When I woke up Tuesday morning after seeing my fantasy team storm into the league championship game, I received an email from my finals opponent asking if I would like to simply split the league’s winnings and forgo the matchup in order to “go into Christmas without thinking a lot about FF.” I, as I hope all or many of you would be, was appalled. Split the money? Forgo the championship matchup? Not “worry” about setting my lineup? That notion is certifiably insane.
This is fantasy football. If you’re in the championship matchup of your league, that means you’ve worked hard week in and week out, making the right waiver claims and free agent bids, checking the matchups and making the perfect lineup decisions. Your squad has been an integral part of your life for the past 15 weeks, and no holiday is going to stand in the way of your ascension to league dominance this weekend.
So 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. Minnesota
Yahoo: 17 percent owned, ESPN: 14 percent owned
Entering your league championship game with Rex Grossman as your starting quarterback is embarrassing, to say the least. But beating your opponent with him at the helm? That’s much more embarrassing for him (or her) than it is for you. Grossman was hurt by two early interceptions last week, but he shouldn’t have the same issues this week. The Vikings allowed Drew Brees to torch them last week, and even half of that would be good enough from the Gross Man on Saturday.
Matt Moore vs. New England
Yahoo: 19 percent owned, ESPN: 5 percent owned
At this point in the season, it looks as though anybody with a pulse could a stud quarterback against the Patriots’ defense. Tim Tebow, Matt Moore, even your drunken uncle who’s currently passed out on a pile of coats; if they’re quarterbacking against the patriots, they’re probably having a big fantasy day. Moore has scored 20 or more points in three of the past five weeks, and that number looks to increase against New England.
Guys he’s better than this week: Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton
Kahlil Bell vs. Green Bay
Yahoo: 15 percent owned, ESPN: 14 percent owned
Well, that didn’t take long. Not even two full games after earning a starting job, Marion Barber lost it, seemingly ceding his spot to Kahlil Bell at halftime last week. Bell capitalized on the dreadlocked one’s futility, becoming something of a PPR-darling with a 108 total yards—43 through the air—and a touchdown. New Bears’ quarterback Josh McCown likely can’t complete a pass beyond 10 yards, so whether it’s rushing or receiving, Bell should touch the ball on pretty much every play Sunday night.
Guys he’s better than this week: Marion Barber, Roy Helu
Sammy Morris vs. Philadelphia
Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 1 percent owned
A fantasy zombie has risen. After most of us likely forget he even existed, Sammy Morris rose from the dead last Saturday, compiling 50+ yards in a Cowboys’ rout of the Buccaneers. And that stat line could almost double this week, especially with Felix Jones (surprise!) nursing yet another injury. His hamstring has kept him off the practice field most of the week, and he’ll be limited even if he can go Saturday. Watch Morris—and the injury reports—before tomorrow’s kickoffs.
Guys he’s better than this week: Peyton Hillis, Ryan Grant
Demaryius Thomas vs. Buffalo
Yahoo: 37 percent owned, ESPN: 37 percent owned
Though an apparent 63 percent of the fantasy world still doesn’t believe, you should. All you can truly ask for from a receiver consistency, and in the past three weeks, consistent is all Demaryius Thomas has been. Serving as Tim Tebow’s safety net, he’s scored three touchdowns and compiled more than 112 yards per game since Week 13. The Bills are middling at best against opposing wide receivers, so there’s no reason to think the success won’t continue.
Guys he’s better than this week: Mike Wallace, Stevie Johnson
Jabar Gaffney vs. Minnesota
Yahoo: 56 percent owned, ESPN: 51 percent own
A model of mediocrity the Jabarwocky is. Other than a no-catch outlier against the Jets three weeks ago Jabar Gaffney has totaled 364 yards and two touchdowns in his last five and averaged nearly 90 yards per game in the past two weeks. Minnesota has been horrid against the pass recently, so Gaffney is in a decent position to continue his solid production. Will he win you a championship? Probably not. But will he lose you one? Unlikely.
Guys he’s better than this week: Santana Moss, Laurent Robinson
Darrius Heyward-Bey vs. Kansas City
Yahoo: 29 percent owned, ESPN: 31 percent owned
There’s no real way to tell which Raiders’ wide receiver will be the cat’s meow for any given week, but it was definitely Heyward-Bey last week. He racked up 155 yards and a touchdown on eight catches against the Lions, by far the best performance of any of Oakland’s pass-catchers. He’s got a tougher matchup on Saturday, but Carson Palmer needs to throw to somebody. Why shouldn’t it be DHB?
Guys he’s better than this week: Antonio Brown, Brandon Lloyd
Brent Celek vs. Dallas
Yahoo: 43 percent owned, ESPN: 28 percent owned
There’s a good chance Brent Celek singlehandedly won some playoff matchups last weekend. After a few weeks of nothing more than mediocre production, Celek rewarded those who stuck with him with a 156-yard, one-score performance against the Jets. And this week he gets a Cowboys defense that ranks among the league’s worst against opposing defenses, meaning a repeat performance clearly isn’t out of the question. Ladies and gentlemen, the Dream Team is back.
Guys he’s better than this week: Vernon Davis, Dustin Keller
Denver vs. Buffalo
Yahoo: 42 percent owned, ESPN: 16 percent owned
Some may shy away from a Denver defense that was involved in a 41-23 shellacking by the Patriots last week. That’s their loss. No way the defensive-minded John Fox allows his defense to be rolled over like that again this week, and with a suddenly futile Bills team as their next opponent, expect a full turnaround from the Broncos. Their pass-rush should be able to force Ryan Fitzpatrick into a few more giveaways this week.
Defenses they’re better than this week: Dallas, New York Jets
Washington vs. Minnesota
Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 18 percent owned
If the Redskins can force Eli “Aw Shucks” Manning into three interceptions, imagine what they can to a rookie in Christian Ponder. Mike Shanahan has that defense playing well, a trend that should continue this week with a still-hobbled Adrian Peterson as the Vikings’ only true offensive threat. If they can even shut down Minnesota half as well as they did the Giants, this could be another strong week for the Washington defense.
Defenses they’re better than this week: New England, New York Giants
Make my Christmas merrier: @JoshVitale.