If the fantasy draft is our favorite time of year I would rate this week as second-best. It's fantasy football playoff time. All of your hard work, moves, time, effort and luck like we've discussed before has led you into fantasy dreamland.
For most leagues, owners are a mere three wins away from glory.
But those three victories can be so hard to attain. Take it from someone who has been stopped in the fantasy Super Bowl twice in the past five years.
You can't reach that point without navigating past the first two hurdles. This week is especially tricky because it is the first time many owners face a do-or-die situation in their games.
Sure, there are teams that basically had to win out to make the playoffs, but many of us locked up a playoffs spot weeks ago and have been playing out the rest of the fantasy league season trying to secure the best seed.
That is where the panic comes in. For instance, my team Last Action Heroes just completed one of the most dominant regular seasons in our league's history. LAH finished 10-3 and was the highest scoring team, outscoring the second-place finisher by 246 points.
My top finish gives me the No. 1 seed and a matchup with a 6-7 team.
And yet, I am terrified. So many times in this league the best team either runs into a buzz saw in the playoffs where an underdog goes nuts and scores 163 points (I did this to another owner in 2011 and won 163-148 out of nowhere. I crashed back down to earth the following week on the wrong end of a 171-69 beat down) and could knock me out despite my team producing a good week.
Or even worse — my juggernaut of a team that is averaging 134 points per week completely swings and misses and delivers a subpar effort.
One thing I am trying to avoid is overthinking on lineup decisions. Yes, there are matchups, weather, potential touchdown vultures and other pitfalls that could befall your fantasy stars, but you got this far by trusting in their abilities and my advice is to keep doing it.
This falls in the never bench Tom Brady column I did earlier this year. Do not sit him even if he's playing the 1985 Chicago Bears. His matchup at San Diego is not ideal, but also not worth a second thought.
The same goes for these start 'em players with potentially difficult matchups — Ben Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (at Cincinnati, which has allowed a league-low 11 passing touchdowns); Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (at Cleveland, which sports seventh-best pass defense allowing 227 yards per game and 17 touchdowns); Jamaal Charles, Kansas City (at Arizona which sports sixth-best rush defense allowing 89.2 yards and five touchdowns).
All of these players need to be in your lineup no matter what.
Always Be Working Report
Many leagues do not allow add/drops during the playoffs, but for those that do, here are a few players to grab for the final weeks.
Quarterback: Johnny Manziel, Cleveland — East Texas' own Johnny Football came on in relief of an ineffective Brian Hoyer last week and scored a rushing touchdown. He was not named the starter, but if Hoyer struggles at all against Indianapolis this week, Manziel will get the job for the rest of the season.
Running Back: Marion Grice, Arizona — One owner's misery is another's opportunity. It looks like Andre Ellington may have to sit this week out and his hip-pointer injury could last longer. Grice provided 40 total yards in limited work last week after Ellington left with injury. Arizona faces Kansas City, which gave up 168 yards last week to Denver's C.J. Anderson.
Wide Receiver: Stedman Bailey, St. Louis — With injuries and ineffectiveness hurting the Rams passing attack, Bailey has emerged as the now No. 1 receiver. In his past two games, Bailey has 12 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown.
Starts of the Week
Hopefully you do not have to use any of these for your playoffs, but here are a couple off-the-radar players who can take advantage of good matchups
Quarterback: Eli Manning, New York (at Tennessee) — If Ryan Fitzpatrick can throw six touchdowns against this secondary I will predict Eli produces at least 300 yards and two scores.
Running Back: Carlos Hyde, San Francisco (at Oakland) — The rookie from Ohio State has been held back as the backup to Frank Gore, but I think this is the week where he breaks out.
Wide Receiver: Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati (vs. Baltimore) — The Ravens give up a league-worst 293 yards to receivers this season and 20 touchdowns. A.J. Green is back and will get his, but there will be plenty leftover for Sanu.
How Did I Do Last Week?
Quarterback: Zach Mettenberger, Tennessee (at Houston) — He was doing fine until J.J. Watt smashed him a couple times and took him out of the game. He finished with 184 yards and a touchdown and would've had so much more.
Running Back: Daniel Herron, Indianapolis (vs. Washington) — He needs to stop fumbling the ball. His miscues aside, Herron finished with 88 yards and a touchdown.
Wide Receiver: John Brown, Arizona (at Atlanta) — He led the Cardinals with seven catches for 75 yards. No receiver caught a touchdown however.
Good luck in Week 14!