Collins couldn’t find any room to run against the Browns last week, which prompted the Ravens to use Buck Allen more, who did find some success. Collins was great prior to last week, averaging 17 carries and 5 TDs over the previous 4 games. This week, the Ravens are favored by almost 2 TDs against the Colts, so Collins should be able to take advantage of the game script and get a ton of opportunity with chances to score.
Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon
Another positive game script for Murray – the Vikings are favored by 9 in Green Bay. The Packers will most likely be without their best offensive weapon in Davante Adams, so with the game in control, Murray should get plenty of opportunity to run the ball. Outside of the obvious bad matchup against Carolina 2 weeks ago, Murray was averaging 17.5 carries per game over the last 8 games. The Packers have shown up against the run at times, but I’m going to let volume keep Murray in the lineup. As far as McKinnon goes, the Packers rank 28th against pass-catching RBs, and McKinnon caught 7 of 8 targets last week for 114 yards, even in a blowout against Cincinnati. McKinnon would be my preferred option in PPR, and Murray would be the guy in non-PPR and half point leagues.
If Damien Williams is out for this game, Drake is a must-start. If Williams ends up active, Drake is still very tough to bench. Drake has showcased his talent as an every-down back since Williams went down. Williams did have a limited practice for the first time on Wednesday, so there’s still questions about whether he’ll play. The Chiefs rank 31st DVOA against the run, and we saw Melvin Gordon grab 6 balls last week for 91 yards through the air as well. The potential for a big game is there, and even in a negative game script, Drake should have a ton of opportunity.
With Rex Burkhead out for this week, and James White banged up, Dion Lewis can get a ton of opportunity in this game. This probably won’t happen this week because of how the Patriots like to mix it up with RBs, but Lewis handled 89% of RB opportunities after Burkhead went down last week. The Bills have given up the most fantasy points to RBs in half point PPR scoring and are 28th DVOA against the run, so the Patriots might just run the ball down their throats in this game. Lewis is a must-start.
Fitzgerald has slowed down a bit over the last two games even with solid target volume, but he’s the Cardinals’ only reliable receiver and he’s hard to bench in PPR leagues. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a great corner, but he’s had a rough going this season; the Giants are allowing the 5th most fantasy points over the last 4 games to slot WRs and 5th most throughout the entire year. The Cards are going back to Drew Stanton this week, but I’m not worried about Fitz’s production; he’s shown to be the #1 guy for either QB.
This offense takes a huge step forward with Zeke back in the lineup, and that includes Dez getting more red zone opportunities. With the Seahawks defense putting in resources to stop the run, Bryant can see some 1 on 1 opportunity on the sidelines, which he should be able to take advantage of. Bryant hasn’t had much of a ceiling all year, but 60 yards and a TD is more likely than not this week. Byron Maxwell has been terrible this year, so let’s hope Bryant can get matched up on him more than usual; he lines up about 25% of the time on Maxwell’s side. Shaq Griffin has actually been pretty good, and has stepped up his game as the year went along, but Dez is a beast 1 on 1, and I’m not worried about that matchup. In any case, the Seahawks have allowed the 5th most and the 2nd most fantasy points to WRs lining up in the slot and on the right side of the field, and Dez spends around 50% of his time in those two spots combined.
Landry is probably unbenchable this week, especially in any PPR format. Even in a terrible game played by Jay Cutler last week, Landry still caught 10 of his 13 targets for 99 yards. This week, he goes up against the Chiefs, who have been terrible all year against slot WRs; they’re allowing the 3rd most fantasy points to slot receivers over the last 4 weeks, and the 2nd most overall to slot WRs this year. Landry’s opportunity, production, and matchup should make him a huge part of your championship win this week.
Damarious Randall probably won’t shadow much in this game, since there are two viable options in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs for the Vikings. Even if he shadows, I’m not too worried. Thielen should see a ton of Davon House (if he plays; limited in practice), who has been allowing 0.41 fantasy points per route run in his limited time on the field this year. Thielen had a tough matchup last week on top of the Vikings not needing to throw the ball much as they were leading the entire team. This week, they probably won’t need to throw a ton, but Thielen has a good chance of taking advantage of his matchup as the number one guy.
No word on whether Amari Cooper will play on Monday night, but either way, Crabtree is a good start against Philly’s perimeter defenders. Crabtree is Derek Carr’s guy when they get into the red zone, and perimeter CBs Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills have been giving up a ton of fantasy points to WRs lining up against them, allowing the 7th and 12 most fantasy points to WRs lining up on the left and right side of the field, respectively, over the last 4 games. Crabtree saw 17 targets last week without Cooper, so if Cooper is out again, Crabtree is a must-start.
