In most fantasy football leagues the playoffs began this week, and there were no shortage of big performances or shocking fantasy outputs to shake things up.
We saw a defense steal the show, a midseason signing continue his epic second half of the year and two running backs who started the season as backups eclipse 20 fantasy points this week. When it comes to determining "fact or fiction" on fantasy value for players, these are the type of guys I love.
As always, I'll be focusing on those players whose performances were either surprising or noteworthy. You won't see Marshawn Lynch and his 30 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues on this list because we already know that he's one of the top fantasy backs around.
Instead, I've picked seven guys who have either underachieved prior to this game or are players you simply wouldn't expect to kill it for fantasy owners. The question is, can they repeat that performance down the stretch for you in the playoffs?
To the slides!
Seven receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns; 11 targets; 20 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues.
Don't look now, but Alexander is making a strong case to be the waiver-wire MVP over the second half of the season. In the past six games, he's scored 89 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues, averaging 14.8 points per contest.
And he's not a boom-or-bust candidate, either. In that time, his lowest output has been six fantasy points, and he's posted double-digit points in four of those six games.
Somewhere along the way, the player signed midseason by the Chargers has become Philip Rivers' favorite target. San Diego may be a bust again this year, but Alexander has been a bright spot.
Fact. When you consistently produce fantasy points for six weeks in a row, you're for real. If he isn't in your starting lineup during the playoffs, you're leaving much-needed points on the board.
32 rushes for 119 yards and a touchdown; four receptions for 48 yards; 21 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues.
Did you "Knowshon" that Moreno has 38 fantasy points over the past three weeks, averaging 12.6 points per contest?
Did you "Knowshon" that his lowest output during that time is seven points last week, or that he's now twice reached double-digit points since taking over as the starter?
Did you "Knowshon" that the Denver Broncos have now had a running back score at least seven fantasy points in 11 of 13 games this season, or that Moreno is the clear No. 1 option?
Fact. I still prefer him as a flex or low-end RB2, but Moreno has proven to be a reliable source of fantasy points since taking over as the starter in Denver three weeks ago.
22-of-35 for 259 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions; 22 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues.
The younger Manning has been a bit of a fantasy enigma this season. In Weeks 2-6, he had at least 15 fantasy points or more. In Weeks 8-10, he had 10 fantasy points combined. But since the Week 11 bye, he's been good for 22 points twice and 15 points last week.
So can you really trust Eli as your starting quarterback in the playoffs?
Here's one thing to consider: the Giants play the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens in the next two weeks, both top-10 defenses against fantasy quarterbacks.
Here's another thing to consider: Manning and the Giants traditionally play their best football late in the season.
Like I said, he's an enigma.
Fact. I'm not willing to bet against Eli with a postseason spot on the line. I think he's a really risky QB1, but I don't think you should sit him in favor of a safer quarterback with less upside, either.
Seven receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns; 11 targets; 23 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues.
Mike Wallace has been a major disappointment for fantasy owners this year, reaching double-digit fantasy points just five times this season. He's looked lackluster at times, and I think he caught a case of DeSean Jackson syndrome—poor performance due to unhappiness with a lack of a contract.
Plus, he's battled injuries, and like the rest of the Pittsburgh offense, he has had to deal with the loss of Ben Roethlisberger for several games.
But Big Ben is back, and he has the big arm to take advantage of Wallace's speed down the field. Its a happy reunion, indeed.
Fact. All eight of Wallace's touchdowns have come with Big Ben in the starting lineup. When the pair are healthy and playing together, they do big things. Wallace remains a solid WR2 for the fantasy playoffs.
13 rushes for 100 yards and two touchdowns; kick return touchdown; 28 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues
It's not every day that a backup running back will accumulate three total touchdowns. But Wilson made the most of his touches on Sunday, filling in for Ahmad Bradshaw after the incumbent briefly left the game with a knee injury.
Wilson shined, scoring on both a short-yardage run and with a 56-yard scamper late in the game. The Giants finally got to see the rookie flash his potential, and fantasy owners now have another running back in New York to consider.
Fiction. If Bradshaw is healthy, he's still this team's No. 1 option. Remember when Andre Brown went crazy early in the season in relief of Bradshaw? Well, when Bradshaw came back, he resumed being the top dog despite Brown's epic performance. Expect the same here, and expect Wilson to be far more relevant for fantasy owners in 2013.
32-of-51 for 381 yards and two touchdowns; three rushes for 27 yards and a touchdown; 31 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues.
Here's what you need to know about Foles: In his first three starts and a fourth appearance in relief duty of Michael Vick back in Week 10 against the Dallas Cowboys, Foles scored a total of 30 fantasy points. That's one less point than he had on Sunday.
So to say this performance was surprising would be an understatement of epic proportions.
But the real question is whether or not Foles could come anywhere close to sustaining this level of production. He has a short week before facing the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night—a team that has been stingy against quarterbacks over the last month—before facing the Washington Redskins and New York Giants.
Fiction. Foles may be the quarterback of the future in Philly—and the verdict is still out on that—but I'm not going to buy that he can post big numbers for fantasy owners down the stretch against three teams fighting for a spot in the postseason. Expect Foles to come back down to earth on Thursday.
Four interceptions, four fumbles recovered, three sacks, two defensive touchdowns; 41 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues.
Does the depth of the Arizona Cardinals' futility on offense know no depths? Do we view this as the Seahawks forcing eight turnovers or the Cardinals handing eight turnovers to them on a silver platter?
And with Brandon Browner already suspended and Richard Sherman potentially losing his appeal and joining him on the sidelines, can we even trust the Seahawks defense moving forward?
Fact and Fiction. The Seahawks have been pretty hit-or-miss for fantasy owners all season, and potentially playing without its top two cornerbacks could hurt fantasy owners in a big way.
Still, this Seattle defense has posted at least seven fantasy points eight times this season. They'll never come anywhere close to this level of production, but they'll remain top-10 unit during the playoffs.
Hit me up on Twitter—it's a fact that my tweets produce on a weekly basis.