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.

Quarterbacks

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.

Guys he’s better than this week: Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco

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

Running Backs

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

Wide Receivers

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

Tight Ends

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

Defense/Special Teams

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.

  1. Another insightful article, Josh.

    Question: Mark Sanchez is great on his home field (avg’g like 20 fppg), but is Matt Moore the better start this week?

  2. CL says:
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    split the winnings?! hehehehehehe! good one.

    you like beanie or kevin smith this week? I seem to be leaning to beanie.

    10 team, 1pt PPR, return yards

  3. Suck My Weiters says:
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    Now that Big Ben is out, should I still start Brown as my WR3 or should I start Washington now?

  4. Rodger says:
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    Trying to choose two from Helu/Kevin Smith/ChrisJohnson this week. Johnson goes up against a JAC defense that’s allowed a rushing TD in 5 straight weeks but will be limited with ankle problems, while Shanahan has said Helu will be limited in the final two weeks. Kevin Smith is finally healthy and has shown the ability to score big when given the chance. Of the three which two would you believe in this week (non-PPR).

  5. M2L says:
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    @ Josh, Start Kahlil Bell or Gore? PPR league, 6pts rush td 6pts catch td: Hard to sit Gore in the Championship game but Bell could have 20+

  6. Robert says:
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    Hey Josh…need help with a few of spots…

    1) Start Santana Moss over Antonio Brown in a return yds league (1pt/10yds)? Or go get DHB?

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

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

    Thanks!

  7. Robert says:
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    Also, I’m waffling on starting Vick…any way I start Tebow over him?

  8. trevor says:
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    I need help with my decision for a league where we can start two qb’s. The position in question is a flex QB/WR/RB/TE.I can choose from either Matt Hasslebeck, Josh Mccown, Steven jackson, and Andre Roberts. Who do I go with? Im thinking Hasslebeck or Mccown because the scoring gives qbs a big advantage over postion players but neither seems to be a strong option. I could definitely see hass going down behind that shotty line and Locker coming in and stealing the show. I like Hass but only behind a strong offensive line like Houston.

  9. stumanji says:
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    Made it to the champ game although I am completely decimated by injuries. Have lost DMC, Forte, and Demarco this season, currently starting Spiller and Felix at RB, Wallace and Demaryius at WR, Stevie Johnson at Flex. Only bench options are Tolbert and Manningham.

    I only have $1 in FA dollars left, who do I pick up:
    Sammy Morris (start at RB in case Felix doesn’t play)
    James Starks (start at RB or Flex in case one of Felix or Stevie doesn’t play)
    Lance Moore (hope Felix plays, start Moore at Flex if Stevie doesn’t play)
    Uhhh….not much else out there…Lance Ball?

    Little help here? Thanks.

  10. amscalone says:
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    flex phil rivers or kahlil bell?

    thanks, happy holidays!

  11. Josh Vitale says:
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    @CmhBuck: Thanks. And I’m going Matt Moore. New England’s defense is simply that bad.

    @CL: I’m leaning Beanie there too. Seems to be a safer bet.

    @Suck My Weiters: If Big Ben is out, Washington has the better chance to produce.

    @Rodger: All are risky, but I say Kevin Smith and CJ. Helu is too much of a risk with Shanahan still his head coach.

    @M2L: Seattle has a strong D, so I’d surprisingly go Bell. Barber looks like he won’t even play this week, so Bell could have a big game.

    @Robert: Yea I like all Redskins this week. Ans Smith at the Flex. As for defense, AI say Washington, because neither the Packers or the Cowboys will do much punting this week.

    @Robert: Eagles look to finally be clicking, so I think you have to start Vick.

    @trevor: I would go Hasselbeck just because of the QB option. Even if he has a bad game, he should be able to pull in 15 points minimum, which is great out of the flex.

  12. Josh Vitale says:
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    @stumanji: Sammy Morris is definitely the best of those options. If Felix is out, then Sammy is a strong play.

    @amscalone: Philip Rivers will definitely outscore Bell.

  13. amscalone says:
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    also, with ben out, start l robinson or gaffney over wallace?

  14. Salty Balty says:
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    Championship this weekend and I have a couple tough calls (non-PPR): (1) 2nd WR, Harvin or Julio Jones?, (2) Pick 2 of these 4: C. Johnson, Kahlil Bell, C.J. Spiller, or Kevin Smith. I’m leaning toward starting Julio, K. Bell, and Spiller. Tough to bench CJ2K, but he’s hurt and Smith is always hurt. I think Bell is gonna have 30 touches, Julio has a nice matchup, and Spiller has looked pretty good. Whadya think? Thanks and happy holidays.

  15. Josh Vitale says:
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    @amscalone: I like Gaf Gaf against an awful Vikings D.

    @Salty Balty: Definitely Julio. Shootout in that game. And I like Spiller and K.Smith out of those RBs.

  16. jeromeo says:
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    championship game in a standard league, pretty OK other roster spots, but who is best flex option given roth will be sitting:
    antonio brown
    hillis
    ingram/ivory (have both)

    thanks!

  17. jeromeo says:
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    or, blergh, jackie battle.

  18. Richard says:
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    MJD for RB1; which 2 of W. McGahee, C. Benson, K. Smith, K. Bell for RB2 & RB3?

    M. Wallace, D. Heyward-Bey or L. Robinson for WR2?

  19. Josh Vitale says:
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    @Richard: Willis McGahee and Kevin Smith for the RB slots. And Laurent at WR.

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