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Fantasy & Reality: Names to know for Week 16

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Once upon a time -- 2010 -- I made my 14-team PPR league finals with Kerry Collins as my quarterback.

I can't say exactly how I got so lucky to somehow make my finals in spite of this, but it ultimately came down to a loaded roster other than at quarterback. I drafted Joe Flacco, traded him for Austin Collie, had Jay Cutler on my roster, dumped him for Jon Kitna after Tony Romo got hurt that year, rode him and the Lions backups (Matthew Stafford also got hurt) and then decided that Collins, who piloted the Titans, was my guy.

That is until Week 16, when he played at the Chiefs. Tennessee was going nowhere, Kansas City was playoff bound. The Chiefs defense was solid and the matchup suggested a rough week for Collins.

In the same week, the Broncos were to host the Texans, whose pass defense was dicey. Quarterbacking the Broncos was a rookie named Tim Tebow. Ever hear of him? A week earlier at Oakland he completed just half of his 16 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown but also ran for 78 yards and a touchdown. He wasn't anything special as a quarterback but the Texans were nothing special as a defense, plus he would run. And he was on waivers.

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Facing one of the perennial contenders in the league for the title, I decided to take a calculated risk and played the matchup. Tebow threw for 308 yards, the only 300-plus-yard game of his career, ran for 27 yards, totaled two scores and had a turnover. Collins also had two touchdowns but also two turnovers and threw for just 235 yards. Tebow outscored Collins by seven -- I won my league title by five points. I've since put Tebow on my bench for every title game since, including the one I'm in this week, if only for good luck.

My story is a reminder that playing the matchups is still vital. You won't ever bench a proven talent unless you have another proven talent to take his place. And you'll never start a good-but-not-great player in a very tough matchup. But it's those players in the middle that you'll struggle with. And with that in mind, I've dug up some players who aren't exactly studs but are looking at some juicy matchups in Week 16. They should be considered for your lineup.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins (vs. DAL): Cousins took advantage of a favorable matchup last week, throwing for 381 yards and three touchdowns despite three turnovers. I liked how he played in the fourth quarter, completing 13 of 17 passes for 126 yards, a score and a pick after stinking in the third quarter. He played mostly well when under pressure, was willing to throw deep and while on the run and made very good throws on his first two touchdowns. If Cousins had a game against a tough defense then I'd stray from him, but the Cowboys just got done making Matt Flynn look like Aaron Rodgers. If Flynn could withstand the Cowboys pass rush then Cousins should be able to as well. Dallas ranks dead last in Fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and has allowed three four-touchdown games in their last five with an average of nearly 300 passing yards given up per game.
Early week projection: 333 pass yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions (21 Fantasy points)
Worth starting over: Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson

Chris Ivory, RB, Jets (vs. CLE): Ivory is owned in most leagues but could go from the bench to the starting lineup quickly. Without question he's the Jets' best answer at running back -- he barely leads the team in carries but has more than 100 rush yards than anyone else on the team. He's also scored in two of his last three home games. But the matchup is the real reason for putting him in a prominent roster spot as the Browns have allowed a rushing score in each of their last two games along with a rush average of 4.9 yards per carry over their last three games. When the Browns lost defensive tackle Desmond Bryant for the season three weeks ago their defensive line became a lot more vulnerable and as a result, teams have had an easier time running on them. I'd expect the Jets to do what they can to protect their young quarterback and give Ivory a lot of work -- every time this season he's had at least 15 carries he's turned in at least 10 Fantasy points.
Early week projection: 71 rush yards, one touchdown (13 Fantasy points)
Worth starting over: Fred Jackson, Bobby Rainey, C.J. Spiller, Ben Tate

Jordan Todman, RB, Jaguars (vs. TEN): Todman is another poster boy for when opportunity meets a good matchup. There isn't a worse defense at stopping the run than the Titans and Todman could be in a position to exploit it. A lot of teams might allow one rushing touchdown a week. Tennessee has allowed two or more scores per week to a running back in seven of their last nine games! Week 12 was the last time they didn't allow a running back to run for a touchdown against them (but one caught a touchdown) and Week 4 was the last time they didn't allow any running back to score on them at all. It all depends on Maurice Jones-Drew's status: If he's in then Todman is out, but if MJD is out then Todman should rack up the numbers.
Early week projection: 78 rush yards, 29 receiving yards, one touchdown (12 Fantasy points)
Worth starting over: Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Pierre Thomas, DeAngelo Williams

Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings (at CIN): It took the improbable situation of Matt Cassel leading the Vikings offense and the Bengals defensive secondary losing bodies to turn Jennings from an over-the-hill receiver to a guy you'd actually want to use as a PPR flex or No. 3 wideout. There's no denying the production Jennings has had with Cassel under center: Over five games where Cassel attempted even one pass toward Jennings the two have combined for 31 completions on 44 targets for 416 yards and all four of Jennings' touchdowns. Without Cassel, Jennings has 50 targets for 28 catches, 317 yards and no scores. This duo will catch the Bengals defense down two starting cornerbacks. I suspect the Vikings won't play much with the lead which means we'll see a lot of passing. Jennings has at least 10 targets in each of his last three of Cassel's starts.
Early week projection: Seven catches, 90 receiving yards (9 Fantasy points)
Worth starting over: Anquan Boldin, Riley Cooper, Michael Floyd, T.Y. Hilton

Delanie Walker, TE, Titans (at JAC): Just how big of a weapon has Walker been with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center? He's scored in three of the four games he's finished, getting at least eight targets in each of them. His weekly involvement might negate any challenge a matchup gives him, but in the case of Week 16 it sure doesn't hurt. Jacksonville has allowed nine touchdowns to tight ends on the year and is most definitely weaker against the pass than the run.
Early week projection: Five catches, 48 receiving yards, one touchdown (10 Fantasy points)
Worth starting over: Jordan Cameron, Tony Gonzalez, Dennis Pitta

Fantasy & Reality

Quick observations about the misconceptions (Fantasy) and truths (Reality) from around the league.

Fantasy: I'm done overanalyzing Tom Brady. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Last week I used this space to make an argument to sit Brady in place of a number of other passers. While many of the suggestions I made ended up as good or better than Brady, it wasn't like he was awful, throwing for 364 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. I said it would take the rest of the Patriots offense to step up and make Brady a hero and they did. The guy's a winner and a heck of a passer, so it would have to take a convincing and simple argument for anyone to confidently call him a sit.

Maybe something like this: The Ravens have held him under 20 Fantasy points in each of their last five games against him, including three playoff meetings.

Reality: Don't be scared of Matthew Stafford. The Lions look ugly following two losses but some circumstances have left Stafford looking worse than he actually is. Two weeks ago he played in a blizzard and couldn't do much right, completing 10 of 25 passes. Last week he was plagued by drops (three by Calvin Johnson!) and only came up with a late touchdown versus three interceptions while throwing 34 times (18 completions). But no one with the Lions is discouraged -- even coach Jim Schwartz said Stafford needs to "keep on throwing." They'll play the Giants this week, a defense that has allowed 21 passing touchdowns on the year. Perfect timing for the struggling Stafford.

Fantasy: Aaron Rodgers won't help Fantasy owners this year. You have to think that if Rodgers is anywhere close to being ready to play that he will give it a go now that the Packers can make a run at the NFC North. With two wins they'll clinch a playoff spot and a home game, pretty remarkable considering where they were a couple of weeks ago. The Steelers have allowed five passing touchdowns and an average of 215.0 passing yards over their last two to quarterbacks, enough evidence to suggest Rodgers will have a solid game if he indeed plays. And if he gets Randall Cobb back as well then it could be time for a major Packers run for Fantasy owners.

Reality: Handcuffing pays off. Matt Asiata and Jordan Todman were Fantasy heroes in Week 15 filling in for Adrian Peterson/Toby Gerhart and Maurice Jones-Drew, respectively. Edwin Baker would have been another one had we been privy to Cleveland's plan to let him be their "primary" running back (he had eight carries but did well with them). It's yet another reminder of why handcuffing your top running backs is vital. File it away for 2014 since you won't need your starters' backups any longer if your league's title game is in Week 16.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard .

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Player News
QB struggles begin to impact Cardinals DST
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:13 am ET) The Cardinals DST scored just one Fantasy point in standard CBSSports.com leagues Week 16 against Seattle, interrupting a stretch of 10 games in which it averaged 15.1, and the Cardinals' offensive woes may have had something to do with it.

