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The Best of Week 16

Matt Waldman scouts our in-season content and shares five must-knows and his takes on each.

You guys have a ton of articles. 

This statement about Footballguys is a blessing but it can feel like a curse. Our staff delivers insights that change seasons for the better yet realistically, no fantasy owner has the time to read everything we publish in a week. 

If this describes you, let me be your scout. Here are five insights from Footballguys articles that I find compelling for the weekend ahead. I'll share what should help you this week, touch on the long-term outlook, and sometimes offer a counterargument.  

Congratulations on making it this far. Many of you have lineups that are steady and predictable, but some of you had to work some weekly magic with bold calls to get to this point of the season. This week, we examine five tough calls. If these apply to you, good luck!

going all-in on ted Ginn (and cam newton)

If you've come this far, you're already in deep water. No sense at this point to pretend that we're easing our way into the tough stuff. A select few on our staff believe Ginn is a viable starter and because was almost non-existent as a fantasy option for most of the year, he may still be available in a lot of leagues. 

Sigmund Bloom lists Ginn almost even with Amari Cooper as a WR3-Flex with a high ceiling in Week 16's Wide Receiver Tiers. Scott Bischoff lists Ginn as a pivot to a safer DFS stack of Cam Newton and Greg Olsen

Ted Ginn ($4,800) might be worth rostering at this price as he’s been very active of late for the Panthers offense as he has scored in four of his last five games and he could pair nicely with Newton and Olsen for a solid triple stack with a high ceiling.

Justin Howe also finds Ginn intriguing in this week's DFS Roundtable because of his downfield production in recent weeks.

Of course, if Ginn is a worthwhile consideration for those in a tough spot at wide receiver or needs a high-upside play, then Cam Newton must be considered a good start despite a down year. Bloom has Newton as a streamer QB1 with upside.

Howe goes into good detail about Newton's matchup with the Falcons and provides nuggets to those unaware of the bad passing games Atlanta faced during the past two weeks. He makes it clear that any recent positive thoughts about the Falcons pass defense are a mirage: 

I'm more intrigued by the lesser-owned Falcons-Panthers matchup. The Atlanta defense has put some respectable performances on paper with Desmond Trufant out, but they haven't faced an impressive passing game since his injury. A possibly up-swinging Cam Newton could absolutely take advantage of their lack of secondary talent. Vegas implies that expectation, so I'm expecting with some confidence that the Panthers put solid points on the board. The distribution is up in the air, of course, but it makes sense to throw the discounted Newton into your GPP portfolio.

Bischoff breaks it down further with additional data and a strong point about the game script in Starting Stacks:

The Carolina Panthers are at home in a pivotal NFC South matchup as they bring the Atlanta Falcons to town in Week 16. Vegas has this game tabbed as one of the highest scoring games of the week with the total set at 52 points. The Panthers are a 2.5 point underdog at home and they have an implied total of 24.5 points while the Falcons have an implied number of 27.5 points.

The Falcons are the league’s No. 30 ranked passing defense allowing 267.4 yards per game. Atlanta has surrendered 375 completions to date which is the most completions surrendered in the league and are allowing a completion rate of 66.7 percent which is third-worst league-wide. Newton has struggled to complete passes in 2016 (career-worst 53.8 percent) but he’ll get some help here in this matchup as the Falcons are a very soft pass defense.

The Falcons have allowed 28 passing scores (No. 31 league-wide) and the rate they allow touchdowns in relation to the completions they allow is 7.5 percent which is No. 24 in the NFL. The passer rating that they surrender is 96.9 and only four teams allow a higher rating.

Where this matchup is most attractive is in the game script. The Falcons are going to score points on the Panthers defense and the script is funneling passing volume to the Panthers offense. Newton should be able to exploit the Falcons defense simply with the increase in volume and the fact that they are facing a porous pass defense. Where he’ll exploit them is through tight end Greg Olsen.

The Falcons are very vulnerable to the tight end position and they have been beaten regularly throughout the 2016 season. Last week the 49ers tight ends hit them for 67 yards and a score. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce went for eight catches and 140 yards in Week 13.

The Falcons have given up at least five catches to tight ends in nine of their 14 games this year. They’ve also given up seven scores to the position in 2016 and overall they have a very hard time covering tight ends that can run good routes and exploit coverage.

