The time has come … the end is near … we have reached the end of the regular season in the NFL. For many people across the globe, their fantasy football championship was won or lost with the action in week 16. But, for a few souls out there, their title is on the line this week, the decisive week for many teams across the NFL. Again this week, I am going to narrow down the usual list of players from all the games to the five best under the radar plays that will fit in your shaky positions in your lineup. These are my best choices to win you your title this week. But, before we get to that …
Week 16 brought about more drama and more playoff clinching scenarios and clutch play from Tony Romo … yes I said Tony Romo!! The Cowboys kept their playoff hopes alive with a big time score on fourth down (a 10 yard pass from the injured Tony Romo to DeMarco Murray) to snatch a victory in Washington and stun the Redskins. In other news, the Miami Dolphins did not show up in Buffalo and ended up getting shut down by the Bills; the Lions found a way to lose again by turning over the ball at a critical moment and guaranteeing the end of the Jim Schwartz (not shocking news, huh?); and the Patriots destroyed the Ravens on the road in Baltimore and showed that they may still be the class of the AFC.
And then there was Monday night. Week 16 also saw the last game at Candlestick Park as the 49ers closed it out on Monday Night Football (there may still be a playoff game at “The Stick,” but it is extremely unlikely). It looked like a 49ers victory after the Frank Gore one-yard run with 5:04 left on the clock to put San Francisco up 10; but, after the Tony Gonzalez touchdown and the Falcons’ running back, Jason Snelling, recovered the onside kick with just over two minutes left to give Atlanta a chance down by three, it turned it into a game that was too close for comfort for the Niners. Linebacker Navorro Bowman stepped up for his mistake on the onside kick and used a Tramaine Brock pass breakup to catch the ball and return the interception 89 yards for the game winning score with 1:10 remaining on the clock. I call it “The Pick that Closed the Stick” and it clinched a playoff birth for San Francisco. But, more importantly, it had fantasy implications. I’m sure that many owners picked up their league title with the Bowman touchdown.
But, it was the play that ended the game that left a bad taste in the mouth of some fantasy owners and was a sweet victory for others. With five seconds left on the clock, Matt Ryan of the Falcons lofted up a Hail Mary towards the end zone (even though they were down by 10 and had no shot at winning the game). The 49ers defense owners were shouting “Pick it off!” and their opponents were yelling “Knock it down!” Well, Tramaine Brock picked it off and won many fantasy leagues on a play that did not matter in regards to victory or defeat in the game itself. It mattered for ESPN’s Michael Smith. He won the ESPN War Room League over Chris Mortensen by two points (the Brock interception) after winning the week before with Justin Tucker. Who says luck does not factor into the equation sometimes.
Remember: This column is not designed to spotlight the top options at each position. If you are looking for advice on start/sit options or top players at a specific position, check out our rankings and other columns throughout the week. This is going to be a weekly spotlight of one player from each game this weekend that has a shot to be a nice flex or last starting option (a WR3 or RB3 for example). Will they all produce a large number of points? No. These are nice lottery tickets to fill in on your team and give you a chance to steal the win.
Now, we move on the list of my top five options for championship week (in no particular order):
QB Kyle Orton (Dallas Cowboys) – Yes, it is Kyle Orton (who hasn’t started a game since 2011). I hoping against hope that you do not need to use Kyle Orton for your championship game. But, if you lost Tony Romo, Orton does have a nice matchup at home against the porous Eagles defense. The Cowboys will run the ball more (you would think they would want to control the clock against the fast-paced Eagles) and Orton will be able to have better chances to produce as the Eagles stack the box. Orton is a steady game manager that is not going to produce flashy numbers, but he will give you a solid stat line. Orton gets 250 yards passing and two touchdowns (not too bad if you are desperate for a quarterback).
RB Knile Davis (Kansas City Chiefs) – It has been reported that Andy Reid is likely to rest his starters after one or two series on Sunday. This means that Knile Davis (not Jamaal Charles) will receive the majority of the work against the Chargers. While this will kill most Charles owners as they have depended on him to get them to the title game, the Davis owners will be thrilled to get a full workload from a guy that has two touchdowns in his last three games. Davis is an explosive back that can break some long runs and will use his time in the spotlight to show that he deserves a bit more playing time during Wild Card Weekend. Davis gets 18 carries for 75 yards and a score.
RB Edwin Baker (Cleveland Browns) - Yes, Baker has cemented his position as the Browns starting running back. There are some good trends for Baker heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Steelers. Baker has a rushing touchdown in both games he has a carry in. Also, the Steelers have given up 18 rushing touchdowns this season, including two to Eddie Lacy last week. Those two trends are promising for a fantasy team needing a RB2/flex player this week. I think Baker has another strong day to end the season by racking up 60 yards and another rushing score.
WR Robert Woods (Buffalo Bills) - Stevie Johnson and Marquise Goodwin could be out this week for the Bills as they travel to New England. While Woods was ejected last week for throwing a punch, he will be available for the game against the Patriots. Woods seems to be a legit target in the Bills offense with Johnson not in the game and he totaled three catches for 70 yards before his ejection against the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots secondary has been carved up over the past few weeks, giving up over 300 yards passing per game. Woods will need to be featured for the Bills to keep up with the Pats and he will catch six for 75 yards and a score.
TE Joseph Fauria (Detroit Lions) – Mr. Touchdown in Detroit got a huge jump in his plays against the New York Giants. According to ESPN.com, “Fauria played on 73 percent of the offensive snaps in Week 16. The rookie hadn’t been in on more than 40 percent of the plays in any previous game.” That is a huge jump in playing time for the guy known to poach touchdowns from Calvin Johnson in the red zone. Brandon Pettigrew is done for the year and Fauria gets to face one of the worst in the league against opposing tight ends, the Minnesota Vikings. All of that adds up to a big day for Fauria. He gets five catches for 55 yards and a score.
So, I hope you all enjoyed the Diamonds in the Rough throughout the season. It has been a thrill to be a part of the FFLockerroom team and to be able to help fantasy football players across the globe. Hopefully, it has been as fun reading it as it has been writing it throughout the season. If you have a fantasy football questions this championship week, hit me up on Twitter (@DJ_Gilman). I wish everyone luck in their championship week and that you bring home the title. I also wish you and yours a wonderful and safe New Year.
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