In “Start or Sit,” we make a call on players who merit strong starting consideration — and players who might be best on the bench.
Here’s our Week 16 rundown:
Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (vs. San Francisco) — The 49ers have a strong defense, but don't overthink this one, even if you have utterly enviable RB depth. Lynch is almost impossible to bench. He gashed San Francisco for 103 yards rushing on 19 carries in the first meeting between the clubs in October. A similar number of carries wouldn't surprise me in the rematch. I love how the Seahawks were able to crush the Cardinals and Bills without overworking Lynch, who had just 21 carries as Seattle racked up an incredible 108 points in a two-week span.
49ers RB Frank Gore (at Seattle) — He's a similar case to Lynch. The Seahawks' defense must be respected, but Gore rushed for a season-high 131 yards (on 16 carries) in the Week Seven meeting with Seattle. Also, note that the Seahawks have surrendered 118 rushing yards or more in three of the past four weeks.
Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (vs. Philadelphia) — He's been able to practice this week, a good sign for his readiness for Week 16. In the first meeting with Philadelphia, Griffin threw four TD passes in 15 attempts. If he plays, he should be in your lineup. That's going to hold true for the bulk of owners this week.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco (vs. N.Y. Giants) — You aren't going to start Flacco if you have other reasonable options. However, if you need QB help, Flacco is a reasonable play in Week 16. The Giants are No. 28 in passing yards allowed, and Flacco has thrown multiple TD passes in 4-of-7 home starts.
Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts (vs. New England) — Shorts needs 75 yards to reach 1,000 for the season, and he has a good shot at reaching that mark on Sunday, especially if the Jaguars are in catch-up mode against the Patriots, who are No. 29 vs. the pass. Give Shorts credit — his production has been consistent. He has one TD in seven different games, and he has exceded 100 receiving yards four times, including last week. He has been one of the better in-season pickups of 2012.
Patriots WR Brandon Lloyd (at Jacksonville) — After some very lean weeks, Lloyd has reemerged as a solid fantasy starter down the stretch. In the past two games, Lloyd has hauled in 17 passes (on 25 targets) for 279 yards and a TD. With the Jaguars weak vs. the pass, Lloyd could continue his late-season surge.
Raiders passing-game players (at Carolina) — The Raiders, who have long been out of contention, might look to play QB Terrelle Pryor in third-down and perhaps red-zone situations on Sunday. If we remove fantasy football from the equation, the prospect of Pryor getting more work is quite interesting. However, Pryor's involvement in the game plan gives fantasy owners something to ponder. At the very least, it increases the risk that QB Carson Palmer will lose some snaps. The less that Palmer plays, the more risk there is that WRs Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey and TE Brandon Myers might not post their normal numbers. The Raiders are averaging just 18.8 points, seventh-fewest per game. In short, it's already risky to depend too much on Oakland's offense, and it's not getting any easier to do so. To me, RB Darren McFadden isn't even a surefire start. He's gaining just 3.4 yards per carry, and he has three TDs in 10 games.
Giants QB Eli Manning (at Baltimore) — Manning hasn't thrown a TD pass in three of his last four road starts (1-5 TD-to-interception ratio over that span), and he has thrown multiple scores in only one game away from home in the 2012 campaign, way back in Week Four at Philadelphia. Manning has had a few monster games this season, but he also has had some real clunkers, including his 161-yard, no-TD, two-pick game in Week 15.
Cardinals RB Beanie Wells (vs. Chicago) — Wells will draw more starting consideration this week after his three-TD performance Sunday vs. Detroit, and in deeper leagues, I have no issues playing him and hoping he scores a TD. After all, Wells has scored the Cardinals' last five offensive touchdowns. However, he's gaining just 2.8 yards per carry, and the Cards' offense is the league's worst. Making matters worse, he faces an above-average Bears defense in Week 16. Wells is playable, but he doesn't have a lot of upside. For most owners, he's a flex option at best.
Titans passing game players (at Green Bay) — The Packers have allowed one passing TD or less in eight of the last nine games. Titans QB Jake Locker has never faced Dom Capers' defense, and Tennessee doesn't have a clear-cut, must-start go-to guy. With that in mind, WRs Kenny Britt and Nate Washington don't come highly recommended, even with Kendall Wright (ribs) out. Locker is best left on the bench in most leagues, too.