Cliff Notes - Week 16
by Jeff Haseley
December 19th, 2012

Get yourself caught up on what's going on around the league. This weekly column offers a look into my thoughts, visions and expectations for each team, particularly focusing on each team's fantasy outlook. I know there are a ton of Footballguys Insiders who will be playing for the Championship this week. Good luck to all of you. This will be the last Cliff Notes article of the year. Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts and opinions with you this season.

Arizona

The Cardinals have not had a touchdown pass since week nine! Let that sink in for a minute. Since their week ten bye week, they have 0 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions with Ryan Lindley and John Skelton at the helm. To make matters worse, Arizona has only had one game in the last four where a quarterback has exceeded 105 yards passing or more. Last week, Arizona won (beating Detroit) for the first time since week four. Only Arizona can score 38 points and not have a touchdown pass. Chris Wells is always good for at least one huge game each year. Last week was his "game of the year." The Bears come to town for week 16, which is not a good match up for Arizona. They do play better at home, but this is not the time to chase points with Wells. I would stay away from any Cardinals, they are just too inconsistent to rely on.

Atlanta

If Atlanta wants to go far in the playoffs, they will need to beat teams like the Lions (who just lost to Arizona). This week's match up at Detroit appears to be a tougher match up than you might expect. Yes it is a dome game, which helps Matt Ryan and company, however Detroit tends to play to the level of their opponent, especially at home. Roddy White (knee) has never missed a game in his career, however he was not his normal self last week vs. the Giants. His five targets was the lowest since week eight when he had four targets. White was among several stud receivers and backs who played poorly in week 15. If you have White and you're still alive, consider yourself lucky. I expect Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and White to be good starts this week. Anyone else is a gamble.

Baltimore

Outside of Dennis Pitta, Baltimore didn't have much in terms of fantasy value last week. For the second week in a row Torrey Smith had just three targets and wasn't a factor. He hasn't exceeded three receptions in the last three games. It's possible that will rise to the occasion vs. the Giants this week, but historically, he is not a reliable receiver. I'd rank him as a WR3 but not higher. Ray Rice has been up and down all year. It has become evident that if the Ravens trail early, he sees less attempts. Not knowing how the Giants will respond to their 34-0 shutout against the Falcons last week, it's hard to gauge Rice and his expected production. I still like him as a start this week and encourage you to play him. The Ravens have clinched a wild card, but not the division, which would cement a home game. They'll still be playing with some fight. Don't expect them to let their foot off the gas...just yet.

Buffalo

C.J. Spiller was effective against Miami earlier in the year (also when Fred Jackson was out). The Bills are playing their rival, on the road in a game with zero meaning. The Panthers, Raiders, Titans and Cardinals have recently come together with wins in meaningless games. Being that this is a rival game, I expect to see Buffalo put up a strong effort that could lead to victory. Spiller and Steve Johnson are both good starts this week. Anyone else is a flex option at absolute best. Both T.J. Graham and Scott Chandler had eight targets last week. I see that more as a result of the deficit against Seattle, but keep an eye on T.J. Graham.

Carolina

The Panthers have one of the better match ups this week. Cam Newton has been superb over the last seven games with 17 touchdowns and two interceptions in that span. I don't know if Carolina is more confident when games are meaningless or if they are playing to keep Ron Rivera's job? Or maybe it took several weeks to gel as a team that we thought would be there in week one. Chances are, it's a combination of all three. This week, I love Cam Newton at home against Oakland. DeAngelo Williams has found his groove. It's possible that even if Jonathan Stewart is back, Williams will see the majority of carries and perform well. Greg Olsen and Steve Smith are strong plays. The Panthers offense is converting more third downs, turning more drives into touchdowns and gelling as a team much more than they did earlier in the year. Be confident starting your Panthers this week.

Chicago

A few weeks ago this week's game at Arizona was their gimme game among a tough schedule run. Chicago has now lost five of their last six games and must win at Arizona to keep the playoff hopes alive. The Cardinals offense is not the concern, it's their defense that is making plays. I expect Chicago to win, but Arizona is a much better team at home that gives opposing quarterbacks fits. Brandon Marshall is the biggest threat on the team. I expect him to produce strong numbers. Matt Forte should be the featured back with Michael Bush (ribs) possibly out for the season. If you have Forte, play him, especially in PPR leagues.

