Sneaky Starts: Week 16

Dec 19, 2018
Sneaky Starts: Week 16

This is it, Week 16! If you’re reading this, you made it to your league’s championship game. Or maybe you’re scouring the world wide web for some cheap Week 16 DFS plays. Either way, I’m glad you’re here since I get depressed by the idea that I'm typing these words into the void.

Week 16 is when things start to get a little wacky. A few more teams have been eliminated from the playoff hunt, so players are starting to get shut down for the season. Or consider Todd Gurley, who has some inflammation in his knee. The Rams play the Cardinals this week—do they rest Gurley for the postseason knowing they can beat Arizona without him or do they ride their star running back since they are still fighting for home field advantage? These are the questions that try men’s souls.

If you have a player or two whose availability is dicey this week, give yourself an option or two in case he doesn’t play. If you’ve been carrying two quarterbacks or tight ends, pick your starter for this week and drop the other to open up a bench slot and give yourself an out heading into Week 16.

A great way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.

Last week, I discussed Josh Allen, Justin Jackson, Damien Williams, Elijah McGuire, Jaylen Samuels, Dante Pettis, Robby Anderson, Mike Williams, Robert Foster and Chris Herndon in this space.

Let’s see if we can dig up a few more gems for Week 16:


Baker Mayfield (vs. CIN), Lamar Jackson (@ LAC) and Josh Allen (@ NE) are intriguing starts again this week, though their relative inexperience does give me pause. Mayfield has a great matchup while Jackson and Allen have both shown a very high floor.

Marcus Mariota, Titans (vs. WAS, No. 16 in QB aFPA)
Mariota has averaged 17.3 fantasy points in five home games, and his two bad games came against Baltimore and Jacksonville, two of the tougher defenses in the league. Washington is coming off of a good showing against the Jaguars, but that was against Cody Kessler. In the three previous games, Washington yielded 197/3 to Eli Manning, 306/2 to Carson Wentz and 289/2 to Dak Prescott.

Nick Foles, Eagles (vs. HOU, 19)
Foles put up a measly 9.3 fantasy points last week against the Rams, but he returns home to face a Texans defense that is tough to run on but vulnerable against the pass, yielding 253/2 to Sam Darnold, 399/2 to Andrew Luck, 397/1 to Baker Mayfield and 303/2 to Marcus Mariota in recent weeks.

Sam Darnold, Jets (vs. GB, 20)
The just-officially-eliminated Packers have given up passing yards to the three competent quarterbacks they’ve faced in the last four weeks. Mitch Trubisky (235/2), Matt Ryan (262/2) and Kirk Cousins (342/3) all went over the 19.0-mark in fantasy points. Meanwhile, Darnold is coming off of 253/2 against the Texans, and he has at least 18.0 fantasy points in three of his last four home games. Throw in a budding rapport with Robby Anderson, and we have the makings of a solid fantasy outing.

Taylor Heinicke, Panthers (vs. ATL, 30)
The Panthers have decided to shut Cam Newton down for the season. Taylor Heinicke will draw the start, but the Old Dominion product is largely an unknown from an NFL standpoint. In the preseason, he completed 24 of 36 passes for 323 yards (9.0 YPA) and two touchdowns against one interception. He also rushed five times for 23 yards and a score. That 7.2 pass-to-rush ratio would fall between Jameis Winston (6.9) and Blake Bortles (7.4) this year, so Heinicke can add points with his legs. He’s obviously a risky start, but there’s some upside here due to the competence he showed in the preseason and his home matchup against the Falcons, who are No. 30 in QB aFPA. Consider this news a slight downgrade for the entire offense, though we weren’t expecting Newton to tear it up this week given his shoulder.

Running Backs

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