Fantasy Football Start/Sit Week 16: Start Tom Brady, Jerick McKinnon; Sit Jared Goff, Amari Cooper
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images. Pictured: Jerick McKinnon.
A number of shocking things have happened over the first 15 weeks of the season, and setting fantasy lineups might be a serious chore with the sheer number of injuries and befuddling situations.
Below are some players at each position you should start in Week 16, as well as some players you should consider sitting based on matchups, injuries and trends.
Week 16 Start ‘Em
Quarterback to Start
Tom Brady, Buccaneers (at Cardinals)
I have put Brady in the “sit” portion of this article more often than not. He did finish top-12 last week against the Bengals‘ above average defense, which was only his fourth QB1 finish this year. He completed 30-of-44 attempts for 312 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, though he seemed to fall apart in the second half which gave way to a huge Cincinnati comeback.
At this stage in his career, Brady probably cannot physically muster an epic, Justin Fields-esque performance for fantasy. He was the QB3 last season and is the QB15 this year through 15 weeks.
His last 20-point performance was back in Week 5 against the Falcons. I do expect at least decent numbers this week against the Cardinals, who have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and rank 20th in pass DVOA. They were able to hold down Mac Jones and Brett Rypien since the bye, but were torched by Justin Herbert and Jimmy Garoppolo in the two weeks prior. Brady is a low-end QB1 for Week 16.
Daniel Jones, Giants (at Vikings)
Jones stumbled last week on the road against the Commanders and finished as the QB26. Overall, he is the QB11 on the season with some solid performances here and there.
He has finished as a top-12 quarterback in three games since the Giants’ Week 9 bye and five games total. He is averaging just shy of 42 rushing yards per game and has five rushing touchdowns, which adds to his fantasy upside.
This week, Jones and the G-Men take on the Vikings, whose defense has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and ranks 27th in pass DVOA. He is one of my favorite Jalen Hurts substitutes and he has fringe-QB1 potential for Week 16.
Wide Receivers to Start
D.J. Moore, Panthers (vs. Lions)
Moore is back in my good graces of late in spite of a Week 14 flop against the Seahawks. He bounced back nicely against the Steelers in Week 15, when he caught 5-of-6 targets for 73 yards and a touchdown to finish as the WR13 in half-PPR scoring.
Moore is the definition of feast or famine — more famine than feast this season. He has five games with 12-plus fantasy points and six games with five or fewer.
At least some of this volatility has to be attributed to the Panthers’ quarterback carousel, which has consisted of Baker Mayfield, P.J. Walker and most recently, Sam Darnold.
Darnold seems to be a good force for this offense and I expect he and Moore to have good games against the Lions, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers and rank 22nd in pass defense (per DVOA). Consider Moore a low-end WR2 in Week 16.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chiefs (vs. Seahawks)
Smith-Schuster suffered a concussion back in Week 10 that held him out of Week 11. He seemed to be eased back in for Weeks 12 and 13, but has come on strong of late.
In Week 14, Smith-Schuster caught 9-of-11 targets for 74 yards and a touchdown and was the WR6. In Week 15, he caught all ten of his targets for 88 yards and was the WR25 in half PPR.
Smith-Schuster should be solid this week in a game with serious shootout potential and the second-highest point total of the week (49.5). The Seahawks have allowed the fourth-most offensive points and offensive yards per game this year and rank 25th in defensive DVOA.
The Chiefs are not much better, ranking 24th in that metric. Smith-Schuster should be regarded as a WR2 based on volume and the matchup.
Christian Watson, Packers (at Dolphins)
The Rams brought Watson’s hot streak to a screeching halt in Week 15. He caught 4-of-6 targets for 46 yards and finished as the WR51 in half-PPR scoring. In the four weeks prior to that, Watson had scored eight touchdowns and was the WR2 behind only — and ironically — Davante Adams.
The Packers get a nice Week 16 matchup in Miami and will be sheltered from the extreme weather in some parts of the country. The Dolphins rank 26th in pass DVOA and this game actually has the highest point total of the week at 51. Watson is a WR2 despite the hiccup last week.
Adam Thielen, Vikings (vs. Giants)
Justin Jefferson remains the centerpiece of the Vikings offense, but Thielen has been impressive of late. He has scored a touchdown and has finished with 12 or more fantasy points in half-PPR scoring in three of the last four games. In that span, Jefferson is the WR1 and Thielen is respectably the WR18.
