In the all-important Week 15 of the fantasy football season, some managers were left overjoyed as they advanced to their league championships, whereas some were left with crushing defeats and now have to reset and figure out what went wrong as the offseason has now begun. The difference between these managers? It was noticing the importance of plus matchups versus poor ones. Some of these matchups were easy to spot like Jalen Hurts, J.D. McKissic, and Corey Davis. All were deemed capable starters for the week and came through during crunch time for managers that pulled the trigger on starting them. But then you have those tough to bench names that are left in the lineups out of habit and were albatrosses in Week 15 (Russell Wilson, Miles Sanders, D.K. Metcalf), leaving managers out of title games. It speaks to just how difficult this game of fantasy can be to manage at times. We all tend to look at the big names and not once debate on removing them from lineups. When in fact recency in production and matchups should way heavily on the mind during this crucial time.
That is what should be kept in mind for the managers out there still alive in the championship chase for Week 16. Throw out everything you know, sit down and look into the matchups heading into this week’s games. Defenses over the last four to five games in terms of what they allow, at times, are not the same from the spectrum of their year-to-date numbers. Look at teams like the Seahawks and Falcons. Both were egregiously bad units during the early stages of the season. So bad that those numbers skew them to being looked at as still underperforming defenses to fantasy managers. Whereas in recent games, those numbers tell an entirely different story, making them teams to shy away from on a matchup perspective. With everything on the line for managers in a championship setting, using a more broad scope to determine your starting lineup is key. Cases can and will be made to sit the typical stud in favor of a lesser name. Using the mindset of ” He carried me this far, I might as well stick with him” can only lead to disappointment and leaving the 2020 season empty-handed.
With all these pieces in motion, fantasy managers have to trust matchup decisions more than ever. That is what we do here for you with the Woos and Boos for Week 16. We Woo the players that are typically under the radar but could shine with plus matchups. While we Boo those every week starters that could be set-up to disappoint as they face difficult situations. With these games also falling during the Christmas holiday, I wanted to put a little holiday spirit into this as well. Let’s look at the players who fall on my “Naughty or Nice” list for these Week 16 matchups.
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Week 16 Woos (Nice)
Baker Mayfield @ New York Jets
Don’t look now but Mayfield has been on fire the last three games with a QB1 finish in each contest. With the playoffs looking like a possibility for the Browns, the offense has been finding its stride. Mayfield on the season in top-5 in Total QBR (76.8), 10th in yards per attempt (7.6), and 11th in completed air yards (1,990). That trend should continue to improve in Week 16 against a Jets secondary that is one of the worst in Pass DVOA (25.0%) on the season. And over the last four games, they have given up 22.39 FPPG to opposing QBs. Things are lined up great for Mayfield in this matchup and should be viewed as a low-end QB1 that you could start if you are in a pinch.
Leonard Fournette @ Detroit Lions
Now that Ronald Jones has again been ruled out, things could not be looking better for Fournette in a crucial game for fantasy managers. Seeing the full workload in Week 15, Fournette repaid managers with an RB1 finish with his two-touchdown performance against a tough Falcons run defense. On the season, splitting time with Jones, he has been somewhat disappointing as the numbers have been inconsistent. Until last week, he had just three scores on the season and still has just 320 rushing yards and 187 receiving yards to his credit. He should greatly improve those numbers in Week 16 against a Lions Defense that gives up 137.3 per game on the ground and is one of the worst in the league in Run DVOA (1.1%). If you have held onto him this long as a manager, congrats as he should easily be in your lineups during championship week.
Michael Gallup vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Call this one my longshot of the week as Gallup could be a sneaky start in this matchup against the Eagles. Although the targets and yards have been inconsistent all season, he has found the end-zone in two of his last three games. His efficiency on the season has been horrible as he is second in the league in routes ran (542) but ranks 33rd in targets (90) and 40th in receptions (49). But why the good feeling on the matchup? In the Week 8 game, he hauled in seven receptions on 12 targets, so he was utilized. Also, over the last four games, the Eagles secondary has been one of the worst in the league in points allowed to the position (45.80 FPPG). With Darius Slay locked in the matchup against Amari Cooper, Gallup will see mostly single coverage and perhaps a red-zone target or two. He could be viewed as a WR3 in Week 16 and could be played in your starting lineup over players with tougher matchups.
Tyler Higbee @ Seattle Seahawks
It’s the end of the season, so it means it must be Tyler Higbee production time right? He has found the end-zone in two in his last three games and has provided TE1 production over that span. And while Jared Goff has seen up-and-down play himself, it seems as though he relies on Higbee in tough spots. Facing the Seahawks Defense in Week 16 will be tough for the outside receivers, but as for the tight end position, they have been one of the worst over the last four games giving up 17.08 FPPG. If you are in a position of need for a streamer this week, Higbee could be your guy to lock in as a startable option.
Week 16 Boos (Naughty)
Russell Wilson vs. Los Angeles Rams
How the mighty have fallen could be the term used for Russell Wilson over the second half of the fantasy season. Since Week 10, he has just two QB1 finishes as managers have continued to keep him glued into the starting lineups based on the talent around him. But now, with championships on the line, it may be time to make the harsh decision to bench Wilson. Given his play over recent weeks, facing the Rams Defense should be proof enough. But this defense has been one of the best in the league and over the last four games, they have allowed just 11.08 FPPG to the QB with a -10.0% Pass DVOA. It’s tough to say, but there are plenty of other options to pivot to this week to start over Wilson as he is set to severely disappoint in this game.
Josh Jacobs vs. Miami Dolphins
After a very solid game in Week 15 (RB11), many managers will view Jacobs in an extremely positive light heading into Week 16. He ranks among the tops in the league in all the pivotal categories. He is third in carries (245), sixth in yards (906), and fifth in scoring (10 total TD). But this week he faces a very tough test in a stout Dolphins run defense that has been the best in the league over the last four games (14.30 FPPG). Now I’m not advocating that Jacobs be benched this week, but with the tempered expectations, he should be viewed as more of an RB2 in value as opposed to a no-brainer RB1.
Brandin Cooks vs. Cincinnati Bengals
After he was a strong starting option for much of the 2020 season, Cooks has fallen tremendously since the Will Fuller suspension. The receptions and yardage have been consistent, but he has failed to finish higher than WR28 over the last five games. In a vacuum, if you look at the Bengals Defense, this matchup looks like one to attack as they rank towards the bottom in points allowed with 35.7 FPPG. But over the last four games, that number has dropped to 24.35 FPPG, ranking as the third-best in the league. Coupled with the matchup against William Jackson in coverage, Cooks is a receiver that should be viewed as a tough start in Week 16.
Evan Engram vs. Baltimore Ravens
With the quarterback carousel that has been going on with the Giants, Engram has pulled a disappearing act at the worst time for fantasy managers. He has just 10 receptions over the last three games and has not scored a TD since Week 9. Although he still ranks highly in targets (95) and receptions (54) that can be more contributed to the lack of quality value at the position as a whole. Now heading into Week 16 he is facing yet another stiff test against a Ravens Defense that is allowing just 11.00 FPPG to TE over the last four games. Also, no TE has found the end-zone during that stretch marking Engram as a longshot to do the same. With other options available to stream for the week, Engram could safely be put on the bench.
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