The tight ends that give the Falcons the most trouble are “move” tight ends and that’s exactly the kind of player that Olsen is, and he’ll have plenty of opportunity in this game. Olsen had been quiet over the middle part of this season, but over the past few weeks he has become more involved in the offense. He’s been targeted 16 times over the past two games and has caught 10 balls and registered 172 yards.

When looking at the game script, it is easy to see a path to added volume for Olsen in what looks like a back and forth game that should be high scoring. Also, when these teams met back in Week 4, Olsen caught six passes for 76 yards and a score with Derek Anderson filling in for Newton at quarterback. The Falcons and Panthers combined for 81 points in that game.

My Advice: The longstanding perception of a player can be a dangerous bias in fantasy sports. The perception of Ted Ginn is his boom-bust nature. Read his Player Recaps on his player page and you'll notice that with every big play comes a big drop. Three of Ginn's first five games were outputs of 5, 14, and 5 yards. It's enough to reinforce the career-long narrative that Ginn is a fluke, big risk play. 

The risk-reward is higher, for sure. But five of Ginn's last nine games are weeks with at least five catches and four of his past five games include a touchdown. Carolina realizes it has to take its shots with Ginn. Fortunately, Cam Newton is fearless in this regard and doesn't shy away from Ginn when he drops the football. 

Atlanta hasn't faced a big-play offense weeks. If Chris Conley caught the wide-open go route during the first quarter of the Chiefs-Falcons tilt in Atlanta a few weeks ago, we would have seen a decent passing offense hit a big perimeter play. 

The last team the Falcons faced with a big-play passing element that was even remotely was Tampa Bay six weeks ago when Mike Evans when 11-150-2. The week prior, Atlanta allowed four passing touchdowns to four different Packers receivers and Philip Rivers found Tyrell Williams for 140 yards on 7 catches the week before Green Bay. 

Because Olsen will feast on these inexperienced Atlanta linebackers, the Falcons' safeties will be more likely to leave its reserve cornerbacks on an island with Ginn. It's also likely Ginn earns some slot time and winds up blowing past a linebacker or safety ill-equipped to cover the speedster.

If you are faced with a dilemma between a bigger name in a struggling passing offense that hasn't produced for weeks (Amari Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, or Terrelle Pryor) and an upside play like Ginn who isn't near the receiver, but in a great situation to earn quality targets, I'd go Ginn. 

Gurley vs 49ers: you wanted it, now you got it. will you do it?

Since we could smell the rank odor emanating from the Rams offense that led us to the decomposing carcass of Todd Gurley's fantasy season, several owners were faced with a difficult choice: Dump the body or hope to play Dr. Frankenstein and reanimate Gurley for his excellent playoff schedule.

Here we are in Week 16. Jared Goff is in, Jeff Fisher is out, and the 49ers shuffling zombie horde of a defense is up next. 

Do you have the guts? Should you have the guts?

David Dodds and his No.8 ranking of Gurley says "man-up" despite one double-digit fantasy game in four weeks. MaurileTremblay (No.8) agrees and Bloom isn't far behind (No.11). But can we get some rationale beyond "the 49ers defense is truly that bad that the carcass of Gurley with a high school offense of a brain can get the job done?" 

Jeff Haseley doesn't come to our aid with an answer to our request, but he begins the talk therapy with a positive affirmation about this idea in his Week 16 Fantasy Overview

2. CAN TODD GURLEY COME THROUGH WHEN WE NEED HIM THE MOST?

The last time Los Angeles played San Francisco was Week 1 when they were embarrased by the 49ers 28-0. Todd Gurley had 47 yards rushing on 17 carries with 0 touchdowns. San Francisco has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in only two games this year. One of those games was the Week 1 battle against Gurley. Keep in mind, back then San Francisco still had Novorro Bowman and their rush defense wasn't a known area of exploitation. It is now though and you can bet the 49ers are waiting for the season to end. They may not admit it, but they are playing like it. If you have Gurley, play him. Who says that early first round pick was wasted? If you win the championship because of it, every other bad week is forgotten. 

