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Fantasy football start/sit advice, Week 16: Saints vs. Panthers

It very well might be the most exciting Week 16 matchup, with the winner getting a first-round bye and the loser going on the road in the playoffs.

Two weeks ago, the Carolina Panthers went into New Orleans and suffered a 31-13 beatdown at the hands of the Saints. Sunday, the teams play again (at 1 p.m. ET), this time in Carolina, and the Panthers have to hope the changed location changes the outcome, as a win basically gives the Panthers the NFC South win, while a loss give the division title to the Saints. Here's a look at the fantasy performers of significance:


Start in every league: Jimmy Graham

Start if you're desperate: Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Defense/special teams

Bench: Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Kenny Stills, Lance Moore, Shayne Graham

In the three games leading up to Week 15, Graham had 200 total yards, four interceptions, and 43 fantasy points. Sunday, he was basically shut down, held to 25 yards by the St. Louis Rams. Still, he's easily fantasy's best tight end, and it isn't close.

Okay, just to be clear, if you have Brees, you're almost certainly starting him, and you're almost certainly right in doing so. But his home-and-away differences are clear - he's averaged 27 fantasy points a game at home, and only 15.9 on the road. Against a good Carolina defense on the road, a Brees implosion is on the table. ... Colston has had two big games in a row, but he had only one in the 11 weeks before that. What do you trust? ... Just like the team's quarterback, the Saints' defense has been a different unit between home and road games. The unit has scored 10.1 points a game at home and only 3.3 on the road. It's still a high-end unit, but on the road, who knows.

Thomas and Sproles have both struggled of late, and the Panthers' defense is one of the league's best against opposing running backs. Avoid them. ... Also avoid the Saints' non-Colston wide receivers, Stills and Moore. They have been unimpressive lately. ... The Saints just signed Graham after releasing Garrett Hartley, but if you lost Hartley, look to someone other than a kicker who was unemployed a week ago.


Start in every league: Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Defense/special teams

Start if you're desperate: DeAngelo Williams, Graham Gano

Bench: Mike Tolbert, Steve Smith

Both of Newton's awful games this week have been in road games (six points in Week 5 at Arizona, five points in Week 10 at San Francisco); he's been great otherwise and comes in as fantasy's No. 3 quarterback. ... The Saints have given up four touchdowns to tight ends in its last five games, including two a week ago; expect big things from Olsen. ... The Panthers' defense was held scoreless in its Week 14 matchup against New Orleans, but otherwise has been enormous this season; the location difference ought to be enough to trust the unit.

With Jonathan Stewart active, Williams has averaged 4.5 fantasy points a game. In eight games without him, he has scored 10.1. Stewart is out Sunday. Williams still loses the chance at some touchdowns, but he's been a perfectly useful running back overall. ... Gano comes in at only 15th among fantasy kickers, but he's scored double-digit fantasy points six difference times this season and has kicked at least two field goals in four straight games.

Tolbert's value is extraordinarily touchdown-dependent. That was all well and good when he scored five touchdowns in four games from Week 6 to Week 9, but he's scored once since; that's less helpful. ... Smith is still looking to get to 70 yards in a game this season, and he only has four touchdowns. If he weren't named "Steve Smith" - or if he were the other Steve Smith - it wouldn't even be a question whether he was fantasy usable.

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Week 15 fantasy football position rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | D/ST

Week 16 fantasy football waiver wire advice: QB | RB | WR | TE | D/ST