So I made it to the championship round in my hometown fantasy league (shout out to VA Beach Parks & Rec). I’ve been riding a fairly dominant lineup for most of the season. A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Le’Veon Bell and Randall Cobb have been the backbone of my squad. I’ve even been happy with my QB play in that league. My signal caller has been firmly inside the top-10 all year-long, posting 20 or more points (using standard scoring) six times while only having three sub par weeks. All good, right?
As bad as he’s been in real life (and 24 turnovers in 14 games is pretty awful), Cutler had been a very good fantasy QB. He was averaging 260 yards per game passing and had contributed 30 total touchdowns in 2014. Those numbers will play in just about any league. Still, I’m left to find a spot starter for the most important matchup of the fantasy season. And to be honest, I’m not worried.
I’ve got a very good replacement option (who I will disclose in this week’s recommendations) that I’m confident will carry me to fantasy glory. Although he’s only a one-week option, he’s going to get the job done with flying colors.
Much like myself.
Yes, Round Robinson Inc. is straying from the RB/WR landscape in this special edition. Since we’re now less than one week away from Christmas, it’s only appropriate that I bring you this week’s recommendations with a holiday twist. So leave the milk and cookies by the tree as Santa Robinson delivers you the QB/TE guide for Week 16:
Goin’ All Rudolph on ‘Em (QB2 Who’ll Put Up QB1 Numbers) – Mark Sanchez (PHI)
Out goes Jay Cutler, in steps Mark Sanchez in my championship battle. I’ve been slightly disappointed overall with what I’ve seen from Sanchez since he’s stepped in for Nick Foles. I thought he would be a little more consistent, at least when it came to the exploitable matchups. But no matchup for a QB is more exploitable than Washington. They are the only team in the NFL allowing over 20 fantasy points per game to opposing QBs, which includes the 26 points they surrendered to Foles in Week 3. After allowing 833 yards and 10 TD passes in their last three games, I don’t think Washington will provide too much resistance for this uptempo Philadelphia attack. They won’t be able to slow down Maclin or Matthews on the outside and Sanchez delivers his best game of the season when the Eagles, and fantasy owners, need it most.
- Prediction: 25-39, 306 Yds, 3 TD, 1 INT; 3 Rushes, 8 Yds
Extra Present Under the Tree (Best Deep Play for 2-QB Leagues) – Teddy Bridgewater (MIN)
Quietly, this rookie is putting together a string of pretty impressive outings. In his last seven games, only once has Bridgewater failed to reach 13 points in standard leagues and he has a TD/INT ratio of 10:5 over that span. He’s coming off back-to-back 300 yard performances, including a 315-yard game last week against Detroit that was sure to surprise many. Bridgewater’s strong play has coincided with the emergence of Charles Johnson on the outside, giving him a featured target to lean on. The Dolphins continue to struggle on the back-end as they have been ravaged by injuries in their secondary and linebacker corps. In three of the last four weeks, Miami has surrendered at least 257 yards passing and two touchdowns through the air. With a banged up set of running backs, I expect to see Norv Turner continue to loosen the leash on Bridgewater and allow the youngster more freedom in the offense, which means more opportunities for fantasy returns.
- Prediction: 22-36, 267 Yds, 2 TD, 1 INT; 4 Rushes, 19 Yds
Coal in Your Stocking (The QB1 Most Likely to Disappoint) – Peyton Manning (DEN)
13. 2. 13. Those have been the standard league scores for Manning the last three weeks. If you’ve been using Peyton as your starter and are even in your league’s championship, that’s an accomplishment in itself. This is more than just Manning struggling in cold weather. It’s clear something is not right with the man I would argue is the greatest QB ever to play the game. That thigh injury he’s been hampered by has to be bothering him more than he or the team is letting on. How else do you explain a combined 40 passing attempts the past two games. And as much as C.J. Anderson owners love the volume, it’s not like he’s been a world beater out there. Denver is clearly trying to get to the playoffs with Manning taking as little punishment as possible (which probably means he should stop throwing blocks on the goal line). Against Cincinnati and their top-10 pass defense, I would expect to see similar game plan to what we’ve seen here lately. The way to attack the Bengals is on the ground and I just don’t see the Broncos throwing it enough to get Manning’s numbers back to their typical stature. If you’ve found yourself a decent alternative, this might finally be the week you have to send Peyton to the pine.
- Prediction: 19-28, 221 Yds, 1 TD, 1 INT; 2 Rushes, -2 Yds
Bah, Humbug (The Fringe QB to Avoid) – Philip Rivers (SD)
Much like Manning, Philip Rivers has struggled mightily as of late, posting just nine points in standard leagues each of the last two weeks. Matchups might have a lot to do with that as San Diego did take on the Patriots and Broncos in consecutive weeks, but things don’t get much easier this week as the Chargers travel north to the bay area to take on the 49ers. Say what you want about the turmoil in San Francisco, this defense is still one of the best units in the league. They given up an average of just 206 passing yards since their bye in Week 8, and have surrendered one TD pass or fewer in five of those seven games. Rivers will once again be without Ryan Mathews in the backfield and now will be missing his #1 option on the outside, Keenan Allen. Outside of Antonio Gates, it’s hard to trust any of the offensive weapons in San Diego, making it hard to trust Rivers as well.
