The fantasy playoffs are upon us. Some leagues started them this week, but for the majority of us, the playoffs are beginning in Week 14. If we have intelligent commissioners, the playoffs will go Weeks 14, 15, and 16. Week 17 should never be touched in fantasy football due to the possibility of teams resting players for the real playoffs. But, it happens. My advice for Week 17 championships: pay very, very close attention to who is playing. I always lean towards players that are on teams still fighting for playoff berths or playoff positioning. Even if they’re not quite as talented, chances are, their team will be playing harder.
At this point in the season, you probably have a roster that’s quite a bit different from the one you initially drafted. Maybe you took David Johnson with your first pick, maybe it was Odell Beckham, Jr. Every week you scour the waiver wire to be the first to grab the hot hand. The key to the waiver wire is to be a week ahead of everyone else. Don’t let your pickups come down to who has the higher waiver priority. Waiver wire is something I’ve always hated; if you want the player more than I do, get him before me. Don’t get “rewarded” the player because you’re worse at fantasy football than I am; counter intuitive in my opinion. That’s beside the point, the reality is most leagues use the waiver wire process. So be ahead of it. Here are a few players to snatch this week during open FA before everyone targets them in waivers next week for the playoffs.
QB Aaron Rodgers (Packers)
Fantasy Playoff Schedule: (@CLE, @CAR, vMIN, @DET)
Now this may seem obvious. He’s the best QB in the NFL. Surely, he should be owned in every fantasy league out there, but, he isn’t. He’s available in 55.2% of ESPN leagues, and there’s a good chance he’ll play again this season. The only reasonable thing that will keep him out of the lineup will be the Packers’ record. If they lose their next 2 games, chances are they won’t feel the need to rush their star QB’s rehab and instead shut him down and prepare for 2018. On the other hand, their next 2 games are against a struggling Tampa Bay team and Cleveland. A good chance they win both and improve to 7-6 which will keep them in the playoff hunt. Enter Aaron Rodgers in Week 15. That’s when he is eligible to return and it’s looking like he’ll be physically ready. He began long distance throwing last week throwing balls up to 50 yards. Rodgers is clearly a QB1 any time he steps foot on a football field. He’s the best the league has to offer and even if he’s not fully 100%, he’s better than just about everyone not named Tom Brady. So, unless you have TB12, grab Rodgers. His fantasy playoff schedule is ideal. Carolina’s defense is not the same this year. Minnesota has been very well but it is a game that will be played at Lambeau where Rodgers has owned them. The final game will be played in a dome in Detroit that may be a play-in game for both teams. He may not play well, sure, but if you have a place to put him on your roster, get him now before everyone in your league realizes he’s coming back.
WR Josh Gordon (Browns)
Fantasy Playoff Schedule: (vGB, vBAL, @CHI, @PIT)
Josh Gordon is making his return to the NFL in this week’s game against the Chargers. HC Hue Jackson has already announced Gordon will start but will be on a snap count. Understandable, after all, this is his first game since 12/21/2014. Yes, almost 3 full years without an NFL appearance. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of shape he is in. He appears to be in great shape physically, but we all know that doesn’t always translate to NFL shape. Still available in 38.3 % of ESPN leagues, he’s the player I’m most interested in watching this week. The talent is (was) there. This is the same guy that led the NFL in receiving in 2013 with 1,646 yards in just 14 games with Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer throwing him the ball. He’s gifted, and after hearing reports that he was high and drunk for many of those games, I’m even more impressed with his abilities. It’s possible he’ll never be a good NFL receiver again, in fact, it’s likely. But, I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t intrigued. He has a tough matchup in Week 17, a meaningless fantasy week for most, but it’s against Pittsburgh who will likely have nothing to play for at that point unless they can still change their playoff seeding. Weeks 14-16, however, are very good matchups. If Gordon has a good showing this weekend, it may be too late to get him on waivers next week. Get him now; if he struggles, oh well. If he plays well, he could be a difference maker for any fantasy team in the playoffs.
TE Ricky Seals-Jones (Cardinals)
Fantasy Playoff Schedule: (vTEN, @WAS, vNYG, @SEA)
Ricky Seals-Jones is obviously not a sexy name in football. Heck, I’m sure 50% (or more) of fantasy owners don’t even know who he is. He’s the college WR turned pro TE that has come on strong as of late. After being on the field for just 1 snap over the first 9 games for the Cardinals, he had 8 and 17 snaps respectively over the last two. Now, that’s still not much, yes, but he’s taking full advantage of the opportunity. In 25 snaps over the last 2 weeks, he was targeted 12 times; converting that into 7 catches and 3 TDs. He has a great connection with new QB Blaine Gabbert as they worked together all season getting second team reps at practice. He seems to feel more comfortable throwing to Seals-Jones than Gresham as the latter is losing snaps slowly. After averaging 56.6 offensive snaps for the first 9 games, he was on the field for 47.5 snaps over the last two when Gresham only received 4 targets, converting 3 catches into 23 yards. Ricky Seals-Jones is likely to see his snap trend continue to go up, which will only lead to more targets and more opportunities. The TE position has been very underwhelming this season outside of the top 3 or 4 guys. Many of you have playoff caliber teams despite lack of production from the TE position. Ricky Seals-Jones is available in 80.5% of ESPN leagues and could be a steal for the playoffs. With matchups against the Titans, Redskins, and Giants, he could be in for a strong finish down the stretch.