Start 'Em or Sit 'Em for Fantasy Football Week 16

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystDecember 19, 2019

Start 'Em or Sit 'Em for Fantasy Football Week 16

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    It's finally here: the culmination of months of draft preparation and lineup and roster management. In the majority of fantasy football leagues, only two teams remain standing.

    By the time the dust settles Monday night in Minneapolis, one of those teams will be a champion.

    This is a one-week season. It can only end in one of two ways: victory or defeat. There is no tomorrow and no future to worry about. There's only the present. Only Week 16.

    To say that each lineup decision in Week 16 is important is a massive understatement. Every lineup call—every single fantasy point—can be the difference between a championship and months of wondering what could have been.

    I'm here to help.

    Just as I have every week during the 2019 season, I've gone through the start/sit questions on the Bleacher Report app and picked some that will offer help with players who could be set to blow up or just blow. They're the players who can win you a championship or cost you one.

    Let's go get that trophy.

                                             

    Still can't figure out your fantasy football lineup for the week? Check out Your Fantasy Fire Drill with Matt Camp, and he'll solve your problems live. Submit your questions, and tune in every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET, only on the B/R app.

Avoiding the Cute Trap

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    It's good to resist the urge to get cute this late in the season. Many a fantasy season has been derailed because a manager eschewed starting a player who helped get them this far for the flavor of the week.

    However, in this case—at least under center—it isn't really getting cute.

    Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks has had a great season. He'd likely be named MVP this year were it not for Lamar Jackson's breakout season. But from a fantasy perspective, Wilson has cooled way off.

    Since Week 10, he ranks outside the top 20 quarterbacks in some scoring systems. Over that same span, only Jackson has more fantasy points under center than Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who just set an NFL record by passing for over 450 yards in consecutive games.

    Tight end is an easy call. The Baltimore Ravens' Mark Andrews has been consistently ranked inside the top five for most of the season. Tampa's O.J. Howard, um, has not.

    The toughest call here is at wide receiver.

    With other viable options available, there's no need to gamble on a banged-up player, so DJ Chark Jr. of the Jacksonville Jaguars is out as he deals with an ankle sprain. Michael Gallup of the Dallas Cowboys should eclipse 1,000 receiving yards this year, but he's been held under 10 point-per-reception (PPR) fantasy points in three of his last four outings.

    That leaves Breshad Perriman, who has been thrust into the No. 1 wideout role for the Buccaneers by injuries to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

    Facing a porous Houston Texans defense, a Winston/Perriman stack should be a productive one.

    The Call: Winston, Perriman and Andrews

DON'T...GET...CUTE

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    And here we go. 

    This is it. This is the trap. This is getting too cute.

    Don't get me wrong. Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans is an excellent fantasy option, especially in Week 16 on Saturday against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that ranks 30th in the NFL against the pass. The Buccaneers have allowed 29 touchdown passes this season, which is sixth-most in the NFL. Tampa ranks fourth in the league in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks this season.

    But sitting Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens is not an option. Not now. Not after the season he's had in 2019.

    Yes, Jackson had one of his worst games of the year when the Ravens met the Cleveland Browns earlier this year. But since then, all the second-year pro has done is lock up the NFL's MVP award. He leads the league in touchdown passes with 33. He's thrown five in a game three times this season. His 1,103 rushing yards rank eighth in the NFL.

    He's also the No. 1 fantasy quarterback by a massive margin (over Watson).

    Does Watson have a better matchup? Yes, although Cleveland's defense was hardly lights-out last week in Arizona.

    But there is just no way you can sit the guy who got you this far to begin with. Not in Week 16. If you do, prepare to spend the next several months kicking yourself over a squandered title.

    The Call: Jackson

When Decisions Make Themselves

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    I guess I'd better watch my punctuation here.

    Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook played a crucial role in helping many fantasy managers make the playoffs this year. Over the first 13 weeks of the season, he trailed only Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers in PPR fantasy points among running backs.

    But with Cook nursing a shoulder injury and not playing until Monday night, the only way fantasy managers can afford to wait on him is if they have a Plan B going into the game between the Vikings and Green Bay Packers.

    Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints and Kenyan Drake of the Arizona Cardinals are starters by default unless we hear definitively that Cook is playing before Sunday's games kick off.

