Week 16 Championship Analysis

December 20, 2008

Here's what the experts are looking at for what is the last week of fantasy football:



Quarterbacks



Drew Brees leads the pack this week with a solid consensus from the experts. He takes on the lowly Lions of Detroit who have only managed 4 interceptions all year long.



Peyton Manning had a great game Thursday night indicative of his #3 ranking. If Matt Cassel is to earn his #2 slot, he should have at least as good a game. Cassel faces Arizona this week which has given up 31 passing TD's this year!



Jay Cutler and Kurt Warner round out the Top 5. Some experts rank Cutler as low as #12 but the consensus puts him in at #4. This is because he no longer has a good running game to compliment his aerial attack. This offense is predictable, but he also has a knack for finding Marshall, Royal, or Scheffler. Warner may have some difficulty with the weather in New England, but he's found a way to put up double-digit fantasy points every week and the Pats can be scored on.



Philip Rivers had 3 quarters of trouble last week bobbing from negative to a single point for fantasy owners until an explosive fourth quarter. He comes in at #6 this week because he'll be facing the 3rd ranked pass defense in Tampa Bay. Don't expect a monster game, but Rivers should still do well enough to put up some points.



Matt Schaub comes in at #7 mainly because Matt Cassel showed that the Raiders can be scored on and he's got some great weapons to score with. Shaun Hill didn't throw a single TD last week against Miami, but he gets to burn the Ram's 24th ranked pass defense this week earning him the #8 spot.



Continuing one of the oldest rivalries in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers takes on the Bear's secondary this Monday night. The Packers have nothing to play for but pride while the Bears are still fighting for the NFC North championship, so the experts expect the Bears to keep constant pressure on Rodgers. Regardless of what gets thrown at him, Rodgers will throw and points will be earned. He's been a pretty consistent fantasy scoring machine.



Here's where things get interesting. Rounding out the Top 10 is Brian Griese. Brian Griese?? The experts vary wildly on who's going to start for Tampa Bay. It doesn't matter whether Jeff Garcia (currently ranked #19 due to the uncertainty) or Brian Griese starts, they'll dominate the 31st-ranked Chargers pass defense.



Donovan McNabb claims the #11 ranking this week against a Redskins defense that allowed him to score only 7 fantasy points in their first meeting.



Tony Romo is not accustomed to being ranked outside the Top 10, but here he is in the championship week at #12. He falls because the experts are concerned with his ailing back and the fact that Baltimore will be pressuring him all day. The Raven's D is better than the Giants D that Romo picked apart.



Tyler Thigpen lays claim to #13 this week facing the 20th-ranked Miami pass defense. Thigpen's been a nice surprise this year and if you've been riding him into your championship game, you might as well stay the course.



Brett the Jet hits #14 this week, but some experts rank him as high as his jersey number (#4 if you didn't know that). I'm not sure why some of the experts are sour on him this week. He gets to face his mentor's horrible pass defense in what could be the last matchup between Favre and Holmgren (in Lambeau-esque snowy conditions no less!). Seattle stinks in the secondary and Favre needs a win to keep the Jet's playoff hopes alive. I disagree with the Nerd and expect a big day out of old man!



Following Favre is Chad Pennington who faces a KC defense that has difficulty stopping anything.



It's no secret that Matt Ryan (#16) loves to throw to Roddy White which translates into fantasy points for owners. The Vikings have a very tough run defense, so Ryan will have to throw (especially if they fall behind). I like Ryan this week and think he deserves to be up a few rankings.



Kyle Orton falls in line at #17 against a Packers secondary that hasn't been as good lately as they were earlier this year. Big Ben hasn't put up big numbers lately and the experts believe that trend will continue against the 5th ranked pass defense in the Titans.



What a world we live in when Dan Orlovsky is ranked ahead of Eli Manning. Orlovsky faces a porous Saints secondary and Eli faces a strong Carolina D earning them the #20 and #21 spots respectively.



Tavaris Jackson will suit up for the Vikings and NOBODY expects a repeat of last week's performance. If Jake Delhomme's offensive line can prevent him from running for his life, he may be able to outscore his #23 ranking. The problem is that the Giants pass rush is very good. The key for Delhomme is to get Steve Smith the ball and do it often.



The rest of the pack don't warrant start potential unless you're in a very deep league. Bulger (24), Wallace (25), Edwards (29), and Flacco (30) have big hills to climb and can't be counted on to produce big when it counts the most for fantasy owners.



I can't let my last analysis of the season go without mentioning JaMarcus Russell who edges out Ken Dorsey for the #32 ranking. Russell shouldn't even be in this category. Here's a New Year's resolution for the execs in Oakland: convince Bo Jackson to come out of retirement and play QB for the Raiders. Bo Knows Football (am I dating myself?) and he'll do a better job than Russell in bringing some shine back to that organization.



