Among the top-25 fantasy playoff performers: Damien Williams, Josh Johnson, Josh Allen, Mike Williams, Nick Mullens and Sam Darnold. Start your studs this week because it’s championship or bust? Well, not necessarily …
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
Colts vs. Giants
Marlon Mack isn’t Derrick Henry, which is good news for the Giants. Not such great news for Big Blue: Mack has authored consecutive usable fantasy days against tough opponents, including last Sunday, when he became only the second back to eclipse 100 yards on the Cowboys and the first in three years to do that plus score twice en route to an RB4 finish and career afternoon. Andrew Luck failed to throw a touchdown for the second time in three weeks, but the Giants struggled in a pair of games vs. the Eagles, whose system is the same one Luck runs under Frank Reich. The Colts rank No. 1 in sack percentage allowed, while the Giants have fewer sacks on defense than every club except for the Raiders and Dolphins.
Don’t hesitate: QB Andrew Luck, RB Marlon Mack, WR T.Y.Hilton, TE Eric Ebron
Seahawks vs. Chiefs
Seattle was upset in San Francisco by the Niners, but owners who heeded our advice last week to start Russell Wilson, Chris Carson and Doug Baldwin hopefully aren’t too bummed. Carson and Baldwin had their best 2018 fantasy performances, and Wilson responded from one of the worst games of his career with the efficient-if-not-electric outing we’ve become accustomed to from him this season. Depending on the status of Rashaad Penny, Mike Davis (eight grabs on eight targets a week ago; 82.1 catch rate since 2017) could be a sneaky play vs. a Chiefs ‘D’ that’s permitted a league-worst 831 receiving yards to backs.
Don’t hesitate: QB Russell Wilson, RB Chris Carson, WRs Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett
Think twice (but it’s alright): RB Mike Davis
Patriots vs. Bills
Tom Brady committed two of the least Brady-like gaffes imaginable in crunch time Sunday, when the Patriots fell to 0-1 at Heinz Field in a post-revised catch rule world. He was also held out of the end zone earlier this season for the second time in his past three meetings with Buffalo. Why should this time be different? Josh Allen, he of the QB1 overall standing in his past four games, that’s why. Allen doesn’t play defense, of course, but he’s liable in his first-ever trip to Foxboro to hand the Patriots a couple extra possessions. In other words, he could help pick Brady up off the mat, you know, because Brady needing Allen’s help in late December is pretty much what we foresaw all along.
Don’t hesitate: QB Tom Brady, RBs Sony Michel, James White, WRs Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, TE Rob Gronkowski
Eagles vs. Texans
Saint Nick is here not only in time to spread Christmas cheer, but perhaps save the Eagles season. Nick Foles was highly efficient in relief of Carson Wentz Sunday night, stunning the Los Angeles Rams, even if he failed to crest double-digit fantasy points. That should change at home Sunday vs. a Texans ‘D’ that quietly has allowed two passing touchdowns or 385-plus passing yards in each of its past four games. Starting Foles in fantasy championship week sounds crazy, right? Like, more than him registering a 115.7 passer rating, 6-1 TD-INT ratio and 323-yard average last the postseason? If Wentz owners are in a bind, the clutch Foles is more than a fine alternative, and clearly the QB change agrees with Alshon Jeffery, who comes off his best game as an Eagle and gets a Texans secondary that Robby Anderson ripped last week.
Don’t hesitate: QB Nick Foles, RB Josh Adams, WR Alshon Jeffery, TE Zach Ertz
Think twice (but it’s alright): RB Wendell Smallwood, WR Golden Tate, TE Dallas Goedert
MATCHUPS TO AVOID
Lions vs. Vikings
Detroit ranks 25th in points and 24th in scoring, which is not ideal considering it ranks third in guaranteed dollars tethered to its scuffling quarterback. The Lions will be building a brand new offense and skill group around Matthew Stafford in the offseason. Meantime, happily play Golladay, but that’s it and that’s all from the Lions in fantasy championship weekend. Zach Zenner has overtaken LeGarrette Blount, but neither are what you’re looking for vs. the Vikings’ fierce ‘D.’
Think twice (but it’s alright): RB Zach Zenner, WR Kenny Golladay
Don’t do it: QB Matthew Stafford, RB LeGarrette Blount
Bills at Patriots
Remember what we said up above about Allen, who paces all of fantasy in scoring in the past four weeks? Forget it. Rookie quarterbacks, in case you hadn’t heard, are 0-9 in Foxboro under Bill Belichick and 0-11 overall against the Patriots when committing at least two turnovers. Allen has been brilliant as a runner but has fumbled eight times and been intercepted nine more in his first 10 NFL games. Moreover, the Bills beat the Lions after running out of healthy backs Sunday. Seriously.
Think twice (but it’s alright): QB Josh Allen, RB LeSean McCoy*, WRs Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie
Bengals at Browns
When you have a chance to lean on Bengals matchups in a Hue Jackson revenge game, you have to take it ... said no sane person ever, with the possible exception of Marvin Lewis. Seriously, as my guy John Sahly also will point out in his DFS column, the Bengals aren’t only bad — they’re incredibly banged up. The one guy worth playing, Joe Mixon, is coming off a monster game but gets a Browns ‘D’ that just held Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman to 31 combined yards on 18 carries. Cleveland’s ‘D’ did struggle in its three previous games against bell cow runners — including Mixon, who went for 155 yards on 21 chances — but that was with a healthy Tyler Boyd and Andy Dalton.
Don’t hesitate: RB Joe Mixon
Don’t do it: RB Gio Bernard, WRs John Ross, Cody Core, TE C.J. Uzomah
Cardinals vs. Rams
The Rams ‘D’ has several potential problem children as adversity finally arrives, but it isn’t the Rams’ sudden problem. Wade Phillips’ ‘D’ did allow Nick Foles and Alshon Jeffery to party like it was February in Minnesota on Monday night, but it also picked St. Nick once, increasing its total to six turnovers over the past three games. Meantime, Josh Rosen’s 14 interceptions lead the NFC, and his four pick-sixes are the most in the league. Moreover, the rookie’s 49.0 rating vs. the blitz is the worst in football, according to ESPN’s NFL Matchup, and no one sends pressure more than Phillips.
Think twice (but it’s alright): RB David Johnson, WR Larry Fitzgerald