By Sal Leto (@letosal)
If you’re reading this then you’re clearly a swimmer. Congratulations on making it into playoffs. In a season like the one we have endured, it’s an accomplishment to still have a team of weekly starters to put out there. Even if you relied on a hot start and back-doored your way to the playoffs, you’re still here. Seeing as it’s the playoffs, it’s not the time to be a risk taker. Or is it? Let’s set sail and see what we find.
Matt Ryan vs. New Orleans Saints
Depending on the scoring system Matt Ryan was either the number one or at least a top three quarterback in fantasy last year. There was much debate over whether he could repeat that in 2017. Well, he hasn’t. He comes into the week in the range of 14-16 and seemingly hasn’t been consistently on the same page as The Julio! In the first of two games with the Saints over the next three weeks, here’s his chance to get back in the division race. The Saints have been a better defensive team this year but over the last three weeks they are second worst defending quarterbacks, giving up 22+ a game in that time. Before last week Ryan actually had been on a six game run of 19.4, 22.4, 23.6, 18.8 and 20.0. I’m seeing a return to the air from both teams in this one.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Baltimore Ravens
It was ugly early for Ben Roethlisberger on Monday night, but playing from behind served his owner's well as he ended the night with a respectable point total. Home/road splits blah blah blah. I had Matthew Stafford right here on the sink list a week ago against these Ravens and am adding Benny to the list this week. The list of quarterbacks who have been held in check by Baltimore is long this season, including Roethlisberger who totaled only 10.5 points (ESPN) back in Week 4. The Ravens have given up, on average, under 10 points to quarterbacks through 12 games. That’s a trend that favors the defense.
Latavius Murray @ Carolina Panthers
Still struggling to find the confidence to start him each week? How the hell did you get in the payoffs? This matchup comes right on time as the Panthers run defense has been in a tailspin. They are bottom six over the last five weeks and dead last the last three. Did you see the Alvin Kamara/Mark Ingram show a week ago? Yikes!!! I’m a little higher on Murray but wouldn’t shy away from Jerrick McKinnon either.
Jamaal Williams @ Cleveland Browns
The touch totals in each of the last four games for Jamaal Williams; 21, 22, 25 and 23. Clearly, the trust is there. Yes, Aaron Jones scored the winning touchdown in overtime on his only touch of the game. I’m not expecting a split and without a doubt the early down and goal line touches will be Williams. Coming off back to back 20+ point games he gets the winless Browns.
Kenyan Drake vs. New England Patriots
Finally getting the lead touches a week ago, he showed up big against a spiraling Denver defense. On the contrary the Patriots, who were getting scorched at the onset of the season, have turned it all the way around and have been a top six running back defense the last five weeks. These are two teams playing for different things and the Pats will be looking to make a statement on national television. The arrow is pointing down for all Dolphins in this one.
Jonathan Stewart vs. Minnesota Vikings
Jonathan Stewart has been flex worthy in his last three games. That ends here. The Vikings have ramped the defense up as the season has worn on and are the best at defending running backs through 12 games. Only three rushing touchdowns given up all season and for you Christian McCaffrey owners, you should be wary as well. One running back receiving touchdown and that came back in week five.
Alex Collins @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Alex Collins has been one of the top waiver wire claims of the season. More than likely he’s one of the reasons you’re still playing this week. He’s been that guy for me in the FLAFFL League. But this week he’ll be glued to my bench. The Steelers haven’t given up 100 rushing yards since week five and only one rush touchdown to a running back in that same time frame. Collins also was banged up twice in last week’s game, suffering from the dreaded migraines, and hasn’t been practicing.
Golden Tate and Marvin Jones @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Eight times this season two or more wide receivers in the same game have had double digit point totals on the Bucs. Tampa has been downright awful against the position from start to finish this season. Marvin Jones and Golden Tate are both top 15 receivers on the season and should be locked and loaded in your lineups for this playoff matchup. [Editor’s Note: Keep an eye on Matthew Stafford and his hand injury to make sure he plays this weekend before firing these two up.]
Sterling Shepard vs. Dallas Cowboys
Personally, I think you’re going to see a big Eli Manning game this week and the beneficiary of that should be Sterling Shepard. The Cowboys have been bad against receivers all year long and have given up double digit games to two or more wide receivers in four straight games (Point Per Reception scoring). It’s Dallas vs New York. Always a big atmosphere regardless of records and with Eli getting his job back, it’s going to be dialed up a notch.
Jamison Crowder @ Los Angeles Chargers
Jamison Crowder was humming along as a WR1 over his previous four games until a less than stellar Thursday night against the Cowboys. He draws a much tougher matchup this week in the Chargers. After giving up nine wide receiver touchdowns in the first six games, LA has turned it around and have that down to only one in the last six. The Chargers are looking like the best team in the AFC West and that doesn’t make me happy as a Raiders fan.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins @ Denver Broncos
The Broncos have collapsed defensively in every facet of the game. They’ve given up eight tight end touchdowns and one in five straight games. It’s been a few weeks since Austin Seferian-Jenkins has had his big games but as long as the video reviewer stays out of it this is a prime matchup for him to succeed.
Jared Cook joins Crowder as players who were on the swim list a week ago and now find their way to being sinkers. After three stinkers in a row, you could say he’s cooled off to the point where he should be on your bench. Combine his one touchdown all season with the Chiefs giving up only one touchdown to tight ends and this doesn’t bode well for Cook owners.