Five up, five down for Week 16
Our Nathan Zegura helps you win that Fantasy title by sharing his top starts and sits for critical Week 16.
Four months of fun and competition will culminate in an epic Week 16 for many of you.
This has been one of the craziest seasons in Fantasy Football that I can remember and if you have made it this far through the ups and downs you deserve a hearty congratulations. Now all we need is that last win and hopefully some of the following players can help you get it. Good luck!
Get 'em active ...
, QB, Cowboys (at NO)
Current own/start %: 99/67
I'd start him over: Eli Manning (at BAL), Russell Wilson (vs. SF), Ben Roethlisberger (vs. CIN)
If you have been reading my columns all year you know I love to find stories in the numbers to help guide my decisions, but they still have to play the games and obviously at times crazy things happen. I though that the Saints shutout of the Buccaneers and Josh Freeman was absolutely one of those situations where the result was flat out completely unexpected. However, it was not a surprise to former Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl Champion Trevor Pryce, who works with us on Sundays here at CBS Sports. He guaranteed that the Saints would blow out the Bucs last week because of the way that NFL locker rooms work. Without getting into too much detail, he felt that the Saints would show up at home to knock off a division rival and play with tons of heart and passion. In this very same speech before the Saints game kicked off, he also predicted a massive let down from New Orleans on the road in Week 16. That is good news for Fantasy owners because this looks like a situation where the numbers and the unexplained locker room dynamic will all come together for a monster week from Tony Romo . Romo himself has 25 or more points in three of his last four games, with 300 yards and multiple scores in each of those big games. There is no doubt that the Saints are playing better defense of late, but if you throw out the Freeman game and the Thursday night game, they have allowed four straight games of 20 or more points to opposing quarterbacks and two of those have gone for 30-plus points. Last week was the fourth time this year the Saints have held a quarterback under 20 Fantasy points. In the week following each of the first three shutdowns, the opposing quarterback has produced more than 30 Fantasy points. This is a week where the story of the numbers and the unseen story of the locker room should combine for a massive Fantasy day for Romo.
QBs with favorable matchups: Matt Ryan (at DET), Eli Manning (at BAL), Andrew Luck (at KC), Sleepers: Matt Schaub (vs. MIN), Sam Bradford (at TB), Colin Kaepernick (if no Richard Sherman ; at SEA) and Kirk Cousins (if he starts; at PHI)
, RB, Broncos (vs. CLE)
Current own/start %: 92/72
I'd start him over: Trent Richardson (at DEN), Chris Johnson (at GB), David Wilson / Ahmad Bradshaw (at BAL)
Over the last four weeks, only Alfred Morris has taken more carries than the 94 that Knowshon Moreno has received during that span and no running back has touched the ball more times than Moreno's 108 carries plus catches. It is no wonder then, that Moreno has produced three games of 10 or more Fantasy points and has 17-plus points in each of his last two games. Since taking over for the injured Willis McGahee , Moreno is averaging 122 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game, which translates to 15 points per game. He is the sixth ranked Fantasy back during that span and is one of the safest possible Fantasy plays in Week 16. His floor of seven points, which he had against the top ranked run defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is very high and his big games the past two weeks have shown that he can win games for you as well. This week he takes on the Cleveland Browns, who have allowed 54 points to running backs the last two weeks and eight running back touchdowns over the last six games. Moreno is coming off of back-to-back 100-yard rushing games for the first time in his career and has a good chance to pull off the hat trick, with a touchdown in Week 16 making him a quality No. 1 running back for your teams.
