It’s the championship and hopefully Santa brought you a nice Super Bowl appearance to give you a vesting interest in the Christmas Eve slate of games and you avoid your family to watch the games tomorrow.   I imagine there’s going to be tons of eager fantasy players checking their phones at the dinner tables, sneaking in peeks at church, and covertly slipping into the basement during pre-Christmas get-togethers.  Ah, the holidays.

But if you did make it to your championship, and let’s face it, you’re probably not reading this if you didn’t, congratulations and I sincerely hope you’re not flying during the games tomorrow.  I had that horrendous experience last year.  Nothing is worse than having to deal with holiday air traffic while checking your Super Bowl during layovers and seeing that you lost by single-digit points while your opponent was lead by Kellen Winslow.  I wonder if Winslow agrees there’s a war on Christmas.

So if you’re putting up with in-laws or missing the games because of a holiday party, be thankful you’re not traveling.   It’s the worst.

Looking at last week’s picks, it was a nice solid second-to-last outing (with this being my last entry in this year’s “Last Second Decisions”).  Donald Brown went off and the Colts won, Michael Vick played like a first-round pick, and Donald Driver indeed scored.  Antonio Brown had his worst game since week 6, Shonn Greene got stuffed (nice win again for me, Collmenter) in a correctly predicted blowout loss, and DeSean Jackson continued to supremely disappoint.  I also think I deserve a little credit telling every last commenter to bench Kevin Smith, who I didn’t think was getting so much attention for starts with his brittle ankles.  Yea, he survived the game, but it was a brutal stat line.  For my misses, Marion Barber got the work but didn’t do much with it, Eric Decker failed to show up for the Tebowl and Frank Gore salvaged his Monday Night with the worst vulture TD I’ve seen all year.  Pittsburgh got a penalty on 4th down for “jumping” (apparently it was for launching himself on another player, but camon) on the field goal kick, and Gore scored his 5-yard TD right after. What a worthless way to get into the endzone.

Now remember, this is the Super Bowl and your last week taking the fantasy gridiron.  Don’t get too cute.  But here are some guys that I like that aren’t getting started enough and guys I think you should bench (along with their starting percentages in ESPN and Yahoo respectively):

Possible Starters

Peyton Hillis (35.6%, 30%) Not that anyone would have been paying much attention, but Hillis did manage 45 yards on 12 carries last time out against the Ravens in week 13, his second best YPC on the year.  I know he’s been brutal right along with the Browns offense as a whole, but I think he has a great shot at 20 carries and a score.  That kind of workload, even against the Ravens run D that has been pretty stout, has me thinking he’s still a solid flex play.  The Chargers got 3 TDs on the ground against them last week on Sunday Night, and while the Browns are obviously not playing remotely close to that level, I think one TD for Hillis is probable.

Jabar Gaffney (33%, 33%) Started in the exact same percentage of leagues in both Yahoo and ESPN, I think Gaffney should be playing for more than a third of the teams out there.  Sure there’s a lot of squads out of it, but if Gaffney is sitting on your bench and you’re not feeling good about starting him, I think you should change your mind.  He’s had 72+ yards and/or a score in 5 of the past 7 weeks, and the Vikings secondary is giving up the second-most points to opposing wide receivers in the league.  Rex Grossman might be playing for his job right now, hoping to mentor a rookie QB almost assuredly drafted by the Redskins next year, and I think he has a big day.  Gaffney and Moss will benefit, but I think Gaffney leads the Skins in receiving.  Start with confidence.

Julio Jones (32.9%, 56%) If you drafted Jones a tad early, you might have missed your playoffs with his unpredictability.  But now that his hamstring issues seem to be in the past (not to mention an extra few days of rest after playing two Thursdays ago), he’s an absolute stud.  In what will hopefully be a shootout on Monday Night, Jones should see a lot of looks both deep and short, hoping to capitalize on his speed both through the air and after the catch.  I think an 80+ yard game and a score is entirely plausible.

Mike Tolbert (24.5%, 36%) Mike Tolbert might be one of the most forgotten names in fantasy right now, especially since he’s scored in three straight.  He’s obviously not above Ryan Mathews on the depth chart, but he’s getting the red zone carries and staying involved.  The Chargers are playing unreal right now like they always do in the winter, and I just have a feeling they absolutely dismantle the Lions.  If that’s the case, Tolbert should get some nice red zone and mop up work.  He’s perfect in your flex or RB2 if you’re thin at the position.

Brent Celek (19.1%, 30%) Celek exploded last week with his biggest game of the season, and I think he keeps it going in your championship again this week.  The Eagles are playing with thin hopes for the playoffs, but more importantly for pride, and I think they spank the Cowboys again just like they did in week 8.  Celek was big in that game as well with 7 for 94 and a TD, and a comparable stat line this time out isn’t far fetched.  Celek is a great play at your TE and probably a top-5 option for me, and even should garner a look at your flex if you’re searching.

