Fantasy Football Fast Forward: Do not sit your studs, Newton is back
Do not sit your top players due to matchups in a playoff situation
Cam Newton has been the top fantasy player over the last month
Any defense facing the Cardinals should rack up huge points
A few teams are moving on, a few more are dropping out. That is the fantasy football playoffs in Week 14. Hopefully you don't fall in the latter of the teams leaving us; otherwise, you'll be apt to Tweet some of this kind of hate:
"So glad I took your Wk 14 sit/start advice and played T. Smith over M. Wallace! You give the best fantasy advice! (Expletive deleted)." -- love @LivingItWrite.
Everyone was supposed to know Anquan Boldin would steal Torry Smith's thunder with a pair of touchdowns. And, naturally, Mike Wallace would go from the Mike Tomlin doghouse to the fantasy penthouse, suddenly, late in the second half.
The point is: No one can get everything right. Hopefully, we're all more right than wrong.
Kansas famously sang, "If I claim to be the wise man, well, it surely means that I don't know."
To Ms @LivingItWrite, my condolences and: "Carry on my wayward son; There'll be peace when you are done; Lay your weary head to rest; Don't you cry no more."
She learned there are no guarantees in the unforgiving fantasy postseason. We learn fantasy's little lessons every week we play. For that reason, the remainder of the season, Fantasy Football Fast Forward will highlight 10 things we learned for the stretch run.
Here are Week 14 lessons to take with us as we navigate the postseason:
1. Matchup-based sits aren't for studs
Fantasy experts want you to think matchups decide your lineups for the postseason. Nope. Your lineups were decided weeks ago, if not months.
You stick with what has gotten you here, trust the most consistent performers and you ignore the minute facts like the Bears were the third-best team in fantasy against RBs.
No one suggested you sit Adrian Peterson against the Bears, but his 154 yards and two first-quarter TDs give us a very important lesson: Let your players decide things for you; matchups merely break ties on your marginal guys.
It was the same advice we gave when we said to start Marshawn Lynch against those same Bears a week ago. Lynch was coming off a bad Week 12 against the Dolphins, but Lynch responded. He also happened to stay hot this week against another solid run defense, rushing for 128 yards and three touchdowns.
Again, you might think: "Well, no one was sitting Lynch either!"
Let's use Matt Ryan as an example. He has disappointing in recent weeks and countless inquiries asked whether one should bench Ryan in the pivotal Week 14. It looked like bad advice to keep him active, until he responded with a pair of TDs in the second half, finishing with 342 yards.
An elite player like Ryan cannot do anything for you from your bench. Leave the matchup minutia for your low-tier guys.
2. Big Ben makes your Steelers better
We said it in the Week 14 Cheat Sheet, but apparently didn't trumpet it loudly enough: Big Ben's return makes factors out of the disappointing Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown again. Both had been sat, if not cut, for weeks, but they respond with TDs (two in the case of Wallace).
Roethlisberger not only proved healthy, but he proved as productive as he has been all season. It should lead you to pick Wallace and Brown back up and start them in crunch time again, especially because the Steelers' running game is a mess.
3. Cam Newton is still a monster
There was a time earlier this season where fantasy owners were lamenting their early selection of Newton this year. Look at those owners now.
No one is sitting him, or complaining, any more.
Newton is saving his best for last, producing a third-consecutive monster performance -- this time against a very good Falcons defense, no less. Even though Newton has little in the way of reliable weapons, he just might be the most valuable player in fantasy the past month.
4. Cardinals are a fantasy D/ST dream
If the Detroit Lions D/ST is available in your league -- that is 64 percent of CBSSports.com, 70 percent of Yahoo.com leagues---- consider them your most important waiver-wire addition of the season. They play the quarterback-deficient Arizona Cardinals next week.
How bad is the Cardinals QB situation? Well, the Seahawks defense wrapped up a 58-0 victory with eight turnovers, three sacks and two return scores -- likely the highest-scoring week for a defense all season.
The Cardinals have surpassed the Eagles as the best D/ST matchup on the board. Fantasy owners that love to stream their defense are going to have some company in trying to pick up the Lions D/ST this week.
