Week 16 Sleepers: Surprise players set to deliver in fantasy title games

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Each week the Noise highlights under-started names who he believes are destined to torch the competition. To qualify, each player must be started in fewer than 60 percent of Yahoo leagues. Speaking as an accountability advocate, I will post results, whether genius or moronic, the following week (Scoring thresholds – QB: 18 fpts, RB: 12 fpts, WR: 11 fpts: TE: 10 fpts; .5 PPR). If you’re a member of TEAM HUEVOS, reveal your Week 16 Flames in the comments section below.

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Dak Prescott, Dal, QB (28 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $32)

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Matchup: vs. TB
Vegas line/total: Dal -7.5, 45.5

Once attached to a breathing apparatus, the Dallas Cowboys are alive and very much kicking. The much lampooned acquisition of Amari Cooper has Jerry Jones and company likely laughing all the way to the postseason. Last week’s slip in Indianapolis was merely a brief derailment. Unsurprisingly, Prescott has thrived with Cooper in tow. Since Week 10, he ranks top-10 among all eligible passers in deep-ball passer rating (99.8), adjusted completion percentage (78.6) and red-zone execution. And those numbers were accomplished while under heavy fire (66.7 clean pocket%).

Zack Martin’s absence last week played a part in his disappointing performance, but with or without the talented guard, Dak’s services should be trusted in your title matchup. His opponent, Tampa Bay, is in a ruinous state defensively. Passing out air yards like mall-Santas’ empty Christmas promises, the Buccaneers have yielded 8.3 pass yards per attempt, 274.2 passing yards per game, 2.1 passing touchdowns per game and the fifth-most fantasy points to signal callers. In fact, nine quarterbacks in 14 games have crossed the 20-point mark against them. If you’re a concerned Philip Rivers (vs. Bal), Jared Goff (at Ari) or Tom Brady (vs. Buf) owner in shallow leagues, ring those silver (and blue) bells.

Fearless Forecast: 276 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 12 rushing yards, 20.2 fpts

Elijah McGuire, NYJ, RB (18 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $16)

Matchup: vs. GB
Vegas line/total: GB -3, 45

If you quizzed Stephen A. Smith about who the current New York Jets starting running back is he would probably answer, and emphatically, Curtis Martin or Adrian Murrell. It’s pretty evident after last week’s string of comical errors tied to his Chargers/Chiefs preview the dude needs to stick to basketball. McGuire is, of course, the correct answer.

Season-ending setbacks to Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell have ascended the rusher into the captain’s chair. Still fresh after missing the first eight weeks recovering from foot surgery, he’s become an unlikely workhorse. His surface stats don’t paint the rosiest picture, but totaling 41 touches and two TDs over the past two weeks suggest otherwise, as does the advanced profile. Since Week 14 he’s amassed 3.20 yards after contact per attempt and forced a missed tackle 17.1 percent of the time.

This week, matched against a Velveeta-soft Packers run defense, McGuire needs to be viewed as a top-15 option. On the year, Green Bay has allowed 4.50 yards per carry, 137.4 total yards per game and 14 touchdowns to RBs. Employ the Jet. Score some cold hard cash.

Fearless Forecast: 18 carries, 68 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 16 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 15.9 fantasy points 

Good little fantasy girls and boys who start Elijah McGuire just might wake up to a trophy underneath the tree. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Good little fantasy girls and boys who start Elijah McGuire just might wake up to a trophy underneath the tree. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Derrick Henry, Ten, RB (58 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $25)

Matchup: vs. Was
Vegas line/total: Ten -10, 36.5

In the same week once-hyped Kalen Ballage topped 100 yards, Jamaal Williams racked double-digit fantasy points and Chris Hogan body slammed the opposition, it was only fitting Henry, over-drafted in August, continued to chug along. Thought to be more regent than an actual king entering the week, his highness refused to relinquish his right to the fantasy RB throne.

In a rain-soaked game fit for a shark, he resembled Earl Campbell, steadily gobbled up hashmarks en route to 170 yards and a touchdown on an old school 33 carries. Including his shrinking of the Giants, Henry has scored 47.4 percent of his 2018 fantasy points in his past two contests, ballooning his overall points per game standing from RB47 to RB22. Always difficult to corral, he’s notched an obscene 5.78 yards after contact per attempt since the midpoint mark of the regular season, setting the pace in the category.

