Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 16
One of the easiest ways to deal with a bad beat story in fantasy football is to think about how much worse it could've been. Because chances are, someone experienced something more painful than you did.
Heading into Sunday night, I needed Carson Palmer to outscore Golden Tate in a league I'm in. The league rules and scoring are a little funkier than standard leagues, but let's just say I wasn't pleased when Tate scored two touchdowns against the Saints on Monday night. And let's just pretend I didn't almost cry myself to sleep last night, as I lost my matchup by just over a point, failing to make the finals.
But then there are stories like this one that make things easier. Could you imagine losing your semifinal matchup because of a garbage time 18-yard pass from Drew Brees to Tim Hightower? I think I'd rather eat a sock. And that same bad beat happened over and over and over and over again.
Fantasy football is cruel.
Hopefully you were able to survive Week 15 with a victory, making this article relevant. Even if you weren't, why not burn some time at work and take a look at some guys to start and sit this week?
Quarterbacks to Sit
Matt Ryan (vs. Carolina): Not only should you be hesitant to start a quarterback against his division rival the second time around, but you should also be hesitant to start Matt Ryan. He's ranked 21st or worse in weekly quarterback scoring in each of his last four weeks, and according to our schedule-adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) pass defense metric, the Panthers have the second best secondary in football. That showed when these two teams faced off two weeks ago, as Ryan scored just 4.86 fantasy points.
Brock Osweiler (vs. Cincinnati): The Broncos' offensive performance in the second half against Pittsburgh isn't necessarily what we should expect from them versus Cincinnati this week, but the team's first half isn't exactly indicative of how good they are, either. The Bengals also have a stronger pass defense compared to Pittsburgh's, ranking 10th in the NFL according to our numbers -- only two passers have actually ranked better than 10th in weekly quarterback scoring versus the Bengals this season. Osweiler's just not worth it.
Start These Quarterbacks Instead
Blake Bortles (at New Orleans): The average quarterback score against the Saints this season is 23.93 fantasy points. Cam Newton, fantasy football's top quarterback, is the only signal-caller averaging more points per game.
The Saints have the worst secondary in our database for 2015, and 9 of the 14 opposing signal-callers they've faced have finished with top-12, QB1 numbers this season. This week, Bortles and the Jags travel to New Orleans to play a game that features the highest over/under on the week, per Vegas. It's shaping up to be a shootout, and Bortles should answer the call.
Kirk Cousins (at Philadelphia): A huge reason I was into Kirk Cousins last week as a streamer was because of his home/road splits. At home this season, according to Net Expected Points, Cousins' per drop back average has been better than Tom Brady's season-long rate. Against an average Bills' secondary in Washington, the logic was there for him to have a nice game.
But the other thing going a little unnoticed with Cousins are his splits with and without DeSean Jackson. Since Jackson's return from injury in Week 9, Cousins has ranked as a weekly top-10 quarterback four times. That's 57.14% (4 of 7) of his contests. Cousins failed to put up fantasy numbers against New England (8th against the pass according to our numbers), Carolina (2nd), and Dallas (16th).
The Eagles, a team that's giving up the third most fantasy points to quarterbacks, are next. And while this game is on the road for Cousins, the D-Jax factor should make him relevant enough to warrant a stream in your league championship.
Running Backs to Sit
Lamar Miller (vs. Indianapolis): In one of the best matchups imaginable for a running back last week, the Dolphins ended up giving Lamar Miller just nine carries. He totaled 12 yards on the ground, finishing as the 61st-ranked running back in PPR leagues.
Can you trust him against Indianapolis? I'm not entirely sure. The Colts have an average rush defense according to our numbers -- they rank 12th -- and there's a chance this weekend's Dolphins-Colts tilt is a close one. But considering Miller has single-digit carries in three of his last five games, he's simply tough to confidently play. If you have a more consistent option -- maybe someone like Bilal Powell (mentioned below) -- you may want to go with that.
Eddie Lacy (vs. Arizona): Similar to Miller, Lacy's use and predictability is giving fantasy owners headaches. But you could argue that Lacy's floor is much lower -- in two of his last four games, Lacy's ranked as the 71st and 85th best weekly running back in PPR formats.
The Packers face the Cardinals this weekend, a team that's surrendered the sixth fewest points to the position this season. Some running backs have found success against the Cardinals, sure, but the backs who are performing at a high level against Arizona either do it through the air or end up finding the end zone. Lacy has just two targets over his last three games, and scoring a touchdown is a volatile activity, especially in the Green Bay backfield. If I can, I'd try to avoid playing Lacy in the championship.
Start These Running Backs Instead
Bilal Powell (vs. New England): Guys, the lead back in the Jets' backfield isn't Chris Ivory. It's Bilal Powell.
Powell has played more snaps than Ivory in two of the team's last three games, and over this stretch, he's ranked as the third, seventh and sixth best running back option in PPR leagues. Though he's not seeing a significant number of carries during the trio of contests (five per game), he's averaging 8.33 targets per game.
The Jets face the Patriots this week and are underdogs, too, which means there could be a negative game script for the Jets. That means more time for Powell to be on the field, making him a potential PPR machine.
