Fantasy football suggestions for when you face the player in your league who will send pictures of himself holding the trophy for the next six months if he wins.
A legendary coach told me this week, “No one remembers who comes in second, except your wife and your dog.” This is it. After four months of diligent research, panic attacks, and dog pile celebrations with your family members on the living room floor, you’ve reached the pinnacle of fantasy football. The ship. And now you’re one victory away from etching your name on the trophy and overcoming your pre-Christmas Amazon spree. Alvin Kamara and Mike Evans may have put you in the driver’s seat after the early weekend games, but before you light that victory cigar, beware of a few traps that could ruin your New Years’ Eve celebration in isolation and leave you wondering what could have been. This column has been more about pushing bad stats and fringe players on your opponents as much as it’s been about finding the right players to replace your Christian McCaffrey and Michael Thomas. And there’s no better late Christmas gift to give to your adversary than misinformation. Here’s a rundown of players who could spoil your victory celebration.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks (vs Rams)
Yes, Russell Wilson may still be a frontrunner to win the MVP this season, but he learned that the NFC is not the complete shit show that everyone claims it to be. Wilson averaged 13.82 fantasy points against the Eagles, Giants, and Football Team. And now the Seahawks enter a major division battle against the Rams with the playoffs at stake. The Rams held Wilson to under 10 fantasy points in their Week 10 matchup, which means you can’t trust him with the title at stake.
Your angle: M-V-P
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons (@ Chiefs)
Last week against the Buccaneers, we saw the old Matt Ryan, throwing dimes from inside a folding pocket like the 2017 MVP. Before that, however, he averaged 9.84 fantasy points over four weeks. The Chiefs defense isn’t great, but Ryan will be playing from behind. He may score somewhere between 10 and last week’s 27, but putting your title hopes in his hands is a risky move and one that may well end your fantasy season in anguish.
Your angle: The over/under is 53 1/2
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs Colts)
Three straight losses is very telling, but we’ve seen a dip in Roethlisberger’s play throughout much of the season. This slinger’s gun’s firing occasional blanks and not coming out of the barrel with the same zip. Last week against the Bengals, it was amazing that he wasn’t benched. 6.7 points will not get it done, and it’s time to steer clear of Little Ben.
Your angle: Roethlisberger’s best performances have come when his back’s against the wall and he’s holding his thingy in his hand.
Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Dallas Cowboys (vs Eagles)
Elliott sat out last week’s game against the Niners with a sore calf, but there’s more under the surface than a minor injury. He sees the bigger picture. The season’s a wash and has been for some time. Why risk future years chasing an NFC title when you’re going to get stomped on at home in the first round? Zeke’s season has been over for a while, so look elsewhere for running production from a lesser back with something to play for.
Your angle: Zeke can’t wait to jump in that Salvation Army kettle again.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (vs Falcons)
A big touchdown last week against the Saints vaulted Bell into top 20 territory. And with the declining play and injury to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, he’ll take over the carrying load against the Falcons. But the Falcons one bright spot this season has been their rushing defense, so expect a healthy dose of Mahomes to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, limiting Bell’s role to goal line guy at best.
Your angle: Bell finally has what he wants, the spotlight and the ball.
Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks (vs Rams)
Carson’s load is the main reason why he’s still considered a top-ten back. But after being held to 8.9 points against a tough Washington defense last week, Carson will face another formidable foe in the Rams, rendering him a flex if you’re desperate. Another casualty of the schedule that could ruin your spirits if you don’t look elsewhere.
Your angle: Big games inspire the best.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans (vs Bengals)
Cooks returned last week against a good Colts defense with a near 12-point performance, which on paper bodes well for this week’s game against the Bengals. Or maybe not after the way the Bengals shut down the Steelers offense. This Bengals team doesn’t look at all as if they’re playing for draft picks, so Cooks could be another casualty of the struggling Texans offense. He’s low WR output at best.
Your angle: It’s the Bengals. What could go wrong?
Eric Ebron, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs Colts)
As mentioned above, something’s not right in Pittsburgh. But Ebron left Monday night’s game against the Bengals on a cart and finished with zero points. So his rapid recovery appears more a credit to his toughness ahead of a meaningful game than his health. He’s a production liability against a top-five defense.
Your angle: The Colts are soft down the middle.
Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens (vs Giants)
“Hollywood” Brown reached near starter level last week with 15.8 fantasy points. Against the Jaguars. The team now in the driver’s seat of the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. This week, the Ravens face the Giants, who haven’t been terrible but more than admirably solid against some of the best NFL offenses as of late. Lamar Jackson will give the Giants trouble but more with his legs than with his arm. Against a good secondary, expect Hollywood’s numbers to tank.
Your angle: The best “Hollywood” since Whip Hubley in Top Gun.
Greg Oldfield’s stories have appeared in Hobart, Carve, Barrelhouse, and Maudlin House, among others. He also writes about soccer for the Florida Cup and the Brotherly Game and often rambles about soccer on Twitter.