Making fantasy football lineup decisions feels like life and death pretty much every week, but that feeling jumps to an entirely different level in Week 16. The title is on the line in most leagues, so making the right lineup choice is of the utmost importance.
Almost every owner second-guesses himself at some point, and there figures to be plenty of that this week. There is nothing worse than falling short of the title in the championship game, but you can avoid that by taking all factors into account before settling.
Here is a complete breakdown of the best and worst performers that you should take under consideration in Week 16.
Start: Andy Dalton (CIN)
Most observers seem to believe that quarterback Andy Dalton is the biggest reason why the Cincinnati Bengals haven't yet become an elite team. That may be true since the "Red Rifle" tends to be inconsistent, but he has been a fantasy revelation this season. He is on pace for more than 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, and he has been a dominant force over the past two weeks, according to the Sablich Brothers of The New York Times:
Dalton has five touchdown passes in his past two games, and he should have plenty more in Week 16. The Bengals are facing a Minnesota Vikings defense that has allowed a league-high 32 touchdowns passes, so he should have no problem lighting them up along with stud wide receiver A.J. Green.
Week 16 Fantasy Projection: 312 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception
Sit: Matt Ryan (ATL)
This was supposed to be the year that saw Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan join the likes of Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady as an elite fantasy player. He has showed some flashes as always, but his play has been disjointed. Much of that has to do with the injuries around him; however, Week 16 is no time for excuses.
Since Week 8, Ryan has thrown for more than 300 yards in a game just once, and he has posted only two multi-touchdown games. It's important to get great production from your quarterback at this juncture, and Ryan is not providing it. Don't expect him to pick it up in Week 16 either as he'll have to deal with the San Francisco 49ers, who allow less than 200 passing yards per game.
Week 16 Fantasy Projection: 224 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions
Start: Alfred Morris (WAS)
With the shortcomings of quarterback Robert Griffin III making headlines in Washington, it's easy to forget that Redskins running back Alfred Morris hasn't dazzled in his sophomore season either. He is on pace for a respectable 1,286 yards and seven touchdowns, but that pales in comparison to what he did last year.
Thanks largely to his statistics last season, he is one of the most prolific non-first-round running backs over his first two campaigns in NFL history, according to CSN Washington:
Morris hasn't broken 100 yards since Week 10, and he has just one touchdown since then as well, but his matchup against the Dallas Cowboys defense can't be ignored. Dallas allows 130 rushing yards per game, and Morris ran for 200 yards against the Cowboys in Week 17 last year. He won't reach that total, but he'll put up some nice numbers.
Week 16 Fantasy Projection: 133 rushing yards and two touchdowns
Sit: Pierre Thomas (NO)
Despite the New Orleans Saints' reputation as a pass-first team, Pierre Thomas has been a serviceable fantasy running back this season. His pass catching has plenty to do with that, and he has been an efficient runner as well. He has just 35 rushing yards over the past three weeks, though, and his assignment in Week 16 is particularly tough.
The Saints will face the Carolina Panthers, who held Thomas to 14 yards on seven carries in Week 14. He also had just 14 receiving yards on four catches in that game, so the Saints contained him in a big way.
That game took place within the friendly confines of the Superdome, and things won't get any easier on the road. Head coach Sean Payton will trust quarterback Drew Brees to win this game for him, which will minimize Thomas' usage.
Week 16 Fantasy Projection: 31 rushing yards and four receptions for 26 yards
Start: Michael Crabtree (SF)
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree has settled in nicely after missing the first 12 weeks of the season due to injury, and he seems poised for a true breakout performance in Week 16. He has nine total catches over his past two games, and he caught his first touchdown of the season in Week 15. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is rediscovering his favorite target, which bodes well for his owners as they vie for a championship.
Crabtree has some competition for targets with Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, but he and Kap have a special connection that was apparent in the playoffs last year.
Crabtree also won't meet much resistance this week, as the Niners face the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta is ranked No. 25 against the pass and has given up 28 touchdown receptions as well. Expect the 49ers to get him ready for the playoffs by utilizing him early and often.
Week 16 Fantasy Projection: Seven receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns
Sit: Larry Fitzgerald (ARI)
Although Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has once again failed to live up to expectations this season from a fantasy perspective, he has been much better recently. He had a four-game touchdown streak snapped in Week 15, and his owners have to be happy with the progress he has made. His yards-per-catch average has been down, though, and it won't improve much against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 16.
Fitzgerald is also dealing with a concussion, which head coach Bruce Arians is monitoring closely, according to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com:
“He still has to pass the protocol,” Arians said. “We're waiting to make sure. They're not going to take any chances with him right now. He'll be fine, I think, by game time, but he still has to pass the second part once he gets activity.”
Even with a high volume of catches, Fitzgerald hasn't topped 100 yards since Week 6. Explosiveness is needed in order to beat the Seattle secondary, and he doesn't have it right now. Add in the fact that he will be blanketed by Richard Sherman along with the concussion, and Fitz is a very risky play.
Week 16 Fantasy Projection: Three receptions for 38 yards
Start: Martellus Bennett (CHI)
The Chicago Bears tight end has been a borderline fantasy starter all season long, and his owners have played the guessing game in terms of when to play him and when to sit him. It's tough to predict since Martellus Bennett's production is so erratic, but he has some potential in Week 16. He is coming off a six-catch, 71-yard performance in Week 15, and he should exploit a fairly generous matchup this week.
The Bears are facing the Philadelphia Eagles, who are No. 31 in the league against the pass. Quarterback Jay Cutler being back in the fold for Chicago is also good for Bennett, who was at his best early in the season with Cutler throwing to him.
Bennett has just two touchdown catches since grabbing two of them in Week 2, so there is no doubt that he missed Cutler. Don't be surprised if Bennett ends his touchdown drought in Week 16.
Week 16 Fantasy Projection: Five receptions for 68 yards and one touchdown
Sit: Marcedes Lewis (JAC)
Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis made the Pro Bowl in 2010 when he caught 10 touchdown passes, but he has struggled to produce at the same level ever since. The 2013 campaign has largely been a poor one for him, but that has changed over the past three weeks. He nabbed a touchdown in Week 15 against the Buffalo Bills, which marked his third in as many weeks, according to Mark Long of The Associated Press:
It's nice to see Lewis hitting his stride, but his output is too dependent upon touchdowns. He has topped 50 yards receiving just once this season, so he isn't going to score much for you in that department. He will also have to contend with a Tennessee Titans defense that has allowed a mere 13 passing touchdowns this year.
Lewis had three catches for 39 yards and no scores against the Titans in Week 10, and he won't top those numbers this time around.
Week 16 Fantasy Projection: Three receptions for 27 yards
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