Nick Mensio

Weekly Surprises

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Week 16 Sleepers

Friday, December 20, 2013


It’s finally here. Fantasy Super Bowl week. We’ve made it. It’s been a grind, but this is what we all play for. Week 16. This will be the final installment of Sleepers for the 2013 season. Most leagues don’t play Week 17. It’s also way too unpredictable, even more than it already is now. Teams will announce they’re resting starters, while some coaches will play their starters for just a series or two. It would be a fantasy football nightmare. But there are no worries this week. I just want to say thanks to everyone who has read this piece all season. It’s been a fun, yet challenging, one to work on. And we here at Rotoworld want to wish all of you much success in your title games. Go get ‘em. Let’s check out some sleepers.

Quarterbacks

Redskins QB Kirk Cousins vs. Cowboys: This is a no-brainer. No player has invaded our Twitter feeds like Cousins has this week. He’s the talk of the town during fantasy Super Bowl week. The Cowboys are getting absolutely killed in the passing game, especially lately. They’re allowing the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and are one of three teams to surrender more than 4,000 yards through the air in 2013. Dallas has been shredded by Matt Flynn and Josh McCown the past two weeks. Even Matt McGloin threw for 255 yards on these clowns on Thanksgiving. Cousins picked apart a similarly weak Atlanta defense in his first start of the season last week with ease. He had some hiccups along the way, but those real-life hiccups don’t hurt as bad in fantasy land. As long as he’s racking up yards and throwing touchdowns, we can deal with the turnovers. Now, I wouldn’t suggest starting Cousins over the likes of Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, and Philip Rivers. Play the guys that have gotten you this far. But Cousins certainly has some back-end QB1 appeal.

Bengals QB Andy Dalton vs. Vikings: I hate trusting Andy Dalton. Not many players scare me more than him, but it’s hard to overlook his matchup. In terms of bad pass defense, the Vikings are right behind the Cowboys. Minnesota has surrendered the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and is one of those other two teams – including the Cowboys – to allow over 4,000 yards passing in 2013. Dalton gets the Vikings at home, where he’s much more comfortable. Over his last three home starts, Dalton has tossed 11 touchdowns to just three interceptions. And the Vikings will also be without top cover corner Xavier Rhodes (ankle) once again. If there’s any week Dalton should be considered a QB1, it’s this week.

Bucs QB Mike Glennon vs. Rams: This one isn’t as obvious as the previous two. The Rams play tough defense some weeks and play dead in others. In reality, as long as Chris Long and Robert Quinn aren’t getting to the quarterback on a regular basis, the Rams are exploitable on the back end. LT Donald Penn and RT Demar Dotson, Tampa Bay’s starting tackle duo, are both top-30 offensive tackles over at Pro Football Focus. The Rams have allowed the sixth-most passing yards in 2013, and Pro Football Focus grades St. Louis out as a bottom-eight pass defense. This game could be a close one, depending on which Rams team decides to show up. Glennon is worth consideration in two-quarterback leagues.

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.

Running Backs

Texans RB Dennis Johnson vs. Broncos: Ben Tate (ribs) was placed on season-ending injured reserve this week. The Houston backfield is now Johnson’s. Backups Deji Karim and Jonathan Grimes are merely special teams players. This game projects to be a blowout in favor of Denver. While Johnson may not get a ton of carries outside of the first half, he does have reliable hands and can pick up the blitz in the passing game. He’s also pretty shifty and can make defenders miss in the open field at 5-foot-7, 196. The Broncos have allowed the tenth-most fantasy points to and have been beat for 19 total touchdowns by opposing running backs. Johnson should handle the vast majority of the snaps. He’s an RB2/flex with plenty of upside.

Dolphins RB Lamar Miller vs. Bills: Daniel Thomas aggravated his ankle injury last week and missed practice Wednesday and Thursday before getting in some limited work Friday. He’s listed as questionable for Week 16 and clearly isn’t 100 percent. The Bills are giving up a ton of yards on the ground; they’ve allowed the fourth-most rushing yards (1,604) to opposing running backs. Jordan Todman abused them for 153 total yards on 29 touches last Sunday. I like Miller even if Thomas does play because Miller is still going to play the majority of the snaps. Couple that with the Bills starting a bunch of backups on offense and this could turn into a blowout in favor of Miami. That would leave plenty of work in the second half for Miller to get some run. He’s on the flex radar.

Lions RB Joique Bell vs. Giants: In theory, the Lions should demolish the Giants. That would leave plenty of work for Detroit’s running backs. But even if it ends up being a closer game than we expect, Bell will still be a major part of the offensive game plan. He’s been a near-lock for at least ten touches per game since the Week 9 bye. Bell does his best work as a receiver out of the backfield. The Giants have allowed the seventh-most catches for the fifth-most yards to opposing running backs. Jon Beason has been an upgrade for the New York defense as a run stopper, but he can’t cover a lick and plays nearly every snap. Look for the Lions to try and take advantage of him and make Beason keep up with both Reggie Bush and Bell over the middle. Also, with Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) likely to sit out, the Lions could choose to spread things out more. Bell and Bush may see increased reps at receiver. Bell is on the flex map, especially in PPR leagues.

