By Zac Bellman
Special to the Tribune
Start: Matt Ryan (Falcons) vs. the Buccaneers – Ryan has averaged almost 300 yards and three touchdowns a game over the last three weeks as the Falcons have been rolling towards the playoffs. Last time the Falcons faced the Bucs, Ryan threw for 353 yards and a touchdown. Expect him to throw for multiple touchdowns this time in ideal conditions in the Georgia Dome.
Sit: Joe Flacco (Ravens) vs. the Bengals – The matchup here is not a favorable one for Flacco and the Ravens. Despite Flacco’s 299 yard, two touchdown performance against them in their first meeting, the Bengals have not given up a 300 yard passing performance since week 2. They have also held quarterbacks to single digit fantasy point turnouts in five of the last six games.
Sleeper Start: Matthew Stafford (Lions) vs. the Bears – The Lions have not been afraid to throw it around the field the last few weeks, as Stafford has averaged almost 52 pass attempts over the last five weeks. The Lions have nothing to play for this week other than to make Calvin Johnson’s season the most prolific a wide receiver has ever had, which bodes well for Stafford. The only down side is that the Bears are a very opportunistic defense that will take advantage of passes that are forced in Johnson’s direction.
Start: Ryan Grant (Packers) vs. the Vikings – If you were lucky enough to snag Grant off waivers a couple weeks ago, he is worth consideration for a start this week at the flex. He managed 80 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns in his first game seeing the majority of the carries in a banged up backfield. Provided Alex Green is not rushed back from his concussion, Grant should see plenty of touches this week as well if the Packers get up early.
Sit: Steven Jackson (Rams) vs. the 49ers – Jackson has been steady over the last five weeks, putting up double digit fantasy performances. However, this week he takes on a Seattle team that not only plays the run well, but they’ve outscored opponents 150-30 over their last three games. Jackson will likely get the same amount of carries, but he managed only 55 yards in their first meeting this season.
Sleeper Start: Pierre Thomas (Saints) vs. the Panthers – Thomas is getting more involved in the passing game the last three weeks, catching 17 passes for 144 yards. If you are in a PPR league and need a flex option due to injuries or uncertain playing time, Thomas could be worth a look.
Start: Brandon Lloyd (Patriots) vs. the Dolphins – Anyone who gets 28 targets in two games from Tom Brady is deserving of a look in your fantasy championship. He only caught one pass four weeks ago against the Dolphins, but his rapport is getting better with Brady.
Sit: Mike Williams (Buccaneers) vs. the Falcons – Williams has scored in three out of the last four weeks, but his last matchup with the Falcons was not very productive. He was only able to catch three passes for 28 yards, and unless the Falcons start pulling starters in the secondary, he will struggle to gain separation.
Sleeper Start: Jordan Shipley (Jaguars) vs. the Titans – Cecil Shorts is out for the rest of the year with a concussion, and Shipley has filled his role nicely. He has caught 12 passes over the last three weeks since taking over, and he faces a Titans defense that was torched last week and also gave up two touchdowns to wide receivers in the previous matchup of these two teams.
Hello readers. Hope you’re having a great break and your run for a fantasy championship is going well. The fantasy season finished in week 16 for most leagues, and the rest of standard leagues wrap up this week. Although the season is just about over, this column will continue into the playoffs and offseason. For the next few playoff weekends, I will point out nine matchups to watch in the games to be played that week. Beyond that I have some more plans for the offseason leading up to free agency and the draft. So keep it right here into the new year on the Whole Nine Yards, and thanks for reading!