    It's a similar story at wide receiver with Washington's Terry McLaurin and DK Metcalf of the Seahawks. DJ Chark Jr. of the Jaguars appears to be improving and has a shot to play in Week 16, but trusting a player with a bad ankle when other viable options are available is asking to be disappointed.

    At tight end, New York's Evan Engram has been placed on injured reserve, so he's out. Fortunately, both Jacob Hollister of the Seahawks and Tyler Higbee of the Los Angeles Rams are excellent alternatives.

    The tiebreaker here is the matchup. Higbee gets a San Francisco 49ers team that has allowed the third-fewest PPR fantasy points to tight ends in 2019. Hollister and the Seahawks host an Arizona Cardinals squad that has given up the most by a sizable margin.

    The Call: Drake, Kamara, McLaurin, Metcalf, Hollister

The Underdog Blues

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    For what it's worth, I know the feeling of entering Week 16 as an underdog. In one championship game, I'm taking on a team that has both Lamar Jackson and Christian McCaffrey on the roster. No chance that ends badly.

    All you can do is try to roll out the best lineup you can and hope for the best. But if you know you're the underdog in a title game, it should provide motivation to consider taking more risks with your lineup. There's no difference between losing by 15 and falling by 50. A loss is a loss.

    If the last three games are any indication, Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams has established a decent fantasy floor. He's found the end zone in three straight outings. But he hasn't had even 70 receiving yards in a game since all the way back in Week 8. He's taken a backseat to Robert Woods in Los Angeles' pecking order at wide receiver.

    Were he completely healthy, Adam Thielen of the Minnesota Vikings would be an easy call. But last week was the first time since Week 6 that Thielen saw the field for more than a handful of snaps. There's also the matter of the matchup with the Green Bay Packers. Back in Week 2, he had just five catches for 75 yards at Lambeau Field.

    That's OK, but it isn't going to get you the upset.

    That leaves Courtland Sutton of the Denver Broncos. He's gone over 1,000 yards for the season, but he's been quiet recently with just nine catches for 113 yards over his last two games.

    However, Sutton and the Broncos host a Detroit Lions team on Sunday that has surrendered the second-most PPR fantasy points to wide receivers in 2019, and there's no question that he's the No. 1 target for Drew Lock in the Denver passing game.

    He's the best bet of this bunch for a big game.

    The Call: Sutton

So, Basically...

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    Let's run this one down position by position.

    At quarterback, the very notion of even considering Ryan Tannehill of the Tennessee Titans over Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers would have been considered outlandish before the season. But the numbers just haven't been there for Rodgers in head coach Matt LaFleur's offense, while Tannehill has been the third-ranked fantasy quarterback since Week 8.

    At running back, Devonta Freeman of the Atlanta Falcons has had the occasional moment, but he has just one rushing touchdown and zero 100-yard rushing games this year. Marlon Mack of the Indianapolis Colts has been more effective—or at least he was over the first 10 weeks of the season. But injuries and a floundering Colts offense have knocked off much of the shine over the past several weeks.

    That leaves San Francisco's Raheem Mostert, who has rushing scores in four straight games. The 27-year-old has seized the lead role for one of the NFL's best rushing attacks. He's the guy.

    At wide receiver, with all due respect to Dede Westbrook of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Deebo Samuel of the 49ers, this is a two-man race between Kenny Golladay of the Detroit Lions and Anthony Miller of the Chicago Bears.

    Were Matthew Stafford healthy, Golladay would be the guy. But with David Blough under center, Golladay has been a hit-or-miss fantasy option. Miller, on the other hand, has been scorching hot with 12 catches for 160 yards and two scores over the past two games.

    Finally, at tight end, O.J. Howard of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been a non-factor for most of the season. Jared Cook of the New Orleans Saints has been better, but he's still rather up-and-down. The play there is Jacob Hollister in a dream matchup with an Arizona Cardinals team that has routinely been torched by tight ends this season.

    The Call: Tannehill, Mostert, Miller, Hollister

Changing the Locks

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    At running back, Patrick Laird of the Miami Dolphins is most assuredly out. He has just one rushing touchdown and hasn't topped 50 rushing yards in a game this year. Pass.

    Miles Sanders of the Philadelphia Eagles, on the other hand, is in. He had the best game of his rookie season running the ball last week, chipped in 50 more yards on six catches and scored twice. He'll see a heavy workload again Sunday in a must-win game against the Dallas Cowboys.

