Fantasy Football: Week 16 Matchups

Gonzo and the Chiefs should have Detroit at his mercy
Kansas City Chiefs Photo Credit: Mark Coffey/Icon SMI

You don’t need us to tell you how important your fantasy matchup against that sniveling little turd who sits four cubicles over is this week. What you do need is a competitive edge, some of ETB’s patented, tax-free fantasy football analysis, to ensure sweet, sweet victory. Armed with this column, our Week 16 Position Rankings, and the rest of our Week 16 fantasy coverage, there’s little doubt you’ll be standing triumphant on Tuesday morning, clenching the still-beating heart of your vanquished adversary, one foot on his throat and the other on his tiny genitals, the sweet nectar of blood slowly dripping from your jowls.

As always, these are not necessarily the guys we think will score the most points or score the least points: there will always be obvious situations and choices we dismiss. These aren’t all sneaky plays, either. These are just the matchups that we think deserve mention*. Good luck, godspeed, and feel free to drop in next week to boast about the spoils of victory.

Derek Anderson, Ballerina
Derek Anderson Photo Credit: Theodore A. Wagner/Icon SMI

Five Strong Quarterback Plays

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle vs. BAL
Kurt Warner, Arizona vs. ATL
Vince Young, Tennessee vs. NYJ
Derek Anderson, Cleveland @ CIN
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh @ STL

Fortune Cookies: Try to forget for a minute who, exactly, is Matt Hasselbeck‘s opponent in Week 16: he’s facing a unit that’s in the bottom third for passing yards allowed, points allowed, team interceptions, and one that has clearly given up on their season. Let’s go ahead and forget about the mystique surrounding this Ravens defense–it’s gone… Kurt Warner is the exact type of bargain-basement QB that many a fantasy champion is built around. You likely got him for free off the wire mid-season, and he’s rewarded you with at least 2 TD tosses in six consecutive games. He’s been known to throw an INT or two, but the Atlanta secondary is middling at best, and it appears both Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald will be good to go this week. Arizona weather is reliable, too, which we all learned in Week 15 is important. The Falcons are in disarray right now and have nothing to play for, so don’t expect any heroics from this defense on the road… Believe it or not, Vince Young has produced the eleventh-most fantasy points among QBs over the last month. This is an absolute must-win game for the Titans, the type where Vince usually shines, like he did down the stretch last season. Young can attack the Jets on the ground and through the air, and the New York defense allows 344.1 and 23.9 points per game. If you don’t have a stud, he’s worth a look… Derek Anderson didn’t throw for a TD last week, but nobody could throw in those terrible conditions. Anderson had 2 TDs in three straight games prior to last week, and he draws the abysmal Bungles defense that he shredded for 328 yards and 5 TDs in Week 2. Check the forecast later in the week, but on paper this looks like a great week to start Derek again… With 6 passing TDs, 1 rushing score and just 2 INTs over the last three weeks Ben Roethlisberger‘s strong season has gotten back on track of late. Big Ben was once just a “game manager,” but his 29 TDs this season are third in the NFL and getting Santonio Holmes back helps. He’ll face a St. Louis secondary that’s been thoroughly average statistically, and he also gets to play in a dome this weekend.

Temper Your Expectations

Tony Romo, Dallas @ CAR
David Garrard, Jacksonville vs. OAK

Fortune Cookies: Color us concerned about the thumb bruise on his throwing hand, especially going against a defense that managed to keep Matt Hasselbeck bottled up for 0 TDs until 0:01 left in the fourth quarter. Dallas still has playoff positioning to play for, but Tony Romo is looking more and more like a game-time decision this week. At the very least he’ll be limited and the last thing fantasy owners need is a DNP from their QB in the championship game… David Garrard just put up 3 TDs on the NFL’s best pass defense in Pittsburgh, but he did it with just 197 yards on 17-of-33 passing. Now he gets to face off against an Oakland unit led by Nnamdi Asomugha that has given up just 11 passing TDs all season and lets up only 197.4 yards a game through the air. Peyton manning was only able to manage 1 TD, 276 yards and 1 INT against the Raiders last week, and Garrard shouldn’t be good for much more.