Unremovable at this juncture, he’s must-start material in fantasy Super Bowls. When it comes to this exercise, there is no fruit that hangs lower. His matchup against Washington is positively divine. On the year, the ‘Skins have surrendered 5.07 yards per carry, 129.2 rushing yards per game, three rushing touchdowns to RBs. On another 20-plus carries, the late-to-the-party attendee is sure to hammer the egg nog — and the opposition.

Fearless Forecast: 25 carries, 132 rushing yards, 1 reception, 7 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 20.7 fantasy points

Robby Anderson, NYJ, WR (7 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $15)

Matchup: vs. GB
Vegas line/total: GB -3, 45

Jingle bell. Jingle bell. Throw Anderson the damn rock. For those with trophies on the line like yours truly, the Jets receiver is a critical asset who selfishly needs to produce; a massive outing much preferred. As witnessed with his ill-timed drop late against Houston last Saturday, it’s probably unwise placing trust in the hands of Anderson when carrying the cooked Christmas goose. But for every miscue, the wideout makes up ground with a handful of spectacular toe-tapping catches.

His ability to accelerate pops the top off secondaries, especially fungible ones. Green Bay is one such unit. Since Week 8 no secondary has surrendered more fantasy points to the wide receiver position than the Packers. Over that seven-game stretch, they’ve given up 100 receptions, 1,307 receiving yards and nine touchdowns to WRs.

His primary assignment, Josh Jackson, has allowed a 98.2 passer rating and 66.7 catch percentage this season. As a whole, 19 wide receivers have tallied at least 10 fantasy points against the Cheeseheads. On another 7-9 targets, Anderson shreds the competition. Start him confidently at WR2 in 12-team leagues.

Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 87 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 17.2 fantasy points

Tim Patrick, Den, WR (1 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $10)

Matchup: at Oak
Vegas line/total: Den -2.5, 45

Gold rings? Turtle doves? A partridge in a pear tree? You can shove all of those gifts. All twelve days of Christmas, Broncos fans would be thrilled if they received repeated news of Vance Joseph’s exit. The last remaining dodo in the flock, the lame duck coach deserved a permanent vacation after last week’s moronic, conservative late-game play call.

Instead of pushing toward the end zone on 4th-and-1 with the Broncos’ playoff chances on the line, he opted for three and placed pressure on his injury-ridden defense. Predictably, it backfired. Overshadowed in that contest was Patrick’s receiving efforts. Bouncing around practice teams from Baltimore to San Francisco to Denver, the well-traveled wideout has flashed impressive skills in a likely 2019 roster tryout. Targeted 18 times the past two weeks, he’s reeled in 12 passes for 150 yards. His wide catch radius, plus burst (4.52 40-yard) and length (6-foot-4, 208 pounds) are standout traits.

Case Keenum and his noodle arm pair perfectly with chicken in soup, but it’s hard to overlook Patrick’s target share. Scheduled to exchange holiday greetings with rival Oakland on Christmas Eve, the undrafted WR could be a fantasy Rudolph. Possibly down corner Gareon Conley, the Raiders are even more vulnerable than usual. Over the past five weeks, Oakland has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to WRs. If you need receiver assistance, let Patrick guide you through the fog.

Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 70 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 15.5 fantasy points

WEEK 16 SHOCKER SPECIAL (Under 10 percent started)

Josh Johnson, Was, QB (2 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $20)

Matchup: at Ten
Vegas line/total: Ten -10, 36.5

This time of year, Miracles on Fantasy Street often occur. Mounted injuries, coach evaluations, random benchings, softened defenses — any number of occurrences can unleash new statistical torrents. Out of nowhere, Johnson, a journeyman passer with little fantasy appeal who’s played for 13 different professional football franchises (12 NFL and one United Football League), is suddenly a player of interest in 2-QB and deeper fantasy leagues. How? Scoring duality.

He’s essentially a poor man’s Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson — a flawed thrower who washes away ineptness with designed or break-contain runs. The fourth quarterback to man the controls for Washington in its cataclysmic 2018 season, Johnson has performed admirably in his unexpected staring lineup insertion. Against New York and Jacksonville he averaged the 12th-most valuable line for a passer in the first two rounds of the fantasy playoffs. His 8.4 pass yards per attempt and 65.9 completion percentage in those efforts were nothing to scoff at. Again, impressive, especially when considering the receiving motley crew flanking him.

This week Johnson travels to Nashville to clash with an improving Tennessee defense. Since Week 10 the Titans have given up the 10th-fewest fantasy points, 6.7 yards per attempt and 1.2 passing touchdowns to the position. However, the loss of slot corner Logan Ryan is a significant blow. Still, with Washington’s shortcomings on defense, the vagabond could bring a title home for risk-taking owners.

