Fantasy Football Start, Sit, Stream, or Fade: Week 16
2020 has been a year of chaos and discombobulation -- whatever the norm was, it's long been thrown out the window. However, despite all the pandemonium, the one thing that's bound to be a constant is the need to make fantasy football lineup decisions.
Congratulations! If you're reading this, you've likely made it to the finals in your fantasy league(s). However, even in the finals, one bad decision could be the difference between winning it all or taking home a participation trophy. No pressure.
If you had a good season, you should have some tough lineup decisions to make this week. If you don't have any tough lineup decisions, there's a good chance that your bench is thinner than LeBron James' hairline. The goal of this piece is to assist with some of those decisions.
Of course, leagues come in all shapes and sizes, so it's near impossible to tackle every start-or-sit scenario. A must-start for one team could be a bench option in another league.
With all that being said, we're here to help at numberFire! This column will try to highlight some of those tough lineup decisions you have to make every week, and will, hopefully, be able to sway you in one direction or another. In this piece, we'll be utilizing our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric (i.e., the expected points added on any given play), read more about it here.
Unlike the first two weeks of the playoffs, this week's column will focus solely on the most noteworthy plays -- given that only two teams remain of each league. Without further ado, let's get onto the best and worst plays of the week. We'll break down players into four categories:
Start: These players are good starts in any format unless you have one of the elites.
Stream: These will be players with either good matchups or higher-than-usual projected volume that can be streaming options in many formats.
Fade: This category will be reserved for higher-end fantasy studs who find themselves in a bad spot on that given week. Fade these players in DFS or if you have a loaded roster, but don't get too cute.
Sit: This category will feature players that should ride the pine unless you truly have no better options.
Let's get to it!
(When I reference fantasy points allowed, it is Yahoo settings for quarterbacks and half-PPR for the other positions.)
Tom Brady (at Detroit) - After Week 15's 23.4-point performance, Brady is now averaging 24.5 fantasy points across seven road games -- he has posted fewer than 19.1 just once in those outings. This week, Brady gets to square off against a Detroit Lions team that ranks dead last in adjusted pass defense and has surrendered the most fantasy points to passers over their last five games. In each of their last five games in which they haven't faced Alex Smith, P.J. Walker, and Mitchell Trubisky, the Lions have ceded at least three touchdown passes and an average of 272.6 passing yards to a signal-caller. At 31.5 points, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the second-highest implied total on the slate. That, coupled with a lightning-fast pace, should lead to an explosive performance from Brady.
Baker Mayfield (at NYJ) - Since Week 12, the only quarterback with a higher Passing NEP per drop back than Mayfield is Ryan Tannehill. And, during that stretch, no passer has a better Passing Success Rate (i.e., the percentage of drop backs that lead to positive NEP for a team’s offense). Oh, and Mayfield is also fantasy's QB3 during that stretch. This week, Baker will get to face a New York Jets team that ranks fourth-worst in adjusted pass defense and has surrendered an average of 26.0 fantasy points per game to the position over their last seven contests. Cleveland has a healthy 28.5-point implied total, and Baker should certainly have a hand in that production.
Jared Goff (at Seattle) - It's Week 16, which means there's been plenty of time for players to develop trends. One of those trends is Goff's home/road splits. In seven home contests, Goff is averaging 12.5 fantasy points while never exceeding 16.9. Meanwhile, in seven outings on the road, Goff has posted an average of 21.8 and has totaled 24 or more five times. This week, he'll be on the road for a matchup with a Seattle Seahawks team that ranks ninth-worst in adjusted pass defense and has given up the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
Tua Tagovailoa (at Las Vegas) - Tua has quietly topped 16 fantasy points in four of his six starts, and he's exceeded 20 twice. In Week 16, the rookie will go up against a Las Vegas Raiders team that ranks third-worst in adjusted pass defense and has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Since Week 3, Vegas has ceded at least 17.8 fantasy points to a quarterback in 8 of their 10 non-hurricane games. The Raiders have also allowed a rushing score to a passer five times during that stretch.
