Start ’em sit ’em for NFL Week 16

Sit and start is relative and league dependent, so consider some of these suggestions more “fliers” and “fades” (note that some are targeted for DFS).

Good luck with your Week 16 lineups.

Sit: All Browns but Nick Chubb

Start: Allen Lazard

The Packers are giving up 4.5 YPC and rank 25th in run defense DVOA, so start Chubb as usual even with the projected game script looking unfavorable. With Cleveland’s quarterback situation so shaky (no matter who starts) and its left tackle and center both questionable, it’s best not to trust any other Browns player in the fantasy playoffs.

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Lazard is more of a deep flier coming off a quiet week, but the Browns have ceded the sixth-most fantasy points to the slot this season, where he’s taken over for Randall Cobb. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was recently placed on the COVID list, so Lazard’s outlook would get a boost should MVS miss Sunday’s game.

Indianapolis Colts @ Arizona Cardinals

Start: Michael Pittman, A.J. Green

Expect Pittman to bounce back after last week’s shaky ejection and facing an Arizona defense allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to his primary side over the last month. This game is tied for the highest over/under (49 points) of the week.

With DeAndre Hopkins out and Rondale Moore and James Conner banged up while facing a pass-funnel Colts defense that’s stingy against the run, signs are pointing to a busy day for Green. He surprisingly ranks top-20 in yards per target this season, and Kyler Murray should rebound after last week’s ghastly performance. Moreover, the Colts have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to the slot, so Christian Kirk’s matchup looks difficult.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers

Start in DFS: Ronald Jones ($18)

Sit: All Panthers

Over the four games Leonard Fournette missed last season, Jones averaged 23 touches and 115 scrimmage yards while scoring three touchdowns, so I ranked him as a top-five RB this week. Bruce Arians said it’s Jones’ job now, so even while losing passing down work, he has a bunch of upside in a Tom Brady offense with banged-up receivers. The Bucs are double-digit favorites against a run-funnel Panthers defense, so Jones is primed to smash this week.

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It’s Ronald Jones’ job to lose now that Leonard Fournette is out. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

DJ Moore hasn’t been a top-20 WR in 10 straight games and is highly questionable with a hamstring injury, while both Cam Newton and Sam Darnold could see time at quarterback for Carolina. Chuba Hubbard loses passing down work to Ameer Abdullah (and goal-line work to Newton), while Robby Anderson ranks No. 105 in yards per route run this season. No Panthers player can be started with confidence during the fantasy playoffs against a mad Buccaneers team coming off a shutout loss.

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles

Start in DFS: Kenny Golladay ($11), Eagles D/ST ($15)

Golladay has been a huge fantasy bust all year, but he’s an intriguing near-minimum DFS option this week. With Sterling Shepard going on IR, he’s looking at increased targets, hopefully coming from Jake Fromm, who appears to be a major upgrade over Mike Glennon. Golladay did most of his damage in the second half last week after Fromm came in, catching his first deep target of the season while finishing top-12 in air yards. Golladay is a DFS punt option this week, especially if Kadarius Toney is forced to sit again.

While he looks like an upgrade over Glennon, Fromm’s 12 passes last week were the first of his career. He’s not been in the Giants system long, and his best comparable is Sam Darnold. The Giants enter double-digit road underdogs with a bottom-five offense in DVOA, missing many receivers and with their left tackle questionable. Philadelphia’s DFS salary is intriguing.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Houston Texans

Start: Justin Jackson, Nico Collins

If Austin Ekeler is out, Jackson would be the favorite to lead the team in touches in a plus matchup versus a run-funnel Texans defense that’s allowed 4.7 YPC and 23 rushing touchdowns this season. Jackson would be a top-15 fantasy back and an intriguing DFS option at the near minimum ($12) should Ekeler sit (Joshua Kelley lost a goal-line fumble last week, so the GL role may be up for grabs as well).

If you’re looking for a deep sleeper (or a DFS minimum play at $10), Collins is a flier if Brandin Cooks is out. The Chargers will be missing Joey Bosa, and Detective Davis Mills has a 102.0 Passer Rating (7.4 YPA) with a 7:1 TD:INT ratio at home this season. To say Mills has had a better rookie year than Trevor Lawrence would be a massive understatement. Collins has impressive workout metrics, flashed at times during the summer and could be looking at double-digit targets Sunday.

