill Belichick is going to pull a fast one on us all and swap out his running back.

Ladarius Green exited this game for San Diego with a concussion, leaving Antonio Gates to step back into the sole tight end role. He didn’t do much in Green’s absence, however, as the Chargers struggled mightily on offense. For a team that’s still very much in playoff contention, it’s kind of amazing that seemingly all of the Chargers are becoming disappointing fantasy options. Keenan Allen had a nice little over run the previous two weeks, but he's back to being unusable. Philip Rivers appears to have finally reverted back to unusable status as well, after flirting with the bench for weeks. Ideally you have far better options than anyone on the Chargers.

 

Good luck in Round Two of your fantasy playoffs and be sure to stick with your studs barring injuries.