Fantasy Football Week 16: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystDecember 23, 2021

Fantasy Football Week 16: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    It used to be that the week of Christmas meant the end of the line in fantasy leagues. But with the NFL bumping out the regular season a week, Week 16 now means semifinals instead of championship games.

    That doesn't mean the pressure has abated any, though. In fact, after last week, it may be worse.

    To be blunt, Week 15 was a nightmare. Between injuries, COVID postponements and just plain-old faceplants, scores were way down in many games last week. Low NFL scores mean low fantasy scores. And low fantasy scores this time of year get you bounced from the postseason.

    Sunday night's debacle in Tampa Bay may have wrecked more fantasy playoff runs than any single game I can remember—and I've been doing this for well over a decade.

    Fantasy managers who did manage to eke out a win (or who had a first-round bye) are understandably antsy about the week to come. Only four teams remain in most leagues. All those teams are good. If you can't squeeze every point possible out of your roster, then all the work over the last several months will have been for nothing.

    It's enough to Grinch up Christmas. Make Cindy Lou Who go boo-hoo-hoo.

    This column aims to put the jolly back in your holly.

    As is the case every week here at Bleacher Report, I have sorted through fantasy lineup questions on the B/R app and chosen some that should assist both the fantasy managers who posed them and others in getting their Week 16 lineups together.

    Let's get this sleigh in the air.

The Kelce Konundrum

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    John Cordes/Associated Press

    Have (Travis) Kelce on the COVID list…HELP! -- @Skiba182

    This feels like a good place to start this week's mailbag, although it's a rotten place to start this week's mailbag.

    Sadly, fantasy championships may well be decided more by which managers avoid players landing on the COVID-19 list than by who has the better roster given the havoc the omicron variant is wreaking right now.

    And of all the players to lose, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce may be the worst hit a team could take—especially after his massive stat line a week ago. The edge that Kelce affords fantasy squads at tight end is what got many teams this far to begin with.

    As it happens, this is a problem I have as well in multiple leagues. So I'll use one of them as a barometer for what tight ends might be available on the waiver wire—while hoping that Kelce somehow clears the NFL's protocols ahead of Sunday.

    Because the available options ain't especially pretty.

    Hunter Henry, New England Patriots: An option like Henry is a best-case scenario given the upside he displayed with last week's two-touchdown game against the Colts. But Henry draws a brutal Week 16 matchup with Buffalo, and he has been touchdown-dependent for his fantasy production this season.

    Ricky Seals-Jones, Washington Football Team: Seals-Jones isn't available in the league I'm in, but he's on enough waiver wires to merit discussion. The 26-year-old has shown some upside filling in for Logan Thomas, catching at least four passes in four games this season.

    James O'Shaughnessy, Jacksonville Jaguars: Going from Kelce to the Jaguars tight end is enough to drive one to spike the egg nog—a lot. But Trevor Lawrence has targeted tight ends with some frequency this season, and O'Shaughnessy's four catches for 60 yards last week (and 10 PPR fantasy points) may well be about as good as it's going to get.

Funky Flexes

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    .5 PPR. DeVonta Smith, Michael Carter, Chuba Hubbard, Amon-Ra St. Brown. Thank You!!! -- @daveharvey

    Well, this group of flex options is…something.

    Generally speaking, I tend to defer to running backs in flex decisions—especially in leagues that don't offer a full point for catches. The reasoning is simple—running backs touch the ball more often than wideouts. Touches equal opportunity.

    But the first player we're going to rule out here is a running back. Chuba Hubbard of the Carolina Panthers may be the team's lead back with Christian McCaffrey out. But the youngster loses passing-down work to Ameer Abdullah, and this week's matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is absolutely brutal.

    Opportunity (or lack of it) is also why DeVonta Smith of the Philadelphia Eagles is out. For all his talent, Smith hasn't had six targets, four catches or over 40 yards in a game since Week 11. The rookie hasn't scored since Week 10. The Eagles just aren't throwing the ball enough.

    New York Jets running back Michael Carter has shown flashes of considerable upside this year, including three straight games with over 80 yards from scrimmage earlier in the season. But in his return from injury a week ago, Carter had just eight carries for 18 yards, and as bad as the Jacksonville Jaguars have been this year, they are a bottom-10 fantasy matchup for opposing running backs in 2021.

    The play here is Detroit Lions wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown. The rookie has emerged as the No. 1 passing-game option for the Lions in recent weeks, catching at least eight passes and topping 70 yards in three straight games. In two of those games, St. Brown found the end zone.

    Nothing says postseason success like the Detroit Lions. Am I right?   

    The Call: Amon-Ra St. Brown

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Down 20 in the first round, so I'm willing to risk everything. 2 RB, 2 WR and a FLEX. (Alvin) Kamara, (David) Montgomery, (Miles) Sanders, Diontae (Johnson), Hollywood (Brown), (Brandon) Aiyuk, AB84 (Antonio Brown), Amon-Ra St. Brown?