Sneaky Play of the Week

Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia @ NO

Fortune Cookie: We considered Brodie Croyle here, and he is indeed a fine and sneaky play against that Detroit secondary, but he’s probably not a realistic option for those with title aspirations. Meanwhile, Donovan McNabb is a household name but he only has 2 TDs in the last month and has thrown more than 1 TD in a game just twice this year. Bench him, right? Not necessarily. The New Orleans secondary, led by the truly inept Jason David, has been giving up huge numbers to opposing QBs: 249.6 yards per (3rd most in the NFL) and 26 TDs on the year (2nd most) with just 12 INTs (7th fewest). Donovan also rushed for a season-high 53 yards last week, showing his knee is fully healed. If you’ve made it this far you likely have a premier option, but if not McNabb is at least worth consideration. Bonus points for getting to play in a dome this weekend as well.

Dud of the Week

Eli Manning, New York Giants @ BUF

Fortune Cookie: Eli Manning was fighting wind, but it’s never good to throw the most incompletions in one game since 1967. Losing Jeremy Shockey is also a major blow to this passing game, even if he hadn’t been producing in recent weeks. The Buffalo defense doesn’t look too scary, but they’ve been very strong at home all season (except for that Pats game). The Bills also have a shot at the playoffs, so they should be playing inspired defense and the weather in Buffalo gets nasty this time of year–we all saw how Baby Eli deals with bad weather Sunday night.

Earnest Graham is pounding his way into the endzone damn near every week now
Earnest Graham Photo Credit: Bob Levey/Icon SMI

Five Strong Running Back Plays

Jamal Lewis, Cleveland @ CIN
Fred Taylor, Jacksonville vs. OAK
Earnest Graham, Tampa Bay @ SF
Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo vs. NYG
LenDale White, Tennessee vs. NYJ

Fortune Cookies: Jamal Lewis has made a meal of the Cincy defense in his career, averaging 140 total yards and a 5.5 YPC with 10 TDs in 12 games. This year’s linebacker-depleted Bungles defense is just as bad as it’s been the last few years, allowing 119 yards rushing a game and 10 total rushing touchdowns. If the weather is bad in Ohio again, Jamal will be leaned on just as heavily as last week (33 rushes for 163 yards)… As we mentioned in the Stock Report, Fred Taylor is on a serious roll right now and the Oakland rush defense is the most fantasy-friendly in the NFL. Not only do the Raiders give up a massive 143.8 yards a game on an NFL-worst 4.7 YPC, they’ve also allowed 21 rushing scores, which is tops in the league… For the first two weeks of the playoffs Earnest Graham already has 225 total yards, 11 receptions and 3 TDs. Not bad for a fourth-stringer that nobody but special-teams fetishists had heard of coming into the season. Now he gets perhaps his easiest matchup yet, a soft 49ers unit that doesn’t have much after stud OLB Patrick Willis, who was one of three rookies named to the Pro Bowl this season… ETB favorite Marshawn Lynch has 189 yards rushing on 44 carries over the last two weeks, so the Bills clearly think he’s ready to carry the full load again. We expect him to breach the 1,000 plateau at home in the wintry Buffalo weather this week in what figures to be a hard-fought contest with both teams having plenty on the line. The Giants give up over 100 yards on the ground a game, and they’ve been lit up by RBs in three of the last four games… LenDale White is clearly the man again in Tennessee after toting the rock 54 times in the last two games. Stay Puft should produce a solid fantasy line at home this weekend if that workload continues against a Jets rush defense that allows 4.3 YPC, 141.3 yards per game and has given up 13 rushing scores this season…

Temper Your Expectations

Aaron Stecker, New Orleans vs. PHI
Laurence Maroney, New England vs. MIA

Fortune Cookies: Mr. Aaron Stecker has helped out a lot of fantasy owners savvy enough to add the eight-year veteran while Reggie Bush has been sidelined. He’s a better runner than Bush between the tackles (nearly 200 yards rushing in the past two weeks) and scored twice last week. The Saints are “optimistic,” however, that Bush will be available on Sunday (we don’t buy it), so keep that in mind if you choose to roll with him against the sixth-ranked Philly rush defense this week… Thanks, Laurence Maroney, for the 104 yards rushing and 1 TD last week against the Jets. You’re only about, oh, 2 months late to make a positive difference for those who spent a first- or second-round pick on you. This looks like a great matchup coming off his increased involvement last week, but Bill Belichick is the coach and probably has his sights set on proving last week’s performance by his starting RB was a fluke. Never forget how much Belichick hates fantasy football owners. Never.

