Tampa Bay @ St. Louis
The Bucs trek to the Edward Jones Dome for a date with a Rams defense that brings explosive edge pressure and has surged to No. 5 in the NFL in sacks (42) with RE Robert Quinn garnering Defensive POY notice. St. Louis' secondary is vulnerable when the pass rush doesn't get home, but it has been lately and that figures to continue on The Ed's fast track. This isn't a good matchup for Mike Glennon, who's begun to slump down the stretch of an otherwise promising rookie year. He has a 4:5 TD-to-turnover ratio over his last three games, falling short of 200 passing yards in all three. Glennon is a low-end QB2 in Week 16. ... This is Glennon's 2013 target distribution: Vincent Jackson 108; Tim Wright 56; Tiquan Underwood 38; Brian Leonard 31; Chris Owusu 15; Bobby Rainey 12. ... Jackson is the lone trustworthy Bucs pass catcher in fantasy championship week. Notable enemy receiver stat lines coughed up by St. Louis this season: Marques Colston 8-92-1; Brandon Marshall 10-117-1; T.Y. Hilton 7-130; Golden Tate 5-93-2; Justin Blackmon 5-136-1; Cecil Shorts 5-74-1; Larry Fitzgerald (twice) 8-80-2 and 12-96-1; Dez Bryant 4-38-1; Julio Jones 11-182-1; Steve Smith 5-69-1; Andre Johnson 7-88; Anquan Boldin (twice) 5-90-1 and 9-98.
Underwood has made seven starts since Mike Williams landed on I.R., registering box-score lines of 2-29-1, 3-64, 1-20, 3-108-2, 3-51, 0-0, and 2-15. Avoid. ... The Rams have allowed the fourth fewest fantasy points in the league to tight ends, keeping Wright in the TE2 category despite his garbage time-enhanced 7-82-1 number in last week's blowout loss to San Francisco. Wright has reached 25 receiving yards in just two of his last six games. ... I wouldn't discourage anyone from playing Rainey in a Week 16 flex slot -- Tampa Bay is committed to feeding him and playing balanced offense -- but Rainey isn't getting the up-front blocking he and Mike James benefited from closer to midseason. Leave out Rainey's 80-yard touchdown run on his opening carry of Week 14 versus Buffalo, and he's managed 173 yards on his last 70 rushing attempts (2.47 YPC). Even if you leave in the 80-yarder, Rainey is at 3.56 yards per carry over that span. St. Louis is not quite a pushover defense up front, ranking No. 12 versus the run and holding opponents under 4.0 YPC on the season. Rainey is a mildly attractive, mid-range flex play in championship week.
Rams offensive centerpiece Zac Stacy also lacks an ideal Week 16 matchup, but there are reasons to be excited about him in this game. The Bucs are unlikely to put a big lead on St. Louis, and the Rams will unfailingly pound the rock. Impressive early in the season, Tampa NT Akeem Spence hit a Rookie Wall about a month and a half ago and has been getting washed out of run plays. The Bucs have fallen to 15th in run defense, losing core early-down SLB Jonathan Casillas (knee) to I.R. along the way. Stacy is a legit RB1 in Week 16. ... Tampa Bay isn't particularly stout in pass defense, but St. Louis doesn't have fantasy-viable pass catchers in a dysfunctional passing attack quarterbacked by journeyman Kellen Clemens. In the Rams' Week 15 upset of New Orleans, for instance, no St. Louis receiver or tight end even hit 50 yards. This is Clemens' 2013 target distribution in case you're wildly desperate: Chris Givens 37; Jared Cook 34; Tavon Austin and Stacy 23; Austin Pettis 18; Lance Kendricks 15; Stedman Bailey 14; Brian Quick 12. ... Austin is the only player worth a look against a Bucs defense that has struggled to contain slot receivers, but the rookie was inactive last week due to an ankle sprain, and couldn’t practice this Wednesday or Thursday. With a game so reliant on stop-start moves and suddenness, an ankle injury is concerning for Tavon's effectiveness in the event he does play.
Score Prediction: Rams 21, Bucs 17
4:05PM ET Games
Arizona @ Seattle
The Cardinals have played solid and sometimes even stout pass defense this season on the strength of high blitz frequency and outstanding secondary personnel, but their weaknesses were exposed in last week's overtime win at Tennessee. Missing safety/slot corner Tyrann Mathieu (ACL/LCL tear) and losing fill-in Rashad Johnson to an in-game high ankle sprain, Arizona was shredded on blitz beaters inside the numbers by Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker for a combined 20 receptions, 203 yards, and a touchdown. It's a deficiency film junkie Russell Wilson will surely notice on tape. Wilson poured 264 total yards and three touchdowns on the Cards when these teams met in mid-October. Fire up Wilson as a top-eight QB1. ... Quietly, almost, Doug Baldwin leads Seattle in receiving yards (770) and touchdowns (5) on the season despite playing fewer snaps and seeing 21 fewer targets than Golden Tate over the course of the year. Baldwin became an every-down player in Seattle's offense six games ago and has topped 70 yards and/or scored a touchdown in all but one of them. In an ideal Week 16 matchup, Baldwin is a high-end WR3 against a team fellow slot man Wright ransacked for a 12-150 line on 20 targets last week.
