Week 16 of the fantasy football season is finally here, and the Rotoworld crew has everything you need leave the weekend with a win. Patrick Daugherty answers your lineup questions with his Week 16 Rankings, Nick Mensio tells you who to start and who to fade in Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em, and Evan Silva breaks down every matchup in his award-winning Matchups Column.
As for me, I am here to shed some light on the most important injury situations facing fantasy owners heading into the weekend. The sister resource to this column is the Rotoworld News Page, which will have every single inactive and all the late-breaking news up to kickoff and beyond. I also tweet last-minute thoughts at @notJDaigle.
Editor's Note: If you love Fantasy Football you have to be playing on DRAFT. It's daily fantasy football snake drafts instead of salary caps. All the fun of season long drafts but with no management and they last for just one week. They take minutes to complete and there's even auction drafts! No more setting lineups or constantly worrying about pros, just draft and win! Right now DRAFT is giving Rotoworld readers an exclusive FREE entry into a real money draft when you make your first deposit! Here's the link
Giants @ Colts
*Odell Beckham (quad) and Russell Shepard (ankle) have both been ruled out, leaving Sterling Shepard, Corey Coleman, Bennie Fowler, Jawill Davis, and Cody Latimer as the team’s receiving corps. Sterling has produced an abysmal 4/54 receiving line as New York’s outside receiver in place of Beckham the past two weeks, and that’s likely to continue if Davis continues running 68.8% of his routes from the slot. There is a small glimpse of hope for Shepard, though, as Latimer being designated to return mid-week suddenly puts another outside receiver on the field that could force New York’s hand in sliding Shepard back into the slot. Evan Engram is the skill player to chase no matter how this situation shakes out as he buoyed Beckham’s absence against the Titans into 34 routes on Eli Manning’s 47 dropbacks. Note that the Colts have allowed the most raw receiving yards (1,017) to opposing tight ends.
*Indy listed T.Y. Hilton (ankle, questionable) as a game-time decision, but it’s worth noting he practiced on Friday for the first time in nearly two weeks. Fresh off a team-high 5/85 performance against Dallas without getting a single practice under his belt, Hilton will surely play.
Jaguars @ Dolphins
*Leonard Fournette was removed from the injury report on Friday, but friendly reminder his limited role (11 carries) against the Redskins was due to the fact that seventh-round rookie Dave Williams “had a good week of practice.” The former No. 4 overall pick can’t be viewed as anything more than a dicey RB3 with RB1 upside if he gets lead-back touches — a huge 'if'.
*The Dolphins will move forward with Kalen Ballage as their early-down workhorse in Frank Gore’s (foot, IR) stead. Ballage was notably in on 26 snaps (49.1%) following Gore’s exit on Sunday, and ran 11 routes to Kenyan Drake’s 17. Given the team’s lack of trust (as they’ve openly stated time and time again) in Drake’s efficiency and pass pro, it’s the rookie who ultimately projects to lead this backfield in carries in Week 16. Premier shutdown CB Xavien Howard (knee, questionable) is also on the mend and would likely shadow Dede Westbrook, making Jacksonville’s entire offense a useless dustball, if he’s active.
Falcons @ Panthers
*Julio Jones (hip/rib, game-time decision) returned to practice at week's end, which is typically a good indication he’ll play. Coach Dan Quinn hinted as much when he said “it’s a good thing” whenever his stud receiver gets work in on Friday. As long as he’s out there, you’re not benching Julio in your fantasy championship. Tevin Coleman is also a player you can ride to the promised land following Ito Smith’s season-ending knee injury. Now approaching the final two games of his contract year before he inevitably walks in free agency, Coleman should be handed the reigns against a Panthers defense short WLB Shaq Thompson (shoulder, IR) and likely DT Kawann Short (calf, questionable). He’s a high-end RB2 with RB1 potential seeing as how this game swung in Vegas from Panthers -3 to Falcons -3 once Cam Newton (shoulder, IR) was shut down for the year.
Bengals @ Browns
*Tyler Boyd (knee) is out, but you’re on your own swinging for the fences with any of Cincinnati’s receiving corps — especially with Mr. 3.9 (YPA) Jeff Driskel still under center.
