By Sal Leto (@letosal)
The final week of the regular season is here. A season that has been an emotional roller coaster of big injuries, big suspensions and players losing jobs (like the joke that was done in New York to Eli Manning). Let’s face it if you’re reading this you’re one of two people. You clinched and have nothing better to do then pass time on fantasy Twitter or you need a win to get in and in that case the playoffs start for you now.
Philip Rivers vs. Cleveland Browns
It’s crunch time and the Chargers are surging into the division race on the arm of Philip Rivers. After losing four straight to start the season they have rattled off wins in five of the last seven to pull within one game of first place. With seven touchdown passes in the last three, including a 434 yard, three touchdown performance on Thanksgiving Day, Rivers is averaging 24.5 points per game. Plus, this week he plays a Cleveland team that once again is winless and playing out the string.
Matt Stafford @ Baltimore Ravens
This is why you look at those late season schedules. Yes, Matthew Stafford is the number seven quarterback overall on the season but I’m passing on him this week. In five home games this season, the Ravens have yielded just three passing touchdowns. Overall in the last five weeks just two total passing touchdowns. Pile on 18 interceptions to lead the league and I’m looking for someone else to get me in the playoffs.
Tarik Cohen vs. San Francisco 49ers
With the Bears coming off a colossally bad overall performance from their running backs, it’s a little scary to put stock in Tarik Cohen. Well, put your big boy pants on and look at the opponent. The Niners have been the worst overall team at defending running backs and especially bad against pass catching backs. They have surrendered 67 receptions 656 yards and four receiving TDs to running backs. Get Tarik in your flex this week.
Rex Burkhead/Dion Lewis @ Buffalo Bills
It can be a losing proposition putting your faith in a Patriots running back. This year’s Patriots team is a little different. They seem to be leaning a little more on the running backs and letting Tom Brady only do what’s necessary. It’s worked and now they get to play the Bills. Over the last five games the Bills have been brutal against running backs and there’s enough meat on the bone for both players this week. The Bills have given up 11 total touchdowns to backs over the last five games and 872 total yards. Saddle up.
Demarco Murray/Derrick Henry @ Houston Texans
The Texans actually gave up two rushing touchdowns last week. Those were the first since week one. So why not get these guys in? Because they have driven us crazy all season with the way the Titans use them. With your season on the line, are you confident you know which one will be the guy this week? If they would just go with one, I’d back him, but oddly enough they don’t seem to care about us fantasy players. [Editor’s Note: Jerks!]
Jay Ajayi @ Seattle Seahawks
Jay Ajayi had five carries and two targets a week ago and is clearly playing behind LaGarette Blount right now. This has not been the smooth transition owners had hoped for from Ajayi when he was moved to Philly. In fact, he hasn’t had more than eight touches in any game since the trade. Seattle has played well against the run all season and is fighting hard for playoff position so they should be geared up for this one.
Jamison Crowder @ Dallas Cowboys
Maybe you haven’t noticed but Crowder has been heating up over his last four games. Averaging 19.1 points per game in points per reception formats making him a WR1. In fact, in his last four games, he’s scored a total of 76.3 total points. That’s more than Jarvis Landry, Michael Thomas, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and AJ Green have scored in their last five. He gets a Dallas pass defense that, in that same period, have dropped off and been scorched by wide receivers. Pop him in on Thursday night and enjoy the lead going into the weekend.
TY Hilton @ Jacksonville Jaguars
What more do I have to say? Hilton has three touchdowns that came in two games. He has three massive outputs and eight stinkers. Seriously, eight single digit performances in points per reception formats. The Jags have been downright nasty defending against wide receivers. If you’re in a battle for a playoff spot you need to look elsewhere.
Jared Cook vs. New York Giants
Jared Cook has struggled in his last two and comes in with only one touchdown on the season. At worst, that should double after this game. It’s hard to believe the Giants held Vernon Davis to a goose egg a week ago after giving up 10 touchdowns in the first 11 games. Don’t be deterred, especially with Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper missing this game. Cook should be a top five tight end this week.
Tyler Kroft vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
With touchdowns in back to back games you’re probably ready to roll him out again. Well don’t! He has yardage totals of 4, 12 and 14 in his last three games and you know what the Steelers don’t give up regularly? Touchdowns to tight ends. None since week seven and only two all season. Kroft is not a solid play if you need this win.