I am willing to ride this Thielen hot streak into Week 16 against the Giants, who rank 24th in pass DVOA. Thielen is a WR3/flex given the matchup and recent success.
Running Backs to Start
Jerick McKinnon, Chiefs (vs. Seahawks)
McKinnon has been nothing short of spectacular of late.
In Week 15, he tallied 10 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown and caught 8-of-8 targets for 70 yards and a second touchdown. He was the RB1 for the second time in a row and he is the RB2 behind only Christian McCaffrey since Week 13. Meanwhile, Isiah Pacheco cooled off a bit with 15 carries for 86 yards plus an 11-yard reception.
McKinnon is now the preferred starter — especially in PPR formats — over Pacheco, though both may be fantasy relevant in a mouthwatering matchup against Seattle.
The Seahawks have been a great matchup for running backs all year, as they rank 28th in rush DVOA and have allowed the second-most fantasy points to the position. McKinnon is a high-end RB2 with RB1 upside.
🎶 you better watch out,
you better not cry,
you better start jerick mckinnon, i'm telling you why
the seattle seahawks are coming to town 🎶
— Samantha Previte (@SamanthaNFL) December 23, 2022
Raheem Mostert, Dolphins (vs. Packers)
Impressive in the Dolphins’ valiant losing effort in a Buffalo snowstorm, Mostert had 17 carries for 136 yards and caught a pass for 20 yards, finishing as the RB13 in half PPR for the week. The next closest rusher was Salvon Ahmed, who saw six carries for 43 yards and a touchdown.
Mostert’s usage was higher than usual with Jeff Wilson Jr. sidelined, though Wilson will likely return this week. Even if both are on the field, there is a good chance both end up being fantasy relevant.
The Packers are last in defensive rush DVOA and have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs. Mostert is a low-end RB2 in this dreamy Week 16 matchup.
AJ Dillon, Packers (at Dolphins)
Dillon, the RB41 in half PPR through the first 11 weeks of the season, started off his Year 3 campaign quite slow. But since then, he is the RB5 on a per-game basis behind only Josh Jacobs, Christian McCaffrey, Jerick McKinnon and James Conner.
Counterpart Aaron Jones is not far behind as the RB13 since Week 12. Jones saw 21 touches for 126 all-purpose yards and a touchdown last week and out-snapped Dillon by a count of 40 to 26.
Dillon and Jones remain in a fairly balanced committee, which limits their upside. That said, it is tough to ignore three consecutive top-12 finishes from Dillon. He should be a RB3/flex option against the Dolphins, who are middle of the road against running backs.
Zack Moss, Colts (vs. Chargers)
The Colts leaned on the duo of Moss and Deon Jackson after star running back Jonathan Taylor went down after just two snaps in their epic meltdown against the Vikings.
Moss tallied 24 carries for 81 yards, while Jackson recorded 13 carries for 55 yards and caught a pass for a one-yard touchdown. Moss out-snapped Jackson by a count of 53 to 25 in the effort.
Normally, I would recommend Jackson, who had been productive with Taylor sidelined in the past, though that was before Moss joined the team. The snap counts and touches suggest Moss would be the preferred add, though this will likely be some kind of committee.
I love this matchup against the Chargers, who rank 25th in rush DVOA and have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs. Moss is a RB3/flex in this matchup and in light of his new opportunity.
Tight Ends to Start
Dallas Goedert, Eagles (at Cowboys)
All signs point to Goedert returning this week — just in time for Hurts to be ruled out. In all seriousness, it will be great to have Goedert back. He was likely stashed on injured reserve by fantasy managers in the hopes he would be healthy for the fantasy playoffs.
Prior to the shoulder injury, Goedert was one of the more reliable tight ends as he was the TE5 in half PPR through the first 10 weeks of the season behind Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, Zach Ertz and T.J. Hockenson.
The one game in which Goedert and Gardner Minshew overlapped, Goedert exploded for 105 yards and two touchdowns, finishing as the TE2 in Week 13 against the Jets in 2021. I would instantly plug him back into lineups as a low-end TE1.
Taysom Hill, Saints (at Browns)
Hill shined in the Saints’ crucial win over the Falcons in Week 15. He rushed seven times for 30 yards, tossed two passes for 80 yards and a touchdown and was the TE12 in half-PPR scoring.
So long as Hill remains coded as a tight end on most platforms, he is worth starting. This week in particular appeals to me against the Browns, who rank bottom three in rush DVOA. The weather will probably lend itself to more rushing, which helps Hill’s chances to fall into the end zone. He is a fringe TE1 with upside.
