MAKE SURE RAY RICE IS HANDCUFFED
Welcome (in most leagues) to the playoffs. I assume that you’re not reading this unless you are still playing, either in the last week of your regular season or the first week of your playoffs. If you are still reading and no longer playing, well, thanks! If you are still playing, I hope you’ve come here to find some expert advice that will help you in the playoffs. Here are some players that may be available in your league and may help you through the playoffs. The key to remember this time of year is that you only want players on your team that may help you – or that you don’t want a potential opponent picking up. It’s no longer the time to hang on to someone hoping they will breakout (see: Randy Moss).
[caption id="attachment_30589" align="alignright" width="300" caption="If you're a Ray Rice owner, be sure to grab his backup - just in case. Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/53804330@N05/">IllegalShift</a>"][/caption]
It’s the time to be sure you have handcuffs and to be prepared in case one of the guys that got you this far gets hurt or ends up sitting in Week 17 (if you’re still playing in the last week of the regular season). However, having a handcuff just to say you have a handcuff may not always be the best strategy. Rather, you want a handcuff that is actually going to play and do well for your team. Sure, it may not be the 20 points you’d get from your stud, but getting eight points from a stud’s backup is better than scouring the waiver wire for someone that will get you two points. Let’s see who might be available in your league:
Russell Wilson, QB, SEA
Don’t look now, but over the past five games, Wilson has outscored Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Eli Manning (as well as others). Odds are that there are teams in your playoffs that are starting one of these guys. Odds are also that they may be looking for a better option – especially the Ryan owner (or a Tom Brady owner, if the Patriots decide to rest him in Week 17). Wilson has been in the shadow of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III in among rookie quarterbacks, but especially for Fantasy purposes, he’s worth consideration. He has thrown 19 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. However, he also has run for 298 yards. If the Seahawks allow him to run more often, as they did in Week 13, he should help you for at least the next two weeks. In Week 16, however, Wilson has a tough matchup with San Francisco.
Bernard Pierce, RB, BAL
As a Ray Rice owner, I just picked up Pierce in one league. He’s not going to save my Fantasy season, but just in case Rice gets hurt (like everyone else on my team this year), I’d rather have Pierce than a waiver wire scrub. He’s never going to start for me unless Rice goes down. Pierce has 59 carries for 247 yards, one touchdown, four receptions and 32 receiving yards so far this year. Again, he’s not someone you’re going to start – he’s someone you pick up as a handcuff (or, if you have roster room, pick him up before the Ray Rice owner can get him). Another decent handcuff is Robert Turbin (just in case Marshawn Lynch is a late scratch because of back spasms again).
Vick Ballard, RB, IND
It was announced that Donald Brown will miss Week 14 with an ankle injury. Ballard will be the primary back without pesky Brown taking carries from him. While he has only found the end zone once, he is a strong runner and has looked better than Brown anyway. He isn’t a factor in the receiving game, but with double-digit carries (even with Brown playing), he’s worth adding in leagues with 12 or more teams. He’s facing a defense that ranks among the bottom six in terms of rushing yards allowed. While Tennessee has allowed only 11 rushing touchdowns on the year, Ballard will rack up the yards and can be started as a low RB2 or flex play this week.
Alex Green, RB, GB
Again, with the news that James Starks is out with a knee injury (potentially for the rest of the season) Green lands the role as lead back. While he’s not a great runner by any means (109 yards this season with a 3.3 ypc), he does have 15 receptions. Green isn’t going to be a Bryce Brown for you, so don’t have high expectations for him. However, in a league where running backs are hard to come by (and are dropping like flies), he’s worth adding in case you really need a flex or lose another player to injury. He’s going to be the lead back on a team that doesn’t like to run the ball, so just know what you’re getting.
Josh Gordon, WR, CLE
I touted my love for Gordon in this column last week, and I hope you listened because he went off for six receptions, 116 yards and a touchdown. As the No. 1 wideout in Cleveland, expect the numbers to continue. He is marred by Brandon Weeden as the one throwing him the ball, but he is worth picking up and potentially playing in your playoffs. His six receptions in Week 13 were the most so far this season, but as he improves, expect him to have more. He has five touchdowns so far and he’s been leading the team in targets (he had seven in Week 13). With matchups against Kansas City, Washington and Denver on the schedule, Gordon may just help you in this final stretch.
Chris Givens, WR, STL
When a player has 14 targets, they have potential for your Fantasy team. Givens’ success in Week 13 is mostly because Danny Amendola was out with a heel injury, so if Amendola doesn’t return, he is worth starting. He caught 11 of those targets for 92 yards. Prior to last week, he’d never caught more than five balls in a game this season. He’s been more of a deep threat, boom-or-bust receiver; but with Amendola out, Sam Bradford needed someone and turned to Givens. Pick him up and keep an eye on Amendola’s status. Teams can certainly throw on Buffalo, Minnesota and Tampa Bay (the next three teams on the Rams schedule).
Jacob Tamme, TE, DEN
Considered a preseason sleeper, Tamme has not lived up to the hype. Peyton Manning has clearly favored his wide receivers over his tight ends. However, in Week 13, with Brandon Stokley out, Tamme had eight receptions for 89 yards. With Denver playing Oakland on a short week, Tamme might be a good fill-in if Stokley is out again. Oakland’s defense isn’t anything to be feared, and Manning loves to throw the ball. Stokley is officially listed as questionable, but there are reports that he won’t play. If you’ve been weak at the tight end position and are looking for someone to fill in this week with the hope of a big day, try Tamme if Stokley is out.
St. Louis Rams D/ST
While most teams in the playoffs have a good defense already lined up, and others have grabbed the lower-tier matchups (Cincinnati, New York Jets), the Rams D/ST may still be available in your league. Since the brutal loss to New England in Week 8 and a Week 9 bye, the Rams have put up double-digit Fantasy points (or close to it, depending on league scoring). With Buffalo, Minnesota and Tampa Bay on the schedule for the next three weeks, they certainly can continue that trend of solid numbers for you. None of those three teams are going to put up a lot of points, and they may not even put up a lot of yards. Since they are playing on the road against Buffalo, the playing conditions may lend themselves to a few Ryan Fitzpatrick turnovers. The Rams offense may be struggling, but the defense has looked better and better through the recent weeks.
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