I get email ...
Joey (Houston, Texas): Just wanted to thank you and all the ESPN fantasy experts for guiding me to my first league championship ...
TMR: Oh, thanks. That's nice of you to write.
Joey: ... After running the league for 15 seasons and never winning. My opponent followed your advice and started Andrew Luck this week. PHEW!
TMR: Yes. I see what you did there. Very clever. So, yeah, that's right. I ranked Andrew Luck as my No. 2 quarterback last week. And what did he do? Zero fantasy points. Week 16, the No. 1 player in fantasy facing a pass defense that was 27th against the pass the previous five weeks and, in a week when I ranked him second, Luck put up the worst performance in the history of fantasy football. Killed a lot of teams. And I ranked him second. You heard me.
Rhett (Albany, N.Y.): Matthew Berry sucks. Jordan Matthews didn't show up today. Thanks for the horrible advice two seasons in a row. Championship week you throw me a dud. I should have known better than to listen to you losers!
TMR: Oh yeah. Gonna be that kind of week. I can already tell. Ice-cold Ryan Tannehill and Eli Manning facing the Rams on the road were on my Hate list last week. In addition to Luck, I liked Daniel Herron and Donte Moncrief of the Colts. Didn't think Philip Rivers would play effectively through his injury, either. All bad calls.
That's right. I'm owning it. I'm not scared of it. Hanukkah? Christmas? Bah, humbug. I heard from you on Twitter, I heard from you on Facebook. You pariahs want blood? You want to go? Fine, let's go, you animals. Bring it on. Let's dance.
Hunter (Miami): I watched the show this past Sunday morning. Because of Matthew's and Tim Hasselbeck's analysis, I swapped Daniel Herron into my starting lineup and benched Latavius Murray. The difference cost me a league championship. Lost by 4.72 and Murray had 6.8 more than Herron. A few years ago we got a championship belt for the league. Do you have any idea how much fun it would have been with the belt???
TMR: Yeah? That's really your best shot, you faceless troll --
Hunter: In all seriousness, it's not your fault.
TMR: Wait ... what?
Hunter: Yeah, unless Stephania put a curse on A.J. Green before Monday's game or you told the Packers to give Eddie Lacy the ball only once on six 1-yard-line carries. The "RED MENACE" will be back stronger than ever next year. Thanks for your advice throughout the years.
TMR: Huh. That was, um ... Huh. OK, whatever "Hunter from Miami, Florida." Makes sense. Of course you're from Florida. Lotta weirdos in Florida. Nice try, freak show. Not fooling me. What else you guys have? Come on, I'm ready.
Brock Stuhlsatz (Derby, Kan.): I want to start out by saying that I love reading your Love/Hate column as well as everything else. I definitely feel for you for all the hate mail I can imagine that you get. As much as I love fantasy football (all fantasy for that matter), I can't believe people get so wrapped up in it like it is life or death. Just baffles me! Thanks for the advice and all the laughs throughout the season, you guys do a great job. I will patiently wait for your manifesto. Merry Christmas.
TMR: Oh yeah??? Well, I ... Um ... well, you are ... err ... Look, I'm amped up. I'm ready for this. I'm not giving up this easy. So, you listen up, Brock. Whatever kind of name that is. I celebrate Hanukkah, so your wishes of a Merry Christmas fall on deaf ears. You understand me, Brock Schmock? Deaf ears. You take that Merry Christmas and shove it right up your chimney. What else?
Adam Clause (Gulf Breeze, Fla.): I know you will probably get a lot of grief for Tannehill on the hate list this week ...
TMR: That's right. What of it???
Adam Clause: ... but hey things happen. I just wanted to say thank you for your advice this year and the multiple years in the past. I am now a two-time champion of two of my leagues.
TMR: Grrrr ...
Adam: I started Tannehill this week despite your being down on him just because I had a good feeling.
TMR: Thought for yourself, did you? No one likes a bragger, Adam ...
Adam: Another thanks is in order for your preseason "hype" of Joique Bell and Lamar Miller. I drafted both of them in most of my leagues fairly late in the draft and everyone laughed at me because they were "backups." Both of them helped me significantly throughout the year at times and no bigger than yesterday! Thank you a lot and keep up the awesome work! Will miss the 06010 but look forward to whatever you have planned in the future!
TMR: Yeah, I got nothing.
Matt Carey (Manchester, N.H.): I just wanted to reach out to say thank you for all your help this past year. I just won my first league at work and it feels pretty damn good. I love how you added the TMR 200. It really helped with some of the flex questions when deciding to go with a wide receiver or running back.