Detroit Lions @ Atlanta Falcons

Sit: All Lions

Start in DFS: Cordarrelle Patterson ($27)

Amon-Ra St. Brown can still be used in PPR leagues if needed after racking up the third-most catches in December and ranking third in target share over the last month. But his outlook took a hit with Jared Goff unlikely to play (seriously), as Tim Boyle and/or David Blough are real downgrades. Moreover, St. Brown may lose targets to D’Andre Swift, who could return this week.

Patterson continued his newest role as a more traditional back last week (when he led the league in red-zone snaps and touches), but a tough matchup against San Francisco resulted in an ugly box score. Expect C-Patt to bounce back this week at home, where he’s averaged 5.2 YPC this season, and against a Lions defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to running backs. Atlanta should also be in a more favorable game script than usual (especially with Goff unlikely to play), so Patterson can be treated as a top-three fantasy back this week.

Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals

Sit: Devonta Freeman

Start in DFS: Tee Higgins ($22)

Freeman saw his snap share fall to 56 percent last week when Latavius Murray saw more opportunities (carries/targets). The Bengals also rank top-10 in DVOA run defense, so avoid Baltimore’s backfield this week.

The Bengals frustratingly have a below-average neutral pass rate over five games since their bye, but hopefully, that changes Sunday while facing an extreme pass-funnel Ravens defense (and with Joe Mixon battling a sprained ankle). Baltimore has been the stingiest defense against fantasy backs when schedule adjusted, but the team’s secondary has been ravaged by injuries.

Higgins has averaged 89.0 yards at home (compared to 50.2 on the road) while scoring three of his four touchdowns this season. He’s second in air yards share over the last month and has mostly matched Ja’Marr Chase’s production when on the field together, but the rookie’s DFS salary ($28) is the WR4 while Higgins’ is outside the top-15.

Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota Vikings

Start in DFS: Cooper Kupp ($41), Justin Jefferson ($32)

Even in Yahoo’s 0.5 PPR scoring and with a salary that’s 22% higher than the No. 2 wide receiver, Kupp is hard to pass in DFS, especially in a slate missing Jonathan Taylor and Davante Adams. After another monster game Tuesday night, Kupp has the most fantasy points by a WR over the first 14 games ever and is on pace to finish the season with 147 catches, 1,973 yards and 17 touchdowns, which is still decent even after accounting for the additional game. This week he gets a Vikings defense allowing the most fantasy points to receivers this season, indoors with the slate’s highest total (49.5 points).

Jefferson finished first in WOPR last week yet produced a relatively quiet game thanks to Kirk Cousins throwing for a career-low 87 yards. Even if Adam Thielen returns this week, he’ll likely be less than 100% just a few weeks removed from a high-ankle sprain, and most importantly, Sunday’s matchup with the Rams should force the Vikings to pass more than usual. Jefferson is coming off his second-lowest yardage output of the season despite leading the league in opportunity, so expect a big game.

With Dalvin Cook out, Alexander Mattison ($16) will be among the most rostered DFS players all year, as he’s averaged 149.3 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns over three starts this season. He’s my No. 2 RB this week.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Jets

Start in DFS: James Robinson ($26)

Sit: All Jets

Robinson was treated as a true feature back last week with Urban Meyer gone and Carlos Hyde inactive (he’s since gone on IR). Robinson ranks behind only Jonathan Taylor in rush yards over expectation on the season, and this week he gets the most favorable matchup possible facing a Jets defense allowing by far the most fantasy points to running backs. Even while playing on a bad Jacksonville offense, Robinson is a top-five fantasy back this week.

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No Elijah Moore means no one on the Jets is trustworthy in fantasy lineups, especially after Michael Carter split work so evenly with Tevin Coleman during his return last week. Jacksonville’s biggest team strength is defending the run, and Zach Wilson is last in completion percentage above expectation by a mile. Jamison Crowder is unlikely to play, and the Jets could also be missing both their guards and left tackle. Stay away.

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots

Start: Devin Singletary, Jakobi Meyers

New England is a tough matchup, limiting Singletary’s upside this week, but he’s a flex option after emerging as Buffalo’s clear lead back and with the Bills missing Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis (and Emmanuel Sanders injured). Singletary saw a season-high 93% of the snaps last week, when Matt Breida was on the field for just three plays, Zack Moss was a healthy scratch and Josh Allen attempted only three rushes while playing through a sprained foot. J.C. Jackson will likely shadow Stefon Diggs, so Singletary should be in store for another heavy workload Sunday.

