Don't bench fantasy superstars like Marshawn Lynch

Posted Dec 6, 2013

Scott Engel of previews the Seahawks Week 14 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers from a fantasy football perspective.

The Seahawks are the first team this year to earn an NFL playoff berth. Meanwhile, the postseason starts this week in most Fantasy Football leagues. With it, comes self-inflicted additional pressure to make the best choices. Fantasy owners who are now in their playoffs would be wise to adopt  the Seahawks’ 2013 approach of attempting to go 1-0 every week from here on and remaining focused on their strengths.

Once they get into the playoffs, many Fantasy players have a tendency to overthink things. They obsess over challenging lineup decisions, and often make aggressive choices that can cost them a victory. One of the most notorious dangerous calls to make is to reserve a superstar because of matchup concerns.

It is a widely held belief in Fantasy Football that matchups dictate who you start and sit. But savvy Fantasy players know that matchups alone do not play into your final decisions. The quality of the players you are choosing from goes hand in hand with matchup analysis. In the case of Fantasy superstars, matchups are often rendered irrelevant to your lineup decisions.

Simply put, you never bench your very best players in favor of a much lesser player with a more attractive matchup on paper. Your superstar players are the ones who drove you to the Fantasy playoffs, and you must trust them to take you further into the postseason. A perfect example is a very challenging matchup for Marshawn Lynch this week against the 49ers.

San Francisco ranks 11th overall in rush defense, but they have not allowed an opposing feature back to get near the 100-yard rushing mark since Arian Foster totaled 98 in Week 5. They have limited the output of Zac Stacy and Alfred Morris in the past two weeks. So you can’t blame Lynch’s owners for feeling a bit uneasy as they get ready to activate him for Week 14.

Such Fantasy players may start thinking about going with the likes of Steven Jackson, who faces Green Bay’s 26th ranked rush defense. Or they may consider reserving Lynch for Ray Rice, who faces the Vikings. Minnesota allows the third-most Fantasy points to opposing running backs per game on (21.98).

Benching Lynch based purely on matchups, though, could prove to be a big mistake. Lynch is the sixth-highest scoring running back on this season with 184.40 points. Plus, he never seems to back down to the 49ers despite their reputation as a defense that stifles top opposing RBs. Lynch rushed for 214 yards in two games against the Niners in 2011, and totaled 98 rush yards and earned two scores against them in the first meeting between the two teams this year.

If you own Lynch, he carried you this far, and now is not the time to reserve him. He has already proven that he can boost your team to lofty heights. Jackson has played better recently, but he does not offer Lynch’s potential in terms of combined yardage and TD potential no matter the opponent. Rice has scored only 89.50 Fantasy points and is not in Lynch’s stratosphere as a Fantasy RB this season.

The very best Fantasy performers become elite by producing against all levels of competition. That is evidenced by Lynch’s success against the 49ers over the past two seasons. He also became the first RB to find the end zone against San Francisco in the next to last game of the 2011 season. Lynch is a must-start in every week of your Fantasy playoffs, no matter the matchup.

After watching the Seahawks dismantle Drew Brees last week, many of his Fantasy owners may be thinking about benching him too, because he faces the stout Carolina defense this week. The Panthers allow the least Fantasy points per game to opposing QBs (10.25). Brees’ owners may be considering Alex Smith as an example of an alternative, as he faces the Redskins, who allow the seventh-most Fantasy points per game to opposing QBs (18.94).

Yet even with Brees’ down outing in Week 13, he is still the second-best Fantasy QB on (258.16 points). Smith has come on to perform better for Fantasy purposes recently and is No. 9 overall (203.04). But Smith does not have Brees’ weekly ceiling for Fantasy points. Brees also will be playing at home this week in a major NFC South matchup. One disappointing outing should not make you forget that Brees is still among the elite players at his position. There is a very strong chance he will overcome the matchup this week as the Saints try to put last week’s blowout loss behind them and win a very important game at home. Brees’ track record dictates you never bench him in any matchup.

You may also think about reserving Russell Wilson this week, but that’s another hard move to make considering how well he is playing and keeping in mind he catapulted many Fantasy teams to their championships with his excellent late-season play last year. Wilson has already proven that no matchup is too daunting for him at this point, and he remains a Fantasy QB1 this week.

Other top quarterback starts for Week 14 include Nick Foles, who is a must-play right now and will engage in a shootout with the Lions. Matt Ryan should post some quality totals against the Packers.

Eddie Lacy is one of the very best running back choices for this week, as he’ll be very busy against Atlanta. Andre Brown, who faces the Chargers, should get in the end zone again. DeMarco Murray faces the Bears, who have been maybe the most vulnerable team to opposing RBs in recent weeks. Bobby Rainey should post some very good all-around numbers against the Bills.

Torrey Smith may have one of the best weeks at wide receiver, as he faces the very shaky Minnesota secondary. Keenan Allen has become a must-start and will surely catch a lot of balls against the Giants. You must always take note when quality Fantasy players face their former teams, and Mike Wallace will surely make some big plays against Pittsburgh.

Jared Cook faces the Cardinals, who have been very vulnerable to tight ends in recent weeks. Heath Miller should also be very busy against Miami. When considering team defenses, New England should be a top option against Cleveland, and the Jets will bounce back and hold down the Raiders at home.

For more in-depth Fantasy Football analysis from Scott Engel and the team, check out the Xclusive Edge Fantasy Football package, now at a special slashed Fantasy playoff push rate for Seahawks fans! Click here for more info.

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