Many moons ago, back in a time our elders call the 1990s, I was in my second year of playing fantasy football and somehow got myself a juggernaut team.
It was 1998, and I had QB Randall Cunningham in his record-setting comeback, 2000-yard scoring machine Terrell Davis and rookie sensation Fred Taylor at RB. At WR there was Terrell Owens and stalwart Ben Coates at tight end.
A championship was a mere formality. No one stood a chance against The South Park Cows. (Yes, that was the team's name.)
Then the playoffs hit, and I became acquainted with Frank Sanders. The Arizona WR caught 10 passes for 138 yards -- It was a PPR league so that hurt -- and Terrell Davis was shut down early in a Monday game against the Dolphins. He didn't even rush for 30 yards.
I lost by eight points.
You could do everything right in this game and still get hosed by bad luck and a hot hand at the wrong time.
Since we're coming into the stretch run, it might be time to try and find that hot hand.
As the story above suggest, there are no guarantees in fantasy. But looking at the schedules and player trends, these five guys are as good a bet as any.
DENARIUS MOORE, WR, RAIDERS: Oakland QB Carson Palmer's been lighting it up recently and Moore owes him the most thank-you notes. He leads the team with five receiving touchdowns – four in the last five weeks -- and has upcoming home games against New Orleans, Cleveland, Denver and K.C. He could add 3 or 4 more TDs in those weeks with a ton of yards.
FELIX JONES, RB, COWBOYS: DeMarco Murray's foot issues have lingered like the smell of week-old cabbage rolls. As long as Murray is out, Jones should have some success, especially since he has a role in the passing game. Dallas plays five of its next six at home against some suspect defenses – Cleveland, Washington, Philly and New Orleans, among them.
JEREMY MACLIN, WR, EAGLES: It's a small sample size, I know, but when Nick Foles took over for the Eagles last Sunday, Maclin became his top target. It may be a mirage, but it may also mean Foles is relying on his possession receiver like many young QBs. Michael Vick will be out a while, so it looks like Foles will get plenty of starts and Maclin will like that.
DANARIO ALEXANDER, WR, CHARGERS: Approach with caution. Alexander's a lottery ticket. His value lies in his deep-threat ability, and it looks like San Diego is trying to take advantage of that. When it works, you end up with big scoring plays and nice stats. When the home run ball is slightly off, you get two catches for 56 yards.
DWAYNE ALLEN, TE, COLTS: So, you thought Coby Fleener was going to be Indy's top tight end. Allen has been the better guy at that spot all year. Nothing spectacular, so far, but that could change. Shootouts and bottom feeding pass defenses are on the horizon and Allen's stats have been trending up in recent weeks.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens. Pick your trend -- A: Flacco hasn't played well on the road and the Steelers have the NFL's no. 1 passing defense. Or B: The Ravens get wired up for the Steelers and Flacco usually does well at Heinz Field. Go with B.
Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers. Guess who leads the team in receptions and receiving TDs? Yep. Olsen. Guess which defense is last against the pass in the NFL? Tampa Bay. Guess who Carolina's playing this week?
Marcel Reece, RB, Raiders. He may not get much rushing yardage, but he's a big part of a passing game that will be in high gear.
Heath Miller, TE, Steelers. With Byron Leftwich at QB, Miller will be used more as a blocking tight end. And you don't get fantasy points for blocks.
Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions. Detroit seems to forget about him when they fall behind. Against Green Bay, they will fall behind.
Chris Ivory, RB, Saints. He may be the Saints best pure rushing back, but with Darren Sproles ready to return, Ivory's competition increases.
Who's the hottest QB in the NFL?
If you look at a list of most TD passes since Oct. 1, you'd find the usual suspects at top: Aaron Rodgers with 18, Drew Brees - 15; Peyton Manning - 13. But tied with Manning for third in that period? Josh Freeman of the Buccaneers, also with 13.