Championship week is here! Good luck to everyone, and I sincerely hope you can bring home a trophy this year! Please reach out to me on Instagram (@upperhandfantasy) and let me know how your season went. This is the last article of the season, as I also sincerely hope your championship week isn’t in Week 17 🙂 Good luck. I will be going over all of the fringey guys for this week; If I didn’t mention someone who’s been playing well this season, it’s because I’m assuming you’re starting them.
Derrick Henry – Henry’s performance against Jacksonville was the catalyst that gave the coaching staff what they needed to see to unleash Derrick Henry. The matchup was there this week, but Henry has had his share of great matchups this year.. this volume was unprecedented. He had more carries of any RB in any game this entire season, after averaging 11 for the season. He did have a couple of 18-carry games in Week 2 and 3, but the volume dropped heavy soon after, as he didn’t cross the 12-carry threshold until his 17-carry against last week against Jacksonville. He also played a season-high 49 snaps (70%) on Sunday, with his previous low being 32. If you are moving on to Week 16, he needs to be in your lineup against Washington after two straight high-volume games and with Dion Lewis taking a backseat with only 10 touches in this past game and playing on a season-low 23 snaps. It’s amazing that we’re talking about Derrick Henry as a potential fantasy playoff MVP after the letdown of a fantasy season he’s had previous to two weeks ago.
Melvin Gordon – He’s obviously normally a must-start, but he’s only here because some might be wondering whether to keep throw him in your lineup in his first game after an injury and against a very tough Baltimore defense. Gordon is only behind Todd Gurley in PPR points per game. Apparently he could’ve played last week if the game was on Sunday, and with him being right on time for his expected recovery, I have no concern about putting him in. I’m just glad he’s back right on time.
Marlon Mack – There’s obviously risk with Mack, as last week was the first week in a while seeing serious volume. He took his season-high 27 carries (on only 60% of snaps) for 139 and scored 2 TDs after not crossing the 16-carry mark since Week 8. Against a tougher run defense than his previous two tough matchups in Jacksonville and Houston, he had more carries than those two games combined. He had one game above 20 carries, and that was against an Oakland defense giving up the most rushing yards in the league. This week, he goes up against a Giants defense who has been attacked heavily via the run. Here the stat lines of RBs going backwards against the Giants: Derrick Henry – 33/170, Jordan Howard – 16/76, Josh Adams – 22/84, Peyton Barber – 18/106, Matt Breida – 17/101, and Adrian Peterson – 26/149. As you can tell, teams have gave their backs volume since the Giants traded away Snacks Harrison.
Elijah McGuire – He saw 20+ touches and 75% of snaps for his 2nd straight week. His efficiency hasn’t been there in the running game, but he did go up against Buffalo and Houston the last two weeks. The Packers aren’t as stout as those two, and his involvement in the passing game should allow for a good stat line this week at home. I would treat him as a solid RB2.
Jamaal Williams – He was their 3-down back after Jones left the game last week, and had a pretty good outing against the Bears in Chicago, totaling 97 all-purpose yards and a rushing TD on 16 touches on 87% of snaps. His involvement in the passing game (4 of 5 for 42 yards) should keep his floor relatively high, especially in PPR leagues. No other RB saw a touch after Jones left the game. With Aaron Jones going on IR, the Packers signed Kapri Bibbs, but I can’t imagine him having a big enough role to avoid Williams after just a few days of signing him. Earlier this year without Aaron Jones, he had Montgomery stealing about 36% of snaps; I doubt Bibbs sees that much work this week. He should be in line for 15-20 touches this week, which would result in him being a solid RB2 this week.
Spencer Ware/Damien Williams – If Ware is out this week, Damien Williams becomes a great play against a Seahawks defense very vulnerable in both the run and pass game when it comes to RBs. I would play him as a high-end RB2. If Ware plays, depending on his practice status, Williams can still be a PPR play; it’s possible Ware only gets limited practices in, which would obviously diminish the confidence we have in him, while Williams can still be a potential option, as he out-snapped Ware two weeks ago when both were healthy for most of the game. If Ware gets a full practice in this week and is active, I’m good starting him as a high-upside RB2 in this matchup.
