Playoff Preview Edition
Fantasy football advice for when you’re the player in your league who’s lost three years in a row because Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady had one bad game.
Welcome to the playoffs! Who cares if your team steamrolled all season or squeaked in through the back door, you’re here. But nothing will derail your fantasy championship dream faster than waiting on Christian McCaffrey’s return or Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons to turn things around. Injuries and matchups will determine if you’ll be earning a huge payout and eight months of office bragging rights or an early offseason full of questions about your GM skills and whether or not defaulting on your car loan was worth the risk. The stiffs in your league are out. Preston from accounts receivables who started Sam Darnold every week, hasta la vista. Jill from payroll who likes the Vikings purple, ciao. Dre from sales who’d been talking up Mike Evans since preseason, sayonara. It’s time to ask yourself how bad you want this because one mistake will mean the end regardless if you’ve had Alvin Kamara, Davante Adams, and Josh Allen posting twenty-plus every week. This week’s column is all about the short and long term. Yes, it’s been nice riding your fantasy horses, but one bad matchup will knock you out of your saddle, so prepare for that off week by making up for it in other areas of your roster.
Let’s be honest, anyone in the playoffs is not starting any QB outside the top 12 unless they screwed up their draft miserably or are still living in 2012. There’s some big names on this list. Some will take harder hits than others, but if you have a suitable backup who’s been holding the clipboard all season, it may be time for them to take a few warm-up throws.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals: @ Giants, vs Eagles, vs 49ers
He’s been a top-three quarterback all season, but he’s thrown for under 200 yards the past two weeks, which normally isn’t a problem because of his rushing capability. Except he’s been carrying a minor injury, which has limited his rushing stats, lowering him to mid-level potential with two out of three tough matchups looming.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: vs Jets, @ Washington, vs Rams
Yes, he could very well win the MVP this season, but last week’s shocking loss to a surging Giants defense exposed a few chinks in the armor. Forget this week because he’ll likely rebound, but weeks 2 and 3 in the playoffs could be repeats of last Sunday’s disaster, especially against the Rams who held him to 9 points. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings: @ Buccaneers, vs Bears, @ Saints
The signs have been there all season. Costly turnovers and poor decisions have been mitigated by Dalvin Cook’s dominance and his relationship with Adam Thielen. Cousins may be a borderline start because he still throws for yards and TDs, but with these matchups, he’s bound to have a clunker.
Late in the season, most good teams lean on the run game as conditions worsen and defenses have had time to prepare for an aerial onslaught. Much like the QBs, there are going to be a few raised eyebrows, but any rusher not in the top 30 has been ruled out.
James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars: vs Titans, @ Ravens, vs Bears
Robinson will likely be the team’s MVP. He’s had an incredible season so far as the Jags tank continues. But three stout defensive match-ups means his elite running back status is in doubt. And if the Jets win a game the next couple weeks, who’s to say the Jags won’t call off the dogs to ensure that number one pick.
Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: vs Vikings, @ Falcons, @ Lions
Jones had a solid game against the Chiefs in Week 12, scoring his first career reception touchdown. But the Bucs played from behind from the start, meaning they became more dependent on Tom Brady. He’s had a few monsters, but look at his next three games and tell me which ones won’t be shootouts.
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles: vs Saints, @ Cardinals, @ Cowboys
Even this week, he still shows up as a top-twenty play, but the Eagles offense is doomed and this Jalen Hurts fairy tale story is going to end with the evil stepmother sitting on the throne. The run-option may open up some room for Sanders this week, but not when the offensive line has been pushed five yards into the backfield.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
For many of the reasons listed above, some reliable pass catchers will see fewer targets as their quarterbacks struggle. A combination of bad matchups and overhyped games will take the gloss of some of these fantasy receiving stars.
DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals: @ Giants, vs Eagles, vs 49ers
Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks: vs Jets, @ Washington, vs Rams
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings: @Buccaneers, vs Bears, @ Saints
Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders: vs Colts, vs Chargers, vs Dolphins
Hunter Henry, LA Chargers: vs Falcons, @ Raiders, vs Broncos
Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans: @ Jaguars, @ Lions, @Packers
Greg Oldfield’s stories have appeared in Hobart, Carve, Barrelhouse, and Maudlin House, among others. He also writes about soccer for the Florida Cup and the Brotherly Game and often rambles about soccer on Twitter.