A burning question going into the Championships is always whether the slogan “start your studs” is relevant, or if that goes out the window as a title is on the line. The answer is, it depends. If you have a stud in a nice match-up at home, then the answer is of course. But is it the same if you have a stud whose team struggles at home or on the road and is at home or on the road this week? Look at the match-up.
Entering the championship round of many leagues, as well as the holidays, I think it’s a great time to bust out the final rankings of this fantasy season this week (for most leagues), and starting keepers next week. The keeper section will be referred to as Portrait/Illusion of a Keeper (unveiled next week). The formula to determine whether or not a player should be kept will be Keepers = (Reliability + History) – (Liability + Present value). In essence, I will name a few players who are on the bubble of being keeper worthy or droppable. Hopefully, the next to last rankings of the year will help you dominate, and coast to the championship trophy. If you are the underdog in your championship match-up or battle for 3rd, and need a high upside/low downside guys look at the WR, tune in. Am I starting to lecture here? My bad, let’s just get to the rankings before people fall asleep in session.
Andy Dalton (QB) – After posting back to back solid performances, Dalton finds himself solidly in the middle of the starting QBs this week against the Vikings. Dalton has been Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde this season, but coming down the stretch, he seems to have come out in a big way, and appears to be here to stay.
Ryan Mathews (RB) – Feliz Navidad! Look who finally showed up after hiding in a hole since being drafted out of Fresno State. Mathews may not have much value in the pass game, but given the sheer number of touches he will see against the Raiders overall porous defense, he is a solid RB1. The only concern here is the game may be out of hand early, leading to a half day of work for Mathews.
Jacoby Jones (WR) – For those owners hurting at WR, look at Jones. He may not see more than 3-4 receptions this week, but his true value is in the return game, where he needs one opening to break the special teams defenses open wider than that defense can go deep.
Marcedes Lewis (TE) – With nine receptions for 122 yards and 3 scores the past three weeks, Lewis enters the rankings for those whom can start-up to two tight ends, and have weak or injured options at WR or TE. Granted, he’s not likely to make it 4 straight weeks with a score, but he apparently has developed some chemistry with Chad Henne, making him a sneaky PPR option this week.
Aldon Smith (LB) – After missing five games due to seeking help for off field issues, Smith is back and seems to be rounding back into shape. The rust from missing five games has worn off, and a soft Atlanta offensive line should lead to sack opportunities for Smith coming through the Falcons backdoor.
Carson Palmer (QB) – Apparently reality bitch-slapped Palmer in the face, as he’s coming to his old self as of late. The good news over the past two games is he’s thrown for 500 yards, the bad news is he’s lost the touch for multiple touchdowns in a game. This week the Seahawks defense is hungry and is gonna have a feast out of Palmer’s passes.
Chris Johnson (RB) – Yes, he’s semi re-emerged this season, but the fact is there’s still some risk playing him week-to-week. No one ever thinks the Jags are going to be tough to run on, but they are sneaky good against the run. You should bench Johnson this week, unless you have no other better options (read: only have backups), as Johnson will find holes hard to come by, like he did in their last meeting (12 rushes, 30 yards).
Jarrett Boykin (WR) – Boykin had a nice game last week, but even with Randall Cobb still out this week, stay clear of Boykin. He is too inconsistent, and with Matt Flynn still at the helm, the Steelers could have a field day against him. It’s a real possibility that Flynn finishes with more sacks and picks than fantasy points this week, so don’t start Boykin at all, even in his WR2 slot.
Dennis Pitta (TE) – If you have Pitta, pray there’s a better option on the wire, as Flacco is equally as likely to throw a pick as a score with an 18:17 TD:INT ratio this season. Yes, the same QB that got a bazillion dollars in the off-season probably couldn’t even hit his leading tight end from last season for a score, if his tight end was the broadside of a barn. Move along.
Terrell Thomas (CB) – Since wrecking his knee after the 2010 season, the CB monster in Thomas was emerging vanished, and since the start of the 2013 season, he’s struggled to regain his form. If you own him, consider dropping him, as he is not the same CB he was coming out of the U. of Southern Cal since his knee injury.
Kirk Cousins – His first of the season was a success, although it was against the soft Falcons secondary. Wait, compared to the Cowboys, the Falcons felt like an organic chemistry final. That’s how bad the Cowboys are against the pass: Dead last. Yeah, with Garçon as the go to man, and speedster Aldrick Robinson on the outside, this is setting up to be a Jolly Olde Saint Nicholas-type Sunday for Cousins and Co.
