Patrick Daugherty

Goal Line Stand

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Week 16 Rankings

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Updated 12/22/2013 at 2:30 PM ET. Calvin Johnson moved ahead of Keenan Allen upon news that he'll be active versus Giants. 

Updated 12/22/2013 at 12:00 PM ET. Maurice Jones-Drew added. Expecting a timeshare, with Jordan Todman being the slightly better play. Calvin Johnson moved down from No. 1 spot upon Adam Schefter's report that he's "not a sure thing to play."  

It’s all led up to this. Every add, every drop. Every last-minute roster decision. Every garbage-time miracle. Every Harry Douglas. Every Nick Foles.

Rarely, if ever, is the path to championship week a straight line. A good draft will only get you so far. Say, Week 4. You don’t reach Week 16 without a little luck, and a whole lot of waiver-wire vigilance. That’s the nature of a game where 12 of the first 25 picks by ADP have missed at least one week.   

It’s also why, even in Week 16, the best of the best fake footballers are mulling decisions that would have been unthinkable two weeks ago. Do I start Kirk Cousins? Who is Jordan Todman, where did he come from and how do I get him into my lineup? Can I trust undrafted rookie Dennis Johnson against the best team in the AFC? Is Matt freakin’ Flynn going to get a shot at his third straight comeback victory? So is the fantasy football life.

So how about the question of the week? No player is generating more championship-week discussion than Kirk Cousins, and rightfully so after he carved up the Falcons for 381 yards and three touchdowns in his first start of 2013. The question is not whether Cousins is daily-league gold (he is) or if he should be locked into two-quarterback league lineups (he should). It’s who can you trust him over in standard leagues? The answer? Probably not as many people as you’d think. For though Cousins’ upside is real — he’s facing a defense that’s allowed 81 more passing yards than any team in the NFL, and has been eviscerated up by career backups Flynn and Josh McCown the past two weeks — there’s no such thing as guaranteed upside for a player making his third-career start. Cousins isn’t quite a wing and a prayer, but he’s not the Rosetta Stone, either. Get excited, but don’t go crazy.

That means don’t start Cousins over season-long QB1s like Drew Brees and Cam Newton because they have “bad matchups,” however tempting it may be. Tom Brady or Andrew Luck? That’s at least a discussion. Luck is going on the road against one the league’s fiercest pass rushes, while Brady is without Rob Gronkowski and possibly Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins against one of the few teams that’s historically had his number. But Luck is overseeing an offense that’s looked far more competent in recent weeks, and getting a defense that let Matt McGloin drop 297 yards on it in Week 15. Brady? Think about the actual act of benching Tom Brady for Kirk Cousins in Week 16. Clicking “bench” on one of the greatest players in league history during the fantasy finals to insert a second-year fourth rounder with 118 career pass attempts. Is it so crazy that it just might work? Ask Monte Kiffin. Is it still crazy? Yes.

Start Cousins over a struggling Matt Ryan in San Francisco or banged up Carson Palmer in the thunderdome. But when it comes to the Breeses of the world, you’re on your own. Maybe it will be in the winner’s circle. More likely it will be in the “what was I thinking” Hall-of-Fame.   

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 16. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the FanDuel link.

Week 16 Quarterbacks       

Rank Player Name Opponent Notes
1 Peyton Manning at HOU Probable (ankle)
2 Nick Foles vs. CHI -
3 Drew Brees at CAR -
4 Matthew Stafford vs. NYG -
5 Cam Newton vs. NO -
6 Jay Cutler at PHI -
7 Philip Rivers vs. OAK -
8 Andy Dalton vs. MIN -
9 Tony Romo at WAS -
10 Colin Kaepernick vs. ATL -
11 Russell Wilson vs. ARZ -
12 Tom Brady at BAL Probable (shoulder)
13 Andrew Luck at KC -
14 Alex Smith vs. IND -
15 Ben Roethlisberger at GB -
16 Kirk Cousins vs. DAL -
17 Ryan Tannehill at BUF -
18 Ryan Fitzpatrick at JAC -
19 Jason Campbell at NYJ -
20 Joe Flacco vs. NE Questionable (knee)
21 Matt Ryan at SF -
22 Matt Cassel at CIN -
23 Carson Palmer at SEA Probable (ankle)
24 Matt Schaub vs. DEN -
25 Matt Flynn vs. PIT -
26 Eli Manning at DET -
27 Matt McGloin at SD -
28 Thad Lewis vs. MIA -
29 Mike Glennon at STL -
30 Chad Henne vs. TEN -
31 Kellen Clemens vs. TB -
32 Geno Smith vs. CLE -
33 Terrelle Pryor at SD -

QB Notes: A first-world problem? Wondering if the Broncos get up so big, so fast on the Texans that Peyton Manning is limited to essentially one half of football in fantasy championship week. It’s a valid concern, but a little less so after the Texans announced Matt Schaub will be making the start in place of Case Keenum. Not that Schaub is a world-beater, but his train is at least still on the tracks. That’s more than can be said for Keenum in recent weeks. Manning has 54.8 more fantasy points than his next closest competitor, Drew Brees. That’s a horse you see through till the end. … Nick Foles finally had a game where everything didn’t go right. The result? A season-high 428 yards, three touchdowns and 41 yards rushing for good measure. Yes, Foles threw two picks, but this is a player who’s matchup proof heading into Week 16. The Bears are much stouter against the pass than the run, but that shouldn’t matter in what will likely be another shootout.

