The fantasy season is past the halfway point, and if you survived this far with even a remote chance to get to the playoffs, kudos to you. As for me, I have four teams, and three out of the four are in the playoff hunt. But don’t get complacent. Each and every week from here on in is just as important as the weeks that have gone on before. In fact, they’re even more important because the moves you make will affect you more, and every blemish will be magnified.
Now is the time to cut the dead weight from your team, the players like DeSean Jackson (I let him go in 2 leagues this week) who had so much promise before the season but who just hasn’t been able to get healthy, and Carlos Hyde, who will need surgery sooner rather than later on that foot. They shouldn’t keep taking up valuable space on your bench when you could have players like Stefon Diggs and Charcandrick West instead, players who can be the difference between you making the playoffs and cursing yourself for not flipping the switch sooner.
I have a team at 2-4-1 right now, but I’m in 7th place of a 10 team league where 6 teams make the playoffs. That tie could come back to haunt me later, but it could also be the difference maker in getting me into the playoffs. But for this week I did that switch, dropping Jackson and picking up Diggs. And I’m playing him against a Chicago team that gives up yards, and gives up yards after the catch — where Diggs truly shines. We’ll see if it pays off.
That’s what I’m here for, though, to give you advice on players you should get active, and on others who should ride the pine. It’s time for Setting Your Lineup…
QBs to PLAY
MATT RYAN vs. Tampa Bay – I’ve been going back and forth with this one, but I think I’ve landed on the right side of it. Sure, he’s got Devonta Freeman, who can run wild at a moment’s notice, but this one is at home where Ryan traditionally shines, and where he’s shined so far this season too. I see a balanced attack in this game, with Ryan getting Julio Jones going early and often, and even tossing a few short ones to Freeman and letting him operate in space.
JOE FLACCO vs. San Diego – Conventional wisdom says you can run and run often on the Chargers, but with the poor passing defense of Baltimore, I see them chasing points in this one, forcing Flacco to throw the ball a lot, particularly in the second half. Pistol Joe will come to play, and he will get a ton of yardage late in this one. I always go with the old adage: “It doesn’t matter how he gets his points, just that he gets them.”
BRIAN HOYER vs. Tennessee – The Titans haven’t really been able to stop any signal-callers since Week 1, so that’s looking more and more like the outlier in this poor defensive season from Tennessee. Besides, Hoyer has been a great fantasy QB since he took back over the offense from Mallett (RIP) in Houston. He gets the job done, and like Flacco, he’s utilized garbage time very well.
QB to AVOID
MATTHEW STAFFORD @ Kansas City (but really in London) – This Chiefs defense may not be as sound as previous iterations, but they’re not a pushover by any means, and they’ve been playing better of late. Stafford still needs to do more to protect the ball, and the Chiefs can get after the QB. I think they do it a lot here and force him into some bad decisions that will hinder his stats.
RBs to PLAY
DOUG MARTIN @ Atlanta – I think this will be a high-scoring affair, kind of like the game the Buccaneers played last week against the Redskins, and that means Martin will be involved a lot. Tampa Bay needs him to keep that Falcons defense honest and open up throwing lanes for Winston. And Martin has shown this year that he can once again handle a full workload. Keep him active.
GIOVANI BERNARD @ Pittsburgh – This isn’t your grandpa’s Pittsburgh defense anymore, which means you can run them over if you have the talent, and Bernard certainly has the talent. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield, which is another area where the Steelers struggle. Look for Andy Dalton to look for him often to pick up short yardage, but because he’s Bernard he will turn those plays into money.
RONNIE HILLMAN vs. Green Bay – Just as with Matt Ryan, I was tempted not to champion Hillman here, but I’ve just seen too many sparks lately from him, and knowing that he got a lot of first team reps this week with the offense makes me think they will lean on him in this one against the Packers. It’s the piece that was missing from having lackluster campaign so far from CJ Anderson, and I think Hillman is the man from here on out. It starts here.
RB to AVOID
ALFRED BLUE vs. Tennessee – Remember how much I like Brian Hoyer in this one? That’s how much I dislike Blue, and for the same reasons. Because Hoyer will be throwing the ball a lot, and Chris Polk is the primary pass-catching RB for the Texans, I don’t see Blue getting the same usage Foster would have gotten, being able to do both. Avoid him if you have better options on your bench.
WRs to PLAY
MICHAEL CRABTREE vs. NY Jets – I like both Cooper and Crabtree in this matchup, even though it’s the Jets. The Eagles exposed them in Week 3 when they stretched the field with their receivers, and the Raiders have the same kind of possibilities here. With Cooper likely on Revis Island, I see Crabtree having the better day, though, which is why he’s my PLAY here.
