Gotta love the smell of fantasy playoff football…if you were fortunate enough to qualify. Yes, we have officially separated the men from the boys and now let the Hunger Games begin. Most formats have eight team playoffs with one week elimination, but a few are also 2 week elimination from the start. No matter the format, now is the time to optimize your lineups to ensure you win the championship. After all, does anyone really want to say they won first place loser? Not me.
Anyways, back to defense and what you should do. What you should do is play your match ups correctly, look at recent stats for hot players and be ready to cut bait. Like a jigsaw puzzle, we have all gone to the box, known as the waiver wire looking for that one piece to complete our puzzle, but are still looking going into Week 14. Some of the pieces we initially threw back, we are slowly reclaiming and some we are pushing further down the wire. The point is, we select few fantasy owners in the playoffs do not have time to try a particular player out at a position before we make a decision. We are looking at performance measures now, and gauging how they will fare in the immediate future.
The difference between the league champion and first loser could be as simple as one matchup play or pickup on defense. Each of these recommendations are tailored to help you succeed this playoff season.
Jerry Hughes- Hughes is a very inconsistent player, and makes more of a real life impact than
fantasy impact, but he is a sneaky good play this week as there will be some fireworks with McCoy’s comment, “Kelly can’t shake my hand.” The reason this is a juicy match for Hughes is due to the fact that DeMarco Murray is far from the stud the Eagles were getting when they got him from Dallas. While Sproles is always a threat to break a huge run off, given his elusiveness, Hughes should be in line for a nice statistical day versus a run-anemic Eagles offense. (Photo courtesy of idpdynasty.com)
Chris Baker- You might be looking at this matchup and think the Redskins will try to exploit Cutler’s inefficiency through the air, but that ground game is a beast, with three strong runners. Therefore, employing a run-heavy approach, led by Forte a far more favorable strategy. You would think with Jeffery at his disposal, Cutler would figure it out, but no. Truth be told, the Redskins are stout versus the run, but it is hard to trust Baker this week against such a deep backfield.
Roy Miller III- Miller is the equivalent of the home-road split pitcher at defensive tackle. He is very serviceable at home, but you avoid him at all costs on the road, as evidenced by his doubling his fantasy output at home versus the road. Through 12 games, equally split between the road and home he has eight more solo tackles and three more hurries at home than on the road. With a key divisional matchup versus the Hasselbeck-led Colts in Jacksonville this week, Miller is definitely a sleeper DT to eye.
Josh Mauga- Talk about peaking at the right time. A fantasy owner’s best friend is a player that gets hot around the playoffs and maintains the streak for an extended run. That is exactly what Mauga is on right now: a tear with 18 tackles the past three weeks with a sack and a pick. Now look to this week’s matchup versus a hapless Chargers team, and your finger needs to firing the trigger to pick him up and place him your starting lineup. The Chargers have a dearth of healthy talent at receiver and are reliant on tight ends Ladarius Green and Antonio Gates to move the chains. Until rookie Gordon proves to be a force in the NFL, linebackers and defensive ends will continue to let it rip versus Rivers and the Chargers backfield.
Denzel Perryman- It may have taken a while, but Perryman is finally starting to round into shape. Since the Chargers bye on Nov. 9, the rookie linebacker has been very solid posting two tackles for loss and one and a half stuffs. The Chargers have nothing to play for at this point in the season, so they will be seeing what they have going into next season, talent-wise, opening up more playing time for Perryman to adapt to the NFL style play. With no Charles, Perryman could be in for his best game yet as a pro. Perhaps I was too high on him entering the season, but it’s the playoffs and he is one of the high-reward type players that has a more stable base now. Expect no less than a sack and a few tackles this week. (Photo courtesy of eastvillagetimes.com)
Bruce Irvin- Starting Irvin is a ballsy move this week as he has unlimited upside Week 14 versus the Ravens, but also has a disastrous floor that could knock you out of the playoffs. If you start him, you need to have solid core linebackers as there is either the bust or boom Irvin- not much in between. Fantasy owners just hope the refs do not deploy the the Humpty Dumpty Rule this week, because if they do, it’s hands-off Schaub. He injured his knee and shoulder last week versus the Dolphins. Yep, you should be excited about Irin’s prospects this week, just be prepared incase he lays the dreaded playoff goose egg.
