Don’t Overthink Things In The Playoffs
The Fantasy Football playoffs are not the time to gamble on lineup decisions. It’s the time to play the odds, and have the guys who give your team the best chance to win in your lineup. I wish someone had reminded me of that on Sunday morning before I decided to throw DeVante Parker, a guy I just picked up this week, in one of my lineups in a must-win playoff battle.
My logic was sound: The Giants’ pass defense has been terrible; it’s a Monday night home game for the Dolphins, who are trying to stay in the playoff hunt; They’ve averaged 57 rushing yards per game in their losses, and the Giants may try to take the run away for this reason, forcing Ryan Tannehill to beat them in the air; Parker is behind only Jarvis Landry in targets over the past two weeks; and, again, the Giants’ pass defense has been atrocious. It was a roll of the dice, but it didn’t seem as risky as throwing Darren Sproles or Bilal Powell in there.
[caption id="attachment_83059" align="alignright" width="375"] Denard Robinson becomes that rare plug'n'play RB in the playoffs if T.J. Yeldon is held out due to injury. Photo Credit: MGo Blog[/caption]
I started to feel bad about that decision about halfway through the Washington vs. Chicago game. Coming off of three catches for 33 yards on Monday night against the Cowboys, I had Jordan Reed sitting on my bench, piling up catches and yards en route to nine receptions for 120 yards and a score against the Bears – 22.50 points based on my league’s scoring. Reed was valuable all year, and I relied on him while dealing with injuries to Dez Bryant, Julian Edelman, the disappearance of C.J. Anderson, LeSean McCoy’s early season hammie flare up, and even Allen Hurns’ recent issues. He was there when I needed him all season, and I turned my back on the guy when I needed him most, down 21 points going into Monday night with my opponent done for the week. Heartbreaking.
Fortunately, I also had Eli Manning plugged in, and thanks to Odell Beckham Jr. and perhaps Ben McAdoo’s game plan (and Eli’s accuracy last night), I overcame the deficit and lived to fight another day. But the lesson is an important one: DON’T OVERTHINK THINGS, AND DON’T GET CUTE. Trust your instincts, but don’t abandon what has gotten you to this point. Look at players who have the opportunity to succeed (e.g. potential volume/workload) and the talent to do so. Sometimes opportunity trumps talent; a back on a lesser team who stands to be relied upon more in the offense is more valuable than a better player on a better team at least temporarily. For example: If we know with 100 percent certainty that one Tennessee Titans running back is going to receive 20-25 touches, he’s probably going to be in my starting lineup ahead of a guy like James White or Rashad Jennings or Frank Gore. Another important lesson: don’t go chasing waterfalls. But that’s for a different column.
Another spate of injuries to running backs had a lot of people scratching their heads this weekend. Thomas Rawls is done for the year, Spencer Ware left the Chiefs’ game early with a rib injury and looked terrific before doing so, T.J. Yeldon was bounced with a knee injury, and Denard Robinson promptly came in and ran roughshod over the Colts. Plus, what should we make of the Carolina backfield now that they’re 13-0 and locked in for the playoffs with a bye? Do they rest Jonathan Stewart? Can you trust one of his understudies to carry the mail? If so, which one? These are some of life’s most important questions, at least for this week. There’s a championship to win, so let’s get to work!
