Ultimately, the decision of which player to start is largely determined by the composition of your roster (as well as your league’s settings).
As an example, Philip Rivers is listed below as a “start” for Week 16. And I’d feel comfortable going into Week 16 with him as my starting quarterback.
That said, he may be a sit for your team.
In other words, if you owned both Tom Brady and Rivers, you should start Brady — and in turn, bench Rivers.
So while you won’t find absolute start-sit recommendations below (use my Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings for that instead), the goal here is to highlight some players that I like (and would feel comfortable starting) as well as some players that I dislike for this week (and would prefer to keep on my bench).
WEEK 16 FANTASY FOOTBALL START’EM
QB – Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (at CLE)
Reaching the 300-yard mark in only one of his past seven games, Rivers has also failed to finish as a top-12 weekly quarterback in nine consecutive games. And while he has thrown multiple touchdowns in seven straight with a total of 16 during that span, he has also been a turnover machine with 14 interceptions in those seven games.
There is reason for optimism in Championship Week, however, as Rivers and the Chargers head to Cleveland to face the winless Browns. Not only have the Browns allowed the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this year, but no team has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in more games this season than Cleveland (11).
QB – Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders (vs. IND)
With back-to-back disappointing performances, Carr completed just 17-of-41 for 117 yards and no touchdowns in Week 14 and 19-of-30 for 213 yards and a score in Week 15. In what is expected to be a shootout against Andrew Luck and the Colts, Carr should have a have a bounce-back performance in Week 16. In fact, the Raiders are projected to score the second-most points this week based on implied totals from Vegas odds.
Meanwhile, the Colts have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. And that’s after allowing just one passing touchdown to five passes intercepted over their past three games. Of course, that dominance is primarily due to the matchups against the likes of Bryce Petty, Brock Osweiler and Sam Bradford.
RB – Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (vs. SF)
A few players — DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson, etc. — could earn the dubious honor as well, but Gurley has arguably been the biggest first-round fantasy football bust of the 2016 season.
Despite the high cost on draft day, there has been little to show for it. With double-digit fantasy points in only four of 14 games, Gurley has yet to exceed 85 rushing yards any week and has averaged just 55.6 per game on the season.
If you somehow advanced to Week 16 with Gurley as your first-round pick, the good news is that he could finally deliver for his owners with a soft matchup against the 49ers. San Francisco has allowed the most fantasy points to the position and 5.11 yards per carry and 22 touchdowns to the position, both of which are league highs.
Even worse (or better from Gurley’s standpoint), the 49ers have allowed a 100-yard rusher in 11 of their past 13 games. Stated differently, the 49ers have allowed 12.94 percent (11 of 85) of the 100-yard rushing games this season.
RB – Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears (vs. WAS)
In a season where little has gone right for the Bears, Howard has been a bright spot. Heading into Championship Week, the ex-Hoosier has racked up the seventh-most yards from scrimmage (1,348) and has been even better more recently.
Since Week 8, Howard has a minimum of 15 touches and 99 YFS in seven straight games. During that seven-game span, Howard ranks fourth in the NFL in touches (152) and YFS (868).
Granted, the Bears are home underdogs this week, but Howard has a plus matchup. Washington has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. In addition, only three teams have allowed more yards per carry (4.52) and combined touchdowns (18) to running backs this season.
RB – Bilal Powell, New York Jets (at NE)
With Matt Forte (knee) active last week, Powell once again dominated touches. In his past two games, Powell now has 61 total touches — 45/229/2 rushing and 16/112 receiving.
Even though the Jets are 17-point underdogs and projected to be the lowest-scoring team of the week, according to implied totals from Vegas odds, Powell should be heavily involved in the passing game and get 20-plus touches once again as Forte is listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game.
WR – Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers (vs. MIN)
Whether you call him a running back or a wide receiver, Montgomery is worth a start. It would be unreasonable to expect another 16/162/2 rushing performance, but more than reasonable to expect double-digit touches and a productive outing for a third consecutive game.
As far as the matchup goes, the Vikings have been much worse against the run over the past half-season or so than they were at the beginning of the year. From Weeks 1 to 7, the Vikings allowed 3.74 yards per carry (26th-most) and no running back exceeded 56 rushing yards. From Weeks 8 to 15, they have allowed 4.52 YPC (eighth-most) and six running backs have at least 70 rushing yards against them.
WR – DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (at JAX)
Hopkins has just one 100-yard game this season and it was all the way back in Week 2. In addition, the matchup this week is challenging as the Jaguars have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season. That said, the quarterback change to Tom Savage gives the passing offense a shot in the arm and a reason for Hopkins owners to be optimistic. Last week, Savage peppered Hopkins with targets and Nuk finished with eight catches for 87 yards on 17 targets.
