And now here we are. We have arrived at the end. Championship week. The final week of the fantasy football season.
(Note that I'm ignoring all of you jokers who keep playing into Week 18. You're not playing 4-D chess. You're just making things unnecessarily hard on yourself. Stop it.)
Almost as if to prove that maybe we should just stop playing in Week 16, the fantasy gods are making things extraordinarily difficult on us. Plenty of big-name players are either out or extremely doubtful for the week. Guys like Derrick Henry, Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts and Derek Carr will force managers to pivot at the most critical time. Those moves not only affect those individual players, but the guys around them.
Sleepers are always important throughout the season. They could be very important this week. Best of luck to all of you in your championship matchups. Now here are some names.
You may have just scrolled up to the top of the page to check the date on this column. “Surely, Marcas isn’t advocating for Royce Freeman in the year of our fantasy football lord 2022?” Actually, dear reader, I am. After sliding in for 22 snaps in Week 15, Freeman took 57% of the running back snaps and more than half of the rushing attempts in Week 16, surpassing Dare Ogunbowale in the pecking order.
I’m under no illusions that the Texans are a juggernaut. But Freeman is seeing increasingly more volume on a roster with no real running back threats. The Texans have a division game against the Jaguars. Jacksonville hasn’t offered a ton of resistance to running backs this year. Over the past month, the Jags have allowed the sixth-most rushing yards and ninth-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Freeman’s appeal might be limited mostly to DFS lineups, but there is a path to production.
It’s been a while since we’ve been able to stump for Allgeier in this space. There hasn’t been much rhyme or reason to Arthur Smith’s running back usage. Or his usage of other players, if we’re being honest. But in the short term, it appears that Allgeier has taken the baton from Cordarrelle Patterson. He logged 17 carries in a Week 15, which was a season high. He eclipsed that number a week later with 18 attempts.
That should make him the focus of Atlanta’s running game this week against the Arizona Cardinals. The flailing, falling Redbirds haven’t been a source of consternation for running backs. The Cards are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to fantasy rushers. It’s been even worse over the past month. Arizona has given up the second-most points per game, including five total touchdowns. Atlanta’s desire to run the football hasn’t waned throughout the year. Might as well roll with the guy set to see most of the opportunity.
Once upon a time, Jonathan Taylor was going to be our fantasy superhero. When that dream turned to dust after a rough start to the season, we thought he’d find his cape in time for the playoffs. What he found turned out to be season-ending Kryptonite. So, we turn to an alternate hero. If Taylor was to be our Superman, think of Moss as Robin -- not quite as superpowered but able to come through in a pinch.
That pinch could come this week against the Giants. Moss has run effectively the past two weeks, but hasn’t posted big numbers. Game script has partially been to blame. As has poor quarterback play. The latter isn’t likely to go away, but the former might not be as much of an issue in Week 17. New York isn’t blowing people out and its run defense continues to suffer. If Moss can continue his recent efficiency and find a touchdown, he will have deeper league flex appeal.
The Giants haven’t offered a ton of exciting fantasy receiver options this season. We’ve mostly hammered the Darius Slayton option on the menu. What did you expect? Kadarius Toney worked his way out of New York. Wan’Dale Robinson’s season ended early due to injury. And sometimes I have to actively remind myself that Kenny Golladay is still on the roster. But dig a little deeper and there have been some other bright spots lately. Isiah Hodgins had a big week against the Vikings. Then there’s James.
James has nine or more targets in two of his last three games and has scored three times since Week 11. Daniel Jones is spreading the opportunities around, even if Big Blue isn’t always putting up big yards. Now the Giants face a Colts team that has been torched by receivers lately and has nothing to play for. The ceiling for James isn’t extraordinarily high but he does offer some upside as a WR3 in most formats.
Ever since the rise of Christian Watson, it’s been hard to have Lazard in your lineups. He has one touchdown in his last eight games. That was also the only time he topped 12 fantasy points in that stretch. That fantasy inconsistency stems from an inconsistent target share. He has as many games with seven or more targets as he does with six or fewer.
This week’s game against the Vikings shapes up as one in which the Packers could need to throw the ball. Minnesota has played in a lot of one-score games, but that’s because its defense has allowed a lot of points. The Vikings have given up the fifth-most points this season with opponents putting at least 20 on the board in 12 games. Green Bay hitting that total – or better – likely means Aaron Rodgers doing work through the air. That should mean a decent target opportunity for Lazard against a questionable secondary.
Time is a flat circle. What goes around comes around. Everything old is new again. Whatever other similar cliché you can come up with applies to Brown’s 2022 season. He got off to a quick start while the Cowboys waited for Michael Gallup to get healthy. Midway through the season, Brown fell out of favor in Dallas’ passing game. Recently, he’s made a comeback, including a breakout 22-point effort in Week 15.
Now in Week 17, Brown and the Cowboys get to pick on the woebegone Titans secondary. Tennessee has been a soft target all season long for fantasy pass catchers. The Titans have allowed the second-most catches and fourth-most yards to receivers over the last four weeks. The biggest concern could be game script. If Malik Willis can’t move the Tennessee offense, there may not be reason for Dallas to throw all game long. Brown will be more popular in DFS formats than season-long leagues, but is worth a look.
I liked Henry as a streaming option last week. Unfortunately, he was injured early in the game and contributed nothing to anyone who took the chance. The upside is that the Patriots say there’s a chance for him to play this week against the Dolphins. That has him back in play as a streamer.
The struggles of the New England passing game have been well documented. But Henry has delivered in the right matchups. This looks like one of those matchups. Over the last month, tight ends are averaging more than 15 points per game against Miami. A big part of that is the three touchdowns the Fins have surrendered to the position. If Henry can go, he should be considered a streamer.
After cooking up nothingburgers for most of the season, Knox has come to life late in the year. The Bills tight end has scored a touchdown in three straight games and is the TE6 over the past four weeks. Yes, that's a fairly low bar. But sometimes all you want from your tight end is to score double-digit fantasy points. He’s been able to do that lately.
This week’s game against the Bengals is big for a number of reasons. It also features a decent matchup for Knox. Cincinnati hasn’t allowed a lot of touchdowns to tight ends, but it has faced a lot of targets and given up a lot of receptions. If Knox can find room for some yards after the catch, a touchdown is in play. Either way, there’s enough upside to consider him for your lineup.
The Giants’ defense has been middling this year in fantasy and real life. But the team’s best performances have come in pretty predictable spots -- namely, against bad offenses. That would explain why New York is in this space this week. The criteria for starting a streaming defense has been simple: Pick an offense that can’t get out of its own way. The Indianapolis Colts are the epitome of such an offense. It hasn’t mattered who the quarterback has been, Indy can’t protect the passer, can’t move the ball and can’t score. The Colts also turn the ball over at an alarming rate. That adds up to a golden opportunity for Brian Daboll’s defense to turn in a nice number.
If we’re abiding by the criteria of what makes a good streaming defense, then the Chiefs are very much on the radar this week. After the firing of Nathaniel Hackett, the conversation around the Broncos is fixing Russell Wilson. If Russ can even be fixed. Regardless, Russ' resurrection won’t likely occur until 2023. As long as the Broncos remain broken, it’s worth targeting them with opposing defenses.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who is already thinking about mock drafts. Send him your future plansor fantasy football questions on Twitter @MarcasG or TikTok at marcasgrant.