This is the final installment in my series on the Fantasy Football Playoffs Boom or Bust teams or players and it is one of the most difficult to do. All season long we have had guys score who shouldn’t have etc..(Brian Hartline in Week 4 against Arizona) and we have seen guys who put up monstrous numbers when they have been in decline in recent seasons etc..(Andre Johnson in Weeks 11 and 12). Also the vaunted Madden Curse has been officially broken thanks to the incredible Calvin Johnson’s cartoonish numbers in the past 3 weeks. Sure, we have seen some busts but they appear to have been simple to spot etc..(Larry Fitzgerald due to poor Quarterbacking) and (Greg Jennings due to injury) but for the most part with WR’s you got what you drafted back in August/September. If you have prepared for your Fantasy Season properly you have had at least moderate success. One of the faults a Fantasy Owner can make is to draft solely on the strength of schedule when the Fantasy Playoffs roll around because they may not have made the dance. A balanced lineup more often than not will be a successful one as opposed to riding the coattails of a few stars and a bunch of role players. Listed below are players who have favorable and unfavorable matchups for most of your Fantasy Playoff weeks (14, 15 and 16)
FAVORABLE SCHEDULES FOR WIDE RECEIVERS (Week 14)
1. Victor Cruz/Hakeem Nicks-Let the Salsa dancing begin during Fantasy Playoffs Week 1. Cruz and Nicks get the best overall matchup against the pitiful Saints secondary that couldn’t slow down a Pop Warner team’s passing attack. The Giants are coming off an unspectacular loss to the Redskins who just happen to have the 31st ranked pass defense and this week they challenge the 30th ranked New Orleans pass defense. Expect Giants QB Eli Manning to elevate from his funk because he’s in the thick of an NFL playoff hunt.
2. Andre Johnson-Johnson should have a ample yards and perhaps score a couple times against the swiss cheese secondary of the New England Patriots who have adopted a mantra of “defense schmeefense” for the last few years. The Pats are again leading the NFL in points scored and they know if they put up the points they know they can, then they’ll win. The Texans have the best record in the AFC and won’t sit idly by. Expect Matt Schaub to launch a few passes in the direction of Andre Johnson who can be uncover-able at times anyway.
3. Reggie Wayne-Wayne did it with Manning, now he does it with Luck. What does he do, you say? He continues to put up big Fantasy numbers by being one of the best route runners to ever have played the game. After the spirited comeback against the Lions in Week 13, the Colts get a much easier game versus the Titans. Rookie QB Andrew Luck and Wayne have a kind of symbiotic relationship and that should be brought out again this weekend against the very soft Titans secondary. Expect Wayne to score and put up big yardage.
UNFAVORABLE SCHEDULE FOR WIDE RECEIVERS (Week 14)
1. Golden Tate-Tate has had a very infamous year. First, he caught one of the most disputed and debated game winning touchdown passes against the Packers back in Week 3, then he cuts out the hearts of the Bears in Week 13 on a slashing TD catch and run. Well OK, the Bears tied the game but lost in OT. The Seahawks played the Cardinals back in a Week 1 divisional slugfest but the Cardinals pass defense wasn’t as tight as it is currently. Expect the Cards secondary to clamp down on all the Seattle receivers and keep the game low scoring to the delight of the NFL purist.
2. Cecil Shorts-If any of you had ever heard of Cecil Shorts besides his mother please speak now. Shorts has burst onto the NFL scene with an impressive array of athleticism and skill. He almost single handedly revitalized the passing game of the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars throughout the year. In the last few weeks Justin Blackmon and Shorts have combined into a two headed monster to keep the Jags competitive in most games. This week that trend may come to a screeching halt as the Jags have a tough matchup with the Jets pass defense who is ranked 4th. Shorts is the number 1 target for both QB Chad Henne and also the Jets secondary. Worlds will collide.
3. Larry Fitzgerald-Poor Larry. How can such a talent go to waste? You can put him out on the field each week watching the anemic Arizona Cardinals offense flail around in dark like a worm on a hook. It’s so bad that Fitzgerald has time enough to finish a Master’s Degree in between plays. He isn’t seeing the ball as it is and this week the Cardinals have to travel to Seattle for a date with the 5th ranked Seahawks pass defense. By now, you are probably sitting Fitz anyway, but his production this week will most likely suck (no thanks to him).
FAVORABLE SCHEDULES FOR WIDE RECEIVERS (Week 15)
1. Lance Moore-Why would I pick Moore over Colston you ask? Well, Colston is more dangerous and their opponent this week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will pay more heed to Colston and TE Jimmy Graham. Moore is the definition of possession receiver with great hands, sharp cuts, and open field smarts. He is more apt to blend in to a game than take over it but at the end he gets the best statistics. The Bucs have the worst pass defense in the league and they’ll struggle to squeeze out the Saints offensive arsenal.