    There are few things in fantasy football worse than waiting for the second half of a two-week playoff game when you're losing. It's less fun than being visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve.

    Was that a reach? It felt like a reach.

    At running back, you have to put last week's dud out of your head and start Alvin Kamara of the Saints. This week's matchup with Miami isn't much better than last week's tilt with Tampa. But you can't sit the No. 4 running back in PPR points per game.

    At the other running back spot, go with the hotter hand in the better matchup—Miles Sanders of the Philadelphia Eagles has hit 120 rushing yards in two straight and draws a New York Giants defense in Week 16 that has given up the ninth-most PPR points to running backs this season.

    At wide receiver, Marquise Brown of the Ravens is catching lots of passes, but he hasn't hit 60 receiving yards since Week 9 and hasn't scored since Week 7. He's out. There's some risk to starting Antonio Brown in his first game back, but with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans hurt, the Tampa wideout could see a massive target share against the Panthers.

    You need that ceiling. He's in.

    The second wide receiver spot comes down to Pittsburgh's Diontae Johnson and Detroit's Amon-Ra St. Brown—Brandon Aiyuk's one-catch Week 15 puts him on the bench. As hot as St. Brown has been of late, Johnson is seventh in PPR points per game among receivers for the season. Pittsburgh is going to have to throw this week against the Kansas City Chiefs—Johnson gets spot No. 2.

    The flex slot is a battle between St. Brown and Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery. And given that Montgomery faces a Seattle defense that leads the NFC in fantasy points per game allowed to running backs, it's a battle that ends quickly.

    Follow the touches and go with a third running back.

    The Call: Alvin Kamara, Miles Sanders, Antonio Brown, Diontae Johnson, David Montgomery

Floor vs. Ceiling

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    Fantasy title hopes on the line. Need to choose between Stefon Diggs and CeeDee Lamb for my second receiver spot, and then between the one you didn't choose and Miles Sanders at flex. .25 PPR. Thank you! -- @st99

    These are two really tough calls. And who the heck is your other wide receiver that you're picking between Stefon Diggs of the Bills and CeeDee Lamb of the Cowboys?

    Must be nice.

    From a matchup perspective, Lamb has a sizable advantage. Dallas hosts a Washington team allowing the second-most PPR points to receivers, while Buffalo is on the road at a Patriots team giving up the second-fewest. Lamb also has the edge in terms of production in his first meeting with Washington, although given the terrible weather when the Bills hosted the Pats a few weeks ago, that may not matter much.

    However, the Dallas passing game has been pretty mediocre in recent weeks. And with Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders both potentially missing Sunday's game, Diggs' already robust target share could be that much higher. Add in that Diggs roasted the Patriots in two meetings in 2020, and the edge here (albeit a narrow one) goes to Diggs.

    The flex call is all about tolerance for risk. Given Lamb's favorable matchup in prime time Sunday, he has a better chance of finding the end zone this week than Miles Sanders of the Eagles. But even in a timeshare with Jordan Howard, Sanders has 20 or more touches each of the past two games heading into a favorable matchup of his own with the Giants.

    That considerably higher floor is too appealing for me to pass up. But if you feel like an underdog this week that needs every point it can possibly get, Lamb is the risk/reward play.

    Benching CeeDee Lamb. Didn't expect to give that advice this week.

    The Call: Stefon Diggs, Miles Sanders

Need Two Times Two

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Appreciate the advice all year. Somehow still alive after losing CMC, Carson, Hopkins, Godwin and Hockenson. Full PPR need 2: (Jaylen) Waddle, (Terry) McLaurin, (Brandin) Cooks, DJ Moore. Need 2: (Kareem) Hunt, (James) Robinson, (Miles) Sanders, (Rashaad) Penny, (Rhamondre) Stevenson. HELP! -- @RobbieGQ

    That's quite the list of walking wounded. But overcoming injuries is one of the keys to fantasy success. At some point in the season, just about every team goes through it.

    At wide receiver, DJ Moore of the Panthers has the fewest questions surrounding him—Jaylen Waddle missed Miami's last game and was just activated off the COVID-19 list, while McLaurin has issues under center with Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen both in the COVID-19 protocols. And Cooks landed on the list Wednesday.

    With that said, the Carolina passing game is barely passable—so much so that Moore is out if Heinicke or Allen make it back in time for Sunday night's game. Waddle and McLaurin may be a bit risky, but their upside is substantially higher.

    At running back, James Robinson of the Jaguars has top-five upside in Week 16—he tied a season high with 18 carries last week in Darrell Bevell's first game as interim head coach and gets a Jets team allowing the most PPR points per game to running backs this year.