*The Browns are getting lockdown corner Denzel Ward and S Jabril Peppers (neck) back for Cleveland’s potential playoff stretch. If this game somehow goes over the total (44), it won’t be because of Cincinnati’s offense.
Buccaneers @ Cowboys
*DeSean Jackson (thumb, probable) was on the final injury report but coach Dirk Koetter already said the wideout will return from his three-game hiatus. Chris Godwin has filled in and run the second-most routes (97) for Tampa the past three weeks, but that on-field usage has led to middling production (6/114/1) on 19 targets. He can get there on his athleticism alone, but he’ll now have to do so on fewer snaps and targets. Consider both Godwin and Jackson nothing more than WR3s against Dallas' play-sucking offense.
*Zack Martin (knee) is questionable following two limited mid-week practices. Considering he’s missed only one game in his entire illustrious career (last week), it’s safe to assume he’ll be present and a force in what should be a monstrous day on the ground for Ezekiel Elliott. Reminder the Bucs have allowed an average 37 points to their opponents on the road compared to just 20.5 at home.
Vikings @ Lions
*Detroit's Friday report has taken on a life of its own as Matthew Stafford (back, questionable), Kenny Golladay (chest, questionable), LeGarrette Blount (calf, questionable), and Bruce Ellington (hamstring, out) were all given injury designations to finish the week. Ellington’s absence from the slot actually proved significant against the Bills because it allowed the team to slide Golladay to the inside at a season-high clip (43%). Repeating that tactic would presumably shift him away from Xavier Rhodes, who’s only played two percent of his snaps from the slot this season. With the Lions additionally missing All-Pro DE Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder, IR), run-stuffing DT Da’Shawn Hand (knee, IR), and gap-filling NT Damon Harrison (ankle, questionable), the DFS pivot is simply Dalvin Cook and Minnesota’s defense as opposed to getting cute and rostering anyone outside of Golladay on this offense.
Bills @ Patriots
*There are no injury designations for the Pats, but Josh Gordon’s startling mid-week suspension leaves 6.6 targets per game to be split among Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Phillip Dorsett. Hogan should be an every-down player, as he was prior to the team’s acquisition of Gordon, but he merely averaged five targets before sinking to No. 3 duties once Julian Edelman returned from suspension. Rather than chasing ghosts that are inevitably going to run against CB Tre’Davious White on the outside, Edelman's high-floor/high-upside usage in the slot is seemingly the matchup to get exposure to.
Packers @ Jets
*Aaron Jones’ (knee, IR) previous workload now shifts entirely to Jamaal Williams by default since the Packers only have third-down back Kapri Bibbs (signed Monday) and practice-squaders Lavon Coleman and Malcolm Johnson (who haven’t been promoted as of yet) behind him. Williams will thus be a true volume-based RB1 against the Jets this week as the team showed no fear in leaning on him for 59 snaps (87%) and 36 routes on Aaron Rodgers’ 50 dropbacks against the Bears. Randall Cobb’s (concussion, doubtful) absence sneakily opens up even more targets for Davante Adams, who needs only 13 catches to break Sterling Sharpe’s single-season Packers record. (Don’t think both he and Aaron Rodgers don’t know that.) Without Cobb, Marquez Valdes-Scantling should also receive slot duties, thrusting him back into WR4/flex range.
Texans @ Eagles
*Do not let DeAndre Hopkins’ injury designation (ankle, questionable) scare you off of riding him into the sunset for your championship belt. Not only has he seen target totals of 12, 12, 10, 11 in four games without Keke Coutee (hamstring, questionable) since Week 9, Nuk now squares off against a makeshift secondary that’s allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts. Lamar Miller (ankle, questionable) is the bigger concern, especially since D’Onta Foreman is trending towards making his season debut no matter the former’s official status at kick-off.
*It’s more of the same for Philly’s defense as it will again be without starters Sidney Jones (hamstring, out), Cre’Von LeBlanc (hamstring, questionable), and DE Michael Bennett (foot, questionable). Stop sweating and just lock in Hopkins.
Bears @ 49ers
*Chicago’s secondary is sneakily susceptible without S Eddie Jackson (ankle, doubtful) available to man the middle of the field.
*Starting S Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder, out) was the only player listed on San Francisco’s injury report.
