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And Down The Stretch They Come

Harry S. Truman once said, “

It isn’t important who is ahead at one time or another, in either an election or a horse race. It’s the horse that comes in first at the finish that counts.”

 

Just pretend for a second that you’re the owner of a horse, much like you’re the owner of your own fantasy team. It’s pre-race at the Kentucky Derby, and your horse is a heavy 50-1 underdog for the race, much like your fantasy team may be in the big picture of you winning your fantasy championship. What are you going to do to finish first at the end of the race, or at the end of your fantasy season?

 

Fantasy football, much like horse racing, isn’t always about how you start out of the gates; it’s about how you finish! At this point of the 2008 season you’re either scrambling to find better solutions via trade or free agency, or you’re sitting back with a frosty beer in hand enjoying the view from the top. This is where a little research is useful. Let’s take a look, especially for those who are scrambling, at some of the main positional players who may pay huge dividends down the stretch run.

 

Quarterback

Matt Ryan:

The Falcons rookie quarterback is already having a better rookie season than Peyton Manning had when he was named starter of a rebuilding Colts team back in 1998; at least record-wise. That should continue down the stretch as the Falcons continue to reach for an unlikely playoff berth. Of the nine remaining games for the Falcons, six are against teams that are ranked in the lower half of the NFL in pass defense, and of those six, four are against defenses that are allowing 115 yards or less on the ground, including two games against the pass-happy Saints. The Falcons could be fighting for their playoff lives down the stretch and will play five of their games in the comfort of the dome, so that could mean that Ryan could be throwing more than Michael Turner will be running.

 

Peyton Manning: 

The Colts have been
sputtering lately on offense, but don’t lose hope just yet.

  Yes, the Colts have

New England

and

Pittsburgh

on the schedule
the next two weeks, but use that as a negotiating point, because after that it
should be free sailing for Manning and company.

 
In week’s 11 and 12 Indy hosts

Houston

and is on the road
in sunny

San Diego

.

  The Texans are ranked next to
last (31st) in points allowed per game, and have also allowed a mind
numbing 20 total touchdowns through six games this season.

  The Chargers rank dead last in passing yards
allowed per game, and are allowing 23.1 points per game.

  In week’s 13 14, and 15 Manning gets to face
two under-achieving AFC North teams in the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati
Bengals, and the roar-less Lions— we all know the story behind that
team!

  The Colts finish the season on the
road against the Jaguars— which could turn in to a shootout if both teams are
in the playoff hunt until the end— and at home against the Titans— who
could be resting starters in that game if they clinch home field by week
16.

  Manning may be on the outside of the
top ten looking in right now, but by the end of the season he may

 be enjoying his own frosty beer as he sits
atop the fantasy world.

 

Others to consider:

Matt Schaub:

The Texans treacherous defense will keep the offense airing it out down the stretch. Schaub is just heating up!

 

Aaron Rodgers: 

If the Packers want the NFC North title they’re going to have to do it throwing the ball. Running back Ryan Grant puts the ball on the ground too often!

Running back

Adrian Peterson:

 

By now most fantasy owners were probably hoping that Peterson would be sitting at the top of the fantasy rankings, but don’t be turned off by his under-achieving overall fantasy performance this season just yet. Peterson and the Vikings have a schedule that actually favors what they want to do on offense down the fantasy stretch run. The next two games they host the 22nd-ranked Texans and 25th-ranked Packers run defenses, and that’s just the beginning! Week 11 may be the only hiccup in the schedule as the Bucs defense has been so good all season against the run. After that the Vikings are on the road against the 17th-ranked Jaguars run defense, at home against a Bears defense he just got done rushing for 121 yards and two touchdowns against, on the road against a Lions defense that is allowing 167.5 rushing yards per game, and at home two of their last three games, for which two of the opponents are allowing at least 21 points or more per game.  Peterson’s best stretch of games starts now, and while he may not see the same kind of success deep in to the fantasy playoffs, he has the favorable schedule and skills to get you to the playoffs.

