by Ray Kuhn
After the marathon trip through the regular season we have finally reached the fantasy playoffs. I wish I could say that things are going to get easier, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Picking the right option seems like a thankless task, but you don’t have a choice. Let’s take a look at how our options rank for the first week of the playoffs (and for those of you fortunate enough to have earned a bye, that doesn’t mean you get the week off as it is imperative you look towards next week):
- Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers – vs. Baltimore
- LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills – vs. Indianapolis
- Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints – at Atlanta
- Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams – vs. Philadelphia
- Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers – vs. Washington
- Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints – at Atlanta
- Lamar Miller – Houston Texans – vs. San Francisco
- Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars – vs. Seattle
- Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs – vs. Oakland
- Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins – vs. New England
- Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons – vs. New Orleans
- Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers – at Houston
- Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears – at Cincinnati
- Samaje Perine – Washington Redskins – at LA Chargers
- Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers – vs. Minnesota
- Giovani Bernard – Cincinnati Bengals – vs. Chicago
- Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders – at Kansas City
- Jerick McKinnon – Minnesota Vikings – at Carolina
- Rex Burkhead – New England Patriots – at Miami
- Alfred Morris – Dallas Cowboys – at New York Giants
- Jamaal Williams – Green Bay Packers – at Cleveland
- Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens – at Pittsburgh
- Peyton Barber – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – vs. Detroit
- Dion Lewis – New England Patriots – at Miami
- Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns – vs. Green Bay
- Mike Davis – Seattle Seahawks – at Jacksonville
- DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans – at Arizona
- Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns – vs. Green Bay
- Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts – at Buffalo
- Latavius Murray – Minnesota Vikings – at Carolina
- Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles – at LA Rams
- Orleans Darkwa – New York Giants – vs. Dallas
- Matt Forte – New York Jets – at Denver
- Theo Riddick – Detroit Lions – at Tampa Bay
- Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons – vs. New Orleans
- Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans – at Arizona
- Danny Woodhead – Baltimore Ravens – at Pittsburgh
- Devontae Booker – Denver Broncos – vs. New York Jets
- Bilal Powell – New York Jets – at Denver
- Kerwynn Williams – Arizona Cardinals – vs. Tennessee
- After leaving Week 12 with a concussion, Doug Martin wasn’t close to returning last week and it turned into the Peyton Barber show. Speculation was that Jacquizz Rodgers would receive the bump in playing time, but he only carried the ball three times for 25 yards. Barber, on the other hand, gained 102 yards on 23 carries while catching four passes for 41 yards. This week Barber faces the Lions, who have allowed the fifth most points to opposing running backs, and that makes him a potentially valuable option for the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Yes the fact that we are talking about Barber is surprising, but potential value can’t be ignored. If Martin practices this week and is active, then Barber’s value disappears just as quickly as it appeared.
- It has been a season long quest to search for value and the bell cow in Seattle’s backfield, but with Mike Davis healthy we might have found our target. While Davis was on the field for 73% of the Seahawks’ snaps, the next closest competitor was J.D McKissic who had nine snaps. Davis had a tough match-up in Philadelphia, but he did manage to gain 64 yards on 16 carries while also catching three passes for 37 yards. Despite their reputation, Jacksonville is in the middle of the pack against opposing running backs this season. Perhaps most importantly, Seattle is showing confidence in Davis and he his earning his playing time with aggressive running.
- It is clear that concussions are a major issue this season, and the latest victim is Joe Mixon. After leaving the game in the first half Mixon didn’t return, and the other issue is that his concussion came on Monday night. With Brian Hill as Cincinnati’s only other active running back, the workload fell to Giovanni Bernard. What followed was one of the best games of the season by Bernard as he gained 77 yards and added 19 yards on two receptions. He showed explosiveness and looked impressive with the ball against a tough Pittsburgh defense. Look for more of the same this week if Mixon is sidelined as the Bengals will likely lean on Bernard once again.
- I know this is something we cover often, but based on the circumstances it bears repeating once again. Despite the fact that Lamar Miller has yet to eclipse 75 rushing yards in a game this season, he is a good play. Now I’m not betting on him having an epic game, but there is the possibility he breaks the 100 yard mark for the first time this season. This comes a week after Miller gained 56 yards on 15 carries as head coach Bill O’Brien criticized Houston’s running game. The good news is that Miller is the only game in town, and he has averaged 21 touches in each of his last three games. He has also had a role in the passing game, and last week he caught four passes for 38 yards. So far this season the 49ers have allowed 124 yards on the ground to opposing running backs, and they are among the league leaders in points allowed.
- Another running back poised to take advantage of a favorable match-up is Frank Gore. In his last five games Gore is averaging 62 yards on 16 carries, and he has a minimum of 10 carries in all but one game this season. For the season, though, he has just three touchdowns, hasn’t gained more than 82 yards and also isn’t much of a factor in the passing game. Yes, I know, that isn’t exactly a great case I’m making, and there is a reason for that. While Gore has been a dependable option and has a positive match-up, I’m not in a rush to count on him. Despite having seven less carries than Gore, 13 to six, Marlon Mack only had had 15 less yards than his veteran counterpart last week and is the more explosive back. Despite Buffalo’s weakness against opposing running backs, this is a situation best avoiding.
- As the season goes on, Marshawn Lynch is getting stronger and Oakland is beginning to increase the veteran’s workload. For the second straight week, and fourth time in as many games, Lynch found the end zone. This time his touchdown came on a 51 yard run as part of his 101 yard day on 17 carries. Lynch also added 20 yards on two catches and in his last four games he is averaging 73 yards on 16 carries.
Make sure to check out all of our Week 14 rankings: