If you are intently reading this right now, odds are you’re playing in your fantasy football championship this week.
So while you might be eager about finishing the job and winning it all, be proud and realize it’s a tremendous accomplishment to get this far. You’re well qualified to compete for your league title and should be more confident than apprehensive.
Don’t overthink lineup moves now just because there is so much at stake. Your team belongs here — the strategies you employed took it to the championship game. So go for glory with poise, savvy and these final tips in mind.
BROWNS AGAINST THE RUN
The Browns are the worst team in the AFC against the run, allowing 24.8 fantasy points per game to running backs. Running back Melvin Gordon will miss the game, leaving undrafted rookie Kenneth Farrow and journeyman Ronnie Hillman to try to take advantage of the matchup. Farrow totaled just 54 yards from scrimmage against Oakland last week. Neither one looks like a clear option over the other, and both lack upside. Hillman looked better against the Raiders, rushing for 34 yards on seven carries. But the workload split is uncertain. It’s too risky to use either player in a title game despite the attractive matchup.
A CHARGER TO CONSIDER
The San Diego player you should consider this week if you need some tight end help is Antonio Gates. He is two touchdowns shy of tying Tony Gonzalez for most scores all time at the position. With nothing else to play for, Philip Rivers will be looking to help Gates set a record. Cleveland allows a league-high 11.7 fantasy points per game to the position, so Gates has a really good chance to get closer to or even tie the record, helping your fantasy team in the process.
He has been a big disappointment all season, but this is the time to use Todd Gurley. He faces a historically awful 49ers run defense. San Francisco allows a league-high 26.6 FFPG to running backs. Gurley has been done in this season by game flow and a lack of balance on offense, plus substandard blocking. None of those factors should be an impediment this week, and you can strongly consider starting him as your second running back or flex player.
Amari Cooper has been a big disappointment in recent weeks, but maintain confidence in him as you set your championship lineup. The Raiders face the Colts’ 27th-ranked pass defense. Indianapolis also has to account for Michael Crabtree and Latavius Murray, who have been more productive for the Raiders lately. Oakland needs to get Cooper more involved in the passing game again as the AFC playoffs approach. Look for him to post quality yardage numbers and get into the end zone.
A.J. Green makes his return this week from a hamstring injury, playing against the Texans. Fantasy owners should not hesitate to get him back into their lineups, but should lower their expectations a bit after a layoff. When he is healthy and 100 percent, Green is obviously a must-start as your prime fantasy wide receiver. Treat him more as a second wide receiver this week. He should at least deliver an adequate performance, and he is always a threat to score a touchdown.
ATTACKING THE BRONCOS
The way to attack the Broncos is against the run. Denver allows 127.9 rushing yards per game, fourth-most in the NFL. But Spencer Ware is not a quality start against them. He has not scored in six of his past seven games and has not rushed for 80 yards in his past eight. He is not running with any authority or burst and should not be considered as anything more than a flex option. If you have a close call between Ware and another player, bench Ware.
If you are searching far and wide for a defense this week, consider Washington. They are fourth in the league in sacks and face turnover-prone Bears quarterback Matt Barkley. Sacks and turnovers are the most important elements when choosing a defense, and Washington meets both requirements this week. Plus, the team needs to play well to stay in the postseason race after a terrible Week 15 home loss to Carolina.
The Seahawks offense has been inconsistent this season, and you might see the lesser version this week. The Cardinals have been tough against the run at times, as they allow 99.1 rushing yards per game. Seattle’s Thomas Rawls might have to work hard for his yardage and is not an ideal start as your second running back. An inconsistent running game could force Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson into some adverse passing situations and struggles. You are better off starting the Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston or the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott. Don’t expect much upside from the Seahawks’ Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Jimmy Graham in what could be a low-scoring game.