Welcome to do-or-die time, folks. By this point in the season, you either know if you’re going to be in the hunt these next few weeks or if you’re trading your players, so let’s just get to business.
QB: Eli Manning, New York Giants ($5,700): Since the start of 2013, Eli Manning has averaged 275 passing yards with a 56.42 completion percentage against the Eagles and a 6-6 TD-INT ratio in six games against the Eagles. For those thinking that’s not awful, here’s the true story of those stats: Manning has only thrown a touchdown in four of those games, completed over 60% of his passes twice, and is 1-5 in that time span – and hasn’t beaten the Eagles since 2013. Sorry, Elisha, but this weekend is a no-go for fantasy. I can’t even believe I’m suggesting this, but in honor of my friend Ken LaVicka from ESPN 106.3, I have to recommend you pick up Miami’s Ryan Tannehill (owned in 18.8 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues and slightly cheaper at $5,600 on DraftKings) for Sunday’s clash between the Dolphins and Jets. Against a soft Jets defense, Tannehill – who hasn’t completed less than 60 percent of his passes since week one – should be a solid play and may even breakout against a Todd Bowles-led team that usually tends to play subpar against the Fish.
RB1: Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers ($7,700): My reasoning for this one actually is a bit different than you may expect: Bell and the Steelers are playing a rivalry game against the Ravens, a team who may try to go for Bell’s knees – a weak spot – and knock him out of the game. That’s not to call Baltimore’s defense dirty, it’s more of a ‘people just using common sense and remembering the bad blood between these two teams’ type of thing. For this week, I’d put Bell on your bench just to be safe…unless your other running backs are all either injured or on a bye week. Though the Green Bay Packers are in a slump, I do like running back James Starks (14.0 and $4,200) this week against the Colts and what they call a defense. Starks isn’t the flashiest pick, but at this point in the season, running back options tend to be a bit slim due to injuries and over-usage.
RB2: Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers ($6,300): It’s a bit risky, but you may want to look into Oakland’s Jalen Richard (12.6 and $3,000) despite the Raiders going into Denver for a national TVgame. I’m serious, too; you’d have to think that against such a good defense in a place where Denver rarely loses, the Raiders are going to want to pull a trick or two out and Richard, who averaged 4.4 yards a carry in October, could be the guy Jack Del Rio uses to surprise the Broncos. Is it gutsy? Sure. Is being gutsy what you need to sometimes win in fantasy? Yep.
WR1: Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers ($6,800): I know, Carolina is fixing their offense and is going up against the Los Angeles Rams…but can you really have faith in Cam Newton against that pass rush? With Newton getting beat up so badly, I’d stay away from any of his wideouts for the time being, especially against a front seven that loves bashing the quarterback’s brains in like they have Lucille in their hand. Sticking with California teams, I’m loving what Seth Roberts (1.o and $3,000) is doing out in Oakland and like with Richard, you may want to give Roberts a play against Denver who may be devoting all of their resources to Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
WR2: Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings ($5,900): This one may surprise some people too, especially because Diggs and the Vikings are going up against the Detroit Lions – a team that’s allowed 19 touchdowns to wide receivers this year – yet I just can’t see Diggs having another big performance against that defense. What I can see, however, is Cordarrelle Patterson (5.9 and $3,300) making plenty of plays on the offense, perhaps even as a running back as Minnesota looks to find some offensive consistency. In the air, Patterson is Sam Bradford’s third or fourth main target behind Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, and Adam Thielen, but the former first-rounder has had a couple of big games in 2016. Give Patterson a chance this week!
WR3: Victor Cruz, New York Giants ($3,800): What I said for Manning applies to his receivers, especially Victor Cruz – who hasn’t scored since week one and has only topped 50 yards twice since week three against the Washington Redskins. Somehow, New York Jets wideout Quincy Enunwa is still available in 38.4 percent of ESPN leagues (and is $5,100 on DraftKings) so if you don’t have him yet, now is the time to strike. Regardless of who finishes the game at quarterback for the Jets on Sunday – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty, the ghost of Nappa – they’re going to want to find Eunwa, who is on pace for his first career 1,000-yard season despite the rest of the problems on offense.
TE: Gary Barnidge, Cleveland Browns ($3,900): Gary Barnidge and the quarterback rotunda against the Cowboys? If you play them, then you’ve already waved the white flag on your season, right? As for fantasy questions, why is San Diego Chargers tight end Hunter Henry ($3,300) still available in 42.5 percent of fantasy leagues? Against a Titans defense that allows an average of 8.1 fantasy points per game to tight ends, Henry should be a must start this week if you’re trying to stay in the playoff hunt and not wave the white flag like those who play Barnidge.
Defense: San Francisco 49ers ($2,100): Why you’d play this 49ers defense against Drew Brees and the Saints, even at home, baffles me to the point where all I have to ask again is, “are you waving the white flag, guys?” Anyways, I do love me some Jameis Winston, but I also think that Atlanta’s defense (and owned in 10.9 percent of ESPN leagues) may be a smart pick this weekend in a game that could really determine if the Falcons are going to run away with the NFC South.
[Featured Image by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images]