Championship Edition: AFC West Fantasy Preview

Congratulations guys, you’re made it to the finals! This week I’ll try and go into a little more detail into my recommendations and the thought processes behind them. Go get that championship!

Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans (Sunday 1.00pm ET)

Lets be clear, this is a matchup between one of the best teams in the NFL and one of the worst. The Texans defence isn’t awful, but the Broncos have made even good defences crumble. The Broncos have numerous valuable fantasy assets and this is a good opportunity for them to turn in another big performance.

Peyton Manning is the best QB in the NFL and the best QB in fantasy. Unless he’s facing a brutal matchup, which he isn’t he is a start every week. Start him this week and don’t get cute.

Knowshon Moreno had a quiet game against the Chargers, but this was purely because of his lack of touches (8 carries, 5 catches) as the Chargers raced into an early lead. This will not happen this week, the Texans are no match for the Broncos. Moreno will be used early and often and should put up a top 10 RB performance this week. Montee Ball has been utilised a lot more in the last few weeks, and he is a genuine flex option in PPR leagues. I would expect between 6 and 10 points from him, more if he can hit paydirt.

Demaryius Thomas was really quiet against the Chargers, and with Wes Welker out again this week I can understand why you may be worried about him this week. However, Thomas has had just one sub 10 point game since week 6, and that was last week. I expect him to be the top target for Manning and put together over 14 points this week. Eric Decker had a down game as well, and his play is certainly more inconsistent than Thomas (he’s had games of 1.5pts, 3.2pts and 42.40pts…) Its hard to argue against Decker though, and he rarely has back to back stinkers, I think he should score at least 8 points this week, and we all know his upside. Andre Caldwell had a big game last week, but don’t go crazy on him this week. Peyton Manning’s 3rd WR will always carry value, but it could just as easily be Jacob Tamme this week. I think Caldwell is a borderline flex option this week, perhaps higher in PPR.

Andre Caldwell has upside, but his floor is still low. – photo from www.zimbio.com

Julius Thomas failed catch a TD last week, and that’s where his value is at. Still, he’s the 3rd highest scoring TE for a reason and you should be comfortable starting him as a TE5-8 this week, Wes Welker missing the game gain should give him one or two more targets. Jacob Tamme is a borderline flex option in deep leagues, but I wouldn’t want to rely on him. Check waivers for a Zach Miller or Brandon Myers instead.

Broncos D/ST should be started this week. The Texans QB situation is a mess at the moment and I don’t believe Keenum or Schaub can move the ball against the Broncos. Top 12 this week.

 

Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday 1.00pm ET)

The Chiefs have only played 2 teams this season with a winning record and sit at 1-2 against those teams (only win v Philly in week 3). However, Smith has been excellent in games where the Chiefs have to battle it out and some of his best performances have actually come in close losses to the Broncos and Chargers.

 

Smith has been excellent in the Chiefs last 5 games – photo from www.zimbio.com

Alex Smith scored threw 5 TDs against the Raiders, 4 to Charles, and clocked up 30.18 fantasy points in the process, likely launching your fantasy team to the finals. Since the week 10 bye the Chiefs are 2-3, but Smith has averaged 21.3 points in that period. He had only one game before the bye of over 21 points. The Colts are averaging 16.53 points to QBs, but I think Smith can get close to 20 this week as the game will more than likely be very close.

 

Jamaal Charles. Start him.

Despite Smith throwing 5 TDs, the highest scoring WR for the Chiefs was Donnie Avery with 33 yards. Bowe had just 24 yards. Although Charles is clearly the top runner and receivier in this team, Bowe should still be started as a WR3/Flex in 12 teamers if you’re desperate. In all likelihood you’ve got a guy like Streater or Allen to play instead of him, and if so do it, but Bowe can have those big games and he’s definitely the most talented WR in that offence.

Anthony Fasano is expected to start after missing out last week. He will no doubt see 4 or 5 targets but without a TD he isn’t worth much as a starter. I rank him as a TE20-24 this week. Sean McGrath caught the other TD from Smith but again he’s not a viable starter in a championship team.

Chiefs D/ST will be in for a game this week, but they still hold value as a top 12 D/ST. There may be streaming options out there so check your waiver wire first.

 

Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers (Sunday 4.25pm ET)

The Chargers still have a slim chance of the playoffs if they win out, and they will want to get ahead early against the Raiders who have been terribly inconsistent at best, and terrible at worst.

Matt McGloin is likely to lead the Raiders in this one, but there is a chance Terrelle Pryor will come in in his place. McGloin is a desperate fantasy start, and unless you’re in a deep league with a crisis you shouldn’t consider it. Pryor has more upside and the matchup is good regardless of who plays but pinning your hopes on either of these guys shoulder is not a good idea. If you are forced into starting him though, I think he passes 10 points, and maybe even reaches the 14 mark. If its Pryor I can see him with a lower floor but a higher ceiling if he can get his legs into gear. Both are barely top 20 QBs this week.

