Wow, what a first round of the fantasy football playoffs. If you're team was built was round the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints offenses, chances are you were rather unceremoniously flushed away in the first round.
Now, you're still not going to find "start Aaron Rodgers" here, but we'll take a look at some big names who might be good (or bad) plays in the fantasy football playoffs.
On that note, here we go for week 15:
St. Louis Rams defense vs. Arizona
There are fewer "hotter" defenses in the NFL than the Rams, who have gotten better in each of the last four weeks. In the last four weeks they’ve recorded 18 sacks, 8 interceptions, 4 fumble recoveries and two touchdowns. And the last time they played Arizona, St. Louis had three sacks and an interceptions. Now, with a backup quarterback and backup running backs headed on to the turf in St. Louis, the Rams have a favorable matchup here and are obviously riding high. I think they continue it for one more week.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina running back vs. Tampa Bay
The news about Cam Newton is terrible but we are dealing in a fantasy world here, and if Newton can’t play after his car accident early this week, look for Stewart to have back-to-back big games. He broke out against New Orleans with a 155-yard effort, and now the Panthers face a terrible Buccaneers defense that has allowed seven different running backs at least 80 rush yards or more, 10 rushing touchdowns and another five receiving touchdowns to backs. He’s a solid play.
Last week: C.J. Anderson (58 rush yards, 3 TD, ); Houston defense (13 points allowed, 4 sacks, INT).
Note: I'm approaching this category as though you have a better option to choose from. These players could be starts if you do not.
Josh Gordon, Cleveland wide receiver vs. Cincinnati
If I gave you three "sit ‘em’s" a week Gordon would have made my list last week as well due to a bad matchup against Indianapolis and a bad quarterback back in Brian Hoyer. Well, this week it looks just as bad for Gordon, which is definitely frustrating for his owners who patiently sat on him just for this purpose. The Bengals are a top five fantasy defense against wide receivers (like the Colts were) even though the Pittsburgh Steelers shredded them in the air last week. Don’t be fooled. Johnny Manziel is getting a start, and Marvin Lewis and the Bengals will dial up some things the rookie has never seen or experienced. We have no idea how good he’ll be, if at all. And even the likes of Julio Jones, Julian Edelman and Kelvin Benjamin couldn’t get off on this Bengals defense. And the second time around, Steve Smith, Sr. was limited. This is too risky a play.
Andre Williams, New York Giants running back vs. Washington
I could basically just copy-and-paste my writeup about St. Louis running back Tre Mason going up against Washington last week here. The running back situation in New York has been a disaster all year, even though Williams has given owners the occasional big game — like last week. But Tennessee is one of the worst rushing defenses (fantasy wise) in the NFL, and Washington is one of the best. William did run for 66 yards and a touchdown, saving his day, against Washington back in week 4, but he’s just not worth a start in the semi-finals for you.
Last week: Keenan Allen (3 targets, 2 catches, 3 yards); Tre Mason (66 rush yards).
Martellus Bennett, Chicago tight end vs. New Orleans
Now, Bennett isn’t likely a sleeper if you’re in a tight-end mandatory league, but let’s face it, the "Black Unicorn" hasn’t been very productive for much of this year. But now with Brandon Marshall out for the season, that means Bennett is firmly entrenched as Jay Cutler’s No. 2 pass catching option as far as receivers go. The Bears should get blown out again by New Orleans, and the Bears will likely rack up the garbage time, but very valuable, late fantasy points.
Last week: Ryan Tannehill (227 yards, TD, 6 rush yards).
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.