Winning Fantasy Calls for Week 16
Second guessing a lineup decision on the eve of your Fantasy championship? Our Dave Richard shares his Fantasy take on every meaningful player from every game in Week 16.
Broncos at Texans, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The win the Broncos couldn't come up with last week should happen here. The Texans might put up a fight through the first quarter but once the offense makes some mistakes and the defense gets worn down, they'll revert to the form we saw last week at Indianapolis. This is also a chance for the Broncos to avenge an embarrassing home loss last year, when the Texans beat them 31-25.
No-brainers: Peyton Manning , Demaryius Thomas , Julius Thomas ; Andre Johnson
, RB, Broncos: My Projection: 15 FPTS
Montee Ball , RB, Broncos: My Projection: 10 FPTS
One of the reasons these guys were awful for Fantasy owners last week was because the Broncos found themselves in a close game without much time and had to abandon the run. It would be surprising to see that happen here, as over their last five the Texans have allowed six total touchdowns and 159.4 total yards per game to running backs. I might not be as high on Ball as I was last week because of the let down, but in reality he should be in line to get right back on track.
I'd start them over: Shane Vereen , Ray Rice
, WR, Broncos: My Projection: 11 FPTS
Andre Caldwell , WR, Broncos: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Decker, like many Broncos, lost out on big numbers in part because of Andre Caldwell nice performance. Really, Caldwell just took advantage of his opportunities, as the Chargers gambled on him beating them over the likes of Demaryius Thomas and Decker. The Texans pass defense really hasn't been too soft, though some of that is because their opponents wind up running to close out their games. In their last five the Texans have given up just under 130 yards per game to receivers with four touchdowns. You might have expected more. With Peyton three touchdowns shy of tying Tom Brady's single-season record, you should expect his receivers to have opportunities to score, if not post a lot of yardage. I like whoever lines up in the slot against the Texans the most -- based on last week that could be Decker.
I'd start Decker over: Dwayne Bowe , Danny Amendola
I'd start Caldwell over: Marques Colston , Larry Fitzgerald
, RB, Texans: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Johnson is a good fit for the Texans offense in that he can cut and go like you're supposed to in the zone-blocking scheme. But there are questions about just how effective he can be against the Broncos. Over their last five games, the Texans have averaged 21.4 carries from their running backs per game with only one game under 20 attempts, so Johnson should get some work ( Ben Tate had 16 carries or fewer in three of his last four). That's a positive as the Broncos have been ripped by the run over their last seven games, allowing eight rushing touchdowns (at least one in six of seven) and an average of 115.3 rush yards to running backs.
Flow chart: Fred Jackson > DeAngelo Williams > Dennis Johnson > BenJarvus Green-Ellis > Joique Bell
Vikings at Bengals, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Getting Adrian Peterson back will make an already startling Vikings offense even better. Expect them to use play-action to try and attack the Cincinnati secondary, particularly after building some momentum against the Eagles last week. The Steelers really didn't take advantage of it much last week but Ben Roethlisberger did complete 80 percent of his passes, picking often on Dre Kirkpatrick . Cincinnati has allowed nine passing touchdowns in its last five games -- five in their last two with only one interception.
No-brainers: Adrian Peterson ; A.J. Green
, WR, Vikings: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Cordarrelle Patterson , WR, Vikings: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Jennings has flourished with Matt Cassel under center and should be in a position to keep it up this week. In what amounts to five games with Cassel, Jennings has all four of his touchdowns along with an average of nearly nine targets and over six catches per game and a 13.4 yard average. Patterson has shined as well and is developing late, just as many rookie receivers tend to do. Patterson played the second-most snaps of any Vikings receiver last week and has delivered back-to-back games with 10 or more Fantasy points. All five of the passing scores the Bengals have allowed over their last two games have gone to receivers, and they've given up 100 yards to a wideout in three of their last four.
Flow chart: Torrey Smith > Greg Jennings > Kendall Wright > Cordarrelle Patterson > Michael Crabtree
, QB, Bengals: My Projection: 21 FPTS
Dalton could be on another one of his patented touchdown streaks. With back-to-back solid games, Dalton will take on a Vikings pass defense that has allowed multiple scores to all but three quarterbacks this season and 22-plus Fantasy points to all but two. Sure makes Dalton an appealing sleeper.
I'd start him over: Philip Rivers , Russell Wilson
, RB, Bengals: My Projection: 11 FPTS
BenJarvus Green-Ellis , RB, Bengals: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Don't confuse the performance of the Vikings run defense over the last two weeks with that of a strong defensive unit. Against Baltimore they still allowed Ray Rice to get over 100 total yards as did LeSean McCoy last week, even though he had just eight carries and five catches. Running the ball is still an important part of the Bengals' offensive identity and it's going to be a factor this week. In the three games previous to their deceptively impressive two-game stretch, the Vikings allowed four total touchdowns and 164.0 total yards per game to running backs. Shoot, even if you average in those good games, the Vikings are still giving up over 140 total yards per. Bernard's been playing pretty well and Green-Ellis is worth the risk in any favorable matchup.
Flow chart: Frank Gore > Giovani Bernard > Donald Brown > BenJarvus Green-Ellis > Cardinals RBs
Browns at Jets, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Expect the Jets to spend extra resources to contain Josh Gordon , though I doubt it will matter. Last week was the first time in four games the Jets didn't allow over 100 yards and a touchdown to a receiver. That should change -- even if the Jets were to put the double-team on Gordon the Browns would exploit matchups with Jordan Cameron until they called off the tight coverage on Gordon. The Browns will have troubles of their own against the Jets run game, making this an interesting battle between two teams with massive defensive holes.
No-brainers: Josh Gordon
, RB, Browns: My Projection: 7 FPTS
The Browns simply won't run the ball much. It's not what they do, so trusting their running backs isn't something you should do. But it's worth noting the Jets have struggled with rushers recently, giving up an uncharacteristic three touchdowns and 155.3 total yards per game to them over their last three. That's pushed along by a pair of 60-plus-yard plays allowed in their last two.
I'd rather start: Panthers RBs, Bills RBs
, TE, Browns: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Assuming he's cleared from his concussion symptoms, Cameron is a decent start. The Jets allowed a tight end touchdown two weeks ago, but that was the only one to do so in their last five. But the Jets have allowed at least 80 yards to two of the last three tight ends they've faced. If they decide to put tight coverage on Gordon, then Cameron should get a lot of targets and a potentially a nice stat line.
Flow chart: Coby Fleener > Heath Miller > Jordan Cameron > Dennis Pitta > Antonio Gates
, RB, Jets: My Projection: 13 FPTS
The Browns run defense hasn't been so tough lately, in part because of the injury to defensive tackle Desmond Bryant . They've allowed a rusher to score in each of their last two and have given up an average of 121.7 rush yards per game to running backs over their last three. Ivory's come through for at least 10 Fantasy points each time he's had a minimum of 15 carries. Four of the last five starting running backs to play the Browns have had at least 16 carries.
