So there you have it. For the bulk of fantasy football players, Week 13 of the NFL season marked the end of fantasy’s regular season. Hearts were broken and unsung heroes delivered impactful performances that delighted those owners who achieve what everyone strives for: a postseason berth.
Now, anything can happen. Now, anything is possible. It’s playoff time and how a team performed during the season no longer matters; it’s about putting yourself in position to win the next matchup.
We’ve concentrated all year on the three primary positions, seldom mentioning tight ends and defenses and such throughout the year. With it being fantasy’s regular season finale, we’ll step outside the box a little bit to provide owners with all the help they need in the weeks ahead.
But before we delve into sizing up Sunday’s performances, let’s check the infirmary report.
Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots: Word is the injured reserve list is going to sign Amendola to a one-year deal this offseason. This time, it was an ankle injury in the second half that removed him from the game. Amendola isn’t fantasy relevant; the real reason for flagging his injury is to remind readers about Malcolm Mitchell’s growing presence in the New England offense. He’s being mentioned in this space for the third straight week. Mitchell was barely owned a week ago and that rate has risen up to just over 18 percent in ESPN leagues. He hauled in 8 of his 10 targets for 82 yards. The downside is the Patriots have meetings with the Ravens and Broncos in Weeks 14 and 15. Mitchell has 22 targets over his past three games, but does that warrant a playoff start? It’s all about what other options are available.
Lamar Miller, RB, Texans: Miller left and returned in Houston’s matchup against Green Bay. He has an enticing matchup vs. the Colts in Week 14, but has just one game with double-digits over the past month. It’s hard to have a lot of confidence, but the silver lining is Miller’s best game of the season came against Indianapolis in Week 6. Miller has been nicked up for several weeks now.
It’s not even close. In a stunner, Joe Flacco was the leader in the clubhouse with a 381-yard performance and four touchdowns. Among the top 10, Flacco wasn’t the only surprise. Carson Palmer occupied the No. 2 spot by matching his season-high in fantasy production. Matthew Stafford, Andy Dalton and Derek Carr rounded out the top five. Brock Osweiler, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Kirk Cousins completed the top 10 leader board.
It was supposed to be a Brees: You couldn’t find a fantasy pundit that didn’t have Drew Brees as the top-ranked QB entering Week 13 … at home … against a Lions defense that, while improving, had been vulnerable to the pass this season. Instead, Brees finished in single digits (seven) for the first time all season, nine under his season-low of 16 back in Weeks 2 and 4. If you’re a Brees owner that qualified for the playoffs, there’s no reason to overreact. You chalk it up to a bad week … no more, no less. A Week 14 matchup at Tampa Bay awaits and it would be difficult to sit Brees; if anything, given that he rarely has two poor starts in a row, he would seem in line for a bounce-back outing vs. the Buccaneers.
Last thoughts: We tooted our horn about Colin Kaepernick last week, so we must bow our head in shame this week after hyping his recent fantasy prowess and suggesting he had a strong matchup against the Bears. It was a failed showing of epic proportions for a guy who was started by nearly 32 percent of owners in ESPN leagues and was coming off six consecutive double-digit outings. A lot of disappointed owners took a chance Sunday. Kaepernick was pulled late, but even if he remains the starter, he becomes a bit of a question mark despite an appealing remaining schedule for the 49ers. … Strange as it may sound, Flacco has one thing in common with Brees this season: The two QBs have scored in double digits in 12 of 13 starts. … One last observation: After digging themselves into another early deficit, Derek Carr sure looked fine in leading the Raiders to another victory.
It’s not on par with the rookie campaigns of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Joey Bosa, but Jordan Howard has turned in a nice first season with Chicago. The Bears’ tailback used three touchdowns to put himself at the top of the pack along with David Johnson on Sunday. Thomas Rawls, Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, Melvin Gordon, Terrance West, LeSean McCoy, Spencer Ware and Mike Gillislee rounded out the top 10 leader board.
Carving out a bigger role: At this point of the season, it’s hard to find a free agent tailback capable of delivering serviceable production. And yet, Buffalo’s Gillislee is still available in many leagues. After missing Week 12 with a hamstring injury, Gillislee’s ownership rate fell 5 percent to 26 percent overall in ESPN leagues. It’s a little bit surprising in light of LeSean McCoy consistently being nicked up throughout the year. Since Week 6, Gillislee has scored seven points or more in the five of the six games he was on the field, including double digits on three occasions. The Bills host the Steelers, Browns and the Dolphins for the next three weeks. No doubt there’s a high-risk factor, but if you’re an owner in that rare position of being in the playoffs despite an average backfield, Gillislee may not look that bad in the lineup.
