WEEK 16 PREPARATION
Congratulations to those of you who dominated the playoffs up to this point or squeaked by by two-tenths of a point. You looked at bad luck in the face and said "is that all you got?" No Leonard Fournette, no problem. Or, thanks Aaron Rodgers for the one-game rental. Kareem Hunt entered back into the stratosphere in the nick of time. Keelan Cole and Nick Foles to the rescue. Or maybe Eli Manning saved your bacon? However you made it to the big game, Congratulations! Forget everything that happened last week. It's a whole new strategy. Todd Gurley may have been your savior last week, but can he do it again? Will Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin rebound after a disastrous week? Chances are many of those owners, especially Wilson owners, won't be playing this week. If so, you're likely in the minority.
Week 16 is here. You're in the Finals. (Hopefully the smallest of percentages of you have a Week 17 Championship). Maybe you have a lot of money on the line? Or maybe just bragging rights among your family, friends or co-workers. Either way, the goal is in sight. Here's a few thoughts on how you can take down your opponent and lift the trophy.
Should you target the jacksonville passing/receiving game this week?
After years of everything going wrong for Jacksonville, this year everything seems to be trending in a positive direction. The loss of Allen Robinson was big, but Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, Dede Westbrook and recently Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens have stepped up their game in conjunction with the fantasy playoffs. Who can you trust this week at San Francisco? Dede Westbrook has been the team's top target over the last four games, but he was quiet last week, while two undrafted free agent rookie receivers Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens rose to the occasion. Cole has 15 receptions on 22 targets with touchdowns in three straight games and Mickens caught four receptions (he has a total of five this season) with two scores last week. Any option is a WR4 or flex play at best, but among those mentioned, Westbrook and Cole could produce for us. What makes this bottom of the roster start a possibility is the recent effectiveness of Blake Bortles, who has two 300-yard games in the last three games with at least two touchdown passes in each of those contests. This week's opponent, San Francisco has improved in pass defense lately, but they have allowed at least two touchdowns in 8 of the last 9 games. Bortles is a die I'd be willing to roll and Westbrook and/or Cole could be worthy recipients in the game you need them most.
LET FOOTBALLGUYS DO THE LEGWORK FOR YOU
Fantasy Football is essentially making decisions on unknown expectations. Oh sure, we can get an idea of who to play based on trends, statistics, matchups and opportunities, but the more you know, the better off you'll be. Research Vegas lines. Our John Lee does a great job of looking at each game's expected point totals to learn about which players to target in his weekly Vegas Value Chart You can also use DFS to give you an edge when determining your lineup. Each week we take a look at expected ownership percentages based on lineups that locked for Thursday night contests. Projecting Ownership A high ownership by the consensus of the daily fantasy world might be enough to persuade you to pencil in a particular player in your Championship game lineup. You'll be surprised how much this can help you. One last page that can help you is Aaron Rudnicki's weekly piece Exposed WR/TE matchups. This article examines the good and bad matchups that receivers have against opposing cover corners. It's a great weekly read that can ultimately be the deciding factor on pulling the trigger on your WR4 or your flex option. *please note these links are tagged with Week 16 articles that may not be published until Wednesday or Thursday.
These are your stud quarterbacks this week
Cam Newton - Carolina is averaging 30.5 points per game since trading away Kelvin Benjamin. Before the trade that total was a mere 18 points per game. Newton has finished in the Top 7 in three of the last five games including two #1 ranks. This week's opponent Tampa Bay has lost 9 of their last 11 games and Carolina is eyeing a playoff berth that could seed them anywhere from 2nd to 6th or even out. This is Newton and Carolina's last home game of the year (pending a home playoff game). You can bet they will be ready to pounce on the reeling Buccaneers who will be playing on a short week and may have put all of their effort into last week's home Monday Night Football game against Atlanta. The season is nearly over. Carolina is going places and is peaking at the right time and Tampa Bay will be looking forward to ending the season.
Russell Wilson - If you are still alive with Wilson on your roster, it will be difficult to bench him. A lackluster performance will have people looking elsewhere, but the truth is, Seattle is still alive for a playoff berth and Russell Wilson is still kicking. This week's matchup at Dallas is good, but not great, but Wilson's magic and Houdini act make him a player to target. the Cowboys have allowed at least two touchdown passes in six of the last seven games, but only one was a 300+ yard effort.
