Championship week has arrived. Fifteen weeks of ups, downs, waiver wire gems and first-round draft flops have led the most astute of owners to the verge of winning it all. The work isn’t done, yet, though, as the task of assembling one more winning lineup starts on Christmas Day when Vikings-Saints kicks off Week 16.
For those who didn’t reach the title game, consider this week as added motivation to put together a winning 2021 lineup when draft season begins in a mere eight months.
START: Jalen Hurts, QB, Eagles: Hurts is a must-play in just his third start, having produced four touchdown passes without an interception in 74 attempts while adding 169 rushing yards and a score. He has a great opportunity to take fantasy owners across the finish line when he takes on a Cowboys defense that is ninth worst in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks en route to allowing the second-highest points total (433) in the league.
SIT: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: Now is not the time to trust Big Ben to revert to early season form, not after averaging 178.5 passing yards in his past two games to go along with three interceptions. The Colts’ pass defense has struggled of late, yet still ranks sixth in fewest fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Pittsburgh’s receiving group has yet to shake off its penchant for dropping passes, all the more reason to keep Roethlisberger sidelined.
START: David Montgomery, RB, Bears: Over the past four games, Montgomery has 434 yards and five rushing touchdowns, numbers that have carried many fantasy teams into championship week. There’s little reason to think Montgomery will slow down this week, not against a Jaguars defense that’s the fourth worst in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing running backs along with giving up 18 touchdowns on the ground.
SIT: Mike Davis, RB, Panthers: If Christian McCaffery doesn’t play, Davis will be in line for another start. That also means fantasy owners should shy away from him, as Davis managed just 61 yards from scrimmage in the Week 15 loss at the Packers. Facing Washington which allows the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs makes Davis a clear sit for fantasy owners.
START: Brandin Cooks, WR, Texans: Cooks hasn’t scored since Week 9, but he’s been targeted at least five times in every game since Week 5. He’s overdue for a big outing and should be able to do so against a Bengals secondary that has allowed 19 touchdown passes this season to opposing wideouts.
SIT: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seahawks: He has failed to score in three of his past four games and has been held to 61 or fewer receiving yards in four of his past six. Yes, Metcalf is certainly capable of a big Week 16, but don’t count on it as he faces a Rams defense that is the stingiest in fantasy points allowed per game to opposing receivers and who also locked him up for 28 yards on four targets in a Week 10 win over Seattle.
START: Tyler Eifert, TE, Jaguars: There’s some risk here, as Eifert has had more than five targets in a game just once since Week 5, but whomever lines up under center for Jacksonville will have a chance to connect with Eifert consistently against a Bears defense that has allowed 10 touchdown passes to TEs this season and is third worst in fantasy points allowed per game to opposing tight ends.
SIT: Evan Engram, TE, Giants: Engram peaked with a 129-yard outing in Week 12 and has faded since, managing just 96 yards on 10 receptions over the past three games. His numbers could continue to lean toward the mediocre as long as Colt McCoy is starting at quarterback. And it doesn’t help Engram’s cause to face a stout Ravens pass defense that leads the league in blitz percentage.
START: Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers: Coming off a 390-yard, two-TD performance against the Falcons last week, Brady gets another opportunity to reward his fantasy owners when he faces a Lions defense that ranks fourth worst against opposing QBs while also allowing 29 touchdown passes.
SIT: Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings: Cousins’ run of multiple touchdown passes in six of his past seven games has helped his fantasy owners, but it's time to hop off the Cousins' bandwagon as he must contend with a Saints pass defense that has allowed the fourth-fewest yards in the league and also ranks fourth in percentage of total QB pressures.
START: Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys: Despite coming off his worst outing of the season in Week 15, Cooper has a good choice to rebound as he faces an Eagles defense that struggled against the Cardinals last week. Cooper had scored in three consecutive games prior to Week 15 and should benefit from a high volume of targets from QB Andy Dalton.
SIT: D’Andre Swift, RB, Lions: The rookie has scored three times in his past two games, but has the unfortunate task of attempting to produce solid fantasy numbers against a Buccaneers defense that leads the league in fewest rushing yards allowed and yields a league-low 3.4 yards per carry. Tampa Bay is equally stingy in allowing rushing touchdowns, giving up just nine this season.
START: Zack Moss, RB, Bills: Moss equaled his season best with 81 rushing yards in the Week 15 win over the Broncos. Despite sharing carries with Devin Singletary, Moss has a tremendous opportunity to not only snap a five-game skid of not scoring a rushing touchdown, but also approaching 100 yards against a Patriots defense that allows the sixth-most rushing yards in the league.
SIT: Jonnu Smith, TE, Titans: He has yet to top 61 receiving yards since Week 3 and has not scored in three of his past four games. Those are numbers fantasy owners don’t want in championship week, so keep Smith sidelined against a Packers defense that is fourth in fewest fantasy points allowed per game to opposing tight ends.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by SportsGrid Inc., www.sportsgrid.com