We’ve hit the most pressure-packed part of the fantasy football season – for some teams, anyway.
It’s playoff time.
Man, that just never gets old.
In the vast majority of fantasy leagues, we’re down to four teams. Even most of the weirdo leagues that play championship games in Week 17 have moved on to the second season.
In fairness, Week 17 title games aren’t as bad as they used to be. Since the NFL started backloading the schedule with division games more and more races are going down to the wire, so we aren’t seeing as many teams rest players. That could be an issue for owners of the likes of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown next week though – if the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the New England Patriots Sunday the No. 1 seed in the AFC will be locked up.
Of course, before you worry about that you must make it to Week 16. Before we move on to this week’s recommendations, a quick note.
How cute I’m willing to get with lineups in the fantasy playoffs is inversely proportionate to how I feel about my chances that week. If I believe that I’m favored in a matchup, I’m more likely to dance with who brought me and go chalk. But if I’m the underdog, I’m more likely to consider going for broke with risk/reward or upside plays.
Gotta love Underdog.
Enough yammering. Let’s do this!
Tom Brady, New England (at Pittsburgh)
Russell Wilson, Seattle (vs. Los Angeles Rams)
Cam Newton, Carolina (vs. Green Bay)
OFF THE LIST: Carson Wentz, Philadelphia (at New York Giants): In the same game where Wentz set the Eagles’ single-season record for touchdown passes in a huge win over the Los Angeles Rams, his season (and MVP chances) were ended by a torn ACL. And fantasy owners wept.
SPOT START OF THE WEEK
Nick Foles, Philadelphia (at New York Giants)
Per Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk, Foles insisted that nothing’s going to change offensively with him taking over for Wentz. “We’re going to run this offense,” Foles said. “Nothing is going to change. I’ve always been a gunslinger, just let it rip. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team. There’s no other place I’d rather be. That’s why I came back here.”
Now, I don’t share Foles’ confidence that everything is going to be sunshine and puppies in Philly despite the change under center. But Foles is a solid backup quarterback with plenty of starting experience who has had success in that capacity in the past. The Eagles have plenty of talent around him. And in his first start Foles faces a Giants team that leads the NFL in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.
ROLL THEM OUT
Drew Brees, New Orleans (vs. New York Jets)
Brees has been efficient this season, but in 13 games he has just three 300-yard passing games and only one effort with three or more touchdown passes. Still, the future Hall-of-Famer is hard to sit in a top-five fantasy matchup at home against the Jets.
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers (at Kansas City)
Rivers has been red-hot for fantasy owners down the stretch, ranking fifth among all signal-callers in Sharks League Scoring over the past month. That run should continue Saturday in Kansas City against a leaky Chiefs secondary giving up the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2017.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (vs. New England)
Roethlisberger’s 506-yard passing effort last week against the Ravens probably helped some fantasy teams reach the semis, and Sunday at Heinz Field Big Ben gets an injury-ravaged Patriots defense that just made Jay Cutler look like Dan Marino.
SIT THEM DOWN
Tom Brady, New England (at Pittsburgh)
Yes, Brady’s on the “Studs” list. He’s Tom freaking Brady. Tommy Terrific. The Golden Boy. But over the last two weeks Brady is averaging less than 250 passing yards per game with one touchdown and three interceptions. There’s real risk here in a bad matchup.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (at Carolina)
Yes, I know. After surviving Rodgers’ absence with streamers and bums it’s tempting to roll him out there if he plays in Week 15. But you’re talking about a player coming off a two-month layoff with a bad matchup in a must-win game. Better to give him another week if at all possible.
Alex Smith, Kansas City (vs. Los Angeles Chargers)
Smith’s about half a step this side of the “Studs” list – despite the Chiefs second-half tailspin the veteran ranks third in fantasy points at his position this season. But the Chargers have been a bear to throw on this season – only two teams have allowed fewer fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2017.