In the vast majority of leagues, this is it. Two teams are left to battle it out for the right to be declared the champion. It’s what you have been working for all year and now is the time to shine. Pick your lineups strategically — every move counts more than ever. A high scoring player left on your bench that could have won you your league is worse than coal in your stocking. Pickup a player or two that you might not need, but that your opponent might end up starting - anything and everything is fair game at this point.
So, put down those Christmas cookies and pause your Hallmark movies (just for a few minutes I promise), and let’s set some championship winning lineups.
Quarterbacks and Cookies
Jalen Hurts at Dallas
Perhaps the best present under the tree this year for fantasy owners has been Jalen Hurts. In his first two starts, the rookie has scored a combined 57.10 fantasy points. He’s been good throwing the football and thanks to his value in the run game, Hurts has league winner written all over him. He’ll get a vulnerable Cowboys defense this week that has allowed opposing quarterbacks to average over 19 fantasy points per game since Week 9.
Baker Mayfield at New York Jets
Mayfield has been red-hot of late, scoring over 20 fantasy points in three straight games. That trend should continue this week against the Jets defense which has given up 30 passing touchdowns on the year. In fantasy perspective, New York has given up nearly 22 fantasy points per game to the position, the third-most out of any team.
Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs
The classic Christmas cookie. It may not be the best overall cookie, but you’ll never hear anyone complain about it. Plus, the red and green frosting and holiday shapes surely provide the Christmas cheer — an easy start.
More Starts: Tua Tagovailoa at Las Vegas, Ryan Tannehill at Green Bay
Kirk Cousins at New Orleans
We’ve mentioned Cousins’ road/home splits before and he continues to prove they matter. Cousins has averaged 11.5 fewer fantasy points on the road and has a tough Christmas Day matchup with the Saints this week. The Saints lead the league in pressure rate — something Cousins has struggled with the past two weeks — and have allowed more than one passing touchdown just once over the last six weeks.
Russell Wilson at Los Angeles Rams
Wilson has not been cooking lately, as the once MVP favorite has scored 20 or more fantasy points just twice over his last six games. He’ll now face off against a tough Los Angeles defense that held him to just one touchdown, and two interceptions, back in Week 10. His 9.92 fantasy points scored against the Rams was his season-low. It’s a tough move to make, but moving Wilson to your bench is the best option for your team.
Sure, it can be nice to make gingerbread men and houses, but then what? Gingerbread doesn't taste great to start and then just gets worse as it sits and hardens on your mantel in house form over the next several days. Pass.
More Sits: Ben Roethlisberger vs Indianapolis, Teddy Bridgewater at Washington
Sleeper: Mitchell Trubisky at Jacksonville
The resurrection of Mitchell Trubisky? Trubisky has been better since getting the nod for Chicago in Week 12. His stats have gone up-and-down, as he’s tossed three touchdowns in two different starts but just one in each of the other two. He’s due for another one of his better games this week against a Jacksonville defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to signal callers since Week 9.
The snickerdoodle is a well-known cookie that is great tasting. However, for some reason it only appears around the holidays. Why is that?
Running Backs and Big Screen Flicks
Giovani Bernard at Houston
Bernard is back in the trust tree for fantasy managers. After not rushing for more than 40 yards in five straight games, Bernard broke loose for 83 yards on the ground and a score last week against Pittsburgh. He also added a touchdown reception, marking his first scores since Week 8. He’ll now face a terrible Texans’ run defense that has allowed 18 rushing touchdowns on the year.
David Montgomery at Jacksonville
Montgomery has quietly been the best fantasy running back since Week 12. In his last four games, he has eclipsed the 100-rushing yard mark three times while scoring five touchdowns and 106.1 fantasy points — not bad! He should continue to see a massive touch share against Jacksonville, who has allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing backs.
A true seasonal blockbuster. Home Alone has an argument for the top Christmas movie of all-time. It’s combination of a festive soundtrack, snowy setting, and other Christmassy features bring the holiday cheer, while the satire, villains — including Uncle Frank —and of course Kevin make the movie a joy for everyone to watch.
More Starts: Leonard Fournette at Detroit, Le’Veon Bell vs Atlanta
Wayne Gallman at Baltimore
Gallman’s run of seven straight games with over double digit fantasy points came to an end last week, as the back could muster just 29 yards on nine carries. Gallman has carried the ball just 12 and nine times the past two weeks after carrying the ball at least 14 times in the four previous games. He’ll now face a tough Baltimore defense that has given up just four rushing touchdowns since Week 9 — all of which were scored by Pro Bowl running backs (Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt).
James Conner vs Indianapolis
Conner has been largely disappointing of late as he’s been bothered by a quadriceps injury. He hasn't recorded more than 15 carries since Week 8 and has eclipsed the 3.0 yards per carry mark just once in his four games since. Pittsburgh as a whole has struggled running the football and things don't seem to project upwards this week against Indianapolis.
I’m not sitting the movie, I am sitting the classic debate: Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Who cares. The debate is as old as the MJ v LeBron debate at this point.
More Sits: Cowboys Running Backs vs Philadelphia, Todd Gurley at Kansas City
Sleeper: Myles Gaskin at Las Vegas
Salvon Ahmed had a big game when replacing Gaskin last week, but Gaskin has been the starter when active. After being activated off the Covid-19 list it looks like he’ll draw the start on Sunday against Las Vegas. The Raiders have allowed the third-most rushing yards to RBs over the past four weeks and the fourth-most points to backs this season. Run, run, Gaskin.
