Championship week is upon us! Hopefully, you are reading this because you’re playing for all the marbles this weekend. Or perhaps you’re battling it out for third place or even fifth place like some leagues do. Either way, if you are playing this week you want to send out the best lineup possible and that becomes more difficult with the way some studs have morphed into duds over the past few weeks. I will address a wide variety of players, telling you what you should do with them this week; so buckle up!
We have to start off with the reigning MVP and perennial first round pick, Peyton Manning. It is now three straight games that Manning has failed to impress, posting less than 300 yards in each (less than 200 in two of them) and failing to top two touchdowns in any of those games. As addressed in the Future of Fantasy podcast, I do not think Peyton is 100 percent healthy. This is pure speculation on my part and I admit I could be completely wrong, but if you had a healthy Manning would you limit him to only 20 pass attempts? We all know about him getting intravenous fluids during last week’s game and having a thigh injury, but seeing him toss up a couple of wobbly passes is not the Peyton Manning we all know and love. His struggles have brought down Emmanuel Sanders’ value, as he has only seen nine total targets in the past two games, a number he has often surpassed in individual games this year. As I said in the podcast, I find it hard to envision a scenario in which you bench either Sanders or Manning purely based on upside, but expectations should be lowered. View Manning as a low end QB1 this week and Sanders as a low end WR2. The Bengals have been great against QBs this year, ranking in the Top 5 fewest Fantasy points allowed to the position foe both the season and over the past month, but Manning always is a threat to put up 300 plus yards and multiple scores. However, if he worries you, you could plug in Matt Ryan, Tony Romo or Ben Roethlisberger over Manning this week.
You know things are rough in Chicago when the Bears bench the highest paid QB in the league (Jay Cutler) for Jimmy Clausen. While it is a big blow to those who have been rolling out Cutler every week, it also hurts those that got to the big dance with Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett and Alshon Jeffrey (perhaps his garbage time TD got you this far). Clausen will not sling the ball with the success that Cutler has, and it is hard to see him having better chemistry with the starters. Forte was already worrying owners, as he goes up against the vaunted Lions defense, which held him to just six rushing yards and six receptions for 52 yards on Thanksgiving. He falls into the RB2 discussion but it is hard to envision a scenario in which you sit him. As for Jeffrey and Bennett, both will likely struggle to match their production with Cutler. Bennett falls to low end TE1 category, while Jeffrey will likely struggle to see the volume of targets he has been accustomed to, dropping him into the WR2 category. I do like Marquess Wilson as a sleeper for those in deeper leagues or desperate for a WR, as he likely has practiced the most with Clausen and the two likely developed some chemistry (although, I highly doubt I like him more than Drew Dinkmeyer).
Jordan Matthews shattered dreams and hearts, as he posted a big donut last week. Not only did he fail to post a single Fantasy point, he was not even targeted against the Cowboys. Matthews who posted at least 100 yards and a TD against the Panthers and Packers seemed like the latest breakout player and likely had a home in his owners’ starting lineups since. However, not only has his production been dropping, so has his involvement in the offense. After seeing eight or more targets in three straight games, his targets have dropped to five, five and zero in the past three weeks. Matthews still saw 84 percent of the snaps against the Cowboys, which is encouraging since he’s on the field often, but his targets dropping is something owners should be very worried about. This week the Eagles get the Redskins, who have allowed the second-most Fantasy points to opposing WRs over the past month. Matthews comes in this week as a WR3 with a ton of upside.
Those that waited all year on Josh Gordon sure are frustrated. Forget the number one overall WR production we saw last year; owners would settle for WR2 production. In his first game with Johnny Manziel, Gordon was targeted only four times. He did have three catches for 48 yards, but 32 yards came on one play. Granted, he had a tough matchup against the Bengals, but still, how could any owner feel safe rolling him out there. This week he gets the Panthers, who have been torched in the past but have recently returned to form, allowing the eighth-fewest Fantasy points to opposing wideouts over the past month. Given the unknown that is Manziel, and it’s hard to trust Gordon with all your hopes and dreams in the Fantasy playoffs. He falls as a low end WR3 or flex consideration, but is extremely boom or bust.
