The Shadow Knows 2016 week 16

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport If you’re reading this article, odds are congratulations are in order. Kudos. Accolades and attaboys, even.

If you’re playing in Week 16, then you’re at the very least playing in your fantasy league’s semifinals. In more leagues than not this is it – by this time it will be over but the crying.

Of course, if you win they will be tears of joy.

Actually if you’re crying at all and your league’s championship doesn’t include lots of zeroes then maybe you’re taking this hobby of ours just a tad too seriously.

Anyway, in many respects Week 16 is a different animal. As a true one-off, matchups are more important than at any other point in the season. There’s no big picture. No long-term. No smoothing out over time of that bad week your stud receiver had.

If he has one this week, you’re cooked.

In other words, if ever there was a week to consider sitting a stud in a lousy matchup, this is it.

Luckily, there aren’t many such matchups this week. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons faces a Carolina Panthers secondary he shredded for 300 receiving yards earlier this year. Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers goes up against a banged-up New Orleans Saints secondary that isn’t especially good at full strength.

And with Darius Slay looking unlikely to suit up, Monday night Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys will square off against a Detroit Lions pass defense that may (without Slay, anyway) be the worst of the lot.

Still, not every wide receiver is so lucky, and there are a few who merit special attention in championship week.

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (at SEA – Richard Sherman)
Sherman’s been a Grinch of late, grousing about any number of subjects. But as fiancée told the Players’ Tribune Christmas is another story altogether. “I’m talking when I go, it’s seven, eight carts, I’m holding up a line, sometimes they’re opening a new line,” Ashley Moss said in a video uploaded to the site where she explained how Sherman adopts low-income families at the holidays. “Then we get it all in the house and we wrap it all up. It’s so much fun. It’s so much fun. We don’t do gifts for our Christmas, so this is our Christmas.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Luckily for Fitzgerald’s fantasy owners, they don’t really have to worry about Sherman Scrooging all of the NFL reception leader’s fantasy points Saturday in the Emerald City. If Fitzgerald posts the nine grabs for 70 yards he had against Seattle back in Week 7 he’ll top both 100 catches and 1,000 yards for the season – and fantasy owners in PPR formats will be relatively happy.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (at HOU – A.J. Bouye)
As Conor Orr of wrote, fantasy owners far and wide are rejoicing about Green’s Week 16 return to action. “The Bengals are now firmly in the spoiler role, Orr said, “which is enticing for the right kind of person. Green has always been one of the league's fiercest competitors, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him test a very good Houston secondary. Green's last full game resulted in seven catches for 68 yards and a touchdown against the Giants back on Nov. 14. While we often try to separate the church of fantasy and football news, Green's impact might be most appreciated by the lucky owners who now should have a gigantic weapon at their disposal on championship weekend. Sometimes there are other ways to provide hope when the actual playoffs are out of reach.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: I will freely confess I don’t share the same level of optimism. Frankly, I don’t understand why Green is even playing in this game. Conventional wisdom says you can’t sit Green in this game. But he’s missed over a month with a badly pulled hamstring and faces Bouye and a Texans pass defense that ranks 28th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers this year. Four catches for 38 yards is just as likely in my opinion as a Green eruption – possibly more so. And that stat line from a WR1 slot will get you beat.

Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears (vs. WAS – Josh Norman)
Bears starting quarterback Matt Barkley told Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune that it didn’t take long for him and Jeffery to get on the same page once the receiver returned from his four-game suspension. "It's just some of the little things, getting used to putting it high on deep balls to where he can go up and get some of those deep balls," Barkley said. "Or just how does he get in and out of some breaks on certain routes? It's not all that foreign if he sticks to his depths and what I'm used to."

THE SHADOW SAYS: The two looked to be getting along just fine last week, with Jeffery hauling in six passes for 89 yards and a score last week against the Green Bay Packers. But there’s a lot of difference between the Packers’ ragtag secondary and Norman – who will all but surely shadow Jeffery for the desperate Redskins. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Jeffery draws another rotten matchup in Week 17 too – this time with Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes.

Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (vs. MIN – Xavier Rhodes)
Speak of the devil!!!
Rhodes was named to the Pro Bowl this week. As Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reported, this was not a development that surprised veteran teammate Captain Munnerlyn. “He’s made big strides since last year,” said Munnerlyn. “He’s gone from a guy who was like a roller coaster, being up and down, to a guy that’s been consistent. And in the NFL, to be a great corner, you’ve got to be consistent. He’s making plays. Not as many penalties. And he’s catching the football. You look at his interceptions. His first three years he hardly had any. Now, he’s getting them and making impact plays.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: This week with Rhodes it’s like figuring what corner to open a restaurant on – it’s all about location, location, location. With batterymate Trae Waynes dinged up there will be plenty of reason for Aaron Rodgers to just avoid Rhodes and attack the soft spot on the other side of the field. Rhodes missed the first meeting between the two teams this season, but the smart money says Mike Zimmer puts Rhodes on Nelson. That doesn’t make Nelson a no-brainer bench, but it would appear to open up the possibility of a big game for Davante Adams.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (at KC – Marcus Peters)
As Joel Thorman of SB Nation reported, when these teams met back in Week 12, the Broncos continued a trend where Peters is concerned – staying away from him. “Marcus Peters hasn’t had an interception since Week 6, Thorman wrote, “largely because teams stopped throwing his way. The last time the Chiefs played the Broncos they didn’t go his way very often and instead torched Phillip Gaines. On the other side of the defense, Terrance Mitchell has been playing well the past few weeks. I hope this means that Broncos QB Trevor Siemian looks Peters’ way more often because I know that Peters has to be dying to pick one off.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: I wouldn’t bet the rent on that one. In his last three starts against Denver Peters has allowed less than 40 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed, for all of 91 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Sanders had six grabs for 176 yards and a score in Week 12 alone. Thomas’ five grabs for 60 yards wasn’t a terrible stat line in PPR leagues that week, but it wasn’t exactly a title-winner either.

Gary Davenport is a Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks, an NFL and Fantasy Football Analyst at Bleacher Report, a Contributing Writer at Rotoworld and a Contributing Author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Gary was the winner of the 2015 FSWA award for Print Article of the Year.