The second season is upon us, and for anyone not lucky enough to earn a bye this week (roughly 66 percent of those who made it), preparations begin today. The gauntlet of winning three weeks in a row is a challenging one. Winning three weeks in a row with everything on the line is even more stress-inducing. We all expect there to be at least one or two NFL players who have incredible, outlier performances in the playoff weeks. We just hope it will either be someone on our team, or someone on a team we’re not facing. Weeks like Marcus Mariota’s Week 13, when he threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns while adding 112 yards rushing and another score on the ground. This is a quarterback who has scored less than 12 points (standard scoring) in three of his starts, so it’s not a given that his owners would even start him. But, if you did start him this past weekend, I’d be willing to bet you won. Another example would be Doug Martin’s Week 5 performance in which he produced 158 total yards and three touchdowns, good for more than 30 points in standard leagues, even more in PPR leagues. Martin had a relatively slow start to the season based on expectations for him from the pre-season hype machine, and more than half of Fantasy Football owners didn’t have him in the lineup on that fateful day.
These are the type of weeks that are impossible to predict with certainty, and given the mantra of always starting your studs, taking a gamble on someone in the playoffs is not the way to go. With that said, absolutely gamble on your bench right now. Yes, you want to guard against injury, so if you have a guy like Allen Hurns sitting on your bench now because you start two wide receivers and have guys like A.J. Green and Deandre Hopkins locked and loaded, I’m not advocating you drop a guy like Hurns. But if you have some fat at the end of your bench, like a backup QB or a spare tight end, consider cutting them loose to grab a back-up running back who, if the man in front of him goes down, is a starter for a week or more. This is what happened to Chris Johnson owners, and it’s the reason some advocate handcuffing.
Below is a short list of players who should be looked at this week and next to get you to the Week 16 finals. Some players have a tenuous grasp on their lead roles while others have a history of injury that needs to be accounted for. Others may just end up parked once their team locks up seeding. Who is surging and who is flagging? We find out, right now with this Playoff Strategies edition of the RBBC Report.
Jonathan Stewart (21 carries, 82 yards, 1 TD; 3 rec. 31 yards): Stewart has maintained his health all season for the Panthers and deserves some credit for that given his past history. This 12-0 Panthers team has an opportunity to lock up the top overall seed with a win against Atlanta this weekend, and a Cardinals loss. If that were to happen, I would absolutely expect Stewart to immediately be downshifted into a 50/50 timeshare to preserve him for the playoffs. I believe Mike Tolbert would be the man to own in Carolina. Tolbert is a versatile bowling ball of a back who can run, catch, pass-block, and handle goal line work with ease. Perhaps a timeshare with Fozzy Whitaker would occur, but I’m putting my money on Tolbert. If you have Stewart, I’d add one of them this weekend while no one is looking and stash them at the end of your bench. You’ll want to have the strongest starting lineup you can each week, and if Stewart ends up parked for the championship week, you’ll be glad you picked up his replacements rather than hang onto Willie Snead or Sam Bradford. HOLD
Terrance West (8 carries, 31 yards; 1 rec. 5 yards): Maybe it sounds crazy targeting someone on the J.V. squad that is the Ravens at this point. The fact is West, the cast-off from Cleveland and Tennessee, wouldn’t even be in this position had 97 percent of their roster not gotten injured this year (okay, that might be an overestimation. But it’s got to be close to 93 percent). Nonetheless, West is one Javorius Allen injury away from receiving anywhere from 15-25 touches per game, and he has 15 carries over his two games with the Ravens, sporting a solid 4.5 YPC average. Don’t get me wrong, Allen has looked more than capable in his role and is a nice RB2/3 going forward. But this is the point of insurance: you don’t want to have to use it (West), but it’s sure nice to have if you need it. TRENDING UP
Chris Polk (12 carries, 61 yards; 1 rec. 11 yards, 1 TD): On the carousel of misery that is the Houston Texans’ backfield, Chris Polk’s number was called this week, out-touching all three other backs used 12 to 10. This recommendation is tough to co-sign because, frankly, you just don’t know what each week will bring; next week, it may be Jonathan Grimes who gets 12 or more carries, or Coach O’Brien might be feeling blue. Nonetheless, the chance to get a contributor is real, and I would let go of a depth receiver or back-up QB/TE to park him on the pine, just in case. TRENDING UP (but barely)
Ameer Abdullah (13 carries, 67 yards): After losing one of the most heartbreaking games in the most heartbreaking fashion, it’s hard to find any bright side for the Lions. Though, I have to say, winning just enough games to keep their fans’ hopes alive this year before being eliminated and then having to settle for a draft pick outside of the Top-8 would’ve made many feel quite low. However, after vanquishing Joe Lombardi earlier this season, it did seem like we may get to see the true skill of Abdullah, who was woefully under-utilized in Lombardi’s scheme. He’s still not being used in the passing game nearly enough, and after setting a season-high in rushing yards two weeks in a row, we’ll see if his usage continues moving upward. He’s likely to face a challenge in 2016, be it a free agent signing or the Lions grabbing a back in the draft, but for these next three weeks, he’s the best option for them and will continue to see work as the coaching staff and front office evaluates needs. HOLD
DeMarco Murray (8 carries, 24 yards): Chip Kelly is a spiteful, petty man, and with the news that Murray requested (and received) a meeting with owner Jeff Lurie to essentially complain about his role (eight touches, played 14 snaps on Sunday), this is a grim situation. Ryan Mathews is expected back from a concussion and Darren Sproles continues to carve out a role for himself, making it questionable whether Murray will see his carries increase during the next three weeks; it’s certainly hard to imagine. This has been a lost season for Murray on the field in many ways, though very much a gained season in terms of his bank account. He’s not droppable at this point, but I wouldn’t trust him in my lineup with everything on the line. TRENDING DOWN
Alfred Morris (6 rush, 12 yards): Just a mere eight days after toting the oblong ball 24 times and being lauded as a possible resurgence candidate for Fantasy Footballers who trust members of the first-place (?!?) Washington team, the man effectively plays zero snaps after the first quarter in a game that was the most unwatchable, boring affair for about 56 minutes of game action. Moving forward, it’s hard to trust either of the D.C. lead backs, and that’s not even including Chris Thompson who continues to contribute. Look for better options elsewhere, but with the easy schedule that includes the Bears, Bills, and Eagles next, hold onto Morris and see what happens. It’s ugly, but he could be a week away from another 24 carries. TRENDING DOWN