For three of the five players listed below, the more appropriate headline would be “Don’t ever think about starting these guys during championship weekend…honestly what the hell is wrong with you?”. But since I’m in a chipper mood with the holiday cheer and its traffic and bickering with grandpa Ned about why cell phones won’t lead to the demise of society and whatnot, a sort of lighter word was chosen.
Also, there’s an element of trust that’s severely lacking among the names below during the most important fantasy weekend of the season. From the moment your draft was completed back in August, you fully understood that regardless of their position, there will be weeks when studs boom, and weeks when studs bust. Conversely, previously unknown names will emerge from the ether. It’s cyclical in a sense, and it’s what fuels the fantasy addiction.
But trust is the core of the fantasy relationship, and when it’s lost, said relationship is seldom salvaged. Soon enough you’ll find yourself talking to a bartender named Lucy who has no nose cartilage, wondering what went wrong.
So with that pleasant mental image, I now present the five players who’ve either entirely lost your trust, or can’t be trusted this weekend during the holiest of fantasy weekends. Their trust levels are conveniently rated on a scale of 1 to 10.
1. Philip Rivers (@NYJ)
I hesitated to even include Rivers, because it should be common knowledge by now that starting Rivers is about as smart as eating yellow snow. But alas, a list of this nature isn’t complete without Rivers. There’s no reason for you to start Rivers again, and when I say that, I may mean beyond this year. His yards per attempt has been below 6.0 in each of his last three games (it fell to 4.9 in Week 15), and last week he fumbled four times, losing two of them. Your lack of trust goes beyond Rivers’ replacement-level play this week, though, as while Antonio Cromartie shuts down Danario Alexander (he had zero catches on three targets last week), Jackie Battle is now the lead running back providing support in the backfield with Ryan Mathews out. Rivers should only be started in two-QB leagues.
Trust level: -5
2. Antonio Gates (@NYJ)
A reflection of his quarterback’s struggles, Gates as name value now, and only name value. Fantasy points aren’t awarded for that, which is a damn shame, because then we’d all just roster the guys with the coolest names (Mack Strong is a legend). But here’s where we’re at with Gates: yes, he scored a touchdown last week, but it was his first since Week 10. Over the four games prior to that he had a combined nine fantasy points, finishing with less than 20 receiving yards in two of those games. Once a primary target in the San Diego offense, Gates’ targets this year have been sporadic at best, as he’s had five games with four or fewer. If he doesn’t register a +100 yard receiving game over the last two weeks of this season, it’ll be only the second time in his 10-year career that he hasn’t had at least one in a given year. Bench this man.
Trust level: 2
3. Vernon Davis (@SEA)
Like Gates above who was remarkably still started in 72.6 percent of ESPN leagues last week, Davis’ fantasy usage remains high despite the fact that he’s sadly sunken to the level of complete irrelevance in the San Francisco passing game. Davis was used in 62.6 percent of ESPN leagues last week, even though Colin Kapernick’s first start when he had 83 yards on six catches was the only time he’s topped the 35-yard mark since Week 5. That’s a stretch of eight games which includes two with no receptions, and now over the past four weeks Davis has just four catches for 29 yards. What’s worse is that he’s barely being targeted, with only eight targets over those four games. Sadly, Davis has reached the point where he can be dropped if you’re truly desperate for a better option, and he shouldn’t be remotely considered as a starting option this week.
Trust level: 1
4. Matthew Stafford (vs. ATL)
You’re still starting Stafford in most cases, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be an enjoyable experience. Yes, Stafford — he of the sidearm Uncle Rico throw — has improved of late, averaging 316 passing yards per game since Week 12. But after a week when he threw three picks against the Cardinals and saw his passer rating fall to just 37.6 along with his fantasy points total (a season low three), what’s concerning this week is his matchup Saturday night against Atlanta. Over their last five games the Falcons have allowed only two touchdown passes, while picking off opposing quarterbacks seven times. They’ve also allowed only 51 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks during that run, which doesn’t sound too awful until you realize that 36 of them came from Cam Newton, and Cam Newton alone.
Trust level: 6
5. Trent Richardson (@DEN)
This is another matchup concern, but Richardson’s placement on this list is also connected to his lack of breakaway burst recently. He’s salvaged his fantasy production by scoring, and scoring often while being effective down around the goal line, with six touchdowns over Cleveland’s last four games. But his per carry average has dwindled significantly since the Browns’ Week 10 bye to only 3.0, and now he’s facing the league’s second best run defense that’s giving up only 3.6 yards per carry, and 91.0 overall per game.
Trust level: 5