Fantasy playoffs are upon us people! I will preview as normal with outlooks for all teams so if you did not make your playoffs, sit back and just enjoy the weekend of football ahead. If you were lucky to make it through as one of the top teams in your league, it’s crunch time! Huge decisions to make, a lot of players out there that will make or break your team. For me, these final 2 weeks are a mixture of playing your guys that you know will perform, your Brady’s, your David Johnson’s etc but also scouring the waiver wire for those great match ups that you wouldn’t necessarily pick, but they could ultimately win your league (see Rashad Jennings monstrous effort during the final 4 weeks last year).
Before I get on to the weeks’s games, @cavey007 and I were talking the other day about crazy stats and both revolved around Bill Belichick. I must thank @danhanzus for this glorious stat about Bill and current Jags coach Gus Bradley. Gus Bradley currently has a coaching record of 14-47, or a winning percentage of 23%. Bill Belichick has a winning percentage of 67% with a stunning 234-115 record. For Bill Belichick to sink to Gus Bradleys winning percentage (sorry Gus), he would have to lose 671 straight games in a row. Mind. Blown. However, Bill Belichick coaching till he is 106? I wouldn’t count it out. Tom Brady will probably still be his quarterback too.
On to this week!
Philadelphia Eagles @ Baltimore Ravens
From a fantasy perspective, this one is a dud. There are very limited players here who will light up the box score so I advise tempering any expectations whatsoever. For the home side, yes Joe Flacco lit up the scoreboard a week ago but he is far too inconsistent this year and the Ravens ‘dink and dunk’ approach very rarely leads to explosive plays. Which is insane as you have Steve Smith and Mike Wallace who are some of the best speedsters in the game today. The Ravens brass seemingly have no faith in Terrance West despite decent production when actually given the opportunity to carry the ball. His touches are on the downward trend and his teammate Kenneth Dixon appears to be taking over as his touches are going up. Last week he out snapped, out touched and out gained West for the first time and seems to be the favoured player in every aspect except goal line touches. As for the receivers, they have talented guys like the aforementioned Smith and Wallace but add in Breshad Perriman and Dennis Pitta and you have a very good core but their distribution is so varied that you just can’t trust them on a weekly basis. If I had to pick one I would roll with Smith as he is tradtionally Flacco’s favourite target and I am sure the 37 year old would fight tooth and nail to get another shot at the playoffs. Sleeper pick, high risk high reward type scenario roll with Perriman. For the Eagles, so much hope has fallen in to despair this year. Carson Wentz is doing is best Blake Bortles impression (not a look idea young man) but in all fairness to him, Bortles has far more talent around him so his rookie regression is all but impossible to avoid. He will be a grade A talent in the NFL but, as with the majority of rookie seasons, the learning curve is steep and harsh. The running back room is looking a bit like A&E for Philly so start Ryan Matthews with extreme confidence as he should be getting most, if not all the carries this week. Don’t expect much against a stout Raven’s D who other than last week (vs the Pats) have been a top unit all year. The other Matthews, Jordan, is your only real hope over at wide receiver. He and Zach Ertz are the players that Wentz seems to lean on but again I would not expect heavy returns so all three Eagles would be a flex start at best but I would avoid if you can. On that note, definitely start the Raven’s D this week. As for the Eagles D, it could be a low scoring game because both defenses are so much better than the opposing offenses so they are probably a decent start but I wouldn’t choose them away from home.
