In most fantasy leagues, the Finals are this week. That means those lucky enough to make it are even more married to their lineups than usual and looking at the wire for better options. Don’t stop now! This is the week YOU have been playing for. You are in search of the right to crown yourself Champion and, more importantly, bragging rights. Yes, I’ve won a good few football and baseball leagues and I love the feeling of rubbing it in and looking to next season. You have earned the right to play this late. Now go grab your prize. Remember, no one cares about First Loser(a.k.a. second place). We all want the loot. There are a good number of defensive players on the wire that could be snapped up in leagues to help complete your ‘Ship run. These rankings name a few of them, so pay attention and swing for the fences. Yes, a couple are no-brainers, and a few are for those who are underdogs. But in the Championships, throw all stats out the window and trust your gut. It never fails.
Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season as the fantasy football playoffs are winding down and NFL teams are gearing up for a final playoff push versus division rivals.
Mason Foster (ILB-WSH)- Coming off a horrible loss to the Panthers, the Redskins playoff hopes hang in the air as delicately as an expensive vase. They need to win this week versus the toothless Bears, or their season is completely over. Foster has been solid over the Redskins’ past two contests with 19 tackles and is a sneaky play as a high floor linebacker who could produce high-end LB2 numbers versus a suspect offense.
Markus Golden (OLB-ARZ)- Golden has failed to produce at least decent fantasy numbers in only four of the Cardinals fourteen games. One of those was the tie versus division rival Seattle, who they play this week. With eight sacks and three forced fumbles on the season, Golden has been a nice find for fantasy owners, and he is a high risk/reward type player heading into Week 16’s showdown with the Seahawks. Russell Wilson, 16 passing TDs to 11 INTs is on pace for his worst season as a Pro. But, given his elusiveness, he cannot be overlooked. With Arizona’s stout front seven, Golden could be in line for a busy day chasing down and sacking Wilson. Those underdogs need to roll the dice on him breaking out.
Zachary Orr (ILB-BAL)- Orr has exceeded expectations and has been a solid fantasy option this year. Temper expectations this week, however, as the Steeler offense can expose any defense, and with a hot Bell, the Ravens will be hard pressed to shut him down. Orr will at least net a few tackles. But relying on him as your top LB or viewing him as an LB2 would be a mistake. You will start him for his production as a tackler and his ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. Just do not expect a huge week versus the tough Steelers offense.
Shane Ray (OLB-DEN)- With Denver’s playoff hopes on the line this week, the Broncos defense will be all business as they look to make it a long night for Alex Smith and the Chiefs offensive line. Ray is a sack specialist, and is a high upside play this week. He is worth a start and could be in for a huge game for those in search of a Title.
Denzel Perryman (ILB-SD)- Starting Perryman this season was like playing with fire as he was hot or cold most weeks and missed three games entirely. Many owners have dropped him. But versus the Browns, he is worth a speculative add. The Browns’ talent level is miserable, and without a true pass game, they will rely on the run game from Isaiah Crowell. RGIII is a plug in QB for the Browns, but should be no match for the underperforming Perryman. Look for the Chargers defense, which has been very generous this season, to shutdown the Browns. Perryman might be in for his best game of the season as he has an underrated ability to get in the backfield and disrupt plays.
K.J. Wright (WLB-SEA)- Of course you are starting Wright. But be cautious as David Johnson has proven to be more dangerous than originally thought this season. Simply put, he is the complete package back and is a danger wherever the Cardinals place him on the field. Wright is a playmaker and will rack up the tackles. How much he can slow Johnson could determine how big of a week he delivers in the clutch for fantasy owners.
William Hayes (DE-L.A.)- I was looking at the ownership of Hayes, and it is astoundingly low for a player who has been producing of late. He is no elite defender. But with a sack over the Rams past two games, he looks like a smart play versus the 49ers who struggle to move the ball. Hayes is a streaky player who is hot at the right time for the fantasy playoffs, and at least a sack is guaranteed.
Danielle Hunter (DE-MIN)- Hunter has been streaky this season. But the last time the Packers and Vikings played, he had a forced fumble and a sack. The Packers run game struggles, and this leads to Rodgers throwing a ton every game. If the Vikings can beat the offensive line, they could dent the Packers playoff hopes. In sack heavy leagues, Hunter is a solid start as he is due for a nice game after last week’s lackluster performance. He’s no household name, but Hunter has his own game and will be valuable for the Vikings in the future.
Ahtyba Rubin (DT-SEA)- Playing Rubin versus the Cardinals is risky, but that is the story with most DTs in the playoffs. What Rubin brings is a steady presence. He is rarely quiet throughout games and has a knack for beating linemen. He is one of the more solid DT plays this week as the playoffs are winding down. An immobile Palmer could help Rubin’s cause.
Alan Branch (DT-NE)- Branch is not a sack threat, but for a DT, he consistently racks up tackles and is underrated. With the Jets on tap, no love will be lost as it will be a physical battle between these rivals. The Jets are not playoff bound, but they would love to beat their biggest foe. Branch knows the Jets line can be penetrated and will not be denied. Play him as your second DT, or DT if you need one off the wire and you will not be left with a goose egg.
Good luck to everyone this week, and remember, your team is as strong as your weakest link. The ‘Ship is yours as long as you play your cards right, so don’t hold back. Dominate your opponent and proclaim yourself ‘Champion’ this week, unless your playoff format spills into next week. In that case, crush your semi-final opponent, and I’ll be here next week for the penultimate week of the NFL season.
In my best Kevin voice from Home Alone 2: Kevin: “Merry Christmas ya filthy animal…and a Happy New Year.”