You have made it to the championship! Or…as I said before, if you are league has its championship next week, you’re doing it wrong. This is the week that bragging rights are made of, and it happens to kickoff with a game on Christmas. Below are some observations for this championship week, hopefully they help you win the hardware in your league. Thank you for reading my work all year, and hopefully you have enjoyed the articles. Stay safe this holiday season and best of luck!
Be sure to reach out with your Start/Sit, or other fantasy questions to me directly on Twitter at @BGunnWMU or @FGBros
Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay: The Tampa backfield spent most of the season being one of the most frustrating to project in fantasy football. Finally, after Bruce Arians saw what many armchair coaches (I get it. The phrase is armchair quarterbacks but that does not make sense here) saw, he blessed Ronald Jones as the starting running back. Well, the football Gods giveth, and the football gods taketh away. Ronald Jones is now part cyborg after getting some metal added to an injured hand and is on the reserve COVID list as well. The likely result of this will be Fournette going up against a bottom two run defense in the Detroit Lions. Now, do not get me wrong, Tampa will most likely be able to put up points however they want, but if Fournette gets the bulk of the carries in this one he will greatly outproduce his flex ranking. I am fairly sure that just walking onto the field against the Lions scores you 5 points. Eh, even if it doesn’t, Fournette will not need those 5 bonus points to produce as a mid-range RB2 in all formats this week.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Kansas City: Man, I am going full-blown ghost of Christmas past this week, aren’t I? Look for that to be the case when looking at Bell’s stat line after this week wraps up as well. Atlanta has not been good against the run recently; they have been great. They are the number one defense against runners. Against pass-catching running backs though? Not that strong. They are a top 5 matchup for running backs in the passing game which pairs well with Bell’s skillset. Atlanta allows the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season, and with Mahomes coming into town, you know where their focus will be. This will open things up for Bell who is being ranked outside of RB2 territory this week. Due to his pass-catching chops, he will finish as a mid-range RB2 in PPR formats, and at minimum a low-range RB2 in standard this week.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati: It goes without saying that if Joe Mixon returns from IR this week, then this becomes null and void. But if Mixon does not return, it is tough not to consider that Bernard will outperform his ranking that currently projects him to finish outside of a flex. Houston has allowed the most points to opposing running backs this season, and Bernard will get the bulk of the work. Even if gamescript becomes an issue due to Houston getting out to an early lead, Bernard is the lead pass-catching back with Mixon out of the lineup. Cincinnati may not score a ton of points in this matchup, but Bernard can build on his last outing against Pittsburgh that saw him go for 97 all-purpose yards and 2 touchdowns. He can get into the endzone again due to his versatility. Start him as a mid-range flex in all formats.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis: Taylor is finally starting to look like the running back that was heralded as a true 3-down back out of Wisconsin. That is a positive as there have been stints this season where he looked like more of a plodder, running into the line, and getting tackled before he could use his speed to get outside. Why is he in the sit portion of the article if he is passing the eye test? You will see a theme in this portion of the article. The problem with Taylor this week is the matchup. He plays a Pittsburgh defense that even after looking less like themselves as of late, they still are the 2nd worst matchup against opposing running backs. That in conjunction with the fact that this seems like it will just be a slugfest between these two teams leads me to believe that Taylor will not live up to his Week 16 top 10 billing. IF he gets between 15-20 touches, and averages 4 yards/touch, you are looking at between 60-80 yards and hopefully he falls into the endzone. If that is the case, although it won’t kill you in your championship matchup, it will not be enough for the league winning projection he’s been given.
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore: Dobbins has a better matchup than the aforementioned Taylor this week, but I see parallels in their situations. Dobbins is being ranked as a RB1 this week and could he get there? Sure. Will he? That becomes a little more convoluted. The past 3 games, he has received fewer than 15 touches, but has produced due to averaging over 4.5 yards/touch and a touchdown. The good news for teams that have Dobbins is that the Giants are the 5th stingiest team against the passing game in the league. This should lead to Baltimore leaning on the run game to score their points. Even with that as a premise, there are a few concerns about Dobbins this week. Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards still get a large portion of the touches on the ground, Dobbins has not been a part of the passing game recently, and if that is the case this week, Dobbins will need yet another touchdown to deliver his top 10 projection. You are not sitting Dobbins as he is starting to come on as of late, but I believe that he scores more as a solid RB2 this week, than top 10 at his position.
Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas: It was fun watching Marcus Mariota come in and sling the ball around last week, and had many wondering, “is this the same guy that was in Tennessee?”. This week may be a little more daunting as the Raiders line up across from a Dolphins team that is one of the stingiest against the passing game and allows bottom 10 production to the running back position as well. Even with the tough matchup, Jacobs is being ranked inside of the top 8 this week. Consider as well, that you must go all the way back to Week 10 to see Jacobs average more than 4 yards per carry, with some of the outings in between being much better than this matchup against Miami. With Miami having a week to gameplan against a potentially Mariota-led Raider offense, I anticipate some regression from Mariota, and Jacobs to be the defensive focal point. As with the earlier backs mentioned, you are starting Jacobs, as you ride your horses in the playoffs, just temper expectations as Jacobs will finish as a high-end RB2.