Winner – Ravens
Cleveland Browns @ Buffalo Bills
So the RG3 experiment didn’t really pan out for Cleveland last week. Not that I think anyone really expected him to light up the scoreboard. I certainly didn’t. Much better to see what Cody Kessler has in the tank rather than another 1st round flop QB. Still either of them because both will not return you anything in fantasy land. As for the running backs, finally we saw what we all knew with Isaiah Crowell as he went over 100 yards for the first time since week 4. He is in a great spot against the Bills who have surprisingly been terrible against the run over the last 4 weeks allowing RBs a healthy 4.7 yards per carry. There is a flex consideration for Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman as they get the bulk of the QB targets but again they are not really worth a solid start. Flex at best but massively boom or bust. No one else is worth a shout for Cleveland under any circumstances. The big three of Buffalo should certainly be started. In case you are not sure, they are Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins. If you have them, or picked them up on waiver wire, pick the Bills D as well because, well…. the Browns. Robert Woods again might be a sneaky play or the human canonball Mike Gilleslee on the goal line touches. If McCoy is healthy then you can’t rely on Gilleslee’s production as his touches from here are very situational but if Rex Ryan’s game script goes to plan, they will run 50 times and control the clock so the odds are there that he should get some touches. This is one game that I wish I could say the Browns might win but the odds are heavily with the Bills on this one and I think they will want to lash out after their embarrassing collapse against the Raiders last week.
Winner – Bills
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
Now I am not saying that the Bears with Jay Cutler under center would ever pose a threat to the Packers this year, but any other QB not named Cutler actually hasn’t been that bad this year. Brian Hoyer played and so has Matt Barkley.but it is the man on the opposite side that commands all the attention. That man, if you didn’t know, is Aaron Rodgers. He is basically a mobile Tom Brady, and that my friends is frightening in itself. Let alone when he is playing like a man possessed which is certainly the case the past 2 months. So basically, what I am saying is start Aaron Rodgers. No matter what. The receiving corp for the Packers have benefitted as a result, the main beneficiary being Jordy Nelson. Their mind-meld is clearly back, you will never see a back shoulder throw combo better, possibly ever. Alongside Nelson, you can easily start Davante Adams opposite him and roll with Cobb and Montgomery as a flex. The Packers have to win to stay in the race for the playoffs so if you believe that they will, start any of them that you have. Their defense is not owned in many leagues so if you believe what I do, they they will win, I would start the D too as they will look to strike hard and fast to wipe out the Bears. By the way, don’t even think about playing James Starks or Christine Michael, they are not going to win you anything. Michael’s blown play last week was embarrassing so I wouldn’t expect him to provide you with much. For the Bears, as per last week’s post, you can start Jordan Howard as the bell cow of this offense but no one really else warrants a look. Alshon Jeffrey is back this week from suspension but unless you work for the Bears, predicting Barkley’s rapport with him will be nigh on impossible. Only other real option would potentially be Cameron Meredith but again the likelihood of him erupting for 100 and a score are not likely. They won’t be winning anyone any championships in real life or fantasy let’s put it that way.
Winner – Packers
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
This one might be a good one. I know where Adam’s mentality would be for this one. The Bengals are all but out of contention but they would love to stick it to the Steelers and contribute to them potentially missing the playoffs. The fierce division rivals always want to tear each other apart and I don’t see this game being any different. Pittsburgh will want to win and crush the Bengals doing so. The Bengals will want to hold their homefield, for pride if anything else and to prove to everyone that this year was just a one year anomaly. With that in mind, I would probably avoid starting Ben Rothlisberger. He has not played well and basically his poor play at Buffalo all but fed the historical day that Le’Veon Bell had instead. 0 TDs and 3 picks last week is definitely in the back of mind this week. He could go off and throw for 400 yards but I think you should go with a safer option if you can. Start Bell and Antonio Brown as always. The RB5 and WR1 in fantasy scoring are virtually matchup proof each week. Bear in mind as well that Bell missed three games to start the year. He would probably be RB1 too so Pittsburgh are literally spoilt with riches on the offensive side of the ball. Same as previous weeks you cannot really trust the output of the remaining receivers. You might want to pick up DeAngelo Williams as back up to Bell because he would immediately inherit his full work load. Ignore Ladarius Green’s dud last week as he still saw a bunch of targets despite not physically producing on the field. The Bengals have not been great against TE’s this year so they would be stupid to not pile a bunch of passes his way. Andy Dalton for the Bengals provides a strong floor as he has not scored less than 10 points in a game all year. That being said, he is mostly available in all leagues so that pretty much tells you why. He has been good all year but the loss of AJ Green has hurt them tremendously. I predicted last week that Tyler Boyd and Brandon Lafell would get equal looks last week, and by god they did! Along with Tyler Eifert they all received 6 targets. It is the smart play to be honest and I see them doing the same for the rest of the year or at least until AJ Green comes back so they are flex considerations/sits for me. There are rumours that Green might be available for this game and you just cannot leave him on your bench so if he plays, you play him. I do feel sometimes that I repeat myself a lot but the 6 targets and 2 touchdowns last week for Eifert again makes him a must start each week so don’t you dare leave him on the bench. Jeremy Hill should have a decent game as well this week so you can start him with probable RB2 production. This will get nasty, it will get chippy and I can see a lot of yellow being thrown on the field so it could be a low scoring, slow moving affair. However, my hope is that the players use that aggression more constructively and score TD’s rather than accumulate injuries. If Rothlisberger plays well, I don’t see a Bengals W but if they can keep him under pressure then the Bengals could pip this in a close one.
