Can it be true that we’re just days away from the fantasy playoffs in most leagues? Indeed, the postseason is here, and Week 13 revealed some important truths that fantasy owners should consider when preparing battle plans for their postseason campaigns.
1. Eddie Lacy can’t be trusted
Lacy’s fantasy owners have to hate him by now. In fact, they’re going to start setting their alarms to go off 10 minutes earlier, just so they can hate Lacy a little bit more. A consensus first-round pick in fantasy drafts, Lacy was a colossal disappointment over the first half of the season and lost his starting job to James Starks. Lacy raised the hopes of his owners with consecutive 100-yard rushing games in Weeks 10-11, then proceeded to dash those hopes by producing just four total yards on only five carries in the Packers' thrilling Thursday night win over the Lions. It was later revealed that Lacy had missed curfew the night before, hence the reduced workload. Grrrr.
Even with semi-favorable matchups against the Cowboys and Raiders the next two weeks, Lacy can’t be relied on simply because we can’t assume he’ll be out of Packers head coach Mike McCarthy’s doghouse. Starks has performed capably, and rookie John Crockett looked good against Detroit in his first action of the season, so it’s not as if McCarthy doesn’t have other options. If you have other options at running back, exercise them.
2. Lamar Miller is still the main man in Miami
It was starting to look as if rookie Jay Ajayi might threaten Miller’s status as the alpha dog in the Miami running game. Miller had a season-low five carries against the Jets in Week 12 and was out-snapped by Ajayi in that game. Going into Week 13, the slumping Miller had been held to under 45 rushing yards in five consecutive contests.
But Miller looked rejuvenated in Week 13 and dominated touches for the Dolphins, rushing 20 times for 113 yards against a good Baltimore run defense, while Ajayi carried only four times for 12 yards. Miller has some good matchups coming up over the next three weeks—against the Giants, Chargers and Colts—and there’s now little reason to worry that he won’t get the carries he needs to take advantage.
3. Matt Forte can be safely saddled up for the fantasy playoffs
Lest you think this falls into the Captain Obvious category, consider that Forte is in the final year of his contract with the Bears and isn’t likely to be back in Chicago next year. When the veteran missed three November games with a sprained MCL, rookie Jeremy Langford shined in Forte’s absence, racking up 366 yards from scrimmage and four TDs. Upon Forte’s return in Week 12, the Bears split snaps and carries almost evenly between Forte and Langford, and it was fair to wonder whether the team might continue to do so, with Forte a lame duck and Langford looking like the Bears’ RB of the future.
But Forte returned to a workhorse role in Week 13, carrying 21 times for 84 yards and a TD against the 49ers, and also catching five passes for 39 yards. Langford stayed busy with 12 carries for 59 yards, but Forte did the heavy lifting. You can count on him for your playoff run.
4. Ride the Bills’ passing game at your own risk
Sammy Watkins has 267 receiving yards and three TDs over the last two weeks. Tyrod Taylor has seven TDs (six passing, one rushing) over the same span. So what’s the problem? Well, Watkins and Taylor don’t make their fantasy livings on heavy volume, so they have to be uber-efficient in order to pay off.
Taylor, who hasn’t had a 300-yard passing day all season, has averaged 25.2 passing attempts over his last six starts. Even though Taylor does good business as a runner, it’s hard to rely on a quarterback who doesn’t consistently throw the ball 30-plus times a game. Watkins has averaged 5.9 targets per game this season. He’s been remarkably efficient with those targets, with a 64.1% catch rate and a phenomenal average of 12.0 yards per target. But Watkins has also been held to 60 or fewer yards in six of his nine games, mainly because his targets have been sporadic. If you start Taylor or Watkins in the playoffs, a run-heavy game script for Buffalo in a given week could imperil your postseason existence.
5. In Russ you can trust
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had been putting up underwhelming fantasy numbers all season. He lost RB Marshawn Lynch and TE Jimmy Graham to major injuries, and suddenly he’s caught fire, with 11 TD passes and a TD run in his last three starts. It seems counterintuitive that Wilson would thrive after losing Lynch and Graham, but perhaps the absence of the two stars has been liberating for Wilson, who no longer feels compelled to force-feed the ball to either of his mercurial teammates. Wilson has terrific matchups against the Ravens and Browns over the next two weeks.
6. Matt Ryan is broken
Not even a seemingly favorable Week 13 matchup against the Buccaneers could pull Matty out of his funk. He threw for 269 yards against the Bucs, with one TD and one INT. Ryan has averaged a backup-level 6.39 yards per pass attempt over his last three starts, with more INTs (six) than TDs (five) over that stretch. He’ll face a tough Carolina defense in two of his next three games. Time to put Matty on ice.
7. Arizona receivers — use ’em if you got ’em
You’re obviously using Larry Fitzgerald, who’s had eight or more catches in each of his last five games and has been rocking all season. John Brown and Michael Floyd have been trickier calls lately, as both were dealing with hamstring injuries. But both appear to be good to go for the stretch run. Brown had 113 yards against St. Louis in Week 13 and has 212 yards over his last two games. Floyd, who had just one catch against the 49ers in Week 12, rebounded with a terrific performance against the Rams, making some acrobatic catches and finishing with seven receptions for 104 yards. The Cardinals don’t have any prohibitive passing matchups coming up over the next three weeks, so you can start Brown and Floyd with confidence.
8. The Broncos’ RBs are flex options at best
C.J. Anderson was terrific in an overtime win over the Patriots in Week 12, rushing for 113 yards and two TDs, including the game-winner. So, you’d think Anderson would have gotten at least a half share of the carries in Week 13, right? Wrong. Ronnie Hillman had 19 carries for 56 yards in a 17-3 win over the Chargers, while Anderson carried just seven times for 42 yards. Anderson has been the more effective performer in recent weeks, but Hillman has outcarried Anderson 65-36 over Denver’s last four games. These two put lids on each other’s ceiling, yet they each have a high enough floor to warrant flex consideration.
9. Mac is back
After being held under 50 yards in four consecutive games, Jeremy Maclin has piled up 18 catches, 255 yards and three TDs over the last two weeks. His Week 14 matchup against the Chargers isn’t ideal, but ride the momentum. Then enjoy the Charmin-soft matchups against the Ravens and Browns in Weeks 15-16.
10. Fly the Coop
After a strong start to his rookie season, Raiders WR Amari Cooper hasn’t scored a TD in his last four outings and has averaged 66.8 yards per game over that span. This week he’ll face the Broncos, who held him to 47 yards back in Week 5. Cooper, who’s accustomed to playing in warm-weather climates, then has a Week 15 date in Green Bay, which is apt to be frigid in late December. You might want to consider other WR options the next two weeks.
Photos: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images (Lacy), Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images (Forte), Hannah Foslien/Getty Images (Wilson), Ross D. Franklin/AP (Fitzgerald)