And then, there were few.
The 2012 fantasy football playoffs are upon us, bragging rights, team management moxie and all the rest of what we are hoping to enjoy when Week 1 begins.
Even if you are on the outside looking in, there’s some consolation in winning fantasy football’s version of the NIT. As such, we have a list of crucial Week 14 fantasy football starters and benchwarmers to help you win either of those matchups:
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Get ready for an air show in the Big Easy this weekend. The New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers rank as the last and penultimate team defending quarterbacks (20 ppg and 18.6 ppg, respectively, against fantasy QBs). Drew Brees is an obvious must-start unless he’s not wearing shoulder pads, but this week you should give Josh Freeman an extra look.
Freeman hasn’t lit the world on fire over the past three weeks (10, 15, 16 points), but he rarely turns the ball over (3 interceptions, 1 fumble in his last 8 games) and the Saints are really good at giving up touchdown passes (27 allowed). As extra juice, Freeman’s Buccaneers are still playing for a potential playoff spot, so expect max effort from the Kansas State alum.
David Wilson, RB, New York Giants
If New York Giants running back David Wilson is still available in your league, you probably aren’t playing against MENSA members. Wilson has gotten a lot of publicity for gashing a really bad New Orleans Saints defense and taking a kickoff to the house (always a crowd pleasing event).
This week, Wilson’s value is somewhat dependent on Ahmad Bradshaw’s health, but with the Giants facing a near-equally bad Atlanta Falcons run defense (4.9 YPC against), he should get a few opportunities to stretch his legs on the Georgia Dome turf.
Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns
Finding the right sleeper wide receiver is a feast or famine process. More often than not, you’ll get a few scraps of points, but when you strike gold, it makes Thanksgiving look like a rushed workday breakfast. This week, it’d be smart to take a flyer on Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon.
Despite the enigmatic tendencies of his quarterback Brandon Weeden, Gordon has put together a decent stretch of games over the past two weeks. He notched 17 and 8 points against bad secondaries in Oakland and Kansas City. As luck would have it, he gets the Washington Redskins this week, who give up the second most fantasy points to wide receivers in the NFL (25.8 per game).
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is no longer a weekly must-start for anyone who has a decent backup. Romo is heading into the team’s Week 15 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers without Dez Bryant, and struggled last week against a good Cincinnati Bengals defense (12 points).
The Steelers are fourth in the league against opposing quarterbacks, and until last week, had given up fewer than 10 points to signal callers in five straight games. It might be hard to do, but sitting Romo might be your best option this week if your backup is someone like Colin Kaepernick or Josh Freeman.
Any New Orleans Running Back Not Named Darren Sproles
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10th rank against opposing rushers is a bit deceiving. Tampa Bay has allowed the league’s fewest yards on the ground from running backs (871), held Bryce Brown to just two yards last week, and are facing a Saints team that prefers to drop back anyways.
It’s likely Darren Sproles gets some extra attention from New Orleans this week, as the Buccaneers have had trouble defending pass-catching backs (6th most receiving yards allowed to RBs in the NFL). Otherwise, a sporadic Saints rushing attack is not likely to get any better against Tampa Bay.
Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
Since Week 3, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson has been more reputation than production. In the last 10 games, Johnson has capped 10 fantasy points twice, with just one of those performances coming in the last six weeks.
The Seattle Seahawks have a phenomenal secondary, capable of shutting down most elite wide receivers. Johnson is not in that class, and the Bills aren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut. Look elsewhere for wide receiver help.