Week 16 Start/Sit

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Week 16 Start/Sit

Every week, Graham Barfield and Scott Barrett provide their most and least favorite plays for shallow (10-teams) and deep (12- and 14-teams) leagues.

Please note that the “sit” calls in this column are not universal but are more recommendations to consider if you have options that project similarly. As always, our projections should be used as the final call.

These are our start/sit calls ahead of the fantasy finals:

Quarterbacks

Shallow leagues

Start: Deshaun Watson vs. Bengals

Since the Bill O’Brien firing in Week 5, Watson ranks 3rd in FPG (24.6) and 2nd passing YPG (304.2). He’s rushed for at least 25 yards in 9 of his last 10 games, and at least 35 yards in 6 of his last 8. He leads all QBs in fantasy points over the last 5 weeks, averaging 25.0 FPG. And that’s in spite of the league’s toughest QB schedule over this stretch, worth (in quantifiable terms) an average of 1.9 FPG off of his per-game average. This week’s matchup should be much softer, however – Cincinnati ranks 9th-worst in fantasy points allowed per pass attempt (0.48). And Houston has a 27.5-point implied total this week – a number they’ve eclipsed (by points scored) just once over their last 8 games. Start him with confidence as an easy mid-range QB1 this week. (SB)

Sit: Ben Roethlisberger vs. Colts

Roethlisberger averages just 5.2 YPA over his last 4 games. This is – easily – the worst 4-game stretch of his career. Over the last 2 weeks, he averages just 178.5 passing YPG on 4.8 YPA, ranking as PFF’s worst-graded QB over this span. And now he gets a Colts defense that ranks 4th-best in FPG allowed to opposing QBs (-2.4). Yeah, this one’s easy. (SB)

Deep leagues

Start: Ryan Tannehill at Packers

Between these two high-powered offenses that are No. 1 and No. 2 in points scored per drive, Titans-Packers has obvious shootout appeal and is one of the best games for fantasy potential — maybe the best — on this slate. After a mid-season lull while facing the Bears, Colts (twice), and Ravens tougher defenses, Ryan Tannehill has gotten hot again over his last three against the Browns, Jaguars, and Lions. In this stretch, Tannehill has scored a whopping 10 total TDs, is the QB4 in fantasy points per game (27.4), and has been unstoppable through the air with a 72% completion rate, 9.1 YPA, and a 123.4 passer rating. Tannehill is a high-floor QB1 for Week 16 lineup decisions with a top-5 ceiling. (Graham Barfield)

Sit: Jared Goff at Seahawks

I had Goff labeled as a “sit” last week, just not for the right reasons. I thought L.A. would dominate the game with their defense and it would lead to a very run-heavy game-plan from Sean McVay. Instead, the Jets decided to try and ended up losing out on Trevor Lawerence in the process. Regardless, Jared Goff gets another easy draw here against Seattle that would normally excite us. But it’s Jared Goff, the same guy who has just three top-12 (QB1) performances over his last 10 games. You need way more upside than Goff for finals week. He’s not even in our top-15. (GB)

Running Backs

Shallow leagues

Start: Austin Ekeler vs. Broncos

In healthy games with Justin Herbert under center, Ekeler averages 13.0 carries, 8.3 targets, 19.9 XFP, and 19.5 FPG. If across the full season, he’d rank 2nd in XFP per game and 4th in FPG. Keep in mind, Ekeler ranked 6th in FPG last year (19.5) despite ranking just 12th in XFP per game (15.0). And since entering the league, he’s arguably been fantasy football’s most-efficient RB. He’s an easy must-start high-end RB1 in a top-12 matchup against Denver. (SB)

Start: Miles Sanders at Cowboys

Sanders was always in a position to be a 2020 league-winner. For one thing, he’s always on the field. He’s played on 74% of the team’s snaps in his 9 full games this year, which would rank 3rd-best among all RBs (behind Ezekiel Elliott’s and Christian McCaffrey, both at 76%). For another, he’s really freaking good. He ranks 2nd-best in YPC (5.44). And he’s reached at least 75 YFS in 9 of 11 games despite being held to 10 or fewer touches in 3 of those games. (SB)

The only thing holding him back was questionable play-calling and incompetent QB-play. But maybe those concerns have since been remedied. Philadelphia has played 2 of their best games of the season over the past 2 weeks, with Jalen Hurts under center. Sanders is averaging 15.5 carries, 3.5 targets, 5.77 YPC, and 19.8 FPG over this span. And he comes off of 2-straight tough matchups to face a Dallas defense that ranks 2nd-worst in YPC allowed (4.90) and 2nd-worst in rushing FPG allowed (19.4).

