Championship week. Good thing this doesn't last as long as Capital One's "Bowl Week" as I think that would kill all of the excitement. If you made it to your championship, congratulations. I've got two championship games this week myself, which could be hard to watch with all the Christmas celebrations going on this weekend. Nah, who am I kidding, I'll be stuck to the television all day Saturday. Hopefully Santa Claus will bring me a couple of championships this year, and maybe one for you, too. You've probably won some good cash already by making it this far, but winning the championship just means you get to rub it in all of your leaguemates' faces all offseason. I know how much fun that is.
If you've got some tough flex plays this week, here are the calls for the week:
Hi, remember me? I'm Philip Rivers and I play strong at the end of the season. Rivers has thrown for 240-plus yards in all of his last three games, two of which were played against Top 10 defenses (Jacksonville and Baltimore). Detroit has allowed three 300-plus yard passers in their last four games, and their other game was against Minnesota. All signs are pointing towards Rivers having a good game at Detroit -- all of his receivers are healthy again, a Detroit defense that's been weak lately, and his typical late season push. Rivers would be a good call this week.
Mark Sanchez usually doesn't play well in December when it's freezing, but this weekend it looks like it will be in the mid-40s for Sanchez. That's well above the temperature where his California butt gets too cold to produce. Sanchez hasn't thrown for more than 200 yards in four weeks, but he has nine touchdowns in those four weeks. I envision this game between the New York Jets and the New York Giants being a sandlot shootout for bragging rights of who is the better team at the new stadium. This will be the first time these two teams will have played each other in the regular season at the New Meadowlands Stadium. The Giants have given up 13 passing touchdowns over the past four weeks, so Sanchez should have a good shot at some good numbers for you this week.
Sanchez's opponent, Eli Manning, on the other hand will have a tough time getting his production going this week. Manning has thrown an interception in every single one of his last seven games. With Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie coving his two stud wide receivers, it's going to be hard for Manning to get good passing numbers this week. The Jets have only allowed three multiple touchdown games all year, and none in the past four weeks. Manning's chances for a good game are pretty limited this week, and he'd be a bad call to be in your lineup.
Carson Palmer had three interceptions the last time the Oakland Raiders played the Kansas City Chiefs, although that was his first game in Oakland and he only knew about half of the playbook. It looked like Palmer had gotten ahold of things until he threw four interceptions just two weeks ago against Green Bay. Kansas City ranks in the Top 10 against quarterbacks and will be the hardest team he's faced all year. Quarterbacks playing against the Chiefs haven't had a fantasy productive game since Matt Moore threw for three touchdowns back in Week 9. Things don't look good if you're trying to win your championship with Palmer this week.
It looks like Mike Shanahan has found his man in Roy Helu. Helu now has four straight games with more than 20 carries. This week Helu gets the cake-walk game against Minnesota, and he should have another good game. The Vikings' run defense hasn't been as horrible as their pass defense, but that won't matter for Helu because he has value as a pass catcher as well. Helu has been averaging 4.33 yards per attempt and 7.04 yards per catch, so another 20 touches will give Helu good numbers for your roster this week.
Reggie Bush has been on a tear over the past two months. He has six touchdowns and four 100-plus yard games over his last eight games. A trip to New England should help him even more this week to add to his totals this year. Bush needs 27 rushing yards to break 1,000 for the season, and 65 total yards to break his rookie season totals to make this the most productive season he's ever had. New England doesn't look as bad against the run because most teams have to throw while playing catchup against the Patriots. Bush can catch, we all know that, so he should be able to have a good day and would be a good call for you this week.
Steven Jackson has been running against tough defenses for the past month-and-a-half. This week's trip to Pittsburgh isn't going to help him at all. The most yards Jackson has had in the past five games was his 71 yards last week. The only two running backs to break 100 yards on the Steelers were Ray Rice and Arian Foster. I don't think Jackson is in that same class of running backs anymore. Jackson is going to have a tough time putting up good numbers if you start him this week, and he's a bad call in my book.
Marshawn Lynch's stud status will be put in check this week with a game against San Francisco. In his first meeting with the 49ers, Lynch only had 47 total yards, but that was before he really broke out in Week 9. This time around, Seattle knows how much they will have to rely on Lynch for a win. This also means that the 49ers will know they have stop Lynch as well. The 49ers have been holding No. 1 backs in check this year and they've faced a lot. Rashard Mendenhall, Steven Jackson, Ray Rice, Roy Helu, LeSean McCoy, Cedric Benson and Lynch himself have all failed to put up good rushing totals against this defense. This will be a tough game for Lynch and I'd highly consider sitting him if you've got another decent option this week.
Julio Jones has a good game or he has a dud. He gets deep for a couple long balls or he doesn't have a good game, but that's what Atlanta drafted him for. This week against New Orleans, I envision lots of passing on both sides of the ball. Speedy deep threats have been able to get behind the Saints all season, and Jones is one of those players that can do that type of work. The Saints don't have anyone who can cover Jones. I expect a big day from him.
Brandon Marshall has been steadily productive all season. He's already over 1,000 yards this year, but only had five touchdowns to his name. Marshall should be able to run all over, through, and around New England's swiss-cheese secondary all game. Demaryius Thomas had more than 100 yards last week. Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney both had more than 80 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago. Pierre Garcon had 150 yards and two touchdowns three weeks ago. The list goes on and on. New England allows the most points to wide receivers and Marshall is the best one on Miami. Big game coming. Start him and don't think twice.
Victor Cruz will be covered by Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie all game. After an easy schedule all year, Cruz finally gets to see what it's like to be covered by a Pro-Bowl caliber cornerback. Only one wide receiver has been able to get more than 100 yards against the Jets. That was Brandon Marshall, who got targeted 13 times in his Week 6 matchup with the Jets. I think the Giants will turn to their run game where the yards can be found easier against the Jets, meaning Cruz's stats take a hit in this game. He's a bad call to be in your lineup this week.
Can we call Brandon Lloyd a No. 1 wide receiver? I don't see anyone else on St. Louis that's stepping up to the task, so I'd say yes. Pittsburgh has been able to shut down wide receivers this year, and the most a wideout has put up against them has been 88 yards by Anquan Boldin in Week 9. Lloyd hasn't been able to get anything going since his move to St. Louis, mostly because Sam Bradford hasn't been himself or healthy this year. This week's game with the Steelers should be a beat down by Pittsburgh and shouldn't provide much for Lloyd to put up good numbers for you.
The one spot the New York Jets can be had in the passing game is across the middle. Jake Ballard (if he plays) is that tight end that can go across the middle and should have a good game. If Ballard's knee injury prevents him from playing, look at Bear Pascoe.
Brent Celek had a huge game last week. This week he should provide you with good numbers again. Dallas's one weakness on defense is against tight ends, just like the New York Jets. Celek is a good call this week.
Kellen Winslow hasn't done much for the past month. A trip to Carolina isn't going to get anything going for Winslow this week. Look elsewhere for your tight end this week.
St. Louis can be taken down in so many other ways, teams forget about their tight ends. Heath Miller is the forgotten man this week.
Good luck this week. I hope you make all the right calls.