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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Under the Numbers: Week 16
Alessandro Miglio
December 18, 2012
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Fantasy championship week is here. Congratulations if you made it this far; our condolences if you fell short. If you are like many fantasy owners, attrition has taken its toll on some part of your fantasy team.

While you should start your studs—sadly, that does not apply to Larry Fitzgerald at this time—there is plenty of decision-making to be had if you need help in one or two spots.

1. Russell Wilson: 14/23, 205 yards, 1 touchdown; 9 carries, 92 yards, 3 touchdowns

If you look up the week’s top statistical passers from Week 15, Russell Wilson barely cracks the top 20. It belies the truth about his performance.

The Bills looked like they were prepared to face a statue at quarterback, allowing Wilson to run wild on them. The dynamic rookie was the 11th-best rusher on the day, gaining 92 yards and scoring three touchdowns on just nine carries. He out-RG3’d RG3.

Wilson was a sneaky-good start in Week 15, but how good will he be next week against that 49ers defense? On the one hand, it would be reasonable to expect him to have a down week thanks to the matchup. On the other, he did buck that prediction by having a big week on the road against that vaunted Chicago defense.

He did have a down week against Arizona, but the Seahawks did not need much from him in that game. If you are stuck choosing between Wilson and another guy on the fringe, you would be hard-pressed to go with someone else. But we think he will struggle a bit.

2. Danny Amendola: 6 catches, 58 yards, 1 touchdown, 2-point conversion vs. Minnesota Vikings

If you stashed Danny Amendola or he is somehow available on your waiver wire, now is the time to pick him up or bring him out of hibernation. If only spiking the ball into an usher’s face counted for something in fantasy land.

Amendola has been a PPR monster when healthy. Of course, he is liable to get injured on the second snap of a game, but this is the time to go for the gold if you are in championship game, be it for the league championship or your toilet bowl.

3. Bryce Brown: 28 carries, 40 yards; 3 receptions, 17 yards over the past two weeks

If Bryce Brown propelled you to a playoff spot, it’s quite probable he knocked you out with two woeful performances in a row over the last couple of weeks.

The rookie running back has regressed in a big way, to the point where he is a serious liability this week if you happened to survive his woeful performances. A bigger issue is the potential return of LeSean McCoy, who has been cleared for practice and could be back in Week 16.

It might be time to pull him from your lineup.

4. Houston Run Defense: 650 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns over the past six weeks

Adrian Peterson is on an epic tear, and the Houston defense has had some gaping holes in recent weeks. They recently gave up their first rushing touchdowns to running backs, though three over a six-game span is still a good rate.

Christian Ponder might not be a good quarterback, but the Houston defense might not be able to do much to stop Wolverine, who is on a mission. Peterson needs 294 yards to break the all-time record, and he is running with a sort of desperate violence rarely seen by NFL running backs nowadays. Teams are lining up to stop him and he is running right through them.

So will the Texans hold the line, or will they allow Peterson to get into the end zone?

5. Brandon Lloyd: 10 receptions, 190 yards vs. San Francisco 49ers

After a season of bitter fantasy disappointment, Brandon Lloyd has come alive.

Maybe defenses have focused too much on stopping Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez, or maybe Tom Brady has simply found the chemistry with the veteran receiver after a season of misfires or simply looking elsewhere while Lloyd was wide open. Whatever the case may be, it seems like it is finally safe to keep Lloyd in your lineup.

Or is it?

Rob Gronkowski practiced last week. While there was speculation he would sit out until Week 17, he could get back on the field this week. The Patriots could use him, it seems, as they try to win back a first-round bye.

Of course, the T-1000 might still need some shakedown before he is brought back to game action, so monitoring his status throughout the week is imperative. If he plays, someone’s production is going to suffer, and Lloyd could be the biggest loser.

6. Ryan Tannehill: 22/28, 220 yards, 2 touchdowns;  vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

This one comes with the caveat that the Dolphins were playing against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The good news is that Tannehill gets to face Buffalo this week.

