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Fantasy Football Trust or Bust Week 16: Have Faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick

Rich Hribar focuses on who he deems as trustworthy starts and peppers in a few sits for your Points Per Reception leagues.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick

Dec 15, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (4) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at LP Field. Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

In Fantasy Football Trust or Bust, we will focus on who we deem as trustworthy starts and pepper in a few sits for your Points Per Reception (PPR) leagues.


Ryan Fitzpatrick and Delanie Walker @ JAC

While they’re not quite peanut butter and jelly or Montana and Rice, Fitzpatrick and Walker are quite the pair with in regards to fantasy football. With Walker in the lineup (who missed nearly two full weeks with a concussion) Fitzpatrick has been nearly a locked in top 10 quarterback.

He’s completed 110 of 161 attempts (68.3 percent) for 302 yards per game to go with nine passing touchdowns and two interceptions with Walker in the game. Without him, Fitz loses his glass slipper, going only 33 for 60 (55 percent) for 184 yards per game and two scores with four interceptions.

That’s partly because Fitzpatrick has been honing in Walker, targeting him on 24.8 percent of his attempts in those games. Walker is averaging five grabs on eight targets and has scored in three of his past four full games played. In the past four games that Walker has played full-time with Fitzpatrick, Fitz finished as QB4, QB13, QB3 and QB3 overall that week while Walker was TE4, TE1, TE15 and TE1.

The Jags present a fine opportunity for both to keep rolling along for owners in pursuit of titles. Jacksonville has allowed 20 or more points to the opposing quarterback position in six of their past seven games. Not all paper giants either, that list includes EJ Manuel, Colin Kaepernick, Brandon Weeden and even Fitzpatrick himself.

They haven’t fared much better in stopping opposing tight ends either. The Jaguars have allowed five tight ends to reach 50 receiving yards and four to score over that span, including Walker who had four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown in their last meeting.

Ryan Mathews vs OAK

Largely regarded as untouchable coming into the season, Mathews is a prime example why no player should ever be dead to you. The fourth year back is enjoying his best season as a pro, only 80 yards away from a career high in rushing yards while averaging a career high 16.9 attempts per game. He touches the football on 65.2 percent of his snaps, the most in the league and is tied for the league lead with five 100 yard rushing games.

On the exterior, the Raiders are middle of the pack in terms of defending the run. Oakland has allowed the ninth fewest rushing yards (1,455 yards) and the seventh lowest yards per attempt (3.9) and have only surrendered only one 100 yard rusher (Andre Brown). Those numbers change greatly on the road, where the Raiders allow 52 more yards per game rushing (78.1 at home as opposed to 130.3 yards per game on the road) and 4.4 yards per rush (3.3 at home). They’ve also been generous in giving up touchdowns on the ground, allowing five in their past seven games, something Mathews has also done in five of his past seven games.

Torrey Smith vs NE

It’s been an odd season in Smith’s first year as the primary passing option for Joe Flacco. He’s already posted career marks in receptions (59) , and yards (1,032) while currently notching a high in yards per reception (17.5). His touchdowns have plummeted in the increased role (6.7 percent of catches after a 15.2 percent mark over his first two seasons) and his 48.4 percent catch rate (59 of 122 targets) is the lowest of the top 50 scoring receivers this season. He’s topped 80 yards just once since week five, after he started the season with five consecutive weeks of 85 plus yardage.

Championship Sunday is a good week for him to break that funk, as Smith has a nice track record facing New England. He’s faced them three times including the postseason in his short career, totaling 13 receptions for 278 yards and three touchdowns. The Patriots and a hobbled Aqib Talib are more than struggling in defending big play receivers over the past three weeks. Andre Johnson, Josh Gordon and Mike Wallace all have gone over 100 yards and had six receptions in those games.


Andre Brown @ DET

Owners who waited on Brown to return were rewarded with four consecutive top 24 weeks and two 100 yard games. In his first three games, he carried 69 times for 308 yards (4.5 YPC) and two scores. Even with his two touchdown game in Washington, Browns has carried 41 times for only 133 yards (3.2 YPC) over his past three games. As part of the flaming pile of garbage that has become the Giants offense, the only slight saving grace is Brown has three receptions in each of his past five games.

Detroit is not only stout versus the run, holding opponents under 100 team rushing yards in seven of their past eight games, but they dominate up front at home. The Lions allow only 70.1 yards per game rushing in their house, fewest in the league. The last back to reach double-digit points versus them in Detroit was Matt Forte all the way back in week four.

Tom Brady @ BAL

Brady has revitalized his season nicely after a down first half of the year. Through his first eight games, Brady had only one top 12 week, but has reeled of five in his past six games, with five weeks of 20 or more points and four consecutive weeks of 340 yards passing or more with multiple touchdowns.

Brady doesn’t have the greatest recent history facing Baltimore. Since 2009, Brady has faced the Ravens six times, throwing for multiple scores only once. His average game is 25-of-41 for 266 yards to go with a total of six touchdowns and nine interceptions. This season, the Ravens haven’t allowed a 300 yard passer since week six (Aaron Rodgers) and have held nine quarterbacks to one or fewer touchdown tosses.

Pierre Thomas @ CAR

Up until three weeks ago, Thomas was as sturdy of a fantasy back as you could find in 2013. Through all of the Saints offensive injuries and turnover, Thomas reeled off seven consecutive games of 80 plus yards from scrimmage while averaging 17.8 touches per game. For all of our years of clamoring for the PT Cruiser to be taken out of the garage, he’s popped a flat as we head into championship Sunday.

In his three games since his hot streak, Thomas as averaged only 44 YFS on only 11.3 touches per game. Those games have been against better defensive opponents (SEA, CAR and STL) but he draws the Panthers again, this time on the road. In his last meeting two weeks ago, Thomas totaled 28 yards on 11 touches. Carolina has the linebackers to keep him check in coverage and it’s hard to see New Orleans establishing any line of scrimmage for the run game.

Andre Johnson vs DEN

In a season that may be the most torturous for fans in the short history of the Texans based on expectations, Johnson has been the one ray of constant sunshine. Even in the midst of a 12 game losing streak, Johnson has six games of eight plus receptions with 100 yards receiving. No other player has more than four such games on the season.

Part of his recent ups and downs has been the sub par situation the Texans have going on at quarterback. Case Keenum was originally a boon for Johnson, completing 55.8 percent of his passes (57-102) for 274 yards per game and seven touchdowns (five to Johnson) and zero interceptions. In his five starts since, Keenum is 80 for 151 (52.9 percent) for 187 yards and two touchdowns with six picks, failing to reach 200 yards passing in four of those games. Johnson has two duds in his last four (six total catches for 54 yards against JAC and IND) and had just two for 15 with Keenum at the helm before Matt Schaub came in versus the Jags at home two weeks ago.

Denver has also righted the ship on allowing big games to teams number one options in the passing game. After allowing opposing six opposing receivers to top 90 yards in their first six games, only two have done it since, and neither (Justin Hunter nor Julian Edelman) were focal points for the defense. Unless Schaub reappears in-game, it will be hard to trust Johnson this week.

Full Disclosure from Week 15




Ryan Tannehill



Ben Tate



Stevie Johnson



Jordan Cameron




Ben Roethlisberger



Fred Jackson



Victor Cruz



Martellus Bennett












Stats used were provided from ProFootballFocus, Pro-Football-Reference,


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