If you made it this far where you’re actually reading for fantasy advice and not just for entertainment, I applaud you. Welcome to the championships.
Me? I made it to the final game in two out of my six leagues (one of which was a 6-team league I barely paid attention to, but still, it counts!). I won in my money league despite having a wide receiving corps of Reggie Wayne, Victor Cruz, Marques Colston and Roddy White combine for less than 100 yards total and no touchdowns. It was even more maddening to see Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, and Matt Ryan throw for 10 combined touchdowns, and my guys couldn’t seem to grab a single one of them! I solely have Aaron Rodgers, Alfred Morris, and the Bengals Defense to thank for moving me on to the finals.
Now, if you noticed the title, the casualties are gone. Sleepers are gone as well. These are the championships. Most likely you’re going to dance with the girl(s) that brought you here, so there’s no time for deep sleepers, and you know who to bench. Consider the “Cautions” list as your list of possible sleepers. Basically, there are only two types of players this week: the must-starts, and the “I have to think about it” players. Otherwise, if they’re not listed, they’re not starting.
Let’s go get us a championship!
Note: I will return next week for one final edition if you happen to be in one of those loser leagues that has their championship game during Week 17. Yuck.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions
Comfortables: Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Michael Turner, Mikel Leshoure, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson, Tony Gonzalez
Cautions: Jacquizz Rodgers, Joique Bell, Starting Detroit TE, Atlanta Defense
I’m sure NOBODY expected the Lions to get blown out the way that they were by the Cardinals. It was absolutely embarrassing. I’m also sure that anybody who took the bait to start the Lions Defense considering what the Seahawks did to the Cardinals a week prior were banking more on the fact that the Cardinals were that bad instead of the Seahawks being that good. So against a very potent Atlanta Offense (just ask the Giants), the Detroit Defense shouldn’t be anywhere near a starting lineup in the championship. With Turner and Leshoure, you have the battle of the goal-line touchdowns. They’re the bell cows; Rodgers and Bell are the sleepers with decent upside. I don’t know if Brandon Pettigrew will start this week, but he was out last week, and Tony Scheffler did nothing in relief (grumblegrumble), so tread lightly this week. Megatron’s going for the receiving yardage record. So much for that Madden Curse (although you can make the case that getting tackled at the 1-yard line SIX TIMES is a curse).
Prediction: Atlanta wraps up home-field advantage with a big road win.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Comfortables: Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Jonathan Dwyer, AJ Green, Mike Wallace, Jermaine Gresham, Heath Miller
Cautions: Andrew Hawkins, Antonio Brown, Cincinnati Defense, Pittsburgh Defense
I was torn all week between starting the Bengals Defense against the Eagles or the Seahwaks Defense against the Bills. I chose the Bengals, and chose correctly. I don’t think I’ll be making the same decision this week. Big Ben is getting healthier each week, and he’s finding his receivers with great aplomb. All offensive starters for both teams are in play, including Jonathan Dwyer, who has fully assumed the lead back role in Pittsburgh. Rashard Mendenhall, that’s your exit music.
Prediction: Pittsburgh wins a shootout.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Comfortables: Andrew Luck, Vick Ballard, Jamaal Charles, Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Defense
Cautions: T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery, Dwayne Allen
As I mentioned before, it was rough seeing Reggie Wayne get shut out of the end zone, although he did have a touchdown catch that was nullified by a holding penalty. I expect a big turnaround game that’s must-win for Indy against a Chiefs team with no passing game and a porous defense. All top offensive options for Indy are in play, and there’s definitely a chance for either T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery, or Dwayne Allen to get a score.
Prediction: Indy rolls on the road.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Houston Texans
Comfortables: Matt Schaub, Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Houston Defense
Cautions: Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Defense
Adrian Peterson is a man on a mission, and that mission is to break the rushing yardage record. It’s amazing that the Vikings’ game plan basically consists of “We’re going to feed Adrian, good luck trying to stop him.” On the other side, you have Arian Foster, who I believe was shut out of the end zone for the first time this season last week. That’s incredible if you think about it. I like all starting offensive options for the Texans here.
