By Jake Linley-Brown (@JakeLB12)
Welcome to Part 2 of The Semi-Irrational Playoffs Forecast, which has more gravitas when every word begins with a capital letter. In Part 1, we looked at those players who might be the ‘smash glass in case of emergency types’ when you’re stuck for a Flex or WR2.
Now, it’s time for defences/special teams and handcuffs. As the old adage goes, ‘defence wins championships’, which is exactly what we’re hoping for with some of these selections. I don’t have an adage or quip for handcuffs – I just know I never want to be in them.
As with Part 1, this forecast is based on semi-irrational thoughts with a few stats thrown in for good measure. And no obvious selections either, duh. Let’s dig!
TIER 1 – MOST CONFIDENT ABOUT
New York Giants D/ST (4.9% owned in ESPN)
Weeks 14-17: @PHI, vs MIA, @WAS, vs PHI
72.0 Points through 11 games (17th in top D/ST scoring)
If you’re a glass half full kinda guy or gal, then you might be rewarded by plumping with the Giants D/ST come playoff time. After posting a modest 6 points on the road to the Bears last Sunday, this week is a home contest versus Aaron Rodgers. Not keen, to be honest.
BUT WEEKS 14-17! I am keen. Philadelphia are struggling big time, as Caron Wentz is not looking like the old Carson Wentz. In fact, Philadelphia are 22nd in Total Team Offence stats – a far cry from the Superbowl team a couple years back.
Even better, in between that Philly sandwich are matchups against the Dolphins and Redskins, who are 30th and 32nd respectively in Total Offence. You literally (just about) could not have it any better. Tempting, right?
Green Bay Packers D/ST (20.5% owned in ESPN)
Weeks 14-17: vs WAS, vs CHI, @MIN, @DET
63.0 Points through 11 games (24th in top D/ST scoring)
Right, okay. The Packers put up a donut last Sunday in San Francisco, and they’ve also acquired sub-zero point tallies on 3 occasions this season. I just had to get this off my chest before I try and sway you to pick a D/ST ranked at number 26.
With that out the way, let’s discuss the good stuff. As mentioned in the Giants D/ST section, the Redskins offense just isn’t very good (news flash), so starting your playoff run to glory is more than achievable with the Packers as your D/ST. That’s followed by Mitch Trubisky visiting Lambeau, and I don’t know about you, but anytime I can get Mitch, on the road, I’m liking my chances.
Weeks 16 and 17 may not look fruitful on paper against the Vikings (8th in total team offence) and the Lions (9th), but way back in Week 2, the Packers D/ST scored 9 points against Minnesota. They then snagged 5 points against the Lions, who back then had Matt Stafford – this time round, that may not be the case. As a filler for a couple weeks, the Cheeseheads could be worth a gamble.
TIER 2 – SLIGHT WORRY, BUT STILL
Los Angeles Chargers (33.1% owned in ESPN)
Weeks 14-17: @JAX, vs MIN, vs OAK, vs @KC
63.0 Points through 11 games (24th in top D/ST scoring)
It’s been a disappointing season in many ways for the most un-loved team in Los Angeles. Injuries, the ageing quarterback, crowds dwindling. A team that had promised so much at the start of the year have just become ‘another team’.
Something they can hang their imaginary hat on, however, is the solid play of their defence. Despite the lousy record and measly 11 takeaways, the defence ranks 5th in team total stats. When you consider the teams ranked higher than them, it’s pretty impressive.
The Week 17 matchup against the Chiefs is bad, I won’t deny. But the Jaguars and Raiders are middling teams who will give this D/ST opportunities.
Denver Broncos D/ST (19.8% owned in ESPN)
Weeks 14-17: @HOU, @KC, vs DET, vs OAK
61.0 Points through 11 games (27th in top D/ST scoring)
The Broncos fans have had it tough this season. Flacco, then Brandon Allen, and now there’s murmurs of Drew Lock. Courtland Sutton aside, this is an offence that shouldn’t be capable of winning any games, let alone keeping them close.
The reason Denver has had any shot? That Vic Fangio led defence. Weird stat alert: Despite sitting at 3-8 in the AFC West, they’ve actually allowed less points than anybody in their division. It’s that sort of statistic why they sit 8th in total defence stats.
The downer to these good vibes is the takeaways total – only Miami have less than this unit. But Week 15 aside, I like the opportunities for sacks and points allowed. Deshaun Watson is good but gets hit. Jeff Driskel is Jeff Driskel, and the Raiders are just meh.
TIER 3 – SEMI-IRRATIONAL ON STEROIDS
Miami Dolphins D/ST (6% owned in ESPN)
Weeks 14-17: @ NYJ, @ NYG, vs CIN, @ NE
22.0 Points through 11 games (32nd in top D/ST scoring)
Oooh boy. This tier is called ‘on steroids’, but there’s a chance it might be on other drugs, too. I won’t bore you with the gory details of how bad this team is, or what’s happened in the past. This is a flat-out gamble, let’s make that clear.
If you are the sort of person who walks under ladders down the high street, then have I got the D/ST for you – the Miami Dolphins! Week 17 is a write off and I can’t give you any incentive to select Miami when going into Foxboro, but just look at that poo-poo platter beforehand.
The Jets, the Giants and the Bengals are all in the bottom 5 for offensive points scored. Heck, the Bengals are the worst team in the league. That’s pretty damning evidence…just be careful, young padawan.
NOTHING SEMI-IRRATIONAL HERE, JUST HANDCUFFS
Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens (5.4% owned in ESPN)
Mark Ingram has this backfield on lock, but in games where the Ravens are rolling – a regular occurrence these days – Edwards gets some decent volume. The Jets, Browns and Steelers remain on the schedule too, so to keep Ingram fresh for the playoffs, Gus might get more involved than we think.
Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings (17.4% owned in ESPN)
For many people, Mattison is the unequivocal number 1 handcuff in fantasy. Couple reasons – 1) the Vikings dependence on the running game, and 2) Dalvin Cook’s injury history. He’s stayed on the field so far, but the doubt always remains. Not to mention, Mattison has looked more than capable in his appearances this season.
Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys (12.1% owned in ESPN)
This past Sunday in dreary New England, Pollard received his highest touch volume since Week 7. The week before, he scored 17.6 PPR fantasy points. If something is brewing down in the Lone Star State, make sure you have a piece of it on your bench (for now).
Good luck in the playoffs – until we meet again.