Roundtable - Week 16
by FBG Staff
December 20th, 2012

Welcome to this edition of the 2012 Footballguys Roundtable. Feel free to eavesdrop as various staff members share their views on a range of topics in discussion format. This week, they touch on the following:

  • Teams resting players?
  • Chargers RBs
  • Packers WRs
  • Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson
  • Brandon Lloyd
  • Dennis Pitta
  • Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson
  • Week 16 previews
  • Call your shot!
  • Teams resting players?

    The Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Packers, and Falcons have already clinched their divisions.

    Are any of them at risk of resting some of their starters as early as this week? (If not letting guys sit out completely, at least giving them a lighter workload?)

    JEFF HASELEY: With home field advantage still not fully decided, I don't think we will see any teams resting their starters this week. Atlanta has virtually locked up the number one seed in the NFC at 12-2. Green Bay has an outside shot at 10-4, but they need to win both games and have Atlanta lose both. The Falcons play Saturday night, so if they win, it will mean they have locked up the number one seed, but Green Bay will still have a chance to win the number two seed. San Francisco can't win the number one seed with a 10-3-1 record, but they do need to fend off Green Bay. The Broncos at 11-3 still have a chance at the number one seed (they'd have to pass Houston) and they have to keep New England at bay. Any other 9-5 and 8-6 teams will be fighting and clawing to get in the post season. This week should not feature any teams looking to rest players. Next week is a much different story.

    RYAN HESTER: I think Atlanta is the only mild risk of resting players in Week 16. However, as Jeff pointed out, they play the first game of the week so they won't have the luxury of assuming that #1 seed is wrapped up. I also tend to go against the common notion a little bit in regards to resting players. For Week 16, I worry less about teams who have a bye locked up. If I was a coach, I wouldn't want my stars playing a partial game in Week 16, resting Week 17, and having a bye in Week 1 of the playoffs. That would lead to rust not rest.

    HEATH CUMMINGS: I agree with Jeff and Ryan that no one should be resting their starters in week 16...with one possible exception. The Texans face a Vikings team that is ill-equipped to exploit the one major (recent) deficiency in the Texans' defense, their secondary. With virtually no weapons in the passing game and a struggling Christian Ponder, I could see a situation where the Texans build a three score lead in the first half and rest Arian Foster and Andre Johnson for the second. It may not happen, but it's probably the most plausible.

    GREG RUSSELL: Ryan makes a good point that teams with potential byes will also have to consider how long it will be between meaningful games. Three weeks is a long time for an offense to not see action together. I imagine the worst case scenario would be along the lines of what Heath suggested where a team might go up enough in the first half that they might be able to sit a few key starters late in the game. But for that to happen there would be a good chance they would have already put up fantasy relevant stats.

    Chargers RBs

    With Ryan Mathews out with another broken collarbone, do any of the Chargers RBs have fantasy value in week 16?

    DAVE LARKIN: In a word, no. As of now, we're looking at a Jackie Battle/Curtis Brinkley backfield where the carries are likely to be skewed in Brinkley's favor. This Chargers offense will not get into a situation where rushing attempts will be plentiful, even if the opponent is the hapless New York Jets. San Diego will have to reevaluate the RB position going forward, because Mathews' health continues to be a concern.

    JEFF HASELEY: I remember seeing a funny stat regarding Mathews on twitter this week "Mathews has more broken clavicles than he does touchdowns this year." What does that say about his ability to stay healthy? Anyone who owned him this year will not be making that mistake twice. He is going to fall in next year's redraft leagues, possibly to the point where he does have value, especially if San Diego moves on from Norv Turner and A.J. Smith. As for the Chargers rushing chances this week at the Jets, I like Curtis Brinkley to be the main threat because he is the best pass-catching back they have available. The Chargers love to involve their backs in the passing game, so we should see anywhere from 3-5 receptions for Brinkley, with 50-60 yards rushing as a ceiling in my opinion. Does that equate to a worthy flex option? It depends on what other options you have available. I don't see Brinkley getting goal line carries. That role will likely belong to Jackie Battle. I'd say Brinkley is a low end flex play with a tad more upside in PPR leagues.

