As the second week of the playoffs is ramping up, owners are going to the wire and seeing who’s hot, mainly on offense. Don’t forget the defensive players, though, as those are the players that often times make or break any matchup. Most of the championships I’ve won in recent years have been because I played the defensive match-ups correctly and went with my gut on a few risks. The key thing to remember is not to rely on stats, but also look at match-ups, trends in the past weeks, and injuries on other teams. The teams that play their match-ups the best and are not afraid to take risks are likely the ones who will reap the benefits in the last 2 weeks of the playoffs. The main rule I live by in the playoffs is anything can happen, do not rely on “start your studs,” and look to maximize every match-up to the fullest extent.
Andrew Luck (QB) – Luck, after a few weeks of par or sub-par outings, is putting his game together quickly, albeit there is inconsistency at receiver (where did Hilton go?). This week against the league-worst Texans, expect Luck to pick the secondary apart en route to a 300 passing yard, 3 touchdown day. Sorry, basement dwellers get no special treatment.
Steven Jackson (RB) – The man-beast is officially back and producing. After a few eyesore outings while coming back from injury, Jackson is running mad and hard through defenses. He may not be as explosive as he was in past seasons, or before his injury this season, but he should still run all over the Redskins like The Spanish running of the bulls.
Cordarrelle Patterson (WR) – A couple weeks back, I promoted Patterson, and he is quickly becoming the WR1 on a team that really has a nobody for QB and aging receivers opposite him. By far the best playmaker at receiver for the Vikings, with Adrian Peterson banged up, look for Patterson to be very active this Sunday versus Philly.
Charles Clay (TE) – Clay, one of the most pleasant surprises this season at tight end, is a legitimate start most weeks, and should continue to be for the rest of the season. This week, against a soft Patriots secondary, Clay will continue his stellar output (14 receptions, 177 yards, and 2 TDs over the last two weeks) and likely net another score.
Jason Worilds (LB) – The lack of production from the old Pittsburgh defensive line has bore another potential high tackle, sack-hybrid linebacker in Worilds. He may never be the same player James Harrison was in his prime (yeah, he was nasty), but Worilds (18 tackles, 3 sacks the past two weeks; 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles on the season) could be a rock for your linebacking core in the playoffs, and is available in just 2.1% of leagues.
Mike Glennon (QB) – As a rookie, Glennon has had his good games and his bad games, and while he looks like he could be the QB of the future in Tampa, hold back on him. After last weeks 90 yard, 2 TD, 2 INT performance, Glennon showed his youth to the game, and why it is hard to trust rookie QBs. This week against the 49ers, find a better option, as Glennon may not be on his feet long in this match.
Ben Tate (RB) – Tate has been handed the RB1 reigns in Houston. The problem? He’s so inconsistent, Texans fans and fantasy owners miss Arian Foster. With the Houston offense in disarray and in need of a new QB, avoid Tate if you can, even versus a mildly generous Colts run defense.
T.Y. Hilton (WR) – For a while, after Reggie Wayne was lost for the season, it appeared Hilton was the clear-cut WR1 in Indy. However, lackluster performances the past four weeks have put that label in question. Yes, he went off for 3 second half touchdowns last time Indy played the Colts, but with Da’Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill breathing down Hilton’s neck, bench him this week.
Ed Dickson (TE) – The return of Dennis Pitta officially ends any fantasy relevancy Dickson may have had. Even if Pitta is limited going forward, Dickson is too much a hit or miss to trust any given week.
Michael Griffin (S) – Griffin’s lack of interceptions this year is hurting his value. He will always be a solid source of tackles, but with 0 interceptions this season, Griffin is getting hard to start in your lineup.
Ben Roethlisberger – The Bengals are coming, the Bengals are coming. Aaaahh, ties, the old fashioned AFC North rivals meet up again in what should be a testosterone-filled, hard hitting game. The Bengals defense is susceptible to getting pounded like poundcake by opposing QBs the past few weeks, setting up nicely for Ben to pick them apart en route to a win.
Case Keenum – If you are still playing Keenum at QB in the playoffs, you need to go get your head checked, as he has been awful. All you need to know is a 2 TD:4 INT ratio the past four weeks. Move along.
