WEEK 16 PREPARATION
Congratulations to those of you who dominated the playoffs up to this point, or squeaked through by the narrowest of margins. You looked at bad luck in the face and said: "is that all you got?" Last week, several key players did not come through for us, including but not limited to Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and that's just quarterbacks. Notable running backs and receivers also struggled - Phillip Lindsay, Saquon Barkley, Amari Cooper, Zach Ertz, Adam Thielen, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyreek Hill among others had surprisingly poor results. There will be a lot of teams in the title game who stumbled in. To use a hockey/soccer analogy, a goal is still a goal even if it slowly rolls past the goalie. It takes skill to advance this far, but there's also a great deal of luck involved. Congratulation on making it this far.
Week 16 is here. You survived. 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 are a few thoughts on how you can take down your opponent and lift the trophy.
your future looks brighter if you have home running backs in your lineup
Unless there's an injury to a big name player, go with those who got you here. Home running backs are the ticket, especially later in the year. Key performers like Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, and even Melvin Gordon III returning from injury should produce well in the week we need them. That's not to say that Todd Gurley (at Arizona), Dalvin Cook (at Detroit), and Joe Mixon (at Cleveland) won't produce, but there's a greater chance of higher performance from the backs with a home-field advantage.
Derrick Henry for the win
Is there not a hotter back in the league right now than Derrick Henry? Ride the wave and hope it doesn't come crashing ashore just yet. Tennessee has a home matchup against Washington which, according to rushing defensive efficiency, is a favorable matchup for Tennessee. Henry and the Titans offensive line is clicking now. Henry has 50 carries for 408 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns in the last two games - against Jacksonville and at NY Giants. Taking a deeper look at Washington's defensive efforts lately, they stuffed the Jaguars and Leonard Fournette last week but allowed 170 rushing yards to Saquon Barkley in Week 14. It would be a surprise for Tennessee to not continue to feed their workhorse back who has been brilliant lately. Start Henry if you've got him. If he performs above expectations again, he'll be the talk of the title winners.
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 roster percentages. 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 of this week.
three quarterbacks to be wary of starting
For the most part, ride with the horse that got you here, but here are three big-name quarterbacks who may not reach their usual production, and none are named Cam Newton. On a side note, stay away from Newton. Don't give in to the urge. He appears to be damaged goods.
Tom Brady - I know what you're thinking here. He's TB12, Tom Terrific, "The GOAT" for crying out loud. Why would he have troubles any week, especially in a home game during a playoff race, against lowly 5-9 Buffalo? Wait, Buffalo?! It's difficult to read it even after it's written, but yes, there are reasons to be concerned about Brady this week. He has multiple touchdown passes in only two of the last seven games, including twice where he didn't have any touchdown passes - one of which was against Buffalo. The Bills have also allowed the 2nd fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks since Week 8 - that's a sample size of seven games. They have allowed only 7 touchdown passes in that seven-game span - one of which was Brady's Patriots. Brady is not a must-start this week. If you have a better option, consider it.
Philip Rivers - Rivers could shock us all and have an efficient, timely game against Baltimore, but looking at the matchup and trends for both teams, his ceiling may be two touchdowns and 250 yards passing. Three touchdowns seem like it would be an anomaly. Baltimore has not allowed a quarterback to exceed two touchdown passes in a game since Andy Dalton turned the trick in Week 2. They have allowed only one 300-yard passer since Baker Mayfield in Week 5. They have allowed only four touchdown passes in the last four games, and that includes Patrick Mahomes II III, Matt Ryan, and Jameis Winston. Can Rivers be the anomaly? Yes he can, he's having that kind of career year. However is it likely? No, it's not. Play the percentages. Unless you don't have any better options, consider benching Rivers this week for a different option.
Drew Brees - What happened to Drew Brees? Are Brees owners still alive anyway? Since Week 13, Brees has tossed only two touchdowns against Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Carolina. The Saints offense has done enough to win two of those games, but they have not looked strong in doing so and Brees is a big reason why. Can you trust him this week against Pittsburgh? At home even? The answer is...well, maybe not. Like Baltimore, the Steelers have not allowed a quarterback to exceed two touchdown passes in a game since Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three touchdown passes in Week 3. No quarterbacks since Week 6 have even had over 40 pass attempts in a game against Pittsburgh. Since Week 4 they have allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Can Brees be an anomaly this week? Yes, he can, but the numbers, stats, and trends suggest another underachieving game could be on the horizon.