I'd start him over: Chris Johnson , Donald Brown , Bengals RBs
, WR, Jets: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Jeremy Kerley , WR, Jets: My Projection: 7 FPTS
We're not clear on the status of cornerback Joe Haden , but does it matter? Haden specifically has allowed a touchdown in four straight games. The Jets can't lose sight of the fact that the Browns have allowed eight scores and 156.3 yards per game to receivers over their last four. In that span, eight receivers have at least eight Fantasy points. Since coming back from injury, Kerley has caught 5 of 10 targets for 66 yards and a touchdown while Holmes has five catches on 13 targets for 69 yards and no scores. Those brutal numbers make both guys no better than low-end No. 3 receiver options, even with a stellar matchup.
Flow chart: Doug Baldwin > Emmanuel Sanders > Jets WRs > Santana Moss > Giants WRs
Saints at Panthers, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Back in Week 14 the Panthers tried a lot of zone defense against Drew Brees and he made a bunch of incredible throws into tight spaces. In the second half they played more man coverage and blitzed Brees, resulting in some slightly better results, but ultimately allowing several drives into the red zone and end zone. Just because the Panthers are at home and on a grass surface doesn't automatically make them great against the Saints passing game. Count on the Saints running an up-tempo offense with a lot of short- and mid-range passes to keep the Panthers pass rush off of Brees' back (especially with a rookie left tackle in there).
No-brainers: Jimmy Graham
, QB, Saints: My Projection: 22 FPTS
Normally Brees is a must-start, but there's no denying how tough this matchup is. The Panthers have held 13 of 14 quarterbacks this season to one touchdown or less -- the only one to do it was Brees. He hasn't always played poorly on a grass surface, has only struggled recently away from the Superdome and while he did have a tough game against a weaker Panthers defense in Carolina last year, he still has almost routinely dominated them and even has a pretty good track record in Charlotte. I have no problem giving the Panthers defense credit, particularly since their defensive front should get into Brees' backfield early and often, and because they've already played the Saints once. But I wouldn't expect Brees to fold up like the he did at Seattle or at St. Louis -- he'll put up a lot of numbers but perhaps with some turnovers. That keeps him in the starting quarterback conversation.
I'd start him over: Cam Newton , Ben Roethlisberger
, RB, Saints: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Darren Sproles , RB, Saints: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Don't expect much. Thomas might have four or more catches in each of his last seven but he also has eight carries or fewer in each of his last three. Sproles has 11 carries total in his last three but does have 18 catches in that span. There is definitely going to be a role for these guys as pass catchers to negate the Panthers' pass rush, but their linebackers already did a nice job of taking them away back in Week 14 -- they combined for 89 yards in the game. They'll be decent in PPR leagues, but owners should be hands off in standard leagues.
I'd rather start in standard leagues: Lamar Miller , Bills RBs
I'd rather start in PPR leagues: Chris Ivory , Dennis Johnson
, WR, Saints: My Projection: 8 FPTS
I think Colston has to be a huge component to the Saints offense if they're going to stay competitive. He was exactly that in Week 14, torturing the Panthers out of the slot and benefiting from Brees' adept decision-making when the Panthers played in zone. But while he scored twice on Carolina in Week 14 and in each of the two games prior against the Cats in New Orleans, he hasn't scored or even posted 70 receiving yards in a game at Carolina since 2007! In fact, Colston's last five on a grass surface haven't been very productive. It's also worth noting that only one receiver -- Jermaine Kearse , in Week 1 -- has had double-digit Fantasy points against the Panthers in Charlotte. I have a hard time trusting him this week.
I'd rather start: Greg Jennings , Andre Caldwell
, QB, Panthers: My Projection: 21 FPTS
Newton should bounce back in a matchup that especially speaks to him being able to throw the football. Five of the last six quarterbacks to take on Gang Green have posted multiple passing touchdowns along with 21-plus Fantasy points. This is a defense that has struggled against the deep pass of late and that should definitely continue here, as the Panthers have never been afraid to chuck it. Newton has had 20-plus Fantasy points in three of his last four.
I'd start him over: Philip Rivers , Russell Wilson
, RB, Panthers: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Mike Tolbert , RB, Panthers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Expect the Panthers to lean on their run game for the obvious reasons: It's a favorable matchup and it keeps Drew Brees chilling on the sideline. Carolina tried to do that in Week 14, running the ball 15 times and throwing it 14 times in the first half until the score got out of hand and Newton had to throw (just eight second-half runs for the Panthers). The Panthers should be able to learn a few tricks from the Rams' success on the ground last week -- they're the first team to really pound the rock against the Saints in several weeks. The Saints defense has played poorly on the road too. It's all enough to consider both guys as low-end starters.
Flow chart: Fred Jackson > DeAngelo Williams > C.J. Spiller > Mike Tolbert > Steven Jackson
, WR, Panthers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
It's tough to expect even 70 yards from Smith, but what about a touchdown? The Saints have allowed a receiver to score in two of their last three games -- only the Rams couldn't punch it in to a wideout. Smith got one against them in Week 14 and other savvy No. 1 receivers have also scored on them. Tough to count on him to deliver a big number for Fantasy owners after he had 10 or more points in just three games this season.
I'd rather start: Marvin Jones , Larry Fitzgerald
, TE, Panthers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Olsen has eight or more Fantasy points in six of his last eight games. And after the Saints allowed just two tight ends to score in their first nine games they've allowed three in their last five, including two in their last three. Expect Olsen to redeem himself after an eight-catch, 40-yard stat line at New Orleans.
I'd start him over: Heath Miller , Coby Fleener
Dolphins at Bills, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The Dolphins at one time were awful against the run, but like many elements to their team, they've improved in that area. Over the last five weeks they haven't allowed a single touchdown to a running back, holding them to an average of 99.6 rush yards and 28.8 receiving yards per game. That's especially tough news for the Bills, who had a hard time running against Miami back in Week 7 when they didn't have EJ Manuel under center. They won't have him again, making it obvious for the Dolphins defense to hunker down against the Bills' running backs.
, QB, Dolphins: My Projection: 19 FPTS
Tannehill's been hotter than a lit match between Megan Fox's fingers but might he not throw a lot in this game? Tannehill has been needed for the Dolphins -- he kept them in their showdown with the Patriots last week and with the Steelers the week before. The Bills didn't light up the scoreboard with Thad Lewis under center and chances are they'll struggle to do the same in Week 16. That could mean some weaker numbers from Tannehill. Case in point: The Bills have held six straight quarterbacks to 19 Fantasy points or less but are 2-4 in that span, beating the Jets and Jaguars. I might choose to jump ship on Tannehill.
Flow chart: Russell Wilson > Ryan Fitzpatrick > Ryan Tannehill > Alex Smith > Andrew Luck
, RB, Dolphins: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Daniel Thomas , RB, Dolphins: My Projection: 7 FPTS
The Bills have struggled with run defense, allowing four touchdowns to backs over their last three games. They've also given up over 120 rush yards to running backs in each of their last two. There's no doubt the Dolphins will try to run against the Bills, but there's some concern over who will do what. Last week it appeared Miller and Thomas rotated series. On the last drive of the first half Miller was in until he whiffed on pass protection and Thomas took over. Then in the third quarter Thomas came up gimpy after a run and Miller replaced him until the last play of the drive, when Thomas caught a touchdown but was still hobbling. Miller had most of the work after that. If Thomas is banged up then the obvious choice is Miller. If not, you're pretty much leaving it up to fate.