Cincinnati

The buck may stop in Pittsburgh for Benjarvus Green-Ellis, who has four 100-yard rushing efforts in the last five games. The Steelers have allowed just two 100-yard rushers all season. I would play him as a RB2 or flex option, but the ceiling is low. The loss of full back Chris Pressley means a new full back will be playing the role as lead blocker for Green-Ellis. There could be some growing pains while John Conner (recently signed FB) learns the playbook. I match up doesn't look great on paper, however I like the Bengals passing game. AJ Green is a great start with all of the injuries in the Steelers secondary. I also like Jermaine Gresham who has four catches or more in six of the last seven games with three touchdowns in that span. Andy Dalton is also someone to consider.

Cleveland

Trent Richardson is the type of back who can carry a team. Dare I mention his name with Adrian Peterson from a carries per game standpoint? Richardson can carry the load, however Cleveland has not utilized him in that fashion. He received just 11 carries last week, despite scoring two touchdowns. In short, he is likely a much better back than what we're seeing this year. Buy him even if you have to overpay. Definitely pull the trigger if the Browns hire a new coach to replace Pat Shurmur. As for week 16, the Browns including Richardson have a difficult match up at Denver, who will be scratching and clawing their way to preserve their week one bye in the playoffs. If you have to play Richardson, pray he receives a lot of catches. I'm sure he helped you get to week 16, but I just don't like the match up this week. A sleeper tight end this week is Ben Watson. Denver has been horrible against tight ends this year, yielding 11 touchdowns to tight ends only, including two to Dennis Pitta last week.

Dallas

The Cowboys host the Saints this week and will surely be focused on earning a playoff berth. The Saints defense has been a turnstile for opposing offenses this year, however they are coming off a shutout against Tampa Bay last week. Josh Freeman and Doug Martin were completely stymied. That was a home game for New Orleans and this is in Texas Stadium. I still think Dallas has a favorable match up, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Saints continue their rise to respectability on defense. Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray and of course Tony Romo are good starts in my opinion. If they can score early I can see this being a back and forth battle that favors Romo and the passing game. I see no reason not to play any of the aforementioned Cowboys. Ride the hot streak with Dallas and Romo.

Denver

The Broncos now hold the lead on a first round bye thanks to the loss of NE vs. SF. You can bet they will be gunning to keep that advantage. All they have to do is beat CLE and KC in the next two games (both at home). All Broncos players are in excellent shape to score a lot of fantasy points, including Knowshon Moreno. Ride your Broncos to the title. Demaryius Thomas was a bit of a missing person last week. I don't think it was due to his shoulder but more because of Eric Decker and the lack of attention he received by Baltimore's secondary. Peyton Manning exploited that situation. Thomas is still a strong start this week.

Detroit

Last week, Matthew Stafford ran into a buzz saw at Arizona and wound up with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. Calvin Johnson continues to crush the Madden curse and remains the best weapon on the team. The loss of several wide receivers (Burleson, Young, Broyles) just means Megatron is being targeted even more. The only other alternatives are Kris Durham, Mike Thomas and Brian Robiskie. Mikel Leshoure is still the leading running back and is considered a decent flex option vs. Atlanta. I expect to see more Stafford to Calvin. Keep in mind, he is chasing Jerry Rice's single season record if 1,848 receiving yards.

Green Bay

James Jones continues to be a red zone threat for Aaron Rodgers. The fact that Jones had three touchdowns and Greg Jennings none is concerning for people who held out hope for a Jennings rebirth. If and when Jordy Nelson (hamstring) returns, look for him to win his role back and move Jones back to a secondary role in the receiving game. Randall Cobb has flourished regardless of where he lines up. He has been the most consistent player on offense for the Packers this year. I don't expect that to change this week. The Packers host the Titans in what is considered a very favorable match up. Start your Packers, including Jennings who has not reached pay dirt since coming back from injury. His time is coming.

