The time is now; We are on the playoff doorstep.
As you look down at this doorstep, you see the welcoming mat. Your shoes are muddy, wet, and heavy, you wipe them clean before ringing the doorbell to the big dance. This kind of party is a “take your shoes off at the door” type.
The dirty shoes that we are leaving behind symbolize the cluttered mess that may be the back end of your roster. Take the short time it takes to clean this mess, and add a handcuff to your RB, add some consistent depth to your WR, or add the likes of Scott Chandler to supplement the ever so volatile position that is TE.
When we sit back on draft day and analyze the players available until it is our pick, there is not a ton of weight put on a players schedule or bye week. Fast forward to where we are now, and this is a time we can start paying attention to our players playoff schedule. Obviously, this point in the season is absolutely crucial to retaining those “champ” bragging rights for next season so let’s take a look at our rosters, find where we can cut bait, and add some depth.
This time of the year brings cognitive dissonance to the forefront in analyzing your roster. This means there are two valid points on opposite ends of the spectrum that your brain recognizes and can not decipher which is the more weighted proposition.
For instance, Julio Jones probably is a big part of you your team’s success and possible playoff birth, despite a down week in which he was out targeted by the skeleton of Roddy White. But he does have the toughest of matchups in Week 14 and 16 against Josh Norman. Do not get cute and try to overthink the situation, and play a guy like Doug Baldwin instead. You play Julio Week 14 and see how he fares against the best corner in the league, and if he gets shutdown and you still make it past round one, then maybe look for an alternative that you may have added while cleaning out that roster of yours.
Do not fix what is not broken. Enter the party with a clean look, and maybe an undershirt (roster depth) in case your nephew throws up on you (injury to one of your key cogs.) Leave the shoes at the door, and take home the title.
Week 12 MVP’s
Doug Baldwin- In the shootout that was the Steelers versus Seahawks tilt, there were plenty of numbers to go around. As the Seattle offense is a tough one to pinpoint where the production will come from, most people probably had Baldwin on their bench due to other more consistent options. If you were forced to play him, or made an ultra gutsy call, it surely paid dividends. Baldwin easily had his best game of the season, possibly his whole career, as he finished with 6/145/3 capped off by a late 80-yard catch and run that would end up being the dagger for the Steelers. Even with the loss of Jimmy Graham for the season, trusting anybody in this aerial attack is a tough proposition as Russell Wilson has the propensity to spread the ball around.
Calvin Johnson- Here is another player benefitting from his quarterback having a five touchdown performance. On a day of poor football and giving thanks, Calvin joined in on the fun and was able to eat on the field. Throughout the season, Johnson and the Lions have been pretty abysmal in terms of fantasy production. Their defense seems to have turned the corner a bit, and with the best name in football (Jim Bob Cooter) now calling the plays, it seems their offense has followed suit. We all had been begging for a Megatron-esque type performance up to this point, and we finally got to see one as he matched his season total in touchdowns (3), all in one game to go along with eight receptions for 93 yards. Although Calvin can not be touted as an elite number one fantasy receiver at this point in time, he has mustered at least five catches in every game but the opener, and has amassed at least 80 yards in six straight games. With all of the arrows pointing upwards for this team as of late, it bodes well for your confidence in Megatron during your team’s playoff push.
Week 12 Busts
Deandre Hopkins- For a player who is featured so much in the former portion of this article, it feels quite odd to be writing his name in a juxtapositional setting. The whole setup for this matchup has me a believer that Bill Belicheck is a part of, or in touch with, the fantasy gods. I mention his name amongst those in the fantasy heavens because whatever we thought was going to happen on a sure-fire level, the opposite took place. Hopkins had the best matchup imaginable for a team’s passing attack, going up against the lowly Saints defense. Add that in conjunction with getting his favorite horsey on the ever changing Texan QB carousel in Brian Hoyer back, and we thought we had ourselves a fantasy gold-mine. Nevertheless, at the end of the day when we shook our pan, it was nothing but sediments of rocks: five receptions, a bunch of mud, and 36 yards. On a positive note, he was still the most targeted player on the Texans, they just turned to their defense and ground game once they had a comfortable lead. Hopkins has the most catches (81) through 11 team games in NFL history by any player aged 23-or-younger, so look for him to bounce back on track versus a Bills’ secondary that ranks 20th in yards allowed per game (172) to wide outs.
