By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
In some way, shape, or form, it’s playoff time in your league. For some, it’s the start of the Championship game, where it takes two weeks to determine. For others. it’s the semifinals. For others, it’s opening week. Are you in the playoffs? Who am I kidding. You’re reading this column regularly so duh, of course you are!
(Small ego stroke. Just let me have this.)
Some big news happened last week and you need to be prepared. Carson Wentz carried you through the season. He’s currently QB2. You have advanced to the playoffs and he won you the opening week. BAM! Torn ACL. Um, what?! What the Hell do you do now? Hopefully you have a backup to plug in, but is he going to win you a matchup you can’t afford to lose?
Aaron Rodgers was QB4 through Week 5 before he broke his collarbone. He’s been cleared to play this week. He didn’t get you through the season, but he put you on the path and you reached the playoffs in spite of his absence. Can you trust him? Let’s say you have someone like Kirk Cousins, currently QB6, but you also have Rodgers. Do you make the switch? (We call this foreshadowing, people.)
What about Alvin Kamara and his concussion? He’s currently RB3 and may miss this week’s game — I don’t think he will but you just never know. Do you have a suitable replacement in case he misses this week’s game?
When injuries occur and you need to scramble, waivers will be your best friend. It’s always a great idea to compile a list of players leading up to the playoffs that have favorable schedules that you can stash on your bench for that rare moment you need them. If you did that leading into some of these injuries, you’ll feel a little more confident.
But let’s be honest, you’d feel a lot more confident if your players drank more milk and built that calcium intake.
That brings us to this week’s Confidence Plays. Here’s your refresher because I know you’ll get this confused. This column serves as a Start/Sit of sorts. I break things down into three categories. Start means exactly that. These are your studs, the guys we know are going to be studs this year and this is a week they return some of that draft value. Get them into your lineup! Play analyzes the fringe starters, your FLEX plays if you will. These guys could be on your bench one week and thrust into your starting lineup the next based on the matchup. When you see them mentioned here, put them in your lineup in some way, shape, or form. Do not misconstrue what Bench means. Seriously. I’m not saying to not start the players that end up in this section. Maybe they’re your studs that you know you’re going to start, but with bad match-ups so temper expectations. If I tell you to bench them, then you can blame me if they go off. These choices are based on my rankings, so decide which work for you and good luck this week!
QB Aaron Rodgers (GB) – Tell me why you wouldn’t start him? Before his injury, Rodgers was QB4. He’s cleared to play now as the Packers fight for a playoff spot. The Panthers have allowed the 2nd most fantasy points per game to QBs since Week 11. I say again, tell me why you wouldn’t start him?
QB Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) – Since Week 10, Big Ben is fantasy’s number one QB. It helps when you have Antonio Brown to throw to and Le’Veon Bell to dump it off to. Oh, and the Steelers are at home, with home field advantage in the AFC likely on the line — I could keep going, but I think you get it. Plug and play folks.
RB LeSean McCoy (BUF) – Last week in the snow, Shady went wild, scoring 23.6 fantasy points, 12th most among RBs. That’s a top five performance any other week. The Bills are once again at home this week against a Dolphins team that allows the 6th most fantasy points to RBs over the last four weeks. And while it’s not projected to snow as of this writing, Mother Nature could swoop in and Shady could be making snow angels again in Week 15.
RB Leonard Fournette (JAX) – The Texans defense allows almost 25 fantasy points a game to RBs over the last four weeks. This is a great matchup all around for the Jaguars offense, but Fournette has something to prove. Last week’s performance against Seattle was Fournette’s first 20 point performance since Week 6. The Jaguars will want to get him going heading into the playoffs so buckle up everyone!
WR Keenan Allen (LAC) – Allen has scored the 2nd most fantasy points among WRs since Week 10. He has recorded four consecutive games of over 100 yards receiving. He’s doing it against both good and bad pass defenses. I don’t care the opponent — the Chiefs are up in Week 15 — as he’s going to dominate.
WR Michael Thomas (NO) – Many people were frustrated by Thomas’ lack of monster fantasy weeks as many took him in the first two rounds of fantasy drafts. He currently sits at WR8 on the season and has been WR6 since Week 7. Against the Jets — they allow the 7th most fantasy points per game to WRs since Week 11 — I expect Thomas to keep right on rolling.
TE Zach Ertz (PHI) – Ertz missed last week as a result of a concussion. His replacements, Brent Celek and Trey Burton, combined for 3 TDs and 31.6 fantasy points. Ertz no longer has his best bud Carson Wentz throwing him the football, but Nick Foles is no slouch and will likely live in underneath coverage, rather than taking shots downfield. It also helps the Giants allow the most fantasy points to opposing TEs this year.
QB Blake Bortles (JAX) – My favorite streamer this week. Bortles is a great plug in if you lost Wentz to injury — don’t get me started on how painful his injury was for not only my Eagles, but also in my dynasty league — as he faces a Texans team that allows the second most fantasy points to opposing QBs. He’s also QB6 over the last three weeks. Some things just add up.
QB Derek Carr (OAK) – Has Carr’s season been a shit show or what? He hasn’t scored more than 20 fantasy points since Week 7, hasn’t thrown for more than 300 yards since Week 9, and hasn’t tossed multiple TD passes since Week 12. Oh, right, I’m supposed to make a case to start him. The Cowboys, Sunday’s opponent, have allowed 13 TD passes since Week 8, and given up the 4th most fantasy points to QBs over the last four weeks. Carr turns it around this week.
RB Kareem Hunt (KC) – I told you last week to bench him at your own risk. And what did he do? Oh, just put up 24.8 fantasy points, good for 10th at the position. No one knows what the Hell Andy Reid is thinking, so start at your own risk. This week, I’ll risk it. He torched the Chargers for 172 yards and 29.3 fantasy points in Week 3, and the Chargers currently allow 24.8 fantasy points to RBs on the season. I think Hunt tops 20 fantasy points once again this week.