Houston

The Texans righted the ship beating the Colts, after a tough loss to the Patriots the week before. The win gave Houston the AFC South title. They are projected to finish as the number one seed in the AFC. One more win or a Patriots loss secures home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Both games (HOU and NE) are at the same time, so there will be effort from the Texans knowing they need to win. Andre Johnson is in a very similar situation to Calvin Johnson. He is the leading receiver, by far with not much competition for receptions. As a result, his production increases. I mentioned this last week about Matt Schaub being an inconsistent quarterback which depends on whether or not Arian Foster finds the end zone more than once. An increase in rushing touchdowns means passing touchdown will likely be hard to come by. Foster is capable of multiple touchdowns any given week, which also means Schaub is capable of having a decent yardage game with low touchdown numbers. In other words, it's difficult to rely on Schaub as a weekly starter.

Indianapolis

I think it is safe to say that Vick Ballard has overtaken Donald Brown as the lead back for the Colts. He has back to back 94 and 105 yard games and it looks like he is improving each week. This is a good week to play Ballard at flex due to the match up against the Chiefs. Last week, Reggie Wayne picked a bad day to have a bad day and wound up contributing to several people's elimination from the playoffs. If you're still alive with Wayne, or Andrew Luck for that matter, this week should be in your favor. TY Hilton continues to be growing into a decent fantasy option. I like his positioning for success in 2013 and beyond.

Jacksonville

Cecil Shorts has three 100-yard efforts over the last five starts. He also has a touchdown in four games in the same span. He has arrived on the scene in Jacksonville, thanks to Chad Henne. He is a Top 20 WR. Imagine if the Jaguars found Henne sooner? Shorts returned to the field last week after missing a game with a concussion. The Jaguars host the Patriots this wee in what looks like a good match up, especially at home. Montell Owens is flex start at best this week. Playing the Patriots, I don't expect to see a lot of running plays, especially if they are trailing most of the game. Justin Blackmon is also someone to consider as a WR3 or flex option. In the last eight games, Blackmon has 37 receptions (4.6 per game), with three touchdowns.

Kansas City

This is going to be quick - The Chiefs failed to score on Oakland last week. Without Dwayne Bowe, the offense is much worse. If teams are smart, they will stack the box and make Brady Quinn beat them with a sub-standard receiving corps. This negatively affects Jamaal Charles as well. He becomes a flex option at best. If Kansas City can't move the ball, it means fewer snaps for Charles. If KC trails early, it means fewer snaps to Charles. Tread carefully with any Chiefs this week against the Colts.

Miami

How did the Dolphins beat the Seahawks in week 12? Good question. This week's match up vs. Buffalo is a favorable one for both Reggie Bush and Ryan Tannehill. They looked horrible against Buffalo in their earlier meeting, but with this being a home game, I believe we will see more sustained drives, leading to better numbers all around. The loss of Davone Bess should result in more action to Brian Hartline, Anthony Fasano and Reggie Bush as a multi-use back. I have a feeling Bush will be heavily utilized in this game, simply because they don't have a lot of options. Daniel Thomas (knee) should give way to Lamar Miller, who is a desperation sleeper pick this week.

Minnesota

Adrian Peterson will be fed early and often in an effort to get him to 2,000 and beyond. This is not a great match up against the Texans, but Peterson is immune to bad match ups. Kyle Rudolph and maybe Jerome Simpson will see some action, but this is all about Adrian. The guys is single-handedly carrying the team on his back. He may even do just enough to earn the team a playoff berth.

New England

This week's match up is on the road at Jacksonville. The Patriots likely have lost out on a bye week. I don't think they will catch Denver who has CLE and KC (both home games) on the schedule. On a different note, Stevan Ridley and his ball security issues may result in him seeing less snaps. Sure he had six games in a row with a touchdown coming into last week, but Belichick doesn't care about the past. Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen and even Brandon Bolden could see an increase in snaps going forward. Brandon Lloyd is coming off two strong games with 17 catches and a touchdown in that span. A sleeper receiver for desperate times is Deion Branch. I can think of worse last second additions to your roster. I bet we won't see Rob Gronkowski until the playoffs. One important note to point out - for playoff leagues, the Patriots have a very good shot to play in four games. In other words - draft Patriots.

