For most leagues this is the last week before two teams collide in the a fantasy football championship game. As always, I offer anyone still in the hunt the best of luck and some free advice on their rosters.
To start: Don’t overthink things. I’ve seen way too many players tinker with their lineup all week until the point where they have convinced themselves to start a lesser quality player based on a feeling.
Don’t get me wrong I’m all for going with your gut, but I’m also a guy that likes to see tangible evidence or even a glimmer of hope that a player will produce for me in some fashion when the chips are down. Use the guys that got you to where you are, play the matchups wisely and write your own ticket to a fantasy Super Bowl.
Start ‘Em Quarterbacks
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) — Big Ben at home against the Patriots.There’s a lot to like about this matchup, even though the Pats defense has been much improved from where it was earlier in the year. Ben has scored or exceeded 28 points in his last three starts at Heinz. Honestly, I don’t think there’s any QB in the league with as many weapons as Ben. With a shootout with Tom Brady looming this feels like a playoff game that could lead to huge fantasy totals.
Blake Bortles (JAC) — This is the quarterback the Jags thought they would have when they took him No. 3 overall in 2014. Bortles has been red-hot in his last couple of games, largely in part to the emergence of Dede Westbrook. He’s scored over 18 in his last 3 games with 6 touchdowns, two of them rushing touchdowns. He’s going up against a Texans defense that has struggled against opposing quarterbacks on the road all year.
Sit ‘Em Quarterbacks
Marcus Mariota (TEN) — He may be the second biggest fantasy bust all season behind Matt Ryan. This matchup against the 49ers is enticing, but proceed with caution as Mariota has struggled mightily on the road this season, having not scored more than 13 points in a single road contest all season. Couple that with the fact the Oregon product has multi-interception games in 3 of his last 4. and he tweaked his knee in the last game. He’s unstartable in the playoffs for me.
Andy Dalton (CIN) — In what was a good matchup last week against Chicago, Dalton put up only 7.6 in a stunning blowout loss to the now 4-9 Bears. Now Dalton heads to Minnesota to duel against a suffocating defense that has terrorized opposing quarterbacks all year, especially at home. Here some stats for you. The Vikings have allowed the 3rd fewest points to quarterbacks at home all year. The defense has 10 interceptions on the year, 32 sacks and forced 7 fumbles on the season and have allowed a 56 percent completion percentage to quarterbacks at home. Holster the red rifle this week.
Start ‘Em Running Backs
Dion Lewis (NE) — While I think this could be Rex Burkhead in the same spot, I just think they will both have great games. The Patriots are great at attacking an opposing team’s weakness, and the Steelers defense without Shazier in the middle just doesn’t look the same. Without all that speed in the middle playing sideline to sideline the Patriots runnings backs should be exploiting the middle of the field early and often. Before that disaster against Miami last week, Lewis was averaging 13.5 rushing attempts per game and 80 yards per game rushing, good for almost 6 yards per carry. Of course he will be involved in the passing game as well.
Kenyon Drake (MIA) — I love an underdog. This guy went to Alabama and played behind Derrick Henry. Once he gets to Miami and gets his chance to be the “guy,” he just takes the job and doesn’t look back. Add the feel good story with the fact he has been a massive contributor since being added from the waiver wire, scoring a combined 47.4 PPR points in his last two two games. Now he will take on Buffalo at home, who have surrendered more points to running backs than any other team in PPR formats. He should be a focal point of your lineup this week.
Sit ‘Em Running Backs
Doug Martin (TB) — Geez. I don’t know that there’s a more frustrating running back to own in a fantasy league this year. The first game back from his suspension he looked great! After that though, in games he has started and finished, he is averaging 16.5 touches per game and averaging only 44 yards per game with 1 touchdown during a 6 game stretch. Peyton Barber has looked like the better back and is the only Bucs runner with a 100-yard game this season. A costly fumble for muscle hamster last week will likely cut into his snaps this week. I expect a running back by committee looming.
Duke Johnson (CLE) — At the beginning of the year this was a guy you could start every week and trust you were getting over 10 points with regularity. Now with Coleman and Gordon back his touches and production have plummeted in recent weeks. He faces the Ravens, who have allowed the 7th fewest catches and 9th fewest receiving yards to backs on the year. No thank you this week, Duke.
Start ‘Em Wide Receivers
Devin Funchess (CAR) — Speaking of great, amazing waiver pickups. How good has this guy been? Over 13 ppr points in each of his last 5 games and 4 touchdowns during that span. I expect a good game from Cam Newton and in turn I expect a good game from Funch. The Packers defense has surrendered 9 touchdowns and the fourth most ppr fantasy points to opposing wide receivers away from Lambeau Field.
Juju Smith-Schuster (PIT) — Playing at home against the Pats, I think Brown will be doubled all night long and of course, they will have their hands full with Bell as well. This will be a big game for the rookie who has stood out since assuming the No. 2 role. The Patriots have surrendered the 3rd most receiving yards to wide receivers all year I don’t expect that to change for the Steelers, who look like the team to beat in the AFC.
Sit ‘Em Wide Receivers
Cooper Kupp (LAR) — He’s been an absolute beast, and Jared Goff’s best friend, but he is a sit for me this week. It’s tough to bench Kupp right now, but Woods will be returning this week and the fact they’re playing Seattle gives me pause. I know Seattle is of course missing a lot of pieces on defense, but this is still a very good defense and in a big playoff week I wouldn’t trust Kupp against it.
Sterling Shepard (NYG) — With Eli back the offense is still a mess. The Eagles have allowed the fewest fantasy points from the slot all year and that’s where Shep lines up for 72 percent of his snaps. Look elsewhere.
Start ‘Em Tight Ends
Hunter Henry (LAC) — This guy could very well be the next great tight end if he keeps this up. He’s averaging over 6 targets in the past 4 weeks, which is a lot considering the Chargers are riddled with hungry pass-catchers. The Chiefs are normally good against tight ends, but if Jared Cook’s performance last week is any indication, Henry will be busy this weekend.
Jimmy Graham (SEA) — Before Jacksonville last week, Graham had been a touchdown machine, scoring 5 touchdowns in the 4 games prior. I expect a bounce-back performance this week against the Rams. Let’s not forget what Zach Ertz did to the Rams (31.6 points). The last time Graham played the Rams he had a 6 catches for 37 yards and one touchdown. That’s an outing fantasy owners would surely be happy with in a pivotal playoff matchup, and there’s room for more. .
Sit ‘Em Tight Ends
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (NYJ) — Aside form the fact that Bryce Petty will be the quarterback, the Saints defense has been good against tight ends this year. They allow the 4th fewest points to tight ends in the league. Seferian-Jenkins had a nice stretch of fantasy relevance, but it’s over for now. Move on for the rest of the playoffs.
Eric Ebron (DET) — Out of the draft this guy was supposed to be the closest thing you could get to vintage Vernon Davis. He did have a 10-catch performance against the Bucs, but he won’t repeat that this week. The Bears play the tight end very well and Ebron has been way too inconsistent over his whole career to warrant a start in as serious of a week as this.