Wilson's target distribution with Percy Harvin (hip) back on the shelf for Seattle's last three games: Tate 19; Baldwin 16; Zach Miller 14; Jermaine Kearse 11; Marshawn Lynch 10; Luke Willson 7. ... Far and away, the Cards allow the most fantasy points in the league to tight ends. The risk with Miller is always that he's so incredibly touchdown dependent and will tank your fantasy lineup if he doesn't score. He's a high-risk and ultimately undesirable streamer. ... Tate is a virtual lock to get the Patrick Peterson shadow treatment. These are Tate's last two stat lines in games against Peterson: 4-77-0; 2-6-0. Tate is more WR4 than WR3 option in fantasy title week. ... Third receiver and jump-ball specialist Kearse hasn't hit pay dirt since early November, which means he hasn't been a fantasy factor. He's averaging two catches for 15.5 yards over his last four games. ... The Cardinals rank No. 1 versus the run and deserve credit for consistent stinginess up front, but the one back they haven't had answers for is Lynch. BeastMode piled up 94 total yards and a touchdown on 22 touches when these clubs met in Week 7. Even if Lynch isn't quite as good a Week 16 fantasy start as LeSean McCoy or Jamaal Charles, he's still an easy top-five RB1.
The once-hot Cardinals passing offense hit the skids in last week's narrow win over the Titans as DT Jurrell Casey shredded Arizona's interior offensive line. The Cards' coaching staff has done a commendable job of masking up-front deficiencies all year, but superior opponents can still exploit them. And the Seahawks are a superior opponent. When Arizona and Seattle met in Week 7, Carson Palmer absorbed seven sacks and threw two interceptions, and afterwards there were many calls nationally for the Cardinals to bench Palmer. It's a good thing they didn't, but also not good that they travel to Seattle in Week 16. It's a week to avoid Arizona's passing game in fantasy lineup decisions. ... Palmer's target distribution during the Cardinals' 5-1 hot run: Larry Fitzgerald 62; Michael Floyd 44; Andre Roberts 32; Rob Housler 30; Andre Ellington 17; Jim Dray 12; Rashard Mendenhall 8; Jake Ballard 4. ... Fitz is tentatively expected to start despite last week's fourth-quarter concussion, but managed 17 yards on two receptions in the Week 7 game and is best treated as a WR3 in fantasy title week, as opposed to the WR1 he's scored like lately. Especially at CenturyLink Field, facing Seattle is the worst matchup possible for enemy wideouts.
Fitz is still a better box-score bet than Floyd, who runs his routes outside and will do battle with physical mismatch creators LCB Richard Sherman and RCB Byron Maxwell. Maxwell has been an upgrade since replacing Brandon Browner. Floyd is just a WR4 this week. ... The Seahawks have allowed the eighth fewest fantasy points to tight ends. With Housler nursing an ongoing groin injury and only blockers Ballard and Dray behind him, Arizona's tight end position is safe to ignore in Week 16 lineup decisions. ... Roberts has reached 50 yards once over his last 13 games. Steer clear of Roberts even if Fitzgerald has a pre-game setback. ... Seattle has not been as stout in run defense over the course of the season as its reputation suggests, but this remains a matchup to avoid for Cardinals tailbacks. In Week 7, the Seahawks' defensive front manhandled Arizona's talent-deficient offensive line at the point of attack, limiting Mendenhall and Ellington to a combined 25 yards on 16 carries (1.56 YPC). Ellington is going to need to rip off an unlikely big run or receiving play to pay flex dividends. As usual, Mendenhall would need a goal-line score.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 23, Cardinals 10
NY Giants @ Detroit
Despite back-to-back clunker games due to a snowstorm (Week 14) and genuinely poor play (Week 15), Matthew Stafford enters fantasy championship week as the No. 3 overall fantasy quarterback and a far better bet to bounce back than stay in the tank. Minus Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) over their last three games, the Giants have allowed San Diego, Washington, and Seattle quarterbacks to burn them for 65-of-89 passing (73%), 678 yards (7.62 YPA), and a 5:1 TD-to-INT ratio. JPP isn't expected to play this week, either. The last time Stafford threw three or more picks, he rebounded the following week to throw for 330 yards and three touchdowns in Detroit's Thanksgiving humbling of Green Bay. He's a top-five QB1 in title week. ... Stafford's target distribution in Nate Burleson's six 2013 starts: Calvin Johnson 73; Burleson 48; Joique Bell 35; Reggie Bush and Kris Durham 27; Brandon Pettigrew 24; Joseph Fauria 9. ... His slowdown in recent production notwithstanding, Megatron is the top fantasy receiver play of Week 16. These are the last five No. 1 wideouts' stat lines against the Giants: Jordy Nelson 8-117; Dez Bryant 9-102; Pierre Garcon 9-61; Keenan Allen 3-59-2; Doug Baldwin 6-71-1. ... Burleson also has a plus finals week matchup, but his production hasn't been up to snuff, and unlike Megatron the 32-year-old slot receiver doesn't warrant benefit of the doubt. Burleson hasn't hit pay dirt since his Week 12 return from a broken arm, maxing out at 51 yards during that span. He's a WR4 in Week 16.
