By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
That’s what you’re hopefully fighting for this week. If not, what the hell happened? Injuries? Inconsistency? Terrible draft? Bad roster moves?
Even the best prognosticators in the business have their down seasons. Sometimes they excel in one of their leagues and finish in the bottom 3 in another. Every league is different based on the people that occupy it. Crazy, I know. But not everyone thinks the same, which our last election certainly magnified.
But I digress. You’re in the championship or you’re fighting for pride and trying not to finish in last place because you know your leaguemates won’t let you live it down. We have our own version of this in the Skrip Club. Poor Sean — whom you met on our podcast once upon a time — is in his third consecutive Toilet Bowl. Of course we’re all rooting for him. I mean, three straight seasons finishing last? I don’t think I’ve ever seen such ineptitude. Keep it up Sean!
Below are my Confidence Plays for Week 16. To refresh what this column is, these are my confidence plays in a Start/Play/Bench format. “Start” represents your studs and number twos that will overachieve. Get them in your lineup, stat! “Play” represents some bench or FLEX plays that should outperform their draft position based on matchup. “Bench” presents your studs that you should temper expectations for or FLEX plays you should swap out with a bench player. And really, it’s based off my rankings. Check them out and use them as a guide!
QB Matt Ryan & WR Julio Jones (ATL) – Okay, this is the week Jones plays. I can feel it. The Falcons won two straight easy games against the sad sack NFC West, but this is a division game. If you have Julio Jones on your team, I don’t know if you made it to your championship game, but if you did, you’re starting him with the utmost confidence. Same with Matt Ryan, who threw for a career high 503 yards against these same Panthers in Week 4.
QB Andrew Luck & WR T.Y. Hilton (IND) – I mean, how can you not start these two? Hilton has had a magical season this year, and Luck just torched the vaunted Vikings defense last week. Still fighting for a playoff spot and going against a Raiders team with a beat up Derek Carr, Luck will look Hilton’s way early and often to force the Raiders QB to throw to catch up.
RB Jordan Howard (CHI) – Don’t look now, but the Bears have a new stud at running back in Howard. The rookie from Indiana is running with purpose and making people forget about that Forte guy. This week, he gets a Redskins rush defense that just gave up 132 yards to Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart. Howard is the Bears offense, so I’m expecting a huge day, which makes sense if I have him ranked second among all RBs this week.
WR Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG) – If I’m being honest, I’m hoping this pick backfires. Who knows, I could be putting him here in an effort to work the reverse jinx that worked so well last week (see Brees, Drew). But on the real, the Giants only semblance of offense is OBJ. The Eagles secondary held him to 46 yards receiving in their first meeting, but also gave up 50% of his catches for TDs. The Eagles defense has regressed since then so I can easily see 2 more TDs at their expense, with at least double, maybe triple, the yardage. If that happens, yours truly likely loses the Skrip Club championship. Crap.
TE Greg Olsen (CAR) – We finally saw the real Greg Olsen stand up! Fantasy’s #1 TE has had a terrible last 5 weeks. He hasn’t caught a TD since Week 9, and from Weeks 10 through 13, he put up single digit fantasy points. But the past two weeks he’s scored double digit fantasy points. He went for 21.6 in Week 4 against the Falcons, and with the Panthers playoff hopes toast, they would love nothing more than to build on the momentum of their beat down of Washington and spoil the Falcons playoff hopes. You know how they do that? By getting the ball to Olsen and exploit the Falcons defense that gives up the 7th most fantasy points to TEs.
The Chargers entire offense (SD) – Insert skill position players playing Cleveland. It’s that simple folks. Truth be told, if Cleveland is going to win one of their next two games to make sure they don’t go 0-16, this is the game they’ll win. Even if the Chargers lose, they’ll be throwing a lot with Melvin Gordon iffy. If Gordon plays, he belongs in that top section (I’m seriously hoping he plays). Regardless, the Browns allow the most fantasy points to opposing QBs and TEs, the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing RBs, and an average of 35.3 fantasy points/game to opposing WRs. Rivers, Gordon/Farrow, Inman/Williams/Benjamin, and Henry/Gates should all have worthy fantasy games.
RB Jay Ajayi (MIA) – Don’t worry Ajayi, we haven’t forgotten about you. You burst into our hearts in week 6, which started your back-to-back games of 200+ rushing yards. Since then, you’ve slowly faded, by no fault of your own I may add. Your offensive line has been beaten up, ravaged by injury, which has made those holes smaller and smaller. But you kept on fighting. You’re averaging 4.8 yards per carry and have already topped 1,000 yards on the season. Then you lost your starting QB. But Matt Moore, the backup, came in and threw for 4 TDs against the hapless Jets, so there’s faith that he can keep defenses honest and create running lanes for you. And lest we forget, you play the Bills this week. We know you’re excited about that. When you last saw them in week 7, you rushed for 214 yards and a touchdown against them. Even if you give us half of that this week, we’ll be delighted. I have faith in you Ajayi. We all have faith!