Chris Carson – Carson has seen 22 carries in each of the last two weeks, and totaled 28 touches last week with his 6 catches. That type of volume needs to be in lineups, especially with him getting it done all season long when he’s healthy. He has a great matchup against Kansas City at home, so I’m playing him as a low-end RB1, high-end RB2.
Phillip Lindsay – Lindsay has been the epitome of efficiency, but he’s been nothing but efficient over the last two weeks against San Francisco and Cleveland. This week, we have to stick with it and trust that Lindsay will get it done against an Oakland Raiders team giving up the second most rushing yards this year. It has been a no-brainer to have Lindsay in your lineup, but his past two performances might have some people move off of him. I would stick with it, especially with him seeing 6 and 7 targets over the last two games in addition to those 14 carries in each game.
Keenan Allen – Allen should be good to go for this week, and while it might be a bit risky playing him, how far will you go to replace him? I’m not willing to get too cute replacing Allen, especially because there were encouraging signs somewhat early in the week, and that they didn’t have to wait until later in the week to make a game-time decision. Also, the Ravens’ one vulnerability in their secondary is defending the slot, so at least he has a decent matchup. The Ravens have given up the 13th most fantasy points to slot WRs this year opposed to being very stout on the outside.
Robby Anderson – Over the last three weeks, Robby Anderson has been fifth in total air yards behind Julio Jones, Davante Adams, Zay Jones, and TY Hilton. In addition, his airyards.com weighted opportunity as been 74%. The weighted opportunity is combined metric that considers both air yards and his 27% target share over that span. That opportunity is 5th over the last five weeks behind Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Thomas, and TY Hilton. When looking at production, we want to make sure that there are numbers behind that production that can lead us to believe that it will continue. In his two games with Sam Darnold returning to the lineup, he’s averaging 86 yards and 1 TD on 9 targets. That was against Buffalo and Houston, and now he goes up against a Green Bay team who has really struggled against WRs on the perimeter. I’ll play him as a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 this week.
Alshon Jeffery – Alshon hasn’t had more than 50 yards receiving since Week 7 until last week when Nick Foles completed 8 of 8 for 160 to him. Both him and Zach Ertz saw a 24% target share, but Jeffery’s saw a ton of downfield targets with a 16.3 yard aDOT. Houston hasn’t been great against perimeter WRs lately: Robby Anderson went for 7/96/1, TY Hilton went 9/199, Rashard Higgins went 4/62/1, and Corey Davis went 4/96/1. The pass rush is Houston’s bread and butter on defense, so that would be the only concern. Either way, I’m completely fine trusting Alshon once again with the QB change if you’re deciding between a couple of fringe guys for your Championship lineup.
Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett – The matchup is definitely there this week, and both of these guys, especially Lockett, should probably be used. Lockett’s been getting it done for you on very limited targets this year, and Baldwin came through last week with 2 TDs. He’s actually had 4 TDs in his last 4 games played. He’s started to come on even while he’s banged up with that hip injury, and it’s possible Russell Wilson has to throw the ball more than Seattle would like him to against the high-scoring Chiefs; this is likely to be the week’s highest scoring game. Maybe we’ll finally be able to see Russ sling it like we loved watching before Brian Schottenheimer installed this heavy run-first offense. Just know that Lockett is actually a boom/bust player who has happening to be booming, even though he has been mostly consistent. Baldwin also has a lot of variability in his results, so that’s why these guys are more desperate; however, we can chase the matchup this week.
Dante Pettis – Pettis has had 4 TDs over the last 4 weeks. He didn’t score last week, but still managed to gain 83 yards. Even with Marquise Goodwin back, Pettis is still the WR to play. Goodwin only saw 3 targets total over the last two weeks. Chicago probably won’t let one get over the top of them, but it’s a matchup that can be exploited on the perimeter if the 49ers don’t let Chicago’s pass rush take over the game. Chicago has allowed the 6th most fantasy points to perimeter WRs, but they’ve gotten better as the season has gone on. He’s a risky play, but I’d play him as a mid to low-end WR3.
