- The fantasy football playoffs are upon us. Who will be this year's MVP? Our writers give their candidates.
Two weeks from now, one fantasy owner in every league will be celebrating a championship season. While each of those teams will be different, many will likely share a common player or two. There’s always a handful of players most responsible for lifting their owners to titles, and those players pop up on more than their fair share of championship teams.
With that in mind, we asked our fantasy experts the following question to kick off the Week 14 Cheat Sheet.
The fantasy playoffs are here. The player who will end up on the most championship teams is…
Michael Beller: Antonio Brown. Yeah, it’s a boring answer, but there aren’t any points for degree of difficulty here. Brown is going to put his fantasy teams on his back over the next three weeks. First of all, you can’t win a fantasy championship unless you’re in the playoffs, and I’m willing to bet the vast majority of Brown’s owners made the dance. That typically happens when your first-round pick does exactly what he’s supposed to, giving you 15.3 points per game in standard-scoring leagues, and 22.63 points per game in PPR formats. Brown, as expected, has also hit his ceiling with some of the greatest consistency of any player, topping 15 standard-league points and 24 PPR points in seven of his 12 games.
There’s no reason to expect Brown to fall short of his season-long per-game averages over the next three weeks, so we’re already starting at a baseline of 15 and 22 points per game in standard and PPR leagues, respectively. There is reason, however, to expect him to breeze past those averages. Yes, he has a tough matchup with the Ravens in Week 14. The on-paper difficulty might not matter for two reasons. First, many of his likely earned byes. Second, no matchup is too much for Brown, and it’s worth noting that the Ravens will be without top corner Jimmy Smith, who tore his Achilles last week. The Steelers also have the benefit of playing this game at home, where both Brown and Ben Roethlisberger have been more productive in their careers.
Now take a look ahead to Weeks 15 and 16. The Steelers host the Patriots next week, then hit the road to take on the Texans for the fantasy championship. Patriots-Steelers is sure to have an over/under north of 50 points, and the Patriots remain in the bottom third of the league against wide receivers in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA). The Texans, meanwhile, haven’t stopped anyone through the air this season, ranking 28th in wide receiver aFPA. We’re talking about defenses like that going up against Antonio Brown, the best receiver in the league, and the author of four games this season with at least 144 yards, and five with at least 10 receptions. He heads into the fantasy playoffs on a hot streak, catching 28 passes for 414 yards and six touchdowns in his last three games. The sun his shined on Brown owners all season. It might be cold outside now, but they’ll still be basking in the warmth of his championship-driving glow.
John Paulsen: When I first read this question I immediately thought of Alvin Kamara, who was going in the double-digit rounds in fantasy drafts thanks to the presences of Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. But Kamara’s concussion in Week 14 may knock more than a few playoff teams out of contention, so I started to look elsewhere.
How about Adam Thielen? He’s currently the WR10 in standard formats and the WR5 in PPR leagues, and he has a pretty good set of matchups—Carolina, a banged-up Cincinnati defense, and the Packers—to close out the season. He’s on pace for a 99-catch, 1,409-yard, four-touchdown season, all for the price of a 10th-round pick. Methinks he’ll be on his fair share of title-winning teams.
T.J. Hernandez: Mike Davis. Seemingly every season there's a running back who emerges late in the season, and the fantasy team that is lucky enough to land that player often makes a title run. It's not a coincidence that it's almost always a running back that leads the way, as that's the one position where a new starter is guaranteed volume, even if that player doesn't emerge until December. In Week 13, Davis was the first Seahawks running back since Week 2 to amass 100 total yards. Over the next two weeks, Davis will face two defenses in the Jaguars and Rams that funnel fantasy points to running backs. Jacksonvile ranks first in quarterback aFPA, but 24th against running backs. Los Angeles, meanwhile, ranks third against quarterbacks and 19th against running backs. Seattle wraps up the fantasy season against a Cowboys defense that ranks 21st against running backs when adjusted for strength of schedule. The Seahawks are arguably the hottest team in the league right now and will be playing not just for a playoff spot, but a possible division title. The end of the season sets up for Davis to carry his team to a division title and yours to a fantasy championship.
Jennifer Eakins: Philip Rivers. The Chargers quarterback is red hot right now, averaging 343 passing yards per game with six total touchdowns in his last three contests. In that same three-week timeframe, Rivers has put up the third-most points among signal callers, coming out to a robust 21.48 fantasy points per game. The Chargers schedule during the fantasy playoffs is extremely favorable for Rivers and his talented stable of weapons. He’ll face three defenses ranked 19th or worse in quarterback aFPA, including the dead-last Chiefs in Week 15. The defenses are also in the bottom half of the league in wide receiver aFPA, which bodes well for Keenan Allen, who’s on a hot streak of his own. Rivers has a mission beyond the championship hopes of his fantasy owners, with an AFC West title in sight. The attractive three-week schedule ahead of him will help him be the 2017 fantasy playoffs MVP.