David Amerson- Amerson is another hot name you need flat out avoid this week. Osweiler may not be a stud, but he is more than capable of pioneering an offense and connecting with receivers consistently. Of course, when you have Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at your disposal, it helps, but Osweiler has the Broncos on the right track. Amerson makes his game in the fantasy realm defending passes in coverage, but that will be hard to do such an explosive passing attack. Amerson is a talented, young corner, but Thomas and Sanders will have a step on him, limiting his upside in the first week of the fantasy playoffs. (Photo courtesy of foxsports.com)
Kenneth Acker- How’s this for a wildcard. Owned in a mere 13 per cent and started in seven percent of all Fantrax leagues, Acker is ballhawk and a hard hitting corner on a bad team, in a good matchup. Yes, the 49ers get a date with the Manziel-led Browns. [I will not insert joke here] With three picks on the season, Acker is a solid candidate to pick his fourth this week against an offensively suspect team and QB playing for his career. He may not be a well-known name, but Acker is a solid play with upside.
Reggie Nelson- Since the middle of November, there is hard to find a hotter fantasy safety than Nelson, but that’s because he has been all over the field, tallying a pick in each of his previous four games to go with five passes defensed and a tackle for loss. The problem this week, the hottest offense in all the land is on tap and it is clicking on all cylinders. Rivalry games are always a joy to watch and hard fought, but some weeks you question whether or not you really want to start a particular player. This week Nelson is an S2/high S3 play because Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant are so explosive in the passing game and DeAngelo Williams is a bulldog, which will wear down the Bengals defense.Nelson is a very solid fantasy safety, just very risky this week versus Pittsburgh.
Dwight Lowery- The showdown between the Colts and Jaguars could prove pivotal in the division as two games separate the top three teams, with the Colts two up on the Jags. Lowery has never been known to be a safety known for picking off passes, but he does have four on the season, so he is always a threat to grab one. However, Blake Bortles has shown improved decision making and ability to go through his progressions, making this one interesting matchup. With Vontae Davis shadowing Allen Robinson all day, look for Lowery to be heavily in peaking on the runningback, and covering Allen Hurns, making him an intriguing play with a base of five tackles and a pass defensed. (Photo courtesy of colts.com)
Pittsburgh Steelers- As hot as the Bengals started off the season, they were in a dogfight- 16-10 win in their first meeting with the Steelers, and I will make the bold prediction that the Bengals have their worst offensive day to date this season in Week 14. When it comes time to business, the Steelers defense does not mess around, and they are currently on the playoff bubble and need a win. What better way to solidify a spot than a victory over a division rival? Pittsburgh boasts the sixth best rush defense and while the rest of their defense may be lagging behind, they are tied for eighth in the league with 21 takeaways, and are 3-1 in the past four games, with that one loss to the Seahawks. Revenge is in the air from that 16-10 L in Week 8.
St. Louis Rams- Much like the Redskins run game much of the season, the Lions have been absolutely atrocious in the run game with 0, that’s right 0 runners going for 70 yards rushing this season. Theo Riddick looks like the best pass catching option out of the backfield, but unless Detroit can establish the run game, St. Louis will sink it’s teeth into the Lions offense. While big things were expected from the Rams defense this season, they have not lived up to that billing statistically, but they are a tough as nails group that will smack you around and pick passes off quicker than imaginable. This will be a decently high scoring affair, but the Rams will make plays on special teams to secure this one. This group is ultra talented and one to watch going forward.
Good luck to all this inaugural week of the playoffs and don’t forget to hit me up if you have any questions on anything defense related as I will not be far from the t.v. nor computer as the playoffs ramp up and College Football Bowl season gets under way. Yep, it must be that time of year again.
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Our guests this week are Davin Joseph, Coach Jeff Nelson, and Bill Latin. Davin is a 2-time Pro-Bowl guard and first round pick in 2006 of the Tampa Bay Bucs. Jeff is a defensive coach from White Hall H.S. in PA, and is a 2-time MLFF Champion. Bill is a writer with dynastyfootballwarehouse.com. Come join a lively debate!
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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.