By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
It’s Championship Week. Do you really need a long story about anything? Hell no!
What I am going to say is thank you. The second year of Club Fantasy has been great and we all owe a debt of gratitude to those of you reading this column every week, checking out the rankings, posting comments on our social media sites, all of you. We love you and certainly wouldn’t be here without you. I look forward to an even better 2018, starting with our positional recaps, free agent analysis, and our NFL Draft coverage featuring our very own Chris Tyler. And then rankings. More rankings in the summer and next thing you know, your 2018 Fantasy Football Drafts!
Until then, let’s get you those trophies!
That brings us to this week’s Confidence Plays. Here’s your refresher because I know you’ll get this confused. This column serves as a Start/Sit of sorts. I break things down into three categories. Start means exactly that. These are your studs, the guys we know are going to be studs this year and this is a week they return some of that draft value. Get them into your lineup! Play analyzes the fringe starters, your FLEX plays if you will. These guys could be on your bench one week and thrust into your starting lineup the next based on the matchup. When you see them mentioned here, put them in your lineup in some way, shape, or form. Do not misconstrue what Bench means. Seriously. I’m not saying to not start the players that end up in this section. Maybe they’re your studs that you know you’re going to start, but with bad match-ups so temper expectations. If I tell you to bench them, then you can blame me if they go off. These choices are based on my rankings, so decide which work for you and good luck this week!
QB Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) – Roethlisberger is the hottest QB in fantasy over the last six weeks. He’s thrown 16 TDs to 5 INTs. Even on the road, I trust him this week as this week’s opponent — the Texans — just gave up 30.8 points to Blake Bortles. He’s my number one QB this week.
QB Cam Newton (CAR) – Cam is QB6 since Week 12 and is coming off his second 4 TD game of the season. The Bucs held Cam to under 15 points in their previous matchup this year, but just lost CB Vernon Hargreaves to injury. The Bucs also have no pass rush so there’s also that.
RB Alvin Kamara (NO) – Don’t you think Kamara wants some revenge after getting concussed the last time the Saints met the Falcons? Yeah, I thought so too.
RB Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) – This will be Elliott’s first game since Week 9. Sure, the Seahawks have a solid run defense, but Zeke may have the freshest legs in the league right now and the Cowboys are fighting for a playoff spot. Do you not see where this is going?
WR Adam Thielen (MIN) – A quiet Week 15 does nothing to sway my confidence in Mr. Thielen. He’s my number 1 WR this week against a Packers defense that has allowed 26 passing TDs this season. He went 9 for 96 against them earlier this year. I say he hits pay dirt this week.
WR Jarvis Landry (MIA) – Man, did I swing and miss on him last week. Allow me to rectify that. Deploy with confidence against a Chiefs team that can be beat. Landry works out of the slot so he won’t see much of Revis or Peters. He’s a top 10 play for me this week.
TE Rob Gronkowski (NE) – Gronk is loose! (Some things are just obvious.)
QB Nick Foles (PHI) – I think Foles made everyone realize that the Eagles aren’t quite dead without Carson Wentz. Foles tossed 4 TDs last week and now gets the Raiders on Christmas. Allow me to share Foles’ stats the last time he went against the Raiders — 22 for 28, 406 passing yards, 7 TDs and a 158.3 rating. No, this Raiders team isn’t that bad, but 3 TDs on Monday night aren’t out of the question.
QB Blake Bortles (JAX) – Big Ben has been the hottest QB in the league and his younger clone Blake Bortles is a close second. Over the last four weeks, Bortles has averaged 26.8 fantasy points per contest. The 49ers allow 21.56 fantasy points to QBs over the same time span. I would say it’s fair to put Bortles’ numbers on Sunday somewhere between those.
RB Dion Lewis (NE) – With Rex Burkhead going down with an injury, the Patriots backfield belongs to Lewis now. From Weeks 10 through 14 — Week 15 is when Burkhead got hurt — Burkhead was RB8 in fantasy. Lewis was RB10. With Lewis on his own, against the Bills last ranked rush defense, Lewis should have a field day.
RB Jerick McKinnon (MIN) – Latavius Murray seems to be the one who’s carrying the larger load, but McKinnon is no slouch. He’s been a top 20 back the last five weeks. He had 2 TDs in the last matchup with the Packers so look for the Vikings to utilize him early on often on Saturday night.
