Start and Sit: Week 16
The winter weather hasn't quite bitten the NFL this December the way it has in years past, but the Packers and Titans may enjoy a white Christmas weekend game in Green Bay … if you can use the word "enjoy" to describe what they'll be doing in the freezing cold. Keep that in mind when you set your lineups. And hopefully your holidays will involve less shivering and more television-watching -- and ideally, a fantasy championship or two. Good luck!
The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven) -- home and road and dome and outside -- the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.
You can see our full weekly projections with projected stats, matchup adjustments and fantasy points by subscribing to FO+.
|Best Week 16 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
Tom Brady is one of the few road quarterbacks who enjoys a matchup bump this week. And while he may not have Jalen Hurts' rushing ability to prop him up, he does have the dome in Detroit. Domes boost road passer completion percentage by 2%, yards per attempt by 4%, and touchdowns per attempt by 4% relative to neutral venues. That's even better than playing in home outdoors, which likely accounts for some of Brady's split of 0.3 more fantasy points per game on the road than at home since 2017. Meanwhile, Brady should enjoy what a slew of other quarterbacks have this season in the Lions' No. 31 DVOA pass defense. They are a top-four booster of passing yards and touchdowns per attempt and top-four reducer of interceptions per attempt. And unlike most bad teams, the Lions have not dramatically cut their opponents' pass plays even while they have increased their run plays by 13%, second-most in football. The confluence of factors moves Brady from eighth in my true-talent quarterback rankings to fourth this week.
Since they have domed home stadiums, Drew Brees and Deshaun Watson unsurprisingly have the opposite split of Brady. The former has averaged 4.3 more fantasy points per game at home on the road since 2017, and the latter has averaged 1.8 more. That's great news for both players this week as they are home and poised to face the Vikings and Bengals. The Bengals are a bottom-six DVOA pass defense, and since Watson has not missed a beat despite missing Will Fuller in recent weeks, he is an obvious top-five option. But I don't think Brees is too far behind in a return to QB1 consideration in a plus matchup. The Vikings may be 12th in DVOA pass defense, but they also are a top-five booster of passing yards and touchdowns per pass attempt. I expect Brees to do a bit of a Watson impersonation and throw for multiple touchdowns even without Michael Thomas and possibly without Tre'Quan Smith, who suffered an ankle injury in the team's loss to the Chiefs last Sunday.
|Worst Week 16 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
Ryan Tannehill has a less extreme matchup disadvantage than Russell Wilson, Teddy Bridgewater, Josh Allen, and Matt Ryan. But I think he deserves the most attention. He plays the Packers this weekend, and they are relatively weak against the pass with the No. 18 DVOA. But they are even weaker versus the run (21st), and conditions could be such that the Titans try to follow the models the Vikings and Jaguars showed against them when Dalvin Cook and James Robinson took more carries -- 30 and 23, respectively -- than either of their quarterbacks threw passes. The weather forecast in Green Bay calls for temperatures in the 20s Fahrenheit with moderate winds and a small chance of snow. Cold, wind, and precipitation all cut passing efficiency and skew offensive play calling from passes to runs. Meanwhile, Tannehill has shown the most extreme home/road split of current starters in scoring 8.4 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road in recent seasons. He may not have the chance to continue his recent hot streak if the Titans feel it is best to try to ride Derrick Henry to an old-school victory.
|Best Week 16 Matchups - Running Backs|
With Aaron Jones, David Montgomery, and Derrick Henry fixtures in the top 10 of running backs and faring particularly well of late, there is no mystery in their start/sit decisions. But Leonard Fournette and Salvon Ahmed are ostensibly injury substitutes. And pending the health of their team's normal starters, I think both are excellent Week 16 options as well. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians eroded outsider confidence in Fournette when he made him a healthy scratch in Week 14. But Fournette and Ronald Jones have overlapping skill sets, so it made some sense for Arians to pick one and complement him with the more versatile LeSean McCoy and rookie Ke'Shawn Vaughn. Two weeks ago, he picked Jones, who proceeded to play 67% of the team's offensive snaps and take a 69.2% carry share. But last week with Jones sidelined, Fournette was a full substitute with a 66% snap and 77.8% carry share. Expect that to continue this week with Jones doubtful as he recovers from pinky surgery (and possibly COVID). And the timing couldn't be better since Fournette will face the aforementioned Lions defense. Beyond even their boosting of run plays, the Lions are a top-eight increaser of yards and touchdowns per carry and yards and touchdowns per target for running backs. If he starts, Fournette should be a top-10 option.
