FANTASY PLAYS: Playoffs add pressure, but stick to decisions
The fantasy playoffs are here with Week 14 serving as the first round in many leagues.
No matter your format, though, we're at the point where every fantasy matchup can put you closer to a title or end your season.
While these are the most pressure-filled decisions of the season, you should be confident in the processes that have carried you to this point.
Don't overthink lineup decisions and in most cases, you should go with your players who have been primarily responsible for taking you to the playoffs. If you have some very challenging decisions that are causing you fantasy stress, though, we help you work them out here.
JULIO JONES AND TURF TOE
A big decision this week could involve Julio Jones, who has a turf toe problem. All signs point to Jones being a game-time decision to play at Los Angeles. But how effective he can be is very uncertain, and there seems to be a risk that he could come out of the game at any time. This sort of injury makes it difficult for a player to plant and cut. But it's hard to keep Jones out of a fantasy playoff lineup if he is active, and he has battled through some other nagging injuries this season. If your only healthy alternative plays in the early set of games that begin at 1 p.m. Eastern, play it safe and don't use Jones. If you're able to wait, though, take the shot that he may be ready while you're able to fall back on someone else.
The Bengals get the winless Browns this week after coming off a fine performance at home against the Eagles. Cleveland allows 26 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers, second most among AFC teams. You can use Brandon LaFell as a third wide receiver or flex option this week, as he is Andy Dalton's second-best touchdown target behind Tyler Eifert. Rookie Tyler Boyd has some promise in point-per-reception formats to catch a good amount of passes and deliver at least respectable yardage totals. Dalton is also a viable start as well, especially if you have Marcus Mariota facing Denver or our next QB...
Colin Kaepernick was having a very nice run as a starting fantasy QB until last week, when he was totally handcuffed in the snow at Chicago and was benched for Blaine Gabbert. But he will be back in the San Francisco lineup this week at home against the Jets' 23rd-ranked pass defense. It's hard to have confidence using Kaepernick after he fizzled badly last week, even in a more friendly matchup. If you have a passer who has been more steady and reliable, or even a better pure passer with a good matchup like Dalton, stick with him.
49ERS VS. RUNNING BACKS
The 49ers are notoriously awful vs, running backs this season, allowing 27.7 FFPG to the position. Look for Matt Forte to rush for 100 yards for the first time in six games, and he will score for the first time in four weeks. You can also consider Bilal Powell as a flex play. The Jets can successfully ease some pressure on inexperienced QB Bryce Petty but running Forte often, and Powell gives Petty a safety valve to throw to when he is pressured or should avoid risks downfield.
The Buccaneers, winners of four straight, have a home date with the Saints, who have the league's second-worst pass defense. Jameis Winston is a top 10 QB this week and should trend upward again after throwing four TD passes in his past three games. TE Cameron Brate is a consistent TD threat. But avoid the Tampa Bay running game, as Doug Martin could see his carries scaled back, with Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims getting more involved, creating a committee situation you should avoid for now.
The Seahawks-Packers matchup should be one of the best fantasy games of the week. The Pack allow 18.2 FFPG to opposing QBs, so Russell Wilson is an obvious must-start. Naturally, Green Bay is very vulnerable to opposing WRs, as their 26.4 FFPG allowed is second-most in the NFC. Tyler Lockett is re-emerging as a big-play threat and can be started as your third wide receiver. Expect a big day from Doug Baldwin, and RB Thomas Rawls will perform well against a shaky Packers LB crew. Seattle is also without All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, though, so expect good outings from Green Bay WRs Davante Adams and Randall Cobb.
FALCONS RUSH DEFENSE
The Falcons allow 24.7 FFPG to opposing RBs, second-worst among NFC teams. That may make you consider starting one of the biggest busts of the season, Rams running back Todd Gurley. But Gurley has not rushed for 80 yards in his past seven games and has one rushing TD during that span. The Saints allow 24.2 FFPG to the position and Gurley had 50 rushing yards against them two weeks ago. He should stay pinned to your bench at this all-important time of year.
BLOUNT VS RAVENS
The Ravens allow a league-low 12.5 FFPG to opposing running backs, with just four rushing scores given up. But LeGarrette Blount has rushed for an NFL-best 13 TDs. So do you risk benching him based on the tough matchup? The sensible move is to keep him in there. New England has the second-best offense in the AFC and will continue to get him into position to score from short range. Reserving Blount may be an example of overthinking a lineup decision that could cost you in a fantasy playoff game.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com