Prediction: Peterson makes it interesting but Houston holds on at home.
St. Louis Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Comfortables: Josh Freeman, Steven Jackson, Doug Martin, Danny Amendola, Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams
Cautions: Sam Bradford, Chris Givens, St. Louis Defense, Tampa Bay Defense
Thanks to their losses last week, both teams are on the outside looking in. While not mathematically eliminated, they need to win out and need some help. This is essentially an elimination game. I don’t think Josh Freeman will have as bad of a game as he had last week, and I expect him to bounce back. Doug Martin did his owners no favors last week, but he most likely single-handedly got you guys to the playoffs, so there’s not much to be upset about. If you’re still alive with the Muscle Hamster, you have to feel good about this matchup considering Peterson gashed them for 200+ last week. If healthy, Danny Amendola is a must start for St. Louis.
Prediction: Tampa Bay squeaks by St. Louis at home.
Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Comfortables: Robert Griffin III (if active), Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, Washington Defense
Cautions: Kirk Cousins (if RG3 is inactive), Nick Foles, Bryce Brown, Santana Moss, Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Defense
The Redskins just keep winning, RG3 or no. Alfred Morris is a fantasy savior. I wouldn’t think about starting any Eagles if I absolutely had to, as Bryce Brown has cooled off significantly. I also wouldn’t start Kirk Cousins if RG3 is inactive and you have better options, but the matchup is tasty if you have the huevos.
Prediction: RG3 or no, Redskins roll on their way to claiming the division title.
Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins
Comfortables: CJ Spiller, Reggie Bush, Stevie Johnson, Brian Hartline, Miami Defense
Cautions: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Tannehill, Davone Bess (if active), Scott Chandler, Anthony Fasano, Buffalo Defense
I’m loving what’s going on with Reggie Bush right now, but it would certainly help if he’d find the endzone. He’s done all the heavy lifting only to be vutlured by…Javorskie Lane??? CJ Spiller made the most of a full workload last week, and I think this spells the end of Fred Jackson in Buffalo. The matchup is tough this week, but Seattle’s no slouch and he managed more than 100 YFS and a score against them last week.
Prediction: Miami continues to roll at home.
Tennessee Titans vs. Green Bay Packers
Comfortables: Aaron Rodgers, Chris Johnson, Kenny Britt, James Jones, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson (if active), Green Bay Defense
Cautions: Jake Locker, Alex Green, Nate Washington, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley
Now that’s more like it, Aaron Rodgers! This matchup is so tasty I’m practically salivating. At home against the lowly Titans? Yes please! The Titans can actually release Chris Johnson after the Super Bowl and don’t have to be weighed down by the albatross that is his contract. If I’m Tennessee, I cut my losses with CJ0K and take my chances on getting a new back in the draft, or possibly picking up a free agent for much less money. Heaven knows the production can’t be much worse, right?
Prediction: Packers lock up a first-round bye.
New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys
Comfortables: Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Darren Sproles, DeMarco Murray, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten
Cautions: New Orleans Defense, Dallas Defense
How bout dem Cowboys? Their overtime victory against the Steelers last week was impressive. What’s even more impressive is that Dez Bryant is playing through some serious pain and still producing. I like all offensive options here, including the WR2s for each team. This one is going to be a good ol’ fashioned gunfight.
Prediction: Cowboys win a shootout.
San Diego Chargers vs. New York Jets
Comfortables: San Diego Defense, New York Jets Defense
Cautions: Philip Rivers, Ronnie Brown, Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell, Malcom Floyd, Danario Alexander, Antonio Gates
This was originally going to be the Sunday Night Football game, so thank God for flex scheduling. Don’t look at any offensive options here to help get you a fantasy title. Both defenses look interesting though. I personally might start the Chargers D instead of the Seahawks D in hopes of getting a fantasy championship, but I haven’t decided yet.