Flow chart: Dennis Johnson > Lamar Miller > C.J. Spiller > Daniel Thomas > Saints RBs
, WR, Dolphins: My Projection: 11 FPTS
Brian Hartline , WR, Dolphins: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Buffalo allowed just its second touchdown to a receiver in four games last week, a pretty big accomplishment considering how poor they were against the pass earlier this year. They have struggled against clear-cut No. 1 wideouts lately, giving up 70 yards and a touchdown to Vincent Jackson and 143 yards to Roddy White over their last three games. They've also had a hard time with speed receivers -- guys like Antonio Brown , A.J. Green and even Kenny Stills have smacked the Bills around. That suggests some good numbers on the way for Mike Wallace , who has 80-plus yards and a touchdown in three of his last four. Hartline should be penciled in for his normal workload.
I'd start Wallace over: Eric Decker , Torrey Smith
I'd rather start over Hartline: Riley Cooper , Rod Streater
, TE, Dolphins: My Projection: 9 FPTS
The Patriots did a really good job taking Clay out of the Miami offense last week, which in turn opened up the door for Rishard Matthews and other tight ends to pick up some work. The Bills have plenty of trust in their cornerbacks but have struggled against tight ends lately, allowing one to score in each of their last four games. I wouldn't lose much faith in Clay just because the Patriots gave him the shut-down treatment last week.
I'd start him over: Greg Olsen , Dennis Pitta
, RB, Bills: My Projection: 10 FPTS
C.J. Spiller , RB, Bills: My Projection: 8 FPTS
In Week 7, Jackson totaled 85 yards with a touchdown -- he's done better than that tally in just one game since. Spiller was limited in Week 7 and seems in better shape now but has had a hard time with tough run defenses. The Dolphins would qualify, as they've held opposing running backs to 117.7 total yards per game over their last five with no touchdowns. Further, Miami has allowed just two plays of 20-plus rush yards in its last five. Maybe the 'Fins are due for a letdown and the Bills have enough rushing threats to keep them off balance with Lewis taking over at quarterback, or maybe they'll be ready for it considering just how strong they've been against the run this season.
Flow chart: Giovani Bernard > Fred Jackson > Bobby Rainey > C.J. Spiller > Steven Jackson
Buccaneers at Rams, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
I wouldn't be surprised to see St. Louis try and win this game the same way they won last week: attack the quarterback and force some turnovers. They have the talent to do it along the defensive line and while Mike Glennon has been pretty good in the face of pressure, he still has made his fair share of mistakes. His completion percentage has taken a turn for the worse over his last two games and he has as many interceptions as he has touchdowns (four) in his last three.
, RB, Buccaneers: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Rainey has done well in easy matchups and poorly in tough matchups. The Rams have allowed four rushing touchdowns in their last five games but just 56.4 rush yards per game in that span. But here's something weird -- because they've taken on so many teams that throw to their running backs they're actually giving up more yards per game through the air to rushers (90.2 per game). One would think the Bucs would implement a passing strategy to get Rainey more involved, but he has only nine catches on 12 targets for 22 yards (and a touchdown) since taking over as the Bucs' top back. It's tough to expect that to change so drastically.
I'd rather start: Chris Ivory , Donald Brown
, WR, Buccaneers: My Projection: 13 FPTS
Count on Jackson -- the Rams have allowed a No. 1 receiver to post nine-plus Fantasy points in five straight. And of the 14 touchdowns they've given up on the year, 12 have gone to No. 1 options. Normally it's hard to count on Jackson to extend a touchdown streak to three games considering Tampa's inconsistent offense, but this matchup should be an obvious exception.
I'd start him over: Alshon Jeffery , Antonio Brown
, RB, Rams: My Projection: 14 FPTS
Stacy had a monster game last week in part because the Rams built a lead on the Saints, but he was also a big reason for them having such a big lead with 16 of his 28 carries in the first half for 106 yards and a touchdown. Of course that means he had 12 carries for 27 yards in the second half. But the reality is that Stacy is a heck of a back -- he's scored in five of his last six games and has 70-plus yards in four of his last six. The only reason why he's not a slam-dunk starter is because the Bucs have allowed just one running back in their last six games to exceed 10 Fantasy points. On the year they've given up just two rushing touchdowns to backs. It took the 49ers running the ball 32 times last week to accumulate a total of 148 yards, the most the Bucs have allowed since a tough Week 9 game at Seattle.
I'd start him over: Frank Gore , Chris Johnson
Colts at Chiefs, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The Chiefs should continue to ride Jamaal Charles to the end zone -- the Colts wish they had someone like that at running back. Then again, the Chiefs probably wouldn't mind having Andrew Luck . Luck's track record outdoors isn't very good but in a matchup where he'll likely find himself throwing a bunch, he'll have a shot at posting some decent numbers. He was outstanding two weeks ago at Cincinnati, but a lot of that had to do with some very sloppy play from a Bengals defense that lost two starters during the game. The Chiefs defense hasn't been perfect lately -- three of the last four quarterbacks they've taken on have thrown multiple touchdowns on them, including the Raiders -- but they should be more than competitive.
No-brainers: Jamaal Charles
, QB, Colts: My Projection: 18 FPTS
It seems likely that Luck will throw a lot in this game -- and it's not a bad thing. He has multiple touchdowns in each of his last two overall -- including the game at Cincy -- and the Chiefs have allowed multiple passing scores in three of their last four. Two of those quarterbacks posted over 30 Fantasy points, the other threw four interceptions. This could be a week where his receiving corps shows some inexperience and struggles. It also doesn't help that Luck really only had the great game at Cincinnati and has otherwise underwhelmed over his last six games. It also would be bad news for him if Justin Houston came back to put pressure on him. Simply put, there are safer Fantasy options you can go with but if you can't get your hands on them, Luck will give you a chance.
I'd rather start: Kirk Cousins , Andy Dalton , Alex Smith
, RB, Colts: My Projection: 10 FPTS
It looks like Brown will play after suffering a neck stinger last week. The Chiefs allowed two rushing touchdowns last week and eight touchdowns total to running backs over their last five games. In those five games, we've seen six running backs get 11-plus Fantasy points, though not one per game. Getting Brown going should be a priority for the Colts. You certainly have to like his chances of scoring.
I'd start him over: Shane Vereen , Ray Rice
, WR, Colts: My Projection: 9 FPTS
I'd count on the Chiefs shifting coverage toward Hilton and forcing him to run underneath-type routes in order to make an impact. Check out how they did with Pierre Garcon two weeks ago to get a feel for what Hilton's bottoming-out point might be. Hilton is a shade slower on grass than turf and broke a string of four straight games without a deep catch (over 20 yards) last week. Over the last five games the Chiefs have allowed six touchdowns (four to Eric Decker ) and 232.0 yards per game to receivers, so they're beatable. But I have a hard time counting on him since he hasn't done any better than 7 Fantasy points in his last five games.