Demaryius Thomas- This one cuts close to the heart, as his four point performance will most likely keep me out of the playoffs in one league, and put an end to my 100 percent succession rate of playoff births in a total of 12 different season long leagues spanning two years. Yet, when life hands you lemons, whatever…the Patriots lost. That’s how that saying goes, correct? His poor performance was not because of a lack of opportunities; Thomas did see 13 targets. He looked disinterested on Sunday night, breaking off several of his comeback routes, and not coming back to the football, which allows the defender to make a break for the ball. With the more mobile Brock at the helm, we are able to see the ‘true’ Kubiak system, and the ground game has flourished. Without pass-happy Peyton leading the offense, I was worried a bit about the volume that kept Demaryius fantasy numbers a float this year despite the lack of touchdowns. It definitely is encouraging to see Osweiler be poignant on decision making, and relatively accurate with his throws. There will be better days ahead for DT, and I do not foreshadow any one-catch performances coming for your stretch run in the playoffs.
Alshon Jeffery- Staying persistent with his name in this portion of the article, even though his persistency to stay on the field is the exact opposite in 2015. A solid showing in the victory against the Packers on Thanksgiving where he hauled in seven of his 11 targets for 90 yards. He easily could have had a monstrous day had he not dropped a touchdown pass in the rainy conditions. With about a week and a half to heal up his groin and shoulder injuries, he will find himself in an advantageous matchup with the 49ers. San Fransisco was able to hold the red-hot Cardinals passing attack in check, but on the season are allowing the most receptions, and third-most yards to opposing WR. With his availability often in question through the duration of the season, you may have accumulated other viable options at the position. This week I believe there is a high probability that he can record double-digit receptions, and find the end zone.
TY Hilton- A player who often finds himself in the latter portion of this article may have returned to the good graces of his owners, and could not come at a more perfect time. Three horrendous weeks in a row being featured in the Sit Em’ portion, where he had a total stat-line go as follows: 8/118/0. Hilton, bounced back nicely against a porous Bucs’ secondary finishing with 6/95/2. Hopefully you will be staying at the Hilton Holiday Inn during your playoff run as his schedule looks marvelous. This coming week he will face off against a Steelers defense that just gave up five passing touchdowns to receivers of a lesser quality than Hilton. Looking forward after the Steelers his schedule looks like this: @ Jacksonville, vs. Houston, @ Miami, vs. Tennessee (if you play Week 17).
Martavis Bryant- My mother, a fantasy football champion, undefeated flag football coach, and accountant by day, has taught me a lot in life. Among them, is the importance and usefulness of math, which became my strong suit. One does not need to be emphatic about numbers like myself to figure out that ten out of ten, in pretty much anything, is a great probability. Even better, is when that number is amount of touchdowns Bryant has during his ten home games as a Steeler. I have mentioned that Vontae Davis is an underrated cover corner in terms of acknowledgement among the leagues elite talent, and he most likely will see a lot of Antonio Brown. Do not get me wrong, Brown will still get his as he sees a crazy amount of volume, but this could open up the back end for Bryant and lead to a long touchdown.
Michael Crabtree- One aspect of becoming a better fantasy player is having a short memory, and to throw recency bias out the window. I say this because if you have played fantasy over the last decade, you know how much of a wasteland teams like the Raiders and Jaguars have been. Through 12 weeks of the 2015 season, we have two WR from both teams in the top 20 at the position in PPR leagues. Saving you from having to do any mathematical equations, that pans out to 20 percent of the top twenty WR coming from Oakland and Jacksonville. Although Crabtree’s numbers have taken a slight decline over the past few weeks, and the Chiefs’ secondary playing better as of late, you can still feel confident placing the former 49er in your flex. Even with the improvements in the Kansas City secondary they still haven given up a league-high 2,212 yards, 17 total touchdowns, and second-most total points to the WR position. With rookie Amari Cooper demanding a ton of attention, this game has the potential for Crabtree to break out of his recent slump.