    RYAN HESTER: You're playing with fire if you're pinning your fantasy Super Bowl hopes on Jackie Battle, Curtis Brinkley, or Ronnie Brown. If Brown is inactive once again, early indications are that Battle will get first crack at the majority of carries. Complicating matters, however, is the Week 15 carry distribution of Brinkley's six to Battle's three. That could have been a product of the game being a blowout, though. That same link above says that Brinkley will not play passing downs. So if Brown does come back, he'll handle those with Battle and Brinkley left fighting for the other downs. All in all, this is a mess.

    HEATH CUMMINGS: No, no, no. Stay away. The Jets gave up one long run to Chris Johnson, but other than that looked much improved against the run. Even if they're average this week, the Chargers don't have anyone capable of exploiting that. Stay away.

    CHRIS SMITH: There is no clear cut winner in a backfield that I do not expect much out of in any case. Avoid this situation unless you are in desperation mode.

    Packers WRs

    Have Randall Cobb and James Jones surpassed Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson as the Packers' best receivers going forward?

    DAVE LARKIN: Looking at this through a dynasty lens, Randall Cobb is definitely the most talented and most valuable player on the Packers offense (besides Aaron Rodgers). This season is only the beginning of what should be a magnificent career for him; with his skill set, he will continue to be utilized as a 'Joker' offensive Swiss army knife of sorts. James Jones' three-touchdown performance is at the front of our minds right now and Rodgers will continue to provide his middle-of-the-road receivers with opportunities but Jones doesn't impress me all that much. His hands seem to have improved, but from a week-to-week point of view, do you really want to take the chance that Jones produces, instead of Nelson, Cobb, Jennings, or some new skill player that the Packers haven't added yet? I wouldn't give up on Nelson just yet; if Jennings is allowed to leave, he could reach to around 80 catches for 1,200 yards and 9 TDs or so.

    JEFF HASELEY: I personally don't think Greg Jennings will be back with Green Bay next year once he learns that the Packers are moving on without him. (That's speculation by the way, but I can see it unfolding.) Jordy Nelson has slipped off this year due to nagging injuries of his ankle and hamstring. He just hasn't been healthy enough to contribute on a consistent basis . I don't think we have seen the last of him being a weekly must start wide receiver. If the Packers move on without Jennings, I see Nelson and James Jones occupying the outside split end role with Cobb playing mostly in the slot, but also moving all over the field in whatever way can get him to open space. Cobb appears to be the main weapon for the Packers moving forward, but Nelson and Jones will also be contributors who will benefit from Aaron Rodgers and his ability to make plays.

    RYAN HESTER: Cobb certainly has staked his claim to a top spot in the Green Bay fantasy landscape. I believe that Jennings is playing his last season for Green Bay. Jones, despite his big game last week, isn't a consistent enough player to be one of the best options in Green Bay. Next season, when Nelson is back to full health, I expect him to be a WR2 while Cobb (assuming Jennings is gone) will be a borderline WR1. Think about the consistent usage and production of Percy Harvin but with Aaron Rodgers delivering the ball instead of Christian Ponder.

    HEATH CUMMINGS: I think the answer is yes and no. Randall Cobb, yes. James Jones, no. I suppose Jones may be better over the last two weeks of the season than either of these receivers, but looking towards next season I see the pecking order as Cobb, Nelson, Jones. Greg Jennings has stated he doesn't want to play for a franchise tag and with the weapons the Packers already have it's hard to imagine why they would want to tag him in the first place.