Ahmed's situation is a bit more complicated. He has touched the ball 22, 17, and 24 times in his last three games, but improbably, he has yet to overlap with possible No. 1 back Myles Gaskin as they -- and seemingly every Dolphins running back -- has missed time this season. Ahmed's rankings of 35th captures my expectation that Gaskin will finally join him this weekend -- the latter player came off the COVID reserve list this week and returned to practice -- and split the carries. But even in that fantasy-unfriendly scenario, both backs should be flex considerations. The Raiders are that good of a matchup. They have the No. 31 DVOA run defense, and they boost yards and touchdowns per carry by 13% and 68%, respectively. Meanwhile, if either back is declared the starter, he would suddenly threaten RB1 status.
|Worst Week 16 Matchups - Running Backs|
Dalvin Cook wraps up his unfriendly fantasy playoff schedule this weekend with perhaps the most difficult matchup of them all. The Saints are the No. 2 DVOA run defense, No. 7 cutter of run plays, No. 4 cutter of yards per carry, and No. 1 cutter of touchdowns per carry. But Cook eclipsed 100 rushing yards against both the Bucs and Bears, also among the top five run defenses, the last two weeks. He deserves to stay within shouting distance of the No. 1 running back ranking, even if I subjectively prefer Henry with his weather-related workload potential.
Jonathan Taylor has wiped his midseason slump from everyone's memories with at least 80 yards in four straight games and four total touchdowns. But that production likely overstates his typical value for fantasy. Taylor's breakout has coincided with matchups against the Packers, Raiders, and Texans twice, and they have the 21st, 31st, and 29th DVOA run defenses, respectively. He'll have a much tougher test against the Steelers' No. 1 DVOA run defense this week, and that knocks him to RB2 status. The Steelers may be slumping themselves, but they still cut yards and touchdowns per carry by 12% and 19%.
At least with Taylor, you can have confidence in his carry share. I'm not sure I feel the same for Wayne Gallman, and that problem is exacerbated by a difficult matchup. Gallman may have to contend for carries with Devonta Freeman, whom the Giants activated from injured reserve last week and could return to the field this weekend. In Freeman's absence, Gallman has proved himself capable with 4.5 yards per carry, 2.5 yards after contact per carry, and a 50% success rate that is middle-of-the-pack among backs with 50 or more carries this season. That might justify a lion's share of the team's carries, but that volume is no guarantee independent of Freeman's status. Gallman saw just 12 and nine carries in losses to the Cardinals and Browns the last two weeks. And his Week 16 opponent, the Ravens, cut run plays by 5%.
|Best Week 16 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
Emmanuel Sanders has fallen dramatically short of his preseason WR2 expectations in New Orleans, but he'll have a chance to provide value to players in their fantasy championships. With Michael Thomas on injured reserve and Tre'Quan Smith dealing with an ankle injury, Sanders should be Drew Brees' No. 1 receiver this week. He has been that at various points this season when Thomas has missed time, and in the most recent four of those games, Sanders has delivered with a 23.6% target share that is 15th-highest among wide receivers. With that kind of volume, Sanders is a great bet to deliver a bunch of fantasy points this week. He should see a bump from Brees' typical homefield fantasy advantage. And he matches up with a Vikings defense that is a top-five booster of No. 1 receiver catch rate, yards per target, and touchdowns per target.
Brandon Aiyuk was one of the hottest receivers in football even before his teammate Deebo Samuel went out for the year with a hamstring injury. It just may not have been glaringly obvious since he missed a couple of games because of COVID protocols. Aiyuk has exceeded 70 receiving yards in six straight games and has four touchdowns and a 30.7% target share that is second-highest among wide receivers in that time. And he took it to another level still with 16 and 13 targets the last two weeks with Samuel injured. I view Aiyuk as a true-talent top-10 receiver with his expected workload, and he jumps into my top five for the week facing a Cardinals defense that is a top-eight booster of catch rate, yards per target, and touchdowns per target for No. 1 receivers.
His recent promotion from the practice squad may lessen your expectations for him relative to his teammates Brandin Cooks and Keke Coutee, but Chad Hansen has joined those Texans receivers with 75-plus-percent snap shares each week since Will Fuller started his suspension. At 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, Hansen is bigger than Cooks and Coutee and so offers Deshaun Watson a contested-catch option in the middle of the field. That likely has motivated Hansen's decent 16.7% target share the last three weeks that I expect to trend further up this week in a matchup with the Bengals. They have the No. 27 DVOA pass defense, and they are a touchdown-rate booster for both outside and slot receivers. Feel free to start whichever of that trio of Texans receivers you have on your fantasy roster.
|Worst Week 16 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
At 6-foot-4 and 229 pounds and with incredible athleticism, DK Metcalf may be matchup-proof. I certainly wouldn't be scared away from him because of the Rams' No. 4 DVOA pass defense. But Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey has had remarkable success in limiting Metcalf to 78 and 28 yards and no touchdowns in their two head-to-head battles with their current teams. And Ramsey is likely the biggest reason the Rams show a broader tendency of cutting No. 1 receiver yards and touchdowns per target by 15% and 20%, respectively. Metcalf remains in my top 10 receivers, but he drops from fifth to seventh this week. He may not be his usual excellent choice in daily formats.
