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):
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!