Week 16 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em
There were many highly-regarded running backs entering the league this season, but LeGarrette Blount wasn't one of them. As Jamey Eisenberg writes in Start 'Em and Sit 'Em, trust the undrafted rookie in Week 16.
Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is our weekly look at the best and worst matchups from around the NFL and how they might affect lineup decisions for your Fantasy Football team. We are not in the business of stating the obvious, so you won't be reading here why you need to start Drew Brees, Chris Johnson, Andre Johnson or any other top-tier players.
Go back to the beginning of the season and think about the potential of this rookie running back class. There were expected stars in Ryan Mathews , Jahvid Best and C.J. Spiller . And before they got hurt, everyone was singing the praises of Ben Tate and Montario Hardesty . It seems like such a long time ago.
As we get to the end of the year, we've seen this rookie running back class fall apart. Mathews and Best have battled injuries, Spiller has been a bust and Tate and Hardesty never made it out of the preseason. The best rookie running back has been LeGarrette Blount , who went undrafted out of Oregon, signed with Tennessee and was then released before ending up in Tampa Bay.
Blount would have been drafted in April if he didn't lose his cool last season when he punched Boise State's Byron Hout, but the Bucs benefited when he landed in their laps in early September. It's worked out well for Fantasy owners also, and Blount is closing the season on a high note. We like Blount as our Start of the Week with his matchup against Seattle. The Seahawks are making the cross-country trip, which is never easy, and have allowed double digits in Fantasy points to a running back in 11 of 14 games. It also works out well that Blount has done well at home this year.
He had 15 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown against Detroit last week, and he's averaging 16 Fantasy points with a touchdown in each outing in his past three home games against Carolina, Atlanta and the Lions. Blount will continue to be the workhorse for the Bucs, who are trying to sneak into the playoffs as a wild card in the NFC.
As the Bucs try to punch their postseason ticket, many Fantasy owners are fighting for a championship, with Blount leading the way. It's a good thing this rookie is still thriving unlike the rest of his class.
|Player||Fantasy Points (projected)||Fantasy Points (actual)||Start percentage|
|Jon Kitna , QB, Cowboys||19||25||49|
|Cedric Benson , RB, Bengals||10||21||66|
|Brandon Marshall , WR, Dolphins||10||14||39|
|LaDainian Tomlinson , RB, Jets||6||4||44|
|Fred Jackson , RB, Bills||8||3||58|
|Sidney Rice , WR, Vikings||6||2||40|
|Deion Branch , WR, Patriots||14||3||67|
|Brandon Jacobs , RB, Giants||13||3||65|
|Tim Hightower , RB, Cardinals||11||2||42|
|David Garrard , QB, Jaguars||15||21||23|
|Marshawn Lynch , RB, Seahawks||7||13||22|
|Steve Johnson , WR, Bills||5||12||65|
Our favorite sleeper in Week 15 was ...
, who had nine Fantasy points and was started in 46
percent of leagues. Brown had more Fantasy points than
* -- Start of the Week
(at CLE): Flacco was better than expected last
week against New Orleans with 18 Fantasy points, and it was the seventh
time in his past nine games he's had at least 18 Fantasy points. Three
of those games were on the road at New England, Atlanta and Houston, and
he has another favorable road matchup against the Browns. Flacco torched
Cleveland for 262 yards and three touchdowns in Week 3, and the Browns
have allowed seven quarterbacks to reach at least 20 Fantasy points
against them this season. Don't look at Cleveland's pass defense the
past four games because the Browns have played well against
Have confidence in Flacco this week to continue to perform at a high
Matt Ryan (vs. NO): After three consecutive road games outdoors, Ryan returns to the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome, where he has been a star. In six home games this season, Ryan is completing 68 percent of his passes for 1,545 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. He is averaging nearly 22 Fantasy points at home, and he should play well in this showdown for the NFC South even with the Saints tough pass defense. New Orleans leads the NFL with just 10 passing touchdowns allowed, and only two quarterbacks have thrown multiple touchdowns against the Saints this year, including Ryan in Week 3 (Flacco was the other last week). But the Saints might not have cornerback Jabari Greer (knee) for this game, which will weaken their secondary, and Ryan will not back down in this matchup. He had 228 passing yards and two touchdowns the first time around, and he should post quality stats again in the rematch.
