Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 16
This is it. The championship. The whole spaceship. And it's time to get picky.
A big part of why you got this far this season is because you've made good weekly start/sit decisions. It doesn't matter how strong your roster is if you keep starting the guys who have down weeks (unless you're just absurdly stacked, but that's not the point) in favor of point chasing your bench options or waiver pickups.
Writing this column this season has required me to look long and hard at every player's recent workload and matchup, and it helped me not chase the production but rather the opportunity players were seeing. It seems simple in hindsight, but it's not always easy to stick with a flailing David Johnson even if he has an elite workload. Not that anyone cares, but I had made half of my championships until an Ezekiel Elliott stat correction booted me from one, but hey, let's not talk about that. Let's just ignore it. Let's move on. Seriously. We won't dwell on it.
The larger point is that by looking more at snaps, opportunities, routes, and matchups rather than recent yardage and touchdown spikes, we can thrive in the long run when setting our fantasy football lineups.
For many reasons, I like to bucket players into groups when deciding who we should start or sit in a given week. To me, no player is ever a must-sit, but there are players you should want to sit if you have other, more viable options. That's the goal here, as well as to show why we should feel certain ways about players.
So, based on market shares, snap counts, betting lines, and defensive matchups, I'll be grouping players into three tiers to help with start-or-sit decisions: players we should be confident about starting, players we can consider playing whenever we don't have better alternatives but who aren't must-plays, and players we should try to bench whenever we do have better alternatives, even if these players are actually likely starts in our lineups anyway.
These players are listed in order of confidence and preference (so higher on the list means more startable; these aren't rankings, but they're close), and the groupings reflect a 12-team, single-quarterback league with the following hypothetical in mind: if I had other viable options on my bench, should I want to start this player this week? Players not listed should be presumed sit-worthy in a shallow or standard-sized league, and all fantasy points references and rankings reflect half-PPR scoring.
Start With Confidence
- Patrick Mahomes at SEA: Mahomes heads to Seattle for a matchup with the Seahawks, who rank 17th in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play this season, the numberFire way of adjusting efficiency for opponent and play volume. Mahomes' Kansas City Chiefs are the top adjusted passing offense on the season, and Mahomes hasn't scored fewer than 17.8 fantasy points yet this season.
- Drew Brees vs. PIT: Brees has 17 touchdowns to 1 pick at home (0.53 Passing NEP per drop back; league average is 0.12), and 9.24 yards per attempt (league average is 7.39). The Steelers rank only 14th in adjusted pass defense, too.
- Russell Wilson vs. KC: Wilson's Seahawks should be able to run the ball on the Kansas City Chiefs, who are dead last in adjusted rush defense and 13th in pass defense. That could mean low volume for the efficient Wilson, who has at least 18 fantasy points in nine of his past 10 games, so maybe it doesn't matter if he throws often or not.
- Ben Roethlisberger at NO: Roethlisberger hits the road to face the Saints' 12th-ranked pass defense in a game with a 53.5-point total. He has faced three top-nine pass defenses since Week 9. In those games, he averaged 348.7 yards with 1.7 touchdowns and 1.7 picks with 18.9 passing fantasy points on average (and 23.7 fantasy points on average if you factor in the rushing production). Indoors in a possible shootout, Roethlisberger is a QB1.
- Andrew Luck vs. NYG: Luck is a heavy home favorite against a bottom-12 pass defense, a script where he may not need to throw much. However, efficiency is better than volume when seeking fantasy production, and Luck has that at home: 0.39 Passing NEP per drop back with a 58.3% success rate (league average is 51.1%).
- Deshaun Watson at PHI: Watson is on the road but has a lot to play for and matches up with a bottom-half pass defense, which Watson has carved up this year (16 touchdowns to 3 picks with 297.1 yards per game). Even in three road tilts against below-average pass defenses, Watson has 0.26 Passing NEP per drop back and 9.60 yards per attempt.
- Baker Mayfield vs. CIN: Mayfield's Browns cling to playoff life, and he's a 7-point home favorite over the Bengals' 23rd-ranked pass defense. Mayfield has been sensitive to matchups, yet this is a great one for him. In three home games against bottom-half pass defenses, he's averaged 0.49 Passing NEP per drop back and 10.1 yards per attempt. The main concern is getting out front too heavily and too early.
Consider If Needed
- Mitchell Trubisky at SF: Trubisky bounced back last week for a 58.6% success rate and 0.51 Passing NEP per drop back, strong, strong efficiency marks. The Chicago Bears still have reason to play hard, and the San Francisco 49ers just beat the Seahawks in overtime. The Niners rank 27th in adjusted pass defense. Against bottom-half pass defense, Trubisky has notched 0.35 Passing NEP per drop back in seven matchups.
