Week 16 represents the fantasy football title game for most owners, and there is no question that they will be inclined to trust their highly drafted players. That will undoubtedly prove to be a good strategy in some cases, but it isn't a given for every player.
Studs such as Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson shouldn't be benched under any circumstances provided they are healthy, but that doesn't go for everyone. Several star players have extremely difficult matchups on tap in Week 16, and sitting them is definitely an option as long as there are some alternatives available.
Here are three superstar players who won't rise to the occasion in Week 16 and could very well cost you a fantasy title if you leave them in the lineup.
Calling the Atlanta Falcons' 2013 season a disappointment would be a major understatement, but the same can be said for quarterback Matt Ryan. Although Ryan is on pace for well over 4,000 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, he has taken a big step back after approaching elite status last year. Ryan has been a fringe fantasy starter this year, but calling him fringe this week would be putting it nicely as the Falcons will face the San Francisco 49ers on the road.
The Niners are fourth in the NFL against the pass as they allow a shade under 200 yards per game through the air. They have also given up just 15 passing touchdowns while snaring 15 interceptions.
San Francisco hasn't gotten to the quarterback as frequently this season, but it definitely has the talent necessary to give Ryan fits. It's easy to be down on Ryan this week considering how poorly he played last week against a poor Washington Redskins defense, as illustrated by Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com:
Ryan should have been able to throw for 300 yards and a few scores, but he finished that game with just 210 yards, one touchdown and one interception. If that was all he could muster against the Redskins, then things aren't looking good in Week 16. Ryan is the type of player who can potentially break through with a big game in any given week, but it simply isn't going to happen against the 49ers.
Week 16 Fantasy Projection: 224 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions
Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush has added a different dimension to the team's offense this season, but that may not be apparent in Week 16. After missing the team's Week 14 game in the snow against the Philadelphia Eagles, Bush bounced back with 101 total yards and a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 15. The team came under fire for its loss, and Bush has been making headlines for his comments, according to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
It's not a coaches' thing, it's a players' thing. We can do a better job all across the board.
As far as an offense standpoint, turn the ball over and that's the discipline issue, and that's something that we have to correct because obviously, as you see, it'll lose you games.
Bush makes a great point, but it won't lead to great statistics against the New York Giants in Week 16. Although the G-Men have had their issues defensively this season, they are actually solid against the run. New York allows 107 rushing yards per game, and opposing rushers average a meager 3.8 yards per carry. Bush isn't a high-volume runner as he has topped 20 carries in a game this season just four times.
He might do some damage in the passing game, but don't expect anywhere near 100 rushing yards this week, and a touchdown is unlikely as well.
Week 16 Fantasy Projection: 54 rushing yards and three receptions for 27 yards
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been a much bigger part of the team's offense late in the season. Prior to Week 15, Fitz had caught at least one touchdown in four consecutive games, and he had a total of 28 catches in those games as well. All of that would seem to point toward Fitzgerald trending in the right direction, but there are several unfortunate factors that will keep him from being a productive player in Week 16.
The biggest issue is the matchup. The Cardinals are facing the Seattle Seahawks' No. 1 defense. Seattle allows a mere 174 passing yards per game. It has given up 14 passing touchdowns while accruing a league-best 22 interceptions, so the Cards may refrain from throwing as often as usual. Fitzgerald will also have the displeasure of being shadowed by cornerback Richard Sherman. Fitzgerald is dealing with a concussion on top of all that, but he is expected to play, according to NFL: AroundTheLeague.
Fitzgerald had his worst game of the season in Week 7 against the Seahawks as he caught just two passes for 17 yards. It is difficult to imagine things getting any easier now that he is coming off an injury and playing on the road to boot. Fitzgerald is unquestionably one of the most talented receivers in the league, but his ceiling is extremely low in Week 16, so you would be best off sitting him.
Week 16 Fantasy Projection: Three receptions for 38 yards
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