Jon Kitna (at ARI): Kitna will remain the starter for the Cowboys for the rest of the season with Tony Romo (collarbone) now on injured reserve. Since taking over for Romo in Week 7, Kitna has five games with at least 19 Fantasy points, including two in a row against Philadelphia and Washington. The Cardinals have allowed six quarterbacks to reach at least 19 Fantasy points, and Kitna should again be able to hit that mark. Dallas should have success running the ball in this matchup, but in Kitna's two best games of the season against the Giants in Week 10 and Detroit in Week 1 he threw the ball fewer than 25 times in both outings. Kitna has five touchdowns and two interceptions in his past two games, and we consider him a safe starting option in this game on Christmas Day.
Josh Freeman (vs. SEA): Freeman continues to be one of the best surprises of the season, and he's playing well in keeping the Bucs in playoff contention. Freeman has eight passing touchdowns and one interception in his past six games with at least 17 Fantasy points in four of them, including two in a row. This week he's facing a Seattle defense that has allowed at least three passing touchdowns in four of its past five games, including two in a row against Alex Smith and Ryan. For the season, the Seahawks have allowed 26 passing touchdowns, and Freeman also has the ability to run the ball since he's averaging 24 rushing yards a game. Those additional two Fantasy points make the difference for Freeman, and he should be considered trustworthy in all leagues based on this matchup.
David Garrard (vs. WAS): Garrard made the Pro Bowl as an alternate last year, and many felt he was undeserving, which is fair since many of the top quarterbacks passed on attending. This year, Garrard may get there on his own merit. He has already set a new career high for touchdown passes with 22, passing his old mark of 18 set in 2007, and he has 26 total touchdowns on the season. Fantasy owners like that Garrard has seven games this year with at least 21 Fantasy points, including two in a row against Oakland and Indianapolis. He should make it three straight against the Redskins, who have allowed eight quarterbacks to reach at least 17 Fantasy points, including two in a row against Kitna and Freeman. Garrard is trying to keep the Jaguars in playoff contention for the AFC South title, and he might have to shoulder more of the load on offense with Maurice Jones-Drew (knee) at less than 100 percent. Jones-Drew will play and should do fine, but Garrard is also worth using as a starting Fantasy option based on his recent performance and the matchup.
Sleeper alert: Tim Tebow (vs. HOU): How much do I trust Tebow this week? I'm starting him in a Fantasy championship game ahead of Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning . He showed me enough last week with 138 passing yards and a touchdown and 78 rushing yards and a touchdown at Oakland to deserve the starting nod, especially given his opponent in his first home start. The Texans have been terrible against opposing quarterbacks all season with 32 total touchdowns allowed. Rusty Smith in Week 12 is the only quarterback who failed to reach at least 19 Fantasy points against Houston, and Tebow will be ready to put on a show. If Knowshon Moreno (ribs) is out, that will only help Tebow, especially in the red zone. It's risky to consider him a starting Fantasy option, but he was a star at the University of Florida, he was a pleasant surprise in his first NFL start against the Raiders and he could be a hero to Fantasy owners if he delivers a title with his performance this week. For more sleeper quarterbacks, including Rex Grossman and Joe Webb , click here.
(at GB): It's tough to figure out which Manning
will show up this week against the Packers. Is it the one who had 33
Fantasy points against the Eagles last week with four passing touchdowns
and only one interception? Or the one who had nine Fantasy points the
week before at Minnesota with one passing touchdown and two
interceptions? He has played well this season when
is healthy with seven games of at least 19 Fantasy
points. But he also has six games with 12 Fantasy points or less and has
matched his career high with 20 interceptions. Only two quarterbacks
have come into Lambeau Field this season and passed for multiple
touchdowns, and that was
Week 4 and
in Week 6. Manning
could easily find the end zone twice with the way Nicks,
playing, but he could also throw multiple interceptions since Green Bay
is among the league leaders with 18 picks. Our opinion is Manning is
risky for this matchup, and we would consider him just a No. 2 Fantasy
quarterback in the majority of leagues.