Ingel can only summon negatives about the 49ers as well, but we'll take what we can get:

  • Todd Gurley – He’s killed you all year, but if you are alive (or playing DFS), this is finally the week to use him. The Niners give up over 100 yards in all but two games, nearly 5 YPC and 30+ FPG to opposing RBs on the year.
My Advice: I found a positive for Gurley from Doug Drinen's Red Zone Summary of the Rams. Between Weeks 7-13, Gurley earned 5 red zone opportunities (target/attempt) and for Weeks 12-13, he didn't earn a single look. The past two weeks, Gurley has earned seven looks.
 
The stat splits also tell an encouraging story:
 
CATEGORY                        G    RSH   YD   Y/R TD TARGRECYDY/RTDFPTFPT/G
Leading big   5 6 1.2 0 2 1 8 8.0 0 1.4  
Leading close   64 194 3.0 0 6 5 1 0.2 0 19.5  
Tied   61 190 3.1 1 14 11 165 15.0 0 41.5  
Trailing close   64 257 4.0 3 13 10 49 4.9 0 48.6  
Trailing big   47 130 2.8 1 14 9 47 5.2 0 23.7

Gurley's fantasy carcass reanimates in close games. The 49ers are inept, which increases the likelihood of a close contest. My advice comes from my father-in-law, the retired police detective from the Southwestern in Baltimore: You'll never forget the smell of a corpse, but get some Vicks, put it under your nose, and you won't smell the body. 
 
The odor of Gurley's rotting fantasy corpse may haunt you all offseason, but get some Vicks and the experience will at least be tolerable if you're stuck with him in your lineup. 
 

sa(L)vaging Deandre Hopkins?

If Gurley's fantasy game has been a rotting corpse, DeAndre Hopkins' season has been dropped in the Gulf of Mexico while wearing a pair of concrete galoshes. In this week's DFS Roundtable, B.J. VanderWoude wants you to consider the salvaging services of quarterback Tom Savage and his ability to bring Hopkins back to the surface.

There are teams that have made big changes at key positions, specifically the Houston Texans, who benched Brock Osweiller in favor of Tom Savage. With Savage in the game, DeAndre Hopkins saw 17 targets, the most he's seen this season and produced his second-highest point total. The Texans are still in the playoff hunt, but considering how poorly their offense has produced this season, Hopkins wouldn't have been a target of mine without the quarterback change.

Bischoff likes the risk-reward as well:

The Houston Texans host the Cincinnati Bengals at home in a Week 16 AFC clash featuring teams headed in opposite directions. The Bengals are struggling and are 5-8-1 and out of the playoffs in 2016 while the Texans are tied for first place in the AFC South with an 8-6 record.

The Texans are one-point favorites at home with an implied total of 21 points. The Bengals have an implied total of 20 points and the total has been set at 41 points in this game.

The Bengals are the league’s No. 13 ranked passing unit allowing 241.6 yards per game. The Bengals allow 6.9 yards per attempt which is No. 10 in the NFL but they have given up 22 passing touchdowns in 2016. The Bengals have allowed 323 completions which is ranked No. 19 league-wide. Interestingly, they’ve allowed a touchdown-to-completion ratio of 6.8 percent which is No. 19 in the NFL.

Savage entered the game last week as Texans starting quarterback Brock Osweiler was benched due to poor play, and his impact on Hopkins was immediate. Hopkins was targeted 17 times last week which is the highest volume he’s seen in the entire season. That’s the reason that this stack is on the list as it is entirely driven by the kind of volume that Hopkins could see in this game.

However, there is enormous risk here on multiple levels. The above numbers show that the Bengals pass defense is a capable unit and one that has been playing well of late. You’re taking on the risk that the volume Hopkins sees will be enough to get them past the matchup.

Also, it is tough to trust young quarterbacks that haven’t played much to make plays and produce for GPP play and Savage simply hasn’t played enough to justify an opinion as to whether he can be a productive player at the NFL level. Consider that the Texans are in first place with two games to go and that might give you an answer as to head coach Bill O’Brien’s opinion of him and his ability to make plays for the Texans.

Also, Vegas doesn’t like this game to be a high-scoring affair with a total set at 41 points. You’re taking on huge risk at the quarterback position and that risk is automatically passed onto the receiver as he’s dependent on the quarterback throwing him the ball (see Osweiler’s effect on Hopkins as evidence). However, by stacking these two players together you’ll potentially be able to spend up elsewhere and if Savage and Hopkins can get to GPP value you are a step ahead of the game.

