START: Aaron Rodgers ($9000) – After a disappointing Week 15, I’m fully expecting Aaron Rodgers to bounce back this week against the Bucs. Last week was the first time this season that he did not throw for a touchdown pass in a game. He struggled immensely, but his receivers also didn’t help by dropping some catchable passes. That was then, this is now. He has a great matchup against the Bucs defense that hasn’t been able to stop opposing quarterbacks this year. They’re yielding 16.6 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, and have given up 26 touchdowns. They allow 250 passing yards per game. The last time Rodgers had a bad game was in Week 8. In the following game, he threw for 315 yards and six touchdowns. The Packers are still battling against the Lions to win their division, so a win is a must. With that said, there’s no reason to think that Rodgers will not come out on fire. The Bucs got torched by Matthew Stafford two weeks ago for 311 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers is playing at an MVP level, and paying up for him is worth it about 99.9 percent of the time. This is a good week to have him in your starting lineups.
I’d start him over: All quarterbacks
SIT: Peyton Manning ($8400) – The Broncos have switched gears on the entire NFL, and have become a run first offense. With that change, in recent weeks, Manning’s numbers aren’t what they were earlier in the season. In the last three games he has failed to throw for more than 233 yards in a single game, and has thrown just three touchdowns and two interceptions. In that time frame, he has not scored more than 14 fantasy points in a game. It’s been the C.J. Anderson show in Denver. This week’s matchup isn’t one that favors Manning either. The Bengals have been pretty stout against the pass this season. They’re allowing just 13.1 fantasy points per game, and have allowed just 14 passing touchdowns. In the last eight games, they’ve only allowed one quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards, and have held quarterbacks to fewer than 10 fantasy points in five games. Manning is usually matchup proof, but the Bengals can’t stop the run. So now that the Broncos are a run first team, it’s likely that he won’t need to do much through the air. He’s the third most expensive quarterback this week, but could easily finish out of the top seven in fantasy points. There are better options with better matchup, and much cheaper than to settle for Manning who hasn’t been playing his “A” game as of late.
I’d rather start: Andrew Luck $8900, Drew Brees $8300, and Tom Brady $8000
START: Matthew Stafford ($7000) – Stafford’s price went down in a week where I would have thought it would go up. Maybe it’s because of his performance last week. However, I’m focusing on the matchup at hand. The Lions take on the Bears who have been just awful on the defensive side of the ball this season. They’ve allowed the most passing touchdowns (33), and are giving up 19.6 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. The Bears allow 277 passing yards per game, which is second most in the NFL. In their last two games, the Bears have allowed six passing touchdowns and 580 passing yards. These two teams faced off in Week 13. In that game, Stafford threw for 390 yards and two touchdowns. In their last four meetings, Stafford has actually played solid against the Bears. He’s thrown nine touchdowns, three interceptions, and 1,123 passing yards. At this price, it’s almost a gift. He could easily finish amongst the top five in fantasy points at his position, but he is priced as the 12th most expensive quarterback. Look for him to have a bounce back game from last week.
I’d start him over: Russell Wilson $7100, Ryan Tannenhill $6800, and Eli Manning $6400
SIT: Cam Newton ($7200) – The jury is still out on whether Newton will play or not this week, but if he does, he’s a candidate to fade. The only thing that will help Newton’s value is if Joe Haden actually sat this game out. Newton did not play last week after injuring his back in a car accident. Newton had a big game in Week 14, but prior to that has been very inconsistent throughout the season. He’s averaging 19.1 fantasy points per game, but scored under his average in more than half of the games he’s played this season. Essentially making him a hit or miss. If he plays he’ll likely be playing at less than 100 percent healthy. The matchup is also not the greatest one. The Browns allow just 12.4 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. They allow the seven fewest passing yards per game (222), and have only allowed only two 300+ passing yard games. If you look at some of the quarterbacks in his price range you’ll notice that they have much better matchups, and for the most part higher ceilings.
I’d rather start: Matt Ryan $7400, Tony Romo $7300, and Matthew Stafford $7000
SNEAKY START: Alex Smith ($5600) – Smith has been playing some solid football in the last couple of weeks. In three of the last four games, he’s scored more than his yearly average of 15.2. He’s not a quarterback who will get you 30+ points, but in the last two weeks, he’s thrown for more than 290 yards in each game, and has thrown four touchdowns. The matchup is also one that favors Smith. He plays the Steelers who allow the sixth most fantasy points per game (17.7). They have allowed two or more passing touchdowns in each of the last eight games. They simply struggle to defend against the pass. If you’re looking for a cheap quarterback that has been playing solid of late and has a good matchup, then Smith is your guy.
