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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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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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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Ladies and gentleman, America has played its Trump card. Just goes to show you just how much this country dislikes Hillary Clinton. They were willing to elect a man with no political experience over one with a lifetime. Good riddance Killary, and congratulations President Trump. You know what they say, every dog has its day. Well, here are my dogs. Speaking of dogs, has anyone gone to or plan to attend a Temple of the Dog show? If so, I’m jealous. While this might not be the best lineup I have presented, 172 points should be more than enough to bring home a win.

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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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Welcome everybody to this week’s edition of Deep Impact! Before jumping into the football let me begin this by saying: Cubs? Cubs. Cubs! You don’t need to be a diehard baseball fan to appreciate how amazing that Game 7 was, even if you take away the history of each franchise. And when you add in breaking the 108-year drought? Man, just thinking about all those 90-year-olds in Chicago-area nursing homes who had the sweetest, most joyous celebratory sex of their lives that night, it makes me want to vomit. But, you know, in a happy and heartwarming way. Anyways, back to the regularly scheduled fantasy football. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is our weekly dive into the free agent pool scrounging for players less than 10% owned for deep leaguers desperate for Week 9 starts. In keeping with my weekly tradition, I will break my own defined threshold because I am a rebel who cannot be constrained by the rules of society. Unless there are any real consequences for breaking the rules, in which case I tend to just be a good boy and fall in line.

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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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Coming into what for most is the fantasy championship, Dez Bryant was a question mark. The broken left index finger he suffered a few weeks ago put him on the verge of missing the remainder of the season. Well I’m sure fantasy owners are happy the Cowboys were still playing for something this Sunday as Dez – if he isn’t playing next week – finished off an amazing fantasy season, grabbing 9 receptions on 12 targets for a monstrous 224 yard, 2 touchdown game. Coming into the year, I was pretty harsh in my review of him but not for skillset. To save you the hassle of clicking on that link, I’ll give you the pertinent snippets: ‘Bryant is the start of his own tier and it’s called the ‘when I grow up’ tier because when he does, he’s got the potential to be a WR1. If you can’t tell, I’m not a huge fan of Bryant due to his childish ways. Part of the problem with being puerile (thanks!) is you’re going to lack consistency.’ I think any owner of Dez this year would admit the first half of the season was pretty rocky. It seemed that every promising performance would be followed up by a 3 catch, 17 yard stinker. But something clicked with Bryant week 10. Some would say the off-field issue with his Mom finally being resolved led to a calmer player who could simply concentrate on what happened on the football field. Others could say the Cowboys game plan evolved to get the ball to Dez more often. For me, I think we finally saw the talented player that we drafted over the last couple of years with the hope of him becoming this star finally just matured. Like those cheezits commercials, Dez was all fart jokes heading into the 2012 season but now he’s ready for mass consumption. It’s a funny thing to say a man grew up while playing a game but indeed that’s what we are witnessing and for fantasy football players and owners for 2013 and beyond, you’ll look back on this second half as the reason he should now be seen as a top 5 wide receiver, if not a top 3 for years to come. Welcome to adulthood, Dez…what, you need me to repeat that? Oh, you had your iPod up too high and couldn’t hear me. Well you little son of a…ahem. And in other 2012 fantasy football news for championship weekend…

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