Iron Man 3
Now THIS is a Christmas movie. For all the Die Hard debates, nobody debates whether Iron Man 3 is a Christmas movie or not because we all know the answer is yes. And don't listen to the haters (which there are many), it is a great movie. Drop the needle and cue the jolly tunes:
Wide Receivers and Whistling Tunes
Mike Evans at Detroit
Don’t tell Mike Evans there are too many mouths to feed in Tampa Bay. Since Antonio Brown’s arrival in Week 9, Evans has maintained a 21 percent target share. After recording his first 100-yard game since Week 4, Evans - and the entire Tampa offense — is in a smash-mouth spot against Detroit the week. The Lions have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to the position on the year and have been even worse the past few weeks.
Marvin Jones Jr. vs Tampa Bay
On the other side of Mike Evans, Marvin Jones Jr. has continued his strong second half of the season. Jones is coming off a season-high 10 catch game, in which he went over 100 yards for the second time in three games and saw 12 targets for the third time in four games. The Lions passing offense has been much improved under Interim Head Coach Darrell Bevell and although he won't be coaching this week (Covid-19), we still like Jones in this potential shootout. Tampa Bay has also allowed a 100-yard receiver in three of their last four games.
“The Christmas Song”: Nat King Cole
The King of Christmas delivers the King of all Christmas songs. An all-time classic that never gets old.
More Starts: Antonio Brown at Detroit, Tyron Johnson vs Denver
D.J. Chark vs Chicago
Chark has been hampered by a QB carousel in Jacksonville. Even with Gardner Minshew back under center, Chark is in a spot to avoid against Chicago. Wide receivers have scored the fourth-fewest fantasy points against the Bears this season.
Robby Anderson at Washington
D.J. Moore is clearly the number one option in Carolina even though Anderson recorded his first career 1,000-yard season last week. Anderson is in a tough spot this week against a Washington defense that has allowed just two 100-yard receivers all season. The Football Team has also allowed just eight touchdowns to wide outs lined up outside on the year, where Anderson does a majority of his work.
“I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”: Gayla Peevey
A 1953 tune sung by 10-year old Gayla Peevey who's voice is oddly disturbing. Also, who wants a Hippopotamus for Christmas?
More Sits: Marquise Brown vs New York Giants, Jets Wide Receivers vs Cleveland
Sleeper: Allen Lazard vs Tennessee
Lazard is back to playing more snaps and running more routes than Marquez Valdes-Scantling for the first time since his core injury. While Davante Adams will be heavily focused on by Tennessee, plenty of opportunities should become available for Lazard. The Titans defense has allowed the second-most fantasy points to enemy receivers and a total of 29 touchdowns.
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town”: Jackson 5
One of the most famous Christmas songs there is, but don't gloss over this rendition from the Jackson 5. The talented bunch deliver the best version out there.
Tight Ends and Trees
Logan Thomas vs Carolina
We continue to lead the Logan Thomas hype train. Thomas ranks sixth in the NFL in targets since Week 13 (33) as he continues to be a key piece in the Washington offense. He’ll look to extend his current four-game stretch of double-digit fantasy performances against Carolina this week, who currently surrenders the eighth-most points to opposing tight ends.
Cole Kmet vs Jacksonville
Kmet’s role continues to grow for Chicago as the rookie was on the field for 100 percent of their offensive snaps in Week 15. He unfortunately only saw two targets, but should be in for a much better outing this week. Jacksonville has been the best matchup for tight ends this season and have allowed the second-most touchdowns to the position.
Unfortunately, you most likely already have your Christmas tree, but save this knowledge for next year. The Fraser Fir is the Tom Brady of Christmas trees. Find one with some nice
pliability flexibility in those branches and you have the perfect tree for your holiday season.
More Starts: Jordan Akins vs Cincinatti, Noah Fant at Los Angeles Chargers
Jonnu Smith at Green Bay
Smith recorded his first five catch outing since Week 5, but still remains in a tight end committee. He’ll have a tough matchup Sunday night against Green Bay, who has given up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Tyler Higbee at Seattle
Higbee has now scored and posted over 12 fantasy points in two of his last three games. Like Smith, Higbee also splits time at the position and faces a Seahawks defense that has been tough against tight ends at home this season. Seattle has allowed visiting tight ends to score just twice and post the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game.
The Peyton Manning of Christmas trees. The Douglas Fir just does not show up when it is needed the most. Try to hang a nice heavy ornament on there and said ornament will quickly be in multiple pieces on the ground. Complete fraud of a tree.
More Sits: Eric Ebron vs Indianapolis, Jimmy Graham at Jacksonville
Sleeper: Tyler Eifert at Chicago
If you need a true shot-in-the-dark option at tight end to save your championship aspirations, Eifert is worth a look. He’s now scored over eight fantasy points in three of his last four games, including two performances of double-digit fantasy points. He’s up against Chicago this week, who has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends on the year.
Don’t let anyone bully you out of buying a fake Christmas tree. They get the job done and you don't have to vacuum up needles or water it every day. Plus, they don't die, so you can pack it up and use the same thing next year. Sounds like an absolute win.
Patriots Play of the Week
Sony Michel vs Buffalo
Why not at this point? You have a better chance of spotting Santa than predicting what the Patriots offense will look like these days. Last time New England matched up with Buffalo, Damien Harris rumbled for 102 yards and his first career score. With Harris banged up, Michel could be in line to lead the Patriots backfield for the second straight week. Michel impressed last week, carrying the ball 10 times for 74 yards, so he’ll look to build off that performance this week.
That is all for this week’s preview. If you have any additional questions regarding your lineup, specific players, or strategies going forward leave a comment below or reach out on Twitter @iambrianhines. I hope everyone has a safe and happy holidays and best of luck in your championship matchup this weekend!