The triumphs, the tragedies, and the triumphs and the tragedies. It all starts now, friends, fantasy football playoff time. Breathe it in and drink it up.

The ever-escalating intensity of your weekly decision-making process begins tonight, when needs are addressed for a nominal fee on the waiver wire. Need a solid running back to flex? There’s a Donald Brown for that. Need (another) Aaron Rodgers replacement? Welp…


1. Carson Palmer: So somehow you’ve managed to climb your way aboard the fantasy playoff fun ship and you’re off to sea despite still not having the services of Aaron Rodgers. This continues to be problematic, because Rodgers could be out again this week, leaving you to keep that desperation going by plugging someone in who will produce at least average numbers. Carson Palmer has never looked so fine with his 1,035 passing yards over just the last three weeks (three straight games over 300), and a matchup against the Rams, they of the 8.4 yards allowed per pass attempt.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 12%, Yahoo – 46%

2. Joe Flacco: Rolling along with the mighty fine matchups, Flacco gets to chuck it against a Vikings secondary giving up the third worst yards per game (287.0). Reminder: over their last two games the Vikings have faced the vicious gauntlet of Josh McCown, Scott Tolzien, and Matt Flynn, and they’ve given up a combined 671 yards.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 52%, Yahoo – 52%

3. Ryan Fitzpatrick: Fitz and Josh McCown below are pretty much interchangeable here, as both draw great matchups. For Fitzpatrick, the juice comes in the form of a Broncos defense which has been generous with chunk yardage, giving up the second most passes of 20 yards or more (52).

Percentage owned: ESPN – 3%, Yahoo – 11%

4. Josh McCown: If we assume Jay Cutler remains out for Monday night’s game against Dallas (he’s increased his activity, so there’s at least a slight chance he could play), McCown draws the defense that’s given up the most 20 yarders, and is allowing nearly two touchdown passes per game.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 15%, Yahoo – 34%

5. Matt Cassel: Yes, this is entering truly desperate reaching territory. But be one with that feeling if you’ve made it this far in your Rodgers replacement scouring. If a concussed Christian Ponder is out, the Falcons can surely make even Cassel look good. Their secondary is allowing a league worst opposing passer rating of 105.1, and at 26 they’ve coughed up the second most passing touchdowns.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 1%

Running Backs

1. Donald Brown: This is the end, my friend. Trent Richardson was on the field for only 13 snaps in Week 13, and during his few opportunities to do anything at all (five carries for 19 yards), he mostly chose the yellow path over the red. That’s always a bad decision, and it’s that misaligned field vision which has led to Richardson accomplishing the rare feat of being both a trade and draft bust. So enter Donald Brown, who’s still pretty widely available and he played 52 snaps against the Titans, which he turned into a pretty alright 54 yards with a touchdown. Most importantly, 46 of those yards and the touchdown came on the Colts’ game-winning drive, reaffirming that it’s Brown getting touches during winning time, not Richardson.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 39%, Yahoo – 44%

2. LeGarrette Blount: Stevan Ridley could be a healthy scratch again, and at least one closely connected Patriots beat guy has a rumbling in his gut which says that after being inactive last week, his days as the Patriots’ starting running back are over. So during the first week of an evidently shiny new era in the Pats’ backfield, Blount led the way with 14 carries, narrowly ahead of Shane Vereen’s 12, and far beyond Brandon Bolden’s three. It’s Bill Belchick, so that distribution could easily shift just because he hates you. But with the fantasy playoffs upon us, this week lean towards the back who’s more likely to get goal-line touches.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 5%, Yahoo – 7%

3. Mike Tolbert: About those goal-line touches during championship winning time. Tolbert is still quite unowned, and he has six touchdowns despite a moderate 97 touches overall. Yes, he remains in the middle of a three-headed backfield monstrosity in Carolina, and even four if we count Cam Newton’s scrambling that often happens during scoring time. But in addition to that scoring potential, Tolbert can accumulate yardage as a checkdown option in the passing game, which led to a season-high 89 total yards against the Bucs.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 19%, Yahoo – 30%

4. Willis McGahee: I’m feeling legitimate physical pain while placing McGahee’s name anywhere on your screen, but I’m doing it only because I think it’s therapeutic to embrace that anguish, and all the good which could come of it. And this week there’s, well, something here. McGahee is slowly bleeding carries to Chris Ogbonnaya, but he’s still the Browns’ primary goal-line back. And just as he did this past Sunday against the Jaguars, he has a chance to be at least average in Week 13 wile faced with a weak Patriots run defense giving up 138.2 rushing yards per game (31st). The Jags are allowing 130.4, and McGahee posted a season high per carry average of 4.1 (yipeeee) on them, with 71 total yards (also a single-game high) and a touchdown.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 13%, Yahoo – 13%