- Tom Brady vs. BUF: Brady faces a Bills defense that is seventh in adjusted pass defense, but his offense ranks fourth offensively, and he's averaged 8.27 yards per attempt and 0.28 Passing NEP per drop back at home this season. Buffalo largely stifles quarterback production, Josh Gordon is out, and the heavily-favored Patriots may not need to throw enough for Brady to be a complete trust.
- Lamar Jackson at LAC: Jackson is a 4.5-point underdog, not enough for the Ravens to abandon the run from the get-go. The Chargers are just 17th in adjusted rush defense, and the Ravens lead the league in rushing success rate since Jackson took over. With a floor of 16.5 fantasy points and an average of 18.2 as a starter, Jackson is a viable championship starter.
- Josh Allen at NE: Allen's rushing floor evaporated this week, though he did run 9 times for 16 yards and a score. Via ProFootballFocus, 7 of those rushes were by design after having just 10 designed rushes the three prior games, when he averaged more than 111.0 yards per game on the ground. The Patriots are second in adjusted yards per attempt allowed on deep balls, which could stifle Allen's ceiling, but he's produced at least 19.7 fantasy points in four straight even with terrible passing metrics.
- Philip Rivers vs. BAL: Rivers hosts the Ravens' top-ranked adjusted pass defense this week, not a great matchup. Rivers has averaged 269.8 yards, 2.4 touchdowns, and 0.6 picks in five games against top-12 pass defenses and has failed to net multiple passing scores just once all season. He's a floor option in case you're a huge favorite.
- Aaron Rodgers at NYJ: We can't know what Rodgers' motivation is here, as his team is bounced from the playoffs, but he is set on playing. Rodgers has been the QB25, QB17, QB9, and QB14 the past four weeks while averaging 12.8 passing fantasy points and 15.5 overall fantasy points. He's not the worst floor play, but the ceiling hasn't been there, and there's no reason to expect a classic Rodgers game here, other than the fact that the Jets are 22nd in adjusted pass defense.
Bench If Possible
- Jared Goff at ARI: Goff's issues are too great to ignore with the championship at stake, especially on the road against a Cardinals defense that ranks 10th in adjusted pass defense. Goff has averaged -0.14 Passing NEP per drop back and just 5.54 yards per attempt in three post-bye games, a sample that includes the league's 31st-, 3rd-, and 19th-ranked pass defenses.
- Dak Prescott vs. TB: Prescott has alternated top-9 weeks with weeks outside the top 16 over the past eight weeks. This week, he's at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 28th-ranked pass defense. Even against bottom-half pass defenses with Amari Cooper (5 games), Prescott has averaged 276.4 yards, 1.2 touchdowns, and 0.8 picks. He's someone to bench if you can but not the worst streamer if you must use him, as the Bucs have given up at least 33 rushing yards to four quarterbacks.
- Kirk Cousins at DET: Cousins hits the road but faces the Detroit Lions' 31st-ranked pass defense for the second time this season. In the first matchup, he completed 18 of 22 attempts for 164 yards (7.45 per attempt) for a 60.9% success rate. Last week, Cousins threw just 21 times for 215 yards (10.2 per attempt) in positive script, low volume which could be in the cards for him this week as a 6.0-point favorite.
- Matt Ryan at CAR: Ryan is on the road and out of playoff contention, and his road splits are pretty massive. He's still around league average in away games, and the Panthers are just 25th in adjusted pass defense. Still, we're looking for confident starts, and that rules out a quarterback with no playoff hopes. He's not a must-sit (again, nobody is), but the spot lets us be pessimistic.
- Jameis Winston at DAL: Winston's implied total is shy of 20 points in a road tilt with the Dallas Cowboys, who have faced just 55.8 plays per game over their past five, second-fewest in the league. Winston had averaged 21.9 fantasy points in three starts before a 5.28-point dud last week on the road against the league's top pass defense. There are paths to a big fantasy outing, but with low play volume and no playoff hopes, Winston is a priority bench.
- Marcus Mariota vs. WSH: Mariota has been the QB30 and QB31 the past two games, totaling 11.4 fantasy points and just 44 pass attempts (for 250 yards). As a 10.5-point favorite, the pass volume should bottom out again.
Start With Confidence
- Ezekiel Elliott vs. TB: Elliott has averaged 22.0 carries and 7.6 targets in seven post-bye games, an immense workload, while averaging an 88.9% snap rate in that span. The Bucs are 27th in adjusted rush defense and 30th in rushing success rate allowed to backs, plus 22nd in target success rate allowed, and Elliott is a 7.5-point home favorite.