The Bills did a good defensive job on Tannehill and the Dolphins in their first matchup a few weeks ago, but that was at home and before the wheels came off on that defense. Buffalo travels to Miami this week to meet a Dolphins team still gasping for playoff life and improving offensively.

This would be an incredible gamble, but it might be worth it if you are deciding between options that include Tannehill.

7. C.J. Spiller: 17 carries, 103 yards, 1 touchdown; 3 receptions, -2 yards vs. Seattle Seahawks

It’s amazing how much fantasy value C.J. Spiller has when he’s not dealing with the likes of Fred Jackson in the backfield. Spiller did a pretty good job against a good Seahawks defense, keeping the Bills relatively close until Seattle broke the game open in the second half.

He gets another tough matchup this week against a stout Miami defense that has stopped most running backs in their tracks.  Spiller had 22 carries for 91 yards and three catches for 39 yards in their last meeting, also without Fred Jackson to compete with for carries. He did not get into the end zone, but it wasn’t a terrible game.

8. Dennis Pitta: 7 receptions, 125 yards, 2 touchdowns vs. Denver Broncos

This is quite the Gronk-like stat line for Dennis Pitta, who compiled it in vain against the Broncos.

Upon closer inspection, however, this stat line is a bit deceiving. The first of Pitta’s touchdowns came on a long pass play where her rolled into the end zone on a borderline touchdown—the officials could have marked him down at the goal line had Denver’s defenders made clear contact. The second came on a short out pattern where Pitta broke a few tackles and raced down the sideline during garbage time.

9. James Jones: 5 receptions, 60 yards, 3 touchdowns at Chicago Bears

James Jones deserves a new nickname.

The Slot Machine hit the jackpot last week with his fourth multi-touchdown game of the season. Jones scored all three of Green Bay’s touchdowns.

It has been quite the feast-or-famine season for Jones, though. He has 12 touchdowns on just 81 targets, catching 51 of those for 622 yards. If he does not get into the end zone—which has happened seven times in 14 games this year—he becomes a fantasy liability. Jones has 24.5 total standard points in those seven games.

If you feel like playing fantasy roulette in your championship game, Jones is the man for your lineup.

10. Colin Kaepernick: 14/25, 216 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception at New England Patriots

On the surface this looks like a fantastic line for Colin Kaepernick. He went on the road against an improving New England defense and scored oodles of fantasy points despite some fumbling issues.

He benefited from excellent field position a few times, however, and New England’s defense is still prone to giving up some big plays.

This week he travels to Seattle to face a hot Seahawks defense backed by the 12th Man. Start him at your own risk.

Police Plodder

Beanie Wells: 17 carries, 67 yards, 3 touchdowns
The Detroit Lions looked like they had a Freaky Friday incident with the Arizona Cardinals last week. Beanie Wells took full advantage, even fumbling his way to a touchdown en route to a rout.

Michael Turner: 16 carries, 52 yards, 1 touchdown
The ever-present Michael Turner turned in another plodding performance that was all right by fantasy standards thanks to another touchdown run. This time it came at the beginning of the game, when he was at his freshest.

Bryce Brown: 16 carries, 34 yards; 1 reception, 11 yards vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The aforementioned Brown was a bit better this week than last, averaging 2.1 YPC as opposed to 0.5. Amazingly, his season-long YPC sits at 5.1 despite relatively few games played and the two recent debacles.

Alfred Morris: 27 carries, 87 yards, 2 touchdowns; 2 receptions, 6 yards at Cleveland Browns
It was a bit of tough sledding for Morris, but he revved things up in the second half as the Redskins swallowed up that Browns defense.

Ray Rice: 12 carries, 36 yards; 3 receptions, 3 yards
The Broncos have been tough against opposing running backs all season, and Ray Rice was their latest victim. The Giants will be a bit softer, but it could be another rough championship weekend for him and his fantasy owners.

Trent Richardson: 11 carries, 28 yards, 2 touchdowns; 3 receptions, 4 yards vs. Washington Redskins
As the season wears on, Richardson seems to be wearing down. Good thing he keeps getting the goal line carries.


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