 

Son of a Bench

Victor Cruz (71.7%, 83%) I didn’t think Mario Manningham’s return would impact Cruz’s production much, but apparently it has.  Cruz is coming off his worst back-to-back weeks since weeks 1 and 2.  Yeah.  And add into the mix Eli looked downright awful last week and I think gets pressured and looks silly again in the battle of the New Yorks.  I know Manningham will probably not play and conventional wisdom suggests Cruz will go back to what he was doing with Manningham out, but I think Cruz is still a very, very risky play for your title.  I think he really lets down and you probably have a better option on your bench even though Cruz’s season numbers will be hard to sit.

Khalil Bell (15.6%, 8%) I know he’s not started in close to the majority of leagues, but people are clamoring over Khalil Bell and a lot of championship seekers are going to roll the dice on him.  If you’re trying to win, playing a guy like Bell is a recipe for disaster.  I think the Packers bounce back hungry, and with Josh McCown getting his first start at QB (he’s got -2 fantasy points on the year!), it’s going to be a long day for the Bears offense.  Bell is way, WAY too risky to play for your title, and I like so many options better.

Steven Jackson (69.9%, 66%) The key to a great running game is a great passing attack to compliment.  Kellen Clemens is the antithesis of that.  And the Steelers are going to play hungry after losing so badly to the 49ers last Monday.  Love him or hate him (probably most of you), Jerome Harrison will be back and Jackson won’t have any room to run.  I know he’s one of your big names if you made it with him, but benching Jackson just might win you your championship.

Percy Harvin (63.1%, 78%) Harvin was the talk of fantasy just a week ago, completely disappearing last week.  He’s still getting started in way too many leagues even after posting a goose egg.  The Redskins secondary is actually giving up the 4th least amount of fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and played solid in their secondary against Eli and the high-powered Giants passing attack.  Christian Ponder has sure looked iffy and I think Harvin gets shut down again on Christmas Eve.  I would go with a different, more-steady option.

Felix Jones (48.6%, 44%) Jerry Jones seems sure he’ll play, but even if he does get the start in real life I think you should be benching Jones in your championship.  He’s coming off two straight 100-yard games, I know, but as mentioned above, I think the Cowboys get rocked in this one.  Jones will be playing a bit gimpy and I don’t see him getting all of the passing downs either.  I think the ex-America’s team goes into pass mode early and often, and while Jones might be OK in PPR, I think he’s a for-sure bench in standard formats.

If you have any last second decisions for your championship of third-place games, shoot me some comments, or tweet me @jbgilpin.  Good luck to everyone in week 16 and I hope as many of you win the title as possible!

  1. Robert says:
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    Have Hillis – would you start him over Shonn Greene in a PPR league at flex?

    How about at WR – thinking Bowe over Malcom Floyd, though if VJax is out, I may re-think that.

    Could also bench both Greene and Hillis and start both WRs?

    Thanks

  2. Salty Balty says:
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    I have 2 spots and 5 players that I could start, which 3 would you start out of these 5: Kevin Smith, Kahlil Bell, Chris Johnson, Percy Harvin, and C.J. Spiller (no matter which 2 you pick I’ll be able to get them in my lineup). Thanks. I will be in the car when the games are going on, damnit!

  3. Josh Vitale says:
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    Hey Jon, which two do you like out of these three? Cedric Benson, Kevin Smith and Kahlil Bell.

  4. Charles says:
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    So, who would you start between Kahlil, Felix, and Jacobs? Thanks for the RB2 help!

  5. amscalone says:
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    pick three: marshall, gaffney, robinson, st johnson, aj green, demaryius thomas

    pick two for rb2/flex: spiller, rivers, k bell

    thanks!

  6. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Robert: I’d go with Hillis and Bowe… I know it’s crazy to bench Greene but I really do see Hillis finding the endzone in this one. Good luck tomorrow man!

  7. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Salty Balty: That sucks man! Only thing worse than Holiday travel is Holiday travel when the games are going on! I’d go with your CJs man… I think Johnson plays and has his typical mediocre game like he’s been having and Spiller to rack up yards both on the ground and through the air.

  8. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Josh Vitale: Hey man! I’d leave out Bell, just have a feeling he completely disappears… I almost wrote about liking Smith but I’m wishy washy on him this week, but do like him more than Bell. Benson should be fine against the weakish Cardinals D.

  9. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Charles: I think I’d stick with Felix if he plays. If he’s a surprise inactive I’d go with Bell. Definitely don’t like Jacobs against the Jets where I think they’ll be trying to throw a lot.

