Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 16: Last-Minute Advice for Fantasy Owners

Sigmund BloomNFL Draft Lead WriterDecember 22, 2012

Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 16: Last-Minute Advice for Fantasy Owners

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    It all comes down to this, as fantasy leagues with sane commissioners and players are gearing up for their fantasy Super Bowls.

    Week 17 Super Bowls mean your league's title is decided in the most random set of games all season, so if your league isn't having its Super Bowl this week, do something about that before next season.

    After a Week 15 filled with unexpected results on both sides of the ledger, you should feel fortunate if your team is even alive at this point. This is no time to get cute and out-think yourself.

    Let's look at the best starts and sits for the championship.

START: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington

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    Don't fear Robert Griffin III's injured knee when it comes time to set your lineup this weekend. Backup Kirk Cousins was so good last week that the team has no reason to rush Griffin back into the lineup.

    The fact that the Redskins played Cousins at all is a good sign that they wouldn't play Griffin this week unless he was totally capable of being what he was before his injury.

    Griffin was a top-seven fantasy quarterback before hurting his knee, so you should treat him as one this week, especially against an Eagles defense that is having problems stopping the run and the pass.

SIT: Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit

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    Matthew Stafford should stay on pace to break the NFL record for pass attempts in a season, but there are signs that his attempts will no longer translate to fantasy points.

    Stafford threw the ball 50 times last week, and two of them went for touchdowns—too bad they were scores for the opponent. He was one of the worst fantasy quarterbacks of the semifinal round, and he's facing an Atlanta defense that hectored Eli Manning into an even worse performance last week.

    The Lions are down to street free agents and retreads at wide receiver and tight end outside of Calvin Johnson, so at least Stafford has an excuse for being unreliable at this key juncture of the fantasy football season.

START: Tony Romo, QB, Dallas

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    This might surprise you, but Tony Romo has once again been one of the safest and most explosive fantasy quarterbacks outside of the upper echelon this year.

    In just the last four weeks, he has three games with at least 300 yards and two passing touchdowns. One of those games was over 400 yards, and two of them saw Romo toss three scores. This week, he gets one of the worst defenses in the league, the New Orleans Saints.

    The Saints shut down Josh Freeman in a statement game to commissioner Roger Goodell after their defensive players' suspensions were overturned by Paul Tagliabue, but Romo is much better than Freeman and certainly deserving of a spot in your lineup this week.

SIT: Carson Palmer, QB, Oakland

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    The "King of Garbage Time" is an unreliable play this week, even if you believe that Cam Newton and the Panthers will storm out to a big lead and once again give Carson Palmer the opportunity to feast on slack defenses that are just trying to minimize injuries and keep the play in front of them.

    Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reports that backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor "will be used on some third-down and red-zone plays against the Panthers," which is bad news for Palmer because red-zone snaps are one of the key elements of fantasy quarterback value.

    Also, the Raiders' interest in seeing what Pryor can do could encourage them to play him instead of Palmer if the game gets out of hand.

START: Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore

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    The Ravens could have installed a new offensive coordinator again this week, and it still wouldn't stop me from recommending Ray Rice.

    His opportunity will increase with backup Bernard Pierce not expected to play per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, but even that development isn't as important as Rice's track record as a perennial and very consistent top-five fantasy running back.

    Aaron Rodgers owners who benched him learned the hard way last week that sometimes a player's reputation is strong enough to ignore recent short-term trends in his production. Don't be the example of the perils of not trusting your studs in the most important week of the season.

SIT: Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland

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    Trent Richardson is battling a myriad of injuries and clearly not running with the same burst and suddenness he displayed earlier this year. That hasn't stopped him from being a strong fantasy play the last two weeks, but that's because Richardson has two rushing touchdowns in each of those games.

    This week, he faces a Denver Broncos team that will probably jump out to a lead and limit the running game—not to mention harass Brandon Weeden so that the Browns are unlikely to have many goal-line opportunities to feed to Richardson.

    Richardson has a grand total of 83 rushing and receiving yards in the last two games, so if the touchdowns don't come, you'll be sorry you counted on him.

START: Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay

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    Doug Martin has often been compared to Ray Rice, and you should treat him the same way you would treat Rice for your fantasy championship. No matter how much it stung to see him come up small last week, you can't bench a running back who has been among the fantasy elite for most of the season when the title is on the line.

    The Rams won't run away from the Buccaneers like the Saints did last week. This is also the same Rams defense that just gave up another 200-yard game to Adrian Peterson in Week 15.

    Consider Martin a top-six running back play this week.