    Raheem Mostert of the San Francisco 49ers gets a spot, too. Finding the end zone in four straight games tends to get one in the good graces of fantasy managers.

    Flipping to wide receiver, T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts just can't be trusted in this most important of weeks. The Colts can insist all they want that Hilton is OK, but he wouldn't have played limited snaps in last week's loss to the New Orleans Saints if that were true.

    Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots was invisible in Week 15. But in the two games preceding that vanishing act, he averaged seven catches for 101 yards and a score. He starts at wideout opposite Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams, who gets the second spot after scoring touchdowns in three straight games.

    The flex spot boils down to L.A.'s Todd Gurley, Devonta Freeman of the Atlanta Falcons and Kareem Hunt of the Cleveland Browns. Of that trio, Gurley is easily the hottest running back. Even in last week's blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys, he salvaged a good stat line with a couple of garbage-time scores.

    The Call: Sanders, Mostert, Gurley, Edelman and Kupp

The Squeaky Wheel

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    I'm not even going to ask how you made the playoffs with five wins. Points? Bribery? Blackmail? Whatever works.

    The important thing is that you're here. So let's get you that one last win.

    At quarterback, as I've said while answering other questions, Ryan Tannehill has been excellent for fantasy managers since taking over as the starter for the Tennessee Titans. But Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys has been a top-five fantasy quarterback for the season, and the Cowboys face a porous Philadelphia Eagles pass defense that's tied for the seventh-most passing touchdowns allowed (26) in 2019.

    Yes, Prescott was limited in practice Wednesday with a shoulder injury that required an MRI. But there's no way he's missing Sunday's must-win game. If he's active, he should be in fantasy lineups.

    At the flex spot, you know I tend to favor running backs where possible if you've been reading this column throughout the season. It's a matter of touches, which equate to opportunities for fantasy production.

    With James White of the New England Patriots, those touches fluctuate from week to week. James Conner is back in the lineup for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the New York Jets have been surprisingly stout against the run. No team in the AFC allows fewer rushing yards per game.

    That leaves Denver's Phillip Lindsay, who faces a reeling Detroit Lions team that ranks 18th in run defense and fourth in fantasy points allowed to the position this season.

    At wide receiver, I've already mentioned that Cooper Kupp has been good the past few weeks, but he hasn't been great. Meanwhile, Tennessee's A.J. Brown has been off the chain the past two weeks with 13 catches for 267 yards and three scores.

    Brown will likely draw Marshon Lattimore of the New Orleans Saints in coverage this week, but his fantasy ceiling is too tasty to resist, especially since Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots managed just four catches for 30 yards earlier this season against the Buffalo Bills and Christian Kirk of the Arizona Cardinals hasn't found the end zone since Week 10.

    The Call: Prescott, Lindsay, Brown

It's Good to Be Needed

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    I'm not going to sit here and say that the only reason I included this question was that the person asking it made a direct appeal to me. But it didn't hurt.

    It's a rather tricky one, though. That all three of these players have already been mentioned in this column demonstrates that each carries some uncertainty heading into this must-win week.

    When he's at his best, Adam Thielen of the Minnesota Vikings has top-10 fantasy upside. But he's still working his way back from a long layoff, played just over half of Minnesota's offensive snaps last week against the Los Angeles Chargers and didn't have the greatest stat line the first time the Vikings and Green Bay Packers met in 2019.

    Usually, I'd lean toward using one of the spots on Devonta Freeman, who's had over 20 touches in two of his last three games. But he also has just a single touchdown since Week 6 and is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry for the season.

    Then there's Anthony Miller, who hauled in nine passes for 118 yards and a score in last week's loss to the Packers. Miller has emerged as a favorite target of Mitchell Trubisky over the past couple of weeks, but he's the least proven option of this bunch.

    Freeman gets one spot here as the Atlanta Falcons host a Jacksonville Jaguars team on Sunday that leads the NFL in fantasy points allowed to running backs over the past month. The second spot is essentially a toss-up. Neither wideout has a favorable matchup.

    But if I'm rolling the dice, I'm going to do so on the player with elite upside. Thielen it is.

    The Call: Freeman and Thielen

Living the Stream

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    From the Bleacher Report App

    Of course, not every fantasy manager has the luxury of rostering Lamar Jackson or Deshaun Watson.

