By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
It’s Fantasy Football playoff time. This is what we’ve been playing for these last 13 weeks. Hopefully I’ve helped you through your journey. And if I haven’t, and you’re still reading, God bless ya. You sure know how to bring a smile to a guy’s face.
That said, let’s recap a few things from these first thirteen weeks:
My top five quarterbacks at the start of the season currently rank as QB10, QB12, QB14, QB9, and QB6.
My top five running backs at the start of the season currently rank as RB6, RB12, Unranked (Le’Veon Bell. Oof.), RB1, and RB7.
My top five wide receivers at the start of the season currently rank as WR4, WR7, WR6, WR5, and WR10.
My top five tight ends at the start of the season currently rank as TE14, TE2, TE1, TE16 (and currently on IR), and TE9.
Why am I bringing this up? No, it’s not to tell you I absolutely suck at predicting where players will rank throughout a season of complete unpredictability. I’m actually pretty proud. Those preseason rankings could be a lot worse. No, I bring these up because sometimes people are wrong. We as fantasy football league managers should always be prepared for the unexpected. Who saw Aaron Rodgers’ struggles this year? Or Tom Brady’s? Who saw Rob Gronkowski missing multiple games? Actually, most of us did. That’s not a fair question. But I digress.
ESPN recently released a table of players who are commonly on playoff teams. Three of the five most frequent players on playoff teams went undrafted — Spencer Ware, Tyler Boyd, and Philip Lindsay. Ware is a recent pickup for most after the Kareem Hunt release, likely by owners of Hunt. But Boyd and Lindsay, those were keen pickups. Other players who went undrafted that ended up on many a playoff team included Eric Ebron (currently TE3), Austin Ekeler (RB24), and Josh Adams (RB22 since Week 10).
The point here, is that leagues aren’t won on draft day. You have to play the waiver wire. You shouldn’t be afraid to make trades to plug holes in your lineup. It’s also okay if you do none of that. Some people really are just that lucky when drafting. Or they completely ignore their teams and fail miserably. Those people suck.
Good luck in the playoffs, everyone!
This column is all about who to start and sit, or Play and Fade. I think the meanings are pretty simple. Play offers up a series of players that, based on my rankings, outperform their preseason rankings and draft positions. They may be obvious names, but some may be diamonds in the rough. Fade focuses on the obvious players that were taken higher in drafts and won’t put up numbers relative to their norm, or players with absolutely atrocious match ups that I plan to bench this week. My choices are based off my weekly FLEX rankings. Go ahead, take a quick gander before making your way back to the main event.
QB Aaron Rodgers (GB) – Rodgers looked sub-human last week. See? The Cardinals defense actually is pretty good. That said, Mike McCarthy was finally fired, and I’m willing to bet that just brought a big smile to Aaron Rodgers’ face. Like “the Grinch stealing Christmas presents” big. The Falcons are just the gift Rodgers needs. In five road games this year, the Falcons defense has allowed 27 or more fantasy points to QBs three times. Those QBs were Ben Roethlisberger, Baker Mayfield, and Drew Brees. The two who didn’t? Nick Foles and Alex Smith. Rodgers belongs in the former category, and without his head coach hamstringing him, he can now R-E-L-A-X and just play. Rodgers should be top 5 this week out of spite.
QB Baker Mayfield (CLE) – Last week started off awfully, but then he went off in the second half. He may have thrown for only 46 yards and three interceptions in the first half against the Texans, but he came back for 350 yards and a touchdown in the second half. If you didn’t know, Mayfield is really good. The Panthers pass defense is not. They’ve allowed the 3rd most passing TDs this year, and if last week showed one thing, Browns WR Antonio Callaway can get down the field. On back-to-back plays, he had a catch and run for 77 yards. The first one was called back and the second one he fumbled at the one. Couple that with the Panthers recent slide (four game losing streak), and it’s a perfect set up for Mayfield. I have him top 10 this week. He should be good for 275 yards and 2 TDs at minimum.
QB Josh Allen (BUF) – Can I tell you how much this pains me to write? Allen is an abysmal passer. He can’t hit the ocean with a beach ball standing in a boat in the middle of the ocean. But he can throw it to shore. Or to Queens from LAX. And he can run. I mean, he’s not Forrest Gump, but he’s making a case. I’ll give credit where credit is due — he’s both exciting to watch and migraine inducing on back-to-back plays. And the last two weeks, get this, he’s actually the best QB in fantasy. Yes, you read that correctly. Against the Jets this week, his upside is off the charts. He has 234 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown over the last two weeks. That’s a massive floor. I have him as a starter in a 12-team league. I can’t believe I wrote that last sentence. I’m going to go vomit now.