Mark Sanchez (at CHI): The news that Sanchez has a shoulder injury makes sense based on his recent play. In his past three games he has no passing touchdowns and four interceptions, and it took him scoring a rushing touchdown last week at Pittsburgh to help this offense find the end zone for the first time over that span. The good news for Sanchez was his eight-game streak of throwing an interception ended against the Steelers, but the bad news is he has another tough matchup against the Bears. Chicago is among the league leaders with only 12 passing touchdowns allowed, and Michael Vick and Tom Brady -- the two best quarterbacks in the NFL this season -- are the only ones to throw multiple touchdowns against the Bears this season, which includes matchups with Tony Romo , Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning . Sanchez is too risky to use even in two-quarterback leagues at this point in the season.
Carson Palmer (vs. SD): The Chargers have been No. 1 in pass defense for most of the season, and they should be able to handle this Bengals passing attack now that Terrell Owens (knee) is out for the year and Chad Johnson (ankle) is limping around and moping. Palmer has three touchdowns and five interceptions in his past four games, and he hasn't passed for more than 250 yards in his past five outings. The Chargers have also limited Brady and Matt Schaub to a combined one touchdown, and Peyton Manning had two touchdowns and four interceptions against this secondary in Week 12. This could be Palmer's last game in Cincinnati as a member of the Bengals, and he looks like he's ready to get out of there.
Ben Roethlisberger (vs. CAR): This game sets up for the Steelers to run, run and run some more. Rashard Mendenhall averaged 5.9 yards per carry against the Jets last week, and the Panthers are allowing 126 yards rushing per game. They also have allowed three of the past four running backs they've faced to score three touchdowns in a game. Conversely, the Panthers have only allowed two passing touchdowns in their past five games, including matchups with Flacco and Ryan. Look for Big Ben to do a lot of handing off so the Steelers can kill the clock and get out of this game quickly without any more injuries. The Panthers shouldn't pose much of a threat in this game, and we don't expect Roethlisberger to be taking many chances on his sprained foot. He also has just two touchdowns in his past four games.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs. NE): The last time Fitzpatrick faced the Patriots in Week 3 he had 247 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions with 18 rushing yards. The Patriots were trying to figure out their secondary then, but they have turned things around toward the end of the year and are playing well. In their past four games New England has allowed four passing touchdowns with eight interceptions. Fitzpatrick also has just one game with more than 15 Fantasy points in his past four outings, which was last week at Miami when he got 19. In his past four home games against Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Cleveland he has averaged 213 passing yard with four touchdowns and three interceptions. Weather could also play a role for Fitzpatrick on Sunday, and he's too risky to consider starting in the Fantasy playoffs based on his recent performances.
Bust alert: Jay Cutler (vs. NYJ): The Jets pass defense hasn't been as good as advertised this season with 21 touchdowns allowed and only seven interceptions. They have given up big plays on their blitz, which they have to do to create pressure with the lack of a premier pass rusher, and they have injuries in their secondary as well. That said, in their past six games, the Jets have only allowed Brady to pass for multiple touchdowns against them, including matchups with Schaub and Roethlisberger. And in Week 9, the Jets held Rodgers to 170 passing yards and no touchdowns. Cutler played well last week at Minnesota with 23 Fantasy points, but that was only his second game with more than 15 Fantasy points in his past five outings. He's prone to bad games, and this should be one of them against Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie . Start Cutler if you have to, but our advice is to consider him a No. 2 Fantasy option at best.
(at JAC): Torain continues to prove that he can
be productive as long as he's healthy. He had 11 carries for 53 yards
and five catches for 48 yards and a touchdown last week at Dallas and
now has four games with double digits in Fantasy points in his past five
outings. He is the latest example of a Mike Shanahan running back coming
out of nowhere to help Fantasy owners, and we expect Torain to be the
starting running back for the Redskins in 2011. But in Week 16, he
should run over the Jaguars, who have allowed five touchdowns to
opposing running backs in the past five games with three reaching double
digits in Fantasy points.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (at BUF): Green-Ellis' magical run this season started in Week 3 against Buffalo when he had 16 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown. Since then he has scored 12 touchdowns and has double digits in Fantasy points in six of his past eight games. The Bills are last in the NFL in run defense and have allowed 14 touchdowns to opposing running backs, including six in the past five games, with 11 reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Danny Woodhead , who also scored in that Week 3 meeting, should be considered a sleeper this week as well since the Patriots should have plenty of success running the ball in this matchup.
