Nick Shook on Fantasy Football: Get to the biggest stage with big plays

By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal copy editor
Read full column on Ohio.com

So you’re off to a fast start, taking the lead over your opponent in Week 1 of your playoff matchup. Congrats. High five. Here’s a nice pat on the head.

But don’t get complacent on me, now. Week 2 of that matchup is where you’ll need your best outing, your most savvy starts and sits. That is what will get you to the biggest stage of fantasy football, the league title game, where you can compete for your gang’s greatest prize, be it a trophy, a plaque, or a year’s worth of chicken wings, because you somehow managed to get your league sponsored by the local wing restaurant.

I wish I had that. But alas, I can only help you get closer to a year of saucy goodness.

Start

Russell Wilson, quarterback, Seattle Seahawks

I can’t ride the Doug Baldwin wave of momentum for a third week, even if it has paid off handsomely for me and anyone who took my advice. And make no mistake, if you have Baldwin, it would be wise to start him again. But for the sake of variety (and a greater chance of success), we’ll go with his teammate.

Wilson is white-hot in the last month of play, completing 89-of-118 passes (75.4 completion percentage) for 861 yards, 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Two of those games were against playoff contenders. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Seattle is thin at running back, missing Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls after the latter fractured an ankle early in the Seahawks’ 35-6 win over Baltimore. If they had either, I’d tell you to start them, too. But as Nate Ulrich wrote in Saturday’s Beacon Journal, Wilson is on an unprecedented four-game run, thanks in part to his five-touchdown performance last week.

Against this Browns defense, which has been suspect for all but one game this season, I’m pushing in my chips on Wilson.

Jeremy Maclin, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs

This week is one of those rare ones in which I can use my first start as a direct example of why you should play my next suggestion.

Last week, Wilson tossed five touchdowns. The Ravens — the worst defense against wide receivers in fantasy — gave up those five scores, and 255 yards, good for 55 (fifty-five!) points. Baldwin scored three of those touchdowns.

Maclin only scored six points against a lowly Chargers team last week, but in the two games prior, he tallied a combined 41 points. Baltimore averages 27.9 points per game surrendered to opposing wide receivers. Maclin is Kansas City’s top receiving option not named Travis Kelce.

I think you can connect the dots here.

John Brown, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals

This is another simple scenario of productive receiver in a good offense, facing a not-so-good defense.

Philadelphia stunned the league with how it countered Tom Brady and the New England Patriots two weeks ago. The Eagles then went on to hold Buffalo to 20 points. Philadelphia’s defense might be turning. Maybe not-so-good was a tad disrespectful.

But Arizona has the best offense in the NFL, according to total yards per game (417.5).

We could be prepping for a clash of the titans — no, not Tennessee — Sunday, as the Eagles have built momentum in the last couple of weeks, and Arizona has yet to slow down. Brown (who is averaging 8.7 points per game, despite double-digit outputs in three of the last four weeks) could be a role-playing factor who has a breakout game in the midst of the chaos.

I like Brown in the slot against whoever Philadelphia chooses to dispatch at the nickel corner (often has been 28-year-old E.J. Biggers, who is playing better than I’ve ever seen him perform in his professional career), especially with the Eagles having to deal with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd at the other two starting receiver positions.

Sit

Isaiah Crowell, running back, Cleveland Browns

I’ve been a pretty big fan of Crowell since he emerged as an important part of Cleveland’s offense in 2014. The unheralded, undrafted running back has struggled in year two, as has much of the Browns offense. Whether it was defenses focusing on stopping the run, or the Browns’ inability to open adequate running lanes for the tailback, the Crow has had a hard time getting it going.

That changed last Sunday, as he broke through for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against the San Francisco 49ers.

Don’t count on that this week.

Seattle has the best defense against running backs in fantasy football. Combine that with a week of film study, the defensive mind of Dan Quinn disciple Kris Richard and the experience that unit has — not to mention a bit of ill will for Browns coach Mike Pettine — and you can count on a lesser performance from Crowell this week.

It really doesn’t even land on the shoulders of Crowell, either. He runs hard; it’s just difficult to escape the fury surrounding him.

Matt Ryan, quarterback, Atlanta Falcons

Have you seen the Falcons play lately?

After starting 5-0, Atlanta has lost seven of its last eight. They were all close losses, until the Falcons faced the Carolina Panthers, and were absolutely decimated. With little to play for in the final three games of the season, and Ryan looking his worst since he became a professional (cue pick-six thrown to D’Qwell Jackson of the Indianapolis Colts), he’s about the worst choice in fantasy among starting quarterbacks.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars have won three of their last five and are starting to show signs that they can actually put it all together under coach Gus Bradley. It culminated with a 51-16 dismantling of the Indianapolis Colts last week. Might the power be shifting in the AFC South?

Jacksonville is still in the bottom third of the league in total defense. Maybe I should slow my roll. I have a feeling this choice might backfire on me, but if you’re relying on Ryan at this point in the season, you’re likely in the consolation bracket, anyway.

Better luck next year, for you and the Falcons.

Follow Nick Shook on Twitter @TheNickShook and contact him at nshook@thebeaconjournal.com.

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