Merry playoffs, and a happy championship week. Welcome to the Week 16 edition of the Model 284 Friday Fantasy Preview. If you are looking for a blend of numbers and subjectivity to help guide your lineup, then this is the right place for you.
Week 16 Studs:
Dion Lewis: Lewis has a dream matchup this week against the Buffalo Bills, who have given up the most fantasy points to running backs this season, and rank 2nd in FPAE allowed to RBs over the last 7 weeks. Although Lewis hasn’t taken hold of the lead back role in the notoriously split Patriots backfield, Rex Burkhead doubtful with a knee sprain Lewis should find himself getting even more red zone touches this week. With the Patriots just trying to hold the first seed in their final two games, the gameplan should be leaning on the run more than usual.
Martavis Bryant: Coming into the year, Bryant was one of the most discussed players in fantasy football. This was supposed to be his year to come in and torch soft coverages created by Antonio Brown. Unfortunately the hype never quite materialized, as he has been out-snapped and outplayed by rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster for a majority of the 2017 season. If it weren’t for the partially torn calf of Brown, Martavis would continue to be a fantasy afterthought. However, as he was thrust into the second receiver role against the Patriots, he didn’t disappoint. We saw everything we expected from Bryant pre-season, including explosive play as a vertical and red-zone threat on his way to 59 yards and a TD. A matchup with the Texans in Week 16 is exactly what he needs to build off the momentum that he built last week.
Josh Gordon: Let’s make a deal. I’ll stop writing about Josh Gordon every week as soon as he stops being the only thing that makes the Browns watchable. The numbers aren’t jaw-dropping at first glance, but when you compare them to the rest of the WR group in Cleveland, it’s clear that he is their 1st priority on offense. Flash Gordon heads into Week 16 having played only 3 games this season, yet still finds himself just 121 yards and 1 TD away from leading Cleveland’s WRs in both categories. He is bound to get his opportunities in any week, especially in a game with the Bears which I think will be higher scoring than expected.
Week 16 Duds:
Marshawn Lynch: I hate to put Marshawn on this list, as he is one of the most popular player amongst fans, including myself. This week, it is based in the matchup, more than the play of Lynch, who has looked better of late (18 touches/game on 4.7 YPC over his last 5 games). The Raiders are going into Philly this week to play the Eagles in a stadium where the Eagles are allowing 48.3 rushing yards per game (not a typo). It’s going to be tough sledding all day, and I believe the Eagles will try to make Derek Carr beat their top end pass-rush potentially without Amari Cooper. This is just too much of a gamble to play Lynch in championship week.
Jimmy Garoppolo: I can’t overstate how in love I am with Jimmy G (as a fan). This guy has given the first glimmer of hope to a team that was 1-9 and on their way to a 10th loss before Jimmy even saw the field this year. Since Jimmy has taken over as the starter, the ‘9ers are 3-0 on the backs of 333 passing yards/game from their new QB. Not to mention that his command of the offense looks to already be on par with his former mentor and near consensus GOAT, Tom Brady. Now that you know how much I love Jimmy, you can understand that him being on this list confirms that his Week 16 opponent, The Jacksonville Jaguars, are the best pass defense in the NFL, and it isn’t close. They are first in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, sacks, yards lost, passer rating, yards per attempt, and completion percentage. I left all of the other stats that they are second or third in off the list only because it would be overwhelming. In fact, I can’t seem to find any passing defense stats that they don’t own one of the top 3 spots in. I guess to summarize, don’t start anyone against the Jaguars, especially anyone whose top 3 WRs are on the injury report.
Sterling Shepard: Sterling has stepped up in a big way to help the Giants struggling offense when he’s been healthy this year. He impressed last week with a 30.9 PPR point performance against Philly. I don’t want to take anything away from Sheppard, but that also happened to be one of the best games of Eli Manning’s career, in which he scored 7 more fantasy points than his last 3 games combined. I think it is beyond safe to assume that Eli’s ceiling for this week is about half of what he did in that game, which subsequently lowers the ceiling for Sheppard. This week’s matchup against the Cardinals will not be an easy one for Sheppard. While taking most of his snaps out of the slot will help him avoid too much face time with Patrick Peterson, he will be going up against Tyrann Mathieu much of time. Mathieu’s name doesn’t carry the same weight it did a couple of seasons ago, but he is still a high caliber player, and one of the big reasons Arizona is in the bottom half of the league in passing TDs allowed. Over the last 7 games, the Cardinals rank as the toughest matchup for WRs per FPAE (and also the most consistent). With Evan Ingram still as the top pass catcher in New York, there is just too much for Sheppard to overcome this week.