It’s Week 16, and if you’re reading this, that’s great news. You’re likely in a fantasy football championship game. You did the work, you made the picks, you massaged the roster, you did what you needed to do. No matter what happens in the next 72 hours, you deserve a pat on the back.
As you consider those final lineup decisions, I’d like to remind you of the bane of my existence: Friendliest Loss. When it comes to fantasy decisions or life decisions, I like to focus on giving myself a strong chance at the reward I’m trying to secure. The emotional weight of different losing scenarios does not come into play for me, and hopefully it doesn’t for you, either. I don’t make decisions based on which potential loss attaches the least amount of remorse; I instead focus on what I think has the best chance to work out.
Play the guys you think will perform the best. That’s gigantically simplistic, but it’s all that matters. Don’t let corny things trip you up in your pursuit of quality scores.
I don’t care when I drafted a player in the summer — if I don’t like his setup in Week 16, I’ll sit him. I don’t care about name-brand value, or draft pedigree. If I think Mike Boone is going to outscore some former Pro Bowl running back, I’m gonna play Mike Boone, darn it.
Breshad Perriman was a punchline a few months ago. Now, I’d play him over Odell Beckham, and not look back. This isn’t about being cute or trying to brand anything, I just want the points. Any loss in the finals will sting, no matter what decision-making heuristics that tied into it. Rather than play scared, I’m going to trust myself and my decision-making chops. I’m not going to fear an OBJ breakout game when it hasn’t happened all season.
I hope your process is similar. Measure several times, then cut once on the weekend — set a lineup you believe in. If that lineup happens to feature a bunch of big names and high-ticket items, fine. If you wind up using a handful of working-class heroes who recently joined your team, that’s fine too. You’re not trying to market your team, or pitch it for national commercials, or aim to validate things you thought four months ago (an eternity in NFL scale). You just want as many fantasy points as you can grab.
Focus on what can reasonably go right. Do not get seduced by the losing scenario that is easiest to accept. Common sense is your friend, always, but playing scared is forever -EV.
Week 16 will probably be like most weeks — some expected results, some crazy ones. Every NFL week is crazy in its own unique way. Some stars will disappoint, while some anonymous guys will step forward. This isn’t a December thing or a Week 16 thing, this is part of the league’s DNA. Any Given Sunday, Henne Given Sunday.
Here’s your status checkup as we head into the action weekend. Shoot your shot. Take your best swing.
• With Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison both missing full practice time, the Vikings are set for a Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah backfield Monday against Green Bay. Boone was solid in last week’s relief stint, and figures to be a logical Week 16 pick for anyone needy in the backfield. I grabbed some Boone shares, and they’re going right into the starting lineup. Keep in mind the Packers struggle in run-stopping (25th in rush-defense DVOA).
• Jameis Winston played through his thumb ailment last week and it was no big deal. The bigger challenge against Houston is the absence of weapons — Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Scotty Miller are all out. Breshad Perriman had a stunning three-touchdown game at Detroit; now he’ll be the focus of the Houston defense. I nonetheless have a proactive rank on Perriman this week. Wideout Justin Watson steps into a bigger role, and perhaps tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate will see extra work.
• It will be interesting to see how the Rams handle emerging star Tyler Higbee, given that Gerald Everett (knee) is ready to come back. Higbee has three straight 100-yard games; perhaps the Rams have seen the light and can’t turn back. San Francisco presents a difficult matchup. Greg Zuerlein (quad) missed the full week and is unlikely to play.
• Julian Edelman (knee/shoulder) obviously isn’t 100 percent, but he’s played through injuries all year and is fully expected to go in the AFC East showdown against Buffalo.
• The Cowboys ultimately didn’t list Dak Prescott (shoulder) on the injury report, though he missed some time. He’ll play against Philadelphia, but the team might focus on the running game again.
• JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) has a chance to play at the Jets, but given how much time he’s missed — and the struggles of Pittsburgh’s quarterbacks — he’s not someone I trust in Week 16. Vance McDonald (concussion) is expected to return.
• Will Fuller (hamstring) is expected to go at Tampa, and Carlos Hyde (ankle) is also penciled in.
• Noah Fant (shoulder) continues to truck through injuries, though he’s also been sick this week. He might come down to a game-time decision against Detroit.
• Although Joe Mixon (calf) missed some practice time, the Bengals didn’t list him on the final injury report.
• Jason Sanders (illness) missed some work and needs a double-check before you commit Sunday. DeVante Parker (hip) was not listed on the final injury report.
• Robby Anderson (illness) did some limited work Friday and should play against Pittsburgh.
• The Eagles seem fine without Jordan Howard (shoulder); Miles Sanders and Boston Scott have been productive in recent weeks.
• Curtis Samuel (knee) isn’t 100 percent, and now he has to get acclimated with rookie Will Grier, the new quarterback. Obviously Christian McCaffrey is a must-start, but the rest of the Panthers offense makes me nervous at Indianapolis.
• DJ Chark (ankle) had a limited practice week but the context clues still point to him playing at Atlanta. The Jaguars passing offense looked horrible for three quarters at Oakland, then caught fire late.
• I can’t endorse the Lions backfield in good conscience, but they might have Bo Scarbrough (questionable) at Denver. The Broncos defense is one of my favorite streamers of the week.
• The Raiders finally did the reasonable thing and called it a season on injured rookie Josh Jacobs (shoulder). DeAndre Washington steps into the starting gig at the Chargers. Hunter Renfrow (rib) appears ready to return.
• Taylor Gabriel (concussion) will miss his third straight game, which opens things up nicely for surging Anthony Miller.
• With Rhett Ellison (concussion) ruled out and Evan Engram down for the season, Kaden Smith is the last tight end left for the Giants. He’ll look for passes from Daniel Jones (ankle), returning after a two-game absence.
• Although Jacob Hollister looks like a fun streamer against Arizona’s seam-coverage giveaway, be aware that Seattle TE Luke Willson (hamstring) is also ready to return.
• Jarvis Landry (hip) and Odell Beckham (hernia) are both playing less than 100 percent, but neither is expected to miss the rematch with the Ravens. Somehow the Browns beat Baltimore on the road last time around; now, the Ravens are about a nine-point favorite in Cleveland.