Most of you reading this are getting set to win a championship, or at least trying to. It’s that time of year where we close up shop, but not before a few teams have one last hurrah for the hardware. Here are some names to pay attention to in week 16.
Stud: Russell Wilson – A lot of fantasy owners, including myself, were down on this guy for this season and a lot of fantasy owners, myself included, better get ready for some crow pie. Dude has just two weeks without a touchdown pass, and every other week he’s thrown at least two. He’s scored less than 10 fantasy points, in ESPN PPR scoring, twice (those two weeks without a TD) and has eight weeks of 19 points, or more. Insert the Kansas City defense who has allowed at least a pair of TD passes in each game since their week 12 bye.
Dud: Jared Goff – The Rams signal caller is trending in the wrong direction. In the last three games since his bye, Goff has scored a total of 18.5 fantasy points (ESPN). He has one touchdown to six interceptions and has even two lost fumbles on his charge. The Cardinals defense has been super susceptible to running backs, over the last month, so the Rams will feature the running game in an effort to alleviate stress on Goff.
Sleeper: Baker Mayfield – What? Yes, I did. I picked him as a sleeper the first time he faced the Bengals, and I’ll do it again, by golly! He stopped short of tossing 300 yards in his first meeting with Cincinnati. If he had, he would have eclipsed 30 points with his TD output. The Bengals have shown some improvements on the defensive side of the ball, but they are going to be on the field, a lot, in this game. Mayfield will have every opportunity to repeat, and even upgrade, his performance from the first game.
Stud: Marlon Mack – There are some obvious names that could be up here, but it would just be lazy of me to throw up Todd Gurley, even though he is facing the most generous defense against running backs. No, I’ll focus a little differently. Fresh off a 139-yard, two-TD performance against Dallas, Mack now welcomes a defense allowing over 30 points a game to opposing backs, the New York Giants, to Indianapolis. He got a season-high 27 carries last week and figures to get a lot, again, this week.
Dud: Mark Ingram – He’s too risky of a play for your championship game. Dude has five double-figure scoring performances, this year, including three 20-plus point games. Ingram also sports five single-digit scoring weeks, including a pair of games where he scored less than five points. His range of outcomes is already wide and then you factor the defense he is playing, the Steelers, who have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing backs, over the last month.
Sleeper: Tarik Cohen – He’s been a favorite sleeper pick, for me, and this encompasses PPR or non-PPR leagues. The 49ers are allowing almost 30 points a game, over their last four, to opposing backs. Cohen has had two, just two, games of less than 10 fantasy points since Week 4! He has two games of 30 points, or more, two more of 20-plus, and a total of seven 15-plus point games on the year. Matt Nagy has made him a focal point, if not the focal point, of the offense.
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Stud: Adam Thielen – Hey, I was burned by his performance, last week, too. Don’t jump ship on him, though. Despite the renewed emphasis on the run in Minnesota, the Lions are holding opposing backfields to an average of 22 points a game, for the last month. The Vikings will need to go to the air. This is where you say, “but what about Darius Slay? He’s one of the league’s best.” Slay does not follow a receiver to the slot, a place that Mike Zimmer features Thielen. One last consolation fact for you to be confident in Thielen, last week was the only time he’s been held to single-digit fantasy points, this year.
Dud: Jarvis Landry – This probably confuses you, given my thoughts on Baker Mayfield, but let me explain. His monster outing in Week 14 was an enigma propelled by a rushing TD. He touched the ball a total of five times in that game. Mayfield has been very good at spreading the ball around and getting to the hot hand of the day, even including Nick Chubb in the passing game. He’s got too low of a floor for me to trust him in a championship matchup, unless you are in a deep league and can’t live without him.
Sleeper: DaeSean Hamilton – He has led the Broncos in targets and receptions, over the last month, with 14 catches in just the last two weeks. There’s no question he’s built a rapport with Case Keenum and is giving the Denver front office a reason to move Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason, if they can. If you can, grab him from your waiver wire and slot him in your flex, but look for WR2 upside.
Stud: Zach Ertz – Houston is allowing the fifth-most points to opposing tight ends, over the last month. Mostly, he’s a no-brainer, though. This is really just a reminder that, with what the few there are, start your no-brainer tight end and don’t get cute in the championship game.
Dud: Rob Gronkowski – Unless, of course, you have Gronk. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Gronk. His best football days are far behind him, though, and Buffalo is the stingiest defense against tight ends, for the last four games, allowing fewer than four points per. You probably are thinking I am nuts for suggesting you bench him, but take a real look at the options you have. Gronk isn’t the start-and-forget player that we all thought he’d be. He’s got just three TDs, all year, and has scored single-digit fantasy points in 6-of-11 games played.
Sleeper: Matt LaCosse – Look, tight end has been a dart throw, except for like four players, this year. Chances are you made it to the championship in spite of your drafted tight end. In case you didn’t luck into an Eric Ebron, here is a matchup play for you. LaCosse is facing the most generous defense to tight ends, as Oakland is allowing 21.9 fantasy points per game, over the last month. I am expecting one TD from him, and maybe 50-80 yards. Almost surely available to pick up off the free agents’ list in your league, give him a look.
Stud: Tennessee Titans – Great matchup with the Redskins who are on their 325th QB of the season. They’ve also been Top-10 in fantasy points, the past two weeks. Derrick Henry will do a good job moving the chains, on offense, which will keep the Titans D resting on the bench.
Dud: New Orleans Saints – They’re a top-10 defense, for the year, but they won’t be for Week 16. This game will be a showstopper, but with lots of offense. Pittsburgh will test New Orleans pass defense with the likely absence of James Conner for a third-straight week looming. The Saints are actually more close to the middle of the pack, as far allowing fantasy points to opposing QBs, and Big Ben has had a good year. Look elsewhere for defense in your championship effort.
Sleeper: Atlanta Falcons – It all depends on if they can stop Christian McCaffrey, and I think they can. Cam Newton will not play in this game, but Taylor Heinicke is. The Falcons put up 22 fantasy points, last week, against the Cardinals, and will put up a nice number, this week, against the Panthers.
Just one week of regular season football remains…man that stinks to type out. Good luck in your championship efforts!