After fifteen long weeks, we’ve finally made it. It’s Week 16, and it’s the fantasy football championships! (unless you’re in one of those ridiculous leagues that play in Week 17. What is wrong with you people?) Just to show you all how nice I am, I will be willing to discuss the fantasy implications of Week 17 next week, including speculating on who will rest and who will give it a full go. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Congrats if you’re still reading this and need help. If you’re already out and just want to read my chicken-scratch, I say thank you!
I’m in three championship finals out of my six leagues, two of which are for money, which is more than I could have asked for at the beginning of the season. My two money league teams had me selecting Doug Martin with my first-round pick, so I’m pretty proud of myself for even making it this far. My rosters today look very little like the rosters after draft day. I did a lot of free agent pickups, a lot of savvy trading, and even managed to pull an 0-4 team into the playoffs and into the championship final. So in summation, you should be listening to my advice, people! Do not rely on your draft picks!
Now, for the championships, unless your team is injury ravaged (and a couple of mine are), you’re not getting cute. Continue to roll with the guys who brought you to the dance. I won’t be going into too much analysis for the championships this week, just pointing out players that should be monitored this week. If you have any start/sit question, you can always hit me up on Twitter @PocketSeagull.
Note: “Comfortables” can be started in all leagues. “Cautions” may be started in 12-team leagues and should definitely be started in 14-team leagues, but might be bench considerations for 10-team leagues or lower. “Casualties” shouldn’t be started in any leagues.
Denver Broncos vs. Houston Texans
Comfortables: Peyton Manning, Knowshon Moreno, Demariyus Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker (if active), Julius Thomas, Denver Defense
Cautions: Montee Ball, Dennis Johnson, Andre Caldwell (if Welker is inactive), Andre Johnson
Casualties: All Texans Except the Johnsons, Ronnie Hillman, Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen
You should be watching Wes Welker’s status to see if he can pass the concussion protocol. As of this writing, it’s not looking like he’ll be cleared to play. All the experts whiffed on the Tamme pick, but the logic was sound that whoever took Welker’s place in the slot would do extremely well. That person was Andre Caldwell. I’d be wary of rolling the dice on Caldwell if Welker’s out again, but if you eed a Hail Mary, I could think of worse options. Don’t start any Texans other than the Johnsons: Dennis and Andre, and even then I wouldn’t feel confident about it. This team has made its tee times for the offseason already.
Prediction: With something to play for, the Broncos roll.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Comfortables: Andy Dalton, Adrian Peterson (if active), Toby Gerhart (if active and Peterson is inactive), Giovani Bernard, Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, AJ Green
Cautions: Matt Cassell, Matt Asiata (if AP and Gerhart are inactive), BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Marvin Jones, Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Defense
Casualties: Matt Asiata (if either AP or Gerhart are active), Mohammad Sanu, John Carlson, Jermaine Gresham, Minnesota Defense
Who saw three touchdowns last week from Matt Asiata coming? Anybody? Bueller? Anyway, the three TDs are not the stats I want to look at. I want to look at 30 carries for 51 yards, at a whopping 1.7 YPC. Now, unless you play in a league that awards points per carry (and I do, actually!), you should under no circumstances start Asiata in the championships if AP and Gerhart are ruled inactive again. Early reports are that Peterson will try to play (for what reason, I don’t know…the Vikes can’t win anything and Peterson can’t get any records). Keep monitoring. Matt Cassell is actually sneaky good, and the primary beneficiary is Greg Jennings. He’s a comfortable for me in the championships. The Bengal secondary is banged up.
Prediction: The Vikes do not catch the Bengals by surprise the same way they caught the Eagles. Cincy wins.
Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills
Comfortables: Ryan Tannehill, CJ Spiller, Fred Jackson, Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Charles Clay, Miami Defense, Buffalo Defense
Cautions: Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Stevie Johnson, Scott Chandler
Casualties: EJ Manuel, Rishard Matthews, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, TJ Graham
If you need a sleeper QB to win you a fantasy title, and he’s on the waiver wire, it’s Tannehill. Even though Charles Clay did nothing last week, I like all members of the Dolphins passing game. Again, stay away from the Dolphin backfield if you can help it. Fred Jackson has been quiet the past two weeks but I think he’s “due.”
Prediction: Call it a hunch but I think the Bills will upset Miami.