    GREG RUSSELL: I agree with Ryan that Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson will be the future in Green Bay when Nelson is healthy. Jones will either be filling in as a third receiving option, or be competing against a veteran or rookie. While he'll probably hold onto a starting job, I just don't see him putting up the numbers that Cobb and Nelson are capable of. It is close to a foregone conclusion that Jennings will be gone when you consider how Green Bay has handled other wide receivers in similar contract situations before. Short of playing for a season under the franchise tag, Jennings will be somewhere else next year. Don't be surprised if that somewhere is Miami.

    CHRIS SMITH: I think Cobb has grabbed the reins and will be the man for the Packers over the next decade. If Greg Jennings re-signs with the Packers he will be 1b due to his comfortable on-field relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. However there is no guarantee that he re-joins the Packers next year and I am hopeful in a selfish vein that he takes his talents over to the Dolphins in 2013,who desperately need a legitimate receiving target. If Jennings does not return, the pecking order is Cobb, Nelson and then Jones.

    Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson

    Where do you rank Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson as fantasy quarterbacks this week?

    DAVE LARKIN: The rushing yardage upside of both players makes them enticing options as Top-10 to Top-12 options, but I would have Kaepernick ahead of Wilson. The last time the Niners defense got their hands on Wilson, they disrupted his rhythm and, even though it was a less experienced Wilson, just look what they did to Tom Brady. Wilson is the more likely QB to make a mistake. Seattle's defense can cause Kaepernick problems too, but the Niners QB just gets the nod.

    JEFF HASELEY: This week I like Colin Kaepernick just a bit more than Wilson, despite being the road quarterback in a loud environment. Personally I don't think either will be great fantasy starts. I like the 49ers offense and their playmakers more than I do Seattle's receiving threats. I expect to see a low scoring game, driven by each team's workhorse backs (Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch). When it comes to making plays with the options available, Kaepernick and San Francisco is my choice. Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree should be the main threats and let's not forget Randy Moss too. When it comes down to two strong defenses, I generally gravitate to the team with the better offense. In my opinion, it's the 49ers. I'd rank them both outside of the Top 10 with Kaepernick receiving a slightly higher rank maybe Top 12?

    RYAN HESTER: Both guys would rank much higher if they weren't player against the other guy's defense. I still see Kaepernick as a low-end QB1 (somewhere in the 11-12 range) while Wilson comes in a bit lower (somewhere around the 15-17 range). Both have great "baselines" though due to their running ability. And as good as each defense is, they can't shut down the running ability AND the passing ability of these QBs. Last week, Kaepernick hardly ran, but the result was him throwing four touchdown passes, easily a career high.

    HEATH CUMMINGS: I have a hard time ranking either as a top 12 option. Both of these defenses are outstanding and it's very easy to see this as a low scoring game with both coaches playing not to lose. The one exception would be if Richard Sherman's appeal is denied on Friday. In that case I'd put Kaepernick at #11, and also bump up Wilson slightly. More than likely though I have them both in the 14-16 range.

    CHRIS SMITH: I have this game along the lines of 16-13 for the Seahawks so I see both youngsters having minimal upside for the week. Both are great stories and have had nice success this year, but I see this as a defensive battle for sure.

    Brandon Lloyd

    Is Brandon Lloyd a fantasy WR2 this week?

    JEFF HASELEY: I'm not sure about a WR2, but you have to ride the hot hand. Brandon Lloyd has 17 catches in the last two games, plus he has Tom Brady in his corner. I don't think Lloyd will have anywhere near ten receptions (like he did against the 49ers last week), but there's a good chance that he will produce decent numbers, especially if Rob Gronkowski continues to get healthy. I don't think we will see him return until the playoffs.

    RYAN HESTER: If Lloyd is on your roster, it's likely you weren't playing him the last two weeks when he had his biggest games of the season. It's even more likely that you weren't playing anyone because you missed the playoffs after too many disappointments from him. I don't see him as a WR2 option this week because I anticipate the game script producing a more run-heavy attack as New England pulls away from a far inferior team. But I've been missing on my predictions of Lloyd all year, so anything can happen.