Two quarterbacks to consider starting
Matt Ryan - Atlanta is not going to make the playoffs and neither is their opponent, Carolina. The Panthers just played a brilliant game on defense against the Saints, but now, after their sixth loss in a row, the desire to play for a playoff spot will be gone. Their quarterback, Cam Newton is struggling with arm/shoulder issues and the team may fold knowing their season is lost. The team is in disarray, but this is still a divisional rival game. Look for Ryan to come out swinging. It'll be a road game where he won't have to worry about 30,000 empty seats. Carolina will be the team that disappoints here, especially if Cam Newton is still starting. Ryan has 7 touchdowns in the last three games and they are coming off a 40-point effort last week.
Russell Wilson - The Seahawks have been a run-oriented team this year, with Russell Wilson's theatrics taking a back seat, but the matchup against Kansas City may dictate a different approach. If Patrick Mahomes II III can score on Seattle, this could turn into a game that reaches a point total in the upper 40's or low 50's. If that happens, it benefits Wilson. The Seahawks have shown that they are a different, more competitive team at home. They are in the middle of a playoff race, they need this game, and the matchup against Kansas City will bring out their best efforts. It all points to a potential big scoring output from Wilson. The stars are aligned for him to have a three-touchdown game with good, high yardage.
can you rely on Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon III?
Both star players are dealing with minor knee injuries. Melvin Gordon III missed two games as a result and Gurley hasn't missed any, but he showed a potential kink in the armor trying to play through it. Gordon practiced in full on Tuesday and is expected to play and start vs Baltimore. Gurley has a "knee inflammation" and is not expected to miss time. So should you play both? The gut answer is yes. If they can play, you start them. Could there be some lingering effects that could yield lesser results than normal? Yes, it's possible, but all indications suggest that both Gordon and Gurley will play, and their respective teams need them. Both the Chargers and Rams are fighting for a bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Both are expected to be key pieces in their team's game plan with heavy usage. Unless something comes up prior to gameday, both are worthy of starting this week.
who are some waiver pickups that you can potentially start this week?
Kalen Ballage, Miami - Miami wasn't able to muster much against Minnesota last week, but the injury to Frank Gore opened the door for rookie Kalen Ballage to see more playing time in a lost season for the Dolphins. Ballage had 123 rushing yards with a touchdown on 12 carries last week. He had 26 snaps compared to Kenyan Drake's 28 snaps. He could see more opportunities in the next two weeks and might be someone to consider in a deep flex spot.
Elijah McGuire, NY Jets - The Jets have injury problems at running back, leaving McGuire as the only healthy option. He has back to back games of 17 carries or more with a touchdown in both games. The Jets host the Packers and both teams will be playing for pride without a playoff berth as a possibility. There is a slight lean to the home team when only pride is on the line.
Nick Foles, Philadelphia - We've seen this before, Nick Foles replaces Carson Wentz and he leads the team to a stunning, surprising victory. The Eagles can and will lean on Nick Foles. This is a home game for Philadelphia and Houston has allowed three 300-yard passing efforts in their last four games. They have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks since Week 12. To make matters more inviting, the Eagles have allowed 455 and 339 yards passing to their last two opponents (Dak Prescott and Jared Goff). This could be a sneaky game script that favors the quarterbacks. Could Foles come alive once again? It's possible.
Cleveland Browns Defense - The Browns are on a hot streak and they will face a reeling Bengals team who have injuries at several key positions. They lost their starting quarterback, their top two wide receivers, and their starting tight end. If you're in a pinch, consider Cleveland. They have 8 sacks and 4 interceptions in the last four games, with 32 sacks total on the year including 17 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries. There will be worse defenses that other teams will start.
Atlanta Falcons Defense - As mentioned earlier, Cam Newton is damaged goods. If he starts this week (some believe Carolina will shelve Newton for the rest of the year), the Falcons defense is an option to consider. They have 15 sacks in their last four games. With pressure comes mistakes and Newton is prone to making mistakes, especially now that this injury is affecting his game. He struggles to throw a 30-yard pass right now, let alone it being accurate. After 11 straight games of two touchdown passes or more, Newton has failed to throw even one in his last two games. This is a perfect setting for a big defensive effort from the Falcons.
Robert Foster, Buffalo - Josh Allen has a strong arm and Robert Foster has been his favorite deep target lately. He has come on strong since the Kelvin Benjamin departure catching 11 passes in the last two games with 104 and 108 yards including a touchdown. He's worthy of a deep flex option this week against New England who has allowed an average of 14 receptions for 164 yards and 1.3 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers since Week 12.
DaeSean Hamilton, Denver - The rookie from Penn State has taken over the Emmanuel Sanders role in the Broncos offense. He has 21 targets in the last two games with 7 receptions in each game, including a touchdown. He may be picked over in your league, but if he's still available on the wire, grab him, even if just to block your opponent from finding a flex option. He's worthy of a flex option in deeper leagues and is someone to consider in your Championship lineup this week.
Feel free to reach me on twitter with any questionable lineup decisions. As always, good luck to you. Go earn the Championship!
Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org