Sneaky Play of the Week

Kenton Keith, Indianapolis vs. HOU

Fortune Cookie: Though HC Tony Dungy has stated that he will not out-and-out rest his starters these last two weeks with the AFC’s #2 seed locked up, he has hinted that they may be limited. Addai is struggling lately and banged up, and they need him healthy for the postseason. That could mean 15+ carries for Kenton Keith if Joe Addai gets more rest than usual, and we’ve seen that Keith is a capable back with (somewhat of) a nose for the endzone. The Houston defense also gives up 4.4 YPC, the fourth-most in the NFL. Consider Keith a very risky, high-upside flex option.

Dud of the Week

Clinton Portis, Washington @ MIN

Fortune Cookie: This isn’t a great week to be counting on Clinton Portis. The Vikings are on the verge of an improbable playoff berth and will surely be pumped up in front of the home crowd for their second consecutive showcase on national television. And, oh yeah, they’re the NFL’s best against the run, begrudgingly allowing opposing backs an average of just 67.9 yards/per. That’s 10 yards less than the league’s second best.

Five Strong Wide Receiver Plays

Dwayne Bowe is Tall

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona vs. ATL
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City @ DET
Braylon Edwards, Cleveland @ CIN
Marques Colston, New Orleans vs. PHI
Anthony Gonzalez, Indy vs. HOU

Fortune Cookies: Laurence Fitzgerald, Jr. was limited to just 2 receptions in Week 15, but he made them count with an 18-yard TD. The newly minted Pro Bowler should rest the groin injury again this week and be much coser to full strength against Atlanta this weekend. Fitzy has been a stud all season, but he plays especially well at home with 40 receptions for 534 yards and 4 TDs in five games in Arizona… Detroit has allowed 27 TD receptions this season, most in the NFL. They also give up 26.6 catches and 273.3 yards receiving a game, so even the average Kansas City passing attack should get on track here. Wer’e also at the point where you have to bump anybody involved in a passing game up a few notches if they get to play indoors. Look for Dwayne Bowe to have one of his finer games of the season… The Bengals secondary simply has no answer for the size, speed and strength of Braylon Edwards. He roughed Cincy up for 8 receptions, 146 yards and 2 TDs in Week 2, and as long as the weather holds he should be a lock for strong fantasy production in the neighborhood of 5+ catches, 70 + yards and a score… Marques Colston has been on a tear of late, with 4 TDs in his last four games, and he’s another wideout who gets to avoid the winter weather. The Philly pass defense looked excellent last week against the Cowboys, and New Orleans aerial assauly is nigh unstoppable at this point… Anthony Gonzalez now has three games in his last four with at least 6 receptions and 3 TDs over the last two weeks. Marvin Harrison will not play again this week, and as teams focus on shutting Reggie Wayne down Bald Bull will continue to thrive. Houston’s secondary has been flagging for some time now, so feel good starting him as a WR3/4.

Temper Your Expectations

Calvin Johnson, Detroit vs. KC
Reggie Williams, Jacksonville vs. OAK

Fortune Cookies: Megatron established a new career-high for receiving yards in a single game last week against the Chargers (5 receptions, 102 yards), but keep in mind that 49 of those came on a last-second heave towards the endzone. Impressive a catch as it was, Johnson is too up and down to count on this week against a solid Chiefs secondary and as long as Kitna is behind center… See Dennis Northcutt, below: Reggie Williams will likely be blanketed all day by Nnamdi Asomugha, the best cornerback in the NFL not named to the Pro Bowl. That’s not a good thing for Reggie.

