Week 16 of the NFL season is not just another week for fantasy football owners, it is the culmination of a season-long endeavor. It all started right after the draft when people started combing through the rosters and planning who they would pick when they were drafting. No stone was left unturned, and no question was too insignificant, as we all planned our attack on our respective leagues.
The season was a rocky one, with injuries, depth chart movements, surprises and disappointments. But thanks to smart drafting, waiver wire prowess, and the occasional trade, you can now see the finish line in the distance. Do you have what it takes to find another gear and cross the line as a winner? We shall see!
P.S. Don't forget that the NFL has a Thursday (SD/OAK) & Saturday (WAS/PHI) game this week. Make sure you set your lineups before then!
Blake Bortles – Jaguars: Bortles has taken people this far, and yet I still get questions about him being worth a start in the final game of the fantasy season. The Jaguars have a great core of players starting with an amazing 1-2 punch in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, a WR who looks ready to contribute in Marqise Lee, a top-end TE in Julius Thomas, and two young RBs with fresh legs and tons of determination in T.J. Yeldon and Denard Robinson. As if that wasn't enough, they take on the league's worst pass defense (27.3 PPG to QBs) this week in the Saints.
It's not out of the realm of possibility that Bortles finishes as a top-3 fantasy QB in the most important game of the season for most fantasy teams. Play any and all Jaguars players on your roster to finish out the season!
Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers: Big Ben is another one of those QBs that people don't seem to have complete faith in for some reason. He has arguably the best WR in the league in Antonio Brown, a solid supporting cast of pass catchers in Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton, and an RB who can produce on the ground, or via the air, in DeAngelo Williams. And like Bortles, he has a plus matchup with the Ravens secondary giving up a healthy 22.3 PPG to fantasy QBs this season.
Roethlisberger is in my top 3 for fantasy QB plays in Week 16.
Denard Robinson – Jaguars: Word broke on Monday that Shoelace was dealing with a foot sprain, despite playing all 62 offensive snaps in Week 15. Coach Gus Bradley has suggested that the injury is not serious, and I doubt he misses this week's game against the Saints. With Yeldon unlikely to play this week due to a sprained MCL, Robinson has a chance to rack up stats against a defense that looks like it has lost all drive and motivation.
I consider Robinson a great RB2 play, with real upside into the RB1 ranks if he finds the endzone.
Danny Woodhead – Chargers: With Melvin Gordon done for the season, and looking like a bust anyway, Woodhead gets to finish the season as the Chargers' go-to RB. He holds far more PPR value (RB1) than standard value, but the yards and TD possibilities should be enough to give him RB2 value in standard leagues.
Woodhead is a guy most people have had on their bench for weeks, but now it is time to plug him in and let him win you that title!
Kamar Aiken – Ravens: Aiken is one of those WRs that has WR2/3 value simply because of the sheer amount of targets he will see given the team's lack of other weapons. Javorius Allen is a bit of a dual threat RB, but clearly isn't someone that is going to open up the pass with his ability to run on the ground. On the outside, Chris Given is a situational deep-threat WR, and Maxx Williams is just serviceable at TE.
Aiken should see at, or near, double-digit targets as the Ravens try and take advantage of the Steelers' soft secondary.
Golden Tate – Lions: When you think of the Lions passing game, Golden Tate isn't the name that slips off the tongue for most people. Calvin Johnson is much more synonymous with Lions WR fantasy value than Tate is, but did you know that while Johnson has 124 targets, 72 catches, 1,000 yards, and 7 TDs this season, Tater Tot has quietly put up 117 targets, 82 receptions, 720 yards, and 6 TDs this season? Tate may play second fiddle to Johnson on the depth chart, but he is right there with him in fantasy terms!
I wouldn't hold out hope for Tate to see his first 100-yard game this season, but he has shown a nose for the endzone with 5 TDs in his last four games. He's good for 65 yards and a TD or two against a 49ers defense that gives up 23.6 PPG to fantasy WRs this season.
Will Tye – Giants: I know this is going to be hard for some to understand, but while I don't like Eli Manning (see below) this weekend, I do think Tye could have a solid fantasy game as a safety valve for the Beckham-less Giants. Tye has scored in back-to-back games, while racking up 13 targets, 10 receptions, and 73 yards in the process. With OBJ out, Manning won't have the downfield option with Ruben Randle as his No. 1 WR. Expect a lot of short passes and check-downs this weekend.
While those aren't Rob Gronkowski numbers, they are decent for what is left on the waiver wire if you stream TEs. And for those Tyler Eifert owners, give Tye a look with Eifert out again this week (concussion).