Ah, Rashad Jennings. Chances are if you owned him you started him last week. If so, you probably lost or are lucky to be playing for your championship. He has a total of three carries in the past two weeks, and while the Giants say he is unlikely to play this week, if he some how suits up, sit him. Andre Williams ranks as a RB3 or flex play due to a tough matchup.
The most annoying part of Fantasy Football is perhaps the touchdown vulture. We saw PLENTY of that in Week 15. The two biggest victims were top picks, Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy. Charles saw less than 15 touches for a third straight game, which is enough to worry owners. Not only that, but Knile Davis saw close to a 50/50 split in touches this week and had both rushing and receiving touchdowns, while Charles was left to watch on the sideline. This week the Chiefs get the Steelers, who rank middle of the pack against RBs, but are awful against the opposing WRs. The thing is, the Chiefs hardly use their WRs and could exploit the matchup by throwing to their RBs, particularly Charles. He is a solid RB1 this week. As for McCoy, he was Philly’s workhorse this week, just not at the opportune moments. Chris Polk found pay dirt twice, and Darren Sproles mopped up the third rushing TD. Chip Kelly annoyed a ton of Fantasy owners this week, but owners are going to have to deal with it and start McCoy in all leagues. So, you thought only RBs got vultured? Wrong! Jimmy Graham got to see his fellow tight end, Josh Hill catch two passes, both for TDs. It was nice to see Graham be targeted seven times for five receptions and 87 yards, but it was against the worst defense against opposing TEs this year, so it was a little underwhelming. This week he gets Atlanta, who has allowed the third-fewest Fantasy points to opposing TEs on the year. However, it is a better matchup than is would seem, and Graham is a Top 5 TE play. While the potential is there, he is no longer the game changer he was early in the year.
If you were lucky to survive Aaron Rodgers’ dud last week, you can rejoice. He will have a much better week against the Bucs… Looks like I was wrong to worry last week about Eddie Lacy. He was the lone bright spot in the Packers’ loss to the Bills and will continue to feast this week against the Bucs, who allow the nearly 20 FPPG to opposing RBs… Some owners are worried about Andrew Luck, who failed to throw for more than 200 yards for the first time since Week 2. Relax. He gets the Cowboys this week, who have allowed the fifth-most Fantasy points to QBs over the past month. And Sanchez’s clunker weighs that down… If owner are worried about the QB, naturally they worry about top WR, T.Y. Hilton. He may have let you down last week, but he could explode in what should be an absolute shootout this week. Plug him in as a WR1 with a ton of upside if he plays… Staying on the Colts, if Reggie Wayne sits I like Donte Moncrief (who has seen more snaps than Hakeem Nicks recently) as a WR3 with upside. Also, Dwayne Allen is a must start for me this week… DO NOT trust Johnny Manziel at all this week… If DeMarco Murray sits this week, Joseph Randle will be in the high end RB2 conversation. It may be hard to trust the unknown, but he could lead to Fantasy Glory. Lance Dunbar would be a flex conversation. Both are worth adding… Kelvin Benjamin should still be trotted out this week, despite the tough matchup against Joe Haden. Not only did he top 100 yards with no Cam Newton last week, he tied his season high in targets. However, if Haden sits it will boost his value greatly… C.J. Spiller may be activated, but even if he is, do not trust him. The Bills will ease him back into things, and have been running effectively with Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown. Plus, this game could get out of hand fast… Sticking with the Bills, if you played Peyton Manning in round one and Rodgers in the semis, the Bills DST is the real MVP. Hopefully, you took my advice and stashed them, as they are my number one DST this week.
Good luck this week and hopefully all of you get Fantasy gold! If you have any other questions, hit me up on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.