Every week fantasy football owners have difficult decisions to make. Who to start? Who should sit? Should I pick up someone off the waiver wire to play?” Those decisions can be tough, especially in the final week of the season. For help with that, check out my weekly rankings. For additional help, I give you my weekly take on starts, sits, and sleepers.
Every week I give you two players I like starting, two guys I would like to bench, and one sleeper per position (except for D/STs, there will only be one start and sit). Every week you will start Aaron Rodgers, David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown — among others — assuming they play. This weekly article is to help fantasy owners decide on their “non-elite” players. If you have more specific questions regarding fantasy football or your team, ask me on Twitter. And as always, happy hunting fantasy friends!
The Cowboys and Saints are the only two teams this weekend who are locked into their playoff spot, because of that I wouldn’t start any of their normal stars (Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliot, etc).
Tom Brady vs Jets: It seems like every December Tom Brady slows down for fantasy owners, and this season has been no different. Brady is averaging just 14.9 FPPG this month. However, the Patriots have to win on Sunday to guarantee a first round bye in the playoffs, and the Jets just got carved up by Aaron Rodgers. The Jets are the seventh-friendliest team against opposing quarterbacks, giving up an average of 19.4 FPPG. The Jets have allowed opposing quarterbacks to score at least 18 fantasy points in five straight games.
Philip Rivers at Broncos: Last week, Philip Rivers let his fantasy owners down (including me in several leagues), scoring a season low 3.3 fantasy points against the Ravens. However, the Ravens might be the best defense in the league, while the Broncos’ defense is all banged up and planning off-season vacations. The Broncos are eliminated from the playoffs and have lost three straight games to three non playoff teams. Unless the Chargers see the Chiefs up huge at halftime, Rivers should play the whole game in hopes of landing the number one seed in the AFC playoffs.
Mitchell Trubisky at Vikings: The Bears are making the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season. However, that is more thanks to the defense than it is Mitchell Trubisky. Despite some good games, Trubisky is the QB14 for the season. Trubisky has as many games under nine fantasy points as he does games over 28 fantasy points. Meanwhile, the Bears don’t have much to play for Sunday while the Vikings get in the playoffs with a win. If the Rams are up big on the 49ers at halftime, head coach Matt Nagy will likely pull his starters.
Kirk Cousins vs Bears: While the Vikings need to win this game in order to guarantee a playoff spot, Cousins isn’t in line for a big game. Since the change at offensive coordinator, the Vikings are running the ball much more, and Cousins has failed to top 260 passing yards in a game despite playing two weak defense. Meanwhile, the Bears are the second-toughest team against opposing quarterbacks, giving up an average of just 13.1 FPPG. The last time Cousins faced the Bears, he scored just 17 fantasy points and had two interceptions.
Derek Carr at Chiefs: Coming off an emotional win, in what might be the last game played in Oakland ever, many believe the Raiders are due for a major letdown against the Chiefs; I agree. However, that is good for Carr’s fantasy value this week, as he will get plenty of garbage time fantasy points against one of the worst defenses in the league. The Chiefs are the second-friendliest team against opposing quarterbacks, giving up an average of 21.2 FPPG. Furthermore, the Chiefs have allowed 14 passing touchdowns over their last five games, including three to Carr back in week 13.
Peyton Barber vs Falcons: Over the last six games, Peyton Barber has gotten at least 14 carries in every game. While his production as been up and down during that span, he is getting the volume. While the Buccaneers have nothing to play for on Sunday, the match-up is very appealing. The Falcons are the third-friendliest team against opposing running backs, giving up an average of 30.8 FPPG. Barber scored a season high 20.6 fantasy points against the Falcon back in week six and looks primed for a repeat performance.
Doug Martin at Chiefs: Last week Doug Martin scored a season high 18.6 fantasy points in an emotional win over the Broncos. Martin has played well over the last five games, scoring a touchdown in four of them. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are the friendliest team against opposing running backs, giving up an average of 30.9 FPPG. The Chiefs’ defense has allowed at least one rushing touchdown in seven of their last eight game, including to Martin in week 13.
