In this article we assume that you are starting your WR1s regardless of the matchup.

Each week we will analyze the defenses and provide our take on which WRs you should start and which should be benched based on matchups with stout run defenses, stubbed toes, potential weather problems, conduct code violations etc.  miles-austin-#4

The following Defenses are allowing 16 or fewer fantasy points per game to opposing pass catchers (over the past 5 weeks):  San Francisco, Atlanta, Cincinnati,  Arizona, Miami and St Louis.  It’s worth noting that the stout secondaries in Seattle and Pittsburgh will both be missing key pieces in week 16. Steeler shutdown CB Ike Taylor will miss the battle with the Bengals with a leg injury as if AJ Green needed any help.  Brandon Browner dropped his appeal and will miss the final 4 games of the season after testing positive for PEDs (fellow CB Richard Sherman will play as he intends to appeal). Michael Crabtree will find much tougher sledding than he did against the Pats swiss cheese secondary in week 15.  Cards CB Patrick Peterson will likely square off with Brandon Marshall. Josh Freeman’s recent struggles could continue against Cortland Finnegan and the Rams defense.

On the flip side, these defenses (Tampa, Houston, Minnesota, Philadelphia,  Dallas and San Diego) have been shredded by passing games and are allowing 25 or more fantasy points per game to opposing WRs (over the past 5 weeks). If you are searching for a sleeper QB this week, Sam Bradford could post his second straight 300 yard day in Tampa. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson should make mince meat out of the Viking secondary (especially if CB Chris Cook sits out another week). RG3′s return to the lineup should be productive against the overpriced / underachieving Philly secondary. Joe Flacco will hope to avoid tossing another game changing pick 6 against a Cowboy secondary that has regressed in the 2nd half of the season but could be without deep threat Torrey Smith.

A few big name pass catchers will be dealing with bumps & bruises in week 16.  The Packers Jordy Nelson will miss his 3rd straight game after reinjuring his hamstring in week 13. Greg Jennings and James Jones should see additional targets against a very generous Titan pass defense.  Sidney Rice is dealing with multiple leg/foot injuries. Despite scoring 5 TDs over the past seven weeks, he’s just a week 16 flex play at less than 100% against a stout San Francisco pass defense.  Baltimore’s Torrey Smith (concussion) is trending towards being in uniform against the G-Men after putting in a limited practice. Jacoby Jones would a solid sleeper worth considering if Smith is not cleared.

As always, injuries will surely play a role in your lineup decisions. Be sure to check out our interactive INJURY REPORT with fantasy advice to stay up to date on all of the fantasy relevant injuries.

Wide Receiver Upgrades

Miles Austin (vs New Orleans):  The 28-year-old WR from Monmouth led the Cowboys with 10 targets in the week 15 win (with Dez dealing with the fractured finger) and draws a favorable matchup this week against a Saints 31st ranked pass defense (287 YPG). Austin is averaging 64 YPG with 5 touchdowns in his 7th NFL season. He’s had a mediocre fantasy season but could produce solid numbers this week against a New Orleans defense that has allowed the 2nd most TDs (27) through the air and has struggled to defend slot WRs all season.

Marques Colston (@ Dallas):  The 29-year-old WR from Hofstra alum has reached the end zone 8 times this season but has failed to reach paydirt over the past three weeks – we think that changes this week in Big D. Dallas’ top CB Brandon Carr will likely square off with Lance Moore while Colston does alot of his route running in the slot where the Cowboys will missing CB Orlando Scandrick (season ending injury). Over the past 5  weeks, the Cowboys are allowing the 5th most fantasy PPG to opposing WRs and in a game with major shootout potential – Colston should finish with solid WR2 numbers.

Danny Amendola (@ Tampa Bay):  The 4th year wideout from Texas Tech has battled multiple injuries this season but appeared close to 100% recovered in week 15 against Minnesota where he hauled in 6 catches for 58 yards and a TD. Panthers Rams Football

On the season (9 games), Amendola is averaging 70 YPG with three touchdowns. This week the Rams passing game should shine in a matchup with Tampa’s league worst pass defense (311 YPG).  Since lossing CB Eric Wright (suspended) and Aquib Talib (traded to the Pats), the Bucs pass defense has been a fantasy gold mine for opposing passing games. The PPR monster should be positioned for a solid performance in a dream matchup agaiinst a Buc defense allowing the 2nd most fantasy PPG to wideouts over the past 5 weeks.

