[Insert overused Jim Mora Sr. video or sound byte reference.] Yup, it’s that time of year. Hopefully you’ve made the playoffs in at least one of your leagues, and let’s face it, if you didn’t and you’re still keeping up with fantasy you’re a god among men.
It’s going to be a big, big weekend for a lot of players. I just had a dream last night my Panthers beat the Packers 24-0. I know they already played, but just the fact that my subconscious actually kept me asleep during that farce means anything is possible. So if you’re a low seed against a juggernaut or you’re in a two–week playoff and had an abysmal first week, don’t lose hope! Anything can happen.
Now, for this week’s picks don’t forget it’s the playoffs. If you’re stuck between a big-name guy and an upside play, I would generally recommend sticking with the safe starts. If you’re in a tight matchup or feel you probably will win, definitely go with the steady option. But if you’re already down or feel you’re in an uphill struggle, some of these starts and sits might give you an edge of upside.
Here are some guys that I like that aren’t getting started enough and guys I think you should bench (along with their starting percentages in ESPN and Yahoo respectively):
Michael Vick (57.6%, 50%): As discussed on this week’s podcast, I think Michael Vick has a solid game tomorrow. I know it’s tough to play him, he’s got worse baby back ribs than Chili’s and even though he returned last week, he didn’t play like a fantasy first-rounder. I know the Jets matchup looks bad on paper, but remember, they got shredded by a struggling Ryan Fitzpatrick three weeks ago, and since then faced Rex Grossman and the immortal Tyler Palko to help keep their numbers high. They’re now without Jim Leonhard who’s done for the season so the Eagles will have a much easier secondary to exploit. I would (am I’m going to in one league) start Vick with confidence and hope his first round ticket will be starting to look about worth the price.
Marion Barber (38.4%, 31%): You know, this is fantasy football and not real football, and even though the magic of Tebow seemed to kill the Barbarian’s brain cells, he’s still going to get a lot of work this Sunday against the Seahawks. The Seahawks have given up 20+ points to opposing running backs in non-PPR the past 3 weeks, and while I do think Khalil Bell will get an uptick in work, Barber will get touches as well and I think will be playing hungry for redemption. He’s a very, very risky play because if he fumbles early he might get benched the remainder of the game, but I think he has good upside if you need it. Especially in non-PPR leagues, his prospect for a score and probable workload make him at least a flex option.
Donald Brown (5.1%, 5%): I know I’m in a minority, but I think the Colts win their first game this week against the Titans at home. Brown had double-digit points the past two weeks before unsurprisingly getting stuffed at the Ravens, and he’s consistently getting more work than the ghost of Joseph Addai. The Titans run D hasn’t been great and Brown is pretty talented runner who unfortunately plays for a team that doesn’t have the ability to showcase a run game. Still, I think he has a solid game this time out though and is a great swing-for-the-fences play tomorrow.
Eric Decker (30.5%, 23%): I know Demaryious Thomas is getting all the targets lately for the Denver Tebows, but pretty much everyone can agree Decker is the more talented receiver, and going against the league’s worst secondary at home against New England, I think Decker breaks out again. He’s a tough play if you’re in a 2 WR league or if you have 3 studs in a 3 WR league, but I think he has tremendous upside as a flex or WR3. Thomas is a big, lumbering dude, and while he definitely is talented, looks more like a Tight End to me. New England gives up the most points to opposing WRs but the 6th least against opposing TEs, so I just have a suspicion this will be Decker’s game rather than Thomas’. I would start Decker over the two even though I know he hasn’t gotten the targets as of late.
Donald Driver (8.5%, 9%): Greg Jennings’ injury has left a lot of playoff teams scrambling, and I think Donald Driver fills the void more than James Jones or Randall Cobb. He’s had solid outings the past two weeks, he hasn’t be used all that often this season to wear down his veteran legs, and has numerous reps with both Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn if the game gets out of control right away against the Chiefs and Rodgers gets an early bench. Driver is the safer player over Jones or Cobb, and I think a better bet for a score in what will probably be a semi-conservative game plan to assure a quick lead early rather than going deep and possibly playing in a close game in the second half.
Son of a Bench
Antonio Brown (33.6%, 62%): Big Ben has been in a boot, he’s not practicing, and while he might go out there and gut it out, it’s going to be ugly against a tough 49ers D. We all saw how poor Sam Bradford looked trying to plant and throw off his bum ankle, and while they’re completely different QBs, I think it’s going to be tough to start Brown this week even though he’s been a stud since week 7. I love Brown, he’s been a start for me a few times this season as he was slow to proliferate into lineups, but the QB situation has me feeling it’s way too risky to play him.
Frank Gore (82%, 75%): It’s hard to recommend benching your stud RB, your first round pick, and if you’re in the playoffs, one of the reasons you got in. But he had single digit points the four weeks before last week and only had 10 carries last time out, his second lowest on the year. The 49ers really limited his work as he averaged 7.2 yards a carry on those 10 carriers while Alex Smith chucked the ball 37 times and averaged only 4.7 yards per attempt. You look at those disparaging numbers in a two point loss that stayed close throughout and wonder why Gore wasn’t given the ball more… You’ve got to conclude Jim Harbaugh is already starting to slow him down for the playoffs. Against a tough Steelers D in which will probably be a very low scoring game, I don’t see how Gore will get the workload or the success, so he’s a bench for me.
DeSean Jackson (70.1%, 58%): He breathed a little bit of life last week, but I think Revis is going to put his island on Jackson more than the ailing Maclin this week. I do like Vick to have a solid game (see above), but Jackson has been too inconsistent to start comfortably in your playoffs. Even with Leonhard out, Revis alone should limit Jackson who could easily have a 3 for 33-type game.
Shonn Greene (66%, 75%): Like a broken record, I’m gonna start with my love for Vick, which I think makes this game pass-heavy early on. The Eagles run D has been anything but consistent (or good for that matter), but they have held opposing running backs to under 86 yards in 5 of the past 8 weeks, while playing with the inconsistent “3-and-out” Vince Young during some of that time. Ok, Young wasn’t that bad, but I just have a feeling the Eagles really put the pedal to the medal this week after seeing how easily they could beat the Dolphins. I don’t think Greene gets the work and the Sanchize goes into overdrive.