It’s never easy losing in the playoffs. Whether you’re a fan of a team that makes a habit of losing early or a team that’s used to making deep postseason runs, the end is always tough to deal with.

The same holds true for fantasy playoffs. Even if you have multiple teams with chances to win various leagues, every loss is tough to swallow. For folks at offtheteam.com, the Official League is the most important league. Our other leagues are fun too, but the Official League has history going back to the days of the 411mania Fan Forum. It’s the one we podcast about. It’s the one we prepare the most for.

I lost in the quarterfinals last week. My bid for the OTT Grand Slam is over. I won OTT’s official fantasy baseball, basketball & hockey leagues this year, and was looking to add a third Official football championship to my laundry list of 2017 accomplishments. I’ve still had an outstanding fantasy year & can still add a football title to my mantle…but not the one that matters most.

So you’ll excuse me if the next couple of columns are a bit mailed-in.

Fave 5

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Ben Roethlisberger: Steelers fans can tell you about how Big Ben comes through in the clutch all the time. He’ll come through big in the fantasy playoffs too…this week he gets a New England defense that made Jay Cutler look like a legitimate NFL quarterback last week. He carved up the Ravens last week & he’ll do the same to the Patriots.

Julio Jones: The last time Julio played against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he got twelve catches for 253 yards & two touchdowns. He probably won’t do that much this week, but you can’t rule it out. The Bucs are the worst defense against wide receivers & Matt Ryan & company will light it up on Monday night as they push towards a playoff spot.

Devin Funchess: Does Cam Newton finally have a legitimate WR1? Funchess has gone for double digits the last four weeks & had a solid performance against Xavier Rhodes last week to help the Panthers knock off the Vikings. He gets a much easier time this week against a Packers secondary that got lit up by the Cleveland Browns last week.

Jordan Howard: Howard is an up & down player, and he was certainly up last week in Cincinnati. He ran over the Bengals like they were nothing, which they pretty much are these days. He gets another good matchup this week, as he roasted the Lions for 125 yards & a touchdown last time they met. I expect similar numbers this week.

Baltimore Defense: If you own the Ravens D, you probably lost last week thanks to their negative one point performance. They’re playing the Browns this week, so they’ll do much better. Hopefully your playoffs start this week.

Fearful 4

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Aaron Rodgers: It reads like a fantasy fairy tale. Big Aaron Rodgers coming back from the dead to lead your fantasy team to the championship. Sounds a little too good to be true, right? Rodgers is strolling back into a tough matchup with the Carolina Panthers. They’ll take advantage of any rust A-Rod might have. If you kept him this long you gotta roll him out there, but don’t expect too much.

Doug Baldwin: Russell Wilson has been doing plenty of work for fantasy owners, but Baldwin isn’t as involved in it as he used to be. His targets have been stuck in the 6-8 range since Week 10 & he’s only had two games over 100 yards all season. He got 3.7 points last time the Seahawks played the Rams & I wouldn’t expect much more this week.

Carlos Hyde: I’m not sure I would say Hyde is one of the worst players in the league like Dustin James would, but he’s certainly been a disappointment for fantasy owners this season. He did get a touchdown last week, but did little of note in the second half against Houston. He’s losing carries to Matt Bredia every week. Don’t expect much from him against a tough Titans run defense.

Travis Kelce: Kelce was held to one catch for one yard the last time he went up against the Los Angeles Chargers. He should fare better than that in this meeting, but it’s a definite matchup issue for fantasy owners on Saturday night.

3 Sleepers

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Joe Flacco (16%): He’s going against the Browns. SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE?

Dede Westbrook (35%): Blake Bortles finally has somebody to throw the ball to and things are working out pretty well for the Jags. Westbrook got 81 yards & a touchdown last week against the Seahawks & will feast on the lowly Houston Texan secondary this week. I expect him to be over 50% owned by the time this gets posted.

Corey Clement (10%): With Carson Wentz out for the season, I’d expect the Eagles to lean more on their rushing game than they already have. Clement gets some good red zone usage & could be a sneaky play here the next couple of weeks even with Blount, Ajayi & whoever else they have running around.

Picks Against The Spread

Denver (-2.5) at Indianapolis:

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Chicago at Detroit (-5.5): The Bears either play in close games or blow out Cincinnati.

LA Chargers (-1.5) at Kansas City: Give me the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium as an underdog every single time.

Philadelphia (-7.5) at NY Giants: Nick Foles will be all right. People don’t need to be calling for Tony Romo.

Green Bay at Carolina (-6): This should be a close one.

Cincinnati at Minnesota (-10.5): The Bengals were grossly unprepared last week against Chicago. I think seeing Mike Zimmer across the field from them gets the defense more motivated to play and we see a low-scoring game that the Vikings eventually win by single digits.

Miami at Buffalo: The Dolphins had a big Monday night. You know that means they’re primed for a letdown in Buffalo. Happens every time.

Houston at Jacksonville (-10.5): The Jacksonville Jaguars…beep…are for real.

NY Jets at New Orleans (-16): This is a huge number, but Bryce Petty.

Arizona at Washington (-4.5): Old people do well in Washington D.C..

Baltimore (-7) at Cleveland: This is going to be closer than you think. The Ravens will be physically battered after last week’s game in Pittsburgh & the Browns are desperate to get a win. Say what you will about them, but they haven’t given up yet.

LA Rams at Seattle (-2): The Seahawks were a bit pissy after losing to the Jags last week. Expect them to take it out on a Rams team with Andrew Whitworth in a walking boot.

New England (-3) at Pittsburgh: You give me the Steelers as underdogs in Pittsburgh against anybody & I’ll jump all over it. Even if it’s the sacred Patriots.

Tennessee at San Francisco (-2): The Titans might be the worst 8-5 team in the history of Western Civilization. They will be under consideration to be the worst 9-5 team in the history of Western Civilization.

Dallas at Oakland (-3): It doesn’t get much better for old-time brand names than Cowboys vs. Raiders, does it? Raiders Starter jackets were the thing back in the day, but I preferred the Cowboys jacket myself.

Atlanta (-6) at Tampa Bay: The Bucs are the one NFC South team that isn’t making a playoff push.

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Week 14 Results: 6-10

2017 Season Results: 90-110-8