The Post is fielding fantasy football questions from readers heading into the playoffs to address your lineup dilemmas and more.
Who are your top playoff defenses? I’ve been riding Miami but need a spot start Week 14. — @Big_Plush
Among defenses that are widely available (over 50 percent in Yahoo), I like the Panthers (10 percent rostered) as a streaming option for Week 14 against the Broncos. After that, I would target the Browns (39 percent rostered) for Weeks 15 and 16 against the Giants and Jets, respectively.
Do you trust Christian McCaffrey this week or will they take it easy with him? — Ryan Hallam
Managers who drafted McCaffrey have had a rough 2020. He missed six games with a high ankle sprain, only to be knocked out for another three with a shoulder injury. He was set to return in Week 14 when a mysterious quad injury popped up on Wednesday, which has limited him in practice and could jeopardize his playing time. Prior to this news, McCaffrey would have been an easy top-three play against Denver’s average run defense.
At 4-8, the Panthers currently sit in the basement of the NFC South and would have little incentive to overburden or rush their star running back — whom they extended this offseason for four years, $64 million — onto the field prematurely. There’s a strong possibility he’s limited if we see him at all this week. Monitor the practice reports for the rest of the week and hang onto Mike Davis.
Is it ethical/permissible to bench your QB to get a more favorable playoff seed? — Mat Yurow
This is an excellent question, and even though it may no longer be applicable now that the playoffs have begun for most leagues, it’s still worth addressing. Fantasy football isn’t an ethics contest and it’s not Miss Congeniality. You play to win and you should capitalize on any competitive advantage that exists within the rules. If that means benching your quarterback for a better playoff seed, then do it.
It is incumbent on commissioners to clearly specify rules prior to the season, so assuming that wasn’t done, it’s 100-percent kosher. If this becomes a problem and causes contention between your league mates, I would suggest you hold a postseason vote to amend the rules for next year.
What do I do with [Alvin] Kamara, [Clyde Edwards-Helaire] and to a lesser extent Jonnu [Smith] who helped me get to the playoffs? — Kevin Smedley
It’s definitely an unfortunate spot to be in, and not a unique one for many playoff teams. I’ll address each individually, since there isn’t one overarching answer.
– Kamara: His value has taken a significant hit since Taysom Hill took over in Week 11 but he’s still a must-start RB1. The former PPR-machine has just three catches for seven total receiving yards in the past three games and has finished as RB22, RB38 and RB11. Hopefully Drew Brees returns before the end of the year, in which case Kamara would jump back to a top-two-or-three RB. If not, he remains a low-end RB1.
– Edwards-Helaire: Better days should be ahead for the much-hyped rookie. He burned managers last week after not recording a snap due to illness, but should return as a high-end RB3/flex for the Chiefs’ Week 14 matchup in Miami. If he busts this week, I’d consider sitting him in Week 15 in a brutal matchup against the Saints.
– Smith: Panic. The team clearly likes Anthony Firsker, who caught five of seven targets for 51 yards in Week 13 with Smith out with a knee injury. Even if Smith returns soon, he hasn’t been a very reliable TE1 this year and could see less playing time while splitting snaps with Firsker.
Looking ahead to semis and final, I have Russ[ell Wilson] and Aaron Rodgers. Legit problematic. Russ has Rams week 16, and Rodgers has Titans. Russ stinks vs Rams. Have started Russ every week except one this year, but Rodgers is more consistent. Thoughts on making a playoff switch? — James Parziale
This is an enviable dilemma that many managers would dream to have heading into the playoffs, but it’s understandable you are anxious given Wilson’s recent decline. For Week 14, you have to roll with Wilson, just given the matchup against the hapless Jets. As far as Weeks 15 and 16 go, I would roll with Rodgers against the Panthers, and Rodgers once again against the Titans. Wilson’s schedule is much tougher as you noted in that two-game stretch. He always has sky-high upside, but I would personally suggest Rodgers for the final two weeks of your playoffs.
Do I start [Derek] Carr or [Mitch] Trubisky as my QB2 (Kyler [Murray] is QB1) through the playoffs? Trubisky has a better schedule, but has the chance to get pulled at any point. — Thom Julian
Both are pretty risky plays and always have bust potential, even in favorable matchups. Carr has better weapons and is slightly more consistent than Trubisky, but Trubisky’s schedule is much softer. The Bears face the Texans, Vikings and Jaguars, all of whom are favorable matchups in Weeks 14-16, while the Raiders face the Colts, Chargers and Dolphins in that span. I would hang on to both if it’s possible as an insurance policy against Trubisky getting pulled (as you mentioned), but if you must drop someone, I would lean toward dropping Carr.
Full PPR league in the playoffs – should I play Jamison Crowder, J.K. Dobbins or Cam Akers in the flex spot? — Joshua Anderson
I know it’s tempting to always want to use a receiver in your flex spot in full PPR, but I’m tossing out Crowder right off the bat. He’s too risky in this anemic Jets offense and has too much competition now that Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman are healthy — though Mims may miss Sunday’s game because of a family emergency.
The question becomes Dobbins vs. Akers, which is a tough one. Both rookies started the season in frustrating three-man committees, but have begun to distinguish themselves from the pack. It would seem Akers has a path to more guaranteed touches, but head coach Sean McVay is as mercurial as they come with his running back usage. Akers is also banged up with a shoulder injury and was limited in practice this week. I’d give the edge to Dobbins, who is also slightly more involved in the passing game than Akers.
I’m in the playoffs with [Tom] Brady and Cam [Newton]. Both of them are capable of a single digit week. My RB/WRs are great and I need to start the QB least likely to put up an 8 point week. Also, what cocktail should I order on a date to convey the idea that I’m slightly more than my fantasy football team? — Jay Dozier
Brady has the higher floor in my opinion with better weapons and a much easier schedule for the playoffs. That said, I understand the argument for Newton, who has 106 rushing attempts for 435 yards and 11 touchdowns. Interestingly, both options have finished inside the top 12 in seven starts this year (Newton has one fewer start due to COVID-19).
The Buccaneers play the Vikings, Falcons and Lions (and the Falcons again if you play into Week 17), while the Patriots play the Rams, Dolphins and Bills (though they get the Jets if you play into Week 17). Brady gets the matchup edge in the first three weeks. I would roster both if you’re able, however, just as insurance..
As for libations, you can never go wrong with an Old Fashioned. Feels sophisticated and gives off strong “Mad Men” vibes.
What do I do with Miles Sanders? — @FantasyFB_23
It’s been a disappointing season for Sanders, who has dealt with injuries and has clearly been impacted by Carson Wentz’s decline. He hasn’t finished inside the top 12 since Week 5 in Pittsburgh (which was also the last time he made it into the end zone) and is tallying a mere 2.9 yards per carry over the last two games. Hopefully, Jalen Hurts can inject some life into the Eagles’ offense, but you should sit him this week against the Saints’ stout run defense if you have other options.
What are your favorite playoffs settings? 4 or 6 teams? Preferred tiebreaker? Points, head to head? Prizes? One winner takes all? — Mauricio Gutierrez
My preferred number of playoff teams varies based on league size but I would say no fewer than six. I like eight if the league is 16 teams though. I much prefer points as a tiebreaker since it’s more indicative of the team’s strength over the season and not just a one-week sample size. And finally, I don’t like winner-takes-all prizes. In my experience, teams give up much faster if they don’t think they have a shot at first. Third feels much more attainable.
Submit your fantasy football questions to be answered in an upcoming mailbag by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or sending a tweet to @SamanthaNFL.