Defense to Start
Ravens D/ST (vs. Falcons)
The Ravens are the DST5 on the season and have finished top-12 in seven of 14 game this year. They have allowed the fifth-fewest points per game and rank eighth in overall defensive DVOA. The Ravens have been particularly tough against the run and have allowed the third-fewest rushing yards per game.
On the other side of the ball, the Falcons will be starting rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder for the second week in a row with Marcus Mariota out on injured reserve. Ridder was okay in his debut, but did demonstrate some rookie mistakes which should, in turn, translate to fantasy points for the Ravens’ defense. They are a top DST play in Week 16.
Week 16 Sit ‘Em
Quarterbacks to Sit
Deshaun Watson, Browns (vs. Saints)
The Saints have a slightly above average pass defense (according to DVOA), but that is not the reason Watson has landed on the wrong side of this column. Since returning from suspension, he just hasn’t shown anything to suggest he is a reliable fantasy starter. He has two touchdowns and two interceptions over three starts and has yet to finish as a QB12 or better.
The weather is also not projected to be favorable, with temperatures potentially in the single digits in Cleveland.
This game has an absurdly low over/under of 32.5 — definitely the lowest of the week. Watson and most players in this game (aside from perhaps the running backs) are sits for me.
Jared Goff, Lions (at Panthers)
Goff came back down to Earth after a string of good starts. He completed 23-of-38 attempts for 252 yards and one touchdown and finished as the QB17. Prior to that, he had finished as the QB4 in back-to-back weeks.
It was last week that I spoke about Goff’s home and road splits. Of his 23 passing touchdowns this year, just three have come on the road. His QB17 finish last week against the Jets was actually his best fantasy finish away from Detroit this year.
The Panthers are a much easier matchup than the Jets, though they have been above average against fantasy quarterbacks. Goff is a QB2 with limited upside.
Wide Receivers to Sit
Marquise Brown, Cardinals (vs. Buccaneers)
Brown was the WR6 in half PPR prior to his injury in Week 6. He missed five games and has been unremarkable since, finishing as the WR52, WR56 and WR64 in his three games back. He struggled — as predicted — last week against Denver’s stout defense and caught 4-of-8 targets for 19 yards.
In fairness to Brown, the quarterback situation definitely has something to do with his lack of production. The Cardinals are now on their third quarterback, Trace McSorely, after losing Colt McCoy to concussion protocol.
I expect Brown to struggle once again with the Buccaneers, who rank 10th in pass DVOA.
Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers (vs. Commanders)
Aiyuk has been up-and-down since Brock Purdy took over at quarterback.
In Purdy’s three starts, Aiyuk has finished as the WR49, WR23 and WR74. He caught just 2-of-4 passes for 19 yards last week against the Seahawks in a game that the 49ers won handily — in fairness, it was the Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle show with minimal contributions from anyone else.
Purdy has been extremely impressive all things considered, but he is still a backup and not Jimmy Garoppolo — the quarterback Aiyuk seems to mesh with the best. It does not surprise me that Purdy would have an affinity for his star pass-catching back and All-Pro tight end, as both tend to be “security blankets” for inexperienced signal-callers.
This week’s matchup against the Commanders is middle of the road, but Aiyuk’s involvement just feels too risky to bet on in your fantasy semis. He is a high-end WR3/flex option with a fairly wide range of potential outcomes.
Amari Cooper, Browns (vs. Saints)
Cooper appears to have little to no chemistry with Watson. In Weeks 1 through 12 with Jacoby Brissett under center, Cooper was the WR8 in half PPR. Since Watson’s return, Cooper is the WR51.
He had his best game of the (albeit short) Watson era last week against the Ravens when he caught 4-of-6 targets for 58 yards. Donovan Peoples-Jones wound up with the better fantasy game and logged four catches for 31 yards and a touchdown.
Cooper is now fighting for targets with Peoples-Jones, who has emerged of late, as well as a healthy David Njoku. Personally, I would be worried about starting any of Cleveland’s pass-catchers with the nasty weather forecasted. This, combined with Cooper’s lack of production with Watson makes me more inclined to sit him. He is a risky WR3/flex this weekend.
Curtis Samuel, Commanders (at 49ers)
Samuel has cooled off a bit due to the ascendance of Jahan Dotson. In Week 15, Samuel caught 3-of-5 targets for 44 yards while Dotson caught 4-of-6 for 105 yards and a touchdown. Dotson also out-snapped Samuel by a count of 67 to 56 — both were out-snapped by Terry McLaurin (77).