  10. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @amscalone: Geez that’s quite an impressive receiving corps you have! Definitely love Marshall against the Patriots sorry excuse for a secondary, and I’d lean towards Laurent Robinson and AJ Green after that. Tough to bench Thomas with all the love he’s getting, but I think Tebow’s dad throws him some snow (snow is in the forecast) to play in in Buffalo making it tough(er) to get Thomas the ball. I think Spiller and Rivers (Phillip Rivers, right?) are clear-cut ahead of Bell.

  11. amscalone says:
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    @jonathan Glipin: Yeah its phil. We can flex any position, so it will be spiller at rb2 and rivers at flex. Receiving corp was more impressive for the few minutes this year that Andre was healthy and in my lineup!

    One more for you, different league, no ppr: with ben out, start robinson or gaffney over wallace?

    thanks!

  12. Cole says:
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    Championship!!

    My team is in trouble please lend some advice!

    .5 PPR

    Pick 2: Sproles vs Atl, Bell vs GB, Smith vs SD or CJ1K vs Jax

    Pick 2: DHB vs KC, Wallace vs StL or Dez vs Philly

    Thanks much and Happy Holidays,

  13. Richard says:
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    2 Questions:

    MJD for 1 RB slot; which 2 of W. McGahee, C. Benson, K. Smith, K. Bell for the others?

    Bench M. Wallace for D. Heyward-Bey or L. Robinson or is he still best with Batch at QB?

  14. Random Collmenter says:
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    I made it to the fake super bowl, but alas, I’ll concede a loss in the 2011 RC v. JB showdown. Congrats! I’m man enough to admit a loss and not make predictions about like 8 of your predictions, which would be lame.

    Having some fanxiety about my lineup. Currently it’s:

    Cam
    Calvin
    B Marshall
    McCoy
    CJ2K
    Finley
    Flex: Bowe

    BUT on my bench lies:
    Kevin Smith
    Blount
    Demariyus T
    Antonio Brown
    Santana Moss

    Would u make any subs? I’m considering benching CJ for Kevin Smith and Bowe for Demariyus. is that crazy talk? .5 PPR.

    Thanks man!

  15. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @amscalone: I hear ya! AJ’s injury messed up a lot of teams… I’d go Robinson either way, he’s been solid almost the entire year and I think the Cowboys play from behind.

  16. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Cole: TJ Whosyourmamma? Championship! I’d go with who got you here so CJ1k and Sproles…. I know Bell and Smith look sexy, but I’m scared…I think you stick with Wallace and Dez as well… I know DHB is coming off a huge game, but Wallace should make some noise even with Big Ben on one leg against a bad Rams secondary and like I said above, I think the Boys will be playing behind and Dez gets some love. Have a great Holidays, I hope for Christmas we get some Championships!

  17. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Random Collmenter: Yup I gotcha this time! Thanks so much for reading I hope you can come back next year and keep up with me! I don’t think either of those moves are crazy talk, but I would definitely leave in CJ for Smith… I know Smith could have a big game, but he scares me way too much. And even though he’s been awful, CJ’s ceiling has got to be higher than Smith’s with equal floors. I would lean towards Bowe as well. Even though Tebow plays for Denver, he doesn’t have much winter experience and the snow they should get in Buffalo might slow the passing game down a little more. Good luck in the championship, hopefully going into 2012 we’ll both have additional league hardware under our belts!

  18. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Richard: I’d stick with McGahee and Benson. I know they’re the boring picks and McGahee is coming off two OK-to-poor games, but I think they both get the most work and McGahee should tear through his former team. I would go with Laurent, he’s been as steady as they go and I think the Cowboys play from behind early and all 3 WRs get some love. Good luck in your championship!

  19. B-Real says:
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    Do you like starting Celek over Witten this championship week?

    Thanks,
    B-Real

  20. Plainview says:
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    Helu, Santonio Holmes or Tolbert?

    Cedric Benson or Bowe?

  21. Zandercage says:
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    Jonathan –

    Dig the column. Need your expertise please.

    It’s championship week for me, Pick 3 (standard scoring) =>

    Blount
    Spiller
    J. Stewart
    M. Wallace
    Harvin

    Thanks!!!

  22. Jason says:
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    Need flex (PPR): Spiller or Jordy? I like Spiller’s chances a little more than Jordy possibly only playing 1st half.

  23. Randall says:
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    Help! Need to pick a defense and these are my best options:

    KC
    Den (I’m playing Spiller so I’d rather not cannibalize my points)
    Arizona

  24. Steve says:
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    First of all, thank you for all of your advice over the seasons and the work you put into the site. I find a lot of value in your recommendations week to week.

    I think you have Julio Jones pegged exactly…and most other sites seem to still underestimate his upside. But I do disagree about Kahlil Bell…I think he’ll have enough touches and short drop-off passes to be…top 15 fantasy RB this week.

