Dave McKay provides his upgrades and downgrades for Week 16 for those fantasy owners playing for a championship in their league(s).
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Dennis Pitta TE, BAL – Pitta is the toast of the town after catching seven balls for 125 yards and two scores last weekend. That was a follow-up to five receptions for 46 yards and one touchdown in Week 14. He did have a couple of bad-looking drops early in the game last week and didn’t really get his fantasy day going until his two touchdown receptions in the fourth quarter (after the game seemed out of reach), so I don’t think Pitta is a slam-dunk start this week. However, he has been on a roll, so his confidence is up and I’ve got him ranked eighth among tight ends in week 16.
Sam Bradford QB, STL – He was great last week and this week he has the best possible matchup (the Bucs) for a fantasy quarterback. That said, picking up Bradford and starting him in week 16 would take a lot of guts and maybe a little bit of desperation. Sort of like Ron Dayne in 2006. Nevertheless, Bradford is probably going to be a better Week 16 start than a lot of the more widely-owned quarterbacks (i.e. Cutler, Palmer, Rivers, Dalton, Fitzpatrick) in fantasy.
Mark Ingram RB, NO – The coaching staff in New Orleans is finally giving Ingram some opportunities to prove himself, as he has now recorded double-digit carries in five of the team’s past six games. He had a nice game last week with 90 yards and a score, so you could probably do worse in Week 16 than Ingram. It’s not a great matchup against the Cowboys, but it does at least look like there will be a decent amount of work for him going forward.
Mike Tolbert RB, CAR – This is more of a two-for-one here, since DeAngelo Williams’ stock is up this week along with Tolbert’s. The difference is that Williams is probably owned in your league and Tolbert is only about 12 percent owned. Plus, Tolbert is getting the goal-line work (two scores last week) and still catching passes (multiple receptions in six straight games). It would be something of a Hail Mary to insert him into your lineup this week, but I do think Tolbert is a pretty safe bet to get you 40 or more combined yards rushing and receiving, with good upside for a touchdown.
Colts DST, IND – It sure has been a roller coaster ride for the Colts defense recently, alternating games of double-digit point totals and negative points. If the trend continues, they are due for a great week in week 16. And continue it should, since Indy draw a Kansas City team that allows 12.4 points to opposing fantasy D/ST’s. It’s a bit hard to actually recommend starting the Colts’ defense this week since they have been so unreliable, but I would advise picking them up and stashing them on your bench as a strategic move to keep them away from your opponent’s lineup.
Jason Avant WR, PHI – Three solid performances in a row for Avant and a great matchup this week at home against the Redskins make him a pretty good pickup and play option. Avant seems to have developed a nice rapport with new quarterback Nick Foles, so we could be in for more of the same from this duo in Week 16. Over the past three games, Avant has averaged five receptions for 85 yards.
Jackie Battle/Curtis Brinkley/Ronnie Brown, RB SD – With Ryan Mathews on IR, someone is going to have to carry the ball for San Diego in Weeks 16 and 17. Ronnie Brown has a chance to factor in, but only if his balky hamstring allows him to do so. That leaves us with Battle and Brinkley, with Battle probably better suited to handle heavy lifting, including goal-line work. It’s a situation worth tracking as the week continues and right now if we were forced to pick one of the three, it would be Battle.
Pierre Thomas RB, NO – Thomas is still owned in more than 63 percent of fantasy leagues, but he just doesn’t have the numbers to back it up. In the past two weeks he’s had five and four carries respectively, totaling less than 20 yards per game. Meanwhile, Mark Ingram has become a pretty solid option for the Saints in recent weeks, leading to fewer backfield opportunities for Thomas. What’s more, the Saints go to Dallas this week to face a Cowboys’ defense that is No. 8 in the league against fantasy running backs.
Torrey Smith WR, BAL – Smith has a good matchup this week, but it’s going to be hard to trust him in your fantasy playoffs. He has only recorded one reception in each of the past two games and was diagnosed with a concussion in Week 15. Even if he passes the necessary tests to get back on the field, his stock is way down for Week 16.
Martellus Bennett TE, NYG – Bennett seemed to be re-emerging before last week’s poor performance. He only managed one catch for 15 yards, dooming more than a few fantasy teams in a playoff week. If you own Bennett and are still alive in your fantasy playoffs, you probably don’t need me to tell you that it is time to think about benching him. The Giants travel to Baltimore this week, and while the Ravens defense isn’t nearly what it used to be they are still No. 5 against fantasy tight ends.
Danario Alexander WR, SD – Zero receptions on just three targets last week. This week he heads to New York to play the Jets and their No. 1 defense versus fantasy wide receivers. You only picked him up about five or six weeks ago, so whatever WR you were starting before that might be looking like a great option to return to your lineup.
Matthew Stafford QB, DET – You are probably not benching Stafford at this point, but you must admit that you aren’t feeling great about starting him. Stafford has five turnovers and just one passing touchdown in the past two games while averaging only 255 yards through the air. This week he gets the Falcons defense, which is eighth-ranked against fantasy quarterbacks.
Ray Rice RB, BAL – There was a renewed hope in Baltimore last week to go along with the hiring of a new Offensive Coordinator, but the results just weren’t there for Rice in Week 1 of the new regime. He only managed 12 carries for 38 yards and three receptions for three yards. You’ve got to think that the new OC will find more ways to use Rice this week, but the fact is that that is exactly what we were thinking last week. The play calling seemed very predictable in Week 15 and this week the Ravens play the Giants, a less than ideal matchup for running backs.
Bryce Brown RB, PHI – Two monster games followed by two poor efforts leaves us wondering what sort of production we can expect from Brown going forward. And now reports out of Philadelphia are that LeSean McCoy will be back in the starting lineup this week, which will serve to limit Brown’s short-term opportunities. Furthermore, it’s just not a stellar matchup against the Redskins. So, reduced performance, reduced opportunity, and a mediocre matchup all have us downgrading Brown this week.