Sony Michel and James White – Michel has seen volume, but couldn’t do much with it lately. He took 21 carries for 133 yards and 1 TD against the Jets in Week 12, but since then he went 17/63, 20/57, and 13/59 against the Steelers last week. He should definitely get volume against the Bills this week, but their rush defense is pretty tough too. He missed this matchup the last time the Patriots played the Bills, but if you’re starting him this week, you’re just banking on volume and a goal line TD. As far as James White, he’s only hit 10 points in PPR once in the last five games. However, with targets opening up with Josh Gordon out, White can potentially see the type of volume he saw against Buffalo the first time they played each other. He’s a low-end RB2 with upside in PPR.
Gus Edwards – Kenneth Dixon got the increase an opportunity that we expected as far as snaps go, but it didn’t come at the expense of Gus Edwards. This backfield became a 2-man backfield after Ty Montgomery was declared a healthy scratch last week for Buck Allen, but Allen only played on 4% of snaps. Edwards’ snaps remained around 43% for the second week in a row compared to Dixon’s increase to 51%, but he out-touched Dixon 19-12. With Edwards taking his 19 carries for his third 100-yard game this year, it’ll be tough to justify moving away from him too much. This is a tougher matchup that he’s faced over the last few weeks, but the Ravens defense should keep the Ravens in the game enough for him to get at least 15 carries. I would treat him as a low-end RB2 who’s not involved in the passing game. Dixon is a super desperate play as someone who has a good matchup for pass-catching RBs, so if you’re in a very deep PPR league, sure.
Peyton Barber – Barber has averaged 17 carries over the last five games, and Barber impressed against the Ravens last week, taking his 19 carries for 85 yards and a TD. Dallas allowed Marlon Mack to have a great game against them, but that doesn’t mean Barber will kill it as well. There’s no doubt that this is still a very tough matchup, and I’m only starting Barber in deep leagues or in serious desperation.
Alfred Blue – If Lamar Miller misses and D’Onta Foreman isn’t activated, Blue can see a serious workload. When Miller missed on a short week earlier this year against the Cowboys, he saw 28 touches and totaled 119 yards. Keep an eye on Foreman’s status; if he’s activated, we can’t assume Blue will get enough touches for him to be a worthwhile start. If it’s all Blue though, it’s not a bad spot; they’ve allowed 4.9 yards per carry this year, and has also allowed the third most receptions and the fifth most receiving yards to RBs. Blue had 8 catches for 73 yards against the Cowboys, so we should be able to get results if we follow the volume.
Jordan Howard – Howard has seen 16, 19, and 19 carries over the last three weeks. That’s his best three game stretch in terms of volume this entire season, and he’s been somewhat effective with that volume as well. San Francisco is a relatively good rushing defense, but the Rams passing game isn’t really clicking right now. They couldn’t get it done against a terrible Eagles secondary last week, so if you’re desperate for a RB, Howard is an option in the hopes he continues getting that volume and maybe even a goal line TD. There’s no doubt he makes me nervous, but you might be seriously desperate.
Larry Fitzgerald – Larry has had a 10 point floor in PPR since Week 7, and has a decent matchup this week against a Rams defense who gave up the most fantasy points to WRs lining up in the slot over the past 8 games, and 5th most overall. Nickell Robey-Coleman has been great, but as a team, they’ve given up a ton of receptions to that slot position. I’m playing Larry this week as a WR3 in PPR leagues, only because he has a little more upside than just a 10-point floor.
Robert Foster – Robert Foster is averaging a ridiculous 26 yards per catch over the last five weeks, and has gained a rapport with Josh Allen on his deep routes. Over that span, he has the highest combined air yards and aDOT in the league, meaning he’s being targeted almost exclusively on deep routes. While it’s not the most dependable way to produce, he’s still a high upside option if you need it this week. Last week, Darius Slay shadowed Zay Jones, so it’ll be interesting to see who the Patriots choose for Stephon Gilmore to follow this week. Because of the potential shadow, playing Foster in championship week seems risky, but the upside is still there. I can’t imagine them keeping Gilmore on Zay when Foster has been this productive. The last time these two played, Gilmore shadowed Kelvin Benjamin; not sure Gilmore had to prepare much for that game. When these two teams played last year, the Gilmore shadowed Zay. It’s anyone’s guess who it’ll be this week.
