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I like to think that our readers have a certain degree of fantasy acuity before they arrive, so my hope is that this start and sit week 16 list – which avoids the obvious – will be useful for all of you. I’ve made my opinions on start/sit implicitly known via my weekly rankings, so, you won’t see a lot of QBs inside my Top 6, etc. listed here. The idea of this post is to give you some deep names that will yield start worthy value and some entrenched starters that should be riding the virtual pine.
Week 16 QB Starts
Jay Cutler at Philadelphia – I covered this on Friday morning in detail but the short answer is: Cutler played well enough in his first game back and has a) an easier matchup than the Browns and b) much less pressure this week. He should be forced to air it out against a defense that just made Matt Cassel a top five fantasy QB.
Kirk Cousins vs. Dallas – We saw enough in his debut to know that Cousins can post solid fantasy numbers in the right matchup. They don’t get much more right than this week. Dallas’ defensive ineptitude was on full display in the second half against Green Bay last week, but it has been awful all year – they’re giving up the most points to the position on the season and have just two picks to ten scores over their last four games.
Week 16 QB Sits
For what it’s worth, neither of these guys are true ‘sits’ in 12 team leagues as both rank inside my top 12 for the week, but they warrant tempered expectations this week for sure. Brady and Stafford (10 and 12) rank behind both Cutler and Cousins (3, 7), for example.
Tom Brady at Baltimore – Brady has his lowest career completion % against Baltimore and I’m expecting the struggles to continue this week. Credit Tom for putting up solid numbers last week against a challenging pass defense in Miami without Rob Gronkowski, but the struggles in the redzone are a concern. I see Brady doing enough to a) keep the Pats in this game and possibly win it and b) score borderline top 10 fantasy points along the way, but I just don’t like the red zone offense we saw last week. That fact, coupled with going on the road to Baltimore, have me feeling like the ceiling on Brady is lower than other start-worthy options this week.
Matthew Stafford vs. New York Giants – Over the last month, the Giants are a top 10 matchup for opposing QBs, but with a 47.4% completion percentage over the last two weeks I’m not sure that Stafford is ready to exploit it (with full understanding that part of the reason that number is so low is the snow-bowl in Philadelphia). During that same period Stafford has thrown just one touchdown to four turnovers. He’s running cold right now, and there are simply better options available this week.
Week 16 RB Starts
Ryan Mathews vs. Oakland – Knock on wood, the San Diego RB has played in all 14 games this season and has posted a career high in carries. He’s eclipsed that number due in no small part to his 58 totes over the last two weeks. While Jamaal Charles did most of his damage through the air, you’ll not that this Oakland defense was a part of one of the highest scoring outings in the history of the game last week. Beyond that unrepeatable outing, Oakland has allowed an RB to post more than 10 fantasy points in every game since their Week 8 bye except for one, and Chris Johnson had 81 total yards in that contest.
Jordan Todman vs. Tennessee – With 150 total yards last week, Todman achieved something that Maurice Jones-Drew hasn’t since September of last season. The Titans are tough through the air, but susceptible on the ground – as highlighted by last week’s production from both Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington (each scoring more than 15 fantasy points). Tennessee gives up the 2nd most points to opposing backs, and if Todman gets the start with Jones-Drew out he should be featured heavily in the game plan a week after netting 29 touches against Buffalo. Check the inactives, but use Todman with confidence if he’s the man in Tennessee this week.
Week 16 RB Sits
Bobby Rainey at St. Louis – Our Mike Omelan has been asking ‘Who is he’ for weeks (thinking he’s making an SNL Bobby Fischer reference that I don’t think is landing) and I told him on our Week 15 Inside the Locker Room broadcast. He’s a guy being asked to play above his skill level. Rainey has had a couple of nice runs since taking over in the Tampa Bay backfield but he has wilted in tough matchups and has averaged under 4 YPC in three of his last four games. Against a Rams team that gives up it’s fair share of touchdowns to RBs (16 this season) but does solid work on a YPC basis (3.9, just six teams allow fewer) he’ll struggle to find room to run this week.
Steven Jackson at San Francisco – Jackson has been featured as a ‘start’ in this piece for two weeks running, but this week’s opponent is a different animal. San Francisco shut down the aforementioned Rainey last week, and have allowed just one RB to score more than 10 fantasy points against them over their last five games. Jackson isn’t on Marshawn Lynch‘s level. He did score two touchdowns last week but his running was disappointing overall against a soft matchup in Washington.
Week 16 WR Starts
Marques Colston at Carolina – Colston has seen a lot of use in the last two weeks (25 targets) and though he has just five scores on the season, he’s scored 60% of them in that span, including a strong performance on the road while the rest of the New Orleans offense struggled last week. Just two weeks ago, Colston couldn’t be stopped by the Panthers (Al Michaels was right when he proclaimed “The Panthers have no answer for Colston”). While I believe that the Panthers will have the answer for the Saints overall this week, I don’t expect them to have found that answer in the 13 days in between games. Two weeks ago Colston went 9/12/125/2TDs – and was stopped just short of a third. You can’t bank on the same line, but you can count on New Orleans remembering it and making Colston a focal point again this week.
