In the fantasy football universe there is usually an unforeseen, season-altering injury that occurs right before your playoff run and either saves you from a juggernaut or halts your unstoppable force of a team. I was the benefactor of such wanton misfortune this past week when Andy Dalton tackled a man who had just intercepted him because, you know, that never ends badly for quarterbacks. Thanks to Dalton’s now-broken thumb I was able to pull off a first-round blowout that I had no business even being competitive in. If it was your team waving good-bye to Dalton this past week, find solace in the fact that Blake Bortles, fantasy demi-god and future face of the NFL, might still be waiting in the wings of your free agency pile just ready to take you all the way. Meanwhile, I left Gronkowski on my bench and am now behind the 8-ball for the second leg of my 1st seeded Hightower’s first round matchup. Anyway, we all know why you’re here.
Five Guys You Have To Start This Week
- Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs. Baltimore has given up the fourth-most passing touchdowns through 14 weeks of this season. Why are you still reading this? What else do you need me to say?
- Greg Olsen, Panthers. Olsen will be facing a Giants defense that has given up the third-most fantasy points to tight ends this season and Cam will continue dabbing so this is a done deal. Olsen is currently listed as questionable, but the Panthers are optimistic about him seeing the field this Sunday.
- Golden Tate, Lions. Way back when I could no longer take the strain of Golden Tate’s mediocrity on my heart, it seemed as though he would never be able to reclaim his Pro Bowl form of 2014. However, he’s been a PPR dream since Detroit’s bye week and has caught less than 7 passes just once in those 5 games. Also, take into account the “everyone is a Hall of Famer against New Orleans’ defense” principle that has played a major role in this year’s fantasy season.
- Ted Ginn Jr, Panthers. Let’s take a moment to appreciate my greatness here. Last week I urged you to hit that free agency market and pick up the much-maligned Carolina receiver. What happened next? Ginn went off for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Falcons, powering the Dough Babies to a 120-99 win over the Arendelle Snowmen.
- Blake Bortles, Jaguars. Just start the man. Bortles is fourth in the league with 30 touchdown passes and is marching Jacksonville towards the playoffs in his second year. Don’t waste your time with inconsistent veteran quarterbacks, the new wave is already here and it is slinging the ball all over the field. Ride with Bortles on a journey to more success.
Guys I Wouldn’t Start This Week Eh…
- Antonio Gates, Chargers. Over the years, Gates has been one of football’s most reliable tight ends both in fantasy and on the actual field. However, if you’re not playing in a PPR format there’s a higher risk than reward here with Gates. San Diego’s offense has been steadily sputtering, scoring only three points last week against Kansas City, and Rivers doesn’t have an elite receiving corps that will keep Miami focused elsewhere than Gates.
- Andrew Luck, Colts. I know what you’re doing. Watching the injury report, hoping Luck will return just in time to propel your team to a championship. It’s a trap! Andrew Luck is no longer the sure-thing of fantasy football and you will only get burned if you cannot accept this. Even if Luck is healthy enough to return this Sunday, Indy’s horrible offensive line will have no answers for J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Vince Wilfork all day.
- Demarco Murray, Eagles. If you’re holding on to hope that the Murray we saw in Dallas will revive himself, I’ve gotta tell ya that the playoffs is no place for that. Philly’s expensive free-agent back has eclipsed 100 yards rushing just once all season, and there’s no reason to expect that to change this week as he faces the fearsome Arizona defense. Not as long as Tyrann Mathieu is making tackles in the backfield.
- TJ Yeldon, Jaguars. The Jaguars have been pleased so far with what they’ve seen from the rookie out of Alabama, who might be Saban’s only back to arrive in the league with gas left in the tank. Yeldon sprained his knee and could possibly play, but I don’t believe Jacksonville is in any rush to throw him back out on the field.
- Shane Vereen, New Jersey Giants. Vereen was a guaranteed 10-catches and a touchdown guy in New England, but his production has suffered immensely since he turned his back on the team he won the Super Bowl with and jumped ship to a hated rival for more money. Or at least that’s how I understand it from the uh…reports. Anyway, Carolina’s defense is a dead zone for pass-catching back because of their quick, sure-tackling linebackers. Don’t expect Vereen to have very much to say about the outcome of this game.
Get To The Waiver Wire!!