Flow chart: Danny Amendola > Greg Jennings > T.Y. Hilton > Riley Cooper > Marques Colston
, TE, Colts: My Projection: 8 FPTS
If the Chiefs play more zone than man they could force Luck to settle for underneath throws to Fleener. Luck didn't have to settle for those last week because his receivers made plays and his opponent couldn't put up points, so Fleener's numbers stunk. This week there's a chance for a rebound as the Chiefs have afforded tight ends a touchdown in four of their last five games. Keep in mind, Fleener averaged over eight targets per game in his five previous games before the Week 15 shutout.
I'd start him over: Antonio Gates , Martellus Bennett
, QB, Chiefs: My Projection: 18 FPTS
Even though his five-touchdown day was pretty fluky, Smith did make some nice throws and you have to give him full credit on the long pass to Charles that he turned into a big touchdown, as well as his red-zone dart to Sean McGrath . Smith now has 25-plus points in four of his last five games and in half of his games this year! There's potential for Smith to have another awesome game because the Colts pass defense isn't consistent. Six of the last 10 quarterbacks to play the Colts have scored multiple touchdowns, but only five of them have crossed the 20-point Fantasy barrier. This includes three of the last four quarterbacks they've played away from Indianapolis. Since Smith also has six games with 17 or fewer Fantasy points on the year, there's clearly a major risk-reward issue here. I wouldn't trust Smith if I didn't have to.
I'd rather start: Ryan Fitzpatrick , Ryan Tannehill
, WR, Chiefs: My Projection: 10 FPTS
The Colts have struggled with No. 1 receivers this year. Of the 16 touchdowns they've allowed to receivers, 13 have gone to No. 1s. That's important for Bowe, since he basically needs a touchdown to be valuable in Fantasy. Bowe has scored in three of his last five (should have been four of his last five).
I'd start him over: Michael Crabtree , T.Y. Hilton
Titans at Jaguars, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Tennessee will try to avenge an embarrassing home loss to Jacksonville a few weeks back. It was in that game when the Jags run defense started to look much improved -- Chris Johnson fumbled early on and had one of his worst games on the year. It's also the game Jake Locker got hurt, putting Ryan Fitzpatrick in place as the starter the rest of the way. The Titans will try and establish the run against this improved front seven, but they should eventually lean on Fitzpatrick to attack the Jags' inexperienced secondary.
, QB, Titans: My Projection: 19 FPTS
If you're in a pinch, Fitzpatrick has potential to help your team out. The Jaguars have allowed a quarterback to get 24-plus Fantasy points in six of their last seven games, including Fitzpatrick back in Week 10 (the exception was Case Keenum ). Teams have learned to go after the Jaguars' inexperienced secondary instead of their front seven. With the matchups particularly favoring Delanie Walker and Kendall Wright , and with Fitzpatrick more than willing to throw the ball around, he should come in with a solid stat line.
I'd start him over: Alex Smith , Andrew Luck
, RB, Titans: My Projection: 12 FPTS
Say what you will about how Johnson is getting the job done, but the dude has scored in three straight games and four of his last five. His second-half turnaround shouldn't surprise many since he's done it two years in a row. What is surprising is the lack of work he's had, totaling 25 carries and five catches over his last two games. Over the Jaguars last five games they've allowed running backs to tally three total scores and 106.2 total yards per game. That's pretty tough, but Johnson has found a way to be productive recently and it's hard to ignore that.
Flow chart: Chris Ivory > Frank Gore > Chris Johnson > Giovani Bernard > Donald Brown
, WR, Titans: My Projection: 9 FPTS
With Wright the only thing that matters is opportunity. He has caught roughly 70 percent of the targets he's seen and has turned it into a 1,000-yard season. He's also 15 catches shy of 100 on the year, a goal well within his reach. Jacksonville has allowed five touchdowns to receivers in their last three games with an average of 217.0 yards per game to wideouts in that span. They've allowed a wideout to get at least 14 Fantasy points in each of those three games. And of the seven receivers with at least nine targets against Jacksonville this season, five have finished with at least nine Fantasy points, including four in its last four games.
Flow chart: Mike Wallace > Eric Decker > Kendall Wright > Andre Caldwell > Marques Colston
, TE, Titans: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Walker has been consistently getting the ball in the Titans offense and faces off against a favorable matchup. He has at least eight targets in each of his last four games that he's finished and has a touchdown in three of those four (including last week). The Jaguars have allowed nine touchdowns to tight ends on the year; Walker had one of them with 62 yards against them back in Week 10.
I'd start him over: Tony Gonzalez , Greg Olsen
, RB, Jaguars: My Projection: 15 FPTS
Todman could be a Fantasy savior this week as he gets what effectively is the best possible matchup for a running back to have. Tennessee has allowed 16 touchdowns to running backs in their last 10 and multiple touchdowns to rushers in seven of their last nine! They're also yielding 155.1 total yards per game on the season. After Todman got a ton of work last week (25 carries, four catches, 153 total yards) it's safe to assume he'll have a big workload this week. I like the idea of counting on Todman as a quality No. 2 running back, much less a flex option.
I'd start him over: Zac Stacy , Chris Ivory , Rashad Jennings
Cowboys at Redskins, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Dallas has been dysfunctional on both sides of the ball, but it's better on offense than on defense. If they were to run a balanced attack they'd probably have a good chance of winning this game, but the second they deviate from that they open themselves up to mistakes, and that's what the Redskins are going to try to do. Tony Romo is dangerous but he's clearly prone to turnovers when the pressure is on him. It would be a nice farewell for the Redskins fans if they cost the Cowboys a chance at the playoffs, and the players have to use that as motivation.
No-brainers: DeMarco Murray , Dez Bryant
, QB, Cowboys: My Projection: 20 FPTS
Playing in Washington has typically been bad news for Romo -- only one of his last five games there has been solid. And for whatever it's worth, Washington's pass defense has improved from where it was earlier this season as it hasn't allowed an opposing passer to gain more than 16 Fantasy points in each of its last three. Romo didn't even have a great stat line against the Redskins in his own building earlier this year. Is the matchup favorable? Sure, but the Redskins proved last week that they're not quite mailing it in. Keep in mind that the 22 Fantasy points Romo has in each of his last two are tied for the most he's had since Week 10, and his only two games over 20 Fantasy points.
Flow chart: Philip Rivers > Russell Wilson > Tony Romo > Ryan Tannehill > Alex Smith
, TE, Cowboys: My Projection: 11 FPTS
Witten is on a rare personal hot streak, scoring in two straight and in three of his last four. The last time he scored in three straight and in four of five games was in October of 2011, so it doesn't exactly happen very often. He has scored in each of his last two at FedEx Field and has come through for at least seven Fantasy points in three of his last four (he didn't do much vs. the Redskins earlier this year). Washington has allowed a touchdown to a tight end in four of its last six games, allowing at least 12 Fantasy points to each tight end that has scored in that span. Witten should be a consensus must-start at tight end at this point.