5. David Wilson has coming-out party
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded up to pick Doug Martin one choice in front of the Giants. The Giants have contended they wanted David Wilson out of Virginia Tech all along. That seemed like lip service -- until Week 14:
Wilson ran back a kickoff for a touchdown and mopped up for a banged-up (as usual) Ahmad Bradshaw, rushing 13 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson clearly looked like a game-breaking potential fantasy star in this one, even if we claimed in the Week 14 Start 'em, Sit 'em that "Wilson looks more like a track star than a football player."
Ouch. Scratch that. Wilson is an incredible athlete who just needs an opportunity. He's such a tremendous physical specimen he does back flips when he gets in the end zone (three times Sunday). How cool is that?
Wilson is a must-own in fantasy right now and a potential starter in crunch time if Bradshaw misses any time the next few weeks.
6. RGIII is dangerous, in more ways than one
Robert Griffin III's late knee injury didn't cost you this week, but it is a signal of how dangerous RGIII is -- in the bad way.
We already know how dangerous he is as an opponent, but he can be dangerous for you in your lineup, too. He is always one hit away from leaving the game. Most QBs are, but RGIII is more vulnerable than most because he is slight in stature, a la Michael Vick, and puts himself in dangerous situations.
The read-option attack isn't friendly on the health of a QB.
This isn't entirely a lesson learned this season, but it is a warning. RGIII might be someone to avoid in future seasons in fantasy for fear of injury, or if you have another productive, near-elite, pocket passer to start over him in crunch time.
7. Nick Foles has some life
The Bucs have been bad against the pass this season, but this performance against rookie Nick Foles and the Eagles was just too ridiculous to be all about a suspect secondary. Foles apparently has some juice. He even stole the show from fellow rookie Bryce Brown, who faltered against the league's No. 1 run defense.
After being named the starter for the rest of the season, Foles performed like a fantasy star with 381 yards, two passing TDs and one rush TD. You probably cannot trust him on one-QB leagues against a pretty good Bengals secondary next week, but he at least gives you some reason to consider his targets in the famously pass-happy Andy Reid offense.
Jeremy Maclin (nine catches for 104 yards and a TD) and Jason Avant (7-133) are now potential starters in deeper three-WR formats. Heck, you might even consider Riley Cooper (4-37) in deeper PPR leagues.
8. Knowshon Moreno has (finally) arrived
Moreno was inexplicably in the John Fox doghouse for most of the season. Now, he has his fantasy owners in the cat-bird seat.
Moreno torched the Raiders for 119 yards rushing, 48 receiving (on four catches) and a TD. Next up is the Ravens, who we are done suggesting they are better than they have played against the run. The Ravens were ripped for 122 yards against Alfred Morris on Sunday.
Moreno is a must-start in all leagues next week. Heck, he might be the best RB playing with an elite QB in the NFL. What does that mean? No eight-man box to run against.
Moreno is better than Alex Green (Aaron Rodgers), Mark Ingram/Darren Sproles (Drew Brees), Stevan Ridley (Tom Brady), Morris (RGIII), DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart (Newton), Michael Turner (Matt Ryan) or Mikel LeShoure/Joique Bell (Matthew Stafford). Like a QB can benefit from a good running game, Moreno is going to benefit from the dangerous Peyton Manning passing attack.
9. The good Eli Manning is back
We conspicuously left the Giants' Manning out of that elite QB paragraph above. It is because he is just too darn hot and cold. Well, the hot Manning showed up against the Saints in a dream matchup, throwing for 259 yards and TDs to four different receivers.
Now, you have to keep him active next week at Atlanta, a team that has been solid against QBs but was abused on the road by Newton. You always have to keep Manning's top targets active: Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and once-again Martellus Bennett.
Nicks and Bennett have been mediocre after hot starts, along with Manning, but all we have to go on is history. Manning and the Giants are famously strong finishers. Expect a shootout against Ryan and the Falcons next week.
10. DeMarco Murray is a must-start
Murray admittedly isn't 100 percent, but he is good enough to consider among your must-starts in fantasy crunch time. Murray rushed 21 times for 53 yards and a TD against the Bengals and should remain active next week even against a tough Steelers run defense.
You drafted Murray in Round 1 -- or traded for him -- and held him for this very time of the year. It was a sound strategy and one you need to stick to it.
Because matchup-based sits are not for your studs, remember?
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. Track his weekly starts and sits every Thursday, his last-minute Cheat Sheet on Sunday mornings and his Fantasy Fast Forward on Sunday nights. You find also him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice or challenging him to a head-to-head fantasy game @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).
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