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TRAPS & TRENDS: Week 16

When the Indianapolis Colts/New Orleans Saints Monday Night Football clash wraps up, the fantasy season will end for some managers while others will turn their attention toward a Week 16 fantasy bowl. In senior FantasySharks.com writer Matt Wilson’s newest edition of “Traps & Trends, he places one quarterback, two running backs and two wideouts under the microscope to see whether the well-known stars will be fantasy assets or fantasy headaches during championship weekend.

We’re 15 weeks into the regular season with a massive number of fantasy bowls on tap for this weekend. If your league has a Week 17 fantasy bowl, I hate your league – find a new one next season. Nothing personal.

Moving on, fantasy managers are wondering…

1. Can a certain quarterback who is ranked first in attempts, second in completions, first in passing yards, second in touchdown passes and first in interceptions – and currently on pace to throw for 5,226-34-27 on the season – keep cranking out the gaudy passing stats without his top-two wideouts?

The Dude: Jameis Winston

The Damage: He has been Mr. Interception, but fantasy mangers have more than happy to take the picks with the gobs of passing yards and scoring strikes that Winston has manufactured in the Buccaneers’ high-octane passing attack. During Tampa Bay’s victory over the Detroit Lions this past Sunday, Winston threw for a career-high 458 passing yards (third-most in Bucs history) after throwing for 456 two weeks ago to became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 450-plus yards in back-to-back contests.

As you probably know, Winston, lost Mike Evans (hamstring) for the season last week, and Chris Godwin (hamstring) went down in the Detroit game – it was a non-contact injury, which is usually bad – after he had logged a 5-121-0 receiving line on seven targets. Scott Miller (hamstring), who started in place of Evans against the Lions, posted a 3-49-0 receiving line on three targets before he was knocked out of the game. It looks like Winston will suit up for Week 16 without Evans, Godwin and Miller. Should fantasy managers pull the plug in the Tampa Bay triggerman and role with a different passer in their fantasy bowls?

The Diagnosis: TRAP

Over-thinking and over-coaching are the worst things a fantasy manager can do for a fantasy bowl. While I’d be very surprised to see Winston rack up a third straight 450-plus yards outing in a Week 16 matchup against the Houston Texans, he should remain locked and loaded in starting lineups. Winston has a home matchup against a Texans defense that had surrendered the sixth-most passing yards and the fifth-most touchdown passes heading into this past Sunday’s action. Houston allowed Ryan Tannehill (Titans) to pass for 279 yards and two touchdowns against one pick, and rush three times for 10 yards and one touchdown.

With Evans, Godwin and Miller out, Winston should do just fine with Breshad Perriman as his top wideout. From Week 1 through Week 12, Perriman operated as a little-used lid lifter and deep threat before there was an uptick in his targets starting in Week 13. Assuming a lead wideout role in the Detroit game, Perriman hauled in five of six targets for 113 yards and three touchdowns. Justin Watson managed just two catches for 17 scoreless yards on two targets, but two weeks ago he amassed five receptions for 59 yards and one scoring grab on eight targets while filling in for Evans versus the Indianapolis Colts. O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate are both capable targets, too. Bottom line – Winston still has enough playmakers to pound out a nice fantasy outing during a Saturday afternoon clash with Houston.

 

2. Tom Brady still trusts his banged-up top wideout. Should you trust him in your fantasy bowl lineup?

The Dude: Julian Edelman

The Damage: Prior to his Week 15 dud outing, Edelman had been on a roll. From Week 12 through Week 14, the diminutive wideout, averaging 11.7 targets per contest, racked up at least 93 receiving yards per contest and had scored two times (Week 13 and Week 14). That’s why his performance versus the lowly Cincinnati Bengals this past Sunday – two receptions for nine yards on five targets – was a huge shock for fantasy managers.  It was first time since Edelman, the only Patriots wideout that has solid chemistry with Tom Brady right now, was held under 10 targets since Week 5. With a home matchup against the top-shelf Buffalo Bills pass defense on tap for this Saturday afternoon, is a bounce-back outing likely from Edelman?

The Diagnosis: TRAP

Normally, starting Edelman in any home matchup is a given, but I’m nervous about him. Edelman isn’t right physically. Banged up for most of the season, he’s dealing with knee and shoulder issues. Even though the Patriots often hype up injuries to their starts, I suspect Edelman is legitimately limited. He’ll face a Buffalo Bills defense that has surrendered the fifth-fewest wideout fantasy points and just five scores to the position on the season. Back in Week 4, the Bills defense limited Edelman to four receptions for 30 yards on seven targets at New Era Field.  Buffalo’s defense is set up to prevent long passes in favor of giving up shorter ones. New England, however, lacks a legitimate deep threat, which is why I think the Bills, playing at a high level right now, will shut down Edelman for the second straight matchup. There’s no Rob Gronkowski, no Josh Gordon (Seahawks) and no one who’s a bigger threat to erupt. I’m not looking for rebound performance. If you have a safer option, consider sitting Edelman.

 

3. The Philadelphia Eagles’ highly touted rookie tailback stepped up with his best fantasy outing of the season to help an injury-depleted team Eagles team outduel Washington this past Sunday. Is it safe to chase his fantasy points in Week 16?

The Dude: Miles Sanders

The Damage: With Jordan Howard (shoulder/pinched nerve) sidelined since the team’s Week 10 bye, Sanders has made five straight starts and played 85 percent of Philadelphia’s offensive snaps from Week 10 through 13. Last week, it looked like he going to start taking a backseat to scatback Boston Scott, who out-produced him 128 combo yards and one touchdown to 69 scoreless combo yards even though Sanders out-touched him 19 to 16 during the Eagles’ overtime win over the New York Giants. Scott’s performance understandably made some fantasy managers shy away from Sanders despite the plus matchup against Washington this past Sunday.

However, the fantasy pendulum swung back to Sanders during Philadelphia’s victory over Washington this past Sunday. Sanders out-touched him 25 to 13 and outgained him 172 total yards (an Eagles rookie record for scrimmage yards) and two touchdowns to 65 scoreless total yards. Just for the record, Sanders toted the rock 19 times for a season-high 122 yards and one touchdown, and hauled in all six of his targets for 50 yards and a receiving score. During the last three weeks, Sanders has averaged 23.3 touches, 115.3 combo yards and 1.0 touchdown per outing. Even if Howard returns next week to turn a two-headed committee into a three-headed one, will Sanders continue to produce solid RB2 numbers?

The Diagnosis: TREND

He should, and I wouldn’t think twice about starting him. Chase the points. The productive Sanders and the Eagles have a huge home showdown against a Dallas Cowboys team that’s given up the sixth-fewest running back fantasy points during the last month but also four touchdowns in the last four weeks to the position. The Cowboys, however, are softer against the run in road contests. The matchup is only part of the equation. If Howard returns – he hasn’t played since November 3rd – don’t expect him to see a huge workload after such a lengthy layoff. As you may know, Philadelphia is depleted at wideout – Greg Ward was the only Eagles wideout to make a catch against Washington – so the team desperately needs Sanders’ receiving prowess in the lineup as much as possible.

About Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson has played NFL fantasy football since 1994 and has been a featured columnist at FantasySharks.com since 2008. His 18 combined years of professional writing experience includes a five-year stint as a contributing writer/editor at KFFL.com. He has been a featured contributor to The Fantasy Football Guide since 2008 and has been published regularly in the award-winning USA Today Sports Fantasy Football preview. Matt is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and holds a degree in journalism from Northern Illinois.