RB Kenyan Drake (MIA) – What a coming out party for Drake on Monday night. Apparently Adam Gase knew what he was doing when he shipped out Jay Ajayi. Drake has been fantastic the last four weeks, ranking as RB10. Now he and the Dolphins head up to Buffalo to take on a Bills team that allows the most fantasy points to opposing RBs. If that doesn’t get your fantasy libido going, nothing will.
RB Jay Ajayi (PHI) – Speaking of Ajayi, I like him a lot this week too. The matchup is great — the Giants allow the 4th most points to RBs this season — but his stud QB was just lost for the season. What’s the first thing most head coaches do when they lose their QB? They tell the backup to hand the ball off. Lucky for Foles and the Eagles, they have not only a great ground game — they’re second in the NFL in rushing yards per game — but a really good back in Ajayi to carry his share of the load. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry last week against the Rams and is averaging 7.0 yards per carry in five games with the Eagles. LeGarrette Blount isn’t a bad option as a FLEX this week either, but I love me some Ajayi in New York.
WR Dez Bryant (DAL) – Dez has been great the last two weeks, scoring in both contests, and averaging 17.7 fantasy points. Against the Raiders, I expect the streak to continue. Dak Prescott was on fire last week and he’ll need Dez against a stingy Raiders secondary.
WR Jordy Nelson (GB) – With the return of Rodgers, comes the return of Jordy. To fantasy relevance, that is. Through Week 5, Nelson was WR7. From Week 6 through Week 14, Nelson is WR59. Maybe he’s not WR7 this week, but he’ll put up top 20 numbers, which we haven’t seen from Jordy in quite some time.
WR Michael Crabtree (OAK) – The Cowboys allow the 8th most fantasy points to WRs over the last four weeks, and Crabtree bounced back nicely after essentially two weeks off. And no, the threat of Amari Cooper returning to the lineup does nothing to sway me here. Crabtree is a top 20 option this week.
WR Dede Westbrook (JAX) – Over the last four weeks, the rookie out of Oklahoma has actually been the best WR on the Jaguars in terms of fantasy points. In fact, Westbrook has been targeted more than the Jaguars number one wide receiver, Marqise Lee, 33 to 27. There’s a reason I have Westbrook ranked higher than Lee this week, and it’s not particularly close. The Texans secondary has been abysmal this season, allowing the 8th most fantasy points to WRs. Great FLEX option this week.
TE Jason Witten (DAL) – We joke about the Raiders not being able to cover TEs well, but after a while — nope, still fun. The Raiders still can’t cover TEs well, allowing the 3rd most fantasy points over the last four weeks. Witten is due, having only caught two passes over the last two weeks. Luckily for us fantasy owners, both were touchdowns.
TE Benjamin Watson (BAL) – Oh, and you start your TEs against the Browns. Watson may have laid an egg last week, but he lit up the Browns earlier this season to the tune of 8 catches for 91 yards. I’m looking for more of the same this week.
Streaming options at D/ST include Broncos D/ST, Redskins D/ST, and Falcons D/ST.
QB Kirk Cousins (WSH) – See? Foreshadowing. Nothing against Cousins — I really like him as a fantasy QB — but he’s gotten progressively worse over the last four weeks, from 31.98 to 20.08 to 16.64 to last week’s 10.84. His offensive line is beat up, Jordan Reed still isn’t playing, and Josh Doctson, while promising, isn’t quite there yet. Very, very, very hard pass.
RB Jamaal Williams (GB) – For the record, I like Williams. He has been nothing but studly since Aaron Jones got hurt in Week 10, averaging 21.3 fantasy points per contest, good for RB3. But here’s what I do know — RBs don’t tend to fair well with Rodgers at QB. Rodgers wants the ball in his hands and he’s going to win the game. I’m hesitant to play Williams until I see the two coexist. Can it be done? Absolutely. Color me skeptical but I can’t blame you if you start him.
RB Lamar Miller (HOU) – Since the Jaguars acquired Marcell Dareus prior to Week 9, the Jags have allowed the 10th fewest fantasy points to RBs. Miller stands little chance to return anything more than FLEX numbers, not great for fantasy’s RB13.
WR Brandin Cooks (NE) – Cooks was atrocious on Monday night. So was Tom Brady, so maybe that had something to do with it. It doesn’t get much better on Sunday when the Patriots face the Steelers. The Steel Curtain has blanketed WRs this year to the tune of the 8th fewest fantasy points allowed. I’m benching him in favor of Michael Crabtree this week, if that tells you anything.
WR Jarvis Landry (MIA) – This is a choice I know I’ll regret. On the road, in the cold, Landry faces off with a Bills secondary that has shut down just about everyone. They allow the 4th fewest fantasy points to WRs, and the 7th fewest over the last four weeks. You’d think Jay Cutler would know how to play in the cold after all those years in Chicago, but after a great game last week, Cutler is due to regress and he’s taking Landry with him.
WR Robby Anderson (NYJ) – Anderson has looked like a top 15 guy this year, but he fell back to earth last week against a stout Broncos secondary. Now that Josh McCown is out for the year, the Jets will turn to Bryce Petty to sling it. Anderson first broke into our hearts with Petty throwing to him so maybe they can recapture that magic. Against Marshon Lattimore and the Saints, I’m thinking they don’t.
TE Rob Gronkowski (NE) – Coming off his one game suspension, Gronk is likely ready to rock and roll. The Steelers present quite the challenge though, as they allow the fewest fantasy points to opposing TEs. Look, you’re starting Gronk, but I certainly wouldn’t feel great about it.