    Kareem Hunt of the Browns is banged up and an easy pass even if he does play. Rashaad Penny got nicked up against the Rams and underwhelmed—he sits too. Rhamondre Stevenson of the Patriots could share carries with Damien Harris and faces a stout Bills defense. He's out too.

    We have already mentioned the recent hot streak Miles Sanders has been on. And his favorable fantasy matchup with the Giants. With the Eagles rushing for at least 175 yards in each of the past seven games, he's a fairly easy call in the second running back spot. 

    The Call: Terry McLaurin, Jaylen Waddle, James Robinson, Miles Sanders

Never Say Never

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    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    Full PPR. (Antonio) Gibson, (Joe) Mixon), Ronald Jones, Miles Sanders, Michael Carter. I need 3. -- @madaeroom

    The first two spots here are fairly easy to fill. At this point, there's not much more that can be said about Miles Sanders, other than he's a Taurus who enjoys jazz music and long walks through the park.

    The first part is accurate. The second maybe not so much.

    The Baltimore Ravens lead the NFL in run defense, allowing just 86.2 yards per game. The team also ranks in the bottom half of the league in PPR points allowed to running backs. But Joe Mixon of the Bengals is fifth in points among running backs for the season and averaged almost five yards a carry with a touchdown against Baltimore in Week 7.

    Provided Mixon's balky ankle doesn't sideline him Sunday, he's a go.

    In the third spot, Michael Carter of the Jets is out—both his workload and matchup leave much to be desired. Washington's Antonio Gibson ranks in the top 10 in RB points for the season, but he has a toe injury and gets a Dallas Cowboys team giving up the eighth-fewest PPR points to running backs.

    To be fair, Ronald Jones II of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has an even worse matchup—no team in the league has been stingier to running backs in 2021 than the Carolina Panthers. But given all the Bucs' injuries, Jones should be a focal point in a game Tampa will probably be playing from ahead.

    The third and final spot is his.

    The Call: Miles Sanders, Joe Mixon, Ronald Jones II

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Need a win bad PPR league, don't have to start a TE. Need to start 3: (Christian) Kirk, Amari Cooper, (Russell) Gage, (Dallas) Goedert, (Tee) Higgins -- @ozziedog

    The title of this entry really has nothing to do with the query itself. Just wanted to take a moment to wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.

    We'll kick this one off with an easy "go." Amari Cooper of the Dallas Cowboys has been something of a disappointment in 2021—the 27-year-old ranks in middling WR3 territory in both total points and fantasy points per game. But he hasn't been as big a disappointment as the Washington defense, and with only one team surrendering more fantasy points to receivers, that matchup gets Cooper in the lineup.

    The Philadelphia Eagles are running the ball more than any team in the NFL, but that hasn't stopped Dallas Goedert from going off of late. Over his last two games, Goedert has been targeted 15 times, catching 13 passes for 240 yards and two scores. In terms of points per game since Week 13, the only wide receivers with more are Cooper Kupp and Davante Adams.

    Choosing one of the three remaining receivers for the final spot is a tad trickier. After three straight 100-yard games, Tee Higgins of the Bengals came back to earth last week, so we'll rule him out.

    That leaves us with two wide receivers and one starting spot—and another matter of floor vs. ceiling. The ceiling play is Arizona's Christian Kirk, who is the Cardinals' primary downfield threat with DeAndre Hopkins out. The floor play is Atlanta's Russell Gage. Gage isn't the vertical threat that Kirk is, but he's soaking up targets of late.

    Those targets (29 over the last three weeks) and Gage's status as the No. 7 fantasy receiver over that span win the day here. 

    The Call: Amari Cooper, Dallas Goedert, Russell Gage

DraftKings DFS Question of the Week

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    With so many of the big-name tight ends either unavailable or injured, who is the best play at the position in the DraftKings Week 16 Fantasy Football Millionaire Contest? -- @RodTidwell

    It is indeed a rough week at the tight end spot in DFS. Kansas City's Travis Kelce is on the COVID-19 list. Darren Waller of the Raiders is still hurt and iffy at best to play. San Francisco's George Kittle plays Thursday night. Even Dalton Schultz of the Cowboys isn't available to DFS managers for this contest—he plays Sunday night.

    Ugh and double ugh.

    The easy answer here is to crack open the proverbial DK wallet and shell out the big bucks for Mark Andrews [DK DFS VALUE: $7,000] of the Baltimore Ravens. Andrews is coming off a gargantuan effort in last week's loss to the Green Bay Packers—10 catches for 136 yards and two scores. That came after 11 receptions for 115 yards and a score the week before against Cleveland. Andrews is also tied with Kelce for the most targets among tight ends (122).

    With that said, Andrews isn't risk-free—the return of Lamar Jackson could cut into a target share that was off the chain under Tyler Huntley, and the Bengals limited Andrews to a 3/48/0 line on seven targets in their first matchup with the Ravens.

