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Inside the Matchup
Week 16
12/22/16; Updated: 12/23/16

By: Steve Schwarz | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | Jake Gordon





- ITM for all games will be available on Friday.
- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Giants @ Eagles - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Eli Manning had his most efficient game of the season in last week’s win over the Lions that essentially secured the Giants a playoff spot. Manning tied his season low in pass attempts with 28, but completed 20 of those throws for 201 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over. Despite his quality real life performance, Manning remains useless in fantasy. He is averaging under 200 yards passing over his last four games as the Giants continue to take small leads and then attempt to burn the clock with running and defense. Once again, Odell Beckham thrived in spite of his offense. He only saw eight targets, but caught six of them for 64 yards and an impressive one handed snag for the score that put the game out of reach. Beckham will likely fall short of the fifteen receptions he needs over the final two weeks to reach 100, but the scary part about his 2016 is I really think he’s showcasing his floor. At some point in his career, with a better QB and better offense, he could potentially set even more records. This week, Beckham gets an Eagles team that has checked out on the 2016 season. The Giants don’t necessarily need the game, but a win mathematically clinches a playoff spot. The Eagles have nothing to play for. Expect Beckham to light it up.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: Can I just refer you to every previous “Giants Running Game Thoughts” I’ve written this season? They’re all the same. The Giants love to run the ball regardless of how ineffective their ground game is. Paul Perkins turned his 11 carries into 56 yards, but the Giants still think Rashad Jennings belongs in the NFL as they gave him 18 carries, which he predictably turned into 38 measly yards. Neither Perkins nor Jennings caught a pass. Shane Vereen was used sparingly and would’ve scored had he not fumbled it away. Then he re-tore his triceps. These backs belong nowhere near your roster, let alone your lineup.

Value Meter:
WR1: Odell Beckham Jr. (high end)
Bench: All other Giants

Passing Game Thoughts: Credit to Zach Ertz for putting together his third consecutive useful game with Carson Wentz as his quarterback. Ertz now has 25 catches over his last three games. He had just under half of Wentz’s pathetic 170 yards passing last week. I’m not sure what’s more impressive: Wentz throwing 42 times and only amassing 170 yards or Jordan Matthews seeing eleven targets, catching six of them, but only totaling 27 yards. Matthews has been reliable in PPR, but has been nowhere near the WR2 I expected him to be this season. With just three touchdowns on the season and none since October 30, he will be hard to trust even as a WR3 against the surging Giants pass defense, even if Janoris Jenkins is unable to go (which is looking likely). Beyond Ertz and Matthews, there’s no one on this receiving corps that’s even worth a look.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: Ryan Mathews handled his highest touch count since Week 1 with 20 carries and 1 reception. Mathews cracked 100 yards rushing for the second time this season, putting together one of his best performances of the year. With only Byron Marshall and Kenjon Barner behind him, Mathews was asked to do all he could. That should continue this week, but the Giants have been an elite run stopping unit as of late. They’ve only allowed two players to rush for over 100 yards against them: Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott. Basically, if you’re not one of the three best backs in football, you’re not going to do well against the Giants. Mathews is a fine player, but he is nowhere near that elite level. Barner is out, but Darren Sproles is back. It’s anyone’s guess as to what the split will be, making Mathews hard to trust.

Value Meter:
TE1: Zach Ertz
Flex: Jordan Matthews, Ryan Mathews
Bench: Carson Wentz, Darren Sproles, Dorial Green-Beckham

Prediction: Giants 20, Eagles 13 ^ Top

Dolphins @ Bills - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Remember last week when I told you to avoid your Dolphins? Yeah, sorry about that. I was admittedly unaware Matt Moore was going to morph into Tom Brady for a week. With that being said, this was a large fluke. Moore only attempted 18 throws and completed just 12 of them. It just so happened that one third of his completions were in the end zone. If you started Kenny Stills, Dion Sims, or Jarvis Landry, you were pleased, but that does not mean you should start them again. Stills saw just three targets and caught only one of them for a 52-yard score. Landry caught three of his four targets, but the bulk of his production came on one short throw he took for 66 yards. Sims saw four targets, caught them all, half of which were in the end zone. None of these things are likely to happen again. I am not going to praise the Bills for last week’s shutdown of Robert Griffin III, but I will mention that they’ve allowed 15 touchdown passes in 15 weeks (14 games). I caution you to not chase last week’s points.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: In a game the Dolphins led significantly for the entire second half, how exactly did Jay Ajayi only manage 51 yards? Ajayi didn’t catch a single pass (because he didn’t have to), but did see a very strong 19 carries, which he did nothing with. The duds keep piling up and I can’t imagine things get any better. The Bills know that Moore’s performance was a fluke as well. They will stack the box against Ajayi and the Dolphins suddenly crumbling offensive line and dare Moore to beat them. Once considered a rock solid RB1, you have to seriously think about benching Ajayi in your championship game if you managed to get there in spite of him. Only the 49ers have allowed more rushing touchdowns (22) than the Bills’ 19, so there’s some reason for optimism with Ajayi. Regardless, I’d be very reluctant to start him if I had a better alternative.

