Welcome to the playoffs, fantasy football enthusiasts! Remember, it doesn't matter how you got there, it just matters what you do now. (Says the guy whose team backed into the postseason on a four-game losing streak.)
Like most 12-team fantasy football leagues around the country, the Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge had a 13-week regular season and now will crown a champion over three weeks of playoffs, avoiding the real NFL Week 17 in which stars are sometimes rested. The top two teams get a bye in Week 14 and the next four begin the battle royale.
The Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge began with a live draft held in the actual room at the AdventHealth Training Center in which Jason Licht and company conduct the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' efforts in real NFL drafts. Nine contest-winning Buccaneers fans joined a trio of so-called "Pros" from the Buccaneers staff: me, Team Reporter Casey Phillips and Staff Writer Carmen Vitali. The goal for the fans was to vanquish those three pros and win the league, whereupon he or she would open a treasure-chest full of prizes, be presented with the championship belt at Bucs headquarters and also earn some rather interesting bragging rights.
There are now five fans who have the chance to reap those rewards, and just one Pro still standing in the way. The two byes belong to Christopher Hatton, whose Water Walkers team essentially went wire-to-wire in first place, and Brandon Durfey, whose Matt Gay 4 Trey team rode a five-game winning streak to a last-week leap into second place. Those two teams finished 10-3.
The Great Marpet Capers, Jason Swinford's squad, slipped out of that first-round bye with a rare dud of a performance in Week 13 but is still 9-4 with the highest overall point total in the league. Christopher Dombrowski's Risky Biscuits team takes the four-seed with an 8-5 record and the third-highest point total, while Justin Beetz's The Revolution finished 7-6 to take the fifth spot.
That left the door open just a crack for one Pro to slip into the playoff field, which I did with a 6-7 finish after that aforementioned four-game losing streak. Barely on the outside looking in is one fellow Pro, Carmen and her Bowles-room Blitz, and one more fan, Nick Russin and the Kung Suh Panda. Those teams were also 6-7 but had lower point totals than my squad, which was the tiebreaker in the standings.
There wasn't a lot of Week 13 drama, as the top six beginning the weekend stayed in those spots. Brandon's Matt Gay 4 Trey team tried to manufacture some, I guess, with a bout of boasting on the league message board, and then promptly beat me by the lowest margin of victory of any game the entire season: 125.20 to 125.02. I needed one more D.K. Metcalf catch on Monday night and didn't get it.
To say this fits into the established storyline for Brandon's team this year is understatement. With the fourth-highest point total in the league, Matt Gay 4 Trey absolutely deserved to be in the playoffs and will be a tough draw for any opponent. That said, Brandon scored 25 more points all season than Campbell Sears' Meaningless Wins club, and Campbell finished 5-8. It may be better to be lucky than good, but it's really helpful to be both. It's worth noting that Brandon's opponents scored the fewest points of any team in the league. That wasn't the issue in Week 13, as I scored enough points to beat seven other teams but not enough – by the slimmest of margins – to beat the only one I needed to.
Fortunately for me, Nick's team also took the loss in a relatively close game. His quarterback, Josh Allen, had another nice week with 23.54 points but the running back duo of Shady McCoy and Devonta Freeman was just meh – it's been a tough year for Freeman, who was the first running back Nick drafted – and the Baltimore duo of WR Marquise Brown and the Ravens' defense didn't contribute much at all. Justin Morris's team was 2-10 entering the week and already eliminated from playoff contention but Deckerhoff the Halls went out on a high note thanks to Derrick Henry (25.60) and Julian Edelman (21.90). Tyler Boyd also pitched in with 16.90 points, helping to make up for a weak performance from QB Jimmy Garoppolo, whose name is hard to spell. The final result: 97.00 to 87.94.
