By Anthony Stampone
Welcome to the final week of the NFL season and welcome to the final weekly Fantasy league championships. I hope that my advice throughout this season has helped some of you as much as it has helped me. I won my Standard league and will be competing in the Championship in another league this weekend. If you were fortunate enough to make it to another championship or are playing this weekend for pride check out the advice I have for you this week.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: The Jets have a date with playoffs and the only thing standing in there way is; well let’s be honest no one really. The Bills are beat up and missing key starters up and down their line up and even with the return of Ronald Darby to the secondary, this is a defense that is going to do more than struggle to stop one of the top receiving tandems in the NFL. Mix in the fact that the Jets have also found a great outlet receiver in the passing game with Bilal Powell and you have the makings for a big day for the Jets passing offense led by Fitz. He is available in many leagues and should be picked up and played, you won’t be disappointed, the Bills do not have the personnel they need to stop this offense and Fitz “magic”.
Ben Roethlisberger: Last week was a weird week for Big Ben and I am sure he may have cost many people their championships (Almost did me but luckily the rest of my team covered for his poor showing). That isn’t going to happen again and with the Steelers needing to win to have a prayer at the playoffs and Big Ben is going to be put on a show against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. He may be without speedster Bryant but he still has one of the best WOs in the league and a nice complement of weapons to go with it. Play Big Ben as he will be putting up a big game to end the season in style and with a small hope of sneaking into the playoffs.
Blake Bortles: Bortles has been a fantasy dynamo most of the year. The key word there is most. When Bortles has been bad he has been very bad. Facing a highly energized, healthier, and playing better and better by the week defense this week in Houston, Bortles is in for a long day. When this defense is healthy and playing as well as it has most of the time over the second half of the season it makes even some of the best QBs in the league nervous let alone a sophomore closing out his year. Expect Bortles to struggle this week, have a few turnovers and be sacked multiple times.
Any QB from the Titans and Colts Game: Let’s be realistic, both teams will be starting their back up QBs this week and in the Colts case it could be a guy that they just signed on Tuesday. Neither team is very good on defense, but then again that doesn’t really matter when the QB for the other team just got off the coach. None of these QBs are going to help you bring home the championship, leave them on waiver wire or your bench.
Sleepers: Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Cam Newton
DeAngelo Williams: One of the most impressive backs this year while filling in for an All-Pro going up against the 31st ranked rush defense, play Williams!
Adrian Peterson: With a division title on the line the Vikings are going to ride their best weapon in less than ideal conditions. The Vikings might still not win this game and it will more than likely be a low scoring affair, but Peterson can taste another rushing title and the Vikings know they will need a big game from Peterson to have a chance against the Packers.
Eddie Lacy: Given his impressive success since entering the NFL in the months of Decemeber and January, this may be a surprise to see as a sit’emdecision. The issue isn’t his past or even current successes or lack thereof some weeks, but the real issue boils down to one major issue; Lacy’s ribs. Lacy fought through it last week and was able to put up some yards in both the rushing and passing game and score a TD but playing a defense as strong and powerful as the Vikings, Lacy is going get beat up and beat up bad in the match up. Do not be surprised if the Packers have to turn to their reliable and trustworthy back up James Starks as long as he can show his fumble issues are behind him. Regardless, Lacy isn’t going to do you any favors, bench him.
Doug Martin: Another surprise pick I am sure for some, but it makes sense. The Panthers defense is ruthless against running backs and with something to play for the Panthers will do everything they already do well and stuff the run and make the Bucs one dimensional. Martin will get a lot of carries but that doesn’t mean it will translate to needed points. Bench him unless you have no other choices.
Sleepers: Tim Hightower, Jeremy Langford, Darren McFadden
Julio Jones: This is a play not only because we all already know he is one of the best in the game at his position and has been putting up insane numbers already this season, you start him for the chance of what he could do by the end of the day and the Falcons willingness to help him get there. Jones is less than 20 catches and less than 300 yards from breaking two of the most impressive single seasons receiving records. Ryan is going to target Jones early, often, until the very end to give his best and favorite target a chance to set these insane records.
