News & Analysis

Sunday morning fantasy football decisions: Rankings, start/sit, sleepers, and busts for Week 16

(It’s Week 16 of the NFL season. Every Sunday morning, we’ll wrap up the week in fantasy football content with our Study Session, a last-minute guide to our top advice of the week, featuring the highlights of that week’s analysis.)

Typically, Week 16 of the fantasy football season is a weird animal. It’s the one week where we know, without a doubt, that games are must-win, meaning they are the most pressure-packed. And yet, typically teams that make their finals are by definition the best (or close to the best) ones, which likely means they need the less help.

(This all presumes you’re in a league that ends in Week 16, and if you don’t … I mean, you should.)

That means that we in the fantasy-advice-giving department feel a weird mix in Week 16 most years. We want to give the most, best advice, but at the same time it’s the time when here’s the least advice to give. Yes, there are still waivers, still streamers, and people still use them, but at a lower percentage than any other week.

This year, though? This year’s weird by being not weird.

Week 15 was miserable. If you had the best team, you might still be alive, but I’ve seen a lot of stories all week about undefeated-or-close-to-it teams that lost in Week 15 because everything went haywire. The upshot of that is nobody should feel secure entering Week 16. You won every game all season? Well, you can clearly still lose. A lot of your peers just did.

So check out our Week 16 advice and prepare for the season finale.

Live chats

Our live chats are a fantastic resource to get specific help to your individual quandaries each week. The Tuesday-through-Saturday chats are posted here, and Scott Barrett hosts a last-minute chat Sunday mornings as well.

Rankings and start/sit

These are the big-ticket items. Our overall look at what we’re doing and how we make those decisions. On Tuesday, Jeff Ratcliffe breaks down the best waiver claims of the week. Wednesday, he publishes his top 150 for that week. Thursday, Scott Barrett attempts to solve some of the top start-or-sit questions. Tuesdays also feature Mike Castiglione and Walton Spurlin offering advice for the key streamers (QB and DST, respectively). And Friday is the big blowout, where Jeff Ratcliffe highlights all the key lessons of the week and prepares fantasy players for the weekend to come. If you only read one piece of fantasy advice a week, it’s that.

Previewing the weekend in fantasy

There’s no good blurb to pull from this, because the whole thing is gold. Just click. Trust me on this.

A snapshot of the flex rankings

3. Saquon Barkley, NYG @ IND (RB3) — Last week wasn’t fun, but Barkley is a good bet to bounce back.
4. Todd Gurley, LAR @ ARI (RB4) — Uh oh. Gurley is a candidate to sit this week after suffering a minor knee injury in Week 15.
5. Nick Chubb, CLE vs CIN (RB5) — The Browns are still in the playoff hunt and Chubb gets a fantastic matchup.
6. DeAndre Hopkins, HOU @ PHI (WR1) — Hopkins against the Eagles secondary? Yes, please.

Two starts, two sits

START Elijah McGuire in medium-sized leagues: Over the last two weeks, McGuire has played on 74% of the snaps, while ranking top-15 among running backs in both expected (17.0) and actual fantasy points per game (16.7).
START Evan Engram in deep leagues: Over the last two weeks with Odell Beckham Jr. out, Engram leads the team in targets by four (17 total) and receiving yardage by 98 (152 total). Even if Beckham suits up, I like his chances at another big game this week.
SIT Sony Michel in shallow leagues: Michel has disappointed since Rex Burkhead‘s return to the lineup. He totals just 65% of the team’s carries over this span and 25% of the team’s carries inside the five-yard line over this span. Sure, negative gamescript has also played a role, and that shouldn’t be a problem this week as 13.0-point favorites against the Bills. Even so, he’s too risky to start as anything more than a borderline RB2 this week.
SIT Vance McDonald in medium-sized leagues: McDonald ranks 12th among tight ends in fantasy points per game, on the back of the league’s softest tight end schedule (per my data). This week, he gets a worst possible matchup against a Saints defense that ranks best in schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game allowed to tight ends for the second straight season.

Sleepers and busts for the week

SLEEPER: Case Keenum: Keenum has been slogging on, with just 12 touchdowns in his last 13 games, but he gets his last, best chance for a good game in Week 16 against the Raiders, who have allowed the most fantasy points per dropback to opposing quarterbacks.
BUST: Tom Brady: “Angry Brady” aside, there’s a better chance of Brady being bad in Week 16 than there is of him being great. An average performance is the most likely scenario, but that would still qualify as a bad week for a player you expected top-five production from every week. The Bills, his Week 16 opponent, have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per dropback to quarterbacks. They held Brady scoreless in late October.