RB Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) – Finally, you’re starting to see what I saw when I said Elliott would be the best running back in fantasy this year. He has 141.80 fantasy points since Week 9, good for 28.36 FPPG, and is RB2 over the same time frame. He also has 53 receptions on the year — if you remember, I said he’d hit 50 this year in our preview of the Cowboys — and he leads the league in rushing — also what I said he would do. The only thing missing has been the touchdown numbers, and he has 9 through 12 games. Against the Eagles this week, I’m expecting another showing much like he put up against them in Week 10. Having Amari Cooper helps keep defenses honest, giving him plenty of room to run. Big week for Zeke is coming.
RB Philip Lindsay (DEN) – I’m not at all bitter that Lindsay called “shotgun!” at the start of the season and left Royce Freeman riding in the back all season. Nope, not at all. Truth be told, Freeman has had a good year statistically in limited work, but Lindsay has had a phenomenal season, averaging over six yards per carry. Over his last three weeks, he has 346 rushing yards and 5 TDs against the Chargers, Steelers, and Bengals. The 49ers are not especially great, and Lindsay should have no reason not to have yet another good game. Couple that with the recent injury to Emmanuel Sanders, and Lindsay will be relied upon even more to carry the Broncos offense. I have him top 10 this week.
RB Sony Michel (NE) – The last three weeks, Michel has 11, 21, and 17 carries. And those 17 carries came with the return of Rex Burkhead. Suffice it to say, I’m not worried about Michel’s workload, especially against a Dolphins defense that, for lack of a better term, sucks at stopping running backs. History tells us Tom Brady and the Patriots typically under perform in Miami. If they can lean on their running game, they have a chance. Michel can carry the workload — he’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry — and Miami’s offense isn’t exactly putting up 35 points a game. Michel has top 10 upside this week.
RB Jeff Wilson Jr. (SF) – Wilson Jr. looked good with the football in his hands last week when Breida went down with yet another injury. The Broncos have a pretty solid run defense, but on an offense devoid of playmakers — aside from George Kittle, Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin have been banged up and honestly, not that productive when they play — Wilson Jr. should see plenty of opportunities to put up points. He has FLEX appeal in 12 team or greater leagues as the Broncos do allow over 40 receiving yards per game to RBs which keeps his floor high.
WR Keenan Allen (LAC) – If you thought Allen’s season has been disappointing up to this point, you’re not alone. But did you know that Keenan Allen has been Fantasy’s number one wide receiver since Week 9? I know! Crazy, right?! The Bengals pass defense has been the 2nd worst in football this year, and another week with Melvin Gordon means that Allen is the best skill position player the Chargers offense has. They’ll use him a lot this week.
WR Amari Cooper (DAL) – Amari, allow me to be your wingman for a second. I’d like to set you up with some Eagles. That’s right, multiple. These Eagles are so easy, they’re a guaranteed score. And you can score aplenty. I mean, what guy doesn’t want that? Cooper’s going for the belt on Sunday. (If you’ve seen How I Met Your Mother, you’ll get that reference.)
WR D.J. Moore (CAR) – Over the last four weeks, Moore is second on the team in targets (behind RB Christian McCaffrey), second in receptions, and first in receiving yards. Now that Greg Olsen has been lost for the season, Moore’s involvement in the offense should only improve. Sure, rookie corner Denzel Ward has been awesome this year and will likely shadow Moore, but Moore moves around the offense a lot. I won’t be shocked if Moore has six or more catches on Sunday. Love his upside this week.
WR Courtland Sutton (DEN) – Emmanuel Sanders tore his Achilles on Wednesday. That’s a bummer for not only Sanders owners, but for the Broncos offense. Courtland Sutton has already been more involved in the offense since the Demaryius Thomas trade — second on the team in targets, first in receiving yards, and tied for first in touchdown receptions — and now he becomes the unquestioned lead receiver. Sutton typically runs his routes on the left side of the field, so he’s likely to avoid Richard Sherman and see more of Ahkello Witherspoon, Pro Football Focus’ second lowest graded corner in 2018. If last week’s 18.5 fantasy points didn’t serve as a coming out party, this Sunday is likely to.
TE Eric Ebron (IND) – Ebron had 16 targets last week when the Colts scored zero points. Earlier this year against the Texans, Ebron had 10 targets. He and Hilton are the clear top options in this pass heavy offense, and the Texans have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing TEs over the last five weeks. Another big day is on the horizon for Ebron.
