Many leagues have their final regular season match ups this week, meaning playoff spots will be clinched as well as lost. If you play your cards correctly, you should be of the former type and actually make the playoffs. The decisions you make this week will not only impact whether or not you make the playoffs, but how far you will make it, and seeding. You do not want to play the #1 nor #2 seeds to start off the playoffs, so beat your opponent into the dirt as much as possible this week; run up the score as much as possible. After all, there is no mercy rule in fantasy sports, nor crying. This is where your defensive plays are paramount. Throw all your stats and must starts out the window because I am going to give you some suggestions on who to start and avoid this pivotal week. This is the week I want YOU to DOMINATE.
No fantasy owner is perfect, but we all know how to scour the line and make smart, tactical decisions that outwit our opponents, now do it one more time this regular fantasy football season…that is IF you can.
Malcom Brown- Brown is in an interesting situation, as he plays on one of the most prolific sacking defenses, yet faces off versus an offensive line that had allowed few sacks up until the past month when Bradford (shoulder) and Sanchez have been hammered. From a fantasy perspective, Brown has been one of the most consistent DTs this season, and should create opportunities for turnovers this week versus the Eagles. Bradford is returning from a two week absence from his shoulder injury, and will be tested fast and hard by the ferocious defensive line of the Patriots. Start Brown with confidence as he is in for a huge day versus the Eagles. (Photo courtesy of draftseason.com)
Lamarr Houston- Waiver wire Alert! Go grab Houston now, as he is in the ultimate match-up play. Carlos Hyde (foot) is likely out, leaving the admirable, yet unspectacular, Draugn to fill in for him again. Blaine Gabbert has played well since taking over for Colin Kaepernick; however, the Bears just limited Aaron Rodgers to 202 yards and a score on Thanksgiving Day. With, at best, an average running game, the Bears will lock down on rushing Gabbert and forcing throws, opening their defensive playbook. Houston should be in the middle of this assault as he leads the Bears DEs in sacks and tackles for loss. He may have been hit or miss much of the season, but Houston is a MUST START this week.
Derek Wolfe- Do not let this be a case of grabbing the hot hand off the wire as Wolfe’s value is strictly tied to his ability to generate a sack. This is a bad matchup for him because Philip Rivers will be looking to throw deep early and often versus the Broncos, as the ground game is all but grounded and the Broncos are a tough unit to beat on the ground, allowing a mere 3.4 yards/attempt. With an aerial onslaught on hand, and Wolfe’s value being sack-driven, AVOID him at all costs this week.
Ryan Kerrigan- The Redskins have a nasty defensive line, but soft secondary, leading some to believe the Cowboys will throw all day. The problem is, Matt Cassel is back under center, and he is not half the QB Romo is, so temper expectations if you have any Dallas WR. While Kerrigan may not be completely healthy as he is still recovering from a broken hand and offseason knee surgery, he is some more explosiveness lately and he should be able to disrupt the run game and get Cassel on the turf twice. (Photo courtesy of blog.redskins.com)
Rolando McClain- Rolando will be a huge disappointment this week because Kirk Cousins is looking more comfortable in the pocket, and has been producing at a higher clip than early in the season. While the Cowboys have been very stingy versus opposing QBs this season, the Redskins will be forced to throw a ton due to confusion and inconsistency at running back. This could shape up to be a shootout as the Redskins have more at stake in this game than the Cowboys. From a fantasy perspective, McClain has been underwhelming versus pass-heavy teams, and plays well versus more run-heavy teams. With Cousins continuing to emerge late in the season for the Redskins, look for him to be given the green light to throw, limiting McClain’s upside this week.