New Orleans

My first reaction to the Saints 41-0 drubbing of the Buccaneers is - where did this come from? We all know what the Saints can do. There's really not much to discuss regarding their fantasy chances. Most will hit and some won't The bottom line is to start Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. Anyone else is a boom/bust flex option. This could be a very good game. Dallas holds their own playoff destiny. Two more wins and they will win the NFC East by virtue of tiebreakers. New Orleans will be playing the role of spoiler, due to their 0-4 start. Remember - the Chiefs beat them. Part of the reason for the Saints struggles has been their offensive line, yielding more pressure, which results in more difficult down field throws. Brees has been getting better avoiding the pressure, plus Joseph Morgan is doing his best Devery Henderson/Robert Meachem impression. If Dallas can get good pressure on Brees consistently, it will make it hard to move the ball. which could be their down fall this week.

NY Giants

The Giants dropped the ball last week at Atlanta and now are on the outside looking in for a playoff berth. They play at Baltimore and at home vs. the Eagles. Now they are in a position where they have to win both games to even have a chance. Ahmad Bradshaw (foot/knee) may not play this week, despite his plea to state his case. Bradshaw is one of the feistiest players in the league. He can see the writing on the wall - he doesn't want to lose his job to David Wilson, even though it's probably inevitable sooner than he thinks. Victor Cruz, like Reggie Wayne, Danario Alexander and Demaryius Thomas, let down several fantasy owners last week. It's hard to think he won't improve on last week's numbers (3-15). Baltimore has not allowed an opposing quarterback to have multiple touchdown passes since week ten. This is not the best match up for Eli Manning and company. from a rushing standpoint David Wilson could have a strong game. The Ravens have allowed back to back 100-yard rushers and four rushing touchdowns in the last three games.

NY Jets

Is there really anything to say about the Jets fantasy chances? They are eliminated from the playoffs after the loss to the Titans and now Mark Sanchez will sit on the bench while Greg McElroy gets his chance. The Jets host the equally depressed Chargers this week. If there's anyone who may have fantasy value, it's Jeff Cumberland, who is the only one to catch a touchdown from McElroy, plus he's coming off a 4-53-1 game against Tennessee. Stay away from the other Jets players.

Oakland

The Raiders will travel across the country to play Carolina, who is starting to get their groove on. I still like Carson Palmer's chances of having a big yardage game. Last week, Darren McFadden had 30 carries for 110 yards and 39 yards on four receptions. He is getting more looks and is worth a RB2 start. Mike Goodson returns back to Carolina where he started his career. I would not be surprised to see him have a decent game. He had 13-89, 1-14 last week. Denarius Moore and Rod Streater have been the hot wide receivers lately. They are both flex options in my opinion with some decent upside.

Philadelphia

First news of importance - LeSean McCoy could be back this week. Monitor the results of his concussion exam to be sure. If he starts, he'll be the lead back with Bryce Brown taking on a third down role, which could suit him better. If McCoy plays, I say start him with confidence vs. Washington. Nick Foles and Jeremy Maclin have a favorable match up against the Redskins this week. Jason Avant and Riley Cooper are flex options at best. Brent Celek (concussion) may play this week. He'll be a welcome addition with Clay Harbor (back) placed on IR.

Pittsburgh

The Steelers are hurting on defense with Troy Polamalu still hurting from his calf injury, Ike Taylor (ankle) is out again and Keenan Lewis is playing with a sore hip. Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley are having a scruff and the team's playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. Having said all of that, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and Heath Miller are excellent starts this week. The dual threat of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman doesn't interest me that much. Now is not the time to be guessing on which back to start in the Championship game.

