Peyton Manning :: Aaron M. Sprecher/Icon SMI
Now that at least 60 percent of all fantasy football players have tuned out, only the diehards and successful folks left, so I'm not going to waste your time talking about players you don't have and have no chance of getting. I will talk about general strategies that will help you in the final couple of weeks of the fantasy season:
1) Remain active on the waiver wire. Most leagues allow pickups until the final game is played, so don't be left in the dust by your opponents by napping on the hot pickups. Shed your roster of guys who have no chance of contributing (a la Willie Parker), those who have injuries that will keep them sidelined for the next two weeks (likely Michael Turner, Nate Burleson), and those who you've been stockpiling for a rainy day but have never used (are there any Dantrell Savage or Matt Leinart owners left out there?). In their places you should be stocking up on the likes of Quinton Ganther, Ariel Foster, Domenik Hixon and Garrett Hartley.
2) Check your D. Make sure that you've got the best possible defense. Hate to harp on this fact week after week but you can score a lot of points using a seemingly inferior defense in a good matchup. Case in point this week is the Seahawks, who have a tendency to take the ball away a lot and face the Bucs who not only have a proclivity to turnovers, but they don't move the ball or score well. The Bengals may have gotten you to this point, but facing the Chargers is not a way to maximize scoring potential.
Play your Colts and Saints this week, but just your Saints next week. Peyton Manning & Co. have their AFC path all sewn up, but now Jim Caldwell is saying that it's too early to rest his stars, especially for a full game. So Thursday in Jacksonville you can expect to see Manning, Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai and Dallas Clark get close to normal reps. Guys like Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon and Gijon Robinson also remain useful, although their values could take a hit when backup Curtis Painter steps into the pocket. New Orleans has a two-game lead with three to go, so they have a chance to clinch postseason home field advantage on Saturday against the swooning Cowboys. But don't expect Sean Payton to call off the dogs even if the Saints clinch. Representing a city that has been through such tough times in recent years, the onetime (and longtime) NFL laughingstock will do everything in it's power to achieve an historic undefeated season, to redefine itself and it's fans. So it's safe to keep the likes of Brees, Pierre Thomas, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Garrett Hartley and the Defense/Special Teams active until they lose. Should Dallas win, but New Orleans still clinches home field, then all bets are off.
4) Trust your instincts. You've gotten this far in the season because your players are good and your management skills are among the best in your league. When choosing who to start, go with what your gut tells you to do. I've tried to help folks set their lineups all season through Twitter and some of the best advice I've given came with little or no solid backup evidence, just a strong sense of what's likely to happen. Recreational fantasy football is more an art than a science.
This is going to be my last Clicks of the year so I wanted to give out my fantasy awards for the season. Without further adieu:
Fantasy MVP: It was a close race but I'm giving it to Drew Brees, who has rewarded those who were unable to draft a top-rated preseason running back with a prolific season.
Honorable mention: Chris Johnson, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Ray Rice
Breakout Player of the Year: None other than Baltimore's Ray Rice, who at this point in the season has gained nearly 1,700 yards from scrimmage and scored eight touchdowns. He was gold in PPR leagues.
Honorable mention: Vernon Davis, Sidney Rice, Miles Austin, New York's Steve Smith
Comeback Player of the Year: The Silver Fox of the 10,000 Lakes was nothing but a media mess for two years, but Brett Favre's tremendous season in leading the Vikings into the playoffs while ranking above Philip Rivers, Tom Brady and
Kurt Warner in fantasy points makes him the runaway winner in this category.
Honorable mention: Cedric Benson, Tom Brady, Joseph Addai, Steven Jackson, Chad Ochocinco
Rookie of the Year: Until migraines sidelined him for the last few weeks, Minnesota's Percy Harvin was as explosive a player as there was in the league, able to take the ball to the house whenever it was in his hands. Whether it was as a receiver, runner or return man, Harvin was the rookie to own.
Honorable mention: Knowshon Moreno, Johnny Knox, Ryan Succop, Hakeem Nicks, Austin Collie
Fantasy Team of the Year: Indianapolis Colts. Manning, Wayne, Garçon, Collie, Clark, Addai, Brown, the defense; the Colts were a wealth of fantasy producers who rewarded those who drafted them with great seasons. Thanks to Bill Polian, Jim Caldwell and the entire Colts family from the fantasy football community.
Honorable mention: Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings
I'm going to go on a short hiatus from the Twitter community due to the impending arrivals of two very special holiday gifts for my family (a real fantasy for my wife and me). Thanks to all of those who wrote to me for advice this season. It was fun and I'm glad I was able to assist when I could. Please check back next season on Twitter and the expected regular return of a new and improved SI Fantasy Football Extra with Richard Deitsch and me. Good luck and have a great offseason.