It is Week 16. You've scouted and searched, added and dropped, scoured the waiver wire and concocted the perfect trades right before the deadline. It has all come down to this: the fantasy football championship.
And whether it is just bragging rights or a sizeable payday, there is nothing better than going into Monday Night Football knowing that you have the trophy in the bag. That is easier said than done, however, because as the season winds down, the injuries pile up. That is the case all over the NFL, and we see it in the Chicago Bears vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers matchups, as well.
So, which Bears vs. Bucs injuries will affect your league and the outcome of the week? And, more importantly, which players should make your final lineup for 2015?
The Bears' obvious must-start is RB Matt Forte, so we'll forgo him altogether. If you've got him, start him. Beyond that, things get a little tricky for the Chicago Bears fantasy stars, and that all starts with the letter "D."
Sitting right beside the name of WR Alshon Jeffery sits a bold, red "D" marking him as "doubtful" for this game. He has had the injury bug this season, but in games he has played, he is averaging 17.2 points per game and has four games with more than 20 points. If he is active, he is worth the risk to play. If not, things get a little dicey at backup…
Because next to second WR Eddie Royal's name sits a bold, red "Q." If Jeffery does not play and Royal does, then he becomes a Bears must-start facing the Buccaneers defense that allows 38 WR fantasy points per game, just over four more than the league average. However, if he is limited or also out, that leaves Marc Mariani, Joshua Bellamy and Cameron Meredith as the top Bears receiving options. Combined, the three of them have 78 fantasy points this season, half as many points as Alshon Jeffery has in his nine games.
Of the three, Mariani has the hottest hand as of late. All 28 of his fantasy points have come after their Week Seven bye and he averages 5.5 PPR fantasy points over the last four weeks. Bellamy is the only one of the bunch to have scored a touchdown this season, but outside of a four-catch, 57-yard game last month, he has been quiet. Meredith has just one catch for six yards since their bye. Should Jeffery and Royal be unable to go, it is likely that one of the receivers will have a nice day. If Royal does play however, the risk is too great for a championship game and they should remain largely unowned.
Of course, QB Jay Cutler would be hurt by missing his top receiver or two. He ranks just 21st in QB points this year and the Buccaneers are allowing average points to the position, making him not the most attractive play of the week, there is likely a better option floating around. TE Zach Miller has seen a boost in recent weeks with starter Martellus Bennett on IR. Without Jeffery in the game, he should see more targets and is a starting caliber TE this week.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Buccaneers have a similar conundrum at wide receiver with Vincent Jackson declared "Out" for this game. The Buccaneers have faced this issue before during this season, including the last two weeks. Obviously, WR Mike Evans and RB Doug Martin are the must-starts for the Bucs. Getting a potential points boost from Jackson's absence are TEs Austin Seferian-Jenkins & Cameron Brate and WR Adam Humphries.
Seferian-Jenkins become the other big body in red zone situations and has been building his rapport with Jameis Winston since returning from injury three weeks ago. In the three games since, he has nine receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. He began the season with a 5-catch, 110-yard, 2-TD game, which should not be overlooked. He is a bit of a risk to start this week, but has plenty of upside. Cameron Brate has performed well, but with ASJ healthy again, he is not a reliable fantasy option.
Adam Humphries is the real sleeper of the week with Jackson sidelined. He is owned in just 0.1% of leagues but could be a solid PPR play against the Bears. Last week he caught six passes for 60 yards, following the week where he hauled in his first career touchdown. He should be on your radar in deep leagues, but beyond that, there are safer options.
Finally, QB Jameis Winston faces a good matchup and is a viable deeper-league starter. Chicago allows the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and, remarkably, Winston still has yet to score under a dozen fantasy points in a game. His consistency and upside in this one (and coming off a 363-yard, two-TD game) make him a solid starting option if you are without one.