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TRAPS & TRENDS: Christmas Edition

Do you have a Week 17 fantasy bowl? We’ve got you covered. Throughout the season, FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson has focused on the long-term fantasy outlooks for players in his popular “Traps & Trends” column. But with the end of the 2017 NFL regular season in sight, Matt is shifting gears to give you his takes on the Week 17 fantasy prospects of eight key players who can make or break your championship run.

Before you dig into my final edition of “Traps & Trends” for the 2017 season, I want to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a super Happy New Year! Thank you for reading and helping make this yet another fantastic fantasy football season at FantasySharks.com.

1. Will Tom Terrific start producing his usual terrific fantasy numbers again?

The Dude: Tom Brady

The Damage: The 224 passing yards and two touchdown tosses against one pick that he racked up against a scrappy Buffalo Bills defense this past Sunday was Brady’s first fantasy outing with multiple touchdown passes in the last month. The interception, however, also was Brady’s first pick-six in two years. Since Week 13, he has thrown for an average of 253 yards and one touchdown per contest. If you made it this far with Brady, should you do the unthinkable and – gasp – bench him for Week 17?

The Diagnosis: TRAP

Assuming the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Houston Texans Christmas night, the New England Patriots will need to beat the New York Jets in Week 17 to win home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Patriots don’t need to win in Week 17, all bets are off on Brady’s playing time. If Week 17 matters for New England, don’t sit Brady.

Struggling with accuracy on occasion, he clearly has underwhelmed during the last month. The schedule has been challenging – three challenging road matchups (Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers – and a home rematch versus a Bills defense that is tougher versus the pass than the run. Is Father Time finally catching up with the 40-year-old Brady? Possibly. Is his Achilles’ tendon injury worse than the team is letting on? Possibly. However, I think Brady will step up and the end the regular season on a strong note at home versus a New York Jets defense that has struggled against the pass in road contests.

 

2. Is that Cooks guy going to start cooking up some big batches of fantasy points like he did earlier in the season?

The Dude: Brandin Cooks

The Damage: Big play wideouts are usually boom or bust by nature, but the No. 1 wideout in the New England Patriots aerial attack was way more bust than boom during the last month. Averaging 5.5 targets per contest, Cooks, facing road challenging matchups and impacted by Tom Brady’s recent struggles with accuracy, scored just once and failed to eclipse the 40-yard mark in three of his last four outings. His performance against the Buffalo Bills – just two catches for 19 yards on five looks – was very disappointing since Buffalo has been getting gashed by No. 1 wideouts all season, and Bills top cornerback, E.J. Gaines, was inactive. In addition, Cooks’ teammate, Chris Hogan, was also inactive. By the way, during the Buffalo game, Brady underthrew and overthrew Cooks on what could have been two big gainers. Is it time to bench Cooks?

The Diagnosis: TRAP

Brady’s struggles clearly have been Cooks’ struggles, and New England has been operating some run-heavy game plans recently, too. However, a home matchup against a New York Jets defense that has been leaky on the road and surrendered the ninth-most wideout fantasy points is just what the Brady-to-Cooks connection needs to start sizzling again. This is assuming that Cooks and the Patriots need to win in Week 17.

 

3. Hey! Aren’t you supposed to be the Baltimore Ravens’ workhorse tailback? Where have you been the last two weeks?

The Dude: Alex Collins

The Damage: From Week 11 through Week 14, Collins had scored at least once in four straight games while averaging 19.8 touches and 98 total yards per contest. The second-year pro’s dud outing at the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago (12-19-0 rushing and 3-15-0 receiving) wasn’t a total surprise, because the Browns have been stingy against the run at home. However, Collins’ soft outing at home (18-51-0 rushing and 3-15-0 receiving) versus an Indianapolis Colts defense that had surrendered the most rushing yards and the ninth-most rushing scores was an unwelcome surprise. Will Collins, who has averaged just 2.3 yards per carry during the last two weeks, rebound in Week 17?

The Diagnosis: TREND

Give Collins another chance. Call it a hunch, but I think he’ll get back on track this week. In case you didn’t watch the Colts/Ravens tilt, I can tell you that Baltimore mailed this one in. The Ravens’ offensive line play was terrible, which, in my opinion explains Collins’ poor numbers. In case you’re wondering, he was running hard. Baltimore needs a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals to claim the AFC’s top wildcard spot. The Bengals didn’t show it during their surprising Week 16 win over the Detroit Lions, but they are soft against the run, allowing the fourth-most rushing yards.

About Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson has played NFL fantasy football since 1994 and has been a featured columnist at FantasySharks.com since 2008. His 18 combined years of professional writing experience includes a five-year stint as a contributing writer/editor at KFFL.com. He has been a featured contributor to The Fantasy Football Guide since 2008 and has been published regularly in the award-winning USA Today Sports Fantasy Football preview. Matt is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and holds a degree in journalism from Northern Illinois.