For most fantasy football leagues, Week 16 is the league championship game. For this weekly advice column, I wanted to present an omnibus of start/sit advice, waiver wire tips, and injury news. That’s what you’ll get below: a bit hodge-podge of Week 16 fantasy news. Those searching for starting lineup start/bench answers on title week can scour the Internet for hours, or they can get a quick primer on the week’s news. I’ve done most of the work for you.
Let’s start with players who were injured in Week 15, but who should be ready to go for the title game. Then I’ll move on to the newest IR players of the week. Hopefully, you dodged the latest hail of IR bullets on Sunday.
Players Who Should Be Started in Week 16
A handful of players were injured on Sunday, but appear ready to go in Week 16.
Adrian Peterson sustained an ankle injury on Sunday versus the Chicago Bears. He should be ready to go in Week 16. He received 18 carries for 63 yards versus the Bears, which is a little underwhelming for AD owners. If he’s healthy, he’s a must-start, anyway. Play him if you’ve got him.
Zach Ertz also had an injury scare in Week 15: two of them, in fact. Ertz underwent the concussion protocol in the 1st Half against the Cardinals, and returned to the game. Late in the 4th Quarter, he received an undisclosed leg injury. On Monday, the Eagles indicated he would be ready to go this week. Check the injury reports to make certain that’s the case.
New Players on the Injured Reserve
- Tyrann Mathieu, SS, Arizona Cardinals – Tony Jefferson becomes a top free agent safety, if he remains on your league’s waiver wire. The Cardinals play 3-safety sets a lot, and Tony Jefferson sometimes had breakout numbers even when Honey Badger was playing. Jefferson likely gets asked to do more opposite of Deonne Buccanon now, so he becomes elite.
- Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans – Zack Mettengerger is the new Titans QB. He’s got a career 0-8 record as a starter, so I would not recommend playing him in your league title game.
- Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers – Donald Brown had 12 carries for 90 yards and 2 receptions for 14 yards after Melvin Gordon left the field due to injury. Danny Woodhead is getting all the attention for scoring 4 touchdowns, but Donald Brown was the workhorse on the ground. He becomes a possible flex player against the Oakland Raiders in Week 16.
Must-Start Players for Week 16
Obviously, players like Devonta Freeman and David Johnson are sure starters. I want to discuss players who are little less illustrious this year, but who should be in lineups just the same.
Among the must-start players this week is Desean Jackson. Now that he’s fully healthy, Desean Jackson has posted solid-or-better fantasy numbers 4 of the last 5 games. It was that 5th game (in Week 14) which convinced me to bench DeSean Jackson this past week, only to see him put up 6 catches for 153 yards and 1 touchdown.
That would have been a disaster for me, but I benched Jackson to start Emmanuel Sanders, who had 10 catches for 181 yards and 1 touchdown (and 1 carry for 24 yards rushing). Since the Sanders game was 3 hours later, I sweated half the afternoon the idea I had flushed my whole season on that decision. Both players should be in lineups for Week 16 (I’m starting both), but I would start Jackson over Sanders if I had to, because Jackson has been more consistent with Kirk Cousins than Sanders has been with Brock Osweiler.
Willie Snead had a career-high 10 receptions for 76 yards on Monday Night Football. While the 76 yards shows that he’s not much of a big-play receiver, Willie Snead has posted two solid fantasy scores in the two weeks since he’s been fully healthy. With Drew Brees and the Saints Offense playing the 25th-rated Jacksonville Jaguars pass defense in the championship week, Willie Snead is a safe starter.
Week 16 Waiver Wire Pickup Suggestions
Mike Gillislee, RB, Bills
Mike Gillislee posted 90 yards for the Buffalo Bills against the Philadelphia Eagles this week. Gillislee filled-in for LeSean McCoy in the much-ballyhooed contest between the Bills and Eagles, McCoy’s former team.
Doctors learned on Monday that McCoy has a torn MCL. He is Questionable for the Week 16 game, but I see little chance he’ll play. Karlos Williams is still returning from a shoulder injury and might play. Mike Gillislee has two chances of being a backup, but the Bills have little reason to rush back injured players. I see the 3rd-string runner have a good chance to start in Week 16.
