|ESPN.com: Story||[Print without images]|
The decisions a fantasy owner has to make in the fantasy playoffs are certainly magnified, and the way DeAngelo Williams has played the past few weeks, month -- how about since October began? -- he would seem a must-play against anyone. Then again, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have clearly shut down the run. They've shut down Williams. Have they made it obvious what a fantasy owner is supposed to do?
Although it's difficult to ignore the streak Williams is on, topping 100 yards rushing each game from Week 8 through Week 12 and, when the streak ended in Week 13, making up for it by scoring four touchdowns, there's also significant evidence supporting the notion that he's not a particularly good play Monday night. The Buccaneers have allowed one rushing touchdown all season. Only two teams have allowed fewer fantasy points to running backs. And in five career games against the Buccaneers, including a season-low 27-yard effort in Week 6 in Tampa Bay, Williams has run for a total of 171 yards. Evidence indeed.
Yet, hasn't Williams done enough to ensure he's a weekly play, someone you can count on no matter what? LaDainian Tomlinson owners don't sit their perceived top player in any matchups, even though he entered Week 14 outside the top 15 for running back scoring. It's time to argue this is a different Williams and fantasy owners should trust the Carolina Panthers' main man no matter what. This guy has become a stud, the No. 5 running back in terms of total points on the season, and if you judge him on past seasons, when he clearly was sharing backfield touches, or on one bad road game in Florida, you'll be missing out. He needed a chance to be the main guy, and now that opportunity has knocked, Williams is thriving, with 95 fantasy points in four weeks. The Buccaneers aren't likely to get trounced, but even good defenses do give up fantasy points from time to time. It's difficult to sit Williams this week.
The reason many fantasy owners likely will sit Williams anyway is that he is improperly viewed as someone merely on a hot streak. He wasn't drafted as a top running back, instead going outside the top 80! In most leagues, rookie Jonathan Stewart went ahead of him (as well as Marc Bulger, Heath Miller and Joey Galloway). Fantasy owners still believe Williams and Stewart are sharing carries, but proof from recent games doesn't support that. It's just difficult for fantasy owners who owned Williams his first two seasons to view him as a top-5 running back. If you're one of those who never sits the players who got you to the playoffs, Williams plays against the Buccaneers. If you're someone who never plays someone in a difficult matchup, you don't play him. Early returns on what ESPN fantasy owners are doing show Williams as active in more than 70 percent of leagues, a clear top-20 option at running back. He plays.
Matchups are critical in any fantasy football week, and even those players on hot streaks should be viewed with some trepidation when facing a top defense. Williams versus the Buccaneers is one of those cases, but then again, the way he has been running, he might just be unstoppable -- and someone who can bring you a fantasy championship.
Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.