As I say this time every year, I hope you haven’t scheduled your championship game for Week 17, unless you just enjoy playing without your Patriots, Panthers, Broncos and others with little to nothing at stake and who will inevitably be resting their stars in the finale.
But for those vying for a playoff berth, it’s crunch time. And by crunch time, I’m not referring to the sound Tony Romo’s shoulder made when he was slammed to the turf and millions of Cowboys fans threw turkey legs at their TVs.
This is the time of year when true fantasy heroes emerge.
Though it took him a while to get in gear, Adrian Peterson is justifying the first overall draft pick that many of us made him – or would have, had we had the opportunity.
Eddie Lacy and C.J. Anderson have apparently decided to remove their names from the list of “Bust of the Year” nominees. LeSean McCoy is stepping up his game, too; but Matt Forte has finally met a backup in Jeremy Langford that can match his running and receiving prowess.
On the heels of three consecutive “meh” weeks, A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson served notice that they are still elite receivers, even in tough matchups. T.Y. Hilton, Sammy Watkins and Jeremy Maclin likewise reminded us of their game-changing abilities.
As for Dez Bryant, well, there are worse occupations than multi-million-dollar decoy.
Tom Brady may have left Denver a loser on Sunday night, but he proved that only boneheads will bench him against even the fiercest of defenses.
Meanwhile, Matt Stafford, Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson have earned our trust back – at least when facing generous opponents – while Drew Brees picked a rotten time to break his 45-game TD-tossing streak. (He may merit a spot on your bench this weekend against Carolina, but Brees’ schedule softens up nicely during the fantasy playoffs.)
Yet it’s the tight ends that stole the spotlight this weekend, for all the wrong reasons. Rob Gronkowski has apparently avoided a season-ending knee injury, but Jimmy Graham didn’t. Tyler Eifert also left the Chiefs game with a neck stinger, but he is not expected to miss any time.
It’s just another reminder that things change quickly around here. To the vigilant – and the lucky – go the spoils.
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.
Catch ‘em while you can
David Johnson, RB, Cardinals. He could be the last man standing in Arizona’s backfield after Chris Johnson bruised his knee and Andre Ellington injured his toe on Sunday. The rookie has flashed his potential, scoring seven TDs this season as a rusher and receiver, and he could finally get his opportunity to shine if the others are sidelined.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks. Inconsistency is his middle name, but Baldwin and his quarterback are heating up at the right time. With Jimmy Graham lost for the season, Baldwin should continue to see a healthy number of targets. Don’t expect another career game from the veteran wideout, but he is clearly established as Russell Wilson’s go-to receiver, and that’s not all bad.
Scott Chandler, TE, Patriots. He’s no Gronk. Heck, nobody else is Gronk. But if Rob Gronkowski misses time due to his painful, but not-as-bad-as-it-looked knee injury, Chandler will inherit a prominent role in New England’s injury-riddled receiver corps. Though he’s unlikely to see a high volume of targets, Chandler is a serious red zone threat that merits roster consideration.
Don’t be fooled
Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers. I was high on Wheaton when the season began, but he failed to take advantage of his opportunity while Martavis Bryant served his four-game suspension. Before you get excited about Sunday’s 201-yard, one-TD performance, remember this: Wheaton amassed a grand total of seven receptions for 45 yards over his last five games – including a minus-2 yard effort in Week 9.
Seth Roberts, WR, Raiders. At this point in the season, you’re really not planning to start the No. 3 wideout in Oakland, right? As sharp as Derek Carr has looked for much of the year, his third option is anything but reliable. Remember Andre Holmes’ big day in Week 8? Right. You’ll forget Roberts’ big Week 12 in a couple weeks, too.