For most leagues, this is it. Week 16 is here. We’ve been playing with an eye on this week all season. The Fantasy Championship is at stake and you need to win. By this point you may have some start/sit questions, but your team is pretty much set. You start your studs that got you to this point. Sure, there may be some questions, but for the most part, you know who you are starting. So, what is left to do? Well, there’s an old saying that offense wins games, but defense wins championships. Is that true for Fantasy Football? No, sorry to disappoint, but this isn’t another column about kickers and defenses. Rather, it’s about playing defense against your opponents. If your league isn’t playing until Week 17, you can safely drop those handcuffs that you had been hanging onto, so you have roster room. The key now is even if you aren’t going to play someone that’s on the waiver wire, you don’t want that person to potentially be in your opponent’s lineup against you. These are the high-risk, high-reward type of players that someone may have a hunch on come Sunday morning and enter into their lineup. Sure, they could also be a bust, but do you want that risk? Wouldn’t you rather have James Jones’ three touchdowns on your bench than in your opponent’s starting lineup? I thought so. If these guys are available on your waiver wire, swoop them up and store ‘em.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, SF
If somehow Kaepernick is available in your league, grab him. While he may not put up a four-touchdown performance against the Seahawks this week, he certainly is capable of putting up points with his ability to run the ball. He’s isn’t turnover prone (just two interceptions this season), however, he hasn’t thrown for over 250 yards yet. He also doesn’t usually attempt more than 25 passes per game. If the touchdowns aren’t there, you do need to rely on the yards on the ground. Luckily, he has been able to provide Fantasy owners with those when he’s been under center. He’s not a sure thing, but especially if you have a stud QB, you’d rather have Kaepernick’s points safe on your bench.
Russell Wilson, QB, SEA
Similar to Kaepernick, Wilson has potential to get you yards on the ground as well as passing yards. You’re unlikely to see another three-rushing TD performance, but he certainly has the potential to run at least one in himself. He’s scored a touchdown in every game since Week 7, which was, ironically, against San Francisco. He’s not a safe option if you’re looking for a safe QB in Week 16, but he certainly has potential to put up decent numbers. It’s unlikely the Seattle/San Francisco game will be a high-scoring one, but seeing as the Seahawks have put up over 50 points the past two weeks, perhaps they can find their way to run up the score this weekend. If they do, you know Wilson is likely behind it.
Mark Ingram, RB, NO
Unless you’re in a deep league, it’s hard to imagine starting Ingram in your Fantasy championship game. He’s been inconsistent to say the least. The Saints backfield is a mess that is subject to change in any given game. Will it be him or Pierre Thomas that gets the carries? It’s been Ingram for the past two weeks, and he’s found the end zone in three of the past five games. Ingram rushed for 90 yards in Week 15 and the Saints will likely stick with him in Week 16. He’s had 13 and 14 carries in the past two weeks, and unless he really stinks up the joint or gets injured, he’ll be given the chance to run the ball 10-plus times again.
Danny Woodhead, RB, NE
Woodhead played a lot and was effective in Week 15; however, if the Patriots are nursing a big lead, he may not be used the same way. On the other hand, if the Patriots decide they want to send a message to Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen because they each fumbled the ball in Week 15, maybe Woodhead will have a larger role. No one outside of the Patriots organization knows what they are going to do on Sunday. If Woodhead runs for another 61-yard, two-touchdown, five-reception game, especially in a PPR league, do you want those points against you because your opponent decided to take a chance on Woodhead in his flex?
DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR
Seemingly out of nowhere, Williams looked like a stud in Week 15. He rushed for 93 yards and caught two receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown. Jonathan Stewart didn’t put up those kind of numbers! With Stewart still likely out, the gig still belongs to Williams. He may lose goal-line work to Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton, but he is still the lead back in an offense that isn’t afraid to run the ball. Carolina had kept promising that they would have one back and Stewart would be the guy. However, he didn’t ever do anything with the role. Not that Williams is an elite back by any means, he still is a tough runner between the tackles, and he has potential to put up yards and find the end zone. Oakland’s rush defense is fairly porous, so Williams can provide Fantasy owners with points again this week. Let that owner be you.
Beanie Wells, RB, ARI
Who would have thought Wells would be on this list? Here are his stat lines from the last four games (since he came back from injury): 17/48/2, 15/22/0, 6/18/0, 17/67/3. His yards per carry average leaves a lot to be desired. However, he is finding the end zone. When you start Wells, you run the risk of getting that one-point game like Week 14… or you can get lucky and get multiple touchdowns. Against the Bears this week, odds are he’ll have 20 yards and no scores. But on the off chance that he gets the goal-line work, you don’t want that to add up against you. Pick him up, but don’t start him hoping for a repeat of last week.
Danny Amendola, WR, STL
If Amendola was dropped in your league because of the injury concern, pick him up. He’s not on the injury report this week and he looked healthy in Week 15. He’s one of the most targeted receivers and he can do a lot with those targets. He had six receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown in Week 15 and that’s an average day for him. He certainly has potential to eclipse 100 yards for the third time this season. Tampa Bay’s rush defense is significantly tougher than their pass defense, so look for St. Louis to air the ball out as much as possible. The beneficiary of that? Amendola. Not just bench fodder, he’s worth starting if you are able to grab him.
Brandon Lloyd, WR, NE
Similar to Amendola, owners got frustrated with Lloyd after drafting him and hoping for a breakout season. Instead, Brady looked for his tight ends, for Welker and even for Julian Edelman. Once Welker and Gronkowski were out, Lloyd stepped up. While it is possible Gronkowski will be back this week, Lloyd may still be a target of Brady’s. He had 190 receiving yards in Week 15 in a game where it seemed that all Brady did was throw the ball. Sure, he could just as easily put up a one-reception, 15-yard stinker for you, but the potential is there for more. Unless you have no better options, you’re not going to start Lloyd. Rather, you just want to make sure he isn’t started against you if he has another high-yardage day. The key here is to take the potential and make sure that it’s harnessed on your bench.