For those wanting to know about this waiver wire player, Mike Gillislee is a 3rd-year veteran who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 5th Round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Gillislee has average size, which is a problem, because he was an inside runner in college. Most scouts thought he didn’t have the speed or quickness to succeed in the NFL. That has largely proven true, as Gillislee spent his first two seasons either on the Practice Squad or as a healthy scratch on the 53-man roster. Lacking speed or quickness is not a problem in Week 16 of the NFL season, when defenses are worn down and Gillislee is fresh. The game speeds up for such players later in the year, so add the potential starter and start him, if LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams are inactive.
Christine Michael, RB, Seahawks
We’ve been down this road with Christine Michael. Michael was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2nd Round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He disappointed as Marshawn Lynch’s backup for two seasons, and often spent time behind Robert Turbin due to his lack of knowledge of the playbook. In the preseason, he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys.
Then Christine Michael was waived by the Cowboys. He signed with the Washington Redskins and sat on their Practice Squad until last week. With Lynch and Thomas Rawls out, the Seahawks needed an RB who knew the system, so Michael was signed off the Skins’ practice squad. He ran for over 80 yards and established himself as the clear starter ahead of Bryce Brown on Sunday. Teammates said he seemed more serious about football this time around — no doubt after knocking around the NFL and realizing he might not be so special after all. Add Christine Michael as a starter on one of the league’s hottest teams, and best running teams.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Ryan Mathews is the only Philadelphia Eagles running back I would recommend starting these days. Mathews received 40% of the Eagles’ snaps last week. Darren Sproles received 47%, but those were on passing plays in which he was much less likely to receive the ball. Demarco Murray was in on only 12% of plays, or 8 plays for those who are counting.
Thus completes the fall from grace for Demarco Murray. For a Cowboys fan, it’s sad to see the transformation from an 1800-yard runner to the Eagles’ 4th string back. It was predictable, though, after Demarco Murray was critical of Chip Kelly in the press. No one criticizes Chip Kelly. He’ll spike your playing time, no matter who you are. Some would say that’s well and proper, to send the message the head coach is in charge and should not be questioned. When a coach cuts off his nose to spite his face, it’s pathological.
I’ll say this: Demarco Murray should not be the Eagles’ starting RB moving forward. In a wider sense, I knew Demarco Murray was not a good fit for the Eagles. His running style doesn’t fit what the Eagles do, and has no relation to what LeSean McCoy did for the team. He was the running back signed by the Eagles only because he was the biggest name on the free agent list after LeSean McCoy was shipped out of town. Murray’s personality doesn’t fit, either. Demarco Murray is a quite, hardworking player who conducts himself with quiet dignity. There is a reason he and Sean Lee became close friends when he was in Dallas — because both players are cut from the same mold. I had a big feeling quite dignity would not work well in Chip Kelly’s world. You can read more about that idea here.
Bench Lamar Miller (If You Can)
Lamar Miller received only 2 carries in the second half of the Dolphins’ loss to the Chargers on Sunday. After the game, Miller expressed dismay at the idea he was benched in lieu of Jay Ajayi and Damien Williams. Ajayi led the way after halftime with 26 yards and a 1 touchdown run.
Neither Ajayi or Williams did enough to recommend them as fantasy starters. What this situation does is ruin any value any of them have. The Miami Dolphins are playing out the string and seeing what their younger bench players have. Lamar Miller is a free agent this offseason, so the Dolphins are showing no loyalty. They want to see the talent at the end of the bench, meaning Lamar Miller could be benched at any time.
If you have no other option in replacing a Top 10 fantasy running back in 2015, then you might have to bite-the-bullet and start Miller. You shouldn’t take Sunday’s benching as an end-all, be-all event. If the Dolphins are in the game versus the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Lamar Miller might get the full compliment of carries. But if the Colts start to pound the Dolphins, Dan Campbell might take another look at his backups again. Just understand Lamar Miller isn’t as solid of a starter as most Top 10 fantasy backs right now.
Reuben Randle and Dwayne Harris, WRs, New York Giants
Odell Beckham Jr. has been suspended 1 game by the NFL for his repeated infractions Sunday against Panthers cornerback Josh Norman. Whatever your stance on the Beckham/Norman feud, the suspension could not have come at a worse time for Odell Beckham owners who’re playing their fantasy championships in Week 16.
