Fantasy Football: Week 16 (Championship)
Greetings Shiva Bowl participants! It’s time to dole out some hardware! Congratulations to those of you playing for your league’s championship. I’ll be fielding lineups with championship aspirations in two of my leagues (the 2 that don’t pay anything in prize money). I would also recommend that you check out FX’s ‘The League’ season finale tonight at 9pm Central. It’s a hilarious show, probably my favorite on television.
This will be my final Fantasy Football installment of 2011. Sometime early in 2012 once we know the official 2012 NFL Draft order and which prospects have declared, I’ll probably write something speculating on which rookies could have the biggest fantasy impacts for their teams, a la Cam Newton, AJ Green, Mark Ingram, Roy Helu, & Julio Jones this year.
That being said, let’s focus on 2011 Fantasy Playoffs: Championship Edition & do our duty to help you answer those oh-so-difficult questions about what to do with your pride & joy: your fantasy football team!
All times Central
* It should be noted that all owners should be periodically checking their lineups (especially on game day) but even more so this week because playoff teams may begin resting starters. For example, if Aaron Rodgers were to sit Christmas Night, I would want Matt Flynn on my team just in case.
* Also, the bulk of this week’s games take place Saturday (Christmas Eve Day). So you basically have one less day to make your lineup decisions.
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (Thursday Night Football 7:20)
Texans – They stunk up the joint at home against Carolina last week. With the AFC South locked up, we already know that WR Andre Johnson won’t play in this one; which his owners have been quite accustomed to in 2011. I would expect a ground-heavy approach a la Week 1. Arian Foster is a no-brainer and Ben Tate can probably be used as a flex. I like Owen Daniels at TE, Neil Rackers at K and the Texans D/ST to play with pride against a bitter division rival.
Colts – They’ve become the Donald Brown show. Brown looked like a first-round bust until this season. It would be hard to trust him, but if you’re thin at other options, I like him as a flex, at least. I wouldn’t trust Pierre Garcon, Reggie Wayne, or Dallas Clark with the championship on the line.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (Saturday Noon)
Browns – We know that Colt McCoy will sit again, as if it matters. With a league title on the line, I can’t fathom starting any Browns. Greg Little had a nice lil game out in the desert, but I like more in 2012 with Robert Griffin III potentially chucking it to him.
Ravens – It seems like the Ravens are built to beat up their AFC North division rivals and lose to anybody else. Ray Rice has been a stud and last time he faced Cleveland he produced a 200 yard game. The Ravens D/ST will look to get it right after being embarrassed in San Diego. Other than that, it would be hard to trust a Raven. Anquan Boldin had knee surgery to get him ready for the playoffs, so he’ll be sitting. Joe Flacco likely didn’t lead you to the Promised Land anyways, so he’s irrelevant. WR Torrey Smith has been hot down the stretch, but will likely have CB Joe Haden on his hip all day. Avoid.
Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills (Saturday Noon)
Broncos – Is there anyone who isn’t rooting for a snowy Christmas Eve in Buffalo? Who doesn’t want to see Tim Tebow running in the snow? I think Tebow has a monster game here. If you’ve ridden him this far, why not go for the title with him? I think Willis McGahee will have a nice game if he’s good to go Saturday. WR Demariyus Thomas is clearly Tebow’s favored option at the moment and has a nice matchup here. WR Eric Decker has been more or less forgotten after a nice 1st half of the season. Bummer.
Bills – Buyer’s remorse in Buffalo. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been utterly awful since signing that megabucks extension. If you’re using any Bills at all this week, CJ Spiller is intriguing as a runner & pass catcher. WR Stevie Johnson is currently questionable, but should be able to go. Other than potentially those two guys, bench all your other Bills.
Tampa Bay Bucs at Carolina Panthers (Saturday Noon)
Bucs – Tampa is simply awful. As in, I think they’re worse than the winless Colts. I wouldn’t trust a single Buc this week. The one player I’d consider is LeGarrette Blount, who has been, for the most part, a massive disappointment. The last time he faced Carolina several weeks ago, he produced all of ONE fantasy point. The Carolina Run D has seemingly improved since then, so I don’t think Blount is an automatic option anymore. Play at your own risk.
Panthers – Cam Newton on the other hand, is basically a must-start. He torched Tampa for 37 points a few weeks back. Jonathan Stewart & DeAngelo Williams both are relatively good plays against this reeking Bucs’ D. Steve Smith gets to face a secondary minus it’s top cover corner Aquib Talib. Good times!
Arizona Cardinals at Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday Noon)
Cardinals – The Desert Birds have been on a roll lately. WR Larry Fitzgerald is a guy you can never bench, and has a nice matchup here. Other than Fitz I find it hard to trust a Cardinal. Beanie Wells could have a nice game, especially if the weather is bad.