    HEATH CUMMINGS: I think it's pretty obvious that none of us really want to answer this question because Lloyd has done little but prove us wrong throughout the year. It seems like whenever we get high on the guy he disappears, and vice versa. Against a terrible Jacksonville team he certainly should be an adequate WR2, but with talk of Rob Gronkowski returning and Lloyd's inconsistent performance this season I'm going to say no, unless you really don't have another option.

    CHRIS SMITH: Lloyd is capable of 150 yards and 2 touchdowns this week or 3 receptions for 21 yards. It all depends on what the defense gives the Patriots as something will always be open with a quarterback as amazing as Tom Brady. I believe if you have a set, strong lineup to go the conservative route and pick a receiver likely to contribute for sure this week but if you have a hole in the lineup or need the potential of a big week, roll the dice and insert Lloyd into the lineup.

    Dennis Pitta

    Is Dennis Pitta a solid fantasy TE1 this week?

    DAVE LARKIN: Pitta is as good a TE1 option as you will find in any given week, so he is absolutely a high-end starting TE against the Giants. I am not too concerned about the Ravens' offense; they should have success running the football against the New York front seven if they want to, giving Pitta opportunities off play action. He has been a frequent target of his QB recently; go with him and don't think twice about it.

    JEFF HASELEY: I was high on Dennis Pitta last week due to his match up against Denver. The Broncos have been horrible against opposing tight ends this year (and in years past, for that matter). They have allowed 11 touchdowns to tight ends, which is a league high. As for this week, I wouldn't necessarily label him as a TE1, but it is a home game for Baltimore, which is a feather in Joe Flacco's cap. Flacco and the Ravens are a better offense at home than on the road. I'd rank Pitta as a low end TE1 with upside.

    RYAN HESTER: Much like Brandon Lloyd, whom we just discussed, a lot of Pitta's breakout Week 15 was due to game script. While Baltimore and the Giants should be closer than Baltimore and Denver were, I still think Pitta is a low-end #1 TE option. I don't see him finishing as a top-three guy, but you could definitely do a lot worse.

    HEATH CUMMINGS: Absolutely. That doesn't mean he's going to have a great game, because there are no guarantees at tight end this season other than Tony Gonzalez, but he's certainly amongst the twelve most likely to perform as TE1. I would rank him as the 7th best option in week 16.

    GREG RUSSELL: I would definitely consider Pitta as a solid TE1 against a Giants team with a weak pass defense, but a solid enough offense of their own to keep the Ravens throwing throughout the game. I expect the Giants will come out especially focused after the drubbing that Atlanta gave them, requiring the Ravens to score points to keep up.

    CHRIS SMITH: At any point Pitta is capable of a top-five fantasy week. However it is a crapshoot week to week this year in regards to the tight end position in general. I would plug him in my lineup and hope a big week in there. He may see a lot of targets with injuries to the Ravens receiving core.

    Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson

    Does the fact that Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson are within reach of the single-season yardage records give them a bump in the rankings? I mean, they'd probably be #1 at their respective positions anyway, but does going for the record make them even more likely to get a lot of looks, or to do more with them?

    JEFF HASELEY: I think they have a chance for the record, because they are clearly the main offensive threats on their team. Detroit lost Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles and Titus Young to injury or coach's decision. I just don't see the smaller Mike Thomas as a capable spilt end, which Detroit likes to have. Kris Durham is a tall 6-foot-6 option with some promise, but he has not shown the ability to put it all together yet. He may have good hands, but he is very green and still needs more experience. The alternative option is to utilize Calvin Johnson as often as they can. He's a trustworthy receiver who can make plays even in double coverage. Detroit really does not have any other decent options, so naturally Calvin is the beneficiary of more targets and he's converting them.

