Dec 23, 2011
With this being championship week, I will not be focusing on the obvious players since they are going to be in your lineup no matter what. Instead, I will be taking a quick look at each game with more emphasis on players you’ll be making decisions on this week.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
The fantasy QB situation has been a steady rotation of matchup plays when it comes to low-end starters. That’s why someone like Matt Moore looks like a solid start this week with a great matchup against the terrible Patriot defense. I can personally say that I picked up Moore to backup Ben Roethlisberger a few weeks ago and will be starting him with confidence for the second straight week with my season on the line. Aaron Hernandez had one of his best games of the season against the Broncos last week and feels like another good start this week. I realize he’s not going off like teammate Rob Gronkowski, but he’s still one of the better players at the position in the league and probably in the next group after the weekly starters.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
You know at this point that Maurice Jones-Drew is the only player you can start from the Jaguars, so we can focus on the Titans here. I’d certainly feel better about Nate Washington if Jake Locker was starting, but at least we know Matt Hasselbeck has a short leash this week. Damian Williams would be a very deep reach and I’m not getting excited about Jared Cook showing up all of a sudden last week. Chris Johnson’s bum ankle continues what’s been a very frustrating season if he’s been on your team. This isn’t a bad matchup for him and he’s been getting it done as a receiver, so if he’s good to go, I’m fine calling him a mid-range #2 RB.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
We saw the Panthers easily take care of the Buccaneers just a few weeks ago and I’d expect more of the same in this one. Carolina does like to throw it, but I’d definitely would consider using RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart against this hapless Buccaneer team. They are both solid #2 options, especially if you are stuck because of something like the Felix Jones injury. I’d like to believe LeGarrette Blount would be a good option against a Panther defense that’s been ravaged by injuries, but I can’t get excited about him because I don’t know if he’ll get enough carries to be productive. That’s not his fault, but on the Tampa Bay defense, which looks like they’ll have their hands full this week. Mike Williams had a nice little stretch going coming into this month, but I want nothing to do with their passing game.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
Greg Little had a nice game last week, but you’re probably better off waiting until 2012 to use him again. Peyton Hillis can only be in your lineup if you’re stuck and are hoping for volume. When these teams played earlier in the month, the Ravens relied on Ray Rice to carry their offense and didn’t ask much of Joe Flacco. There’s no reason to believe they change things up too much, especially with Anquan Boldin out of the mix. I liked Torrey Smith as a reach once again, but the Boldin injury could mean that Joe Haden covers Smith more now. That hurts his value.
Arizona Cardinals at Cincinnati Bengals
I realize that playing Beanie Wells isn’t very exciting, but I’d expect him to get carries in what I believe will be a close game between two solid defenses. If you’re looking for volume and a chance at a short TD, he should be able to give you that. Andre Roberts has been productive for the last three games, but I just can’t buy into using him for such an important fantasy week. Cedric Benson should be similar to Wells when it comes to volume and a chance at short TDs, plus he’ll have FB Chris Pressley back. He might not have upside, but he’s safe.
Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins
Roy Helu looked bad last week and as we found out, all that work he was doing with the trainers on the sidelines was due to multiple injuries. The Redskins aren’t going anywhere and with Helu banged up, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him split touches with Evan Royster. Mike Shanahan needs to make one more negative impact on the fantasy season and I think it comes in this game. Rolling with Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney certainly looks good against a Viking secondary that couldn’t stop Adam Caplan from finding the end zone. Rex Grossman should be fine, but last week proved that he’s tough to trust even in a good matchup. Percy Harvin is back in my lineup this week because he’s too talented not to be. Toby Gerhart is not. I’m not buying into his fantasy value after he had a good fantasy performance on the wrong end of a blowout.
Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills
This is the best I’ve felt about Tim Tebow because the Bills don’t scare me with any part of their defense. However, that could mean the Broncos run it all day because even if he has made strides as a passer, they’d rather hide that part of his game if the can. They should be able to do that, which is why I really like Willis McGahee this week. His injury didn’t appear to be a problem during practice this week, so he should get plenty of touches. Demaryius Thomas is a fine option against a beatable Bill secondary, but I’d lower expectations a little since I’m not expecting Tebow to throw that much. No one could have seen C.J. Spiller going off against the Dolphins last week after he had a stinker in Week Fourteen and the Dolphin defense had been playing so well down the stretch. I don’t expect a repeat performance, but he should be a solid play. Same with Stevie Johnson.
St. Louis Rams at Pittsburgh Steelers
Charlie Batch gets the start for the Steelers and while he hasn’t been a big factor this season, Rashard Mendenhall should be an important part of the gameplan this week. The Steelers like to throw it and put the ball in the hands of their best player, Ben Roethlisberger, but since he’s out, I don’t expect as much out of the passing game nor does there need to be against a Ram team that probably won’t put up much of a fight. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown are too good to take out of your lineup, unless you have significantly better options. Steven Jackson has played better than expected in recent weeks, but I think that stops this week. He’ll get volume and that could be good enough to make him a decent #2 option, but I’m lowering expectations if I have him. Brandon Lloyd is nothing more than a #3 option with a tough matchup and Kellen Clemens under center.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
Carson Palmer was outstanding last week, but finds himself in that group of fringe fantasy starters. The Chief defense has been playing quite well and with Palmer not having much in the receiving corps, I can’t say I’d be feeling much upside from him this week. Darrius Heyward-Bey is a reach, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he laid an egg after having a big game last week. Steve Breaston is an okay reach this week and if you are stuck at QB, I’d be okay using Kyle Orton over someone like Palmer or Joe Flacco.
