Week 16: Player Upgrades
Player Upgrades is intended for fantasy football diehards. Each week when setting a lineup, a closer analysis is necessary to find out which players are destined for a great performance. Sometimes it is a favorable matchup or it can be as simple as an increased role due to an injury. Very few players are matchup-proof in this game. For every Aaron Rodgers or Ray Rice, there are a dozen players who could potentially be interchangable depending upon a number of factors.
This weekly article isolates your best options for a statistical breakout from Week 1 to Week 17. Let FFToolbox do the homework for you! Instead of scouring the waiver wire and opening up 20 tabs to compare and contrast players, let Player Upgrades be your guide. Each week, we will identify seven players (typically two QBs, two RBs, two WRs and one TE) that you should consider starting and we'll break each player down with some analysis.
Any fantasy analyst would be remiss in at least not mentioning or suggesting Sam Bradford for Week 16. Not only is he coming off his best game of the 2012 season (377 yards, three TDs, and one INT), he and his St. Louis Rams will travel to Tampa Bay to face the league's worst fantasy defense against opposing QBs. The Bucs were embarrassed last week against New Orleans, letting Drew Brees pass for 307 yards and four scores. Bradford may not match those numbers, but he should be in the conversation as a starter in all leagues with 12 or more teams. The Rams have a very hit or miss run game, illustrated by Bradford's incredible 55 pass attempts last week against Minnesota. Now that Bradford has Danny Amendola back at near full strength (more on him later), the passing game should finish the season on a high note.
Matt Schuab has been one of those quarterbacks that is rostered in every league -- 100-percent ownership, but because of his run-heavy offense, he rarely starts in more than 50-percent of leagues. That starting percentage has a chance of increasing this week due to a very favorable matchup coming against the Minnesota Vikings at home. Sam Bradford passed for 377 yards and three TDs last week against Minnesota and even Jay Cutler played "un-Cutlerish" two weeks ago with 324 passing yards and two scores. Schaub is admittedly not playing his best football right now, but he has always been inconsistent due to his offense. The Vikings have played pretty well against the run recently, which should force more passing attempts and therefore more fantasy points for Schuab owners.
There should be plenty of running lanes open in this game between Oakland and Carolina. Both teams rank among the worst in the NFL at stopping their opponents' run games. Both Atlanta and San Diego took it easy on Carolina, only rushing a total of 24 times between the pair. With a healthy Darren McFadden hitting his stride, the Raiders should feed him the ball early and often. The former Arkansas Razorback saw 30 carries last week for 110 yards and he draws just enough attention in the passing game where you can count on a few points there as well. Despite missing a few games this year, Run DMC should be a persistent option in your starting lineup. In a game that doesn't figure to be a blowout, you can expect McFadden to see around 23 to 25 touches at a minimum.
This is why we play the game, folks. How can a guy do so very little for the first two-thirds of a season, then all of a sudden become a potential reliable scorer at the most crucial time of the season? Williams had 112 total yards and a touchdown two weeks ago, then re-upped on Sunday with 144 total yards and a touchdown. He might even improve upon those numbers when Carolina hosts the Oakland Raiders and their dead-last ranked fantasy defense against opposing RBs. The Raiders may have shut down Kansas City last week, but they had allowed at least one RB score in six consecutive games before that. Hopefully Mike Tolbert does not continue to poach touchdowns away from Williams.
When healthy and active, Danny Amendola is the Rams' biggest offensive threat. He is a better asset in PPR leagues(of course), but isn't that true for all receivers? Amendola is a lock to catch 5 passes for 50 yards at a minimum every week and has a tremendous ceiling value since he can breakout with double-digit receptions or triple-digit receiving yards. St. Louis plays Tampa Bay this week and the Bucs have the NFL's worst fantasy defense against opposing WRs. Tampa has allowed a receiver to score a TD in nine consecutive games (13 TDs total). Since Bradford has already been mentioned in this Player Upgrades article, you would be safe in assuming this a very strong recommendation for the third-year wideout.