, RB, Colts (at KC)
Current own/start %: 83/36
I'd start him over: Shonn Greene (vs. SD), Mikel Leshoure (vs. ATL), DeAngelo Williams (vs. OAK)
Vick Ballard has become very comfortable as the lead back for the Indianapolis Colts, posting two consecutive games with 10 Fantasy points since assuming the lead role. In Week 14, he carried the ball 19 times for 94 yards and finished with 104 total yards against the Tennessee Titans. Last week he was even more impressive, running for 105 yards on 18 carries against the Houston Texans, becoming only the second runner all year long to top the century mark against that stout defense. Ballard should even get a crack at the goal line work this week following Mewelde Moore's costly fumble at the stripe in Week 15, so he has even more upside for the biggest Fantasy game of the year. Add in the fact that Ballard will take on a Kansas City Chiefs team that has allowed 21 running back points in each of the last two games and he is clearly an enticing option. Opposing teams have run the ball 71 times for 293 yards and two touchdowns in those two games, so this defense is likely to be a little bit worn down. If you lost Ryan Mathews (congratulations by the way) and need a No. 2 runner, I think Ballard can give you double digits for the third straight week against the Chiefs making him a very solid starting option.
Other RBs with favorable matchups: C.J. Spiller (at MIA), Reggie Bush (vs. BUF), Michael Turner (at DET), Darren McFadden (at CAR), DeAngelo Williams (vs. OAK), Jamaal Charles (vs. IND), Stevan Ridley (at JAC), Steven Jackson (at TB), Shonn Greene (vs. SD), Darren Sproles (at DAL) and I am not afraid of either Frank Gore (at SEA) or Marshawn Lynch (vs. SF), Danny Woodhead (at JAC)
, WR, Rams (at TB)
Current own/start %: 90/30
I'd start him over: Danario Alexander (at NYJ), Josh Gordon (at DEN), Sidney Rice (vs. SF)
This time of the year you want upside, but you also want some safety and Danny Amendola , who has at least five catches in every full game that he has played this year, has both. In his return to action last week, Amendola was targeted 12 times and caught six passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. He also added a two-point conversion for a solid Fantasy day of 13 points. In his last three full games, Amendola has been targeted at least 11 times every time out and has a total of 35 targets, 24 catches, 201 yards and a touchdown. Obviously I prefer Amendola in PPR leagues, where he is averaging a very solid 17.3 points per game, but he has hit 10 or more in two of his last three in standard leagues as well. This week he gets to take on the dreadful Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass defense that has allowed at least 10 points to the opposing top target (in terms of volume) in nine straight games. For the year, Tampa Bay gives up 14.86 catches, 219.1 yards and 27.7 Fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, all the most in the NFL. The Bucs have also allowed at least one receiver to score against them in nine straight games and have given up 13 receiver touchdowns during that span. Amendola will get double-digit targets and should hit double-digit points making him a great No. 2/3 receiver in standard leagues and a must-start PPR No. 2.
, WR, Jaguars (vs. NE)
Current own/start %: 99/59
I'd start him over: Hakeem Nicks (at BAL), Mike Wallace (vs. CIN), Lance Moore (at DAL)
Cecil Shorts has made eight starts for the Jacksonville Jaguars and has produced 10 or more Fantasy points in seven of them, which is remarkable consistency. In fact, despite missing Week 14 with a concussion, Shorts is the No. 7 Fantasy wide receiver since becoming a starter for the Jags in Week 7. In those eight games, he has caught 41 passes for 720 yards and five touchdowns, which is an elite 16-game pace of 82 for 1,440 yards and 10 scores. Big Daddy Cool Cecil has 100 yards in four games, has found the end zone in five of the eight games and he does not seem to be slowing down. He has 100 yards or a touchdown in five straight games and has not been held to fewer than 77 yards receiving in any of them. This week he will take on the New England Patriots and I am going to go out on a limb and predict that the Jags will have to throw the ball a lot in Week 16. Both Shorts and teammate Justin Blackmon will be very busy and if Michael Crabtree's Week 15 performance was any indication, you can still have plenty of success against the Pats pass defense. Since Week 4, every single opposing top receiver has had at least seven Fantasy points and Shorts has proven to be a great bet for 10 or more, so keep him in your lineups this week.
