Winning your fantasy football league requires a good amount of skill and a whole lot of luck. It also requires taking risks.
If you’ve come this far, chances are you’ve had all three of those things. But your toughest task might come in Week 16.
A general tenet in fantasy football is to stick with your star players and avoid the temptation of swapping them out with lesser-known names who supposedly have good matchups. With a fantasy championship on the line, though, it’s time to throw that thinking out the window.
Exhibit A: Peyton Manning. Based on merit and previous projections, the Denver Broncos quarterback is a bona-fide QB1, and benching him would be the equivalent of starting Tim Tebow (yes, people actually did that).
Yet the reality is that the Broncos’ offense has shifted to the ground, transforming Manning from a fantasy machine to someone who’s averaged less than 10 fantasy points per game in standard-scoring leagues over his last three games. That doesn’t sound like someone who will help you win your league.
Should you scour the waiver wire in search of a mid-level replacement? Of course not. Manning still is an elite quarterback who can go off in any game. But if you’re in the championship round, you likely have plenty of resources available, and if you have another solid QB1, he’s worth considering if you want to capture fantasy football glory.
So as you set your lineup for the final time this season, buck the trend and make these bold moves to bring home the bacon. And if it doesn’t work out, you didn’t hear it from us.
Matt Ryan, Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons: Matty Ice came through with another 20-plus fantasy point game last week (in standard leagues), and the New Orleans Saints have given up big numbers to opposing quarterbacks all season. Ryan’s on the short list of QBs to consider starting over Manning.
Mark Ingram, Running Back, New Orleans Saints: Atlanta’s offense is coming together, but its run defense still is terrible. The Falcons have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, and Ingram rushed for two touchdowns in their matchup earlier this season.
Tre Mason, Running Back, St. Louis Rams: Mason has been in a bit of a funk lately, but a home matchup against the New York Giants’ weak run defense could change that. Bonus stat: Prior to last Thursday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, Mason had scored double-digit fantasy points in each of his last three home games.
DeSean Jackson, Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins: Is Jackson the safest pick coming off an injury with Robert Griffin III at quarterback? Nope. But another matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, whom he torched for 117 yards and a touchdown earlier this season, makes him a viable option, no matter who’s under center.
Vincent Jackson, Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Time to load up on the Jacksons. Vincent has 229 receiving yards in his last two games, and the Bucs should have to throw a ton against the Green Bay Packers. Expect Jackson and Mike Evans to be the primary beneficiaries.
Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos: Before you call us crazy, consider this: The Cincinnati Bengals have a poor run defense and a great pass defense, which could (and should) mean more carries for C.J. Anderson and less pass attempts for Peyton. If you have another QB1 taking up space on your bench, now is the time to let him loose.
Andre Williams, Running Back, New York Giants: The good news: Williams should see starting duties with Rashad Jennings unlikely to play. The bad news: The Rams’ run defense has been among the best in the NFL over the last several weeks. There are better options out there.
Doug Martin, Running Back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Don’t be fooled by Martin’s 96-yard performance last weekend. 64 of those yards came on one play, and he was basically shut down the rest of the day. If (OK, when) the Bucs fall behind the Packers, Martin should return to being a fantasy non-factor.
Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills: A matchup against the 2-12 Oakland Raiders? What’s not to love? Well, the fact that the Bills are a run-first team, and the Raiders don’t give up fantasy points to wide receivers since teams don’t need to throw against them. Watkins has been inconsistent of late, so there’s no need to start him here.
DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Houston Texans: Pop quiz: Who will be Houston’s quarterback Sunday? The fact is not even the Texans know right now. There’s enough uncertainty here to steer clear of any Texans wideout, even with a favorable matchup against the Baltimore Ravens’ shaky pass defense.
Have a fantasy/NFL question for Darren? Send it to him via Twitter at @darren_hartwell
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