Winner – Bengals
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans
The battle of the inept QB’s. Only Phillip Rivers has more interceptions (17) than Blake Bortles (15) and Brock Osweiler (14). I literally hate writing about both these teams so I won’t spend too much time on it. Start Lemar Miller. Don’t start Deandre Hopkins or any other pass catcher against a stout Jag’s pass defense. For the Jags, don’t start anyone. You could probably flex Marquis Lee who is somehow ahead of Allen Robinson but other than that just ignore this game and move on.
Winner – Texans
Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs
The weather is supposed to be cold in Kansas City. It might effect the fantasy outlook on this one. In a ‘normal’ game, you would start Mariota in a heat beat. You would not start Alex Smith as he just doesn’t throw enough touchdowns to be a viable fantasy option each week. He wins, but just not from a fantasy point of view. Anyway, colder games lead to running becoming more and more important and the Titans have one of the best 1-2 punches in the league with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. You only start Murray mind you because he takes the lion share of touches and while he keeps playing well, Henry is just likely to get garbage time points or short yardage. If you are desperate, maybe start him as a flex but the floor is very very low with him on a weekly proposition. Delanie Walker gets his usual start, mainly because he is that good but also because the TE position continues to be crappy for all fantasy players. Speaking of TE, start Travis Kelce too. Both are the number 1 receivers for their respective QB’s so expect plenty of looks for them. Lock them in now. On the WR side, it is hard to have anyone as a guaranteed lock. Rishard Matthews and Tyreek Hill for Titans and Chiefs respectively are the next go to targets but their week to week production is very much match up based. Both are liable to explode for big plays, but in fantasy playoff week, both are no better than a flex play in my opinion. Jeremy Maclin is back but he has disappointed all season so I wouldn’t trust him till he gets himself some kind of rhythm first and with only fantasy playoffs left I wouldn’t take him off the waiver wire at all. Whoever lines up on the right hand side of the Titans offense will face Marcus Peters who is one of the best cornerbacks in the league so distribution will be spread out or at least away from his general direction. As for Spencer Ware, he has the volume and is a genuine 3 down running back who can catch out of the backfield, please can someone tell me how he has only one 10+ point game since week 8? The game in question, he accounted for less than 50 total yards but scored twice. His floor is high, say around 8 points a week so you can flex him if you need it and then the upside would be if he scores. Hard for me to put him in a line up though as again, you are looking for touchdowns now so I think you will have better options. From a non fantasy look, you have one of the best offensive lines in the Titans against two of the best pass rushers in Dee Ford and Justin Houston so it will be a fascinating match up for the viewer. The Titans defense are not great so if the Chiefs win I don’t think their offense will have to too much. The question will be if the Titans offense can beat the Chiefs D. If they don’t turn the ball over, then they have a chance at Arrowhead Stadium. I genuinely cannot pick one with confidence and this will very much be a ‘big boy’ game so I’m going to roll with the hotter team.