Cameron Artis-Payne (at Atlanta): If you need a deeper player at running back, I really don't mind rookie Cameron Artis-Payne. It's sounding like Jonathan Stewart will be out again in Week 16, and in Week 15 without J-Stew, CAP ended up playing 40.3% of Carolina's snaps, the most of any running back on the team. He also carried the ball 14 times, while teammate Fozzy Whittaker toted the rock just twice.
Atlanta is better against the run than what the team's fantasy points against implies, but in a contest that could see the Panthers take a commanding lead -- as they did the last time these two teams played -- Artis-Payne could see a lot of opportunity. And as we all know, opportunities lead to fantasy points.
Wide Receivers to Sit
But the fact remains: the Broncos have stopped every wide receiver not on the Steelers this season, holding [mostly] all of them scoreless (Mike Wallace somehow is the only non-Steeler wideout against Denver to score this year). Green, meanwhile, has A.J. McCarron tossing him the rock -- in Week 15, that resulted in just three targets. The matchup and usage just don't work out for Green this week.
Tyler Lockett (vs. St. Louis): Lockett's breakout has been great to watch -- he's been a top-30 wide receiver in PPR formats in four of his last five games, scoring five touchdowns from quarterback Russell Wilson. A reason for this is his increase in usage, as he's averaging 5.8 targets per game over these five games, while he failed to even hit the six target mark once through Week 10.
But that's precisely the issue I have this week with the Seahawks versus the Rams. Seattle is a 13.5-point favorite, meaning they're bound to throw the ball less and pound the rock more. And while that's been the case of late with them, they also haven't faced a secondary nearly as good as St. Louis' -- our numbers mark the Rams with the fifth-best pass defense in football. It makes me a little nervous about Lockett this week.
Start These Wide Receivers Instead
Kamar Aiken (vs. Pittsburgh): Since Steve Smith's season-ending injury, Kamar Aiken has averaged 9.71 targets per game. And while his quarterback's play has been pretty dreadful, he's ranked outside WR3 territory in PPR formats just once over this timeframe. Not bad for a guy who was barely on fantasy football owners' radars entering the year.
The Steelers have been porous in their secondary, allowing the most points to wide receivers this year, depending on your league's scoring system. Pittsburgh's also a heavy favorite, which means the Ravens should be running a pass-happy offense. That should only benefit Aiken.
Willie Snead (vs. Jacksonville): When there's a potential shootout, you'll want to try to expose yourself to as many players in that particular game. That's why Snead finds himself here, aside from the fact that he's been more involved in the Saints offense of late, hauling in 8, 8, and 12 targets over his last three games. In PPR formats, he shouldn't have much trouble producing a solid floor against a Jags secondary that ranks in the bottom 10 according to our numbers.
Tight Ends to Sit
Heath Miller (at Baltimore): Miller has shown that he has an interesting ceiling this season, finishing as a top-five tight end twice. But he's also proven to have a really low floor, scoring single-digit PPR points in all but four games this season. The Steelers could run with a more conservative approach in a game where they're heavily favored, which doesn't bode well for Heath. That, and Baltimore's been strong against opposing tight ends this season, as their cornerbacks have been exposed.
Start These Tight Ends Instead
Will Tye (at Minnesota): Will Tye has kind of been a monster for fantasy football teams over the last five weeks. Well, "monster" may be a little strong, but consistent -- he's definitely been consistent.
In PPR formats, Tye has failed to score fewer than 10 fantasy points over his last five games. At an inherently volatile position, that's crazy. He's averaging 6.4 targets per game during this time -- time without tight end teammate Larry Donnell, I should add -- making him a legitimate weekly option. Add in the fact that Odell Beckham is facing a suspension, and you've got yourself a perfect tight end streamer for your fantasy championship.
Zach Miller (at Tampa Bay): Martellus Bennett was ruled out for the year a couple of weeks ago, and in the two games since, Zach Miller has been solid. Last week saw a six-target performance where Miller finished as the second-best tight end in fantasy (PPR), and in Week 15, Miller saw another six targets for 57 yards. Nothing earth-shattering, no, but he ended up playing 100% of the team's snaps on Sunday, which provides a great floor. Look for him to give you that baseline this week against the Buccaneers, making him a solid start.
Defenses to Sit
New York Jets (vs. New England): On the season, only two defenses have ranked higher than 15th in weekly defensive scoring when facing New England: Indianapolis and Philadelphia. Both of those teams scored touchdowns (or multiple ones), which we all know are tough to sustain and predict on the defensive side of the ball. The fantasy championship is not a time to start messing with probability.
Other defenses to sit: Green Bay (at Arizona), Atlanta Falcons (vs. Carolina)
Start These Defenses Instead
Detroit Lions (vs. San Francisco): Non-10- or 12-team leagues may need a deeper play at defense, and it seems like the Lions are in the best spot among streamers. They'll be at home as huge favorites (8.5 points) against a middling quarterback in Blaine Gabbert who's running an offense that ranks fifth worst in the league according to our metrics. That's exactly what you need from a defensive streaming option.
Other defenses to start: Buffalo Bills (vs. Dallas), Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Cleveland)