It’s do or die time. You’ve spent months working your way to this point and now you’re here. Congratulations on making your fantasy football championship or semifinal. The first thing you need to remember this week is to start your studs, the guys who got you to this point. Don’t over-think a decision that will end up costing you a championship. The second thing I would recommend is starting any of the players listed below. The third thing, and most important, is not to take this week too seriously. Fantasy football is, after all, a game. Sometimes we get too caught up in its competitive nature and forget why we started playing in the first place – to have fun and camaraderie with friends and family. Don’t let a loss ruin the joy that comes with the holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year you degenerates!
Note: Numbers are PPR via FFToday.
Jay Cutler @ Philadelphia
In his first game back since November 10th, Jay Cutler had a nice return against the Browns on Sunday. He did throw two interceptions but his 265 yards and three touchdowns made up for them, especially after a rusty first half. The rust should be all but gone this week, and just in time too. This is a superb championship match-up for those who hung on to Cutler. The Eagles are giving up 24 fantasy points per game (FPPG) to quarterbacks and have allowed the most passing yards in the league (4,304).
Colin Kaepernick vs. Atlanta
No matter how well Colin Kaepernick plays in these last two games, his season will be considered a disappointment. He’s currently QB17, a far cry from the consensus Top 10 QB status he held going into preseason drafts. However, I do consider Kaepernick a Top 10 QB play this week against the Falcons. Atlanta is tied for the third most passing touchdowns allowed and have given up 23.4 FPPG to quarterbacks. Momentum is another factor in Kaepernick’s favor this week. In his last nine games he’s thrown nine touchdowns, two interceptions and has averaged over 200 yards passing and close to thirty yards rushing. He may not be the reason you’ve made it this far, but he can be the reason you win your title.
Kirk Cousins vs. Dallas
It shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise how successful Cousins was last week against the Falcons in his first start of 2013, throwing for 381 yards and three touchdowns. He threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns against the Browns in the only start of his 2012 rookie season.
If Cousins can have the success he did against Atlanta, he can certainly duplicate those numbers against the Cowboys. Dallas has been historically bad defensively in 2013. They lead the league with 4,375 passing yards allowed and have given up 30 passing touchdowns, second most in the league. The 27.4 FPPG they allow are also most in the NFL. I have Cousins ranked just ahead of Kaepernick this week. If you’ve rostered guys like Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin III, Matt Flynn, E.J. Manuel or Mike Glennon, Cousins would be a great replacement for championship week.
DeMarco Murray @ Washington
One could argue that DeMarco Murray is the most underutilized running back in the NFL, as evidenced in the second half of the Cowboys’ colossal collapse against the Packers on Sunday. Murray leads the NFL with 5.5 yards per carry but the Cowboys are 31st (second to last) in rushes per game at 21; but don’t let that stop you from starting him in your championship lineup. The 27.5 FPPG the Redskins allow to running backs are fourth most in the league and the 19 touchdowns they’ve allowed to running backs lead the league. It’s a perfect championship match-up for Murray. Let’s hope Jason Garrett and Co. don’t ruin it.
Alfred Morris vs. Dallas
Lost in the hubbub and controversy of Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III is the quietly successful sophomore campaign of Alfred Morris. He hasn’t seen the same success he did in his rookie season, but he has still rushed for over 1,100 yards and six touchdowns with two games to play. I feel like I’ve harped on the Cowboys enough already but I will continue to do so anyway. Dallas leads all defenses in FPPG allowed to running backs at 32.3. While that does include PPR scoring (Alfred Morris doesn’t catch a lot of balls), they still allow 114 rushing yards per game.
Morris is the last Washington player I have on this list, but it should go without saying that you should start Pierre Garcon too. Okay, so ends my Cowboys’ cruelty.
Ryan Mathews vs. Oakland
Unless you’re Knowshon Moreno, Ryan Mathews has arguably been the most pleasantly surprising running back of the 2013 fantasy football season, especially considering his injury history. It’s been an up and down career for Mathews but this season has been his pinnacle of ups. He will likely set a career-high in rushing yards (1,091) this week against the Raiders and could easily break his career-high in touchdowns (7) during the next two weeks; all this while sharing time with Danny Woodhead in San Diego’s backfield. Mathews is a low-end RB1 to high-end RB2 for me this week.
Mike Wallace @ Buffalo
Don’t look now, but Mike Wallace has totaled 80 yards and a touchdown in three of his last four games. He played a big role with nine catches for 105 yards and a score in the Dolphins’ 24-20 upset victory over the Patriots last week. Wallace’s season as a whole has been inconsistent, but his numbers over the last month can’t be ignored. His opponent this week, the Buffalo Bills, have allowed the second most touchdowns to wide receivers this year (19), aiding in their 37.9 FPPG allowed to wide receivers. Buffalo also gives up 14.7 yards per catch; great news for a deep threat like Mike Wallace. He’s a definite WR2 in Week 16.
Michael Crabtree vs. Atlanta
It’s been a fairly quiet return for Michael Crabtree since coming back from a torn ACL injury in Week 13, although he did score his first touchdown of the season last week. With championships on the line I would be surprised if Crabtree didn’t have his best game of his short season this week. He’s been targeted an average of seven times the past two weeks, a streak that bodes well against the lowly Falcons defense – a defense that gives wide receivers 37.2 FPPG. Keep in mind that Atlanta just got gashed by Pierre Garcon and Aldrick Robinson last week (228 combined receiving yards). If you’ve been holding onto him all year, now’s the time to unleash Michael Crabtree.
Emmanuel Sanders @ Green Bay
Like Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders has scored in three of his last four outings. His recent success has quietly propped Sanders into the Top 30 PPR WRs this season. Antonio Brown has obviously overshadowed Sanders with his breakout season, but the fourth year wide receiver is in the company of some big name wide receivers. Sanders is currently one spot behind Marques Colston, four spots ahead of Steve Smith and seven spots ahead of Greg Jennings in PPR scoring.
As far as Sanders’ Week 16 opponent, 36.1 FPPG are scored by wide receivers against the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay’s 17 touchdowns allowed to the position are tied for third most in the league. Sanders is a great flex play this week with PPR WR2 potential.
Delanie Walker @ Jacksonville
Last week marked a season-high in targets (11) for Delanie Walker. He has quickly become an elite offensive weapon when healthy for the Titans. He had a nice line of 8 REC, 53 YDS, 1TD against the league’s worst fantasy defense against tight ends (Cardinals). Now he faces the league’s second worst defense against tight ends in the Jacksonville Jaguars (16.6 FPPG). Walker is a definite TE1 this week.
Jason Witten @ Washington
Jason Witten saw his highest target game since November 3rd with eight against the Packers last week. He’s scored two weeks in a row and has four touchdowns in his last four games. Meanwhile, the Redskins are one of just four teams who have given up double-digit touchdowns to tight ends. With how pass happy the Cowboys are and how weak Washington is against his position, Jason Witten should be considered a Top 5 tight end option for championship week.
Browns @ NY Jets
In my opinion the Browns possess one of the most underrated defenses in football. Meanwhile, the Jets possess arguably the worst offense in football. Geno Smith is second in the league in interceptions with 22, trailing only Eli Manning. Cleveland could end up being a Top 5 defense this week when all is said and done.
Bengals vs. Minnesota
The Bengals have been fairly disappointing of late from a defensive standpoint. Injuries have been a catalyst for that letdown, but this week’s match-up is too good to pass up. In 14 games the Vikings offense has yielded 37 sacks and 26 turnovers while the Bengals average close to two turnovers per game.