After taking a week off, Pink Zone is back. The regular seasons of both Fantasy Football and real life football are over. Hopefully, you’re taking advantage of a playoff Fantasy Football league so you can continue to play until baseball season starts (36 days until pitchers and catchers report). There are a number of different types of Fantasy playoff leagues, but for the purpose of this column, we’ll focus on leagues in which you pick one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker and a defense. You can earn a multiplier for each position you carry into the following week but you can make as many lineup changes as needed from week to week.
In future columns, we’ll look at keepers and other offseason items, but while there’s still football being played, let’s focus on the games being played this weekend.
At the quarterback position, you likely either played Drew Brees last week or plugged Peyton Manning into your lineup to get the 2x multiplier for this week. Either of those QBs would be solid options this week as well, but the edge goes to Manning. Brees goes back to Seattle, where he threw for 147 yards and one touchdown earlier this season. Meanwhile, Manning plays San Diego, whom the Broncos already faced twice this season. In Week 10, Manning threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns when the Broncos travelled to San Diego and defeated the Chargers 28 – 20. When the Broncos hosted the Chargers in Denver (the same scenario as this weekend’s game), Manning threw for 289 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a 27 – 20 loss. Given all the quarterbacks and their matchups this weekend, you should feel comfortable with Manning.
At the running back position, Marshawn Lynch is the best option. Again, this may be someone that you plugged into your roster last week, but if not, add him now. The New Orleans rush defense isn’t something to be afraid of. They’re in the bottom half of the league in terms of rushing yards allowed, and they are tied for 11th for total rushing touchdowns allowed (11 on the season). When Seattle and New Orleans met in Week 13, Lynch did struggle, only totaling 45 rushing yards on 16 carries. Look for him to get the ball more often this week and have a much better rushing game. Percy Harvin looks to return, which should help spread the offense, giving Lynch a better chance to earn you Fantasy points.
Other options include Knowshon Moreno, but you should be concerned with the workload being shared with Montee Ball. Moreno hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown in the past four weeks, although, he did score a receiving touchdown in Week 17. Also, look at Frank Gore (although the matchup at Carolina is a reason to consider staying away) and Donald Brown (unless the Colts foolishly decide to put Trent Richardson back in the game).
At wide receiver, you have to consider the Broncos receivers. If you already have Manning and Moreno in your lineup, however, I understand being a little wary about going all in on the Broncos. So, if you decide against Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, look at Julian Edelman in PPR formats. He’s been a target monster because of injuries to other receivers (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, etc). It doesn’t appear that Dobson will play, which bodes well for Edelman. In the last six games, he’s had at least six receptions (including a monster 13/139/1 stat line in Week 13). The Indianapolis pass defense is decent, but you can bet that Tom Brady will find a way to get the ball to Edelman.
At the tight end position, the obvious choices are Julius Thomas and Jimmy Graham. I’d hesitate a bit with Graham because of the matchup, and Thomas has been a little disappointing since returning from injury. With Wes Welker out, he didn’t really see any more targets (15 receptions, one touchdown in the last three games of the regular season compared to nine receptions and two touchdowns in the three games prior to his injury). For a “sleeper” pick of sorts at tight end, look at Greg Olsen. The connection he’s had with Cam Newton has been evident in the second half of the season. For each of the last seven games of the season, he had at least five receptions (one game with four receptions) and over 34 receiving yards. In a PPR format, you’re looking at a solid eight points without a touchdown (which he also had three of in the past seven weeks). You also should consider whether you think the team will advance to the following week. In leagues in which you earn a multiplier for picking players on teams that advance, having a Super Bowl roster in the second week of these playoff games is critical. This decision may affect your player strategy (heck, you might want to go all Broncos!).
This is the strategy you should follow when it comes to choosing a kicker. Choose a kicker on a team you think will play in the Super Bowl. What else do you have to lose?
For a defense, I’m not sure how you could go with anyone other than the Seahawks, playing at home where they have been so successful. Sure, they face the Saints, who have been known to put up a lot of points, but after a week off they should be ready. The most points they’ve given up at home is 24 (in the overtime game vs. Tampa Bay). Another defense to keep in mind is Carolina, but the Seahawks are arguably the best defense in the NFC and among all the teams still playing. Why wouldn’t you pick them for your team?