Fantasy starts and sits for Week 16
Whatever you have been doing to get you team to relevance into Week 16, keep it up. This is championship week. This is what all that hard work has been for. This is not the time to get cute with your lineups and overthink things. Stick with the key players who helped your fantasy squad rise above the competition.
Start your studs is one important tip for this week. The worst kind of loss you can suffer is to panic, or get cute with your lineup and sit one of your reliable starters for a shot-in-the dark, risky play. Losing with your obvious, best players on the bench are the worst kind of defeats to suffer, and the pain will linger.
With that in mind, here are some not-so-obvious players that could make a solid contribution to your winning lineup this week, and some other starters that might look like great starts, but could be set up for a long week. Good luck, and here’s to capping a wild 2015 season with one final victory.
Matt Stafford, Lions (vs. San Francisco) – The addition of Jim Bob Cooter as Detroit’s offensive coordinator has worked wonders for the once-stagnant passing attack, and in particular on Stafford. Over the past four games, Stafford is completing 70.8% of his passes and has tossed 12 touchdowns while only throwing a single interception. In that time, Stafford ranks as PFF’s No. 8 signal-caller and is primed for another solid outing in championship at home against a San Francisco defense that is surrendering 31 points-per-game on the road.
Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings (vs. New York Giants) – Although not a consistent fantasy option all year, Bridgewater is heating up at just the right time. In Minnesota’s last two games, Bridgewater has completed 75% percent of his passes, averaged 283 yards and has 6 total TD’s and zero interceptions. Bridgewater also leads the NFL with an 80.1 quarterback accuracy percentage, and is second only to Cam Newton in throwing out of play-action. That bodes well for Week 16 as the Vikings host a New York Giants pass rush that grades out as PFF’s No. 25 unit, and a secondary that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.
Other quarterbacks to look at: Derek Carr (vs. San Diego), Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs. New England), Alex Smith (vs. Cleveland)
James White, Patriots (at New York Jets) – New England’s receiving corps just keeps suffering injuries, and James White has stepped up to take on a Dion Lewis-like role for the Patriots over the last month. With 24 targets and 16 receptions, White grades out as PFF’s No. 1 running back dating back to Week 11, and should be in for an even bigger role as a pass-catcher in Week 16 as the Patriots play a fearsome New York Jets run defense that has yielded the fewest rushing yard and touchdowns in the league, but has allowed 4 receiving touchdowns to running backs- tied for 6th-most in the league. Also, with Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman both looking like they’ll miss this week, White is all but assured of lining up in the slot and see 8+ targets once again.
Denard Robinson, Jaguars (at New Orleans) – Robinson’s Week 15 start was a mixed bag. He had a poor showing as a runner (-3.2 grade, dead last amongst running backs), averaged 2.0 yards-per-carry and failed to get into the end zone. However, Robinson did do some very good things too, like catching 8 balls and playing on 100 percent of Jacksonville’s 62 offensive snaps. Expect more positives this week, as TJ Yeldon is expected to miss Week 16 and Robinson should again be in for a heavy workload against the New Orleans Saints, who are surrendering the most point to fantasy running backs. Robinson, the only Jaguars’ running back to touch the ball last week, should be in for a ton of touches against a very bad opponent.
Other running backs to start: Charcandrick West (vs. Cleveland), Bilal Powell (vs. New England), Frank Gore (at Miami), Alfred Blue (at Tennessee), Latavius Murray (vs. San Diego)
Kamar Aiken, Ravens (vs. Pittsburgh) – Aiken has quietly been excellent, and in fact has accumulated a +7.7 grade in the passing game over the last four weeks, which is No. 3 among all wide receivers. This week, Aiken should continue to excel against a Pittsburgh Steelers secondary that has allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers. Even with subpar quarterbacks, Aiken has excelled over the past month, and chances are he’s going to have another solid game in this potential high-scoring tilt.
Randall Cobb, Packers (at Arizona) – It’s been a mostly frustrating stretch for Cobb and the Green Bay offense, but a season-ending injury to PFF’s No. 1 coverage corner, Tyrann Mathieu could exploit a potentially strong matchup in Cobb’s favor this week. Cobb lines up in the slot on 92 percent of snaps for Green Bay, and that should put him inline to see coverage from Justin Bethel, who is solid, but nowhere near as strong as Mathieu.
Jarvis Landry, Dolphins (vs. Indianapolis) – Over the last four games, Landry is second in the league with 43 targets, and his 30 receptions trails only 3 players. Landry lines up in the slot on 74 percent of his snaps, and for Week 16, he’ll be covered by struggling Indianapolis slot-cornerback Darius Butler, who Pro Football Focus ranks as the 98th (out of 116) corner in coverage this season. Look for Landry to exceed double-digit targets once again, and be on the WR2 radar in PPR leagues.