- Christian McCaffrey vs. ATL: McCaffrey has averaged 21.7 fantasy points this season and has played 100.0% of snaps in five straight games, which is just unheard of. The Falcons are 31st in adjusted rush defense and in target success rate allowed to backs, which meshes perfectly with McCaffrey's receiving workload of 7.9 targets per game.
- Melvin Gordon vs. BAL: Gordon seems set to return this week. There's a shot that he doesn't see his typical snap rate with Justin Jackson's emergence, but Gordon had been at least the RB14 in every single week, with a floor of 15.4 fantasy points. Even against a top-five rush defense, Gordon, a 4.5-point home favorite, would be a locked-in RB1.
- Alvin Kamara vs. PIT: Kamara has played at least 62.9% of the snaps in five straight games while averaging 14.4 fantasy points in those. He has been at least the RB26 in all but one game this season and averages 3.2 red zone opportunities in this split. Kamara has let us down just once this season, and he's now in a game with a 53.5-point total.
- Saquon Barkley at IND: If you lasted through Barkley's dud, you can't come close to benching him, even against a top-11 rush defense by success rate allowed to back and overall adjusted rushing defense and as a 10-point underdog. Barkley played 100.0% of snaps last week after just 48.4% in Week 14's blowout win. The Colts are 23rd in target success rate allowed to backs; Barkley has averaged 5.8 targets in six post-bye games.
- Nick Chubb vs. CIN: Chubb is a heavy home favorite (seven points) against the league's 31st-ranked rush defense by rushing success rate. He's averaged 17.5 fantasy points and 18.5 carries since taking over as the starter.
- Dalvin Cook at DET: Cook has averaged a 71.0% snap rate over his past five games and has been the RB18, RB14, RB9, and RB3 in his past four. The Lions are fifth in rushing success rate allowed to backs since Week 8's trade for Damon Harrison, but Cook has 4.8 targets per game over his past five, an 11.0% target share.
- Jaylen Samuels at NO: With James Conner unlikely to play, we can go back to Samuels with confidence. Samuels has had seven and two targets as a starter and faces a bottom-six defense against pass-catching backs. He has played 80.0% and 60.9% of the snaps as a starter, averaging 15.5 fantasy points despite not scoring.
- Joe Mixon at CLE: Mixon's workload has been great, as he has averaged 21.0 opportunities (carries plus targets) in his past six. He's a 7-point underdog, but we've seen him tally 7, 2, 6, and 4 targets in his past four while getting to at least 10.5 fantasy points in all of those.
- Derrick Henry vs. WSH: Henry's time has come, apparently. He played 70.0% of snaps last week, a season high (besting a prior max of 51.6%). The RB1 for two straight games, Henry is a 10.5-point favorite against the league's 28th-ranked adjusted rush defense.
- Phillip Lindsay at OAK: Lindsay's snap rate is dipping a bit every now and again (42.4%, 64.9%, 53.4% the past three), and his RB38 finish last week was his first non-ejection finish worse than RB27 all season. Oakland, though, is 29th in rushing success rate allowed to backs, and Lindsay has 13 targets over his past two, keeping him as a high-end RB2 at worst.
- Damien Williams at SEA: Williams has 2, 5, and 6 targets the past three games, and the Seahawks are dead last in target success rate allowed to backs. It's hard to determine the split between Ware and Williams, but Seattle gives up enough production to running backs that both can be flex-worthy plays while tied to the league's best offense.
Consider If Needed
- Marlon Mack vs. NYG: Mack is leaned on heavily when the Colts are ahead, which should be the case this week as a 10-point home favorite. But because he could fall off the cliff if they trail, he's not a start-without-hesitation play. The Colts have a 28.5-point total, and Mack saw 7 red zone carries last week.
- Jamaal Williams at NYJ: Williams is set to be a lead back against the Jets' 21st-ranked adjusted rush defense (though they are 7th in rushing success rate allowed to backs). He played 86.8% of snaps last week, a workload that let him finish as the RB14 and that is high enough that we just play him and see what he gives us.
- David Johnson vs. LAR: Johnson's workload remains solid, with an average of 23.7 opportunities in six post-bye games. He's a 14-point underdog with a 16.75-point total, capping his upside, but the Rams are just 26th in adjusted rushing defense.
- Leonard Fournette at MIA: Fournette's offense hamstrings him, as he has turned 32 chances into just 13.0 fantasy points the past two games. The Jacksonville Jaguars' 17.75-point total doesn't inspire many red zone chances, but the Miami Dolphins are just 29th in adjusted rush defense (but 9th in success rate allowed to backs). Fournette's volume keeps him in the low-end RB2 conversation at worst.