Cecil Shorts (@ New England):  Bill Belicheck is well aware of Shorts breakout season as he considers the Mount Union alum to be one of the best WRs the Pats have faced in 2012. Shorts is averaging 71 YPG with seven touchdowns in his 2nd NFL season. He belongs in all fantasy lineups this week against New England’s 29th ranked pass defense (270 YPG). The Jags will be forced to pass early and often to keep up with the Brady Bunch which should lead to a very productive fantasy day for Cecil the Diesel in Foxboro.

Wide Receiver Downgrades

Danario Alexander (@ NY Jets):  DX layed an egg at the most inopportune time as he was held without a catch in the week 15 loss to Carolina. Fantasy owners should expect much better this week as he’ll draw a ton of defensive attention with Malcolm Floyd ruled out for the season. Alexander will have the unfortunate task of being in Antonio Cromartie’s shadow all day which makes him a must bench for week 16. Cromartie has been a true shtudown corner this season and over the past month has held Kenny Britt, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Lloyd and Justin Blackmon to an average of 28 YPG.

Mike Williams (vs St Louis): Jeff Fisher has the Rams secondary playing at an elite level (allowing the least fantasy PPG to WRs over the past 5 weeks). Kansas City Chiefs v Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Combine the tough matchup with the fact that QB Josh Freeman has regressed mightily over the past month (4 TDs and 5 INTs over past 4 games) and Williams doesn’t have much upside when you consider the fact that he’ll likely have the Rams best CB Cortland Finnegan on him for most of the day. The 25 year old Syracuse alum has seven touchdowns on the season but is averaging a mediocre 57 YPG in his 3rd NFL season.

Josh Gordon (vs Denver): The rookie from Baylor is averaging an impressive 17 YPC with 5 TDs but have his work cut out for him against lockdown CB Champ Bailey. The Broncos 8th ranked pass defense (216 YPG) paired with pressure from Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil will likely give rookie Brandon Weeden fits from the opening kickoff. Denver has allowed the 9th fewest fantasy PPG to opposing WRs on the season. Bailey has allowed just 1 score all season in his coverage which makes Gordon a low end WR3 at best as the Browns will be hard pressed to score double digits against the stout Bronco defense.

Brian Hartline (vs Buffalo):  The 26-year-old PPR favorite has had a mediocre season when you eliminate his monster 253 yard performance against Arizona in week 4 (only reached 100 yards once since that fantasy game for the ages). On the season, the Buckeye alum is averaging 5 catches for 71 YPG but has only reached pay dirt once all season. He’s dealing with a back injury and will likely square off with emerging rookie CB Stephon Gilmore in week 16. Hartline was held to just 4 catches for 49 yards in the week 11 meeting with Buffalo and we expect a similar stat line this week.

Wide Receiver Sleepers:

Jeremy Maclin (vs Washington): Over the past 2 weeks, the 24 year old Missouri alum has totaled 13 catches for 177 yards and a TD. Jermey Maclin

In a lost season for the birds, Maclin could surprise this week in a favorable matchup. The Redskins are allowing the 8th most fantasy PPG to opposing wideouts on the season. Washington’s 30st ranked pass defense is allowing 285 YPG and have yielded a league high 28 TDs through the air. 

Anquan Boldin (vs NY Giants):  The 32 year old vet followed up an impressive late season stretch that saw him catch 8 passes for 159 yards and 3 TDs in weeks 13/14 – with a zero catch performance in the week 15 loss to Denver. If you survived the Boldin clunker, he could bounce back this week against a Giant secondary allowing the 12th most fantasy PPG to WRs over the past 5 weeks. Deep threat Torrey Smith is dealing with concussion symptoms and his loss would vault Boldin into solid WR3 status.  Giants Rookie CB Jayron Hosely was torched by Julio Jones for 2 TDs and will likely square off with Boldin in week 16 – advantage Boldin who leads the Ravens with 29 targets over the past month.

Nate Washington (@ Green Bay):  Rookie Kendall Wright is expected to miss the week 16 game with a rib injury which should open the door for more targets to Britt and Washington. Jake Locker has struggled in his 2nd season but the Titans figure to be forced into a pass happy offense to keep up with A-Rod in Lambeau. The former Steeler signed a 6 year $27 million contract back in 2009 and has done much to justify the big payday as he’s averaged 51 YPG with 4 touchdowns this season.  Despite his pedestrian production in recent weeks, the matchup with Green Bay’s mediocre 16th ranked pass defense (226 YPG) could bring Washington back onto the WR3 radar especially with an expected uptick in targets (TE Jared Cook is also out for the season).

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