Other wideouts to target: Martavis Bryant (at Baltimore), Rueben Randle (at Minnesota), Donte Moncrief (at Miami), Jordan Matthews (vs. Washington)
Julius Thomas, Jaguars (at New Orleans) – Over the past five weeks, Julius Thomas leads all tight ends with four touchdown grabs, is second in receptions, and is a top 5 player in PFF’s grades. He’s set up for another huge game in Week 16 as the Jaguars potent passing attack travels to New Orleans to take on an atrocious New Orleans secondary that has allowed the most fantasy points to tight ends. Greg Olsen, Delaine Walker and Jordan Reed have all scored two touchdowns against the Saints this year, and Thomas is playing like he’s in the same caliber of elite tight end.
Other tight ends to start: Will Tye (at Minnesota), Ben Watson (vs. Jacksonville), Kyle Rudolph (vs. New York Giants)
Kirk Cousins, Redskins (at Philadelphia) – When you see a red-hot signal-caller playing an ice-cold secondary, clearly you shout “You like that!” and get him into your lineups, right? Fresh off a career-best start, and facing a terrible Philadelphia Eagles secondary, many fantasy owners will look to Cousins to string together a third straight solid start. But proceed with caution here, as Cousins simply isn’t the same quarterback away from FedEx Field. In Washington’s six road games so far in 2015, Cousins has tossed exactly 1 touchdown and at least one interception in each game. On the road this season, Cousins has only exceed 300 passing yards once, and thrown 9 of his 11 interceptions.
Other quarterbacks to bench: Matt Ryan (vs. Carolina), Brock Osweiler (vs. Cincinnati), Tyrod Taylor (vs. Dallas)
Eddie Lacy, Packers (at Arizona) – Green Bay’s usage of their running backs has made for one of the most frustrating backfield situations in the league. With two talented runners splitting carries almost evenly one week, to one emerging unexpectedly the next, it’s been a hard situation to handicap. Lacy ranks as PFF’s No. 20 running back for the season, but has been out-snapped by James Starks 507-404. However the Packers decide to utilize their backs this week, it looks like a poor matchup, as the Arizona Cardinals have allowed the fewest rushing yards to running backs in the league.
Javoris Allen, Ravens (vs. Pittsburgh) – It’s hard to assume anyone who started Allen in his disastrous Week 15 performance will want to trot the rookie runner out again this week. Justifiably, as Allen was having an awful game before being benched for fumbling. That’s a big concern when a coach is willing to sit a young player for a turnover to send a message, and obviously a huge detriment to any fantasy production. On top of the concerns about Allen sitting if he were to turn the ball over, the Ravens offense is hampered by back-up quarterbacks and faces a very good Pittsburgh run defense. The Steelers fantasy run defense ranks third in the league, and they’ve only allowed two rushing scores to halfbacks all season. As long as Allen plays, he should be a PPR-plus player, but a risky start in standard leagues.
Other running backs to bench: Chris Ivory (vs. New England), Ronnie Hillman (vs. Cincinnati), Rashad Jennings (at Minnesota)
A.J. Green, Bengals – Green left Week 15’s victory early with a back injury that he attained in Saturday walk-thrus. The injury limited Green to a one catch on only three targets. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati offense is going to be stuck in a run-first, vanilla approach while A.J. McCarron is in relief of Andy Dalton. It’s also a very poor matchup for Cincinnati’s entire offense overall as the Bengals face the league’s top defense, the Denver Broncos, on Monday Night Football. Another reason to be cool on Green- with this being a late game, Green’s status will be next-to-impossible to read, so if he were to miss this contest, or be limited, there would be no time for fantasy owners to adjust their lineups. It’s tough to have to sit an elite talent like A.J. Green, but Week 16 is shaping up to be a tough week overall for him.
Anquan Boldin, 49ers (at Detroit) – Boldin comes off of his second-best game of the year, but is extremely unlikely to repeat those numbers this week in a possible shadow situation with elite Lions’ cornerback Darius Slay, who ranks as PFF’s No. 3 cornerback for 2015.
Other wideouts to sit: Dez Bryant (at Buffalo), Brandon LaFell (at New York Jets), Brandon Marshall (vs. New England)
Gary Barnidge, Browns (at Kansas City) – “Barn-kowski” has been one of the biggest surprise, break-out stars of the 2015 NFL season. He’s also become a reliable weekly fantasy starter, but Barnidge could be in for a letdown Week 16 performance. Johnny Manziel hasn’t had near as much success moving the Browns offense than Josh McCown did and this week, the Browns travel to Kansas City to take on a Chiefs team that has won 8 straight, and boasts the No. 1-ranked fantasy defense when it comes to limiting tight ends. Through 15 games, Kanas City has only yielded 3 touchdowns and an average of only 9.1 fantasy points to tight ends.
Other tight end to sit: Richard Rodgers (at Arizona), Charles Clay (vs. Dallas), Travis Kelce (vs. Cleveland)
Jody Smith is a 25-year fantasy football veteran and was FantasyPro’s Most Accurate Expert in 2012. Follow him on twitter @JodySmithNFL.