Tashard Choice (at ARI): Denver is the only team to allow more Fantasy points to opposing running backs than the Cardinals, who have given up 18 touchdowns and allowed 15 running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points. Choice comes into this game with three touchdowns in his past four games, and he has reached double digits in Fantasy points in two of his past three outings. Felix Jones (shin) missed practice time this week, and Marion Barber (calf) has missed the past three games, so Choice could be looking at additional work in this game on Christmas Day. But even if Jones and Barber are active, don't be surprised if Choice remains productive based on the way he's run in his past four outings. He's worth starting as a No. 2 running back or flex option.
Ronnie Brown (vs. DET): Brown is hoping to finish the season strong with his future after this year unsettled. "I'm still in a contract situation," Brown said this week. "I still have some stuff I need to put on film to make sure I can put myself in a good situation after this season is over." Brown scored his first touchdown in five games last week against the Bills, and he could be in line for more production this week against the Lions, who have allowed 18 touchdowns to opposing running backs this season with 12 reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Detroit has struggled to stop Green-Ellis, Matt Forte and Blount in the past four weeks, and Brown has the chance to finish strong in what could be his final home game in Miami. Consider him a No. 2 Fantasy running back or flex option for this matchup.
Cedric Benson (vs. SD): This isn't the best matchup for Benson since the Chargers are No. 2 in run defense, but San Diego has given up 11 touchdowns to opposing running backs. And you have to like the way Benson has played at home this season, including last week's game against the Browns with 21 Fantasy points. In his past five home games against Miami, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, New Orleans and Cleveland, Benson has 113 carries for 446 yards and five touchdowns, including a four-game scoring streak. The Chargers have allowed four touchdowns to opposing running backs in the past five games, and Cincinnati will likely focus on their ground game with Owens now out. Benson is also looking for a new contract, so expect him to run hard to close out the season.
Sleeper alert: Marshawn Lynch (at TB): Lynch has the opportunity to have a big game this week since the Buccaneers defense has been kind to opposing running backs. Tampa Bay has allowed double digits in Fantasy points to at least one running back in 10 of the past 11 games. It's been stars like Michael Turner , Mendenhall, Steven Jackson and Benson and second-tier options like Maurice Morris , Mike Goodson , Chris Ivory and LaRod Stephens-Howling . Everyone has run well against the Bucs, and Lynch should be next. He played well last week against Atlanta with 12 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown and has double digits in Fantasy points in two of his past three games. The Seahawks remain in the hunt for the NFC West title, and Lynch is their best offensive weapon right now with the way Matt Hasselbeck is struggling. Based on the matchup, it might be worth it to use Lynch as a No. 2 running back or flex option. For more sleeper running backs, including Tim Hightower , Donald Brown , Brian Westbrook and Pierre Thomas , click here.
(at CHI): Tomlinson went from Fantasy
stud to dud as the year has gone on, and his production has been
miserable the past four games. Tomlinson has 18 Fantasy points combined
in his past four outings against Cincinnati, New England, Miami and
Pittsburgh, and he hasn't topped 50 rushing yards in his past five
, who has been a dud
all season, continues to share carries, but neither running back is
worth using against the Bears. Chicago is No. 3 in run defense, and
in Week 12 is the only running back to reach double
digits in Fantasy points against the Bears since Week 9.
Brandon Jacobs (at GB): Jacobs was a disappointment last week against Philadelphia with 12 carries for 34 yards, and he could have another down game against the Packers. Green Bay has only allowed five rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs, including two at home to Fred Jackson and Adrian Peterson . And Peterson, McCoy, Green-Ellis and Turner are the only running backs to reach double digits against the Packers all season. Jacobs has made the most of his opportunities recently with outstanding performances against Washington in Week 13 and Minnesota in Week 14, but he's also sharing time with Ahmad Bradshaw and getting limited carries. He hasn't had more than 14 carries in a game this season, and if he doesn't score a touchdown then his production is limited. Bradshaw has more upside for this matchup and remains worth using as a No. 2 Fantasy option.