5. Shonn Greene: The running back waiver wire is a thin and awful place as we head into Week 14, which is about right. So similar to Tolbert above (just with less usage, and less receiving ability, and less everything), if you’re still looking and desperate to fill a flex spot at this point, go with a brute who may get a goal-line touch or two, and one who just had a season-high 10 carries. Just try not to look at Greene’s yardage on those carries, and you’ll be fine.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 49%, Yahoo – 12%

Wide Receivers

1. Michael Crabtree: I’m not sure how many weeks in a row I’ve featured Crabtree in this sacred space, but like Ladarius Green below I care very little. Crabtree made his triumphant comeback in Week 13, and all he did was finish with 68 yards on only two catches. Most of that yardage came on a 60-yard reception, but if it’s possible to have a more important number than those, this would be it: he was on the field for 63 percent of the 49ers’ offensive snaps, which is about 30 percent more than what I expected. Hey, did I say yet that it was his first game back from a torn Achilles?

Percentage owned: ESPN – 17%, Yahoo – 48%

2. Brian Hartline: I get that owning Hartline isn’t exactly sexy (Harline in his younger day knew a thing or two about sexy). But with his 33 targets over the past three weeks — four more than his per game pace over the rest of the season — Hartline could become a consistent low-end WR3. That volume was highlighted by 15 targets during the Dolphins’ win Sunday, a season high which led to another season high: 127 receiving yards.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 34%, Yahoo – 58%

3. Doug Baldwin: The presence of Baldwin and his usage will continue to be high for at least one more week and possibly the remainder of the season with Percy Harvin still sluggish in his return from injury. And really, with Russell Wilson now campaigning for resident of the world, any and every Seahawks pass catcher has some sort of value. That especially applies to a guy who’s been on the receiving end of 30-yard catches for three straight weeks, including a 52-yarder last night. That guy is Doug Baldwin.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 13%, Yahoo – 19%

4. Ace Sanders: Sanders has three straight games with 60+ yards. Don’t shrug at that, because it’s six points out of your flex spot, and a whole lot more in a PPR league from the oft-targeted Sanders with Justin Blackmon long gone. Over that three-week stretch Sanders has been targeted 26 times, with two double-digit games.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 1%

5. Andre Holmes: Despite his booming 136 yards against the Cowboys while we were all learning his name, Holmes is ranked low here because Denarius Moore will likely return for Week 14. But he’s still worth a cheap flier purchase regardless, as he’ll have flex appeal if Moore can’t go again.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 1%

Tight Ends

1. Ladarius Green: Look at those ownership percentages, and when you’re done with those, look at Green’s numbers over the past three weeks (206 yards with two touchdowns). And then when you’re done with there, go ahead and note that Green was on the field for 91 percent of the Chargers’ offensive plays this past Sunday.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 10%

2. Heath Miller: He had a season high 86 receiving yards in Week 13, and nearly half of his receptions on the season (45 percent) have come over the past three weeks. Even better, Miller will now use his rotund body against the Dolphins, and their pass defense that’s giving up 63.4 receiving yards per game to tight ends.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 15%, Yahoo – 47%

3. Zach Miller: You can get giddy about Miller’s 60-yard catch Monday night if that moves you. It was swell, but it was also an outlier. No, I’m more excited (loosest possibly definition of that word used here) about Miller’s high usage in that game, and his season high eight targets. Over just the past two weeks he has 155 receiving yards, which nearly equals his total over the rest of the season (179 yards).

Percentage owned: ESPN – 11%, Yahoo – 14%

4. Zach Ertz: It seems we’re all about the Millers this week, and the Zachs, and the Zach Millers. Here, Zach Ertz is still part of a situation that’s a damn mess, as he has been all year long. Sure, he blew up Sunday for two touchdowns and 68 yards on five catches, but his targets (six) were still identical to those received by Brent Celek. But if you’re in a deep league and are searching for touchdown potential in a flex spot, a Nick Foles target is a good place to land right now, particularly with all three of Ertz’s TD’s on the season coming over his last three games.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 3%

5. Brandon Myers: While we’re going about this dart chucking searching for flex touchdowns from a tight end, why not give Myers a spin? He’s scored in two straight games, he just had a season yardage high (61 yards), and his five catches in a win over Washington was his best output since Week 2. That’s…something.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 67%, Yahoo – 30%