Week 16 Start ‘em/Sit ‘em: Championship edition
The moment of truth is finally here.
For many of you, Week 16 means one more game. One last matchup to determine whether your name will be inscribed in fantasy history. One last opportunity to pull out all the stops and head into the offseason with deeper pockets.
For those who will be playing for a league championship next weekend, don’t worry. I’ll be running down a complete list of Starts and Sits next Thursday as well.
Before we take a look at some of the top Starts and Sits for Championship Weekend, here are a few key notes to keep in mind:
1. Check the weather: Snow and rain can cause problems, but high winds are what should really concern you. If a start/sit decision comes out even in your opinion, use the weather as a tiebreaker.
2. Don’t overthink your lineup: You reached this point in the season for a reason. You’ve spent time studying during the week, scouring the waiver wire and checking the matchups. Go with the horses that got you there, unless…
3. Be cautious with the studs from Indy: It looks like Peyton Manning and company are going to start in Week 16 when the Colts host the Jets. However, while head coach Jim Caldwell told reporters this week, “Our No. 1 goal is to win the game,” he also said, “There may be some time where depending on how the game goes whether or not [Curtis Painter] plays.” Bottom line: If you have a solid backup option, go with it. Even if the studs do last until the fourth quarter, the Jets play some pretty good defense.
4. Have fun: All of your hard work has paid off in a trip to the big game. Have fun this weekend watching all the action and keeping track of your team. This is the last fantasy football game of the year. Enjoy it.
GET ‘EM IN THE LINEUP
Beanie Wells RB Arizona Cardinals: We told you to start him last week, and the rookie from Ohio State didn’t disappoint, racking up 110 yards and one touchdown on just 17 carries (6.5 YPC). Meanwhile, fumble machine Tim Hightower saw just six handoffs all game, giving him a paltry 14 carries in his last three contests. Sunday, Wells gets a crack at the St. Louis Rams, who are giving up an average of 24.1 fantasy points per week to opposing running backs, which ranks 27th in the league.
Derrick Mason WR Baltimore Ravens: Like a fine California Cabernet, Mason continues to get better with age. The 35-year-old has been very productive down the stretch, catching 20 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns in his past four games. In addition, Mason is averaging a rock-solid 8.7 targets per game during that stretch, so you know quarterback Joe Flacco is going to get him the football. A date with the Steelers certainly doesn’t look as intimidating as it once did, as Pittsburgh’s defense is allowing an average of 22.4 fantasy points per week to opposing wide receivers (28th). The last time these two teams met (Week 12), Mason caught 7 passes on 12 targets for 62 yards and a touchdown.
Alex Smith QB San Francisco 49ers: Looking for a suitable quarterback replacement for Championship Weekend? Look no further than 49ers signal-caller Alex Smith, who has been a very effective fantasy quarterback since taking over for Shaun Hill in late October. Smith has thrown two or more touchdown passes in six of nine games this season and is 3-1 at home with six TD tosses. What makes this such an appealing Week 16 start is that the Niners will be hosting the Detroit Lions, who rank dead last in points allowed to opposing fantasy quarterbacks (22.4).
Greg Olsen TE Chicago Bears: Olsen has only caught five passes in his last three games, but Monday night features a good old-fashioned NFC North showdown between the Bears and Vikings (at Soldier Field), so you know Chicago is going to get up for this one. The good news for Olsen owners is that quarterback Jay Cutler will not have much time in the pocket with stud defensive ends Jared Allen and Ray Edwards coming off the edge, so he’ll be forced to get rid of the ball quickly -- which means Cutler will have to hit short-to-intermediate routes like the ones Olsen runs. In addition, Minnesota is giving up an average of 8.9 fantasy points per week to opposing tight ends, ranking 29th in the NFL.
Jason Snelling RB Atlanta Falcons: The key to whether Snelling should be in your starting lineup will be the availability of running back Michael Turner, who re-injured his ankle again last Sunday against the Jets. What makes Snelling such an excellent start is that he won the Week 16 lottery -- a date with the Buffalo Bills. No defense in the NFL has been more fantasy-friendly to opposing running backs than Buffalo, which ranks last not only against the run (165.6 yds/gm), but also in points allowed to opposing fantasy running backs (26.8). Make sure Snelling is active for Week 16 if Turner is ruled out.
