Free agency is one of my favorite parts of football.  This is probably because my favorite team never seems to be in the playoffs so I guess it gives me a false sense of hope going into the next season.  A couple of needs get fulfilled with players that I haven’t seen play in the Buccaneer’s system and all of a sudden I can argue them into the playoffs in my head.  The Jaguars also always look like they’ve built a dangerous roster in the offseason, and then we remember by week 2 that Blake Bortles is still the quarterback.

Free agency answers a lot of questions for fantasy football as well.  Every year, the beginning of March changes the destiny of at least a few players that might be question marks in keeper leagues. Just because the player takes the biggest check doesn’t mean that they are putting themselves in the best position to put up their best possible individual numbers.  I’m going to do my best to decipher the first week of signings and trades right here.  This was a busier year than last year for the skill positions as far as I remember, so if I forget someone you wanted to read about, forgive me.  Let’s get started with one of the fastest players in football…

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playoffs

If you are reading this, congratulations. And I don’t say that just because you are fortunate enough to be reading one of my articles. If you are reading a fantasy football article in Week 14, it is likely because you are in the playoffs and still have a reason to care about your team and your lineup. So, congratulations. I mean it. To those of you who didn’t make the playoffs: see you in hell, candy boys! This is, unfortunately, the last Handcuff Report of the year. It has been a great ride, but we are wrapping things up as the fantasy playoffs begin!

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markingram

It’s Week 13, which means we are heading into the fantasy playoffs soon. I know that because my readership has dwindled the last two weeks, as many fantasy owners have been eliminated from the playoffs and are throwing in the towel. But that’s OKAY. That just means we can be more serious and a bit more intimate now. It’s just me and you, playoff hopefuls.

Heading into this week, Tim Hightower was a name to watch because Mark Ingram was still in the concussion protocol and was questionable to play. If Ingram couldn’t go, Hightower was going to be a high-end flex/RB2 to throw into lineups before they locked on Sunday. But word came out on Sunday morning that Ingram was going to play, so many likely left Hightower on the bench or on the waiver wire.

But something funny happened. It didn’t matter that Ingram played. Ingram and Hightower combined for three touchdowns and almost 300 yards, with Hightower accounting for 51 rushing yards, 54 receiving yards, and one of the touchdowns. Although, Hightower’s final stat line would look a bit different if not for the late 50-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Willie Snead. If Hightower can keep producing even with a healthy Ingram, he can help out some of the needier fantasy owners come playoff time.

To the report…

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rawls

If you are like me and drafted Thomas Rawls in August but managed to stay patient and hang onto him until now, take a bow. I’ll bow with you. September and October were some dark times, my friends, but here we are. Rawls is the top dog in Seattle, and it looks like it will stay that way for the rest of the season now that Christine Michael got shipped out of town and C.J. Prosise is hurt. We did it, guys.

Prosise ran for a 72-yard touchdown in the first quarter on Sunday, but he left the game in the second quarter. It was pretty much all Rawls for the rest of the game, with a little bit of Troymaine Pope (who also got hurt). The Seahawks getting rid of Christine Michael meant they were ready to roll with Prosise and Rawls as their top guys and that they were confident Rawls would be healthy and effective. Now that Prosise is out of the picture, it’s all Rawls, baby.

Rawls rushed 14 times for 57 yards (4.1 YPC) and added three catches for 31 yards, giving him 88 total yards on the day. Heading into the fantasy playoffs, getting an every down back like Rawls into your lineup could be just what your team needs to get that extra edge (I know my team, where I went zero RB and took Rawls as my RB1 LATE, is sitting pretty now that I have him back). The best part about the Prosise injury* is that it means Rawls will see more action on passing downs. They will find a way to spell him here and there, but Rawls should be an every down back going forward and should catch his fair share of passes.

Things change quickly in the NFL, and it seems like just last week we were excited about the idea of a Prosise-Rawls backfield combination. But this week was about much more than Thomas Rawls and how happy we all are to have him back.