EDDIE ROYAL vs. Minnesota – Jay Cutler has been clutch of late, and he’s getting the ball to his receivers. Both Jeffery and Royal being healthy helps them both out in terms of fantasy because Royal isn’t a WR1, but he gets to be a great WR2 when paired with Jeffery. And if for some reason Cutler is available on your waiver wire and you’re not satisfied with your starting QB (or you have your starting QB on a bye), pick him up and start him with confidence too.
STEFON DIGGS @ Chicago – Yes, I see this one as Minnesota chasing points against the Bears, and regardless, Diggs has emerged in recent weeks as a potent weapon, the go-to guy in Minnesota. I’ve said before that Adrian Peterson can no longer carry the Vikings offense, and Diggs has arrived just in time to lighten the load. Bridgewater will find him, especially in the red zone.
WR to AVOID
DONTE MONCRIEF @ Carolina – The Panthers have been good against WR1 and WR2 so far this season, and Moncrief has been solidly in the WR2 category to this point. He didn’t have a great week last week when the matchup seemed to favor him, and this one does not. I’m also not sold on Luck being back to the strong option he has been in previous years, which makes all of his playmakers risky propositions.
TEs to PLAY
BENJAMIN WATSON vs. NY Giants – Watson was relatively quiet last week, but only because Drew Brees spread the ball around more than he did during Watson’s breakout performance the week before. There’s lightning still left in that bottle, though, and the big man will be needed against the Giants this week. Look for Brees to find him in the red zone more than once.
CROCKETT GILMORE vs. San Diego – You know how I feel about Joe Flacco this week, and Gilmore is a lot of what makes Flacco successful when he throws so much because Gilmore is his safety valve. Luckily he appears to be fully healthy again, so he can be trusted this week. With Steve Smith ailing, Flacco will probably look Gilmore’s way even more than usual.
DELANIE WALKER @ Houston – Again, that Houston defense isn’t what it’s supposed to be, but then again Walker is playing with Mettenberger again. Some would use that as an excuse to sit the pro this week, but don’t be swayed by it. Walker has been targeted more than anyone else on that offense whether or not Mariota is in, and Mettenberger will need him this week as the team will probably be chasing points against the DeAndres (I mean Texans).
TE to AVOID
OWEN DANIELS vs. Green Bay – The Broncos offense misses Julius Thomas, and it’s pretty obvious when you see the number of times they DON’T throw at their current tight ends. Getting Daniels was supposed to help fill in the gap, but instead he’s just doing a lot of blocking. Which is fine, but not in fantasy terms. Leave Daniels on the waiver wire this week so someone else can pick him up and start him against Green Bay.
FLEX to PLAY
MARVIN JONES @ Pittsburgh – At times it seems like the Cincinnati offense is Green, Eifert, and everyone else, but Jones has been piecing together a pretty good season as the “other guy” who just keeps making catches and moving the chains. As a FLEX play he’s perfect because he will consistently get you points, he has sure hands, and Dalton trusts him in the red zone. Count on a touchdown from Jones on Sunday.
CHRIS JOHNSON @ Cleveland – Cleveland can’t stop the run. Johnson has been on a roll. The roll continues in Cleveland when the Cardinals will run all over the Browns. Sure, Johnson loses some touches to Ellington and the other Johnson, but he’s the main man right now in that backfield so he will produce for you if you make sure he’s active.
DANNY WOODHEAD @ Baltimore – If you haven’t put and kept Woodhead in your lineup — shame on you. This is a public service announcement. Philip Rivers is in love with Danny Woodhead, and you should be too. He’s a PPR machine, and he’s even efficient in regular fantasy as well. With Gordon banged up and/or in the doghouse it gives you even more reason to keep going to the well.
FLEX to AVOID
DARREN MCFADDEN vs. Seattle – I know McFadden will be popular this week with the demotion of Randle, but even though Seattle hasn’t looked quite like themselves defensively for the most part this season, they’ve still been solid against the run. McFadden won’t find many holes to run through, and Dallas should be playing from behind for the vast majority of this game. It isn’t a good recipe for success. Grab him off waivers if you can, but sit him on your bench this week.
K to PLAY
GRAHAM GANO vs. Indianapolis
NICK FOLK @ Oakland
CAIRO SANTOS vs. Detroit
K to AVOID
CONNOR BARTH @ Atlanta
D/ST to PLAY
CHIEFS vs. Detroit
CARDINALS @ Cleveland
SAINTS vs. NY Giants
D/ST to AVOID
RAVENS vs. San Diego