By Michael H. Osinski
There are many schools of thought on when you put up your Christmas Tree and decorate for the holidays. There are also many schools of thought on how to properly set up your team to get in and succeed in the Fantasy playoffs. (Just that time of year). People with fake trees don’t have to live with the timing issues, while those who still get real live trees can’t get it too early or it’ll dry out. I am not sure how much people with fake trees respect tradition and the amount of shortcuts they take. I am thinking these owners don’t generally make the playoffs. Encourage them to decorate this week. Maybe it’ll affect the competitive balance in your league. I had a friend with a birthday December 14. That was Christmas tree day. Random. Some people put the tree up the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Premature decoration, I think. Owners with random approaches to winning don’t win. Winning requires scouting (lots of scouting) and a lot of work. A methodical approach doesn’t hurt either.
I set my own rule. No trees or decorations until after the Fantasy Playoffs. Of course the rule is still subject to approval by the Family Council (read as wife), but I can’t be bothered with chores this close to what we have worked many months to achieve. It’s a rule grounded in the logic of hard work, deferring gratification until your work is done and it’s probably how Mike Ditka, Johnny Unitas, Terry Bradshaw and the heroes of yore would’ve wanted it. (Did I really use the word “yore”?) OK…maybe I’m going a bit too far, but you gotta admit, it’s a pretty good rule.
Some leagues (the 16-teamers) are already in the playoffs. My teams are all in 12-team, 4-team playoff formats. That means I have 1 week to get in…and 2 weeks to win. Then, I can put up a tree. No Christmas Vacation until then. So, for the time being, I’m not trimming trees. I’m trimming the fat off my roster and replacing it with things that’ll help me win. I have 1 team in, 1 team most likely in with a win, and 1 team that needs to win and get help. I’m still judging the difference between Andre Brown and Ben Tate and wondering whether I am safe playing the Carolina defense in New Orleans this week..
Clark Griswold didn’t put the tree up until right before the family was going to show up. (Good move!) Same with enough lights to illuminate The Rose Bowl. Clark, I am sure, is a good Fantasy player and I am sure he makes the playoff regularly. He probably drafts too many Bears. Ah come on, I am not telling you NOT to decorate your home for the holidays. I am just suggesting that you wait until your Fantasy work is done.
And anyway, not much left you actually can do. Let’s figure it out…
Like we emphasized last week, by this time of season, you are kinda married to your QB situation, and in most cases it will go a long way toward sealing your fate.
I have Cam in one league I may not make the playoffs (decimated by injuries), unless I win and another team loses; Foles & Kaepernick on a team that will just get in as a 4 seed as long as I win (though somewhat injury-plagued); and Russell Wilson on the team that will either be a 1 or 2 seed. In other words, I am set. Most are. The owners that are not set are those who have Rodgers and Cutler. Maybe you were lucky when you lost Cutler and got Josh McCown. Hold your breath. Cross your fingers. Cutler may be back this week, so if you are a McCown owner who does not have Cutler, you may have issues. There is supposed to be an announcement regarding Rodgers Tuesday or Wednesday. It may be that he will be shut down for the year. Currently 5-6-1, they’d have to win all 4…and the rumors are that Rodgers may not be ready this week. If that’s the case, there really is no reason not to shut him down.
Another situation that has developed that may put owners in the market for a QB replacement is the recent poor play of Andrew Luck. Since he lost Reggie Wayne and part of his O-Line, even the games they have won were ugly. So what can we do? Well, first off, if Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Ryan Tannehill or Ryan Fitzpatrick are available, start there. Because of the depth of the position, a lot of these guys are available. Mike Glennon has a reasonable matchup against Buffalo, a poor one vs. SF and a neutral one vs. STL. He has been unspectacular and I would have serious reservations about playing him in the playoffs…or when trying to get in. Case Keenum has 3 pretty good matchups (JAX, IND, DEN) so he might make a serviceable replacement. Matt McGloin has looked pretty good with 700+ yards, 4 TDs and only 2 picks in 3 games. There is always Jason Campbell if he gets cleared from his concussion. Even though the upside may be attractive, stay away from Manuel or Geno Smith. Same with whomever is playing QB for Minnesota or Green Bay.
I feel for those of you that have a good shot at the playoffs and are stuck like this. I usually only keep 1 QB (I fell into Foles). Hopefully, most of you with the Rodgers-Cutler-McCown (& Luck) problem have backups already (Eli, Flacco, Big Ben).
Because of matchups, a lot of people can either reach down on your bench or onto the waiver wire for a RB2 or a decent flex if you play them. Just be careful and avoid the temptation to be too cute.