Mike Sims-Walker WR Jacksonville Jaguars: Let me preface this analysis by saying the Jaguars are on the road this Sunday, where quarterback David Garrard has thrown just one touchdown pass in six games. That said, Jacksonville is in a must-win situation if it wants any chance of taking the field come January. Its opponent, the New England Patriots, ranks 25th in points allowed to opposing wide receivers (21.5 pts./gm). MSW has scored four touchdowns in his last seven games and has seen an average of 8.7 targets per game over his last four contests. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m rolling the dice and starting Sims-Walker this weekend.
Jerome Harrison RB Cleveland Browns: Don’t expect anything close to last week’s 286-yard, three-touchdown performance. However, owners should feel confident about taking a shot on fantasy’s newest sensation this weekend when the Browns play host to the Oakland Raiders, who rank 28th in points allowed to opposing fantasy running backs (24.4 pts./gm). Keep in mind that these aren’t the same pathetic Browns we all remember from the beginning of the season. Cleveland is averaging an impressive 26.0 points per game over its past five contests, which indicates the offense (and big-play stud Josh Cribbs) have figured out how to move the football.
Five defenses with excellent matchups
1. Dallas Cowboys (at Washington)
2. Arizona Cardinals (vs. St. Louis)
3. San Francisco 49ers (vs. Detroit)
4. Atlanta Falcons (vs. Buffalo)
5. Baltimore Ravens (at Pittsburgh)
All five of these units play against teams that rank in the bottom five in the NFL in fantasy points allowed per week to opposing defenses.
KEEP ‘EM ON THE BENCH
Reggie Wayne WR Indianapolis Colts: No, I’m not crazy, and yes, you should sit Wayne for two big reasons. First, there’s a good chance he won’t be playing a full four quarters. Second, when he’s on the field, Wayne will be matched up with lockdown cornerback Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets. Just as we always recommend you start the running back who plays the Bills, you always sit the receiver who draws Revis. The guy has shut down Randy Moss (twice), Terrell Owens (twice), Marques Colston, Steve Smith (Carolina), Mike Sims-Walker and Andre Johnson this season. That’s one hell of a resume.
Quinton Ganther RB Washington Redskins: Ganther delivered big time two weeks ago for all the savvy owners out there who were quick on the trigger by rushing for 50 yards and scoring two touchdowns in the ‘Skins’ win over the Raiders. But he only picked up 21 yards on 10 carries this past Monday against the Giants and has another tough matchup in Week 16 against a Dallas Cowboys defense tha t ranks 10th in points allowed to opposing fantasy running backs (17.3). The Cowboys have all the motivation in the world to come out hot for this game, while the Redskins have one of the worst offensive lines in football.
Vince Young QB Tennessee Titans: Young’s thrown six touchdown passes in his last three games, but he’s falling down the Week 16 NFP Big Board due to his matchup with a Chargers defense that has limited opposing quarterbacks to just 16.6 fantasy points per week (10th). Keep in mind that Young has topped 210 passing yards just twice in five home games this season. There are better options out there for Championship Weekend.
Kellen Winslow TE Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Winslow is not a terrible option for Week 16, but he hasn’t scored a touchdown in his last six games and has topped 100 receiving yards only twice this season. In addition, the Saints’ defense has been outstanding against opposing tight ends, limiting the position to an average of just 5.3 fantasy points per week (fifth).
Steve Smith WR New York Giants: Smith has found the end zone only twice in his last 10 games after scoring four touchdowns in his first four contests. To make matters worse, his numbers at home have been less than stellar -- he’s averaging only 5.4 receptions and 77.0 yards per game, with just one touchdown at the Meadowlands. Still not sold on sitting Smith? His Week 16 opponent, the Carolina Panthers, have two outstanding cornerbacks in Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall, who have been big reasons why the Panthers rank second in points allowed to opposing fantasy wideouts (14.0).
Justin Forsett and Julius Jones RBs Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks’ road woes are well documented. Seattle is 1-6 away from Qwest Field, and its ground game has fared just as poorly as the Seahawks’ running backs are averaging only 3.8 yards per carry with five touchdowns and nine fumbles in seven road games. In addition, Forsett and Jones run into the brick wall known as the Green Bay Packers this Sunday. Green Bay’s defense is limiting opposing fantasy running backs to just 14.4 fantasy points per week (third). The fact that these two guys steal touches from one another doesn’t help the situation, either.
Five defenses with poor matchups
1. Tennessee Titans (vs. San Diego)
2. San Diego Chargers (at Tennessee)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (at New England)
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Baltimore)
5. Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Denver)
Each of these defenses takes on a Week 16 opponent that ranks in the top seven in points allowed to opposing fantasy defenses (less than 7.3 fantasy points per week given up).Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh