Fantasy playoffs test ingenuity, desperation in adding talent
Week 15 matchup vs. Panthers could see Cardinals running the ball plenty
David Nelson of the Bills may get more looks with Lee Evans hobbled
Kevin Boss could be prime target amid Giants many receiver injuries
Come playoff time, fantasy football gets pretty intense. Things get serious for the silly little game. Consider Monday night: Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub owners were treated to a wild comeback by the Texans. When Ravens-Texans went into overtime, thousands of fantasy football matchups went into overtime, too.
Some games were won on Schaub's two late TD passes. Some were lost because, despite the late comeback, Arian Foster didn't score. Some were won on the Ravens' pick-six in overtime. Fantasy football's great for a lot of reasons: It lets you keep in touch with old friends, trash talk with people in your league, waste time at work. But in the playoffs fantasy football actually gets a little exciting.
It's the penultimate waiver period in almost all leagues with playoffs. There's less and less talent out there each week, but there's at least a guy or two to take a chance on at each position. One of these guys could put your team over the top.
Oakland's offense is playing better after a midseason lull, and Jason Campbell is putting up surprisingly solid fantasy numbers. He went 21-for-30 for 324 yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars on Sunday, and has an extremely attractive matchup at home against the Broncos this week. Denver's pass defense is one of the worst in the league; Campbell could be in for a big day. He's available in about 90 percent of leagues.
Tarvaris Jackson, Vikings (15-for-30, 1 INT; 4 carries, 8 yards in Week 15): It's likely Favre won't play again this season. The next two weeks, the Vikings face Chicago and Philadelphia, two solid defenses that nonetheless still give up a lot of passing yards. Granted, Jackson looked terrible against the Vikings, but his mobility and perhaps better preparation could make him a sneaky fantasy play for teams that snuck into the semifinals without a legit quarterback. Only if you're incredibly desperate, however. (Like I said, it's thin out there.)
Tim Hightower has been the starter for the Arizona Cardinals all season. He hasn't been extremely effective and he's split carries with an even less effective Beanie Wells some weeks. But, with John Skelton at quarterback, Hightower rushed 18 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. Arizona didn't particularly run the ball more often in Week 14, and a lot of Hightower's carries came in the second half with Arizona comfortably in front. But the Cardinals play Carolina Sunday, a game in which Arizona could conceivably be running the ball with a lead again. Hightower shouldn't be replacing any regular starter, but if you survived the first playoff round on a fluke and need an extra running back he's probably available.
Mike Goodson, Panthers (9 carries 70 yards, 1 TD): Jonathan Stewart returned to his role as the feature back on Sunday, meaning Goodson was probably dropped in a bunch of leagues. He has put up double-digit fantasy points in four out of the past five games. Against Arizona, he could do it again.
Brian Westbrook, 49ers (9 carries, 23 yards; 6 catches, 87 yards, 1 TD): That's two out of the past three weeks Westbrook has put up a good fantasy performance. The 49ers play San Diego this week, which has an excellent defense. But Westbrook got most of his fantasy points Sunday through the air, with six targets from Alex Smith. If he's still on your waiver wire, take a chance on him.
Rashad Jennings, Jaguars (5 carries, 109 yards, 1 TD): The Jaguars run it a ton. Jennings is the clear No. 2 -- Maurice Jones-Drew gets a boatload of carries every game -- but the Jaguars run it enough Jennings isn't a bad pickup in big leagues. He's scored in three straight and next faces a Colts squad that is awful against the run.
Lee Evans injured his ankle on Sunday and will probably miss the next two games. That means more looks for David Nelson, who was already getting a decent amount of looks for the Bills, though he just caught one pass, an 11-yard touchdown, on Sunday. He's also scored in his past two games. With Buffalo facing Miami's leaky pass defense on Sunday, Nelson should be good for a few catches and maybe a score.
Ruvell Martin, Seahawks (4 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD): Seattle's wide receiver corps is banged up, and with Deon Butler out Martin should see more looks. Martin is only an option to start if Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu are out. If they are, he could be put good numbers; he was targeted six times on Sunday.
Arrelious Benn, Buccaneers (4 catches, 122 yards; 1 rush, 17 yards): Benn had a breakout game against the Redskins on Sunday and is really only an attractive option because Tampa Bay plays the Lions. He was targeted only four times on Sunday, but that was second-most on the team.
Rob Gronkowski caught his seventh touchdown of the year this season in the Patriots' win Sunday. Gronkowski is a boom-or-bust player, as he's alternated five- and one-catch games over the past few weeks. That's kept him on the waiver wire in a bunch of leagues; go grab him if you're in need of a tight end. New England's offense is playing so well right now he's worth starting.
Kevin Boss, Giants (4 catches, 24 yards, 1 TD): With a new Giants wideout seemingly injured every week and an attractive matchup against Philadelphia coming up, Boss could put up big numbers. He's available in almost 70 percent of leagues.
At this point in the season, if you don't have a top-flight kicker you'll just want to play the matchups for the last two weeks. The Saints play the Ravens in Week 15, but Garrett Hartley hasn't missed a field goal since Week 11 and is available in most leagues. With New Orleans' offense clicking, he might be your best option. If he's not available, Neil Rackers (vs. Tennessee) is another possibility. John Kasay of Carolina also goes up against the Cardinals.
The Dallas Cowboys might still give up a lot of points, but they're forcing turnovers -- they intercepted Michael Vick twice on Sunday night -- and getting sacks. Facing Washington this week and Arizona the next is a favorable matchup for a defense that's available in about half of fantasy leagues. If you're in need of a D and can grab them for the last two games, go for it.