There’s good news and bad news for fantasy football leagues that play championship games in the final week of the regular season.
The bad news is, it’s still a really stupid idea. The good news is, this year it’s looking like a lot of teams outside Indianapolis will actually be trying.
There are enough fights for playoff spots and playoff positioning to make this typically lame duck week full of meaningful play. While you must keep a wary eye on Arizona, New Orleans and Cincinnati – who could decide to rest players for the playoffs – there are few low-effort risks out there.
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As you again lobby your league’s commissioner to end your fantasy season by Week 16, here are some players to consider starting and some to think about benching this week:
QUARTERBACKSTAKE A SHOT:
– Eli Manning should be the latest to tear up the Vikings’ non-covering secondary. The Giants would like to end their season on a high note, and Minnesota is free-falling into the postseason. (Seriously, giving up 4 TDs to Jay Cutler?)
– Hard to believe the Panthers want to keep a coaching staff that insisted for months that interception factory Jake Delhomme should start over Matt Moore. Moore has 6 TDs the past two weeks and faces a wobbling Saints defense.
– The Bucs have held offenses to under 20 points in three of the past four weeks, but Matt Ryan is perfectly healthy now and has a chance to end Atlanta’s disappointing season with a winning record.
– Miami’s Chad Henne has three 300-yard games in his past four and faces a Pittsburgh defense that can’t stop the pass.
BACK AWAY SLOWLY AND NOBODY GETS HURT:
Please, in the name of Curtis Painter, don’t start these guys:
– Tennessee’s Vince Young won’t try to throw against Seattle. The Titans plan to get Chris Johnson the 128 yards he needs to reach 2,000, even if it takes 128 carries.
– Joe Flacco won’t need to throw against Oakland, which can’t stop the run. Baltimore only needs a win to reach the playoffs, and handing off every down seems the best way to do that.
– Indy’s Painter can’t throw, even against the lowly Bills.
RUNNING BACKS:ALL DAY LONG:
– LaDainian Tomlinson’s yardage totals are skimpy these days, but he keeps hitting the end zone (9 TDs in past seven games) and the Chargers aren’t planning to rest starters. Washington’s run defense ranks 20th.
– There’s every reason to believe the Panthers will load up Jonathan Stewart again vs. the drooping Saints run defense, which allowed Tampa Bay to drive for an OT field goal with nine straight runs.
– There are only two good things about that horrible first-round pick you spent on Matt Forte: a pair of games against Detroit. His only 100-yard game of the year came in the first game against the Lions.
– If Seattle’s Julius Jones can’t play – I know, you could argue that he can’t play even when he starts – give speedy Justin Forsett a try. The Seahawks surely don’t want to let Matt Hasselbeck throw this week.
– You’d think Indianapolis’ Donald Brown would be a great start against the Bills’ NFL-worst run defense, considering Joseph Addai is resting. But Brown himself may not play all that much, and a bunch of Indy benchwarmers may not be able to exploit Buffalo.
– It’s a bad idea to start any Philadelphia RB, considering they’re sharing time and the Eagles are missing their starting center against the Cowboys’ suddenly impenetrable defense.
– It’s hard to imagine another big game from Tampa Bay’s Cadillac Williams. Last time he faced Atlanta, he had just 30 yards.
WIDE RECEIVERSTHROW HIM THE DARN BALL:
– The Cardinals still have a chance to be the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, but they need some help. So keep starting Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald if the Vikings lose in the early game before Arizona plays, but be ready to bench them if Minnesota wins and ruins Arizona’s first-round bye chances.
– In that same game, keep starting all your Packers receivers because they have to keep their momentum going since they’re sure to have a first-round playoff game on the road next week.
– OK, so by now you’ve been burned a half dozen times when starting Terrell Owens. But the Bills just may try to pad his stats a bit against Indy defenders not used to playing in real games.
– The ancient Muhsin Muhammad could be worth a gamble, considering Steve Smith’s injury and the fact that loading up on Panthers is a wise thing this week.
SHOW HIM THE DARN BENCH:
– The Bengals don’t have much to play for and aren’t saying if they’ll rest players. But you should sit Chad Ochocinco, considering coach Marvin Lewis is so conservative he seemed content to play for a tie against the Browns earlier this year.
– Even though the Dolphins are airing it out lately, they’re using so many receivers that it’s pretty much impossible to figure out who’s going to produce.
– Jacksonville’s Mike Sims-Walker is disappearing more than usual lately. He has one TD in his past five games, and in that span has a pair of one-catch games and a two-catch game.
Big Hits: I expected a big bounce-back game for Tom Brady (4 TDs) and good things from Brett Favre (321 yards, 2 TDs), Donovan McNabb (322 yards, 3 TDS), Jerome Harrison (148 yards, TD) and Rashard Mendenhall (TD). I expected more terribleness from Brandon Jacobs (6 carries for 1 yard) and David Garrard (0 TDs, 2 INTs)
Big Misses: I expected more struggles for Roddy White (139 yards, 2 TDs). I for some odd reason expected good things from not one but two Bills (Fred Jackson and Terrell Owens, who had 39 yards apiece). I figured Carson Palmer (2 TDs) would only be handing off, and I thought Donald Driver (33 yards) would have a good game.
FULL DISCLOSURE: In my 10-team league, I rolled into the playoffs on the strength of Aaron Rodgers, Frank Gore, Rashard Mendenhall, Brandon Marshall and Roddy White, and then Rodgers tanked on me in the first round. In my 12-team league led by Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Ryan Grant, Pierre Thomas and New York’s Steve Smith, I was rolling along with the best record in the league until the final week of the season, then lost in the first round of the playoffs when Brady put up JaMarcus Russell numbers.