Fantasy Football: Time to get into the playoffs

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Nov 23, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy (27) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway (52) and defensive tackle Linval Joseph (98) during the third quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Packers defeated the Vikings 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports ** Usable by BS, CT, DP, FL, HC, MC, OS, HOY, CGT and CCT **

For a number of fantasy football players, this is the final week of the regular season and the playoffs are starting. Hopefully, your team has already clinched a playoff spot and you're just working on positioning. But maybe you're already in playoff mode, essentially playing a win-and-you're-in game today.

If you're in the latter scenario, it's a good idea to go all in with lots of upside plays on your roster, or guys you can pluck off waviers. Here's a few players I'd roll with that could give you top 5 upside. (I'm not going to list QBs and Kickers, mainly because there are no lesser owned quarterbacks with great matchups that give you that big upside, and kickers, well, just pick a kicker with a decent offense and go with it.)


Running back: Daniel "Boom" Herron, Indianapolis. He's become a hot commodity after starting over Trent Richardson last week — and likely doing so again this week. Washington has actually been pretty tough on opposing running backs fantasy-wise, but Herron has essentially inherited the Ahmad Bradshaw role in the Colt's offense. With the Redskins likely focusing on not letting Andrew Luck beat them deep, Herron could find running room and room catching passes underneath.

Wide receiver: Charles Johnson, Minnesota. He's available in more than 80 percent of leagues as of Saturday and looks like he's becoming Teddy Bridgewater's favorite option, with 9 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown the last two weeks on a team-high 18 targets the last two weeks. The Carolina Panthers are pretty poor at defending receivers. Johnson played on all but two snaps last week, so the opportunities are there.


Tight end: Tim Wright, New England. Outside of teammate Rob Gronkowski and Saints TE Jimmy Graham, its been hard to find consistent options at the postion. In Wright's last seven games, he's scored a touchdown in five of them, including two last week. On the other hand, he's had two games where he didn't record a single target. The Patriots shift their base offense week-to-week based on match-up more than any team in the league, so it's hard to say how they plan to attack the Packers. Still, he's available in more than two-thirds of leagues and is a good possibility to get in the endzone as long as he gets a target or two.

Defense: Minnesota. Available in more than 65 percent of leagues, the Vikings pass rush can get after opposing quarterbacks and the Carolina offensive line is atrocious. Cam Newton's escapability could potentially negate that as far as sacks go, but it could lead to a few turnovers. I like the Vikings as a streaming option more than the more popular New York Giants at Jacksonville, just because the Giants aren't very good and are on the road, two big no-nos for me when streaming defenses.

Vegas oddsmakers have four games with over-unders 50 or above this week, meaning lots of points are expected in several of the NFL's marquee games this week.

I think everyone is expecting that to be in the case when the Patriots travel to Green Bay, and quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are every week locks, along with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy and Rob Gronkowski. You can fire up Pats WR Brandon LaFell here too and Julian Edelman in a PPR.

I've been saying it's a Shane Vereen week for the Patriots the last two weeks, only for it to be Jonas Gray and LeGarrette Blount weeks (although Vereen was fine in a PPR both times). If you can figure out the Patriots RB carosel, you must be Bill Belichick. Vereen is at least going to get touches in a PPR, but who knows who gets the goalline carries.

For the Packers, I do think Davante Adams, who hasn't been a great play this week, is a good bet to get in the end zone.

Regarding the Saints and the Steelers, TE Jimmy Graham, QB Drew Brees, WR Antonio Brown and RB Le'Veon Bell are must-starts. Even with Brees' road woes, he should throw all over the Steelers suspect secondary.

Likewise, QB Ben Roethlisberger returns to Heinz Field where he threw 12 TDs in his past two home games. I don't expect that kind of historical run again, but like Brees, he's better at home. Consider him a top 6 option at the position today.


Mark Ingram could be a disappointment. The Steelers are pretty good against the run and Ingram's value is getting sapped with the return of Pierre Thomas, who is a nice go in a PPR.

Kenny Stills for the Saints and Martavis Bryant for the Steelers are nice WR3 options, especially in leagues that give bonuses for long touchdowns. Both are explosive. Marques Colston and Heath Miller are not at this stage of their careers, they are both dice rolls you hope get into the endzone, otherwise, both are probably looking at 3-45 statlines.

No surprises in the Denver vs. Kansas City match-up: Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Jamaal Charles are all good to go as usual. TE Julius Thomas, if he plays, is must-start and Broncos RB C.J. Anderson has emerged as the match-up proof top 10 option a lot of experts expected Montee Ball to be in the preseason.