Ryan Tannehill (at Green Bay) - The Green Bay Packers have been surprisingly stingy against quarterbacks -- only five quarterbacks have managed more than 17.2 against them, and none have topped 24.2. Their snail-slow pace and their ability to keep the opposing offense off the field doesn't allow for ceiling games from the opposition's signal-callers. Meanwhile, each of Tannehill's five high-scoring affairs this season has come on his home turf -- he has yet to score more than 20.9 on the road. Tanny could certainly rack up 15 to 20 points, but don't expect a ceiling performance in Week 16.
Russell Wilson (vs. LAR) - Suggesting to bench Wilson feels like the fantasy equivalent of a prostate exam (somehow), yet here we are. Since starting out as fantasy's QB2 through Week 9, Wilson is the QB19 (in terms of points per game) in the six games since. Yeepers. He has dropped 16 points or fewer in four of those six efforts. Yikes. Against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10, Wilson scraped together a mere 11.9 fantasy points. Double yikes. On the season, the Rams rank first in adjusted pass defense and fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. If you want to throw up in your mouth a little, consider the fact that Trubisky might be a better start than Wilson in the fantasy championships. Eeek.
Ben Roethlisberger (vs. Indianapolis) - The Indianapolis Colts have actually been a decent fantasy matchup for quarterbacks since Week 4, surrendering at least 17.6 points to a quarterback in all but one game. That said, the matchup is not the reason to sit Big Ben. Big Ben is the reason to sit Big Ben. Right now, Ben looks like a cross between a poor man's Blake Bortles and 2015 Peyton Manning. Over his last three games, Roethlisberger is completing 57.8% of passes while throwing four picks and averaging 4.6 adjusted yards per attempt. Yeah, you read that right -- 4.6. For approximately three quarters of Monday's night's loss to the two-win Cincinnati Bengals, there seemed to be a legitimate possibility that Ben was going to end up with negative points. For fantasy football purposes, negative is not good (I know -- my wisdom has no bounds).
Miles Sanders (at Dallas) - On the season, only one team (the Houston Texans) is allowing more fantasy points to running backs on the ground than the Dallas Cowboys. Through 14 games, nine backs have seen at least 15 carries against Dallas -- those backs have posted an average of 19.2 half-PPR points per game. Over his last two games, Sanders has seen snap shares of 81% and 83% to go with 83% and 95% of the team's running back touches, respectively. Those peripherals should result in a huge workload against the team allowing the second-most touches per game to opposing backs. Sanders is a borderline top-five option in Week 16.
Leonard Fournette (at Detroit) - Given the news that Ronald Jones is unlikely to suit up on Saturday, Fournette becomes a rock-solid play. The 25-year-old will be going up against a Lions team that ranks fourth-worst in adjusted run defense and that's allowed the most fantasy points to opposing backs. Through 14 games, 15 running backs have totaled at least 12.7 half-PPR points against Detroit -- 11 of those 15 backs posted 15.5-plus, and 9 of them managed more than 19. Could this matchup be any better? (Please read that question in a Chandler Bing voice.) Meanwhile, Fournette has had four games this season with at least 17 opportunities, and he's posted an average of 16.7 fantasy points in those outings.
Myles Gaskin (at Las Vegas) - With Gaskin back at practice and expected to be removed from the COVID list in short order, he's back on our radars for Week 16. Gaskin will get the delicious draw that is the Raiders, who rank 32nd in adjusted run defense. And given that there are only 32 teams in the NFL, ranking 32nd is #notgood. For the Raiders, the season of giving has extended to running backs for the entirety of 2020. They've allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to the position -- 13 backs have recorded double-digit half-PPR points against them, including 10 with 15 or more. Meanwhile, Gaskin has seen at least 21 opportunities in five of his last six games. Fire him up.