Our game summary for Hopkins from the Jacksonville contest is also a positive data point:

Tom Savage might be Hopkins saving grace especially with the amount of times Hopkins was targeted. Hopkins was targeted plenty of times and caught 8 passes and was finally targeted downfield more than 20 yards. Hopkins misses a chance for a touchdown after beating the defender and going up to catch the ball and when coming down the ball popped loose which would have been a touchdown. Hopkins did his work in the intermediate routes and his long catch was only 16 yards but he worked on the outside and in the slot. Hopkins looked much more comfortable with Savage working behind center and their timing was on point throughout the 2 plus quarters they worked together.

My Advice: The Bengals play a lot of zone over the middle and the unit is better at it than the youthful Jaguars. Dig routes are the kind of patterns that can get undercut by dropping linebackers and defensive ends. Tom Savage could have a multi-interception game if he gets too aggressive.

This is a distinct possibility with Savage, who has a big-time arm and the mentality at the University of Pittsburgh that he could force the ball into tight windows and stare down first reads. Granted, Savage has had two years to learn on the bench and he could have developed into a much stronger student of the game.

While possible, it's Week 16 and I'll believe it when I see it. The Bengals passing defense is as good as its stats indicate. Only Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas got the best of the unit with a combined 15-217-3 last month. The only other receivers to earn at least 90 yards on the Bengals are Odell Beckham, Jamison Crowder, and the streaky Sammie Coates. These performances happened weeks ago. 

While I won't be starting Savage, I will consider Hopkins as a WR4. It's a modest consideration and I can't go higher even if Savage's daring nature could get the most from Hopkins, a Fitzgerald-like talent against tight coverage.    

Lean on me

The two names Footballguys staffers are mentioning within this vein of "ride-or-die" for Week 16 are Jordan Howard and Michael Crabtree. Justin Howe loves Howard's Dark Zone Appeal

You can’t really overstate just how fantastic Howard’s rookie season has been. On a per-touch basis, he’s been nearly as efficient as Ezekiel Elliott, and his seven touchdowns are impressive considering his late-earned starting role and his team’s 29th-ranked scoring offense. Much of that comes from his impressive dark zone effectiveness; since his Week 4 ascension into the lineup, Howard ranks just 19th in dark zone runs (13) but tied for 7th in touchdowns (6). That’s a success rate that blows David JohnsonLeGarrette BlountDeMarco MurrayLeSean McCoy, and even Elliott himself out of the water.

The lesson to learn is that, when we can project the Bears to score moderately, we should move Howard up our GPP ranks in anticipation of scoring opportunity. (Which is merely a boost, of course, to his already strong, strong weekly outlook. Howard is a gifted, productive young back.) And Week 16 fits the bill – his Bears carry a better-than-typical 21.5-point Vegas projection in a neutral-script matchup with Washington. Howard is priced near his ceiling, but it’s a fairly considerable one this week.

 He's also high on Crabtree...

Like Julio JonesAmari Cooper is an immensely talented young wideout who, for whatever reason, simply can’t buy his way into his team’s short-yardage offense. Through 30 NFL games, Cooper has drawn just 6 of the Raiders’ 62 targets (9.7%) in the dark zone. That’s right: he “boasts” right around half the workload as distant No. 3 wideout Seth Roberts.

More importantly, it pales even further in comparison with Crabtree’s 16 (25.8%); that’s not an overwhelming share of targets, but it’s hefty enough to make us confident he’s the top option from there. He’s been the clear preference of late, and Derek Carr’s Raiders are particularly pass-heavy near the goal line, as their 40 dark zone passes sit third in the league. It adds up nicely that the connection will see notable run in Sunday’s highest-projected matchup (53 points). Obviously, you want to chase intriguing touchdown opportunity in these types of games.

He's not alone about this pair. John Mamula's Starting Stacks explains why Crabtree's inconsistency isn't something to get hung up on. 

At first look, Crabtree seems to be inconsistent this season with (4) games under 6.1 DraftKings fantasy points. However, (3) of those games have been against either Kanas City or Denver who each have elite defenses. Crabtree has (8) games with at least 17.7 DraftKings fantasy points. This is another week where Crabtree is underpriced as the 16th highest WR on DraftKings.

Scott Bischoff reveals why Crabtree has a better shot at fantasy-worthy production against the Colts defense than Amari Cooper in his Starting Stacks piece. 

