START: Aaron Rodgers ($8600) – Rodgers is dealing with a calf injury which he played through last week. He practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday, but is not expected to miss this game. The Packers are playing for a division title and a first round bye in Week 17, so I’m expecting the Packers to come out red hot. His mobility will be affected by the injury, but not his arm. Rodgers has yet to throw an interception in Lambeau Field this season. He’s thrown for 2,108 yards and 23 touchdowns in seven home games. He’s thrown three or more touchdown in six of the seven home games, and has thrown more than 300 yards in five of the seven home games. He’s playing just about perfect football in Green Bay. The Last time these two teams met, the Lions did a great job at containing Rodgers. However, that was in Detroit. The Lions have played well against the pass this season, but in the last six weeks they’ve yielded 11 passing touchdowns, and 300+ passing yards in three games. Rodgers is cheaper than he was last week, and is playing where he plays best. This is a must win for the Packers, so I’d definitely want Rodgers in my lineup with in this situation.
I’d start him over: All quarterbacks
SIT: Tom Brady ($7800) – There are already some reports that the Patriots will not play their starters the entire game this week. I’d say there’s a good chance that happens because they already clinched the number one seed in the AFC. Then again, Bill Belichick is notorious for leaving his foot on the gas, so it’s unknown. Nevertheless, it’s a huge risk playing Brady, or any Patriot this week. Even if Brady plays, this is not a good matchup for him. The Bills allow the second fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (11.7). The Bills allow the third fewest passing yards per game (210), and have only allowed 16 passing touchdowns, yet have intercepted the ball 19 times. In fact, the Bills have only surrendered four passing touchdowns in their last eight games. They actually held Rodgers to zero touchdowns, being the only team to do so this season. Brady doesn’t have much to play for this week, there’s a good chance he doesn’t play a full game, and the matchup isn’t one that favors Brady. With that said, there are other quarterbacks in his price range that still have a lot to play for and have much better matchups.
I’d rather start: Tony Romo $8000, Matt Ryan $7700, and Cam Newton $7500
START: Ryan Tannenhill ($7200) – Tannenhill is coming off of the biggest game of his season. He threw for 396 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception last week against the Vikings. I’m expecting him to carry over that momentum and end the year on a high note. He’s actually 216 yards away from being the first quarterback since Dan Marino to have a 4,000 passing yards season. The Dolphins are out of the playoff hunt, but are a team that will be playing for pride, and possibly for their head coach to keep his job. Not to mention, it’s against a division rival, so there’s even more incentive to play hard. They host the Jets which are pretty bad at defending the pass. They Jets allow the fifth most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (17.6). They yield 236 passing yards per game, and have surrendered 30 passing touchdown, which is second most by any team this season. Tannenhill is averaging 20 fantasy points in Sun Life Stadium. He’s thrown 10 touchdowns in his last four home games. Look for Tannenhill to close out the season with a big game against a suspect secondary.
I’d start him over: Jay Cutler $7400, Philip Rivers $7300, and Ben Roethlisberger $7300
SIT: Joe Flacco ($6200) – The Ravens have something to play for this week, but have a tough matchup ahead of them. They face the Browns defense which has played well against the pass. They allow the fifth fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (13.1), and have held quarterbacks under 300 passing yards in all but two games this season. The Browns have surrendered 20 touchdowns, but have also intercepted the ball 21 times. Flacco has scored fewer than 14 points in four of his last six games. He faced the Browns in Week 3 and struggled against them. He threw for 217 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. That performance was good for 12.28 fantasy points. There are other quarterbacks in his price range and that have better matchups. I’m not ending my season with Flacco as my quarterback.
I’d rather start: Eli Manning $7100, Mathew Stafford $6800, and Mark Sanchez $6700
SNEAKY START: Andy Dalton ($6000) – It’s tough to trust Dalton on a regular basis, but this is a week I’d feel comfortable starting him. He faces the Steelers which he played well against in Week 14. He threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns in that game. The Steelers defense has struggled against the pass this season. They are allowing the sixth most passing yards per game (255), give up 17.4 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, and have surrendered 28 passing touchdowns. Dalton has thrown two touchdowns in each of the last two games he played against the Steelers. This game has playoff implications, so I’m expecting Dalton to bring his “A” game.
START: Le’Veon Bell ($9500) – It can be difficult for some to dish out this amount for one player, but Bell is one of the more consistent players there is. Regardless of the game flow, he is highly involved in the game. He has scored more than 28 fantasy points in four of his last five games. He also has a great matchup against the Bengals defense that has struggled to stop the run. They allow 122 rushing yards per game. They’ve also surrendered 15 rushing touchdowns, and are yielding 19.9 fantasy points per game to opposing backs. Not to mention, Bell’s best game this season came against the Bengals. In Week 14 when the two teams met, he ran for 185 yards, caught six passes for 50 yards, and scored three touchdowns. That performance was good for 50.5 fantasy points. If you’re looking to pay the big bucks for a back this week, you’re better off just taking the most expensive one. He has a great matchup, torched the Bengals last time they played, and is playing great football right now.