Bengals – AJ Green is a man. He has a shoulder injury but will likely play, as the Bengals are still in the playoff picture. Cedric Benson has been his usual plodding self as of late, but is a decent play based strictly on his carry volume; expect another 20+. With Green nursing an injury, I could see WR Jerome Simpson and TE Jermaine Gresham having sneaky-good fantasy games.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday Noon)
Raiders – They should have beat Detroit last week. Carson Palmer has a tough matchup in this one against the same Chiefs’ D that just made Aaron Rodgers look human. The Raider WRs are too unpredictable and banged up to put any stock in at this point of the season. The only sure-fire Raider I’d play is RB Michael Bush. You can definitely make a case for K Sebastian Janikowski and hope the winds aren’t swirling too much in KC.
Chiefs – The Chiefs beat the Packers without lighting up the scoreboard, and I think this week is another low-scoring game. As such, K Ryan Succop made 4 field goals last week and may repeat that performance. I don’t trust Kyle Orton or any Chiefs RBs as fantasy plays, but I do think WR Dwayne Bowe will have a nice game here. If you’re desperate, the Chiefs D/ST had a huge game last time these two teams met.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (Saturday Noon)
Dolphins – Holy Reggie Bush! 200 rushing yards??! And he wasn’t facing UCLA? In 2011 Bush has finally become the player many thought he would be when drafted out of USC. He probably took a lot of teams to the championship game with his Week 15 performance, so there’s no way you don’t use him now, especially in a good matchup. The only other Dolphin I’d consider playing is WR Brandon Marshall.
Patriots – The Pats made it look easy in Denver. Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Stephen Gostkowski. Avoid the RBs, avoid the D/ST. Yawn.
New York Giants vs New York Jets (Saturday Noon)
Giants – This is technically a road game for the G-Men, but they share the stadium with the Jets. It’s unfortunate for Eli Manning, who usually has crummy late December games in Jersey. I vividly recall watching him heave wounded ducks that the other team routinely picks off. It is a tough matchup against Darrelle Revis & Co. but Eli was so bad last week that he likely cost you a shot at the Title Game anyways. Downgrade Hakeem Nicks because of the ‘Revis Island’ thing, and slightly upgrade Victor Cruz & Mario Manningham. If you use a Giant RB this week, make it Ahmad Bradshaw.
Jets – I like Shonn Greene in this one, and for Santonio Holmes to redeem himself. I’m staying away from Mark Sanchez facing Jason Pierre-Paul and that pass rush. I wouldn’t use Plaxico Burress either. The Jets D/ST is a unit you probably have to play if you own them.
St. Louis Rams at Pittsburgh Steelers (Saturday Noon)
Rams – Incredibly, Kellen Clemens playing at QB turned out to be the most productive day on offense for the Rams in weeks. Steven Jackson & Brandon Llloyd. The End.
Steelers – While this appears to be a plum matchup for all Steelers, everything hinges on the ankle of Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben is currently a game time decision, but he was not his usual self against the Niners on Monday Night. True the Rams are a much weaker opponent, but they can rush the passer. If Big Ben plays, keep Mike Wallace & Antonio Brown in your lineups. If he sits, have other options ready. In any event, Rashard Mendenhall and the Steelers D/ST are great plays this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (Saturday Noon)
Jaguars – You have to start Maurice Jones-Drew and forget about the rest of this team.
Titans – Chris Johnson sure is perplexing. He all but disappeared against the Colts last week. Chances are his owners who invested a high pick in him are eliminated by now anyways, but I can’t remember a crappier year from a consensus Top 5 Fantasy Pick who wasn’t injured. I’d avoid any other Titans. Too inconsistent.
Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins (Saturday Noon)
Vikings – How many owners did Percy Harvin let down last week? After three of his best fantasy games ever, he caught 3 passes for 8 yards against the Saints in a game where the ‘Queens needed a lot of points. What a letdown. Adrian Peterson should be set for a nice day here. Other than that, I’m avoiding the Vikes.
Redskins – The ‘Skins have been done since November, yet they’re comically winning games late in the season and ruining their chances of upgrading the QB position in the draft. Rex Grossman thrives against terrible secondaries like Minnesota’s so he’s (gasp) worth a look. Stud rookie RB Roy Helu is banged up and may be limited in this one. If so, Evan Royster figures to be the guy, although Ryan Torain still lurks. Santana Moss figures to be the guy exploiting the Minny secondary, so consider him.
San Diego Chargers at Detroit Lions (Saturday 3:05)
Chargers – This game has fantasy point potential written all over it. The Chargers have suddenly clicked; with all the pieces being involved. Philip Rivers should dominate this woeful Detroit secondary, making Vincent Jackson & Antonio Gates solid plays. Ryan Mathews must be healthy, because he finally found the end zone last week. You can definitely run on Detroit, so he should have a nice day. I think Mike Tolbert will probably vulture a 1 yard TD and K Nick Novak should be busy.
