Here we are.
It’s Championship Week.
It feels like only a couple weeks ago that the season was getting underway. But here we are. It’s Week 16 of the 2020 campaign, and that means that in the majority of leagues we’ve hit the end of line. Teams have overcome injuries and slow performers. Fantasy managers have combed through the waiver wire and agonized over lineup decisions.
This week two teams will take the imaginary playing field—and one will leave as champion.
This time of year, there are certain constants. One is that video working its way into one of my columns. I apologize for nothing.
Now, if your team has made it this far into this weirdest of seasons, then your roster is probably in good shape. If you had multiple holes that needed filling in the starting lineup, they your squad probably would already have been sent packing.
Of course, savvy IDP managers are always looking to better the team. Just because your starter on the back end is good doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a look at the wire to try to get better. And even if you don’t need a player for the championship game, your opponent might.
Roster churning is a big no-no in fantasy football. But grabbing a guy to keep him off your opponent’s roster is most assuredly not roster-churning. It’s strategy.
The kind of strategy that can mean the difference between a title or “runner-up” status that no one cares about.
One more quick note before we get to it. There are a couple players from last week’s column who are still available in quite a few leagues. Cleveland Browns defensive end Olivier Vernon had a quiet Week 15, but he draws an excellent matchup Sunday against the one-win New York Jets. Indianapolis Colts safety Khari Willis had his second big game in a row last week against the Houston Texans, notching nine solos.
Both are worth a look in Week 16.
IDP PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Todd Davis – ILB, Minnesota Vikings
Back in the long-ago days of summer of 2020 (which feels like a million years ago), it looked like Todd Davis would be a starter at inside linebacker for the Denver Broncos, just as he was for four years from 2016-2019. Instead, he wound up a depth signing for the Vikings after being a surprise cut late in camp. As Sam Ekstrom wrote at the time for Zone Coverage, Vikings OC Gary Kubiak (who coached Davis in Denver) said he had a feeling the move would pay off for Minnesota.
“Todd is a fine player,” Kubiak said. “When I had him in ’15, he was a special teams player for me and a captain for me from that standpoint. The next year he became a starter for me and a really good player. … I think the world of Todd. Great kid.”
It took a while, But Kubiak was proven right. With Eric Kendricks sidelined the last few weeks with a calf injury, Davis has assumed an every-down role at middle linebacker. Just as he was in Denver, Davis has been productive, piling up 26 total tackles and a sack. With Minnesota all but out of the playoffs, the Vikings are fresh out of reasons to rush Kendricks back. And so long as Davis is in the lineup, he has more than a little IDP value.
WEEK 16 IDP WAIVER WIRE TARGETS
Denico Autry – DT, Indianapolis Colts
When DeForest Buckner joined the Colts in the offseason, it bumped Denico Autry from his spot as the starting three-technique tackle. However, with Jabaal Sheard gone the team also had a hole at strong-side end. Autry slid into that spot, and he told Joel Erickson of the Indy Star that the adjustment to the new position hasn’t been as tough as he thought it might be.
“Things don’t happen as soon out there as it does at the 3-technique,” Autry said. “Certain moves don’t work out there, (even though) they do inside. Basically, it’s setting the edge and keeping everything inside.”
Autry has been something of a movable chess piece on the line for the Colts this year, seeing significant time at both end and tackle. Unfortunately, he has also missed time due to injury and a stint on the COVID-19 list. But the 30-year-old was out there last week against Houston, piling up four tackles and 1.5 sacks. He now has 7.5 sacks on the season, which is tied with Buckner and Justin Houston for the team lead.
Carl Lawson – DE, Cincinnati Bengals
Since being drafted out of Auburn in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, Carl Lawson has shown the occasional flash but had trouble generating consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. But as Chris Roling wrote for Bengals Wire, the 25-year-old played a big part in Cincinnati’s stunning win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15.
“The edge rusher wouldn’t be denied Monday night, forcing multiple fumbles and generating big pressure consistently,” Roling said. It’s something the team had lacked all season. Talk about a statement game before Lawson heads to free agency in a few weeks.”
Lawson is now up to 5.5 sacks on the season—his most since tallying 8.5 as a rookie back in 2017. His audition for a new contract in Cincinnati (or elsewhere) could get an even bigger boost next week, when the Bengals face a Houston Texans team that has once again struggled to protect Deshaun Watson in 2020.
Terez Hall – ILB, New England Patriots
When Terez Hall was a youngster playing 7-on-7 ball in Georgia, he idolized Cam Newton. Now, as a 24-year-old, he’s Newton’s teammate with the New England Patriots. As Erik Scalavino wrote for the team’s website, Hall said he’s impressed less with Newton’s penchant for making highlight reels and more by his work ethic even after all these years in the NFL.
“With Cam,” he explains, “I get to see how he gets to the facility super early and leaves super late. When you’re growing up as a child, you don’t see that. You only see him pulling his hands apart, showing the Superman shirt underneath. You just see the MVP Cam, not the hours he had to work. We’re all men. We all put our clothes on the same. You see that they’re just like you. They’re just like friends you have at home or friends you had in college.”
Hall is another in a long list of New England defenders who have gone from undrafted free agent to significant contributor on the field—he had a career-high 13 total tackles in last week’s loss to the Miami Dolphins. This week’s matchup with the Buffalo Bills isn’t great, but finding linebackers who are on the field full-time at this point in the season isn’t especially easy.