The playoffs are here: NOw it really matters

By Martin Richardson

Congratulations to everyone who made the playoffs! But the hard work, overthinking and constantly refreshing your fantasy app start now. Whether you scraped in with some savvy mid-season trades, or watched your team of heroes win week in, week out, you’re at the business end now and glory is within your sights. And what better time to have playoff football than on the backdrop of Christmas? So, surround yourself with a least three chocolate oranges, your Christmas tipple of choice and watch the magic or the chaos unfold as Scott Hansen either delivers you and early Christmas present, or metaphorically throws a lump of coal on your festive plans.

Little bit different from me this week, mainly because I get to write about some of those big-name players who have populated rosters from the draft season. But it wouldn’t be a ‘One to Watch’ article without some of my now not-so-hidden gems off the wire making an appearance. There are some players who will no doubt be difference makers for you this week and I’ve highlighted one per key position, as well as someone who you may have to bench when it comes to winning a fantasy championship.


Start- Baker Mayfield vs the Jags
Bench- Tua Tagovailoa vs the Cowboys

Ok, ok, maybe there is some recency bias here with picking Baker Mayfield as someone to start this week. But, to go into Lambeau field and get a perfect passer rating is no mean feat. Which means playing a Jags team that has just been battered by injury but also had a massive dip in form right at wrong time, could benefit the NFC South team. But Baker has been clutch when it matters for the team this season and last week proved it. Add to the mix that throw to TE Cade Otton to win the game against the Falcons, all signs are pointing up for the Bucs and Baker.

Now I also know that Tua fans may come at me here, but hear me out. This is not a benching because he isn’t a top QB, this is purely based on his situation this week against the Cowboys. With no O-Line practising, and Tyreek Hill recovering from an injury, Tua is perhaps going to have a low points game for fantasy players. Hand offs to Mostert or Achane won’t help Tua with his points, which is what I think he would rely on against that Cowboys defense.


Start- Raheem Mostert vs the Cowboys
Bench- Austin Ekelar vs the Bills

As I’ve said, there are massive issues with the Dolphins when it comes to injuries, with a recent injury report saying that all of the O-Line didn’t practice. This isn’t ideal when facing a Cowboys Defense ranked number one on most fantasy apps. However, what has been clear is that the Dolphins’ run game has been strong when it matters. Mostert has twenty touchdowns for the season so far and this plays very well for him as he is now up against that Cowboys Defense that got mauled by James Cook last week. Mostert could have a massive game here when it matters most for fantasy playoff contenders.

On the other hand, I have no faith in Austin Ekeler to get you what you need to stay competitive. With one touchdown since week ten, meaning only one game with double figures. With an unproven backup QB who looked distinctly average against the Raiders, Ekeler doesn’t inspire confidence this weekend. Add to the mix that he is up against a Bills defense that has continued to look mean against the run game of most teams all season, this is not a good week for Ekeler and the Chargers who are just desperate for the season to end.


Start- AJ Brown vs the Giants
Bench- Davonte Adams vs the Chiefs

The Eagles need a little something to get back on track after some subpar performances; and what better way to do that than with a game against the Giants who have no defensive players able to keep pace with the talents of AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith. But I’m leaning more to Brown to have a massive game here against the Giants and Tommy ‘Cutlets’ DeVito. He hasn’t registered a touchdown in three games which means he’s no doubt in line for at least one this week in a get right game for him and the Eagles in general.

I wish I could be as confident with the Raiders as I am with Brown and the Eagles. Yes they had a very impressive win against the Chargers, but I think every team, even the Panthers could have a good game against them. Which is why I’m worried about Adams playing a Chiefs defense that has been a top defensive unit all year. Some may argue that with Adams’ elite level of play when he does get the ball makes him a top play regardless of opposition, but the Raiders’ inconsistent form makes Adams a risky play in my mind. With less than sixty yards against the following teams: the Vikings, Giants, Lions, Bears and Packers and not a single touchdown at add to that, Adams and the Raiders haven’t exactly lit it up against teams where he should be showing his elite level play.


Start- Trey McBride vs the Bears

Bench- Dalton Schultz vs the Browns

Anyone who picked up Trey McBride on the waiver wire, you could well be in the playoffs right now and relying on him now is no bad thing. With a steady supply of targets per game and high yardage gains from those, McBride is sure fire playoff difference maker regardless of opponent, as proven with his 102-yard game against the elite 49ers and 95 yards and a touchdown against the impressive Ravens. If you have McBride in your lineup, expect him to outperform any projection and sit back and watch with confidence him wrack up the points against the Bears.

Now the same cannot be said for Dalton Schultz. Even without starting wide receivers Nico Collins and Tank Dell, as well as rookie sensation CJ Stroud, Schultz could not get going at all against the Titans. I don’t expect this to change now that Collins and Stroud may be back, and the Texans need make sure that they are in the hunt for a wildcard playoff berth. Add to this that this week’s game is against the Browns who have often been a difference maker for that franchise as they have battled QB turmoil throughout the season.


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Start- Bills D vs the Chargers
Bench- Ravens vs the 49ers

The Chargers are just rubbish. They cannot have their season end soon enough. Head coach out of the door after a humiliating defeat to the Raiders, they have nothing on offer that could possibly make me think they could take points away from the Bills D. I fully expect Eaton Stick to spend most of the game on his backside or on the sidelines watching Josh Allen tear it up.

However, the Ravens defense are not rubbish. They have been really good all season long, so to say bench them, I must have good reason to do so. Enter Brock Purdy and the 49ers offense. They have been incredible and pose a real threat to the Ravens defense. Purdy, Aiyuk, Samuel and Kittle have torn apart defenses in a myriad of different and exciting ways. So based on how electric they have been, you have to consider benching the Ravens if you are in need of valuable points to end the season on a high.


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Start- Brandon Aubrey vs the Dolphins
Bench- Jake Elliott vs the Giants

You may be wondering why I would say bench a top 10 kicker in fantasy football this week of all weeks. But there is some logic, honest. And here it is- the Eagles need a get right game after the shock loss to the Seahawks. They will want to send a message to the rest of the NFC with a commanding showing against the Giants. So, they won’t be in a position to kick field goals, they’ll want touchdowns and extra points. Therefore, Elliott will not be hitting masses of points for long field goals.

The same may apply to Brandon Aubrey and you could say I’m contradicting myself here, but the Dolphins defense is a totally different animal to the Giants for the Eagles. With that in my mind, Aubrey has been outrageously good for the Cowboys from any distance this year. Which means that should the Dolphins defense put up some sort of resistance, then Aubrey is a sure thing to be hitting those massive fantasy numbers should they have to kick a field goal or two.



A Yorkshireman living in Lancashire, Martin is a massive NFL fan but his heart belongs to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Also a huge Fantasy Football enthusiast and spends far too long crunching the numbers! Follow him at @MRBucsFan31