The fantasy playoffs are finally among us. Or should I say, already among us?
It is true, the fantasy season has once again flew by, and the stress will worsen. Unless you have a first round bye, owners are in a win or go home scenario and have to win. So, let’s get into the first playoff edition of Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down.
Before reading: This column features players that that you are on the fence about starting. You will not see obvious names such as Arian Foster or Drew Brees.
Thumbs Up: Quarterbacks
Josh Freeman vs Philadelphia Eagles: Freeman has really emerged into a legitimate low end QB1 for fantasy owners this year. He has the sixth-most passing touchdowns in football (23) and has had multiple touchdown games in seven of his last eight contests. The Eagles, meanwhile, have allowed multiple passing touchdowns in every game since their Week 7 bye. I like Freeman’s odds of succeeding this week.
Andrew Luck vs Tennessee Titans: It is no secret that Luck has been better at home rather than on the road. In fact, he is throwing for 307 yards per game with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Titans have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks on the season. This defensive unit has also allowed multiple touchdown passes in nine of 12 games this year. While Luck may throw some interceptions, the rest of his numbers should cancel them out.
Matt Schaub @ New England Patriots: Schaub has actually been very productive in fantasy land as of late. Over the last three games, he has 8 touchdowns to go with a ridiculous 1,049 yards. This week he gets the Patriots, who are the 29th ranked passing defense and allow a ton of yardage.
Phillip Rivers @ Pittsburgh Steelers: There is no question that you cannot trust Rivers in your fantasy playoffs, especially this week. Rivers has thrown just one touchdown over his past two games and will have difficulty throwing one on Sunday against the Steelers number one ranked pass defense. They have allowed just 13 touchdowns all year, while Rivers has only thrown 18. Sit Rivers, no question.
Ryan Fitzpatrick vs St. Louis Rams: I may be a Bills fan, but Fitzpatrick is an awful start this week. He will be without his starting center Eric Wood and the Rams pass rush is one of the best in the NFC. They have given up the 13th-fewest fantasy points to signal callers and have two very good corners.
Thumbs Up: Running Backs
Ahmad Bradshaw vs New Orleans Saints: Bradshaw’s fantasy value sky rocketed after Andre Brown went down with a broken leg. On Monday Bradshaw posted his first 10o-yard rushing game since Week 6. This week he gets the worst run defense in all of football. The Saints are allowing a ridiculous 154 rushing yards per game and allowing the second-most fantasy points to running backs.
Steven Jackson @ Buffalo Bills: A major disappointment in the beginning of the year, Jackson has been productive as of late. The weather in Buffalo will be cold and rainy, which means a lot of running the football. Jackson should have no trouble doing so, as the Bills are allowing the 5th-most fantasy points to runners, as well as a league-high 16 touchdowns. Expect S-Jax to be heavily involved come Sunday.
Knowshon Moreno @ Oakland Raiders (Thurs.): Moreno has gotten a ton of work since being named the starting back. He has had back to back 24-touch games and a great matchup is on track for Thursday night. The Raiders have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs this season so roll with Moreno, as long as you don’t suffer from Thursday night anxiety.
Reggie Bush @ San Francisco 49ers: While Bush is slowly starting to get his touches back, he may need 100 to put up good fantasy numbers this Sunday. We all know how good the 49ers defense is, allowing the least fantasy points to runners in 2012. But not only that, they have only allowed three rushing touchdowns all season long. I’d be hard pressed to rely on Bush for my fantasy playofs.
Ryan Mathews @ Pittsburgh Steelers: I have supported Mathews’ talent all year but enough is enough. The guy just doesn’t get it done. He has scored just one touchdown all year and has really only had one good game. Don’t expect that to change this week, as he faces the Steelers, who have allowed the fifth-least fantasy points to running backs.
Thumbs Up: Wide Receivers
Marques Colston @ New York Giants: Colston has cooled off in recent weeks but has a great chance to set fire on Sunday. The Giants are allowing the 6th-most fantasy points to wide-outs and Colston historically plays well against them. In fact, in three career games, Colston has 281 receiving yards and two scores. Get him in your lineup.
Demaryius Thomas @ Oakland Raiders (Thurs.): Thomas has been one of the best fantasy wide receivers this season, ranking in the top five in points. He has posted double digit fantasy points a whopping 11 times on the year and could easily make it 12 on Thursday night, The Raiders are allowing the 7th-most fantasy points to receivers and Thomas tallied 103 yards on them in Week 4.
