Good timing. That's how playoff games are won. That's how the Super Bowl is won. You can do all the analyzing in the world to determine when to start your best guys and when to play the best matchup and still have your team fold in the most crucial of moments.
Luckily for this column, Week 15 had some pretty darn good timing. I was right with all four of my favorite picks-Julio Jones, Felix Jones, Cedric Benson and Demaryius Thomas - all of whom scored in double figures. And I hit a number of picks out of the park with the likes of Donald Brown, Brent Celek, Lance Moore, Aaron Hernandez and Darrius Heyward-Bey all going bananas. In fact, all told I had 15 non-quarterbacks go for at least 100 yards or a touchdown and finished with a strong 20-13 record for the playoff week.
So I'd like to pat myself on the back for finding redemption in a crucial week after slumping in Week 14. Sure, I missed badly on guys like Mike Williams (TB), Andy Dalton and Maurice Morris each of whom was essentially non-existent. But in the end I really couldn't have had much better timing.
For the almighty Week 16, if you were fortunate enough to make it to your Super Bowl (for all of those finishing the season this week), I'd like to first say congrats. Then I'd like to stress the following: don't over-think it. And don't be afraid to roll the dice. It's all about the timing. Good health, good talent and good matchups coming together for one week and getting better production than just one team. Obviously, you should play most of the guys that got you here and trust them to do their job. But don't overthink playing a matchup game with at least one flex or a No. 2 RB or WR. In fact, I recommend making at least one calculated upside play to try and get any edge you can. If you miss and lose a close one, at least you went down swinging.
And that's why I'm planning to start Jabar Gaffney over Dez Bryant as my No. 2 receiver. With strength at my other positions I feel that is the calculated matchup play that will win me a championship. You gotta gamble big to win big, so it's with that in mind that I'm picking four upside plays as my favorites this week. Gaffney's a given, but besides him I like Dwayne Bowe to break his scoring slump, Kahlil Bell to be Chicago's offense for one more week and Lance Moore to keep catching those touchdowns.
Due to the magnitude of the week, and in the spirit of the giving season, I'm offering you not one but two bonus recommendations. If you have either, feel free to take a chance on Toby Gerhart or Lance Ball as a flex. In four weeks since Adrian Peterson sprained his ankle Gerhart has posted at least 100 total yards or a score all four times. Ball meanwhile has even more upside given the combination of Willis McGahee's so-so health and how much the Broncos will look to run on an awful Bills defense. So use them if you need them, start your stars, take a chance and cross your fingers. I'd wish you good luck, but instead let's hope for good timing. Just. One. More. Time.
Houston @ Indianapolis
T.J. Yates (QB) for Texans - Though the Colts picked off a couple of passes, they still allowed the Titans to complete nearly 68% of their passes for 331 yards in their first victory last Sunday. Against such a poor defense, look for Yates to bounce back with a solid game and be a good option in two-QB leagues.
Donald Brown (RB) for Colts - After two and half years of looking like a bust, Brown is finally showing the skills of a first-rounder on a weekly basis. Coming off a career game and a four-game stretch with three scores and over 340 total yards, he's worth starting against a Houston defense that has looked softer the past two weeks.
Oakland @ Kansas City
Kyle Orton (QB) for Chiefs - To put in perspective how bad the Oakland pass defense has been lately, you don't even have to consider the dismantling Matt Stafford put on them last week. Just look to the 250+ yards and two TD's Caleb Hanie threw against them in Oakland four weeks ago. Orton, who has better weapons and significantly more talent should match that without the picks.
Dwayne Bowe (WR) for Chiefs - See Orton, Kyle. Against a defense that's allowed six touchdowns to wide receivers in it's last three games, I'm calling it. Bowe will break a scoring slump that started coincidentally in Week 7 against the silver and black.
Jacksonville @ Tennessee
Nate Washington (WR) for Titans - It's true that Washington has been horrifically inconsistent at times this season, but after posting back-to-back games with a score for the first time all year, I'm willing to bet he makes it three. Versus a depleted Jags' secondary, he should have a nice game regardless of whether he's catching balls from Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker.
Jared Cook (TE) for Titans - Remember when many (including myself) looked at Cook as a favorite breakout candidate in the preseason? Yeah I didn't think so. Even the Titans had forgotten about him prior to last week. But after catching nine balls for 103 yards it appears they realized they were underutilizing a great weapon. If you're desperate at TE, you could do worse.
Miami @ New England
Matt Moore (QB) for Dolphins - Prior to holding arguably the league's worst passer in check, the Pats defense had given up 1,054 yards and six scores to Vince Young, Dan Orlovsky, Rex Grossman and Brandon Banks (that's right the 5-7, 155 lbs. WR threw a 49-yard score on them) in three weeks. PS notice how I didn't say a word about Moore and he still looks like a good start?
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (RB) for Patriots - The Law Firm can never be counted on for yards, but he is one of the league's best goal line backs and given how often the Patriots get in close, he's a threat to score any week. With four touchdowns in as many games he's worth rolling as a flex, particularly if it ends up snowy in New England.
Arizona @ Cincinnati
John Skelton (QB) for Cardinals - Kellen Clemens completed nearly 70% of his passes for 229 yards, a score and no picks against Cinci just 11 days after signing with the deplorably bad Rams and in his first start in over two years. That's endorsement enough for Skelton.
Andre Roberts (WR) for Cardinals - With at least 100 yards or a score in three straight, Robert's has become a steady source of flex points that should not be slowed by a Bengals defense that has allowed 11 touchdowns to wide receivers in their last seven games.
Denver @ Buffalo
Demaryius Thomas (WR) for Broncos - The Bills defense simply doesn't have the juice to keep Thomas from making it four straight games with either 100 yards or a score. No way. No how.
