Henry John, @HankTimeSports
The 2017 Deep Dives exploration has officially made it to Fantasy Football Championship Week. And while stashing future game-changers on your roster is no longer a priority, making that one bold, gutsy call that will put your team over the edge and into the history books is. But which long-shot could actually go off and win you your league? Read on for analysis of the best such candidates at every position!
RB: Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 16 Opponent: at Panthers
While the matchup isn’t very appealing, this is more of a “current-state-of-the-Bucs” call. After Doug Martin was benched following a fumble during Week 14’s loss to the Lions, he was then rendered inactive for last week’s game against the Falcons for violating a team rule. While coach Dirk Koetter says the discipline is behind them, Martin is clearly the odd man out, given the rise of Peyton Barber during his various absences. Ever since he broke out with 2 touchdowns in Week 12, Barber has averaged a minimum of 5 yards per carry in every game since. He piled up 102 yards on 23 carries in Week 13 and has surpassed 50 yards each of the last two games despite only receiving 12 and 13 carries respectively. Bank on Barber to get the bulk of the work during Champ Week as the Bucs continue to look toward the future.
WR: Mike Wallace, Baltimore Ravens
Week 16 Opponent: vs. Colts (SAT)
For the first 8 weeks of the season, Mike Wallace was merely a FLEX play while the Ravens offense sputtered along. Now, he has essentially become the team’s best offensive playmaker behind Alex Collins. With Joe Flacco finding his groove, Wallace has gone for 116, 72, and 89 yards receiving the last three weeks. The recent run of success is a near lock to continue against the Colts sorry defense. Adding to Wallace’s Champ Week upside is the looming absence of Jeremy Maclin, who is doubtful with a knee injury. Lock him in as a WR2 for this Saturday afternoon contest, and enjoy jumping out to a nice lead in your quest for Fantasy gold!
TE: Jesse James, Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 16 Opponent: at Texans (MON)
After a monster, 2-touchdown line all the way back in Week 1, Jesse James did not produce much noise as a fantasy tight end option. This is mainly because the Steelers offense is so full of talented superstars that they didn’t need him too. With the likes of Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and JuJu Smith-Schuster running the show and with Martavis Bryant also in the mix, James did not have the same value that he likely would have on other teams. But with Brown now out with a calf injury, James becomes a great tight end boom play for the Fantasy Championships. The Texans defense is poor all around, and they have given up the 6th most fantasy points per game to the tight end position this season. Expect James to snare at least one Christmas Day touchdown to make up for the one he was robbed of last week.
QB: Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
Week 16 Opponent: vs. Raiders
It’s not often that a backup quarterback brings enough potential into the Fantasy Finals that he is worth starting, but that is where Nick Foles finds himself. Taking the helm of the ultra-talented Eagles offense in the wake of Carson Wentz’s injury, Foles has done quite well thus far. His first start last week against the Giants saw him pass for 4 touchdowns on 237 yards. Now granted, it was the punchless Giants, but this week’s contest with the Raiders gives him the chance to air it out against the NFL’s worst defense in both total and passing categories according to Football Outsiders. Yes, Oakland is fighting for its playoff lives, but the Eagles are still playing for the NFC’s top seed. Lock Foles in for a monster Champ Week performance.
D/ST: Los Angeles Chargers
Week 16 Opponent: at Jets
After last week’s debacle in Kansas City, the Chargers are another one of those teams in do-or-die mode when it comes to their playoff prospects. It’s hard to envision them having any trouble against the Jets, who are stumbling to the finish line having lost Josh McCown. Assuming Philip Rivers and Co. get back on track offensively, L.A.’s defense would be setup to have their way. Bryce Petty wasn’t awful last week, but he was far from good, chucking up 2 interceptions. With top wideout Robby Anderson set to be blanketed by stud corner Casey Hayward, the Chargers pass rushers will look to force Petty into making poor decisions. Thanks to the huge advantage in the passing game, Los Angeles will be able to stack the box and keep Football Outsiders’ 29th ranked run defense from being exposed by the three Jets backs.
K: Sam Ficken, Los Angeles Rams
Week 16 Opponent: at Titans
Sam who? The high-powered Rams scoring attack received a big blow at perhaps the most unlikely position this week when superstar kicker Greg Zuerlein was placed on I.R. with a back injury. So in comes Sam Ficken, who was working for a brokerage dealer when the Rams called him on Wednesday. Ficken spent the past two preseasons with the Jaguars and Chiefs respectively, but has never kicked in an actual NFL game. He will get his shot on Sunday. After the Rams bludgeoned Seattle last week, a win in Tennessee locks up the team’s first NFC West Division crown since 2003 when they were back in St. Louis. While neither Ficken can’t pose the same, consistent long-range threat of Zuerlein, the red-hot state of the Rams offense promises plenty bankable Fantasy Finals opportunities for perhaps the deepest dive of the year.