Fantasizing about the playoffs

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Many fantasy football playoffs kick off in Week 14, making this week a must-win for those looking to secure their postseason spot. There is nothing better than looking at the standings and knowing you are in, regardless of the outcomes this week. On the flip side, there is nothing more stressful for a fantasy owner than looking at the standings and knowing if you lose, the last 12 weeks were all for nothing. The irony of it all is that the control over your team's fate is in the real players' hands!

Week 12 saw many unlikely fantasy heroes, with guys like Trevor Siemian, Colin Kaepernick, Tyreek Hill, and Taylor Gabriel finishing among the top of their respective positions in fantasy points. Meanwhile, other players proved why you can't go by those projections from NFL.com, ESPN.com, or Yahoo.com.

Russell Wilson and Thomas Rawls reverted back to their play from the first few weeks of the season; Brandin Cooks left his owners posting fliers on message boards wondering if he had been kidnapped; just about every WR1 you can think of (except Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, and Odell Beckham Jr.) did little for their owners, even in PPR formats; and as if that wasn't bad enough, kicker Justin Tucker scored 23 fantasy points this weekend, putting him in the top 20 for ALL flex players in Week 12. A kicker… in the top 20 for flex players. That is why I refuse to project kickers!

Waiver wire looks - Kenneth Dixon, Marquess Wilson, Malcom Mitchell, and Taylor Gabriel.

Winners

Kirk Cousins – Redskins: The Redskins may have lost to the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but Cousins and his owners came away with a win. Cousins had a feast on Thursday, carving up the Cowboys secondary for 449 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. In fantasy terms, that is 50-plus points depending on your league scoring setup.

Scoring 50 points in a single week is about as rare as finding a $5 bill on the ground; it happens, but not often. For me, it was really not a shock since I told you on Thursday to start him because the Cowboys secondary is among the worst in the NFL. Hopefully you listened, because it would be a shame to see all those points wasting away on the bench.

Trevor Siemian – Broncos: Siemian isn't someone I think of when it comes to QB1's in the NFL, so I was a little shocked watching the Broncos/Chiefs game Sunday night. He was roasting the Chiefs for chunk yardage time and time again. In the end, the young QB finished with 368 passing yards, 23 rushing yards, and 3 touchdowns.

The Broncos/Chiefs division rivalry is a long and storied one. I'll be honest and say I thought this would be a running battle given the two QBs being more game managers than gunslingers. However, the Broncos did a great job exposing the injuries the Chiefs are dealing with in their secondary, and anyone brave enough to play Siemian this week found themselves holding a winning lottery ticket.

Kenneth Dixon – Ravens:Most everyone you expected to do well this weekend at RB did, so when a guy like Dixon finishes in the top 25 for fantasy RBs, I take notice. The Ravens have talked about wanting to get Dixon more involved going forward, but the increase in his offensive role hasn't been enough to really make much of an impact in fantasy terms. Until this week that is.

Dixon got 13 carries on Sunday, which he turned into 49 yards. Then he hauled in all 4 of his targets for another 31 yards, putting his total yards at 80 for the game. When you consider that Terrance West saw 13 carries and 4 targets too—but managed just 65 total yards out of them—I think the tide is turning in Baltimore at the RB position.

I wouldn't drop West by any means, but I do think his owners would be smart to handcuff him with Dixon right now, just in case.

Tim Hightower – Saints: Hightower is one of those players that you have to own, but you find it hard to play since he is technically the No. 2 RB in New Orleans. Mark Ingram had a career day, posting 146 rushing yards on 14 carries (10.4 YPC) and 2 touchdowns. Even with amassing numbers like that from Ingram, Hightower found time to give his fantasy owners 105 total yards and a touchdown.

Hightower is more of an all-around back to Ingram's one-dimensional hard-nosed running style, but the NFL is moving towards a 2-back system on a lot of teams now. Hightower makes for a fine flex play most weeks, and I wouldn't have a problem at all playing him as such to finish out the season. With him and Ingram splitting touches almost 50-50, his value seems to be pretty stable. 

