Jamaal Charles exploded for more than 50 points in standard formats last week. Nick Foles, Eddie Lacy, DeSean Jackson and Greg Jennings were among the other fantasy stars who played a key role in teams punching their ticket to the championship game.
Above all else, it shows the importance of getting big games from key players. Even if a fantasy owner makes the correct decisions on their weekly toss-up choices, it won't be enough to win unless the marquee players come through in the clutch.
With that in mind, let's examine the top options at each skill position for Week 16, which is title week across most of the fantasy football spectrum. The lists are followed by some analysis on each position for the critical week.
Week 16 Skill-Position Rankings
|1||Peyton Manning||Jamaal Charles||Brandon Marshall||Jimmy Graham|
|2||Philip Rivers||Matt Forte||Josh Gordon||Jason Witten|
|3||Nick Foles||LeSean McCoy||Calvin Johnson||Vernon Davis|
|4||Drew Brees||Alfred Morris||A.J. Green||Julius Thomas|
|5||Matthew Stafford||DeMarco Murray||Antonio Brown||Jordan Cameron|
Fantasy Week 16
Peyton Manning is a scary player to face this week because the motivation factor is through the roof. The Broncos need to win their final two games in order to lock up the AFC West and the top overall seed in the conference. Then there's the single-season touchdown mark, which he needs three to tie.
With Manning as the clear No. 1 quarterback for the week, the No. 2 spot is less certain. Normally, Drew Brees would assume the second ranking by default. But a road clash with the Carolina Panthers and their second-ranked defense limits his upside and drops him down a few spots for Week 16.
Instead, the resurgent Philip Rivers ranks second for the week. The San Diego Chargers are facing the Oakland Raiders, who rank 24th against the pass. Rivers had 411 yards and two touchdowns in the previous meeting with the division rival.
Nick Foles and Matthew Stafford also crack the week's top five.
As for quarterbacks to avoid if possible, Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck are the big names. Ryan has been a disappointment and that's unlikely to change against the San Francisco 49ers. Luck has only topped 15 points once over the past four games heading into a tough matchup against the Kansas Chiefs.
Charles has been on fire lately. He's racked up 122 points over the past four games, including the 51-point outburst last week. To put that in perspective, fewer than 20 running backs have scored that many fantasy points all season. He should keep rolling along in Week 16.
Which position will produce the biggest fantasy star in Week 16?
While he hasn't matched the awe-inspiring performances of Charles, Matt Forte has been another reliable producer for fantasy owners. He's topped the 100-yard rushing mark in three straight games and carries extra value in PPR leagues with 17 catches over the past four weeks. It makes him a great option against a struggling Philadelphia Eagles defense.
LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray are also inside this week's top five. Both players have been consistent producers in recent weeks and have good matchups.
The only back outside the top 10 in scoring for the season that cracked the rankings was Alfred Morris. Fantasy owners are probably getting a bit frustrated as he hasn't scored more than 10 points since Week 10, but he should get back on track in a big way against the porous Dallas Cowboys run defense.
Trent Richardson and Rashard Mendenhall are the fringe backs best left on the bench. Both grind-it-out rushers are coming off double-digit outings but face difficult matchups (Chiefs and Seahawks, respectively) and present very little upside due to their lack of big-play ability.
Championship week could very well be dominated by wideouts. Many of the game's top targets are going up against middling or weak secondaries, which should lead to a lot of big games, led by Brandon Marshall and Josh Gordon.
Marshall faces a Philadelphia Eagles secondary that allowed Jennings, the No. 1 receiver in Minnesota, to tally 11 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown last week. With Marshall's physical gifts, the sky's the limit against the same group.
Gordon, who's been tearing it up since the Cleveland Browns' Week 10 bye, gets to take his immense talent up against the 26th-ranked New York Jets pass defense. He's going to create a mismatch regardless of whom the Jets try to put on him.
None of the other receivers in the top five are a surprise, either. Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green and Antonio Brown have been elite targets all season and should live up to that top billing for the finals.
Steve Smith and Roddy White headline the less reliable big-name options for Week 16. Both players have flashed fantasy value throughout the season, but neither one has shown the consistency to rely on them when it matters most. There are plenty of better options out there.
In terms of fantasy football MVPs, Jimmy Graham is near the top of the list simply because he's been better than everybody else at the position. He's put up 185 points through 15 weeks. The next-closest tight end is Vernon Davis at 146. So it's obvious why he's No. 1 again.
Who is the fantasy MVP?
Jason Witten has worked his way back into a key role in the Cowboys offense after struggling in the first half of the season. With four touchdowns in as many weeks down the stretch, he should be able to take advantage of the fading Washington Redskins defense.
Davis, Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron round out the top five. Thomas has a lot of potential this week against the Houston Texans, but scoring just 13 points over the past two games stops him from climbing even higher of the list.
Since the number of reliable tight ends is limited, most of them should be in lineups. The only exception for Week 16 would be Antonio Gates. He's scored more than seven points just once since Week 4, including just two points in three of his past four games. He belongs on the fantasy sidelines.