- Chris Carson vs. KC: Carson faces the league's worst rush defense and has been a top-20 back in five straight games. During that split, he's averaged 18.0 carries and 2.4 targets, as well as 4.0 red zone looks. He's an RB2 for Week 16.
- Tarik Cohen at SF: Cohen has been the RB36 or better in nine of 10 post-bye games, a flex-worthy showing. Cohen has a 21.2% target share (7.2 per game) over his past five and faces a defense that is 6th in rushing success rate but 20th in target success rate allowed to backs.
- Elijah McGuire vs. GB: McGuire has played 74.1% and 74.7% of snaps the past two games and is in a pick'em against the Green Bay Packers' below-average rush defense (18th in adjusted rush defense and 22nd in success rate allowed to backs). McGuire has been the RB12 and RB22 the past two weeks with 10 total red zone carries in there.
- Sony Michel vs. BUF: Michel is a huge favorite (13 points) against a rush defense that is 24th in success rate allowed, but he has averaged just a 40.5% snap rate over the past four games. Despite the low snaps, he has seen 4.0 red zone opportunities and 18.5 overall opportunities in that split, a workload that puts him in RB3 territory at worst as a huge favorite.
- Todd Gurley at ARI: This situation is a big shrug emoji, and nobody has the answer. Gurley is planning to play this week but doesn't really need to push through here, and that makes him a huge risk in an afternoon game. This simply comes down to how good your other options are, if you can add C.J. Anderson or John Kelly and if you think either sees a heavy workload without Gurley. If you're nervous, just bench him.
- Jordan Howard at SF: A 4.0-point road favorite, Howard could maybe squeeze out another RB2 outing, of which he has just one in his past six (RB20 last week). Howard has 17, 20, and 20 opportunities the past three games, a fine enough workload to keep him out of "try to bench this guy if you can" territory.
- Matt Breida vs. CHI: Breida played 72.6% of snaps last week, a season-high, implying that Jeff Wilson is an afterthought. The Chicago Bears rank 1st in adjusted rush defense and rushing success rate allowed to backs but are 15th in target success rate allowed to running backs, which pushes Breida down the list but certainly not out of contention with such a high snap share.
- Tevin Coleman at CAR: Coleman's snaps were still limited last week during his big game, but with Ito Smith on injured reserve, Coleman should have a clear path to touches in this spot. The Faclons are out of the playoffs, yet Coleman is in line for a majority workload, thrusting him back into RB3 territory at worst.
- Gus Edwards at LAC: Edwards' lack of receiving work puts him at risk, but he still played 42.9% of snaps last week and is the best bet to lead his team in carries. The Chargers can be run on, as they're 17th in adjusted rush defense and 25th in rushing success rate allowed to backs. Jackson is opening up lanes for Edwards, who has averaged 19.2 carries over his past five games.
- Kenneth Dixon at LAC: Dixon's possible receiving role makes him intriguing as a 4.5-point road underdog. Dixon played 51.9% of snaps last week but has just three targets over his past three games. Still, Gus Edwards has no track record of receiving, and the Ravens may not be able to run the ball all game long. Dixon has seen 8, 8, and 11 carries the past three weeks, too, so he isn't a blowout-only play.
- Mark Ingram vs. PIT: Ingram is at home and favored, the best time to deploy him. The Saints' implied total is 31.5 points, and Ingram has 6, 1, 1, 6, and 1 red zone chances in his past five. He's a flex-only option who hasn't played more than 50% of snaps since his Week 5 debut.
- Doug Martin vs. DEN: At home, Martin stands to see his usual workload: 14.8 opportunities and a 45.7% snap rate since taking over as the starter eight games ago. He's generated 9.0 fantasy points in that split while finishing as the RB32 or better in all but one of those games. Denver is 23rd in rushing success rate allowed to backs.
- Kalen Ballage vs. JAC: Ballage churned out 123 yards on 12 carries (though 75 of those came on a touchdown run) but played 49.1% of the snaps. He's a 4.5-point favorite on a team that isn't eliminated from playoff contention. The matchup is rough (Jacksonville is 2nd in rushing success rate and 14th in adjusted rush defense), but Ballage should see around 15 looks and a 50% snap rate as a home favorite.
- Alfred Blue at PHI: Lamar Miller's injury should let Blue handle a decent workload. Blue played 98.8% of snaps and handled 28 opportunities in Week 5 without Miller. We can't know how much work D'Onta Foreman sees, but Blue is at least playable with a huge expected workload boost.
