Start’Em Sit’Em Week 16
If you are in the process of analyzing which players to depend on for your Week 16 lineups, then you are to be congratulated. Because you are now being rewarded for your extensive preparation through both the draft process and the regular season while managing to thrive despite the numerous hurdles that can occur as the year progresses. Now, the players that you have entrusted in your weekly lineups have performed sufficiently for your team to progress into your League Championship Game.
But even as you rightfully allow yourself to feel a certain degree of gratification, one last week of lineup management still awaits you. Fortunately, this Start’Em Sit’Em Week 16 column will assist as you finalize your lineups. As it is designed to provide a strategic approach toward recommending your best starts, along with the players that should be excluded. Since you are already depending upon the performers that you selected at the onset of your drafts, along with the consistent leaders in fantasy points, this column will not confiscate your precious time by discussing them here. Unless the recommendation is that you need to sit any off those players.
However, even though you already know how critical it is for you to invest time toward examining the individual matchups for each of the players on your rosters, make sure that you do not underestimate the situation if you have multiple players that will be confronted by formidable opponents. It is important that you remember that there is no guarantee that all of the players that have performed effectively during most weeks of the regular season, will automatically deliver the level of fantasy points that you have become accustomed to when they are contending with their difficult matchups.
Also, we have progressed beyond the need to keep a cluster of viable backups that you will never actually use affixed to your bench. While you should still make sure that you have an alternative option for any players that are contending with an injury, a formidable matchup, or are simply playing on Christmas night – yes, there are two games – you can also utilize multiple bench slots for any transactions that are designed to block your opponent from utilizing those players against you.
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Also, remember that the enhanced level of importance to this week’s planning process, and the various emotions that you might experience along the way, provide the most compelling aspects to being involved in fantasy football. Kickoffs are approaching, so let’s examine the players that are featured in this Gridiron Experts Start’em Sit’em Week 16 column. Remember to enjoy the games, and good luck to everyone in Week 16.
Week 16 Quarterbacks
Philip Rivers at Jets
Week 16 QB Start
Owners who have affixed Rivers into their starting lineups, had been the beneficiaries of an enjoyable sequence of highly productive performances entering Week 15. As he had accumulated at least two touchdowns in six of his last nine games while constructing a 6:0 touchdown to interception ratio, and averaging 366 YPG between Weeks 12-14. But his sustained assault on opposing pass defenses abruptly ended in Kansas City last Saturday night. When he manufactured 227 yards, managed just one touchdown, and tossed three unsightly interceptions against the Chiefs. It was his lowest output since Week 8, and was also the first time that he had registered multiple interceptions since Week 3. While his outing might have placed many of his owners seasons in peril, anyone who overcame his performance can still benefit from Rivers this week. He will have the opportunity to regroup against the highly vulnerable pass defense of the Jets. New York has surrendered the third most fantasy points to opposing signal callers, while also allowing 27 touchdowns through the air. As nine different quarterbacks have generated multiple touchdowns against this unit – Derek Carr (3), Kevin Hogan (2), Tom Brady (2), Matt Moore (2), Matt Ryan (2), Jay Cutler (2), Alex Smith (4), Drew Brees (2), and – Tyrod Taylor in two matchups (2/2). Rivers owners can focus their mental efforts on more problematic matchups on their rosters, and start him without hesitation.
Also Start: Ben Roethlisberger at Texans, Nick Foles vs. Raiders
Kirk Cousins vs. Broncos
Week 16 QB Sit
During a week in which a notable number of quarterbacks that will encounter challenging matchups should remain your lineups (Aaron Rodgers/Tom Brady), or should not be under consideration for inclusion in your Week 16 matchups (Jacoby Brissett/DeShone Kizer/Bryce Petty/Jameis Winston/Marcus Mariota) we will pivot to Cousins. He has been attempting to function with a depleted collection of weaponry, after systematically losing a succession of receiving options throughout the season, and the magnitude of his challenge in doing so has recently begun to impact his production.
While his season-long touchdown to interception ratio remains favorable (24:9), he has only manufactured an undistinguished 7:4 ratio since Week 12. Plus, he has only averaged 210 YPG in his last four contests, and just 173.5 YPG during his last two. A statistical surge is not forthcoming this week when Cousins must contend with a Denver unit that has surrendered the sixth-fewest fantasy points to signal callers since Week 10. The Broncos theoretically should have maintained unwavering residence among the league’s elite pass defenses. However, they have struggled at times during the year, which is underscored by the league-worst 26 touchdowns that they have allowed through the air. But they have not yielded a touchdown since Week 13, and both Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson will encounter difficulty gaining separation against Denver’s cornerbacks with any frequency. Which will reduce Cousins’ statistical ceiling below an acceptable level.