Agholor caught 7 of his 9 targets last week from Nick Foles in a good matchup against the Giants, and he has a great opportunity once again against the Raiders. Oakland has given up the 8th most fantasy points to WRs lining up in the slot over the last 4 games, and 3rd most over the last 8 games. The reason why he’s not a must-start is because of a small sample size with Foles, but I wouldn’t hesitate to put Agholor in my starting lineup this week in a good spot.
Juju Smith-Schuster/Martavis Bryant
Without Antonio Brown, Ben is going to need to find other targets against Houston’s terrible secondary. Juju is the obvious and best play between the two, but Martavis is a good start as well. They will probably be lining up on the perimeter, while Eli Rogers mans the slot; Houston has been terrible against perimeter WRs, with CBs Kevin Johnson and Johnathan Joseph giving up a generous 0.39 and 0.41 fantasy points per route run against them. They also give up the most 40+ yard passing plays in the league by far, so expect some big plays out of this duo. Remember, Antonio Brown was averaging around 15 targets per game over the previous 4 games, so there is a ton of opportunity to go around.
Baldwin has a good matchup this week against the Cowboys, who have struggled against slot WRs this year, and have given up the 8th most fantasy points to them over the last 8 weeks. Hope that Anthony Brown mans the nickel this week, as he’s been giving up 0.37 fantasy points per route run against him. Baldwin couldn’t get it done last week, but the entire Seahawks offensive imploded. I would have him back in my lineup for Championship Week.
Desperate RB Starts
Anderson has been the guy in the Broncos backfield over the last 3 games, averaging 22 carries in each game, and had his workload increase in each game. The Broncos trusted Anderson with 30 carries last week, so we can expect him to continue carrying the load in what should be a close game. Anderson has heavily out-snapped Booker in those three games as well, so we shouldn’t expect much to change this week. Washington does rank 22nd DVOA against the run, so CJ should be productive if he’s given volume.
Kerwynn Williams/Elijhaa Penny
Williams didn’t practice on Wednesday because of the quad injury he suffered in the second half of his game this past week, so if he doesn’t play Penny would be in line to start. The Cardinals like to establish the run, so expect whoever it is to get opportunity in this game. Williams has averaged 18 carries over the last 3 games, and that bodes well against a Giants team who ranks 24th DVOA against RBs. I wouldn’t expect too much from these guys as far as upside, but they are plug and plays for a solid floor in this matchup.
Davis is a decent start this week if you think Seattle stays in this game, which they should. Dallas’ defense isn’t good, and can be ran and passed on. Russell Wilson has been great this year, and should lead this offense to be competitive. Davis should be a part of that, and has looked great in his opportunity outside of last week’s debacle by the entire team against the Rams, who they’ve historically struggled against. Lock Davis in for at least 15 carries with upside against a Dallas run defense ranked 23rd DVOA against the run. He shouldn’t be a zero in the passing game either, as Dallas ranks 26th DVOA against pass-catching RBs. Good start, as long as the game stays close.
Desperate WR Starts
Keelan Cole/Dede Westbrook
With Marqise Lee out, both Cole and Westbrook are viable options. Choosing the one who will get the most opportunity is the hard part. Allen Hurns has a chance of making it back this week, so that will throw a wrench into those projections as well. If you have one of them, you should be good either way, as San Francisco has been pretty bad defending the pass. Cole will probably line up primarily on the left side of the perimeter, and the 49ers have given up the most fantasy points over the last 4 games to WRs lining up on the left side. Westbrook should see some action there as well, but either way, both of these guys can put up points in this game. Westbrook has the better chance of getting volume, as we’ve seen him get volume in the three contests prior to last week’s game. The 49ers have actually been very good defending the slot, so you can have some confidence that targets should be funneled to these two perimeter WRs.
He’s still desperate, because you’re putting your championship hopes and dreams on Joe Flacco and Mike Wallace. There’s no doubt that he’s in a great spot this week; not only will Mike Wallace see a majority of Joe Flacco’s target share if Jeremy Maclin can’t go, he has a great matchup at home against Indy. He lines up primarily on Quincy Wilson’s side of the field, who has been heavily targeted, and for good reason. Wilson has been giving up almost 0.5 fantasy points per route run against him. The Colts are planning on starting undrafted rookie Kenny Moore on the other side of the field, and Wallace runs a majority of what is left of his routes on that side of the perimeter as well. The only worry for the Ravens is if they choose to go away from the passing attack once they build a comfortable lead. He’s not someone I’m actively trying to start, but he’s a guy who might be on your waiver wire in case you need someone to plug and play.
