Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017 Week 16 Fantasy Advice: Championship Weekend

After a season worth of hand-wringing, gut-wrenching decisions, overzealous purchases of fantasy magazines at airport news stands and more, fantasy championship weekend is now here, for most of you at least. Everything you worked so hard for comes down to this, which makes every decision this week so critical. Your pride, and maybe your wallet, will thank you later. That's why this week, you get extra advice. More starts, more sits and more sleepers. Merry Christmas.

Start of the Week: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT) at HOU MON

With Antonio Brown sidelined, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense have to turn somewhere for big plays, and Smith-Schuster has been that player even when Brown was healthy. The matchup against whatever is left of Houston's secondary is incredibly advantageous too. Smith-Schuster is a must start on Christmas afternoon.

Who to Start:

QB Case Keenum (MIN) at GB SAT: He's never been overly amazing in terms of fantasy numbers produced, but he's certainly been productive, and on a consistent basis. The Packers defense has not been up to par all year, and with them now eliminated from the postseason, there could be a letdown in store, setting up Keenum for a big evening.

QB Dak Prescott (DAL) vs. SEA: With Ezekiel Elliot back in the fold, Dallas' offense should be in full stride once again, and it's hard to imagine Dak not reaping some of those rewards against a Seahawks defense that is a shell of itself. They don't have much left, so Prescott could be in for a huge afternoon.

RB Dion Lewis (NE) vs. BUF: Rex Burkhead is injured, which means there is a huge opening for Lewis on fantasy rosters this week to potentially break out in a big way against a Buffalo defense that struggled against New England three weeks ago, and hasn't been great against the run all year.

RB Alex Collins (BAL) vs. IND SAT: He didn't impress last week against the putrid Cleveland Browns, but that shouldn't discourage anyone from potentially starting him against the Colts Saturday. Indianapolis' rush defense has been non-existent all year, and Collins has been a good home performer too.

WR Devin Funchess (CAR) vs. TB: Though he didn't do much of anything notable against Green Bay, Tampa is a putrid road team, especially on defense. And his performances since Kelvin Benjamin was traded to Buffalo have been fairly solid except for last week, so go with the trends and Funchess on Sunday.

WR Robert Woods (LAR) at TEN: He was fantastic last week against the Seahawks in his injury return, and he could be in a good spot to replicate that performance against Tennessee. The Titans have not been great of late even against mediocre QB's, so Woods could have a huge day with Jared Goff throwing him the ball.

WR Larry Fitzgerald (ARZ) vs. NYG: While the Cardinals are out of the playoff mix, Fitz isn't going to stop producing, even with Blaine Gabbert as his QB. The Giants make Nick Foles look like Carson Wentz last week, and that's a good sign for Fitz's fantasy potential this weekend.

TE Jimmy Graham (SEA) at DAL: Even though in the two most important games for fantasy owners in recent weeks he went invisible, it's hard to bench Graham this weekend against a Dallas defense that struggles to defend the tight end well. For that alone, Graham should be in your starting lineup.

TE Evan Engram (NYG) at ARZ: He's been the only consistent part of the Giants offense all year when nothing else has been, which means at this thin position, he's a must start. It's not the best matchup, but consistency may be the best play this week instead of matchups.

DEF LA Chargers at NYJ: While the Jets offense wasn't exactly bad in New Orleans last week, it's hard to imagine them having much success against an angry Chargers defense with everything to play for and an extra day to prepare.

DEF Philadelphia vs. OAK MON: The Eagles defense was bad at the Giants last Sunday, but against the Raiders, you have to like their chances. Oakland's offense is inconsistent and turnover prone, so this should make for a fun Christmas night for owners of the Eagles defense.

Sit of the Week: QB Matt Ryan (ATL) at NO

I just can't do it with him, not after the way he played against New Orleans a few weeks ago, and not with the way Atlanta's offense has functioned this year. New Orleans' defense hasn't been great at home this year, but that may be largely a function of who they've played rather than their defense itself.