Specifically, they've been unable to find a decent quarterback since losing Carson Palmer to injury in Week 10. Backup Drew Stanton at least mounted some kind of threat, but with him sidelined by a sprained knee in Week 16, the Cardinals had to turn to third-stringer Ryan Lindley. He turned the ball over twice without once leading his team into the end zone, completing less than half of his passes in the process.

The quick trips back to the sideline gave the Seahawks more chances to pile up points and yards, and they did, finishing with 35 and 596. Only one other time have the Cardinals allowed more than 30 points in a game, and the 596 yards were a season high. Worse yet, they were lacking in big plays, recording one sack with no takeaways.

Fortunately, the Cardinals will take on a struggling 49ers offense in Week 17, so even if Lindley is back under center, the DST at least has a chance of a respectable performance. Still, if you've been relying on it all season, you might want to make sure there isn't an appealing matchups play on the waiver wire.


Seahawks DST can't be stopped
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:04 am ET) The Seahawks DST had another dominant performance Week 16 at Arizona, continuing a nine-week run that has made it once again arguably the top unit in Fantasy. During that stretch, it has averaged 16.2 Fantasy points, allowing 11.9 points on 231.3 yards.

It allowed only six points on 216 yards in Week 16, recording four sacks and one interception. Of the Seahawks' 33 sacks this season, 20 have come in their last five games.

Clearly, they had a favorable matchup in this one, but they also shut down the Eagles in Week 14. You don't have any reason to shy away from the Seahawks DST against St. Louis in Week 17.


Kenbrell Thompkins comes out of nowhere
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:58 am ET) After making only modest contributions since coming over from the Patriots in Week 6, Raiders wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins suddenly emerged as quarterback Derek Carr's favorite target Week 16 against Buffalo, catching five passes for 90 yards. He hadn't caught even one pass since Week 13, and his previous high in yardage was 47.

Of course, you should know how this goes by now. Fellow wide receivers James Jones and Andre Holmes have both had their stretches of Fantasy relevance this season, as has tight end Mychal Rivera. The Raiders have a multitude of viable receiving targets, but their roles aren't so clear, which makes the task of picking the most impactful from week to week next to impossible.

In other words, you'd need to play in an especially deep league to take a flier on Thompkins for the season's final week.


Latavius Murray trustworthy up to a point
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:51 am ET) If his 23 carries Week 14 against San Francisco didn't convince you, Latavius Murray's 23 carries Week 16 against Buffalo should make the message loud and clear: He is the Raiders' top running back, and they're putting more faith in him than they ever did Darren McFadden.

Granted, it hasn't translated to much production yet, but the 49ers and Bills are two of the toughest defenses against the run. Unfortunately, Denver, the Raiders' Week 17 opponent, is ranked even higher at both.

Can you trust Murray to get his carries? He's gotten them two of the last three weeks, so most likely, yes. And with 20-plus chances, there's always the chance he breaks a long one. But the matchup will make it difficult.

You'd like to start him given his ever-increasing role, but you shouldn't force him into your lineup if you have two (or maybe three) respectable running backs already.


One way or another, Fred Jackson gets his
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:44 am ET) Trailing early Week 16 at Oakland with their playoff hopes on the line, the Bills didn't stick with the running game for long, attempting only three runs in the second half. But in a way, that worked to running back Fred Jackson's advantage. He's such a good pass-catcher out of the backfield that he still topped 100 total yards, doing so for the first time since returning from a groin injury in Week 12.

Even with the return of C.J. Spiller from a long-term shoulder injury, Jackson still led the Bills in carries, but with only six for 10 yards. He also led the team in catches with nine for 93 yards. He had 10 catches just two weeks ago, so clearly, he's a PPR stud.

Is he worth starting in standard leagues as well? Well, he's also gotten 20 carries twice in five games since returning. He hasn't been as effective on the ground as through the air, but yards are yards, however he gets them.

Their matchup Week 17 at New England will probably force the Bills to go pass-heavy again, so unless you're stacked at running back, you can find a spot for Jackson in your lineup.


Desperation fuels Kyle Orton's performance
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:35 am ET) Bills quarterback Kyle Orton didn't have the most efficient day throwing the ball Week 16 at Oakland, but from a Fantasy perspective, it was a productive one. He threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns but also had two interceptions.

What's crazy, though, is that 196 of those yards came in the second half. The Bills were trailing a winnable game with their playoff hopes on the line, and their desperation showed. Unfortunately, that desperation also contributed to the second of Orton's interceptions.