C.J. Spiller (RB) for Bills - Buffalo badly needs to keep opposing offenses off the field to stay in games. And since their defense certainly can't do it, Chan Gailey will give it to Spiller early in the hopes the offense can move the chains. With his blazing speed, this C.J. will make that work.
St. Louis @ Pittsburgh
Rashard Mendenhall (RB) for Steelers - Nothing like a visit from the worst rushing defense in the league to rejuvenate a running game the week following a showdown with the best run stoppers. With Ben Roethlisberger still gimpy, Mendenhall will have a field day as the Steelers' primary gameplan.
Isaac Redman (RB) for Steelers - See Mendenhall, Rashard. There will be plenty of cleanup for Redman in garbage time.
New York Giants @ New York Jets
Mario Manningham (WR) for Giants - The Jets will be able to slow Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks between Revis Island and Antonio Cromartie. But Manningham will be able to abuse whatever third corner matches up with him and the G-Men will exploit that because, frankly, they have few other options.
Plaxico Burress (WR) for Jets - Expect the Jets to make a concerted effort to get the ball to Burress as he faces off against his former New York team. Burress has expressed a deep motivation to stick it to his old team, and I for one believe that he will.
Minnesota @ Washington
Rex Grossman (QB) for Redskins - One number says it all: 27. The league-worst number of touchdown passes the Vikings have allowed suggests that any quarterback is worth starting against them, and yes, that includes Grossman.
Jabar Gaffney (WR) for Redskins - See Grossman, Rex. Last week I mistakenly made the statement that Santana Moss is the Skins' No. 1 wideout. After recognizing that Gaffney has caught at least five balls for at least 72 yards in four of his last five games with two scores, I've wised up.
Tampa Bay @ Carolina
Jonathan Stewart (RB) for Panthers - Stewart racked up 80 yards and a score just a few weeks ago when the Panthers put a hurt on the Buccaneers, and with the Tampa run D doing little to stop anyone since Week 6, I'd bet on Stewart again.
DeAngelo Williams (RB) for Panthers - See Stewart, Jonathan. While D-Will didn't fare as well as Stewart in their last faceoff with Tampa, he has run very effectively the last five weeks overall, with four scores in that stretch and at least 60 rushing yards in four games.
Cleveland @ Baltimore
Peyton Hillis (RB) for Browns - No other RB saw a carry versus Arizona last Sunday while Hillis racked up over 100 total yards and a score. In his last meeting with Baltimore he compiled over 90 yards and now that he's the workhorse again, he should be able to repeat that effort.
Seneca Wallace (QB) for Browns - With McCoy (concussion) out, Wallace put together a nice game in the desert last week. Don't be surprised when the Browns stick with him to better their chances of playing the spoiler in Baltimore and Wallace has a repeat effort despite the difficult road matchup.
San Diego @ Detroit
Mike Tolbert (RB) for Chargers - The Round Mound of Touchdown is back to his vulturey ways. With a score in three straight games, and the Chargers playing super in December, expect to see another one or two stolen scores this week against a mediocre Lions run defense.
Nate Burleson (WR) for Lions - With the way the Chargers having been jumping out on teams early, look for the Lions to yet again find themselves in an early hole. And with all the attention Megatron will certainly draw, that will likely spell a busy day for Burleson who should produce like no worse than a flex wideout.
Philadelphia @ Dallas
Brent Celek (TE) for Eagles - Though he's been a bit under the radar until last week, I'd start Celek over any TE besides the boys in New England and Jimmy Graham. With Michael Vick running the show, Celek has racked up 444 yards and three scores in their last six games together, including 94 and a touch the last time they faced Dallas.
Felix Jones (RB) for Cowboys - Jones has run effectively since replacing DeMarco Murray (ankle) two weeks ago. In fact, he's doubled his career 100-yard games in that span by registering two in a row. So despite a tight hammy, his hot streak should continue in a must-win versus a suddenly tough Philly team.
San Francisco @ Seattle
Michael Crabtree (WR) for 49ers - In one of the toughest places in the league to play the Niners will need to turn to their passing game to take out a Seahawks team playing great football and all but wrap up a first round bye. As the team's go-to receiver, Crabtree should see a minimum of seven targets.
Marshawn Lynch (RB) for Seahawks - Lynch has been a must-start for weeks now and so of course his name doesn't belong in this column. But the Niners D is so good against the run it drops ANY back in the rankings at least 15 spots. That said, I think Beast Mode offers the best chance for someone to run for a score on San Fran. Riding 10 straight games with a touch, I'm willing to gamble it won't be Lynch's streak that ends in Seattle.
Chicago @ Green Bay
Kahlil Bell (RB) for Bears - The Bell of the ball, this versatile Bear is looking to be one of the out-of-nowhere Super Bowl darlings. Against a Packers defense filled with as many holes as their beloved cheesehead hats, he should have little trouble racking up the yards and doing just that.
Randall Cobb (WR) for Packers - The Packers need a wide receiver to step up and serve as a playmaker across from Jordy Nelson. And that man will be Cobb. The all-purpose rookie is a lot like a young Greg Jennings, and with the Bears coming to town look for the Pack to lean on him more to break plays and stretch the field.
Atlanta @ New Orleans
Darren Sproles (RB) for Saints - When the Saints squared off with the Falcons in the ATL in Week 10, Sproles registered his worst game of the season by a mile. But no way that happens in the Superdome. Not with a potential divisional title and a first-round bye at stake. This little man will play way bigger than his frame.
Lance Moore (WR) for Saints - With five scores in his last five games, Moore is a fantastic upside play if you've made it to the Super Bowl and have a questionable flex. Because Drew Brees has thrown a ridiculous 20 touchdowns in six home games, I absolutely love this roll of the dice.