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The players that could swing your fantasy playoffs

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Sure you’ve got your stars to rely on, but these guys could ultimately make the difference between losing and winning.

USA TODAY Sports/Getty Images/Peter Rogers Illustrations

Congratulations everyone.

Regardless if your playoffs start this week (Week 13) or you still play in a league that enjoys dealing with the stupidity of having the championships fall on Week 17, you’ve survived another long regular season of fantasy football. Double congrats if you’ve managed to wade through the crap to come out on the other end crap-free and with a real shot at winning the crown. Likely, you—the crap-free fantasy owner reading this—have made it this far by relying upon a couple of truly elite players who have carried your team for much of the year. You’ve also likely made it this far because you’re constantly adjusting your team, adding and dropping players to maximize your team’s production. Sometimes players catch fire at just the right time and snagging one of those guys could mean the difference between a first-round exit and winning your league.

With that in mind, here are five flex-level players that could be difference makers for your fantasy team in your quest for a championship.

(Quick aside: I know I spent the whole opening hyping up those who’ve made it into their respective playoffs. Fear not those who haven’t! This list is doubly important for you as the last thing you want to do is lose your league. I’m going to be fighting like I’ve never fought before these coming weeks to make sure I don’t lose mine.)

RB Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens

No one knew his name two weeks ago but that’s certainly changed for the Ravens’ all-of-a-sudden bellcow back. In back-to-back games, Edwards has rush for well over 100 yards with only Lamar Miller, Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley having gained more yards on the ground than him over the last two weeks. I don’t know how it happened or why it happened, but Edwards has become a fantasy star right before our eyes (and subsequently Alex Collins stock has fallen off a cliff).

To make his value even higher, the Ravens face the easiest running back schedule for the rest of the season, facing the Falcons, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Chargers and Browns. Outside of the Chargers, all those teams are bottom 10 in fantasy points allowed to opposing backs. The workload has been there for Edwards and his rapid rise has come at the perfect time for fantasy owners.

QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Take my excitement for Edwards facing the easiest running back schedule, double it, add three, subtract a half and sprinkle some Heath bar on it and you’ve got my excitement level for Lamar Jackson.

Let’s be honest, Jackson has started his career almost more running back than quarterback, racking up 190 yards on the ground through two games. To put that in perspective, he’s rushed for more yards in the past two weeks than Phillip Lindsay, Christian McCaffrey, and Alvin Kamara. Pretty impressive. So we know as a runner, Jackson can feast on the defenses he’ll face down the stretch, but how about as a passer? He might do even better as the Falcons, Chiefs and Buccaneers are ranked second, fifth, and third in points allowed to quarterbacks respectively.

Unless you have a stud quarterback, you might want to take a quick second to reconsider your starting QB heading into the playoffs. Since starting, Jackson has scored more fantasy points than Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Baker Mayfield and Matthew Stafford to name a few. And don’t worry about Joe Flacco taking the reins back. There’s no way John Harbaugh, who’s in the midst of trying to save his job, is benching their most exciting player, especially when he’s making throws like this on a weekly basis:

WR Josh Reynolds, Los Angeles Rams

Any time you can get a receiver from the Rams onto your fantasy team, you have to do it. Reynolds took over as the Rams’ third receiver for an injured Cooper Kupp in Week 11 against the Chiefs and casually hauled in six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown (and he was THIIIIIIIIS close to a second touchdown in that game as well). The last game Reynold started prior to the Chiefs game (against the Packers in Week 8) he caught three balls for 42 yards and two touchdowns. So moral of the story, Reynolds is a lock to score you two touchdown in each game from here on out.

While that may not be exactly true, it seems that in Sean McVay’s offense, any receiver can step in and instantly have a fantasy-worthy stat line. And that’s not to say Reynolds isn’t a talented receiver. He is. It’s not any wideout that can make the cornerback do a split trying to keep up with them out of their break.

The Rams’ offense isn’t slowing down any time soon and with matchups against the Lions (15th most fantasy points to opposing receivers), Eagles (2nd) and 49ers (8th) on deck, Reynolds could be in for a big final stretch.

RB Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Here’s a stat that surprised me: Barber is tied with Barkley for sixth in most rushing attempts over the past four weeks. In fact, Barber has recorded at least 11 attempts in a game going all the way back to Week 6. While this hasn’t always resulted in huge fantasy outputs, you can’t overlook the fact that the Buccaneers, despite their early season aversion to running the football, have realized that making Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jameis Winston throw the ball 50 times maybe isn’t the best thing when trying to win games.

To make Barber owners even more excited, the Bucs have been turning to him more often in the red zone. He’s scored in each of the past two games and has seen 11 plays inside the 20 over the past three weeks after seeing that same number across six games to start the season. It makes sense why this switch is being made as the Bucs have run the fifth most plays in the red zone but are second in turnovers (3.4%), interceptions (4) and third in sacks (7).

It seems the Bucs have learned their best red zone offense is to give the ball to Barber and get out of his way. There may be plenty more touchdowns on the horizon for Barber owners.

WR D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers

Moore is the perfect example of a player heating up at just the optimal time for the fantasy playoffs. He has emerged in this Panthers’ offense as possibly the team’s most explosive receiver and easily one of their biggest playmakers. In the last three weeks, only nine receivers have had more receiving yards than Moore and guys like Odell Beckham, Keenan Allen and Michael Thomas aren’t on that list.

It’s not just Moore’s game breaking speed that he’s shown off recently, though that has been on full display, it’s also his savviness running routes. You can’t watch this and tell me you’re not impressed by how easily Moore shakes off one of the better cornerbacks in the game.

Things are only going to get better for Moore owners as he’s about to go against the easiest fantasy schedule for wide receivers, going against the Buccaneers, Browns, Saints, Falcons and Saints again. That’s right. He’s got two matchups against the worst defense in the NFL at limiting opposing receivers. Like I said, Moore is peaking at just the right moment.