If you’re in the championship round then kudos to you my friend, you’ve had an incredible season regardless of the outcome of this week. You’ve worked your way into the fantasy football record books. Now it’s time to take home the hardware and to play our favorite Queen song on repeat until the 2015 season begins.
As exciting as this week is for you, it may be equally frustrating and confusing. After 15 weeks of winning because of your dominant roster, and because you’ve spent 15 weeks analyzing the tendencies of every team’s offense and defense, the NFL went and turned itself upside down in one crazy week. Quarterbacks like Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Lindley, Charlie Whitehurst, Case Keenum, and Johnny Manziel are going to play a huge role in the performance of so many of our regular starters. Add this QB mess to the inconsistency, or maybe all too consistently awful play that QBs such as Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, Geno Smith, and even Colin Kaepernick bring to the table. We find ourselves in a fantasy world this week where almost 30% of the NFL offenses in this championship round could very well be a complete disaster. Fantasy beasts and sure fire starters Matt Forte Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Arian Foster, DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Johnson, Josh Gordon, and Larry Fitzgerald all of a sudden range from severely diminished but startable (Forte), to non-startable (Fitzgerald), to flex plays or borderline startable (Gordon, Alshon, Bennett, Hopkins). None of them are sure things any longer but Arian Foster should be just fine so start him as you normally would.
As a result of this chaos, this week’s sleepers and busts list is more important than ever before. This week, some obscure or lesser talented players really have a huge opportunity to shine and could be better plays then some of the players on the teams loaded with uncertainty. I beg you to please look at the NFL situation and not just the name of your player when making your start em/sit em choices. This week is for all the marbles. Good Luck!
Without further ado, your week 16 Sleepers and Busts:
DISCLAIMER: A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him.
· Robert Griffin III vs. Philadelphia. Hey you, Cutler/Newton/Rivers/Tannehill/Eli owners. Move your cursor to the save button, take a deep breath, a hard swallow and close your eyes to build up the nerve to click mouse button while inserting RG III into your lineup this week. Griffin is coming off an all too familiar week of producing quality fantasy numbers while folding when the game is on the line from an NFL standpoint. He threw for 236 yards and a TD, had his legs working for 46 yards and we all saw the controversial fumble right before the half that very well could have and maybe should have been called a TD. He scored 19+ fantasy points and was very close to a 25+ day. A matchup against an Eagles defense who can’t seem to stop allowing big QB games is on tap. The Eagles have allowed 6 out of the last 8 QBs they’ve faced to score over 20 fantasy points including two games allowing 33+ points. In week 3, Washington had Philadelphia’s number with then QB Kirk Cousins to the tune of 427 yards passing and 3 TD. Look for DeSean Jackson to have his second huge performance against his old team and Griffin, who is playing for his NFL life as a starting QB over the next two weeks, to continue the Redskins’ and NFL wide trend of high scoring QBs against this defense.
I’d Start Robert Griffin III over: Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning
· Russell Wilson at Arizona. Russell Wilson is a fine NFL QB both NFL and fantasy, but these divisional games against the 49ers and Cardinals are always slugfests and never provide too much upside. Seattle is locked in and is playing Super Bowl caliber defense. They’re up against Ryan Lindley so we can expect Seattle to jump out to a lead and grind out a victory much like they’ve done in the previous three NFC West matchups against San Francisco and Arizona. Seattle won 19-3 in 2 of the games and 17-7 last week against the 49ers. The Seahawks went 3-0 in these games and Wilson had sub-par outings in each one. These teams know each other too well and Seattle’s defense is playing too well to let Arizona hang around in the second half. Wilson will be able to coast to victory much like he did in the three previous NFC West slugfests. Wilson is a high QB2 this week with a low ceiling.
I’d Start the following players over Russell Wilson: Robert Griffin III, Mark Sanchez, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco
· Matt Asiata @ Miami. By no means is Matt Asiata a talented RB, but Minnesota insists on giving him 65% of the snaps and the majority of touches. Miami has been a complete disaster against RBs ever since the Jets embarrassed them by running on them 23 straight plays. Miami won the game, but that game revealed a flaw in the Dolphins defense and the Fins have been blown out in the two weeks since. While the Jets brought these problems to the forefront, this issue has been there for quite a while. In fact, the Dolphins have allowed over 20 fantasy points to RBs in .5 PPR leagues in 5 out of the last 6 games after allowing 3 such games in the first 9 weeks. As a human being who plays RB and receives touches against a team who can’t stop the RB, Asiata is a fine play this week. No other qualifications are necessary for him to be a sleeper and high upside play against this defense. If Mickey Mouse was getting RB touches against Miami I would've had him here. Asiata just happens to be the lucky guy this week.
