“What happened, happened and couldn’t have happened any other way.” Logic from Morpheus sounds cool in The Matrix but it doesn’t always correlate with the actual real world. This is it, the final week before the fantasy football playoffs begin for most leagues. The decisions you make before submitting a starting lineup will determine the outcome, and whatever happens, it could have happened any other way. Be intelligent but don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo (vs. New England)
The Bills’ coaching staff does not trust Taylor even though he consistently puts up good numbers and gives his team the best chance to win. That’s the only reason to describe why Taylor was benched last week after a bad game in Week 10 for rookie fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman, who threw five first-half interceptions against the Los Angeles Chargers. Taylor returned in the third quarter to finish with 158 yards passing and one touchdown, placing him as QB12 in fantasy scoring leaders through 11 weeks. Taylor had 183 yards passing, one touchdown, and 27 yards rushing against the Kansas City Chiefs’ sixth-worst passing defense on Sunday. The Patriots, despite showing improvement the past month, still have the second-worst passing defense at 270.4 yards per game, and 19 touchdown passes is tied for 21st. New England’s offense scores 29.5 points per game, and Buffalo’s defense allows 23.6 points. This game has all the makings of Tom Brady and company scoring early and often as Taylor plays from behind. He will use his arm and legs to be fantasy relevant and, on paper, looks to be a better start than several higher-profile names, such as Cam Newton (at New Orleans), Matt Ryan (vs. Minnesota) and Matthew Stafford (at Baltimore).
Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota (at Atlanta)
The Falcons’ 13th-worst rushing defense allows 113.9 yards per game (4.4 average) yet only eight touchdowns on the season. Expect those numbers to rise after facing Murray this Sunday. In the past five games Murray averaged 79.8 yards rushing on 17.8 attempts and one touchdown, including four touchdowns in three previous games. Murray shares carries with Jerrick McKinnon but he gets more touches at the goal line, and is the most likely halfback to score each game. Case Keenum has been a pleasant surprise at quarterback, and part of the reason is because he’s had a productive ground game to lean on thanks to Murray. Minnesota’s fifth-best defense based on yards per game (290.4) can slow down Atlanta’s sixth-ranked offense (373.4), thus providing Murray more touches. Not only should the Vikings extend their win streak to eight, Murray has a great chance to score double-digit fantasy points.
Danny Woodhead/Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore (vs. Detroit)
The Ravens would be foolish to not run the ball down the Lions’ throat. Detroit has the 11th-worst rushing defense at 116.6 yards per game (4.2 average) and its 14 touchdowns ranks 31st. Woodhead or Collins is a safe play as an RB2 or flex start. Baltimore’s rushing offense averages more than 110 yards per game. The downside is the team only has seven rushing touchdowns – two on Monday, one by Collins – but considering Detroit allows so many scores, the numbers favor either Woodhead or Collins to reach pay dirt. The game will be played outdoors, which benefits a cold-weather team that leans on running the ball and short passes.
Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets (vs. Kansas City)
It’s time to admit that Anderson should always be started. Many fantasy owners probably benched him last week knowing the Jets faced the Carolina Panthers, the second-ranked defense that is sixth in passing at 205.1 yards per game. Against Carolina, Anderson caught six receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns. He has scored a touchdown in five consecutive games, averaging 17.4 yards per perception on the season, or 22.8 yards the past two weeks. The Chiefs have lost five of six games, and their passing defense allows 245.6 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game. Jets quarterback Josh McCown had three touchdown passes against Carolina. He has 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions on the season, and targets Anderson 6.7 times per game, including 13.4 yards each target the past two weeks, per Pro Football Reference. Don’t be surprised if Anderson outproduces superstars like Julio Jones in Week 13 and finishes as a WR1. Jones recently caught 12 receptions for 253 yards and two touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he faces Minnesota’s 11th-ranked passing defense Sunday.
Rishard Matthews, WR, Tennessee (vs. Houston)
Matthews (hamstring) missed his first game of the season Sunday at Indianapolis. He has caught a touchdown reception in two of his past three games, such as five receptions for 113 yards – including a 75-yard score – at Pittsburgh in Week 11. Houston’s passing defense ranks 28th. The Texans allow 252.8 yards passing per game and their second-worst 22 touchdowns is tied with three other teams. If Matthews can play, he should at least be a flex option. Hamstring injuries can linger, so if he cannot go, Corey Davis and Eric Decker can be fill-ins as the Titans’ primary wideouts on the outside. But if Matthews remains sidelined, Davis and Decker are not the best options. Someone like San Francisco’s Marquise Goodwin is a better flyer if you’re in a pinch, considering he caught four receptions for 78 yards against Seattle, and should now have quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo throwing him the ball instead of rookie C.J. Beathard.
Other Players to Like
Case Keenum, QB, Minnesota (at Atlanta)
Brett Hundley, QB, Green Bay (vs. Tampa Bay)
Dion Lewis, RB, New England (at Buffalo)
Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago (vs. San Francisco)
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona (vs. Los Angeles Rams)
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Atlanta (vs. Minnesota)
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota (at Atlanta)
Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Cleveland)