IDP Start/Sit - Championship Sunday
The player pool is certainly narrower this week as we only have two games to pick players from, but as with every week during the NFL season there are matchups and players to focus on, and those to avoid.
As always, let’s get started by delving into the defensive lineman.
A quick look at the defensive end matchups tells us quickly we need to forget starting any Colts lineman, but being a 3-4 team it was unlikely that you were going to be starting Cory Redding or Arthur Jones this week regardless. The best matchup falls to the Packers (against the Seahawks), but again, Green Bay are another 3-4 side so temper your expectations on how many points to expect from Mike Daniels and Datone Jones. Of the two, Daniels is the better play if you wanted to look outside the obvious, having finished the regular season as the No. 40 defensive lineman with 4.5 sacks, six tackles for loss and two double-digit point scores over the course of the year.
There’s no point beating around the bush, the best plays this weekend are Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. Both are legitimate DE1s and have both a higher floor and higher ceilings than their peers on Sunday, and the PFF projections have them ranked as the top scoring lineman, with Jones the clear No.1.
The Seattle pass-rush duo of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett are of a little more interest than usual because of Aaron Rodgers’ injury forcing him to stay in the pocket. I still prefer the much more tried and tested fantasy duo from New England, because of their higher tackle floors, but it’s conceivable that Seattle take a more aggressive strategy in getting after Rodgers due to his mobility issues. Of the two Seahawks I’d have a preference for Bennett, who hit a rich vein of form at the end of the year, averaging 9.6 points per game.
Start – Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich (Michael Bennett)
Sit – Everyone else
At linebacker the Patriots are the biggest beneficiary again, getting the top matchup on Sunday against the Colts. This bodes well for Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower. Collins was a revelation this season, finishing the year as an LB1 despite missing a game, and finished the year on a tear, scoring over 17 points five times between Weeks 9 – 16, including Week 11 against the Colts when he scored exactly 17pts. Hightower also excelled from a fantasy perspective at the end of the year, scoring 18, 15.5 and 12 in the final three weeks of the fantasy season, but he did have a poorer game against the Colts in their Week 11 clash, scoring only six points despite a full complement of snaps and having a good game (+5.3). I have Collins as my No.1 ‘backer this week and have Hightower firmly in the top five.
Although Collins was excellent this season, Bobby Wagner is the premier fantasy linebacker suiting up this week, however the Packers were the worst matchup in the NFL for opposing linebackers during the regular season, which limits his scoring potential. I’d still consider Wagner a top four play this week because he’s such a dynamic player, but with much better matchups for the Patriots duo, and also D’Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman I can understand the reasoning of those who will sit him.
Talking of the Colts linebackers, their matchup against New England is only slightly better than the one Wagner will face, so I’d have him ranked above Freeman, but below Jackson. Jackson was another player to score a tonne of points as the fantasy season drew to a close, averaging 15.9 points per game over the last five weeks, a figure only topped by Jamie Collins and DeAndre Levy, making him one of the better plays this week. Freeman on the other-hand couldn’t match his teammates scoring and although he missed three games early in the year, profiled as a mid to low-end LB2 in 2014. He should be overlooked this week, despite a stellar performance (15 total tackles, 1 forced fumble and 1.5 sacks) two weeks ago.
Clay Matthews will draw some interest this week, as he did during the second half of the regular season because of his move to the inside in the Packers scheme, but it’s worth stating that he still scored as a LB2, and was more inconsistent in his points production. Although he had two games of over 20 points since Week 10, he also had three games in which he scored less than 10, so in playoff leagues I think he offers too much risk when the likes of Collins, Jackson and Wagner are available to select.
Start – Jamie Collins, D’Qwell Jackson and Bobby Wagner.
Sit – Jerrell Freeman and Clay Matthews.
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There’s not much between the matchups at defensive back this week, with only 0.7 points separating the Patriots, Packers and Colts. That means the top fantasy safety playing this week, Morgan Burnett, faces the toughest matchup in travelling to Seattle. Because of this he falls behind Kam Chancellor in my rankings this week, and is a push with Earl Thomas. He’s not a sit, but it’s worth noting that it’s not an optimal matchup for him. If the Seahawks decide to pound the rock with Lynch and control the clock, Burnett played 49 percent of run snaps within eight yards of the line of scrimmage, so he should put up a decent tackle total.
Another point to note in that game is that Aaron Rodgers only threw five interceptions this season, so expect the Seattle secondary’s fantasy points to come from a frequency of targets into their coverage and providing support to stop the Green Bay run game, something Chancellor and Thomas are both excellent at, rather than an interception or pick-six.
The Colts @ Patriots game has one DB1 one the field, Mike Adams, who has had a career year at 33 years of age, and rounds out my top four ranked safeties this week. He had his best game of the season against New England in Week 11, scoring 28.5 points thanks to a couple of interceptions, but it would be a folly to expect a repeat performance this week. Adams still had 11 total tackles and 2 passes defensed in that game, so even taking was his interceptions it was a solid fantasy outing. I’d expected a similar tackle performance this week.
Although the Colts rank in the top half of the league as a matchup for opposing safeties, Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung are not productive enough in a regular basis to be consider viable fantasy alternatives to the aforementioned four players. McCourty averaged 7.0 fantasy points per game, while Chung 8.0 points per game, compared to the likes of Burnett (12.1), Chancellor (8.3), Thomas (8.3) and Adams (10.9).
Starts – Morgan Burnett, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Mike Adams.
Sits – Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung.
Ross Miles is a Lead Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy. Follow him on Twitter – @RossMilesNFL
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