NFL Starts/Sits: Week 16
Updated: Dec 27, 2020
Welcome everyone to our week 16 start/sit picks – a special combined Christmas and fantasy championship edition. We made it out of last week bruised but still standing, going 12-12 in start/sit picks, including hitting on 5 of 8 headlining starts of the week. That puts us at 141-99 in picks on the year.
This week we’re taking a bit of a different approach to our picks. Given you’ve likely got your your league’s fantasy championship on the line (and maybe some money hanging in the balance as well), there’s one variable we’ll weigh a little higher this week – the trust factor. Unless you’re a heavy underdog looking for a dart throw, you should be leaning more towards players with a higher likelihood of hitting for your team at this point in the playoffs. That means skipping the boom-or-bust guys like Chase Claypool in favor of the more dependable ones like Cole Beasley, who you can rely on for steady targets alongside that chance to blow the stat sheet (like Beasley did last week). Let’s get into it.
Win/loss methodology: I look at fantasy finishes for all my previous week’s picks, including honorable mentions, to assess which players were start-worthy or not. In other words, if they finish within QB12, RB30, WR30 or TE12 (accounting for a RB/WR flex spot). On average for half-PPR scoring, that means the following:
START: Baker Mayfield, Browns
Browns have really come on in recent weeks, and you can feel their momentum continuing to build. Baker has been a big part of the team’s success, finishing as QB12 or better in each of the last four weeks (including two top 4 performances over that span) according to PlayerProfiler.com. Double clicking on that, Baker has finished with over 250 yards and 2 passing TDs in each of those games. That means even if he underperforms this week and just hits those benchmarks, you’re still looking at 18 fantasy points.
Baker and the Browns match up against the Jets this week, the third best matchup for fantasy QBs this year. They have given up 23+ fantasy points to five of the last seven QBs they’ve faced, including 32.7 points to Derek Carr and the Raiders in week 13. Start Baker with confidence this week.
Other RB starts: Tom Brady (at Lions), Mitchell Trubisky (at Jaguars)
UPDATE: Late on Saturday we learned the Brown's top 4 WR options will miss this game due to close contact with teammate LB B.J. Goodson, who tested positive for COVID-19. That leaves the Cleveland offense extremely shorthanded against the Jets on Sunday, and makes Baker a very risky start. Pivot if you can.
SIT: Russell Wilson, Seahawks
It’s tough to bench Russ in your fantasy championship, especially after how much he’s likely helped your team this year. But looking at recent performance and the matchups, you can see why there are at least 12 other QBs you could start ahead of him this week. Wilson has finished QB18 or worse in four of his last six, including a QB20 performance against the Giants in week 13 and a rough QB28 showing last week against Washington. While it’s true those were tough matchups against the 5th and 8th toughest defenses for fantasy QBs this year, respectively, the opponent doesn't get any easier this week.
The Seahawks get the Rams this week, who are the #1 toughest defense against fantasy QBs and have only allowed two QBs to score 20+ points against them this year (Garoppolo in week 6 and Allen way back in week 3). Seattle’s passing totals have been trending significantly downward in the back half of the season – after averaging 310 passing yards/game over the first 10 weeks, Wilson has averaged an astounding 107 yards LESS since week 11 (203 passing yards/game). Fade him if you can.
Other QB sits: Derek Carr (vs. Dolphins), Teddy Bridgewater (at Washington)
START: Melvin Gordon, Broncos
Gordon was featured as a start here last week and he delivered, scoring 22.1 half-PPR points on 81 total yards and 2 TDs. After ceding more carries to Phillip Lindsay in weeks 8-10, Gordon has emerged as the leader of this backfield, finishing no worse than RB20 in the last three weeks. When he gets the majority of the workload, he has produced without fail.
In the eight games this season where Gordon has received 15 or more touches, he has finished RB20 or better in every single one. Phillip Lindsay has already been ruled out for Sunday against the Chargers, which is good news for Gordon’s usage – he averaged 19.3 opportunities per game over the three games Lindsay missed earlier this season. Gordon is in line for a heavy workload again this week against a beatable Chargers defense. He should be in all championship week lineups.
