One of the biggest challenges in the fantasy playoffs is reality. Real time has taken its toll on players, leaving them with real injuries. Real weather changes the playing field, creating real mistakes and significant changes in real stats. And real drama leads to all sorts of real football decisions about what to do with players, players on your fantasy roster. That’s reality.
So as reality continues to wreak havoc right on your team in the middle of your fantasy playoffs, let’s look at some key fantasy decisions you can make to rise above all the real chaos.
Many fantasy owners are reeling as injuries take a toll on the tight end position. Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, and Garrett Graham are all out this week. That list of players looks like a depth chart on anyone’s fantasy team. I had all three of them in a 2-TE league. So who do affected fantasy owners turn to for a tight end this week? First, look for Delanie Walker. He’s facing an Arizona defense that has allowed the most touchdowns to tight ends this season. Next, consider Charles Clay. He goes against a Patriots defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends over the past 5 weeks. Another tight end that could be useful to fantasy owners is Coby Fleener. He’s a great play at home vs. the Texans. And finally, look at Seattle’s Zach Miller. He’s a subtle, sleeper play in his match-up against the Giants in Week 15.
There are two quarterbacks freshly hitting the field this week: Jay Cutler and Kirk Cousins. Be careful about jumping all-in on either one of them. Cutler could perform better than McCown – or much worse. He’s inconsistent in his performances, so he should only be used as a QB2 with some risk-reward. Cousins is more of a QB3. He has the potential to get you some points, but you never know how it might go with someone as inexperienced as Cousins. A better choice would be Ryan Tannehill. He’s playing well of late. And he has a good match-up at home against the Patriots, making Tannehill a QB2 with upside this week. He might be a better start than the likes of Andy Dalton. He might even score more than Tom Brady, who will be without Gronk, Dobson, and Thompkins.
Fantasy owners trying to jump on the Vikings RB situation (Peterson and Gerhart both out) should leave it alone at this point. There is no one after Gerhart that any fantasy owner should pursue as a plug and play. Instead, they should turn to New England’s Shane Vereen, especially in ppr leagues. He is a solid RB2 with upside these days. Fantasy owners should avoid playing the Carolina running backs in their game against the top rushing defense in the NFL. They should also stay away from Ray Rice, who should return to his mediocre form on the field. Steven Jackson and Zac Stacy are much better choices in their home match-ups against Washington and New Orleans, respectively. Oakland’s Rashard Jennings is also a good choice this week as a high-end RB2 with upside.
As for wide receivers, fantasy owners should be sure to start Roddy White and Harry Douglas. They are at home against the woeful Redskins defense. White and Douglas are both solid WR2 options this week with lots of upside. Julian Edelman will likely be Tom Brady’s main target this Sunday. He should be started as a WR2, but his upside will be limited by the lack of other weapons the Miami secondary needs to concern itself with in this game. If you are looking for more upside, try Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson. He is seeing a lot of targets these days, and he has the speed to break for a long TD on any given play. He makes a great flex play, and can also be used as a high-end WR3 with super upside.
On the flip side, beware of Victor Cruz this week. He has a terrible match-up against Seattle. You almost have to play him unless you have Roddy White to take his place. But temper your expectations for Cruz in Week 15. Also, don’t be surprised if Michael Crabtree fails to make a big splash this week at Tampa Bay. Their secondary tends to be a bit underrated. Crabtree is a low-end WR2 in Week 15.
Speaking of the Tampa Bay defense, if you are in need of a DST this week, they make a great choice. They have been producing strong fantasy numbers of late, and the San Francisco offense is not very potent. Another sleeper DST worth considering in Week 15 is Jacksonville. Yes, Jacksonville. This unit is coming together really well, and they are very underrated. They host the Buffalo Bills this week. This is an incredibly good, sneaky play in Week 15 if you do not have a DST like Seattle, San Francisco, Kansas City, or Arizona.
As I’ve mentioned before, don’t try to get cute during the playoffs. Now is the time to play all your best players, regardless of their match-ups. But where reality has stepped in to undermine fantasy, sneaky sleepers can make all the difference as you continue your quest for your league championship. Best of luck to everyone this week! I’ll be available on Twitter @murphysguide throughout the morning.