START: Eddie Lacy ($7300) – Lacy is dealing with an eye injury, but is not expected to miss this week’s game because of it. Last week he wasn’t playing at 100 percent and managed to rush for 97 yards and score a touchdown against a very stingy run defense, the Bills. In the last six games, he has scored eight touchdowns, and has totaled 100 or more yards in his last seven games. This week’s matchup is a favorable one. He faces the Bucs defense that’s allowing 17.9 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. They’ve allowed 89 or more rushing yards per game in their last six games. They’re allowing 116.3 rushing yards per game this season. Another stat I found appealing is that the Bucs have allowed 80 receptions for 558 yards, and five receiving touchdowns to opposing running backs. That caught my attention because Lacy has four receiving touchdowns in the last six weeks. Barring any setbacks with his eye, Lacy should be good to go. He’s $2500 cheaper than the most expensive back, and has a much better matchup and a pretty high ceiling this week.
I’d start him over: Matt Forte $8700, Arian Foster $8600, and Marshawn Lynch $7000
SIT: Marshawn Lynch ($7000) – He has put together some solid performances over the last three weeks. However, this week I’m not thrilled with his matchup. He faces the Cardinals defense that allows the second fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backs (11.6). They are giving up just 90.4 rushing yards per game. In the last eight games, they have allowed just two touchdowns, and two 100+ rushing yard games. They were able to contain DeMarco Murray to less than 100 rushing yards, being the first team to do so this season. Not to mention, the last game that these two met in Week 12, Lynch rushed for just 39 yards on 15 carries, and that was in Seattle, this game is in Arizona. Lynch has yet scored a rushing touchdown on the road this year, and it’ll be difficult to change that this week. If you look at some of the backs I listed below, or even Eddie Lacy that I mentioned above, they either have a better matchup, are cheaper, or both. There are much better ways to invest some of your money this week than to settle for Lynch.
I’d rather start: C.J. Anderson $6900, Justin Forsett $6700, and Mark Ingram $6100
START: Tre Mason ($4600) –.Mason is coming off a subpar performance, but to his defense he was facing the Cardinals defense. If you read on Lynch, you know how good they are. However, prior to that game in St. Louis, he played pretty well at home. In the three home games prior to last week, he rushed for 315 yards, and scored four touchdowns. There’s a good chance he bounces back strongly this week. He faces the Giants who have been inconsistent against the run this season. At times they look solid, and other times they look pretty bad. The Giants defense is allowing 18.4 fantasy points per game to opposing backs. They’ve surrendered 10 rushing touchdowns, and are giving up the third most rushing yards per game (135.1). Mason has dropped in price in each of the last two games, so this would be a good time to take advantage of this low price. He should have no problem meeting value this week.
I’d start him over: Latavius Murray $4600, Matt Asiata $4500, and Daniel Herron $4300
SIT: Jeremy Hill ($5600) – I bet you’re asking yourself, why would someone consider benching a volume back, that just rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns? There are actually a couple of reasons why. The first would be because of the matchup. He faces the Broncos which may be surprising to some allow the fourth fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backs (12.2). They have only allowed one 100+ rushing yards game this season, and are allowing the second fewest rushing yards per game (71.6). The Broncos have allowed just six rushing touchdowns this year, but what’s most impressive is that they’ve allowed just one since Week 6. The other reason is because of the price. He’s only been above this price twice this season. I wouldn’t get too wrapped up in last week’s performance and ignore the facts. This is a tough matchup for him, and the price is not the greatest value. I’d look elsewhere at the running back position this week.
I’d rather start: Joique Bell $6000, Fred Jackson $5500, and Jonathan Stewart $5200
SNEAKY START: Steven Jackson ($3600) – Call it a coincidence, but in each of the last even weeks since Week 8, Jackson has scored a touchdown. If you don’t know by now, it’s Week 16. Jackson has a good matchup against the Saints. Their defense has been awful against the run. In four of their last six games, they have allowed 120 or more rushing yards per game, and have surrendered six touchdowns in the last six games. The Saints are giving up more than 20 fantasy points per game to opposing backs. Jackson has scored double digit fantasy points in five of his last seven games. At this price, you’re risking very little on a back with a good matchup, and one who has been useful in the last couple of weeks.
START: Calvin Johnson ($8700) – After two monster weeks, Johnson struggled against the Vikings last week. This week he has a rematch against the Bears who he faced in Week 13 and absolutely smashed their defense. He caught 11 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. That was good enough for 40.6 fantasy points. In fact, Calvin has scored five touchdowns in the last three games he’s faced the Bears. He has a good history against them, as he has scored nine touchdowns in 14 career games against them. The Bears are surrendering 23.4 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers. They’ve given up 17 receiving touchdowns, and allow the second most receiving yards per game (286.1). In the last four games, the Bears have yielded six receiving touchdowns. Johnson should get back on track and have a field day against this weak Bears defense.
