Those teams that are still in the hunt and those preparing for the playoffs have tough decisions coming up with their lineups. This article can help you make some tough decisions that will get you to the championship.
The Season is just about over with one week left before the playoffs. Those teams that are still in the hunt and those preparing for the playoffs have tough decisions coming up with their lineups. You might have good depth and have the issue of who to start with the potential of leaving a lot of points on your bench or you might have just lost Fred Jackson or are plagued with Darren McFadden and Miles Austin. In any case the decisions made at this time of the year are most important and win or lose your league.
Heading into the playoffs I like to look for who is hot and trending the right the way when filling my final roster spots. With that in mind I am not looking at season totals when I look up points. I am just focusing on the last 4 weeks played to see who the players are that are hot now and worth taking a deeper look into their situation. Here are the top ten over the last 4 weeks.
QB: A. Rodgers, T. Brady, D. Brees, M. Ryan, T. Romo, T. Tebow, P. Rivers, E. Manning,
A. Dalton & C. Palmer.
RB: M. Bush, M. Lynch, D. Murray, A. Foster, R. Rice, R. Bush, L. McCoy, C. Johnson, MJD & C. Benson
WR: V. Cruz, J. Nelson, V. Jackson, L. Robinson, L. Fitzgerald, R. White, B. Lloyd, W. Welker, B. Marshall & T. Smith
TE: R. Gronkowski, A. Gates, T. Gonzalez, J. Graham, J. Witten, D. Keller, A. Fasano,
K. Winslow, V. Davis & J. Gresham
Looking at the QB’s it should be no surprise that Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are leading the pack over the last 4 weeks. Although, I would say that Matt Ryan being the 4th scoring QB over the last 4 weeks is surprising. All of this has come since the Falcons bye in week 8. In his last 4 games Ryan has had two 300 yard games and his worst performance in terms of yardage was 262 yards. What is also most important in Fantasy and especially with QB’s is scoring TD’s. In the last 4 weeks Ryan has thrown for 9 TD’s with two 3 TD games, not to mention he has only thrown 2 INT’s over that time period. Ryan is a QB you can trust for your playoff run. I am going with Ryan over Phillip Rivers the Pyro league playoffs.
Now let’s talk Tim Tebow. Tebow is the talk of the NFL about how bad of an actual QB he is. Although, the numbers are speaking for themselves in Fantasy, he is a starting QB. In the last 4 weeks he has not thrown for more than 143 yards in any game. He is averaging over 70 yards rushing a game. This is huge as running for 70 yards is 7 pts a game right there. Now let’s look at his efficiency. He has 0 INT in the last 4 weeks, but to be fair he has only attempted 30 passes, but hold on because 4 of those 30 passes went for TD’s. On the flipside he has attempted 52 runs with 2 runs for TD’s. If you are in a standard league those rushing TD’s going for 6 pts and the rushing yards alone would make him a RB2. Now you count the passing yards as a bonus and he is efficient and throwing TD’s which makes him a fantasy threat. Imagine the points he would put up if he could throw for 200 yards a game, if he could only figure out a way to complete passes over 50% of the time. As long as he stays healthy he is legit the rest of the way this season.
The other names that are surprising to see are Andy Dalton & Carson Palmer, who have very similar numbers with both throwing for over 1000 yards in the last 4 weeks and both have 7 TD’s and have INT, with Palmer having one of those TD’s rushing. Although between these two I feel much more confident in Palmer going down the stretch. Dalton has 2 TD’s and 3 INT over his last 2 games while Palmer has 2 TD’s to 1 INT. Palmer has also thrown for 300 yards 2 of his last 4 games with another game at 299 yards. Palmer also has a more favorable schedule for the playoffs with games against GB, DET and KC.
Then there are 3 QB’s who have fallen off the table going down the stretch: Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and Big Ben. Stafford and Roethlisberger are dealing with thumb injuries and that has definitely hurt their performances. Newton is getting sacked a lot more as of late being sacked 12 times over the last 4 weeks. As I look at these QB’s I would still feel confident in Stafford as he continues to heal, we know that he has the best WR in game and that will pay dividends going forward. The extra rest since the Thanksgiving game should be a plus for him. Newton is another QB that can give you that huge splash, but most likely if you have him you probably also have another option as Newton was picked up off waivers in most leagues this year. That being the case he is also a rookie, and at this the time of the year where he is experiencing a much longer season than he has ever endured and hitting the rookie wall, if I have another option to start I would look that way for the playoffs. Not to mention Newton has thrown 5 INT over his last 3 games. As far as Big Ben goes, it is time to look for another option.
