Week 16: Player Upgrades
QB Kirk Cousins, WAS – Cousins torched a putrid Falcons defense in his first start of the season. He continues his mop-up effort in relief of RG3 with a juicy matchup against an even more putrid Cowboys defense. Cousins did turn the ball over three times – two interceptions and one fumble lost – but he also passed for 381 yards and two scores. Cousins showed poise with a shaky offensive line and a dearth of offensive weapons and there's no reason to think he can't do it again at home against a defense giving up more fantasy points to quarterbacks than any other.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, TEN – Fitzpatrick has been hit-or-miss this season, but on Sunday he scored big style points – and more importantly, fantasy points – with 402 yards passing and four touchdowns. He did throw two interceptions, but that comes with the territory when airing it out 58 times like Fitzpatrick did. This week he gets a soft matchup against the Jaguars defense and should be considered a viable starter for any owner who doesn't possess a top shelf quarterback.
RB Ryan Mathews, SD – When Mathews has received 20+ carries in four games this season and has run for 100+ yards in all four of those games, want to start him. Two such games have come in the past two weeks along with two of his five rushing touchdowns, so owners might want to ride the hot hand here if there's any uncertainty at their RB position. Furthermore, Mathews draws Oakland this week after the Raiders allowed Jamal Charles to ravage them for one of the biggest fantasy days in history. So in short, all signs point to a banner day for Mathews and San Diego's ground game.
RB Jordan Todman, JAX – Todman filled in for the injured MJD and rushed for 109 yards on 25 carries. Jones-Drew's status for this week's game against the Titans is uncertain. If he is unable to go, Todman squares off against the third-worst fantasy run defense in the NFL, meaning he's a plug-and-play for a second straight week barring MJD's return. BONUS: Just to offer another option in case Jones-Drew suits up, Steven Jackson scored two touchdowns to make up for his 38-yard rushing performance. He has an uphill battle against the Niners defense, but he's had a nose for the end zone this month, scoring four touchdowns in December.
WR Brian Hartline, MIA – Ryan Tannehill clearly trusts Hartline and it's evident when looking at the receiver's numbers throughout the season. He's been targeted no less than four times in every game and has been targeted eight or more times in nine weeks. The only drawback is Hartline's lack of scoring – just four touchdowns this year. However, two of those have come in December. With the lowly Bills on the docket, Hartline makes for a solid flex play this week. Buffalo is third-worst in the NFL in fantasy points surrendered to receivers, so expect Tannehill to spread it around early and often with Hartline figuring heavily into the mix.
WR Kendall Wright, TEN – As previously stated, the normally run-happy Titans took to the air on Sunday as Ryan Fitzpatrick threw the ball 58 times. Wright was the intended receiver for 20 of those passes, catching 12 for 150 yards. Only four times has a wide receiver been targeted 20+ times in a game this year. To expect anywhere near that number this week against Jacksonville is absurd, but Wright has been remarkably consistent this year -- already topping 1,000 yards this season (his second in the league). He has only found the end zone twice, but given his big week it would be wise to trot him out as a WR2 in most formats.
TE Andrew Quarless, GB – Quarless has been targeted on 13 occasions the past two weeks and it has yielded 12 catches for 132 yards and a pair of scores. He's certainly emerged as a favorite for Matt Flynn, but should Aaron Rodgers make his way back into the lineup this week, it is clear that Quarless has established himself as Jermichael Finley's replacement and should be involved in the passing game. BONUS: Another route is Zach Miller who has been inconsistent this year in Seattle. Put aside the disappointing numbers and play him against the Arizona Cardinals, who give up more points to opposing tight ends than any other defense.