I’d start him over: all receivers
SIT: Alshon Jeffery ($8000) – The Bears decided that they will bench Jay Cutler, and start Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. That hurts Jeffery’s value if you ask me. Not to mention, this is not the most appealing matchup for Jeffery. Granted, he scored two touchdowns against them in Week 13, but that was with Cutler under center. The Lions have allowed fewer than 200 receiving yards in six of their last seven games. They’ve allowed 11 receiving touchdowns, and are giving up the fourth fewest average yards per catch (10.5). Jeffery is talented, but with Clausen under center and a matchup that isn’t so pretty on paper, it’s tough to pay $8000 for him. There are other high caliber receivers available at a more economical price, and some even have a better matchup.
I’d rather start: A.J. Green $8200, Jordy Nelson $7700, and Randall Cobb $7100
START: Randall Cobb ($7100) – After a tough matchup against the Bills, the Packers get the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week. The Bucs have struggled to keep receivers out of the end zone. They have allowed 18 touchdowns to opposing receivers. They are also allowing 24.4 fantasy points per game, and surrender 263.9 receiving yards per game. The Bucs have allowed a receiving touchdown in four consecutive games. That streak will likely not end this week. Despite a brutal game for the Packers offense last week, Cobb still managed to catch seven passes for 96 yards. He’s been less consistent as of late, but what better time to get back on track than this week against a bad secondary. Cobb hasn’t scored a touchdown in five straight games, but there’s a good chance that changes this week. At this price, and with this good of a matchup, it’s almost a must to get him in your lineup.
I’d start him over: T.Y. Hilton $7600, Emmanuel Sanders $7200, and Kelvin Benjamin $6600
SIT: Sammy Watkins ($5300) – Many people may see the Raiders on the Bills schedule and automatically assume it’s time to start Watkins. If you look closely at the numbers, that’s not the case. The Raiders have actually defended well against receivers. They are giving up the third fewest fantasy points per game to opposing receivers (16.6). They’ve allowed just nine receiving touchdowns, and have not allowed a receiver to score a touchdown in the last four games. Not to mention, Watkins is anything but consistent or even dependable. In the last seven games, he has scored fewer than seven points six times. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 8, and has caught more than four just once in the last seven games. If you weigh out the variables, it’s unlikely that Watkins finds many of your lineups this weekend. He can always blow up and have a monster game any given week, but he hasn’t done that many times in quite some time now.
I’d rather start: Kenny Stills $5700, Brandon LaFell $5300, and Mike Wallace $5200
SNEAKY START: Steve Smith ($4100) – After starting out the season on fire, Steve Smith has cooled off over the last eight weeks. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s had some good games, but it hasn’t been many. This week would be a good time for Smith to blow up. He faces the Texans that are allowing the second most fantasy points per game to opposing receivers (25.6). Since the second week of the season, the Texans have allowed at least one receiving touchdown in each game. They are also guilty of surrendering more than 270 receiving yards per game. Smith is a hit or miss, but at this low price and with such a great matchup, there’s plenty of upside to take the shot on him. Keep in mind, I would only consider him a tournament play, as he has a pretty low floor.
START: Rob Gronkowski ($7000) – Despite being the most expensive tight end this week, this is the cheapest Gronkowski has been in the last six weeks. He also has a great matchup against the Jets who allow the second most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends (9.4). They’ve also surrendered 12 touchdowns. Gronkowski has scored a touchdown in back-to-back games, and there’s a good chance he makes it three in a row. He has scored double digit fantasy points in all but one game this season and has scored more than 16 fantasy points in six of the last seven games. He’s the most consistent tight end on the market. I’m taking advantage of the price and plugging him in my lineups.
I’d start him over: All tight ends.
SIT: Mychal Rivera ($4000) – Rivera has now caught seven passes in each of the last two games. That can make some fantasy owners consider him as an option for this week. Before you do, here are some things you should know. Prior to the last two weeks, Rivera caught seven passes in the previous three games combined. He’s talented, but inconsistent. Not to mention, the Bills allow the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends (3.9). They have only allowed tight ends to score two touchdowns this year, and they have not allowed a touchdown since Week 6. In fact, no tight end has had more than 51 receiving yards against the Bills since Week 6. This is a tough matchup for the young tight end. I would rather spend less or a bit more on someone with a better matchup.
I’d rather start: Travis Kelve $4600, Jason Witten $4000, and Dwayne Allen $3800
SNEAKY START: Scott Chandler ($3000) – I know I mentioned that the Raiders are good against receivers, but they tend to struggle against tight ends. If you’re looking for a cheap punt play with a good matchup, and some upside, look into Chandler. The Raiders have given up eight touchdowns and are allowing 7.8 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. They’ve allowed tight ends to score six touchdowns in the last six games. Chandler is not a huge volume player, but does have his good games. He has scored in the double digits in two of the last four games. I’d only recommend him in tournaments.
I’ve provided you with low-risk, high-reward players for each position. If you’re drafting a lineup that’s top heavy in salaries and need to find some inexpensive players to plug in, then my sneaky starts can be useful.