Other WRs and TEs with favorable matchups: Pierre Garcon (at PHI), Jeremy Maclin (vs. WAS), Randall Cobb , James Jones , Greg Jennings (vs. TEN), Kenny Britt (at GB), Brandon Lloyd (at JAC), Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks (at BAL), Anquan Boldin (vs. NYG), Eric Decker (vs. CLE), Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton (at KC), Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown (vs. CIN), Dez Bryant and Miles Austin (vs. NO), Justin Blackmon (vs. NE), Steve Johnson (at MIA), Mike Williams (vs. STL), Dennis Pitta (vs. NYG), Heath Miller (vs. CIN), Jason Witten (vs. NO), Greg Olsen (vs. OAK), Rod Streater and Denarius Moore (at CAR), Brian Hartline (vs. BUF), Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens (at TB), Nate Washington (at GB) and Kyle Rudolph (at HOU)
Some D/STs with favorable matchups: Carolina (vs. OAK), Arizona (vs. CHI), Indianapolis (at KC), Miami (vs. BUF) and San Diego (at NYJ)
Ride the pine ...Carson Palmer , QB, Panthers (at CAR)
Current own/start %: 89/25
I'd rather start: Colin Kaepernick (at SEA), Sam Bradford (at TB), Russell Wilson (vs. SF)
Carson Palmer is pretty solid at home, with the exception of his stinker last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, but on the road he has been horrendous in 2012. In his six road games, Palmer has been held under 20 Fantasy points five times and is averaging just 14.8 points per game. On the road, Palmer has just seven touchdowns and has accounted for nine turnovers. I would expect similar struggles this week against the Carolina Panthers. In the last four games the Panthers have allowed just 54 total points to opposing quarterbacks, which is 13.5 points per game. Matt Ryan was responsible for 23 of those 54 points and he did most of his damage in garbage time against Carolina two weeks ago. I don't see Palmer having nearly as much success against the Panthers who are surrendering just 195 yards per game through the air over the last four weeks, because of a major shift in Oakland's offense. With Darren McFadden back in the lineup, Oakland has gone back to more of a running attack and Palmer has just 59 passing attempts over the last two weeks. He was throwing it more than 40 times per game with McFadden out of the lineup, which is what he needs to do for Fantasy success. Palmer has just one 20-point game out of seven tries with fewer than 40 pass attempts this year. With Carolina playing great defense of late and Palmer likely to have limited attempts in a road game, I am staying away from him this week and think there are many better options for you if you are scrambling for a Week 16 quarterback.
, QB, Bengals (at PIT)
Current own/start %: 97/35
I'd rather start: Sam Bradford (at TB), Colin Kaepernick (at SEA), Matt Schaub (vs. MIN)
Ever since Mohamed Sanu was lost for the year, Andy Dalton has been lost at quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals. Sanu had become a red zone specialist and was one of the main reasons that Dalton had thrown for multiple touchdowns in Weeks 10, 11 and 12. Sanu caught four touchdowns during that span and all of them came inside the 20-yard line. Without Sanu, teams are clamping down on A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham and no other pass catcher has really stepped up for Dalton. That's why he has only three passing touchdowns over the last three games and has been struggling to produce big Fantasy points. During that span, Dalton is averaging just 14 points per game and has five turnovers against four total touchdowns. Another issue to consider is that the Bengals' offensive line has really struggled of late, allowing 11 sacks in the last two games alone. Now the struggling Dalton has to take on a Pittsburgh Steelers team that has shut him down in the past. Dalton has never thrown for more than 170 yards against Pittsburgh and is averaging just 136.7 yards, 1.3 touchdowns and one interception per game. He has never produced more than 14 Fantasy points against the Steelers and is averaging just 11 points per game. With no Sanu, you should just say no to Andy Dalton and go with one of the better upside options for you in Week 16.