Running Backs



With Reggie Bush out, Pierre Thomas has the chance of a lifetime to grab the national spotlight. If you've been following waiver wire advice throughout the year, you'll find many experts who have thrown love at Thomas. He's got a strong consensus around him this week and is the #1 back against a pathetic Lions Defense. If you were smart enough to pick him up earlier, consider this your holiday gift! Enjoy.



Rewind 4+ months and who would have thought that Matt Forte and Steve Slaton would rank ahead of LT, Westbrook, and AP? Well, that's exactly what the world looks like today. Forte and Slaton have fantastic matchups this week and both are explosive runners who can help hand you a fantasy football championship!



Adrian Peterson ran for 165 yards against the Cards and the Falcons are worse than Arizona at stopping the run. Get your highlight reels rolling!



Marshawn Lynch lays claim to #5 this week. He's had 3 100-yard games in his past 5 outings. Pay attention to his injury status, but all experts believe he's good to go. The Broncos allow 140 yards a game on the ground and Lynch should get most of those. Raise your glass to another century mark day for him!



The only Ram worth starting this week is Steven Jackson (#7) who will be fine to play against the Niners. He's a great play in PPR leagues.



DeAngelo Williams has been a monster of late. If the Giants keep pressure on Delhomme, Williams will see more action and that action will lead to the end zone.



Kevin Smith of Detroit takes the #9 spot this week. Here I differ with the Nerd. Smith is talented and the Saints can be run on, but a Top 10 ranking? I'm not sold on it.



Rounding out the Top 10 is Thomas Jones who you simply can't sit. He gobbles up yards faster than a hungry piranha in a small tank.



It's hard to sit Brian Westbrook and it's equally as hard to predict the kind of game he'll bring. He's ranked #11 this week but could go either up or down.



#12 and #13 belong to two of the biggest names in running back land. Tomlinson and Turner should do OK, but they're not the best in the biz this week. LT was the clear cut winner in the pre-draft rankings, but he's failed to live up to the expectations. Turner is normally a huge performer, but he's got the toughest run defense to face in Minnesota.



Ronnie Brown ranks #14 this week and I think he's worthy of a Top 10 ranking. He gets a Chiefs D that has allowed 22 rushing TD's in 14 games.



Ryan Grant against Chicago could bring Grant to a halt this week. If Grant sees Urlacher facing him through whatever hole the offensive line can open up, I'll bet a paycheck that it's Grant who ends up on the ground.



Clinton Portis falls in at #16 this week and nobody's sure what to make of him. Portis or Betts against a good Philly D could mean a tough road to scoring points.



The experts must believe that Gore will be playing because they're giving him a #18 ranking. DeShaun Foster (#22) should be dropped if Gore plays. Iffy play here.



Cedric Benson claims the #21 spot and could be a nice sleeper here. I'm starting him in one of my championship games and my fingers will be crossed as he lines up against the lowly Browns.



Notable rankings between #22 and #40 are Jamal Lewis (23), Willie Parker (24), Brandon Jacobs (25), Chris Johnson (28), and Marion Barber (38). Willie Parker has a streak of 4 games in single digits. Lewis did well the last time he faced Cincy, but this week is uncertain. Chris Johnson faces the Steelers so his production will be in question. My crystal ball is foggy when it comes to analyzing the type of production that a hurting Barber can achieve. Temper your expectations with any of these players.



Wide Receivers



Predicting wide receivers can be difficult, but there's nothing difficult about this week's Top 10. Greg Jennings earns the #1 spot and he'll have some work to do to beat Reggie Wayne's Thursday night performance. He gets a Bears secondary that he should be able to dominate.



Andre Johnson has been an absolutely monster-stat making machine of late. Experts expect that to continue.



Steve Smith may be small in stature, but the Panthers have learned that when he gets the ball, they get the Win. If Delhomme can stay in the pocket long enough, Smith should continue his YAC grabbing days.



Marques Colston gets the #4 spot this week, but I still like Lance Moore (#27). It really depends on who Drew Brees likes more, but both are great options against a pathetic Lions defense.



Calvin Johnson plays in Detroit where more than a failing auto industry brings gloom to this city. Johnson is the lone bright spot and has flourished without Roy Williams in the mix. He should have a great day.



Antonio Bryant grabs the #6 spot and he's been on such a tear lately that he warrants MUST START status. Factor in the Chargers secondary that has given up the 3rd most passing TD's in the league and it equals another monster day for Bryant regardless of who's behind center.