Tyreek Hill – Chiefs: I kind of feel bad about Hill because I distinctly remember someone asking me about him via social media as early as Week 4, I think. I remember saying to pay him no mind because his role just wasn't clearly defined. I hope that person ignored me because Hill carved out a role for himself following the Chiefs' Week 5 bye, averaging 15.85 fantasy PPG in my personal league.

This week Hill had his best fantasy game of the season, scoring 33 points in leagues that count return yards. You see, Hill managed to catch 9 of 10 targets for 52 yards and a touchdown, and ran for another 10 yards. But it was the 114 return yards and another touchdown that really propelled him to fantasy greatness this week.

Hill is another one of those guys that you must own, but will find it hard to play unless you have a hole at WR or in the flex. If your lineup is set he's hard to predict, given his role.

Taylor Gabriel – Falcons: Did you know Gabriel has now scored 5 TDs in the last 4 games? What's more, his production didn't come in one or two games. No, he's scored in 4 straight games now! I kept thinking his streak would end, and he would go back to the abyss of nothingness from which he came. But that hasn't happened yet.

This week Gabriel tied Julio Jones for catches with 4, but turned those catches into fantasy points by amassing 75 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. Jones, on the other hand, was held to 35 empty yards on the day.

Gabriel's production is hard to ignore, but his role is too. He's listed as the Falcons No. 4 WR on their official depth chart, and does all his damage on screens where he can use his 4.28 40-yard speed to blow past defenders. He'll be a hot waiver wire add this week, but a hard guy to recommend as anything more than a TD-dependent flex play.

Jordan Reed – Redskins: Reed put in work against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, hauling in 10 of 12 targets for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns. It's pretty amazing that he did that considering he was diagnosed with a Grade 3 AC joint separation on Friday.

Bad wing and all (see what I did there), Reed was fantasy football's #1 TE this week. His status going forward still isn't clear, and his owners should be putting in a waiver wire claim for Vernon Davis as you read this. My guess is he will miss some time, but likely just a game or two.

New York Giants defense: The Giants were one of the defenses I recommended to people via email and social media this week because of their matchup against the winless Cleveland Browns. I also have to give them credit because they have been playing better defensively the past few weeks, posting fantasy point totals of 13 and 14 points in Weeks 10 and 11.

This week they allowed 13 points to the Browns, while piling up 7 sacks, 3 recovered fumbles, and 1 defensive touchdown. If you are in the playoffs, it would be a smart idea to go ahead and pick up the Bengals, Bills, Chargers, and the Steelers defenses. Plan ahead, because the Browns could very well go 0-16. On the bright side, the Cleveland Browns will finally know what it is like to go home without a loss on Sunday. They have a bye in Week 13.

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Losers

Russell Wilson – Seahawks:Wilson and the Seahawks had a prime matchup this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that has given up 247 points coming into this game. With an average of 24.7 PPG allowed, I was looking for Wilson, Doug Baldwin, and Thomas Rawls to end up in the winner's column, not the loser's column.

But, that is what they did after Wilson managed to throw for just 151 yards, no TDs, and 2 INTs. The 151 passing yards is the 2nd-lowest total against the Bucs all season, with Colin Kaepernick being the lowest back in Week 7 with 143. Wilson did add 80 yards rushing, but that wasn't enough to make up for the lack of touchdowns.

The Seahawks offense put up 3 points, while the defense put up 2 points (safety), making me want to jump off my roof, head first, after it was over. Wilson will bounce back in Week 13 against the Panthers, mainly because it realistically can't get much worse than it did this week. The Panthers secondary is terrible, and you have to figure Wilson and the Seahawks will have a chip on their shoulder after this embarrassing performance.

Sam Bradford – Vikings:Bradford is another QB that had a dream matchup this week, facing a Lions defense that has given up the 3rd-most fantasy points to QBs this season. Someone must have forgotten to tell Bradford that, though, as the Vikings QBs threw for just 224 yards, with no touchdowns and 1 INT.

He was without his No. 1 WR in Stefon Diggs this week, but that isn't an excuse for him not throwing the ball with the intention of gaining chunk yards. Bradford was 31 of 37 passing this week, which would normally result in a 300-yard game with multiple touchdowns. His approach to this game reminded me of a kids tee ball team where the best hit of the game was a seeing-eye single that made it to the outfield.

