Normally at this time of the year, I’m all geared up for the fantasy football playoffs.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is where we separate the pretenders from the contenders. It’s such a glorious time of year for those taking part.

Let me emphasize this ... “for those taking part.”

For the first time since George W. Bush’s first term, I do not have a team in fantasy football playoffs. I am not happy about this whatsoever.

I’ve mentioned that my West Branch Football League team was a complete dumpster fire.

That was the case once again in the final week of our regular season, as I lost a game by 1.5 points because I started the wrong RB. For that league, I came to the conclusion that I was the poster child of Murphy’s Law but somehow managed to avoid finishing in last to “win” our toilet seat trophy.

I’m in two other dynasty leagues I started out the year very strong, going 6-2 in the one and 4-1 in the other. From there, I went 0-5 in the one and 2-5 in the other, respectively. Hence the rage here.

In those leagues, I hung on until the final week only to be gutted in the end — because of course that’s how this year has gone for me. The one I was winning midway through Sunday to only have opposing team players play like first ballot Hall of Famers.

The other was a complete heartbreak situation in that I lost with 21 seconds left in the game on Monday night with the Seattle/Minnesota game. Yep. Just 21 seconds away.

I went into that game needing big games from Chris Carson, DK Metcalf and the Minnesota defense. That actually happened and while I was still losing in the contest, I was battling someone in tiebreaker points for the sixth and final playoff spot.

Up by three in the waning seconds, Seattle stalled out and couldn’t pick up a first down to essentially end the game. So they kicked a field goal to take a 37-30 lead. That kick then made my defense lose four points and I lost on tiebreaker points by 1.04 points. In standard leagues, that equates to 11 yards rushing/receiving.

I could’ve picked up 11 yards anywhere within a 13 week period. But nope, it didn’t happen.

So for all of you that made playoffs, congrats! I’m quite jealous of you.

But for the rest of the regular season, I’ll be sitting back and watching the game as a fan instead of caring how my players perform — which isn’t a bad thing, either. I’ll regroup and have a stout 2020 “fantasy football minicamp” in preparation for next year.

In continuing with my 2019 brand of losing big (the sarcasm runs deep with me today, I know), I went 3-7 last week and dipped back under .500 at 59-61. This is why we can’t have nice things. Anyways, opening playoff week predictions ...

Studs

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Miami Dolphins. You can’t ever count out “FitzMagic” and the former Harvard grad is putting up fantasy numbers once again for his 257th team that he’s played for. Back-to-back weeks of 20+ points makes him a fantasy flyer for playoffs if you’re in dire need, as they play the Jets this week. FitzMagic rides again.

Cole Beasley, WR, Buffalo Bills. Beasley did his role in his Revenge Tour 2019 and lit up his former Cowboys for six receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown on Thanksgiving Day. Look for the slot man to be targeted heavily against the Ravens on Sunday. While I don’t know if the Bills as a team can take down Baltimore, I think Beasley will be a viable low end WR2/high end WR3 for you.

James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers. Since JuJu Smith-Schuster has been out, the Oklahoma State product has been quite good in the fantasy world, netting 57 points in the past four weeks. I think that trend continues as Devlin “Duck” Hodges plays with house money once again this week and slings it downfield against the Cardinals.

Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks. I was a huge fan of his at San Diego State and last year’s first round pick has been criminally underutilized in Pete Carroll’s offense so far. In a way, you can’t blame Pete due to the success of fellow RB Chris Carson. But after Carson coughed up another football a few weeks ago, Penny has gotten serious run in the offense to the tune of 29 carries for 203 yards and three scores. That’s 7.0 YPC. Ummmm, that is good. Put him as your flex against the Rams this week as he’s got something to prove.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings. Rudolph is in the same boat as Penny in that he’s been underutilized in the offense this season. But in the last few games, Rudolph has shown that he can still be a playmaker with the ball, snagging clutch receptions and making highlight reels. In a volatile TE field, he’s a nice play against Detroit this week.

Duds

Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals. This year’s No. 1 overall draft pick has looked quite good at times and has been even better as a fantasy QB due to his rushing yards. But the Cardinals will take on a Pittsburgh team that’s been great against opposing QBs of late. Sorry, hard pass on Murray for Sunday.

Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Over the past four weeks, Evans has eclipsed double-digit fantasy points just once — and that itself was just a 10 point effort. That’s not what you want from the guy you drafted to be your WR1. While it’s a decent matchup against the Colts this week, QB Jameis Winston is essentially the box of chocolates from the movie Forrest Gump. You never know what you’re gonna get with him.

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks. Similar stats of futility have occurred with Lockett over the past few weeks as he’s combined for seven total points in a three-week span. Last week he had as many receptions as you and I did. Things don’t get better as Seattle will play the Rams and a Jalen Ramsey-led secondary.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets. Le’Veon took a year off to get a bigger contract. Then got less money than what he was offered originally. Then signed with the hapless Jets and he’s averaging 3.2 YPC on the year. Well done, Le’Veon. It’s a good matchup against Miami this week, but I mean, it’s been downright atrocious this year regardless.

Austin Hooper, TE, Atlanta Falcons. Before going down with an MCL injury in week 10, Hooper was the leading TE in all of fantasy. But he’s been out ever since and while he’s on track to return this week against the Panthers after a three week absence, I don’t think he’s going to win you your playoff matchup. You’re starting the guy if you have him, but don’t be surprised if he underperforms.