Funch didn’t practice on Thursday, so have a backup plan in case he can’t go. He only had 1 catch on 4 targets last week, and a lot of it had to do with Greg Olsen’s sudden involvement. With Olsen being a non-factor since his return, he suddenly saw 12 targets, catching 9 of them for 116 yards and a TD. That came out of nowhere, after he didn’t catch a ball last week on 1 target. In his return 2 weeks ago, he caught 1 pass. It looks like Olsen is back as someone who can seriously limit Funchess’ target share at this point, so I don’t think we can expect Funchess to get the uptick in targets we saw once Olsen went out. Damiere Byrd is also making plays, so the target share isn’t as tightly distributed, and I didn’t even mention Christian McCaffrey. Funchess was followed by Damarious Randall on 74% of his routes, but Randall isn’t a shutdown corner by any means. I don’t know how you can risk playing him with Olsen suddenly being the go-to… however, it remains a great matchup for Funchess, so he’s a play if you don’t have other options. He did almost have a TD this past week, but Damarious Randall knocked it out and it looked like Funchess aggravated his shoulder injury on that play. Nonetheless, it was Olsen back as Cam’s guy, while Funchess maintains his role as a big target in the end zone.
Matthews is a very underrated WR, and after watching the Seahawks collapse against the Rams, it’s tough to want to start anyone against them. However, I’m okay starting Matthews this week; outside of last week, the Rams have been giving up some points to WRs after being pretty stingy in the earlier part of the season. Over the last 4 weeks, the Rams have actually given up the 9th most fantasy points to WRs lining up on the right side of the field, and the 10th most to WRs lining up on the left side, the 13th most to slot WRs, and this includes shutting the Seahawks WRs down last week. Matthews runs routes from all over the field, with the majority on the right side. I’m not worried about Trumaine Johnson, who’s actually been the worst Rams corner in terms of giving up fantasy points; but keep in mind that he’s usually going up the best WRs. At home, Matthews is definitely a play this week.
Kendall Wright became Mitch Trubisky’s favorite target overnight two weeks ago, and it seems like there’s been a concerted effort to get Wright the ball. Those target numbers are serious (11 and 13 the past two weeks), and it comes with Trubisky throwing the ball 30+ times in 6 of the last 7 games. If you’re in a deep full point PPR league, and you lost AB, or you lost trust in some of your players, and you want to plug in a guy off of the waiver wire, Wright should be one of your desperate options. Going into Week 15, the Browns were giving up the 11th most fantasy points to slot WRs in the previous 4 weeks, so Wright can continue to produce with some volume. Just keep in mind that those targets can vanish when you’re not expecting it.. we’ve seen it with other WRs on this team and specifically with Kendall Wright before.
I would play Randall Cobb this week strictly in PPR leagues, as there are probably not too many places to throw the ball against the Vikings. Davante Adams is out, Jordy Nelson will probably see Xavier Rhodes, so Cobb can see some volume in this game. He was already getting 4-8 targets per week, so I would bump that up a bit. The yardage probably won’t be there, but in PPR leagues Cobb can provide a decent floor.
If Funchess can’t go this week, Byrd becomes a longshot upside play. He was great in the preseason, and caught 2 TDs last week in his newly created opportunity by the Curtis Samuel’s season-ending injury. He has speed and hand skills, and is a desperate upside play in a good matchup against Tampa Bay at home. Byrd is a play if you’re someone who is a huge underdog and you need points; he can give you a zero, but he can also get 20 points. If Funchess is out because of his shoulder injury, he’s an even better play.
This is Jordan Howard’s permanent section; he should have been here all year. Yes, the Bears are favored by almost a TD this week against Cleveland, but this game can be closer than expected. The game script should be there for Howard, but we’ve seen that not necessarily equal success this year. The Browns are also #1 DVOA against the run, but they have lost some pieces in their front seven recently. We’ve seen some backs be productive against the Browns with volume like Joe Mixon and Leonard Fournette, so the hope is that Howard can get 20+ carries. The Browns are terrible against the pass, so the Bears can move the ball and potentially get Howard in position for goal line carries. But we have to temper expectations due to this offense, John Fox’s strange RB usage, and the Bears laying an egg on defense and allowing the Browns to get ahead. Howard did catch 4 passes last week which saved his day in PPR leagues, and we should hope that continues, as Cleveland is 30th DVOA against pass-catching RBs.