Among the receivers that might spark a start/sit decision in traditional formats, Sterling Shepard, Marquise Brown, and Russell Gage have notably bad matchups. The former two face each other's teams and so will likely have to contend with two more of the game's premiere cover corners in Marlon Humphrey and James Bradberry, who have limited their receivers to just 7.2 and 6.4 yards per target this season, respectively. And while Gage likely won't see a trailing corner all day in his traditional role from the slot, his opposing Chiefs are a top-five cutter of catch rate and yards per target to slot receivers. Even with Julio Jones likely to miss another week, Gage is a shallow-league bench in my estimation.
|Best Week 16 Matchups - Tight Ends|
Every tight end outside of the top five is a difficult sale for fantasy. But Dalton Schultz, Hunter Henry, and Jared Cook are relatively established names that you would likely consider even if they weren't all facing defenses that are top-10 boosters of tight end catch rate and yards per target. So far, Cole Kmet is all promise. And even second-round tight ends often need two or three years to make a fantasy impact. But I think Kmet is already a decent fantasy option, whatever his results have been to date. After playing fewer than 50% of the Bears' offensive snaps in Weeks 1 to 9, he has jumped over 70% every week since. And in the last three weeks, he has an 18.4% target share that is the eighth-highest at the position. Jimmy Graham can only boast half of that at 9.2%, but his touchdown in Week 14 continues to set expectations that I don't think match the new reality. Meanwhile, Kmet draws a favorable opponent in the Jaguars. They are the fifth-worst DVOA defense against tight ends, and they are a top-two booster of both yards and touchdowns per target to tight ends. Maybe not for shallow formats, but I see Kmet as a solid TE2 and DFS option if you need to save money at the back of your lineup.
|Worst Week 16 Matchups - Tight Ends|
Eric Ebron failed to catch a pass last week after he injured his back on his only target on the day. But however close to 100% he is for Week 16, Ebron is a player to avoid in fantasy. Excellent coverage linebackers in Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke propel the Colts defense to No. 4 in DVOA against tight ends. And they have been especially stingy with the fantasy stats, cutting tight end yards and touchdowns by 13% and 85% per target.
|Best Week 16 Matchups - Kickers|
With his typical home/road split, Brees may score several touchdowns this week at home in New Orleans, but that shouldn't hold Wil Lutz back in fantasy. Lutz should enjoy comparable benefits from the home dome stadium that offers him perfect weather conditions while many kickers will have to contend with the cold and the wind this week. Meanwhile, Lutz enjoys a projected matchup boost from a Vikings opponent that is a top-seven promoter of both short and long field goal attempts. He's my No. 1 fantasy kicker this week. And Michael Badgley, Mike Nugent, and Kai'imi Fairbairn aren't far behind at home in their domes and with similar opponent benefits. Badgley draws a Broncos defense that boosts short attempts by 25%. Nugent plays the 49ers, who boost long attempts that same amount. And Fairbairn gets the Bengals, who boost both short and long attempts by about 12%.
|Worst Week 16 Matchups - Kickers|
Mason Crosby saved the Packers last Saturday after Aaron Rodgers backed the offense up with a third-down sack by connecting on a 51-yard field goal to stretch the team's lead to two scores with 3:39 left against the Panthers. It was an impressive kick in cold weather, and Crosby is certainly used to that. But this Sunday night could be something else entirely if Green Bay sees the forecasted cold weather, wind, and possible snow. You may not be able to wait for the conditions to become apparent to make your kicker decision, and so I suggest you pick someone else for the week. Crosby falls from his normal top-10 status to outside my top 20 this week.
|Best Week 16 Matchups - Defenses|
Matt Ryan defied his earlier-season trend of poor performances without Julio Jones with 356 passing yards and three touchdowns on Sunday against the Bucs. But that outburst came at home in the dome where conditions were perfect. He should have a harder time this weekend in Kansas City. And with their tendency to build leads that make teams one dimensional, the Chiefs defense could benefit your fantasy squads with their 60% promotion of passing interception rate.
The Browns haven't been the turnover producers the Chiefs have been, but even average defenses have enjoyed fantasy success against the Jets. Meanwhile, the Jets are top-six boosters of tackles for losses and sacks per pass attempt, so Myles Garrett and company should force some sacks even if they can't turn them into turnovers. They are a top-five defensive option for the week.
|Worst Week 16 Matchups - Defenses|
The Colts have been a fantasy staple all season, and their opposing Steelers are riding a three-game losing streak that has dramatically dented the fear of their matchup. But that doesn't make the former team an appealing option in fantasy in my eyes. Ben Roethlisberger may not have been productive of late, but he has continued to deliver the ball quickly and avoid sacks. He has taken just two in the Steelers' three-game skid, and on the season, the Steelers are the biggest cutters of opposing sack rate at 66%. The Colts may keep points off the board, but they may not produce the big plays that drive typical fantasy scoring and tend to make them a top-10 option for fantasy.