Lions – There you are, Calvin Johnson! MegaTron went off in Oakland for over 200 yards and 2 TDs. He and Matthew Stafford should have great games against San Diego as well. I wouldn’t trust any other Lion pass-catchers though. If Kevin Smith starts at RB, he’s a gamble to say the least, as finishing games has been difficult for him. Jason Hanson should be busy, but I’m staying away from the Lions D/ST this week.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (Saturday 3:15)
Eagles – Another game with huge fantasy potential. The Eagles throttled the Cowboys in Philly during their first meeting of the season. LeSean McCoy ran wild that night and should be able to again. It’s not like you’d bench him anyway. Michael Vick hasn’t delivered what owners hoped for, to say the least. However this is a pretty good matchup for him. WRs DeSean Jackson & Jeremy Maclin can be used in this expected shootout and TE Brent Celek was uncoverable last week. Avoid the Eagles D/ST however.
Cowboys – They were embarrassed by the Eagles last time, so look for them to try for revenge, while winning the NFC East in the process. Tony Romo has been putting up big numbers, a trend which should continue. Dez Bryant has scored a TD in 5 of his last 6, Miles Austin receives a generous amount of looks, and Laurent Robinson produces even as the 3rd option. And there’s Jason Witten at TE! Felix Jones could have a nice day here too. All the projected scoring means Dan Bailey should stay busy. I would bench the Cowboys D/ST this week. It’s an overrated unit with an even more overrated coordinator (Rob Ryan).
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (Saturday 3:15)
49ers – Ok so they’re a legit team. Vernon Davis came out of nowhere to have a monster game vs the Steelers. How he doesn’t do that every week is beyond me. Frank Gore should have a nice day here. The 49ers D/ST is the highest-scoring in fantasy and K David Akers is simply money. I wouldn’t use Alex Smith or Michael Crabtree with my championship depending on it.
Seahawks – Marshawn Lynch: you pretty much have to stay the course. He got you this far, and though the Niners haven’t allowed a Rush TD this year, there’s a first time for everything. Also use the Seahawks D/ST but otherwise stay away from the city Tom Hanks can’t sleep in.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (Sunday Night Football 7:20)
Bears – No Cutler, no Forte, Hanie benched, Knox on IR. Chicago fantasy options are dwindling. Josh McCown starts at QB, but there’s no way you play him. The one intriguing play is RB Khalil Bell. He runs it and catches it, and seems to have more burst and talent than Marion Barber. Bell is a decent flex play this week. I’m not expecting Chicago to score a lot, limiting Robbie Gould. The Bears D/ST always plays Green Bay tough, but they’ll be hard to rely on at Lambeau on Christmas vs an angry Packer offense.
Packers – If the Seahawks defeat the Niners, Green Bay wins home field advantage. If that happens, I expect Aaron Rodgers won’t play this entire game. Rodgers is fantasy’s leading scorer, so you have to play him; but beware of the circumstances. Maybe stash Matt Flynn away on your bench just in case. Jermichael Finley had 3 TDs vs Chicago in the first meeting and should wreak havoc again (if he catches the ball). No Greg Jennings again means Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, & Donald Driver will have to step up…in some order. Nelson is really the only same play at WR. I’m avoiding any Packer RBs this week. Use Mason Crosby at K and the Packers D/ST as you have been all along.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (Monday Night Football 7:30)
Falcons – This is a big test for Matt Ryan. He can air it out against bad teams, but can he put up points against a superb QB? If you’re playing for a title, he’s probably not your QB, but will need to have a big game, so I begrudgingly like Douche Ice this week. Michael Turner has deteriorated over the 2nd half of the season. The Falcons will need to control possession in this game, so he’ll be leaned on, but will he produce? I expect great games from Roddy White, Julio Jones, & Tony Gonzalez in this expected shootout. Matt Bryant should be a busy kicker, but bench the Falcons D/ST.
Saints – Drew Brees was ridiculous at Minnesota last week: 32/40 412 yards 5 TDs. Wow. There’s of course no way you’d ever bench him. His favored weapons seem to be Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, and Lance Moore. All are good plays here. The Saints RBs will be tough to trust this week. Darren Sproles has cooled off immensely, Pierre Thomas doesn’t usually get enough touches, and Chris Ivory is solid for 60-70 yards, but touchdowns would be nice. If I can help it, I’m not using any Saint runners this week. Jon Kasay remains a busy kicker, but bench the Saints D/ST in this projected shootout.
Well that’s it for this week, good luck with your playoff matchups in Week 16. Eyes on the Prize folks, Eyes on the Prize.
Thanks for reading this season!
Merry Christmas to all and to all a happy fantasy football offseason!