Week 16 fantasy flex plays
Injuries and tough matchups dictate difficult lineup calls throughout the season, but when it comes down to one game, one more week for it all, I generally approve of swinging for the fences with a bold, if not downright gutsy move. Many things should influence such a decision, but most important among them should be your opponent and the overall strength of his team and matchups. A risky move makes the most sense if the week appears to heavily favor your opponent, as it obviously makes more sense to play it safe if your team has considerably better matchups. Usually by the end of the season defensive trends have become predictable enough to gauge what matchups are the best or worst, but this season has been a rollercoaster of surprises. Few things are sure bets these days when Doug Martin is getting stoned by the Saints and Vick Ballard is gouging the Texans front seven. That means any roll of the dice this week needs to be a combination of one part calculation, two parts gut.
Trusting your gut is an important ingredient to Super Bowl week one way or another. Only one team can win it, but if that's not you, at least you went with what you believed. So if your gut says Jamaal Charles can't be productive in such a mess of an offense or Demaryius Thomas will stay quiet with a bad corner matchup against Joe Haden and in a likely blowout, then bench those stars. Take a chance if you feel better about it, but do so only if you can answer two things about a stud's replacement: 1) Can I stomach an offseason knowing I benched X 1,000-yard back, receiver or stud QB for Y timeshare, hit-or-miss gamble AND it backfired? and 2) Am I confident that my usual bench guy will see enough opportunities or has the big-play ability in him to out-produce my usual stud? If those are both yes, then feel free to swing away.
1. Greg Jennings vs. Tennessee -Sadly, Jennings has been nothing more than a deep-league flex this year even when he's been healthy enough to play. Since returning from an abdominal tear, Jennings has registered just 123 yards in three contests and hasn't come close to scoring. That may all change this week, however, when a re-focused and sharper Aaron Rodgers carves up a bad Tennessee defense that's really only limited the likes of Mark Sanchez and Ryan Tannehill.
2. Mark Ingram at Dallas - In five of his last six games, Ingram has at least 65 yards rushing or a touchdown and somehow posted a career game last week versus Tampa Bay's top-ranked run defense. He torched the Bucs for 90 yards and a score on just 14 carries, going for a full 3.0 more yards per attempt than the Bucs had allowed. Prior to stifling the Steelers sluggish ground game last week the Cowboys had been miserable versus the run, giving up nearly 500 rushing yards in their previous three contests. Ingram seems poised to remind them of those struggles.
3. Brandon Gibson at Tampa Bay - The Bucs have been abused by everyone through the air this season and since that trend isn't stopping anytime soon, Gibson, the Rams leader in receiving scores, should find himself with another nice statline this week. He's coming off consecutive games with six grabs and has 176 yards and a TD over that span. Expect him to stay hot for at least one more week.
4. Beanie Wells vs. Chicago - Wells benefited greatly from turnovers last week, and Jay Cutler has been known to give the ball away from time to time. Whether that happens, though, count on Wells remaining the primary weapon in one of the most limited passing offenses in years. While he's highly unlikely to find the end zone three times again, a Bears defense that allows 4.4 yards per carry may still make Wells look good. And though many may have buried him already this season (myself included), it must be noted that Wells has punched in five touchdowns in the last four games and notched 10 last year playing on a bum knee most of the way.
5. Antonio Brown vs. Cincinnati - Since returning from an ankle sprain, Brown has totaled at least 60 yards or scored in three straight and just turned in one of his best games of the season with 76 yards and a touchdown against a tough Cowboys secondary. More important, he's seen at least nine targets in all of those contests, which means the opportunities will continue. Brown had his best yardage game of the season in Pittsburgh's previous meeting with Cincinnati when he snagged seven balls for 96 yards, and with a run game that's badly underperforming, Ben Roethlisberger will need his help once again.
6. Joique Bell vs. Atlanta - The Lions were beyond horrible last week, but a home game should allow them to bounce back despite drawing the top team in the NFC. Atlanta is 1-2 in their last two road games and the lone victory came by just a point against a Tampa Bay team that has since collapsed. Bell failed to reach the 9.5 fantasy point mark he'd hit for three straight, but a Falcons unit giving up 4.9 yards per carrying could be nice medicine for him and the Lions backfield.
