For most leagues, this is it: the Fantasy Football Championship. Week 16 is the week where it all counts. It’s a little ironic that we’ve been planning, essentially, for this week since August. Who do you want to draft, who do you start, who do you pick up? Those are the questions that we asked all season. And now, all of that planning comes down to one week. One week when a guy like Jamaal Charles can put up over 60 points and potentially win you the week regardless of what other starting decisions you made. One week where your stud, Adrian Peterson, can get injured in the first quarter and leave your RB1 slot with two points. Yes, it’s true; Fantasy Football is a game with a large element of luck. You have to do plenty of preparation to get there, but there is luck involved in a game where a championship is decided in one week; a game with an oblong piece of pigskin that is sometimes played in a blizzard. So, before Week 16 begins, do me a favor: if you’re still playing in any of your leagues, pat yourself on the back. You’ve done a great job with your draft, with your adds/drops and trades and managing your team to get here. You performed well enough over 15 brutal weeks to earn the right to play this week. The worst you can do is come in second. That’s quite an accomplishment; no matter what happens on Sunday (and Monday night), remember that.
1. Keep the real-life playoffs in mind.
Thankfully, most Fantasy leagues don’t play into Week 17. If your league does play into Week 17, keep an eye on the real-life playoffs. There are plenty of scenarios in which teams can clinch their playoff spot this week. We can delve into these in next week’s column, but this week let’s discuss the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles play the Chicago Bears on Sunday night. Earlier in the afternoon, the Dallas Cowboys play the Washington Redskins. If Dallas wins that game, then the NFC East title (and playoff team) will come down to the Week 17 game between Dallas and Philadelphia, regardless of the outcome of the Eagles-Bears game in Week 16.
Head coach Chip Kelly has said that he will not rest their starters if their Week 16 game ends up being meaningless. Historically, teams that rest their starters in Week 17 don’t perform well in the playoffs. While it’s not the same, the Eagles don’t really have a reason to have their starters sit out. However, there is a possibility that if Dallas wins, the Eagles starters don’t play a full game. Here’s the problem for Fantasy owners: you’re not going to know the outcome of the Dallas game until it’s too late. Start your Eagles. Start Nick Foles, who has 17 touchdowns and two interceptions in the past six games. Start LeSean McCoy, who has four touchdowns in the past four games. Start DeSean Jackson, who has four touchdowns in the past six games. Sure, Riley Cooper hasn’t been putting up the numbers he gave Fantasy owners toward the middle of the season, but if you’ve been using him, there’s no reason to bench him now.
Here’s the bottom line: especially in Week 16, don’t worry about the real-life playoffs. Start the guys that you would normally start. If you play into Week 17, you can worry about it then. But odds are, most players will start. And if they end up sitting toward the end of the game, it’s because their team’s fate has already been sealed, and hopefully they contributed to that fate.
2. There isn’t anyone on the Arizona Cardinals worth starting this week unless you’re desperate.
Sure, the Cardinals have had a good season. They are on the cusp of a playoff berth. However, they have to travel to Seattle for Week 16 and face one of the best defenses in the league. Add to the fact that Carson Palmer is playing on a sprained ankle, Larry Fitzgerald is recovering from a concussion, Michael Floyd is still playing through an ankle injury and Andre Ellington has a thigh contusion. The team is banged up and facing a Seahawks team that wants to win to clinch home-field advantage for the playoffs.
I get it: in the past five games, Carson Palmer has thrown nine touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s thrown over 230 yards in 12 out of the 15 games he’s played. Last time he played Seattle this year, he threw for 258 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. However, the last time the Cardinals travelled to Seattle (December 9, 2012), they lost, 58-0. Sure, it was a different Cardinals team, but Seattle has beaten opponents by an average of almost 19 points at home so far this year. Russell Wilson has never lost at home. Do you think the Cardinals are the team to put an end to that streak?
We’ve seen in the past: injured players typically struggle. Sending a team with an injured QB, both starting WRs and a RB to play in Seattle is just a recipe for disaster. Odds are you’re not relying on Palmer, Floyd or Ellington this week. However, if you are a Fitzgerald owner, be wary. See who else is on the waiver wire. He’s normally a WR1, but this week, if there are any better options (Dwayne Bowe, Anquan Boldin, Mike Wallace) on your team or by chance on the waiver wire; start them. If you’re a Mendenhall owner, don’t hesitate to bench him for guys like Ray Rice, Jordan Todman, DeAngelo Williams or Lamar Miller.
3. An overreaction and an underreaction: Matt Asiata should be picked up in all leagues and Jordan Todman should be picked up in all leagues.
Reality: Asiata is a one-week wonder and Todman has value in Week 16 – if Maurice Jones-Drew sits out again. These players are clearly dependent on the injuries to other players. However, there is still an issue of talent as well. Asiata scored three touchdowns in Week 15, and no one can take that away from him. However, aside from the goal line work, he averaged 1.7 yards per carry. He touched the ball 30 times and only had 51 yards on the day. He added three receptions for 15 yards, but this isn’t the making of a RB1. He was a plodding back and it was evident why he was the third-string in Minnesota. With Peterson and Toby Gearhart both healing, it may mean that Asiata may find his way back to the bench. With a tough matchup at Cincinnati this week, Asiata should not expect to find the same success. Understandably, not many running backs score three touchdowns in a week, but Asiata may not see the field, forget about the end zone. If he does play, don’t expect any touchdowns, and with that terrible YPC, look for single-digit Fantasy points, at best.
In his first time getting more than 11 carries in a game, Todman had 109 rushing yards and four receptions for 44 yards. He showed speed, quickness and the burst that both Maurice Jones-Drew and “offensive weapon” Denard Robinson lacked. While the job is MJD’s when healthy, there is certainly a chance that MJD will not be healthy in Week 16. The Jags host Tennessee, who has allowed double-digit Fantasy points to all opposing running backs since Week 2. The Titans have allowed the second-most Fantasy points to opposing running backs and the second-most touchdowns. If MJD does play, start him, but don’t be afraid to roll Todman in the Fantasy finals this week.