Prediction: The Jets squeak by at home and keep their dismal playoff hopes alive for another week.
New England Patriots vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Comfortables: Tom Brady, Stevan Ridley, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski (if active), New England Defense
Cautions: Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon
Start all Pats, start no Jaguars. Sounds simple, no? Shorts and Blackmon at least get flex consideration, but New England’s defense is better than you think.
Prediction: Pats cruise.
Oakland Raiders vs. Carolina Panthers
Comfortables: Cam Newton, Darren McFadden, Steve Smith, Brandon Myers, Greg Olsen, Carolina Defense
Cautions: Carson Palmer, DeAngelo Williams, Denarius Moore, Oakland Defense
The Panthers are going to continue to feast on the AFC West. Last week it was San Diego. This week it’s poor Oakland. The only Raiders you should be starting are Run DMC, Brandon Myers (maybe) and SeaBass. Woe be unto those who have to play against Cam Newton.
Prediction: Carolina continues with the winning streak that means nothing.
Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos
Comfortables: Peyton Manning, Trent Richardson, Knowshown Moreno, Eric Decker, Demariyus Thomas, Denver Defense
Cautions: Josh Gordon, Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme
I know I sound like a broken record, but I’d stay away from the Broncos Tight End situation if I were you. There’s just no telling who will get the ball. Demariyus Thomas had a pretty quiet day last week, but there’s no reason he won’t bounce back. I’m not afraid of Joe Haden. Knowshown Moreno is displaying the kind of speed an awareness I expected from him when I drafted him last year. I don’t care how good he is…he’s not making it on my draft board next season. I’ve been burned too many times.
Prediction: Another win for Denver.
Chicago Bears vs. Arizona Cardinals
Comfortables: Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Chicago Defense
Cautions: Jay Cutler, Beanie Wells, Arizona Defense
Well, I’m sure nobody expected THAT from the Cardinals after getting destroyed by the Seahawks the week before. Say what you want about them…they didn’t quit. Now, what to make of them against a Bears team that’s reeling and is such a far cry from their dominant selves earlier this year? I still believe in the defense, and in Brandon Marshall as well as Matt Forte, who will get as close to a full workload as you can get with Michael Bush now on IR. Don’t get cute by starting Beanie Wells. I’m sure the three touchdowns last week were a fluke.
Prediction: It might be a trap game (ask the Lions), but I think the Bears will pull it out.
New York Giants vs. Baltimore Ravens
Comfortables: Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw (if active), David Wilson (if Bradshaw is inactive), Ray Rice, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Anquan Boldin, Martellus Bennett, Dennis Pitta
Cautions: Joe Flacco, New York Giants Defense, Baltimore Defense
The less I say about the Giants’ performance last week, the better. They know how much they stunk. Still, you have to shake it off and go back into battle. Torrey Smith might not be ready for this game, so Anquan Boldin gets a big surge up the rankings in case.
Prediction: Giants need this, so they eek out the victory on the road in hostile territory.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks
Comfortables: Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch, San Francisco Defense, Seattle Defense
Cautions: Michael Crabtree, Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Vernon Davis
This is the hardest matchup to judge this week. For one, the 49ers seem to be the best team in the NFC, but the Seahawks are damn-near unstoppable at home. I say you have to play everybody (including the defenses) with the realization that not everybody will get the points. 49ers have the top run defense, but there’s definitely an opportunity for them to be gashed by Marshawn Lynch, and vice versa with Frank Gore. Kaepernick and Wilson have equal opportunity to put up a 30-point game as they do an 8-point stinker. All I know is it’s impossible to trust Vernon Davis here, even though two of his three targets last week against New England may have been touchdowns if they were thrown a little better.
Prediction: Seattle continues the home streak and takes over sole control of first place in the NFC West.
Follow me on Twitter @PocketSeagull, and good luck in the championship!