Sneaky Play of the Week

Dennis Northcutt, Jacksonville vs. OAK

Fortune Cookie: As The Sacramento Bee pointed out on Monday, opponents have thrown at Asomugha just 27 times this season, completing only 9 of those pass attempts. That’s Champ Bailey territory, kids. Asomugha’s presence is why Reggie Williams, the Jags’ sort-of WR1, makes our Temper Your Expectations section and why Dennis Northcutt lands here. He’s not an especially sexy option for teams still in the hunt, but the dropoff from Asomugha to (insert Raiders schmuck) is drastic.

Dud of the Week

Chris Chambers, San Diego vs. DEN

Fortune Cookie: Chris Chambers has just 10 total receptions over the last three weeks and hasn’t scored in that span. Denver’s defense has been tough on wideouts most of the season, only giving up 17.5 receptions per game overall, and as you know Champ Bailey has a knack for shutting No. 1 WRs out of the game. Meanwhile, the Broncos rush defense is perhaps the worst in the NFL, so the Chargers will be keeping it on the ground for a bulk of the game. It all adds up to Chambers being a very risky play this weekend.

Donald Lee, Model of Consistency

Five Strong Tight End Plays

Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City @ DET
Donald Lee, Green Bay @ CHI
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh @ STL
Jason Witten, Dallas @ CAR
Tony Scheffler, Denver @ SD

Fortune Cookies: With rumors flying that the Chiefs might be in salary-dumping mode this offseason, now’s the time for Tony Gonzalez to not only prove he deserves to stick around, but also to show prospective tradees that he’s still accruing Hall of Fame credentials at a Pro-Bowl level. Against a Detroit defense that wilts under the pressure of elite tight ends, he’ll do just that… Last week was just the second time all year that Donald Lee failed to catch at least three passes–but at least his only reception against St. Louis was for a four-yard touchdown. Against the Bears, he’s a safer play than any TE not named Witten, Gates, Winslow, or Gonzo… Heath Miller’s seventh TD reception of the season tied him up with Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward for most on the team. If you own him, you have to roll with him against the so-so St. Louis Rams and should count on at least 3 receptions for 35 yards and a possible score… As expected, Jason Witten was named as the NFC’s starter at tight end in the 2008 Pro Bowl. With Romo battling a sore vagina thumb, he’ll likely lean on Witten over the middle even more than he already does. You plug Witten into your lineup every week and never worry about it… The 7 receptions for 100 yards and 1 TD last week for Tony Scheffler are a sign of bigger things to come next season. Cutler’s confidence in the big, young TE grows every week, and we think he should be in for at least half of last week’s production, along with another shot at scoring.

Temper Your Expectations

Dallas Clark, Indianapolis vs. HOU
Chris Cooley, Washington @ MIN

Fortune Cookies: It’s tempting to look at Dallas Clark’s season totals, see 9 TDs, and assume he’s a must-play tight end. He’s been pretty quiet lately though, with just 2 total receptions in the last two weeks. And while the Colts aren’t coming out and saying they’ll be benching their starters, none of them will be getting a regular workload… The Washington offense could be in trouble this weekend against a solid Vikings unit, and may not find the endzone more than once. Minnesota takes away the run and dares opposing teams to pass, but Todd Collins isn’t a guy we have much faith in to deliver and Vikings linebackers EJ Henderson and Ben Leber have been pretty good against opposing TEs all season. It could be a quiet day for Chris Cooley, but he’s still very startable if you don’t have another strong option.

Sneaky Play of the Week

Vernon Davis, San Francisco vs. TB

Fortune Cookie: After a slow start and an injury earlier this year, Vernon Florida is starting to find a groove. He has at least 5 receptions in three of the last four games and 2 TDs in that span. The Tampa pass defense is tough, but they focus on taking away the deep ball and give up the short routes, so Shaun Hill should be looking for him on short routes as a safety blanket all day.