Fearless Forecast: 178 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, 1 interception, 66 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 22.7 fantasy points

BONUS WEEK 16 FLAMES (Under 50 percent started)

RB: Kenneth Dixon, Bal (at LAC; $15)Gus Edwards has been the pacesetter for Baltimore in their run-first approach, but Dixon’s role continues to slowly expand. Over the past two weeks, he’s plowed his way to standout advanced numbers, ranking No. 2 in elusive rating and No. 2 in yards after contact per attempt (4.62). With Ty Montgomery inactive last week, it’s clear John Harbaugh will continue to ride Edwards and Dixon rest of season.

The Chargers are surging, but have loosened somewhat in the trenches. Since Week 8, they’ve conceded the eighth-most fantasy points, 4.13 yards per carry, 138.6 total yards per game and 10 combined TDs to RBs. On another 12-14 touches, the Raven claws his way to noteworthy FLEX numbers. (FF: 11 atts, 45 yds, 3 recs, 17 yds, td, 13.7 fpts)

RB: Rashaad Penny, Sea (vs. KC; $15) – Early word from the always “truthful” Pete Carroll has the rookie pounder on track to return in Week 16. If the case, he’s definitely worth entertaining at the FLEX in 12-team and deeper leagues. Penny looks like he’s packed on a few holiday pounds as the season has dragged on, but he’s made strides and gained most of his yards after initial contact. In fact, only Henry has outperformed him in YAC per attempt since Week 8. In what will surely be a run-early scheme against KC, he’s a rusher who could ground and pound his way to useable production. The Chiefs have allowed the second-most fantasy points and 5.06 yards per carry to RBs on the year. (FF: 10 atts, 58 yds, td, 11.8 fpts)

WR: Robert Foster, Buf (at NE; $13) – Foster has emerged from the deepest, darkest corner of Krampus’ cave. The nation’s No. 2 ranked WR out of high school according to several scouting services, the wideout accomplished little during his four-year career at Alabama. Equipped with ideal size (6-foot-2, 196-pounds) and terrific separation wheels (4.41 40-yard), the undrafted rookie is finally realizing his enormous potential. Three times since Week 10 he’s netted 90 or more yards in a game, averaging the highest yards per route run (3.65) of any wide receiver over the past six weeks.

Also dynamite after the catch (124 YAC yards last six), he’s an excellent WR3/FLEX play against a New England secondary that ranks middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to WRs. Stephon Gilmore (77.6 passer rating, 49.4 catch% allowed) is a tough assignment, but speed usually kills. (FF: 4 recs, 79 yds, td, 15.9 fpts)

TE: Evan Engram, NYG (at Ind; $15) – With Odell Beckham a 50/50 proposition to return this week, Engram should again be a targets hog. Lined up in Eli Manning’s sight 17 times in his past two contests, he trails only Travis Kelce in the category during that stretch. The Colts have yielded few touchdowns to tight ends this season (3), but no defense has given up more yards (1,017) to the position. In total, five pass-catching ogres have totaled at least 70 yards against them. (FF: 6 recs, 78 yds, 0 tds, 10.8 fpts)

DST: Cleveland Browns (vs. Cin; $13)Gregg Williams always chases the river. His risk/reward defense has paid enormous dividends and kept Cleveland improbably in the playoff race. Last week, for example, he placed Keenum under pressure on one-third of the passer’s dropbacks. Equally unrelenting in the trenches thanks to gap stuffers Brian Price and Tanner Vallejo, the Browns are barking defensively. In the Battle of Ohio Part II, they’re an upside stream. Over the past three weeks Jeff Driskel has been sacked eight times while Cincinnati has a whole has averaged a pedestrian 17 points per game. Adopt a pet. (FF: 16 PA, 317 PA, 4 SCK, 2 TO, 11.0 fpts)

Each week one fortunate guest prognosticator will have a chance to silence the Noise. Following the rules stated above, participants are asked to submit their “Flames” (1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 D/ST) by midnight PT Tuesdays via Twitter @YahooNoise. How large are your stones?

Reader record: 40-68

Brad record: 68-96 (WK15 5-6; W – Damien Williams, Dede Westbrook, Zach Zenner, Antonio Callaway, Atlanta D/ST; L – Derek Carr, Doug Martin, Dion Lewis, C.J. Uzomah, Jeff Wilson Jr., Curtis Samuel)

Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise. Also check out his TV show, “The Fantasy Football Hour,” now available in 91 million households on various regional sports networks, and his award-nominated podcast, “The Fantasy Record.”

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