You made it. 14 weeks of grinding, 1 week of holding your breath in the playoffs, and now fantasy football immortality awaits you. Whether this is your first or your 21st championship game, it's always a big deal. Maybe there is some sort of prize at the end of the rainbow - but there is nothing better than the bragging rights and your name on the banner. Flags Fly Forever. Go get it.
QBs I love: Cam Newton (@ATL), Blake Bortles (@NO), Ben Roethlisberger (@BAL), Carson Palmer (GB). We don't have to spill anymore virtual ink on Cam - he's great, ride it out for another week and collect your hardware. Bortles is the only name that might surprise but he's been slinging it and he's gifted with the Saints. I'm so happy I'm not facing Bortles anywhere this week. Big Ben and Palmer are great plays as well - Big Ben might lead all QBs this week.
QBs I like: Drew Brees if healthy (Jax), Tom Brady (@NYJ), Kirk Cousins (@PHI), Matthew Stafford (SF). If Brees is good to go, he's safe to dial up against a bad Jacksonville secondary and a game flow that favors a shootout. Brady is the #1 QB with a tougher draw but you're not benching him.
QBs if no better options: Brian Hoyer (@TEN), Ryan Tannehill (IND), Eli Manning (@MIN), Tyrod Taylor (DAL), Jameis Winston (CHI), Alex Smith (CLE), Teddy Bridgewater (NYG). I wouldn't feel good about starting any of these guys but there is reason to hope. Hoyer, Tannehill, and Bridgewater have excellent matchups but aren't guys that you think about winning you hardware. Alex Smith is a safe floor option but he's just as likely to finish with 118 yards and no TDs. Eli and Tyrod have tougher draws and I'd worry about a letdown from both of those squads after last week's losses.
QBs I'm avoiding: Matt Ryan (Car), Aaron Rodgers (@ARI), Ryan Fitzpatrick (NE), Matt Schaub (PIT), Sam Bradford (WAS), Jay Cutler (@TB). We've buried Matt Ryan before but don't make the mistake of playing him against Carolina. Similarly, I wouldn't feel good about playing Rodgers - he's posted some bad numbers against elite defenses. I don't get the Fitzpatrick love against New England and Schaub, Bradford, and Cutler are just bad plays.
QB Shotgun Longshot - Kirk Cousins (@PHI) - Somehow Cousins is only 42% owned so I get to sneak this one in here. There is a chance that he falls on his face here but consider that Cousins is red hot, Washington is in the thick of a playoff berth against the team they have to beat, and Philly plays incredibly fast on offense so we have the chance for more possessions for each squad. It's a gamble but it has a lot going for it.
RBs I love: None - you're crazy if you love any running backs this year.
RBs I like: Basically - anyone that is healthy and with a clear path to carries - DeAngelo Williams (@BAL), David Johnson (GB), Devonta Freeman (CAR), Denard Robinson (@NO), Doug Martin (CHI), Tim Hightower (JAX), Karlos Williams (DAL), Darren McFadden (@Bug), Charcandrick West (CLE), Cameron Artis-Payne (@ATL), Frank Gore (@Mia). Nothing to say really. Plug them in, hope they fall over the goal line with the ball in their hands.
RBs if no better options: Guys that have terrible matchups or time sharing - Matt Forte & Jeremy Langford (@TB), Chris Ivory (NE), Todd Gurley (@SEA), Javorius Allen (PIT), Eddie Lacy (@ARI). I don't like timeshare backs to begin with but it's extra risky in championship week. I'd think hard about sitting guys like Ivory, Gurley, and Lacy if you have good options. Lacy in particular is banged up - he's got 3 strikes against him (injured, terrible matchup, James Starks).
RBs I'm avoiding: Guys that are hurt - Adrian Peterson (NYG), Spencer Ware (CLE), Shaun Draughn (@DET), Lamar Miller (IND). Will AP even play if the game is meaningless by the GB/ARI game? This would make me very nervous as an AP owner as the game is Sunday Night. I'd make the move for McKinnon right now if you're dead set on playing AP. It doesn't sound like Draughn will play and even if Ware plays I think I'd avoid it. Miller has been wildly inconsistent this year and he's currently listed as questionable. Hit eject if possible.
RB Toss Sweep Sleeper: Cameron Artis-Payne (@ATL) - CAP gets to play with Cam Newton in place of Jonathan Stewart (please confirm this on Sunday morning but all indications are that Stewart is out). Cam Newton is pretty good at football. The Atlanta Falcons defense - not so good at football. This is one that you can't overthink. If you're desperate for a play, Cameron Artis-Payne has a path to carries in a plus matchup for a red hot offense.
WRs I love: Antonio Brown (@BAL), Martavis Bryant (@BAL), Alshon Jeffery (@TB), DeAndre Hopkins (@TEN), Julio Jones (CAR), Allen Robinson (@NO), Calvin Johnson (SF), Kamar Aiken (PIT), Doug Baldwin (STL), Brandon Marshall (NE), Mike Evans (CHI). Yes, that's basically the elite guys I just listed. Don't get cute, just play. Make sure that Alshon, Baldwin, and Calvin Johnson are healthy on Sunday morning.
WRs I like: Jeremy Maclin (CLE), Brandin Cooks (JAX), Jarvis Landry (IND), Larry Fitzgerald & John Brown (GB), Eric Decker (NE), DeSean Jackson (@PHI), Emmanuel Sanders & Demaryius Thomas (CIN), Sammy Watkins, Golden Tate (SF), Allen Hurns (@NO), Jordan Matthews (WAS). Every single one of these guys should be in your lineup. Don't overthink it.
WRs if no better options: AJ Green (@DEN), Willie Snead (JAX), Rueben Randle (@MIN), TY Hilton (@MIA), Anquan Boldin (@DET), Pierre Garcon (@PHI), Markus Wheaton (@BAL), Ted Ginn (@ATL), Stephon Diggs (NYG), Travis Benjamin (@KC). It would be difficult, but you've got to consider sitting AJ Green. With McCarron throwing the ball against the Broncos secondary, Green could get shut down. The rest of these guys have a mix of upside with the risk of either game flow going against them or other options getting the targets.
WRs I'm avoiding: Randall Cobb & Davante Adams (@ARI), Brandon LaFell (@NYJ), Dez Bryant (@BUF), Marvin Jones (@DEN). One thing you want to avoid this week is a 1 or 2 point outing and all of these guys are capable of delivering nothing in exchange for your confidence in starting them.
WR Fly Route Flier: Markus Wheaton (@BAL) - The popular pick around the web is Rueben Randle or Dwayne Harris to fill in for the suspension of Odell Beckham. That line of thinking would scare me because the offensive game plan may be completely different. If I'm desperate, I'm dialing up Wheaton who, as the 3rd WR for Pittsburgh, will still likely receive a healthy workload against one of the worst pass defenses in the league. It's a division game, the Steelers are fighting for a Wild Card slot - don't be surprised if the Steelers pour it on and Wheaton benefits.
Good luck to all of you that are playing meaningful FFB this weekend. We'll have one more column to wrap up the year next Tuesday. I'll let you all know where the longshot picks stacked up overall.