One common phrase you hear from fantasy analysts come playoff time is “dance with the one that brought you.” In other words, the advice says to start the players who performed well for your team throughout the season now that we have reached elimination games. While I certainly appreciate the sentiment behind that advice and agree with it to an extent, I tend to draw my playoff wisdom from a decorative sign that you can find at your local craft fair: “Dance like no one’s watching.” Many will offer cautionary expressions like “don’t get cute!” when it comes to setting your playoff lineup, and to that I say “get cute if and when you want to be.” Stay with me here.
Look, there is no question you start your stud players each and every week even if it is not an ideal matchup; you simply have to trust in their abilities and take the good with the bad. I am not talking about that elite tier of players because, yes, you need to start them. However, I do not believe that you should feel obligated to start others on your roster just because they had a quality fantasy regular season. I think that playoff lineup decisions should be seen through the lens of “which player can help me the most for this [one-or-two-week] matchup?” and not “which player has the better overall body of work?” After all, you do not get any fantasy points for what happened in the past, so I am urging you to trust your instincts and disregard what others may think about your lineup decisions. Focus more on those who ended with a late-season surge (even if they started slow) and less on overall statistics. The fantasy playoffs are here, so take a deep breath, smile that you made it this far, and “dance like no one’s watching.”
* Players marked with an asterisk below can also be found in the priority waiver wire adds article referenced at the end. If anyone featured below is at risk of not playing or is relegated to a bench role late in the week, I will do my best to keep you all updated on Twitter (@BrandonMillerFB). All players below are under 65%-rostered as of 12/09/20.
*Cam Akers (RB, Los Angeles Rams)
The Rams take on an improved Patriots defense in the Thursday night game this week, so make sure Akers (shoulder) is active and, if you decide to start him, put him in one of your RB slots instead of your Flex (offers flexibility if others on your roster are ruled out). Sean McVay has expressed a desire to model the Rams’ rushing attack after that of Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers, which admittedly does not inspire confidence in Akers taking over as a true lead back this season. However, the talented second-round rookie has seen his role steadily increase throughout the year, peaking at a career-high 22 touches last week (21 carries, one reception) for 94 total yards and a rushing score in the second-straight game. Even if the Rams revert back to a more evenly-distributed committee approach, I see Akers collecting the majority of the carries alongside his role as the primary goal-line back in recent weeks (13 rushes inside the 10-yard-line this season). He is not likely to see much, if any, work in the passing game, but Akers is an emerging asset who could be a difference-maker for you team in the playoffs. Again, do not put him in your Flex slot, but I expect him to produce Flex-level numbers with low-RB2 upside this week.
*Adrian Peterson (RB, Detroit Lions)
I would not quite say that Peterson has found the fountain of youth at this advanced stage of his Hall of Fame career, but he has certainly found the endzone lately with two touchdowns in each of the last two weeks. With D’Andre Swift (concussion, illness) out of the lineup, Peterson has 15+ rushes the last two weeks, though his zero catches in that span make him a riskier play in PPR formats. Working in Peterson’s favor is an exploitable matchup with a Packers defense that is allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing RBs. There is certainly a possibility that the Packers get out to a lead and the Lions are forced to play catch-up, a scenario that would seemingly lend itself to Kerryon Johnson’s skill set, but Peterson will remain Detroit’s primary threat near the goal line. I see his touches ending up somewhere in the mid-teens with TD upside. Keep in mind, this is all assuming that Swift will be inactive this week, which would make Peterson a Flex option who is a higher priority in non-PPR leagues.
Other names to consider (in order): Gio Bernard (67%-rostered Yahoo, #1 priority if available), J.D. McKissic (49%-rostered Yahoo, #3 priority behind Akers if available), Devontae Booker (63%-rostered Yahoo, #4 priority if available), Jamaal Williams (low-Flex, high-end handcuff), Ty Johnson (if no Frank Gore), Zack Moss, LeVeon Bell (59%-rostered Yahoo), Ito Smith (if no Todd Gurley), Frank Gore (monitor concussion), Phillip Lindsay (monitor status, stash), Tony Pollard (high-end handcuff).
*Keke Coutee (WR, Houston Texans)
Before I get into this week’s pass-catchers, I have to mention a few WRs who I was frankly shocked to see under 65%-rostered. Those names that I would prioritize over this week’s featured WRs include Curtis Samuel (60%-rostered Yahoo), Cole Beasley (59%-rostered Yahoo), and Antonio Brown (65%-rostered Yahoo). With Will Fuller (suspension) now absent from the Texans’ offense for the rest of the season, Coutee provided a glimpse of what he can offer with a whopping eight catches on nine targets for 141 yards against a formidable Colts defense last week. While we can’t expect Coutee to produce such lofty totals every week, Houston’s options are limited in the passing game, so the volume should consistently be there if nothing else. The Bears are no longer the pesky matchup they were in the first half of the season as they have allowed two scores to opposing WRs in each of the last three games after giving up just two total through the first eight weeks. Coutee’s demonstrated rapport with Deshaun Watson offers the possibility for a strong finish to the season and I believe he can be a reliable Flex with WR2 upside in PPR leagues on weeks he finds paydirt.