Rashad Jennings is going to be the starter again this week after his 91 yard 2 TD performance against the Chiefs. I think Jennings is a good flex option this week, since he will get the majority of carries. If you own Darren McFadden I’d swap him out for Marcel Reece who has PPR value in 16 team leagues (I’m starting him if AP is out in one league). Jennings should get around 80 yards and has had a knack of scoring TDs (6 in 6 starts, including 4 in his last 2 starts). Jennings is a viable RB2. Reece is a low end flex in deep PPR leagues and Darren McFadden is terrible.

Jennings has proved a valuable RB2 this season – photo from bleacherreport.com

Denarius Moore has come back into the Raiders WR corps after injury but he saw just 2 targets last week against the Chiefs. This week the matchup is much more favourable (4th most points allowed to WRs, 26.18) and assuming Moore receives more targets, he is a flex WR. Rod Streater has been a revelation this season and is a viable WR3 most weeks. This week in PPR I’d say he’s a high end WR3. Andre Holmes has come out of knowhere to be a viable fantasy starter and a big target for McGloin. Holmes has a lot of upside but only has 3 real games as a significant receiver. Promisingly though, he did not see a reduction in targets (7) with Denarius Moore back. He caught his first touchdown last week and now has 157 yards and a TD across 3 games. Holmes is more likely a Dynasty player at this stage and one to watch next year. Start Holmes only in the deepest leagues as he has significant upside against a soft defence.

Mychal Rivera  caught his 3rd TD in 5 games against the Chiefs last week, but his targets and yardage make him a very inconsistent fantasy TE. He has over 50 yards just once this year and it’s not a good idea to start a TE who is almost entirely dependent on TDs in your big game. Keep him benched or dropped.

Raiders D/ST should be on the waiver wire. Let them stay there.

 

Philip Rivers had a quiet game against the Broncos, but this was due to accelerating into a big lead early on and running the ball often in the second part of the game. Rivers made a lot with his 12 pass completions (20 attempts), with 166 yards and 2 TDs. Against Oakland I don’t think the Chargers will ever be in a big lead, both of these teams struggle defensively. This means Rivers will be throwing the ball all game and will definitely exceed his 20 pass attempts from last week. I think Rivers can excel against a soft matchup in the Raiders (allow the 4th most points to QBs). Rivers could put up a top 5 fantasy performance with the weapons at his disposal and he should top 20 points this week.

Ryan Mathews has had a superb comeback season and is a consistent RB2 you can rely on – photo from www.chargers.com

Ryan Mathews now has 4 TDs in his last 6 games with 3 100+ yard rushing performances in that period. After a poor 2012, Mathews is in serious contention for comeback player of the year. I had given up on him but his consistency in his last 6 games has been incredible (9.2 lowest score, average of 14.73 points per game in that period. Do I like him against the Raiders? Absolutely. He should be expected to get close to 100 yards and probably go over that, if he can continue his TD instinct as well he could be in line for a top 10 RB performance. I like Mathews as a high end RB2 this week, with great upside. Danny Woodhead has been up and down lately, with scores of 10.4, 4.7, 19, 3.5, 15.4, 4.2. Against the Raiders last time he scored 12.50 points, including a receiving TDs. I think Woodhead is a big part of this offence and should see over 12 combined targets and touches. Start Woodhead as a PPR flex with confidence, and in non PPR leagues I still think he holds flex value as his all purpose yardage often exceeds 70 yards.

Keenan Allen had 2 TDs last week but he only had 2 targets on the game. He now has 4 TDs in his last 2 games, a streak that will likely end this week. Allen is not reliant on TDs for fantasy value, he has 100+ yards in 5 games this year. He’s up against the Raiders, who he scored 18.5 points on last time around. I think Allen is a WR2 for sure this week, he should get 14-17 points. No other WR is worth a start, though I do like Eddie Royal over Vincent Brown.

Antonio Gates is expected to play this week, but he has just 1 TD since week 4 and 1 10+ game in that period. Gates is hurt and has been a real disappointment this year. The matchup is favourable of course, and I can see him getting over 50 yards, but if you need a big game from your TE maybe search the waiver wire. Ladarius Green has one target in the last 2 games and his breakout seems to have broken. Again, the matchup is a positive sign, and he can perform. His lack of production has been largely down to a lack of passing rather than a decline in his personal performance. I think Green could be a sleeper on the waiver wire, but his floor is obviously low.

Chargers D/ST shouldn’t be started this week, the Raiders offence is actually decent, and the Chargers defence is terrible.

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