7. Rod Streater at Carolina - Streater is quickly becoming a favorite target of Carson Palmer's and that is evident in the 250-plus yards he's totaled over the last three weeks. A competent big-play threat with sticky hands, Streater has posted that damage on just 12 grabs. In a game that figures to see the Raiders passing frequently from behind, don't be surprised when Streater is the leader once again for an Oakland offense in bad need of a consistent outside threat.
WEEK 16 FLEX-PLAY RANKINGS
*check injury status.
1. Adrian Peterson MIN at Hou
2. Arian Foster HOU vs. Min
3. C.J. Spiller BUF at Mia
4. Calvin Johnson DET vs. Atl
5. Brandon Marshall CHI at Ari
6. Andre Johnson HOU vs. Min
7. Demaryius Thomas DEN vs. Cle - Surprisingly bad game - despite nine targets, ended up with just 13 yards.
8. A.J. Green CIN at Pit - I'm torn here - Green hasn't been dominant lately, and the Steelers shut him down last time, but they are also down three corners, including Ike Taylor. Factor in the Bengals' sordid history against the Steelers, and I want to downgrade him, but can't.
9. Reggie Wayne IND at KC
10. Victor Cruz NYG at Bal
11. *Dez Bryant DAL vs. NO - Eventually will need a bone graft for his finger. Three drops in the win over the Steelers - the injury definitely played a role. Still, are you going to think about benching him against the Saints if he's a full go?
12. Randall Cobb GB vs. Ten
13. Doug Martin TB vs. StL - Wasn't effect when the game was in doubt, which wasn't very long. Worst time for a surprising collapse.
14. DeMarco Murray DAL vs. NO
15. Matt Forte CHI at Ari
16. Marshawn Lynch SEA vs. SF
17. Alfred Morris WAS at Phi
18. Chris Johnson TEN at GB
19. Knowshon Moreno DEN vs. Cle
20. Jamaal Charles KC vs. Ind - Mysteries of the world - somehow, the Raiders shut down Charles twice this season. Or maybe it was Romeo Crennel that shut him down.
21. Aaron Hernandez NE at Jac
22. Julio Jones ATL at Det
23. Marques Colston NO at Dal
24. Wes Welker NE at Jac
25. Vincent Jackson TB vs. StL
26. Steve Johnson BUF at Mia
27. Jason Witten DAL vs. NO
28. *Jimmy Graham NO at Dal - Might need wrist surgery after the season.
29. *DeAngelo Williams CAR vs. Oak - Only blemish last week was a lost fumble. Could be a nice play against the Raiders this week if Stewart can't go.
30. *Reggie Bush MIA vs. Buf - Had 21 carries as a result of Daniel Thomas' knee injury.
31. Darren McFadden OAK at Car
32. BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN at Pit
33. Tony Gonzalez ATL at Det
34. Cecil Shorts JAC vs. NE - Provided the yardage in his return and had a touchdown overturned.
35. Hakeem Nicks NYG at Bal
36. Miles Austin DAL vs. NO
37. Mike Wallace PIT vs. Cin
38. *Danario Alexander SD at NYJ - After last week's bagel, we're starting to wonder if there's a Value Meter cover jinx.
39. *Roddy White ATL at Det - Played through a knee injury - just two catches on five targets, though the Falcons were up big early.
40. T.Y. Hilton IND at KC
41. Brandon Lloyd NE at Jac - Remember that game just three weeks ago, where he had just one target? Yeah, that was fun.
42. David Wilson NYG at Bal - Ran well, but with the Giants getting crushed, his workload was limited.
43. Trent Richardson CLE at Den
44. Frank Gore SF at Sea - This year's playoff scoring controversy subject. All I can say is to try to anticipate these things in the offseason and account for them in the rules.