Philadelphia Eagles defense: As you will see with Kirk Cousins below, he is a far different QB on the road than he is at home. This week the Redskins are on the road, and Cousins hasn't shown the ability to produce consistent numbers away from D.C. And the last time these two teams met back in Week 4 the Redskins had big games from Alfred Morris (65 total yards) and Chris Thompson (77 total yards). Cousins put up just 290 passing yards and 1 TD.
Washington and Philadelphia are fighting for the division title, so this should be an interesting game no matter who wins. But with Philly at home, and their fans being the 12th man on the field, I am looking for the Eagles to step up and finish as a sneaky fantasy defense this week.
Kirk Cousins – Redskins: After last week's 319/4/0 line, fantasy websites are going crazy recommending Cousins in the fantasy finals. The problem with that is they obviously don't understand that Cousins was at home last week, and plays on the road this week. At home this season, Cousins is averaging 271.3 YPG, 2 TDs, and 0.3 INTs per-game. On the road however, those numbers drop to 242.5 YPG, 1 TD, and 1.5 INTs per-game. Cousins is clearly not the same QB on the road, and a lot of fantasy owners are going to get burned this weekend if they choose to play him in their most important game.
Eli Manning – Giants: Eli has been up and down all season long, and now he has to try and produce, on the road, without Odell Beckham Jr. The Vikings secondary is banged up, but Ruben Randle has been anything but trustworthy this season, and Shane Vereen is clearly not the same fantasy player in New York that he was in New England. I'd consider Manning a QB2 that I would rather avoid.
Mike Gillislee – Bills: When LeSean McCoy went down (torn MCL, doubtful this week), Gillislee quickly broke off a 60-yard touchdown run against the Redskins last week. The problem for him is I fully expect Karlos Williams to dominate carries going forward as he is the more proven back of the two. Gillislee has only played in three games this season, with his first action coming in Week 13.
When the waiver wires opened on Wednesday morning, Gillislee was one of the most-added players in all fantasy formats. And while he is a good guy to get in case your opponent has RB problems, he isn't someone I would consider playing unless I was desperate in the flex.
Brandon Bolden – Patriots: As quickly as he was added in fantasy leagues following LaGarrette Blount's injury, Bolden has been dropped. Whenever you get the start, but finish with fewer touches than a guy just signed off the practice squad, we HAVE to reevaluate your fantasy value in all formats!
Bolden may be good for 40-50 yards, but both of his touchdowns this season have come from the pass, and that is a job that is clearly James White's. Bolden is not on the fantasy radar in a game in which I expect the ball to be thrown more than ran.
Dez Bryant – Cowboys: I personally outright cut Bryant in all the leagues I owned him in about two weeks ago, so he was an easy sit player for me entering the finals. The Cowboys are down to Kellen Moore at QB, which is the equivalent to running out the backup, of the backup, who backed up the starter (I actually did this on a piece of paper, so I know it is right).
The Cowboys are a mess on offense, and now that they are officially eliminated from the playoffs, you have to wonder where Bryant's mind is at. I wouldn't put him within a country mile of my fantasy roster, and suggest you do the same!
Tavon Austin – Rams: Austin is the perfect example of NFL value not being the same as fantasy value. While he is a dynamic player that gets yards from both the run and the pass, he has nearly as many rushing yards (390) as he does receiving yards (427). Some would say that makes him a dual threat… sure… if you are a running back! Austin is a WR though. That breaks down to a per-game average of 27.9 rushing yards, and 30.5 receiving yards. And while he does have 9 TDs this season, that is still just 0.6 TDs per game.
Austin isn't someone I would count on to score on the road, and against a Seahawks defense that is stepping up its game just in time for the playoffs. In fact, it wouldn't shock me at all if the Rams failed to score a touchdown this week. Don't go chasing touchdowns from last week, this week!
Gary Barnidge – Browns: Barnidge is a TD-or-bust kind of TE, which is typical from the position, really. What makes him a riskier play than most other starting caliber fantasy TEs this week is the Chiefs defense. They give up the fewest fantasy points to TEs this season at 5.1 PPG.
The Chiefs have everything to play for, while the Browns are just seeing what they have for the future in Johnny Manziel. I would consider Barnidge a bubble player for fantasy TEs, and one that I would try and find a replacement for.
Arizona Cardinals defense: The Cardinals lost CB Tyrann Mathieu with a torn ACL last week, which is a crushing blow to this year's #4 fantasy football defense. But that injury alone isn't what makes the Cardinals a bad fantasy play in Week 16. The Packers give up the 2nd-fewest points to fantasy defenses this season, and they desperately need to figure out what they are doing on offense ahead of the NFL playoffs.
I wouldn't consider the Cardinals a must-start fantasy defense this week, and would certainly look long and hard at your waiver wire to see what defenses are available.