Denard Robinson (14 carries, 75 yards, 1 TD; 2 rec. 12 yards): With Atlanta and New Orleans upcoming, and the Jaguars challenging for the AFC South division title, this situation becomes infinitely more intriguing than a typical late-season Jaguars pickup. T.J. Yeldon injured his knee in the first half and didn’t return. That opened the door for the man they called Shoelace – who was on approximately three percent of teams in all Yahoo! leagues prior to the opening kickoff. You’ll recall that Robinson was tearing it up last year before he went down with a leg injury, and he showed that same electricity and promise against the Colts in a 51-16 rout. The schedule is soft, and if Yeldon sits a week or more because of his knee, Robinson becomes an instant plug-and-play RB2. TRENDING UP
Bryce Brown (Signed Off The Street This Week): It looked like it was going to be impossible to trust anyone in Seattle’s stable this week or next in the absence of Marshawn Lynch, and now Thomas Rawls. That became somewhat clearer after the Seahawks decided to cut DuJuan Harris on Tuesday, paving the way for Brown to carry the mail for the Seahawks in a tasty matchup with the Browns at home. Furthermore, the ageless Fred Jackson is lurking just beyond. I know Pete Carroll insists that Jackson will not be the guy, but there’s a shot he shows that his veteran savvy is invaluable if the game plan shifts to keeping Russell Wilson upright to do what he does well: scramble, and find open receivers. I'd have a hard time inserting Brown into my lineup this week, but if your desperate, you could do much worse than a guy who should be a lock to get at least 12-15 touches. That said, I believe you’d be better off grabbing Ryan Mathews (if available), Shaun Draughn, or Denard Robinson if you're really in a pinch. TRENDING UP
Jonathan Grimes (7 carries, 53 yards; 2 rec. 9 yards): Good grief, this team again? Brian Hoyer is likely to miss this weekend’s game, and that could spell disaster for the Texans, as they look to hang onto their playoff hopes after having them all but dashed against the Patriots on Sunday evening. In that one, Chris Polk received the start in the place of the benched Alfred Blue, but did relatively little (11 carries, 34 yards). He was out-played by Grimes, but nonetheless, there was nothing to celebrate here. The redeeming thing is that, if you need a lottery ticket for this week, the Texans draw the hapless Colts who are coming off of a totally one-sided thrashing at the hands of the Jaguars, who happened to run all over them all afternoon. Grimes makes an intriguing FLEX play if you’re desperate, but let’s hope it’s your opponent who is weighing this pick-up as a serious option. CRIPES (Hold)
David Johnson (19 carries, 92 yards; 5 rec. 31 yards): The Thursday Nighter could’ve been even more excellent for Johnson and his owners, but he missed the chance at two touchdowns – one because of a stumble at around the 2-yard line, and the other when a leg injury (thigh bruise, don’t worry) forced him from the game momentarily on a goal line chance. Still, getting 123 yards from what was likely a late-season addition is excellent, and perhaps a big reason why some are still standing. Johnson will have had ten days’ rest when his team heads east for a Battle of Birds matchup in Philly on Sunday. Start Johnson with confidence, and let’s see if the Cards can secure a first-round bye, making their Week 16 outlook somewhat questionable from a personnel standpoint, making Championship Week a bit murky for owners of Palmer, Johnson & Fitzgerald (the skill position players, not the law firm). TRENDING UP
Jonathan Stewart (10 carries, 75 yards, 1 TD; 1 rec. 14 yards): Reports from Carolina are that J-Stew (does anyone call him that?) is dealing with a sprained foot, and was seen in a walking boot at the facilities on Monday. Coach Rivera called him “fine,” but I would assert that a running back with a sprained foot is anything but. At 13-0, you have to ask yourself, why would Carolina rush their best running back back from a foot injury to face the Giants, especially with Cam Newton attaining a higher level of consciousness? The Panthers are guaranteed a Top-2 seed, and you have to like their chances to best the 6-7 Giants even without Stewart, instead opting for the Mike Tolbert / Fozzy Whitaker / Cameron Artis-Payne triumvirate of power (and consonants). Stewart might gut this one out, perhaps even as the starter, but then cede carries to his corpsmen in the process. It’ll be hard to trust an injured player on a 13-0 team with little left to play for in the regular season, so tread carefully. I said last week that Tolbert is my guy, and despite reports that Artis-Payne may be the favored replacement, I’m sticking with my guns and saying Mike Tolbert leads the Panthers in production should Stewart be held out. HOLD
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