With New England dealing with injuries (or illness) to both of its running backs as well as to Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, Meyers is looking at increased targets this week. With the weather not nearly the same factor as the last time these teams met, expect the Patriots to be willing to pass more frequently as well. For what it’s worth, Meyers has seen a big increase in target share, scored his only touchdown and averaged more than twice as many yards at home than on the road this season too.

Chicago Bears @ Seattle Seahawks

Start: Cole Kmet, Rashaad Penny

Kmet has averaged eight targets over the last month (and ranked eighth in WOPR among TEs last week) and gets a Seahawks defense that’s easily been the most favorable for tight ends when adjusting for opponents/schedule. The Bears are down to their third-string quarterback, but Nick Foles is unlikely to be a downgrade (he could actually be an upgrade) from the team’s usual passing. Foles has targeted tight ends heavily during his career. 

Penny disappointed last week just when fantasy managers added/started him. He split touches with DeeJay Dallas (a deep flier), but the Seahawks get a much more favorable matchup Sunday (especially with Akiem Hicks just placed on the COVID list). Something remains off with Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf, but Seattle will welcome Tyler Lockett back Sunday when the Seahawks are near touchdown home favorites. In a much better game script, expect Penny to produce like a top-15 fantasy back this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs

Sit: Ben Roethlisberger

Start: Byron Pringle

The Chiefs have allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks on the season, but they’ve been one of the least favorable matchups (when adjusting for schedule/opponent) over the last eight weeks. Chris Jones is back, and Roethlisberger has taken 17 sacks (with six fumbles) over six games on the road. It’s not an ideal setup for Big Ben.

Pringle ran the second-most routes among KC receivers last week, and Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are questionable Sunday while on the COVID list. Clyde Edwards-Helaire gets a boost facing a crumbling Pittsburgh run defense, but Pringle is a flier (and a minimum $10 DFS option) for those looking for a sleeper WR this week if Hill and/or Kelce sit.

Denver Broncos @ Las Vegas Raiders

Start: Drew Lock, Hunter Renfrow

This is more of a Superflex recommendation, but Lock is an interesting flier up against a pass-funnel Raiders defense. He may be a downgrade from Teddy Bridgewater for the Broncos, but Lock’s far more aggressive style is an upgrade for fantasy. It certainly couldn’t get any worse for Denver’s wide receivers, who over the last six weeks have totaled 38 catches for 398 yards and just one touchdown (Tim Patrick’s last week). Indoors facing a Las Vegas secondary allowing a 25:5 TD:INT ratio this season (and allowed Lock to throw for 339 yards with two TDs in Week 17 last year), Lock can be used in Superflex leagues this week.

Expect Renfrow to bounce back after seeing an uncharacteristically low five targets last week after averaging 11 over the previous three games. Over the last month, the Broncos have yielded the third-fewest fantasy points to outside receivers but the 10th-most to the slot.

Washington Football Team @ Dallas Cowboys

Sit: Football Team

Start: Dak Prescott

Antonio Gibson is questionable after aggravating his turf toe injury last week, while Terry McLaurin will likely be shadowed by Trevon Diggs and faces a Dallas pass defense that ranks No. 1 in DVOA. The Cowboys play better at home and have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, and their defense has looked elite since getting fully healthy.

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Fantasy managers are likely (and understandably) questioning starting Prescott during the fantasy playoffs after the QB has struggled badly over the last five games (6.1 YPA, 5:5 TD:INT). But four of those came on the road (he threw for 375 yards and 2 TDs in the lone home game), and his splits have been dramatic throughout his career. Prescott is no longer running after suffering leg injuries, but he’s getting 8.2 YPA with 17 touchdowns over six home games this season and now has all three of his receivers healthy. While Dallas’ emerging defense theoretically doesn’t help Prescott’s numbers, Ezekiel Elliott’s knee injury does, and it’s worth noting Prescott still attempted 37 passes last week in a 21-6 laugher.

Miami Dolphins @ New Orleans Saints

Sit: Dolphins RBs, Saints WRs/TEs

Duke Johnson impressed while finishing as fantasy’s highest-scoring PPR back last week, but it’s a guessing game how the carries will be divvied Monday night with Myles Gaskin readier for a bigger workload. Moreover, the Saints’ run defense ranks first in DVOA, and New Orleans has allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs this season (and Miami struggles to run block).

The Saints have been forced to start Ian Book Monday night, which will be his first NFL snap. While his running ability puts Book on the fantasy radar, it’s impossible to trust any New Orleans pass catcher after just one of them ran 20 routes last week, and facing a surging Dolphins defense Monday night.

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