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Fantasy Football Week 16: Wandering the Waiver Wire

By Alexander Hough in News on Dec 20, 2011 8:00PM

Schedule reminder: Things are really wackadoodle this week, with one Thursday game, 13 games on Saturday (Christmas Eve), one game on Sunday (Christmas), and one game on Monday (Boxing Day).

In August 2007, prior to the Patriots’ record-setting season, a league mate drafted both Tom Brady and Randy Moss. Whether it was a focused strategy or dumb luck, we don’t remember, as the PTSD from repeated fantasy assaults blurred the memory of everyone in the league — and we mean everyone, since this owner, like the Patriots he invested so heavily in, went undefeated during the regular season.

Up until Week 15 of that season, when this fantasy juggernaut came off a first round playoff bye, Brady was averaging 315 yards/game and 3.5 TDs/game, while Moss was averaging 97 yards/game and 1.5 TDs/game. That’s when the buzzsaw met its match: the misery of Massachusetts in December. Pouring rain and gusting winds curbed the Patriots’ offense, and Brady ended up with 140 yards and an interception (his only game that season without a TD) and Moss caught five balls for 79 yards. The previously undefeated fantasy team suffered the first loss of the season when it mattered the most.

This shouldn’t be surprising. The unpredictability of any given Sunday has been a part of football since long before then-NFL commissioner Bert Bell coined the phrase after the Steelers upset the Bears in 1958. Still, it’s good to remind yourself of this fact before a fantasy loss does. Let this serve as a warning not to invest too heavily in one team or player.

This advice may come too late for fantasy owners relying on the Green Bay Packers, who snoozed through Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs. Pretty much every back and passcatcher was a disappointment, except maybe RB Ryan Grant (101 total yards) and TE Jermichael Finley (83 yards). QB Aaron Rodgers actually had a decent day, fantasy-wise - despite being harassed by an underrated Chiefs pass rush, Rodgers threw for 235 yards and had a pair of TDs (one by air, one on foot), even if his actual play (completing 48.6% of his passes and getting sacked four times) did little to help his team. Just the same, those totals were well below his season average up until that point (315 yards, three TDs). This stat line pretty much reflects the entire team’s yardage drop off (404 yards/game for the season, 315 yards in Week 15), although the difference in points scored - more crucial for fantasy football, especially in TD-heavy leagues - was more drastic, with the Packers putting up a mere 14 points after averaging 35.8 points/game for their first 13 games.

But, as shocking as the Chiefs game was, there are greater problems ahead for Packers owners. The first is that their offensive line is in a bad way. RT Bryan Bulaga sprained his knee and his back-up, rookie Derek Sherrod, broke his leg. Sherrod is done for the year and Bulaga is highly questionable for Week 16, which may lead to some drastic personnel reshuffling, the death knell for a unit that relies so heavily on continuity.

An even bigger issue, however, is that the Packers may have nothing to play for. Prior to last weekend’s loss, the talk around the clubhouse implied that the Packers would shoot for a perfect season, ensuring fantasy value for all healthy players. But with history off the table, the Packers are now just jockeying for playoff position. The Packers are locked into either the NFC’s first or second seed, and whether they’ll have home field throughout the playoffs will be determined by how they and San Francisco end their seasons. The only way the Niners can take home field advantage is if they win their final two games and the Packers lose out. As long as that possibility remains, the Packers should continue to try. The problem for fantasy owners is that, in Week 16, the Packers play a day after the Niners, which means that if the Niners lose in Seattle - within the realm of possibility, as the Seahawks are coming off a dominant three-week stretch and playing at home - the Packers will have nothing to play for and will likely rest many of their starters. In that event, we would advise you to sit all Packers, unless you really have no other options.

In the meantime, become a one-week Niners fan, and pick up some quality contingency pieces. Here are our suggestions:

Rex Grossman (QB, WAS)
He put up a disappointing line against the Giants (185 yards, one TD, two interceptions), but he gets to play the Vikings, who have given up 276 yards and three TDs per game over the past four weeks.

Matt Moore (QB, MIA)
We were hesitant to recommend Moore last week. He had a nice match-up against the Bills, but the combination of a concussion and losing LT Jake Long had us worried. He ended up with good numbers last weekend (217 yards, two TDs), and we suspect he can do at least that well against the Patriots’ league-worst pass defense, especially since New England will be playing without pass-rusher Andre Carter, whose season is over after tearing a quadriceps.

Lance Ball (RB, DEN)
This is as much for Willis McGahee owners as it is for owners of Packers RBs. McGahee was in and (mostly) out of Sunday’s game against the Patriots with a hamstring injury. The Broncos aren’t saying much about the injury’s severity, but whoever is running for Denver is going to have a big day on Saturday in Buffalo. The Bills have given up an average of 159 yards over their last seven games and 197 over their last three (Miami’s 254, San Diego’s 150, and Tennessee’s 187), and rookie stud DT Marcell Dareus may not play. The Broncos will run the ball; last Sunday they’ll racked up 252 yards, and that was against the Patriots, whose run D isn’t as bad as the Bills. A lot of those were Tim Tebow runs - by the way, he’d be our top Rodgers fill-in if he’s available in your league - but we still think a Denver RB is going to have a huge game.

Kahlil Bell (RB, CHI)

Bell had a nice game last weekend, putting up 4.3 yards/carry against a good Seattle run defense and adding five catches for 43 yards. We’re not extremely excited about Bell, but, again, the Packers may have nothing to play for, and the Bears, believe it or not, are still in the playoff hunt. We’d start him at our flex spot without too much concern.

Malcom Floyd (WR, SD)
We saw enough out of Floyd against the Ravens (five catches on six targets for 96 yards and a TD) to roll the dice on him for the rest of the season (at Detroit, at Oakland). He’s third in the pecking order behind Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates, but even so, he’s gotten good stats in two of three weeks since returning from a hip injury.

Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney (WR, WAS)
There appears to be room for two fantasy receivers in DC, particularly now that Moss is healthy and TE Fred Davis is out with a case of the munchies. As mentioned above, the Redskins’ passing attack has a great match-up against the Vikings this weekend.