RB Joe Mixon (CIN) – The Lions have allowed 26.25 fantasy points to opposing RBs over the last four weeks and Mixon should return after sitting out the last two weeks due to a concussion. Before his concussion, he had two straight games with over 20 carries and then left early against the Steelers. He should be in for another heavy workload on Sunday with the Bengals looking to next year.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT) – With Antonio Brown out for the rest of the regular season, it’s JuJu’s time to shine! He’s had an instant connection with Big Ben and the offense just hums better when he’s a part of it, as witnessed by last week’s huge catch and run in the final minute of last Sunday’s game. I have him as WR10 this week and that may be too low.
WR Devin Funchess (CAR) – If Funchess’ shoulder is okay, I expect him to rebound in a big way. The Panthers offense seems to be clicking at the right time with the return of stud TE Greg Olsen. that should also open up the outside for Funchess. He’s a solid WR2 this week.
WR Robert Woods (LAR) – Woods returned from injury this past week and his presence was felt immediately to the tune of 6 catches for 45 yards and a TD. The Rams are humming and Woods is their number one WR. The Titans just don’t stand a chance against this offensive juggernaut on Sunday.
TE Greg Olsen (CAR) – He’s baaaack! The Bucs gave up 10 catches to Eric Ebron two weeks ago. Olsen should have no problem posting a double digit scoring outing this week.
TE Benjamin Watson (BAL) – Against a paltry Browns defense, Watson went for 74 yards and a TD. The Ravens take on another paltry defense this week in the Colts so I fully expect 3-5 catches for about 50-70 yards and another TD as the Ravens have very few offensive weapons as is.
QB Tom Brady (NE) – Look, you’re still starting Brady, let me get that out of the way. I just don’t love the matchup. The Bills held Brady to 8.3 fantasy points in Week 13, and since that week, Brady hasn’t score more than 20 fantasy points. He has only 2 TDs to go along with 4 INTs. Something isn’t right here. He’s become more of a game manager than the superstar we know him to be. He got you this far so it’s hard to turn away from him, but just beware.
QB Kirk Cousins (WSH) – Cousins is another one you’re likely starting or, if you’re daring enough, plugging in someone like Foles or Keenum as both have great match ups this week. Cousins is a great QB and I’ve ridden him to two title games this year. But against the Broncos pass defense that allows the second fewest passing yards in the NFL and since Week 12 allows the 3rd fewest fantasy points to QBs, I’m bailing on Cousins in one league. It doesn’t help that Cousins’ weapons aren’t at full strength either.
RB Lamar Miller (HOU) – Over his last four weeks, Miller is averaging less than 10 points a game. Having a third string QB in front of him certainly is not helping. And the Steelers, this week’s opponent, have been abysmal against the run the last four weeks, to the tune of the 3rd most fantasy points allowed to RBs. That last stat should tell you everything you need to know about my faith in Miller to close out the season.
RB Jamaal Williams (GB) – I knew with Rodgers back, Williams would be a non-factor. If you don’t believe me, read last week’s column. Now that Rodgers is back on IR with the Packers out of playoff contention, a return to stardom for Williams makes sense. And then you see he plays the Vikings and their 2nd ranked run defense and you’re right back to last week’s feeling. I’m fading this week.
WR Tyreek Hill (KC) – Hill is fantasy’s number 4 WR so you’re starting him. I’m just not near as confident in him this week. The great thing about Hill is his ability to get behind a defense, as one big play gives him a solid fantasy day. But over the last four weeks, the Dolphins have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing WRs. 2nd year pro Xavien Howard has been nothing short of fantastic in coverage, so I would think the Dolphins would keep him on Hill. But if Hill gets Cordrea Tankersley for a few snaps, all bets are off.
WR Marquise Goodwin (SF) – Goodwin has been a revelation since Pierre Garçon went down with an injury. Since Week 9, Goodwin has averaged 16.1 fantasy points per game, good for 15th at WR. Since Jimmy Garoppolo took over as the 49ers starting QB in Week 13, Goodwin has been WR7. But you can pretty much throw out all those accolades against the Jaguars and their Pro Bowl CB tandem of A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. Sorry folks, not happening this week.
TE Austin Hooper (ATL) – A fringe starter most of the season, he’s been nothing short of God awful the last five weeks, scoring a total of 21.3 fantasy points. In fact, he’s been outscored by fellow Falcons TE Levine Toilolo. If that doesn’t warrant enough to bench him, you’re too stubborn for me to talk to.