Bench If Possible
- Kenyan Drake vs. JAC: Drake didn't even get extra run when Frank Gore got hurt last week and wound up with just four opportunities while playing 11 of his 28 snaps as a wideout. As a 4.5-point home favorite, he may see extra work, but it looks like he's second fiddle to Ballage.
- Peyton Barber at DAL: Barber has scored at least 13.3 fantasy points in three of his past five games while averaging 18.8 opportunities in that split. Dallas is 3rd in adjusted rush defense, while the Bucs are 26th offensively. A 7.5-point underdog, Barber's team has a 19.5-point total, pushing him out of playability.
- Adrian Peterson at TEN: Peterson got up to a 54.4% snap rate for 22 opportunities last week, but that turned into just 8.1 points. This week, he's a 10.5-point underdog with a 13.25-point total.
- James White vs. BUF: White's snaps are down to season-lows the past two games (40.2% and 40.3%), and he has just six carries in his past two games. That matters because he's a 13-point home favorite who probably won't see targets in this game script.
- Dion Lewis vs. WSH: Lewis has become a secondary option to Henry and played just 32.9% of snaps last week. He has maxed out at 7.8 fantasy points in his past six games.
Start With Confidence
- DeAndre Hopkins at PHI: Hopkins bounced back in a big way last week with a 170-yard, 2-touchdown game. The Eagles are just 27th in target success rate allowed to wideouts, and Hopkins has scored at least 9.9 fantasy points in every game. He has a 33.1% post-bye share in five games (9.0 per game).
- Michael Thomas vs. PIT: Thomas at home is a spot to buy him for a ceiling game, as he has averaged 20.1 fantasy points at home in six games. The Steelers can get torched in the slot, where Thomas has played from around 30% of the time, but regardless, Thomas is a locked-in front-half WR1 this week.
- Antonio Brown at NO: Brown's target share is down to 24.4% the past five games, but that has still equated to 10.4 targets. Brown has scored better at home but still has five touchdowns in seven road games, and he's featured in a game with a 53.5-point total.
- Tyreek Hill at SEA: Hill faces the league's 25th-ranked deep-ball defense this week and is on the road, where he has scored 8 of his 11 touchdowns and averaged 20.7 fantasy points per game. He's a locked-in WR1 in championship week, even though he still has duds in his game log.
- Davante Adams at NYJ: Adams' biggest concern is motivation, but he's closing in on milestones. He has scored at least 12.1 fantasy points in every game and has been a top-10 wideout in five of his past six, averaging 10.7 targets, 97.5 yards, and 0.8 touchdowns in that split. The Jets can be tough on wideouts, but nobody has stopped Adams all season, and they just let Hopkins carve them up.
- Julio Jones at CAR: Jones' ceiling has returned this season, and he has been a top-10 performer in six of seven post-bye games, a span during which he has averaged 99.9 yards and 10.1 targets. The Panthers are just 20th in success rate allowed to wideouts.
- Stefon Diggs at DET: Diggs has 9.4 targets per game (27.0%) over the past five and has three top-11 finishes in that split though he has just 5, 6, and 7 targets the past three games. He should see shadow coverage from Darius Slay, but Diggs' floor has actually been pretty high of late, with at least 7.4 fantasy points in six straight. He's a borderline WR1.
- Amari Cooper vs. TB: Cooper's market shares are too strong to ignore (24.5% since joining Dallas; 8.4 per game), even with the up-and-down results. Both of his monster games with Dallas have come at home, and the Bucs are 32nd in both target success rate and fantasy points per target allowed to wideouts.
- T.Y. Hilton vs. NYG: Hilton has been the WR29 or better in six straight and heads back home, where he historically performs best. Five of his six touchdowns have come in Indy, and the Giants sit 19th in target success rate allowed to receivers (but are 5th in adjusted yards per attempt allowed on deep throws).
- Julian Edelman vs. BUF: Edelman has been at least the WR23 in nine of his past 10 games and owns a 26.6% target share (9.1 per game) in that split. Buffalo is 12th in slot points per target allowed, but the 29-point total and market share for Edelman erases the doubts.
Consider If Needed
- JuJu Smith-Schuster at NO: JuJu squares up with the Saints' 28th-ranked wideout defense indoors. He has a 27.2% target share (11.6 per game) over his past five while averaging a combined 3.6 deep targets and red zone targets. His groin injury bumps him out of full-on trust status, but even a limited JuJu looks better than most wide receivers this week.
- Robert Woods at ARI:Woods' quarterback is struggling right now, yet he still has 10.3 targets (24.6%) in the three down games from Goff while finishing as the WR11, WR34, and WR14 in those. Running as the primary slot receiver, he's the best bet to avoid Patrick Peterson, as well.