I'd start him over: Tony Gonzalez , Delanie Walker
, QB, Redskins: My Projection: 21 FPTS
So just how bad have the Cowboys been against quarterbacks this year? Ten quarterbacks have tallied at least two touchdowns against Dallas. Of those 10, eight have posted at least 25 Fantasy points. This list includes legendary NFL gunslingers like Josh McCown and Matt Flynn , who were the most recent guys to accomplish the big numbers. Even Eli Manning in his worst year ever has six total touchdowns on Dallas. Cousins has over 300 yards and multiple scores in each of his two starts and took advantage of a favorable matchup last week. He made a bunch of great throws and utilized many elements of the Redskins offense that Robert Griffin III rarely used ( Santana Moss in the slot, for example). You have to assume he'll do plenty of passing and should be a smart play for Fantasy owners nervous about their quarterback situations.
Flow chart: Tom Brady , Russell Wilson , Tony Romo
, RB, Redskins: My Projection: 15 FPTS
Morris' fumbles last week are cause for concern -- with Mike Shanahan you never quite know when your next fumble will mean your last play. But assuming we get Morris back in his normal role he should dominate the Cowboys. Five of the last six starting running backs to play Dallas have posted at least 15 Fantasy points. Morris has at least 80 yards and a touchdown in each of his three career games against the Cowboys. Start him.
I'd start him over: Knowshon Moreno , Reggie Bush
, WR, Redskins: My Projection: 14 FPTS
At first glance you might think Garcon got magically better with Cousins at quarterback instead of RG3, because his numbers went through the roof. But the Redskins didn't really use him any differently than they did before, save for two deep targets he had from Cousins, one of which connected for a touchdown. So he's not necessarily changing his routes or is being used differently. It just helps that he's a routine part of the offense where he'll get a lot of targets (11 last week). It also helps that he's playing against a Cowboys defense that has allowed five touchdowns and 181.5 yards per game to receivers over its last five.
I'd start him over: DeSean Jackson , Alshon Jeffery
Giants at Lions, Sun., 4:05 p.m. ET
Might this be a game where the Lions defense carries the team to a victory? The Giants couldn't score against a great defense last week and had 14 points the week before, and now they enter this matchup with a beleaguered offensive line missing more starters and receiver Victor Cruz on the sideline. We should see the Lions defensive line get in Eli Manning face all game, making it hard for the Giants to put up a ton of points, even with a favorable matchup against the Lions weak secondary. It all comes down to the Lions playing mistake-free football from there.
No-brainers: Reggie Bush , Calvin Johnson
, RB, Giants: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Brutal matchup for Brown. Throw out the Lions game at the Eagles in the blizzard and this defense has held backs to just five rushing touchdowns and two 100-total-yard performances on the year. With the Giants offensive line in further flux and Brown himself tallying eight Fantasy points over his last eight quarters, this isn't a tough call.
I'd rather start: BenJarvus Green-Ellis , Bills RBs, Lamar Miller
, WR, Giants: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Hakeem Nicks , WR, Giants: My Projection: 6 FPTS
While I'll admit the matchup is favorable for the Giants because the Lions have allowed six touchdowns to wideouts over their last five games, the reality is that their offense is so dysfunctional right now that it doesn't matter. Manning figures to be under plenty of pressure, putting both receivers' numbers in jeopardy save for some potential garbage time work.
I'd rather start: Doug Baldwin , Brian Hartline , Jeremy Kerley
, QB, Lions: My Projection: 23 FPTS
You can't blame Stafford for his weak outing in the Philadelphia blizzard two weeks ago, but you can definitely fault him for stinking last week. Drops played a role, but three interceptions ended the last six Lions drives against Baltimore, exactly the reason why they lost the game, as the Ravens scored a field goal following the first two picks and sealed up the win after the third. You might assume the Lions will spend the week preaching ball control and playing it safe, but it's just not who they are. They're an aggressive passing team and sometimes that means turnovers. It also means touchdowns. Besides, the Giants don't bring a strong pass rush and have allowed pretty much every cannon-armed quarterback they've faced to throw multiple touchdowns on them this year. I wouldn't expect him to handoff a ton -- this matchup calls for him to be a factor.
I'd start him over: Everyone not named Peyton Manning and Nick Foles
, WR, Lions: My Projection: 4 FPTS
It's been the top banana from opposing receiving corps beating up on the Giants lately, not the second fiddles. The last clear non-No. 1 receiver to have even 80 yards on the Giants was Jarrett Boykin in Week 11. The last non-No. 1 receiver to score on New York was Ted Ginn in Week 3 (you could make the case Doug Baldwin isn't the Seahawks No. 1 wideout, but stats might suggest otherwise). Burleson has only two games out of seven with more than seven Fantasy points.
I'd rather start: Santana Moss , Doug Baldwin
Cardinals at Seahawks, Sun., 4:05 p.m. ET
You might remember this matchup from late last season -- the Cardinals sure do. They were defeated 58-0, as the Seahawks marched into playoff contention. Not much has changed, as the Seahawks wrap up the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win (or a tie) this week. Since the Cardinals played the Seahawks in Week 7 we've seen the Seattle defense allow an average of 12.7 points per game, including a shutout last week against the Giants and a seven-point allowance to the Saints at home in Week 13. Arizona's players could be tough to trust.
No-brainers: Marshawn Lynch
, QB, Cardinals: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Only two quarterbacks have posted 20-plus Fantasy points on the Seattle defense this year, none in its last nine games. Palmer has 12 points against them at home back in Week 7. Do whatever you can to find another option other than Palmer.
I'd rather start: Matt Cassel , Jason Campbell
, RB, Cardinals: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Rashard Mendenhall , RB, Cardinals: My Projection: 4 FPTS
I know these guys were so good last week but consider the matchup. They played against a terrible Titans defense that ranks 31st in Fantasy points allowed to running backs. By comparison, the Seahawks rank fourth! They have allowed just four rushing touchdowns to backs all year, none in their last seven games. Mendenhall had one of them but still finished the game with just eight Fantasy points. The Seahawks have allowed 116.0 total yards per game to running backs in their last five, so maybe the Cardinals guys will split up that number, but it won't be enough to make them reliable Fantasy options.
I'd rather start: Lamar Miller , Bills RBs, Pierre Thomas
, WR, Cardinals: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Michael Floyd , WR, Cardinals: My Projection: 6 FPTS
No one expected to sit Fitzgerald in Week 16 when they drafted him over the summer, but the matchup dictates doing exactly that. The Seahawks have given up just seven scores to receivers this season (four in their last nine) with only three receivers going over 100 yards -- none in their last nine. In his last five overall against Seattle, Fitzgerald has posted 12, 14, 6, 0 and 1 Fantasy points. Floyd's numbers against Seattle are equally as bad.
