After all the draft moves, waiver wire pickups and roster tinkering, the fantasy football playoffs have finally arrived.
Where has all the time gone?
Well, you’ve assembled your playoff roster and now all that is left is putting together the winning team for the next three weeks or so. So in this column, I will address some certain players who have advantageous matchups while also pointing out the players who may find the sledding tough this weekend.
Here then are this week’s playoff start and sits.
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Josh McCown, Chicago Bears
With Jay Cutler sidelined at least one more week, McCown is an excellent streaming option since he has another fantastic matchup this week.
After lighting up the Vikings to the tune of 355 passing yards and two touchdowns (zero interceptions) last week, McCown and the Bears face another weak pass defense in the Cowboys this Monday night. The Cowboys allow 295 passing yards per game (31st in the NFL) while giving up 22 touchdowns (tied for 21st in the NFL) through the air.
The game will likely be won in the air, and with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett for weapons, treat McCown as a top-10 quarterback and an advisable start this week.
DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
While he has been a tad inconsistent, Murray is coming off a fantastic performance (63 rushing yards and three touchdowns vs. the Raiders on Thanksgiving) and has a juicy matchup to exploit this week.
This week Murray and the Cowboys will travel to Chicago to take on the wretched Bears’ run defense. The Bears are giving up a league-high 153.6 rushing yards per game and have allowed 15 scores on the ground (29th in the NFL).
With the Bears allowing such woeful rushing statistics, expect the Cowboys to try and establish the run game early with plenty of carries for Murray.
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
While he’s had an up and down rookie season and also having to share rushing duties with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bernard still possess explosive playmaking abilities and when the matchup is right, he can make for an excellent start.
Such is the case this week.
This week Bernard and the Bengals will host the Colts, who can beat on the ground. The Colts allow 128.6 rushing yards per game (28th in the NFL) and have given up 10 touchdowns on the ground.
With Andy Dalton and the passing game being inconsistent, the Bengals should rely on their running game in this affair, and that makes Green-Ellis a solid play (think flex) as well.
Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens
Although he’s had a solid season, Smith has not really broken out like many had hoped. He still gets you tons of receptions and yards, but is lacking in the touchdown department, as he has only four on the year.
However, this may be the week he racks up the points (maybe even including a touchdown or two), as he’ll face a pathetic Vikings’ secondary. The Vikings have been getting waxed through the air (you saw what Alshon Jeffery did to them last week, right?) and are allowing 287 passing yards per game (30th in the NFL) and have given up a league-leading 26 touchdowns via the pass.
Smith should torch the Vikings’ secondary and he makes for an excellent No. 2 WR or flex play.
Riley Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles
Sure, Cooper has struggled of late (six receptions for 85 receiving yards in his last two games), but he is still a primary target for the red-hot Nick Foles. Foles looked his way 13 times in those two games, so you know he’s trying to get Cooper involved.
This may be the week Cooper awakens from his mini slumber, as he and the Eagles will face a vulnerable Lions’ pass defense.
The Lions allow 262 passing yards per game (26th in the NFL) and have yielded 21 passing touchdowns. So anticipate the Eagles and Foles to pass a lot in this game and for Cooper to be a major beneficiary.
Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
Surely you are aware of how bad the Cardinals (who will face St. Louis this week) are at defending tight ends, right?
Well, if you haven’t noticed, they are downright pathetic and that makes Cook a reasonable start this week. The Cardinals have allowed a whopping 14 touchdowns to tight ends and just allowed the Eagles tight end duo of Brent Celek and Zach Ertz to combine for three touchdowns last week.
Not to mention, the last time these two teams played in Week 1, Cook exploded for seven receptions and 141 yards with two touchdowns. You shouldn’t expect those types of numbers again, but Cook should still be able to abuse the Cardinals in this affair.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Kaepernick has simply not enjoyed the same success this season that he had last year, and although his team wins on most occasions, he has not been of particular help to his fantasy owners this season.
This week Kaepernick should be glued to benches, as he and the 49ers will take on the rugged and stout Seahawks’ defense. Seattle is tops in the league in passing yards allowed per game (177 yards per game) and have given up just 13 touchdowns through the air, which is fifth fewest in the league.
Also, remember the last time these two teams played in Week 2 at Seattle, Kaepernick only completed 13 passes for 127 yards and no touchdowns while throwing three interceptions. So, expect another grind-it-out defensive contest with Kaepernick offering little production.
Rashad Jennings, Oakland Raiders
When you combine the fact that he is recovering from a concussion (and listed as questionable) and having to face a stout rush defense, Jennings (or Darren McFadden, if Jennings is sidelined) should be nowhere near your playoff lineup this week.
Jennings and the Raiders will be taking on the Jets this week and if you didn’t know, the Jets are the league’s best rush defense, as they allow just 77 yards per game. They have also given up just seven scores on the ground, which is tied for seventh fewest in the league.
With the Jets susceptible to the pass, expect the Raiders to lean on their passing game in this game.
Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
While Stacy has been a revelation in the last couple of weeks (482 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his last four games), he could have a tough time finding running room this week.
This week Stacy and the Rams will have to travel to Arizona to take on a superior run defense in the Cardinals. The Cardinals are allowing just 83.3 rushing yards per game (fourth in the NFL) and have given up just three scores on the ground, which is second best in the league.
Although it’s tough to sit Stacy after his stretch of good games, the matchup dictates he may be in for a long afternoon.
Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers
Boldin has come alive in the last few weeks, racking up 20 receptions for 248 yards and three touchdowns in his last three games.
But just like Kaepernick is not an advised start, you should extend that to sitting Boldin as well. The Seahawks are legit and expect super-cornerback Richard Sherman to likely lock down on Boldin.
So while it’s nice to see Boldin playing at a high level again, you can’t trust him in this playoff matchup.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
Hilton has seen some increased targets ever since Reggie Wayne went down with a season-ending injury, but he has not been too consistent of late. Hilton and his quarterback Andrew Luck have been in a funk (Hilton has not scored nor topped 50 yards receiving in his last three games) as a result.
The funk should continue, as Hilton and the Colts will go to Cincinnati this week. The Bengals have a great defense and can limit the pass, as they hold opposing teams to 214 passing yards per game (8th in the NFL).
Treat Hilton as nothing better than a low-end flex play this week.
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
After a dazzling start to the season, Cameron has regressed to the mean and is nothing but an average tight end these days. Hey, at least he still goes home to Erin Heatherton!
In his last four games, Cameron has just 14 receptions for 108 receiving yards with zero touchdowns. This week he’ll face a Patriots squad that is decent at defending tight ends. With several new options emerging at tight end (Coby Fleener, Jared Cook, Ladarius Green, etc.), Cameron is just a marginal start these days.