Monday, December 21, 2009
Week 15 column: Redemption is sweet for several fantasy stars
This weekend we were reminded that timing can be everything in fantasy football, particularly when it comes to single-elimination playoffs.
Last week, as most leagues kicked off their postseason tournaments, Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers delivered their worst statistical performances of the season, while Ben Roethlisberger put up a stinker against the Browns. I know I wasn’t the only owner sunk by Warner’s debacle last Monday night, and countless others were doomed by Rodgers’ and Big Ben’s ill-timed swoons.
Randy Moss fumbled his only reception of last week’s game and sulked the rest of the way. Warner’s troubles contributed to meager outings by both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Reggie Wayne was a dud.
What a difference a week can make. (Just ask Wade Phillips.) Those who managed to advance to the second round despite disastrous performances from key players (or a serendipitous bye), were treated to some world-class rebounds from last week’s goats.
Big Ben pelted the Packers’ third-ranked pass defense for a career-high (and near-NFL record) 503 yards and three TDs. Rodgers nearly matched him point-for-point, passing for 383 yards and combining for four scores of his own. Amazingly, neither gunslinger turned the ball over.
Warner’s rebound wasn’t nearly as dramatic, but his 233-yard, 2-TD, 1-INT effort against the Lions would have made the difference for many of us a week earlier.
Meanwhile, Moss, Fitzgerald, Boldin and Wayne proved that you can’t keep an elite wideout down for long, and you’re playing with fire if you bench them after a disappointing effort.
Those vying for championships next week should keep that in mind before chasing points from this weekend’s shooting stars. Career-bests from the likes of Joe Flacco, Maurice Morris and Mike Wallace are unlikely to be approached again this season.
Don’t out-think yourself when it’s all-or-nothing time. Saddle up your horses and prepare to ride them all the way to the winner’s circle. If they come up lame, well, there’s always next year.
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. Filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. At this stage of the game, however, the pickings are slim. Hopefully your team is strong enough that you don’t need to juggle your lineup for Championship Week.
Catch 'em while you can
Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns. I recommended him in this space two weeks ago as a solid bet to produce in tasty matchups with the Chiefs and Raiders in Weeks 15 and 16. Little did I know he would leap ahead of Jim Brown in Cleveland’s storied record book with a 286-yard, 3-TD shellacking of Kansas City. If he’s still available (and he is in roughly 90 percent of leagues), you’ll love what he does against Oakland next weekend.
Don’t be fooled
Michael Bush, RB, Raiders. He took advantage of an unexpected opportunity when Justin Fargas injured his knee early against the Broncos, rushing for 133 yards and a score on 18 carries. But Fargas could be back in the lineup next week, and Darren McFadden (74 yards on 12 carries) is still in the mix as well. There’s too much risk associated with this three-headed monster to pin your title hopes on them.
Michael Turner, RB, Falcons. Some people never learn. Once again, Turner returned too early from his ankle injury and proceeded to aggravate the sprain after a single carry. Now that Atlanta is out of playoff contention, Turner is unlikely to suit up again this season. And even if he does, well, you should know better.
Josh Cribbs, WR, Browns. With all due respect to Harrison, Cribbs is the most explosive weapon in the Browns’ arsenal. But he’s the ultimate boom or bust fantasy player. If he doesn’t deliver as a kick returner, he’ll likely leave you with next to nothing due to his limited offensive touches. His two kickoff return scores on Sunday doubled his touchdown production as a receiver for the season.