By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal copy editor
Read full column on Ohio.com
So this is it.
We’ve come down to the final two weeks of the season. You’re fresh off a week of holiday joy, but if your dream season has culminated in a two-week league championship battle for the ages, please, leave the eggnog in the refrigerator when making your lineup choices.
If you’re one of the unlucky saps whose fantasy stocking was filled with fantasy coal (C.J. Anderson, Andrew Luck as your top picks, for example) by Fantasy Santa, feel free to imbibe.
This week, I bring you presents of prognostication. Happy unwrapping.
Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Baltimore Ravens rank 28th against fantasy quarterbacks this season. I feel like I’ve written this before.
The Ravens limited Alex Smith to 171 yards and one touchdown last week (11 points), but surrendered five touchdowns and 301 yards to Russell Wilson the week before.
The Steelers are the same team that erased a three-score deficit to beat the Denver Broncos — one of the league’s better defenses — at home last week. In the Ravens’ worst season in years, expect more fireworks from Roethlisberger and his bevy of talented receivers.
Lamar Miller, running back, Miami Dolphins
This is a big risk/reward play, because the Dolphins’ coaching staff often forgets Miller is on the team.
When he gets an adequate amount of carries (15-plus, which is still rather low for a running back), he’s a machine. There were even a few games in which he received less than 15 carries, and still managed to score 20 or more points in each.
And then there’s last week, in which he toted the ball nine times for 12 yards. Twelve. That’s not good enough.
You should be encouraged by his matchup this week, the Indianapolis Colts and their 23rd-ranked defense against fantasy running backs. But then again, it’s up to interim coach Dan Campbell to actually give him the ball.
Doug Martin, running back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers squandered what was a great opportunity to sneak their way into the NFC wild-card conversation by losing two consecutive games (to the New Orleans Saints at home and St. Louis Rams in Missouri) that they were expected to win. But despite the blown chances, Martin has been a consistent bright spot for the Bucs.
It’s been more than a month since he ripped off 235 yards on 27 carries against the Philadelphia Eagles, but he continually provides the power for the Buccaneers offense. It’s helped rookie quarterback Jameis Winston become more comfortable in the offense, and although the Buccaneers are on the outside looking in, the matchup this week is favorable.
The Chicago Bears have given up at least 14 points to opposing running backs in every game since Week 8. Martin is averaging 12.2 points per game. I’m willing to say he’ll top 15 this week.
Kirk Cousins, quarterback, Washington Redskins
OK, you don’t have to scoff at me with that much emphasis. And I know this game happened Saturday night, so I hope you caught this column early on Ohio.com, or that we’ve established a special brainwave connection and you sensed this pick.
But let’s open the book on the Redskins’ schedule this season. At 7-7, they are nearly untouchable at home, riding into the last two weeks of the season with a 6-2 record at FedExField.
Can we please take a moment to recognize how stupid it is to smash two words of a stadium name into one?
As you can see in my byline above, I’m a copy editor. That name irritates me more than a misplaced comma, or an error on an ESPN full-screen graphic (they happen more often than you think). I just want to point out that it isn’t hip or unique or innovative to eliminate a space in a name.
OK, now that I’ve gotten that out, back to Cousins. He’s on fire at the poorly named home of the Redskins, which then evens out with his atrocious record on the road (1-5), which would be even worse if Robbie Gould could make a field goal for the Bears outside of pregame warmups.
Mr. “You Like That!” faces two games away from home to end the season, with the first coming against the Eagles, who were decimated at home by the Arizona Cardinals on national television last week. I’ve given up trying to project how the Eagles will play on a weekly basis, but with the division at stake and the harsh Philadelphia fan base against Washington, that’s not an easy task.
Tavon Austin, wide receiver, St. Louis Rams
After that opus on why I won’t roll with Cousins, the Redskins or their stadium, we’ll keep it simple here. Following last week’s 19-point performance against the Bucs, Austin faces a Seattle Seahawks defense that is a big reason why they are one of the hottest teams in football.
You could throw Case Keenum, Nick Foles, heck, you could bring Kurt Warner out of retirement and resurface the Edward Jones Dome with that old AstroTurf concrete that was painted green, and I still wouldn’t start Austin this week. Add in the fact that they’re playing in Seattle, and I’m keeping him on the bench.
Follow Nick Shook on Twitter @TheNickShook and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.