Don’t forget, for everything NFL, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_FB and @NickMensio on Twitter.

Wide Receivers

Bengals WR Marvin Jones vs. Vikings: Just as I mentioned above in Andy Dalton’s write-up, the Vikings have been getting killed by the pass. They can’t cover at all and are down their top cover corner in first-round rookie Xavier Rhodes due to an ankle injury. He’s a tall, physical corner who would match up well with Jones. Unfortunately for the Vikings, Rhodes isn’t available. Jones is coming off a game in which he played a season-high 71.8 percent of the offensive snaps. He’s also found the end zone in back-to-back games. The Bengals might finally be realizing Jones is clearly more talented than Mohamed Sanu. We’ve all gotten excited about Jones before, but this matchup screams touchdown. The Bengals have a bad taste in their mouths and need to win. Passing is the butter to their bread. Jones is one of the more exciting WR4 plays available, but he’s of the boom-or-bust variety.

Redskins WR Santana Moss vs. Cowboys: Moss caught a season-high eight passes on a season-high nine targets last week against the Falcons. Kirk Cousins excels in the short-to-intermediate passing game, and that’s where Moss does his work out of the slot. He’s basically the No. 2 receiver for the Redskins now that Jordan Reed (concussion) is done for the season. This game projects to be a shootout, so Cousins could easily dial up another 45 passes like he did last Sunday. One third of those could go to Pierre Garcon, but Moss will still get his. Moss will work against Cowboys slot corner Orlando Scandrick for much of the afternoon. He’s burnable and has allowed three touchdowns out of the slot this season. Only Tracy Porter and Brice McCain have given up more, per Pro Football Focus. Moss is on the WR4/5 radar and gets a boost in PPR leagues.

Giants WR Rueben Randle vs. Lions: We’ve been talking about Randle all week long now that Victor Cruz (knee, concussion) is done for the season. Randle will step into the No. 2 receiver role – you could make a case he’s actually the No. 1 now since Hakeem Nicks has been nearly worthless – and will play every offensive snap. Just like Marvin Jones above, Randle is the definition of boom-or-bust. He could go off for 100-plus yards and a couple of touchdowns or be kept quiet at a meager 50 or 60 yards. Randle, in all likelihood, is going to end up leading the Giants in receiving Sunday. How well Eli Manning decides to play will factor in. Randle has game-breaking talent. The Lions have given up 14 pass plays of 40-plus yards this season, good for fifth-most in the league. Randle is on the back end of the WR3 radar but easily could produce like a WR1. There aren’t many players with more upside.

Tight Ends

Seahawks TE Zach Miller vs. Cardinals: Next up to face Arizona’s league-worst tight end defense is Miller. Any other week, Miller wouldn’t even be worthy of back-end TE2 consideration. But the Cardinals have given up an astonishing 15 touchdowns to tight ends. Random touchdown catches are Miller’s specialty. In Week 7 against Arizona, Miller caught all five of his targets for 40 yards and a score. That’s decent enough production to satisfy fantasy owners. For desperate Jordan Cameron (concussion) and Rob Gronkowski (knee) owners, you could do worse than Miller.

Texans TE Ryan Griffin vs. Broncos: Griffin has also been a hot topic this week. Filling in for an injured Garrett Graham (hamstring) last week, Griffin played every offensive snap and secured all six of his targets for 62 yards. Graham didn’t practice yet again this week and is listed as questionable. We don’t expect him to play. Griffin will get the call once again. This game should be a blowout in favor of the Broncos, leaving plenty of garbage-time opportunities for the Houston passing game. Matt Schaub is back under center, and he’s shown affection for tight ends his entire career. Fire Griffin up as a legitimate back-end TE1. He’s athletic and has a nice set of hands.

Lions TE Joseph Fauria vs. Giants: No better player to end the sleeper season on than the dancing king. Fauria has played all of 215 offensive snaps this season and has caught just 12 balls. Seven of those dozen grabs have gone for touchdowns. Brandon Pettigrew hurt his ankle late in the fourth quarter of last Monday night’s loss and didn’t practice at all this week. The Lions admittedly are concerned he won’t play. Pettigrew was on crutches Wednesday. Fauria will see a bump in snaps. He may not play every down, as the Lions could choose to spread things out with a bunch of receivers and Joique Bell/Reggie Bush in the slot. But Fauria will see increased red-zone work at the very least. He’s worth a flier for extremely desperate owners in need of a tight end.



Nick Mensio is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. The 2014 NFL season marks his third with Rotoworld. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.
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