Playoffs? You want to talk about playoffs?
With the fantasy playoffs starting for the majority of leagues this week, let's examine some key moves that could lead you to the title. If you made it this far, surely you have a stud core you like to field on a weekly basis. But, with injuries, suspensions, and exploitable matchups, every angle you can find, may lead you to the promise land
One of the most overlooked positions in fantasy is kickers. Outside of Justin Tucker, Greg Zuerline, and Stephen Gostkowski, average fantasy players and fans really can't name many other kickers. Well, Adam Vinatieri comes to mind, and that's the problem, as many players are unknowingly lazy when rostering the position. Vinatieri is 16th overall in scoring for kickers (ESPN Standard). The Odd thing is he is owned in 41.8% of leagues and has only tallied 94 points this year. Sitting quietly like a dog at the pound waiting to be adopted, Robbie Gould is ninth overall (108), scoring 24 more points than Vinatieri, but is only owned in 15.4% of ESPN leagues. The distance from where these two are kicking has been all the difference as Gould is 12/13 on kicks from 40-49, Vinatieri is only 4-4. Another thing to take into account is where these games will be played. Yes, I remember the Colts veteran kicker in the memorable " Snow Bowl" and the entirety of the clutch kicks on his resume, but wouldn't you rather have Gould kicking vs. the Texans with the roof closed as Houston is enduring cold and rain all week long. The Colts travel to Buffalo, where heavy snow is in the forecast. It's little edges like this that will gain you points that were previously, left on the table.
Injuries and suspensions
If you made it this far, chances are you have a decent quarterback. Tyrod Taylor and Matthew Stafford make the injury list this week. Stafford has been a top 10 performer at his position all year so finding a replacement for him, might be a dilemma owners have this week.
Yes, the hype train is taking off quickly. The box score read, 26-of-39 for 293 yards and one interception Sunday, but the numbers don't tell the story. The team moved the ball consistently but failed to convert drives into touchdowns outgaining the Bears 388-147. He was only sacked twice while posting a 95.7 passer rating. This week, the matchup is favorable as the Texans have allowed 18 or more points in six of their past eight games. His ceiling is low as he continues to grow in the Red Zone, but Houston has allowed 21 passing touchdowns this year. Just two weeks ago, the Texans allowed Blain Gabbert to throw for 257 yards and three touchdowns, anything is possible.
Surprisingly, he's been decent since taking over in Arizona. Gabbert is 12th in passing yards and is tied for fifth in passing touchdowns since Week 11. Gabbert has tossed six touchdowns but five picks. The beneficial feat is the Titans struggle to create turnovers only having two interceptions in the last three games.
He has been a QB 1 two of the last four weeks without having success through the air. Kizer leads the Browns in rush attempts inside the 5-yard line and is tied for second in the league in touchdowns from such distance. With the return of Josh Gordon, look for his ceiling to rise in the closing weeks of the season.
With Gronk spiking an opposing player out of frustration, and Zack Ertz in concussion protocol, the tight end position might serve pivotal this weekend. Searching for a Tight End is now on the agenda for owners.
With 6-5 monster Mike Evans as an option, it's hard to believe that Cameron Brate leads the team with five red-zone touchdowns on thirteen targets. Evans has three, on fourteen targets. Brate is targeted on 23% of the teams pass attempts inside the 20. With the return of Jamies Winston in week 13, Brate went back to his old ways and found the end zone twice scoring 17.9 points (ESPN standard). With Winston out, the tight end failed to eclipse 2 points scoring for three weeks and still sits in 9th overall for the year.
The 24-year-old tight end out of California was inserted Sunday for C.jJ Fiedorowicz (concussion). Once he entered the game, he had an astonishing 12 targets as Tom Savage looked his way often. He ended the game with a career-high five catches and 79 yards, immediately making him relevant going into week 14.
If Ertz is out, Burton has to at least get a look if you're desperate for the position. Ertz is 14th in the league in Red Zone targets (13), catching ten of those for seven touchdowns (2nd in the league). Inside the five, Ertz also shines, with six targets, five catches and four scores. The Red zone looks will be there, and all you need is a score to pay off the gamble. In week 9 when he played for the injured Ertz, he scored vs. Denver on only two catches. He played 21 snaps Sunday night as his name was called again due to injury, and made the most of his seven targets catching 4 for 42 yards.
In their Week 1 matchup vs. the Giants, he had seven receptions for 59 yards on nine targets. Also, let's not forget the Giants putrid streak of ten consecutive weeks giving up scores to the position. Even last week when the Raiders Jared Cook failed to get in the end zone, the Giants nevertheless, surrendered 11.6 fantasy points to the Oakland tight ends.
With Joe Mixon (concussion) missing practice Tuesday, things are looking like Bernard will head the backfield, who is already missing Jeremy Hill for the year. Things look bright for Bernard as the Bears have given up 20.8, 16.9, 16.4, and 27.9 points to running backs the last month. When he entered the game is the second quarter Monday Night, he finished with 96 total yards on 15 touches. Look for him to continue the same vs. a Bears defense that ranks 14th in points allowed to the position in 2017.
While many expected Jacquizz Rodgers to handle most of the workload with Doug Martin out, things went quite the opposite direction, as Peyton Barber owned the backfield accounting for 143 total yards from scrimmage vs. the Packers. The Lions rank 29th in points surrendered to Running backs, so this is a prime matchup for whoever gets the task Sunday.
Since the injury to Pierre Garcon, Goodwin has taken over as the primary receiver. In six of the last eight games, he has averaged over six targets and 68 yards. Now with a competent quarterback and the team playing with new found energy, look for him to close 2017 with solid numbers. In the first game with his new quarterback, Goodwin welcomed 21.6% of the pass attempts thrown, his highest on the year. The Texans, allow 7.8 yards per pass attempt, 30th in the league.
Th spotlight in on teammate Robbie Anderson, but Kearse has quietly gone off during the past two games. He has 16 catches on 24 targets for 262 yards and a score. The matchup is not favorable this week vs. a Denver defense that ranks 4th best vs. wide receivers only giving up 26.9 points as a unit. Lately, they have been suspect, and with the volume, he is getting at the moment, if you need to fill a Wide receiver spot especially in PPR formats, let him fly.
The Patriots give up the 5th most points to the Wide receiver position. Stills is coming off his highest targeted game of the year (13). Over the past month, he is averaging almost nine targets a game. Yes, the first time they played, he only had three receptions for 47 yards, but that game was on the road and Stills has managed to score four touchdowns in his last four home games. Fire up stills, in a matchup where the game script points in the direction of Miami trailing by multiple scores, forcing them to throw.
With the loss of Jimmy Smith can the Ravens sustain the level of play the defense has been manifesting? The suspension of JuJu Smith-Schuster opens the door for Bryant. Ravens vs. Steelers games usually result in low scoring games, but the last game at Heinze Field resulted in a shootout last December, where the game ended 31-27. Deploy Bryant as a secret weapon, with his big-play potential, on Primetime Tv; he will shine.
Coming off a seven-sack performance, can the Packers be inspired by the possible return of Aaron Rodgers? The Browns give up the second most fantasy points to opposing defenses.
The Bears haven't opened the playbook this year, and I don't see it anytime soon. Cincinnati is coming off two bad performances only scoring two fantasy points in both games. But, they are a team that thrives on creating pressure, and I see them doing just that to the Bears rookie play caller.