Nick Mensio

Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em

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Week 16 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

Saturday, December 23, 2017


It’s finally here. Fantasy Super Bowl week. (For us sane people at least.) Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is aimed toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes, as these are players I’ll likely have some exposure to over the weekend.

QUARTERBACK

Start of the Week: Alex Smith vs. Dolphins: Smith managed a top-12 week last Saturday night against the Chargers’ elite pass defense and continues to hum along as the overall QB3 in fantasy through 15 weeks. The Chiefs are again at home and welcome a Dolphins team to town that is 27th in pass-defense DVOA, 23rd in opponent passer rating, and 28th in sacks. Numbers-wise, the Miami pass defense has flashed a bit lately, but it avoided Rob Gronkowski (suspension) two Monday nights ago in the upset win over New England and faced Trevor Siemian the game before that. Last week, Tyrod Taylor hung the overall QB6 finish on the Dolphins on the back of both a passing and rushing score. Smith’s weaponry is better than Taylor’s, and he also provides a bit of a similar rushing floor with 24-plus rushing yards in five of his last seven games. Smith has been getting it done much of the season for fantasy owners and gets a pillow-soft home date for championship week. The Chiefs are 10-point home favorites with an implied team total of 26.5 points, the seventh-highest total on the board with all 32 teams in action.

Starts

Blake Bortles at 49ers: Bortles is on a heater at the moment with four straight top-12 fantasy weeks, including a pair of top-five finishes. He’s coming off a 326-yard, three-touchdown assault of the Texans last week and didn’t even play the fourth quarter. Bortles is getting the job done with a trio of rookies in Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, and Week 15 breakout WR Jaydon Mickens. Allen Hurns (ankle) is expected back this week, but Marqise Lee is likely done for the regular season with an ankle issue of his own. The 49ers offer up one of the softest quarterback matchups on the board. San Francisco is 31st in pass-defense DVOA, 24th in sacks, 26th in yards-per-attempt allowed, 27th in opponent passer rating, and 27th in fantasy points yielded to quarterbacks. Bortles should also know this defensive scheme extremely well; 49ers DC Robert Saleh was the LBs coach in Jacksonville the previous three seasons and runs the same defense as ex-Jaguars coach Gus Bradley. The only real concerns here are the Jaguars traveling cross country, coming off clinching a playoff game, and Leonard Fournette (quad) will be back to carry a good chunk of the load. Bortles should still be treated as a top-12 play in an offense that could easily hit the over on its 23-point implied total.

Case Keenum at Packers: Keenum has thrown multiple touchdowns in six of his past seven games and has been a top-13 fantasy quarterback in all seven contests. His floor has been bankable for the past two months. Keenum now gets a Green Bay pass defense that has been hemorrhaging points to quarterbacks. Over the last five weeks, the Packers are 31st in fantasy points allowed to opposing passers. No team has given up more touchdown passes in that span. On the year, Green Bay is 26th in pass-defense DVOA and dropping by the week. The Packers are 30th in opponent passer rating, 24th in total pass defense, and 29th in yards-per-attempt allowed. Four straight quarterbacks have posted top-12 weeks against Green Bay, including DeShone Kizer in Week 14. Since this one is at Lambeau Field, there’s a better chance of it staying competitive.

Matthew Stafford at Bengals: Stafford doesn’t have a top-12 finish since Week 11, but he does have a pair of QB15 games in that span and remains the QB10 on the season. Another week removed from a throwing-hand injury, Stafford gets a Bengals defense that is as banged up and injury-riddled as any in the league. Cincinnati has mostly given up on the season. DBs George Iloka (shoulder), Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion), Darqueze Dennard (knee), and Shawn Williams (hamstring) are all on the injury report, while stud WLB Vontaze Burfict (concussion) is going to miss another game. On the year, the Bengals are 11th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and a respectable 18th in pass-defense DVOA. But over the last three weeks, Cincinnati is 25th in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks and is allowing over 265 pass yards per game. The Lions are No. 1 in the league in pass-to-run ratio, throwing the ball a league-high 63.32% of the time. The Bengals have allowed both DeShone Kizer and Mitchell Trubisky to finish as QB1s the past four weeks. Detroit is currently a 4.5-point road favorite with an implied team total of 24 points.

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Sits

Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Jaguars: Garoppolo has been terrific in his three games as starter, leading the Niners to three straight wins and averaging 336 yards passing in that span. However, touchdowns have been hard to come by with only two in his three starts. Robbie Gould leads the league in field goals since Garoppolo took over, and San Francisco is 29th in red-zone touchdown rate on the year. The top offseason goal for John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan will be to find Garoppolo some legitimate weapons to go with Marquise Goodwin. The Jaguars’ top-notch pass defense is one to completely avoid in fantasy Super Bowl week. Jacksonville is No. 1 in sacks, No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 1 in pass yards allowed, No. 1 in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks, No. 1 in opponent passer rating, No. 1 in yards-per-attempt, and No. 2 in interceptions. The only true weakness has been a vulnerability to big plays, as the Jaguars are one of nine teams to allow double-digit pass plays of 40-plus yards. Fantasy owners with 49ers skill players on their roster can look to Jacksonville traveling cross country and the fact that it just clinched a playoff berth last week as reasons for optimism, but it’s hard to feel comfortable using any Niners for Week 16.

Marcus Mariota vs. Rams: Mariota is coming off one of his best games of the season, a 241-yard, two-touchdown road loss to the 49ers en route to the QB14 finish. Considering that’s been one of the high points for Mariota’s fantasy season tells us all we need to know about Mariota’s utter disappointment of a 2017 as the current overall QB19. Mariota has just two 300-yard passing games this season, and one was a four-INT disaster in Pittsburgh. His 241 yards last week was Mariota’s first time topping 200 yards passing in a month. Still battling leg injuries, Mariota hasn’t ran the ball more than three times in a game since Week 11. His upside is gone while the floor is disgustingly low in this Stone Age offense run by coach Mike Mularkey and OC Terry Robiskie. Tennessee is 27th in offensive pace and 21st in pass-play percentage. It’s a scheme that doesn’t even play to Mariota’s strengths. The Titans got by last season on insane red-zone efficiency, scoring a touchdown on a league-best 72% of their possessions inside the 20-yard line. This season, that number is at just over 58%, and the Titans now get a Rams defense that just harassed Russell Wilson to no end last week. Wilson finished the week as the QB23 and took seven sacks. The Rams are No. 3 in pass-defense DVOA, sixth in total pass defense, and second in sacks. Without his mobility, Mariota could be a sitting duck at times. Mariota owners likely didn’t even make it this far in fantasy.

Tyrod Taylor at Patriots: Taylor’s home-road splits actually haven’t been as dramatic this season; he has a 6:1 TD:INT ratio in six road games compared to a 7:3 mark in seven games at home. He’s also averaging 10 more passing yards per game away from home and essentially the same amount of rush yards. But Taylor’s two previous starts in New England in 2015 and 2016 produced just one total touchdown to his name, and Taylor wasn’t having a strong start to his matchup against the Patriots three weeks ago, going 9-of-18 for 65 yards and an interception before getting knocked out of the game by injury. Taylor is coming off the overall QB7 finish last week at home against the Dolphins. But the New England pass defense has been playing much better of late. Over the last five weeks, the Patriots have allowed just 222.2 pass yards per game and the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in that span. Taylor’s pass-game arsenal has also been stripped down with Jordan Matthews needing surgery and Kelvin Benjamin playing at far less than 100% with a torn meniscus that will require surgery after the season. Taylor is a Week 16 fade.


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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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