The fantasy playoffs are a perfect time for a storm of fantasy agony. And a rough — really rough — Week 14 set up a slew of difficult circumstances in a week many leagues head into their semifinals.
Some owners will have to prepare to play without consensus No. 1 draft pick Adrian Peterson, with his status this week uncertain. Rob Gronkowski — who was just starting to reward patient players — is definitely out the rest of the year after being placed on injured reserve with a hurt right knee.
Enjoy deciding what to do about Robert Griffin III, who's having a rough second year in the NFL after leading Washington to the playoffs last year and delivering many fantasy titles in the process. Coach Mike Shanahan might make things more clear if he decides to bench Griffin this week.
Detroit's Reggie Bush gave owners perhaps their toughest game-time decision in Week 14 after he slipped and fell during warm-ups against Philadelphia, leading to conflicting reports about whether he'd play in the moments before lineups were locked in. Nearly three-quarters of owners in Yahoo leagues still started him even though he didn't play at all.
Some players played Bush simply because they didn't know he was hurt. Others knew but decided to gamble on him anyway because they didn't like their other options.
Many savvy fantasy players and analysts say avoiding a situation like that is about paying attention, that the more information you have closer to game time, the better. That's true, but there's more to it than that — you have to have a contingency plan so when forced to make a tough decision, you can do so quickly without starting from scratch.
If you're lucky enough to still be in, the final weeks of the fantasy season are certain going to test you with key, unexpected decisions. Be ready for them.
Hopefully you won't have to mine the waiver wire at this point for playoff starters because you can depend on players already on your roster. But bad matchups, blocking opponents and any number of circumstances should keep you active and knowing what's available to give yourself the best chances to win.
QB: Alex Smith, Kansas City. Remember when 13 fantasy points from Alex Smith was considered about right? Not this season, which is why his Week 14 performance in Washington seemed disappointing. Still, Smith has had six weeks above 20 fantasy points in standard leagues and is the 11th best fantasy quarterback, ahead of Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Colin Kaepernick. And he plays Oakland this week, which has trouble defending no matter who's on offense.
RB: Montee Ball, Denver. Ball is available in nearly 40 percent of Yahoo leagues and more than 20 percent of ESPN leagues. The past three weeks, he's averaged 14 touches per game. He's not a threat to Knowshon Moreno, he's a complement to an offense that will likely be without Wes Welker this week. Plus, he helped a guy in Las Vegas win $1 million this week (more on that shortly).