There is no way you could have told me in the first 5 weeks of the season that the top 3 RB’s over the last 4 weeks heading into the Fantasy playoffs would be Michael Bush, Marshawn Lynch & DeMarco Murray I would have called you crazy, but that is the case. Not only that their stats over the last 4 weeks are almost carbon copies of each other. They have all rushed for between 431-443 yards. Lynch and Bush each have 4 TD’s while Murray only has 1. Murray and Bush also have 156 and 162 yards receiving with Lynch having 87 over the last 4 weeks. Lynch and Murray are definitely the starters for their teams while Bush has the shadow of McFadden looming in the background. Murray should be able to have a nice bounce back after the short week leading up to the Thanksgiving game where he only had 87 yards and that is only 160 over his last 2 games. Keep an eye on him as he is a rookie and has been running hard since taking the starting job from Felix Jones and could be hitting his rookie wall. Bush is a must start until McFadden returns. That being said the first week McFadden comes back and if I owned both of these guys, which I do, I would start Bush that week and see how McFadden is used in that first game, as they will likely not overwork him for their NFL Playoff push. Feel comfortable starting Lynch for the rest of the season, he is going into BEAST mode and this is the time of the year when a punishing back makes his money.
The other major surprise in the top 10 is Reggie Bush. Reggie has not done anything spectacular as he has only rushed for 232 yards over the last 4 games, but he has added 14 receptions for 123 yards. The real surprise is that he has 4 rushing TD’s over the last 4 weeks. Yes, you read that right Reggie Bush has rushed for 4 TD’s in the last 4 weeks. Bush has found a way to stay healthy this year and he is showing more toughness than he has to this point in his career. He is not going to give you a 100 yard rushing game, but he is always active in the passing game and if you are in a PPR league Bush is a viable fantasy threat, which are three words I never thought I would say, and I must believe it as I am starting him in the Pyro Playoffs also.
What is also surprising going down the stretch is the names that are not in the top ten over the last 4 weeks: Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, Matt Forte & Beanie Wells. Wells may be the most surprising considering he is coming off a 228 yard performance last week, although he only has 115 rushing yards total the previous 3 games. He is still dealing with the knee injury and draws SF in the first round of the playoffs. He has a lot of talent, but you should be looking for a better option to start the playoffs. I am still a believer in Forte as he is dealing with the QB change. The Bears should lean on the run more going forward to take pressure off of Caleb Hanie, and Forte had 6 receptions last week. Michael Turner has seen his numbers decline at the same rapid rate that Matt Ryan has seen his numbers increase. Turner only has one 100 yard game over the last 4 weeks and that was exactly what it was, a 100 yard rushing game against Tennessee. As you look at the first round Turner will be a must start as he has a juicy matchup against the Panthers. I do not have trust in Steven Jackson down the stretch he has only put up 106 yards over the last 2 weeks and it has been 5 weeks since he has a scored a TD. The Rams have a horrible defense and have a hard time keeping their offense in the game which spells doom for Jackson.
The Wide Receiver position is one that varies more than any other position and one where looking at the matchups may pay the most dividends for you. Once again over the last 4 weeks there are some big surprises. I don’t think many people had Victor Cruz at the top of their lists. Cruz has been a machine going back to week 3. He has had at least 6 catches a game over the last 8 with the one blip on the radar against the Bills where he only had 2. He has also gone over 90 yards 6 of the last 8 weeks along with three 100 yard games and 2 of those going over 157 yards. Cruz is a must start the rest of the year and with Manningham still hurt and missing another game this week and Nicks still dinged up, you can look for Cruz to the lead the way from here on out.
Who would have thought the second hottest receiver has been Jordy Nelson. Is he becoming more of a favorite target of Rodgers than Greg Jennings? Over the last 4 weeks a resounding YES!!! Jennings has 16 receptions for 158 yards and 3 TD’s while Nelson has 20 receptions for 317 yards and 5 TD’s. This is something that seems to happen to top end receivers as they get more double coverage the guy on the other side of the field begins to put up all the numbers. Similar to what Reggie Wayne did to Marvin Harrison. Jennings is still a must start the rest of the way, but so is Nelson and he is going to give the big play as well as Rodgers loves Nelson as a deep threat down the field. Ride Nelson all the way.
