Week 16 Fantasy Tips from the Playbook War Room: AFC Matchups

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Week 16 Fantasy Blog: As we emphasized last week, if you’re still alive in your playoffs, the best advice we can give you is to stick with what has been working. You clearly have a core group of players that have gotten you to that point, so it is important that you rely on them to carry you to a championship. So, for this week’s blog we took a look at each matchup and put together a group of players who are one of your last starters or somebody that you could be on the fence about playing. As best we could, we tried to stay away from the top guys at their positions (while staying with fantasy relevant guys) because you would be crazy to sit any of those players this late in the season. We’re going to let you know how we think these guys will do and if they’re worth a spot in your lineup this week. Good luck in the finals!

AFC Matchups:

CLE@BAL

Sit: Peyton Hillis, RB Cleveland

  • Last week looked like Hillis was finally going to be the player a lot of owners drafted quite early. The Browns OL did a good job of slowing down the Cardinals defense from penetrating the line of scrimmage. Hillis was able to get a full head of steam when hitting the line which allowed him to put together almost 100 yards on the ground.
  • The Ravens are allowing 90 yards a game on the ground this year, good for 2nd in the league. The matchup alone does not bode well for HIllis. Ryan Mathews was able to get on the edge of the Ravens D, which allowed him to generate a lot of success. Hillis does not have that same running style. After being embarrassed by the Chargers on the ground the Ravens will come out with a  much better attitude.

DEN@BUF

Stevie Johnson (AP)

Sit: Steve Johnson, WR Buffalo

  • Johnson has been on a bit of a hot streak the past four games; 22 catches for 325 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has been the only WR Ryan Fitzpatrick seems to consistently rely on which has helped his production stay high even when the Bills are losing. Johnson’s ability in the intermediate passing game proved to be one of the Bills few bright spots, even though he got most of his success at the end of the game.
  • The Broncos are going to run the ball and if Buffalo cannot slow them down the Bills’ touches will be limited. Johnson has shown he can beat top corners in the past weeks, but with Champ Bailey and a lingering groin injury, we are slightly worried.

ARI@CIN

Start: A.J. Green, WR Cincinnati

  • Green has emerged as an every week starter with his ability to put up consistent production week in and week out. What stands out to us on tape is Green’s smoothness getting down the field. He is extremely fluid in his route running and attacks the ball very well in the air. This aggressiveness in the air makes him a threat to put up a big play each week.
  • The Cardinals have been blitzing very often the past few weekends, which could pose some problems for Andy Dalton and the Bengals OL. However, in terms of Green, that means he is going to be left in a lot of favorable matchups. If the Bengals can use some max protect schemes to give Dalton some time to throw Green should be able to capitalize on a few of these opportunities to put up another good game.

OAK@KC

Michael Bush (AP)

Start: Michael Bush, RB Oakland

  • Bush has faced some tough run Ds in 3 of the past 4 weeks, which has caused his production to slow down a bit from where he was at the mid point of the season. The Oakland OL has struggled to be as physical as they were the earlier part of the season. This has trickled down to Bush and has prevented him from getting downhill as quickly as he would like.
  • The Chiefs are one week removed from giving up 153 yards to the Jets on the ground. With a pass rush that has been causing a lot of problems for teams of late, the Raiders will have to try to protect Carson Palmer somehow. Expect Bush to receive a lot of carries and looks out of the backfield, especially if Palmer is under pressure most of the day.

MIA@NE

Start: Brandon Marshall, WR Miami

  • Marshall has been one of the most up and down players of the year. Last week owners had to be thrilled with his big touchdown, but we were more concerned that he finished with only two catches besides that. On tape we just have not seen him getting open as often as he should. At times his effort seems to waver and it shows in his route running and burst off the line. It doesn’t help that Matt Moore has cooled off a bit from his hot start.
  • The Patriots simply do not have anybody that can cover Marshall. The Dolphins are going to have to throw the ball to keep pace with the Patriots so expect Moore to look Marshall’s way a lot.

NYG@NYJ

Sit: Hakeem Nicks, WR New York Giants

  • Nicks has been a handful for secondaries the past four weeks. His route running has looked much improved, which has in turn allowed him to utilize his size and speed combination much more. Nicks is great as utilizing his size in the intermediate passing game to shield off defenders so that he has an ability catch anything around him
  • Players who try and get into Darrelle Revis’ head tend to live up to their words. Ignoring those comments, Revis thrives at covering big physical WRs. He is at his best when he can get his hands on a player and Nicks is not the type of guy to avoid contact. If Nicks has any success early, expect Revis to shadow Nicks for the remainder of the game.

STL@PIT

Steven Jackson (AP)

Sit: Steven Jackson, RB St. Louis

  • There is too much uncertainty with the Steelers passing game to really put much stock on any player besides Mike Wallace. Steven Jackson becomes the focus of this matchup because (minus maybe Brandon Lloyd) there is nobody else fantasy relevant on the Rams offense. Jackson took advantage last week of a LB core that struggled to contain him on the ground or through the air. As a whole, the unit really did a poor job of getting off blocks and filling lanes before Jackson got a full head of steam.
  • The Steelers are the type of defense that has the ability to really shut down somebody like Jackson. With no real threat of passing they will be able to keep Troy Polamalu closer to the line of scrimmage to limit Jackson on the ground and through the air.

JAC@TEN

Start: Either teams Running Back

  • The Jaguars really have nobody besides Maurice Jones-Drew on their roster that is fantasy relevant. He is a workhorse that is going to almost always put up good numbers.
  • With Jake Locker starting, the Titans passing game becomes too risky to really feel confident about any one player. Somebody like Nate Washington could emerge as Locker’s guy, but it is too risky to put too much stock in him this late in the season.
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