TE Trey Burton (CHI) – Burton has gone missing as of late without Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. He has only five catches for 37 yards combined the last three weeks. The speculation is that Trubisky will play Sunday (of course, I thought that last week as well) and the Rams are forgiving to TEs. They’ve allowed the 6th most fantasy points to TEs over the last four weeks, so Burton should be utilized even with Chase Daniel at quarterback. Here’s hoping HC Matt Nagy realizes this and Burton can put up low-end TE1 numbers this week.
QB Tom Brady (NE) – In three of his last four games in Miami against the Dolphins, Brady has thrown for fewer than 250 yards and one or fewer touchdowns. A few other stats that tell me this isn’t the MVP Brady of 2017: he’s QB14 on the year and QB21 since Week 8. It doesn’t bode well for the Dolphins that star corner Xavien Howard is likely to miss the game, but Miami is more susceptible to running backs, which is why I’m so high on Michel this week.
QB Matt Ryan (ATL) – It wasn’t long ago that Matt Ryan was a top 3 quarterback in fantasy. Up until Week 7, Ryan was QB2. Since Week 8, Ryan is QB14. The Packers have allowed the 7th fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs over the last five weeks, and a coaching change typically inspires teams. Maybe. In any case, rough week coming up for Ryan and the Falcons.
RB Tevin Coleman (ATL) – When Devonta Freeman went down, everyone said Tevin Coleman would shine. He’s had one big game since Week 6 — Coleman went for 32.9 fantasy points in Week 9 against the Redskins — but has been positively pedestrian in 2018. Over the last four weeks, Coleman is RB38. The Packers have allowed the 12th fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs over the last four weeks, so I’m hardly thinking Coleman picks this week to restore faith in his fantasy owners.
RB Jaylen Samuels (PIT) – Just because James Conner filled in admirably for Le’Veon Bell hardly means Samuels will fill in admirably for Conner. Mostly because Samuels will be sharing duties with Stevan Ridley. Another fun fact, one even I didn’t believe, the Raiders have allowed the 11th fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs the last four weeks. Spencer Ware had a so-so day against the Raiders and he’s been a productive RB in this league. What do you think a 3rd string RB is going to do against them?
RB Spencer Ware (KC) – Speaking of Ware, this week against the Ravens and their defense that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs this year, you can pass. Seriously, just keep him on the bench this week.
RB Chris Carson (SEA) – The Seahawks may have the number one rushing attack in the league, and Carson may be the lead back in said rushing attack, but he’s hardly been a consistent fantasy performer. He’s RB28 on the year, and against the Vikings who allow the 10th fewest fantasy points to RBs this year, I doubt he puts up top 20 numbers– which he’s done the last three weeks.
WR Kenny Golladay (DET) – If only he got those two feet down last week. That would’ve punched up his fantasy day. But I digress. This week, Golladay should see a lot of Cardinals’ CB Patrick Peterson this week. That never bodes well for WRs. I think Kerryon Johnson (if he plays) has a big game, which limits Golladay’s upside.
WR Tyler Boyd (CIN) – Boyd is once again the top option in the Bengals passing attack. But he gets Desmond King this week, and that’s not a matchup that favors Boyd with a backup QB throwing to him. Joe Mixon will see the most volume to keep the offense moving. Boyd has limited upside this week.
WR Allen Robinson (CHI) – If Trubisky plays– that will help– but with Aqib Talib returning, the Rams defense is more dangerous. The Bears will move Robinson around and Talib won’t shadow, but Marcus Peters seems to play better with Talib on the field. The Rams shut down Golladay and the Lions passing attack last week, and the Bears could easily be next. I’m fading Robinson this week in what certainly isn’t a sexy matchup.
WR Sterling Shepard (NYG) – Let me start with, there’s upside to Shepard. He has a good matchup against the Redskins. But if we’re going off recent production, Shepard has three straight games with fewer than 10 fantasy points. He’s become the third wheel to OBJ and Barkley. No one likes being the third wheel.
TE Jimmy Graham (GB) – The Falcons have allowed fewer than 10 fantasy points per game to TEs over the last four weeks. Plus, with the Packers basically out of playoff contention, I have a feeling Graham won’t play as much, and a younger TE like Robert Tonyan may get some play as Graham nurses his thumb injury.
TE Cameron Brate (TB) – Winston will still find him, but the Saints allow the 2nd fewest fantasy points to TEs. I think this will be a big game for Humphries instead, and that should limit Brate’s usage.