45. *Ray Rice BAL vs. NYG - Dismal performance, in part due to his nagging hip injury? Sure looked good the week before.
46. Bryce Brown PHI vs. Was
47. Darren Sproles NO at Dal
48. Heath Miller PIT vs. Cin
49. Jermaine Gresham CIN at Pit
50. Steve Smith CAR vs. Oak
51. Pierre Garcon WAS at Phi
52. Michael Crabtree SF at Sea
53. Danny Amendola STL at TB
54. Greg Jennings GB vs. Ten
55. Jeremy Maclin PHI vs. Was
56. Lance Moore NO at Dal
57. James Jones GB vs. Ten
58. Mike Williams TB vs. StL
59. Golden Tate SEA vs. SF
60. Justin Blackmon JAC vs. NE
61. Chris Givens STL at TB
62. Anquan Boldin BAL vs. NYG
63. *Rod Streater OAK at Car - Was the Raiders' top receiver for the second week in a row.
64. Josh Gordon CLE at Den
65. Antonio Brown PIT vs. Cin - Early production marred by late-game gaffes.
66. Mikel Leshoure DET vs. Atl
67. Steven Jackson STL at TB
68. Montell Owens JAC vs. NE
69. Vick Ballard IND at KC - Apparently Mewelde Moore is the new goal line vulture, though after Moore's fumble last week, maybe the Colts will choose to reconsider that notion.
70. Michael Turner ATL at Det
71. *Jonathan Dwyer PIT vs. Cin - Remaining the starter and will get the majority of the carries, though the Steelers will try to find a role for Mendenhall this week.
72. *Stevan Ridley NE at Jac - Lost one fumble that was rightly overturned in the first quarter, but then lost another later on and saw just one snap afterward. However, the Pats were in catch-up mode the entire second half and Ridley isn't part of the passing package any longer. So I'm not yet certain he's buried, or for that matter if Belichick is the type to hold a grudge.
73. Shonn Greene NYJ vs. SD
74. Beanie Wells ARZ vs. Chi
75. Dennis Pitta BAL vs. NYG
76. Owen Daniels HOU vs. Min
77. Greg Olsen CAR vs. Oak
78. Dallas Clark TB vs. StL
79. Eric Decker DEN vs. Cle
80. *Torrey Smith BAL vs. NYG - Suffered a concussion in the loss to the Broncos, though afterward he said he was ok. Still, he'll need to go through the concussion protocol.
81. Kenny Britt TEN at GB
82. Dwayne Harris DAL vs. NO
83. Andrew Hawkins CIN at Pit
84. *Emmanuel Sanders PIT vs. Cin - (Ribs) Will be limited in Wednesday's practice.
85. *Sidney Rice SEA vs. SF - Had a touchdown overturned. Still bothered by a sore foot.
86. *Denarius Moore OAK at Car - Had five catches for 46 yards before leaving with leg cramps.
87. Nate Washington TEN at GB
88. Mark Ingram NO at Dal
89. Jacquizz Rodgers ATL at Det
90. *Alex Green GB vs. Ten - Went to the locker room early last week, but not on the injury report so far.
91. *Curtis Brinkley SD at NYJ - Carries could be split between he and Jackie Battle, though Ronnie Brown might also be back this week.
92. Ben Tate HOU vs. Min - Got just five carries, but those accounted for all the backup carries behind Arian Foster.
93. Isaac Redman PIT vs. Cin
94. *Jackie Battle SD at NYJ - Fewer carries than Curtis Brinkley, though the Chargers fell behind quickly and significantly, so Battle wasn't on the field much as he's not a big part of the passing game.
95. Joique Bell DET vs. Atl
96. *Ahmad Bradshaw NYG at Bal - (Knee) Expects to play this week, though that's not coming from the team yet.
97. Jordy Nelson GB vs. Ten
98. *Jonathan Stewart CAR vs. Oak
99. *Maurice Jones-Drew JAC vs. NE - The pain in MJD's foot has gotten a little better, and the team hasn't ruled him out yet. That's not exactly the most encouraging phrasing, but it represents some semblance of progress.
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