Good morning Fools, from 39,000 feet en route from DFW to Orlando, where I will be working the media for the 2016 Road to Recovery Conference & Tribute, a life-changing, week-long, all-expenses-paid experience for nearly 100 combat-wounded veterans and their families. It's hosted by the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, a leading veterans service organization that I cannot say enough good things about. If you're looking for a group to support with your holiday donations, please consider the Coalition. See more here: saluteheroes.org.
Now, back to the important stuff: Week 14 of the NFL regular season and Week 1 of most fantasy league playoffs! I'm pleased to report that I have a bye in my big-money league, but I'll be duking it out today in my other league as the 3rd seed (despite scoring the most points during the season).
[Quick sidebar]: I think I've come up with the perfect tie-breaker for playoff seeding: See what your records would be if you swapped schedules. In the league where I'm the 3rd seed, I finished with an 8-5 record. However, had I played the same schedule as the two guys above me at 9-4, I would have been 10-3 and 11-2 respectively, and the 2nd-seeded team would have been 6-7! In other words, by sheer luck of the draw (randomized schedule), one guy is sipping fruity drinks by the pool today enjoying his bye while I'm fighting to make it to the 2nd round.
Well, every parent knows what to say next, right? Life's not always fair!
OK, enough about me. Let's take our usual spin around the NFL to find the news we can use to dominate in our first-round matchups:
Arguably the biggest news of the day is that Julio Jones will be a game-time decision with his turf toe injury. You may have read that the beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is saying that Julio will be "a decoy at best." That's obviously not what you want to hear if you're banking on Julio or Matt Ryan. It's almost always a terrible idea to sit your studs in a playoff contest, and I'm glad I don't have to make that decision. But depending on your other options, you need to consider benching both Julio and Ryan. (By the way, Mohamed Sanu has already been declared out, so Taylor Gabriel could be a very busy receiver today.)
Trevor Siemian appears to be on track to play, which is great news for both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Assuming their QB is active, don't hesitate to start either WR against the Titans' mediocre pass defense.
Doug Martin has been just so-so since returning from injury in Week 10. And now he'll have to contend for touches not just with Jacquizz Rodgers but also Charles Sims, who was activated by the Bucs yesterday. Not sure if Sims will be active today, but it's not a good sign for Martin in the stretch run. I'm benching him today (in favor of Thomas Rawls) and suggest you consider the same if you have a viable alternative.
Similarly, Rashad Jennings will get some more competition for carries as Shane Vereen is expected to rejoin the Giants backfield alongside rookie Paul Perkins. I'm no fan of Jennings to begin with, and this news only reinforces my view.
It looks like Kirk Cousins will be getting his favorite target back today as Jordan Reed is expected to play against the Eagles. Start him if you've got him.
Mark Ingram is also expected to be active and start as usual. Tim Hightower should be nowhere near your starting lineup.
Roughly 30% of fantasy teams still have Julius Thomas on their roster. But the oft-injured TE is once again on IR. Drop him (even in keeper leagues) and find someone who might be able to help you down the stretch.
Others confirmed or almost certainly out: Chris Ivory, A.J. Green and Dorial Green-Beckham.
And once again, there is uncertainty with the Pittsburgh kicker situation. Chris Boswell is still nursing an abdomen injury, which could lead to another fill-in game for Randy Bullock. It's probably best if you just look elsewhere for your kicking points, especially since the weather in Buffalo is forecast to be, well, very Buffalo-like.
Other games that could be adversely affected by the elements: Bengals @ Browns, Redskins @ Eagles, Seahawks @ Packers, Cowboys @ Giants and Cardinals @ Dolphins (wind/rain).
That's it for now. I'll have the inactives and other late-breaking news via Twitter shortly. Good luck, Fools!