Championship week has arrived in fantasy football leagues across the nation, and for owners in their Shiva Bowl, star players become more vital than ever.
These are the guys you've ridden for the first 15 weeks of the season, taken the bumps and bruises with and who somehow helped your team come out as one of the two best in your league.
Unfortunately, not all big-name players are going to come through with top-shelf performances. As Victor Cruz, Peyton Manning and countless others proved last week, matchups matter and need to be taken into account.
Remember, the guys I'm projecting to underperform aren't ones who you must bench or even ones I would always recommend benching. They're star players who will finish outside of starter's area in most leagues, meaning the top 10 at quarterback and top 20 at the skill positions.
With that in mind, here is a look at a few star players who will fail to live up to their massive hype in Week 16.
Matthew Stafford (QB, Detroit Lions—vs. Atlanta Falcons)
Following last week's abomination, any Stafford owner who is in his championship game deserves a massive salute.
In semifinals week, the Lions signal-caller came through with one of the worst performances of his young career. Stafford threw for 246 yards, but also failed to record a touchdown and threw three interceptions, as the Lions fell to 4-10 against a Cardinals team that looked dead in the water heading into last Sunday.
That performance was good for a whopping three points in ESPN standard scoring. Three! From a quarterback!
Still, for those Stafford owners somehow still alive, you may want to make other plans for this week as well. The Lions have a home contest against the Falcons on Saturday night, the same team that usurped the Giants' fantasy value last week and has been elite against the pass all season.
Coming into Saturday night's game, Atlanta has given up just 13 touchdown passes all season, which is tied for best in the NFL. They allow a middling 230 yards per game, but that looks a whole lot like Stafford's total last week and we know how that turned out.
As for who should replace Stafford? Sam Bradford scored 27 fantasy points last week and is facing off against the Buccaneers' putrid secondary this week.
C.J. Spiller (RB, Buffalo Bills—at Miami Dolphins)
One week into Chan Gailey finally having the good sense to use Spiller as an RB1 (due to injury, but still), and the scintillating back performed exactly as expected. The third-year star gained 103 yards and a touchdown on only 17 carries against a Seahawks run defense that ranks inside the top 10.
Unfortunately, that ascent to elite status will be halted this week in Miami.
Heading into Week 15, the Dolphins rank eighth in the NFL against the run, allowing 100.9 yards per game. Granted, that isn't much more impressive than the Seahawks and both squads are equal with eight touchdowns allowed this season.
Regardless, Miami has been especially great against the run of late. In their last five games, the Dolphins have not allowed a 100-yard rusher, and that streak includes a matchup against Spiller in Week 11. The Bills back gained 91 yards on 22 carries, which isn't a bad total, but is just one of two instances this season where he had more than 14 carries and failed to gain over 100 yards.
More importantly, Spiller did not score. Expect more of the same on Sunday. Spiller won't completely fall on his face for something like 30 yards, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10 points seems reasonable.
With teams hinging on him having RB1 value, there will be more than a few disappointed owners this week.
A.J. Green (WR, Cincinnati Bengals—at Pittsburgh Steelers)
Last week, the Cowboys proved that the Steelers' pass defense isn't impenetrable. Tony Romo completed 30 of 41 passes for 341 yards and two touchdowns against Pittsburgh, shockingly marching up and down the field against a defense that had not given up over 300 yards through the air all season.
So is it an aberration or sign of things to come this week against Cincinnati? I'm banking on the former. In the two teams' first meeting, Andy Dalton threw for less than a third of Romo's yardage last week. To be exact, he had 105 yards and a touchdown against one interception.
That touchdown was a six-yard strike to A.J. Green. It would be the only catch on six targets for the brilliant Bengals receiver, as he accounted for the lowest yardage total of his young career.
I took my crazy pills this morning, so I'm not going to jump out and project under 10 yards for Green once again. However, the Steelers are still statistically the best pass defense in the NFL yardage-wise and have given up only 18 touchdown passes thus far.
Every owner who has Green has to start him. He's been too good too often this season. But just don't expect anything above a middling performance, as he winds up far closer to flex consideration than WR1 in Week 16.
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