Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2018
This is it. Championship Week. This is what it's all about. There is no tomorrow, so let's do our best to put in a winning lineup.
This is the Fantasy Football Nerd's look at the best and worst matchups for Week 16 of the 2018 NFL season. Decisions are based upon the FFN rankings and matchup analysis. Given the known conditions, these matchups are the ones to watch and/or avoid.
Please Note: This list does not generally include the elite players that you are going to start regardless of matchup. You don't need us to tell you to start Saquon Barkley, Rob Gronkowski, or Antonio Brown. Instead, we take a look at other players on your team that we believe either have great matchups or should be avoided for multiple reasons. Factors like opposing defense, performance trending, and peer comparisons may influence our decisions.
Start 'em Dak Prescott (DAL, QB)
Dak bombed in Indianapolis last week but is in an excellent bounce back spot. He gets a Bucs defense ranked 24th in Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed to QBs. And he's back at home, where he's averaged 262 passing yards and 1.9 TDs per game (vs. 215 yards and .6 TDs on the road).
Start 'em Baker Mayfield (CLE, QB)
Baker Mayfield completed 18-of-31 passes for 188 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in the Browns' Week 15 victory over the Broncos. Cleveland and Mayfield have flashed real poise, though, and now find themselves in a must-win pivotal divisional matchup with a potential playoff berth at stake against the Bengals in Week 16. Mayfield will be a top-10 play against the Bengals' 4th-worst pass defense.
Start 'em Matt Ryan (ATL, QB)
Ryan rolls into Week 16 sitting 2nd among QBs in fantasy points just behind Mahomes. If he's been your guy all year, stick with him for a fine matchup on Sunday vs. a Panthers defense that ranks 28th in Football Outsiders' pass defense DVOA and 17th in Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed to QBs.
Start 'em Derrick Henry (TEN, RB)
Where has Derrick Henry been all year? His last two games have been monstrous, so conventional wisdom would dictate that you should continue to play the hot hand. Saquon Barkley put up 30 PPR points in Week 14 and Zeke Elliott put up 25 two weeks prior. We're either going to get the dynamic playmaker out of Henry or he's going to regress and fall back to Earth. We're taking the gamble that he continues to roll.
Start 'em Jamaal Williams (GB, RB)
Fantasy Football, as in life, is cyclical. With Aaron Jones on I.R., Jamaal Williams will be the lead back for Green Bay just as he was when the season started. It's not often that you get a starting RB on the waiver wire in Week 16, but here we are. Williams is ranked 16th this week putting him in high-end RB2 territory against the 10th-worst Jets run defense that gave up an average of 23 PPR points to Sony Michel, LeSean McCoy, and Latavius Murray.
Start 'em Chris Carson (SEA, RB)
In a run-first offense, Chris Carson is the guy to own in Seattle. With Carson gobbling up 15-20 carries per week, he will an upside RB2 in Week 16 against the Chiefs. Kansas City gives up the 7th-most yards on the ground per game (126.9) and has surrendered double-digit fantasy points to 14 running backs this season.
Start 'em Tyler Lockett (SEA, WR)
Nobody gives up more yards through the air this year than Kansas City. Lockett is ranked 19th this week against that secondary. He's gone two weeks in a row without scoring which is the first time that's happened all year. Lockett is a solid candidate to have a rebound game. We're starting both him and Baldwin this week in all formats.
Start 'em Jordy Nelson (OAK, WR)
Nelson was Derek Carr's favorite target once again last Sunday, leading the team in targets, catches and yardage through the air (6-of-8 targets for 88 yards). Quietly raising his game to end the season, Nelson has at least six receptions in each of his past three games, catching 22-of-26 targets for 233 yards over that span. Given his use in the passing game recently, Nelson is a WR3 option in PPR formats for Week 16 against the Broncos.
Start 'em Alshon Jeffery (PHI, WR)
With low expectations last week, Alshon Jeffery surprised many fantasy owners with a monstrous 8 catches for 160 yards. He's clearly the go-to guy for Nick Foles. He could see a nice finish to the season with Foles expected to close out the year as the starter. Jeffery is a WR3 for Week 16 against the Texans.
Start 'em Evan Engram (NYG, TE)
On a day where almost nothing went right for the Giants' offense, Engram was a rare bright spot last week, matching a career-high with eight catches including five in the second half. With Odell Beckham dealing with a quad injury and risky to play, Engram can be counted on as a solid TE1 this week at Indianapolis.
Start 'em Cameron Brate (TB, TE)
The Cowboys are tough on WRs but sit just 19th in Football Outsiders' TE coverage rankings and 16th in Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed to TEs. That could mean a slightly bigger role for Brate, who's averaged just 4 targets in 4 games without O.J. Howard.