Also Sit: Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Jaguars, Derek Carr at Eagles
Week 16 Running Backs
Dion Lewis vs. Bills
Week 16 RB Start
Lewis has now been allotted double-digit carries in eight of New England’s last nine contests, after carrying 13 times last Sunday in Pittsburgh. Since he began operating in that consistent role, he has averaged 64 YPG, while producing three touchdowns. He has also amassed fantasy points as a receiver, although his contributions have been more erratic – 14 receptions/108 yards/1 touchdown. Lewis and Burkhead had functioned as the Patriots most viable options at the running back position, as Burkhead also garnered double-digit touches in five of six contests between 8-14. However, his unfortunate injury (sprained knee) creates a cavernous opportunity for Lewis to absorb additional workload, and he should thrive in this expanded role. Versus a Buffalo run defense that has allowed the most touchdowns (19), yielded the most rushing yards (781), and surrendered the most fantasy points to opposing backs. The Bills have been gashed consistently throughout the season by a collection of runners that includes Tevin Coleman (144 total yards), Doug Martin (80 total yards), DeAndre Washington (88 total yards/1 touchdown), Mark Ingram (131 rushing yards/3 touchdowns), Alvin Kamara (138 total yards/1 touchdown), Melvin Gordon (80 rushing yards/1 touchdown), Frank Gore (130 rushing yards), Kenyan Drake (113 total yards), along with Burkhead (103 total yards/2 touchdowns), and Lewis (92 rushing yards) in Week 13. Lewis should replicate his previous yardage total, and deliver at least one touchdown to his owners. Who should be ecstatic with his output this week.
Alex Collins vs. Colts
Week 16 RB Start
From Weeks 6-15, Collins has been allotted a mammoth weekly workload, which supplied a level of consistency that any owner could realistically hope for –double-digit carries in 10 straight games, and 15.2 carries per game average during that sequence of contests. Which had also enabled him to average 69 YPG after ascending into his current role. But he delivered his worst outing of the year last Sunday against Cleveland, by accumulating a season-low 19 yards, and averaging a paltry 1.6 YPC with his 12 carries. Collins also failed to generate a touchdown for the first time since Week 9, even though he did garner a season-high five receptions. While his anemic output may have helped deliver a discouraging conclusion to the postseason aspirations of some owners, anyone who is preparing to play for their league championship still has sufficient reason for optimism this week. Because he should obliterate an overmatched Indianapolis defense that has plummeted to 29th against the run, and is now surrendering the fifth most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Since Week 6, this unit has been obliterated by a collection of runners who have achieved massive yardage on the ground – Derrick Henry (131 and 79) T.J. Yeldon (122) Le’Veon Bell (80), LeSean McCoy (156), C.J. Anderson (158). Collins is clearly the recipient of an extremely favorable matchup that should make opponents cringe when they survey your Week 16 lineup.
Also Start: Kareem Hunt vs. Dolphins, Theo Riddick at Bengals
Carlos Hyde vs. Jaguars
Week 16 RB SitHyde has averaged 14.5 carries and 18 touches per game while performing in all 14 contests this season. But the systematic siphoning of touches by rookie Matt Breida has been concerning, even though Hyde’s usage as a receiving option somewhat offset that factor. However, Hyde has only been targeted three times during San Francisco’s last two contests. As the ascension of Jimmy Garoppolo under center has improved the 49er offense but has reduced the number of opportunities that Hyde is provided to deliver fantasy points for his owners. That factor became an even larger issue in Week 15 when Hyde manufactured just 25 yards on his 16 carries (1.6 YPC). His anemic output does not instill confidence that he can be utilized this week. Nor does his matchup with a Jacksonville run defense that has yielded the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs since Week 12. As they have only allowed one runner to exceed 66 yards since Week 6 while limiting the yardage totals of Frank Gore (34), Joe Mixon (31), Melvin Gordon (27), Isaiah Crowell (18), and Lamar Miller (32). Hyde will encounter difficulty surpassing those insufficient numbers on the ground, and owners can no longer depend on receiving yardage to expand his output. That is an undesirable combination that should be avoided during critical Week 16 matchups.
