It is a bittersweet week in the fantasy football world. On one hand it’s championship weekend and on the other hand it marks the end of the 2014 season. I managed to reach the championship game in one of my three leagues so I still have a chance to end the year on a positive note. To make things fun I have decided to only talk about players that are featured in my league’s three championship contests. If you have reached the finals and don’t usually take my advice then I would continue to ignore it. However, if you are looking for that edge to push you across the finish line, buckle up and pay close attention as there may be some things that surprise you.
Tom Brady: Since the Patriot’s week 4 debacle in Kansas City, Brady has thrown for at least two touchdowns in each game. In week 16 he will face a familiar foe that he picked apart for 261 yards and 3 scores in their first meeting. Since that meeting the Jets defense has not improved and has given up the third most touchdowns through the air while being second to last in interceptions. Be ready for Brady and the red-hot Patriots to continue their dominance against their AFC East rivals.
Matt Ryan: The Saints have surrendered multiple passing touchdowns in four of their last five games and have given up the third most fantasy points to opposing signal-callers in 2014. The Falcon’s offense seems to be clicking and Matt Ryan is the catalyst. He has thrown for 8 touchdowns and over 300 yards per game over his last three. I don’t expect him to repeat his week 1 performance where he tallied 448 yards and 3 scores, but I do think he will put up very good numbers.
Jonathon Stewart: Since taking over sole possession of the Panthers’ backfield 3 weeks ago, Stewart has averaged 5.8 yards per carry. With Cam Newton coming back from an injury the Panthers should continue to give Stewart 20+ carries like they have the last two weeks. Stewart has a very appealing matchup with the Browns in week 16, a team that gave up 241 yards and 3 rushing scores last week. To stay in the playoff hunt Carolina needs to continue to lean on Stewart.
Pierre Thomas: The Saints/Falcons game has the making of a shootout. Last week against the Bears, Thomas played 30 snaps, 28 of them in passing situations. In week 1 against New Orleans, Thomas accumulated 89 total yards in a high scoring affair. If Thomas can manage to get into the end zone with similar yardage his owners will be very happy.
Roddy White: As you can probably tell, I like this matchup for both teams. White has once again become a consistent fantasy contributor, scoring in four of his last six games. Because of Matt Ryan’s numbers in their first meeting, White also had a good game racking up 72 yards and a touchdown. Roddy should take advantage of a defense that has surrendered 18 touchdowns to receivers.
Steve Smith: The Texans have allowed the third most touchdowns to receivers this year, 19, and at least one in every week since week 1. Every team playing the Texans has managed to get their receivers over 100 yards and 11 of them have eclipsed 150. Smith has thrived in road games of late, totaling 159 yards and 2 touchdowns in his last two. The wily vet will shine in a must win game for Baltimore.
Colby Fleener: Over his last three games, Fleener is averaging 20 yards per catch. The Cowboys have given up 80+ yards to tight ends 6 times in 2014. Dallas has also given up the third most touchdowns to the position (10). This is another game that has the potential to be a shootout and Fleener poses a tough matchup wherever he lines up.
Cam Newton: This poor guy in one of my leagues has Newton and Cutler as his two options at quarterback. With Cutler benched, he is forced to start Newton. To make matters worse, Carolina is facing a very good Cleveland pass defense. The Browns have held quarterbacks to under 300 yards passing in all but two games and less than two touchdowns eight times. If the Panthers are smart they will protect their franchise quarterback and limit the number of opportunities the Browns have to hit him by running the rock.
Russell Wilson: Wilson was held in check in Seattle’s first matchup with the Cardinals, totaling only 284 yards and 1 score. Since then, Wilson has not rushed for more than 50 yards in any game. Since week 7 the Cardinals have only given up eight passing touchdowns while Wilson has only thrown for more than 1 touchdown twice. Seattle should win this game behind their defense.
Jeremy Hill: After Hill’s performance last week expectations are high for him coming into week 16. However, against a great Denver rush defense, those expectations need to be kept in check. The Broncos have only allowed 4 rushing touchdowns this year, only 1 coming since week 5. If those stats don’t scare you maybe these will. Denver has allowed only one team to break 100 yards on the ground while holding teams to under 50 seven times. If the Bengals are forced to pass in this game you should see more of Gio Bernard as he is the better pass-catcher. Hill owners could not have picked a worse opponent in the final week of the fantasy season so hopefully you have a backup plan.
Lamar Miller: I continue to see fantasy owners starting Lamar Miller and I’m not sure why. He has recorded more than 100 yards just one time this season, while carrying the ball more than 15 times just twice. The Vikings haven’t been great against the run in 2014, although they have not allowed a running back to score since week 10. The Dolphins have yet to show a commitment to the run so Minnesota should not have to worry much about Miller on Sunday.
Mohamed Sanu: The second half of the season has been awful for Sanu. Over his last six games he hasn’t surpassed five receptions or 50 yards in any game. You would be able to live with those numbers if he was finding the end zone, but he has only two touchdowns in the last nine games. Things will not get easier this week against arguably the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. Sit city.
DeAndre Hopkins: It looks like Case Keenum is starting under center for the Texans which is bad news for anyone who owns DeAndre Hopkins. In eight games last year with Keenum as quarterback, Hopkins had 22 receptions for 419 yards and 1 touchdown. If my math is correct, his averages catching balls from Keenum are 3/52 per game. As well as Hopkins has played at times this season, these numbers give me very little confidence going into week 16.
Larry Donnell: Donnell has become a player of debate on Sunday morning’s installment of The Fantasy Forecaster. Surprisingly, he has only two touchdowns since his three-score performance in week 4 and hasn’t had more than three fantasy points in any of his last four games. His opponent, the Rams, have surrendered just two touchdowns to the position all year and less than 70 yards to tight ends in every game. For once, Larry Donnell should be a unanimous sit in your championship match.
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Payton is the newest fantasy football contributor to The Sports Script. Be on the lookout for more of his work in the coming weeks and follow him on Twitter @PaySand!