Photo: Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports

It’s almost playoff time, and that means it’s time to have a conversation about “dancing with the one that brung you.”

Lineup decisions are crucial to fantasy success, and those choices are magnified in the playoffs because its win-or-go-home. One bad call and you can kiss your fantasy championship goodbye, no matter how good your regular season was.

If you made the playoffs, you probably have a pretty good team. That’s why I suggest “dancing with the one that brung you,” by which I mean, stick with the guys who got you there.

But it’s not always that simple. Sometimes, one of the guys who got you there might be slumping, and you just got the hot waiver wire pickup of the week. Or, one of your regular starters has a bad matchup, while one of your high-end bench guys has a really good one.

If you’ve been reading my fantasy football columns all year, you’d know I don’t believe in one right way of doing things. I “dance with the one that brung you” because I’m not much of a risk-taker, but let’s talk about someone who is.

In 2010, my buddy Cole (who’s been mentioned in these columns before) was preparing for a fantasy football championship game against our other buddy, Tully.

Cole had been riding Tom Brady all year, and boy was it working. Brady finished with 36 touchdowns to four interceptions and would go on to win the NFL Most Valuable Player.

But Brady had a bad matchup coming against a Buffalo defense that finished third-best against the pass, and Cole was worried. He also had a young quarterback on the bench who had scored 24.7 points in his first career start the week before and had a golden matchup upcoming against Houston, who was giving up more fantasy points to quarterbacks than any team in the league.

That young quarterback was none other than Tim Tebow.

The only reason Cole even had Tebow on his roster was because he’s a die-hard Broncos fan. I don’t think he had any plan of starting him for the championship, but with the biggest game of the season fast approaching, Cole’s mind was racing.

Start one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time?

Or Tebow?

What did he do?

He went with Tebow.
What happened?

Tebow threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns with two picks while rushing for 94 yards and a score on the ground, while Brady had three touchdowns with zero interceptions, but recorded a season-low 140 yards.

Final score: Tebow 29.65, Brady 19.

Cole started Tebow in his second career start over Brady during a MVP season, and it worked!

Cole still lost the championship game, unfortunately, but his call still goes down as one of the gutsiest and brilliant lineup decisions in fantasy football history.

Like I’ve said since day one, there is no right way. It’s all up the fantasy football gods, and you know those guys love Tebow.

ON WITH THE PICKS!!!

QBs

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START: Alex Smith, Kansas City – Smith awoke from his midseason slump last week with a 366-yard, four-TD, no-INT performance against the Jets. This week he gets an Oakland defense that has the worst opposing TD-INT ratio (20-1) in the league and is bottom 10 in passing yards allowed.

SIT: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh – Though Roethlisberger is a far better QB in the friendly confines of Heinz Field, he’s not bullet-proof, as evident by his zero-TD, five-INT performance there against Jacksonville Week 5.

This week the Steelers host Baltimore, who are the second toughest defense for QBs to score fantasy points against, behind only Jacksonville.

RBs

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START: Rex Burkhead, New England
Last week, I featured Dion Lewis in this space. While Lewis played well, he was outscored by his teammate Burkhead. Tis is the life of dealing with Patriot running backs. Bill Belichick likes to sub them in-and-out randomly, and it’s tough to predict who should start in fantasy.

As long as New England’s offense is churning the way it is, however, it might not be an bad idea to start both Burkhead and Lewis. They’re both getting touches, and with Brady at the helm, they’ll both get plenty of goal-line looks, catches and opportunities to run against light boxes.

SIT: Alex Collins, Baltimore
Collins has four TDs in his last three games, but he was dealing with migraines following last week’s win against Detroit. Coach John Harbaugh the “migraines are very real,” so it would be smart to monitor this situation if you have Collins on your roster.

Even if he does play, he’s got a tough matchup against a Steeler defense allowing the seventh-least fantasy points to RBs

WRs

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START: Josh Gordon, Cleveland
Gordon was pretty dope in his return to the field last week. The Houston Lamar grad had four catches for 85 yards against the Chargers. It’s the second most receiving yards they’re given up to a WR all year, behind only Odell Beckham.

This week, Gordon gets a Packer defense allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to WRs.

SIT: Robby Anderson, NYJ
Anderson is on a tear, but I think he hits a speed bump this week against Denver. Aqib Talib is so good he’s snatched Michael Crabtree’s chain twice, and the Broncos as a whole are allowing the second-least fantasy points to WRs.

TEs

Dec 18, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (84) celebrates his third quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

START: Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay
Brate is back! After a four-week vacation, or whatever that was between weeks 9-12, the Harvard grad had two touchdowns in Jameis Winston’s return to the lineup. Brate and Winston have an obvious connection, so as long as Winston is healthy, Brate is once against a solid fantasy option.

SIT: Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota
Rudolph has become a model of consistency with at least four catches in eight straight games. He also has five touchdowns during that time. But this week he has a tough matchup against a Carolina defense giving up the least amount of fantasy points to TEs.

D/STs

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START: Patriots
New England’s defense has rebounded in a big way since its horrid start. They haven’t allowed more than 20 points in eight games and this week gets a rematch against division rival Miami, who they sacked seven times two weeks ago.

SIT: Saints
New Orleans D/ST has surprisingly turned into a salty unit fantasy-wise, but it has a short week to prepare for a dangerous Atlanta offense on Thursday. If you have other options, I’d consider them.

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