Eric (Chicago, Ill.): Way to (tout) Matt Asiata on the Top 10 waiver ranking on (Sunday) morning's "Fantasy Football Now!" I was torn for my final flex position and your conviction in Asiata won me over. He was surprisingly on waivers and I immediately picked him up, started him and never looked back. I'm in Year 3 of a Dynasty League and after purposefully tanking last year, I just went from worst to first. You're on the money, Matt.
TMR: This sucks.
Stephen Whittaker (Port Washington, N.Y.): Dear Mr. Berry, My name is Stephen, and I am writing today to thank you for another year of thoughtful fantasy football advice and to make a small request.
TMR: OK, we're back in the game! I know where this is going. Oh yeah, Stephen. I can just imagine what your "one request" is. Go on ...
Stephen: I am an avid reader of your weekly Love/Hate series and a loyal Twitter follower. I even went so far as to dub one of my fantasy lineups "Matthew Berry's B-Team" this year.
TMR: And let me guess how that team did.
Stephen: That team went 12-1 this season.
Stephen: I attribute a great degree of the team's success to your writing. However, there are some (in some of my own leagues for example) that take your advice out of context. I have read the angry fan letters you published in the past and I have seen the profanity-laced tweets of disgruntled followers. Sure, your advice is sometimes flat-out poor ...
TMR: OK, here we go. Finally. Oh yeah???
Stephen: ... but it is often insightful, well-researched and, above all, useful. Your content is meant to supplement the work owners already put into their lineups. I think fantasy enthusiasts sometimes forget that. While your columns and advice take a great deal of work off the shoulders of the casual fantasy team owner, half the fun of the game is, as you often suggest, to build a lineup around the challenges of one's own league and circumstances. In essence, Mr. Berry, I simply ask that you keep up the good work. I wish you the best of luck with any playoffs you might still be involved in and I hope you have a very happy holiday season.
TMR: I give up.
I hope all of you are happy. You've blown it. I went to my email inbox to find some hate mail for today's column and you know what I found? Two hate emails. Two. The rest were all like this. Kind, respectful, well-articulated and reasonable. And now what am I gonna do? Have to admit that 98 percent of my audience is actually awesome? And has been for a long time? That it is smart, supportive, inquisitive and rational? Am I gonna have to cop to the fact I know I am very lucky to have this audience and that I consider it a privilege to write for you every week?
Fine. Done. Happy holidays, OK? You got me. I actually care about your teams and, yes, about you as a person. Ninety-eight percent of you are terrific, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for joining me every week.
Bah, humbug. You guys ruin everything.
Before we dive in, a little bit of housekeeping. First, this is not the last "Love/Hate" of the season. That's right. I will be doing "Mini Love/Hates" during the NFL playoffs, focusing on daily fantasy, as that format is really popular during the playoffs. Second, I say this all the time, but once again, for the 2 percent of you, I urge you to use my rankings over this "Love/Hate" list when deciding between two players to start or sit. This is not a start/sit column, but rather about players that I think will exceed or fall short of general expectations this week. Last week, Rivers was on the Hate list and Kyle Orton was in the "there's a chance" section and I weirdly got a decent amount of Rivers/Orton questions. Despite Rivers being on the Hate list, I had him ranked seven spots ahead of Orton, so he is whom I would have started. Orton paid off with 21 points, so either way that one probably worked out, but when in doubt ... read the rankings. Let's get to it.
Quarterbacks I Love in Week 17
Russell Wilson, Seattle: I used to be a Jeff Fisher fan. But remember when he sent out all the players whom St. Louis acquired for the draft picks it got from the RG III trade as captains for the game against Washington? Thought that was low-class, childish and a case of kicking someone when they are down. And once Seattle kicks the crap out of the Rams on Sunday (and it's coming), St. Louis will be 6-10 on the year. Can't wait to see Russell Wilson go nuts against Fisher's team, like he did in Week 7 (36 standard points). This game will be in Seattle, where Wilson should continue to run all over a team that is top 10 in rushing yardage allowed to opposing quarterbacks and has given up the second most rushing touchdowns to them. I have Wilson as a top-five play this week. Can't see the Rams' offense doing much against the Seahawks' defense, leaving the offense in good field position, and with the pressure the Rams do bring, I see a lot of Wilson scrambles coming. Worth the price in daily, too.
Tony Romo, Dallas: With Jerry Jones saying he wants his Cowboys to play the whole game against Washington, expect Tony to play more than enough to do damage against a Washington team that pretty much everyone has enjoyed facing. With five 20-point games in the past six (only the Thanksgiving game is a blemish), Romo is as dialed in as I have ever seen. I have him as my No. 3 QB this week, higher than I have ever had him.