WR – Dontrelle Inman, San Diego Chargers (at CLE)
Inman has a minimum of 43 yards in eight consecutive games, but he has averaged 4.6 receptions and 67.0 yards per game over that span. While his streak of games with a touchdown ended last week at three, Inman and the Chargers receivers get a plus matchup against the winless Browns. The Browns have allowed 14.01 Y/R and 10.76-percent touchdown rate, both of which are fourth-most, to opposing receivers this year.
TE – Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings (at GB)
Over his past four games, Rudolph has three games with double-digit targets and a minimum of eight during that span. That volume has led to a total of 27 catches for 266 yards and a touchdown over the past quarter season. In a favorable matchup against the Packers, who have allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season, I would expect another high-usage and productive game from Rudolph.
TE – Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers (at CLE)
With two weeks to go in the season (and likely his career), Gates is two touchdowns behind Tony Gonzalez for the most-ever by a tight end. Not only could Philip Rivers look to force an end-zone target or two into Gates’ direction, the Browns have been atrocious when defending tight ends. No team has allowed more fantasy points to the position and only the Lions have surrendered more touchdowns to opposing tight ends this year.
WEEK 16 FANTASY FOOTBALL SIT’EM
QB – Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals (at SEA)
The good news is that Palmer has thrown for 300-plus yards in two of his past three games and multiple touchdowns in five consecutive games. In fact, he has finished as a top-three weekly quarterback in both of those 300-yard games.
That said, Palmer and the Cardinals head to Seattle this week to take on the Seahawks, who have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. Even without Earl Thomas, it’s a difficult matchup, especially on the road at CenturyLink. In fact, only the Jets and Broncos are projected to score fewer points this week than the Cardinals.
QB – Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (at DAL)
Scoring the eighth-most fantasy points through Week 15, Stafford has been up-and-down this season. While Stafford has seven top-10 weekly performances, he has also finished as the QB20 or worse in five games this season including three of his past five. During that five-game span, Stafford has thrown for multiple touchdowns in just one game with a total of only four passing touchdowns over that stretch. Only five teams are projected to score fewer points than the Lions this week.
RB – Terrance West, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT)
One week after carrying it twice for just two yards, West erupted for 77 yards on 13 carries and added four catches for 45 yards against the Eagles in Week 15. The 122 yards from scrimmage and 17 touches were five-week highs.
It’s possible that he has another productive game, but it’s difficult to know whether West or Kenneth Dixon will get the larger share of the workload and we’ve seen the Ravens abandon the run even in games where they are successfully running the ball. Therefore, West and Dixon are both flex options as opposed to RB2 starts.
RB – Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons (vs. CAR)
Since returning from injury, Coleman has scored three touchdowns in four games. That said, he has averaged just 3.62 yards per carry and 5.2 yards per reception over that four-game span. Meanwhile, the Panthers have allowed the third-lowest yards per carry (3.58) to opposing running backs this season and Coleman had just 19 yards on eight carries earlier this season against Carolina.
WR – Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers (vs. MIN)
With only one target last week, Cobb put up a goose egg against the Bears. Over his past seven games, he has only one game with more than 41 receiving yards and has averaged 3.0/31.7/0.3 on 4.1 targets per game during that span. At this point, Cobb is only the fourth-best wide receiver option on his own team after Jordy Nelson, Ty Montgomery and Davante Adams.
WR – DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins (at BUF)
It’s been an up-and-down (mostly down) season for Parker. The second-year receiver has a total of just six catches for 65 yards on 10 targets in his past three games combined. Even though Matt Moore threw four touchdowns last week, he threw only 18 pass attempts. Given the lack of volume and production recently, Parker isn’t anything more than a low-floor, TD-dependent WR4.
WR – Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland Browns (vs. SD)
In two starts by RG3 in Weeks 14 and 15, Pryor has one catch for three yards and four catches for 19 yards, respectively. Obviously, fantasy owners were hoping for more. Not only have the Chargers allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to receivers this season, but I’d expect Casey Hayward to also shadow Pryor as well. In addition, Pryor will need surgery this offseason for a torn ligament in his finger.
TE – Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens (at PIT)
Pitta had a breakout performance in Week 13 with 9/90/2 on 11 targets against the Dolphins. For much of the season, Pitta has been heavily-targeted although the fantasy production didn’t match. Over his past two games, however, Pitta has just 4/18 on five targets and 2/16 on two targets. Pitta should remain on your bench this week as he had just 2/14 on three targets against Pittsburgh earlier this season.
TE – Jared Cook, Green Bay Packers (vs. MIN)
One of the most inconsistent tight ends in the NFL, Cook is coming off a 6/85 performance against the Bears and a top-seven weekly outing. Since returning from a multi-week absence, Cook has finished as the weekly TE1, TE51, TE28, TE37 and TE7, respectively. Stated differently, he has 85-plus yards in two of those games and less than 20 yards in the other three.
Good luck in your Championship Week matchups and Happy Holidays!
You can find more of my fantasy football content at EDSFootball.com.