It's the penultimate weekend of the NFL regular season, which means that it's the championship weekend for most fantasy leagues, so if you've made it this far, a special Merry Christmas and congratulations to you! You've likely made it here through 15 weeks of running back committees, quarterback controversies and crushing injuries, at least in some capacity. And for those of you whose leagues actually go through Week 17, don't worry, we'll still be here next week!
There's a few decent looking candidates for this week's slate of the best fantasy games, but I like a couple of them above the others. The Packers-Cardinals game looks like the most obvious choice of the week, but the Packers' inconsistency on offense and the Cardinals' solid defense -- even with safety Tyrann Mathieu now out of the season -- scares me away from this one. The Patriots-Jets match-up looks like another good one, but the Pats have been decimated by injuries and the only reliable options on that offense as this point are Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and maybe James White, although he's more game-plan dependent. Plus, both of these teams are Top-10 in the league in total defense. I think it'll be lower scoring than some expect.
With that in mind, let's get into the games I do like this week. As per usual, these games are ones that I think set up nicely for all or most of the fantasy relevant players involved on both teams. That isn't to say that players from other teams and in other games won't have big weeks, I just like these games in particular to be high-scoring or at least allow for some high fantasy point totals.
Again, congratulations to everyone who's made it this far and a Merry Christmas to all! Good luck in Week 16!
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles - Dec. 26 8:30 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 48
Redskins: You want to hear an interesting stat? QB Kirk Cousins is leading the NFL in completion percentage at 69.7%. Shocking, right? Cousins has been playing very well as of late and last week against the Bills he turned that into a great fantasy performance, completing 22 of 28 passes for 319 yards and 5 TDs (4 passing and 1 rushing) with no INTs. This week, Cousins and the 'Skins are going up against the Eagles, who have the 24th ranked pass defense and have given up the 3rd most passing touchdowns (30) in the league. They've also allowed the 3rd most fantasy points to opposing QBs. It may seem like a risky proposition in a championship or semi-final game, but there are definitely fantasy players out there who have made it to this point streaming the QB position and Cousins should be at the top of the list of streaming options this week, putting him right in the Top-10 range at QB.
Cousins' main target in the passing game hasn't been WRs DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon, but TE Jordan Reed. Reed has been great this season when healthy and he's the #5 TE in standard leagues despite missing two complete games with a concussion in Weeks 5 and 6. Over the past two weeks he's caught 100% of his targets, going 9/9 for 120 yards and a TD in Week 14 and 7/7 for 84 yards and 2 TDs last week. The Eagles have actually been really strong against the TE this season and are 2nd in fantasy points allowed to the position, but I don't care. Reed is a must-start at this point regardless of match-up and he's still at Top-5 TE this week. Speaking of DeSean Jackson, he had his best game of the season last week against Buffalo, finishing with 6 catches on 8 targets for 153 yards and a TD. It looks like Jackson is finally healthy and it comes at the right time, as this is a huge week for both the Redskins and fantasy players. The Eagles are 28th against WRs in fantasy points allowed, so everything seems to be coming together nicely here for Jackson. He should be a WR2 this week with some huge upside. I don't trust the other options in this passing game, which basically consists of Garcon and Jamison Crowder. Both guys are important for Kirk Cousins as far as moving the chains, but their fantasy value is minimal.
The running game in Washington has been a RBBC situation all season, but I would think they'd rely more on Alfred Morris as the veteran here since they're in position to secure the NFC East and a playoff berth, especially with the fumbling issues rookie Matt Jones has had this season. By hook or by crook, Morris has had 8 fantasy points in 3 out of the past 4 weeks and Philadelphia is a lowly 28th in fantasy points allowed to RBs and 30th in total rush defense in the league. It may be a bit risky, but I'd peg Morris as a low-end RB2 this week.
Eagles: Sam Bradford has been a disappointment this season in Philly to say the least, posting just a 6-6 record as the starter and throwing 16 TDs to 13 INTs. That being said, Bradford had his best game of the year in Week 4 against, you guessed it, Washington. He finished that game with 270 yards and 3 TDs with no INTs, coming in at 29 fantasy points. Bradford also had a decent game last week against Arizona when he finished with 361 yards and 2 TDs (along with 2 INTs), finishing with 24 fantasy points. The Redskins' defense is mediocre against the pass in both an overall (14th) and fantasy (19th) standpoint and the Birds play at home, so this isn't a scary match-up. The real question is if you can trust Bradford as a start in a championship setting. I'd take Cousins by a wide margin over Bradford, but he could have a big game and this is one that both teams have to have to get into the playoffs, so I could definitely see it being back and forth. In deeper leagues he's a low-end streaming option and he's definitely the type of guy that nobody will be on in DFS tournaments.
Bradford's receiving options haven't been spectacular either, especially WR Jordan Matthews, who was expected to do big things in his second year in this offense. Matthews did show up last week against the Cardinals, putting up 8 catches for 159 yards and a TD (21 fantasy points) in his best game of the season. This looks like a decent match-up too, as the Redskins are 24th against WRs in fantasy points allowed. This is another guy that would be pretty scary to trust, but he's a shoo-in as a WR3 or flex and could give you another big game if you don't have anyone better. The only other relevant option in the passing game also happens to be the most reliable one, TE Zach Ertz. Ertz has been coming on recently after starting the season slow, putting up at least 6 fantasy points in each of the past 3 games, including a performance last week in which he finished with 13 targets for 8 catches, 78 yards and a TD. Washington has been pretty stout against TEs this season and are 8th in fantasy points allowed. That being said, the TE position isn't what I'd call deep, so Ertz is still a TE1.