Malcolm Smith- This is a toss up for fantasy owners as Smith can go off at a moment’s notice, but also lay an average, or below-average game any week. With this being the final week of many fantasy regular seasons, if you have a more consistent or high upside play, go with that play. If you have to value Smith this week, he’d be a flex play because Alex Smith is a game manager and Charcandrick West is more than an admirable fill-in for the injured Jamaal Charles. With a soft Raiders defensive line on tap, allowing 4.2 yards/attempt, the Chiefs will use West as much as possible. This could allow for tackle opportunities for Malcolm Smith, but he is not a huge sack threat nor a threat to get to runners behind the line. (Photo courtesy of raiders.com)
Deone Bucannon- Bucannon has a knack for being around the ball this season, but that’s also due to the fact that he is playing alongside ballhawks. Bucannon continues to provide owners with a healthy dose of tackles, registering an occasional sack, and being a nightmare behind the line, registering ten tackles for loss. This could be a tough matchup for him as Gurley is a phenomenal runner. And despite the Rams questions at QB this week, Gurley will get his share of touches. The Rams offense is incredibly hit/miss, and does not boast the strongest pass game. When they do pass, it is often on the homerun play, making it hard to pinpoint when it will occur. If you are an owner reliant upon Bucannon this week, you will get your tackles and possibly a tackle for loss, but this is another dicey play given the presence of a strong runner.
Calvin Pryor- If you have not already, get Pryor in your lineups as he is peaking at the right time after missing three games due to an ankle injury. The tilt on tap with the Giants will provide Pryor plenty opportunities to hopefully pick up a pickoff for fantasy owners as Eli is a gunslinger and the Giants have no run game, whatsoever. In addition to having good cover skills, Pryor is very physical and will lower the boom on opposing players, boosting his value with tackles. The only problem with this matchup is that man named Odell Beckham Jr., who always make the sickest catches look like child’s play. (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)
Brent Grimes- Fantasy owners should be drooling at this matchup as Matt Schaub is the equivalent of what McCown was for the Buccaneers last season. With Flacco on the IR, Schaub has limited weapons at his disposal, limited reps with the offense, and no running game. Look for the Phins defense to open a can of whoop-ass on the Ravens this week, as Schaaub will be throwing passes up like darts, and Grimes will be heavily utilized in covering Kamar Aiken, or whoever is actually healthy on the Ravens offense. MUST START.
Marcus Peters- As much as fantasy owners will be tempted to continue starting Peters, he is a MUST BENCH this week because Carr is a smart, calculating QB who can carve up defenses. Marcus Peters has had a nice rookie season for owners and looks to be a shutdown corner in the future, but this matchup is going to be a disaster for him; asking him to cover the über talented young receiver Amari Cooper will prove too far advanced for him at this stage in his career. Add into the mix a steady run game, and the Raiders, yes the raiders, are on the rise in the AFC West. Peters is at least a decent play most weeks, but avoid him at all costs if you value your playoffs chances. (Photo courtesy of kcchiefs.com)
Redskins (vs DAL)- Washington is a smart spot play in the right situations, and this is the right situation. With Cassel at quarterback, the Cowboys struggle to move the ball. Add in the season woes of Dez Bryant (injury also has affected play), and the Redskins should be able to sink their teeth into the offensive line of the Cowboys in this heated game. The one area where the Redskins might get gashed is through the air, but that is minimized by a limited mobility and armed QB and inconsistent play at runningback. The Redskins’ linebackers and defensive line can create problems for most any offensive line and have been known to stall even the most potent run games (a la Falcons), so invest with confidence in this unit this week.
Bills (vs HOU)- The Bills defense/special teams is attractive for this matchup as they are top ten in punt return yards and boast a nasty cornerback duo, headed by rookie Ronald Darby. While this secondary unit may not be as nasty as the Broncos or Cardinals, they create turnovers. With the weak run game of the Texans, this is a fantastic play in Week 13 for those owners on the cusp of nabbing a playoff spot.
Thanks everyone for tuning in this fantasy season, and good luck in the playoffs. If you have any questions on starts, or good/bad plays, leave it here for me and I’ll give my best answer. You know what they say, “Tis the best part of the fantasy season, where the winners are separated from the losers. Or in this case, the worthy from the unworthy.”
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@brandonziman You are more than welcome Brandon. You were a fantastic writer and a joy to work with. As we move through a very big transition for us hopefully we can continue to work with one anither.