- Adam Thielen at DET: Thielen let us down last week and could do it again as a 6-point road favorite. Thielen's 7 targets against Detroit in Week 9 led to just 22 yards (44 air yards) but a touchdown. He's not close to a sit option, but he's not a locked-in, no-brainer WR1 this week.
- Mike Evans at DAL: Evans is again a fringe WR1, especially with the rest of the field having a lot of issues of their own. Evans has a 22.3% target share (7.3 per game) since Winston's return as a starter in Week 12, and he had more deep targets (7) than any other Buc had targets last week. Dallas has let just 10 wideouts get to 10 fantasy points and only 4 to get to 15, but good luck finding three receivers you trust more than Evans this week.
- Brandin Cooks at ARI: Cooks' target share is not exactly robust (down to 15.9%; 6.7 per game) in three post-bye games, and he's actually losing deep looks to Josh Reynolds. He could draw the majority of snaps across from Patrick Peterson, who was targeted just 4 times in their Week 2 matchup. But if we step back, Cooks is a big-play wideout playing virtually every snap for a team with a 29.5-point total, keeping him as a WR2 at worst entering Week 16. Also, wide receivers are rough this week.
- Kenny Golladay vs. MIN: Golladay has a 27.3% target share (8.4 per game) over his past five, including 65.2% of the Lions' deep targets and 41.2% of the red zone targets. That workload can help him come through in tough matchups, which this sure is. The Vikings have let up just 10 double-digit fantasy point games to receivers.
- Keenan Allen vs. BAL: Allen at least gives us the luxury of playing on Saturday so that we can monitor his status before the majority of games. If he plays, he's viable, as he had averaged 11.0 post-bye targets prior to his early exit last week. The Ravens are more vulnerable in the slot (17th in points per target) than overall (1st in fantasy points per target).
- Alshon Jeffery vs. HOU: Jeffery caught all eight targets from Foles last week and accounted for four of the five deep targets. Jeffery has averaged a 96.9% snap rate in six post-bye games and has run every route over the past five weeks. Foles finally threw it his way, and the Texans are just 26th in target success rate allowed to receivers.
- Doug Baldwin vs. KC: Baldwin was boosted by two touchdowns last week, but we need to keep in mind that he had just six overall targets.They were mostly high-leverage (three deep, two red zone, two end zone), and the matchup is tough: Kansas City is 19th against the slot in fantasy points per target.
- Robby Anderson vs. GB: Anderson is facing a Packers team on the verge of phoning it in. The Packers are 32nd in adjusted yards per attempt allowed on deep attempts, which is Anderson's forte (16.8-yard average depth of target). He has averaged 3.3 deep targets and 1.5 red zone targets over the past four weeks with 7.3 total targets in that split.
- Larry Fitzgerald vs. LAR: Fitzgerald has given us something resembling low-end consistency, with at least 6.3 fantasy points in nine straight games and at least 10 fantasy points in five of his past eight. Since the bye, he has a 22.8% target share (6.5 per game) and faces the league's 26th-ranked slot defense in terms of fantasy points per target allowed. Pass volume should be there this week.
- Tyler Lockett vs. KC: The Seahawks should be able to run the ball enough to keep volume low here, and we saw last week what that can mean for Lockett. He's defied low volume for long enough, but with no more than seven targets in a game and up against the league's 3rd-ranked wideout defense by success rate (and 10th in deep ball defense by adjusted yards per attempt), Lockett is barely above a priority bench in Week 16. The saving grace is that not many wideouts have better paths to fantasy points than he does.
- Mike Williams vs. BAL: Williams had 4 of 7 red zone targets but just 1 of 8 deep targets last week while Keenan Allen was limited. The Ravens rank first in target success rate on the year, but Williams would likely flirt with a 90% snap rate again, more than we can say for a lot of the tertiary options below him on the list, and he's a scoring threat on a home favorite with a 24.75-point total.
- Dante Pettis vs. CHI: Pettis' matchup is rough, as the Bears are 5th in fantasy points per target (but a more forgiving 13th in target success rate allowed) to receivers, and he has turned 6.5 targets per game into four straight top-24 performances (15.7, 27.2, 12.2, and 10.8 fantasy points), while scoring four times in that split.
Bench If Possible
- Look, not many wideouts are in strong spots this week. So you may have to rely on some of these plays, but they're all more pessimistic plays than optimistic plays, and that's the point of this piece. These players aren't must-sits but rather last resorts in shallow leagues given matchup concerns or volume concerns (or both).
- Jarvis Landry vs. CIN: Landry has been the WR62, WR15, WR6, and WR57 in four post-bye games while owning a 22.2% target share (just 6.5 targets per game). He has a single red zone target there but seven deep targets. The Bengals are 21st in fantasy points allowed to slot wideouts.
