It’s make or break time in almost all fantasy football leagues this week.
Unless your league uses all 17 weeks of the regular season to determine its champion, this is the final chance to slide into the playoffs and grab that chance at fantasy immortality.
A win in the final week of the regular season can be the difference between playing for the big payout and ignoring your team as it wanders through the consolation bracket.
Like most weeks, there were a handful of big injuries and roster shakeups, which have left players such as Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy rock-solid RB1s, while studs like Miles Austin and Antonio Gates experience a significant dip in value.
Jamaal Charles, RB Kansas City Chiefs
After putting together an incredibly inconsistent fantasy season to date, Charles has really turned it on as of late, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for his owners.
Coach Todd Haley has been splitting the workload between Charles and Thomas Jones all season with an aim to keep both fresh for a hopeful late season playoff push. Looking as healthy as he has all season, Charles has taken the reins his last few contests and has shown why he was drafted so highly earlier in the season.
Last week marked the first time in five weeks that Charles reached the 20-touch plateau and he did not disappoint. In the two games this season he’s had 20-plus carries, he’s exploded for over 170 yards each time.
LeSean McCoy, RB Philadelphia Eagles
A consistent performer all season, LeSean “Shady” McCoy has finally established his worth. With defenses beginning to key in on Michael Vick in an attempt to keep him under control, McCoy has become integral in the offensive attack.
Although he has only topped the 100-yard mark in two games this year, McCoy has shown an innate ability to make tacklers miss and get open in the flat. Showing his impressive value when it matters most, McCoy has been especially valuable to those in PPR leagues.
Wes Welker, WR New England Patriots
Wes Welker had become a forgotten man. Before the Thanksgiving tilt against the Lions, Welker had only found the end zone four times all year and hadn’t totaled more than eight catches in any contest. Fantasy football owners had been very disappointed...until his coming-out party.
With the Patriots firing on all cylinders and looking like a well-oiled machine, Welker has been able to find holes in the opposing defenses and exploit them with ease. Tom Brady is still looking his way consistently, and Welker’s stock is definitely on the rise.
Matt Cassel, QB Kansas City Chiefs
There may be no hotter team on the planet right now than the Kansas City Chiefs. Although many point to the success of WR Dwayne Bowe as the major reason, the guy throwing him the rock hasn’t been half-bad either. While Cassel wasn’t drafted outrageously high in most leagues, he has provided dynamic value and appears to be getting stronger as the season moves forward.
Miles Austin, WR Dallas Cowboys
What started out as a promising beginning for Austin faded fast with Tony Romo sidelined. A hot commodity in the preseason on account of his torrid finish last year, Austin came out firing and started out right where he left off. Since then, it has been an entirely different story. Even with the emergence of Dez Bryant, a lot of teams continue to blanket Austin.
While he has found the end zone three times in as many games, Austin has not pleased his owners with his seven total catches over that span. He remains a solid fantasy option from here on out, but don’t expect too many more monster games out of him.
Chris Johnson, RB Tennessee Titans
Perennial stud Chris Johnson has been the player hurt most by the crumbling Titans offense.
With no legit quarterback to keep the defense honest, Johnson has found his running room to be scarce at best. He has only eclipsed 100 yards twice in the past five weeks, and that is not the type of production owners expected to garner from the near-consensus No. 1 pick. You’d be hard pressed to ever bench him, so ride it out and hope for the best.
Antonio Gates, TE San Diego Chargers
After starting the season with his standard flashy numbers, Gates has fallen victim to the tight end curse of 2010. Never before have we seen so many top-flight tight ends bitten by the injury bug in one season, and Gates has been no exception.
Always known to be a gamer, Gates has attempted to play through a crippling plantar fasciitis injury for the past three weeks, and the results have been much less than extraordinary.
Carson Palmer, QB Cincinnati Bengals
After a bounce-back year of sorts in 2009, Carson Palmer was being counted on this season to bring the Bengals back to the playoffs and fantasy owners back to the title game, but none of that has panned out. With a staggering seven interceptions in the past three weeks and very little yardage to boot, the time has come to pronounce that Palmer is no longer a viable option in fantasy football lineups.