Allen Robinson – Robinson hasn’t had the production we would have liked with Mitch Trubisky back under center, but he’s getting decent volume with his 8-target average over the last three games. Richard Sherman doesn’t travel with receivers, and over the last three games, Robinson has played away from Sherman’s perimeter spot between 60-70% of the time. If Sherman was the reason why you’re not playing Robinson, that shouldn’t be it; if there is a reason, it’s his inconsistency. However, he does have some advantages this week; Robinson has also been playing between 30-45% of slot snaps over the past three games, and that’s where the 49ers have given up the most fantasy points over the last four games, the third most of the past eight games, and the sixth most over the entire season. That would normally be a good thing for Anthony Miller, but he has had a total of zero catches on one target over the past two games. Robinson can take advantage, so he’s a low-floor, high-upside WR3 this week.
DaeSean Hamilton – Oakland has gotten better against WRs as a whole lately, especially on the perimeter, but their vulnerability is probably defending the slot. 9 and 12 targets over the last two weeks, catching 7 in each game. He’s only an option in PPR right now, as his aDOT is pretty low – he’s totaled only 47 and 46 yards in the last two games. Case Keenum loves targeting the slot, so Hamilton should be a solid PPR WR3 this week.
Demaryius Thomas – DT ran some short to intermediate routes last week, and if Keke Coutee misses again, he’ll be a desperate play in PPR against the Eagles secondary. He definitely has upside though, only because the Eagles have given up most fantasy points to perimeter WRs this year. Cook and Reynolds had okay games last week with Jared Goff looking terrible, and DT has that chance this week as well. But catching 6 of 8 targets last week against the Jets is encouraging going into this matchup for DT if you’re desperately looking for someone to plug in.
Tevin Coleman – With Coleman’s counterpart in Ito Smith going on IR, it’s possible Coleman gets a bigger workload, but I honestly wouldn’t expect Coleman to get the entire thing. We thought it would happen when Freeman got hurt, but it’s possible that Brian Hill will play the Ito role and be Coleman’s complement. Brian D. Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that this is probably going to be the case. I still think Coleman gets an upgrade, because I doubt Hill comes in there and just gets 10-12 touches off the bat. You never know though, because Coleman is a free agent this offseason, and they might just want to know what they have in their other guys with nothing to play for this season. He was very efficient on his touches last week against a bad run defense, but we can’t depend on efficiency every week. I would treat Coleman as a low-end RB2 if his volume remains in the 10-15 touch range.
Leonard Fournette – Fournette only saw one touch last week, and apparently it was the game plan going in? Maybe they were resting him since the Jaguars aren’t in it, or maybe they’re tired of his shit so they wanted to see what they had in David Williams, but either way, I don’t know how you can trust him this week. Doug Marrone has also said that Leonard Fournette will be limited in practice this week because of a foot injury, and maybe that’s why they took him out – who knows. He had decent production in the first half against the Redskins and would’ve had amazing volume if he played in the second half, but taking him out in a close game looks like they were okay forfeiting that game. Even in a good matchup this week against Miami, I don’t think we can play him with the assumption that he’ll play the full game. It would’ve been nice to know that Fournette was going to limited coming into the game – we’re in our fantasy playoffs here! He’s a risky start this week.
Matt Breida – Breida couldn’t get much going in the run game against a Seattle defense last week who has been very giving against RBs. However, he made it up with his 5 catches for 46 yards. Because of that involvement in the passing game, he can be fine against the Bears even in the very tough matchup. The real issue is the fact that Breida can aggravate his ankle injury again, which he actually did do last week, but it was later in the game. What if it happened earlier in the game? Breida might have set a record this year in how many times he has re-aggravated an injury. He just doesn’t get injured quite enough for him to actually miss enough time for his injuries to heal. The 49ers offensive line and scheme is one that can run on the Bears, so I’m not overplaying the matchup as much this week because of that, but I am surprised as to how inefficient Breida was last week against the Seahawks. I would consider him a risky low-end RB2 this week.
