This is it. Championship week. All the moves you made, from draft day to now, have you in position to win your fantasy football league. No pressure, right? Don’t worry, we got you covered.
Some of last week’s recommendations looked controversial on paper. Bench Aaron Rodgers after he orchestrated a masterful comeback against the Chicago Bears in Week 1? Are you crazy? Nope, and it turned out to be the right move. Same with avoiding whoever lined up as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback against the Los Angeles Rams. Sometimes it pays to be bold.
You’ll see some more star players on this week’s “do not start” list but rest assured knowing that rostering someone else with a better matchup will be the key to securing your league’s championship trophy.
Elijah McGuire, RB, New York Jets
Elijah McGuire has taken advantage of a bigger workload since starting running back Isaiah Crowell has been ruled out with a toe injury. The former sixth-round pick in 2017 has 35 carries for 102 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns over the last two games, plus six receptions for 52 more yards.
On Sunday he will face a Green Bay Packers defense that is without defensive end Mike Daniels (foot) and possibly nose tackle Kenny Clark, who didn’t suit up Sunday due to an elbow issue. Clark has the second-most stops on the team at or behind the line of scrimmage this season (35) and is the seventh-best run stopper at the position in 2018 per the game charters at Pro Football Focus.
Indianapolis Colts defense and special teams
The Colts shut out the Dallas Cowboys at home on Sunday and will face another NFC East foe at home, the New York Giants, in Week 16. These two offenses have similar success rates and efficiencies in the red zone, so it isn’t out of the question Indianapolis will have similar success. Maybe another shutout is too much to ask, but this Colts pass rush is getting better toward the end of the season, averaging almost five sacks (4.7) over their last three games.
Pass pressure alone will be enough to disrupt what Eli Manning and the Giants want to do offensively: Manning’s passer rating drops from 101.3 to 69.0 when facing pressure this season. Manning’s passer rating under pressure in 2017 (64.4) and 2016 (63.3) was about the same, too, indicating the Colts could make it easier on themselves this Sunday by making Manning uncomfortable on game day.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Ridley, a rookie, has caught 56 of 82 targets for 699 yards and eight touchdowns lining up opposite star wideout Julio Jones. As you would expect, Jones gets the lion’s share of attention from defensive backs leaving Ridely less likely to be double-teamed on his routes. That could be worrisome for Carolina, who is the worst team in pass coverage against an opponent’s No. 2 wideout, per Football Outsiders, allowing almost 70 yards per game to those players.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Brady’s career, and his fantasy output, is in decline. His touchdown rate is the lowest its been since 2013 and his interception rate is at a six-year high, causing a perfect storm of risk against this week’s opponent, the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills' pass defense has limited opposing quarterbacks to an 86.6 passer rating against this season (league average is 93.1) while saving almost nine points per 100 pass attempts against after accounting for the down, distance and field position of each throw, per data provided by TruMedia. Only the Bears (15 points saved per 100 pass attempts against) and Vikings (10 points saved per 100) have been better at defending the pass in 2018.
George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
Kittle has caught 72 of 110 targets this year for 1,154 yards and four touchdowns in addition to leading all tight ends in yards per route run (2.7). But this week’s opponent, the Chicago Bears, is one of the best at limiting the damage done by tight ends in 2018. According to Football Outsiders, Chicago’s 51.8 yards per game to the position is the third-lowest mark of the season after accounting for strength of schedule.
No tight end has managed 50 yards or more against the Bears this season and just five have produced a touchdown, none occurring later than Week 8.
Jaylen Samuels, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh was lucky to see James Conner fill in admirably for Le’Veon Bell and then again when Samuels got the call in relief of Conner, who sat out his second-consecutive game on Sunday with a high-ankle sprain. Samuels carried the ball 19 times for 142 yards against the Patriots last week but will face a much stiffer challenge against the Saints in Week 16.
For example, the Patriots defense stops runners at or behind the line of scrimmage 15 percent of the time this year, lower than the league average (20 percent) and the Saints defensive front (25 percent, sixth-best in 2018). New Orleans also boasts two elite run-stoppers in defensive lineman Cameron Jordan and linebacker Demario Davis, two players who have combined for 79 stops at or behind the line of scrimmage in 2018.
Even if Conner is able to go this week, it is still a tough matchup for any running back in a Steelers uniform.
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