Week 16 of the NFL season is here, and with it comes the semi-finals for most fantasy leagues. If you’re one of the lucky few to make the field, you’re feeling the pressure. Below are some of my suggestions for who I’m confident playing and who I’m leery of seeing in my lineup. But before we move ahead, let’s look back at how my suggestions played out in Week 15.
For transparency purposes, we’ll measure quarterbacks and tight ends against Top 12 finishes (QB1 and TE1), and we’ll measure running backs and wide receivers against Top 24 finishes (RB1-2, WR1-2). All finishes come from Fantasy Pros PPR scoring leaders lists found here.
Week 15 Starts
QB: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB14 miss. Jimmy G. was solid, but the touchdowns came via the rush, so I just missed.
RB: James Robinson, RB4 hit. Robinson is the lone bright spot in Jacksonville, again.
WR: Hunter Renfrow, WR58 miss. Renfrow wasn’t great.
TE: Mark Andrews, TE2 hit. Andrews is a beast.
Start Record: 2-2
Week 15 Sits
QB: Trevor Lawrence, QB24 hit. Urban Meyer was the biggest problem in Jacksonville, but not the only problem.
RB: Rashaad Penny, RB41 hit. Penny wasn’t the star on Tuesday.
WR: Jamison Crowder, WR44 hit. Crowder isn’t getting enough volume to thrive.
TE: Zach Ertz, TE7 miss. In a down week at the position, Ertz saw enough volume to be a TE1.
Sit Record: 3-1
Start: Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
About: The Ravens have traditionally been a fierce defense, but we’ve seen that slip this year. Now that the Ravens have even more injuries in the secondary, it’s a bigger problem. Burrow, meanwhile, has a trio of great receivers in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, and a running back in Joe Mixon that is battling injuries. The Ravens are also 1-3 against the AFC North, including losing 41-17 to the Bengals in their first meeting. In that game, Burrow threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Burrow was QB2 that week, and I think he’s in for another big outing on Sunday.
Sit: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
About: Wilson has been a fantasy football stud for years, but in 2021 we haven’t seen those explosive performances. Since returning from the finger injury that caused him to miss time, Wilson is just QB15. The matchup with the Bears is fine, but Wilson hasn’t had good chemistry with D.K. Metcalf, as of late and hasn’t put up big games. If you need a low-end Superflex starter, OK. If you’re hoping for Top 12, I’m staying away.
Start: Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
About: Jones has largely been the forgotten man in Tampa Bay, but all that is changing in this crucial week of the playoffs. Leonard Fournette is currently RB3 on the season, but he’s not available this week—and could be on short-term IR. Giovanni Bernard is on IR, as is receiver Chris Godwin, while receiver Mike Evans is borderline to play. Even in a borderline game against a good defense, Jones shined when brought in last week. He rushed for 63 yards on eight carries. As the feature back in an offense that’s in need of viable players, I expect Jones to be in for a good day against the Panthers.
Sit: Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams
About: Henderson missed a few games with injury and COVID but there was excitement about his return on Tuesday. He saw six carries for 23 yards and caught two passes for four yards on three targets. Hardly the explosion some had hoped to see. Sony Michel has played and run well in Henderson’s absence, and on Tuesday they split carries. Facing the Vikings on Sunday, I suspect the backfield will continue to be a split, and Henderson isn’t explosive enough or guaranteed enough volume for me to feel good about him as a viable RB2.
Start: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions
About: Most of the season, we wondered if the Lions would ever settle on a go-to receiver. They have, and St. Brown has been delivering. For the season, he’s caught 65 passes for 651 yards and two touchdowns on 87 targets. But he’s particularly caught fire the last three weeks, sitting as WR3 over that stretch. That includes playing decent secondaries in the Broncos, Cardinals, and Vikings. He’s got the Falcons this week, and I am starting him, expecting at least WR2 numbers.
Sit: Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
About: The Cowboys are a good team having a good season. They also have three receivers—CeeDee Lamb, Cooper, and Michael Gallup—a tight end—Dalton Schultz—and two running backs—Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard—that are part of the passing attack. The Cowboys haven’t produced enough volume to support all these targets having great days. Could Cooper go off? Sure. He’s a talented player. However, it seems like Lamb and Gallup are the deeper threats, and Cooper hasn’t seen enough volume of late to make him a strong WR2 start. Cooper is WR67 since Week 10. If you need to hit a home run this week, look elsewhere.
Start: Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
About: Goedert has the talent, and since Ertz was traded to the Cardinals, he’s been the focal point in the tight end group. Before a Week 14 bye, Goedert hit it big with backup Gardner Minshew. The question was if it would continue with Jalen Hurts. In Week 15, Hurts targeted Goedert nine times, with him catching seven passes for 135 yards. The Eagles play the Giants this week, so I’m firing up Goedert and waiting for the point parade to continue.
Sit: Tyler Conklin, Minnesota Vikings
About: I had high hopes for Conklin the past two weeks with Adam Thielen out, but it’s not happening. Kirk Cousins threw for 87 yards in Week 15, and this week they’re facing a better Rams’ defense. Sure, Dalvin Cook is out, but can we trust Conklin? He’s TE16 on the season and, in a crucial week, I’m not trusting that he’s going to give me enough to get me to the fantasy football finals.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL Fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.