I can’t believe it’s here already.
It seems like only yesterday I was preparing my draft strategy and compiling my team (cliché much?). Honestly though, the season flies by faster than you realize. And to tell you the truth, I hate it. However, I was lucky enough to win at least one of my three leagues that I was in, so mission somewhat accomplished. For those of you who won your Week 16 fantasy championship, way to go! All of the “hard work” has paid off. And I’m sure your family members are glad to have you back in the real world, while you aren’t so excited.
Well, looks like there’s one last encore before we wrap the season up. A handful of fantasy player’s leagues go through Week 17 of the NFL season, which can create a few problems. For instance, certain teams of already clenched playoff berths, which may force them to rest their star players. The star players just may be your fantasy studs.
So, without further ado, let’s see who I like and dislike for one last time. Good luck to the rest of you!
This column features players you’re on the fence about starting. You will not see obvious guys like Drew Brees and Arian Foster.
Thumbs Up: Quarterbacks
Tony Romo @ Washington Redskins: Romo has been putting up video game-type numbers over the last five games, throwing for well over 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns. With he and Dez Bryant clicking on all cylinders, that offense is one of the most frightening in football. Last time Romo faced the Skins he amassed 441 yards and three scores. Whoever wins this game heads to the playoffs so you can expect Romo to be at his best.
Russell Wilson vs St. Louis Rams: Over his team’s current four-game winning streak, Wilson has accounted for 11 total touchdowns and has been one of the hottest signal callers in the league. While the Rams secondary is good, this guy is almost matchup proof the way he is playing. We know how good he’s been at home and while the Seattle Seahawks have clinched a playoff spot, they still have a shot at the division so expect him out there until the final whistle.
Michael Vick @ New York Giants: He’s baaaaack. That’s right, with rookie Nick Foles out with a broken hand, Vick will once again get the call. If you’re desperate for a quarterback, he may be worth a look. The Giants have the 28th ranked pass defense, surrendering 25 touchdown passes on the year. I still have confidence in Vick and his running ability only helps his fantasy value. I mean, have you watched the Giants lately? Yikes!
Joe Flacco @ Cincinnati Bengals: Despite a very nice Week 16 performance, Flacco cannot be trusted, especially on the road. The fact that this Bengals defense still isn’t getting discussed as one of the elite defenses is beyond me. These cats are allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks at home, so tell Flacco to ride the pine pony.
Matt Ryan vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan is a great quarterback on an elite offense. So why should you sit him? Well, that great offense has clinched the NFC’s number one seed, making it unnecessary for him to see much of the field on Sunday. It’s a shame too, as the Bucs are ranked dead last against the pass. If you take the risk of playing Ryan, you may only be looking at 1-2 quarters of fantasy production, which could still be enough. High risk, high reward.
Thumbs Up: Running Backs
LeSean McCoy @ New York Giants: Did I mention that “Shady” is back? Back again. Shady’s back! McCoy looked very good in his return in Week 16, totaling 122 all-purpose yards. The “rotation” was anything but that, as McCoy saw 13 of the 18 running back carries. He didn’t suffer any setbacks and will start on Sunday against the G-men, a defense allowing 130.4 rushing yards per game.
C.J. Spiller vs New York Jets: I’ve said it all year long. When Spiller gets enough touches, he is an elite fantasy running back. With Fred Jackson on IR, the touches will again belong to Spiller. The matchup is great, as the Jets are the 27th ranked run defense and have allowed 15 rushing scores on the year. Standard, PPR? Doesn’t matter! Get Spiller in your lineup every week.
Knowshon Moreno vs Kansas City Chiefs: Moreno has been the waiver wire darling towards the end of the year and has probably won many owners their leagues. He can win many more leagues this week against the Chiefs 26th ranked run defense. I expect the Denver Broncos to pound Moreno, limiting Peyton Manning’s throws heading into the playoffs. Moreno had 111 total yards against the Chiefs back in Week 12.
Darren McFadden @ San Diego Chargers: While you may think you can’t afford to sit McFadden, you might want to reconsider. Despite the big name, Run DMC just hasn’t been productive from fantasy land (when healthy). He faces the Chargers 4th ranked run defense on Sunday, who held him to just 15 carries for 32 yards in Week 1. He did have 13 catches in that game, but you can’t rely on any running back catching the ball that many times.
Michael Turner vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Let’s just face it. Turner just isn’t very good at running the football anymore. Yes, he finds the end zone constantly because he gets the ball inside the five, but you can’t rely on that this week against the Bucs. While their pass defense is atrocious, they rank first in run defense. Don’t forget, Jacquizz Rodgers is still very much in the mix.