 

Chris Johnson:

As if he’s not receiving plenty of high marks already, Johnson has one of the most favorable schedules of any player period. The Titans are already a dominant running team, yet they’ll get to play six of their last nine games against defenses that are allowing at least 111 rushing yards or more per game. And in Weeks 13, 14, 15 and 17, Johnson and the Titans’ potent rushing attack get to stampede the likes of these four teams:

Detroit(31st),

Cleveland(26th),

Houston(22nd) and

Indianapolis(28th). And even if they get in a defensive showdown with the Steelers in Week 16, Johnson and bruiser LenDale White still should be able to post above-average rushing numbers. The rookie is not going to come cheap, especially in dynasty/keeper leagues, but he will be well worth the high investment, and is a running back who could lead you all the way to fantasy gold.


Others to Consider

Ronnie Brown:

The Dolphins play the 49ers, Jets and Chiefs the last three weeks of the season.

Earnest Graham:

 

If Warrick Dunn can’t stay healthy on a weekly basis, Graham will get the bulk of the carries down the stretch! And I’m sure Mr. Ice is grinning somewhere in

Florida!

Kevin Smith

: The Lions won’t be playing for a playoff berth anymore, so the next best thing for the offense is to get Smith as many NFL touches as humanly possible.

Marshawn Lynch:

The Bills’ remaining schedule should favor their run-first mentality, and Lynch is ready to break out in a big way!

Wide Receiver

 

Steve Smith:

The Panthers star receiver is on his way back up to the top, and now is the time to trade for him. Smith has recorded at least 70 receiving yards and four receptions every week since his season debut in week three against the Vikings!  He’s recorded three 100-yard games and has been the consistent wideout fantasy owners have been waiting for since his unbelievable 2005 performance. No matter whom the opponent has been Smith has risen to the occasion and has ignited the Panthers passing attack once again. Yes, Smith won’t play this week, because the Panthers have the week off, but that could be good for the fantasy owner that is looking to acquire him from a team that needs help at any other position for the week.  Grab him now, for it may not be long before he peaks his head in to the top five.

 

Eddie Royal:

Amazing! It’s the only word that could possibly describe the value fantasy owners received when and if they took a chance on the Broncos rookie in the late rounds of their fantasy drafts. Royal has had his ups and downs, but has proven that he can be a play-making, overachieving fantasy and NFL wide receiver when called upon. The Broncos have a soft schedule from here on out including their divisional opponents in the Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers — all of which Royal recorded either 100 yards and-or a touchdown against earlier in the season. If opposing defenses continue to key on emerging star receiver Brandon Marshall and stop the Broncos weak rushing attack, Royal could see a lot of balls thrown his way down the stretch. He shouldn’t come at too hefty of a price due to the presence of

Marshall, but he isn’t going to come cheap either. Snatch him somehow now before it’s too late!

 

Others to Consider

Reggie Wayne:

If Manning steps up his game,

Wayne

will go with him to the top.  

Larry Fitzgerald:

 

He’s been Mr. Consistency with and without Mr. Boldin in the lineup thus far. What makes you think that will change?

Wes Welker:

 

He will continue to be his young backup’s favorite target, especially when the Patriots are fighting for the division and-or a playoff berth. He’s a PPR owner’s dream!

Donnie Avery:

 

The Rams have a soft schedule ahead of them, and they’ll want to continue to get the ball to Avery any way they can for his development to continue at a rapid pace.

“Remember that the horse that finishes a neck ahead wins the race.” -Unknown

If you have any questions, comments, or just want to talk a little strategy feel free to e-mail me at

e.huber12@yahoo.com.

Thanks for reading!  Good luck down the stretch run!

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FantasySharks.com began in 2003, disseminating fantasy football content on the web for free. It is, or has been, home to some of the most talented and best known fantasy writers on the planet. Owned and operated by Tony Holm (5 time Fantasy Sports Writer Association Hall-of-Fame nominee,) Tony started writing fantasy content in 1993 for the only three fantasy football web sites in existence at the time.