RB Todd Gurley (LA) – Insert running back facing the 49ers this week. Seriously. He only rushed for 47 yards in their first meeting, but the 49ers run defense has gotten worse ever since. Maybe I’m going out on a limb, but this week, Gurley will rush for more than 100 yards for the first time this season. That’s how confident I am in him in Week 16.
RB Mark Ingram (NO) – Ballsy, I know. He struggled two weeks ago against this same Bucs rush defense to the tune of 14 yards. 14 yards! But then last week happened. The Saints exploded for 48 points, Brees and Cooks went off, Tim Hightower had 2 rushing TDs, and Ingram threw a temper tantrum on the sideline. Meanwhile, in Dallas, the Bucs gave up 159 rushing yards to Ezekiel Elliott. No, I’m not saying Ingram is Elliott, but all those factors, for me, point to a RB who will run angry and with a purpose. And the team will give him the ball. Big game this week from Ingram.
WR Michael Crabtree (OAK) – This is a surprising pick when you get further down in the column, but as I said last week, Derek Carr is hurting. That finger isn’t right. His passes will be short, and Crabtree is the WR that works best underneath, not Amari Cooper. Crabtree has been the more targeted WR in the last two weeks on the Raiders, and I think that trend will continue this week.
WRs Emmanuel Sanders & Demaryius Thomas (DEN) – The last time the Broncos played the Chiefs, these two combined for 12 catches, 222 yards and a TD. The Chiefs pass defense allows the sixth most fantasy points to WRs, so I’m fully expecting a repeat performance from these two this week.
WR DeSean Jackson (WSH) – Remember when we were all over Jamison Crowder as the Redskins WR to own? It seems like DJax is creeping back into the conversation. Maybe he and Kirk Cousins are colluding to enhance each other’s upcoming free agency. Whatever it is, DJax is looking like a more polished WR of late. Did you see some of the catches he made on Monday night? Outstanding. This week, against the Bears and their pass defense that allows the fifth most fantasy points to opposing WRs, I think he strikes again.
WR Ted Ginn Jr. (CAR) – If you’re desperate, and if you have A.J. Green and still managed to make the finals, Ginn Jr. serves as a solid fill in. He’s been the best receiver for the Panthers over the last month, with 14.9 points or more scored in 4 of his last 5 weeks. Against the Falcons pass defense that allows the 11th most fantasy points to opposing WRs, I like Ginn’s chances of another double digit scoring performance.
TE Zach Ertz (PHI) – Carson Wentz has looked Ertz’s way often, with 68 targets over his last 7 games. Since Week 9, Ertz has one double digit scoring fantasy performance. One! And as good as the Giants defense has been this season, their biggest weakness is covering tight ends. They allow the 10th most fantasy points to opposing TEs this season. Wentz to Ertz will be a popular connection Thursday night.
TE Jason Witten (DAL) – Witten returned to fantasy relevance last week with his first 10-catch game this season. If only he’d gotten more than 51 yards receiving for his efforts. But that’s why we play in PPR leagues people. He gets the Lions this week, who allow the sixth most fantasy points to opposing TEs. I’m sure Jason Garrett and Dak Prescott are also aware of those stats.
The Chargers D/ST and the Giants D/ST are two units I love this week. The Chargers get the floundering Browns and the Giants get an Eagles offense that has had a lot of trouble scoring points this season. Plus, Wentz has had his share of turnovers trying to make plays where there are none to be made.
QB Derek Carr & WR Amari Cooper (OAK) – See Crabtree, Michael above. It’s a Carr health thing people. Love them both normally, and under healthy circumstances, the Colts offer up a good matchup. But health is not there for Carr. I wouldn’t want to roll the dice this of all weeks.
QB Matthew Stafford (DET) – What was said about Carr applies to Stafford. Hand injuries for QBs are arguably the worst possible for them. The Cowboys will not make it easy for Stafford and his Lions.
RB Thomas Rawls & TE Jimmy Graham (SEA) – Yes, the Cardinals got torched by the Saints, and maybe they’ve just run out of gas. But Rawls has not looked good behind that leaky Seahawks offensive line, and Graham has been rather quiet the last two weeks, combining for only 2 catches. Yikes.
WR Tyreek Hill (KC) – Hiding behind his 14.8 point performance last week was that it occurred on one play. One play! Denver will limit his effectiveness on offense so you’re playing with fire hoping he gets a TD on special teams. I will pass this week.