Winner – Chiefs
Indianapolis Colts @ Minnesota Vikings
Seemingly, no matter who the Viking’s D plays, they shut them down. It’s a great D and I think that this week is no exception. I’m not sure you can start Andrew Luck and expect 20+ points, he does score a few touchdowns a game on average but he will take hits and potentially have a few picks so his ceiling is limited. If you have another option on your roster then roll with them instead as Luck is a low end QB at best. You can feel very safe starting TY Hilton as he has the second most receiving yards (1203) and is the number 1 target for a pass heavy team. Donte Moncrief is not looking likely to play so his targets are going to go up despite a crappy match up on paper. If Moncrief is out then you could look at Jack Doyle or Dwayne Allen getting a bit more thrown their way but I wouldn’t start them either way. Frank Gore can be plugged in to your flex spot with confidence this week as he is an extremely useful in the passing game and is a leader on the team. The irony here is this week you can actually start a few players for Minnesota and look forward to what they might do! Stefon Diggs is legit and averages 7 catches a game so as long as he is not on the injury report (check that before the game) then he is in a great spot this week to put up great numbers. Start Kyle Rudolph as he is second in targets and got a TD last week so I don’t see anything changing there. Sam Bradford might be a streaming option this week and has a great chance to improve on his already impressive first season in Minnesota. He won’t put up 30 points but he has a better chance that say Matthew Stafford or Eli Manning to produce for you. The Vikings RB’s might actually have a good chance to produce this week but I wouldn’t start them in fantasy world but at least for once they might actually average more than 2 yards a carry or get over the 1 yard line in less than 6 attempts. Point here is that great QB’s can beat a great defense but ultimately, defense generally wins out and with the Vikings at home, I find it difficult for the Colts to leave Minnesota with a W. – side note, Adrian Peterson might play. Don’t start him at all but worth a mention!
Winner – Vikings
New Orleans Saints @ Arizona Cardinals
Both QB’s here are difficult to gauge right now. Drew Brees hasn’t had a 2 game stretch like this in something like 8 years. Or even ever. Now I said last week that it would be impossible for him to have another stinker like the one he had against the Bucs and he stunk the place up even more. He couldn’t make it 3 weeks in a row could he? I tell you that normally you would say no but against the usually stingy Cardinals at home, I am genuinely not sure how this will go for him. It seems unlikely that he will throw another 3 picks and be under 10 fantasy points again but the threat is very much there. Based on that I would not start Drew Brees or Carson Palmer this week. Palmer because his play has generally been bad but New Orleans have played well that side of the ball so it is a strange turn of events saying to bench both of these guys. Palmer had less than 100 yards last week which was bizarre in itself but it is in keeping with his play all year. Presuming that Palmer can pass for more yards this week, Larry Fitzgerald is now the ultimate number 1 wide receiver with Michael Floyd getting cut this week. I don’t think you can play him and feel good that you get WR1 fantasy production but could be worth a flex spot. Be warned about JJ Nelson, they had to get a lot of trickery in last week to give him those 18 points. He had 8 receiving yards which is obviously terrible for an actual wide receiver so don’t expect that every week, or even for the rest of the season. Difficult to pick anyone else of note other than of course David Johnson which is unfathomable and a mark on the fall of the Cardinals offense this year. On the flip side, New Orleans is facing a similar struggle the past few weeks. Brees has piled on the yards but no touchdowns has massively affected the rest of the teams output. Based on this I don’t think you cant start the same guys again with the same confidence you had just 3 weeks ago. Michael Thomas is back from injury so that means big play guys like Snead and Cooks can then roam free knowing that Brees has his safety net back. Worth a look for at least Thomas I think but I think the low floor of everyone else in this match up is too risky. Don’t get me wrong, any of them are likely to go off in this game but it is whether or not you want to give that spot to someone else on your roster that has a better match up. This risk also carries over to Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower, not because they are bad players, but you have no idea which one of them will get the volume in any given week. So don’t bother with either of them. Both teams are done for this season so again, difficult to predict which way this will play out. If Arizona’s D holds firm, they should control the rest of the game with David Johnson doing literally everything. I don’t have any confidence in either team to be honest so I will go with the home side
