It all comes down to this for fantasy football owners.
This is Super Bowl week in your fantasy league (if your league has any sense), so congratulations if you are still alive and playing for a trophy, a cash prize and/or bragging rights.
Everything is on the line now, so every lineup decision you make this week could mean the difference between victory and defeat. This week’s column is about giving you some information that could help you come out on the victory-money-boasting side.
So here are some tips and tidbits for your Super Bowl week:
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (QB)
Ryan loves throwing against the New Orleans Saints as much as Marc Maron loves doing podcasts.
Ryan has thrown for at least 292 yards in six of his last seven games against the Saints secondary, and it is not like New Orleans is stocked with Darrelle Revis clones this year. The Saints are ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in pass defense and allowed Ryan to rack up 448 yards and three touchdown tosses against them in their first meeting of the season.
Ryan should do more of the same this week when the two teams tussle for first place in the NFL (so-bad) South. He is a must start in one-QB leagues unless you also have Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers on your roster.
Players to Pick Up
If your league still allows you to pick up free agents during the week of your Super Bowl, the pickings on the waiver wire might not be as slim as you think. Here are some players you could pick up if you need some serious help:
Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys (RB): If DeMarco Murray cannot play this week due to the broken bone in his hand, Randle would be the next man up. Anyone running behind Dallas’ powerful offensive line could go for 100 yards and a touchdown or two.
Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans (WR): With the top two targets, Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright, out with injuries, Washington has become the only wideout left capable of making plays. He has 362 receiving yards and two touchdowns over his last five games and had his first 100-yard game of the season last week.
Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons (WR): The diminutive Douglas has a nine-catch, 116-yard game and a 10-catch, 131-yard outing to his credit over the last three weeks. With both Julio Jones and Roddy White hurting, Douglas is getting targeted more and more and should be on the receiving end of many Matt Ryan passes this week against the aforementioned New Orleans Saints’ shoddy secondary.
Players to Worry About
I know New York’s Eric Decker has finally been giving fantasy owners some production now that his hamstring is healed and he has stopped doing crazy things on Twitter.
But even though Decker had 13 receptions for 189 yards over the last two weeks (and had a long touchdown called back because he stepped out of bounds), he will be covered by either Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner this week when the Jets play the New England Patriots, so he will be lucky to put up 50 yards.
Eli Manning has had a slight resurgence lately (1,095 passing yards and eight touchdown passes in his last four games) thanks to rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. catching every pass thrown his way, but I would be as scared to use him this week as I would be to go to an all-you-can-eat buffet with Denver’s Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton.
Manning is up against a St. Louis Rams defense that has allowed only two touchdown passes and made eight interceptions in its last five contests. The Giants’ leaky line will probably give up several sacks, and Manning will likely throw a pick or two this week while under duress.
Defenses to Use
The Buffalo Bills held Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers to 355 passing yards, zero touchdowns and four interceptions combined over the past two weeks. The Bills have probably ruined more fantasy football owners’ seasons this year than any other player, organization or stat service by shutting down these two fantasy superstars.
So if the Bills can shut down Manning and Rodgers like that, will they hold Oakland’s David Carr under 100 passing yards and intercept him 14 times? That will be the storyline as Buffalo plays Oakland this week and has to be used by all fantasy owners in all fantasy formats.
The Carolina Panthers defense has been shredded like cheese going through a grater this year by several offenses, yet they could be used this week in a pinch if your normal defense has a terrible matchup against a high-scoring squad.
Carolina faces a Cleveland Browns team that was shut out and mustered only 107 total yards last week vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. Even though Johnny Manziel should be better with another week of reps under his belt, Carolina’s defense should be in line for several sacks and turnovers against the Browns.