- Allen Robinson at SF: Robinson has been the WR53, WR61, WR29, WR52, and WR43 in his past five games, a span during which he has a 23.2% target share (7.2 per game). He's been a top-24 receiver twice all season.
- Corey Davis vs. WSH: Davis has 4.5 targets per game over his last two, still just a 20.0% target share. Yes, the Titans are very much run-first, but his market share is down, too. As a 10.5-point home favorite, Davis looks likely to see his volume bottom out again.
- D.J. Moore vs. ATL: Moore is coming off a 98.3% snap rate, a career high, but he's downgraded to Taylor Heinicke, which could kill his value, even against the league's fifth-most generous per-target wide receiver defense.
- DaeSean Hamilton at OAK: Hamilton has played at least 97.3% of snaps the past two games and has 21 targets for 46.5 yards per game. He does have five deep targets and had 125 air yards last week to make him the best bet to cash in against the league's 27th-ranked slot defense.
- Tyrell Williams vs. BAL: Williams saw 12 targets last week, four of which were deep,, a team high, and always runs heavy routes. Though Baltimore is the toughest receiver defense in football, he would be close to a viable play if Keenan Allen sits.
- Golden Tate vs. HOU: Tate had five targets from Foles in Week 15, none of which were deeper than seven yards downfield. Over the past four games, he has averaged just 5.8 targets and 32.8 air yards.
- Tre'Quan Smith vs. PIT: Smith may be written off by now, but he has averaged 12.6 fantasy points in five home games and 20.2 in three home games with at least two-thirds of the snaps. His role hasn't changed drastically of late, and he's a viable desperation flex or WR3.
- Robert Foster at NE: Foster has at least 94 yards in four of his past five despite 4, 3, 4, 8, and 5 targets. He does average 102.4 air yards in this split, but the Patriots are second against the deep ball. He can easily bust here.
- Zay Jones at NE: Jones' usage is better than the results have been. Over the past five games, he has a 29.4% target share (7.0 per game) while averaging 111.0 air yards, 3.2 deep targets, and 1.4 red zone targets. That's a high-leverage workload, but he has two huge games (19.3 and 22.7 fantasy points) and three duds (3.7 or fewer). He's a DFS name to remember.
- Adam Humphries vs. DAL: Humphries has averaged 6.0 fantasy points in games where he hasn't scored and 17.1 in games where he has because he averages just 48.8 yards per game. He has seen five red zone targets over the past three weeks but is back to a priority bench, especially with DeSean Jackson possibly back.
- Courtland Sutton at OAK: Sutton had a bit of a bounceback last week, playing 86.3% of the snaps and running a route on 96.1% of the drop backs, but that led to just 6 targets and 42 yards. His aDOT has been just 9.7 yards without Sanders, and the Raiders are actually second in target success rate allowed to receivers.
- Sterling Shepard at IND: Shepard has generated 37.3% of his yards on run-after-catch production, 11th-highest among 38 wideouts with at least 75 targets. Simply, in games where he doesn't break his own plays, he's been a fantasy dud, with or without Odell Beckham.
- Chris Godwin at DAL: Godwin has been the WR48, WR50, WR8, WR91, and WR115 the past five weeks, a lineup-ruiner for the most part, and DeSean Jackson could return this week. Dallas has allowed just 10 receivers to score double-digit fantasy points all season.
- Curtis Samuel vs. ATL: Samuel had been the RB33 or better in five of six games entering Monday night's meltdown, and we can't know what his workload will be without Cam Newton, making him a priority sit even in a great matchup.
- John Brown, Willie Snead, and Michael Crabtree at LAC: Brown's 9.3 fantasy points in Week 14, Crabtree's 9.6 in Week 12, and Snead's 8.6 in Week 14 are their bests with Jackson under center, and all three have a donut in that four-game sample, making this one of the hardest situations to predict in fantasy football.
- Calvin Ridley at CAR: Ridley has averaged 21.0 fantasy points when scoring and 4.6 when he doesn't. It's not the worst spot to expect a touchdown, but he has just two red zone targets since Week 4 (both in Week 12).
Start With Confidence
- Travis Kelce at SEA: Kelce has been the TE14 or better in every game since Week 2 and has been a top-five performer in four straight games. The Seahawks are 19th in fantasy points per target allowed to tight ends and gave up 112 yards and a score on 10 targets to 49ers tight ends last week, even with overthrows that cost them more production.
- Zach Ertz vs. HOU: Ertz drew 7 targets from Foles last week but wound up with just 3.7 fantasy points (though he also had 3 red zone targets). Houston is 27th in fantasy points per target allowed to tight ends, so it's a bounce-back spot for Ertz.