Cleveland Browns vs. New York Jets
Comfortables: Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Defense
Cautions: Chris Ivory
Casualties: Everybody Else
Extremely self-explanatory here. Nothing much needs to be said. Geno Smith is the gift that keeps on giving to fantasy defenses. However, now that the Jets are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, watch out if Rex Ryan announces that Matt Simms will start. He might be efficient and won’t generate turnovers. I don’t think that’s going to happen though because the Jets are going to want to see exactly what they have with Geno (which is not much), so if you can grab Cleveland’s defense I’d suggest it.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Comfortables: Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Defense
Cautions: Andrew Luck, Donald Brown (if active), Trent Richardson (if Brown is inactive), TY Hilton, Da’Rick Rogers, Coby Fleener
Casualties: All Other Chiefs, LaVon Brazill, Darius Heyward-Bey, Indianapolis Defense
The Chiefs are still fighting to win the division (and a possible first-round bye) and the Colts, who weren’t that great offensively anyway since Reggie Wayne went down, have already locked down the division and are a long-shot to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs. Roll with all your top Chiefs, especially Charles, who will probably be the #1 overall pick next year. This isn’t a juggernaut offense though, so I want no part of your Donnie Avery’s or Shaun McGrath’s.
Prediction: With something more to play for, and with a more talented team, the Chiefs roll at Arrowhead.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins
Comfortables: Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Alfred Morris, Dez Bryant, Pierre Garcon, Jason Witten, Dallas Defense
Cautions: Kirk Cousins, Miles Austin
Casualties: Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, Roy Helu, Terrence Williams, Cole Beasley, Aldrick Robinson, Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen, Washington Defense
Tony Romo…worst real-life QB ever? Maybe! But we’re talking fantasy football here, and all your Cowboys are golden. The Skins D is a sieve that leaks fantasy points to the opposing offense. Aside from Morris and Garcon, I don’t think you can confidently start any Redskin. If you want to roll the dice on Cousins again, feel free, but I’d say his solid fantasy day last week is not going to carry over against a pissed off Cowboy defense, pitiful as they may have been recently.
Prediction: Cowboys slaughter the Skins.
New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers
Comfortables: Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Jimmy Graham
Cautions: Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, DeAngelo Williams, Marques Colston, Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn, Greg Olsen, New Orleans Defense, Carolina Defense
Casualties: Mark Ingram, Jonathan Stewart (if active), Mike Tolbert, Robert Meachem, Kenny Stills, Lance Moore
Such a shame that two fantastic offenses don’t produce any sure-fire starters other than the QBs and Jimmy Graham. Take a shot on everybody listed in the Caution section, while recognizing that the other guys might get the TDs. Somebody’s going to score, but to guess who (besides Graham) would basically be throwing at a dartboard.
Prediction: Panthers expose the Saints as a home-friendly team and win at Bank of America Stadium.
Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Comfortables: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew (if active), Jordan Todman (if MJD is inactive), Kendall Wright, Tennessee Defense
Cautions: Chad Henne, Justin Hunter, Ace Sanders, Delaine Walker, Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Defense
Casualties: Shonn Greene, Nate Washington, Kenny Britt, Mike Brown
A lot of question marks surround Maurice Jones-Drew. He was inactive last week, and his replacement, Jordan Todman, performed admirably in his stead. Hopefully if you have MJD, you have Todman as a handcuff (I do!). Whoever starts at RB, play them. I’d actually shy away from Ace Sanders, who takes over at WR1 over the recently IR’d Cecil Shorts, because the Titan secondary is among the elite. The person who actually has benefited from Shorts’s absence is Marcedes Lewis, who has scored in two straight. It’s more of a desperation play, but I don’t hate it. I like Ryan Fitzpatrick as a sleeper QB if you need one this week.
Prediction: Fitzpatrick shines and the Titans win it on the road.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. St. Louis Rams
Comfortables: Zac Stacy, Vincent Jackson, St. Louis Defense
Cautions: Mike Glennon, Bobby Rainey, Tavon Austin (if active), Timothy Wright, Tampa Bay Defense
Casualties: All Rams Offensive Players Except Stacy and Austin, All Buccaneers Offensive Players Except Glennon, Rainey, V-Jax and Wright
Here’s a game where you’re certainly not getting cute. Don’t roll with anybody other than the guys you’ve been rolling with all this time. I think Bobby Rainey needs to be benched. I was never high on him, and his only strength is being able to take advantage of plus matchups. This isn’t one of them.