Mark Ingram – Ingram is tough to justify this week, but he will always have a high ceiling. At home, the Saints offense should be better, but the Steelers defense is all-around very stout against RBs in both the run and pass game. He saw 14 touches over the last two weeks, and it’s not quite enough to justify playing him this week if you have other options.
James Conner/Jaylen Samuels – There’s no guarantee James Conner will be back this week, as the Steelers will probably want him full strength for the playoffs. The Saints are a tough matchup this week, but they are middle of the road when it comes to defending RBs in the passing game. Samuels had 172 total yards last week in a good matchup, and while he got a majority of the touches last week, he played on only 62% of snaps opposed to the 80% the week prior in Oakland. That snap percentage combined with the tough matchup moves him out of that high-end RB2 range, so consider your options. If Conner does go, consider the fact that he might not be used as a workhorse, especially if he doesn’t get any full practices in. It’ll be a tricky situation, so monitor the reports up until game-time.
Julian Edelman – Edelman has been getting it done more often than not, so he’s probably going to be in your lineup this week, especially with Josh Gordon out. We’re used to Edelman as a traditional slot WR, in which case he would normally avoid Tre’Davious White, and even if he played on the outside, White would have likely have been on Gordon. However, over the past four weeks, Edelman has lined up on the outside almost 50% of the time, meaning he’ll likely draw White’s coverage. He should be downgraded, but still in your lineup, as he should be able to take advantage of the middle of the field the way he did in their first matchup in Buffalo where he had 9 catches on 10 targets for 104 yards.
Jarvis Landry – Landry has totaled more than 57 receiving yards once in the last seven games, and while he’s been a PPR threat out of the slot, he’s had more than 3 receptions only once in the past five games. In Landry’s last meeting with Cincinnati, he only totaled 30 yards on 3 receptions. His targets have been all over the place, so there’s a lot of variance in his potential results this week. Cincinnati has actually got better as the season has gone on against slot WRs, giving up the 10th least amount of fantasy points to them, and the 5th least over the last 4 weeks; Keenan Allen, Emmanuel Sanders, and Landry were three out of the four.
Kenny Golladay – Golladay has proved on multiple occasions that he can overcome a tough shadow matchup, but he hasn’t shown he can do it consistently. The fact that he can’t isn’t a knock on him; it’s impressive enough to come through against these guys at all. He came through last week against Tre’Davious White, didn’t come through against Patrick Peterson the week before, came through against James Bradberry, but this week he’ll see Xavier Rhodes. As a whole, the Vikings are very stout against WRs, wherever you line up. Golladay has seen 8+ targets in 5 of the last 6 games, so he’s tough to bench when we know he’s getting solid volume. We’ve seen his counterpart Marvin Jones get it done against Rhodes in the past, so this isn’t a matchup I’m necessarily benching Golladay for. It’s tough, but I think he needs to be in lineups if you don’t have other good options.
Adrian Peterson – Peterson saw 19 carries last week, but only gained 51 yards on it. Tennessee has been very stout against the run lately, only allowing 3.8 yards per carry. He’s not someone I’d be banking on to help win me a championship.
Josh Adams – You can play him with the hopes of him getting some volume, but it’s a pretty tough matchup against Houston. No RB had more than 51 yards rushing since the Cowboys’ Week 10 bye, and no one’s had more than 82 yards rushing against them this entire year, and that 82 came from Saquon Barkley on 17 carries. He’s a desperate play this week if you have no other options, but I’m looking elsewhere if I can.
DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel – Sure, you can keep them in your lineup, but without Cam, I’m not having my championship ride on the arm of Taylor Heinicke. We have no idea what the target distribution will look like, so putting either in your lineup, even with their upside, is a very risky proposition. I’ll be looking to fade both in season-long leagues.