- Prediction: 21-37, 239 Yds, 1 TD, 2 INT; 1 Rush, 4 Yds
Goin’ All Rudolph on ‘Em (TE Destined to Surprise) – Martellus Bennett (CHI)
The first thing you did when you saw Jimmy Clausen was getting the start for the Bears on Sunday (aside from realizing Clausen was still even in the league) was downgrade all your Bears. And rightly so. It’s hard to have faith in Chicago skill players with a QB who hasn’t started in three years. It’s even harder to trust him when that start is against the Lions. But if there’s one guy I still believe in, it’s Martellus Bennett. Clausen has never been known for his arm strength, so while Cutler may be apt to push it downfield, I think Chicago uses the middle of the field and more short to intermediate routes in this one. For all the things the Lions do well, covering tight ends isn’t really one of them. They’ve allowed at least eight receptions and 85 yards to opposing TEs in three of their last four games, including an 8-catch, 109 yard outburst from Bennett in Week 13. The move from Cutler to Clausen isn’t what you wanted to see with championship week upon us, but if you’ve been starting Bennett week in and week out, don’t make a panic move and bench him now.
- Prediction: 7 receptions, 84 Yds, 0 TD
Extra Present Under the Tree (Best TE2 Play of the Week)– Coby Fleener (IND)
When searching for strong TE matchup plays, one usually doesn’t have to travel far from Dallas to find something useful. The Cowboys have given up the second-most yards and the fifth-most touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season. When given a choice of the Indianapolis tight ends, I do prefer Dwayne Allen to Coby Fleener, but I think both warrant starts here because of the status of the Colts’ receiving options. Not only is Reggie Wayne dealing with that partially torn triceps, but now T.Y. Hilton is dealing with a hamstring injury. It’s expected he’ll go at this point, but with him being limited, it could push Fleener into the limelight as one of Andrew Luck’s preferred options. He’s already shown he’s capable of putting up a monster number when given the opportunity and, in a game where I expect points aplenty, he offers upside that most TEs outside the top five just can’t give you.
- Prediction: 4 receptions, 56 Yds, 1 TD
Coal in Your Stocking (The TE1 Most Likely to Disappoint) – Julius Thomas (DEN)
It only makes sense that if Peyton Manning is being limited in the number of throws he makes, the Broncos’ skill position players take a hit as well. Those who’ve been waiting for the return of Orange Julius were sorely disappointed by last week’s single catch performance. Unfortunately, things won’t get any better this week against Cincinnati. In their past eight games, the Bengals have not allowed opposing TEs to reach the 50-yard plateau even once, and have given up just one TE score in that span. Much like Peyton, it might be difficult to consider benching Thomas at this point of the season. However, it’s a consideration you have to make based on the recent performance of he and the Denver offense.
- Prediction: 3 receptions, 41 Yds, 0 TD
Bah, Humbug (The Fringe TE to Avoid) – Larry Donnell (NYG)
Just for fun, go check out the box score from last week’s Redskins/Giants game, and in particular, the target distribution for the Giants. Eli Manning threw it 34 times in that game and a staggering 15 of those were in the direction of Odell Beckham, Jr. That leaves just 19 balls for the rest of the offense to share, including just two targets for Larry Donnell. And it worked. OBJ had a monster game and the Giants got the win. So why go away from that formula now, especially against a Rams defense that has shut down the TE all season long? St. Louis has allowed the second fewest points to TE in 2014, including just two touchdowns. Donnell has put up three or fewer fantasy points in five of his last six and has just two TDs himself since that trifecta against Washington in Week 4. If I’m a Donnell owner (and I am), I’m looking further down the ranks for a better option this week.
- Prediction: 3 receptions, 26 Yds, 0 TD
Dasher & Dancer (The QB/TE Double Dip of the Week) – Alex Smith/Travis Kelce (KC)
Trotting out Alex Smith at this point in the season might not be the most exciting play to make, but it’s a good one this week. Smith has thrown for at least 234 yards and had multiple TD tosses in three of his last four contests. Granted, two of those games were against Oakland, but even the Raiders have been better against opposing QBs than Pittsburgh, the Chiefs’ Week 16 opponent. Last Sunday marked the eighth consecutive game that the Steelers have given up 2+ TD passes to opposing signal callers, and that includes games with the Jets and Titans among the bunch. The Alex Smith play is a play rooted in safety, but this week his floor is higher than most.
Assuming he does toss a pair of TDs, I would bet that one of those scores goes to Travis Kelce. Although Kelce has just five touchdowns on the season and only one in the last six games, the Steelers are among the most charitable in giving up touchdowns to tight ends. They held Atlanta TEs out of the end zone, but had given up a TE score in the previous six games before that, and in seven of their last nine. This is good news for Kelce owners who have finally seen the increased workload they’ve been looking for over the past two weeks. After Week 14, Kelce was averaging less that five targets per game, but he’s turned the 15 targets he’s seen since into 12 receptions, 169 yards and a touchdown. Expect more of the same when the Chiefs invade the big ketchup bottle on Sunday.
- Alex Smith – 23-33, 246 Yds, 2 TD, 0 INT; 4 Rushes, 17 Yds
- Travis Kelce – 5 Rec, 69 Yds, 1 TD
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