I'd rather start: Rod Streater , Kendall Wright , Cordarrelle Patterson
, QB, Seahawks: My Projection: 20 FPTS
This feels like the kind of game where Wilson will be productive, but you just don't know exactly how he'll do it. Arizona's defense figures to be amped for the challenge, but the secondary has some holes in it. Arizona has allowed 29-plus Fantasy points to two of the three quarterbacks they've faced of late, with seven passing touchdowns in that span. I might expect Wilson to follow suit of many passers before him and look for his tight ends in the red zone against the Redbirds. Wilson had 25 Fantasy points at Arizona in Week 7 but barely had any numbers at all in their blowout home win against them last season.
Flow chart: Tom Brady > Philip Rivers > Russell Wilson > Tony Romo > Ryan Tannehill
, WR, Seahawks: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Golden Tate , WR, Seahawks: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Baldwin's last five games: 20 catches on 26 targets for 323 yards and three touchdowns. Tate's last five: 19 catches on 30 targets for 267 yards and one touchdown. I think we know who the best receiving threat is on the Seahawks (or at least the most efficient). And Baldwin even plays a bit more than Tate does. All of this information is swell to know until you realize the Cardinals have been great at holding receivers out of the end zone -- after allowing eight touchdowns in their first nine games they've shut out receivers in their last five. In fact Kendall Wright work last week made him the first receiver to post double-digit Fantasy points against the Cards since Andre Johnson in Week 10. I'd still bet on Baldwin to be a contributor and thus a possible No. 3 Fantasy receiver.
Flow chart: Doug Baldwin > Marques Colston > Emmanuel Sanders > Golden Tate > Michael Floyd
, TE, Seahawks: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Total matchup play as the Cardinals have allowed a kabillion touchdowns to tight ends this season (OK, just 14, including five in their last five games). Miller has four touchdowns this season -- three at home, one on the road against Arizona.
Flow chart: Heath Miller > Martellus Bennett > Zach Miller > Zach Ertz > Timothy Wright
Raiders at Chargers, Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
Oakland won the previous matchup by 10 thanks to Terrelle Pryor only two-touchdown game of the season and Charles Woodson scoring off a fumble by Danny Woodhead . Ryan Mathews was knocked out early with a concussion and even though Rivers threw for over 400 yards he also threw three picks, one of which led to an early Raiders touchdown and a third sealed the game. The Raiders remain shaky at quarterback -- but it's with Matt McGloin starting, not Pryor. Mathews is healthy for this matchup and the Chargers have slim playoff hopes to keep alive with a win. Rivers also has thrown just one interception in his last four games and just four total in the nine games since the loss at Oakland. San Diego is in much better shape this time around.
, RB, Raiders: My Projection: 14 FPTS
Jennings has delivered at least nine points in each of his last six games and 15-plus points in four of those six. I know the Chargers did a number on the Broncos running backs last week, but it doesn't make them a great defensive unit. Even with that game counting they've allowed five rushing touchdowns and 127.0 total yards per game to running backs in their last five. There's no reason to believe they'll shut Jennings down like they did the Broncos' backs (who had just 11 carries last Thursday).
I'd start him over: Chris Ivory , Chris Johnson
, WR, Raiders: My Projection: 8 FPTS
In the Chargers last six games, opposing receivers have scored eight touchdowns and have averaged 179.8 yards per game. That's not great. And at least one wideout has posted 10-plus Fantasy points in five of those six games. I'd lean toward Streater being the most likely to contribute for the Raiders since he's had most of the targets since McGloin took over under center. He had a touchdown with 56 yards against the Chargers in Week 5 -- and he wasn't even the best receiver against the Chargers that day ( Denarius Moore led the team with eight targets, five catches, 84 yards and a touchdown).
Flow chart: Andre Caldwell > Anquan Boldin > Rod Streater > Larry Fitzgerald > Roddy White
, QB, Chargers: My Projection: 21 FPTS
Three of the last four quarterbacks to play Oakland have posted at least 23 Fantasy points. The quarterbacks? Ryan Fitzpatrick , Geno Smith and Alex Smith ( Tony Romo was the one who couldn't get it done -- on Thanksgiving). Expect the Chargers to stick with their hurry-up, quick-toss offense to keep the Raiders off balance. They'll surely look to put their fast players in space to make big plays like Jamaal Charles did last week, and anything that succeeds would obviously benefit Rivers. The big fear is that the Chargers run game does too well and Rivers doesn't put up huge numbers -- just like what happened last week in Denver.
Flow chart: Andy Dalton > Tom Brady > Philip Rivers > Russell Wilson > Tony Romo
, RB, Chargers: My Projection: 15 FPTS
Danny Woodhead , RB, Chargers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
I'd expect a big workload for both running backs considering how Charles exposed the Raiders defense last week. The Raiders are smart enough to know it's coming, but I don't know if they can do anything about it. Even if you ignore Charles' numbers against the Raiders, their defense has allowed five touchdowns and 131.3 total yards per game to rushers over the last three weeks. That's without Charles' five-touchdown, 215-yard game in Week 15! How about this: Eight of the last nine starting running backs to face Oakland have posted at least 10 Fantasy points. That should mean a mammoth game for Mathews with Woodhead pitching in.
I'd start Mathews over: Le'Veon Bell , Knowshon Moreno
Low-end RB Flow chart: Lamar Miller > C.J. Spiller > Danny Woodhead > Steven Jackson > Andre Brown
, WR, Chargers: My Projection: 14 FPTS
You'd like to see more catches for Allen, but you can't argue with four touchdowns on five catches (eight targets) over the last two weeks. Those scores came in favorable matchups, which is what he has again this week as the Raiders have allowed four touchdowns and 146.8 yards per game to receivers in their last five. Allen annihilated the Raiders for 115 yards on six catches and his first career touchdown back in Week 5. He's also 69 yards away from a 1,000-yard season.
I'd start him over: DeSean Jackson , Alshon Jeffery
, TE, Chargers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
The Raiders allowed a touchdown to a tight end last week and four in their last six games, but Gates hasn't scored in four straight. That might suggest he's due for a sizable game, but with only one double-digit output in his last 10, Fantasy owners are shying away. The catch is that his targets haven't dropped off -- he has 108 on the season and 28 in his last four.
I'd rather start: Heath Miller , Dennis Pitta
Steelers at Packers, Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
The Packers have playoff aspirations but they're going to have their hands full. The Steelers offense has evolved into a pretty nice passing unit (ranked 11th in the NFL) with a good run game built in. They're averaging nearly 23 points per game and the Packers are allowing nearly 26 points per game. One-time Steelers defensive coordinator Dom Capers knows he'll have to send some serious blitzes to topple Ben Roethlisberger -- Capers is 0-4 all-time against Roethlisberger-led teams in the regular season but did take him down calling the defense in Super Bowl XLV.
No-brainers: Eddie Lacy
, QB, Steelers: My Projection: 21 FPTS
Roethlisberger has faced Capers-coached defenses five times, throwing multiple touchdowns in four of them and over 250 yards in three of them. There's an obvious familiarity with what he'll see as Capers and Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau worked together in Pittsburgh back in the early '90s (Capers hired LeBeau in '92). That kind of information is only helped along by the Packers' sagging pass defense, which has allowed each of the last three quarterbacks and five of the last seven to post multiple touchdowns against them. They're even giving up an average of 269.3 passing yards per game on the year. Roethlisberger didn't have to do much last week against Cincy but was still efficient and could be called upon to throw even more this week.