Cam Newton, Carolina: Looked healthy to me. Always kills the Falcons, averaging over 21 points per game against them in his career, including at least 17 points in his past six games against Atlanta. The Falcons have played better defense recently, but they don't really have great pass-rushers (only one team has fewer sacks), so Cam should have a clean pocket to pick apart a secondary that has allowed the most passing yards in the NFL this year.
So, you're saying there's a chance: Who needs a Christmas present when you get to throw to Odell Beckham Jr. against Philly's very burnable corners? Eli Manning has back-to-back 20-point games, three in his past five and should be a solid start against an Eagles team that has allowed the second most 20-yard receptions and touchdowns this year. ... Over the past five weeks, Teddy Bridgewater is the 11th-best fantasy quarterback in points per game, averaging over 16 per game facing some real defenses like Detroit, Miami and Green Bay in the process. I like him a lot as a cheap daily play or Tom Brady fill-in against Chicago's 31st-ranked pass defense. ... I know Ryan Tannehill was terrible against the Jets the last time he played them, but at home I expect a different scenario.
Quarterbacks I Hate in Week 17
Matthew Stafford, Detroit: Averaging just 12 points a game on the road this year, Stafford had an ugly three-turnover and zero-touchdown game against the Packers in Week 3 this year. You beat Green Bay by running the ball, not getting into a shootout with Aaron Rodgers in his house. Yet another reason I can't imagine him lighting it up in cold Lambeau, especially against a Packers squad that is a top-10 pass defense and top-10 scoring defense the past five weeks.
Tom Brady, Patriots: He's saying all the right things, but there's no guarantee Brady plays this entire game. With the Patriots having locked up home field throughout the playoffs, there's nothing to play for here, so why risk injury? In 2010, the last year that the Patriots had locked up home field throughout before Week 17, Brady played a little more than a half. Now, he had 199 yards and two touchdowns before exiting that game, so there's a chance he puts up good enough numbers before leaving that you don't care. He could also play the whole game, as Brady has been quoted as saying he doesn't want to sit and wants to see if they can work out some of the issues they've been having. But just the risk he might miss some of the game, combined with the facts that the Bills are a really good defense (third against the pass over the past five weeks) and lead the league in sacks make Brady a dicey start. For what it's worth, I'm in the second week of a finals match this week where Brady is my QB and I'm starting either Eli or Bridgewater over him (depending on how waivers go this week).
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco: Don't get fooled by last week. If you take away his crazy 90-yard touchdown run (very impressive play, no doubt), he finished with just 114 passing yards and one score with an interception. Fifteen of his 27 points last week came on one play, something that is unlikely to occur again. He's a 10- to 14-point play this week, which is decent, I suppose, but definitely not a top-10 guy.
Running Backs I Love in Week 17
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City: Just putting him here because I expect the Chiefs to (finally) use him heavily against a run defense that just got gashed by Frank Gore. Over 730 total yards and seven scores in the past seven games against the Bolts (including 107 and a TD in Week 7 this year), Charles should be an elite option once again, and hopefully, it's not too little, too late.
Matt Forte, Chicago: Putting him here because he's my No. 1 flex player overall this week and obviously my No. 1 running back. Given Cutler's struggles and how you can run against Minnesota (27th versus the run the past five weeks), I expect a huge workload for Forte. He had 175 total yards against them in Week 11, and the Vikings have given up the sixth-most points to opposing running backs this year. Another guy who is worth paying for in daily.
Fred Jackson, Buffalo: The dump-off king, expect more checkdowns from Kyle Orton when he sees Sammy Watkins stranded on Revis Island. Even if Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner sit at some point, Buffalo will employ a run-heavy game on the road in New England. With at least 70 total yards in five straight games, Jackson is a solid, if unsexy, choice to definitely get you something on Sunday with some upside for more. Legit No. 2 running back.
Matt Asiata, Minnesota: Three scores in the past two games, he's averaging 19 touches a game over the past four games and he's tied for 11th in fantasy points per game (with Lamar Miller!) in that time frame, more than Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte and Mark Ingram, among others. Expect another 20 touches or so against Chicago's 28th-ranked scoring defense (past five weeks).