Bush has gained 517 yards on his last 99 rushing attempts (5.22 YPC) and registered 100-plus total yards and/or a touchdown in eight of his 12 appearances. Off the injury report for Week 16, Bush is a locked-and-loaded RB1 against the Giants' No. 13 run defense. He burned Baltimore's top-seven unit for 101 total yards and a score last Monday night. ... Bell managed 57 scoreless yards on ten touches against the Ravens. He'd be a weak flex play against the G-Men. ... Durham hasn't been a fantasy factor since Burleson's return. His last two stat lines are 0-0 and 1-5. ... Fauria has some TE1 streamer appeal with Pettigrew (ankle) looking unlikely to play Sunday, though not much. The Giants allow the 13th most fantasy points to tight ends, but Fauria has only been a red-zone package player in Detroit's offense because he struggles mightily as a blocker. And there are no guarantees Fauria will suddenly become an every-down tight end even with Pettigrew on the shelf. I'd set Fauria's chances of scoring a touchdown at 50:50, and his odds of topping 50 receiving yards at 30:70. I'd prefer to stream Ryan Griffin over Fauria in finals week.
The Giants are playing abysmal offense. Tom Coughlin is aware. "It was a pathetic performance," said the old ballcoach after New York's Week 15 shutout loss to Seattle. "We didn't block anybody. We didn't make any plays." Leading the league in interceptions (25), Eli Manning now faces a Lions defense that has limited enemy signal callers to 41-of-80 passing (51.3%) for 540 yards (6.75 YPA), one touchdown, and two interceptions the past three weeks. Detroit has 12 sacks during that run. They've had an admittedly favorable schedule -- Nick Foles in the snow, Matt Flynn, and Joe Flacco -- but nothing Eli has done this year suggests he'll be immune to the foreboding statistics. I like the Lions at home as a fantasy defense streamer, and wouldn't touch Eli with a ten-foot pole. ... Manning's target distribution since Andre Brown returned from short-term I.R. six weeks ago: Victor Cruz 45; Brown 26; Brandon Myers 24; Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle 23; Jerrel Jernigan 17; Bear Pascoe 9. ... Myers hasn't exceeded six targets in any game since Week 2, and the Lions allow the second fewest fantasy points in the league to tight ends. I'd prefer Fauria or Griffin as a TE1 streamer. Myers brings very little to the table.
As target monster Cruz (knee, concussion) will not play at Detroit, the G-Men will likely turn to Randle at X receiver, with Nicks sliding over to Z and Jernigan handling slot duties. Although he's been entirely boom-or-bust in his usual third receiver role, Randle is one of the more intriguing fantasy title week sleepers. This game will be played indoors, and Detroit still ranks 23rd versus the pass despite its recent stout play. Randle is a critical piece of the Giants' future. It isn't crazy to think OC Kevin Gilbride draws up a game plan to feature him. He's a high-ceiling, low-floor WR3. ... Couple Jernigan's lack of playmaking ability with a knee injury that kept him from practicing early this week and you have a fantasy player to avoid in Week 16. ... Coming off a one-catch, five-yard game on five targets, Nicks still hasn't scored a touchdown all season, clearing 60 yards once over his last seven games. Nicks is in the last two games of his rookie contract. I have a feeling some desperate NFL GM is going to severely overpay for his services. ... The bad news for Brown is Detroit ranks No. 4 against the run. The good news is Peyton Hillis (concussion) isn't expected to play Sunday, leaving Brown to gobble up snaps and carries. This is a brutal matchup for Brown on paper, but he's likely headed for 20-plus touches and could even approach 30 if the game stays competitive. Brown has the appearance of a low-ceiling, high-floor RB2/flex option.