Thumbs Up: Wide Receivers
Steve Smith @ New Orleans Saints: Smith has really benefited from the sizzling play of quarterback Cam Newton lately, posting two one hundred yard games and three scores over the past four contests. Expect the hot streak to continue against division rival New Orleans, who have allowed 31 passing touchdowns on the year, the most in football.
Justin Blackmon @ Tennessee Titans: With teammate Cecil Shorts (concussion) on IR, Blackmon is easily the number one receiving option for Chad Henne. On Sunday, Blackmon had seven catches on 12 targets for 79 yards and a score. Look for him to see at least 10 targets this week against a Titans secondary that has allowed 29 touchdowns themselves.
Antonio Brown vs Cleveland Browns: Brown has been showing flashes of his 2011 form lately. Since returning from injury in Week 13, he has 22 catches for 266 yards and three touchdowns. Assuming his teammate Mike Wallace plays, expect Joe Haden to be matched up with him, leaving Brown against a 27th ranked Browns passing defense.
Stevie Johnson vs New York Jets: As a Bills fan, I know first hand that Johnson shows up against shut down corners. However, the combination of inconsistency and a bad matchup will make many fantasy owners. If you have better options, I’d avoid Johnson, but he did have four catches for 55 yards and a score against the Jets in Week 1. And that was against Darrelle Revis.
Josh Gordon @ Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers have the number one ranked pass defense in football and a practice squad quarterback by the name of Thaddeus Lewis may be under center. Need I say more? I didn’t think so.
Thumbs Up: Tight Ends
Greg Olsen @ New Orleans Saints: Olsen hasn’t been finding the end zone as frequently as before, but he has been seeing a healthy amount of targets (16 over the last two games). If you see that many amount of targets against the Saints, good things will happen, as this defensive unit has been handing out fantasy points left and right. It’s safe to roll with Olsen in what should be a high scoring affair.
Kyle Rudolph vs Green Bay Packers: Rudolph continues to be the most targeted receiving option for Christian Ponder, averaging five targets over his last two games. This Sunday against the Packers, Rudolph should see a hefty amount of work. He had six catches for 52 yards and a score last time these teams faced each other. During the holiday season, I like Rudolph the Red Zone Reindeer.
Jermichael Finley @ Minnesota Vikings: Wait, did the Mayans actually end the world? I’m suggesting Finley? Well, with an injury-ridden tight end position, you could do a heck of a lot worse than him this week. Both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are dealing with injuries and if both are forced to sit this game out, Finley will get a ton of looks from Aaron Rodgers.
Brandon Myers @ San Diego Chargers: Remember when Myers was a must-start fantasy tight end? Unfortunately, he has a dismal 32 receiving yards over his last three games. Things aren’t likely to get much better this week with Matt Leinart under center. Oh, and in case you needed another reason to bench him, the Chargers are allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Dallas Clark @ Atlanta Falcons: Clark showed some signs of life earlier on in the year but has been quiet lately, along with the entire Buccaneers offense. The fact that he has seen 25 targets over his last three games is encouraging, but he just hasn’t done anything with them. Meanwhile, the Falcons have only allowed three tight ends to find the end zone against them.
Thumbs Up: D/ST
San Diego Chargers vs Oakland Raiders: The Bolts are coming off a very nice fantasy performance against the Jets and get another juicy matchup this Sunday. Like I said, Matt Leinart will be under center for Oakland, automatically putting the Chargers into the top five fantasy defenses. They have at least 14 fantasy points over the past three contests.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns: Again, with Thaddeus Lewis likely to be under center, the Steel Curtain can smell blood. Not to mention the Browns only offensive threat, Trent Richardson, is nursing multiple injuries. It makes no sense for him to risk injury in a meaningless game, so the Steelers defense should shine.
Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets: The Bills defense has actually been playing better lately, minus that 50 point disaster against the Seahawks. This week, they face the Jets led again by Greg McElroy. Buffalo should just dial in on the running game (or lack of it) and produce a solid fantasy outing.
St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks: The Rams are one of the most underrated defenses in both regular and fantasy football. But even after scoring an impressive 25 fantasy points last week, I can’t play them as they travel to Century Link Field, the most difficult place to play football. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch have that offense scoring on all cylinders right now.
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints: Believe it nor not, the Panthers have been one of the hotter teams in football, winning their last three contests. Their defense has been playing much better as well. However, don’t even think about starting them this week at the Superdome. The Saints offense is as explosive as any in the league and that Drew Brees fella? He’s not too shabby.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy football columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.