He’s going up against Darius Slay, but it’ll be tough to bench him. If he has a bad game, you’ll know why.
Marvin Jones/Golden Tate
The Bengals defense has been banged up, but it’s possible Dre Kirkpatrick makes it back this week. Marvin Jones will see a lot of William Jackson III, who has been balling in his second year. The Bengals have been stout against WRs all year long, and with Eric Ebron becoming more involved in the offense, don’t be surprised if these guys are duds this week. They’re not my favorite plays of the week, as Jackson has only allowed 0.2 fantasy points per route run against him and Darqueze Dennard has been holding the slot down as well, allowing 0.19 fantasy points per route run against him. If I had to choose one to play, it would be Marvin, who can make some tough catches against the best of them.
Shepard is a tough play for me this week, as it’s possible Patrick Peterson shadows Shepard. However, when a team’s #1 WR runs most of his routes from the slot, Peterson usually doesn’t cover them. The reason for that is they can’t have Tyrann Mathieu off the field or playing on the perimeter. The possibility is there, but unlikely. Another risk, however, is due to the fact that Joe Webb took some first team reps this week, and that makes me iffy about whether Eli Manning will play the entire game. We know how much of an affinity Manning has for Shepard, but if Webb takes over, we have no idea how this will turn out, and I’m not sure I want to have my fantasy hopes depending on Webb and possibly Patrick Peterson. This would usually be a great matchup for Shepard if we had a little more data on Peterson this season, as a matchup with Mathieu wouldn’t downgrade Shepard.
Goodwin has been balling, and has been a great story – having a career year amidst his biological father and his newborn son passing during this season. We want his success on the field to continue, but he has a tough test ahead of him this week against a stingy Jaguars secondary. Goodwin does spend a majority of his time on A.J. Bouye’s side, but that doesn’t help much, as Bouye has also been great this year. I won’t go digging too deep to replace Goodwin, though, because with his speed he can win you a week on one play. We did see Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Paul Richardson, and DeAndre Hopkins have success against the Jags over the past two weeks, so we’ll really get to see if Goodwin can make something happen in a bad matchup.
Aaron Jones is creeping his way back into the mix, but Jamaal Williams remained the guy in Week 15. I’m less worried about Jones getting more work than I am about the Packers matchup this week against the Vikings. The Vikings allowed a 100 yard rusher only once this year, and it was mainly because of a fluky Jonathan Stewart TD run a couple of weeks ago. Without Aaron Rodgers, the game plan will be run-focused again, but Minnesota has been extremely stout against running backs this year. Not only that, but Brett Hundley will most likely be without his favorite target in Davante Adams, so I can’t imagine the Pack being able to find much success moving the ball. I’m trying to find another option this week.
Last week was DeMarco Murray’s first game above 14 carries since Week 10, and since then he’s been averaging 10.5 carries until last week. That limited opportunity combined with the possibility of the Rams creating a negative game script for Murray isn’t something I’m willing to risk in championship week.
After getting 23 and 24 carries in Weeks 11 and 12, Perine has averaged 14 carries per game. The offense has taken a huge hit after Chris Thompson was placed on IR, averaging only 210 yards of offense in the 4 games without him, compared to the 280 they were averaging with him. Denver has had their struggles this year, but they still rank 2nd DVOA against the run. Since Perine isn’t trusted as the third down back (the Redskins have replaced their 3rd down back twice this year without giving Perine the opportunity), he’s not going to get much opportunity in the passing game. I can’t imagine Perine getting enough opportunity against this run stuffing defense, so I can’t trust him in my championship week. Update: Perine left Thursday’s practice with a groin injury; not a good sign for Sunday.
Casey Hayward was beat last week by Tyreek Hill for a long TD, but Robby speed isn’t Tyreek speed. With Bryce Petty at QB, Robby is still getting the majority of target share, but I’m looking for other options as I can’t risk Robby being shut down by Hayward in my championship game.
Crowder has a tough matchup this week against Chris Harris Jr., one of the league’s best nickel corners. He hasn’t given up much in terms of fantasy points this year, so I’m not excited about Crowder, even with his volume. In PPR he can be okay, but his ceiling is severely limited. Like I mentioned earlier in this article, the offense has taken a huge hit after Chris Thompson was placed on IR, averaging only 210 yards of offense in the 4 games without him, compared to the 280 they were averaging with him. I would try and find another option this week.