  25. exactly says:
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    i’m stuck and need to pick a rb: felix, khalil, j-stew or gerhart? I hear what you’re saying about bell, but I don’t want to be stuck with jones if he’s hurt and I like bell’s upside the most…

  26. Robert says:
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    JB! Welp, after scoring 134 pts in the semi-finals, I lost out to a team that scored 155 pts — FML. So, I take aim at a 3rd place finish, and need some help with a few of spots…

    1) Even without Big Ben, is there any way I start Santana Moss over Antonio Brown in a return yds league (1pt/10yds)?

    2) Gates, Kevin Smith, or SJax at flex?

    3) WAS, PHI, or CHI defense in a return yds league (1pt/10yds)?

    Thanks again for all the advice this season!

  27. Robert says:
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    Also, I’m thinking Vick over Tebow this week…any issues with that?

  28. Dave says:
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    Helu or K. Bell as my flex option please help big time championship game

  29. Titan says:
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    I have Steven Jackson and Kahlil Bell as my flex options. Quite the pickle you put me in my with the comments on both. ;-)

    My hope is the Steelers rest some guys and play soft….

  30. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @B-Real: Surprisingly I do… I know Witten helped get you here but he’s been falling off and with all big 3 receivers ready to go, I think he’s become the #4 target.

  31. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Plainview: I’d stick with Helu and Benson, I think they get the most touches and lead you to the title!

  32. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Zandercage: Thanks man! Thanks for reading! I’d go with Spiller, Stewart, and Wallace… JStew really gashed the Bucs last time out and I think my Panthers are finally hitting their stride with Cammy and really give it to em… Spiller has been legit the past few weeks and even though it’s gonna be Charlie Batch, I think Wallace has a decent game. Good luck today I hope you win the championship!

  33. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Jason: Ohhhh, that’s a toughie… I think the Packers really put the pedal to the metal against the Bears and Jordy has a nice game… I think I’d go with him over Spiller even though i know Spiller will get the assured touched… Last week notwithstanding (it was against Brady), the Broncos D has been phenomenal and I could see Spiller only having a decent game… Good luck in your championship!

  34. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Randall: I think it’s Denver and I also don’t think you’d cannibalize your points… Denver’s D has been awesome minus last week, and they will score their points on Fitzpatrick’s miscues and not on Spillers…

  35. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Steve: Thanks for reading man! I really appreciate it. Bell certainly has upside, no doubt… But I’m really afraid he’s the kind of running back that tanks a championship bid. Josh McCown is awful and the Packers now have something to play for against their bitter rivals. It might be a 24-0 kind of game. In PPR, sure Bell is a flex or RB3 for me, but still not one I’d want to start sure-fire. But in standard scoring, I’m afraid even his dump offs won’t garner enough points… I’d stay away if I could, but obviously there have been injuries and such and you might have to… We’ll see tomorrow on Christmas Night!

  36. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @exactly: I hear ya on not wanting to start Jones… Even though I’m a biased Panthers fan, I think it’s JStew for ya… He gashed the Bucs last time out and he gets work in the passing game. I think he could go for 80 total yards and a score without breaking too much of a sweat. I would go with him.

  37. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Robert: That sucks man! Thanks so much for reading and hopefully I got you as close to the championship as I could! 1) Since it’s a return yardage league, I think you stick with Brown, who I like more this week even with batch than last week because the Rams defense isn’t consistently effective. 2) I’d stick with old-man Gates, I think the Chargers stomp the Lions, and even though Gates is coming off a bad game in last week’s blowout, I think he bounces back this week. 3) I’d go Washington; the Vikes have been a turnover machine lately… Thanks again for reading and I hope I can help you to a title next year in 2012! Happy holidays!

  38. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Robert: Oh, and no issue at all with Vick over Tebow… I like Vick a lot and think the Eagles win big time against the Boys today.

  39. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @Titan: Yea, I’m with ya… I’d stick with the big name and go with SJax… I don’t think the Steelers will play soft but I could see a screen pass going for 40 or a goal-line score to salvage his day. Thanks for reading and good luck today!

  40. EK says:
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    Pick 2 WR (non PPR)

    Robinson
    Moss
    Holmes

  41. cowboy says:
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    I have Mike Wallace and Ben is out today…Would u play Mike Wallace or Lance Moore? thanks

  42. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @EK: I’d bench Moss, I know it’s a great matchup for the Skins and Holmes had some mental errors last week, but Holmes has been finding paydirt and I think he has a nice game again today, along with Robinson.

  43. JB Gilpin

    Jonathan Gilpin says:
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    @cowboy: Lance Moore has quietly become a great option, but I’d lean towards Wallace even though I see it as a coin flip. Great question. Moore only had one catch last time the Saints played the Falcons, and even though I could easily see him going off, that previous stat line has me barely leaning to Wallace, who I think will be OK even with Batch.

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