So you're saying there's a chance: If Ryan Mathews sits out again (not looking good for him as of this writing), I expect a heavy run game at Arrowhead, making Branden Oliver a very interesting flex play or cheap DFS option. Chiefs are 25th versus the run the past five weeks. ... Look, there's huge risk/reward factor with Colts players, as they could certainly sit guys, but against the Titans, one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, Dan Herron might be worth the risk. ... No team has allowed more rushing yards the past five weeks than Miami and the Jets' only other option is to let Geno Smith throw it, so expect a run-heavy approach with Chris Ivory on Sunday. ... With Justin Forsett banged up, I could see 10 touches or so for Fitzgerald Toussaint against a reeling Browns run defense, making him an interesting DFS Hail Mary.
Running Backs I Hate in Week 17
Tre Mason, St. Louis: Did I do my Jeff Fisher rant yet? I did? OK. Did I mention that his record the past 10 years is 74-84 and that he's yet to win a division title with the Rams? No? Must have been an oversight. Insert "running back facing Seattle in Seattle" here. The Seahawks have allowed just four scores to opposing running backs when playing at home this year.
New England running backs: You can actually run on the Bills these days, so in a cold-weather game, I suspect there will at least one Patriots running back worth starting here. I just don't know who it is, as playing time among their running backs is always dicey even in weeks when they have something to play for. If I had to start someone, it'd probably be Jonas Gray, but I could easily see Brandon Bolden or even James White get a ton of work here. With such a lack of clarity, it's a situation to avoid if possible.
Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland: This whole offense has gone in the tank, and with undrafted rookie Connor Shaw probably making his first career start at Baltimore in December, that's unlikely to change. The Ravens have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs and Crowell, with five points or fewer in three of the past four, is a desperation flex play despite the volume of carries he is likely to get.
TMR note: I know. It's a pretty uninspiring list for running back hate this week. What can I say, the position is so brutal these days that anyone with a pulse has some sort of value. Check my ranks to see whom I would start or sit in your specific situation.
Wide Receivers I Love in Week 17
Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants: The most obvious of obvious names, I am listing him here because I have him as my No. 1 wideout this week, a crazy thought for a rookie who wasn't even playing 12 weeks ago. But the run he is on is nothing short of ridiculous, and, as I mentioned about Eli, only Washington has given up more 20-plus yard receptions and 20-plus-yard touchdowns than the Eagles. Since Week 5, only Demaryius Thomas has been a better fantasy wideout and that's by percentage points. Philly has a decent pass rush, and the Giants' O-line struggles, so I see a lot of quick slants to OBJ and yards after the catch. Or just bombing it somewhere within a 10-foot radius of OBJ and waiting for him to come down with it. Very much worth the price in daily.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati: I don't care if they cut one of his arms off. I know, prime-time game, probably bad weather, this is the perfect place for Bad Andy to show up. But I don't care. Against the Steelers' banged-up, 30th-ranked pass defense the past five weeks, with the AFC North title on the line, I'm starting a one-armed A.J. Green and I'm not thinking twice.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina: See Newton, Cam. Cam threw a lot in that game. Cam threw a lot to Kelvin. Me likey Cam to Kelvin. Desmond Trufant is having a nice year, actually, but he's no match for Kelvin. Nine-for-109 and a score the last time they played, Panthers win this game with defense and by throwing to Kelvin. Again and again.
Charles Johnson, Minnesota: Averaging better than seven targets a game the past five weeks; that's the same number as Jeremy Maclin and Dez Bryant, among others. Tough game last week, but he leads the Vikes in targets and receiving yards during that time frame while averaging 18 yards a reception. You know I like Bridgewater in this game, as Chicago's paper-thin secondary is 31st against the pass the past five weeks. Johnson went six-for-87 against them in Week 11, and I expect him to match that, if not exceed it, this week.
Kenny Stills, New Orleans: Since Week 11, Kenny Stills has 10 receptions on passes thrown at least 15 yards downfield, tied for fourth-most in the league. In a weird year for Drew Brees, he's seemed to play better on the road than at home this season. That should continue Sunday, at least as it relates to Mr. Stills. Bucs have allowed 61 deep completions, tied for the third-most in the NFL.
Torrey Smith, Baltimore: I expect Joe Haden to play, but to be on Steve Smith, leaving Torrey to be covered by The Very Burnable Buster Skrine (his full legal name). Back to being healthy now, Smith is coming off a two-touchdown game and has a great shot to get behind the defense for a score in this one.