Prediction: Rams shut down Glennon and win at home.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks
Comfortables: Russell Wilson, Andre Ellington, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin, Seattle Defense
Cautions: Rashard Mendenhall, Larry Fitzgerald (if active), Golden Tate, Zach Miller, Arizona Defense
Casualties: Carson Palmer (if active), Robert Turbin, Christine Michael, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Percy Harvin (if active), Jermaine Kearse, Rob Housler
Larry Fitzgerald was concussed and reports were that he was in pretty bad shape after the game. Continue to monitor, but I’d consider sitting him against the best secondary in the league even if he goes. The only Cardinal I’d consider starting is Andre Ellington. Don’t bank on Mendenhall to vulture scores every week. No clue if Percy Harvin plays any time before the real-life playoffs, and the championship is not the time to test out his workload. Doug Baldwin is starting to become a reliable target for Russell Wilson, so he’s a comfortable for the first time this season.
Prediction: Seahawks at home. Seahawks at home. Seahawks at home.
New York Giants vs. Detroit Lions
Comfortables: Matthew Stafford, Andre Brown, Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson, Detroit Defense
Cautions: Joique Bell, Reuben Randle, Hakeem Nicks, Nate Burleson, Brandon Myers, Brandon Pettigrew
Casualties: Eli Manning, Peyton Hillis, Kris Durham, Joseph Fauria
With Victor Cruz likely shut down for the rest of the season, if Eli can get the ball to Reuben Randle, he’d be an interesting sleeper. I just can’t buy into any aspect of the Giant passing offense at all, which is such a shame because that used to be their real strength. Andre Brown should be okay to start though. All of the normal Lions are also good to go. It’s pretty clear from Monday night’s game that with a few exceptions, the Lions offense revolves around Megatron and Bush, with Bell spelling Bush.
Prediction: Lions destroy the Giants at home.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers
Comfortables: Ben Roetlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, James Jones
Cautions: Matt Flynn, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Jarrett Boykin, Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Defense
Casualties: Jonathan Dwyer, Felix Jones, James Starks, Marcus Wheaton, Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Green Bay Defense
FINALLY James Jones and Jordy Nelson score for the first time since Aaron Rodgers went down, probably weeks after their owners needed them. I’m sure that last-minute Eddie Lacy touchdown did for your fantasy teams what it did for the real-life Packers team. As for the Steelers, suddenly they’re an offense that can put up points. They may have saved offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s job. Even though Matt Flynn was serviceable last week, I don’t think you can start him with confidence in the championships. There has to be better options out there.
Prediction: Lacy helps the Pack keep their playoff hopes alive.
Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers
Comfortables: Philip Rivers, Rashad Jennings, Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, San Diego Defense
Cautions: Matt McGloin, Darren McFadden (if active), Andre Holmes, Rod Streater
Casualties: Ronnie Brown, Eddie Royal, Vincent Brown, Mychal Rivera, Ladarius Green, Oakland Defense
The Raiders are very bad on D. The Chargers are very good on O. That’s all you need to know.
Prediction: San Diego Super Chargers.
New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens
Comfortables: Tom Brady, Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta
Cautions: Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Aaron Dobson (if active), Kenbrell Thompkins (if active), Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown, New England Defense
Casualties: Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, Bernard Pierce, Tandon Doss, Michael H. (please don’t ask me to spell it), Dallas Clark, Baltimore Defense
Just chalk up Shane Vereen’s performance last week as an off-game, a by-product of the opponent’s desire to stop him and only him. I’d continue to roll with Vereen in the championships. McDaniels will devise new ways to get him the ball. All of the other top Patriots receiving options are good to go as well. For the Ravens, I only think you can start Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta for the championships.
Prediction: Pats bounce back from the humiliating loss.
Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Comfortables: Jay Cutler, Nick Foles, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper
Cautions: Martellus Bennett, Zach Ertz
Casualties: Michael Bush, Bryce Brown, Earl Bennett, Jason Avant, Brent Celek, Chicago Defense, Philadelphia Defense
There’s a danger here of Philadelphia possibly resting its starters if Dallas loses earlier in the day, because a Cowboys loss means the Eagles have the NFC East already wrapped up. If everybody plays, then all QBs, RBs, and the top two WRs for both teams are all must-starts. Top TEs are good if you don’t have any better, more elite options. Nobody else, not even the defenses. Shootout.
Prediction: Um, let’s say Iggles?
Atlanta Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers
Comfortables: Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, San Francisco Defense
Cautions: All Falcons Starters
Casualties: All Falcons Backups, All 49ers Backup Running Backs, Mario Manningham, Vance McDonald, Atlanta Defense
This game will decide many fantasy championships, so if you’ve invested in any part of the San Francisco offense, congratulations! I like all of the top options for the Niners. With nothing to play for, and on the road, I can’t trust any Atlanta Falcons player. MAYBE Steven Jackson if Atlanta can make it to the goal line, but as I said before, it’s bad to rely on touchdowns.
Prediction: The Niners win, and you win your fantasy title!
Good luck in the championships! Bring home the gold!