The Bills have been eliminated, so no matter how much they're trailing Week 17 at New England, they probably won't be quite as desperate. You can expect more typical numbers from Orton -- maybe about 250 yards with one or two scores -- even if the matchup appears to be a favorable one, making him a player better left for two-quarterback leagues.


Kenny Britt clearly better with Shaun Hill
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:27 am ET) Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt caught a season-high nine passes on a season-high 11 targets Week 16 against the Giants, but his 103 receiving yards actually weren't a season high.

That's because he had 128, along with a touchdown, Week 11 against the Broncos.

That was Shaun Hill's first game back under center. Week 16, obviously, was his latest one. In the six games since Hill reclaimed the role, Britt has averaged 3.8 catches for 66.3 yards. In the nine games before then, he averaged 2.3 catches for 34.7 yards.

Britt has been especially good lately, averaging 73.3 yards in his last three games. Hill has also been fond of Stedman Bailey, but he doesn't seem to have a clear preference for one or the other.

Of course, the Rams passing attack isn't prolific enough to sustain both, so if you're going to target Britt or Bailey off the waiver wire, make sure it's in a deeper league. You wouldn't want to roll the dice on either in the season's final week if you can help it.


Andre Williams showing more ability
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:19 am ET) Carrying the load for the third straight game with Rashad Jennings sidelined by an ankle injury Week 16 at St. Louis, Giants rookie running back Andre Williams delivered his second 100-yard effort during that stretch, picking up 110 yards on 26 carries. Of course, just like in Week 14, it wasn't the steadiest performance. He had a 50-yard run in that one en route to a career-best 131 yards. He had a 45-yard run en route to his 110 yards in this one.

But that's true for most 100-yard rushing performances. The best backs break long runs occasionally, which makes up for all the 2- and 3-yard gains in between. It's easy to discount Williams' performance because of a long run here or a long run there because he's been so bad on a per-carry basis this season (take that 45-yard run away, and he averaged only 2.6 yards per carry -- oh noes!), but the fact is those long runs count, too. And he barreled over a couple of tacklers to complete it, which was nice to see.

Because Williams is short on receiving ability, his numbers don't look so great when he doesn't break a long run, but with all the carries he's getting now, his chances are better than not of breaking one. He's worth starting in standard leagues Week 17 against Philadelphia.


Rueben Randle not overshadowed for once
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:08 am ET) Since the emergence of rookie Odell Beckham in Week 9, and especially since his even bigger emergence in Week 12, wide receiver Rueben Randle has been an afterthought in the Giants passing game, averaging 2.3 catches for 31.8 yards in the four games leading up to Week 16 at St. Louis. But quarterback Eli Manning finally had enough yards to go around in that one, delivering Beckham his usual eight grabs for 148 yards and still finding Randle on six passes for 132 yards.

Randle even caught a touchdown pass, his first since Week 5. Of course, Beckham caught two and is now up to eight in his last five games, averaging 9.6 catches for 131.4 yards during that stretch.

You see the problem here, don't you? Manning was able to sustain both Beckham and Randle in this one, but that's only because he threw for a season-high 391 yards. If he regresses to a more modest total Week 17 against Philadelphia, we all know Randle is the one taking a back seat. Beckham has other-worldly talent, and Manning is smart enough to deliver him the ball as often as possible.

Of course, the Giants will probably have to throw a lot to keep pace with the Eagles, which bodes well for Randle, but you should still treat him as no more than a No. 3 wide receiver in Fantasy.


Odell Beckham making Eli Manning a stud
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:58 am ET) Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham had another eight catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns Week 16 at St. Louis, which has become par for the course for him. It was his second straight game and third game in five with more than 140 receiving yards and multiple scores.

What you may not have noticed, though, is that quarterback Eli Manning has taken off during that same stretch. He had a season-high 391 yards and three touchdowns in Week 16, completing 25 of 32 passes. Over his last five games, he has averaged 297.2 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.

It stands to reason, of course. Beckham couldn't be putting up all those numbers without someone throwing him the ball. This may be one of those rare cases of the wide receiver making the quarterback as opposed to the other way around. Beckham is clearly a special talent, and Manning has made a point to deliver him the ball as often as possible.

It's reason enough to give Manning another chance Week 17 against Philadelphia if you've been suffering with Matthew Stafford or Colin Kaepernick and are somehow still alive in spite of it.


 
 
 
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