Antonio Brown: Another no brainer starter this week, but with Bryant possibly out for this game and the Steelers needing a win for a possible playoff appearance and like Jones, Brown has an outside chance at Harrison’s single season reception record. Like Jones he needs just a few less than 20 to do it and that is no small feat, but if there is a WO that is likely to put those type of numbers it’s Brown. Brown already has two games this season with 15 catches or more catches in a single game, so a third isn’t impossible.
Randall Cobb: The Vikings are coming to town and they bring one of the best passing defenses in the NFL when they are healthy. News update; they are very healthy and will give Rodgers all he can handle in the passing game. This is bad news for Cobb as he is the only weapon the Packers really have and the Vikings have the skill and personnel to keep him from having a productive day. He has had a tough season as it is, don’t expect that to change this week.
Doug Baldwin: One name, Patrick Peterson. I know the Cardinals will know by the time their game starts if it matters to them or not in the standings, but don’t be fooled, the Cardinals want to put their division rivals down and down hard. They have an excellent pass rush to make Wilson uncomfortable all game and their secondary even missing Mathieu is still one of the best in the league and will have little to no problem stopping Baldwin’s impressive streak. The only way this is an incorrect suggestion is if the Red Birds decide to bench starters or only play them for a small part of the game. If that is done, Baldwin will get his points.
Sleepers: Emmanuel Sanders, Odell Beckham Jr, Brandin Cooks
Rob Gronkowski: Gronk and the Pats have to face the Dolphins this week and need to win to lock up the #1 position in the AFC. With that said the Pats are 100% a pass first team and the Dolphins threw in the towel a long time ago. The Pats are still looking to get healthy in the passing game so a high reliance Gronkwill be in order this week and the Dolphins pass defense is terrible. Look for Gronk to have over 100+ yards and a few “Gronk Spikes” by the end of the game.
Greg Olsen: Any week where the Panthers need to score points in the passing game and have a banged up backfield, Newton turns to Olsen. Olsen is and will be Newton’s go to man this week to help the Panthers lock up the #1 spot in the NFC.
Luke Willson: The Seahawks offense is definitely much better with Willson in the starting line-up than they are with Graham, but ever with that said the Cardinals pass defense is just too good for this match up. The Cardinals have one of the most interesting players in the NFL on defense in Deone Bucannon. Bucannon is a tremendous player and even though he is listed as a LB he is by league standards “to small to be a LB” but yet he does it well, and is considered “to be big to be a safety”, and yet he has the ability to play both positions and play them well. He is a TE eraser and this game will be no different.
Gary Barnidge: This selection pains me as Barnidge has been the biggest surprise and one of the most productive players at the TE position in the NFL this year even with having a revolving door at the QB position. With that said, even the best have a drop in production at some point when this continues to happen which it is happening again this week with Manziel declared out with a concussion. This again like many of my Sit’em suggestions, it’s not necessarily the player it’s the others around them. Sorry Gary, this won’t be your week.
Sleepers: Ben Watson, Travis Kelce, Julius Thomas
Pittsburgh Steelers: Facing a 3rd string QB and with a playoff chance on the line this week the Steelers D steps up and shuts down their opponents in the process. I do not think they will create many turnovers, but they shouldn’t have issues getting some sacks and keeping the points and yardage low in this game.
Denver Broncos: Denver needs this game to ensure they lock up their division and a possible chance at the #1 position in the AFC. With that being said this will be accomplished by the same way the Broncos have done it most of this year; defense! The Broncos are facing a horrendously beat up and short changed offense when they face the Chargers this week. Rivers really only has one weapon left on offense and he’s about 5’6” and 175lbs running back. Minus his cast of what are usually dangerous weapons, Rivers is in for a long day and will give up several turnovers and will be put on the ground over and over again by this vaunted pass rush the Broncos bring week in and week out. Play the Broncos defense with confidence.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills are so beat up, missing key guys, playing back up’s in some of the most important positions in Rex Ryan’s defense while taking on what has been one of the bigger surprises in the NFL this year; the Jets passing attack. The Jets have something to play for this week and the Bills that want to play upset specialists that just don’t have the personnel to pull it off. The Jets are going to score plenty of points and the Bills either don’t have the skill they need or that skill has quit on them this year; bench them.
Cleveland Browns: Facing the Steelers and that potent offense with the chance for the playoffs on the line with one of the worst defenses in the NFL, easy choice, put the Browns down and use another defense.
Sleepers: New England, St. Louis Rams, Houston Texans