E.J. Manuel – Compared to Manuel, Keenum’s numbers (above) look stellar. Manuel had 4 interceptions last week, ending the chance of me ever starting him again (yes, I played him last week and still won). Manuel has the weapons around him to be at least middle of the pack, but let him work on his decision making before even considering starting him.
Donald Brown – Calling my shots here. Brown will rush for 100 yards and 1-2 scores this week against the Texans. I know Brown hasn’t been the most consistent (few have been), but he has a nice yards/carry average through all games this season, and is overdue for a big game.
Andre Brown – Normally you start the bruising back, but against an even more bruising Seahawks defense geared for stopping the run, the only dirt Brown will be seeing is the dirt on his jersey from the hits he’s gonna take. The Giants are a pretty run heavy team with Brown starting, but this week, the run game goes no where.
Darren Sproles – Sproles’s fantasy appeal is running dry very rapidly. With a lack of rushing yards, decreasing receptions, and the semi-emergence of Mark Ingram, Sproles should not be started this week against the Rams. The Rams can be run on, but Sproles won’t play any major part in that this week, and likely not going forward.
Michael Crabtree – Generally, it’s not a good idea to start a player coming off a torn Achilles in just his third week back, but that’s exactly what I’m promoting. The 49ers have a nice match-up against a soft Tampa defense, and with the TB corners keying in on Boldin and Davis, Crabs could easily get free for a big day.
Danny Amendola – Thought to be the de facto WR1 entering the season, Amendola is quickly becoming a fantasy afterthought. Even with Gronk done for the season, look for Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, and even Kenbrell Thompkins to get more attention from Brady than Amendola. It is best to drop Amendola if there are safer options on the wire.
Nate Washington – Most weeks, Washington is a low WR2, but against a physical Arizona secondary on tap, Washington will have a very quiet day. Washington had been the most consistent receiver on the Titans for a number of seasons, but with the emergence of Kendall Wright (PPR beast) and Justin Hunter (the past few weeks), Washington may soon find himself WR3 on the pass-conservative Titans.
Jordan Cameron – Despite disappearing for the better part of the middle of the season, after Brian Hoyer went down, Cameron is a MUST play this week versus the Bears secondary. The Bears may be good against the pass this season (top 10), but they will have to focus on Flash Gordon, leaving Cameron in one-on-one coverage against a smaller safety or corner. Start with confidence.
Zach Miller – Ah, such is the life of the Seahawks starting tight end: Show up to the party for two games, then go play hide and seek on the waiver wire. Seriously, just as Miller was looking like he was emerging as a consistent part of Wilson’s progressions, he goes poof. He is borderline fantasy relevant, even in 2 TE lineups.
Brent Celek – Celek seems to be developing chemistry with Foles, but with such scattershot results through his first seven years in the league, and a younger, more explosive and agile Zach Ertz, going forward, Ertz is the TE to own, not Celek. Celek may get more receptions this week, but if you must start an Eagles tight end this week, go with Ertz.
Lavonte David – The dude is the man, and playing every snap with a meanness and purpose. With 4 interceptions, a forced fumble, and a sack over the past 3 games, do not remove him from your lineup at all.
Demarcus Ware – Even with a bad QB and a run-heavy offense in Green Bay on tap, Ware is still a fringe play. Yes, Ware could always go gung-ho nuts and rack up 4 sacks and a forced fumble against Matt Flynn, but with injuries and age catching up to him, Ware is more likely to continue his quiet days.
Devin McCourty – A top corner the past three seasons, McCourty’s passes defensed and interception numbers have nose-dived this season to 6 and 1, respectively. Going down the stretch, do yourself a favor by benching him, and starting a more consistent option. He is likely to rebound next season, but in the playoffs, do not risk your fate be trusting McCourty this week.
Sleepers going down the stretch:
D.J. Swearinger (S), HOU
Jerraud Powers (CB), ARZ
Peria Jerry (DT), ATL
Cameron Hayward (DE), PITT
Jerry Hughes (LB), BUFF
That’s a wrap for the semi-finals edition of MLFS Playoff-style. Tune in next week for the Championship Round edition, which is sure to have some names that could easily make or break your championship hopes. Remember, defense is paramount in fantasy playoffs, so load up on defense and play your match-ups wisely. Contact: @MetalhammerBen; firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions on lineups.