Houston Texans running back Rex Burkhead
Houston Texans running back Rex Burkhead (28) carries the ball during an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson)


Mike Shara

Well, I hope that you were able to begin your fantasy playoff week with a boom by starting someone like Deebo Samuel (9 receptions for 152 yards AND 5 rushes for 32 yards) or the ascendant A.J. Brown (11 receptions for 145 yards and a touchdown). I also sincerely hope you weren’t counting on George Kittle or Jimmy G, because…well let’s not talk about that anymore. Maybe you were even lucky enough to have both Samuel and Brown on your roster. If so, good for you. If not, do not despair. There are still plenty of useful players who can serve as coal mine canaries for your fantasy team – precautions before Saturday or Sunday’s action begins in case more Covid chaos shakes down. You just have to go down there, dig in and look around.

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Here are a few players I like going into this weekend due to one circumstance or another.

JUSTIN JACKSON, RB, LA CHARGERS (54% rostered on Yahoo!)
Austin Ekeler said on his own podcast the other day that he’d recommend acquiring Jackson, his backup, in fantasy for this coming weekend. That seems like about as obvious a hint as you could possibly stumble on. Ekeler is currently on the NFL’s Covid protocols ineligible list and it would appear that he won’t be coming off in time to play this weekend’s game vs. Houston. If you’re stuck with a sudden dearth of options at this position due to recent developments with Ekeler, Dalvin Cook or Leonard Fournette, Jackson would appear to be a nicely developing rescue plan as an RB2 or Flex play.

REX BURKHEAD, RB, HOUSTON (11% rostered on Yahoo!)
This really depends on how desperate you are and how active other players in your league have been in picking up better players in better situations (like the aforementioned Justin Jackson). I can’t honestly recommend taking a Houston running back per se but lead back David Johnson seems unlikely to return from injury this week and wideout Brandin Cooks is now on the Covid list, so Burkhead seems like a logical bet for some increased work. The Chargers’ defense has been pretty generous this season to opposing running backs. If you’re in a ‘throw a dart and try to hit something’ situation on your roster this week, it’s not a bad toss. Burkhead is a nine-year veteran who plays with savvy and toughness – traits the Texans will need desperately this weekend.

TYLER JOHNSON, WR, TAMPA BAY (9% rostered on Yahoo!)
It is just a matter of opportunities and math here. Both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are out for the Bucs this week – Godwin for the season and now Johnson suddenly becomes much more relevant in Tampa’s wide receiving core, and he’ll have a certain fellow whose name rhymes with “Calm Lady” throwing to him. He was already targeted 7 times in last week’s game (which both Godwin and Evans started), so those numbers don’t seem likely to come down now that they’re both gone. Yes, Antonio Brown returns to action this week for Tampa, too, but he’s 91% rostered in Yahoo, could be a bit rusty and I’d expect Carolina’s defense to focus on him. Johnson appears likely to benefit from several situations that are all coinciding right now.

SEATTLE, TEAM DEFENSE (48% rostered on Yahoo!)
Would anyone have guessed that the Seahawks are averaging just under 3 quarterback sacks per game this season or that they’ve also been good for just under 8 fantasy points per game in their last 4? Well, like Santa Claus, they’re real things. Seattle’s season obviously hasn’t gone the way they wanted it to and they’re going to have to figure some things out in the off season with regards to their Head Coach and quarterback situation, but the defense has been pretty stout more often than not. This week they face an inept Chicago offense that will likely be without quarterback Justin Fields – it appears they’re starting Nick Foles instead – and they’ll have to do so in the hostile confines of Lumen Field, one of the noisiest in the NFL for opposing offenses. I know ‘Hawks fans won’t be deafeningly loud during a game that doesn’t mean anything, but it still feels like it has a decent chance to help you out if your normal Team Defense faces a tougher test than usual this week.

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