- George Kittle vs. CHI: Kittle narrowly had another big game last week but was victim to overthrows. In Nick Mullens' starts, Kittle has averaged 14.6 fantasy points (95.0 yards and 8.7 targets, a 30.2% share). The Bears do rank seventh in target success rate allowed to tight ends, but you're starting Kittle for the workload almost no matter what.
- Rob Gronkowski vs. BUF: Gronkowski didn't pay off last week despite playing 100.0% of snaps. He had five targets (two deep, one red zone), to give him an 18.2% target share since Week 12 (6.0 per game). He's been up and down, and the Bills are fifth in target success rate allowed, but Gronk is a 13-point home favorite with a 29-point implied total.
- Eric Ebron vs. NYG: Ebron had a dud last week (1.3 fantasy points on 3 targets) while running 70.0% of the routes (compared to 84.7%, on average, during the three games prior). As a 10-point home favorite, he is at risk of getting phased out while playing from ahead, yet we can't scoff at a 70.0% route rate for a tight end with his track record with how bad the alternatives are by comparison.
- Jared Cook vs. DEN: Cook broke a four-game streak of double-digit fantasy points with 3.3 last week, but Denver is 20th in fantasy points per target and 16th in target success rate allowed to tight ends. Cook owns a 20.2% target share in eight post-bye games.
Consider If Needed
- Evan Engram at IND: Engram has been the TE11 or better in three straight games despite not scoring in any of those. Indy is 17th in fantasy points per target allowed to tight ends but 31st in target success rate. Engram's snaps also elevated (51.6% and 69.2%) as did his routes (62.1% and 72.3%) the past two games.
- David Njoku vs. CIN: Njoku has been a wreck, with 3.9 fantasy points per game over his past three. In that split, he has just 5.0 targets per game (16.3%) but an average snap rate of 82.3% and an average route rate of 84.3%. Against the Bengals (27th in target success rate and 30th in fantasy points per target allowed to tight ends), he's at least somewhat optimistic.
- Trey Burton at SF: Burton uploaded the Undertaker.gif last week, finishing as the TE2 after being the TE38, TE37, TE51, and TE31 the prior four weeks. Problematically, the snaps and routes were basically what they had been in that down stretch, and the 49ers are third in target success rate allowed to tight ends.
Bench If Possible
- Ian Thomas vs. ATL: Thomas is close to startable, frankly, as his snaps (75.7%, 82.4%, 93.1%) and routes (71.4%, 84.8%, 91.4%) are climbing, and his 5.2-yard average depth of target is beneficial for Newton's inability to throw deep right now. The Panthers are a home favorite with a 26-point total, the right script to deploy a streamer.
- Jimmy Graham at NYJ: Graham has averaged 4.0 fantasy points over his past six games on 4.5 targets (13.3%). The Jets are first in target success rate allowed. You can't be optimistic.
- Cameron Brate at DAL: Brate, of course, tanked despite playing 82.0% of the snaps last week after not hitting 70.0% all year. The Cowboys are 22nd in success rate allowed to tight ends this season, yet the Bucs' 19.5-point total and Brate's 6-target ceiling pushes him to a sit-first option if you can swing it.
- Austin Hooper at CAR: Hooper had just one empty target last week while playing just 50.7% of snaps in a blowout. It's a bit of a bounce-back spot for him, as the Panthers are 28th in target success rate allowed to tight ends, but Hooper has averaged just 5.2 fantasy points in four post-bye games where he hasn't scored because of his low yardage upside.
- Vance McDonald at NO: McDonald's snaps are dwindling, and the Saints haven't given up more than 14.3 fantasy points to a tight end yet this season. Just two tight ends have gotten to double-digits, though that was Brate and Chris Manhertz, both in the past two weeks.
- Chris Herndon vs. GB: Herndon has averaged a 74.0% snap rate in past four games but hasn't cleared 62 yards all season. The Packers are 29th in target success rate allowed to tight ends, so he's not the worst flier if needed
- Gerald Everett at ARI: Everett's role is expanding but is still limited (4.5 targets, 11.0%) since Week 9. With a 29.5-point implied total, he could score, but he's not a 12-team play in the finals.
- Kyle Rudolph at DET: Rudolph's matchup is nice (Detroit is 20th in target success rate allowed to tight ends), but his snaps were cut to 73.9% last week, and he hasn't cleared 9.8 fantasy points since Week 3.
- Vernon Davis at TEN: Davis faces a stingy tight end defense (first in fantasy points per target allowed) and played just 44.1% of snaps last week.