Drew Brees – Who dat Saint with an 11:7 TD:INT ratio, 2,046 passing yards, 63.4 completion percentage, and a QB rating of 86.4? Drew Brees would be correct. Although he had a great day against the Panthers in new Orleans, he has struggled on the road this season, and the Panthers are out for revenge. Remember, he’s NOT in a dome in this one. If you must start him, temper your expectations, as this week could be rough.
Eli Manning – Last week could not have gotten any worse for Eli. 156 yards, 5 interceptions. If you started him and still won in the semi-finals, then your opponents’s team apparently quit when they saw Manning’s Texas sized implosion. The only good news here is that it’s been made clear that no one should even think of starting him this week, even against a soft Lions defense.
DeMarco Murray – What do you get when you put the two worst run defenses on the same field together? A jolly lotta points between the two starting tailbacks. Given the complete collapse of the great Romo-led Cowboys last week, look for the Boys to run it more this week against the second most giving run defense (the most giving being Dallas).
Shane Vereen – The PPR monster is very bipolar any given week, it seems. With Gronk done for the season, Vereen was supposed to see more action in the pass game, but that didn’t happen. This week, with the stingiest run defense in Baltimore on tap, Santa’s “ho ho ho’s” are gonna turn into “no no no’s,” as in access denied, Vereen.
Rashard Mendenhall – Owners seem like riding the one time top-notch Steelers running back, but this week, he’s gonna get popped by a Chuck Norris roundhouse. Unless he somehow finds pay dirt, Mendenhall is going to be a flat tire this week.
Mike Wallace – It’s time to play the big play receiver. No, he likely won’t get more than 5 receptions this week, but against the Bills secondary, a long score could very easily occur. In the first meeting, Wallace had 5 receptions for 76 yards. Yeah, it’s looking like an early Christmas present for Wallace owners this week. Dig in!
DeAndre Hopkins – Big play receivers can make or break your championship run, but, given the state of the Texans QB situation and team, Nuk is best left benched and stashed going into next season. He has a fine future ahead of him, but this week is not when his bright future begins.
Robert Woods – It’s time to officially abandon ship and try to get a return from the Macy’s waiver wire. Woods has been so inconstant or injured this season, that even with no Steve Johnson, Woods is still going to find it hard to have a good day against a pretty decent Dolphins secondary. Let the Bills QB situation settle some, and Manuel find his feet before starting Woods, or any Bills receiver. If you have Steve Johnson (out), hope Macy’s stores open early this weekend, so you can at least get a partial refund out of him.
Jimmy Graham – Normally I don’t take the time to recognize studs, but Graham has gone graham crackers all over the NFL this season. Even a top Panthers defense won’t be able to slow down the touchdown machine here. Carry on aboard the express train to the North Pole!
Michael Hoomanawanui – Michael yeah-not-even-gonna-try-that-last-name is apparently the de facto TE1 in New England with Gronkowski done for the season, but he’s TD or nothing. He’s not gonna get a ton of yards, and with his whole value dependent upon the score, M-H is best left on the wire, unless you have no other choice at TE.
Ladarius Green – His fantasy value rose and plummeted fast. It takes talent to go from fantasy relevant to fantasy afterthought in two weeks, but that’s exactly what Green has done. Do yourself a favor, find a more consistent option this week, or start Gates (if you have him) over the über raw Green during Championship Week.
Jerry Hughes (LB) – Last week I recommended him as a sleeper. This week, if you need an upside play at LB, take a shot on Hughes, who has 8.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles to date. Chances are he’ll get his shots at the QB against Miami, with a sack likely.
William Gay (CB) – The only thing Wiliam Gay will give you on Christmas Day is a bag of coal. If you plan on winning 10 cents in the lottery, and settling for runner-up , then William is your man. Otherwise, go grab another option.
Roman Harper (S) – The linebacker in a safety’s uniform has all but disappeared. Yes, Harper has been injure this season, but he still has yet to do a thing meaningful in his first five (six counting this week) games since return. He is best left dropping and redrafting next season (Yes, I do expect Harper to be healthy for all of next season).
Good luck in the semi-finals, and don’t forget to tune in for next week’s unveiling of Portrait/Illusion of a Keeper section. Follow me on twitter @MetalhammerBen, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, once again, for the support and the readership.