Jamaal Williams vs. Vikings
Week 16 RB Sit
After commandeering 95 carries from Weeks 10-14 (19 attempts per game), Williams certainly appeared to have seized the Packers’ feature back role. As he had also rumbled for 352 rushing yards during that span, while attaining 69 yards as a receiver in both Weeks 12 and 14. However, he only carried 10 times, while manufacturing devastatingly low 30 yards against Carolina last Sunday. Which provided just the latest cautionary tale regarding the usage of Green Bay’s theoretical lead backs. After managing just a 3.0 YPC average versus the Panthers, Williams has now failed to exceed 3.4 YPC in five of his last six games, Which does not instill confidence that he can be trusted during this week’s daunting matchup against Minnesota. He will be confronted by a Viking run defense that ranks second, and has surrendered the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. Despite unexpectedly yielding 103 yards and three touchdowns to Jonathan Stewart in Week 13, this unit has only permitted a grand total of four in their other 14 contests combined. Plus, Minnesota has only allowed two rushers to surpass 64 yards since Week 5. This will be a highly challenging assignment for Williams, and deploying him will place your fantasy team at risk of receiving disappointing production at an extremely inopportune time.
Also Sit: Marshawn Lynch at Eagles, Peyton Barber at Panthers
Week 16 Wide Recievers
Sterling Shepard at Cardinals
Week 16 WR Start
Shepard owners were understandably disappointed heading into Week 15, in the aftermath of his disappointing production in Week 14. As the second-year receiver only collected two of his microscopic three targets, while manufacturing only 16 yards. However, there is a significant reason for optimism prior to Shepard’s Week 16 matchup. After he generated 139 yards while garnering 11 of his season-high 16 targets for 139 yards last Sunday against the Eagles. It was the third time this season that he has exceeded 130 yards, and the games in which he has achieved those favorable yardage totals, also happen to be the only matchups this season in which he has been targeted at least 10 times. There should be massive incentive for Eli Manning to locate Shepard extensively again this week when he lines up against an Arizona pass defense that has been consistently overmatched in slot coverage throughout the season – which is where Shepard should be deployed on most of his routes. Golden Tate (107), Nelson Agholor (93), Doug Baldwin (95), Bruce Ellington (63), Eric Decker (56), Adam Humphries (51), Jamison Crowder (55), and Cooper Kupp twice (68/51), have all stockpiled yardage against the Cardinals, and Shepard is primed to join that list. Enabling owners to enjoy the boost to their scoring totals when he does.
Juju Smith-Schuster / Martavis Bryant at Texans
Week 16 WR Start
When Smith-Schuster returned to the Steeler lineup in Week 15, he delivered a reminder of his game-breaking potential by exploding for a 69-yard catch-and-run late in the fourth quarter against New England. It was the second time that he has surpassed 100 yards this season, and Smith-Schuster has now produced at least 97 yards in three of his last five games. This week he will be operating as Pittsburgh’s WR1 and should eclipse 100 yards once again. While owning Bryant does not provide the same level of assurance to his owners, he has a certain albeit unextraordinary level of consistency since Week 12. As he has collected at least four receptions in each of Pittsburgh’s last four games while averaging 43 YPG and generating two touchdowns. Both receivers have an excellent opportunity to scorch an increasingly vulnerable Houston defense that has already yielded 23 touchdowns, while also surrendering the eighth most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. The Texans have repeatedly yielded noteworthy production while attempting coverage on the perimeter and within the slot and were just scorched for 247 yards and three touchdowns by Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens in Week 15. This unit will be particularly susceptible to big plays from Smith-Schuster inside, where he is fully capable of exploding for significant yardage and a touchdown. Meanwhile, it may require a modicum of courage to elevate Bryant into your lineup. But the belief from here is that he will accumulate at least 50 yards on five receptions, and is a strong candidate to discover the end zone.
Also Start: Dede Westbrook / Keelan Cole at 49ers, Robert Woods / Cooper Kupp at Titans
Jamison Crowder vs. Broncos
Week 16 WR Sit
Crowder primarily delivered only massive disappointment to his owners earlier this season, when he failed to exceed 28 yards in four of Washington’s initial six contests. But since returning from a hamstring injury in Week 10, he has averaged over eight targets per game. Which has enabled him to accrue 31 receptions, average 74 YPG, and generate two touchdowns. That includes his output against the Cardinals in Week 15 when he assembled 55 yards and a touchdown with his five receptions. But even though he has evolved into Washington’s most dependable receiver, while increasingly becoming a reliable option for his owners, this week’s matchup should provide reason for pause if Crowder resides on your roster. As he will be running routes versus the smothering presence of Chris Harris Jr. Who has routinely quashed the potential production of virtually anyone he encounters in coverage once again this season. Including his matchups with Cole Beasley (33 yards), Nelson Agholor (36 yards), Danny Amendola (36 yards), and Keenan Allen in both Week 1 (35 yards/1 touchdown), and Week 7 (41 yards). This statement hardly represents breaking news. But it should as a warning to avoid using Crowder. As there is no reason to expose your team to the minimal production that he is destined to provide.
