Win or go home.
Just win, baby!
It's do or die!
Say it however you would like to. But this is it for your fantasy football team. We're sitting in Week 11. The regular season for most leagues ends in Week 13 or Week 14. That means you have three or maybe four weeks until you either make it into the tournament (playoffs) or your season ends.
Maybe your season is already over. Maybe you already clinched a playoff berth. If that is the case, my condolences or congratulations, respectively. But you should still set your lineups and do your best to win.
But for all of us out there clawing for every win, we need to do everything we can.
For most leagues, the trade deadline is next Wednesday. It might be too late in the game to make wholesale roster changes, but it is "win or go home" time. It does you no good to have a quality bench if you're not going to make the playoffs. The bye weeks are over after Week 11. The only thing bench players do for you is provide insurance for injury.
Do what you have to do to upgrade your starting lineup. If you have a hole in your roster that you keep scrambling to fill each week (second RB, third WR, Flex, etc.), don't be afraid to swing for the fences. Go for the player with the best chance to score a touchdown.
If you can still make trades, you need to explore your options. What you need to look for might depend on your roster. Here are some players I would try to acquire because they might be available for less than full price, and they have the potential to put up big numbers the rest of the way.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: You can just see the pieces falling into place for Dallas. The emergence of running back DeMarco Murray and the addition of wide receiver Laurent Robinson have greatly helped Romo.
But it doesn't stop there. Romo's ribs are finally almost completely healed. Felix Jones is returning from injury. Dez Bryant is improving. Miles Austin will return in the next few weeks. Romo will be a top-five fantasy quarterback for the rest of the season.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: Surprised? Don't worry, the best is yet to come for Cutler. His stinker against the Detroit Lions is an outlier. The defense and special teams gave Cutler such a big lead that the offense literally didn't have to do anything.
The Bears have an outstanding upcoming schedule for fantasy quarterbacks. The return of wide receiver Earl Bennett has given Cutler a much-needed safety valve. Cutler should be a top-12 fantasy QB for the rest of the season.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens: The sticker price will be high, but not as high as it should be. The Ravens have been involved in some strange games recently. Because of this, Rice has not gotten the carries he normally would, much less red zone looks.
The rest of the schedule is excellent, with Rice facing only one top-10 defense versus running backs (49ers in Week 12). How do you get Rice? Offer a lot. And feel free to point out that Rice only has one 100-yard rushing game in his last five games and has only scored touchdowns in two of his last five games. And he hasn't caught a touchdown pass since Week 2.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans: If Tate is owned by the same team that owns Arian Foster, I wouldn't even bother trying to pull this off. But otherwise, Tate could be an excellent flex option, especially for the fantasy playoffs.
Even with Foster healthy and Matt Schaub out, the Texans have the best offensive line and the best running game in the NFL. And in Week 15 and Week 16, Tate has a dream schedule, facing the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts. The Panthers give up the most fantasy points and the Colts the third-most points to opposing running backs.
Roy Helu, Washington Redskins: It's a pretty safe bet that the Helu owner in your league is frustrated with him. That's a good thing for you. I know it's still Mike Shanahan, but go and look back at what Tim Hightower did at the beginning of the season.
There's value here if one running back can get most of the work. We've seen that Ryan Torain just doesn't have it. That leaves Helu and Tashard Choice. So I'm trading for Helu and picking up Choice. Then I sit them both on the bench and wait. Within two weeks, I think we will have some clarity in the Redskins backfield.
Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings: Harvin is definitely a better option in PPR leagues than in standard scoring leagues. Watching the Vikings play against the Packers, it was obvious that they were trying to make Harvin the focal point of their passing game. Not to mention they lined him up in the backfield quite a bit, both to run the ball and run a couple of screen passes. Sooner or later, Harvin will break a tackle to score a long touchdown. It might even happen a couple of times.
Which Giants WR will score the most fantasy points from Week 11 to Week 16?
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs: You're not paying full price here. My premise for trading for Bowe is that Matt Cassel has been no better than a replacement-level quarterback this season. Which means (in theory) that the average back-up quarterback can pretty much do what Cassel has been doing.
Tyler Palko, come on down! If the Bowe owner in your league is panicking with Cassel out, move in for the kill.
Mario Manningham, New York Giants: It's easy to see why Manningham has been flying under the radar. Hakeem Nicks is back from injury. Victor Cruz is leading the Giants in targets recently. Jake Ballard has emerged as a legitimate target at tight end for Eli Manning.
So Manningham has quietly scored a touchdown in three straight games. And guess what? The Giants schedule is brutally hard. Meaning, Eli is going to have to continue to air it out. And he trusts Manningham. Cruz might make the big plays, and Nicks might be the red-zone target. But Manningham is going to get plenty of catches and yards, and we've seen that Eli can find him in the red zone.
Brandon Lloyd, St. Louis Rams: Believe it or not, it's all starting to come together for the Rams. Well, at least as much as it possibly can. Sam Bradford is finally healthy. Mark Clayton adds another weapon to the offense. Steven Jackson is running as well as any running back in the league. And the schedule finally gets easier.
Oh, and Lloyd has averaged double-digit targets each game since he came to the Rams. He has a shot at replicating some of his success from last year down the stretch.
Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots: If you know anything about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, you know that they are always changing things up. Right now, Rob Gronkowski is the tight end in New England who everybody wants. But believe it or not, Hernandez has scored a touchdown in three of his last four games. And he will have some big games before the season is over. The Hernandez owner in your league might be worried after these monster Gronkowski performances.
Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers: If you look at Finley's numbers, most of his fantasy production came from one monster game (Week 3, seven catches, 85 yards, three touchdowns). But he's still the best red-zone target on the Packers, and he's scored a touchdown in two of his last three games. The only problem Finley has is that the Packers keep scoring from outside of the red zone. Eventually, the Packers will be in the red zone more often.
Thanks for reading. Have anything to add to the discussion? Please use the comments feature below. Questions are welcome, but please be as specific and detailed as possible.
Good luck to all of your teams this week.
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