I'd start him over: Cam Newton , Kirk Cousins
, RB, Steelers: My Projection: 15 FPTS
Bell is averaging 94.0 yards per game with six touchdowns, including two in his last three games. He also has at least 20 touches in each of his last seven, so you should feel comfortable with his workload. The Packers defense has bottomed out, giving up five rushing touchdowns, 148.0 rush yards per game and 42.0 receiving yards per game just to running backs in its last five. Seven of the eight running backs with at least 20 touches on the Packers this season have posted 12-plus Fantasy points. Bell should be counted on for at least that much.
I'd start him over: Reggie Bush , Zac Stacy
, WR, Steelers: My Projection: 12 FPTS
Emmanuel Sanders , WR, Steelers: My Projection: 7 FPTS
In the Packers last seven games receivers have totaled 10 touchdowns and 185.9 yards per game. That's a sign of a soft secondary, one that should have a hard time keeping up with Brown. But it's worth noting that of the 10 touchdowns scored on the Packers in their seven-game skid, only four have been by No. 1 receivers. I'd expect the Packers to focus on containing Brown and that could work to Sanders' advantage when competing for deep passes.
I'd start Brown over: Andre Johnson , Eric Decker
I'd rather start over Sanders: Rod Streater , James Jones
, TE, Steelers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Miller's been out of the mix for the Steelers but this feels like the kind of high-scoring game that Roethlisberger is going to need him in. Call it a gut feeling. The Packers have allowed a touchdown to a tight end in two of their last three games and aren't really awful against the position, but Miller could resurface and be a goal-line target.
Flow chart: Charles Clay > Coby Fleener > Heath Miller > Dennis Pitta > Martellus Bennett
, WR, Packers: My Projection: 13 FPTS
James Jones , WR, Packers: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Jarrett Boykin , WR, Packers: My Projection: 7 FPTS
The Steelers have allowed six touchdowns and 184.6 yards per game to receivers in their last five, so they're not quite dominating opposing passing games. I expect the Packers to try a couple of deep shots with Nelson and Jones while using Boykin in short areas to try and bust through the Steelers zone coverage. The Packers completed four red zone touchdowns last week and could be in line for a couple more this week.
I'd start Nelson over: Andre Johnson , Dwayne Bowe
Flow chart: Steve Smith > James Jones > Brian Hartline > Jarrett Boykin > Jets WRs
, TE, Packers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Quarless has back-to-back games with six catches, 66 yards and a touchdown. Kind of weird but also a sign that he's developing in the Packers offense. The Steelers were burned for a touchdown by Tyler Eifert last week and two by Charles Clay two weeks ago. They can't afford to shut down Quarless with the rest of the Packers receivers on the field with him, so he could have some opportunities at scoring some more.
Flow chart: Coby Fleener > Dennis Pitta > Andrew Quarless > Antonio Gates > Zach Miller
Patriots at Ravens, Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
The only NFL team that Tom Brady has more interceptions than touchdowns against is the Ravens. They've consistently found a model for slowing Brady down by attacking the Patriots offensive line and pressuring Brady into some mistakes. And you have to look at how the Ravens were able to curb the Lions offense last week and think they can scheme it up again at home against the Patriots. I could see the Ravens really tightening up defensively in the red zone, allowing a bunch of yards but not a lot of touchdowns.
, QB, Patriots: My Projection: 21 FPTS
A lot of people will start Brady regardless of matchup or who he's throwing to because "he is Tom Brady." That's fine, but if you're into considering matchups and playing patterns then this might be of interest. Brady has one touchdown in each of his last three regular-season games against the Ravens. He has under the equivalent of 20 Fantasy points in each of his last five -- including the playoffs -- and in six of eight career games against the Ravens. And only four quarterbacks have posted 20-plus Fantasy points against Baltimore this season. I'd bet the house that the Patriots will throw a lot with Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola picking up the bulk of it. I'd also bet the Patriots will try some deep passes, but the Ravens have allowed only five such passes (not catch-and-runs) in their last four games -- none for touchdowns. I don't mind Brady this week, but I think there are a number of quarterbacks who will do better.
Flow chart: Kirk Cousins > Andy Dalton > Tom Brady > Philip Rivers > Russell Wilson
, RB, Patriots: My Projection: 9 FPTS
A lot of people will shy away from Vereen after last week, but give credit to the Dolphins for focusing on him not letting him find ways to beat them through the air. I saw only one play where he was open and Brady missed him, and it was early on. I'd say the Ravens are adept at keeping running backs from beating them through the air as they've allowed 35.4 receiving yards per game to them over their last five. Only two running backs -- Matt Forte and Le'Veon Bell -- have had more than 40 receiving yards against them on the season. Only two backs have caught a touchdown against the Ravens this season too. The catch: All of these big games have come in the last six weeks. I think there's more risk in starting Vereen this week than last, particularly after the Ravens tightened up against Reggie Bush as a receiver last week. They have the linebackers to match up with him.
Flow chart: Giovani Bernard > Fred Jackson > Shane Vereen > Bobby Rainey > Dennis Johnson
, RB, Patriots: My Projection: 5 FPTS
Stevan Ridley , RB, Patriots: My Projection: 3 FPTS
The Ravens have allowed three rushing touchdowns in each of their last three games after holding backs to one rushing touchdown through their first 11. One was a goal-line job, the other two came from 10-plus yards out. I don't know how many big runs Blount (or Ridley) have in them, but knowing their chances to produce will be limited because of their roles hurts their Fantasy value.
I'd rather start: Steven Jackson , Pierre Thomas
, WR, Patriots: My Projection: 15 FPTS
Danny Amendola , WR, Patriots: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Die-hard Patriots fans and game film watchers should have a major appreciation for these guys. They're very quick, they run any route in the tree and line up anywhere, and they're absolutely killers against zone defense. Before this year the Ravens consistently had problems containing Wes Welker when they played the Patriots -- heck, they had a hard time with him in Week 1 when he scored two touchdowns. Now they have to deal with two Welker clones. All four of the receiving touchdowns the Ravens have given up over the last three weeks have come from non-No. 1 receiver types. Two receivers started in the slot and three of the scores came from inside the 10. These guys will have a chance to get a lot of numbers.
Flow chart: Julian Edelman > Jordy Nelson > Eric Decker > Danny Amendola > Marques Colston
, QB, Ravens: My Projection: 17 FPTS
Banged up and struggling to throw touchdowns, Flacco faces a Patriots defense that just might be what he needs to get right. Six of the last seven quarterbacks to play New England have put up multiple touchdowns, and four of those guys have had 30-plus Fantasy points. I wouldn't count on Flacco for that much and frankly I'm not sure he can get to even 20 Fantasy points even with two touchdowns. With so many good quarterbacks out there this week I'd only start Flacco in two-QB leagues.