Other QBs with tough matchups: Russell Wilson (vs. SF), Colin Kaepernick if Richard Sherman plays (at SEA), Jay Cutler (at ARI), and Joe Flacco (vs. NYG)
, RB, Steelers (vs. CIN)
Current own/start %: 85/33
I'd rather start: Shonn Greene (vs. SD), Danny Woodhead (at JAC), DeAngelo Williams (vs. OAK)
Dwyer saved his Fantasy day with a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15 and is facing a Bengals team that he torched for over 122 yards back in Week 7, but there is no way I am trusting him in Week 16. The Steelers have gone pass heavy following the return of Ben Roethlisberger and Dwyer has accounted for just 54 yards rushing on 17 carries over the last two weeks. Amazingly, Dwyer has eight or more Fantasy points in two of his last three games, but the fact that he has not run for more than 50 yards in four straight games is very concerning to me. You can pretty much book Turner for a touchdown, but that has not been the case with Dwyer, who has only two scores all year long. Add in the fact that no running back group has topped 60 yards rushing or 2.9 yards per carry in three straight games against the Bengals and it is hard to be excited about Dwyer. After all, DeMarco Murray is the only runner who has scored against the Bengals since Week 10. Over the last five weeks, opposing runners are averaging just 6.8 points per game on rushing totals alone against the Bengals. Dwyer's past success against Cincy seems like a distant memory and with Rashard Mendenhall potentially active again, a crowded backfield may become an even bigger mess. Dwyer has five receiving points on the season, so he will need to rush for his points against one of the best front seven's in the NFL. This is not the week to take a chance on Dwyer and I don't think he will even get to 10 Fantasy points even if he does find the end zone.
Other RBs with tough matchups: LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown (vs. WAS), Beanie Wells (vs. CHI), Jackie Battle (at NYJ), Montell Owens (vs. NE) and Mark Ingram (at DAL)
, WR, Chargers (at NYJ)
Current own/start %: 94/55
I'd rather start: Antonio Brown (vs. CIN), Jeremy Maclin (vs. WAS), Justin Blackmon (vs. NE)
After carrying many teams to the Fantasy playoffs, Danario Alexander crushed many Fantasy dreams with a zero in Week 15. It was a complete shocker as Alexander entered that game averaging six catches for 99 yards and a touchdown, but was completely taken away by the Carolina Panthers. In that game, Alexander received a season-low three targets and failed to make a single catch. While I do not think he will be quite that bad this week, I do think Alexander has very limited upside against Antonio Cromartie , who just held Kenny Britt to zero Fantasy points on Monday night Football. Keep in mind that in the last eleven games, Cromartie has only allowed one receiver to produce 10 Fantasy points and Sidney Rice needed a touchdown on a trick play to get there. In the other ten games, Cromartie has held Reggie Wayne , Andre Johnson , Brandon Lloyd twice, Kenny Britt , Michael Crabtree , Brian Hartline , Justin Blackmon , Chris Givens and Larry Fitzgerald to a combined 21 Fantasy points. That's insane and it certainly does not bode well for Alexander who will not have his running buddy Malcom Floyd on the field either. I would be very nervous with Alexander as my No. 3 receiver this week and think there are much safer plays for your teams.
, WR, Browns (at DEN)
Current own/start %: 86/44
I'd rather start: T.Y. Hilton (at KC), Sidney Rice (vs. SF), Brian Hartline (vs. BUF)
Back in Week 13 when we recommended Josh Gordon for a big three game stretch to help you win a Fantasy title, it was always with the expectation that he would likely be taking a seat in Week 16. Gordon delivered against the Oakland Raiders in Week 13 and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14 before turning in a subpar performance in Week 15 against the Washington Redskins. Unfortunately it looks like another low point total for Gordon in Week 16 as he travels to Denver to take on Champ Bailey and the Broncos. Bailey has not allowed an opposing No. 1 receiver to hit 10 Fantasy points on him this year and Gordon has only reached double digits in one of his last seven games. Gordon's target volume has been great recently, with at least seven targets in each of his last five games, but Gordon only has one touchdown during that span and has only 11 catches for 113 yards on his last 20 targets. I think the Broncos could destroy the Browns in Week 16, so I would stay away from Gordon given that he has one of the toughest one-on-one matchups in the NFL.
Some WRs and TEs with tough matchups: Golden Tate (vs. SF), Alshon Jeffrey (at ARI), Larry Fitzgerald (vs. CHI), Denarius Moore (at CAR) and Vernon Davis (at SEA)
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