This is a defining week for many fantasy football teams, especially in leagues where it’s the last week of the regular season.
There is little margin for error at this point, although fantasy owners with their backs against the wall should be open to high-risk, high-reward shots in their lineups.
There are a handful of games (Rams-Lions, Chargers-Steelers, Redskins-Eagles) that could turn into free-for-alls, but there aren’t any locks for explosive fantasy numbers across the board. In fact, there are several games (Bears-Giants, Browns-Texans, Jets-Titans) that could temper scoring.
START: Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions: Golladay has been targeted 36 times in the last three games. The Rams have given up 25 touchdown passes and are 29th in average yards allowed per catch (12.3), numbers that play right into the hands of Matthew Stafford in what could be a high-scoring affair. Golladay is a solid WR2 who should put up WR1-caliber totals.
SIT: Eli Manning, QB, Giants: Facing a Bears defense that leads the league with 20 interceptions doesn’t play well for Manning despite his six touchdown passes over his last three games. Chicago is also sixth in the league with 34 sacks, which will greatly reduce the time Manning will have to throw. A poor game from Manning will have a ripple effect that will also impact Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley, so owners of those players have serious risk of a letdown.
START: Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings: He’s attempted at least 38 passes in four of his last five games and can make it five of six as he takes on a suspect Patriots defense that is 25th in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Cousins has thrown at least two touchdowns in four of his last five as well and will be in line for a huge afternoon, especially if Tom Brady helps turn this into a shootout.
SIT: Baker Mayfield, QB, Browns: The rookie has a 13-2 TD to interception margin in his last five games and has completed 78.2 percent of his throws over the past two games. However, he must hit the road and contend with a Texans defense that is fourth in fewest fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks while also dealing with a pass rush tied for sixth with 34 sacks. Reality will hit both Mayfield and those who start him in brutal fashion on Sunday.
START: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers: Coming off a season-best 17 carries in last week’s loss to the Vikings, Jones has a great matchup against a Cardinals defense that sits 30th in the league in rushing yards allowed. No defense has allowed more rushing touchdowns than the 16 Arizona has given up, bolstering the chances of Jones crossing the goal line for a fourth straight game. He has four touchdowns in his last three games. With Jamaal Williams an afterthought these days, Jones is now a borderline RB1 with room to grow.
SIT: Adrian Peterson, RB, Redskins: Since gouging the Giants for 149 yards in Week 8, Peterson has sputtered, failing to reach 70 yards in each of his last four games. His fantasy numbers would be worse if he hadn’t scored two short yardage touchdowns against the Texans in Week 11. Although the Eagles run defense has struggled against Ezekiel Elliott and Barkley in recent weeks, they are still 12th in stopping opposing ground games and Washington will be more focused on attacking Philly’s banged up secondary.
START: Cameron Brate, TE, Buccaneers: With O.J. Howard done for the season, Brate will see an increase in targets, especially on Sunday against a Panthers defense that is the worst in fantasy when it comes to stopping opposing tight ends. Brate scored his first touchdown since Week 6 last week against the 49ers, and while he has yet to exceed 34 receiving yards in a game this season, his track record shows he can be more than just a presence at the goal line. Look for Jameis Winston to make him a staple of the Tampa Bay passing attack.
SIT: Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers: Goodwin averages 19.9 yards per catch but has yet to have more than five targets in a game this season. The Seahawks would make for a good matchup for Goodwin, as they have given up at least 89 yards to six different receivers in the last five games, but his lack of volume, paired with this being a road game for San Francisco, makes him far too risky to consider even in deeper leagues.
START: Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: The Rams defense makes for a good slump-buster for Stafford, who has just three touchdown passes in his last four games. Los Angeles is tied for 27th with 25 touchdowns passes allowed and tied for 29th in average yards per catch allowed with 12.3. Those who own both Stafford and Golladay will have a great pairing that can put up huge numbers in what should be a fantasy gold mine.
SIT: Marlon Mack, RB, Colts: Even if Mack clears the league’s concussion protocol, he’s facing a Jaguars defense that allows the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. He’s also cooled off after racking up 258 yards and three touchdowns in Weeks 7 and 8, rushing for a combined 175 yards and a score on 43 carries in his last three outings. There is little upside to plugging Mack into a lineup, especially for teams that must win.
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