    As for Adrian Peterson, the Vikings lost their best playmaker receiver in Percy Harvin and have resorted to feeding Peterson over and over. He has found tremendous success in this game plan that the Vikings continue to get him the ball as often as they can. It's been a perfect storm of sorts for both Johnson and Peterson that puts them in a position to break these prestigious records. Immense talent, opportunity and luck has played out perfectly and a record season could be the end result.

    RYAN HESTER: I'm not usually one to factor player motivations into predictions, so I'm conflicted on how to answer this one. In theory, shouldn't every player play every single game as if they're trying to break a record and produce as much as possible? On the other hand, we know this isn't the case, and we hear stories about coaches wanting certain players to produce against their former teams or for other somewhat arbitrary reasons.

    In the case of Peterson, specifically, it's widely known that both he and his organization are making it a point to get him the rushing record. When it's more than just the player on board (specifically, the guys calling his plays), the notion of "extra motivation" has to be taken into account. Keep in mind, though, that the guys on the other side of the ball don't want to be the ones who were on the field when a record was broken so they're motivated as well.

    HEATH CUMMINGS: I would say more so in the case of Johnson than Peterson. The Vikings are technically still in the playoff race, and although they've spoken publicly about getting Peterson the record, I find it hard to believe that they'll do anything different than they have all year. He's still the number one running back in the league, but I wouldn't bump him up because he's chasing the record.

    Johnson is a different story simply because his team doesn't have anything else to play for, and they have no other options in the passing game. In fact, I'd argue it's already had an effect on him. He's had 50 targets over his last three games, 25% more than any other receiver in the league. I expect Matthew Stafford to force feed Johnson in the last two games in every effort to get him the record.

    CHRIS SMITH:They are already tops in the rankings, so they can't really get a bump there. But maybe it's the difference between Adrian Peterson being fairly valued at $9,700 in fanduel and being a bargain at that price. In any case, there is no way these two players do not end up in the starting lineup of any fantasy team still in the hunt for a title if they are on the roster. Adrian Peterson has had the most unbelievable season that I can remember in the NFL. What a story he has written.

    Week 16 previews

    There's a lot going on in the NFC East matchup between the Eagles and the Redskins. Robert Griffin and LeSean McCoy may return this week. Jeff, what do you expect to happen in this game?

    JEFF HASELEY: I actually like the Eagles both offensively and defensively against the Redskins. I know Robert Griffin is expected to return to the lineup this week, but the Eagles defense has improved since the release of Jason Babin and departure of the nine-wide formation. Brandon Graham finally has a chance to show off his motor and it's resulting in sacks and fumbles plus an upgrade to the entire unit. We all know turnovers can change a game in a heartbeat. I would be surprised if Philadelphia doesn't get at least two turnovers in this game. Offensively, the Eagles look to have LeSean McCoy back in the fold, which should be a big boost physically and mentally. The Redskins don't have a particularly good defensive pass rush, which will give Nick Foles more time to sit in the pocket and find the open man. I believe Philadelphia will play spoiler and snap the Redskins five game win streak and give Andy Reid one last swan song in what is likely his last home game with the team that he has coached for 14 years.

    The Coywboys-Saints game should be another fun matchup in the NFC. Greg, what do you see happening in that game?

    GREG RUSSELL: What happens when you match up a pair of top five passing offenses? You get a shootout, and that's what I expect when the Saints go into Dallas this week. Both teams are fighting for a playoff spot, though the Saints need a lot of help. New Orleans has the better offense, but also a defense that is lacking and should help equalize the offensive output. This game could come down to whoever has the ball last. Expect all receivers and tight ends to have plenty of opportunities, and it is the kind of game that Darren Sproles may see a lot of action as the Saints get the ball out to him in space on screens to slow the pass rush of Demarcus Ware. Jason Witten should see plenty of targets as he is only six catches away from setting a new record for receptions by a tight end in a single season.

    Call your shot!

    Name a player that you think will outperform most people's expectations this week.