So let's do this thing! The first round is my Plunder and Lightning team against The Great Marpet Capers, who I've been touting as my pick to win the whole thing for about a month now. Great. And yes, at 6-7 I should just be grateful to be in the running. But, hey, remember when the Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs in 2010 with a losing record and everyone thought that was a travesty? Well, those Seahawks didn't just bow down meekly. Instead, they opened the playoffs by beating the heavily-favored New Orleans Saints, who were 11-5. The Saints' quarterback that year was, of course, Drew Brees. Guess who the number-one quarterback of The Great Marpet Capers right now? Yep, Drew Brees. That's gotta mean something!
Now let's take a closer look at how the rest of Week 13 unfolded in our league.
Lineup Decision of the Week: Carmen Vitali's Bowles-room Blitz puts Alshon Jeffery right back into the lineup.
I looked for a key decision in Brandon's win over me since it was by such a slim margin, but I couldn't find anything he would have expected to do otherwise. Playing Darren Waller over Kyle Rudolph was a net gain of two points so that mattered, but I believe he's been starting Waller regularly. He actually would've gotten two more points by starting the San Francisco defense over the Jets, so that didn't matter. Probably the important lineup note here is that Adam Thielen was sidelined by injury. Thielen might have started over DeVante Parker, who went off for 34.90 points, but only Brandon knows that for sure.
So instead let's highlight the highest-scoring individual on the highest-scoring team this week, as Carmen's squad, already essentially eliminated from the playoffs, refused to go down quietly. The midseason trade for Lamar Jackson (24.30) continued to pay off, but the Blitz's best player was WR Alshon Jeffery, who returned from a two-game injury absence to put up 28.70 points. Yes, the Eagles were playing (and losing to) the seemingly-hapless Dolphins, but it's not as if Jeffery had been lighting it up before he got hurt. Carmen could have gone with Mohamed Sanu (who had 4.40 points), Tyrell Williams (1.90) or Mike Williams (16.70), all reasonable choices.
But she chose correctly, and with Curtis Samuel (16.50) and Jack Doyle (19.30) also scoring big, the Bowles-room Blitz took down Justin Beetz's playoff team, The Revolution, 156.70. I'm sure that's a victory that Carmen can savor on the golf course this weekend while The Revolution is still playing. And it's not as if Justin's team is stumbling into the playoffs; with Davante Adams (24.40), Tyler Higbee (23.70) and Robert Woods (30.20) all going off, the Revolution scored 141.08 points, the second-highest total in the league in Week 13. I don't feel like looking it up, but I'm pretty sure Justin just picked up Higbee this week.
Lineup Blunder of the Week: The first-place Water Walkers really, really, really picked the wrong quarterback.
I mean, this was egregiously bad. Like, putting-your-face-right-above-a-giant-creepy-egg-on-a-mysterious-planet level of decision-making.
You see, Christopher's team has Deshaun Watson on it, mainly because he used his fourth-round pick on Watson. When you draft a quarterback in the fourth round, especially one who is always capable of a huge game, you play him. You don't get cute because Watson is facing the New England and go with Nick Foles instead. You probably know what happened to Mr. Foles, who was buried under an avalanche of Buccaneer pass-rushers and who kindly gave the ball to those Bucs on each of his first three drives. Foles got a whopping 2.02 points before he was benched in front of a crowd in the throes of Minshew Mania. Watson, meanwhile, ripped that vaunted Patriots defense up to the tune of 28.86 points. On Christopher's bench. Ouch.
That made all the difference in the world as the first-place Water Walkers lost to Becky Hartman's Ladies and Edelman team, 89.54 to 87.38. Becky got 24.34 points from her quarterback, Tom Brady, though she would've gotten a little bit more by playing Kyle Allen. With Derrius Guice back, Becky benched Adrian Peterson, but he actually ended up outscoring the two backs she started Kenyan Drake and Bo Scarbrough, combined. Still, it was enough to beat the Water Walkers, thanks in part to 14.00 points from kicker Wil Lutz on Thanksgiving.
