FANTASY PLAYS: Factors to consider for championship week
If you are intently reading this right now, odds are you're playing in your fantasy football championship this week.
So while you may be anxious about finishing the job and winning it all, be proud and realize it's a tremendous accomplishment to get this far. You're well qualified to compete for your league title and should be more confident than apprehensive.
Don't overthink lineup moves now just because there is so much at stake. Your team belongs here - the strategies you employed took it to the championship game. So go for glory with poise, savvy and these final tips in mind.
DALLAS AFTER CLINCHING PLAYOFF POSITION
The Cowboys have locked up the No. 1 playoff seed in the NFC, so owners may be wondering how much field time the starters could see in Week 16. Continue to roll with Ezekiel Elliott, as the team still likely wants him to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. He needs 258 yards to earn his place in history. But you could see Dak Prescott play more conservatively, and not take chances scrambling to throw on the run or gain extra yardage as a runner. Dez Bryant is known for his all-out style of play, but could rein it in some. Prescott and Bryant might not have their usual upside this week, so go with an alternative of similar value if you possibly can. No other Cowboys should be used.
BROWNS AGAINST THE RUN
The Browns are the worst team in the AFC against the run, allowing 24.8 fantasy points per game to running backs. Melvin Gordon may sit out, leaving undrafted rookie Kenneth Farrow and journeyman Ronnie Hillman to try to take advantage of the matchup. Farrow totaled just 54 yards from scrimmage against Oakland last week. Neither RB looks like a clear option over the other heading into this matchup and both lack upside. Hillman looked better against the Raiders, rushing for 34 yards on seven carries. But the workload split is uncertain. It's too risky to use either player in a title game despite the attractive matchup.
A CHARGER TO CONSIDER
The San Diego player you should consider this week if you need some TE help is Antonio Gates. He is two touchdowns shy of tying Tony Gonzalez for scores at the position. With nothing else to play for, Philip Rivers will be looking to help Gates set a record. Cleveland allows a league-high 11.7 FFPG to the position, so Gates has a really good chance to get closer to or even tie the record, helping your fantasy team in the process.
He has been a big disappointment all season, but this is the time to use Todd Gurley. He faces a historically awful 49ers run defense. San Francisco allows a league-high 26.6 FFPG to running backs. Gurley has been done in this season by game flow and a lack of balance on offense, plus substandard blocking. None of those factors should be an impediment this week, and you can strongly consider starting him as your second running back or flex player.
Amari Cooper has been a big disappointment in recent weeks, but maintain confidence in him as you set your championship lineup. The Raiders face the Colts' 27th-ranked pass defense. Indianapolis also has to account for Michael Crabtree and Latavius Murray, who have been more productive for the Raiders lately. Oakland needs to get Cooper more involved in the passing game again as the AFC playoffs approach. Look for him to post quality yardage numbers and get into the end zone.
A.J. Green makes his return this week from a hamstring injury, playing against the Texans. Fantasy owners should not hesitate to get him back into their lineups, but should lower their expectations a bit after a layoff. When he is healthy and 100 percent, Green is obviously a must-start as your prime fantasy wide receiver. Treat him more as a second wide receiver this week. He should at least deliver an adequate performance, and is always a threat to score a TD whenever he is on the field.
ATTACKING THE BRONCOS
The way to attack the Broncos is on the ground. Denver allows 127.9 yards rushing per game, fourth-most in the NFL. But Spencer Ware is not a quality start against them. He has not scored in six of his past seven games and has not rushed for 80 yards in his last eight. He is not running with any authority or burst, and should not be considered as anything more than a flex option this week. If you have a close call between Ware and another player, bench him.
If you are searching far and wide for a defense this week, consider Washington. They are fourth in the league in sacks, and face the turnover-prone Matt Barkley. Sacks and turnovers are the most important elements when choosing a defense, and Washington meets both requirements this week. Plus, the team needs to play well to rebound and stay in the postseason race after a terrible Week 15 home loss to Carolina.
The Seahawks offense has been inconsistent this season, and you may see the lesser version this week. The Cardinals have been tough against the run at times this season, as they allow 99.1 rushing yards per game. Thomas Rawls may have to work hard for his yardage and is not an ideal start as your second running back. An inconsistent running game could force Russell Wilson into some adverse passing situations and struggles. You are better off starting Jameis Winston or Prescott this week. Don't expect much upside from Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Jimmy Graham in what could be a lower-scoring game with the Cardinals.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com