Welcome to the Championship Week! This is the Fantasy Football Nerd's look at the best and worst fantasy football matchups for Week 16 of the 2014 NFL season. Decisions are based upon the FFN rankings and matchup analysis. Given the known conditions, these matchups are the ones to watch and/or avoid.
This list does not generally include the elite players that you are going to start regardless of matchup. You don't need us to tell you to start Peyton Manning, Jimmy Graham, or LeSean McCoy. Instead, we take a look at other players on your team that we believe either have great matchups or should be avoided for multiple reasons. Factors like opposing defense, performance trending, and peer comparisons may influence our decisions.
Start 'em - Tony Romo (DAL, QB)
Coming in at #8 in this week's FFN rankings, Tony Romo will face a robust Indy offense in what is expected to be a shootout. Romo is coming off two straight games where he's been fantastic tossing 3 scores and 0 picks in both. If Romo helped get you to the championship, let him take you in.
Start 'em - Mark Sanchez (PHI, QB)
Coming in at #10 in this week's FFN rankings is...Mark Sanchez. Nope - that's not a typo. If you're in need of a QB for your championship run, Sanchez could be your guy. He was schooled last week against Dallas, but this week he'll face a Washington defense that gives up the 3rd-most fantasy points to QB's. He's got lots of weapons and he'll use them in a tasty championship matchup.
Start 'em - Mark Ingram (NO, RB)
Mark Ingram rushed for just 59 yards last week (plus a score), and his #7 ranking this week is indicative of his greater potential. Atlanta gives up the 3rd-most fantasy points to RB's (ppr) and Ingram has a very good chance at seeing the century mark this week.
Start 'em - Jeremy Hill (CIN, RB)
Move over Gio Bernard. The RB that you want to start from the Cincy backfield is Jeremy Hill. He won't be able to repeat last week's 148 yards and 2 scores against a tough Denver defense, but Hill has so much momentum going in his favor right now that you can't sit him.
Start 'em - Mike Evans (TB, WR)
The Packers may have put up a "stinker" last week, but don't count on it happening two weeks in a row. Rodgers and the Packers will likely put up 30+ points forcing the Bucs to throw to keep up. Both Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson are good plays this week against a Green Bay defense that gives up the 9th-most fantasy points to opposing WR's.
Start 'em - DeSean Jackson (WAS, WR)
There's just something I love about guys like DeSean Jackson facing their former teams. The last time Jackson faced Philly, he took them to the house. Philly's defense hasn't gotten much better since. They're giving up the 2nd-most fantasy points to WR's (ppr) and you can't ask for a better matchup for a championship game.
Start 'em - Jason Witten (DAL, TE)
Overall, Jason Witten has been somewhat of a fantasy disappointment given his past performances. Give him a shot this week against an Indy defense that gives up the 3rd-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. The running game could be less effective with Murray's injured hand forcing the Cowboys to go to the air.
Start 'em - Martellus Bennett (CHI, TE)
One of the best TE surprises this year has definitely been Martellus Bennett. With Brandon Marshall out and Jimmy Clausen starting his first game this year, the passing game in Chicago will likely lean on short passes to Bennett. Detroit's stout defense is actually pretty soft on TE's giving up the 9th-most fantasy points to them this year.
Start 'em - Carolina Panthers (CAR, DEF)
OMG - how can you not plug in the Carolina Panthers this week? Their #9 FFN ranking speaks volumes about the experts' opinions on the Cleveland offense. Expect the Panthers to pressure Johnny Manziel forcing him to turn it over multiple times.
Start 'em - Mason Crosby (GB, K)
The Packers will look to bounce back from a tough loss at Buffalo by jetting down to Tampa Bay and putting points on the board. Crosby should see a minimum of at least 1 FG along with multiple XP's against a Bucs defense that gives up the 9th-most fantasy points to the position.
Sit 'em - Johnny Manziel (CLE, QB)
After last week's performance, I can't help thinking that Johnny Manziel would probably be better off as an aerobics instructor. Johnny Football's going to get the start again this week, but even Jimmy Clausen (starting ahead of Jay Cutler this week) is ranked ahead of Manziel this week. Even though Johnny Football can't complete a pass, you can successfully pass on him this week.
Sit 'em - Eli Manning (NYG, QB)
Eli Manning performed brilliantly last week throwing for 250 yards and 3 scores, but that was against a terrible Washington defense. St Louis won't be so easy. The Rams give up the 8th-fewest points to QB's and the 3rd-fewest passing scores. Eli could struggle this week.
Sit 'em - Ryan Mathews (SD, RB)
Ryan Mathews sat out last week with an injured ankle, and even though all indications early this week is that he'll likely suit up, a matchup against San Francisco isn't what the fantasy doctor ordered. Mathews is a risk and risky plays are not what you want in a championship week.
Sit 'em - Josh Gordon (CLE, WR)
It saddens me to write this, but I have better odds of starting ahead of Peyton Manning this week than Josh Gordon being able to contribute huge points to your fantasy championship. Unless Johnny Football is able to resemble something/anything like a competent NFL quarterback, Gordon is going to have a tough time. His 27th-ranking on FFN this week is a bit generous.
Sit 'em - Michael Crabtree (SF, WR)
Michael Crabtree has played second fiddle to Anquan Boldin all year and remains both a real and a fantasy disappointment. San Francisco has been terrible throwing the ball this season and has relegated guys like Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Frank Gore to the fantasy benches.
Sit 'em - Larry Donnell (NYG, TE)
What a major disappointment Larry Donnell was last week in a tasty matchup. Odell Beckham Jr was the focus for Eli Manning last week, and that's not likely to change this week. Tack on a difficult matchup with the Rams and Donnell's fantasy value is awfully low for a championship week.
Sit 'em - Jordan Cameron (CLE, TE)
Jordan Cameron reminds me a lot of the Lion's old running back Jahvid Best - very talented but ridiculously prone to concussions. Cameron comes into this week's FFN rankings at #24 making him the lowest of the TE2 tier. The passing game in Cleveland is not going to right itself in just one week making Cameron a terrible start.
Sit 'em - Cincinnati Bengals (CIN, DEF)
The Bengals tore up Johnny Football last week producing insane fantasy points in the process. That's not going to happen against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Denver gives up the 2nd-fewest fantasy points to DST's and no defensive scores.
Sit 'em - Chandler Catanzaro (ARI, K)
Nobody has given up fewer points to kickers his year than the Seahawks. Chandler Catanzaro has put in a respectable season and he's coming off a fantastic double-digit fantasy week last week, but Seattle won't be as generous as St Louis was. Expect little from Catanzaro this week.
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