Though this Week 13 game didn't end up affecting the standings in any meaningful way, it was a glimpse of two teams trending in opposite directions. The Water Walkers won their first eight games and seemed unstoppable before they finally lost (to me!) in Week Nine. They would lose three of their last five, with one of those wins only coming by eight points over Casey's Brate Scott team, which finished in last place. Meanwhile, Ladies and Edelman lost its first six games but then won five of its last seven, which is quite impressive. This team looked dead in the water at one point but found life in such unlikely sources as Peterson and Greg Olsen. Nice work, Becky!
Best Game of the Week: Matt Gay 4 Trey 125.20, Plunder and Lightning 125.02.
I mean, it has to be this one, right? The only difference is the two transposed numbers after the decimal point. I lost by less than two yards…let's call it five feet.
Metcalf valiantly got me 13.50 points on Monday night to make it close. I got a great start on Thanksgiving when Kenny Golladay went 75 yards for a touchdown in the first minute of the first game, and Golladay finished with 25.80 to go with Aaron Rodgers' 28.12. But Brandon methodically climbed out of the hole over the weekend, primarily with the aforementioned Parker (34.90) but also with 19.50 from Mahomes and 17.00 from Waller.
Let me just add that if I had started Nyheim Hines over Jamaal Williams, I would have won. I never really considered that, but maybe I should have. Oh, and I thought I was making an astute move by picking up Arizona kicker Zane Gonzalez, the NFL's leading scorer at the time, during his bye week. He had one point.
Standings Update: I've already covered the playoff seedings and the two teams that just missed out. Campbell takes ninth place over Becky thanks to a higher point total, and Justin Morris stays out of the cellar at Casey's expense for the same reason. They both finished 3-10.
Additional Week 13 Results: I've already covered the wins by Matt Gay 4 Trey, Deckerhoff the Halls, the Bowles-room Blitz and Ladies and Edelman. Here's the rest of the action:
- Risky Biscuits (Christopher Dombrowski) 106.62, The Great Marpet Capers (Jason Swinford) 80.56
The Biscuits are capable of scoring a lot more, and I thought they would need it against the Capers but Jason's team just didn't show up in Week 13 and it cost him a first-round bye. Christian McCaffrey always produces but he's so good that his 17.20 points here almost feels disappointing. Drew Brees didn't do much even though the Saints won (11.26) and Tyler Lockett didn't even catch a pass. Even the Patriots' defense, so reliable all year, only got 2.00 points. Meanwhile, Christopher got an awful lot out of Miles Sanders (21.50), while D.J. Moore (19.20) and Cooper Kupp (18.50) also helped quite a bit. It was a good week to have any Ram in your starting lineup.
Oh, and yes, Christopher pulled the whole empty-kicker spot gambit for a second time, a move that so infamously cost him in an incredibly high-scoring Week Five loss to the Water Walkers. This time, it didn't hurt him.
- Meaningless Wins (Campbell Sears) 127.00, Brate Scott (Casey Phillips) 110.90
It wasn't Casey's worst game of the year before, but it wasn't enough to stop Campbell from notching another meaningless win. I've got to say, Campbell's lineup actually looks pretty dangerous – albeit in a meaningless way – as it starts with Dak (24.70 points this week), Fournette (18.10), Saquon (14.50) and Allen Robinson (22.60). Like I said, all Rams were good starts this week and kicker Greg Zuerlein, whose name is actually easier to spell than Jimmy Garoppolo's, even got 10 points. Casey stayed close through Zeke (20.70) and another strong outing by her best draft pick, 11th-rounder Courtland Sutton (23.40).
Tales from the Message Board: Some of this week's discussions within the Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge league:
Brandon says: "My luck has gotten me to 2nd place. Teams that go off every week have a very difficult time maintaining the high scores through the waning weeks of the season aka the fantasy playoffs. Enjoy your first round exit."
Jason says: "Aww. You're cute."