• Ethan Polak

Polak’s Picks: NFL Week 18 Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em


Buffalo Bills kicker Ty Bass high fives fellow player after drilling a field goal against the Houston Texans. Photo by Chris Owen courtesy of wyrk.com


17 weeks of chaos, heartbreak and pandemonium and the 2021 NFL regular season is coming to a close. For many NFL teams, this is the end of the line for this year as all the hard work and effort will come down to this week.


There are only four teams still left fighting for a chance at another week of football as most of the playoff spots have already been clinched. One thing’s for sure, sports fans across the globe will cherish this Sunday as it will be another 9 months before all 32 teams will be playing once again.


While there are not many fantasy football leagues still participating this week, there are still a few fantasy managers looking for guidance to glory. Here are the key players to start and sit for the


Quarterbacks


Start ‘Em

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans. Whether you like it or not, the king is back. Derrick Henry along with fellow star Julio Jones have the chance to return this week. The Titans offense which was already one of the top offenses in the league gets even better overnight now that they are finally healthy. For Tannehill this is major news as he will now have more playmakers available on every play especially against an easier matchup in the Houston Texans defense that has allowed the second most yards in the league. While Tannehill’s value has been shaky all season long, this week he needs to be inserted into the fantasy football starting lineups


Sit ‘Em

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings. One quarterback who has been flying under the radar for another solid season has been Cousins. With the help of stars Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, the Vikings passing game has been in the top 10 all season long. While he does deserve a little more credit, this week, they will face a tough matchup against the Chicago Bears defense that have allowed the third least passing yards per game in the league. In a game that no longer holds playoff implications, Cousins’s value will not be worth taking the risk on.


Running Backs


Start ‘Em

Devonta Freeman, Baltimore Ravens. The revival of Freeman’s career is in full effect. After years of success with the Atlanta Falcons, Freeman has found a new home in Maryland. While most fans might question what year we are in, the truth is the Ravens offense has been flourishing when Freeman is getting the ball. This week, Freeman will keep feasting on opposing defenses, especially this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have allowed the most rushing yards per game in the league. Freeman may have been riding the bench in most leagues, but fantasy managers should reconsider leaving him there this week in a prime matchup.


Sit ‘Em

Rex Burkhead, Houston Texans. If someone would’ve told me Rex Burkhead was going to be leading the Texans in rushing yards and hold significant fantasy value at the start of the season I would’ve thought you were crazy. The NFL is full of surprises, and Burkhead has certainly been on to remember. However, his Cinderella end to the season will not be so bright since he will be playing the Tennessee Titans defense that has allowed the second least rushing yards per game in the league. While Burkhead may have been a great waiver wire pick, he is not worth being moved into the starting lineup.


Wide Receivers


Start ‘Em

Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals. Someone pinch me. Are the Bengals really in the playoffs? Cincinnati not only clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2015, they knocked off the AFC’s top seeded Kansas City Chiefs. Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense is electric to watch as Burrow has thrown for more than 900 yards in his last two games. Higgins has been reaping the benefits and should be able to continue doing so against a depleted Browns defense with no more hopes of sneaking into the playoffs. Higgins is a solid pick in fantasy football for another wild finish to their season.


Sit ‘Em

Zay Jones, Las Vegas Raiders. Somehow after all the on and off the field drama, the Raiders find themselves with a legitimate chance to make the playoffs. This team has been relying on the girt and backing of Derek Carr’s emergence as a solid quarterback. However, in a win-or-go-home game against the Chargers defense that ranks in the top half of the league in least passing yards allowed per game, Jones’s chances of scoring big in fantasy are pretty low. Fantasy managers should stay away from putting all their marbles on the third target in Las Vegas.


Tight Ends

Start ‘Em

Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys. Probably one of the biggest surprises at the tight end position this year has to be Schultz. After coming into the season sharing tight end duties with Blake Jarwin, Schultz watched his production skyrocket as he landed himself as the fourth best fantasy tight end in the league. Now, he has the chance to finish off his best season of his career on a high note against the Philadelphia Eagles defense on primetime. With the Eagles resting some of their best players, it is go-time for Schultz and the Cowboys to absolutely crush them.


Sit ‘Em

T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions. On the other hand, Hockenson’s year has been a little underwhelming. After heading into the season with potential to finish as the league’s top tight end, Hockenson currently has the 16th most receiving yards from tight ends. This week, the Lions will face the Packers defense that has allowed the 10th least receiving yards in the league. Whether it has been the injuries or lackluster quarterback play, it is safe to say Hockenson has been a disappointment.


Kickers


Start ‘Em

Ty Bass, Buffalo Bills. Bills Mafia now is your chance. After many years of letting the Patriots rule the AFC East, the Bills have the chance to hold the clinch back to back division champions. The best part about this is that all they have to do is beat the New York Jets. While the Bills have a history of choking, this team is different and should be able to take care of business at home. For Bass, his production should see a rise especially since the Jets have allowed the most points per game in the league. Whether you are a Bills fan or not, Bass needs to be in all starting lineups.


Sit ‘Em

Younghoe Koo, Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons had quite the downfall. While many didn’t expect much from the Falcons this year, they have won a lot more games than many had thought. Still this only hurts them in the long run because they were still eliminated from the playoffs early and do not hold a high draft pick. Regardless, the Falcons have to face the New Orleans Saints who on the other hand still have playoff aspirations. Koo has the chance to play spoiler, but this Falcons offense doesn’t have it in them to score big against a Saints defense that has allowed the fourth least points per game in the league.


Defenses


Start ‘Em

New England Patriots Defense. Boston is back in business. Whether we like it or not, Bill Belichick and the Patriots are back in the playoffs. The cherry on top to their season was a 40 point victory over the Jaguars last week. However, their reign isn’t over as there is still a chance to win the AFC East. The Patriots need some help from the Jets, but their defense shouldn’t have any issues getting it going against the Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins who have the 11th worst offense in points per game. Even though the game is in South Beach — the Patriots kryptonite — New England’s defense should be able to shut them down in the season finale.


Sit ‘Em

Denver Broncos Defense. Another year, another disappointment. The playoff aspirations were very high for the Broncos headed into the season and here we are sitting here questioning who should be fired first. Mile-High has had enough mediocrity, but the worst part is there is still one more game against none other than Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Broncos fans and fantasy managers look away because Denver’s last game of the season is not going to be pretty.


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