Jonathan Stewart (at PIT): Stewart was our Start of the Week in Week 15, and he played well with 27 carries for 137 yards and a fumble against Arizona. We've been high on Stewart for the past three games, and he's rewarded owners with double digits in Fantasy points against Seattle, Atlanta and the Cardinals. But this week he's facing a much tougher opponent, and we would consider benching him in the majority of leagues. The Steelers are No. 1 in run defense, and they have only allowed three running backs to score rushing touchdowns all season. Benson, Green-Ellis, Fred Jackson and Willis McGahee are the only running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points against Pittsburgh, and Stewart is also dealing with fumble issues with two in his past two games. The Steelers are going to load up to stop the run and force Jimmy Clausen to beat them, and Fantasy owners should use caution when putting Stewart in their lineups.
Maurice Morris (at MIA): Morris deserves a pat on the back for his performance against the Bucs last week with 15 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 10 yards. I was under the impression the Lions would give Jahvid Best more work against Tampa Bay's porous run defense, but they continue to stick with Morris as the primary rusher since he has double digits in carries in four of his past five games. This is a tougher matchup for Morris against the Dolphins, who are No. 6 in run defense and have limited Darren McFadden , Peyton Hillis , Tomlinson and Fred Jackson in the past four games to seven Fantasy points or less. Morris might be the No. 1 option for the Lions, but he should not be considered anything more than a No. 3 option for Fantasy owners in this matchup.
Brandon Jackson (vs. NYG): Jackson played well last week at New England with 22 carries for 99 yards, which was his second-best rushing performance of the season aside from Week 5 at Washington when he had 10 carries for 115 yards. The Packers made rookie James Starks a healthy scratch against the Patriots and decided to go with Jackson, John Kuhn and Dimitri Nance , with Kuhn scoring a receiving touchdown. It appears like all three will share carries again, but the Giants are tougher against the run than New England. In the past two games, New York has shut down Peterson and McCoy, and the return of Aaron Rodgers should mean more throwing from the Packers than we saw last week. Jackson is worth using as a flex option in deeper leagues, but our advice would be to keep him reserved in standard formats.
Bust alert: Peyton Hillis (vs. BAL): The Ravens definitely remember what Hillis did to them in Week 3 in Baltimore when he had 22 carries for 144 yards and a touchdown and seven catches for 36 yards. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis absolutely hasn't forgotten. "It won't happen again," Lewis said Wednesday. "I hope they understand that. We're not coming in there to overlook them or nothing, and we definitely aren't coming in there to give him over 100 yards again. So hopefully they can buckle up all their chin straps and do whatever you need to do, but we're definitely coming in to play a very physical football game." He also added that "a blind cat will find a meal every once in a while." Hillis has struggled of late with 23 Fantasy points and no touchdowns in his past three games against Miami, Buffalo and Cincinnati. The Ravens have also not allowed a rushing touchdown in their past six games. It's risky to bench Hillis at this time of year, especially since he's carried Fantasy owners this far, but lower your expectations for this matchup since the Ravens are fired up for the rematch.
(at CIN): It took Jackson 15 weeks, but he
finally helped Fantasy owners in a big way with his performance against
San Francisco last week.
were ruled out against the 49ers you had to expect Jackson to play a big
role, and he finished with five catches for 112 yards and three
touchdowns. Gates is out again this week, and Floyd could also miss the
game, which would allow
again focus his attention on Jackson. The Bengals have allowed 17
touchdowns to opposing wide receivers, including eight in the past five
weeks, with 11 reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Now that
Jackson is back to form he should be considered a must-start option in
Hakeem Nicks (at GB): This is a tough matchup for Nicks given that the Packers have solid cornerbacks in Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams , but Nicks should remain productive based on his involvement in the offense. Only one time this season has Nicks had fewer than seven targets, and that was in Week 2 at Indianapolis when he had five. He has 13 catches for 159 yards and a touchdown in his past two games against Minnesota and Philadelphia, and that was after sitting out two games with Compartment Syndrome in his leg. The Packers have allowed nine receivers to reach at least nine Fantasy points, and Nicks should remain Eli Manning favorite target with Steve Smith (knee) out. Manningham will also play a role in this matchup, but Nicks is the best receiving option for the Giants and a quality Fantasy option in the majority of leagues.
Kenny Britt (at KC): Britt returned to form last week against Houston with six catches for 128 yards on nine targets, reminding us of the Fantasy option he was prior to his hamstring injury in Week 8. He now faces a Chiefs defense that has allowed 13 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this year, including four in the past five weeks, with nine reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Kerry Collins will continue to rely on Britt, and Fantasy owners should as well. He has at least eight Fantasy points in six of his past seven full games with double digit performances in three of those outings. He should be able to finish the season strong now that he's 100 percent healthy.
