Championship Week is here! This is what we've been playing for all season long. If you were fortunate enough to survive this long, congratulation. If you're in a Consolation Bowl, well...it's still been a pretty good year. But since this is for all the marbles (do people stil play with marbles?), scheduling and matchups could be what pushes fantasy owners one way or another in this final week.
1. Dallas Cowboys (vs. NO)
Dez Bryant is playing hard with a broken finger, Tony Romo is heating up and DeMarco Murray has run hard since returning from injury. And if that wasn't enough, they have a contest against the Saints this week. Sure, New Orleans shut down Tampa Bay last week, but the Cowboys still have a shot at the playoffs and should be a little more motivated.
2. New England Patriots (at JAC)
The Patriots were able to run off a string of four straight touchdown drives against the vaunted 49ers defense last week. So what will Tom Brady and company be able to do against a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that ranks 29th overall in the NFL? Fantasy owners should shudder at the thought -- unless they're starting Brady, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez or Stevan Ridley. In that case, it could be a happy holiday season spent celebrating a fantasy championship.
3. Green Bay Packers (vs. TEN)
The Titans have been weaker against the run than against the pass. Too bad the Packers are better throwing it than running it. Nonetheless, when you have an aerial attack that features Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Randall Cobb, there's little reason not to be confident about your chances. But if you need something else to make you feel better, consider how Tennessee's secondary was shredded by Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford earlier in the season. Surely, Rodgers can match that, right?
4. Indianapolis Colts (at KC)
Andrew Luck on the road continues to be an engima, but this is his most favorable matchup since a Week 10 trip to Jacksonville. Then again, Luck posted a slightly-above-average 18.18 fantasy points in that one. And Kansas City is pretty good at home versus fantasy running backs, so Vick Ballard might not be as much of a lock as it appears on paper. The upside? Since Indy's defense has been pretty porous in its own right at times this year, it increases the likelihood of a high-scoring, back-and-forth contest.
5. Miami Dolphins (vs. BUF)
Right now, the only Dolphin fantasy owners can trust is Reggie Bush. And even that trust is a tenuous one, considering Bush's habit of disappearing at inopportune times. However, with Daniel Thomas on injured reserve for the final two games of the season there is reason to have renewed confidence in Reggie. The rest of Miami's offense has been too inconsistent to give any serious consideration.
1. San Francisco 49ers (at SEA)
The Niners have occupied this spot for the past couple of weeks. Last Sunday night, San Francisco thumbed its nose at these rankings and found a way to score 41 points against the Patriots. This week's task will be a little tougher since the Seahawks are arguably the 49ers' equal defensively. Colin Kaepernick has shown that he's a playmaker who's not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the NFL's best -- and that confidence has kept San Francisco's train rolling. Still, beware the red-hot 'Hawks.
2. Seattle Seahawks (vs. SF)
So all of that stuff I wrote above? It all pretty much applies to the Seahawks -- right down to substituting Russell Wilson for Colin Kaepernick. On paper, this could be a 13-10 final score. But we all know what they say about playing games on paper.
3. Arizona Cardinals (vs. CHI)
Usually when people say there's nothing to like about a particular team in a particular matchup, it's something of an exaggeration. But there's really nothing to like about the Cardinals' offense in this matchup. The quarterback situation has been a quagmire all season, dragging down the production of a fairly talented corps of wide receivers. The running game has struggled so mightily that Arizona has had just four games this season topping 100 yards...as a team!
4. Cincinnati Bengals (at PIT)
This isn't a great matchup for the Bengals, but Cincy's offense has been playing fairly well lately. Still, it's best for fantasy owners to temper their expectations for the enigmatic Andy Dalton. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has blossomed late in the season, but it's understandable if fantasy owners are apprehensive about trusting him in such an important game against such a quality opponent.
5. Detroit Lions (vs. ATL)
Apart of Calvin Johnson, who has gone a long way toward dismantling the Madden curse, it's been hard to find any consistency in the Lions offense. Mike Leshoure and Joique Bell are locked in a timeshare and Matthew Stafford has been throwing touchdowns and interceptions in almost equal proportion over the past few weeks. That doesn't bode well against an Atlanta team that is coming off a huge win and is aiming to lock up the top seed in the NFC playoffs.