Before getting underway, I want to remind Patriots.com readers that if you become a www.FFChamps.com member for next season before Christmas, FFChamps will give you a Patriots.com $30 discount and a free entry into our fantasy football playoff contest, running Wildcard Week through the Super Bowl. The advice and strategy are top-notch and you can win great prizes in the FFChamps fantasy playoff game.
This season has flown by faster than Aqib Talib streaking down the sideline for a pick six and just like that Fantasy Football Championship weekend is upon us. Last weekend the fantasy football playoffs became instantly unimportant as we watched the horrors unfold in Newtown, Conn. I lost both of my semifinal games, with weak performances from my two stud WRs, AJ Green and Victor Cruz, but all I could think about was the kids of Sandy Hook. The power of the NFL was on display as the league, its teams, owners, players and fans, paid respects and shared in the sorrow of the families directly affected.
I was burned for the second time this year by the tandem of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, who again connected for a long touchdown worth over 32 instant points. In one of my leagues the most dominant team and runaway total points winner lost in the playoff due to the normally fantasy irrelevant Michael Crabtree. He exploded for 107 yards and 2 TDs, taking the Patriots bye week dreams with him in a flash. Crabtree has clearly emerged as Colin Kaepernick's go-to receiver. I am sure you all have similar stories and I hope for many of you they went in your favor and you are still in the hunt for your league trophy. If you are, I hope you garner some wisdom from this column, something that can help you pull off a victory. Share your fantasy football semifinal heroic or heartbreak decisions and stories with us @FFChamps and we will publish the ones we most enjoy.
I am looking for strong bounce back weeks from several players who had miserable outings in Week 15. These include Doug Martin, with 16 yards rushing, 35 overall, Ray Rice who had 38 yards rushing and 41 overall, Demaryius Thomas, 13 yards receiving, Reggie Wayne, 14 yards receiving and Roddy White with only 16 yards receiving. AJ Green was quiet and so was Victor Cruz. If you survived their lack of performance and managed to win anyway, I would expect great things from some of these players this week. At FFChamps we always play our studs and certainly intend to in Week 16.
Ever since Greg Jennings got hurt, James Jones and Randall Cobb have stepped up for the Packers. Cobb was a low draft pick in most leagues and Jones stayed on the waiver wire early in the season, week in and week out. Cobb has just completed back to back 100 yard games and scored a TD, and Jones now leads all WRs with 12 receiving TDs, notching three this past weekend. If you had Jones or Cobb, you were in Lambeau La La Land, yet some fans and fantasy players still do not believe in either player. You better start believing this week, as the Packers will destroy the Titans in Green Bay and Jones and Cobb will again benefit.
For several weeks, I have advised to pay attention to the FFChamps Strength of Schedule tool and pay attention to the matchups. Cam Newton, who hurt so many fantasy football owners much of the season, turned it around in Week 12 and has been on a roll, exploiting some of the weaker defenses just as we predicted he would. This week he plays at home vs. a porous Raiders pass defense. The only quarterbacks I would start over Newton are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. I would also take a shot with TE Greg Olsen and WR Steve Smith as I expect them to go off against the 27th ranked pass defense.
Tony Romo and Tom Brady will also have big weeks, with Romo and the surging Cowboys hosting the Saints, who despite stopping Josh Freeman and the sliding-to-oblivion Bucs this past weekend, cannot defend the pass. Since Week 11, Romo has thrown for 1,666 yards and 10 touchdown passes. Look for big games from Dez and Welker as well as Romo and Brady. The Colts host the Chiefs and are coming off a tough loss at Houston. I expect a strong game from WRs TY Hilton and Donnie Avery vs. a Chiefs defense that has 25 touchdowns through the air.
At RB, Jamal Charles and Stevan Ridley should bounce back and have big-game potential, and Mikel Leshoure or Joique Bell should get the ball vs. Atlanta, who has a weak run stopping defense but a strong pass defense. Ridley ranks 9th in the NFL with 1,105 rushing yards and stands near the top with 10 touchdowns on the ground and will help fantasy owners hoist the league hardware while ramming into Jacksonville's brittle defense that has allowed 469 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground to running backs over last three weeks. I also like Demarco Murray, who has found the end zone in each of the last three games, and will be a good bet to extend his scoring streak to four against New Orleans' 31st ranked run defense.
I wanted to reinforce a few key FFChamps.com strategies as you head into Week 16, many which have been mentioned in weeks past:
- Always play your studs; if they are healthy and active, they are what you counted on when you drafted them. Do not be scared away by some bad games as these are the players who can take over a fantasy game and win your championship for you.
- Pay attention to the weather, especially for kickers. Make sure your kicker is kicking in decent weather, know if he is kicking in a dome and understand the defense, and whether the kicker is on a team that is proficient in scoring in the red zone or a team that struggles to score touchdowns inside the 20 and tends to kick more. If you have a choice between a kicker that meets these criteria or one that doesn't, this week you should play the kicker who will get the most opportunities with the cleanest shot to make the field goal.
- Know your opponent's roster. For example, if your championship opponent has Drew Brees, one of your running backs is Darren Sproles and you are unsure whether or not to play Sproles, our suggestion is you offset Brees and play Sproles. Be prepared to make all your roster decisions count as it is now a one week season.
It appears that RG3 will play this week. If he is healthy, and you have him, he is a stud until proven otherwise and should be played. A little trickier is LeSean McCoy, who returns after several games out. Shady has had an off year and, now may run in a tandem backfield with boom or bust handcuff Bryce Brown. I would play McCoy over many and certainly over Brown, but you should check in with FFChamps.com Sunday morning on Gameday Live to get last minute input. If Ahmad Bradshaw is deemed healthy and starts, I would start Bradshaw or no one. While David Wilson is explosive, if Bradshaw starts, play Bradshaw, sit Wilson. Ride the players from the great offenses, especially against weaker opponents. This includes the Broncos, Patriots, Packers and Saints, this week and every week, along with some of the offenses we highlighted this week.
This week's five players I'd love (mostly different from those already mentioned) to have are now based on a one week season:
- Wes Welker, who is due to be Brady's top target vs. the Jaguars
- Demaryius Thomas, who will explode after a quiet week
- Jones and Cobb as stated above
- Ray Rice who is due for a monster game after a terrible Week 15 outing.
- Adrian Peterson, who has carried many of you all the way to your league championship regardless of the opponent, which this week happens to be a tough Houston D.
This week's five players I am worried about are now based on a one week season:
- Steven Jackson, who seems to be tiring and faces the Bucs No. 1 ranked run defense
- Philip Rivers who has struggled on a team that has quit and plays on the road, in the cold, vs. the Jets strong No. 2 pass defense
- Danario Alexander
- Antonio Gates
- Michael Crabtree, who isn't in Kansas, oops, I mean Foxboro, anymore and will now face the shutdown pass defense of Pete Carroll's Seahawks
- Josh Freeman, who has struggled after a stellar few weeks and faces the strong Rams pass defense.
Remember to become a www.FFChamps.com member for next season by December 16th and get the Patriots.com discount at https://www.ffchamps.com/subscribe/, to tweet us your fantasy football semifinal heroic or heartbreak decisions and stories with us @FFChamps and we will share the ones we most enjoy, and visit www.ffchamps.com for around the clock rankings, strategy, and one on one advice, all the way through your Fantasy Football Championship. FFChamps.com: Extraordinary Results for Fantasy Football Dominance.