The fantasy playoffs are nigh. Here are some intriguing statistics from Week 13 and elsewhere that might help you win some games in the coming weeks.
1. Russell Wilson: 23/37, 293 yards, 2 touchdowns; 9 carries, 71 yards at Chicago Bears
At this stage in the game, Wilson is a hole-plugger in your fantasy lineup unless you are in a 16-team or two-quarterback league. But can he be more?
Wilson has steadily improved this season, eliminating mistakes and keeping his team in contention offensively. He has rewarded his fantasy owners with some nice outputs despite some tough matchups, finally getting into the act on the road where he had a rough time earlier in the season.
The rookie gets nice matchups against Arizona and Buffalo to open up the fantasy playoffs before a tough one against San Francisco in championship week. If you are playing quarterback roulette, he could be your lucky No. 3.
2. Bryce Brown: 24 carries, 169 yards, 2 touchdowns; 4 receptions, 14 yards at Dallas Cowboys
There is a party in Philadelphia’s backfield, and LeSean McCoy owners aren’t invited.
Brown has been a terror to opposing defenses in McCoy’s absence, torching the Panthers and Cowboys for 347 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. He unfortunately had three costly fumbles, but Andy Reid has assured us all he would not bench Brown because of a few turnovers. (Of course, this is the same Andy Reid who told us Michael Vick would be the starting quarterback when healthy, which is no longer the case just one week later.)
There is a chance McCoy could return before the season is over, which would rain on Brown’s parade. The Eagles may well just let Brown take the reins the rest of the way with nothing to play for, though. The real issue is for keeper or dynasty owners of McCoy; can Philadelphia keep Brown off the field next season? Part of McCoy’s value came from the fact he was the lead back in Philadelphia; that may no longer be the case.
3. Brandon Myers: 14 receptions, 130 yards, 1 touchdown vs. Cleveland Browns
Things did not look promising for Myers heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Browns. Cleveland had given up the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends to that point, and the game was supposed to be played under torrential rain. We forgot about garbage time.
Myers did a lot of damage as the Raiders played catch-up, and he scored his touchdown in the waning seconds of garbage time. Considering the volatility at the position, though, he might be one of the more consistent options out there as the season hurtles to the finish line. Not even Jimmy Graham is scoring consistently nowadays. (See below.)
4. Michael Crabtree: 7 receptions, 101 yards at St. Louis Rams
The 49ers did not put up much of an offensive fight against the Rams, who play tough against their division rival for some reason. Crabtree did not get into the end zone this time, but he did not have a bad day either.
A week after laying a fantasy egg against the porous Saints defense, Crabtree bounced back with his second 100-yard performance of the season. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster season for Crabtree and his fantasy owners, but he has certainly been better than anticipated.
5. Jacquizz Rodgers: 8 carries, 43 yards; 2 receptions, -4 yards / Michael Turner: 12 carries, 83 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 7 yards vs. New Orleans Saints
More of these shenanigans? A promising week turned disastrous for anyone bold enough to start Jacquizz Rodgers as Michael Turner broke a long run and remained in for much of the game while Jason Snelling cut into Rodgers’ snaps.
The Falcons did not get the ball to Rodgers once in space against that sieve-like defense, electing instead to run him inside and avoid throwing the ball his direction except on consecutive check-downs in the fourth quarter.
It seems like we are destined for aggravation with this backfield until Turner is put out to pasture. When that will happen is anybody’s guess.
6. Mikel LeShoure: 81 carries, 286 yards, 6 touchdowns; 6 catches, 46 yards over the past five games
What to do about LeShoure? On the one hand, he has been one of the more consistent options in recent weeks, failing to score at least 10 standard fantasy points just once against Minnesota. On the other hand, he is averaging just 3.5 YPC in that span and his production has been heavily touchdown-dependent.
If the touchdowns dry up, he will quickly become a bane to his fantasy owners.
7. Tony Romo: 22/27, 303 yards, 3 touchdowns vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Before you get too excited about Tony Romo’s performance last week, remember that it came against a hapless Eagles defense, where tackling is apparently optional in the secondary.
He has benefited by Dez Bryant’s blossoming, a nice schedule and an overtime game over the past several weeks. The schedule toughens up a bit over the next two—yes, the Bengals were horrid against the pass earlier this year but they have been better as they have gotten healthier—before an incredibly tasty matchup against the Saints in fantasy championship week.
8. DeMarco Murray: 23 carries, 83 yards, 1 touchdown; 4 receptions, 19 yards vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Once again, this should be taken with a grain of salt considering his opponent, but the Eagles have not been terrible against the run this season.
It was, however, a great performance when you consider this was Murray’s first action in quite some time. We were not sure how effective he would be coming back from injury, and Felix Jones had done an admirable job in his stead. Murray was spry in his first action back, though; he looked as good as he did before the injury.
9. Doug Baldwin: 4 receptions, 46 yards at Chicago Bears
It has been a while since Doug Baldwin was healthy. Now might be his chance to shine in 2012.
Last year’s receiving leader for the Seahawks has not benefited much from Russell Wilson’s presence, mostly because Sidney Rice has been healthy and Golden Tate has finally emerged after a disappointing career. Baldwin finally had a decent game against the Bears, of all teams, and he might be heating up at the right time.
Rice was knocked out cold with a concussion as he caught the game-winning touchdown pass. Most players have missed at least one game after being concussed, and getting completely knocked out does not bode well for Rice’s playing time in the next week or two.
10. Drew Brees: 28/50, 341 yards, 0 touchdowns, 5 interceptions at Atlanta Falcons
Thursday night marked the first time Brees breached 300 yards passing in six games, a bit of a shocker considering his prowess throwing the football. His fantasy scores were all fine to that point, though, because he had thrown at least two touchdowns in the previous five games.
Last week, it came crashing down.
Perhaps he is crumbling from the weight of carrying the offense all these years, or maybe losing Sean Payton is finally catching up with him. In reality, he should be fine through the fantasy playoffs; Brees had a similarly bad game last season and bounced back right away.
11. Mike Thomas: 1 reception, -1 yards vs. Indianapolis Colts
Ryan Broyles tore his ACL against the Colts, ending his rookie campaign in unfortunate fashion. You might think this would lead the Lions to give Titus Young one more shot, but they are having no part of him the rest of the season.
That leaves Mike Thomas as the de facto No. 2 receiver in Detroit, an enviable position for any receiver as he lines up opposite the unstoppable Calvin Johnson. Thomas scored a touchdown in his Lions debut, but he was held to negative yardage in a pretty good matchup against the Colts. Considering his history—yes, the Jaguars offense resembled a Pinto, but Thomas was not part of the solution—you might want to think twice before spending a waiver claim on him.
Of course, Stafford is running out of options, so Thomas might have enough volume to be productive from here on out.
12. Jimmy Graham: 14 receptions, 121 yards, 1 touchdown over the past three games
If you saw that stat line for Jimmy Graham, you would have little trouble believing it was for one game. Indeed, Graham caught seven passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns against the nemesis Falcons in their first meeting of the year. Lately, though, things have not been so good for the talented tight end.
It seems like the Saints have gone away from featuring Graham in recent weeks. For whatever reason, his target count has slipped—he has had six in each of the past three games—and he is not being targeted downfield much. Maybe opposing defenses have figured out how to take him away.
At any rate, it’s not like you can bench Graham; he goes as Drew Brees does, and we expect the latter to bounce back in a big way.