NFL Fantasy Picks: Allen to soar once more against Falcons

By Sports Desk December 29, 2021

It's almost time to put down the fantasy clipboard for another year.

For many, the fantasy football season came to an end last week, but there are leagues in which Week 17 will decide the championship.

And, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact gameday rosters, picking a lineup to bring home the gold is an increasingly difficult challenge.

For the final time in 2021, Stats Perform identifies four offensive players and a defense who can deliver fantasy glory.

Quarterback: Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills vs. Atlanta Falcons 

Coming off his best performance of the season on the road against the New England Patriots, some might see this week as a chance for an Allen letdown.

The problem with that theory is the defense of the Falcons, which has allowed the joint third-most passing touchdowns (28) in the NFL heading into a game with a quarterback who is looking for his third successive three-touchdown performance. Back Allen to continue that hot streak.

Running Back: Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New York Jets

Jones has been a fantasy non-factor for most of the season. However, last week he had 65 rushing yards and a touchdown due to a hamstring injury to Leonard Fournette.

The Bucs risking 'Playoff Lenny' a couple of weeks out from the playoffs against the Jets seems unlikely and, with Tampa seeing their wide receiver depth dented, they could well lean on Jones and the run game against a defense giving up 141.3 yards per game on the ground, tied for the second-most in the NFL.

Wide Receiver: Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers vs. Houston Texans

The Texans pulled off a stunner with their comfortable win over the Los Angeles Chargers last week, yet they are as porous as the Jets when it comes to defending the run, with the Pittsburgh Steelers the only team worse in terms of yards per game allowed on the ground.

They should therefore see a heavy dose of the San Francisco run game as the Niners look to take a big step towards a playoff spot after slipping up in Tennessee in Week 16.

No receiver in the NFL can claim to have the same impact in the run game as Samuel, who averages 6.84 yards per carry and has seven touchdowns on the ground this season. Look for him to add to that tally while also influencing the game as a receiver against Houston.

Tight End: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs @ Cincinnati Bengals 

If you're competing for the fantasy title, your chances will greatly increase if you have one of three tight ends. George Kittle, Mark Andrews and Kelce.

This is a week to focus on the latter. Kelce missed last week's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers due to being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list but exploded for 191 yards and two touchdowns against the Los Angeles Chargers prior to that.

Should he be activated from the COVID list this week, Kelce will relish a meeting with a Bengals defense allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends as the Chiefs look to sew up the one seed in the AFC.

Defense: Chicago Bears vs. New York Giants

There are plenty of defenses with enticing matchups on the Week 17 slate, perhaps none more so than that of the lowly Bears.

They are playing out the string but this week face a Giants team that has scored 10 points or fewer in four of their last six games. In a season to forget for Chicago, the Bears' defense could be a fantasy title-winning selection.

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    LeBron James cannot discount another player going on to reach 40,000 NBA points, as he celebrated reaching the milestone despite a Los Angeles Lakers loss.

    The Lakers lost 124-114 to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, though with a haul of 26 points, James reached 40,017 points.

    When James reached nine points, he was presented with the game ball and received an ovation from the crowd at the arena.

    Coincidentally, James surpassed the 40,000 mark on the 62nd anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks.

    While teammate Anthony Davis believes no other player will come close to matching James' points haul, James himself warned records are there to be broken, even though no other active player has yet reached 30,000 career points.

    "Obviously we have a lot of great guys in our league that can score the ball, and if they were to stay healthy and they would play a long time, then they can eclipse it," James said.

    "And then, records are always meant to be broken. You can never say never for any record. At one point we said that Big O's [Oscar Robertson's] triple-double record would never be broken and Russ [Westbrook] did it, and now looks like Joker [Nikola Jokic] and Luka [Doncic], they're doing it every night.

    "I feel like I'm still that threat out on the floor and I am still able to do the things that I was doing 10 years ago. And some things I was doing 20 years ago, which is weird to say."

    Davis did joke, though, that James' record-setting games usually come in defeats for the Lakers.

    "I was just telling him in the locker room he might have to stop breaking records because we always lose any time he breaks a record," Davis said. "And he said the same thing."

    Indeed, that streak is quite something. James was on the losing side when he reached his 30,000th and 35,000th career points. When he became the all-time leading NBA points scorer last year, the Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    "For me, the main thing is always the main thing, and that's the win," James said.

    "I hated that it had to happen in the defeat, especially versus the team that plays extremely well. We played some good basketball tonight, but weren't able to close it out. So, bittersweet but enjoyed every moment tonight on the floor."

  • Giannis becomes Milwaukee's winningest player as Bucks cruise past Bulls Giannis becomes Milwaukee's winningest player as Bucks cruise past Bulls

    Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 46 points as he became the player with the most wins in the Milwaukee Bucks' history on Friday, with the Chicago Bulls beaten 113-97 at United Center.

    For Milwaukee coach Doc Rivers, however, the focus is squarely on preparing for the postseason as the Bucks eye their third NBA Championship.

    Antetokounmpo surpassed the 40-point mark for the eighth time this season, also adding 16 rebounds and six assists, as the Bucks recorded their fifth straight victory.

    The win was the 489th of Antetokounmpo's Bucks career including both regular-season and playoff games, taking the two-time NBA MVP clear of Sidney Moncrief as the winningest player in franchise history.

    "Everybody has to be on the same page, and I feel like the last couple of games, we're doing that and that's why our defense has taken a step," Antetokounmpo said after the win. 

    "Hopefully, we can keep it up. Right now, it's just about trust. We've just got to trust one another. That's it, win or lose, we have to have the same trust."

    For coach Rivers, who has led the team to an 8-7 run since replacing Adrian Griffin in January, all that matters is ensuring Milwaukee are ready for the postseason.

    "We're winning games, but for us, it's not about that right now," Rivers said. "Our whole key is getting ready. That's the first thing I told the players. 

    "We still have work to do, we're still pushing, we've got to get better. It's nicer to get wins than to lose, but we're not where we want to be yet."

    Milwaukee, who sit third in the Eastern Conference with a 40-21 record, are back in action against the 38-20 Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. 

    They then embark on a four-game California road stretch on Wednesday, when they face the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center. 

  • 'I feel 40' – Birthday boy Doncic dispatches Raptors 'I feel 40' – Birthday boy Doncic dispatches Raptors

    Luka Doncic quipped he feels like he is 40 years old after he celebrated his 25th birthday in style.

    Doncic became the first player in NBA history to finish with a triple-double on their birthday as he led the Dallas Mavericks to a 136-125 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.

    He finished with 30 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds for his 11th triple-double of the season.

    Doncic has now had 39 30-point triple-doubles, which sees him surpass LeBron James in the all-time list for that feat.

    When asked if he considered his 25th birthday as a milestone, Doncic joked: "I feel like [I'm] 40, so no."

    Doncic was 11 for 23 from the field and missed 7 of 8 from 3-point range in his 67th career triple-double.

    "Just a normal game, triple-double," Jason Kidd said.

    "He was really good. I guess 25 means he's still going to be really good as he gets older here."

    Kyrie Irving scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and P.J. Washington Jr. added 23 points for Dallas, as they bounced back from back-to-back defeats.

    "Kyrie and Luka, they had such a poise in important moments to make the right plays," said Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic after his team saw a three-game winning streak snapped.

    Doncic added: "We just played aggressive on defense, got out on transition, that's it. 

    "My team knows when I'm engaged. Everybody helps everyone to be engaged.

    "I'm having so much fun. Back-to-back is always tough, a great win today, I've got to get some rest now."

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