Brandon Marshall (vs. DET): The Marshall who showed up last week against Buffalo is the one Fantasy owners were hoping for all season long. He had 11 catches for 106 yards and a touchdown, and hopefully he will follow that up with another strong performance this week against the Lions. Detroit has allowed 15 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this season, including eight in the past five games, with 11 reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Marshall has scored in consecutive games for the first time all season, and Chad Henne is back to forcing the ball in his direction with 12 targets last week against the Bills. Look for that to continue as the Dolphins try to win just their second home game of the season.
Santana Moss (at JAC): Grossman started for Donovan McNabb in Week 15 at Dallas, and Moss had his best game of the season with eight catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first time this season he had touchdowns in consecutive games after he had seven catches for 82 yards and a score in Week 14 against Tampa Bay, and Moss has another favorable matchup this week against the Jaguars. Jacksonville has allowed 18 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers and 14 have reached double digits in Fantasy points. Look for Anthony Armstrong to also play well in this matchup, and he should be considered a sleeper. But Moss is the safer Fantasy option of Washington's receivers, and he has double digits in Fantasy points in four of seven road games this year.
Sleeper alert: Blair White (at OAK): Austin Collie suffered his third concussion of the season against the Jaguars in Week 15 and is out for the year. That means White will reprise his role as the slot receiver for the Colts, and he's worth using as a No. 3 Fantasy option in his matchup with the Raiders, who have allowed 15 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers, including six in the past five weeks. White has done well with Collie out with three touchdowns in his past five games, and he has four touchdowns on the season. For more sleeper wide receivers, including David Nelson , Derrick Mason , Percy Harvin and Lance Moore , click here.
(vs. SD): A bad ankle, an upset coach and a
tough matchup make Ochocinco an easy sit for this week. He hasn't scored
a touchdown in his past four games, and the Chargers are second in the
NFL with only six touchdowns allowed to opposing wide receivers. His
ankle may cause him to rest during the game, and coach Marvin Lewis
called Ochocinco "mopey" during the week. This might be Ochocinco's last
game in Cincinnati as a member of the Bengals, and he's not expected to
go out with a bang.
Johnny Knox (vs. NYJ): Knox scored last week at Minnesota on a great 67-yard touchdown catch, but he only had two catches in the game. He also has just 10 catches in his past four outings and three touchdowns on the season. He will likely see a lot of Revis in this matchup, which could make for a long afternoon, and the Bears will likely rely on Earl Bennett and Greg Olsen in this matchup to work over the middle of the field. Cutler said he's not going to shy away from Revis, but that doesn't mean Revis isn't going to negate what Knox is able to do. And even if Knox lines up against Cromartie that could also be a tough matchup, making Knox a risky Fantasy option for this week.
Donald Driver (vs. NYG): Driver remains a risky Fantasy option even with the return of Rodgers this week from his concussion. The Giants have only allowed two wide receivers to score in the past five games, and Driver has just one touchdown since Week 4, which came on a highlight-reel catch against San Francisco in Week 13. James Jones remains the second-best receiving threat for the Packers behind Greg Jennings , and Driver is not the same threat he once was at 35. We called him a bust prior to the season, and he's lived up to the billing. I wouldn't trust him with the Fantasy playoffs on the line.
Hines Ward (vs. CAR): The Panthers have done a solid job against opposing wide receivers this season with only eight touchdowns allowed. In their past five games they've only allowed one touchdown to T.J. Houshmandzadeh in Week 11, and that includes matchups with Anquan Boldin , Roddy White and Larry Fitzgerald . Mike Wallace should still be started in the majority of Fantasy leagues based on his big-play potential, but Ward hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 9. He does have two 100-yard games since then, but he also has four games with three Fantasy points or less. As we said with Roethlisberger, look for the Steelers to run the ball in this matchup, and Ward will likely do a good job blocking and little else.