Randall Cobb vs Detroit Lions: Cobb has easily been the waiver wire darling of the year. A guy who wasn’t drafted in majority of leagues ranks among the top 15 wideouts in fantasy. This week, with Jordy Nelson nursing a bad hamstring, Cobb should be the main target in the passing attack. Last time Cobb faced the Lions, he burned them for nine receptions and a score.
Larry Fitzgerald @ Seattle Seahawks: Most people would say that as bad as he’s been, it’s hard to sit Fitzgerald. However, I find it quite simple. His last three games? One catch for 23 yards, 3 catches for 31 yards and one catch for 11 yards. That is sickening. Of course, having a somewhat decent quarterback might help, so you can’t blame Fitz. However, you can’t start him in fantasy either.
Denarius Moore vs Denver Broncos (Thurs.): Moore was someone on many fantasy radars earlier in the year but has been awful lately. In his last three game, Moore has caught just four balls. He may not catch many on Thursday night, as the Broncos are allowing the 8th-fewest fantasy points to wideouts. And oh by the way, they have a certain someone named Champ Bailey too.
Thumbs Up: Tight Ends
Brandon Myers vs Denver Broncos (Thurs.): With the state of the tight end position as it is, Myers has been awesome. The Raiders offense as a whole may be terrible, but Myers hasn’t. He is coming off a monster 14-catch, 130-yard, one touchdown game and is easily the most targeted option from Carson Palmer. Thursday night, Myers may be the only appealing player on the Raiders, as Denver is allowing the third-most fantasy points to tight ends.
Owen Daniels @ New England Patriots (Mon.): Daniels has been the other biggest waiver wire acquisition this season. Monday night is a big matchup, as both teams look to grab the number one seed in the AFC. Daniels should be a key part of the offense, as he has been (28 targets in last three games). The Pats have allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends and the second most receptions so Daniels could be in line for a monster game.
Martellus Bennett vs New Orleans Saints: Bennett bounced back big time on Monday night, posting 82 yards and a score. He was also targeted seven times. Expect that trend to continue against the Saints, who have allowed 321 yards and four touchdowns to opposing tight ends over the past four contests.
Brandon Pettigrew @ Green Bay Packers: Pettigrew has been pretty inconsistent this year. While he will certainly see more targets after the loss of Ryan Broyles and Titus Young, I’m not sold he will produce. I mean, the guy has been one of the most targeted tight ends all year and has done nothing. Also, Green Bay is allowing the 6th-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, so I don’t like him this week.
Antonio Gates @ Pittsburgh Steelers: Gates has seriously struggled over the last three games, posting a combined 79 yards. He is no longer the fantasy option we all loved (and feared when playing against him). This week, you should fear to start him. The Steelers are allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this year and only Jordan Cameron has scored against them since Week 6.
Thumbs Up: D/ST
Seattle Seahawks defense vs Arizona Cardinals: Any defensive unit that faces the Cardinals is easily a must start. Yes, the awful Ryan Lindley will not be starting anymore. Instead, it’ll be John Skelton again! Woopty-doo. The Seahawks should have a field day going against a team with no offensive line, no quaterback, oh, and Seattle is at home where they are tough as nails.
Pittsburgh Steelers defense vs San Diego Chargers: Clearly I like the Steelers defense, as I have told you to sit multiple Chargers. Opposing fantasy defenses have scored 10 or more fantasy points over the past three games against the Chargers. And with the high volume of turnovers that Phillip Rivers makes, the yellow towel may not be the only thing terrible at Heinz Field.
Houston Texans defense @ New England Patriots: The Texans defense is clearly an elite fantasy option this season. They are coming off an impressive 22-point performance on Sunday but don’t expect those numbers on Monday night. Tom Brady and company have an explosive offense and have surrendered the fewest fantasy points to opposing defenses.
Cincinnati Bengals defense vs Dallas Cowboys: The Bengals defense has been terrific in fantasy land as of late, posting double digit fantasy points over the last four games. However, I’d look elsewhere for this week. The Dallas offense has been explosive lately, scoring 38, 31 and 23 points over their last three contests. Tony Romo is red hot and they have DeMarco Murray back. Don’t expect double digits this week from these cats.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy football columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.