Tim Patrick (WR, Denver Broncos)
Although touted former first-rounders Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant are the more recognizable names among Denver’s pass-catchers, Patrick has continued to stack up successful weeks and stake his claim as Denver’s most consistently productive receiving threat. Not including the fluky Week 12 “practice squad WR Kendall Hinton playing QB game,” Patrick has posted either 61+ receiving yards and/or a touchdown in seven of the last eight games he was active. He continued his bountiful run last week against the Chiefs, catching all four of his targets for 44 yards and two scores. Fantasy managers have clearly been hesitant to buy in to Patrick this season as he remains available in over 75% of ESPN and Yahoo leagues. It is a little puzzling to see so many hit-or-miss WRs on fantasy rosters heading into this crucial point of the season while Patrick largely remains waiver wire fodder. It is rare to find “can’t miss” fantasy options anywhere let alone in the free agent pool, and while I am not saying Patrick is a sure thing, his game log outlines a track record of reliability. Look for him to produce a Flex-level floor in the Week 14 matchup against the Panthers.
Other names to consider (in order): Curtis Samuel (60%-rostered Yahoo, #1 priority if available), Cole Beasley (59%-rostered Yahoo, #2 priority if available), Antonio Brown (65%-rostered Yahoo, #3 priority if available), T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr, Sterling Shepard (51%-rostered Yahoo), Allen Lazard, Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman, Nelson Agholor, Darius Slayton, Jakobi Meyers, Michael Gallup, Sammy Watkins, Russell Gage, Gabriel Davis, Jalen Reagor, Henry Ruggs III, Emmanuel Sanders, Laviska Shenault Jr, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Julian Edelman (stash).
*Logan Thomas (TE, Washington Football Team)
If it is high-usage and targets you seek from your TE position, Thomas is certainly a candidate to produce a nice floor for your squad in the postseason. In what was expected to be a tough contest against the vaunted Steelers defense in Week 13, he hauled in all nine of his targets for a season-high 98 yards and a touchdown. Alex Smith has loaded up on short-to-intermediate throws since taking over as Washington’s QB, and when he’s not targeting J.D. McKissic out of the backfield or Terry McLaurin on longer throws, Thomas has become his guy. He will once again draw a challenging matchup in Week 14 against the 49ers (least points allowed to the TE position this season), but his high-volume role should lead to several opportunities to put up respectable fantasy numbers. I view Thomas as a fringe/ back-end TE1 for the remainder of the year.
Other names to consider (in order): Dalton Schultz, Jordan Reed, Jordan Akins, Trey Burton, Cole Kmet, Jared Cook, Zach Ertz (stash).
Accountability is everything, so here’s a quick look back at last week’s recommendations
Benny Snell Jr (RB, Pittsburgh Steelers): One week after amassing 19 total touches, Snell saw just 10 in Week 13 as part of the Steelers’ surprising loss to Washington. He turned those opportunities into 10 total yards (five rushing, five receiving), so it is probably safe to say that Pittsburgh will be glad to have James Conner back in the lineup. Snell is not a must-hold by any means if there are enticing options available on the waiver wire.
Devontae Booker (RB, Las Vegas Raiders): It was far from an efficient performance, but Booker operated in a high-volume role as expected with 16 carries for 50 yards along with a one-yard catch. He figures to remain doing so as long as Josh Jacobs is out, though Week 14 could provide some tough sledding against the Colts defense. I still think Booker is fine to continue rolling out as a Flex option given the amount of work he gets in Jacobs’ absence and is bound to find the endzone soon considering how much he is on the field.
Frank Gore (RB, New York Jets): The process of starting the Jets RB1 was correct, but luck was not on your side if you started Gore last week. He was forced out of action early in the game with a concussion while backup Ty Johnson stepped in with 22 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 13 yards. It was a tough break, but Johnson may be able to help your team off the waiver wire in Week 14 if Gore is inactive due to the injury.
Corey Davis (WR, Tennessee Titans): Last week, Corey Davis showed fantasy managers why he should be rostered in leagues of all sizes. He finished as the WR1 overall in Week 13 with 11 catches for 182 yards and a score. He can safely be started as a WR2/ high-end Flex rest of season.
Allen Lazard (WR, Green Bay Packers): Lazard has yet to be fully unleashed since returning from mid-season core surgery, but he provided a decent three catches on four targets for 50 yards in Week 13. He saw his most snaps since returning from IR, a positive sign that he is heading in the right direction. I would not trust him in your starting lineup just yet, but the Packers have a solid schedule for the fantasy playoffs and I think Lazard is close to looking more like himself.
Trey Burton (TE, Indianapolis Colts): With just one catch for 11 yards on three targets, Burton disappointed in the final game of the regular season for most fantasy leagues. The two missed targets would have made his stat line look much better if they had connected, as he is still seeing valuable red-zone work. In the end, you simply cannot trust Burton in the fantasy playoffs now that all three Colts TEs are healthy.
Make sure to check out Myles Nelson’s priority waiver wire adds article every Tuesday for more insights on who you should be submitting claims for heading into each Wednesday. Good luck in the first round!
(Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire)