Don't overlook your fantasy kicker and defense in the playoffs
Week 14 was a fantasy wasteland.
Only four quarterbacks scored more than 20 fantasy points in standard scoring: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Ryan Tannehill. A season-high nine quarterbacks scored in the single-digits. Only five quarterbacks went over that 20-point mark in Week 13. Prior to Week 13, an average of 10.2 quarterbacks would score over 20 fantasy points per week (without even adjusting for multiple teams on bye).
If you started Le’Veon Bell in Week 14, you were a very happy camper. His 298 total yards and three touchdowns were off the fantasy charts and was by far the most productive fantasy performance on the 2016 season. Overall, the running backs are holding down the fantasy fort.
Wide receivers are a different story. Julio Jones and Michael Thomas were both inactive. Chris Hogan was the only wide receiver who went over 20 fantasy points in standard scoring. In PPR leagues, seven wideouts went over that mark: Emmanuel Sanders, T.Y. Hilton, Chris Hogan, Demaryius Thomas, Jordy Nelson, Kenny Stills and Davante Adams.
Tight ends… let’s say that my article from last week about the dire state of tight end production continued to ring true in Week 14.
Suffice to say, you need to find points in all the possible places.
That leaves your defense, and for some of you, your kicker.
Yes, if you play with kickers, then you need to pay attention to them. Last week 11 kickers scored double-digit fantasy points. How many of you had more than one starter with less than 10 fantasy points? Exactly. You need points everywhere you can get them.
I am fading kickers going up against the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. These four teams have three or more blocked kicks on the season and they actively try to block kicks. You may or may not get penalized for missed or blocked kicks, but either way, the aggressive play by these teams at the time of the kick gets into the kicker’s head. Miami gives up a few more points per game toward kickers, but the other three give up less than seven point per game and are three of the top four against kickers in terms of fantasy production.
Do not play a kicker playing outside in the cold, rain, and especially in wind. Not during your fantasy playoffs. You must check the weather report because the weather conditions not only move the ball mid-kick, but the coaching decisions in bad weather could also be different.
Here is a list of the top fantasy kickers (without a missed kick penalty, but with graduated points for distance) determined by their average points over the last four weeks of play:
Matt Prater – 12.25
Justin Tucker – 12
Sebastian Janikowski – 10.25
Kai Forbath – 9.75
Stephen Gostkowski – 9.5
Nick Novak – 9
Matt Bryant – 9
Make every roster spot count. You do not want to lose your fantasy playoff matchup due to a kicker shutout. And if you don’t want to play with kickers, tell your commissioner and start lobbying for next year. For now, pay attention.
Defense stat lines of note
Defensive scoring varies wildly from league to league. I don’t think two of my 15 season-long leagues have the same scoring. Therefore, we’re going to focus on sacks, interceptions and fumbles. Touchdowns and points allowed are big points makers, but since leagues vary as to how they count those scores, I’ll lightly touch on the scoring along with the major stat lines.
And let’s start with the obvious: you want teams that play against the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams and the New York Jets. Those are the top three teams allowing fantasy points to their opponents on the season. Everyone knows that, so let’s dive deeper.
The Cleveland Browns have allowed a league-high 48 sacks on the season. But it’s Buffalo and Indianapolis who are tied in second with 40 sacks.
Sacks are a more predictive stat and there are more sacks than turnovers in almost every game. Depending on how your league scores sacks, this could be the only stat line that you need to consider going into the week.
Over the last four weeks, the following teams allowed five or more sacks in a game, with the team they played and the amount of sacks allowed: San Francisco (Jets, 6); Carolina (Chargers, 5); Pittsburgh (Bills, 5; Browns, 8); Chicago (49ers, 6); New York Giants (Browns, 7); Tampa Bay (Seahawks, 6); Denver (Chiefs, 6); Jacksonville (Bills, 5); Kansas City (Broncos, 5); New England (49ers, 5); Indianapolis (Titans, 5)
Interesting, but Buffalo, Cleveland and San Francisco are on the list twice. This week I wouldn’t start San Francisco at Atlanta if I had any desire to win, but Cleveland plays at Buffalo and both defenses are interesting plays in Week 15.
This season the New York Jets have allowed a league-high 19 interceptions, but the more impressive stat line is that San Diego is second, allowing 17 interceptions, 10 of which have come in their last four games.
Philip Rivers is an interception machine. Oakland has one interception in every game since Week 9. That streak should continue in Week 15, and then some. Interestingly, the Chargers leads the league with their defense forcing 16 interceptions on the season. Derek Carr has only thrown five interceptions all season, but depending on how his pinky is holding up after that very cold game in Kansas City, San Diego could be a sneaky consideration.
Another surprise — Arizona and Jacksonville are tied, allowing 15 interceptions on the season. Blake Bortles has understandably caught a lot of grief this season for his poor play, but Carson Palmer is getting off too easy. He’s thrown at least one interception in five of his last six games.
Baltimore leads the league with 14 fumble recoveries on the season. Four teams are tied at second with 12 fumble recoveries: Minnesota, Tampa Bay, New England and New Orleans.
San Diego has allowed a league-high 13 lost fumbles, although all but two of those fumbles came before Week 8. A more enticing team for lost fumbles would be the Denver Broncos. They have six lost fumbles in their last six games. Not to mislead you — two games didn’t have a fumble and two games had two — but certainly ball security is an issue. This week the Patriots will travel to Denver. While many are fading the New England offense, you should snatch up their defense.
Overall points allowed
Here is a list of the teams that allow the fewest points in the league:
Minnesota Vikings – 17.3
New England Patriots – 17.7
Seattle Seahawks – 17.8
Baltimore Ravens – 18.2
Dallas Cowboys – 18.3
Denver Broncos – 18.6
New York Giants – 18.8
Here is a list of the teams that score the fewest points in the league:
Los Angeles Rams – 14.9
Cleveland Browns – 15.9
Chicago Bears – 17.0
New York Jets – 17.6
Houston Texans – 17.6
Jacksonville Jaguars – 18.5