Dud of the Week

Alge Crumpler, Atlanta @ ARZ

Fortune Cookie: Last Sunday Crumpler was held without a catch, the first time that’s happened in 73 games. Of course, Atlanta only completed four passes all day, so… Basically, we have absolutely no faith in the Falcons passing game right now, and it’s no time to get cute and start this guy just because the Cardinals pass defense has been so soft with the Adrian Wilson injury. Stay away.

Ready to tee off on the Ravens

Five Strong Team Defense Plays

Seattle Seahawks vs. BAL
Minnesota Vikings vs. WSH
Green Bay Packers @ CHI
Arizona Cardinals vs. ATL
Tennessee Titans vs. NYJ

Fortune Cookies: This one is a pretty much a no-brainer–if you own the Seattle Seahawks DEF, you better start them against one of the sorriest offenses in the NFL. Without Willis McGahee in the backfield they’d probably struggle to top 150 total yards… Despite not starting a game in a decade, Todd Collins has surprisingly acquitted, not embarrassed, himself since stepping in for the injured Jason Campbell. He faces a tough task on the road, however, against a surging Minnesota Vikings DEF that has pretty much become an every-week start because of their tendency to cause turnovers… If you saw Kyle Orton “leading” the Bears offense on Monday Night against the Vikes, you should know why we’re recommending the Green Bay Packers DEF… Team Turmoil rolls into the desert fresh off being exploited for 37 points and a series of player fines for sporting Michael “23 Months” Vick support on their uniforms last week. Good times only exasperated by QB Chris Redman’s memorable effort against the Bucs in the same game: 4-15, 34 yards, 2 INTs, 1 Fumble Lost. Yep, you could do worse than the Arizona Cardinals DEF this week despite what their numbers say… With Kellen Clemens likely out, old ETB favorite Chad Pennington should be the starter for the Jets. Once again–you should know why that makes the Tennessee Titans DEF a strong play.

Temper Your Expectations

Dallas Cowboys @ CAR
Philadelphia Eagles @ NO

Fortune Cookies: We’re two of about two million NFL followers who’ve chuckled about the Panthers quarterback situation–it’s actually a good thing for them at this point if Vinny Testaverde is healthy enough to start–but the Dallas Cowboys DEF isn’t anything special right now when it comes to fantasy production. Roy Williams is out, too… The Saints offense has been Tabasco sauce hot this past month, scoring at least 31 points in three of their last four games. They’re still harboring playoff hopes, and there’s no reason to think the Philadelphia Eagles average DEF will slow down Drew Brees, Marques Colston, etc at home.

Sneaky Play of the Week

Buffalo Bills vs. NYG

Fortune Cookie: The Buffalo Bills DEF is still giving up the third-most yards per game in the league, but a lot of that has to do with early-season struggles, playing the Pats twice, and road games. At home, this unit is an entirely different beast (except for that New England game) and they could be a problem for Eli “Dud of the Week” Manning and Co. I feel confident enough about their chances for putting up decent fantasy points that I’m strongly considering rolling with them in my fantasy league championship matchup against the undermanned, undertalented, and soon-to-be overwhelmed Pyle of List over in The Ghosts of Wayne Fontes league.

Dud of the Week

Baltimore Ravens @ SEA

Fortune Cookie: Don’t feel bad for dropping the Baltimore Ravens DEF solely out of spite–you pretty much wasted your fifth- or sixth-round pick on these chumps, so it’s the least you could do for payback. Currently ranked 27th overall amongst team defenses in ETB’s fantasy scoring format, this unit hasn’t had any value for well over 2 months now. They’ve packed it in, to be sure, and seem to be doing everything in their power, i.e. phoning it in, to get Billick fired (he’s going to get quite Bellicky when it happens, too). Adding injury to insult, Ray Lewis is done for the season and Chris McAllister probably is too.

More Free Fantasy Football Advice for Week 16

ETB’s Week 16 Stock Report

*Disclaimer: There are some players who are always must starts, and you should know who they are. To make things easy, we’ve picked a few guys at each position who will never be listed in our Top Matchups because it just wouldn’t be fair– they’re studs, simple as that. They are: QB Peyton Manning, QB Tom Brady, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, RB Adrian Peterson, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR Randy Moss, TE Antonio Gates, and DEF New England.


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