Caplan's Week 18 Insider Fantasy Notebook


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Caplan's Week 18 Insider Fantasy Notebook

As we did last week in this space, we’ll delve into the playoff scenarios and what the playing time situations look like.

Pretty much what we expected to happen with playing time happened in Week 17, but week 18 looks a bit less certain.


The Buccaneers are locked into the #4 seed in the NFC and the Falcons were already eliminated from playoff contention.

Buccaneer head coach Todd Bowles did not indicate this week that he would use his starters in this one, but the Tampa Bay Times notes that the starters will play and the team wants to finish the regular season with an above .500 record.

However, keep in mind the offense had its best performance of the season during last week’s win over the visiting Panthers, so Bowles got what he needed to see.

We’ll trust the local report and the matchup is good for their offense, but how many snaps the offense gets remains in question.


If the Patriots win, they secure the final AFC Wild Card spot, so they will play like this game really means something to them.

As for the Bills, they can secure the #2 seed if they win, so they clearly have something to play for.


The Vikings can only gain the #2 seed if they win and the 49ers lose.

And the Vikings are very banged up on their offensive line (down starting and backup center and right tackle). And S Harrison Smith (knee) was downgraded to out on Saturday night.

However, head coach Kevin O’Connell sounded like the starters will at least play a few series when asked Friday about playing time.

“We’re gonna go into the game, we have a pretty clear-cut plan of how we want to go about the whole game, but we’re gonna go in with the expectation of our guys going in, trying to get off to a good start and play good football. That’s what we want to do. We’ve had a good week of preparation, and then we’re gonna be aware of not only what we want to do, not only from the standpoint of maybe getting some guys snaps here and there, but it’s really something we’ve spent some time talking about as a staff, and we’ve got a good plan.”

A reason to play the offensive starters for a few series would be for veteran QB Kirk Cousins some snaps with the new offensive lineman in order to get their timing down and the cadence down with the new center.

The only upside here is if the starters play, as the Bear secondary is extremely banged up, so the matchups are actually pretty good.

The Bears have nothing on the line and will continue to evaluate their younger players like WR Velus Jones. Of course, journeyman QB Nate Peterman is starting for the Bears, so you might want to pass on Jones in this one.


The Ravens can’t win the AFC North, but can move from the #6 to #5 seed with a win over the Bengals and with a Chargers loss to the host Broncos. Both happening is unlikely, but the Ravens have to get their offense going and gain some positive momentum on that side of the ball heading into the playoffs, so we should see their starters play a lot in this one.

As for the Bengals, they can gain the #2 seed with a win today and if the Bills lose to the visiting Patriots, so they have plenty to play for.

However, because of what transpired this week, the Bengals had their game against the visiting Bills canceled, so the NFL decided that to keep things as fair as possible (in their mind).

If the Ravens win this game (and the Chargers win) and play the Bengals next week in the Wild Card round, the site for that game would be decided by a coin flip.

The Bengals made it clear to the NFL that they are not happy with this decision, but the playoff revision was passed by vote this week. So, in an odd twist, the Ravens could host next week’s game without winning the division.


Both teams have been eliminated, so they have nothing on the line.

The only player we could see getting more playing time than usual for evaluation purposes would be Texans WR Amari Rodgers.


The Jets were eliminated, but were playing their usual lineup last week and there no reason to think that they wouldn’t in this game. The offense could be in trouble as both OTs were placed on IR this week.

The Dolphins have their season on the line and have to win and need the Patriots to lose, so they’ll be playing their starters as they normally would in this game.


In this one, both teams have already been eliminated, but there are no indications that anyone is going to be rested in this game.


The Browns were already eliminated and we saw how they used rookie RB Jerome Ford for carries in back of starting RB Nick Chubb last week.

As we’ve mentioned a few times previously in our Sunday notes, Ford has a shot to be Chubb’s backup next season as veteran RBs Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson are unsigned past this season.

The Steelers have their season on the line. They need to win and need the Dolphins and Patriots to lose. So, all hands-on deck in this one.


We trusted Charger head coach Brandon Staley last week to play the starters a lot of snaps based on what he said during the week and that’s exactly what happened.

