Every week I spend an unhealthy amount of time looking for a creative, fun picture to lead this post. Then when that fails, I usually just cop out and go with a cheerleader, thinking you probably don’t mind too much.
So far, it’s been a winning formula.
But this week is different. This week, you need inspiration. This week, you need something to get the blood flowing, and the anger pumping heading into the fantasy championship weekend. This week, you didn’t need a Steelers/Panthers game that made your eyes bleed to kick off the most important stretch of games on the fantasy calendar. This week, you need the Mighty Ducks.
As you furrow your brow, and reach for that glass of enhanced egg nog, allow me to explain. You see, the Mighty Ducks embody the championship spirit you’ll need to get through this weekend. They struggled mightily at first (that pun is as bad as my Christmas sweater), but then with a little wizardry from coach Gordon Bombay, the championships flowed. This weekend, find your inner Bombay.
This is no time for some weak-kneed, Goldberg impersonation, buckling during your time on the championship pedestal like the Ducks’ goalie did while he was strapped to the goalposts, learning his craft. You need to make the right decisions, and follow the example Bombay set when he sent out Conway for that triple deke.
This is no time for sleep either, and no time to lose focus. The Alyssa Milano Trophy is at stake.
Week 16 love/hate list
Love him: If you either don’t have a stud quarterback and rely on production elsewhere, or are in a two quarterback league, there’s nothing wrong with rolling out Josh Freeman this weekend. Freeman is the classic model of consistency and has thrown at least one touchdown for 10 straight weeks, a span in which he also has only four interceptions.
His stretch of having at least 25 rushing yards in three of the past four weeks ads a tiny bit of extra gravy too, as does his matchup against the Seattle secondary.
Hate him: The first reason to shy away from Mark Sanchez this week is obvious: he’s hurt, but will likely start Sunday barring a setback. Regardless, any time the words “throwing shoulder” and “cartilage” are in the same sentence, some serious alarms should be going off.
Even a healthy Sanchez isn’t the best play against a Bears defence that’s among the league leaders in pressuring the quarterback (32 sacks).
Sleeping on him: He’s an especially deep play given his unpredictable style, but if you’re a real gambler even during championship crunch time, look for snake eyes with Tim Tebow. The almighty higher power will put his legs and arms–but mostly his legs–to the test against the infamously awful Houston Texans defence, a secondary that ranks dead last against the pass.
Love him: I’ve ridden Darren McFadden quite a bit this year, but would Bombay hold back Banks in the championship game just because he wanted to give Fulton some more ice time? Never. McFadden has 216 rushing yards over the past two weeks, and picking on the weak Denver defence he’s set to face is always a necessity.
The Broncos have allowed a league leading 22 rushing touchdowns.
Hate him: Once I found fool’s gold, and his name was Cedric Benson. Don’t be swindled by Benson’s 150 yard rushing performance last week against the Browns. Being an erratic performer is acceptable during the regular season to an extent, but certainly not at playoff time, and not during your nail-biting championship battle.
Benson has had five game this season in which he’s failed to gain 60 yards on the ground. You can bet on that kind of putrid production again this weekend when he runs against the San Diego defence, one of only three defensive fronts in the NFL that’s allowing less than 90 yards per game.
Sleeping on him: Getting a player back from the infirmary is often as good as a quality waiver wire addition, a category that Joseph Addai falls into this week. Addai has missed eight games with a nerve injury in his left shoulder, and will suit up Sunday against the Raiders. If you read between the lines of his quotes, Addai isn’t quite at 100%, and will likely still defer some carries to Donald Brown.
But in deep leagues that allow for a flex play, Addai can still make some noise against the Raiders rush defence. Oakland is coughing up 4.5 yards per carry, and has shown a vulnerability to the big play after giving up 15 runs of 20 yards or more.
Love him: Similar to Addai, Kenny Britt is another quality addition at the right time if you stashed him on your bench while he recovered from a hamstring injury. The Titans wideout made his return two weeks ago after missing five games, and had 128 receiving yards against the Texans.
But really, who doesn’t torch the Texans? Houston’s defence is about as good as the Mighty Ducks during that first day on the pond when Bombay pulled up in his limo. Britt didn’t produce the same dazzling numbers against the Colts last week (39 yards), but you can expect a bump up in his fantasy numbers when the Titans travel to Kansas City, a secondary that’s allowed over 240 yards per game to receivers.
Hate him: Whoa, we’re seeing double again. Benson was our first example of fool’s gold that could haunt you, and to a lesser extent, Deion Branch represents the wide receivers in the same category. Last week Branch piled up 151 receiving yards on a mediocre Bears secondary. It was the first time he broke the 100-yard mark since Week 12, and while we’ve seen more of Branch’s vintage sizzle in new England, the typical pitfalls have come over to the frosty northeast too.
Since being acquired on Oct. 11, Branch has been receiving passes from Mr. Bundchen for nine games, and has finished less than 40 yards in three of them. I get it, he’s not necessarily the focal point of the Patriots’ passing game, a title that belongs to Wes Welker, and in recent weeks the two rookie tight ends (Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski). But unless you’re desperate, his role should then be minimal in your lineup this week as well.
This is especially true against a Buffalo defence that believes in the philosophy of doing one thing really, really well, and in their case it’s eliminating passing yardage
Sleeping on him: I’ll qualify this Michael Crabtree selection with a quasi-disclaimer.
There’s little reason to feel good about Crabtree lately. Finishing with a grand total of one yard off of one reception a week ago will do that. But even Bombay went with his instincts when he surprisingly benched Goldberg and tabbed Julie “The Cat” Gaffney to stop Gunner Staal, sealing a triumphant shootout win over Iceland. (Quick aside: you can’t stop on a shootout attempt. That is totally fake). Crabtree is your Gaffney.
It was only a small glimmer of hope for Crabtree owners, but he showed a touch of chemistry with Troy Smith earlier this season, and Smith is back under centre for the 49ers this weekend against St. Louis. In a Week 12 win over Arizona that was dominated by Brian Westbrook, Smith and Crabtree hooked up for a 38-yard touchdown.
Feel free to deploy Crabtree as a flex play in a WR3 role.