2. Vincent Jackson-The Buccaneers get the pleasure of playing the Saints this week and should reap the rewards on the stats sheet. Jackson has to elevate his game from the depths of inconsistency that he remains plagued with. Tampa is right in the thick of things for a potential playoff spot so this game will be crucial. You know Saints QB Drew Brees will be aching to atone for his dismal 5 INT performance last week so he’ll be raring to go. Jackson must exploit the Saints D in order to help the Bucs playoff chances.
3. Brian Hartline-Hartline has still had his best statistical season even after being a virtual non-factor in most games since his 253 yards performance versus the Cardinals back in Week 4. After a couple of tough games with the Niners and Patriots, the Fins draw the a decent matchup against the Jags who are ranked 28th in the league in pass defense. Hartline will find open areas of the field against a team that is giving up 7.8 yards per completion to opposing receivers.
UNFAVORABLE SCHEDULES FOR WIDE RECEIVERS (Week 15)
1. Dez Bryant-This is one I mulled over but in the end I decided to roll with. Bryant will draw the Pittsburgh Steelers double team in the Week 15 matchup. A season ending injury to Ike Taylor makes it a bit more tricky to lock down Bryant but the Steelers have always had a “next man up” philosophy that they employ to great success. I can see Jason Witten having a decent game but the Steelers number 1 pass defense won’t allow Dez to beat them.
2. Stevie Johnson-The Bills have a very tough go of it in a Week 15 tilt with the Seahawks. As of the writing of this article there is an appeal of a suspension for Adderall to two of Seattle’s main cogs in secondary (Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman). If both of these guys are in the lineup, it would be wise to sit Johnson. Johnson normally has his best game against Darelle Revis but Revis is one man not an entire secondary like the Seahawks put out on the field.
3. Torrey Smith-In a battle of AFC Heavyweights, not you Paul Soliai and Vince Wilfork, the Broncos tangle with the Ravens. This is going to be a huge game with Playoff implications in real life and in Fantasy Football. The Broncos have one of the most cerebral Cornerbacks ever in Champ Bailey and he undercuts thrown balls like few others can. The main threat for the Ravens is Torrey Smith as he can blow the top off the defense with one shake of his hips. He’ll draw the tightest coverage and they’ll dare Ravens QB Joe Flacco to beat them underneath with throws to his second target Anquan Boldin.
FAVORABLE SCHEDULES FOR WIDE RECEIVERS (Week 16)
1. Dez Bryant-Can the proverbial underachiever bring you to your Fantasy Football title? You bet he can. Bryant goes from having the toughest Semifinal matchup to the best overall Super Bowl matchup you could get. If he cuts down on the concentration drops that have plagued him all year, he should have a masterful performance against the Saints secondary who have given up almost 1 pass of 40+ yards per game. Bryant is a must start.
2. Cecil Shorts-Here is another intriguing guy who conceivably could vault you over the top when it matters most. It is highly likely that their opponents, the Patriots jump out to a commanding lead which will force the Jags to throw and throw some more. Shorts has been a beneficiary of a ton of targets in the Jacksonville passing offense and that should be no different in Week 16. He is a must start if healthy.
3. Wes Welker-Welker is a must start every game anyway in the supersonic Patriots offense but he has a great matchup in your Super Bowl against the Jags. With injuries to Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, QB Tom Brady will look to disperse his intended targets to his reliable receivers and Welker is the most reliable of them all. Expect Welker and Pats to bust out of the gate early and then cruise home.
UNFAVORABLE SCHEDULES FOR WIDE RECEIVERS (Week 16)
1. A.J Green-Of course I would never say to sit Green because he is a Top 3 NFL receiver but he had a really tough game with the Steelers back in Week 7 and he won’t find his Week 16 tilt with those same Steelers to be all sunshine and roses this time either. He had 1 catch for 8 yards but the catch was a TD. Expect the Steelers to blanket Green with at least two if not three guys all game. This game has the potential to have major NFL playoff implications so expect a low scoring typical AFC North slobberknocker.
2. Larry Fitzgerald-The Cardinals draw the ball-hawking Chicago Bears in Week 16. Fully expect Kevin Kolb to be back throwing the ball to Cardinals receivers but don’t expect much production out of Fitz. Chicago DB’s Charles Tillman and company won’t let Fitzgerald out of their sights. Obviously Fitzgerald should see a few more targets than normal but the Bears bait QB’s into questionable throws and Kolb is prone to the questionable throw. If you have other options and I bet you do, use one.
3. Jeremy Maclin-With QB Michael Vick shut down for the rest of the season, the Eagles handed the reins to Rookie QB Nick Foles who isn’t exactly providing a soothing presence for the extremely critical Eagles fans worldwide. The Eagles have a superb matchup in Week 16 against the Washington Redskins but they haven’t been able to get the ball in the hands of the dynamic Maclin yet, so why then? It would be an awful crapshoot to bank your Fantasy season on the inconsistency of Maclin so if you can play another option I would advise to do so.