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The Weekly Barometer – Week 13

When should the playoffs of a 12-person fantasy league be held, and how many teams belong? It’s a question that will never reach a consensus even though there’s obviously only one right answer: four teams in a single elimination format played in Weeks 15 and 16. One part nearly everyone with a remotely functioning brain seems to agree on, is not having the championship in Week 17, what with so many teams pulling their starters.

Beyond that, the real debate is whether 4, 6, or 8 teams belong in the playoffs. Let’s get the latter out of the way now, because when 8 teams make the postseason, you’re practically getting rewarded with a playoff berth for paying the entry fee and setting your lineup every week. If ever there was a more damning indictment of the participation trophy-receiving Millennial generation, fantasy leagues that let two thirds of the owners into the playoffs is it. We are then left with a 6-team playoff over Weeks 14-16 with the two top seeds getting first-round byes. Half the league making the playoffs is still too many, and bye weeks stink because playing fantasy football is way better than a bye week.

So, if your commish didn’t drop the ball on the settings, your 12-team leagues should have two weeks left in the regular season. Since trading advice is off the table in the vast majority of leagues and since Week 12 had a bizarrely high number of outlier performances, I’m going to try something different with this week’s Barometer. This will be more like my preseason “Should You Draft Him?” articles. Only a handful of fantasy teams are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, and even less have already clinched spots, so I’m going to look at these players, ask the simple question of “Will he lead you to the playoffs?” and give a simple yes or no.

Quarterbacks


Peyton Manning

(Week 12 at New England: 150 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT)

I’m much more worried about the Broncos as a real-life team than I am about Manning as a fantasy asset. Sunday night, he looked about as susceptible to weather as a quarterback could possibly be. Assuming the Broncos get the No. 1 seed, how confident can you feel about their Super Bowl hopes when a title requires winning three winter games; two in Denver and one in the Meadowlands. As for fantasy, there’s no justification for ever benching him and you know that.

Will he take you to the playoffs?
Yes


Tom Brady

(Week 12 vs. Denver: 344 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 1 lost fumble)

Finally having a healthy, diverse group of receivers has made
Tom Brady

look a lot more like
Tom Brady

. He’s put up huge numbers in two of his last three games, and his 13 fantasy points against the Panthers was actually respectable, seeing as how they give up single-digit points to quarterbacks on average. I’m usually wary of making strong recommendations based on only a few games, but weighed against the body of work that is every season of Tom Brady’s career since 2001, I would confidently start him the next two weeks against the middle of the road defenses of Houston and Cleveland.

Will he take you to the playoffs?
Yes


Colin Kaepernick

(Week 12 at Washington: 235 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 20 yards rushing)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:
Colin Kaepernick

is having one of the most matchup-susceptible seasons ever for a quarterback. In three games against bottom-10 pass defenses he’s scored 30, 27, and 23 standard league points. In his other eight games he’s passed for all of seven touchdowns. If you own him in a Yahoo! league and the font for his matchup is green, you can start him with confidence. If not, keep him benched. It’s that simple. The font for the Rams and Seahawks, his next two matchups, most certainly is not green.

Will he take you to the playoffs?
No


Carson Palmer

(Week 12 vs. Indianapolis: 314 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT)

A fully healthy
Larry Fitzgerald

and two meetings with massively struggling AFC North opponents have worked wonders for Palmer. He’s topped 20 standard league points in his last two games and has a good road matchup at Philadelphia for next week. But the facts are this: Palmer doesn’t have a single three-TD game this season, he can’t run, and he has a 16:15 TD-to-INT ratio. Starting him is risky and the potential yield isn’t as great as you might think. If I’m in a must-win scenario for Week 13, I wouldn’t be able to pull the trigger on starting him.

Will he take you to the playoffs?
No



Josh McCown

(Week 12 at St. Louis: 352 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 4 yards rushing, 1 lost fumble)

He hasn’t been spectacular, but
Josh McCown

has done far better than could be reasonably expected. It helps to have significantly above average receivers and a system that doesn’t require a quarterback to have outstanding physical talent, but McCown has performed admirably nonetheless. He probably doesn’t have 30-point upside, but over the next two weeks he faces the Vikings and Cowboys, who have allowed the most and third-most points to quarterbacks, respectively. McCown isn’t a top-5 start or anything, but if the quarterback you drafted was a bust and you’ve been living off the waiver wire at the position for most of the season (like me!), McCown is a darn good stopgap as long as Cutler is still out.

Will he take you to the playoffs?
Yes

Running Backs


Benny Cunningham

(Week 12 vs. Chicago: 109 yards, 1 TD)

There’s not much to say here. The Bears have a horrendous run defense, but Cunningham ran well and will be the primary back if
Zac Stacy

misses time with his concussion.
Isaiah Pead

and
Daryl Richardson

aren’t serious threats for work. If Stacy is okay, Cunningham will be nothing but a handcuff. He’ll be a good one, but still just a handcuff.

Will he take you to the playoffs?
Maybe


Ray Rice

(Week 12 vs. Jets: 30 yards, 1 reception for -3 yards)

That’s what I get for showing confidence in
Ray Rice

. After a huge performance at Chicago that made us think that maybe, just maybe, his issues were behind him, he goes and lays yet another egg. Well, I’m going to double-down on a bad investment and say that he’s a good start the next two weeks. Both are home engagements against poor rushing defenses. You’re not going to enjoy starting him, but you know he’ll get around 20 touches. A score of touches against poor rushing defenses isn’t the kind of opportunity that falls from the sky. It stinks, but most teams don’t have a better option for that second RB slot.

Will he take you to the playoffs?
Yes


Maurice Jones-Drew

(Week 12 at Houston: 84 yards, 1 TD, 6 receptions for 60 yards)

Just cut and paste everything I said about
Ray Rice

. MJD had a good Sunday while Rice had a bad one, but everything else is the same. MJD also has two matchups against less than stellar competition, and he’s also a lock for somewhere around 20 touches. He probably won’t maximize the opportunities, but it’s great that so many opportunities are there.

Will he take you to the playoffs?
Yes


Ben Tate

(Week 12 vs. Jacksonville: 1 yard, 5 receptions for 26 yards)

That one rushing yard came on seven carries. Gary Kubiak’s backfield usage is based much more on politics than who is actually best for the job. It was evidenced by
Arian Foster

getting way more work early in the season despite being outperformed by Tate, and it was evidenced Sunday when Tate had only two less touches than
Dennis Johnson

, even though Tate was banged up and missed huge chunks of practice. The Texans being a total disaster combined with inexplicable usage makes any Houston rusher impossible to trust.

Will he take you to the playoffs?
No


Chris Ogbonnaya

(Week 12 vs. Pittsburgh: 26 yards, 2 receptions for 15 yards, 1 fumble lost)

He may have fumbled away his chance at a feature role. He has the most upside in Cleveland’s backfield, especially in PPR leagues, but even with his sterling 6.3 yards per carry, the talent gulf between him and his colleagues isn’t enough to forgive two lost fumbles in his last two contests. I wouldn’t fault you if you plugged him in as a desperation start next week against Jacksonville in PPR leagues, but
Jerome Harrison

circa 2009, he is not.

Will he take you to the playoffs?
No


Steven Jackson

(Week 12 vs. New Orleans: 63 yards, 1 TD, 3 receptions for 16 yards)

The next two matchups aren’t particularly favorable, his longest run against the Saints went for nine yards, and his rushing TD (his first of the season) was a routine one-yard plunge that either of his fellow RBs could have also easily scored. He had his best fantasy point total of the year, but I saw no reason to think he’s turned a corner.

Will he take you to the playoffs?
No


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