The Colts have allowed 330 completions which is ranked No. 24 in the NFL. They’ve given up 23 passing scores to date which is ranked No. 19 league-wide. They’ve have allowed a touchdown-to-completion ratio of 7.0 percent which is ranked No. 20 in the NFL.

The Raiders have allowed 49 passing plays that have gone for 20+ yards, a rate of 14.9 percent which is No. 23 overall. Interestingly, they tighten up when it comes to giving up big, vertical plays. They’ve allowed only seven passing plays that have gone for 40 or more yards which is eleventh-best in the NFL.

The Colts defense tightens down the field and receiver Amari Cooper will draw the Colts best cornerback in Vontae Davis. This will open up things for receiver Michael Crabtree, and he’s been very busy of late. In five games since the Week 10 bye, he’s been targeted 46 times and has caught 28 passes. Cooper has only been targeted 29 times in that same span and it seems that Crabtree has emerged (for the time being) as the No. 1 receiving option in Oakland.

Crabtree is far more utilized in the red zone and he and Carr have some chemistry working as the field shortens. If the Raiders get into the red zone as much as Vegas is forecasting, Crabtree has a real nice shot at a very good game and is absolutely worthy of selection in GPP play in Week 16.

Dan Hindery notes in the DFS Roundtable that "Crabtree has at least two red zone targets in seven of the past eight games." Jeff Haseley also likes Crabtree because he agrees with Bischoff that Cooper is likely to draw Vontae Davis more often. 

I also stole the "Lean On Me" segment title from Haseley, a reference he used for Howard in his Week 16 Fantasy Overview

1. LEAN ON ME - JORDAN HOWARD

I'm convinced that Jordan Howard is this year's David Johnson and yes I will target him in the first round in next year's redraft leagues. How good has Howard been? He has seven consecutive games of 100 total yards or more, with five touchdowns. What makes this feat even more impressive is that he's doing it amidst the Bears losing eight of their last ten games. Every now and then we see a stud fantasy back who produces regardless of how the team fares. Jamaal Charles and Arian Foster have turned the trick on less than stellar teams. Adrian Peterson is another. Looking at this week's matchup for Howard, the Bears will host Washington, who just laid an egg on defense against Jonathan Stewart and the Panthers. This is a favorable matchup for Howard and the Bears. If you're in the big game with Howard, I like your chances of putting up strong numbers. 

My Advice: Teams that run downhill on Washington have success and Howard's specialty is dropping the hammer and rolling down the mountainside. Jonathan Stewart, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Jeremy Hill, Ryan Mathews, Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell, and DeAngelo Williams all fit the profile of runners who know how to run north-south on a defense and most of them left heavy tread marks on Washington's unit. I comped Howard to a young Stephen Davis last February.

As for Crabtree, it's a bigger risk but an equally strong reward as Howard in PPR leagues. This game has a chance to be a shootout because the Raiders are weak against the pass and the Colts have Luck on their side to keep the game close.

I found Bischoff's analysis about the Colts defense the most compelling argument in favor of Crabtree and I'd go with it.  

Hunter Henry, welcome to Cleveland

Need a streamer? The Chargers rookie is a strong bet against the Browns defense this weekend. He's a 1-A sleeper for Bloom: 

Antonio GatesHunter Henry (at CLE) - Gates’ “catch Tony Gonzalez on the all-time tight end touchdown list” narrative has a hit brick wall, as Henry has been the Chargers Johnny on the spot in the red zone lately. Henry has four scores to Gates one over the last five games, but against the Browns this week, there could be enough to go around for both to reach paydirt. Cleveland has allowed six tight end scores in the last six games and twelve on the season. Everything seems to work against the Browns defense, so if the Chargers do have a priority on getting Gates name in the record book again, this week presents a golden opportunity to do so.

Although Ingel is worried about the pair canceling out a good offering from one specific option, he acknowledges the excellent matchup. 

Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry – The Browns are getting destroyed by opposing TEs so both of these guys should be very active. I should out them both in the “Positive” section, but since there is two of them; it makes it a bit dicey. They have a combined 12 TDs on the year and Henry has 3 in the past four games. I like both of them to score this week.

My Advice: Roll with Henry. The Browns linebackers and safeties get tricked easily and the Chargers do a good job of working Henry open with rub routes, counter movement, and play action.