Roddy White (#7) is so quick and talented that his five game no-TD streak will come to an end. Minnesota is great at stopping the run, but not so good at preventing the pass.



Randy Moss (#8) is back in the Top 10 due to Matt Cassel's ability to finally find him. Arizona's defense has allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year and Moss, Welker, and company will benefit.



Larry Fitzgerald is a target. Enough said. Warner will through a lot and Fitz will get receptions. Expect a score from this madmen.



Lee Evans rounds out the Top 10. If it weren't for the Broncos' 27th-ranked pass defense, Evans might not make the rankings at this high of a spot. He hasn't looked very good with Losman behind center.



Isaac Bruce is ranked #11 this week against a bad Rams defense. Hill has been able to find Bruce almost at will and should perform brilliantly this week.



Braylon Edwards (#12) says he wants to stay in Cleveland, but he'll need to start catching balls if he wants to do so. I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV and my diagnosis is that he still suffers from a bad case of dropitis. I don't think he deserves this spot, but he is playing the Bengals who give up the 3rd most points to fantasy wide receivers.



Wes Welker: See Randy Moss above.



Brandon Marshall gets the #14 spot and he puts me in a bind. I'm starting him instead of Reggie Wayne who scored 30 fantasy points on my bench this week (PPR league with juice). I've seen his rankings as low as #33 this week because nobody can figure out what he'll do. There's a lot of potential for him, but the defense will focus on him in a very predictable Bronco's offense.



Terrell Owens (#16) could have a difficult time catching the ball if Romo doesn't get enough time to throw it. TO has had 8 games where he's had less than 40 yards receiving. The experts are expecting that this week, but you can't sit him because he has the potential to go off.



If Philip Rivers can perform, Vincent Jackson should benefit. Jackson has become the go-to guy in San Diego ahead of Chambers and he clearly earns the #17 spot.



Who would have expected Devin Hester, perhaps the best special teams guy ever, to be in the Top 20 receivers? The Packers secondary has been suspect over the 2nd half of the season and the experts think he'll get some targets this Monday night.



If you've read any of my weekly analysis posts this year, you know that I am high on Dwayne Bowe. There's something to be said about a guy who is so amazingly consistent. He's not going to light up the sky, but he's going to give you points that you can count on week in and week out. I think he's a great play this week too.



With Carson Palmer out, T.J. Houshmandzadeh's value had dropped. He still gets the looks and receptions, but he's clearly not the value he was last year (#22 ranking this week). With Ocho Cinco a complete bust this year, Housh is the man in Cincy.



If past history is any indication, Eddie Royal could very well trade spots with Brandon Marshall. Marshall generally gets the double coverage leaving Royal open for Cutler's passes. Royal gets the #24 spot this week and there is certainly an upside to him once he gets the ball in his hands.



What happened to Santana Moss? The guy who was ripping it up is now stinking it up in fantasy land. I'm starting him in the championship game for the Stinky Tee Experts League, but my expectations are tempered. He's ranked #31 this week with the experts expecting only a slightly better performance than the last time these two teams met.



Maybe it's because I'm a die-hard Packer fan or because I think the Bear's secondary will give up yards, but I disagree with the Nerd's #37 ranking for Donald Driver. He's capable of pulling down the toughest grabs, but he hasn't been targeted in the end zone as much as he was last year. I think you'll see a better performance out of him Monday night than the experts predict.



Here's an interesting ranking: Anquan Boldin at #39. He used to be an elite receiver, but he missed 3 straight practices this week and head coach Ken Whisenhunt said that he'd be willing to rest Boldin for postseason play. Start him at your own risk, but watch the injury reports to see if he'll even play.



Tight Ends



It may not look like a good matchup on paper, but the experts seem to agree that Tony Gonzalez should be a goldmine today. The Dolphins are great at stopping TE's, but Thigpen's love for Gonzalez should overcome that.



Dallas Clark had a fantastic game and proved worthy of his #2 slot.



Philip Rivers could have a tough matchup this week and if he's going to do well, Antonio Gates needs to get involved. Pretty solid consensus from the experts on this one.



Some of the experts vary on Dustin Keller's potential but the aggregate rankings put him at #5 this week. Brett the Jet loves his TE's and Keller should benefit.



500 point question: Who had the best season ever for a Seattle TE? John Carlson (#6) has been great for fantasy owners over the past few weeks. I own him in one of my leagues and debate every week with myself on whether to start him or Witten. I'm going with Carlson this week.



Rounding out the Top 10 are Zach Miller, Chris Cooley, Owen Daniels and Jerramy Stevens. There's good consensus for rankings 7-9, but Stevens has gone as high as 4 by some experts.



