Fantasy football leagues are entering the first or second week of their postseasons, so this is not the time to pull a Josh McDaniels and make a critical lineup mistake.
Since most fantasy leagues close their waiver wires down during the playoffs, those owners lucky and skillful enough to have teams still alive need to play with the hands they have been dealt.
But what if a player that helped carry your fantasy team into the playoffs has suddenly lost his way? His passes are wobblier than Braylon Edwards after a couple cocktails, or his sure hands have become slippery, or his running lanes have been closed by a leaky offensive line. Can you still trust this guy when winning this weekend could be worth big-time money and lead to a league championship?
There are times when a fantasy owner has to live and die with the players who brought him/her to the promised land. This is not the time to bench Tom Brady because of a snowstorm or sit Peyton Manning because he has been interception happy or reserve Chris Johnson because you think Felix Jones is facing a softer defense. If your team and your title dreams are going to die, let them die on the shoulders of the best players you have.
But there are players that you have to be very careful about hitching your hopes to during these final crucial weeks, because they are in meltdown mode and could spontaneously combust this Sunday. They had been solid, if not spectacular, up until a couple weeks ago, but now they are playing like they are auditioning for roster spots in the CFL.
Here are three players who fantasy owners should think twice, or maybe three times about before inserting them into starting lineups this week.
Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos
Okay, maybe John Elway’s records are safe after all. During the first half of the season, Orton was completing pinpoint passes all around the field like he was a 100 rating in Madden 2011. Orton turned scrapheap hanger Brandon Lloyd into the best receiver in fantasy football and led the league in passing yards for several weeks. Orton went from “game manager” to “gunslinger” faster than Sal Alosi trips gunners during punt returns.
Maybe the league has caught up to Orton, though. Or maybe he is slumping. Or maybe that deal he made with the Devil fell through like the New York Yankees’ deal with Cliff Lee. Whatever the case, Orton has killed fantasy owners the past two weeks, and there is no reason to think he might not go for the trifecta this weekend.
Orton was disastrous in competing just nine of 28 passes for 117 yards against Kansas City two weeks back. But at least in that game he did not throw an interception. He made up for that last week, throwing three picks while connecting on 19 of 41 passes for 166 yards against Arizona. And if that is not ugly enough, let me remind you that Kansas City and Arizona are ranked 22nd and 25th, respectively, in pass defense in the NFL.
So this week Orton lines up on the road against an Oakland secondary that is actually ranked in the upper tier of pass defenses (seventh), and he is complaining of a sore arm, plus Denver’s interim head coach Eric Studesville sounds inclined to rip off the Velcro that has kept Tim Tebow secured to the bench for most of the season.
None of this bodes well for Orton, so by all means go with another option unless your choices come down to Orton and Joe Webb.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
One God-awful game is a fluke. Two God-awful games is a reason to keep your heart pills handy. Bowe is taking his sown-up Best Receiver in Fantasy Football award and flushing down the toilet after amassing one reception for three yards over a two-week span that has his fantasy owners crying like John Boehner.
Two weeks ago, Bowe could not muster a catch against Denver’s Champ Bailey, who was all over him like a nagging girlfriend. No problem. Many good-to-great receivers have been made to look like chumps against Champ. But for Bowe to catch one lousy three-yard-pass against San Diego last week, when Kansas City was trailing and throwing from start to finish, is inexcusable.
I know Brodie Croyle, who had to quarterback for K.C. last week in Matt Cassel’s absence, is 0-10 lifetime as a starter and is rated about as highly in fantasy circles as Brady Quinn. Still, other premier receivers put up fantasy points when their starting quarterbacks are not playing. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson does not post bagels if Shaun Hill or Drew Stanton is throwing to him. Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald has nowhere near the fantasy worth he used to have due to the pitiful passers on his squad, yet he has not had any zero-catch or one-grab games this season.
Can Bowe step up this week against a St. Louis defense that has only allowed more than 20 points at home once this season, especially when Cassel is questionable to play? I would have a hard time betting my Jim Brown rookie card on it.
Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Uh-oh, Sanchez has that deer-in-the-headlights look he had on countless occasions during his rookie campaign. But that glaze in his eyes slowly disappeared over the course of last season, and by the time the playoffs rolled around he seemed ready for prime time. And that had carried over to the first half of this season, where the terrible throws into quadruple coverage had dried up as Sanchez had helped his Jets fly to a 9-2 start.
But Sanchez looks like he is back to square one. His last two games have been clinics on how not to quarterback. His footwork is bad, his accuracy is worse, and only Mike Shanahan has him beat in the poor decision-making department.
Sanchez went 34-for-77 for 380 yards, zero touchdowns and four interceptions against New England and Miami the last two weeks. Fantasy owners would be even angrier at him if he did not run for 20 yards on scrambles in each game. Sanchez probably ruined the playoff chances of millions of fantasy teams with these untimely performances.
Now Sanchez has the daunting task of playing at Pittsburgh and Chicago the next two games. While Tom Brady can handle this challenge without combing his hair, Sanchez is over-matched.
Let’s get this straighter than a Neil Rackers field goal attempt inside 40 yards—Sanchez is horrible in cold weather and against teams with decent defenses. This is why the Jets are 2-4 against teams with winning records and scored in the single digits versus Baltimore, Green Bay, New England, and Miami.
Maybe Santonio Holmes catches any pass within 20 yards of him because he wants to stick it to his old Pittsburgh team. Maybe not having the injured Troy Polamalu in the secondary will give Sanchez more open avenues to throw to. Con yourself into thinking this if you want. Unless my other choice is Rex Grossman, I cannot put Sanchez into a fantasy lineup with a clear conscience.