Fantasy Football Intelligence: Championship Week or Who the H*** is Randy Van Wormer?

If you’ve made it this far and you’re playing for a championship, congratulations on your season. While titles are always the goal, there is something to be said for having something to play for through week 16, and if you are doing it on a year to year basis, you are doing something right.

Week 15 was a treacherous week. Virtually everyone was in a win or go home game and it turned out to be one of those weeks where some season long studs went AWOL and in-season waiver wire adds such as Justin Herbert, Gio Bernard and Robert Tonyan were game-changers.

Let’s start with the good. If you rode some combination of Josh Allen, Dalvin Cook, Kyler Murray, Calvin Ridley, Nuk Hopkins or Derrick Henry, you’re probably in good shape unless you also had too many of the next group.

If you started multiple players from among Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Kenyan Drake, Chris Carson, Cam Akers, D.K. Metcalf, Davante Adams, or Cooper Kupp, all of which were started in at least 76% of Yahoo leagues, you probably can relate to this Tim McGraw cover of the eminently forgettable Randy Van Wormer.

This was a week for those that can pivot. Players who did not enter the year as fantasy starters shined for owners with the courage and forethought to play them. First and foremost, Ryan Tannehill and his five total TDs – he may not be a name brand and he is associated with a running offense, but he’s surrounded by weapons, well coached and a QB1 in fantasy football. He should be starting in championship games this week when he duels with Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau on Sunday night. (Caveat: keep an eye on the weather.) Adds like Jeff Wilson Jr., Jalen Hurts and Corey Davis were playoff contributors.

Zeke Elliott was a late scratch, and for his owners that did not have the foresight to roster Tony Pollard, that had to smart. Full disclosure, I scooped Pollard as soon as Zeke was deactivated and started him against Zeke’s owner; the difference between Pollard and Nyheim Hines, his next best option, accounted for my winning margin in the game. Tough way to lose, but learn his lesson and handcuff your RB1s at this time of year if you can, especially if they carry an injury designation. Elliott has not been shut down, but if he sits again, Pollard will have a sizeable workload against Philadelphia, who are middle of the pack against the run.

Speaking of which, injury has created opportunity on the waiver wire as Le’Veon Bell (56% owned) and Darrell Henderson (64%) will be starting this week and probably next. Also keep an eye on Miami, where if Salvon Ahmed (35%) is the starter and Myles Gaskin remains on the covid list, he has a tasty matchup on Saturday night at the Raiders. If both play the upside is limited for either one.

If you are looking for a backup plan for Julio Jones or any other WR, Sammy Watkins (51% owned) has a home matchup with Atlanta, Nelson Agholor (51%) has a home matchup with Miami and Tim Patrick (31%) is at the Chargers. Keke Coutee (41%) has a home matchup with Cincinnati and if you are really a masochist, Brett Perriman (17%) has a home game against Cleveland if you feel like championship week is the time to stream a Jet (I don’t). The others are reasonable WR3 options this week.

Last but not least, looking at defenses, among the 50% or less owned, Washington (34%) is by far the best unit available (I’ve been recommending them for weeks) and they have a decent matchup with Carolina. Tampa Bay is only 51% owned so they get a mention. The Bucs are worth a look for a matchup in Detroit. They are a blitzing team and if they can get a lead and get Stafford out of the game, they could explode.

Side note on the Steelers – while they made a game of it last night, the first half had to give pause to anyone looking to start Steelers against the Colts this week. Big Ben does not look like himself, the o-line is beat up and the running game is suspect. Diontae Johnson received half the targets and produced a serviceable line, but save for one big play, Chase Claypool was a non-factor. Eric Ebron left hurt without a catch and JuJu Smith Schuster fumbled and accounted for negative points. The Colts much more formidable defense is a scary challenge. I’m not recommending any Steelers for the Colts game, but you may not have a better option than Johnson at WR2 or 3, so hope for high volume and low drop totals. Claypool always has boom potential, but he hasn’t posted 60 yards or a TD in his last four games.

Arizona (34%) at home vs. SF is a good play as both Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard are likely to produce turnovers.

Houston (17%) at home may catch the Bengals riding high and on short rest after their upset of Pittsburgh. Philly (27%), like Houston, is a dart throw. Both are behind Washington, Tampa and Arizona, in that order.

Once again, good luck to all still competing!

 

Lee Benjamin

Lee Benjamin has been a football fan since Jim Plunkett was under center for the Patriots and his first ever fantasy football pick was a young Jerry Rice. He’s won more championships during Tom Brady’s career than Tom Brady, though unfortunately, they pay a lot less. His blog, Fantasy Football Intelligence, is published regularly on the WTPL, WTSN and Frank-FM sites. Lee spent over 25 years in New England media. He now resides in South Florida and enjoys freelance writing about sports and politics.