Note: I also talked about David Montgomery and D’Andre Swift here. You’re starting them both as low-end RB1s this week. (SB)

Sit: Le’Veon Bell vs. Falcons

Bell isn’t quite a “sit” – I have him ranked as a low-end RB2, so if you have a better option, play them. And, if you don’t, play Bell. I just want to make sure you know what you’re signing up for. He’s a solid play, but he’s far from a lock. In Week 13, with Clyde Edwards-Helaire out, Bell earned 11 of 17 carries and 2 of 4 targets out of the backfield. He played on just 52% of the team’s snaps to Darrel Williams’ 48%. Even last week, he played on just 32% of the team’s snaps to Williams’ 22%. So, a “Bell”-cow workload seems unlikely. And his Week 16 opponent is quietly very tough – Atlanta ranks 3rd-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (-4.3). (SB)

Deep leagues

Start: J.K. Dobbins vs. Giants

Last week, Dobbins extended his scoring streak to four games as Baltimore continued to increase his role and rely on him as their featured back. After Mark Ingram only played one snap in Week 14, the team made him a healthy scratch last week against Jacksonville. As a result, Dobbins handled 15 touches while Gus Edwards had 11. With this backfield now becoming a 3-man committee instead of 4 (including Jackson), Dobbins has finished as the RB9, RB20, RB24, and RB20 over his last four outings. Patient managers that held the faith with Dobbins all year have been rewarded with a strong RB2 and there is no reason to go away from that this week. Chris Carson, Kenyan Drake, and Nick Chubb have all finished as an RB2 or better (top-24) in this matchup over the last three weeks. (GB)

Start: J.D. McKissic vs. Panthers

If Antonio Gibson (toe) misses his third-straight game, you can go right back to the well with McKissic as an RB2 / FLEX play in PPR leagues. With Gibson out over Washington’s last two games and since he only played one snap in Week 13, they’ve had no other option but to make McKissic their featured back. McKissic has played on 75% of Washington’s snaps over the last three weeks — which is the third-highest rate among RBs in this span. Just how valuable has McKissic’s role been? Well, over the last three weeks, McKissic has averaged 18.2 expected fantasy points per game and was at 11.8 when Gibson was healthy. And if captain checkdown Alex Smith suits up, McKissic’s outlook will look even better because Panthers are allowing the fifth-most receptions per game to RBs (6.3). (GB)

If he plays… Sit: Ezekiel Elliott vs. Eagles

Zeke says he “feels better” and is “on track to play” this week after missing Week 15 with a calf injury, but even if he suits up, there is a good chance you have much better RB2 / FLEX options than him for the finals. First and foremost, there are at least 35-40 WRs that you should play over Zeke in FLEX spots if you have that decision. At running back, we have Elliott tentatively slotted at RB28, which is appropriately conservatitve. Even if he plays, we can’t guarantee that he’ll get more than 10-12 touches because of his injury and especially since Tony Pollard is playing so well. We’ve got Darrell Henderson (no Cam Akers), Jeff Wilson (no Raheem Mostert), and both Bills backs ahead of Zeke in our projections. With workload and re-injury concerns, Elliott is a fringe RB2 for Week 16. (GB)

Sit: James Conner vs. Colts

The Steelers offense is broken right now. Hopefully for Tom Brolley and fellow yinzer’s sake, they can use the next two games to fix some of their problems because Ben Roethlisberger’s play has fallen off of a cliff over the last month. Regardless, there is obviously no fixing their run game right now even if James Conner (thigh) makes it back to play. Conner seemed somewhat close to suiting up this past week, but there is no way you can start him with any confidence in finals week against this elite Colts front-seven that is allowing just 3.82 yards per carry (third-fewest). Expect another extremely pass-heavy game-plan from Big Ben. (GB)

Wide Receivers

Shallow leagues

Start: Robert Woods at Seahawks

Just like we saw late last season, the Rams have gone back to Bobby Trees as their true No. 1 target. Over their last five games, Robert Woods has out-targeted Kupp 54 to 37 and, unsurprisingly, Woods has exceeded 15 or more points four times in this span. I’m not convinced that the Seahawks defense is some juggernaut now despite their statistical improvements, either. Between Carson Wentz, Colt McCoy, Sam Darnold, and Dwayne Haskins, the Seahawks have just faced an incredibly easy slate of quarterbacks over the last month. Jared Goff doesn’t have a high-ceiling this week, but he’s more than capable of funneling the ball to Woods. (GB)

Start: Diontae Johnson vs. Colts

Johnson has a tough matchup on paper, and he’s struggled all season with drops. And Ben Roethlisberger has struggled with just about everything of late. Still, the volume he’s seeing is too good to pass up, too good not to start him as (at-worst) a fringe-WR1 this week. Excluding games in which Johnson missed time due to injury, he averages 18.7 FPG, 19.1 XFP, and 11.9 targets per game, hitting double-digit targets in 10 of these 11 games. If over the course of the full season, these numbers would rank 7th, 2nd, and 1st among all WRs. (SB)

