Fantasy football: Week 16 starters, benchwarmers
It’s title time! Wondering whether or not to start Ezekiel Elliott and DeAndre Hopkins, or to bench Eddie Lacy and Justin Hardy? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.
Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 16 of the 2017 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers at Jets: Rivers is coming off his second-worst game of an otherwise solid season, so a nice rebound is in order. Fortunately, Keenan Allen is on track to return for this delicious matchup, and the Jets’ young and generous pass defenders await with another embarrassing outing.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers vs. Buccaneers: Jonathan Stewart fell back to Earth last week, while McCaffrey shined. That trend should continue Sunday against a Bucs defense missing two of its best run defenders. McCaffrey will produce in both phases, especially if Devin Funchess is limited with his shoulder.
Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots vs. Bills: As Tom Brady continues to work through his late-season blues and the weather outside turns frightful, New England’s running game will remain on center stage. Lewis should continue to be the featured back, especially with Rex Burkhead out. Look for stellar production as a runner and receiver against the imploding Buffalo defense.
Golden Tate, WR, Lions at Bengals: Marvin Jones has been producing at a high level, but Tate has actually been targeted more frequently over the last four weeks (32 for Tate vs. 26 for Jones). Against Cincinnati’s decimated and weary secondary, both wideouts should shine as the Lions continue to rely almost exclusively on Matt Stafford’s arm.
Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens vs. Colts: I rarely vouch for Joe Flacco, or his wideouts, but this week is promising. Not only has Flacco been on his game lately, but he’ll be facing arguably the NFL’s most vulnerable secondary. Jeremy Maclin may miss this game, further boosting Wallace’s prospects for a fine showing.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Cam Newton, Matt Stafford, Blake Bortles, Case Keenum, Drew Brees, Jared Goff, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles; RBs Devonta Freeman, Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Kenyan Drake, Leonard Fournette; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Keenan Allen, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Nelson Agholor, Dede Westbrook, Robert Woods, Michael Crabtree, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Brandin Cooks, Jarvis Landry
Roll ‘em back
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons at Saints: Chances are, you haven’t advanced this far because of Ryan, who has thrown as much interceptions (3) as TDs over the last four games. Ouch. By the way, all three of those picks came against the Saints just two weeks ago.
Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers vs. Jaguars: Hyde has had an up and down season, but it’s mostly been down since Jimmy Garoppolo ascended to the starting job. Hyde’s role in the passing game has diminished, and he’s not grinding out a ton of rushing yards, either. Against the Jaguars’ mighty defense, he can’t be trusted.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders at Eagles: In order for Lynch to be an effective fantasy contributor, he needs to break a big one or score on a limited number of touches. With his best blocker sidelined and a talented Philly defense on tap, Lynch’s carries are unlikely to deliver big returns.
Randall Cobb, WR, Packers vs. Vikings: Both Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams were placed on IR after Green Bay’s postseason hopes were dashed. Brett Hundley will be back under center, and we know he still doesn’t recognize Jordy Nelson. That means Cobb will likely be shadowed by Xavier Rhodes in a matchup you don’t want to see in your championship lineup.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers vs. Jaguars: Goodwin has been a revelation in the early stages of the Garoppolo era, but both players will be facing tough sledding this weekend against the stifling Jaguars secondary. While Goodwin should remain a highly targeted go-to option for the young QB, A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey will be blanketing him all day.
More thumbs down: QBs Kirk Cousins, Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton, Derek Carr, Eli Manning, Marcus Mariota, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brett Hundley; RBs Tevin Coleman, Ameer Abdullah, Samaje Perine, Jamaal Williams, Frank Gore, Derrick Henry, Mike Davis, LeGarrette Blount, Matt Forte, Wayne Gallman; WRs Robby Anderson, Jordy Nelson, Rishard Matthews, Josh Gordon.
TAKING A FLIER
Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers at Texans: Even without Antonio Brown in the lineup, Pittsburgh’s passing game is one to reckon with. Bryant has been a disappointment most of the season, but he came alive in the red zone last week. With Houston’s defense forced to focus on Le’Veon Bell, its porous secondary will have a rough time keeping up with Bryant and fellow wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster.
DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…ignores the quirky schedule this weekend. Not only is there no Thursday or Sunday nighter, but there are two Saturday and two Monday games. And keep in mind that if the Vikings win on Sunday, the Eagles could potentially rest some of their starters for at least part of their Monday night outing.
Ladd Biro is a two-time winner and five-time finalist of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).