SIT: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina

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    DeAngelo Williams has been somewhat of a revelation for his fantasy teams since Jonathan Stewart went out a few weeks ago, and it looked like his owners had inherited a borderline RB1 heading into this week's juicy matchup against the Raiders.

    Now, Stewart practiced in a limited fashion on Friday, causing him to be listed as questionable for Sunday's game. When I asked Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer whether Stewart was on the probable or doubtful side of questionable, he said "probable."

    That means you should plan on going forward without Williams in your lineup. Be ready to swap him in if Stewart is out, but don't hold out hope that it will happen. Stewart almost always plays when he is listed as questionable.

START: Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis

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    Few are taking notice, but Danny Amendola is establishing himself as one of the toughest and most consistent wide receivers in the NFL.

    With the exception of two games when he got injured and attempted to come back too quickly from that injury, Amendola has at least five catches in every game he has played in this season. He also has three scores in seven full games. The kicker this week is that he faces the 32nd-ranked Tampa Bay pass defense.

    The little guy should not be on your bench when the championship kicks off this week.

SIT: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona

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    Remember all that stuff I said earlier about never benching your studs? That doesn't apply to Larry Fitzgerald.

    His four-catch total last week was his highest in the last five games and amounted to a measly 22 yards. On top of how cold he has been, Fitzgerald faces a tough Bears defense that is playing for its life this week. Ryan Lindley threw for 104 yards last week, and it was his second-best game of the season.

    Fitzgerald may help you win a title in the future, but he is worthless right now. He isn't even in my top 40 receivers this week.

START: Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay

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    Josh Freeman's play was a dumpster fire last week, but that didn't stop Vincent Jackson from putting up six catches for 81 yards in a shutout loss. This week, the Buccaneers go home and face a Rams defense that could be without its shutdown corner, Cortland Finnegan.

    Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Finnegan missed all three practices this week, and he is listed as questionable. Even if Finnegan is active, there's good reason to believe that he won't be playing at full speed.

    Jackson should be able to exploit his size advantage against a limited Rams secondary.

SIT: Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee

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    Kendall Wright is listed as questionable with a cracked rib, but John Glennon of the Nashville Tennessean believes that Wright will have to make "a lot of progress" to play against the Packers, and optimistically gives him a chance to play in the season finale.

    That could encourage you to play Kenny Britt because of the extra targets he will receive, but his inconsistency, along with Jake Locker's tendency to make the risky play and the shutdown corner pair of Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward don't help matters.

    Britt had an outburst two weeks ago, but he won't be back to every-week-fantasy-starter status again until next season.

START: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas

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    Dez Bryant is playing with a broken finger, and there is no doubt that he would have caught a few more passes last week if he had 10 healthy digits. The good news is that he still caught a touchdown, and the Cowboys' passing attack still focused on him in the red zone.

    Now that Bryant has a week under his belt of playing with the injury, he should be more comfortable and prepared to produce despite the limitation. In a game that could be a shootout between two very capable quarterbacks and passing games, you don't want to have Bryant on your bench.

SIT: Sidney Rice, WR, Seattle

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    You knew it was going to happen sooner or later. Sidney Rice amazingly has not missed a game due to injury this year, but he is now a game-time decision for Sunday night's game against the San Francisco 49ers.

    John Boyle of the Everett Herald reports that Rice is expected to play according to head coach Pete Carroll, but that he'll have to test his knee before the decision is made. With no Monday night game this week, you will be left with no recourse in the case that Rice is declared inactive—unless you have Golden Tate, but if you own Tate, you should just play him over the gimpy Rice anyway.

START: Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina

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    Reliable fantasy tight ends have been hard to find this year, but as Cam Newton has heated up in the second half of the season, Greg Olsen has quietly become a consistent TE1. Olsen has at least 42 receiving yards in each of the last seven games, and he has scored four touchdowns over the same span.

    The Raiders have allowed four touchdowns to tight ends in the last six games, and they gave up 80 yards receiving to Ben Watson in one of the two games that they didn't allow a touchdown. They even gave up 36 yards receiving to Tony Moeaki when they were shutting out the inept Chiefs offense last week.

    Olsen is one of the best bets at tight end this week if you don't have an option that you automatically start.

SIT: Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego

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    Antonio Gates finally found the end zone again last week, but it only happened after the Chargers were down 31-0 in the fourth quarter. Gates hasn't really looked effective as of late, and the New York Jets have been especially tough on the tight end in the last six games.

    Opposing tight ends haven't scored over that span, and no tight end has more than 37 yards receiving. Only Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Owen Daniels have gone over 50 yards receiving from the tight end position against the Jets all season, and Gates isn't near their level right now.