Steelers @ Saints
*James Conner (ankle) is out again, thrusting Jaylen Samuels into a bellcow role for at least one more week. Whereas it made sense to hone-in on and crunch New England’s front-seven on offense last week, though, New Orleans’ defense has bottled up opposing runners to merely 3.23 YPC. Fortunately, Samuels’ every-down role in the passing game heightens his floor, keeping him as a safe RB2 (with a low ceiling). It would’ve been easier to gauge JuJu Smith-Schuster’s (groin, questionable) true status had he spoken to the media on Friday, but all signs point to him playing. If he’s active, he’ll have the best matchup on paper against incumbent slot corner P.J. Williams, who’s allowed the seventh-most catches (37) to opposing wideouts in the middle of the field this year.
Rams @ Cardinals
*The Rams have one sole injury to worry about, and it just happens to be the most impactful of the weekend. Todd Gurley (knee, questionable) was initially expected to miss practice throughout the week and still play, but coach Sean McVay subtly mentioned on Friday that his All-Pro back would go through a pre-game workout Sunday afternoon that will ultimately determine whether or not he plays; the issue being that the Rams don’t kick-off until 4:25 PM EST. If he’s out, C.J. Anderson is expected to start, with John Kelly and even Justin Davis (questionable) backing him up.
McVay also noted on Friday that Anderson’s current situation with the team — being signed mid-week only to turn around and be ready a few days later — is a lot like Pierre Thomas’ situation back when he signed with the Redskins (when McVay was still coaching there). On that short week, though, Thomas actually only played four total snaps. WR Nick Williams was signed off the streets in a similar situation back in Week 7 and active a few short days later, too, but even he played only 10 snaps in Cooper Kupp's stead. Therefore, if Gurley is indeed ruled out, it’s reasonable to assume that Anderson gets the start, Kelly leads the team in carries, and Davis (health pending) is involved in a limited role, too. Rather than even try and figure out this situation, one is better off just scooping up Mike Davis (see below) or Jalen Richard off waivers and taking the floor they offer in PPR leagues. If Gurley plays, though, he’s a mid-tier RB1 with elite upside that comes with a lot of risk. (I personally can't imagine Gurley being active just to be an eight-touch decoy, so he's arguably a low-ownership enthused DFS tourney play if he suits up, as well.)
*Further mucking up this game is the fact that All-World corner Patrick Peterson (illness, questionable) missed practice on Friday and may not play. Robert Woods is a safe bet for production anyhow since he’s run 71.2% of his routes from the slot (away from Peterson on the outside) since Kupp went down in Week 10. Peterson’s absence would suddenly give life to Josh Reynolds as a thriving low-end WR2, though, as he’s actually seen only one fewer target than Gurley (25 to 24) since the team’s Week 12 bye.
Chiefs @ Seahawks
*Damien Williams again finds himself in an eruption spot in place of Spencer Ware (shoulder/hamstring, doubtful). Not only has the total in this matchup been continuously bet up from 53 to a Week 16-high 55 points, but Williams also shouldered 44-of-60 snaps (73%) in his first start sans Ware last Thursday. He’s a no-doubt RB1 that even flashed an extremely high pass-catching floor, running 21 routes to backup Darrel Williams’ 10. Sammy Watkins (foot, out) won’t get to feast on the ailing Seattle secondary (see below), but Tyreek Hill should following 10 days of rest as he’s quietly scored 22 of his 32 career touchdowns on the road.
*Whereas the Seahawks could be without starting FS Tedric Thompson (chest/ankle, out) SS Bradley McDougald (knee, questionable), and CB Shaquill Griffin (hip, questionable), the Chiefs could be without full-time slot corner Kendall Fuller (wrist, questionable). Seattle will thus lean on Chris Carson as a high-end RB2 with RB1 upside if Rashaad Penny (ankle, questionable) is out again, but all these defensive injuries ultimately spell a pass-first approach for both teams. If you’re a Gurley owner, swiping Mike Davis, who’s averaged 12.8 touches in three games without Penny, off the wire isn’t the worst idea given this matchup’s inevitable high-powered game script.
Broncos @ Raiders
*As of Saturday morning, every-down tight end Matt LaCosse (ankle) had yet to practice during the week. Brian Parker would be next in line if 'The Boss' can't go.