This week, the Chargers can lock in the #5 seed if they win and the Ravens lose earlier in the day to the host Bengals.

A potential of a matchup on the road next week against the host Jaguars is a better scenario than facing the Bengals or Bills on the road.

Here's what he said this week on “what factors into which players will play on Sunday and the amount of playing time that each player will receive” (this was asked to him on Friday)…

“I have been through and have experienced this, when I with Chicago (Bears) and the first-round bye was at stake in 2018. The Rams and us were playing at the same time. We were playing Minnesota, who needed to beat us in order to make the playoffs, so it was a really big game. We kind of knew at halftime that the Rams were going to beat San Francisco and that we were not going to get the first-round bye. We played a really good second half and we were able to win that football game.

I think our approach to the football game was to go in and play well. We went into the game on a big winning streak, when were in Chicago, and we were committed to going to play that game at a high level. I think that we played a really high-level game against Minnesota because of it. That is certainly going to be my approach to this game, is to go play a high-level game. I know that last week, Denver, played a really outstanding game against the No. 1-seed in the AFC on the road. You know that they are going to demand our full attention, and our players know that.

Going into this game, they know that, ‘We’re going to play our players and we’re going to play well.’ As the facts on the ground change within the game, then yeah, things could change, but we’re not going in with the mindset like, ‘Oh, well he’s not going to play. He’s not going to play.’ We’re going [to Denver] to win this game and play our best. Then, as the game unfolds, we’ll see what happens.”

It sounds like at least some of the starters will play if the Bengals win earlier, but knowing how coaches think, still be smart about the playing time as the team has to play on the road next week no matter what.


The Giants already decided that since they’re locked into the #6 seed in the NFC that most starters will not play. So, you’ll see WRs Marcus Johnson, Kenny Golladay likely playing a lot of snaps in this one.

As for the Eagles, they want this game as if they win, they lock up the #1 seed in the NFC, so look for QB Jalen Hurts (right shoulder-questionable) to play until the game is in the bag; same for the other starters, so you should be ok to play the usual Eagle key players on offense.


The Rams have nothing on the line and have been taking a look at younger players such as WR Tutu Atwell and others over the past few games.

The Seahawks have to win and need the Packers to lose, so they’ll be playing their starters as they normally would.


The Cardinals were eliminated weeks ago and are a mess offensively with QB David Blough starting again. He’s the 4th QB to start a game for the team this season.

They may continue to take a look at former Eagles RB Corey Clement and it’s possible that rookie RB Keaontay Ingram sees carries as well.

As for the 49ers, they have plenty on the line here; they can get the #1 seed if they win (very likely) and the Eagles lose to the Giants (highly unlikely). However, the #2 seed is very in reach with a win over the Cardinals and the Eagles actually win.

So, the chances are the 49ers will play to win this game, but could start pulling key players out once the game is clearly out of reach or head coach Kyle Shanahan could rotate more liberally since the team likely will have to play next week.

He did indicate that RB Christian McCaffrey (ankle, knee) and WR Deebo Samuel (ankle, knee-MCL) would both play, but did not say how much playing time they would see.


The Cowboys are still alive, but barely, for the top-2 seeds, but would need some really great luck to take place; they need the Eagles to lose to the Giants (highly unlikely) in order to avoid the #5 seed.

You should be good with Cowboy key offensive players for the first half of their game, but you could see them start to be rested as the Eagles should be up big in the 3rd quarter and both teams are playing at the same time on Sunday.

As for the Commanders, they’ve been eliminated, but at least have something to play for from a coaching standpoint; if they win they would be able to avoid finish the season under .500. And they will want to give rookie QB Sam Howell as much help as possible with their best offensive players.

Unfortunately, rookie RB Brian Robinson (knee) is out, so journeyman RB Jonathan Williams should carry the rushing load in this game with 2nd-year RB Jaret Patterson backing him up.


The Lions could be eliminated if the Seahawks win earlier in the day, but all indications are that they’ll play the starters as they normally would no matter what happens prior to this game. They want to finish with an above .500 record and at the very least, carry momentum into next season.

And the Packers know if they win, they clinch the last NFC Wild Card, so no one is expected to have their playing time limited in this game for either team.