Fantasy football: Andrew Luck is a confident play
By Jason Smith
Updated: Dec. 20, 2012 at 04:24 p.m.
Well, we're here. It's Championship Week. If you thought semi-final week was pressure-packed for you, how does it feel now? Where no matter what you're doing during the day, your thoughts are consumed about things like which of three players you're putting at your flex.
Significant other: They're having a sale on shorts this weekend at JC Penney's.
You: Sure. I'd play Shorts. But maybe Stevie Johnson.
So with that in mind, let's get to Championship Week in Higher/Lower/Over/Under. The big rule for you now is to keep things simple. Don't over-think your roster. So this edition will be as simple as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - which is the same combination as Dick Van Patten's briefcase in "Spaceballs."
1: How many sneaky defenses I can recommend picking up and starting during Championship Week. Push. One of the most fun things I like to do late in a season is scour the waiver wire and come up with a fair-to-middling defense who I think is a great play because their matchup is stellar. This week, I can only find one. The Carolina Panthers host the Oakland Raiders, who haven't scored more than 17 points in a game in five weeks. They're slowly fading away and the only reason they're not in the No. 4 category of this column is because, while it was very uninspiring, they actually beat the Chiefs last week. Up until then, Carson Palmer had thrown at least one interception in every game since Week 4 (and this past Sunday he threw for just 182 and no scores). The Panthers are coming off a 14-point fantasy week on defense, and while they're no juggernaut, it all adds up. I can see the pick-sixes going Carolina's way as Terrelle Pryor warms up on the sideline to play the second half. Don't you want that?
2: How many quarterbacks in the 49ers-Seahawks game you can start in fantasy this week. Under. I know, it's heresy. The two combined for over 64 points this past week. But Sunday, their teams meet in Seattle. The Seahawks are a phenomenal team defensively at home. The 49ers defense is phenomenal when they're not facing Tom Brady - and you know Jim Harbaugh has been killing his guys this week with the shame and embarrassment of the Patriots game. I don't think there's a ton of fantasy points to be had in a contest which smacks to me of a 17-10 or 17-13 kind of final score. The good news is if you have one of these quarterbacks, you probably picked them up off the waiver wire, which means you already have a pretty decent starter on your roster as an option. And if you don't? Well, Brandon Weeden may be available. I know. That's no consolation. But I will say this: Sam Bradford may be worth a whirl this week. I'm going to rank him somewhere around 12th-14th for Week 16. He's hot, and he has a phenomenal matchup against a Tampa Bay defense that's the worst in the league against the pass. So if you're in need, or you're starting a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, or Matt Schaub? You can dust off Bradford and play him.
3: How many Colts offensive skill players you can start with confidence this week. Over. Andrew Luck was under duress all day against Houston, whose defense is opportunistic and pretty good overall. Reggie Wayne was completely disappointing, though he did have a touchdown overturned by a penalty. However, Vick Ballard topped 100 yards and T.Y. Hilton continued his Cecil Shorts-like surge with over 13 fantasy points. Please don't worry about any Colts players this week. They're playing against Kansas City with a chance to clinch a playoff berth. They'll bring it. The Chiefs have allowed the fourth-most TD passes this year, and the fifth-most rushing yards. Barring an elite quarterback, Luck is your starter. Wayne is your No. 2 WR, and Hilton is a No. 2 WR or a flex. Ballard is a low-end No. 2 RB or a good flex option. Enjoy the touchdowns.
4: How many teams I'm worried about in fantasy because they're done trying for the rest of the NFL season. Over. The Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers are all at the post office buying holiday stamps to mail in the rest of their 2012 campaigns. Seriously, Detroit gets whooped by that many points against a Cardinals team that lost 58-0 the week before? The Jaguars and Chiefs can't score, nor do they seem interested in the prospect, while I'm sure the Eagles and Chargers would forfeit their last two games if they could. When teams ease up, your fantasy team loses production. So it's a very big deal. You want players and teams trending up, with a lot to play for.
5: Of the aforementioned teams, the players who are must-starts this week off their rosters combined. Under. Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Cecil Shorts, Jamaal Charles. This is partly due to the quit factor in addition to the fact that you're in the championship, so you can of course be more discerning with whom you are going to play, because your roster is pretty good. Mikel Leshoure may be a worthy flex for you if you're in a bind, but that's really it. Are you really going to trust Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd with so much on the line? Forget it.
--To help Jenny Mollen on Twitter, if anyone knows the final score of Chris' soccer game from Sunday's finale of Homeland, please let me know so I can pass it along.
Jason Smith hosts NFL Fantasy Live on the NFL Network and writes fantasy and other pith for NFL.com. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca, and listen to him on the NFL Fantasy Live podcast with Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison every week on NFL.com. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.