It’s championship weekend for most fantasy football leagues, unless you play in one of those crazy leagues that goes to Week 17.
You’ve fought hard all season and are very battle-tested, but whether you’re fighting for the big money or just trying not to finish last, there are always questions that linger on who to start and who to sit, especially this week with so much on the table.
This week’s start and sit is going to be short and sweet, mainly because there is a lot of fantasy players who are done for the year, and because I still haven’t started my Christmas shopping, so I guess I better get out there.
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (at BAL)
It’s championship weekend, so I’m not going to play guessing games and suggest you start Ryan Tannehill or Sam Bradford because they have great matchups. Big Ben and the entire Steelers offense just tore up the NFL’s best defense, the Denver Broncos, in the second half of their game last Sunday. This week the Steelers travel to Baltimore in what is usually a very tough game, especially this late in the season. These games are more likely to finish 13-10 then they are 34-31. However, with the way Big Ben and Antonio Brown are playing, this game might be out of hand by halftime. If that’s the case it’s because Big Ben has probably already thrown for 300 yards and three touchdowns. Don’t be foolish and guess against the Steelers’ game script this week, keep Big Ben in your starting lineup.
Drew Brees, NO (vs. JAC)
Brees was on fire on Monday night, throwing for 342 yards and three touchdowns, which was good for 26.74 fantasy points. In the past three weeks Brees has thrown eight TD passes and he will probably end the week as fantasy’s top-scoring quarterback because his matchup is so good. Brees once again plays at home (assuming his injury isn't too serious) and this week he welcomes with open arms the terrible pass defense of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are giving up the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks on the season and have just been destroyed in the past three weeks. What makes this an even better start for Brees is the fact that his own defense is so terrible that this game is likely to end up 45-43 or something like that.
Eli Manning, NYG (at MIN)
Manning has been on a tear the last two weeks, scoring 27.28 and 25.20 fantasy points, with the latter coming against the stout Carolina Panthers’ defense. Manning has been so productive because his number one target, Odell Beckham Jr., has been playing out of this world, until last weekend when he played like a crazed lunatic and got himself suspended for one game. Manning is just average at best without ODB and this week he gets to face a tough opponent in the Minnesota Vikings, who are also playing for their playoff lives (and allowing the 14th-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks). You didn’t draft Manning to be your QB1, so hopefully you still have a better option this week.
Aaron Rodgers, GB (at ARI)
This might sound crazy, but hear me out. If you are in your championship game this year, it’s not because Rodgers helped get you there. Rodgers hasn’t thrown for 300 yards since Week 10 and is barely averaging two touchdowns per game since then as well. He scored 11.06 fantasy points last week against the Oakland Raiders and this week he gets a way tougher challenger as the Packers travel to the desert to visit the Arizona Cardinals. It’s true that the Cardinals lost one of their best defensive players in Tyrann Mathieu thanks to a torn ACL, but they are still a very tough unit and should easily shut down the Packers’ receivers. On the year the Cardinals have given up the ninth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, and you can bet that Rodgers will once again score fewer than 20 fantasy points this week.
David Johnson, ARI (vs. GB)
If you are in your fantasy championship game, it’s very likely you’re there because of Johnson. Since taking over as the lead back in Arizona, he’s dominated both the passing and the receiving game. He’s been so good that he’s hurt the value of Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald. This week the Cardinals play host to the Green Bay Packers, who have been pretty good against running backs (13th-fewest fantasy points allowed), but Johnson just sees too much volume and hardly ever leaves the field. He should easily once again top 20 fantasy points and his ceiling is so high he could easily score 40-plus fantasy points once again.
Doug Martin, TB (vs. CHI)
Martin is averaging 91 rushing yards per game over his last four contests, but has failed to crack the 100-yard mark in each of those games and he didn't do much on the stat sheet last week, scoring fewer than 10 fantasy points for the first time in the last three weeks. And while he hasn't had an explosive stat line since Week 11, I'm sticking with him based on an upcoming matchup versus the Bears. Chicago has allowed the sixth-most points to RBs since Week 12.
Chris Ivory, NYJ (at NE)
Believe it or not, Ivory is the second-leading rusher in the AFC with 951 yards, but right now he’s the far inferior Jets running back as he has ceded touches to Bilal Powell in recent weeks and has just one touchdown in his last six games. Throw in the fact that he has a very tough matchup this week against the Patriots (who are giving up the 12th-fewest fantasy points to running backs on the year) and that the game script will probably dictate that the Jets will need to throw the ball more to stay in the game. That sort of game plan would result in Ivory get out-touched once again by Powell.
Matt Forte, CHI (at TB)
It’s looking more and more likely that the Bears are going to let Forte walk as a free agent in the offseason and they really want to see more of what they have in Jeremy Langford. Forte only rushed the ball eight times last week due to the game flow, they were playing from behind, which led to him being featured more in the passing game. This week the Bears play in Tampa Bay in what should be more of a grind-it-out game which means that Langford will once again see more touches than Forte (before last week’s game with Minnesota got away from Chicago, Langford got 11 rush attempts to Forte’s eight). If you start Forte you better be hoping that he scores a touchdown, otherwise he could match his 5.3-point game from Week 12 very easily.