I’d start him over: All running backs.
SIT: DeMarco Murray ($8800) – Murray played through his hand injury, despite it being just days after his surgery. He carried the ball 22 times for 58 yards and found the end zone for one touchdown. He did not record any catches. It was apparent that he was not the Murray we are used to seeing. This week will likely be similar to last; he’ll carry the ball plenty, but will likely not be heavily involved in the passing game. The Redskins have been pretty stiff against the run. They’ve allowed just seven rushing touchdowns, and are giving up the second fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (12.4). They are also allowing just 3.9 yards per carry. This is something to note because in the last two games, Murray has averaged fewer than 3 yards per carry. There are several other backs cheaper than Murray that have a better matchup, and are not playing with a recently surgically repaired hand.
I’d rather start: Matt Forte $8500, Arian Foster $7900, and C.J. Anderson $7000
START: Jonathan Stewart ($5700) – Stewart has played well in recent weeks. He has scored more than 20 fantasy points in two of his last three games. He is also seeing plenty of volume, as he’s received 20 or more carries in the last three weeks. He has totaled more than 100 yards in two of the last three games, and has scored two touchdowns in the timeframe. This week’s matchup is a favorable one for Stewart. The Falcons defense allows 21.7 fantasy points per game to opposing backs, and has surrendered the most rushing touchdowns by any defense this season (19). They yield 113 rushing yards per game. Even with DeAngelo Williams back, Coach Ron Rivera has already said that the Panthers will lean heavily on Stewart. This game is huge for the Panthers. If they win they win their division and move on to the playoffs, but if they lose, their season is over. Stewart is playing well, and he’s priced economically. If you’re looking for a volume back that can get in the end zone and possibly rush for more than 100 yards, Stewart is your guy.
I’d start him over: Justin Forsett $6200, Fred Jackson $5900, and Reggie Bush $5000
SIT: Latavius Murray ($5000) – Murray has failed to score more than 14 fantasy points in each of the last three games. This week he has a tough matchup against the Denver Broncos. Despite being run over by the Bengals running backs last week, the Broncos have only allowed three rushing touchdowns in the last 12 games. They’ve also just given up two 100+ rushing yard games in the time span. For the season, the Broncos have only surrendered six rushing touchdowns. They are also allowing the second fewest rushing yards per game (80.6). If you look at some of the other backs in his price range, there are some with better matchups and higher ceilings. The Broncos haven’t clinched the second seed just yet; they would do so by beating the Raiders. There’s a good chance Denver gets ahead quickly, and that would force the Raiders to abandon the run. I’d go with some of the other backs in his price range.
I’d rather start: Matt Asiata $5000, Lamar Miller $5000, and Frank Gore $4500
SNEAKY START: Rashad Jennings ($4500) – Jennings is expected to play in the team’s final game of the season. There’s also a good chance he sees the bulk of the carries as teammate Andre Williams is dealing with a shoulder injury and is questionable to play on Sunday. The Giants close out the season against their division rivals, the Eagles. Philly’s defense has been very susceptible to the run. They’ve allowed 89 or more rushing yards in each of the last four games, and have surrendered six touchdowns in those games. Running backs are averaging 18 fantasy points per game against the Eagles defense. If Jennings gets the start, and Williams can’t play, I like his chances to finish out the season strong. At this price, you really can’t go wrong.
START: Dez Bryant ($8500) – Since Week 10, Dez has been playing lights-out. In the last six games, he has scored eight of his 14 touchdowns. In three of those games he has scored more than 28 fantasy points. Bryant has scored multiple touchdowns in a single game three times this season. This could be another one of those weeks for him. He faces the Redskins which have played poorly against opposing receivers. They have allowed the most receiving touchdowns (21), and are giving up 262.1 receiving yards per game. They also surrender 24.5 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers. The last time these two played each other was in Week 8. In that game, Bryant caught three passes for 30 yards and scored a touchdown. The Cowboys have an outside shot to move up in the seeding with a win, and a Seahawks loss. This is also his contract year, which is even more of an incentive to end the season with a bang. If you aren’t paying for Odell Beckham, the next guy on the list is Bryant.
I’d start him over: Calvin Johnson $8700, Demaryius Thomas $8500, and Antonio Brown $8500
SIT: Emmanuel Sanders ($7000) – Sanders is dealing with a hip injury, but he’s expected to play on Sunday. With that said, the matchup may seem appealing to some, but the Raiders have actually been decent against receivers. They allow the third fewest fantasy points per game to opposing receivers (17.3), and they allow 243.7 receiving yards per game. The have surrendered just 11 touchdowns to receivers, and only two in the last five games. The last time that Sanders played the Raiders, he fared well against them. However, he hasn’t been playing well as of late. He has failed to eclipse 14 fantasy points, and 70 receiving yards in three of the last four games. The Raiders are much more vulnerable against the run than they are against the pass, which has been the strength of the Broncos in recent weeks. I’m expecting them to hand it off to Anderson often on Sunday and rely less on Peyton Manning’s arm.