    If Andrews' price tag is too rich for your blood and/or you're looking to pay up at another position, then go with Dallas Goedert [DK DFS VALUE: $5,100] of the Philadelphia Eagles. Like Andrews, Goedert has been on quite the rip the past two weeks. Like Andrews, Goedert has become the team's de facto No. 1 receiver.

    The lower salary affords a lot more cheese to spend on other positions—the difference between say Atlanta's Cordarrelle Patterson at running back and Tevin Coleman of the Jets.

    The Call: Mark Andrews, Dallas Goedert

Rapid Fire

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Just as we do every week, we'll wrap up this week's Start/Sit column by ho-ho-handling some answers to app user questions in rapid-fire style.

    The holidays are all about giving, after all.

    Have more Start/Sit questions? Leave them in the comments. I try to spend a few hours there on Friday and/or Saturday, answering as many as possible.

    Full PPR: Mike Williams or Michael Pittman Jr.? -- @RawDawgTTP

    We won't get into Pittman's Week 15 turkey, because I'm not bitter. The problem is that it isn't his only one of late—the Colts receiver hasn't found the end zone since Week 9 and has one game with 10-plus PPR points over the past month. Mike Williams of the Chargers definitely has some "boom/bust" qualities, but he's tallied a dozen or more PPR points in three of five with two games of 15-plus. He's the call here.

    Decisions, decisions. Need an RB2 and a Flex between (Rashaad) Penny, (Michael) Carter, Amon-Ra St. Brown, A.J. Brown and (Brandin) Cooks. Thanks as always for the advice. -- @amitagutnicki

    Given the unappealing choice here at running back, the flex play is going to be one of the wide receivers. A.J. Brown is iffy to play and a risky start after a long layoff, leaving a call between St. Brown and Cooks. The former has the better matchup, but the latter has been more productive over the season as a whole. However, Cooks' placement on the COVID-19 list likely makes St. Brown the play by default. The running backs are a mess, but after watching Penny get dinged up in a bad outing against the Rams, Carter is (ugh) the better play of the two.

    I have (Antonio) Gibson and Lenny (Fournette). I can slide (Cordarrelle) Patterson to RB. Who on the waiver wire can I pick up? -- @JayeMadeOff

    Given the workload he'll see in Fournette's stead, Ronald Jones II of the Buccaneers is easily the No. 1 waiver add in the backfield this week. Elijah Mitchell of the 49ers isn't expected to play Thursday, which sets up Jeff Wilson Jr. as the team's lead back once again. With Austin Ekeler on the COVID-19 list, Justin Jackson of the Chargers could see a big workload against Houston on Sunday. Ditto for Cincinnati's Samaje Perine if Joe Mixon's ankle becomes an issue.


    .5 PPR and need 2 flex out of D'Onta Foreman, Damien Harris, Michael Carter and Gabriel Davis. -- @corey_mus12

    There's been enough said about Carter here to make it clear he's a desperation play at best in Week 16. Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis has been hot with Emmanuel Sanders out, but he's a risky play in a terrible fantasy matchup this week. With D'Onta Foreman serving as the lead back for the Titans with Derrick Henry out and Damien Harris back at practice and on track to play Sunday, those two running backs are both the best and safest starts of this group.


    Zeke (Ezekiel Elliott) or (Saquon) Barkley? -- @wescassidy

    New York's Saquon Barkley was a first-round pick in many leagues this year, but he hasn't played like one—Barkley still hasn't had a single game this season with even 65 rushing yards. Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys hasn't hit that benchmark either since Week 6, but he found the end zone on the ground last week and gets a Washington team Sunday that just allowed 238 rushing yards to the Eagles.


    Flex 1 (DK) Metcalf or (Ja'Marr) Chase? RB2 Williams or (Rashaad) Penny? -- @popwarrior1

    I'm admittedly not sure if this person meant Detroit's Jamaal Williams or Denver's Javonte Williams. If it's the latter he's light-years ahead of Penny, and even the former could be preferable after Penny's clunker against the Rams. While you're staying away from Seahawks, sit Metcalf as well—the Seattle passing game has completely fallen apart, and Chase had eight catches for a whopping 201 yards the first time the Bengals played the Ravens this season.


    DeVonta Smith or (Rashaad) Penny? -- @rbadesha

    Um, neither? I'm not joking—if you can get a hold of Ronald Jones II, Jeff Wilson Jr. or a wideout like Amon-Ra St. Brown, I'd start all of them ahead of these two jokers. If you can't, start Smith and hope against hope that the Eagles wideout gets behind the Giants defense for a long one. There's just no scenario in which starting Penny against a decent Bears defense isn't a terrible idea.


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    Fantasy points allowed and scoring data courtesy of My Fantasy League.

    Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @IDPSharks.