Ben Roethlisberger - Perhaps not a stud, but he's worth playing for the matchup alone. Yes, the Steelers will be facing the Texans without Antonio Brown, but that means Martavis Bryant and especially JuJu Smith-Schuster will step up their game and rise to the occasion. Houston is a team full of pride, but injuries have derailed their talent and their talent's replacements. We may see Houston put up a fight in the first half, but Roethlisberger and the Steelers should take care of business in the second half. Houston has allowed 300+ yards passing in six of the last ten games. While I do see Le'Veon Bell playing a big role this week, I still expect to see Roethlisberger move the ball at will and notch one or two first half touchdowns. The one concern I have is that the second half will feature a heavy dose of rushing attempts, especially if Roethlisberger's hamstring is bothersome. We might even see him benched if the game is out of hand.
Tom Brady - The Patriots are looking to keep the #1 seed and they must beat Buffalo and NY Jets at home to do so. Buffalo has been strong against opposing quarterbacks all year with only one game since Week 7 where an opposing quarterback (Brady included) had more than 1 touchdown pass in the game. In fact, Buffalo has allowed only two quarterbacks this entire season to have more than two touchdown passes in a game (Philip Rivers and Jameis Winston). I'm not suggesting you bench Brady, but the Bills have been downright strong against quarterbacks and it would not shock me to see them put the clamps on Brady once again. Weeks where an opposing quarterback scored 20+ fantasy points against Buffalo - 2. Two! Oh yeah, Brady has thrown two touchdown passes in the last three games. Two!
PLAY the RUNNING BACKS Who got you here
Todd Gurley at Tennessee - Gurley was giving out Championship Game invites to several teams last week. The fun should continue against this week at Tennessee. He is a rock in the Rams offense both as a rusher and receiver. He is on pace to be next year's #1 overall pick and for good reason. As long as he is healthy, he should rack up the points. That includes this week.
Le'Veon Bell at Houston - This could be a rush-heavy game for Pittsburgh, which means Le'Veon Bell should see a hefty load of carries and targets. Houston has allowed 7 rushing touchdowns by running backs in the last four games. Bell for the win!
Melvin Gordon III at New York Jets - 16, 20, 21, 19, 22, 19 - the number of carries for Gordon in the last six games. He also has 19 receptions in that same span. Gordon has only scored three touchdowns in the last six weeks, but he is receiving plenty of volume to be a reliable fantasy back. The Jets have struggled since losing Josh McCown in Week 14. They have allowed four rushing touchdowns over the last four games and look to be a good matchup for Gordon and the Chargers this week.
Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II vs Atlanta - There have been only three games where Ingram or Kamara have not scored in a game this year. They have both scored in the same game five times and four of their seven home games. Interestingly enough, one of those games where the duo was held scoreless was Week 14 at Atlanta. Now they return home where they both score 57% of the time and one of them scores 85% of the time. Atlanta may have been stingy against them in Week 14, but that was also when Kamara suffered a concussion in the first quarter of the game. I'm expecting to see a strong effort from the Saints backs this week.
Kareem Hunt vs Miami - Thie Chiefs and Kareem Hunt arrived to save their playoff lives just in time. Miami played their best game of the year against New England and then laid an egg against Buffalo. I can see them giving up once again this week in what looks like a big offensive day for the Chiefs. Hunt has carried the ball 25 and 24 times in each of the last two games for 116 and 155 yards respectively. He also has scored three touchdowns in the last two games with 73 receiving yards combined. In short - Hunt appears to be back and the matchup against Miami is a favorable one.
Ezekiel Elliott vs Seattle - Guess who's back in time for the Championship Game? Shake off the dust from Ezekiel Elliott at the bottom of your roster and insert him into your lineup. Seattle has allowed 21-152-3 to Todd Gurley in Week 15 and 24-101-1 to Leonard Fournette in Week 14. What is Elliott going to do? My guess is more of the same. A 100-yard game and a score seems very doable for Elliott, despite the fact that he may have some rust.
LeSean McCoy at New England - The Patriots have allowed 24-117-1 to Le'Veon Bell in Week 15, 25-114-0 to Kenyan Drake in Week 14 and 15-93-0 to LeSean McCoy in Week 13. McCoy has been a staple of the Bills offense all year. He has five touchdowns in the last five games, including three in the last two. McCoy should see a lot of volume this week in what I think will be a surprisingly close battle with New England.
Alex Collins vs Indianapolis - Aside from last week Alex Collins has been on top of his game, scoring five touchdowns in the last five games. The Ravens return home after two straight road games and control their destiny for the #5 seed in the AFC. It starts this week against the Colts, who have lost eight of their last nine games. What makes this matchup favorable for Collins is the fact that the Colts have allowed back to back 150-yard rushers in LeSean McCoy and C.J. Anderson. Collins figures to have a juicy matchup in the biggest "gotta have it" fantasy week of the year.
