Guess who backed into the playoffs? That’s right, with the No. 6 seed, is yours truly. My reward? I get to face Ladainian Tomlinson this week. Great, super, glad I made it.
I’ve been trying to decide how to tackle a playoff edition of the Nuthouse. In my league, once the playoffs start, rosters are locked. So you can’t pick up a Cedric Houston or a Jerious Norwood if they are available. I also considered that most Sharks probably haven’t been changing their lineups much at this late stage of the season. Maybe a change of a WR2 or 3 or a TE change, but nothing drastic. As the saying goes, you dance with the girl that brought you.
Thus what I’ll try to do in this column is look at some “bench guys” – players who are not your regular everyday fantasy starters – who you should look at putting into the lineup if you have an injury or feel that you are outgunned. These are for this week, and may or may not apply to the entire playoff run.
Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland: Hines Ward will be out again this week; and could be shut down for the season. Nate Washington is now the No. 1 receiver, and led the way last week with 78 yards receiving. The Steelers’ next two opponents (Carolina and Baltimore) can stop the run, so Washington should pad his stats down the stretch, especially if its garbage time. For Cleveland, it’s Joe Jurevicius. Pittsburgh is hurting at the safety position and a Derek Anderson start is possible for Cleveland. Joey J is the kind of receiver a young QB will look to in between taking shots to Braylon Edwards. While Steve Heiden was poaching Kellen Winslow’s TDs, it was Jurevicius who led Cleveland with 75 yards receiving.
Minnesota vs. Detroit: As you should already know, if Chaz Taylor can’t play, it will be a combination of Ciatrick Fason and Mewelde Moore. Fason took the majority of carries, and the Vikings would like to see exactly what they drafted in the young back. This will be amplified if Brooks Bollinger replaces Brad Johnson. You could expect a lot of swing passes for those in PPR leagues. Sharks already know about Mike Furrey, so I don’t need to explain.
Oakland vs. Cincy: Justin Fargas may have had a good day last week against Houston, but Cincy’s defense has been playing at a high level. Plus Fargas gets looks taken away from him by Cowboys cast-off ReShard Lee! I’m reaching here, how about Randal Williams if you absolutely, positively need a tight end?
NYG vs. Carolina and Philly vs. Washington: These games do not have any under-the-radar guys. If DeAngelo Williams and Ladell Betts weren’t owned in your league, then your league stinks and you should punish the other owners for being stupid.
Atlanta vs. Tampa: Jerious Norwood should not be available most leagues. If he is, then he’s a solid playoff pick-up. He gets a modest amount of carries and reception opportunities, along with the added bonus that if the team tanks, he’ll see those touches increase as the coaching staff “takes a look.” An Atlanta collapse may also mean a Matt Schaub sighting, which could boost numbers for Michael Jenkins. Listen, Atlanta’s receivers are bad, but it’s easier to catch an out pattern when it’s not one-hopped to you.
Baltimore vs. KC: Another reach for the Ravens is Mark Clayton, who has already bettered his reception total from last year. He’s a viable WR3 or 4 prospect, especially next week against Cleveland.
New England vs. Miami: Another guy who may not be available is Reche Caldwell, who has picked up steam with 239 yards receiving in the last three games. Whatever happened to Doug Gabriel, anyway? Also remember that Caldwell has a match-up with Houston in Week 14. You should already know about Sammy Morris for Miami. I doubt he’s available. Does Marty Booker qualify here?
Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville: If Matt Jones has been dropped in your league, now’s the time to take a shot on him. The Jaguars running game should have success against Indy and Tennessee, which opens up play-action passes and red-zone opportunities for Jones. Although his season numbers are putrid, he still averages more than 16 yards a catch.
Tennessee vs. Houston and Green Bay vs. San Francisco: Yuck. Uh, is Vince Young available? Probably not
Seattle vs. Arizona: Marcel Shipp is back! Three touchdowns! Will he serve as a Brandon Jacobs-like poacher down the stretch? Will Edgerrin James pack it in for the rest of the season and give him more carries? This could be a bonus for RB-starved teams.
Buffalo vs. NYJ: Josh Reed returned to the Bills lineup with 4 catches for 50 yards. Excited? Hey I’m trying here. I mentioned Cedric Houston at the top, and he should have been picked up by all Leon Washington/Kevan Barlow owners. If not, snatch him immediately. He will play a featured part in the Jets push for a playoff spot.
Denver vs. San Diego, New Orleans vs. Dallas, and Chicago vs. St. Louis: Everybody of importance is owned on these teams.
Boy, that got excruciating toward the end, didn’t it? But what can you do? One man’s trash can turn out to be another treasure. You never know what can happen with a key injury down the stretch, or a coach resting his starters. Remember to have all of your running backs handcuffed, and look over your respective waiver wires for any drops that you might have missed during the past couple of weeks. Good luck!