Allen Robinson, JAC (at NO)
Robinson is probably the quietest and underrated elite wide receiver in the game today. A lot of people would be surprised to know that he already has 1,141 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns on the year. Heading into Week 16, a lot of people are probably down on Robinson though because his last two games he’s scored 6.4 and 11.7 fantasy points. The good news is that he’s caught a touchdown in each of his last four games and the Jaguars are going to be involved in a shootout in New Orleans. Robinson should rebound big time this week against a terrible Saints defense that has given up the most fantasy points to opposing offenses on the year. Look for Robinson to go for over 100 yards and score two touchdowns this week.
DeSean Jackson, WAS (at PHI, Sat.)
Jackson rebounded from a two-catch, 43-yard effort in Week 14, with a season-high 153-yard outburst last week against Buffalo. This also included a customary long touchdown from the talented wideout, and this week it’s all about one thing – revenge! Jackson has put up tremendous numbers in recent weeks, scoring 12 or more fantasy points in four of his last five games. Next up on the schedule is a date with his former team, the Eagles, whose defense has surrendered the third-most fantasy points to WRs.
Doug Baldwin, SEA (at STL)
This is the week that the bubble bursts for Baldwin, but it sure was a good ride while it lasted and hopefully you jumped on the train early enough so that you could ride him to your fantasy championship matchup. Baldwin has just been ridiculous as of late. He’s scored 10 touchdowns in his last four games. That’s insane. But if you look deeper at his stats, you’ll notice that he is starting to lose targets to Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse, as Russell Wilson is spreading the ball around more. This week Baldwin has a very tough matchup as the Seahawks travel to St. Louis where the Rams always play them tough. The Rams have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers on the season and this has the makings of a 13-10 result. I know it would be hard to bench Baldwin, but if you do, you’ll probably be thanking yourself later.
Randall Cobb, GB (at ARI)
Cobb caught 5-of-7 targets for 40 yards in the Packers' Week 15 win over the Raiders, but he couldn't get loose for any substantial gains, and that's been the case for much of the season without Jordy Nelson stretching the field on the other side. Cobb’s biggest contribution against the Raiders was probably a long DPI penalty drawn against him. Cobb has been a major disappointment this year and a complete waste of a second- or third-round pick in your fantasy draft. This week the Packers travel to Arizona to play a stout Cardinals defense that will look to cause havoc on Aaron Rodgers all game. Since Rodgers has no one to throw the ball too, you can expect Cobb to once again score fewer than 10 fantasy points.
Jordan Reed, WAS (at PHI, Sat.)
Reed is without a doubt the hottest fantasy tight end in the last two weeks. In his last two games he’s caught 16-of-16 targets for 204 yards and three touchdowns. That’s incredible. What’s also incredible is the amount of targets he’s sees from Kirk Cousins, who will throw him the ball anytime, anywhere. This only makes starting Reed that much easier against the Eagles, despite the fact that this is the team that gives up the fewest fantasy points to tight ends on the season. Reed is just too good and at this point, he’s basically matchup proof.
Ben Watson, NO (vs. JAC)
Even though he was replacing Jimmy Graham in New Orleans, Watson was never expected to do much of anything this season, other than block. Instead he has quietly put together a fantastic season for himself as not only the Saints’ No. 1 tight end, but also arguably their most consistent target. Watson has Drew Brees’ trust and that’s proven by the fact that Watson has seen 23 total targets over his last two games, helping him average close to 15 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. This week he gets a very favorable matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose defense has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Watson is just the type of player that can win you your fantasy championship this week.
Gary Barnidge, CLE (at KC)
On the season, not only has Barnidge been one of the most productive tight ends in fantasy football, he’s also been one of the biggest surprises. But unfortunately, his production seems to be drying up as of late with Johnny Manziel under center for the Cleveland Browns. It’s true that Barnidge has caught a touchdown pass in each of his past two games, but teams have been focusing on him and taking him out of games and that will continue this week as the Browns have a terrible matchup on the road in Kansas City. The Chiefs have one of the best overall defenses in football and have given up the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. You will be far better off streaming your tight end this week and starting someone like the Bears’ Zach Miller instead.
Heath Miller, PIT (at BAL)
Miller can be an asset in PPR formats when the matchup is right, but facing the Ravens isn't what I would call a favorable matchup. Their defense has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points and just two touchdowns to tight ends all season, while Miller has scored 10-plus fantasy points just once in 2015. Keep him on the bench.
Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. CLE)
Over the last four weeks, the Chiefs DST has scored a combined 57 fantasy points. There's no reason to think this DST won't continue to shine against the Browns, who have been more than generous to the opposition. Look for Kansas City to be dominant against Johnny Manziel. Consider this unit a must-start.
St. Louis Rams (at SEA)
The Rams DST has been up and down all season long, and this is looking like a down week against Russell Wilson and the red-hot Seahawks. Over the last four weeks, opposing DSTs have combined to average 0.75 fantasy points per game. (No that is not a misprint.) Despite the talent, St. Louis is a clear sit for Week 16.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.