Christian McCaffrey at Saints: Christian McCaffrey has been amazing for fantasy owners this season. Entering week 17 he is the RB1 in PPR scoring, thanks in large part to his NFL record 106 catches for a running back. However, the Panthers are down to their third string quarterback, out of the playoffs, and have no reason to let McCaffrey take a beating against the Saints tough run defense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see McCaffrey as a healthy scratch on Sunday. Fantasy owners should have a plan B in place for McCaffrey.
Lamar Miller vs Jaguars: The Texans are already in the playoffs but can clinch the AFC South division title with a win, and still could end up with a first round bye if the Patriots lose. Lamar Miller missed last week’s game against the Eagles with an ankle injury, but practiced fully Thursday and will play Sunday. However, the Jaguars are the sixth toughest team against opposing running backs, giving up an average of 20.6 FPPG and have allowed just four rushing touchdowns over their last eight games.
Kalen Ballage at Bills: Despite seeing 25 fewer snaps than Kenyan Drake last week, Ballage had just four fewer touches. Drake scored 9.4 fantasy points compared to 6.9 for Ballage. The Dolphins are out of the playoff picture and may give Ballage more work on Sunday to see what they have in him for next season. Meanwhile, the Bills are the eighth-friendliest team against opposing running backs, giving up an average of 27.4 FPPG. Ballage probably won’t get in fantasy owner’s season long-league line ups but he is a sneaky good DFS play.
Robby Anderson at Patriots: Over the last three games, Robby Anderson has produced more and more for fantasy owners. During this span, Anderson has scored a touchdown and 17.6 or more fantasy points in every game, while averaging 23.1 FPPG. Anderson has developed some chemistry with Sam Darnold and I expect that to continue this week. The Patriots give up about the league average to opposing wide receivers, but have allowed opposing wide receivers to score 41 or more fantasy points in two of their last three games.
Jordy Nelson at Chiefs: This is the last Raider player this year, I promise. But the match-up is just too good to ignore. Nelson looked close to death earlier in the season, but he has scored at least 10.8 fantasy points and caught at least six balls in four straight games. During that span, Nelson is averaging 15 FPPG; the WR16. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are the sixth-friendliest team against opposing wide receivers, giving up an average of 38.2 FPPG. Nelson had his second-best performance of the season against the Chiefs in week 13; scoring 19.7 fantasy points.
Odell Beckham Jr. vs Cowboys: Odell Beckham Jr. has missed the last three games with a quad injury and hasn’t practice this week. With no practice, three straight games missed, and nothing to gain by playing, I doubt Beckham suits up this week. If by some weird chance he does, fantasy owners should temper expectations as the Cowboys are the sixth-toughest team against opposing wide receivers, giving up an average of just 29.9 FPPG. Furthermore, the Cowboys have held opposing wide receivers under 28 fantasy points in four of their last five games.
Corey Davis vs Colts: While Marcus Mariota did practice on Thursday, I still don’t trust Corey Davis in championship week. Davis is dealing with a hamstring injury and is questionable to play Sunday night. Davis has scored under eight fantasy points in three straight games, despite some good match-ups. Meanwhile, the Colts are the fourth-toughest team against opposing wide receivers, giving up an average of just 28.6 FPPG. With Davis playing Sunday night, fantasy owners are better off finding a replace for him than hoping he plays and turns out to be a last minute scratch.
Michael Gallup at Giants: In the intro I said I wouldn’t start any Cowboys this week, as they have nothing to play for on Sunday. However, they can’t rest every starter. While I expect Amari Cooper to play a few snaps — if any at all — Michael Gallup should see an uptick in targets with Cooper on the sideline. Though he’ll be catching passes from backup quarterback Cooper Rush, the Giants defense was awful against the Colts, giving up 62.4 fantasy points to their wide receivers. Gallup shouldn’t get in season long line ups, but his potential target volume makes him a nice DFS option.