I’d rather start: Randall Cobb $7300, Roddy White $6300, and Kelvin Benjamin $6200
START: Mike Wallace ($5600) – Wallace appears to be ending the season the way he started it. He has scored three touchdowns in the last two games, and has scored double digit fantasy points in four of the last five games. He faces the Jets that are vulnerable against opposing receivers. They allow 253.1 receiving yards per game, have surrendered 14 touchdowns, and are giving up 21.3 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers. The last time these two teams played each other, Wallace caught six passes for 69 yards. Neither team has much to play for aside from their pride. This is a division rival, and the Dolphins are looking to close out their season with two wins rather than two losses like they did last season. Wallace should have no trouble getting fantasy points this week, and at this price it’s worth giving him a shot.
I’d start him over: DeSean Jackson $5800, Brandon LaFell $5700, and Sammy Watkins $5400
SIT: Jeremy Maclin ($6100) – While Maclin has still been somewhat productive, he has scored fewer than 14 fantasy points in four of the last five games. This could have to do with the struggles going on at the quarterback position for the Eagles. The matchup is also not one that is appealing for Maclin. The Giants have held opposing receivers to fewer than 200 yards in every game since Week 3. They’ve allowed only 13 touchdowns, and just two in the last four games. They are also giving up just 19.8 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers. The last time that Maclin faced the Giants, he caught just two passes for 16 yards. Many of the receivers in his price range have better matchups, and some have also been playing much better as of late. I’d rather roll the dice with some of the other receivers in his price range than to pay for Maclin this week.
I’d rather start: Mike Evans $6100, Golden Tate $6000, and Kenny Stills $6000
SNEAKY START: Charles Johnson ($4600) – If you’re looking for a cheap flier in a tournament with a good matchup, and a relatively high ceiling, Johnson is your guy. The Vikings take on the Bears which haven’t played well against opposing receivers. They are allowing 22.8 fantasy points per game to receivers, have given up 17 touchdowns, and are surrendering the second most receiving yards per game (283.3). Johnson has scored double digit fantasy points in four of his last six games. The last time he faced the Bears he caught six passes for 87 yards. Johnson doesn’t get many red zone looks, but is capable of breaking one and scoring a long touchdown. With a matchup so good, and at a low price, he’s worth the low risk in a GPP.
START: Jason Witten ($5000) – Witten has caught seven passes in each of his last two games. He’s also gone over 65 yards in each of those games, and has scored one touchdown. He had a good game the last time he played the Redskins. He caught five passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. The Redskins have been unable to stop opposing tight ends. They are giving up 9.6 fantasy points to opposing tight ends, and have yielded 11 touchdowns. They have allowed tight ends 100+ yards in two of the last four games. The Redskins play well against the run, and Murray is banged up, so there’s a good chance that they will take advantage of the weakness on the defense, and attack them through the air. Witten should have another productive day on Sunday.
I’d start him over: Antonio Gates $5900, Martellus Bennett $5300, and Coby Fleener $4700
SIT: Rob Gronkowski ($7400) – Much like Brady, Gronk is matchup proof. However this is a very difficult matchup, and there’s a good chance that he doesn’t play the entire game. The Bills allow the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Ironically, they have not allowed a tight end to score a touchdown since Week six when they played the Patriots. They have given up just two touchdowns to tight ends this season, and have held tight ends to fewer than five points in their last seven games. Even if Gronk did play the entire game, which is highly unlikely, the matchup is not one that favors him. I’m fading all Patriot players this week simply because there’s a good chance they get benched before the game ends.
I’d rather start: Jimmy Graham $6700, Greg Olsen $5600, and Julius Thomas $4900
SNEAKY START: Mychal Rivera ($3300) – If you’re not paying top dollar for a tight end, I tend to advise to take the cheap route. This week, Rivera is cheap and has a great matchup. The Broncos allow 8.9 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, and have surrendered three touchdowns in the last four games. They’ve allowed nine for the season. Prior to last week where Rivera played the Bills, which as I mentioned above are the best defensive team against tight ends, he caught seven passes in each of the previous two games. In Week 10, Rivera played the Broncos, and found success against them. He caught six passes for 69 yards and scored a touchdown. He’s a low risk tight end that can pay off in a nice way.
I’ve provided you with low-risk, high-reward players for each position. If you’re drafting a lineup that’s top heavy in salaries and need to find some inexpensive players to plug in, then my sneaky starts can be useful.