Fantasy Football Forecast: Playoff Fever
Every week we'll break down the movers, shakers, winners and losers in fantasy football, and keep an eye out for the players you should be eyeing for your fantasy rosters.
As we plunge towards the heart of winter, you can smell it in the air -- the crisp, cold scent of playoff football. Fantasy playoff football, that is. Chances are your league is already in the thick of it in the playoffs, and to aid you in your championship drive, we're going full throttle into week 15. Here you'll find nothing but the choicest of picks, as we look at late-blooming players who may not only be free agents in your league, but perhaps the topping on a winning sundae.
But first, let's take a quick look around the league and reorient ourselves before we make our picks:
The Week 14 Debrief:
1. MFFF's picks = We might actually be getting the hang of this. Whenever you pick 20 players to break out over the span of two weeks, you're going to happen upon some clunkers, but after a shaky week 13, we hit on some humdingers last week, with TE Martellus Bennett, RB Vick Ballard, RB DeAngelo Williams, QB Nick Foles and WR Josh Gordon all having good or better-than-good days. Hey, batting .500 works in the major leagues, so we're declaring that it works here, too.
2. The playoff chase = good news for fantasy owners. Often by week 15 you'll encounter teams who have already clinched playoff seeding and might sit their stars for a game or two, which adds an extra element of danger to fantasy forecasts, but this year every playoff contender is still jockeying for seeding, with #1 seeds Atlanta and Houston in precarious position after bad losses this past weekend. The bottom line: if you have starters from contending teams, play them with confidence.
3. Don't overthink things. Just to pull an example from MFFF's own fantasy team, we benched Carolina WR Steve Smith, who has been consistent if unspectacular this season, in favor of Seattle WR Golden Tate, who has been spotty but also has put up some impressive weeks thanks to improving QB Russell Wilson. So what happens? Smith cracks 100 yards while Tate has a measly 6 yards in his team's blowout win. If you've made it this far, you must be doing something right, so stick with what got you here.
Week 15: 10 Fantasy Pick-ups
Detroit RB Joique Bell
He's been erratic this year, but he's emerging as a solid third-down passing back and a change of pace for starting RB Mikel Leshoure. He faces an Arizona defense this week that can be tough at home, but it's the same defense that was run over by Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch last week to the tune of 3 TDs.
Jacksonville RB Montel Owens
Welcome to the big leagues, Montel -- with every other Jacksonville RB dinged up, Owens was rushed into starting duty last week and picked up a very creditable 91 yards and 1 TD. Unless RB Maurice Jones-Drew makes a surprising return to starting duty, Owens should be the man for this week, at least.
New York Jet RB Bilal Powell
He's still splitting carries with RB Shon Greene, but Powell has a nose for the end zones, as his 4 TDs in his last four games can attest.
Oakland WR Rod Streater
With nearly 200 yards receiving these past two games, Streater's star has risen as fellow WR Denarius Moore's has faded. TDs may be hard to come by with Oakland's anemic offense, but he should be a yardage machine.
San Diego WR Danario Alexander
Alexander continued his late-season surge against the Steelers last week with 2 TDs, and he gets another home game this Sunday against a leaky Panthers secondary.
St. Louis WR Brandon Gibson
Gibson has had a real roller-coaster season, as he's been forced to share the spotlight with fellow WR Danny Amendola and Chris Givens from week to week. He's a risky play but if you're in desperate need of WR help he's worth a gamble.
Philadelphia WR Jason Avant
With WR DeSean Jackson on IR and rookie QB Nick Foles elevated to starter, Avant's stock has suddenly risen in recent weeks, with his first 100-yard game last Sunday against the Bucs. While he draws a tougher assignment against the Bengals this Thursday, Philly's offense has been humming for a month now, and shows no signs of slowing.
Philadelphia TE Clay Harbor
Speaking of Eagles taking advantage of a teammate's absence, Harbor is in line to start this week with an injury to starting TE Brent Celek, and he certainly performed well last week with 52 yards and a TD.
The Titans have been far from impressive this season, but now they go up against a Jet team that has scored a whopping 24 points in the last two games. New York is stubbornly sticking with QB Mark Sanchez as the starter, which means that there will be opportunities for turnovers.
Wild Card: Washington QB Kirk Cousins
This is certainly a game-time decision, as QB Robert Griffin III may get the start this Sunday against the Browns, but if he can't suit up, Cousins has proven in limited duty that he can move the team, and with WRs Pierre Garcon and Joshua Morgan getting hot, don't be surprised if the red-hot Redskins' offense continues its scoring pace.
Got a specific question or need advice on fantasy football this week? Sound off in the comments section below.