CONSIDER THESE two RUNNING BACKS THIS WEEK
James White - Rex Burkhead (knee) is expected to be out this week, making White someone to target. Some back history on White. When Burkhead was out in Weeks 3-6, White had 22 receptions in those four games.
Jonathan Stewart - The Panthers have averaged 186.5 yards rushing per game since Week 9 with 10 rushing touchdowns. The team is averaging 5.48 yards per carry in that span which leads the league. Tampa Bay has allowed 4.9 yards per rush since Week 10. This has the feel of a big game for the Panthers as they try to solidify their place for the NFC Playoffs.
wide receivers to lean on this week
It's easy to pick out the must starts - DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, A.J. Green, etc. but the real challenge is finding those who aren't a given to produce, but will. Here's my list.
Larry Fitzgerald vs NY Giants - Fitzgerald has 73 more targets than the next closest Cardinals receiver this season and 34 more targets in the last six games. He is the first and second option on an offense devoid of a starting running back and a secondary receiver. This week, the Cardinals will host the Giants who have given up six touchdowns to wide receivers in the last four games.
JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant at Houston - This should be a no-brainer with Antonio Brown out of the picture. Ben Roethlisberger will lean on Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant against the Texans. My only concern is how much passing will they need to do in the second half of the game. If the game is somewhat close, this won't be an issue. If Pittsburgh has a 14+ point lead, they won't need to pass. Lean on Smith-Schuster and Bryant.
Robert Woods at Tennessee - Robert Woods has been sharp all season before suffering a shoulder injury that kept him shelved for Weeks 12, 13 and 14. There was some concern about how he would bounce back in his first game back. He put those concerns to rest with a team-leading 6 catches on 7 targets for 45 yards and a touchdown in last week's blowout win at Seattle. He'll face the Titans in Week 16.
Demaryius Thomas at Washington - Washington has lost their defensive luster and even Josh Norman has appeared to put less of an effort into his lockdown corner role. Receivers have found success against Norman lately and this week Thomas will be the team's primary target with Emmanuel Sanders battling an ankle injury. There is a good chance that Thomas exceeds 7-8 targets and tops 60+ yards. A touchdown on top of that would be nice. Washington has allowed at least 15 standard fantasy points to opposing team's top wide receiver in five of the last seven games.
Nothing new with tight ends this week - play your studs
Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Greg Olsen, Evan Engram, Delanie Walker lead the way. All six of these players should be adequate tight end starts this week. Again, the challenge is to find others who you can insert into your lineup if needed. Not every team has a pristine lineup. Teams have holes, even those in the Championship game.
Some other tight ends to consider include
Jack Doyle at Baltimore. I don't expect the Colts to do much on offense against Baltimore on the road, but Doyle could wind up leading the team in targets and receptions this week. He might reach five receptions. He has done so in 8 of 13 games this season.
Charles Clay at New England. If Buffalo is going to make some noise in Foxborough, they will have to at some point make some plays downfield. The Bills are lacking in the receiving department, but Clay has been the go-to target for the Bills with 9 targets last week and 28 to lead the team since Week 10. His 19 receptions in that span is also a team high, besting McCoy (14) and Travaris Cadet (13).
Eric Ebron at Cincinnati - The Bengals have allowed 33 and 34 points in each of their last two games, plus Ebron has picked up his game lately totaling 36 targets in the last six games (5th most among tight ends and 2nd most on the team). He also has two touchdowns in that span, which is second most on the team only to Marvin Jones Jr.
Defenses I like this week
Baltimore vs Indianapolis - An interception and 3+ sacks seems like a given. Plus it will be tough for the Colts to score. The Ravens have 3 shutouts this year and have allowed 17 points or less in seven of their 14 games.
Carolina vs Tampa Bay - After 1 interception in their first seven games, Carolina has nine in their last seven including five fumble recoveries. Their 43 sacks is third most in the league and their 20.4 points allowed per game is also third in the league. Tampa Bay has allowed 12 sacks and 6 giveaways in the last three games.
Kansas City vs Miami - Jay Cutler has been wildly inaccurate lately and looks to have given up on the season. I have a feeling the Chiefs will unload on the Dolphins in this game as they prepare for a playoff run. Miami has allowed 15 sacks in the last four games with 14 giveaways in the last five. Three turnovers and 3+ sacks seems about right.
Chicago vs Cleveland - Four teams have scored a defensive touchdown against Cleveland this year and the Browns have given up at least two sacks in every game since Week 6. Cleveland has eight giveaways in the last three games and Chicago has scored the 7th most fantasy points for a team defense this year. This is a good matchup for the Bears defense.
Good luck. Go earn the Championship.
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