Five big fantasy matchups to watch
The Game: Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars
Time: 1:00pm eastern (Sunday)
At Stake: The Jaguars are fighting for a spot in the playoffs.
Why it matters to fantasy owners: Outside of one game on the schedule (which we will be discussing shortly), I’m not sure you can find another Week 16 matchup that features two more porous defenses. Jacksonville (371.5 yds/gm) and Washington (397.6 yds/gm) both rank in the bottom-seven this season in total defense and bottom-ten in scoring defense. In addition, both squads rank in the top-four in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks and top-nine in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers. Keep in mind that the ‘Skins have surrendered 31 or more points in three of their last four road games.
Players to start: Just about everyone, which includes Washington quarterback Rex Grossman (deeper leagues). Both defenses rank in the top-11 in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs, so Maurice Jones-Drew and Ryan Torain should find some opening running lanes for the majority of this 60-minute showdown.
Players to sit: Mike Thomas, Rashad Jennings and Anthony Armstrong are all bubble players, but owners in deeper leagues should give them a good, long look.
The Game: Houston Texans at Denver Broncos
Time: 4:05pm eastern (Sunday)
At Stake: Absolutely nothing.
Why it matters to fantasy owners: These two bumbling squads have pretty much mailed it in on their fans, but fantasy owners will likely be on the edge of their seats once this thing gets underway at Invesco Field. The Texans rank dead last in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks this season (23.8 pts/gm) and 31st in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers (26.6 pts/gm). Meanwhile, no defense in the league has given up more fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2010 than the Denver Broncos (26.6 pts/gm). This may be hard to believe, but both Denver (29.6 pts/gm) and Houston (27.6 pts/gm) rank in the bottom-three in the league in scoring defense this season.
Players to start: Inserting Tim Tebow into the starting lineup is a roll of the dice, but he’s essentially the only player in this game worth even the slightest bit of concern. Start every Texan on the roster (Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter are WR3 options for owners in deeper leagues).
Players to sit: It will depend on your other roster options, but I’d keep Eddie Royal and possibly Walter on the bench. No matter what you read this week, don’t even think about starting either of these defenses.
The Game: Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Time: 1:00pm eastern (Sunday)
At Stake: Disgustingly, both teams are still alive in the playoff hunt.
Why it matters to fantasy owners: There is very little on Planet Earth that will get a head coach more excited than a home date with the Seattle Seahawks. Pete Carroll’s crew is 2-5 on the road this season and has surrendered 31 or more points in four of those seven games, including 40 on December 12 at San Francisco. The Seahawks currently check-in at 29th in the NFL in total defense (376.7 yds/gm) and rank in the top-six in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. Tampa Bay has taken a big step forward in 2010, but this team still ranks 20th in the league in total defense (346.0 yds/gm).
Players to start: For Tampa, LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams are a must. In addition, Josh Freeman is a strong play in deeper leagues while rookie wideout Arrelious Benn could make for a serviceable WR3. On the other side of the ball, Mike Williams should be considered a WR2/3 with Marshawn Lynch getting consideration for a flex spot.
Players to sit: Whoever starts at QB for the Seahawks, as well as Ben Obomanu, Justin Forsett and John Carlson.
The Game: Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders
Time: 4:05pm eastern (Sunday)
At Stake: Both teams are coming off important wins and need to stay hot if they want to taste postseason play.
Why it matters to fantasy owners: Both defenses have been repeatedly embarrassed trying to stop the run in 2010, meaning owners should feel a twinge of excitement over the possibilities for Darren McFadden and Donald Brown. The Colts currently rank seventh in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs (22.1 pts/gm) and 28th in run defense (135.8 yds/gm), while the Raiders rank 26th against the run (130.9 yds/gm) and ninth in fantasy points allowed to opposing ball-carriers (21.2 pts/gm). The key for Oakland will be to succeed where the Jaguars failed last week: by running the ball, moving the sticks and keeping Peyton Manning off the field. Remember, the Indianapolis’ defense is surrendering a ridiculous 153.6 rushing yards per game on the road in 2010.
Players to start: Both Darren McFadden (RB1) and Donald Brown (RB2/flex) should already be in the lineup, not to mention the usual suspects (Manning, Wayne, Garcon, Tamme). QB Jason Campbell is a decent play, but only if the Colts get up big.
Players to sit: The Oakland wide receivers have been inconsistent this season, so owners are advised to go with a safer option if available. Michael Bush could make for a decent flex play (deeper leagues) if he gets enough touches.
The Game: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Time: 8:30pm eastern (Monday night)
At Stake: The NFC South, playoff positioning, bragging rights and an NFP tee shirt.
Why it matters to fantasy owners: Did you know that the Falcons and Saints are averaging a combined 53.0 points per game over their last six meetings? Yeah, it’s going to be a shootout. Atlanta currently ranks 20th in the NFL in pass defense (226.8 yds/gm) and is giving up an average of 24.2 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers (fifth-most in NFL). While New Orleans brings a bit more defensive balance to the table, the Saints still rank 19th in the league against the run (117.0 yds/gm) and are surrendering an average of 20.2 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (12th-most in NFL). Both teams have holes that can be exploited.
Players to start: Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas and Marques Colston should be in the starting lineup, as well as Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White. Tight ends Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham offer some upside as well.
Players to sit: Outside of Colston, it’s difficult to try and predict which Saints wideout will step up and make plays. We’d also stay away from Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas, Jason Snelling and Reggie Bush.