- Denard Robinson, Jaguars. Robinson, in relief of the aforementioned Yeldon, pitched in 75 rushing yards and a touchdown to Jacksonville’s 51-point effort against the Colts last Sunday. He will likely be the featured back in their matchup with Atlanta, who has coincidentally given up the most rushing touchdowns in the league.
- Tim Hightower, Saints. A forgotten cog in the Redskins’ ever-frustrating running back stymie, Hightower is now in New Orleans receiving the carries that many believed would be awarded to CJ Spiller in the wake of Mark Ingram’s season-ending injury. 85 rushing yards and touchdown against Tampa showed that Hightower’s still got plenty left to give.
- Bilal Powell, New Jersey Court Jesters. Powell has come on as a major piece in the Jets’ passing game out of the backfield, grabbing at least five catches and a touchdown in the past two weeks. Powell will be a strong PPR flex this week against a Cowboys defense that has struggled with receiving backs all season.
- Bryce Brown, Seahawks. I’m not saying that Brown will be the guy to win it all for you, he’s been released by the Hawks twice before this season, but he could be a nice stash on your bench. If Russell Wilson’s success in the passing game continues, there should be plenty of open lanes for Brown to exploit.
- Brandon Bolden, Patriots. Bolden is stepping into a vastly increased role in light of LeGarrette Blount’s hip injury and Tennessee’s defense is the perfect place to do it, allowing a gaping four yards per carry through week 14.
This Week’s Tough Calls™
As we round this corner into the nitty gritty of the playoff season, I feel like these should be called Weekly Do or Dies just because of how important every decision you make is about to become. But of course we already trademarked Tough Calls™ and that was a long enough process as it is, am I right? This week’s Tough Call features two of our listed free agency stars, based on this text I received from my buddy Joseph yesterday, “Bolden or Hightower. This is for the ship.”
An important thing to take note of in this situation is that the role of both of these running backs could be determined by the performance of their respective defensive counterparts. Let’s start with Hightower. In the Saints’ victory of Tampa Bay, in which Hightower ran for 85 yards and a touchdown, New Orleans never trailed and led by a touchdown when the back got most of his work in. However, his one catch for 10 yards reveals that he won’t quite be a favorite target for Drew Brees. Should the defense find themselves outmatched against, say, an offense like Detroit’s, New Orleans may have to abandon the run early and leave Hightower out of its plans. Based on what we’ve seen from the Saints defense this year, it’s a safe bet that Matt Stafford and the Lions offense will not have a whole lot of trouble finding the end zone early and often.
In the case of Bolden, New England’s defense is coming off of a smothering performance against the Texans on Sunday night. Bolden should see a heavy workload against Tennessee if the Patriots are able take an early lead over Marcus Mariota’s squad. Not to mention that the Titans have been doing everything short of providing opposing running backs with an armed escort towards the end zone. Trust Bolden to carry you to whatever cash prize, bragging rights, or weird tattoo celebration that will come when you’re the last owner standing in your league.
Sob Story of the Week
A sob story on a day as joyous as this? No way, Jose! There’s no way I could possibly be down in the dumps today when I know that by 8:00 pm I’ll be embarking on a whole new Star Wars adventure after years and years of thinking it would never happen. That’s right, folks, it’s the opening day of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I will be there making Wookie sounds and fighting imaginary lightsaber battles! If you want a sob story, weep for Luke Skywalker who hit the peak of jacket fashion in the original Star Wars and could never keep pace with Han Solo in the two subsequent films. Now that’s something to be sad about.
Thursday Night Special
I would suggest that you try your darndest to avoid seeing any of this game in live action, but if you do not have a ticket to Star Wars: The Force Awakens or a group of friends invested in your life choices, you might get lucky and see Doug Martin and Todd Gurley go off. This will most likely be a classic 17-10 Thursday night game without a whole lot of flare or excitement. It may be safer not to start anyone playing in this matchup just because of what’s at stake if you’re still playing at this point in the season.
Somehow, some way, I have overcome the immense pain throbbing in my face region (something about sinuses, apparently) to bring you yet another season-saving edition of Fantasy Thursday. If the advice and suggestions here do aid you in winning your league, let us know! We’re always available on Twitter at @4thandgyas or in your friendly, neighborhood comments section!