Waiver claims to make

ADD Nick Foles in shallow leagues: Your waiver wire is probably picked over, but Foles is in play if you’re desperate. The Eagles are still in the playoff hunt, which helps Foles’ outlook.
ADD John Kelly in medium-sized leagues: With Todd Gurley dinged up, Kelly is a sneaky add this week.
ADD Tim Patrick in deep leagues: Patrick has 12 catches over the last two weeks and is an intriguing Hail Mary option.

QB streamers

Sam Darnold, New York Jets: One can’t help but wonder where Darnold might be in his development if the Jets had another playmaker or three. Rather than getting a boost by the occasional big play, Darnold is often asked to execute play after play and put together sustained drives. But on Sunday, he posted the league’s top PFF passing grade as everything seemed to come together.

DST streamers

Philadelphia Eagles: Yes, we like both DST units in this critical Week 16 matchup as streaming options. The Eagles kept their playoff hopes alive with a win at Los Angeles last week and the defense continued to produce turnovers. In the past three games the Eagles have forced seven turnovers and racked up seven sacks.

Deeper dives

You come to use for more than the surface material. Our writers go deeper with thoughts on situations down the road and looking deeper into each week’s games.

Week 16/17 sleepers

Keith Ford, RB, Buffalo Bills: After Marcus Murphy injured his arm late the first half in the Bills win over the Lions on Sunday, Ford became the team’s workhorse back out of necessity — they didn’t have any other healthy runners. But it would make sense for the Bills to continue to ride Ford over the final two weeks of the season. They’ve already been eliminated from playoff contention, and the rookie Ford is the only back on the team’s roster who could reasonably figure into their long-term plans at the position.

Snaps, Pace, and Stats

Vikings at Lions: The Vikings and their new offensive coordinator are the talk of the league after putting up 41 points on Sunday – or, as many points as they scored in their previous three games combined. They shifted offensive approach in several ways, but none more important than run/pass ratio. Heading into Week 15, Minnesota had the fifth-lowest run rate (35.8%).

Trade value chart

Derrick Henry: Henry is coming on strong down the stretch, and the once-forgotten Titan is now a hot name both in redraft and dynasty. Still just 24 years old, it’s entirely possible that Henry is a late NFL bloomer, not unlike former Alabama Heisman winner Mark Ingram.

Weather and venue adjustments

Steelers at Saints: The prevailing narrative is that Drew Brees’ recent struggles have cost him the MVP his early-season numbers had him on track to win, but I see all of his ups and downs as schedule-driven. Even before his current three-game funk, Brees had performed consistently poorly on the road. He just hadn’t performed poorly in three straight road games because he hadn’t played three straight road games before December.

RB committee report

D’Onta Foreman trending UP: With Lamar Miller less than 100%, this looks like it may finally be the week that Foreman makes his 2018 debut. Assuming the Achilles is good to go, I’m still not ready to give up on the second-year back who ran for 2,000 yards his final year at Texas.
Phillip Lindsay trending DOWN: Look, you’re starting Lindsay this week against a soft Raiders defense. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, things are definitely not business as usual for Denver’s ground game, even with undrafted rookie Lindsay fresh off a Pro Bowl nod. Over the past two weeks, Lindsay has been stymied to the tune of 54 yards on 28 carries (1.9) in back-to-back close losses.

DFS advice

First things first: We’ve introduced a new DFS piece, and it’s a doozy. Scott Barrett’s guide to all things DFS hits Week 15 from every DFS angle, taking you through the process of an expert as he prepares for the weekend. It’s a home run.

We hit weekly DFS from all angles — bargains, stacks, fades, locks. We also look at the best ways to build a DFS lineup on DraftKings (tournament or cash game) and FanDuel (tournament or cash game).

Bargains

Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts: Hines is one of the cheapest backs on the slate and he is the best option for the Colts in this matchup. The Giants have struggled with injuries and one-on-one coverage against opposing running backs. Colts head coach Frank Reich will take advantage of this and the injury to Giants inside linebacker Alec Ogletree (concussion), who is not expected to play.
John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: Ross is the main benefactor of injuries to top Bengals wide receivers A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd. Although Ross’ matchup individually against. Terrance Mitchell does not jump out, the Browns have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.

Locks

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: Brees has been a letdown in recent weeks, but this is a get-right spot at home against the Steelers in a game with the highest over/under on the slate (53). Brees is averaging 28.7 DraftKings PPG at home vs. 17.1 on the road.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans: The lockiest of all locks in Week 16, Hopkins gets the lifeless Eagles secondary, which has allowed the second-most fantasy points to receivers this season. Hopkins’ slate-breaking upside was on display last week with a 10-170-2 line.

Stacks

Patrick Mahomes, QB; Damien Williams, RB; Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: The Seahawks 2018 defense might be the best example of what Pete Carroll is capable of as a coach, as he has put together an impressive unit despite losing core defenders (Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman) and another talented coach (Kris Richard). Seattle is not perfect though; they allow the 13th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs and wide receivers.

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