Then there is the receiver who has been white hot as of late Laurent Robinson, who is becoming the favorite redzone target of Tony Romo with 7 TD’s in his last 5 games and he has had a TD in every one of those games. I am one of those owners who drafted Miles Austin and picked Robinson up off of waivers. As I look at my situation here when Miles Austin does return which looks like it will be next week, the first week of the playoffs. There is the dilemma what should you do? Here is what I am going to do, I am going to start Robinson, because I remember the last time Austin came back and reinjured himself. Similar to my thoughts with Bush and McFadden I need to see Austin play a game healthy before I stop playing a guy who catches a TD every game. Obviously both players value gets hurt, but I think Robinson has cemented himself into the receiving corps and Romo just loves the guy.
The surprise as of late and what you are not looking for going into the playoffs are the receivers who are ranked between 34-45th over the last 4 weeks: A. Boldin, D. Bowe, Megatron, H. Nicks, S. Johnson & S. Smith. Boldin had 7 catches vs. Pit 4 weeks ago and only has 7 catches in his last 3 games. Boldin is just not going to give you the consistency you need but he has a favorable playoff matchups with IND, SD and CLE. Bowe is still giving you decent numbers in terms of catches and yards, but there is one major problem here. He has not scored a TD in his last 6 games. He has no help at QB with Cassel going down and I need TD’s in my playoff games so I am leaving Bowe off the playoff train. Megatron on the other hand is a must start and he is dependent on Stafford getting healthier, but he can put up stats with anyone throwing him the ball and is still a must start the rest of the way. Nicks and his injuries have me worried, but if Manningham’s knee keeps him out and Nicks is playing you have to start him. Stevie Johnson has not put any great games this year as he has yet to have a 100 yard game. He could have blown up last week but had a huge drop and a huge penalty that cost his team. If I have a better option I would take it over Johnson. Steve Smith is another player that I own and although he has struggled the most of all these players I am sticking with him. He is a threat to score when he gets the ball and with Newton also having his issues as of late I expect him to target Smith more than he has over the last 4 weeks. I am expecting him to get at least 9 targets a game down the stretch.
Over the last 4 weeks if you want to be the best TE your last name had better start with the letter “G”. Your top 4 TE’s over the last 4 weeks are Gronkowski, Gates, Gonzalez & Graham. It should be no surprise that any of these guys are up here. Gonzalez may be the most surprising but his rise has come at the same time as Matt Ryan, and even though he has been playing forever he still puts up points every week and as the Falcons keep throwing, look for him to keep scoring. All of these players are must starts the rest of the way for your playoffs so let’s look at the other strong starts down the stretch.
The three TE’s that I like going down the stretch on the next tier are Dustin Keller, J. Gresham & Kellen Winslow. Winslow has been seeing more targets as of late from Josh Freeman. Winslow is a big target and can be a safety blanket for Freeman. That being said he has not found the endzone in his last 3 games. He gets JAC, DAL and CAR for the playoffs which are good matchups for him. Keller is a streaky type of player and when he scores TD’s they come in bunches. Last year he scored 5 TD’s in the first 4 weeks then went silent. His 2 TD performance last week I believe is the start to another run and more importantly a playoff run of TD’s for Keller, and getting KC, PHI and NYG doesn’t hurt either. Gresham has been consistent all year long and though he does not put up monster games he is always a part of the offense with an average of 5 receptions a game over his last 8 games. He also has a nice playoff schedule with JAC, DAL & CAR.
The players that have fallen off the table are Jermichael Finley, Fred Davis & Brandon Pettigrew. Finley has been one of the biggest disappointments all year and I can understand the desire to stay with him for the playoff run, but he has done nothing to warrant starting him. Over his last 4 weeks he only has 11 receptions for 179 yards and 1 TD. The one benefit he has if you make it to the championship is another matchup with the Bears who he torched for 3 TD’s earlier in the year. If you go back 4 weeks Fred Davis was one of the hottest TE’s but all the turmoil at the QB position has hurt him. He did much better when Grossman was not behind center, but Grossman is back and Davis should be benched in my opinion. Pettigrew has been another disappointment this year and especially over his last 4 games where he only has 16 receptions for 110 yards and 1 TD. In the Lions offense Pettigrew is the forgotten man and should not be trusted for your playoff run if you have any other options.
As always there are going to be tough decisions for you to make in the playoffs and there will be many that are toss up decisions for you. The other thing that you have to do is trust your gut. If you are looking at our rankings and you have two guys that are within 2 spots of each other feel free to go with your gut as over thinking can hurt you more than going with your gut most times. Good luck in the PLAYOFFS!!!
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