    JEFF HASELEY: I like Andy Dalton this week at Pittsburgh. This doesn't sound like a good match up on paper at all, but the Steelers are hurting on defense, especially in the secondary. Ike Taylor (ankle) is out this week. Keenan Lewis (hip) looks like he might play, but won't be near 100% in my estimation. Troy Polamalu (calf) is still affected by his calf injury that kept him out for over a month earlier in the year. He just doesn't look like the same, vigorous defender. This all points to an offensive edge for Andy Dalton and the Bengals. I would be very confident in AJ Green as well as Jermaine Gresham. Heck, even Marvin Jones is someone who could surprise. What looks like a bad week for the Bengals, could turn out to be big week when it's all said and done.

    DAVE LARKIN: Denarius Moore at Carolina is ranked outside the top 40 WRs this week by all of Dodds, Bloom, Tremblay, and the Wisdom of the Crowd; that is a little too low for my liking. The Panthers defense has been playing well up front, but their secondary has holes, notably FS D.J. Campbell. San Diego was not able to exploit that weakness, but perhaps the Raiders with the number of passing attempts they are likely to have can find some success down the field. Moore could be the beneficiary and could produce a 5-85-1 line.

    RYAN HESTER:Most of the rankings I've seen this week have Justin Blackmon ranked down around WR30 behind names like Lance Moore (at DAL), James Jones (vs. TEN), and Danario Alexander (vs. NYJ). I would rank Blackmon ahead of all three of those guys because of his matchup and theirs. Jacksonville gets a home game against a pretty weak New England pass defense. I expect that more of the Patriots' emphasis will be on Cecil Shorts, leaving many opportunities for Blackmon. One other factor to consider is that in this type of game, there's always a chance for some good garbage time production as well.

    HEATH CUMMINGS: I'll take Sam Bradford against Tampa Bay. He's generally being viewed as a mid-tier QB2 this week, but I could easily see him as a top ten scorer. The Bucs pass defense is notoriously terrible and Bradford is coming off a monster performance against Minnesota. I say he makes it two in a row this week with 300+ passing yards and at least 2 touchdowns.

    GREG RUSSELL: Joe Flacco ranked outside the top 20 at quarterback according to Wisdom of the Crowds, and indeed his prospects may take a hit if Torrey Smith doesn't play due to a concussion suffered last week. But even accounting for that, Flacco should outperform his rankings playing against a week Giants pass defense in a home game that the Ravens need to win as they try to hold onto their lead in the AFC North. Against teams ranked 20th or worst against the pass, Flacco is averaging nearly 295 yards, 2 passing TDs and a 2/3 of an interception. He likely will have to throw the ball to keep up with a Giants offense which will be looking to rebound after last week's fiasco against Atlanta. So many factors line up in favor of a big day for him that I think he is at worst looking at a solid QB2 performance with a chance to put up QB1 numbers.

    CHRIS SMITH: Ryan Tannehill has had some very good moments this year as a rookie quarterback. Especially when considering that he has been with pedestrian receivers in his first season. Going up against a rival in Buffalo that has a suspect defense, I expect 240+ yards and 2+ touchdowns from Tannehill in leading the Dolphins to a surprisingly solid 7th win on the season.

    At running back, I think the David Wilson era has finally arrived for the Giants, albeit 14 games later than I thought it would happen. He looked like a superstar last week and I expect his speed and quickness to give the Ravens defense fits this week.

    If I can add one more, I think Demaryius Thomas is going to have a big game this week for the Broncos as Manning puts the finishing touches on one of the more improbable quarterback seasons of all-time. I am not surprised that Manning can still play football but his season has been spectacular and Demaryius Thomas has become one of the more explosive receivers in football. I believe the Broncos will pass to beat the Browns and that Thomas will have a 100-yard, 2-touchdown performance.

    That will do it for this edition of the Roundtable. Enjoy the games this weekend, and we'll see you back here next week!

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