Week 14 is in the books, and for most of us that means one of two things: you’re either riding high into your fantasy football playoffs, or you’re kicking yourself for moves you made or didn’t make as you watch your friends compete for glory. Hopefully you’re one of the former, but you can’t win every year. Otherwise, you might not have friends left to play with. As we head into the fantasy playoffs, let’s take a look at the AFC North players who either carried your squad or sunk your chances this season.
Note: All point and ownership figures come from NFL.com standard leagues.
Trent Richardson, Browns RB
Despite missing most of the Browns’ October 21 game against Indianapolis, Richardson is a mere 131 yards short of cracking the 1,000 yard mark for the season. He’s having the best season for a rookie running back since Adrian Peterson and fantasy pariah Chris Johnson both put up 1,000-plus yards in 2008. Richardson is also likely to hit double-digits in touchdowns – he currently has nine – and would be the first rookie to do so since AD. While the rushing totals shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who watched him bulldoze SEC opponents at Alabama, Richardson’s utility in the passing game has been a pleasant bonus, especially in point-per-reception leagues. He’s so far snagged 45 passes for an additional 348 yards and a touchdown, which has helped him to be the sixth-highest scoring running back in fantasy. If you were locked into a playoff race, T-Rich was money for your team, scoring three touchdowns and netting 32.6 total points in Weeks 13 and 14.
Heath Miller, Steelers TE
Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t kidding when he said he would try to get Miller to the Pro Bowl this season, and fantasy owners should have taken heed. Miller probably didn’t finish 2011 on many fantasy rosters and he definitely wasn’t on anyone’s radar as a top-five tight end this year. But that’s exactly what the veteran has been, ranking fourth behind only Rob Gronkowski, Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham with 111.9 points on the year. Miller’s touchdowns have taken a big jump this year as well—he’s already tied his career high of seven scores with two games still to be played. He also has a good shot to top his career high in receiving yards, set back in 2009. Not bad for a guy who seemed headed for fantasy irrelevance after last season.
Keeping you in contention
Anquan Boldin, Ravens WR
Boldin hasn’t had his best season in 2012, with only four touchdowns through 14 weeks. But the seemingly ageless receiver has still been Joe Flacco’s most reliable target and has pulled in 58 passes for 828 yards, numbers that have already exceeded what he put up in 2011. For anyone in a playoff race, Boldin has played a huge role as a likely third wide receiver or flex option. Three of his four scores came in the last two weeks of the fantasy regular season and he undoubtedly propelled countless teams into the playoffs with his performance down the stretch. In the last four weeks, he was a borderline top-10 receiver, and scored the third-most points (33.9) in Weeks 13 and 14 combined. The only two guys better over the past two weeks? Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson.
Ray Rice, Ravens RB
While Rice hasn’t quite been the player he was in 2011, the Ravens back has put together a very solid year. Owners may have been cursing his low usage in Baltimore’s offense (blame ex-coordinator Cam Cameron), but Rice is on pace to top 1,000 yards rushing and 500 receiving while putting up 10-plus touchdowns. Unless Doug Martin gets heavily involved in the Buccaneers’ passing attack over the last two weeks of the season, no other RB will hit all three of those marks. Even though Rice’s workload has been spotty, he’s still scored 10 or more fantasy points in all but two weeks so far this year, and more than 15 in eight games. Owners might have expected huge totals from Rice this season, but having the fourth-highest scoring running back in fantasy will keep teams in their matchups most weeks.
Hope you didn’t draft him
Antonio Brown, Steelers WR
After his breakout 2011, Brown seemed poised to become a fantasy monster in 2012, especially in PPR formats. His 69 catches for 1,108 yards figured to get a bump, especially after the Steelers committed to him with a multi-year extension in the off-season. The only downside coming into the season was Brown’s scoring potential. In his big season last year, he only crossed the goal line twice. But as any fantasy expert will tell you, TDs can be fluky, so Brown seemed like a safe bet. Unfortunately for owners this season, Brown has been unable to come close to matching his 2011. He hasn’t even cracked the top-50 for receivers in scoring, with only 70.2 points on the year. The third-year receiver has missed four games already, and his touchdown numbers haven’t improved. While he still has a respectable 51 catches on the year, he’s averaging nearly five fewer yards per catch than he did a last season.