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START/BENCH: Week 16

Sometimes, one call can make all the difference.

In one of the dynasty fantasy football leagues in which I participate, my team was ravaged by injuries in 2017. I lost Julian Edelman before the season even started. David Johnson just after it did. Chris Thompson. Ty Montgomery.

Oh, and there was the whole Ezekiel Elliott thing.

Still, despite all of that I was able to go 9-4 and score the most points in the league—largely because I consistently got lucky and made the right call on weekly lineup decisions.

In Week 15, that luck ran out. At the last minute I decided to go with Atlanta Falcons wideout Mohamed Sanu over Robert Woods of the Los Angeles Rams. Woods caught six passes for 45 yards for a touchdown in his return from injury. Sanu, despite a favorable matchup, had just two grabs for 23 yards.

I lost by less than a point.

The point to that whole story (besides regaling you with stories of my fantasy teams, because I know how much you care about my fantasy teams) is this. I don’t regret making the call – the Buccaneers entered Week 15 leading the league in fantasy points per game allowed to wide receivers. But if I had let someone else talk me into the switch, I’d be kicking myself really, really hard.

There’s a method to the madness behind every recommendation I make. And I hope that this column has helped you make it this far into the fantasy playoffs. But in this most important of weeks, don’t let anyone (including me) talk you into or out of a lineup decision you’re set on.

If I have someone listed as a “start” who you really aren’t feeling in Week 16 – sit them. If I have a player listed as a “sit” you are convinced is going to have a big day – start them.

The only person who has to live with your lineup decisions is you. And right or wrong it’s much easier to do if you make them.

 

QUARTERBACKS

STUDS

Tom Brady, New England (vs. Buffalo)

Russell Wilson, Seattle (at Dallas)

Cam Newton, Carolina (vs. Tampa Bay)

 

START OF THE WEEK

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (at Houston)

Roethlisberger threw the game-sealing interception last week against the Patriots, but per Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today he laid the blame for the play call at the feet of his coaches. “It wasn’t a fake spike,” Roethlisberger said. “I was yelling ‘Clock it.’ It felt like that was the thing to do, to clock it and get yourself one play. But it came from the sidelines: ‘Don’t clock it. Don’t clock it.’ Well, at that time, everyone thinks it’s getting clocked, so you don’t have time to try to get everyone lined up. I saw (receiver) Eli (Rogers) try and run a quick slant in there, and at that time, you’ve just got to try to make a play. I probably didn’t make a good enough throw.

No one likes a tattle-tale, Ben.

The Steelers will be looking to take out the frustrations for that loss on the Houston Texans on Christmas night – the same Houston Texans who have given up the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in 2017. Roethlisberger won’t have Antonio Brown at his disposal in this game, but against the Texans that isn’t going to matter.

 

ROLL THEM OUT

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville (at San Francisco)

If you’ve been riding the streaming train under center this season and are looking for a Week 16 start, Bortles might be your guy. Heading into a favorable fantasy matchup with the Niners, Bortles has topped 300 passing yards in two of his last three games. He also has seven touchdown passes and zero interceptions over that span.

Case Keenum, Minnesota (vs. Green Bay)

Keenum hasn’t posted gaudy fantasy numbers of late, but he’s been brutally efficient – including completing 87 percent of his passes in last week’s drubbing of the Cincinnati Bengals. That should continue this week in Titletown – the Packers were eliminated from playoff contention by Atlanta’s win over Tampa on Monday night.

Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers (at New York Jets)

If you started Rivers in Week 15 and survived his three-interception faceplant against the Kansas City Chiefs, the notion of starting him again this week probably sounds a little kooky. But this week’s matchup is a great one – only two teams have allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks this year than the Jets.

 

SIT THEM DOWN

Kirk Cousins, Washington (vs. Denver)

After spending part of 2017 as a top-five fantasy quarterback, Cousins has cooled way off of late – in each of the past two weeks Cousins has failed to throw for even 200 yards, and Cousins hasn’t tossed three touchdowns in a game since Week 11. These trends are no bueno with the Denver Broncos and the “No Fly Zone” coming to town in Week 16.

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco (vs. Jacksonville)

Yes, Garoppolo’s playing well for the 49ers – he remains undefeated as an NFL starter and has now topped 330 passing yards in back-to-back games. But in each of those games Garoppolo has thrown just a single touchdown pass, and the Jacksonville pass defense has been all kinds of stingy in 2017.

Dak Prescott, Dallas (vs. Seattle)

I know that we just watched the Los Angeles Rams carve up the Seahawks like a roast beast in Whoville on Christmas morning. But we also just watched Prescott throw two picks and no touchdown passes against a bad Oakland Raiders defense. Resist the urge to get cute here — or suffer the consequences.

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an eight-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last three years. He won the honor in 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.