Marquise Goodwin vs. Jaguars
Week 16 WR Sit
The fifth-year receiver has now functioned as San Francisco’s WR1 during the team’s last six contests, while collecting 31 receptions, and averaging 91 YPG during that sequence of games. Goodwin has also eclipsed 100 yards in each of the last two outings, and just established new season highs in receptions (10), and yardage (114). While all of this builds a compelling case towards starting him this week, none of the numbers occurred while Goodwin was facing an opposing pass defense that can completely neutralize opposing receivers. However, that will undoubtedly be the case this week, when he is confronted by the league’s premier pass defense. Not only has Jacksonville been anchored to the #1 ranking throughout essentially the entire season, but they have also surrendered the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers on a weekly basis. The Jaguars have only permitted seven touchdowns to receivers all season, while massively limiting the production of nearly every wideout not named Antonio Brown. With Rishard Matthews (43), Jeremy Maclin (8), T.Y. Hilton (27), A.J. Green (6), and Larry Fitzgerald (12), among the more prominent names on the list of opponents that could only deliver modest yardage totals against this unit. Goodwin has been an outstanding late-season resource for owners, but his production will be severely reduced during this week’s daunting matchup.
Also Sit: Robby Anderson vs. Chargers, T.Y. Hilton at Ravens
Week 16 Tight Ends
Jesse James at Texans
Week 16 TE Start
If you are one of the fortunate owners who have a trustworthy option at tight end, then you are already starting him this week. If not, then you among the those who are disenchanted with their situation at the position, them you must now locate a streaming option, amid the often torturous weekly process of examining who is available to function in that role. If you are currently undertaking an urgent search with that specific goal in mind, there are several factors that should elevate James into consideration. First, he should join Smith-Schuster and Bryant in absorbing some of the 12 targets per game that Antonio Brown was garnering for the Steelers. While it is not a precise comparison, James did capture 13 of his 16 targets, while accumulating 129 yards in Weeks 12-14, when Ben Roethlisberger’s options were depleted due to Smith-Schuster’s absence from the lineup. He will also have the opportunity to run routes against a Houston pass defense that has surrendered the fifth most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Since Week 8, the Texans have yielded notable production to Jimmy Graham (39 yards/2 touchdowns), Jack Doyle (63 yards), Ricky Seals-Jones (54 yards/2 touchdowns), Delanie Walker (63 yards/1 touchdown), and Garrett Celek (67 yards/1 touchdown), and will be equally vulnerable during this week’s matchup. Houston’s unsightly resume cannot be ignored, which presents James as a viable streaming option for anyone who is in need.
Also Start: Adam Shaheen vs. Browns, Ricky Seals-Jones vs. Giants
Jared Cook at Eagles
We will now continue with virtually everyone’s most problematic roster position. When Cook assembled 290 yards during Oakland’s three matchups from Weeks 7-9, he appeared to have become one of Derek Carr’s preferred weapons. At that point, there was legitimate reason to believe that he was capable of sustaining production that could approach the level that he had delivered during that three-game stretch. However, in Weeks 12-13, he proceeded to manufacture a grand total of two receptions for 11 yards in both games combined. Despite the fact that he had been the recipient of two outstanding matchups against the Broncos and Giants. He manufactured equally substandard production last Sunday against the Cowboys – (2 receptions/17 yards) even though he did score an apparent touchdown that was reversed due to a highly questionable interception penalty. Still, it is extremely difficult to envision Cook supplying owners with favorable output this week. As he will be contending with a Philadelphia defensive unit that has recently been as stringent in their coverage of tight ends as they have at limiting production at other positions throughout the season. Since Week 10, the Eagles have yielded the fourth fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. As Jason Witten (7) Adam Shaheen (1), Jimmy Graham (26), have all been neutralized during that sequence of games. Meanwhile, the 87 that were generated by Evan Engram in Week 15, will not be replicated by Cook when he lines up against this unit on Sunday. As neither he, nor the Oakland offense has demonstrated the level of reliability that you need during your critical Week 16 matchups.
Also Sit: Charles Clay at Patriots, O.J. Howard / Cameron Brate at Panthers
Phil is a proud Hoosier, who relocated in Nebraska, and began playing fantasy football nearly 20 years ago. In his first ever draft, he had the third overall pick and selected Barry Sanders. That choice was instantly mocked by several other owners, but Sanders ultimately scored 14 touchdowns and generated 2,358 total yards during an exceptional season. That instantly taught Phil a very important lesson – even though none of us will forecast with 100% accuracy, you should follow your gut instincts whenever you truly believe in a player. Phil began his writing career with RotoWire, later joined Fanball, and has since returned home to the Gridiron Experts. He remains firmly convinced that the key to happiness can be found through a subscription to the Sunday Ticket.