My worry about Samuel this week stems from the competition Dotson presents, as well as the matchup. The 49ers are a brutal opponent and rank fifth in pass DVOA and first in overall defensive DVOA. Samuel falls outside of the WR3/flex tier for Week 16.
Running Backs to Sit
Brian Robinson Jr., Commanders (at 49ers)
Robinson has tallied double-digit fantasy points in six of 10 games. He posted his third consecutive 100-scrimmage-yard game in Week 15 against the Giants and was the RB26. He does remain in a time share with Antonio Gibson, who out-snapped Robinson last week by a count of 38 to 24.
I am wary of starting either one, but Robinson in particular as their first- and second-down back. The 49ers are filthy against the run and rank second in rush DVOA and first against fantasy running backs. Robinson is a low end and risky RB3.
D’Onta Foreman, Panthers (vs. Lions)
Foreman is coming off his worst game since Christian McCaffrey was traded. He saw the lion’s share of carries in Week 15 against the Steelers, though it appears the opportunity was wasted. He rushed 10 times for nine yards and was not targeted once.
Chuba Hubbard, on the other hand, out-gained Foreman on just four carries and caught three targets for 57 yards. Hubbard also out-snapped Foreman by a count of 29 to 14.
I might prefer Hubbard rest-of-season given how game-script dependent Foreman’s role is. The latter’s involvement in the passing game is nonexistent (five catches all year), which does not bode well on a team that finds itself in negative game scripts more often than not.
The matchup also is not ideal. The Lions were pushovers against the run earlier this season, but that has since shifted and the unit has not allowed a double-digit fantasy performance since Week 7. Foreman is a low-end RB3 with a near-zero floor.
Cam Akers, Rams (vs. Broncos)
With Darrell Henderson Jr. released and the Rams essentially out of options, Akers has been the featured back in Los Angeles . He has performed decently in each of the last three games in three easy matchups.
Akers saw 12 carries for 65 yards and caught three passes for 35 yards for his first 100-scrimmage-yard game of the year against the Packers. He finished as the RB23 for the second week in a row.
I am less optimistic about Akers this week against the Broncos, who are average against the run, but tougher overall than the three teams he faced most recently. This game has an over/under of 36.5, so my expectations are fairly low for all players involved. Akers is a RB3 with limited upside in Week 16.
Dare Ogunbowale, Texans (at Titans)
Ogunbowale is a prime example of lack of proficiency outweighing opportunity. He completely failed to “carpe diem” with rookie Dameon Pierce out for the season and was held to just eight carries for 14 yards.
He was the RB66 in half-PPR scoring against the Chiefs in Week 15 and faces a much tougher opponent in Week 16 in the Titans.
Tennessee has the No. 1 run defense according to rush DVOA and have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. Don’t even think about it: Ogunbowale belongs back on the waiver wire, not in your fantasy semifinal lineup.
Tight Ends to Sit
Gerald Everett, Chargers (at Colts)
Everett is the overall TE11 in half PPR despite only finishing top 12 at the position five times. There was hope he could be more consistent when the Chargers’ wide receivers were ravaged with injuries, but that never really materialized.
Everett’s talent and the sheer fact that he is on an offense with Justin Herbert always keeps him in the conversation, but his two touchdowns at a position known for being touchdown dependent just has not cut it. He is a high-end TE2 against the Colts in Week 16.
Greg Dulcich, Broncos (at Rams)
Midseason, many in the fantasy community — myself included — thought Dulcich might be on track for a Kyle Pitts-caliber breakout (or perhaps more realistically, a Pat Freiermuth breakout). Dulcich is talented, but he remains tethered to an anemic offense that’s scoring an NFL-low 15.6 points per game.
We may need to wait until the Broncos make major coaching or personnel changes until we see a true breakout, though I suspect Year 2 or 3 will be better for him given the relatively sharper learning curve for tight ends. He is a TE2 against the Rams, who are above average against tight ends.
Defense to Sit
Eagles D/ST (at Cowboys)
The Eagles are the DST4 this year and are second in pass DVOA. They have allowed the second-fewest offensive yards and the fewest passing yards per game.
I am still sitting them against the Cowboys, who have scored the third-most offensive points per game (28.1), behind only the Eagles and Chiefs. Look elsewhere for a better DST matchup.
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