Last thoughts: Not a lot out there to suggest other than Gillislee, but keep an eye on Detroit’s situation. Dwayne Washington left with an injury Sunday and Theo Riddick didn’t have a lot of touches. Zach Zenner ran nine times for 40 yards, but had just four carries in the four previous games. However, if Washington misses time, the unowned Zenner may pick up the slack in the coming weeks. … We had a Thomas Rawls sighting; then he left to be checked for a concussion; then he returned. He has solid matchups the next two weeks and Rawls owners probably are desperate for backfield help if they’ve survived this long.
Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was just something in the air, but it was an odd weekend in fantasyland. Golden Tate led a fairly pedestrain field of wideouts for the week, finishing with 145 yards and one touchdown. Tyler Lockett, Jordy Nelson, Brandon LaFell, Albert Wilson, Dez Bryant, Ted Ginn, Michael Crabtree, Kenny Britt and a group of five players with 11 points rounded out a pretty week top 10 leader board.
Pretenders or contenders? Of the free agents among this week’s top 10, here’s who might put up numbers in the playoff weeks. Let’s start with LaFell. He hasn’t done much in A.J. Green’s absence, but did show up Sunday to haul in a touchdown and five receptions for 95 yards. The Bengals visit the Browns in Week 14; LaFell had 83 yards and a TD in the teams’ Week 7 meeting. He’s only owned in 17 percent of ESPN leagues. If you’re desperately in need of a wideout, he has upside … but also check the weather. Weather dampened some performances this weekend and it’s bound to do it again before the season is over. … Albert Wilson? We’ll pass. … One of the players among that group of five that completed the top 10 is Breshad Perriman. Perriman is owned in less than 2 percent of leagues and while he’s not getting many targets, he has managed to make the most of them in his past three games, all of which he has scored a touchdown. Week 14 isn’t a great matchup as the Ravens travel to play the Patriots, but Week 15 at home against the Eagles does have upside if an owner is in need of a wideout. But even then, the receiving corps really has to be in bad shape for Perriman to be elevated to a spot-start. … Tyler Lockett had a huge game for the Seahawks on Sunday night, including a 75-yard TD run. This is usually the time of year Seattle turns it on and Lockett could benefit, especially if he gets utilized as a rusher periodically as the Seahawks try to keep Rawls healthy. He’s owned in 25 percent of leagues. … A fantasy darling in 2015 and suddenly Ginn is showing flashbacks over the pass three games with Carolina. He’s produced double digits for three straight weeks and has scored three touchdowns. Home games against the Chargers and Falcons sandwiched around a visit to face the Redskins are decent enough matchups. Weather and if the Panthers are trailing could also factor into his production. He’s owned in just 12 percent of leagues.
Last thoughts: Don’t forget about the guy we mentioned at the top of this analysis: Malcolm Mitchell. He’s owned in 20 percent of leagues. … Taylor Gabriel had his first single-digit week since Week 7, but the Falcons have a road game vs. the Rams and a home matchup vs. the 49ers. Gabriel’s ownership rate has risen to 36.5 percent. There’s a lot to like in those two upcoming matchups. … Dontrelle Inman has supplied double-digit performances the past two weeks. The Chargers’ three remaining games are at Carolina, home against Oakland and a visit to Cleveland in Week 16. Inman is owned in 20 percent of leagues, but has some upside in the coming weeks. … And lastly, Quincy Enunwa is owned in 46 percent of leagues, but owners that find him available may want to pounce. He could have a nice game Monday night, but the Jets visit the 49ers in Week 14 followed by a home game against the Dolphins — the one that just got lit up by Joe Flacco. Those are some tasty matchups for a guy who is available in a good amount of leagues.
We won’t delve into the top 10 leader board, but we’ll focus on potential free agents who could be helpful for the playoff run. Let’s start with Pittsburgh’s Ladarius Green. Hurt for most of the season, Green played his fourth game Sunday. In Week 12, Green caught two balls for 67 yards. In Week 13, Green really came up big, hauling in six receptions on 11 targets for 110 yards and a touchdown. He’s owned in 12 percent of ESPN leagues. If you’ve been getting by with matchups or just going with some average tight ends, Green may be worth grabbing simply because he plays in a high-octane offense. The downside is the Steelers have a lot of weapons. … Dennis Pitta had one double-digit game entering Sunday. He was the biggest beneficiary in Flacco’s productive day. He’s owned at a higher rate than Green at 47 percent. … Jermaine Gresham has had three decent weeks in a row for the Cardinals. Arizona has enticing matchups at Miami and home against New Orleans over the next two weeks. Gresham is owned in 13 percent of leagues.
There’s nothing like picking up a defensive unit that comes through big time during a playoff run. If you’re looking at Week 14, then seek out the Bengals, who visit the Browns. Other units that have promising matchups on paper? The Lions host the Bears. Detroit is owned in 17 percent of leagues. The Falcons host the Rams and Atlanta is owned in less than 8 percent of leagues.