To the report. . .

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C.J. Prosise rushes against the New England Patriots

If you played your cards right, 2016 may have been one of the best seasons ever to roll with a zero RB strategy in your draft. Not only have there been a litany of running back committees utilized across the league, but legitimate RB1s and RB2s have been emerging all year. Take a look at this list: Jordan Howard, Devontae Booker, Spencer Ware, C.J. Prosise, Robert Kelley. Those guys were all either not drafted at all or were taken later in drafts as a handcuff or dice roll option (I actually drafted Booker in one league but dropped him after a few weeks because I need the roster spot. D’oh!).

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Nov 6, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) is stopped short of the end zone by Denver Broncos safety Darian Stewart (26) in the second quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back, everyone. I apologize for missing last week, but I had a bunch of running around to do and was never able to settle down and hammer out the Week 9 Handcuff Report. Let’s just assume that I gave you great advice last week and that you’re back this week for more. Ok? Ok. Good. Great. Now, about those running backs.

The Oakland Raiders have been really fun to watch this year unless you have been trying to predict running back touches all year. While Latavius Murray was frustrating earlier in the year and then got hurt, but one thing he has done all year is find his way into the end zone. And in a week when a ton of people probably benched him because he was going up against the defense of the Denver Broncos, he decided to get into the end zone three times. Hopefully, you rolled the dice or were forced to start him because of bye weeks and injuries, but I know that many of you didn’t start him. I probably wouldn’t have.

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Look people, you try to make a pun out of “Ark”… Regardless, it appears that the top AFC teams coming out of the halfway point in the 2016 season are the usual New England Patriots and the… Oakland Raiders…? I honestly wish I knew why this was happening. I… I think the sun is starting to set on where I live, and I mean that in the most figurative way possible, because, you know, daylight savings time. But this is indeed a strange world we live in. The Oakland Raiders, led by the one Carr brother that’s actually not bad, Amari Cooper, and Latavius “I’ll always be 3/4 of an elite back” Murray, have managed to find themselves in first place in the AFC West with an impressive 5-0 record on the road. Because honestly, the only things that do well in Oakland are bails bondsman, and, you know, gentrification. Progress I guess. But wouldn’t it be great if the Raiders could be added that list? As a totally-not-biased-at-all-trust-me Chargers fan (and I’m throwing up a little in my mouth right now typing this), but it’s a shame that the Raiders have a solid chance to have a pretty great year, and it’s being overshadowed with rumors of the team possibly moving. And we’re talking about a post-Los Angeles not being able to be used as leverage timeline that we’re in, and Mark Davis is still able to do this. Maybe they’ll move to a magical place… called Houston. I don’t think there’s a team there… Listen, my life receives no benefit for suggesting such a radical idea as rooting about a specific aspect for a franchise that, at times, was the black eye (literally too!) of the league, but I did it anyways. A Chargers fan speaking kindly of the Raiders? Truly, the end is nigh.