Other RB starts: Leonard Fournette (at Lions), Gio Bernard (at Texans)
SIT: Mike Davis, Panthers
Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey is doubtful to make his return this week against WFT, meaning Mike Davis will make his 12th start of the year. Fantasy managers who relied on Davis early this season might be inclined to lean on him again this weekend, but I’d advise against it. After averaging a massive snap share of 85% weeks 3-8, Davis’ average snap percentage has dropped down to 58% since week 9.
The downturn in opportunities for Davis the second half of the year is even more troubling when you consider his efficiency – or lack of. Davis has averaged 0.89 fantasy points per opportunity on the season, which ranks #44 among RBs. According to PlayerProfiler.com. Couple that with a matchup against Washington, who rank as the toughest matchup for fantasy RBs since week 11, and you have yourself a risky low end RB2.
Other RB sits: James Conner (vs. Colts), Sony Michel (vs. Bills)
START: Marvin Jones Jr., Lions
Marvin Jones has really stepped up with Kenny Golladay struggling to get healthy this year. He has a staggering 93.1% snap share on the season, 9th best among receivers in the NFL. That includes hitting an 89% snap share or higher in 12 of 14 games this year. That is the kind of volume that you pay attention to in the fantasy playoffs – especially in a favorable matchup like the one this week.
The Lions get the Buccaneers at home on Saturday, who rank as the #1 best matchup for fantasy WRs since week 11. According to a Saturday morning report, it also looks like Matthew Stafford will be behind center for Detroit. If he cannot go, or the rib injury proves tougher to play with than imagined, that will mean a lower floor for Jones. I would play Jones in any case given his top 5 ceiling, which he’s hit three times in the last six games.
Other WR starts: Jarvis Landry (at Jets), Tee Higgins (at Texans)
UPDATE: With Jarvis Landry being ruled out late on Saturday, he's obviously no longer a start. I'm replacing him in our recommended starts with Cole Beasley (at Patriots), who matches up well against a New England defense missing Stephon Gilmore.
SIT: Christian Kirk, Cardinals
Did you know that in his last six games, Christian Kirk hasn’t finished better than WR49 on any given week? Kirk was fairly boom-or-bust earlier this season for the Cardinals, reaching the top 14 WRs in three of his first six games. Since week 10, though, he’s been all bust.
It’s no coincidence that Kirk’s downturn matches up with the Cardinals offensive struggles as a whole the last six games. However last week’s game was troubling – on a week when Kyler Murray completed 27 passes for 406 passing yards, Kirk only managed to grab 3 of them, for a measly 31 yards. This week Kirk will match up against 49er CBs Jason Verrett and Richard Sherman, a couple of sure tacklers who will aim to limit Kirk’s downfield impact. Kirk should be avoided this week.
Other WR sits: Marquise Brown (vs. Giants), Jerry Jeudy (at Chargers)
START: Logan Thomas, Washington
Thomas has been a huge surprise for fantasy managers this year and a bright spot for a mostly bleak TE position. This year Thomas ranks #1 among TEs in snap share, #2 in routes run and #4 in targets. He has four top 10 TE performances in his last six games according to PlayerProfiler.com, and this week he likely isn’t even competing for targets with stud WR Terry McLaurin, who is listed as doubtful.
Thomas lines up against the Panthers this week, who rank as the 12th best matchup for fantasy TEs on the year. He has hit at least 7 targets in each of his last three games, including leading the lead in targets last week with 15. Expect Thomas to lead Washington in targets again this week. You can start him with a smile.
Other TE starts: Noah Fant (at Chargers), Austin Hooper (at Jets)
SIT: Zach Ertz, Eagles
Zach Ertz had a quick fall from grace this year, stemming from a perfect storm of injuries to himself and the supporting offensive cast, strong positional talent behind him and inconsistent QB play for the majority of the season. In fact outside of a 7 catch, 70-yard performance against Cincinnati week 3, Ertz has not produced better than a TE15 performance on any other week. That streak is likely to continue with a game against the Cowboys on Sunday, who have allowed the fewest points to TEs over the last three weeks.
Ertz has been an afterthought for the Eagles with Jalen Hurts under center (6 catches over his last three weeks compared to Dallas Goedert’s 13), and he should be an afterthought for your lineups this week.
Other TE sits: Dan Arnold (vs. 49ers), Colts TEs (at Steelers)