Giovani Bernard (at Houston) - Frankly, I find it bewildering that Gio finds himself as the RB27 in FantasyPros' Expert Consensus Rankings. The dude is coming off a game in which he totaled 26 touches, 97 yards, and 2 tuddies against a menacing Pittsburgh Steelers defense. This week, he'll face a Houston Texans front that's the exact opposite of menacing. On the season, no team is ceding more fantasy points on the ground to runners than Houston. The Texans have also surrendered the third-most touches to the position. Ten backs have received 14 or more hand-offs against this defense, and none of them scored fewer than 14.7 half-PPR points. In fact, the average output of those 10 backs has been 21.3 fantasy points.
Le'Veon Bell (vs. Atlanta) - Bell is about to take on a heavy role for the Kansas City Chiefs with Clyde Edwards-Helaire out for the season. However, in his first game in the expanded role, Bell will draw a deceivingly tough matchup. Through Week 15, the Atlanta Falcons are surrendering the second-fewest fantasy points on the ground to opposing backs, and they rank fifth-best in adjusted run defense. Bell could certainly fall into the end zone a couple of times or post a big receiving day, but this is more likely to be a game where Patrick Mahomes and company just take advantage of the pass-funnel gift that keeps on giving.
Wayne Gallman (at Baltimore) - Have you ever zoned out and stared at a blank wall for a good few minutes? Well, ladies and gentlemen, that blank wall is the New York Giants' offense. In their last three games, New York has averaged 245.7 yards of offense...total. Unsurprisingly, they've scored 13 points during that stretch. Things aren't about to get easier against a Baltimore Ravens team that ranks seventh in adjusted defense. After totaling at least 12.7 half-PPR points in six straight outings, Gallman has managed a total of 11.7 in his last two games combined. Keep him on your bench.
Nyheim Hines (at Pittsburgh) - The Steelers haven't been a tough-enough defense lately to recommend fading the red-hot Jonathan Taylor, but this is a terrible draw for Hines. On the season, only the Cowboys are ceding fewer fantasy points through the air to backs than Pittsburgh. Hines, who has seen seven carries or fewer in all but three of his outings, is not a viable fantasy option in most leagues.
All Tampa Bay WRs (at Detroit) - After going to Krispy Kreme and ordering three tasty-looking donuts, the toughest part is deciding which to eat first. Should you go for the Oreo Cookies and Kreme? The chocolate custard? The plain old original glazed? My advice -- go for all three at once. I'm not sure how, but find a way. That's also how I feel about the Tampa wideouts this week. When a group of receivers go up against a team that's allowed seven wideouts to surpass 15 half-PPR points just since Week 10, you gotta fire 'em all up. Last week, each of Mike Evans (14 points), Antonio Brown (17.8), and Chris Godwin (11.6) had productive fantasy days, and there's no reason it can't happen again this week.
Jarvis Landry (at NYJ) - This season, the Jets have surrendered 28.5 fantasy points to Keenan Allen, 22.9 to Jakobi Meyers, 18.6 to Robert Woods, 16.7 to Cole Beasley, and 13.1 to Jerry Jeudy -- all of those are wideouts who line up in the slot for more than a third of their snaps. This week, it'll be Landry's turn to go ham on this secondary. Cleveland's slot receiver has seen at least 8 targets in four straight, and he's posted 15.6 or more half-PPR points in three of those outings. Landry is a borderline WR1 for this matchup.
Marvin Jones (vs. Tampa Bay) - The days of Tampa being a matchup to fear for wideouts isn't even visible anymore in our rearview mirrors. Over their last four games, no team has surrendered more fantasy points to receivers than the Bucs. Since Week 10, Tampa Bay has surrendered more than 15 half-PPR points to six different receivers. That's good news for Jones, who is averaging 10 targets per game over his last six.