Sidney Rice (at PHI): The combination of Brett Favre and Webb didn't help Rice in Week 15 against Chicago when he finished with two catches for 23 yards on five targets. He's only scored in one game this season, and that was against a weak opponent in Buffalo in Week 13. Webb likely will favor Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe in this matchup even though the Eagles secondary has struggled in recent weeks. We might not see the best of Rice until 2011, but we also need to find out who will be the starting quarterback in Minnesota then. As for this week, there are better Fantasy options out there to use during the playoffs.
Bust alert: Santonio Holmes (at CHI): Holmes has turf toe and his quarterback has a shoulder injury. That's not a good combination to be dealing with a tough opponent. The Bears have only allowed nine touchdowns to opposing wide receivers, and Holmes hasn't scored in his past three games with 16 Fantasy points combined over that stretch. If he's not able to run at top speed due to his toe, and Sanchez doesn't have the arm strength to get the ball down the field, what would make you trust him in the Fantasy playoffs? Granted, Holmes showed from Weeks 9-12 that he can be a standout Fantasy option, but his last three games are more of an indication of what to expect this week. It might be hard for Holmes to succeed given all the factors against him in this matchup.
(at GB): Boss has become a go-to receiving
over the past
four games. He has 26 targets over that span and has responded with 12
catches for 184 yards and three touchdowns. This week he's facing a
Packers defense that has struggled with tight ends recently, especially
in Week 15 when
twice for the Patriots. In the past five weeks the Packers have allowed
25 catches for 305 yards and five touchdowns to opposing tight ends with
Hernandez reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Consider Boss a
must-start option in all formats.
Owen Daniels (at DEN): Daniels was a disappointment last week at Tennessee with only four catches for 45 yards, but he continues to be involved in the offense. He had seven targets against the Titans and now has 18 in his first two games back after missing five games with a hamstring injury. The Broncos have allowed four touchdowns to tight ends in the past five weeks and are dealing with injuries in their secondary with Brian Dawkins (knee) out last week at Oakland. And Zach Miller could have made it five touchdowns in the past five weeks, but he had a touchdown called back on a penalty. Give Daniels one more try if you need a tight end for this week based on the matchup.
Rob Gronkowski (vs. BUF): If you like following trends, then this should be Gronkowski's week and not Hernandez. The two have alternated with their involvement on offense almost every week. Since Week 10 at Pittsburgh, when Gronkowski had five catches for 72 yards and three touchdowns, he had either five catches or one catch every other week. Hernandez, meanwhile, has touchdowns in Week 11, 13 and 15 with one Fantasy point in Week 12 and one in Week 14. The last time Gronkowski faced the Bills in Week 3 he had three catches for 43 yards and a touchdown (Hernandez also had six catches for 65 yards). We'll find out if the trend continues, but Buffalo is also among the league leaders with eight touchdowns allowed to opposing tight ends, so it appears safe to trust Gronkowski in this matchup.
Sleeper alert: Visanthe Shiancoe (at PHI): Shiancoe has done nothing for most of the season with only two touchdowns, but he was involved in Week 15 against Chicago and could be productive in this matchup with the Eagles. With Joe Webb expected to start for the Vikings, he looked for Shiancoe last week against the Bears with nine targets, and he responded with six catches for 41 yards. The Eagles lead the NFL with 10 touchdowns allowed to opposing tight ends, including five in the past five games. Since Week 5, the Eagles have allowed double digits in Fantasy points to Vernon Davis , Jacob Tamme , Jason Witten and Boss. It's risky to consider Shiancoe in any Fantasy leagues, but that's why we consider him a sleeper.
(vs. MIN): I wouldn't get too excited with
Celek's performance at the Giants last week. While he did have 13
Fantasy points, he only had two catches for 72 yards with his touchdown
coming on a broken play for 65 yards. He had just three targets in the
game and has only five targets in the past two weeks. The Vikings have
allowed six touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season, but
in Week 3 is the only tight end to reach double
digits in Fantasy points. And Scheffler and Witten are the only tight
ends to gain more than 50 yards in a game against the Vikings.
Dustin Keller (at CHI): The Bears have only allowed two touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season with Celek in Week 12 and Gronkowski in Week 14. Otherwise they have shut down Brandon Pettigrew twice, Chris Cooley and Boss, among others. Keller now has 29 Fantasy points since Week 4, which is when Holmes returned from his four-game suspension. Week 4 was also the last time Keller scored a touchdown, and he should not be used in any leagues, even the deepest of formats. If you made it to the Fantasy playoffs using Keller consider yourself lucky, but there are better options available for this week if you look at our rankings.