They’ve grown used to having the most dangerous wideout in football in their lineup, and now they’re without him for the most important game of the year. ODB is appealing the decision on Wednesday, but Roger Goodell will hear the case and uphold the appeal, as he almost always does.
Without ODB, the best fill-in still on the Waiver Wire might be his real-world fill-ins. Reuben Randle is a dangerous 2nd receiver who had a touchdown on Sunday, though he’s likely to be on a roster. Dwayne Harris is more likely to be a free agent, so add him. Dwayne Harris is normally a return man who does some work as a 3rd or 4th receiver, but he has to be a starter this week in the Giants’ most important game of the year. Dwayne Harris is no Odell Beckham, but he’s had his moments this year in the passing game. I hope you have a solid backup to fill in, but if you don’t, add Dwayne Harris and hope for the best.
Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots
I’ll once again mention that I found Julian Edelman on the waiver wire a week ago in one of my leagues. Given the news when he was injured, it was entirely reasonable to assume Edelman wouldn’t play against before the NFL Playoffs — and was thus a waste in fantasy football.
Julian Edelman is practicing with the Patriots, and has been for a week-and-a-half. While he is more likely to play in Week 17, there is a chance he could play in Week 16. Remember, the Patriots are still trying to secure homefield advantage in the playoffs and one slip-up could mean they play a game on the road.
Mike Timu, LB, Bears
If you want a deep-deep IDP sleeper heading into Week 16, try Mike Timu of the Chicago Bears.
Mike Timu is one of those players almost certain to be available. I searched through the free agent list on “My Fantasy League” and he wasn’t even listed. MFL will have him by Sunday, but Mike Timu physically could not be picked up by teams in most leagues. That’s because he wasn’t signed by the Chicago Bears until December 15.
Sunday was Mike Timu’s first start in the NFL. In fact, it was his first regular season NFL action of any kind. As the Bears’ starter, he posted 8 solo tackles and 1 assisted tackle for what is often 17 points in many leagues. If you play in a deep league, Mike Timu is a solid play.
Tony Romo Goes on Injured Reserve
In other sad news, Tony Romo went on the IR yesterday. In one of the stupidest moves I’ve seen in a long time, the Dallas Cowboys kept open the possibility that Romo might return for the playoffs, if the Cowboys somehow stumbled to the NFC East title.
I say it’s stupid, because Jerry Jones was playing Russian Roulette with his so-called franchise quarterback. Tony Romo re-broke his collarbone in the same place he originally broke it, meaning they rushed him back sooner than they should have. If it had healed fully, the bone would have been stronger in the healed spot, and it would have broken anywhere but where it had broken before. But Jerry Jones didn’t learn his lesson the first time; he was going to push and prod Tony Romo to rush back a second time, setting up his QB for a second re-break. It’s moronic.
The Cowboys’ loss to the New York Jets on Sunday night officially ended their playoff hopes (at 4-10), so the team saw fit to move Romo to IR this week. Amazing.
Justin Blackmon Arrested for DUI
I’d say the Justin Blackmon arrest for DUI was even dumber, but the case of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ former 1st round pick is more sad than dumb. Blackmon is on indefinite suspension from the NFL for a series of (3) substance abuse-related incidents. This makes it the 4th case, meaning Justin Blackmon is likely to never play in the NFL again. He clearly has substance abuse issues which go beyond the realm of “decision-making”, as you or I know it. Yes, he could choose not to drink alcohol, but Justin Blackmon is broken in ways which make normal thought patterns alien to him. It’s called having a distorted view of the world.
Fantasy Football Title Game Tips – NFL Week 16
I wish you well in your championship games this week. If you’re still alive, then keep in mind it’s already been a fantastic season and a tremendous accomplishment to get this far, no matter what happens this weekend. Also, remember this was all due to your own NFL genius and strategic planning (with hopefully a few tips from me).
If you’ve been knocked out, remember that winning in the fantasy football playoffs is about 90% luck. It all comes down to which team has crazy-good matchups in the playoffs, which team’s players stay on the field and healthy, and what opponent your fantasy bracket puts out there. If you lost, it’s not your damned fault; it’s the Fantasy Gods were against you. Remember there are other things (like Christmas) to look forward to — or even better, there’s always next season.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all, and good luck winning the fantasy football league trophy in Week 16.