Though none of you care, there are two big things happening for me this week. One is the fantasy football playoffs. The other is Finals Week here at the University of Maryland. For one of these two things, I have spent hours toiling away, reading, researching and learning all that I can in preparation. It’s what I’ve worked all semester for, and it’s something that is very important to my future. I am talking, of course, about my fantasy football semifinal matchup.
So whether you’ve got midterms, finals, jobs or holiday travel plans coming up, all those things take a backseat to Sunday’s NFL action. So take some time off from the things are supposedly important and put all of your heart and will into setting the perfect lineup.
Same deal as usual here: these aren’t player you necessarily wanted to start this week, but due to injury, byes or general suckery, you have to. It’s your backup plan. Here’s a rundown of some of the top widely available fill-ins by position and which guys they’ll be better than this week.
Rex Grossman vs. New York Giants
Yahoo: 14 percent owned, ESPN: 10 percent owned
There are certain things that no person in the world wants to do: paying bills and going to the DMV, for example. But even worse than those two things would be starting Rex Grossman, something some of you might actually have to do. But this week, it might not be so bad. The Giants rank 29th in the league against opposing quarterbacks this season, and the Gross Man might have to throw to keep up with Elizabeth Manning on the other side.
T.J. Yates vs. Carolina
Yahoo: 8 percent owned, ESPN: 2 percent owned
I’m writing the quarterback section of the column this week under the assumption that if your team has made it to the playoffs and is still active, you already have a semi-serviceable quarterback to deploy on Thursday, Saturday or Sunday. But if you really don’t, Yates wouldn’t be that awful. He had 26 fantasy points last week, and the Panthers did just allow Matt Ryan to drop nearly 40 fantasy points on them last week. It could be worse.
Guys he’s better than this week: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Freeman
Marion Barber vs. Seattle
Yahoo: 60 percent owned, ESPN: 57 percent owned
Man, who did this guy piss off last week? God, ahem, Tim Tebow truly punished him at the end of last week’s Bears’ loss, as his two boneheaded plays gift-wrapped another Broncos victory. But while he was a real-life mess, he was a stud in fantasy. He finished with more than 100 yards and added a score, valuable numbers in fantasy postseason play. Despite his actual troubles, there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to produce on the pretend playing field.
Guys he’s better than this week: Steven Jackson, LeGarrette Blount
Kevin Smith vs. Oakland
Yahoo: 65 percent owned, ESPN: 64 percent owned
He’s torn my heart open and ripped it to pieces before and he’ll do it again, but all I want to do is own him in every league everywhere. When he’s been healthy this season he just seems to play well, always having solid rushing and receiving stats to go along with a touchdown. It looks like he’ll be back from injury this week, making him a solid play against a sieve of a Raiders’ defense until he inevitably gets hurt again.
Guys he’s better than this week: Jonathan Stewart, Ahmad Bradshaw
Donald Brown vs. Tennessee
Yahoo: 21 percent owned, ESPN: 22 percent owned
Basically, this guy’s only hope is the Colts’ somehow managing to stay in a game long enough to give him some carries. Brown has been decent in games where he’s been afforded enough touches to do some damage, but those touches don’t come with the Colts always (always) playing from behind. Tennessee’s offense hasn’t been great this season, so there’s a possibility Brown gets some chances if Indy can keep it close for longer than the game’s first three minutes.
Guys he’s better than this week: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ryan Grant
Demaryius Thomas vs. New England
Yahoo: 26 percent owned, ESPN: 17 percent owned
He’s Tim Tebow’s new disciple, and during the holiday season, that’s something you almost have to believe in. Thomas has 222 yards and three scores in the past two weeks, and those numbers figure to only improve against a Patriots defense hell-bent on not stopping any offense ever this season. The Broncos will likely have to throw it around to keep up with Tom Brady, so Thomas will get plenty of looks again on Sunday.
Guys he’s better than this week: Vincent Jackson, Santonio Holmes
Doug Baldwin vs. Chicago
Yahoo: 31 percent owned, ESPN: 22 percent owned
I’m not one to toot my own horn, but, um… toot! For no logical reason, I picked Doug Baldwin to own over Golden Tate among Seahawks receivers, and at least for one night, I was right. Baldwin had a nice game on Monday, finishing with 96 yards and a score on seven catches. Chicago’s defense allows more than 40 throws per game against it, so Baldwin will have a chance to get some more looks from Tarvaris Jackson this week.
Donald Driver vs. Kansas City
Yahoo: 22 percent owned, ESPN: 21 percent owned
This is more of a hunch than anything, bit with Greg Jennings out for the foreseeable future, maybe Aaron Rodgers looks toward old faithful to help replace the presence of Jennings over the middle of the field. Jordy Nelson and James Jones will likely get the big play looks, but Driver could definitely have value, especially in PPR formats.
Guys he’s better than this week: James Jones, Plaxico Burress
Jake Ballard vs. Washington
Yahoo: 47 percent owned, ESPN: 31 percent owned
Last week, the Redskins gave up 244 yards and two touchdowns to the Patriots’ two tight ends. Sure, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are men among prepubescent boys, but it doesn’t change the fact that Washington is among the worst in the league against opposing tight ends. If Ballard does just 25 percent of what the Patriots did, he’ll get 61 yards and half a touchdown. Know what that is? Good enough.
Guys he’s better than this week: Jermaine Gresham, Kellen Winslow
Arizona vs. Cleveland
Yahoo: 20 percent owned, ESPN: 5 percent owned
For some reason, I had been under the impression that this has been one of the worst defenses in the NFL this season. Oh, how wrong I’ve been. The Arizona defense has amassed double-digit fantasy points nine times this season and in each of the past three weeks, and on Sunday it’ll get a Browns offense led by either a recently concussed Cold McCoy or Seneca Wallace. That’s a dream matchup. Sacks and turnovers galore!
Defenses they’re better than this week: Houston, New York Jets
Buffalo vs. Miami
Yahoo: 28 percent owned, ESPN: 16 percent owned
The Bills defense will either be matched up against a recently concussed Matt Moore or former Buffalo star J.P. Losman. Advantage: Bills. The Dolphins might play flat given the loss of the head coach they were for some reason we can’t comprehend fighting to save, giving the Bills an even stronger advantage. The scored double-digit points against Philip Rivers last week, so they should, in theory, be able to do even more this week.
Defenses they’re better than this week: New England, New York Giants
Distract me from studying on Twitter! @JoshVitale.