Start 'em Tennessee Titans (TEN, DEF)
The Tennessee Titans are one of the top plays of the week against the hapless Redskins offense who is giving up a promising 10 fantasy points to Defenses the last 4 weeks.
Start 'em Greg Zuerlein (LAR, K)
If you've been starting Greg "the leg" all year, keep him in your lineups. He's 8 for 9 in field goals over his last three games. Let's take those points in the championship.
Sit 'em Jameis Winston (TB, QB)
Winston, not surprisingly, struggled in Baltimore last week. The task isn't much easier this Sunday vs. a Cowboys defense sitting 8th in Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed to QBs. Dallas has allowed multiple passing scores in just 6 of 14 games.
Sit 'em Cam Newton (CAR, QB)UPDATE: Cam Newton will not play the remaining two games.
Newton was tough to watch on Monday night, completing just 55% of his passes for 131 scoreless yards. He admitted afterward that his throwing shoulder is not getting better. So he's a shaky Week 16 fantasy play, despite a plus matchup against a Falcons defense sitting 30th in Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed to QBs.
Sit 'em Lamar Jackson (BAL, QB)
Jackson has finished between QB9 and QB14 in all 5 of his starts -- thanks largely to his massive 85.4 rushing yards per game. While he's ranked 17th this week, he remains a high-end QB2 for Week 16. The Chargers have allowed the following rushing lines from mobile QBs: 5-21 (Patrick Mahomes), 8-32 (Josh Allen), 7-38 (Marcus Mariota) and 5-41 (Russell Wilson).
Sit 'em Peyton Barber (TB, RB)
Barber just ran for 85 yards and a score against a tough Ravens defense. He gets another tough matchup vs. the Cowboys this weekend. But volume makes Barber a fine RB3. He's tallied 15+ touches in 5 straight games.
Sit 'em Spencer Ware (KC, RB)Update: Ware is doubtful for this weekend.
Spencer Ware was limited at practice this week, but he's been at practice. That's a good sign for him coming off Kansas City's mini-bye. If Ware is able to play, he'll likely be returning to a committee role with Damien Williams diluting his fantasy value.
Sit 'em LeSean McCoy (BUF, RB)
Shady McCoy is ranked 42nd this week in our PPR rankings placing him well outside RB and flex territory. He's dealing with a hamstring issue but looks to be on track to play against the Patriots. New England is giving up the 17th-fewest yards per game on the ground (116.2) and has only allowed one running back to score at least 20 PPR fantasy points all year (Tarik Cohen - Week 7).
Sit 'em Mohamed Sanu (ATL, WR)
Sanu has tallied 4+ catches in 5 of his last 7 games. But he's topped 56 yards in just 1 of those games and failed to score a single TD. He's a low-upside WR4 vs. a Panthers defense that's been tougher against slot receivers than outside guys.
Sit 'em Courtland Sutton (DEN, WR)
Since Demaryius Thomas was traded, Courtland Sutton has seen the endzone just once and has yet to surpass 90 yards in any game this year. His 11 total targets the past two weeks are also third on the team behind DaeSean Hamilton's 20 and Tim Patrick's 18. Sutton's athleticism is extremely enticing, but it's finally time we admit that he may not turn that into viable WR2 production until 2019. He'll again be a low-floor boom-or-bust WR3/flex against the Raiders in Week 16.
Sit 'em Chris Godwin (TB, WR)
Godwin has caught just 1 of 13 targets over the last 2 weeks. He's tough to trust this Sunday vs. a Dallas defense sitting 5th in Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed to WRs. The return of DeSean Jackson also hurts his value.
Sit 'em Ian Thomas (CAR, TE)
Thomas mustered just 2 catches for 14 yards against a tough Saints TE defense last week. He gets another challenging draw this Sunday vs. a Falcons defense ranked 8th in Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed to TEs.
Sit 'em Trey Burton (CHI, TE)
Only two tight ends have managed more than 15 fantasy points (PPR) against the Niners this year and both are better fantasy tight ends than Trey Burton. Additionally, San Francisco is giving up a total of just 5.3 fantasy points to tight ends over their last four weeks.
Sit 'em Houston Texans (HOU, DEF)
While the Texans always have a chance to put up decent numbers, the Eagles are giving up just 2.8 fantasy points to defenses over their last four weeks...so it's not looking good.
Sit 'em Mason Crosby (GB, K)
Mason Crosby has missed four field goals in his last four games. That makes him difficult to trust in what is arguably the most important fantasy game of the year.