Rod Streater at San Diego – Streater has 19 targets from Matt McGloin over the last two games and he faces a Chargers defense that has been vulnerable to the pass all year. Streater scored in their earlier meeting (Week 5) and should be a focal point again this week. The floor here is lower than you think, too. He hasn’t had fewer than last week’s 56 yards (and again, he was targeted nine times) since McGloin took over. I speak Streater, Caldwell and more in a featured pros piece this week on Fantasy Pros.
Andre Caldwell at Houston – No one knew who would take on Wes Welker‘s slot duties last week until the game unfolded. In the end, it was Caldwell who played over 65% of Denver’s snaps and led the team with 10 targets. Houston represents a much tougher WR matchup than last week’s opponent mind you, but expect Peyton to continue to look to Caldwell against them and to move the ball well in general, as usual. If you’re in trouble at WR3, Caldwell is worth a look.
Worth a shot: Rueben Randle with Victor Cruz out at Detroit. The Giants may be using the next two games to see if Randle can stick as a starting WR next season. We’ll see if he’s up to the task this week.
Week 16 WR Sits
Golden Tate vs. Arizona – Tate has had a ‘fine’ fantasy season, but hasn’t wowed quite like I expected. Still, ranked as the 35th WR in terms of fantasy production on the year, the case can be made for his use as a WR3 in standard leagues. Still, as is generally the case with Seattle’s pass game, his numbers look much worse at home (40 YPG) where the team builds an early lead and runs the ball. Tate hasn’t scored there all year, and Doug Baldwin was more actively targeted last week. Mix in Patrick Peterson‘s coverage, and I’m staying away from Tate this week against an Arizona team that gives up the 8th fewest points to WRs.
Harry Douglas at San Francisco – Roddy White is healthy and has moved ahead of Douglas as the team’s most frequently used WR (it’s not stark, but White has had 30 targets to Douglas’ 25 over the last three weeks), while outproducing Douglas in each of the last three outings. The offense cannot support two useful WRs against San Francisco (just 17.31 PPG to the position this season), so I’m using White as a WR3 and fading Douglas, it’s that simple.
Week 16 TE Starts
Dennis Pitta vs. New England – Pitta’s limited use was surprising last Monday (just four targets, after 10 in his return to the lineup the week prior). The offense struggled while seeking other targets in the passing game, settling for six field goals and scoring no touchdowns. The results suggest a change in the game plan is in the offing, and I think that means more Pitta against the Pats. New England has seen the 4th most targets headed in the direction of opposing TEs this year, another factor supporting an increase in his use. Believe in Pitta and expect Flacco to look his way 8-10 times this week, netting top 10 TE numbers.
Zach Miller vs. Arizona – Again, we’re picking on the matchup here, and there is no reason not to. Just three times has an opposing TE registered fewer than five fantasy points against Arizona. In other instances, it has been the ‘wrong’ one (i.e. Danny Noble for the Jags) and there is some risk of that this week as Luke Wilson has been the more frequently targeted TE as recently as during his 13 point outing two weeks ago. However, Miller consistently plays more snaps than the rookie and is the more targeted of the duo more often than not. Someone is going to score some points on Arizona (15 TE touchdowns in 14 games) and I’m betting on it being Miller this week.
Week 16 TE Sits
Coby Fleener at Kansas City – Fleener has been one of the more frequently targeted Tight Ends since Reggie Wayne‘s injury, with 42 over the last five weeks but that has only translated into two productive fantasy outings, with one coming against the Cards. This week, against a Chiefs team that has given up just 549 yards and four touchdowns to the position all season, all the targets in the world wont’ make Fleener worth starting.
Week 16 Defenses to Stream
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo – 32% owned – Earlier this year, Thad Lewis put up 23 points and earned Buffalo a victory against Miami. This week, he’ll draw the start again. In that game, despite the positive outcome Lewis threw for no touchdowns, had an interception to go with two fumbles (neither lost) and took four sacks. Miami posted a respectable seven fantasy points that week. This week, with Steve Johnson missing the game and Miami playing for something while Buffalo is just playing out the string the unit (a top 12 DST on the season) should post even better numbers.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington – 48% owned – I watch this defense play, too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m unimpressed. Still, provided you aren’t in a setting that penalizes for yards you could do a lot worse for a spot start this week. Despite allowing the 3rd most points in the league, they are still the 12th highest scoring DST and face a Washington team that turned the ball over seven times last week. Last week, the lowest fantasy scoring DST in the league put up 15 on Washington. Dallas might give up 30 points, but count on a multiple sacks and multiple turnovers.