I was wrong.
I was wrong probably more than I was right. When Alexander Pope said “to err is human,” he probably was referring to how he missed the playoffs in his home fantasy football league.
This year I wrote thirty-plus articles totaling around, give or take, fifty thousand words. Some of the conclusions I made in my research were correct—thank you Mike Mularkey Corollary!–and some of them look plain bad in retrospect.
Matthew Stafford throwing more touchdowns in his second year as a Ram. A Trey Lance breakout year. Jalen Hurts struggling to lead an offense. I was wrong about Javonte Williams, Michael Pittman, Courtland Sutton, Derrick Henry, Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown, and Jaylen Waddle. Turns out I was wrong a lot, no matter how much data I had to confirm my argument.
But you know the thing about football—whether you play fantasy or gamble on the spreads or are a professional player in the actual game itself—is that one of the key ingredients to success is forgetfulness. It’s to put the bad losses or last-minute victories aside and move on to the next game because it is the next game that matters. As soon as the weekend is over you can learn from what had happened, but one does not dwell. It’s part there’s a new challenge ahead, and part no one cares what had transpired the week before.
I come from the world of literary fiction, where there is no forgetfulness unless it’s some abstract existential crisis from which a character may suffer. To forget is to commit blasphemy. A forgetful person is a fool. Awareness is what’s awarded. Every great fiction writer has written, in the context of their fictional characters, how wrong they were. They were always wrong until that moment in time when they understood their mistake, and the entire novel hinges on this epiphany. The character admits the error of their ways, and their awareness leads to some sort of happiness and/or closure. At the very least a larger truth is revealed.
There are no epiphanies in fantasy football, no matter how long we stare at our roster trying to extract some sort of line-up nirvana that will dictate the perfect flex player for that week. We play a game, and whether we win or lose, the best way forward is to forget. To forget is to admit we have no control.
There is no magical skeleton key that unlocks the mysteries of the game. There is luck (a whole bunch of frickin’ luck, good or bad, hinged on injuries and coaching decisions and talent to name a few uncontrollable factors), and educated dart throws in which we scream in victory when it lands a bull’s eye. But there is redemption each and every week. That’s when the slate is wiped clean, and we try again, forgetting about the previous week because that doesn’t matter now. Let the past be the past. What matters is in front of us.
Fantasy football, much like watching football or playing the actual game, is primarily sensory. It’s the experience of the game, and that experience can be held in different perspectives.
One could experience fantasy through data, another through route trees or, like the majority of us, the present drama of the game unfolding before our very eyes where we think we know what may happen, but more often than not are bowled over by its boredom or its excitement or anything in between. The goal is simple: to win. We want that rush from the chaos on the field to corroborate our line-up decisions. We want that serotonin to light up our nerve cells. For in that moment we are experiencing something we don’t see much in modern life: absolution. That’s all we want. We don’t even want forgiveness. We want the past to not matter. The only thing we want is the present to matter.
And if we didn’t? If we were wrong? Then there’s a whole new week waiting for us, unattached to the past and full of possibilities. That’s the beauty of the game.
Fantasy football Week 16 start ’em
Quarterbacks to start in Week 16
Justin Fields (CHI) vs. Buffalo Bills
Sure, he has no receivers of name, but he finds a way to generate points with the Byron Pringles of the world. The Bills defense has gotten better as of late, but one could argue the Eagles—whom Fields played last week—is better, and Fields still turned in a good fantasy game. It’s just working with a loophole in the game: if he puts up at least 80 yards a game, which is on the low end of what he’s rushed lately, you’ll have a fine game with him.
hen there’s a chance for an electric, when-your-week game, no matter the opponent. No matter who’s receiving the balls he throws, I still trust Fields to put up quality points in your line-up.
Geno Smith (SEA) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
It’s too bad he won’t have Tyler Lockett in this game, but with the Seahawks being 10-point underdogs, there’s good reason to believe Smith will need to throw the ball to keep up. He’s one of the quarterbacks where we can count on that. Time and time again this season (especially lately, in games against the Rams, Panthers, and 49ers), the Seahawks have found themselves in a hole and Smith is able to put points on the board.
I expect the same against the Chiefs, so we should have another positive output from Smith, even if most of it comes in the second half.
