How about a Fresca?
At the very least I believe hearty congratulations are in order. Because if you’re reading this, you’re likely playing for something this week. There are meaningful games to watch this weekend, which in Week 16, should be acknowledged and applauded.
You’ve outlasted everyone else in the league and now only one colleague, friend or family member stands between you and your fantasy championship. This is a big week; a potential payday looms along with bragging rights for the next year.
For the first time in six years, I advanced into the championship in my ‘old high school buddies’ league — and it has never felt sweeter. I’m very superstitious when it comes to Fantasy Football, so I have never been much of a trash talker. But with Kyler Murray, Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, Robert Woods and Diontae Johnson in the starting lineup, I feel pretty confident.
Normally, at this point, fantasy managers have to roll with what they got. I mean, who could you really add that would make a difference? This year, plenty.
Tony Pollard needs to be added in every league after his 30-point performance on Sunday. If Ezekiel Elliott misses another game with a calf injury, Pollard will be in line for another dominant performance at home against the Eagles. Jalen Hurts is still available in 37% of ESPN leagues despite being a Top 5 QB since taking over. And Washington tight end Logan Thomas (owned in just 68% of leagues) has been nothing short of sublime the last four weeks with 70 points scored.
All three could be potential championship winners. Good luck.
Quarterbacks to Start
Ryan Tannehill, Titans: Tannehill doesn’t have a great matchup this week on the road against the Packers, but I expect this to be a back-and-forth game. After tossing his 31st TD last week, Tannehill became just the third player in Titans/Oilers franchise history to throw at least 30 TDs in a season, joining Hall of Famers Warren Moon and George Blanda. Tannehill has the Titans offense moving so well, nothing, not even the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, should stop him. Start Tannehill with confidence this week.
Jalen Hurts, Eagles: The rookie signal-caller has resurrected the Eagles offense the last two weeks and officially supplanted Carson Wentz as the de-facto leader. He was spectacular in last week’s loss at Arizona, racking up 338 yards through the air, another 68 yards on the ground and four total TDs. Hurts should find plenty of room this week in Dallas; I expect him to have another big game. It’s not often a waiver-wire QB wins you your fantasy championship, but I think Hurts has that potential this week.
Quarterbacks to Sit
Russell Wilson, Seahawks: As tough as this might be, sit Wilson this week against the Rams. You’ve been warned. Wilson was the MVP favorite after the first six weeks of the season, but since Week 9, he’s scored 20 points or more just once. Now he gets the Rams and their No. 1 ranked defense, who are coming in extra motivated after last week’s embarrassing loss to the Jets. Wilson has always struggled against the Rams (home or away), and that should continue on Sunday.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: What is going on with the Pittsburgh Steelers? I’m sure plenty of people in Eastern Pennsylvania are asking themselves the same question following three straight mediocre losses. Big Ben has underthrown way too many open receivers the past month; his age is showing and championship week is not the time to trust an inconsistent offense. Leave Roethlisberger on the bench this week or look elsewhere on the waiver-wire.
Running Backs to Start
Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers: With Jones likely still out with his surgically repaired pinkie-finger, Fournette should slide back in as the lead back. Even though he managed just 49 yards on 13 carries last week, he salvaged his day with a pair of 1-yard rushing TDs. The Bucs don’t run the ball a ton, but against the Lions this week, they should. Detroit has the worst rush defense in the NFL and is allowing over 15 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. Fournette needs to be in starting lineups for Saturday afternoon’s tilt.
D’Andre Swift, Lions: With Detroit still devoid of No. 1 wideout Kenny Golladay (hip) since Week 8, Swift has developed into a solid option for Matthew Stafford out of the backfield. He’s accounted for a large portion of the Lions offense and is coming off a two-TD performance against the Titans. The Buccaneers are surrendering a league-low 3.1 yards per carry to opposing backs, but Swift has been Detroit's’ most explosive option. He’ll receive 15-20 touches and has a good shot at getting in the end zone for the fourth time in the last three games.
Running Backs to Sit
Jonathan Taylor, Colts: There haven’t been many running backs in the league that have had a better December than Taylor, who has put up 61 fantasy points over the last three weeks. It’s hard not to start him, even against the Steelers and their stout run defense. I would advise better judgment. Forgetting last week against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh has allowed only one 100-yard rusher the entire year and ranks second against the run. Taylor should get plenty of touches, but I think it’ll be tough sledding this week.
Kareem Hunt, Browns: After having his best fantasy performance of the year two weeks ago, Hunt put up a stinker Sunday night against the Giants. Cleveland has had to rely less on its two-headed monster out of the backfield the past two months with Baker Mayfield playing well. And even though the Browns get the hapless Jets this week, no running back locked in a timeshare is worthy of starting in a fantasy championship. It’s been a good year, but keep Hunt on the bench this week.
Wide Receivers to Start
Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Browns: Even though I’m off the Kareem Hunt bus, I’m buying into the Cleveland receiving core. Both Higgins and Landry have benefited from Mayfield’s elevated play and scored double-digit points in every game the past month. Cleveland just needs one more win to lock up its first playoff appearance since 2002; I think they steamroll the Jets this week and both receivers get into the end zone. If you’re looking for a receiver, Higgins is available in 78% of ESPN leagues.
Antonio Brown, Buccaneers: AB finally got his first TD last week on a 46-yard heave from Tom Brady in the fourth quarter, capping a solid 20-point performance. His chemistry with Brady seems to be improving every game and he’s supplanted Chris Godwin as the No. 2 option on the Bucs squad behind Mike Evans. He has a good chance to get in the end zone again this week with the Bucs traveling to play the Lions, who were just torched by Titans receivers Corey Davis and AJ Brown. The Bucs receivers should be in line for a big game.
Wide Receivers to Sit
Tyler Lockett, Seahawks: Anytime you sit a Seahawks receiver, you’re taking a risk. But also drawing the No. 1 pass defense in the fantasy championship is never ideal. I would say that Metcalf is probably matchup-proof — you’re starting him regardless — but Lockett has been known to completely disappear from the stat sheet from time to time. I’m starting him if I got no other option, but honestly, I would prefer Rashard Higgins over Lockett this week. He’s a boom or bust.
Juju Smith-Schuster, Steelers: Smith-Schuster got a shot of humility Monday night after the Bengals secondary pounced on him for dancing on the Bengals logo pregame and held him to just two catches. But if there is anything that’s become clear for the Steelers this season, it’s that Smith-Schuster is not a No. 1 receiver. Diontae Johnson, despite all the drops, has received 20 more targets and is Big Ben’s go-to target. Smith-Schuster is due for a rebound, but I think he’s taken a back seat to Johnson and fellow rookie Chase Claypool.