If you're still reading The Fantasy Blog at Week 14 of the NFL season (thank you, by the way), either you've made the playoffs and require a few pointers to clinch a championship...OR you're looking to capture the less coveted but still uplifting Toilet Bowl title in fantasyland.
Either way, I'm happy to present five lineup tenets for surviving the experience—or at least keeping one's sanity during this pressure-packed weekend:
1. Never bench a reasonably healthy star tailback playing in fair weather
Skinny: If your banged-up star is nimble enough to tie his shoes before game time or perform 20-yard sprints without the aid of crutches leading up to kickoff, he MUST be in the playoff starting lineup.
After all, the regret of starting a tweaked stud in tough circumstances could never surpass the regret of NOT starting that stud...roughly three seconds after his second touchdown.
2. It's not always wrong to bench a star quarterback or receiver who's stuck in wretched weather
Skinny: On the surface, it's beyond ludicrous to bench an all-world talent in December, but there is some precedent for making this move. But keep in mind, the extenuating circumstances behind it should only involve injury or an act of God.
In Week 15 of the 2007 season, at the tail end of a record-breaking year of 50 touchdown passes, Patriots QB Tom Brady faced the Jets at home amid a torrent of heavy rains, cold temperatures and stifling crosswinds.
The result: He threw for only 140 yards and zero touchdowns, while single-handedly crushing the playoff hopes of every fantasy owner who rode Brady's coattails to the postseason (and presumably a top seed).
Let's clarify our weather stance here: Snow without high winds is not a big deal (shown by Brady's six-TD demolition of the Titans in October 2009). And rain without high winds is generally doable, as well.
But for any game that marries a wintry mix (snow, ice, freezing rain) with winds at 25 mph or above...it might warrant a lineup change at quarterback or receiver.
3. Don't sweat the small stuff, like kickers and defenses
Skinny: If you have a top-10 kicker, stick with him (in fair weather).
If you have a top-10 scoring defense or one that draws the Chiefs, Raiders, Titans, Cardinals, Jaguars or Jets in Weeks 14-16, follow that clean trail to playoff success!
Whatever you do, please don't overthink this process.
4. When in doubt with receivers, use targets as the tiebreaker
With points-per-reception leagues, targets can be a driving force when settling flex-option dilemmas. Use this information as a timely reference guide.
5. DO NOT change your starting lineup AFTER 12:45 p.m. ET on Sunday
Skinny: Take it from someone who got burned by a late swap in the SI.com league last season (bumping Steven Jackson for Rashard Mendenhall in Week 14).
Thoughtful lineup decisions from Tuesday through Saturday should always supersede a panic-driven epiphany 10 minutes before the 1 p.m. games. Especially when neither weather nor injuries were the mitigating factors.
Good luck in the playoffs. It promises to be great fun for everyone...even if it's an educated crapshoot from this point forward.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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