New York Giants at New York Jets
The Giants can talk all they want, but I fully expect Darrelle Revis to give their receivers, specifically Hakeem Nicks, fits all day. Mario Manningham doesn’t look like he’ll play, so Victor Cruz will need to play on the outside. I would have felt better if he was playing more inside as the #3, but he should still be okay if he can stay away from Revis. Ahmad Bradshaw is an okay flex, but I’m interested to see if he’s involved in the passing game more with Manningham and Jake Ballard out of the mix. Santonio Holmes should be a real nice play against a Giant secondary that hasn’t figured out that they aren’t any good. Plaxico Burress should be a solid option against his old team. Mark Sanchez makes some dumb plays at times, but he’s been decent enough, especially with a good matchup like this one. If the OL gives him time, I think he performs well. Shonn Greene was looking good last week until the Eagles built up a big lead. This should be more of a game that the Jets control or at least keep interesting, so he’s a fine #2 fantasy option.
San Diego Chargers at Detroit Lions
This looks like one of the better games of the day for fantasy production. Neither team has a secondary to worry about, which is why I like Nate Burleson and Titus Young as reaches and Brandon Pettigrew as a solid low-end starter at TE. I can’t say I’m feeling good about Kevin Smith, even if the matchup is in his favor. He didn’t look very good last week and with Matthew Stafford not having a problem throwing the ball to his receivers, Smith wasn’t needed as a checkdown option. I see more of the same this week and when you combine that with the fact that Smith could re-injure his ankle yet again, he just doesn’t strike me as someone you play without worry. Vincent Jackson’s groin injury is troublesome, so it should mean an even bigger role for Malcom Floyd. Floyd has randomly disappeared in the past, but with Philip Rivers playing well, I think Floyd continues to produce. Mike Tolbert is more of a secondary option than he’s ever been in this offense, but he’s a good reach this week since the Chargers should be able to move the ball with success.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
Jeremy Maclin was predictably held in check by the Jets last week, but the important thing was that he played the whole game and came out of it healthy. You can take shots on both of these secondaries because of their shaky safety play, so I expect both teams to come out throwing. The matchup doesn’t worry me for Maclin like it did last week, so I’m fine calling him a #2 WR. DeSean Jackson can’t be played with the same confidence, but he can be used as a flex option. I probably shouldn’t need to say this, but Brent Celek has found his way into the reliable TE group. The Eagle defense has played better in recent weeks and the team appears to be finally taking to their somewhat unique schemes. They’re also playing with more aggression and should get some heat on Tony Romo. I’d still fine playing Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, and if you’re thinking about using Laurent Robinson one more time even with his snaps down, I’m just fine with it. He’s been the one that’s bailed Romo out and I think he’ll be able to produce in a game that could see a lot of points. Felix Jones is hurt (again), so we could be seeing Sammy Morris get significant touches. I’m not going to get excited about him looking good against the Bucs last week. You’re reaching if you play him.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Frank Gore did get some rest last week when the Niners had things in hand against the Steelers, but he did perform better than expected when he was on the field. That’s why I’m not overly worried about him against a good Seahawk run defense this week. Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis have their success tied to Alex Smith, which is why I don’t let my expectations ever get too high for either of them. Marshawn Lynch didn’t do much when it came to yardage against the Bears last week, but he did score twice showing that getting volume always gives you a chance to do something. It’s an even tougher matchup this week, but this game should be close, so the volume should still be there, especially as the cornerstone of this offense. It wouldn’t shock me if he was the one to finally end the 49er streak of allowing no rushing TDs this season, but I know it’s tough to feel good about him.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Marion Barber couldn’t even handle a month of being the lead back in Chicago before getting hurt. He’s not expected to play because of a calf injury, so we’ll get to see more of Kahlil Bell, who outperformed Barber last week and did so against a damn good Seahawk defense. He’s also a solid receiver and this week he’s going up against a Packer defense that’s a little banged up and giving up significant production through the air to RBs. I realize using him this late in the season might be considered dangerous, but getting a main ball carrier off the waiver wire in the days leading up to championship week is almost unheard of. His value would only rise if the Packers have nothing to play for on Sunday, which would be the case if the 49ers lost to the Seahawks on Saturday. If that’s the case, I think we see guys like Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, and probably even a veteran like Donald Driver for a little more than a half. This isn’t an easy matchup, but I’m not going to get scared about this offense without Greg Jennings after just one game. However, that doesn’t mean I’m expecting much from James Jones or Randall Cobb. Also, you’re better off staying away from the Packer backfield.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
You’re not going to get a much better game to end this week, although if you remember when these teams played late in the season last year, it didn’t yield much fantasy production. It will this time. The Falcon run defense has been pretty good, but they are a little banged up, so that’s helpful if you want reach with Pierre Thomas in PPR formats. I can’t say I like Chris Ivory, but he could score a short TD. Darren Sproles stays in my lineup in PPR leagues and I’d probably be just fine with him as a #2 even if he’s not getting points to catch the ball. Lance Moore is a nice reach since the Falcon secondary is beatable and short on depth. I know Michael Turner isn’t someone you’d think about taking out of your lineup, but the Saints will have Jonathan Vilma in the lineup, unlike their previous meeting when Turner performed quite well. If I have any of the prominent Falcon offensive players, I’m using them with confidence.
If you have any questions, I’ll try to check back here a couple of times before the games get underway on Saturday, but your best chance to get me is on Twitter (@TheMattCamp). Good luck and happy holidays to everyone!