Oh yeah, we talkin’ bout playoffs. Unless you’re in a league that has its Championship during a meaningless Week 17 (which I hate), or you’re in a Total Points league (which I actually like), this week marks the start of fantasy playoffs. For those who did not qualify (which includes myself in three of my six leagues), hopefully your league has something to keep everyone involved. Whether you use a loser’s bracket with a consolation ladder, or just hand out a punitive award for last place, there should be some incentive to make things interesting.
No matter what your team’s situation is, at this point you are only playing week-to-week. So while Daniel Thomas is appealing with the Jaguars looming in Week 15, he has to get through San Francisco first. All of these pickups will be for Week 14 and Week 14 only. If you have a bye, then I assume you’ve earned it and don’t need advice from me or anyone else.
Here are your Week 14 pickups for non-standard leagues:
If you’re in need of an emergency fill in at QB, whoever starts for these teams next week will have a pretty nice matchup. For Pittsburgh, Big Ben was likely never dropped in 2QB leagues, but if he was then stop reading this and put a claim in for him right now. But if he’s out, Charlie Batch is worth a look. It may have taken him 12 years, but Chuck looked like an NFL-caliber QB in the second half against Baltimore. He ended up with 276 passing yards and TD, spreading the ball around evenly to all his receiving options. Batch and the Steelers would get to play host to the Chargers in Week 14, a better than average matchup for a 37-year old third-string gunslinger.
As for the Jets, it will take a strong stomach, but whether it’s Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy or Tim Tebow, they will get a favorable situation against Jacksonville. Sanchez has been an unmitigated disaster all year, and McElroy looked somewhat acceptable against the Cardinals, but Tebow has the highest ceiling from a fantasy perspective when healthy. However if his ribs are still an issue, it will limit his rushing ability, and render him much less useful. There is no early word on who will start against the Jags, but McElroy and/or Tebow might be worth a speculative add if your QB situation is in dire straits.
TD-Only Leagues – Peyton Hillis
It appears that by having a record-breaking season, Calvin Johnson has single handedly reversed the Madden Curse for everyone. This includes Hillis, whose 2011-12 seasons fall somewhere between catastrophe and fiasco, yet he was still owned in nearly 50% of ESPN leagues despite having less than 200 total yards on the season. His value has really only existed as a goalline back (where he had no TDs before Sunday), and as a Jamaal Charles handcuff (where he was out-produced by Shaun Draughn). After a few weeks of head-shaking offensive strategy, it appears that the Chiefs have settled on getting Charles 25-30 touches a game, while using Hillis in short yardage. This should have been the plan since Week 1, but better late than never right? Hillis will hopefully get another opportunity near the endzone against the Browns in Week 14, so he should now be owned in TD-only leagues.
PPR Leagues – Donnie Avery
It feels like I’m recommending either Avery or T.Y. Hilton every week in PPR leagues, but Luck has really not settled on a WR2 opposite Reggie Wayne all season. Over the last few weeks, Luck has been cheating on Reggie more than usual, making Avery and Hilton both startable when healthy. Avery has been banged up off and on all season, so his ownership percentage is lower than that of Hilton. In PPR leagues, he actually has more value than his counterpart, as Luck uses him in a Wes Welker role. On Sunday, Avery had two TDs, including the game winner, but what’s more impressive were the 14 targets he received. He only hauled in 5 of those passes, and his catch rate is a shade under 50% for the year, but Luck has continued to look his way. Against Tennessee in Week 14, there should be plenty of passes for all of Luck’s receivers, but the only one likely on your Waiver Wire is the one who should get the most looks.
Dynasty Leagues – Juron Criner
Last week I discussed players to target in my Dynasty Buy/Sell column, and since then I assume most trade deadlines have passed. At this point, you should be positioning your roster for next year, even if you’re in the playoffs, and ditching guys who have no future prospects. There are a few player types to target, which I will cover in a future post, but one of my favorites is the Post-Hype Sleeper. There are plenty of these available every year, and Criner is one that I’ll be targeting this year. When Oakland took him in the fifth round, it looked like he would be battling with Rod Streater (another one of my targets) for a roster spot. Streater beat Criner before Week 1, but both made the team, and Criner has mainly been biding his time on Special Teams. In the last three weeks, however, Carson Palmer has targeted Criner 21 times, so it looks like Oakland is trying to see what they really have in him. Changes will be coming in Oakland this offseason, so Criner is worth a roster spot in deep Dynasty leagues until we see how things shake out.
IDP Leagues – Demorrio Williams
IDP stats can be fickle from week to week, and the drop-off in stats from an injured starter to their backup is often negligible. In some cases, those stats actually improve with the backup, as we’ve just seen with Williams replacing Donald Butler after a groin injury. Butler was no slouch himself, averaging almost 7 tackles a game, but his big play stats were nothing impressive. Enter Williams, who has put up 16 tackles in the last two games, and added a pick six off Andy Dalton on Sunday. Groin injuries are typically nagging, and easy to re-injure, so don’t expect Butler to rush back to action, making Williams startable for at least another week.