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Erickson: NFL Week 16 fantasy football start'em, sit'em

December 19, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Stop second-guessing yourself with fantasy football start/sit decisions — let PFF’s fantasy football rankings, projections and tools do the heavy lifting and guide you to a fantasy football championship. And when faced with two players placed back-to-back in the Week 16 fantasy football rankings, ride the horse that got you this far.


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My Week 15 start/sit picks went 22-8-2. Let’s keep it rolling with the fantasy football playoffs in full swing. 

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QUARTERBACKS

START

JUSTIN FIELDS, CHICAGO BEARS

Fields has finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback in his past four completed games. I was all over his 180.5 passing yards prop, which he smashed into oblivion by throwing for 285 passing yards against the Minnesota Vikings defense.

The rookie quarterback is averaging 56 rushing yards per game over his past six completed contests, putting him firmly back among the top 12 fantasy quarterbacks in a plus-matchup versus the Seattle Seahawks, who rank third-worst in passing yards allowed over the past four weeks.

JOE BURROW, CINCINNATI BENGALS

Burrow has been unusually boom-or-bust in his past five games, throwing for 300-plus yards in two contests while finishing with fewer than 200 passing yards in his other three games. He’s been the QB14 in fantasy points per game over that span despite the ups and downs. Most importantly, he is PFF’s highest-graded quarterback (89.2) which is a tell-tale sign that high-end statistical production is on the way.

The Week 16 rematch is also a prime spot for Joey B to go off, as he shredded the Baltimore Ravens defense for over 400 passing yards en route to a QB2 overall finish back in Week 7. 

The Ravens secondary is currently more banged-up than it was earlier in the year. Aaron Rodgers had zero issues ripping through the unit for 268 passing yards and three touchdowns in Week 15.

There’s also concern around Joe Mixon’s ankle, which could easily put a bigger emphasis on Burrow and the Bengals' passing attack.

PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

RUSSELL WILSON, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

I wouldn’t read too deep into Wilson’s abysmal performance Tuesday night versus the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams have always had Wilson’s number, as he hasn’t put a solid statistical outing against them in five straight matchups.

Things lighten up dramatically for the Seahawks passer in Week 16 against the Chicago Bears, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in the past four weeks. Tyler Lockett is also expected to come back, further bolstering Wilson as a high-end fantasy QB2. 

MATT RYAN, ATLANTA FALCONS

Desperate times call for desperate measures. The Falcons take on the Detroit Lions in Week 16 — PFF’s No. 1-ranked matchup for quarterbacks. Matt Ryan should be able to do enough as a mid-range QB2 to be worth streaming against a defense that ranks last in passing yards allowed to quarterbacks over the past four weeks. 

Detroit owns PFF’s 31st-ranked PFF rushing grade, so Matty Ice should have all day to throw to dice up their secondary. Ryan is PFF’s 10th-highest-graded quarterback from a clean pocket this season. 

Ryan also ranks eighth in expected fantasy points per game over the past three weeks — while scoring the fewest versus expectation — signifying an upcoming bounce back in the box score. 

DREW LOCK, DENVER BRONCOS

This is more so advice for superflex/2QB leagues as teams scramble for a Teddy Bridgewater replacement. Drew Lock can be started in those particular formats because of his affinity to throw the ball downfield. His 11.4-yard average depth of target ranks first in the NFL this season.

Lock has a plethora of offensive weapons at his disposal and faces a Las Vegas Raiders defense that ranks 31st in passer rating allowed (117.2) since Week 9. When Denver last faced Las Vegas in Week 6, Bridgewater posted season-high in passing yards (334), passing touchdowns (three) and attempts (49).

SIT

BEN ROETHLISBERGER, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Anybody that has watched a Steelers game this season can clearly see that Roethlisberger just doesn’t have “it” anymore. He is PFF’s 33rd-ranked quarterback in PFF grade (59.7) — his lowest mark since his rookie year.

And although he has gotten it done in fantasy over recent weeks — three top-10 finishes since Week 11 — relying on Pittsburgh scoring in garbage time is just an approach I’d recommend avoiding in the fantasy football playoffs, especially against a surging Kansas City Chiefs defense that has not allowed more than 270 passing yards to a quarterback since Week 5. The Chiefs defense also ranks third in fewest fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks over the past four weeks.

CAM NEWTON, CAROLINA PANTHERS

You are playing with fire if you decide to play Newton in your semifinal matchup. Since taking over as a starting quarterback in Week 11, Newton ranks 35th in completion rate (54%) and PFF passing grade (48.3). He also ranks 28th in expected fantasy points per game (15.6), providing zero assurance that he can deliver in a matchup with Tampa Bay. It’s the second-worst matchup for quarterbacks this week, per PFF’s strength of schedule tool. 

Newton’s fantasy value is tied to his rushing, and I am pessimistic about how effective he will be after the Buccaneers held Taysom Hill to just 33 rushing yards in Week 15. 

DEREK CARR, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Carr has come crashing back down to earth after a hot start to the season. Since the Raiders' bye week, he has finished outside the top 19 quarterbacks in five of seven games. He finished this past week as the QB19 versus the Cleveland Browns, who were down several starters on defense. 

The Denver Broncos have stifled opposing passing games, allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Since Week 7, only one signal-caller has scored more than 20 fantasy points against them.

RUNNING BACKS

START

CORDARRELLE PATTERSON, ATLANTA FALCONS

Do not let one bad game from Patterson steer you away from using him in your playoff semifinals. The WR-RB hybrid stood zero chance of finding room to run last week, as 21 of his 18 rushing yards came after contact. He also had two carries inside the five-yard line, and one was reversed after originally being called a touchdown despite a lack of conclusive evidence to overturn the call. 

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