We’re heading into the most important week of the NFL season for fantasy owners, as typically this is the week when most championships are lost and won. Most leagues decide their champion in Week 16, although some leagues end up using the entire regular season and playing through Week 17. For those leagues, we’ll be here for you next week.
Good luck in Week 16, and hopefully you’ll be hoisting that championship trophy Sunday night or Monday!
Quarterback – surprise start of the week
Nick Foles, Philadelphia (vs. WAS): Foles got off to a little bit of a rocky start, but he has been taking pretty good care of the football over his past four starts, which is something which has been a stark contrast to his predecessor, Michael Vick. Foles turned the ball over four times (three INTs, one FL) in his first two appearances, but he has four touchdowns and just two turnovers (one INT, one FL) over the past four games. He’ll be facing the Redskins for the second time. The truth is, he didn’t do a whole lot in his first NFL start at Washington in Week 11, going 21-of-46 for 119 yards, no TDs, two INTs and three fumbles (none lost). He has looked more like an NFL-caliber QB as he has gotten more comfortable, and he’ll be facing an awful Redskins pass defense.
Other surprise plays: Sam Bradford, St. Louis (at TB), Chad Henne, Jacksonville (vs. NE), Tony Romo, Dallas (vs. NO)
Quarterback – sit of the week
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (at PIT): Dalton and the Bengals will be playing a very important game against the Steelers, as the teams jockey for their playoff lives. In the first meeting with the Steelers, Dalton managed just 105 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Steelers ranked first in the NFL, allowing just 180.6 yards per game through the air, so Dalton will certainly have his work cut out. In that game, the Steelers pass defense held Dalton’s favorite target, WR A.J. Green, to just one reception for an eight-yard TD. Can they do it again? It’s a good bet they’ll keep the Bengals’ aerials to a minimum, so find another alternative if you normally depend upon the Red Rifle.
Other QBs to sit: Jay Cutler, Chicago (at ARI), Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco (at SEA), Philip Rivers, San Diego (at NYJ)
DeMarco Murray, Dallas (vs. NO): Since returning from injury, Murray has rattled off touchdowns in three consecutive games, including a score against a tough rushing defense from Pittsburgh last weekend. Murray has managed at least 81 yards in two of his past three games, and there is no reason to believe the gravy train will end this Sunday. The Saints are horrible against the rush, allowing 146.3 yards per game on the ground with 13 rushing scores. He might post his first 100-yard game this season, and he is likely to continue his scoring streak.
Other surprise plays: Vick Ballard, Indianapolis (at KC), Reggie Bush, Miami (vs. BUF), Stevan Ridley, New England (at JAC)
Running back – sit of the week
Steven Jackson, St. Louis (at TB): Jackson needs just 91 rushing yards over his final two regular season games to hit 1,000 yards for the eighth consecutive season. He is facing the league’s top-ranked rushing defense in Week 16, as the Buccaneers allow just 83.3 yards per game on the ground. If SJ39 is going to hit that milestone, it might have to wait until Week 17. The Bucs have given up just eight rushing plays of 20 or more yards this season, and only one 40-plus run all season.
Other RBs to sit: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati (at PIT), Marshawn Lynch, Seattle (vs. SF), Trent Richardson, Cleveland (at DEN)
Wide receiver – surprise start of the week
Brandon Gibson, St. Louis (at TB): Gibson is not necessarily a must-start fantasy option in every single format, but he is a player who can help owners looking for receiving help to that much-needed championship. The Buccaneers allow 310.6 yards per game through the air with 27 passing touchdowns in just 14 games. Gibson has really played well lately, posting 12 catches for 176 yards and a touchdown over the past two games. Need a WR3/4 or ‘flex’ option this weekend? Gibson is certainly worth a look.
Other surprise plays: Anquan Boldin, Baltimore (vs. NYG), Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia (vs. WAS), Steve Smith, Carolina (vs. OAK)
Wide receiver- sit of the week
A.J. Green, Cincinnati (at PIT): As mentioned in the earlier meeting against the Steelers, Green was limited to just one reception, an eight-yard touchdown. Green has been a fantasy stud this season, so he isn’t necessarily someone who you’ll want to shuttle to your bench. However, if you normally depend upon Green as a WR1, he should be dropped down your rankings to WR3 or ‘flex’ status for the upcoming week. If you have a handful of other viable fantasy receivers with favorable matchups, then Green might be best left to the bench.
Other WRs to sit: Michael Crabtree, San Francisco (at SEA), Josh Gordon, Cleveland (at DEN), Sidney Rice, Seattle (vs. SF)
Tight end – surprise start of the week: Jermichael Finley, Green Bay (vs. TEN)
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Martellus Bennett, N.Y. Giants (at BAL), Greg Olsen, Carolina (vs. OAK)
Sit of the week: Antonio Gates, San Diego (at NYJ)
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Vernon Davis, San Francisco (at SEA), Benjamin Watson, Cleveland (at DEN)
Kicker – surprise start of the week: Graham Gano, Carolina (vs. OAK)
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy play: Phil Dawson, Cleveland (at DEN)
Sit of the week: Jay Feely, Arizona (vs. CHI)
Other who should be riding the fantasy pine: Josh Brown/Mike Nugent, Cincinnati (at PIT)
Defense/special teams – surprise start of the week: Chargers DST (at NYJ)
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Colts DST (at KC), Panthers DST (vs. OAK)
DST sit of the week: Cowboys DST (vs. NO)
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Jaguars DST (vs. NE), Ravens DST (vs. NYG)