I sat Ben Tate in 2 leagues this week. In one I played Knowshon Moreno and Zac Stacy, so it’s not like I was going to play him anyway. But, in the other, I played CJ Spiller for him. I really like Spiller. In 1 league I used the 1st pick in the draft to take him instead of Peterson, Charles or McCoy. I bought the “we’re gonna give him the ball ’til he pukes” line. I actually really like him down the stretch. But I think I was overly hopeful I would justify my draft. I was sick to my stomach when I watched Tate score his 3rd TD. But then Spiller ripped off a 77-yard run en route to 22 points. I won anyway, but the point is, I got too cute. Tate was predicted for more points and I knew the NE defense can’t stop anyone. Don’t do what I did.
If your RB2 is MJD or DMC or someone with a really lousy matchup, take a look at someone who has a good matchup. Chris Ogbonnaya gets to run against the Patriots this week. He has been a decent back on a pass-first team and loses few carries to Willis McGahee or Fozzy Whitaker these days. If he is available in your league (He still is in a bunch of leagues???) grab Donald Brown. He is a feature back now and Trent Richardson is working his way toward being one of the biggest draft busts in years. Stay away from Jonathan Stewart, Dennis Johnson and Bilal Powell. That would fall into the category of getting too cute.
An interesting name might be Stevan Ridley. In 2 of my 3 leagues he got dropped outright. Week 15, he gets Miami (a good matchup) so maybe he gets out of the fumble jail by then. If he gets to play, he is usually good for a TD and a bunch of yards. The risk of course is that if he fumbles, he doesn’t “Pass Go” and goes straight to fumble jail. Avoid this play unless you have a bad playoff matchup.
I read on twitter Monday about all the guys who sat Eric Decker and his 41 points. 1 owner sat him for Nate Burleson and his goose egg. Ouch! .06% of all NFL.com leagues had a team with Decker, Josh Gordon AND Alshon Jeffery. That’s 115+ points. I had 95-112-125 in my 3 leagues. Just goes to show you, play your solid guy with good matchups. I’d have never sat Decker for Burleson. (I did sit Boykin for Burleson, but they both had 0!)
If you don’t have these guys and could use a WR3 for the playoffs, there are a few guys worth picking up…or keeping from someone else. Yeah, I said that. I don’t engage in it, but in 1 league in which I play 1 owner stockpiled 4 QBs when he noticed his primary competition had no QB to cover Russell Wilson’s bye. Julian Edelman got thrown back in a lot of leagues. He has had 9 catches in each of the past 2 games. He IS the slot target Brady trusts. Trust me, I know. I drafted Amendola. If Michael Crabtree is available, get him. I stashed him in 2 league specifically for the week 16 matchup against Atlanta. Now I just have to get to the Championship game to benefit. Andre Holmes looks to be Matt McGloin’s favorite target in Oakland. He grabbed 7 for 136 on Turkey Day. He has more than earned targets even when Denarious Moore is back.
I have been touting Cordarelle Patterson for weeks. He is freakishly talented, and over the past couple weeks has 20 targets. It finally paid off in the form of an exciting 30+ yard run for TD. I am not sure who is available in your league, but chances are good they fall below any of the players listed here. Don’t get too cute/
Headache. In 3 leagues my TEs are Julius Thomas; Julius Thomas/Jordan Reed; Jordan Reed. The past 2 weeks I have played Delanie Walker in all 3. All I got was a headache from his concussion. I might be OK by Sunday, but I am not taking chances. I’m setting up a plan and looking for targets. My favorite, and my TE sleeper pick from last week’s Player Rankings, is Ladarius Green. I wish I’d have listened to my own advice and not take the safe play that didn’t work anyway (Walker). Green had a TD (again) and 10.5 points. I’d take that from my TE any week. Marcedes Lewis and Tim Wright are better than Brandon Myers or Jared Cook. (And owned in far fewer leagues)
A risky pickup might be Dennis Pitta. He hasn’t been activated yet, but figures to be this week. He has a superior match up vs. Minnesota, and Joe Flacco loves him. Let the other owners pick up Zac Ertz. The 2-TD game was the result of a gameplan designed to exploit a weakness of the Cards defense.
As you know, I stream defenses each week. This year, however, I fell into the Carolina defense in 2 league right before they went on the roll. I have been keeping them. Carolina plays New Orleans 2 of the next 3 weeks. I’m thinking about carrying another defense this week with the game in New Orleans.
This, or any week, the team playing the Jets is a good play. This week it’s Oakland. If Arizona is available (and for some reason they are in 1 of my leagues, grab them (Ten, SEA, SF). Miami has actually become a good sneaky play because of their pass defense. Other plays are teams playing rookie QBs (Buff, NYJ) or backup QBs (ATL, BAL).
When streaming kickers, get dome teams, warm weather kickers or guys on teams that will score a lot of points. Jay Feely may be available (dome); Graham Gano (dome); Randy Bullock (warm weather).
Good luck to everyone, whether you are already in or trying to make the playoffs. I am available for questions at @mhosinskiLLP.