    If you've managed to get this deep into the season while streaming quarterbacks, then I tip my cap to you. But it's understandable to be perplexed this week. There's no margin for error, and every fantasy point could be the difference between glory and second place.

    No one cares about second place.

    Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders is out. He ranks outside the top 15 fantasy quarterbacks for the season, and the Los Angeles Chargers are a bottom-five fantasy matchup for the position. That's a hard pass.

    Mitchell Trubisky of the Chicago Bears is out, too. He may be forced into playing catch-up this week against the Kansas City Chiefs, and the matchup isn't terrible. But he has been far too inconsistent throughout 2019 to be trusted in the finals.

    That inconsistency is one of the reasons Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams is out, too. The biggest one, though, is a terrible fantasy matchup with a stout San Francisco 49ers defense that held him to 78 passing yards back in Week 6.

    That leaves Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Miami Dolphins, who's been on a nice roll of late and is seventh in fantasy points among quarterbacks over the last four weeks. That roll should continue Sunday against a Cincinnati Bengals team that ranks 29th in total defense and 10th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks in 2019.

    Fear the beard.

    The Call: Fitzpatrick

Rapid Fire

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    Now it's time for the Start/Sit version of the two-minute drill with some answers to questions from the Bleacher Report app, rapid-fire style.

       

    zaihus2 needs some flex help in a PPR league. "[Le'Veon] Bell, Kupp, Conner or Metcalf?"

    As much as I tend to prefer running backs in these situations, both Bell and Conner have bad matchups against the Steelers and Jets in Week 16. Metcalf's ceiling is higher against the Arizona Cardinals, but the smart play here is Kupp's stability and high floor, especially with the San Francisco secondary banged up.

        

    For hendobji187, it's picking a pass-catcher for Week 16. "John Brown, Dede Westbrook, John Ross or Dallas Goedert?"

    I hate Brown's matchup with the Patriots, but not enough to sit him for question marks like Westbrook or Ross, who is still rusty after an IR stint. With the Eagles' passing-game weapons ravaged by injuries, Goedert should see a good target share. The second spot is his.

       

    More wide receiver problems for Dnitts. "Two WR spots. Who do I start—[Tyler] Boyd, Chark, Golladay?"

    Boyd's an easy yes going up against what's left of the Miami secondary. Chark's injury is a concern, but so is Golladay's situation at quarterback. I'd lean toward the healthy player and Golladay, but it's close.

        

    mikeegee626 sent up an SOS at running back. (No, really…he did.) "[Devonta] Freeman against Jags or [Adrian] Peterson against Giants?"

    Peterson's a tempting option based purely on workload volume. But the Jaguars are second in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2019. So Freeman it is.

         

    It's a quarterback quandary for MBurse. "[Carson] Wentz or Jimmy G?"

    I'll confess I'm not enthusiastic about either of these quarterbacks. Garoppolo's had two down games in the last three weeks, and Wentz's passing-game weapons have been chewed to pieces. But the injuries in Philadelphia are just too much for me to ignore. I'd lean Garoppolo here, although not by much.

        

    martingembe has a good problem. "[Breshad] Perriman or Tyler Boyd?"

    Frankly, I'd look for a way to get both these players in the starting lineup. But forced to pick between the two, I'll go with Boyd against a Miami defense that's fourth in PPR fantasy points allowed to wideouts. Perriman had a huge Week 15—but it was just one game.

         

    Alex$Nguyen is just rubbing it in. "Pick three…[Saquon] Barkley, [Nick] Chubb, Bell, Mostert, [Miles] Sanders."

    Barkley and Chubb are must-starts. The latter leads the NFL in rushing, and the former is heating up at the perfect time. Bell's a pass in a bad matchup. Sanders and Mostert are a toss-up: Both have similarly middling matchups. Sanders gets the narrowest of edges—he should touch the ball a ton Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

         

    Finally, bogavan has a strategy question. "Should I start AJ Brown over Bell or [Tyler] Lockett if my opponent has Tannehill? Standard scoring."

    You can make an argument for starting Brown over Bell, although standard scoring favors running backs. But you should never make lineup decisions based on who your opponent does or doesn't have. Start the players you feel will net you the most fantasy points—period.

           

    Have other fantasy football start/sit questions? Post them here, on the Bleacher Report app or on Twitter @IDPSharks, and I'll do my best to help.

    Gary Davenport was the Fantasy Sports Writers Association 2017 Football Writer of the Year.

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