Running backs to start in Week 16
Latavius Murray (DEN) vs. Los Angeles Rams
The journeyman may have found a home in Denver. He is running well, and being thin at receiver, they are wont to lean on their defense and run the ball to win games. This is a possible recipe for success against the Rams, who will struggle to put up 17 points against the Broncos. Look for Murray to get a full workload with the upside of another 100+ yard game with a score.
J.K. Dobbins (BAL) vs. Atlanta Falcons
He’s put up back-to-back 100-yard games since coming back from IR, and I don’t think that streak stops against Atlanta. Much like Latavius Murray, the key for the Ravens to win is to lean on their defense and run the ball. The Falcons employ the same theory, but their defense is not good. Expect Dobbins to get another triple-digit day.
Wide receivers to start in Week 16
DeVonta Smith (PHI) vs. Dallas Cowboys
So you want to play the no.2 receiver against the Cowboys. This makes sense: Trevon Diggs is a great cornerback and will take out your top receiver. For the Eagles that’s A.J. Brown, leaving Smith to tear up the field much like what we saw out of Zay Jones last week.
One can argue this is a better QB-WR duo, looking to exploit a Cowboys defense that now has looked shaky against Jacksonville and Houston. Now they’re going against one of the best offenses in the league. Smith is a must-start.
D.K. Metcalf (SEA) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
D.K. is a must-start too. With Tyler Lockett out, and the Seahawks forced to throw the ball to keep up—and their ability too—DK could have a monster game. He’s been known to have these in his career with Russell Wilson, and it’s entirely plausible that he has this game on Sunday with Geno.
Fantasy football Week 16 sit ’em
Quarterbacks to sit in Week 16
Trevor Lawrence (JAC) vs. New York Jets
He’s been on fire lately. Since coming off the bye, he’s had three 3+ touchdown games, threw for over 300 yards in those games, and his only down game was against the Lions after injuring his toe mid-game. He is on key with his receivers, and a different one (Zay Jones, Christian Kirk, Evan Engram) has had big games the past few weeks, meaning he is exploiting the weakness in defenses and riding them to victory.
The problem is that he’s going against a defense that doesn’t have glaring holes in the Jets. They are talented and well-coached, and with Zach Wilson under center, they want nothing to do with a shootout. They want a 17-12 type of game and may very well have that wish granted.
Consider too this is a Thursday night game, a slot that has seen the under a majority of the time this season. Right now the over/under is 39.5. I would bet the final scores will have a difficult time reaching this line.
Running backs to sit in Week 16
Panthers RBs vs. Detroit Lions
D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard looked so great against Seattle, only to fall on their face against Pittsburgh. Sure, you can run on the Seahawks, but the Steelers have a middling fantasy defense against the run. Perhaps they figured out this team is one-dimensional, and when you take away the run and force the ball in Sam Darnold’s hands you come out a winner.
Now turn to the Lions, who have gone from a team you absolutely want to play your RBs against, to a team you never want to play your RBs against. They shut down Travis Etienne, Dalvin Cook, and Saquon Barkley. Bam Knight, everyone’s late-season darling, managed only 23 yards against this crew last week. If you’re going to score on the Lions it has to be through the air. You can talk yourself into some receiving work for Hubbard, but past that it’s best to leave these backs on your bench.
Wide receivers to sit in Week 16
Mike Williams (LAC) vs. Indianapolis Colts
Ah, the joys of being a Mike Williams owner. You either get 25 points or 2.5 points. He’s hot/cold, boom/bust. You want to kill him one week only to love him unconditionally the next.
So what type of week will this be? Even though the Colts just got torn apart by the Vikings, they’re still top-5 against receivers and have an elite cornerback in Stephon Gilmore who will more than likely shadow Williams. If Big Mike couldn’t get it done last week against Tennessee’s putrid pass defense, it’s hard seeing him putting up reliable points
Terry McLaurin (WAS) vs. San Francisco 49ers
You probably don’t have a better option than McLaurin, but if you do I advise against putting him in your line-up for such a crucial week. The 49ers are middle of the pack against wide receivers, but this defense is rolling. The last time a team put up more than 17 points against them was the Kansas City Chiefs in week 7.
McLaurin could get 60 or so yards, but his chance for a touchdown is low. There’s a good chance the 49ers’ line swallows up Taylor Heinicke, and we’ll see a bunch of three-and-outs for a Commanders team that struggles to put up points as it is.