I’d start Matt Asiata over: Matt Forte, LeGarrette Blount, Steven Jackson, Dan Herron, Alfred Morris
· Matt Forte v. Detroit. Well here is one of those controversial sits/busts I’m going to try to convince you about. Forte’s QB is Jimmy Clausen, who last started a game in 2010. He made 10 starts that year and had all of 3 TDs. In other words, he had a lot of opportunities against a plethora of good and bad defenses and only had 3 TD passes in 40 quarters. He’s not going to be moving the ball against one of the elite NFL defenses, the Detroit Lions. The Lions, even with Cutler at the helm limited Forte to FIVE yards rushing in their Thanksgiving matchup. He did chip in 6 catches for 52 yards. I really see a similar outcome here for Forte with the main similarity that I’m almost sure about being zero TDs. Forte could see some more dumpoffs and could approach 10 points but in no way would I allow my finals matchup to be dependent upon Jimmy Clausen moving the football against a top defense, who by the way is two wins away from locking up their division. He’s on the RB2 radar but it's possible that you can do better this week.
I’d start the following players over Matt Forte: Matt Asiata, Fred Jackson, Lamar Miller, LeSean McCoy, Tre Mason, Alfred Morris
· Donte Moncrief at Dallas. TY Hilton is very questionable to face Dallas and there has been talk of reducing Reggie Wayne’s snaps whether idle to rest (or secretly and more likely, on field performance). Whether Hilton plays or not he will be limited, and Moncrief has the potential to be your Super Bowl hero. Dallas, who ranks 23rd in passing yards against, stepped up in a big way against Mark Sanchez last week but no disrespect to the job the Sanchize has done but…Luck ain't no Sanchez. Prior to last week, Dallas had allowed WRs to score 30+ fantasy points in 3 straight games against the Giants, Eagles and Bears. It’s almost a given that Andrew Luck WILL throw for 300+ yards and WILL throw 2+ TDs. If Hilton and Wayne are not receiving a big chunk of those yards this week then the sky of the limit for the young speed/size freak who has shown incredible ability against teams who give up big plays (Pittsburgh, Washington). The indoor surface of the Cowboys' stadium plays to Moncrief’s strength. Go for the glory and get him in there if you need a WR3/flex.
I’d Start Donte Moncrief over: Charles Johnson, Steve Smith Sr., Martavis Bryant, Sammy Watkins, Stedman Bailey
· Sammy Watkins at Oakland. Buffalo at 8-6 is fighting for their playoff lives on the road in Oakland. It’s always dangerous to assume anyone wins on the road, but with Buffalo having a lot of incentive to win and Oakland a lot of incentive to lose, let’s just assume the Bills win this game and control the game for the most part. Sammy Watkins could be in for a quiet performance if the recent past repeats itself. The Bills have won three of the last four games with a combined 85 points in those three wins. Sounds like it should be a lot of Watkins, the Bills number one wide out right? Wrong! In those three wins Watkins was held to a combined 7 catches for 74 yards and 0 TD. In the one loss to Denver, the Bills were in comeback mode and Watkins had a huge day with 127 yards. The issue here is that the Bills are a very good running football team who likes to get touches for all of their RBs, and they exclusively throw short passes when they’re controlling the game. Kyle Orton has no problem spreading targets to Watkins, Robert Woods, Scott Chandler and Fred Jackson on short, chain moving plays, so long as he avoids the turnover. Watkins surprisingly has gone six straight games without a TD as well. The matchup sounds better than it is as the Raiders rank 8th in the league in passing yards against. The Bills are playing fine football and will stick to the blueprint for success against Oakland, a stout defense a running game and short quick passes.
I’d start the following players over Sammy Watkins: Nate Washington, Charles Johnson, Stedman Bailey, Greg Jennings
· Zach Ertz v. Washington. Tight ends are tough to come by outside of the top seven or eight. I don’t have a sleeper I feel awesome about but Zach Ertz is a sneaky play if you are absolutely playing the matchups. I like 12-14 TEs more than him, but he’s up against a Washington team who ranks 30th against the TE and has given up huge days to Jared Cook and Coby Fleener recently. Ertz has the type of ability to burn a LB off play action and if the Eagles look at the film they’ll see an opportunity or two to look his way on a deep seam pattern. Once again, I don’t love it but if you’re desperate he has more upside than a Donnell or a Kyle Rudolph this week.
I’d start Zach Ertz over: Kyle Rudolph, Larry Donnell, Mychal Rivera, Owen Daniels
· Kyle Rudolph at Miami. Not a shocking bust but Rudolph is listed as high as the number 14 TE on some sites, a borderline matchup play. I wouldn't go near him. The Dolphins have not allowed even a mediocre game to a TE not named Gronkowski since week 4. The list of TEs they've shut down is not so impressive but it does include Martellus Bennett, Antonio Gates, and Owen Daniels. Rudolph is worse than all three and should be avoided. Look for a better matchup if you need it.
I’d Start the following players over Kyle Rudolph: Coby Fleener, Owen Daniels, Heath Miller, Zach Ertz, Scott Chandler
That’ll do it for week 16. I hope you've enjoyed the column this season. I’ll be putting a week 17 column out there next week, but I’m sure this is the last week of many of your seasons. Thank you for reading and good luck to all of those playing in the Super Bowl! Here’s to hoping you’re firing up that Queen song we all love to blast after we take down a title!