“You play to win the game.” – Herm Edwards

In Peyton Manning’s record breaking 2004 season, he threw for 49 touchdowns, had six games with four or more touchdowns and threw for over 4500 yards.  If you had Manning quarterbacking your fantasy team that year, you probably did well, until the playoffs that is.  In week 15, Manning would have his worst game against.   The Baltimore Ravens’ defense, who finished sixth in points against, held Manning in check.  Manning would be held to one touchdown and under 250 yards passing.  Your stud quarterback turned into a dud when it mattered most, week 15, the first week of fantasy playoffs.

Yes, your team road Manning’s coattails into the playoffs, but what if at your league trade deadline, you saw that Manning had a tough week 15 matchup and you traded him for Daunte Culpepper who was facing the 24th best defense in the Detroit Lions plus additional depth?  That trade would have netted you abut 18 potential fantasy points (based on different scoring scenarios) and could have pushed you into Week 16, the championship!  Culpepper would go on to outscore Manning in week 16 as well.

The point is, you should always start your studs, until the day comes when you shouldn’t.  In the example above, I suggested that you move Manning at the trade deadline, but in Best Ball leagues or redraft leagues with little or no activity, you might not get a chance to make a trade at the deadline.  You might have to look at your fantasy playoff week matchups now to determine who you should pick in your draft.  Using some very early defense rankings from Bleacher Report, I have identified three early round draft picks who have some very tough week 15 and 16 matchups, and suggest a different option in that same draft slot.

Derrius Guice, RB Washington Redskins

Don’t draft Derrius Guice.  Derrius Guice has been the second rookie off the board in most rookie drafts I have seen.  While he fell in the NFL draft until the end of the second round, he landed in a prime spot to be the lead running back.  Guice’s only competition for fantasy points should come from Chris Thompson, who is the third down receiving back.  Guice is being drafted in the third round, so the expectation is that he is an important part of your core team.  Guice however has a brutal Week 15 and 16 stretch, facing the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, the second and fourth best defenses respectively.

Draft Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears.  Howard, like Guice, is a strong lead running back who may come off the field for Tarik Cohen the third down back.  Howard has a much easier fantasy playoff schedule.  The Bears play the 21st ranked Green Bay Packers in week 15 and follow that up with the 30th ranked San Francisco 49ers in week 16.  This is a great combo to lead you to the championship.

David Johnson
medium wp-image-42056″ src=”http://goingfor2.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/david_johnson-300×210.jpg” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”210″ /> Arizona Cardinals running back (31) runs against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)[/caption]

David Johnson, RB Arizona Cardinals

Don’t draft David Johnson.  David Johnson is one year removed from being the top overall fantasy football asset.  He is coming off an injury that caused him to miss the entire 2017 season.  Despite this injury, Johnson is still coming off most draft boards in the top five spots.  There is also concern that the Cardinals are not the team they were two years ago, and Johnson will have a tougher time reaching his rushing and receiving numbers.  Johnson faces the sixth ranked Atlanta Falcons in week 15 and the third ranked Los Angeles Rams defenses in the fantasy playoffs.

Draft Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys.  Elliott is another running back coming off the board in those top five spots.  He has higher rushing, but less receiving upside than Johnson.  The Cowboys play the 32nd ranked Indianapolis Colts and 22nd ranked Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fantasy playoffs, Elliot could easily rush your team to the championship.

Michael Thomas, WR New Orleans Saints

Don’t Draft Michael Thomas.  Michael Thomas is one of the top young wide receivers in the NFL.  He plays with quarterback Dree Brees in the New Orleans Saints’ high-powered offense.  Thomas typically comes off the board as one of the top five wide receivers.  Thomas also faces the Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers in the fantasy playoffs, both teams have top ten defenses.

Draft A.J. Green.  Green might not be as young as Michael Thomas, but he is a stud receiver.  Green has been the number one option for Andy Dalton and the Bengal offense.  Green should be good for 1,000 yards and close to double digit touchdowns.  Green faces the 25th ranked Oakland Raiders in week 15 and 29th ranked Cleveland Browns in week 16.

Whether you are trying to pick between players in the same tier on draft day or trying to make some moves at the trade deadline, it is never too early to think about how your lineup looks in weeks 15 and 16.  I am not suggesting you grab A.J. Green with the first pick of your draft, but naturally find spots in your draft where a player’s fantasy playoff match-up could tilt your decision making in the right direction.

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