Well here we are folks: Week 17. It is the final frontier for most fans, our fantasy teams, and if you root for a team like mine (admitted Colts die-hard) for our NFL teams as well. As we walk through this final week of the regular season, many of us have finished our fantasy runs. Hopefully yours ended well. For me, I had eight leagues this year and made the playoffs in seven. I won three titles and yet the 3 for 8 season left me feeling empty and unsuccessful. That’s the joy and heartbreak of fantasy football isn’t it? Even when we play well and defy the odds we are still left wanting more.
Well rest assured you will be getting more and a whole lot more from FantasyKnuckleheads.com. On the IDP-side we will be keeping things going all off-season long with a minimum of an article a week to help you prep for the NFL Play-Off fantasy leagues, the NFL Draft and the 2012 fantasy season.
For those of you still playing this week in a league championship I will try to offer up some words of advice, teams to highlight, players to target and anything else I can to help you out. If you have any IDP questions, please feel free to leave a comment to this article and I will answer them the best that I can to help out.
IDP is a completely different beast than regular fantasy football when it comes to playoff time. Firstly, the IDP side is highly volatile and unpredictable in nature. The week-to-week jumps from obscurity to relevance and back again are a winding roller-coaster of a ride. That is why we IDP enthusiasts love it and are hooked. It is also why predicting weekly outcomes is near impossible. We do, however, take our best shot. The good news is that while offensive output is always in question on those good teams in the final weeks, IDPers rarely are in question. The Packers may try to rest Aaron Rodgers and save him from an injury, but they will not likely rest Morgan Burnett or Desmond Bishop and the like. It is very rare for a team to sit down their defensive stars at the end of the year since very few defensive players are considered indispensable and critical to team success. Sure a team may rest an injured Patrick Willis to get him healthy for the NFL playoffs and mitigate the re-injury risk. However, it is unlikely a team will sit down a good LB or DB just to rest them or prevent injuries if they are not already hurt.
So the good news on this end is that you can still “start your studs” on defense this week and hope for the best. However, pay particular attention to IDPers in these particular matchups:
Giants vs. Cowboys- This one is for the division title. Expect each team to go all out. The only IDPers that will sit this one out are the truly injured guys. Think of guys like Osi Umenyiora. He will likely sit, but that is all the more reason to start Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and even Chris Canty. Players like DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee should see a full complement of snaps and put up some nice numbers as these teams battle it out for a division title. Especially pay close attention to secondary members from each defense. Both of these teams love to throw and the cornerbacks and safeties will see a lot of action in this game.
Chiefs vs. Broncos- The Broncos need this game to get into the playoffs. Tim Tebow needs this game to save his job. And all of those out there thinking that statement is absurd think again. Tebow was only considered “suitable” because he was winning. If he loses the final three to knock the Broncos out of the playoffs he will be scrutinized all off-season and will be competing for that job next year despite all of his earlier heroics. The Chiefs and Romeo Crennel are fighting to finish on a high note. Crennel is auditioning for his next job and is trying to keep the Chiefs winning. Expect guys like Derrick Johnson to blow up and players like Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil and D.J. Williams to have big games too. With Kyle Orton at the helm, expect the Chiefs to throw and expect the Denver secondary to have an above average fantasy performance here.
Chargers vs. Raiders- The Chargers might be a walking zombie right now. They lost their big chance by face-planting at Detroit last week. However, the Raiders have a ton to play for. If they can win and Denver can lose, the Raiders can sneak into the playoffs. The Raiders may catch a break if Vincent Jackson sits this out as expected. If so the Chargers may be more run-heavy. Expect big games out of the Oakland LBs and Safeties. They will be tasked with helping slow down the run game and cover Antonio Gates. If Jackson sits, Gates will be their main focus. This could lead to big games for stars like Rolando McClain and Tyvon Branch. Expect Matt Giordano and Michael Huff to get into the mix too.
Ravens vs. Bengals- This game has the look and the feel of a playoff game and rightfully so. If the Ravens win they can lock up the division, a first round bye, and some home playoff games. If they lose, the Steelers can steal all of that away from them and the Ravens would be a wildcard team stuck on the road all off-season. That would be terrible for a team that has flopped on the road against teams like the Jaguars, Titans, Chargers and Seahawks. The Bengals are playing for their playoff lives. They can get in if they win. A loss will severely hamper their hopes. Expect all IDPers to play all game. I’d start almost all my Ravens or Bengals unless I had a very good reason not to.
Steelers vs. Browns- Just as previously stated for the Ravens, the Steelers need to win this game to keep up their hopes of a division title, first round bye and some home playoff love. They should not have a hard time with Cleveland, but do not expect them to take many chances. I expect their defensive to come out in rare form and all of their defenders to play a full game. That is good news for James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, Troy Polamalu and maybe even Jason Worilds.
Saints vs. Panthers- The Saints will have to gut this one out since they play at the same time as the 49ers. If the 49ers start to blow out the Rams (a distinct possibility) then the Saints may start to rest guys in the second half. However, if the 49ers game stays close, the Saints will be fighting to get that #2 seed and the first round bye. That will be enough to keep all of their defensive stalwarts on the field for at least a half a game if not the entire thing.
49ers vs. Rams- Lastly, the 49ers are in the driver’s seat for that #2 seed. If they can win here they have it. Because of that, expect all of their players to play all game long to lock this up. They will have plenty of time to rest after this game. It could be a nice game for guys like NaVorro Bowman, Donte Whitner, Dashon Goldson, Larry Grant and company. I would not expect the 49ers to risk Patrick Willis in this one. However, with the first round bye on the table they may give him a go if he feels healthy enough to get some playing time in.
While there are other games like the Jets-Dolphins, Pats-Bills and a few others that have play-off implications, these seven games above offer the best chance for your IDPers to rack up big numbers over the course of a full game.
Also, don’t rule out those IDPers in games with nothing to play for. These guys will play full games and be out to simply close the year on a good note. Think of games like Colts-Jags as a big opportunity for a player like Pat Angerer to put his final stamp on that starting MLB spot in Indy for next year. It is also a chance for a player like Robert Mathis to make his final statement as to why he deserves that lucrative new contract he rightfully feels that he deserves.
All in all, do not throw IDPs out the window just because a team has little or nothing to play for. That may mean rest for some offensive stars, but it rarely means rest for the defensive stars. On the contrary it may mean lots of chances to put their final stamp on their season and on your fantasy season and lead you right into the winner’s circle in your Championship game!