Sit: Marquise Brown vs. Giants

Brown is on something of a hot streak – 4 of his 6 highest-scoring games have all come over the last 4 weeks. Over this span, he averages 7.3 targets, 68.0 yards, and 15.6 FPG, hitting at least 13.0 fantasy points in all 4 of these games. That’s the good news. The bad news is, he’s likely to get shadowed by James Bradberry this week. Allen Robinson, Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, Terry McLaurin, and D.K. Metcalf (the most notable WRs Bradberry has shadowed this year) combined to average just 12.9 FPG against the Giants (3.0 points below their average), or, just 8.0 FPG against Bradberry’s coverage. Brown is just a low-end WR4 this week. (SB)

Deep leagues

Start: D.J. Moore at Washington

Moore averages 8.8 targets, 103.8 yards, and 17.7 FPG over his last 4 games. And he’s seen better volume (measured by XFP) than Robby Anderson in each of these 4 games, averaging 16.7 XFP per game (to Anderson’s 10.9). For perspective, 16.7 XFP per game would rank 5th-best among WRs (tied with Keenan Allen) if over the full season, and is nearly double his average over his prior 7 games (9.5). This is a tough-to-neutral matchup on paper, but not insurmountable – Washington ranks 14th-best in FPG allowed to outside WRs (21.1), 9th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (+1.5). The bigger takeaway to me is it seems Moore has re-emerged as the team’s clear-cut WR1. I’m bullish enough to start him as a mid-range WR2 this week. (SB)

Start: All Buccaneers WRs

For the first time since adding Antonio Brown, their trio of wideouts all had good games last week as Mike Evans ended with 6/110, AB had 5/93/1, and Chris Godwin 4/36/1. This week, all three have winnable matchups against this completely banged up Lions secondary that has given up the second-most fantasy points per game to wideouts over the last five weeks. Evans, Godwin, and AB are all high-end WR2’s with WR1 ceilings. (GB)

Start: Corey Davis at Packers

Like we discussed with Ryan Tannehill, this game is so appealing for fantasy because both offenses have such high-scoring potential. Corey Davis has legitimately been one of the 25 best receivers in the NFL this year and just earned himself a big-time payday when he hits free agency after this season. Davis has been one of the most consistent WR2/3’s this season, as he’s gone over 65 yards or scored in 10-of-12 games. A.J. Brown is a borderline WR1 start this week and if Tannehill is forced to the air a little more often while the Titans try to keep up with Aaron Rodgers, the extra opportunity should trickle down to Davis. (GB)

Sit: Curtis Samuel at Washington

Sort of like Corey Davis, Samuel has been a revelation in his fourth year under this new coaching staff. After being misidentified and misused as a vertical threat last year, HC Matt Rhule and OC Joe Brady have used Samuel as a slot receiver and fed him a bunch of shallow targets near the line of scrimmage. However, Samuel draws the worst matchup out of the Panthers WR trio this week. Washington is allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per game to slot receivers and that’s where Samuel runs 70% of his routes. He’s just a WR4 this week. (GB)

Tight Ends

Shallow leagues

Start: Logan Thomas vs. Panthers

Thomas is fresh off a game in which he scored 26.1 fantasy points on 15 targets. Since Week 6, he averages 12.8 FPG, which ranks 3rd-most among TEs (ahead of George Kittle), hitting double-digit fantasy points in 7 of 9 games. Over his last 3 games, he averages 19.4 FPG and 10.7 targets per game. Among wide receivers those numbers would rank 10th- and 5th-best, respectively. Terry McLaurin is banged up and struggling with an ankle injury, and Carolina has given up the 2nd-most FPG to opposing TEs since Week 9 (18.7). Start Thomas this week over any TE not-named Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or George Kittle. (SB)

Sit: Evan Engram at Ravens

After warming up a bit during the middle of the season, Engram’s production has fallen off of a cliff recently with the Giants offense struggling so badly. Daniel Jones (hamstring, ankle) missing again wouldn’t help matters either. Engram has been held under 9 fantasy points in four of his last five games with his only good outing in this span coming against the Bengals (6/129) when he ripped two gains of 40+ yards. I’d consider starting streamer-types like Austin Hooper (great matchup) and Irv Smith (if Kyle Rudolph sits) ahead of Engram. (GB)

Deep leagues

Start: Noah Fant at Chargers

Fant crushed in an easy matchup last week against the Bills (8/68/1 on 11 targets) and gets another nice spot here in the finals in a game the Broncos should be forced to the air in to keep up with Justin Herbert and the Chargers scoring. Plus, L.A. has quietly been one of the easiest matchups for opposing tight ends as they’re giving up the fourth-most fantasy points per target (2.10). Only the Jets (13) and Jaguars (11) have given up more touchdowns to the position than the Chargers (10). Noah Fant is a top-8 option for Week 16. (GB)

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