Vance McDonald vs Bengals: The Steelers have put themselves in a terrible playoff position and must win on Sunday to have any chance. Vance McDonald has been disappointing the last two weeks with just three catches for 62 yards, one touchdown and just 15.2 fantasy points. However, the match-up this week makes McDonald a TE1. The Bengals are the the third-friendliest team against opposing tight ends, giving up an average of 15.6 FPPG. Furthermore, the Bengals have allowed opposing tight ends to score 47.1 fantasy points over their last two games and gave up 13.8 to McDonald back in week six.
David Njoku at Ravens: Nothing would make this season better for the Browns than to knock the Ravens out of the playoff while finishing with a winning record for the first team since 2007. The only way that will happen is if David Njoku has a big game. While the Ravens are one of the toughest teams against running backs and wide receivers, they are one of the more friendly against tight ends. The Ravens give up an average of 13.4 FPPG to opposing tight ends and gave up six catches for 69 yards and 12.9 fantasy points to Njoku back in week five.
Eric Ebron at Titans: Currently Eric Ebron is dealing with a concussion and a knee injury, and is questionable to play Sunday night. If Ebron clears the concussion protocol and is on track to play Sunday night then I like him despite the zero fantasy points he put up against the Titans a few weeks back. However, if Ebron is a game-time call, fantasy owners can’t trust him, because if he doesn’t play, your options are either Mo Alie-Cox or MyCole Pruitt. Have a backup plan for Ebron, and if he doesn’t practice on Saturday play them over Ebron on Sunday.
Jimmy Graham vs Lions: As nice as Aaron Rodgers was last week, Jimmy Graham saw just four targets, catching three of them for 34 yards and just 6.4 fantasy points. However, the Packers are out of the playoff picture and may limit Graham’s snaps as he deals with that broken thumb. Even when Graham is on the field, the match-up isn’t very fantasy friendly. The Lions give up about the league average to opposing tight ends, but have held opposing tight ends under nine fantasy points in five of their last six games.
C.J. Uzomah at Steelers: For fantasy owners that need an Eric Ebron backup plan, C.J. Uzomah is owned in just 25.5% of ESPN leagues and is a nice streaming option this week. Uzomah scored a season high 14.9 fantasy points against the Browns last week. While a lot of that had to do with the match-up, Uzomah has another good match-up this week. The Steelers are eighth-friendliest team against opposing tight ends, giving up an average of 14 FPPG. Furthermore, the Steelers have allowed opposing tight ends to score 18 or more fantasy points in six games this season.
Saints vs Panthers: While the Saints have nothing to play for on Sunday, the Panthers are starting their third string quarterback and will likely bench Christian McCaffrey. The Saints can’t rest all their defensive starters, and those who don’t sit will have a field day against a bunch of back-ups for the Panthers. The Saints D/ST has scored 11 or more fantasy points in six of their last seven games and I expect them to score at least 11 again this week against Kyle Allen and Cameron Artis-Payne.
Patriots vs Jets: The Patriots are huge favorites in Vegas, but I’m not so sure that they should be. The overwhelming odds are that the Patriots win the game, but I think it can be closer than many expect. The Jets’ offense has played well over the last three weeks, nearly beating the Texans and Packers, while topping the Bills. During that span, the Jets are averaging 29 points per game. The Patriots D/ST has been up-and-down all season long. I think the Jets can keep up their high scoring against them this week.
Chargers at Broncos: Last week the Chargers D/ST scored just five points against the Ravens. However, this week they should bounce back against the Broncos. Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay won’t play in this game and his replacement, Royce Freeman, is averaging just 4.1 yards per carry this season. The Broncos have given up and head coach Vance Joseph is likely to be fired, while the Chargers will get the number one seed in the AFC playoffs with a win and Chiefs loss. Expect a couple of turnovers from Case Keenum this week.