Matt Forte – Jets:Forte is one of those RBs I chose to put on my Do Not Draft list this season, more because of the Jets than him. The good news for his owners is he has been fairly efficient at finding the endzone this season, racking up 8 TDs so far. The problem is, this week wasn't one of them.

Forte managed just 27 rushing yards on 13 carries, putting his YPC at a putrid 2.1 on the day. He also chipped in 3 catches and 23 receiving yards, but that wasn't enough to keep him off the losers list. Forte has flirted with 100 yards rushing the past 3 games, and reached exactly 100 yards back in Week 7. But the 27 rushing yards has been an all-too-common theme this season, with Forte failing to reach 55 yards rushing in 4 games.

Forte is a well-rounded RB, but isn't used in the passing game with Bilal Powell taking that role for the Jets. He is becoming a low-end RB2, who only has upside IF he can score.

Thomas Rawls – Seahawks:Rawls was yet another Seahawks player that was a complete and total bust this week, but his struggles had more to do with the team playing from behind than his failures. Rawls finished with 38 yards rushing on 12 carries, but saw just 4 carries in the 2nd half with the Seahawks trailing. Once the Seahawks conceded the loss, they took Rawls' snaps and gave them to George Farmer.

Rawls will have better games, hopefully. The problem is I think fantasy owners put too much weight on him after the Seahawks released Christine Michael and anointed him the starting RB once again. Remember, Rawls has an average of 30.0 YPG rushing this season, and his best game was the 57 yards from last week. Fantasy owners will want consider him more a lower-end RB2 next week, than the RB1/2 they have been hoping for.

Brandin Cooks – Saints:Where to even begin with Cooks? Cooks did the impossible on Sunday, managing to not even draw a single target in a game in which Drew Brees threw the ball 36 times. Saints Coach Sean Peyton tried to put the goose egg performance on the Rams coverage. But Cooks isn't an elite NFL WR who requires you to draw up a game plan to shut him down. Brees just didn't look his way, and fantasy owners paid the price.

With Michael Thomas taking over as Brees' go-to WR, and Willie Snead hanging around just enough to vulture targets, Cooks is falling deeper and deeper into the WR2/WR3 rankings. Be aware, and beware.

Amari Cooper – Raiders:Cooper is one of those WRs that is getting the label of being truly boom or bust in fantasy, and reality. He has games in which he will reel in 12 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown; then he has games like this week, when he grabs 4 of 7 targets for 22 empty yards.

If you look at his numbers this season, Cooper is truly one of the more inconsistent WR1's in fantasy football. He's a must-start WR because he has 4 games with 100-plus yards. But he also has 5 games in which he failed to reach 60 yards receiving. Like all WRs and TEs, you have to take the good with the bad.

Rob Gronkowski – Patriots:Speaking of TEs and taking the bad, welcome to Rob Gronkowski's Week 12 performance. Gronk missed Week 11 after he suffered a lung/chest injury in Week 10. When the Patriots announced he would be active for Week 12, I immediately thought back to Weeks 3 and 4 when he was nothing more than a decoy.

Gronk lasted just a few plays before exiting with a back injury this week, leaving his owners with 0 receptions on 2 targets. He was seen walking very gingerly to the team bus after the game this week, making his Week 13 status murky right now. With the Patriots sitting at 9-2, they could elect to take it easy on him and limit his snaps to get him healthy for the NFL playoffs. Keep an eye on my social media for news and updates throughout the week.

Buffalo Bills defense:Bills fans like Nick Lewis from Facebook were all over Buffalo's defense this week because of their matchup against the Jaguars. I heard the term "blowout" mentioned more than once, and those "fantasy experts" over at those big-box websites were pumping the Bills as an elite fantasy defense this week. Well, that didn't work out so well for either party!

The Bills gave up 21 points to the Jaguars offense, while managing just 2 sacks, no INTs, and no fumble recoveries on the day. In the end, the Bills were the 23rd-ranked fantasy defense for Week 12. This just goes to show you that you should stop listing to people who I wouldn't trust with a potato gun in the middle of a war! The Jaguars DO score points, and the offensive line is coming together nicely!

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