It's that most wonderful time of the year.
No, not Christmas silly, although I suppose that's fine too.
It's the start of the playoffs in many fantasy football leagues, as the league's most stacked squads go head-to-head in a tournament who shall reign supreme in 2012.
With every week a must-win against a solid team, the playoffs are a much different animal, where the margin for error is next to nothing and matchups become much more important.
Luckily for fantasy owners of this trio of players those matchups portend big things in Week 14.
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. PHI)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made great strides in 2012 under first-year head coach Greg Schiano, but after dropping two straight games the 6-6 Buccaneers face a must-win scenario this week against the Philadelphia Eagles if they are to keep their lagging playoff hopes alive.
Among the improvements the Buccaneers have seen this season is in the play of quarterback Josh Freeman, who has thrown 23 touchdown passes against only eight interceptions, but as the fourth-year pro told Stephen Holder of The Tampa Bay Times Freeman knows that Tampa's backs are against the wall as the enter the stretch run.
"We have a lot of football left to be played," QB Josh Freeman said. "We are, right now, a game out. We're just focused on the next game, focused on getting ready for the Eagles. I know everybody can't wait to get back in the building, watch this game, evaluate, try to learn and try and grow."
Luckily for both the Buccaneers and Freeman's fantasy owners, the team hosts a reeling Philadelphia Eagles team on Sunday, and since Week 10, no team in the NFL has given up more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.
Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons (at CAR)
At 11-1 the Atlanta Falcons have already wrapped up the NFC South title, and as the team prepares travel the face the Carolina Panthers, its focus shifts from winning the division to securing home-field throughout the NFC playoffs.
The team got its 11th win of the season a week ago against the New Orleans Saints in large part because it set the tone early by pounding away on the ground with running back Michael Turner, and as Turner told D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that was the second game in row that the Falcons employed that philosophy.
“We wanted to come out and try to get something going on the ground,” Turner said. “We didn’t want to be one-dimensional today and I think we caught them off-guard a little bit, coming in with so many run plays.”
Turner may not be chewing up the yardage on the ground, but the ninth-year veteran has found the end zone in four out of his past five games, and Turner should make it five of six against the Panthers, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs in 2012.
Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens (at WAS)
It's been a tale of two teams for the Baltimore Ravens this season, as while the Ravens have sometimes looked like one of the most potent offenses in the NFL at home, they have struggled mightily away from M&T Bank Stadium.
In fact, those struggles followed them home in last week's somewhat surprising loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and after the game wide receiver Torrey Smith wasn't at all pleased with his performance according to Garrett Downing of The Baltimore Sun.
"It’s definitely frustrating,” Smith said. "Regardless of how tough it may be, it’s my job to make the play, and more often than not I make it, but there were a couple of plays that I left on the field that I’m very upset about.”
Granted, Smith and the Ravens will be on the road this week, but if there was ever a game for Baltimore to shake off its road funk, it's against a Washington Redskins squad that ranks 31st in the NFL in pass defense and has given up the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this year.