Playoffs? Isn’t August too early to be thinking about the fantasy football playoffs? It’s never too early, if you want to win a fantasy title, to start thinking about the fantasy postseason. Consider this — if you draft well and make smart mid-season pickups, you’re likely to be in a great position to make the playoffs by the time December hits. But is that enough?
I say no! A spot in the postseason means little if you can’t win it all. December football should be ingrained into your head before you even step into the draft room. Is your potential starting quarterback on a great team in a weak division, where he may wind up sitting during your championship game with his team having nothing to play for? Does your potential No. 1 running back face a murderer’s row of front-sevens while your season is on the line?
While reading the rest of this article, keep in mind that I’m in no way suggesting you draft a mediocre player over a much better one at his position. Instead, if you see a potential playoff dud available to you at your pick, you may want to pass him by and plan on selecting a potential post-season star later in the draft instead.
Target: Josh Freeman, TB. Freeman shined in his second season, throwing 25 TDs and only six picks over the course of 16 starts last year. He also added a little bit of value with his legs, rushing for 364 yards (but no scores). He’s available to teams as a low-level QB1, and for the price, he’s worth it. In the critical Week 14-16 period which most fantasy playoffs are held, Freeman gets the Cowboys at home sandwiched between games in Jacksonville and Carolina. The stage is clearly set for him to close the season strong.
Avoid: Tony Romo, DAL. Romo may look like a great QB option after the Big Six come off the board, but things start to fall apart in the playoffs. He’ll face the Giants, Buccaneers and Eagles, three teams expected to have great pass rushes and all with good secondaries. He has a less than stellar career line against the Eagles already, with an 80.5 passer rating, a 59 percent completion rate and a 10:10 TD:INT ratio. Think that gets any better with Philly’s new look secondary?
Target: BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley, NE. The Patriots were a team in 2010 that often got a lead early and sat on it with the power running game of Green-Ellis. He was more productive in the fourth quarter than any other, with 73 carries for 336 yards and four TDs, and 151 of his 229 carries last year came while the Patriots were ahead. He should face similar situations in December, when the Patriots face the Redskins, Broncos and Dolphins during the fantasy playoffs. Make sure you grab Ridley too, just in case he usurps the role of closer from The Law Firm by the time December rolls around.
Avoid: Steven Jackson, STL. While games against the Seahawks and Bengals in Weeks 14 and 15 don’t look particularly scary, Jackson (if healthy) then has to square off against the unforgiving Steelers defense in the fantasy championship. These are the same Steelers that allowed just 62.8 rushing yards per game, and five rushing TDs all season last year. Furthermore, Pittsburgh should be fighting to stay ahead of the Ravens all season, meaning they’ll have plenty to play for at the end of the year. Do yourself a favor and let Jackson pass on by in the second round.
Target: Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards, SF. Always beset with injuries, Crabtree looks like he may be ready for game action by the beginning of the season, already creating fantasy value at his current draft position, which puts him in backup WR territory. Edwards signed on with the 49ers to take some of the pressure off Crabtree and give the 49ers a solid option if their top wide receiver needs to miss extended time. The pair of receivers open the playoffs with a solid matchup against Arizona before battling a tough Steelers defense. They then get to face the terrible Seahawks pass defense in the championship, which is quite a bonus for any owner gambling on their current draft value.
Avoid: Miles Austin, DAL. I personally think he has a ton of fantasy value with Tony Romo back under center, but things couldn’t look bleaker for him in December. His first opponent is the Giants, a team that second-best in the league against No. 1 WRs last year, according to Football Outsiders’ awesome DVOA metric. He’ll then face the Buccaneers, a team ranked sixth in the same system. If he survives those two weeks, he’ll be up against Nnamdi Asomugha and the Eagle secondary. Because of those matchups, he’s highly unlikely to be on my team this year.
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