Taking a peek at 11-20 and there's the list of usual suspects.



David Martin has become a favorite target for Pennington in Miami, surpasing Anthony Fasano's early season hype.



Tony Scheffler (#12) could easily move up if Cutler has any difficulty finding Royal or Marshall, plus Cutler will pass a lot in this game.



Vernon Davis is so big and fast that he's finally starting to put up numbers and is worthy of his #13 ranking.



Jeremy Shockey falls in line at #14 and has pretty much been a disappointment since coming to New Orleans. The expert opinions around the Net seem to point to too many great weapons in New Orleans at Brees's disposal that Shockey isn't the go-to guy.



Much has been written about Todd Heap (#22) and his wasted potential this year. He's a great blocker and has been used in that capacity for much of the season.



Defense



If your league scoring rules provide for negative scoring, picking the right Defense can sometimes mean the difference between a W and an L. It's unfortunate that here in Week 16, there's very little common ground among the experts as to where the defensive units fall.



Unfortunately there isn't a solid consensus on the Nerd's #1 ranking this week. Pittsburgh is a strong, dominating defense but they are playing the Titans in Tennessee for home-field advantage. This should be a low scoring game, but we've been surprised before. I've seen one expert rank the Steelers at #17 this week with the Browns (seriously) at #1. I've used the Steelers all season long and I just can't bring myself to sit them.



Miami's D has been a nice play most of the season, but Thigpen has played great and should be able to carve up Miami's secondary. Regardless of the matchup, Miami falls into the #2 spot but be careful.



Philly claims the #5 spot this week and there's pretty solid consensus on this one. The Redskins know that the Eagles will blitz and blitz often. Can Campbell escape the onslaught? Most of the experts don't believe so.



Chicago rounds out the Top 10 against a Packer offense that has been sputtering lately and has nothing to play for. Monday night's game is in Chicago and the Bears should be primed for this one, but Rodgers and company could dampen their hopes. I sure hope so (Disclaimer: I'm a big Packer's fan so I'll be rooting for GB).



The twins from NY claim the #11 and #12 spots. The Jets face Seattle which has done pretty well in the air lately. They'll need to stop Branch and Carlson. The Giants follow and what a change. The Giants are usually a Top 10 play but Choice had his way with them last week and DeAngelo Williams is a much better back.



Opposite of our cumulative #1 rank is the #14 Titans. I've seen the Titans ranked as high as #2 are some lists, but most experts look at their history this year where they have consistently only put up single digits. This is a toss-up with projections at both extremes.



The Patriots claim #15 this week and they could be ranked lower. Warner will most likely not sit until next week and that means that he will be carving up the Pats secondary like a Thanksgiving turkey. Most experts believe that this will not be a strong play for your championship game.



Kickers



With Buffalo not performing as well lately, there's pretty good consensus on Matt Prater's #1 ranking this week.



Joe Nedney gets the #2 nod this week simply because he's pretty good at scoring each week.



Jason Elam's new home in Atlanta should bring some welcome relief to fantasy owners who have been waiting for a big game from him. His #4 ranking is due to the fact that the Falcons may have trouble getting into the end zone and his leg looks good this week.



John Carney has been one of the best kickers in the NFL this year and grabs our #5 spot. He's a veteran and scoring is what he does. Most believe he'll have a great game today.



Rob Bironas (#6) should see some action in what is expected to be a low-scoring affair. When the Titans face a tough Steelers D, it opens up FG opportunities.



There's very little good news out of Detroit these days, but it's encouraging to see Jason Hanson in the Top 10. Unfortunately for the Lions, his leg won't be enough to get them a Win today.



Mason Crosby falls to #13 on a poorly-performing Packers team. He can usually be found in the Top 10 and I'm a bit surprised to not see him there. He had his highest scoring fantasy day this year against the Bears. Why wouldn't he repeat that on Monday?



Following Crosby is Robbie Gould at #14. Not many experts are predicting FG opportunities for Gould. Most expect 3 to 4 scores from the Bears which will only give Robbie a couple of extra point attempts.



Olindo Mare has seen the Top 10 before, but not this week. That's interesting because there are some sites that do put him in the Top 10. Why? Simple. He's the only consistent scorer in the Seattle offense (next to Carlson of course). As long as Seattle can move the ball, Mare should be a good play.



Ryan Longwell is a veteran and his consistency has been pretty good. I have him and won't hesitate to start him. Maybe it's because I had a chance to meet him and his wife when the last company I worked for sponsored a weekly tailgate party. Both are exceptional people and I enjoyed spending time with them. Hopefully he helps me win this week.



Good luck to all!!

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