I'd rather start: Kirk Cousins , Ryan Fitzpatrick
, RB, Ravens: My Projection: 9 FPTS
The matchup says Rice could have some success, but we should know better by now. The Pats have allowed five total touchdowns to rushers over their last five games, yielding 130.0 total yards per game to running backs. But only 90 receiving yards (18.0 per game) total over that span. For Rice to be even a decent factor for Fantasy owners he needs to get involved as a receiver, and that's just not happening much against the Pats. Even with his illustrious track record against New England I would limit him to Flex duty, if that.
I'd rather start: DeAngelo Williams , Bobby Rainey
, WR, Ravens: My Projection: 10 FPTS
We've seen the Patriots get burned by the deep pass over the past several weeks and there's no doubt the Ravens will try to get Smith going in that regard. I'm still a little worried about using him since he has just one game with 10-plus Fantasy points in his last five. He's catching less than half of his targets and even though this is a big game where the Ravens desperately need him to come through, there's not as much allure to him as there once was. What helps is that the Patriots have allowed five touchdowns and 172.4 yards per game to receivers over their last five.
Flow chart: Andre Johnson > Danny Amendola > Torrey Smith > Vikings WRs > Doug Baldwin
, TE, Ravens: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Pitta disappointed in a number of ways last week -- he had fewer snaps, targets, catches and yards than in his '13 debut. You'd like to see him ramped up in this matchup, if only to help Flacco move the chains. The fact that Bill Belichick singled him out in a press conference this week is all you need to know about whether or not the Patriots will factor him into their game plan. He's a low-end starter.
Flow chart: Charles Clay > Greg Olsen > Dennis Pitta > Antonio Gates > Zach Miller
Bears at Eagles, Sun., 8:30 p.m. ET
Both teams could be in a situation where a win or loss means nothing in terms of their respective divisional races. If the Cowboys win earlier on Sunday then the game means nothing to the Eagles. However, coach Chip Kelly has already said he intends to not rest his starters. If the Lions lose and Packers win on Sunday then the game means nothing to the Bears. Coach Marc Trestman did not rule out resting his starters if such a scenario would occur, saying only that "if the situation needs to be re-evaluated again it's open for discussion." But there will be playoff seed implications regardless of how other teams do and it might pay off for an NFC team to land the No. 3 seed instead of the No. 4 seed. I would expect both teams to not rest anyone, though I would make it a point to check the inactives 90 minutes before game time just to be sure.
No-brainers: Matt Forte , Alshon Jeffery , Brandon Marshall ; Nick Foles , LeSean McCoy , DeSean Jackson
, QB, Bears: My Projection: 22 FPTS
It took about a half, but Cutler knocked off the rust and threw like a champ against the Browns secondary last week. The Eagles have run hot and cold but ultimately three of the last four quarterbacks to play the Eagles had multiple touchdowns and 24-plus Fantasy points. Cutler has seven games with 20-plus Fantasy points in the eight he's played more than a half in.
I'd start him over: Drew Brees , Tom Brady
, TE, Bears: My Projection: 7 FPTS
I can't ignore the workload Bennett has received with Cutler under center -- three games with at least nine points and another one that would have been seven had he not fumbled last week. He has averaged just over seven targets per game with Cutler versus 5.0 per game with McCown. But the Eagles have allowed just two touchdowns to tight ends all season.
I'd rather start: Heath Miller , Dennis Pitta
, WR, Eagles: My Projection: 8 FPTS
I've had it with Cooper -- he's had a number of deep-ball opportunities and red zone chances over the last four weeks and he's come up short. The Bears have allowed five touchdowns to receivers over their last five games but four have gone to No. 1 receivers. They're also not letting up a ton of yards, allowing 123.4 to receivers over those previous five. Maybe you stick with him if you've made it this far, but I'd chance it with other receivers.
I'd rather start: Michael Crabtree , Doug Baldwin
Falcons at 49ers, Mon., 8:40 p.m. ET
Much is being made of the narrative that this is the final home game for the Niners at Candlestick Park, but it's not like the team is going to try harder because of it. The Niners are going to roll because they're taking on a weak opponent who might start the game playing tough but fold long before the end of the fourth quarter. What's interesting is that if the Seahawks beat the Cardinals on Sunday then not only do they clinch the NFC West, but the Niners clinch a wild card berth. It could be a situation where they have nothing to play for, but chances are Jim Harbaugh will still trot his starters out there.
No-brainers: Vernon Davis
, QB, Falcons: My Projection: 14 FPTS
Ryan doesn't have 20-plus Fantasy points in any of his last eight games. The Niners haven't allowed a quarterback to get 20 Fantasy points in seven straight games. Need I say more? Wait until 2014 on Ryan.
I'd rather start: Kirk Cousins , Ryan Fitzpatrick , Alex Smith
, RB, Falcons: My Projection: 7 FPTS
The Niners have allowed just two rushing touchdowns in their last eight games. In those same eight games they've held running backs to 103.6 total yards on average. This figures to be an ugly game for Jackson, even if he has 13-plus points in three of his last four.
I'd rather start: Bills RBs, DeAngelo Williams
, WR, Falcons: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Roddy White , WR, Falcons: My Projection: 6 FPTS
I never like to use White when he's playing on a grass surface -- he's struggled more often than not on natural fields. And I never like to use a receiver in a matchup against a defense that has allowed three touchdowns, 144.1 yards per game and three players to get double digit Fantasy points in its last eight games. That's the Niners. Steer clear.
I'd rather start: Jarrett Boykin , Jeremy Kerley
, TE, Falcons: My Projection: 9 FPTS
The Niners have allowed a touchdown and 70-plus yards to a tight end in each of their last two games. That's uncharacteristic of them but it suggests that Gonzalez could be productive in what might be his second-to-last NFL game.
I'd start him over: Greg Olsen , Coby Fleener
, QB, 49ers: My projection: 22 FPTS
The Falcons have allowed multiple touchdowns to every quarterback they've faced save for Matt Flynn in Week 13. Kaepernick has done very well against every favorable matchup he's had this season. This should be another, particularly as the Niners continue to build some momentum and confidence in their passing game heading into the postseason.
I'd start him over: Cam Newton , Tom Brady , Russell Wilson
, RB, 49ers: My projection: 13 FPTS
The Falcons have allowed 168.8 total yards per game and seven total touchdowns to running backs in their last five. Gore started to see more work last week and should be a functional part of the Niners offense this week. Wouldn't be a surprise to see him notch his last 100-yard game of the season in Week 16.
I'd start him over: Chris Johnson , Giovani Bernard
, WR, 49ers: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Anquan Boldin , WR, 49ers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
The Falcons have struggled with receivers all year long, giving up 16 touchdowns and a whopping 175.7 yards per game to the position over the course of the season. Over the last five games that number has shrunk to 166.8 yards per game, but just two touchdowns to wideouts. It's going to take a lot of volume for either receiver to have a massive stat line, but it's entirely possible one could score and the other could put up a nice chunk of yardage.
I'd start them over: Riley Cooper , Marques Colston , Larry Fitzgerald
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