Brandin Cooks- Last week, to my recollection, was the first time my Sit Em’ section really Sit the bed (add a letter, and use context clues for better understanding.) Nevertheless, all that really needs to be said here is “Josh Norman,” and we can move forward. One quick random stat to help further acknowledge the situation at hand here. Quarterbacks would have a better QB rating if they threw the ball away or in the dirt, than throwing at Josh Norman. Even quicker tid-bit: Julio Jones plays against Norman in Week 14 (playoff Week 1) and Week 16 (playoff championship), the struggle is real.
Mike Evans- Evans is a tough player to bench as he has immense upside. But the Week 13 matchup against the Falcons is anything but favorable. Even though he was peppered with 10 targets against the Colts this past weekend, he only totaled five catches for 64 yards. The Falcons give up the second-fewest points to the WR position in the entire NFL. Furthermore, Evans failed to produce in their Week 8 matchup, finishing with a 3/48/0 line. If you need to swing for the fences you can plug Evans in and hope for a touchdown or two, but in terms of consistency I would look elsewhere.
Stevie Johnson- The waiver wire gem that has been Stevie Johnson over the last few weeks in the wake of the Keenan Allen injury, may lose some of its shine this weekend. In a test going up arguably the best defensive unit in the league. The Broncos have only surrendered one touchdown to opposing WR, and allow the fewest points per game to the position as well. Johnson really thrives in PPR formats as he is not a big-play nor a touchdown guy; yet, Denver also allows the fewest receptions to WR, so it may be in your best interest to sit him down this week.
The waiver wire is thin once again for Week 13 at the WR position. There may be guys who have been dropped by impatient owners in need of roster space. Players like Anquan Boldin, Donte Moncrief, and Doug Baldwin all deserve consideration if they have been dropped in your league. Keep an eye on the status of Allen Hurns as he was carried off on a stretcher this past weekend due to a concussion. If your league rewards points for return yardage, pick up a player like Rashad Greene, who will see more targets in Jacksonville’s passing attack, along with his main duty as a punt returner. J.J Nelson, who had the fastest 40 time at the combine for WR this year is getting more integrated in Bruce Arians offense up in Arizona. He has the ability to get behind the defense and make a big play, but may not be a viable starter unless in injury were to happen in their WR corps.
Devante Parker- The only player really benefitting from an injury that took place in Week 12 is Parker. Rishard Matthews is done for the season after suffering multiple fractures in his leg against the Jets on Sunday. Parker had foot surgery in the offseason to repair a previous broken metatarsal. He failed to make much of an impact during the season up until the injury to Matthews forced him onto the field. Parker will start as the “X” receiver in this offense, and it only makes sense for the Dolphins to see what they have in the first-round pick going forward. Parker finished Week 12 with 4/80/1, and gets a favorable matchup this week against the Ravens. He is definitely my top add at the position over the aforementioned trio, as he has the most upside among them, and should see a consistent expanded role going forward.
Bold Predictions Week 13
Brady embellishes Amendola’s return and Danny finishes with 9/117/2.
Sammy Watkins’ up and down season continues as he is phased out by Houston’s stingy defense and finishes with 3/45/0.
Devante Parker rewards those who pick him up and outscores Landry with a 6/105/1 line.
Carson Palmer gets back on track and John Brown benefits largely with a 6/155/2 line.
If you have any lineup questions or waiver priorities feel free to shoot them my way. Good luck, make your mom proud, and make the playoffs.
Find me on twitter: @zaksauer
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@brandonziman You are more than welcome Brandon. You were a fantastic writer and a joy to work with. As we move through a very big transition for us hopefully we can continue to work with one anither.