San Diego

As previously mentioned, Danario Alexander didn't help any fantasy owners last week. In fact, he scored as many points as you and I did - zero receptions on three targets. Other news includes Malcolm Floyd (ankle) being placed on IR. His season is over. Ryan Mathews broke his clavicle and is also lost for the year. Taking his place will be Curtis Brinkley and Jackie Battle. Yes Chris Johnson found rushing pay dirt against the Jets last week, but he's the exception. He thrives against better run defenses. I am not at all confident in the Chargers this week, however if I had to play someone, it would be Antonio Gates and Danario Alexander. The Chargers looked like they quit last week against Carolina and now they have to fly across the country and face the Jets. I like the Jets defense, but their offense is in the same boat as San Diego - struggling to be consistent.

Seattle

The Seahawks would've had quite the showdown with the 49ers, had San Francisco lost to New England last week. It would've set up a winner take all for the NFC West title. Seattle currently holds the number five seed in the NFC West playoffs pairings, but there are plenty of 8-6 teams that they must keep at bay. Russell Wilson is a good, not great start this week against a tough 49ers defense. I expect Marshawn Lynch to be utilized all game long. He may not have a huge game, but he will receive carries. I would be surprised to see a high scoring game. Both defenses are strong and will be difficult to score on. As good of a match up as this looks, the fantasy game could be a let down for both teams.

San Francisco

I see a low scoring game against the Seahawks this week, which usually means fantasy points will be hard to come by. Frank Gore, like Marshawn Lynch, will see plenty of carries. The passing game favors Colin Kaepernick, however the crowd noise favors Seattle. Michael Crabtree has been big this year. He should see a lot of high percentage passes this week, trying to get yards on underneath plays. Vernon Davis could also be someone who the 49ers take advantage of. We've seen him play well in big games before. It's the other games where he isn't consistent.

St. Louis

A strong sleeper quarterback for week 16 is Sam Bradford. He is coming off a 377-3-1 game vs. Minnesota and this week the Rams will play at Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers have been a great match up to opposing offenses (especially the passing game) all year. This is a great match up for Bradford, Amendola, Givens and Gibson. Steven Jackson had eight catches for 73 yards against the Vikings and may also be a decent play against the Bucs. Strongly consider any Rams on your roster this week. Amendola is a must start. Givens and Gibson are good flex options with big upside.

Tampa Bay

The Bucs have lost four straight games. Doug Martin (9-16, 3-19) had the worst game of his young career last week, which is a shame to those who needed him to produce against the league's worst run defense. I expect to see Josh Freeman and company rebound in week 16. The question is - can they score more than their defense allows? I still like Freeman, Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and Doug Martin this week. Dallas Clark isn't a horrible play either, but hopefully you don't need to make that decision of choosing to start him.

Tennessee

The Titans will travel to Lambeau Field this week. They have only two wins in the last seven games, however their team does have a few fantasy options to consider. Chris Johnson won the game for them against the Jets. He has thrived against tough teams and should be featured once again. Jake Locker has the ability to make plays, but I don't necessarily like the match up. I can see the Packers running more plays than Tennessee, thus limiting the offensive opportunities for the Titans. I recommend starting Chris Johnson, but everyone else, including Kenny Britt, is a flex option at best.

Washington

Robert Griffin did not play last week and they still were able to win with Kirk Cousins in his first NFL start. I expect Griffin to start this week at Philadelphia. The Redskins have won five straight games, scoring 30+ points in four of the matches. The fantasy potential is ripe, however the Eagles have been playing better on the defensive line. I can see that line being dominated by the Eagles on both side of the ball. The Redskins don't have a very strong defensive line, which means Nick Foles won't have a lot of pressure to deal with. Washington should focus on giving the ball to Alfred Morris and have Griffin make timely plays to the receiving corps, led by Pierre Garcon. I would be surprised to see Griffin run often coming off a knee injury. If he can disguise the run from the pass and vice versa, it will be hard to defend. I have an inkling that the Eagles will win this game with their play in the trenches - unless Griffin has one of those "I can't believe he did that" moments. Alfred Morris also has the chance to extend the streak, if he has a strong game of over 100 yards rushing with 1-2 touchdowns.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to haseley@footballguys.com.

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