It appears the Eagles' Head Coach Chip Kelly has finally come to the conclusion that his team is better off going with some combination of Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles as opposed to letting DeMarco Murray run into the line 15-20 times a game. Mathews has been the most effective back in Philly all season long and he should get the majority of carries here, with Sproles being sprinkled in. Washington has the 28th ranked rush defense this season and they're allowing 4.9 yards per carry overall, good for second-worst in the league. As long as the game is close, I'd expect Mathews to get a pretty decent workload and I'd use him as a low-end RB2 or flex this week. Sproles is a less reliable choice here and he's really only an option in PPR leagues. Even in that format, I'd only use him as a flex or RB3.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New Orleans Saints - Dec. 27 1:00 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 52
Jaguars: This game has offensive goodness all over the place, starting with QB Blake Bortles. The Saints' defense has been the poster child for streaming QBs this season (along with any other position you might need) and they're ranked dead last in total defense this season. They've given up 39 passing TDs, 8 more than any other team in football, and are 32nd in fantasy points allowed to QBs. It doesn't hurt that Bortles has been fantasy this season and he's actually the #3 QB in standard fantasy leagues, behind only MVP candidates Cam Newton and Tom Brady. Bortles should be owned in every league and is no longer a streaming option. He's a full fledged Top-5 QB.
A lot of what has made Bortles so explosive this season has been his receivers. The Allen Bros., Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns have combined for 122 receptions, 2048 yards and 21 TDs this season. Robinson is tied as the #4 WR overall, behind only Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown and Julio Jones and Hurns is #13. That's how good these guys have been. Robinson is an obvious WR1 and Hurns is a solid WR2, especially against a pass defense that is 30th in the league and has allowed the second most TDs to WRs this season (23). The other guy that has helped this passing game move to another level has been TE Julius Thomas. Thomas was the Jags' prize free agency acquisition and unfortunately got off to a slow start due to injury. He's been playing well lately, scoring at least 7 fantasy points in 5 straight games and he gets a New Orleans' defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to TEs and has given up almost 200 more yards to TEs than any other team this season. I'd say Thomas is a Top-5 guy this week.
The Saints' run defense has been equally bad, as they're ranked 32nd against the run and 31st in fantasy points allowed to RBs. This bodes well for whoever is able to start this week for the Jags, whether is be T.J. Yeldon or Denard Robinson, who replaced Yeldon in the starting lineup when he missed last week's game with a knee injury. Yeldon has yet to practice this week with that knee injury, so it looks like Robinson will be making his second straight start, but pay attention to the injury reports leading up to Sunday, as whoever actually does start will be a RB1.
Saints: Before saying anything else, I'll put out there that QB Drew Brees reportedly has a plantar fasica tear in his right foot. According to ESPN's Mike Triplett, Brees is said to have "every intention" of playing this week, but you have to keep your eye on this situation because without Brees, the Saints' offense could seriously go down the tubes. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's get to the stats. Brees has had three straight games of at least 24 fantasy points and he was able to put up 32 fantasy points last week after apparently suffering that foot injury at some point during the game. Now he gets a Jacksonville defense that is 27th in the league in fantasy points allowed to QBs and have the 25th ranked pass defense in the league. It also helps that this is a home game in the dome for the Saints (a plus for the Jags' offensive players as well). If Brees plays, he's a QB1.
WR Brandin Cooks rebounded last week after an off game, finishing with 10 catches on 13 targets for 124 yards and a TD. He's been much better in the second half of the season after disappointing his fantasy owners early on and he currently sits as the #11 WR in standard leagues. The Jags are right in the middle of the pack in terms of fantasy points allowed to WRs, so this isn't a match-up to scare you off of starting Cooks. He's in the Top-10 mix as long as Brees is in. The guy lining up on the other side of Cooks is Willie Snead, who also came down with 10 catches last week for 76 yards. If this game is as high scoring as I think it's going to be, there could be plenty of opportunities for Snead to make his mark, placing him somewhere in the WR3 or flex range.
TE Benjamin Watson is having a career year at he spry age of 35. He's the #8 TE in standard fantasy leagues and has been a reliable option for Brees in the passing game after the departure of Jimmy Graham via an offseason trade. The Jaguars have been pretty weak against TEs this season and are 27th in fantasy points allowed to the position. Now, Watson has been dealing with a knee injury this week and he didn't take part in practice on Wednesday, so keep an eye on his status as the week progresses, but if he's a mid-TE1 in this match-up.
Veteran RB Tim Hightower has taken over the role of primary ball carrier with starter Mark Ingram being placed on injured reserve and he's delivered fantasy totals of 15 and 8 points in the past two weeks, respectively. That's not too bad for a guy who hadn't really played in a few years prior this one. The Jaguars are middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to RBs and have the 12th ranked rush defense, but they've only allowed 3.6 yards per rush, good for 3rd in the league. I think Hightower should be fine here based on volume of touches, but only as as a RB2 type.