Winner – Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons
So my idea of a trap game for the Falcons last week did not happen. Now I did say it would take Jared Goff and Todd Gurley to explode but the Falcons D took care of that. Not a difficult task against the worst offense in the league but fair play to Atlanta because they destroyed the Rams and it wasn’t even close. So against the worst D in the league, I would advise starting everyone on the entire Falcons team. Hell even pick offensive lineman as they will somehow get in to the action as well. There is no series of events that even puts the Niners close so unless you have Carlos Hyde, don’t start anyone else. You might want to stream Kaepernick as a high risk high reward type guy as the Falcons D still isn’t great and there is a high chance of garbage points but Kaps running numbers have greatly decreased so his value takes a massive hit. The only other option was Vance McDonald but he’s now on IR, next man up Garet Celek is not the man you want to play in his place. So to be clear, start Matt Ryan, Devonte Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Julio Jones (even if he doesn’t play he’ll score more points than the Niners), Mo Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Aldrick Robinson. Who’s the back up QB? Heck play him too.
Winner – Falcons
Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers
Oakland need to win this one, seriously need to win. After getting derailed last week I would expect the Raiders to come out blazing. I would expect the Chargers to do the same to be fair. Derek Carr’s injured finger might play in to this one and I really like the Chargers secondary this year. Derek Carr will never say that it is an issue but you can’t ignore that injury and the similar problems it caused Matthew Stafford. Start Derek Carr as he just doesn’t make silly mistakes whereas that is just what Philip Rivers seems to do each week so sit Rivers for sure. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are both decent starts and have similar production so expect similar production. If you need to pick one go with Crabtree as his touchdown production has been much better than Coopers. The wide receivers for the Chargers should have equal fun in this one as Oakland is not very good against the pass. Start Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman for sure and you are getting at least WR2 production from both of them. The running game of Oakland has settled down behind Latavius Murray so he is your workhorse now which is great. However his production is average at best so a flex spot seems appropriate especially seeing as his two back ups steal a few touches each week from him. As most of you will know, Melvin Gordon is likely out at least for this week so Kenneth Farrow is the next man up and he played great filling in when Gordon went down. I don’t know much about him but I wouldn’t start him until you see how he plays this week. Stash him by all means if you can as his workload will be high but I would temper expectations (think Devonte Booker). I think that Oakland will jump ahead and Rivers will be forced to go to the air and that’s when mistakes happen.
Winner – Raiders
Detroit Lions @ New York Giants
Starts: Odell Beckham Jr
Flex: Sterling Sheperd, Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin,
Sits: Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, All RB’s, Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys
Start: Ezekial Elliott, Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Cameron Brate
Flex: Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant, Doug Martin
Sit: Dak Prescott, Jason Witten,
Carolina Panthers @ Washington Redskins
Start: Kirk Cousins, Jamison Crowder, DeSean Jackson, Greg Olsen
Flex: Rob Kelley, Jonathan Stewart, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed/Vernon Davis
Sit: Cam Newton (same reason as Kaepernick), Kelvin Benjamin, Ted Ginn.
New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos
Start: Tom Brady (I don’t care about the Denver secondary), LeGarrette Blount, Demaryius Thomas.
Flex: Patriots WR’s. Dion Lewis/James White, Emmanuel Sanders, Martellus Bennett
Sit: Trevor Siemien, Broncos RB’s
As it is Christmas season, last night was the obligatory work Christmas party and I don’t mind telling you that I wrote most of this the morning after. I have somehow survived my hang over but I am sure it will hit me later. Ah well, got all day to recover and then football will make it all better.
Peace out! @jayhatton49