Here’s what else I saw during yesterday’s Week 9 Sunday games…

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hi-res-88e

With a routine throw to first, Kris Bryant effectively ended the 2016 baseball season. By now you know the end result – the Cubs won the World Series. My Grandfather was a life-long fan. He wanted nothing more than to see his “Cubs” win a title. He’s no longer around, so I root them on each game a little harder than I used to. Mainly because I feel like I’m cheering for both of us. After Anthony Rizzo pulled the most baller move ever by slipping the game ball into his back pocket, I felt a sense of relief. Closure might be a better term, I guess.  I’m sure there are thousands of stories like this, but I felt like sharing mine. My Grandfather taught me baseball. He taught me to love the countless shades of green on the field, the ever-changing dimensions that each ball park would introduce and of course the pace of the game. He also taught me that there was “always next year.” This was especially important if you were a Cubs’ fan. Whenever we would tune into WGN for an afternoon game, he would wax poetic on Fergie Jenkins, Ron Santo, Billy Wiliams and Ernie Banks. In fact, it was during one of those afternoon games that he let me try my first sip of beer. I was 14. It was terrible. Later, I found out it was Budweiser. So that explains everything. He also took me to Wrigley Field for the very first time that year. Ironically, that was also our only trip there together. So, when I was able to get back to Wrigley and I was of legal age – I enjoyed an ice-cold Bud. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad…..Actually, it was still terrible. But I faked my way through the entire can and I’m sure my Grandfather approved. So this week I’m saluting a terrible player that actually might not be so terrible in the right spot. You follow? Good. I think Colin Kaepernick could be quite useful in Week 9 match ups. He’s facing the Saints who’ve given up at least 18 fantasy points to every QB this season not named Russell Wilson. Kaepernick’s rushing abilities should serve him well, as he’s ran for at least 66 yards in each of his two starts. Just for window dressing I’ll also add that he’s thrown for at least 14o yards and a score in both starts as well. Not too shabby. So if the Saints’ passing D continues to allow 286 yards per contest, which happens to rank 29th in the NFL, Kaepernick could very well be headed towards a productive Sunday.

Here’s a look at a few more of my favorite passing/running match ups for Week 9:

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tempspencer_ware_gallery_011-nfl_mezz_1280_1024

Greetings, fantasy friends… It’s your reliable internet buddy Mike Honcho and I’m here to hook you up with the best passing and rushing match ups for Week 8. I’m typing this as I listen to the new Bon Iver album 22, A Million. Hopefully some of you are familiar with the Indie Folk band from Fall Creek, Wisconsin. If not, definitely check them out. Front man Justin Vernon is a musical genius, he crosses over into many different genres of music and rarely disappoints. But let me be perfectly clear here: I might be getting too old to enjoy hat others label as “Hip.” I mean, I really like that they’re branching out again on the new release, but it contains way too much “folktronica” for my liking. Unfortunately, that’s what the young kids like so it looks like it’s here to stay for a while. Give me “For Emma, Forever Ago” or the self titled “Bon Iver” any day of the week over their current release. Just my opinion. Sue me! So while we’re talking about things that are old, let’s discuss Jamaal Charles. It seems Father Time has paid the former workhorse an untimely visit for 2016 and his fantasy owners are none too pleased about it. You know how Jamaal feels, right guys? Any given Saturday you and your “bros” head to the mall with your Affliction shirts and you try to “mack on babes” outside of the Fashion Bug. Only to remember you’re 34 years-old and the Assistant Manager of a GNC. Life is brutal at times. Anyway, A new, young feature back has emerged. Spencer Ware has absolutely beasted in his opportunity as the lead back and he’s poised for another huge week. Kansas City will travel to Indianapolis Sunday in what should be a run heavy game script. The Colts are 25th in the league in rushing defense – allowing 118.6 yards per game on the ground. They allowed  28/124/1 and 28/158/1 the last two games to Tennessee and Houston respectively. To make matters worse, Indy has allowed 24.8 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs this year, which ranks 26th overall. That’s a lot of “suck” to process in terms of the Colts’ defense, so let’s take a break and look at my favorite plays this week:

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If you were to define the 2016 fantasy football season in one sentence, I challenge you to do better than this: Jay Ajayi has more rushing yards in the last two weeks than Todd Gurley has all season. It has been that bad, and that sentence describes both how surprisingly good Ajayi has been the last two weeks and how disappointing Todd Gurley has been all year. It’s tough to say if those two backs will continue going in different directions, but they are currently following the same paths as their respective offenses. The Rams aren’t giving Gurley any space, while the Dolphins, with their front five finally healthy and playing together, are dropping bodies for Ajayi. Ajayi’s stock has never been higher, now that he is officially the top man in Miami. Which brings us to…

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