Everyone seems to want more out of Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, but he's top 10 at the position for the season. Denver is actually giving up a lot of points to tight ends, so all signs point to a start, but he's disappointed with good match-ups before.

Don't start a Chiefs WR. They haven't scored all year. Yes, eventually, that streak will end, but it'll probably be someone like Junior Hemingway, not Dwayne Bowe. I'd start TE Anthony Fasano before a Chiefs WR at this point if I'm just looking for a touchdown.

The 51-point total is a bit perplexing for the Redskins at Colts matchup, but I guess the oddsmakers are expecting an Indy blowout, or Redskins sort of new QB Colt McCoy providing a spark. Andrew Luck and TY Hilton are must-start for the Colts, obviously, and Alfred Morris is running well for Washington.


'Skins WR Pierre Garcon seemed to do OK with McCoy in the lineup previously, and DeSean Jackson should be good for a couple big plays. Both are WR3s, though.

Colts TE Dwayne Allen, if he returns to the lineup, is a nice play. If he doesn't, I still can't trust Coby Fleener after last week's disappointing performance. For Washington, Jordan Reed probably plays, but so will Nile Davis. Good luck if you're starting one of them.

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster should be back from his groin injury this week, and he's got quite the juicy match-up with the Tennesee Titans, among the worst against running backs. Hopefully, he's fully healthy and ready to roll. If not and he sits again, Alfred Blue becomes must-start. Blue might still get 10 to 12 touches if the Texans don't want to overwork Foster, so he could be a flex option even if Foster is back. I've got no love for the rest of the Texans offense outside DeAndre Hopkins. Sadly, Andre Johnson, even in a PPR, might be droppable at this point. I want nothing to do with anyone on the Tennessee Titans offense this week except TE Delanie Walker.

Baltimore's defense is money in the bank at home, and the Chargers, especially Philip Rivers, have struggled traveling west to east with a 1 p.m. start. However, Baltimore's secondary is beatable and sophomore Keenan Allen seems to have gotten back on track. I'd be OK with him and Malcolm Floyd as low-end WR2 plays. TE Antonio Gates is starting to show his age, but again, the position is so thin, you pretty much have to start him. RB Ryan Mathews is nicked up again already against a good run defense. I just can't pull the trigger on him this week. For the Ravens, Justin Forsett is the only guarantee, and WRs Torrey and Steve Smith are OK options at WR3. I'm not feeling anyone else.

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon returned with a top 12 performance at the position last week and should continue to do so. Both backs in the Browns platoon are getting enough work to be fantasy relevant. Isaiah Crowell is getting the goalline touches though, so he's preferable to Terrence West. For the Bills, rookie sensation Sammy Watkins still seems to be hurt and will draw Joe Haden. He's got too much upside to bench, but I'm not very confident in a top 25 performance. RB Fred Jackson is a decent start, although the Browns are playing better against the run than earlier this year.

QBs Andy Dalton (Bengals) and Eli Manning (Giants) have good matchups against Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, but ... ugh. Neither make my top 12 at the position. Bengals backs Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard had the exact same number of touches last week, 19, and both were effective. Each saps value from the other, but both are very startable.


Raiders RB Latavius Murray will sit with a concussion this week, but that's probably a good thing. A lot of people probably would've started him in a bad matchup against St. Louis. Hold him for the playoffs though. A sneaky play for the truely desperate would be Marcel Reece, the Oakland back who has come through for fantasy owners in year's past whenever called upon. Sneaky flex play in a PPR.

I really like streaming the Rams defense this week. Unlike his older brother, Raiders QB Derek Carr has actually been pretty adept at avoiding sacks. But so was Peyton Manning, and the Rams got after him in a big way in their last home game.

With RB Jerick McKinnon out, you'd think Ben Tate would get some work. But last week, it was Joe Banyard who got the work. Avoid the Vikings backfield like the plague, even with a great match-up against Carolina.

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington should be able to get right against Atlanta. He's been struggling a little bit on the ground, but the Falcons are among the worst defending backs and they also give up about 5 catches a game. Arizona might be without Larry Fitzgerald, so John Brown gets a nice boost. I still don't trust Michael Floyd.

Falcons WR Julio Jones is the only player on the team I trust in my fantasy lineups, and I don't even feel great about that. QB Matt Ryan has really struggled this year, so even playing at home has me concerned.