With the Packers showing remarkable restraint in the face of a possible playoff berth, Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) appears no better than 50-50 to return for Sunday’s game against the Steelers. If he does, “rust” will not be a valid excuse to leave him on your bench. If Rodgers takes the field, there’s not a single fantasy pine he should be riding. … You know the Drew Brees score by now, but to recap, here are his numbers through seven home games: 350.6 yards per game, 73.2 completion percentage, 8.76 yards per attempt, 23:3 TD:INT ratio and a 122.5 quarterback rating. Through seven road: 292.3 yards per game, 63.4 completion percentage, 6.94 yards per attempt, 11:7 TD:INT ratio and 86.4 QB rating. Yes, that’s a major dropoff. But notice something about his road numbers? They’re still quite good, and likely better than the overall numbers of anyone you’d consider starting in his place. Carolina’s defense is not a good matchup for Drew Brees. You know who’s not a good matchup for Carolina’s defense? Drew Brees. Start the man.

Despite the idiocy of some, Matthew Stafford is not the problem in Detroit, and he’s not the problem for your fantasy team, particularly at home. That’s where he’ll face the noncompetitive Giants this weekend. Stafford is not going to turn in back-to-back bad starts at Ford Field. Benching him is a game you will lose. … Philip Rivers is the No. 5 fantasy quarterback with two weeks to go. Last season he finished 20th. Even with the Bolts running the ball well of late, Rivers should have a nice day against the Raiders’ patchwork secondary. … It was looking like “Jaypocalypse Now” early in Chicago’s Week 15 win over the Browns, but Jay Cutler bounced back to finish with three scores and 265 yards. In the past four games he’s played from start to finish, Cutler has averaged 25.7 fantasy points. That would rank third on the year. He’s going to get his against an Eagles defense allowing the fifth most fantasy points to quarterbacks. … Can Tony Romo bounce-back mentally from the latest Desolation of Dallas? It’s a valid question, but he has the right matchup in one of the few defenses that’s almost as bad as Monte Kiffin’s. Emphasis on almost.    

Andy Dalton has been one of the least consistent players in football, but a much better player at home, he’s getting a team whose middle name might as well be “shootout.” Even if it’s begrudgingly, you need to trust Dalton for Week 16. … The last time Colin Kaepernick had a matchup this good, he was probably still at Nevada. Actually, it was Week 12 against the Redskins, where he racked up 25.8 fantasy points. Kaep is good to go for the ‘ship. … Oddly, Ben Roethlisberger finds his status tied to Aaron Rodgers’. If Rodgers plays, fire Big Ben up in a likely shootout. If he doesn’t, expect some ground-and-pound from Pittsburgh, and one of Roethlisberger’s every-other-week 220-yard efforts. … We talked about Andrew Luck in the lede, but the short of it? The matchup isn’t as dire as it appears on paper. Kansas City has sprung some leaks, while the Colts have found some competency and consistency. A big-play threat who tacks on yards with his legs, Luck is a high-upside play despite his up-and-down year. … Russell Wilson’s floor remains one of the highest in fantasy, but his ceiling is much lower than usual in a game that has all the makings of a brawl.

Alex Smith is fantasy’s No. 5 quarterback over the past five weeks. One spot behind him? Ryan Tannehill. The matchup isn’t amazing in a Bills defense that’s third in interceptions and leading the league in sacks, but Tannehill should pop enough big plays against Buffalo’s burnable secondary to make it worth fantasy owners’ while. … No. 19 is probably too low for the Amish Rifle, Ryan Fitzpatrick, but so is life when all 32 teams are playing. Fitzpatrick is an excellent daily-league option against a Jaguars team allowing the third most fantasy points to quarterbacks. … What Jason Campbell lacks in consistency, he makes up for it with Josh Gordon. The Browns are going to burn the Jets’ disintegrating secondary at least 2-3 times. … One of fantasy’s biggest disappointments this season, Matt Ryan is making a 2,500-mile trip to take on a top-five defense. If Ryan couldn’t shred the Redskins, he’s not going to have much luck against the 49ers. … Carson Palmer has been on a hot streak since a disastrous Week 7. Who shut him down that day? Seattle, whom he’ll now be facing in the toughest venue in sports. It’s been a nice ride, but it’s almost certainly over.

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Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
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