Emmanuel Sanders (vs. Minnesota) - Michael Thomas is on IR and Tre'Quan Smith is banged-up, which leaves Sanders as the last man standing of the New Orleans Saints' receiving corps. Sanders has totaled at least nine half-PPR points in six of his seven full games with Drew Brees behind center, including outings of 11.8, 12.3, 13.6, and 18.2. In Week 16, the veteran will face a Minnesota Vikings defense that's ceded double-digit fantasy points to receivers 20 times this season, including 13 or more 12 times. Sanders is an excellent stream for the fantasy championships.
Robby Anderson (at Washington) - After spending his Saturday night on Jaire Island, things won't get much easier for Anderson this week. On Sunday, he'll square off with a Washington Football Team that's yielded the third-fewest fantasy points to receivers this season. This is a secondary that held D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to a combined 12.2 fantasy points in Week 15. Robby could have similar struggles in Week 16.
All New York Giants WRs (at Baltimore) - Even if this was a titillating matchup, it'd be damn near impossible to recommend placing any Giants receiver in your lineup, but given that they're going up against the Ravens, they shouldn't even sniff a flex spot in deep leagues. Baltimore has surrendered the ninth-fewest fantasy points to wideouts this season.
Chase Claypool (vs. Indianapolis) - From Weeks 5 through 12, Claypool saw a nice 69% snap share and 20.2% target share -- he averaged 15.1 half-PPR points during that stretch. In the three games since, the rookie's snap share has dropped to 58% and his target share to 14.1%. In a total coincidence, the Steelers were 8-0 during that first stretch and 0-3 in their last three outings. Weird how that works, eh? The matchup with the Colts isn't brutal -- they've given up the 11th-fewest fantasy points to receivers -- but Claypool is impossible to trust as long as Pittsburgh's coaching staff continues to misuse him.
Austin Hooper (at NYJ) - It appears that the cure for any struggling tight end is a matchup with the Jets. Tyler Higbee, who had two games with more than 7.5 half-PPR points entering last week, racked up 67 yards and a score against the Jets. It was the fourth time since Week 11 that the Jets had surrendered at least 10.5 fantasy points to a tight end. Meanwhile, Austin Hooper is coming off just his second game all season with more than 8.3 fantasy points, and the six targets he garnered were his highest since Week 6. Look for him to keep rolling in Week 16.
Noah Fant (at LAC) - I had Fant as a fade in this column last week, and he ended up posting 68 yards and a score. Fant has now seen 18 targets over his last two games, and that should play well against a Los Angeles Chargers defense that was just gashed for 150 yards and a touchdown by Darren Waller. Fant is a top-seven option for the fantasy finals.
Tyler Higbee (at Seattle) - Two weeks in a row for Higbee? Is that possible?! It just might be. Over their last five games, the Seahawks have been funneling the passing-game production to tight ends. While Seattle has ceded the fewest fantasy points to wideouts during that stretch, they've given up the sixth-most to tight ends. Three tight ends have exceeded 12 fantasy points against Seattle in their last four, and they've allowed five scores to the position since Week 8. Higbee, who has totaled 5 or more targets and double-digit fantasy points in two of his last three, could be a viable streaming option in Week 16.
Evan Engram (at Baltimore) - Are you sensing a theme yet? Here's a hint -- don't start anyone on the Giants. Baltimore hasn't allowed a tight end to score more than 10 half-PPR points against them since Week 8, and Engram has scored double-digit fantasy points just twice all season. That's...not a great combination.
Jonnu Smith (at Green Bay) - Being that he's on an offense that has attempted the fourth-fewest passes in the league, and that said offense has two wideouts monopolizing the targets, it should come as no surprise that Jonnu has been hyper-touchdown-reliant. It also shouldn't shock anyone that he's totaled 8.6 or fewer fantasy points in 7 of his last 10 games. While the Packers have shown some cracks against tight ends of late, they have still surrendered the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position, making this a matchup to shy away from.