Who to Sit:

QB Kirk Cousins (WSH) vs. DEN: You have to admire Cousins for his ability to produce at some levels though his entire team around him has collapsed due to injury. But this week, the injuries plus Denver's prideful defense will make for a bad Christmas Eve recipe.

QB Andy Dalton (CIN) vs. DET: After the performances the last few weeks, I don't know if anyone outside of A.J Green on the Bengals is fantasy viable. Certainly against the Lions, who have everything to play for, Dalton isn't on that list of starts, nor should he be.

RB Marshawn Lynch (OAK) at PHI MON: He's been great the last four weeks in fantasy land, with touchdowns and critical carries each game. But the Eagles have not allowed a rushing touchdown at home, and have a penchant for shutting down opposing running backs. Lynch is a hard sell this week in spite of his recent form.

RB Frank Gore (IND) at BAL SAT: Gore is a legendary running back, but with the season well and truly lost for the Colts, it might be time to see what they have in Marlon Mack, so he could see carries and targets siphoned away. It doesn't help that Baltimore's defense is also very tough.

WR Randall Cobb (GB) vs. MIN SAT: He's been playing really great as of late, and is coming off a huge game, though that was with Aaron Rodgers, not Brett Hundley. He's only scored two TD's against the Vikings in nine games against them in his career, and the Hundley factor is a hard one to ignore.

WR Sterling Shepard (NYG) at ARZ: In spite of the odds last week against the Eagles, he had a bonanza of an afternoon. But Arizona's defense has been stout most if not all of this season, especially at home and recently too, so starting Shepard is a risk.

WR Jermaine Kearse (NYJ) vs. LAC: It's hard to imagine the Jets offense finding any rhythm with Bryce Petty, though they did a little against New Orleans. Petty wasn't exactly impressive though, so it's hard to start Kearse this week with that said.

TE Charles Clay (BUF) at NE: He always seems to perform well against Miami because of the "revenge" factor, but New England is considerably against tight ends, and especially so against Clay, because he may be the biggest weapon the Bills have in the passing game, and they always key in on the opponents best weapons.

TE David Njoku (CLE) at CHI: If anyone is watching this game for other reasons that fantasy or gambling, kudos. But in the fantasy world, Njoku is a risky play largely because he has the tendency to disappear from games, and Chicago's defense has been alright at Soldier Field.

DEF Tennessee vs. LAR: The Titans defense is not the reason why the team has suddenly hit the skids in a big way, but they aren't playing up to their potential. Against a Rams offense that has been awesome all year, and really seems to be hitting its stride, this is a tough matchup.

DEF Seattle at DAL: This should be obvious now considering the injuries and attrition, but it should be even more obvious with Zeke Elliot back in the fold for Dallas.

4 Super Sleepers:

QB Nick Foles (PHI) vs. OAK MON: He's a very decent streamer this week after his performance against the Giants, and the Raiders defense is equally porous. There is good potential for Foles here to potentially win someone a big game because of this potential.

QB Tyrod Taylor (BUF) at NE: He's not exactly the best start of the weekend, but he's not a terrible option either. He always puts up decent numbers, so he's not entirely matchup dependant. New England's defense has also not been up to par since the last time these two teams played.

RB Jordan Howard (CHI) vs. CLE: He's been one of the biggest busts all around the world of fantasy football this year, and it may be hard to go back to the well in this the most important of weekends, but it is the Browns. It may just be worth it.

TE Ricky Seals-Jones (ARZ) vs. NYG: Almost anyone on the Cardinals offense this week sans Gabbert is viable because of the matchup, but there's some legitimate potential for Seal-Jones, who even though has been boom or bust recently, there's reason to believe in the boom potential on Sunday.

Buyer Beware:

RB Lamar Miller (HOU) vs. PIT MON: Someone has to do something for the Texans on offense, so it figures to be Miller, right? Well, he's had it rough with all of the attrition on offense, so it's hard to start him against the Steelers, even though their defense is not what it once was.

Merry Christmas, and good luck on Championship Weekend!

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