Score Prediction: Lions 28, Giants 17
4:25PM ET Games
New England @ Baltimore
Tom Brady goes on the road in Week 16 for a challenging matchup with Baltimore's No. 13 pass defense, which since Opening Day has limited enemy signal callers to a 15:12 TD-to-INT ratio and is surrendering the third lowest completion rate (56.9%) in the league. With Elvis Dumervil healthy following a Week 14 ankle injury and Terrell Suggs on the opposite edge, the Ravens aren't going to give Brady many clean dropbacks. New England's passing attack will likely focus inside the numbers. When these clubs met in the playoffs last January, Baltimore's defense wasn't as good as it is now -- and the Patriots' offense was much better -- but the Ravens still held Brady to 29-of-54 passing (53.7%) for 320 yards, one touchdown, and two picks. I'd rank Brady as a top-12 quarterback this week, but would play Jay Cutler over him. ... Brady's target distribution with Rob Gronkowski (torn ACL) out last week: Julian Edelman 19; Danny Amendola 14; Shane Vereen and Josh Boyce 7; Michael Hoomanawanui and Austin Collie 3; LeGarrette Blount 1. ... Edelman is for real. He's cleared 100 yards and/or scored a touchdown in four straight weeks, averaging 13 targets per game during that stretch. He's earned every-week WR2 value. ... Amendola played only five fewer snaps than Edelman in last week's loss to Miami, seeing an expected bump in role and playing time as the Patriots leaned more on three-receiver sets as their base offense. Amendola is the No. 25 fantasy wideout over the past three weeks. He's a quality WR3 in title games.
The Patriots' third, "X" receiver spot will obviously be manned by someone on Sunday, but I have no clue who it'll be between Boyce (ankle), Kenbrell Thompkins (hip), and Aaron Dobson (foot). It is a fantasy situation to avoid. ... The Dolphins sold out to stop Vereen in last week's five-touch, 21-yard clunker, incorporating MLB Dannell Ellerbe and defensive backs in double coverage. Vereen has been an RB1 in PPR leagues since returning from short-term I.R. five games ago, and I wouldn't expect that to change at Baltimore. Vereen is more of an RB2/flex in standard leagues, but the savviest approach is to keep on starting him. ... New England has turned to a full-blown two-man rotation at early-down back, giving Blount 20 snaps and 12 touches against the Fins. Stevan Ridley played 13 downs, managing 43 yards on eight carries. As the Pats' backfield currently lacks a high-volume runner, it's best left avoided in Week 16 lineup decisions. Baltimore ranks No. 7 in run defense and has allowed just four rushing TDs all year, the fewest in football.
Baltimore's passing game has been wildly inconsistent this season with underwhelming overall production, ranking 20th in the NFL in passing yards per game (227), tied for 26th in passing scores (18), and sixth in sacks allowed (42). New England ranks 18th versus the pass and has stumbled more often than not lately, but nothing Joe Flacco has done this year suggests he's worth viewing as more than a mid-range to low-end QB2. He was a major flop this past Monday night, passing for 222 scoreless yards against a generally leaky Lions secondary under Ford Field's dome. ... Here is Flacco's target distribution since Baltimore's Week 8 bye: Torrey Smith 61; Jacoby Jones 41; Ray Rice and Marlon Brown 32; Ed Dickson 25; Dennis Pitta 15; Dallas Clark 13; Tandon Doss 11; Deonte Thompson 8. ... Smith is the Ravens' clear-cut No. 1 receiver and a WR2 play with some upside in Week 16. Smith has 69-plus yards and/or a TD in six of his last seven games. Enemy No. 1 receiver stats against New England over the past four weeks: Andre Johnson 8-121; Demaryius Thomas 4-41-1; Josh Gordon 7-151-1; Mike Wallace 6-105-1.
The only thing consistent about Jones and Brown's box-score production is their back-and-forth flipping and flopping of productive efforts. I've found no way to get a handle on which Baltimore complementary wideout is going to have a good game in a given week. They're fantasy WR4s at best. ... Pitta was another Monday night disappointment, securing 2-of-4 targets for 24 yards one week after seeing 11 targets. Pitta's playing time has increased more slowly than anticipated, as he remained a sub-50% player against the Lions. He's still squarely on the low-end TE1 radar versus a Patriots defense allowing the fifth most receptions (78) and seventh most yards (838) to tight ends. ... Battling a hip injury and losing all semblance of lateral movement skills, Rice is what he is this year and we can't expect that to change with two weeks left in the regular season. The Pats rank 31st against the run and allow 4.44 yards per carry -- the eighth highest average in football -- and Rice still is no more than a low-ceiling flex play. He has shown no ability to break long plays in the run or pass game, and will likely need a goal-line plunge or two to pay off as a fantasy start.
Score Prediction: Ravens 21, Patriots 20