Anthony Fasano (vs. DET): Every time Fasano appears on the verge of helping Fantasy owners he reverts back to his mediocre performances. He had four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown in Week 13 against Cleveland, but he has combined for five catches for 63 yards the past two games against the Jets and Buffalo. He's also not seeing targets in the red zone with just two in his past five games. Now that Marshall is healthy again, Fasano should not be counted on for much production in any Fantasy leagues. It doesn't help that the Lions have only allowed three touchdowns to opposing tight ends and none have reached double digits in Fantasy points, including Greg Olsen twice, Boss, Witten and Kellen Winslow .
Bust alert: Brandon Pettigrew (at MIA): The return of Shaun Hill at quarterback this week should help Pettigrew's production, but he's been a non-factor for the past six games. Since Week 10, Pettigrew has combined for 24 Fantasy points, which is a significant drop-off from his production to start the season. He also has a difficult matchup against the Dolphins, who have only allowed two tight ends to score touchdowns this season in Keller and Benjamin Watson . The troubling stat for Pettigrew the past two games has been his targets with only two each against Green Bay and Tampa Bay, and if that doesn't improve, neither will his production.
Buccaneers (vs. SEA): Starting the Buccaneers DST is a risky
option. They have lost four starters --
injuries in recent weeks, and in their past three games against Atlanta,
Washington and Detroit they have combined for just 16 Fantasy points.
But take a look at what the Bucs have done against some of the worst
offenses this season: 10 Fantasy points against Cleveland in Week 1, 18
points at Carolina in Week 2, 16 points at Cincinnati in Week 5, 21
points at Arizona in Week 8 and 24 points at San Francisco in Week 11.
They have the chance for a solid game against Seattle this week with the
Seahawks traveling across the country and keeping
at quarterback instead of
. In Hasselbeck's past four games he has 10
interceptions and three lost fumbles. The Buccaneers DST should be
considered a solid sleeper for Week 16.
Other DSTs with good matchups: Cowboys (at ARI), Eagles (vs. MIN) and Ravens (at CLE)
Falcons (vs. NO): The Falcons DST has been on fire the past three games. They had 11 Fantasy points at Tampa Bay, 17 points at Carolina and 22 points at Seattle. Atlanta has four interceptions, eight sacks and two defensive touchdowns over that span. But this is not the week to count on the Falcons DST against the Saints, who are firing on all cylinders on offense coming into this matchup, which should decide the NFC South. The Falcons held New Orleans to 24 points in Week 3, but the Saints have averaged 27 points against Atlanta over the past seven meetings. In those games the Falcons have gotten just 12 sacks, one fumble recovery, six interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. The Falcons DST is not worth the risk with the Fantasy playoffs on the line.
(at ARI): Buehler has quietly put together a
solid season, and he's on fire coming into this matchup. Buehler has
four games in a row with double digits in Fantasy points against New
Orleans, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Washington. He has 11 field
goals and 12 extra points over that span, and his only downside is three
missed field goals in those four games. But this week he faces a
Cardinals defense that has allowed the most Fantasy points to opposing
kickers. Arizona has 12 games this season where kickers have made
multiple field goals, including five with at least three made kicks.
They lead the NFL in field goals allowed at 48, and they also have
allowed 37 extra points. Buehler is not going to take the day off on
Christmas, and he's worth starting in the majority of Fantasy leagues.
Other kickers with good matchups: Josh Brown (vs. SF), Josh Scobee (vs. WAS) and Connor Barth (vs. SEA)
Nick Folk (at CHI): It's a surprise that Folk is still started in 46 percent of leagues on CBSSports.com considering his poor performance over the past four games. He only has 23 Fantasy points over that span with six field goals and five extra points. The Jets offense has disappeared, and Folk's chances have diminished. Now he's facing a Bears defense that is playing well and has limited opposing kickers in Fantasy points. Chicago is among the league leaders with just 24 field goal attempts allowed and 26 extra points. Six kickers have made multiple field goals against the Bears, but four kickers have also gone without a made field goal. Folk also has no games with double digits in Fantasy points on the road in outdoor stadiums this year, and the weather in Chicago can always be a nightmare for kickers.
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