So you're saying there's a chance: Assuming Keenan Allen is out for this game, I expect another a decent number of targets going to Eddie Royal against a Chiefs team that has given up a TD to an opposing wideout in eight straight games. ... The past few games the Vikings have put the underrated Xavier Rhodes on shadow coverage of the No. 1 opposing wideout, so I expect him to be on Alshon Jeffery in this one. You're still starting Jeffery, of course, but I expect some extra looks toward Marquess Wilson, who caught seven passes for 66 yards last week and scored two weeks ago. ... I feel like I say it every week, but the Jaguars are playing better defense these days. That said, Andre Johnson got 13 targets with Case Keenum at the helm last week, and Jacksonville will be focused on stopping Arian Foster. I bet Johnson finds himself in single coverage a decent amount with some matchups he can win. ... Albert Wilson played a ton of snaps for the Chiefs last week en route to a five-for-87 day and will now face off against Shareece Wright, currently ranked 108th out of 110 corners by our friends at Pro Football Focus.
Wide Receivers I Hate in Week 17
Josh Gordon, Cleveland: Certainly, the matchup is right. But we have no idea what likely starter Connor Shaw will bring, and in a championship week, given Gordon's lack of production, (under 50 yards in three straight), he's a risky flex play despite the upside. Outside my top 20.
Golden Tate, Detroit: See Stafford, Matthew. Under 70 yards in three straight, he has just one score in the past seven games. I expect the Lions to go run-heavy, and, when they do pass, it'll be to Calvin Johnson. He's a hope-for-a-lucky-score flex play this week.
Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore: Four points or fewer in three of the past four, he'll have Joe Haden on him in a game where the Ravens should run all over the Browns.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City: Bowe has recently become usable in deeper leagues with 126 yards the past two weeks, but not this week, not against Brandon Flowers in what should be a heavy run game for KC.
Tavon Austin, St. Louis: I know, nobody is really considering starting Tavon Austin, I just wanted to mention that the Rams used a first-round pick on him in 2013, and that he was just named an alternate for the Pro Bowl ... on special teams.
Tight Ends I Love in Week 17
Antonio Gates, San Diego: Targeted at least seven times in each of his past four games, and three scores in his past two. With Keenan Allen expected out, Gates continues to be a focal point for this offense and its key red zone threat. The Chiefs are one of four teams that have allowed a passing touchdown in every game this season.
Charles Clay, Miami: One of only three tight ends to have six receptions in each of the past two weeks, this is a nice matchup for Clay, as no team has allowed more touchdowns to opposing tight ends than the New York Football Jets.
So, you're saying there's a chance: Mychal Rivera went six-for-64 and a score the last time he faced Denver, and if there's one area the Broncos struggle in, it's against tight ends, as they've given up seven scores to them in the past nine games. ... Scott Chandler scored last week, had over 100 yards in his past game against the Patriots and could very easily be playing against backups in the second half. Even if he's not, the starters on New England's defense give up the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. ... Speaking of good matchups, Jordan Reed has completely disappeared since Colt McCoy did, but if ever there was a game for Reed to bounce back, it's this one against a Cowboys team that allows the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Tight Ends I Hate in Week 17
Travis Kelce, Kansas City: His usage (like many Chiefs', cough, Jamaal Charles, cough) continues to frustrate fantasy owners, and this weekend should be no exception. San Diego knows it doesn't really need to worry about K.C.'s wideouts, so will instead focus on Kelce, bringing in safety help to stop the yards after the catch. Just four catches for 33 yards the last time he played San Diego, Chargers give up the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends, including just three scores on the year.
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland: Don't get sucked in by last week's box score, as his production came on one big play. Cameron had just a 1-for-23 day against Baltimore in Week 3, and no tight end has had a 100-yard day against the Ravens all season. They've allowed just one score to a tight end in the past month (last week's Arian Foster trick-play touchdown pass) and not knowing what we will get out of Connor Shaw makes me super nervous in championship week.
Defenses I Love in Week 17
Baltimore Ravens: At home against an undrafted rookie who was on the practice squad all year? OK. Still available in almost 40 percent of leagues.
Minnesota Vikings: Averaging over seven points a game at home this year, they've scored 35 points in their past two home games. And, well, Jay Cutler has been known to turn the ball over a time or two, ya dig?
So you're saying there's a chance: I like San Francisco at home against a reeling Cardinals team coming off a drubbing by Seattle (teams always lose the week after playing Seattle ... check it out) and featuring raw Logan Thomas at QB. ... Only the Jaguars allow more fantasy points to opposing defenses than the Buccaneers, making the New Orleans Saints a consideration for deeper leagues.
Defenses I Hate in Week 17
Detroit Lions: Have you seen what Aaron Rodgers has done at home this season?
Philadelphia Eagles: They do get pressure on the QB, but this team seems to be falling apart, and on the road, having just lost out on a chance at the postseason, I don't see them getting up enough to slow down the OBJ train.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- wishes you and yours a safe and happy holiday season. Yes, even the 2 percent. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. You also may have heard: He has written a book.