We may be about to witness a fantasy championship weekend brimming with bargains that make many a man look foolish. There’s a very real chance that at least three top five — or at worst, top ten — players at their respective positions in Week 16 are still widely available around free agent pools right now.
Of course, indulging in that sweet bargain candy can take some serious grapefruits, the sort that topples trees. If you’re considering such a bold maneuver in the most important fantasy week of your damn life (this year), I’m here to guide you through the process. Behold, the awesome-horrible matchup spectrum.
This is something I usually end up doing indirectly most weeks anyway either through my weekly Sunday morning rant, a “Who Ya Got?” post, or otherwise. But since this week is a pretty big deal, I decided it would probably be a pretty OK idea to go in-depth on the best and worst matchups, while pointing you towards some bargains and sleepers in the process.
So, here we are.
Three really awesome matchups
1. Jay Cutler @ Eagles: I understand if somkin’ Jay hasn’t earned back all your trust yet, or if he didn’t have any of your trust to begin with. Only one sort of OK start after a prolonged absence that featured some good (three touchdowns, and a completion percentage of 71.0) and some bad (two interceptions, and four sacks) will have that effect. But this is the part when you restore your faith by caring much more about Cutler’s opponent this week. When you do that, you’ll remember the Eagles have allowed an average of 274.8 passing yards per game over the past four weeks, a stretch which has included a murderers row of quarterbacks in the form of Matt Cassel (who threw for 382 yards), Carson Palmer, and a soon-t0-be-benched Robert Griffin III. Oh and look, Cutler is owned in only 53% of Yahoo leagues, and he could very easily be a top five quarterback during championship week.
2. LeSean McCoy vs. Bears: McCoy might rush for 865 yards against the Bears, though he could be limited to a still high though not stupidly absurd level with Lance Briggs likely returning. Still, Briggs alone won’t fix what ails this Bears run defense that had its streak of six straight +100 yard rushers snapped only by the Browns and their inability to run on anyone. Here are some numbers I’ve cited a few times, and I’ll do it again because digits this astounding deserve that treatment: if we only take the opposition’s top rusher during that six-game run, the Bears gave up 763 rushing yards, an average of 127.2 per game.
3. Pierre Garcon/Kirk Cousins vs. Cowboys: Due to both injuries and general woe, the Cowboys are to defending the pass what the Bears are to the run. From a fantasy perspective, that’s arguably better, because more passing means more yards covered in a short period of time, which in turn much means more opportunities for the scoring of points. Similar to the Eagles above (Dallas and Philadelphia are two of only three teams allowing more than 290 passing yards per game), that of course leads to every throwing and catching fantasy option getting a nice upgrade. But said upgrade is especially intriguing for Cousins, since he’s owned in even fewer leagues than Cutler (only 19% ownership in Yahoo leagues, perhaps because of some split opinions around fantasyland), and he therefore presents an even more appealing streaming opportunity. Or more likely, a great life line for the eight Aaron Rodgers owners who have somehow slugged it this far. If you’ve streamed your way this far and you’re in the finals, go ahead and keep doing that with Cousins, because you won’t find a better matchup for a streamer who’s this widely available. Please recall that over the past two weeks against two backup quarterbacks in Matt Flynn and Josh McCown (albeit one who wasn’t at all playing like a backup), the Cowboys have given up eight passing touchdowns and 647 yards.
BONUS SPEED ROUND: If you’re either hurting after Jordan Cameron’s injury or otherwise getting average tight end play, go ahead and pick up Delanie Walker right now. He’s available in nearly half of Yahoo leagues (53% ownership), and as noted yesterday when we took a gander at other Cameron replacements (which in hindsight also should have included Dennis Pitta), Walker has averaged 51.4 receiving yards per game while getting passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick following Jake Locker’s season-ending injury. So there’s that, and this: in Week 16 he’ll be catching those passes against the Jaguars, a team allowing 71.1 receiving yards per game to the position. Yes, that means along with Cutler and Cousins, Walker is our other potential top five scrap heap gem.
Three really horrible matchups
1. T.Y. Hilton @ Chiefs: Hilton will get the Sean Smith and/or Brandon Flowers treatment, which typically hasn’t been fun. Toss in Eric Berry and his 18 passes defensed, and the Chiefs’ secondary is only two back of the league leading Seahawks with 20 interceptions. There’s points to be had against this Chiefs defense, as they’ve given up 35 or more in three of their last four games. But with Justin Houston maybe/likely returning and lining up alongside Tamba Hali to batter a Colts offensive line that’s allowed the third most quarterback hits (98), seeing those points coming through lots of deep chunk yardage — Hilton’s game when he’s effective, and he’s mostly been very much the opposite of that since Reggie Wayne went down in Week 7, posting four games with less than 50 yards — is difficult.
2. Ryan Tannehill/Mike Wallace @Bills: Herein lies a matchup of the league’s best pass rush against worst offensive line. So yeah, this likely won’t end well for any Dolphins skill player involved, with their offensive line that’s given Tannehill little comfort. He’s currently been sacked 53 times (including +4 times in eight games), meaning he’s easily on pace to reach 60 and become one of only nine quarterbacks in league history to suffer that level of pain. On one side we have that, and on the other we have a pass rush anchored by Mario Williams that’s crunched quarterbacks a league leading 49 times (or 3.5 times per game), contributing greatly to the Bills’ opposing passer rating allowed of just 78.5, and YPA of 6.8.
3. Michael Floyd/Larry Fitzgerald @ Seahawks: For much of the season you’ve been able to ride Floyd as a WR3, and often even a low-end WR1 given the right matchup (against the Jaguars, Colts, and Eagles between weeks 11 and 13, Floyd had 396 receiving yards and two touchdowns). You won’t get that this week out of either him or Larry Fitzgerald against the self-proclaimed Legion of Boom, and especially not at home in Seattle where scoring points just doesn’t happen (only 84 total points allowed over six home games thus far). The statue of Carson Palmer will be throwing while trying to dodge the deepest pass rush in the league, and Richard Sherman et al will do their suffocating thing in the defensive backfield. All that has led to a defense which has given up only 14.6 total points per game and 174.2 passing yards, so there’s little fantasy scoring to be had here. In the previous meeting this year between these two teams Floyd led all Cardinals receivers with only 58 yards, and Palmer’s longest completion was a 19 yarder. Barring an uncharacteristic performance, both Fitzgerald and Floyd are WR3′s, and that’s be optimistic.