Value Meter:
RB2: Jay Ajayi (low end volume based)
Flex: Jarvis Landry
Bench: Matt Moore, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Dion Sims

Passing Game Thoughts: I trusted Tyrod Taylor last week and he did not let me down. High quality QB production has been hard to come by recently and the hate on Taylor had both gone too far and been mostly undeserved. Taylor only threw for 174 yards, but he added a touchdown and 49 rushing yards. He did enough. Charles Clay was his leading receiver, having his best game of the season catching all seven of his targets for 72 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, someone I believed in did, in fact, let me down. And that man is Sammy Watkins. While 24 pass attempts is by no means a lot, the fact that Watkins only caught one of them is extremely disappointing. 2016 is a lost season for Watkins and you cannot count on him in Week 16. The Dolphins only allow 234.4 passing yards per game. I would not expect Taylor to top 200, but his rushing numbers always boost his floor. He’s a fine option this week, but with a lower ceiling than last week, one which he did not get to.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: On the list of people who did exactly what I expected, LeSean McCoy would be right at the top. He saw a hapless Browns defense and smoked them for 153 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Gillislee even saw nine carries and had a short touchdown run of his own. The Dolphins allow 4.8 yards per carry. Shady is ready to carry you to a championship.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tyrod Taylor (high floor, low ceiling, low end option)
RB1: LeSean McCoy (high end)
TE1: Charles Clay (low end)
Flex: Sammy Watkins (Iíll give him the benefit of the doubt he doesnít deserve)
Bench: Mike Gillislee

Prediction: Bills 24, Dolphins 20

Jets @ Patriots - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: It looks like Bryce Petty is going to be okay after taking a vicious hit that knocked him out of last Saturday’s game against Miami. Petty is not a good quarterback, but he is good for the only viable receiver on the Jets, Robby Anderson. Anderson has 99 yards or a touchdown over his last three games, which is when Petty took over. He certainly deserves lineup consideration. Now for my weekly “why are we still talking about Brandon Marshall” tirade. It’s truly shocking when I peruse other sources and see them describing Marshall as a WR3. Marshall hasn’t been a WR3 since Week 5. He’s been a WR4 at best. By Week 10, he should’ve been almost universally on the waiver wire. Ignore him. He’s done. Remember when Quincy Enunwa was a thing? He’s certainly boomed more than Marshall, but he’s also irrelevant. The Patriots defense has tormented below average QBs like Trevor Siemian and Jared Goff recently. This unit is really coming on strong. The Jets are not going to enjoy this game.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

Running Game Thoughts: I have no idea why Matt Forte insisted on playing last week. He was already starting to seriously slow down even before he aggravated his knee injury two weeks ago. Forte touched the ball five times and did nothing. It was the Bilal Powell show and he put on a performance. Powell handled 16 carries and caught 11 of 12 targets for a total of 162 yards. He didn’t score, but who needs touchdowns when you’re getting yards and receptions like that? I can’t imagine the Jets push Forte to do much this week. Now he has a shoulder ailment to go along with the knee. He needs to shut it down. Healthy or not, Forte is nowhere near Powell’s level at this point in his career. Powell will handle the majority of the work again this week and comes with a very high floor. He is capable of carrying you to a title.

Value Meter:
RB2: Bilal Powell (high end)
WR3: Robby Anderson
Bench: Bryce Petty, Brandon Marshall, Quincy Enunwa, Matt Forte

Passing Game Thoughts: I would imagine many Tom Brady owners did not make it to the championship after his worst performance of the season (and probably in years) in Denver last week. Brady completed half of his throws for just 188 scoreless yards. You legitimately would’ve been better off with Tom Savage and he didn’t even play half the game. With that being said, if you survived Brady, he is going to reward you this week. The last time he faced the Jets, he threw it up 50 times, completing 30 of this throws for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Julian Edelman continues to see double digit targets and has returned to a high end PPR WR2. Malcolm Mitchell was erased by Denver last week, but this is a great spot for him to bounce back. Don’t forget how good he was the previous four weeks. He was on the field almost every snap last week. That kind of usage this week should yield much more favorable results. The Jets just served up four passing touchdowns to Matt Moore. I think we’re going to see Brady get four of his own this week.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: The Patriots backfield is a beautiful mess. I say beautiful because it’s fantastic for the New England Patriots, but terrible for you and me. In what was clearly part of the game plan, Dion Lewis led the team in carries last week with 18 to LeGarrette Blount’s 17. The difference between the two is Lewis managed to rack up 95 yards while Blount could only muster 31. Lewis also scored on a short goal line carry, but the referees, not understanding the rules of football, completely ignored the fact that the ball crossed the plane and ruled Lewis down at the 1 yard line. Belichick, not caring enough to challenge, just let Blount bulldozer his way in on the next play, literally stealing Lewis’ touchdown. It is also interesting to note that James White saw eight targets last week. One of these three backs will be useful this week. Maybe two. The Jets once great defense has rolled over and they are going to get obliterated by the Patriots. Even so, any Patriots running back is a gamble.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady (#1)
WR2: Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell
Flex: Dion Lewis, LeGarrette Blount
Bench: James White, Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan

Prediction: Patriots 34, Jets 10 ^ Top

Lions @ Cowboys - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Lions offense predictably did a whole lot of nothing last week against the Giants. Matt Stafford has not been the same since injuring his finger and don’t expect it to improve much this week. The Cowboys struggle against the pass, but both of these teams rank in the bottom three of slowest offensive pace. Scoring opportunities may be at a premium here and Stafford has thrown just one touchdown his last two games against three interceptions. Golden Tate has apparently established a rather high floor. He has been usable every week since Week 6 except for a flop against Jacksonville Week 11. Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin carry no fantasy value. Eric Ebron has a nice floor, but is nothing more than a low end TE option, but that’s the case for almost every tight end.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: Dwayne Washington is the clear lead back in Detroit. Theo Riddick still is not practicing with his mysterious wrist injury so it looks like the Washington show yet again. The problem is that despite the opportunity, Washington is not producing. He’s getting RB1 volume and returning RB3 production. The Cowboys have been an elite run stopping unit, similar to the Giants. They allow the fewest rushing yards per game at 80.9 and no team has allowed fewer than their five rushing touchdowns against. Washington only managed 31 yards on 14 carries against the Giants last week. In a game that will likely involve a little more throwing despite an even slower pace, I am not optimistic about Washington’s chances, even if the volume remains.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matthew Stafford (would not recommend him this week)
WR3: Golden Tate
TE1: Eric Ebron (low end)
Bench: Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin, Theo Riddick (wrist), Dwayne Washington

Passing Game Thoughts: Remember all that talk about the Cowboys needing to turn back to Tony Romo? Dak Prescott put that to bed real quick. He completed 32 of 36 throws for 279 yards last week. It was the second highest single game completion percentage in NFL history. Prescott did not throw a touchdown, but he did rush for one and did not turn the ball over. It was a remarkable performance and one that saw him re-involve Dez Bryant. On ten targets, Bryant caught eight of them for 82 yards. Even more efficient was Jason Witten, who caught all ten of his targets. Both Bryant and Witten will be strong options this week. The Lions struggled to contain Odell Beckham last week so Bryant is setup nicely to help you get a championship. Prescott, however, remains a weaker option as he is far better in real life than fantasy with the running game dominating all of the scoring.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: Speaking of the running game, Ezekiel Elliott had one of the better touchdown celebrations last week, hopping into the Salvation Army bin. That was after his thirteenth rushing touchdown of the season. He is going to win rookie of the year even though it clearly should go to Dak. Zeke also had his season high in rushing yardage last week with 159. He has had over 100 yards from scrimmage or a touchdown in every game this season. The only thing separating him from the likes of David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell is the lack of receptions. Elliott is still ceding passing down work to Lance Dunbar. The Lions have also been strong against the run, but Elliott is still a member of the elite triumvirate of matchup proof RBs.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott (high floor, low ceiling option)
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott (high end)
WR2: Dez Bryant
TE1: Jason Witten
Bench: Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Darren McFadden

Prediction: Cowboys 24, Lions 20 ^ Top

Falcons at Panthers - (Gordon)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan hung four touchdown passes on the Panthers back in October. The Falcons will need another big day from Ryan this week to stay ahead of the Bucs atop the division. That shouldn’t be too difficult against a defense that has struggled against the pass the entire season. The Falcons have been fine without Julio Jones but I’m sure anyone plugging Ryan into their lineup this week would prefer to have the big guy on the field. The good news for fantasy owners is that Jones has practiced this week and the team’s playoff chances take a serious hit with a loss this week (combined with a Tampa win). Julio is must start material and I think he’ll be ready to go but check back for the official word on Friday. Taylor Gabriel keeps on scoring touchdowns to make him a worthy fantasy play again in Week 16. There isn’t a ton of volume so he carries some touchdown dependent risk but at this point he’s proven himself to be a decent flex option in most formats. Mohamed Sanu has not been a factor in the fantasy game with or without Julio Jones on the field so keep him benched. Don’t put too much stock into Aldrick Robinson’s nice game last week. He’s still the fifth or sixth best option in the passing game.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: Atlanta’s solid running game is evidenced by the second best running back being ranked 21st in fantasy points (among RBs) heading into Week 16. Tevin Coleman is having a great season despite being on the shorter end of the timeshare. Still, games like last week (66 total yards, no touchdowns) are bound to happen on limited touches and this week may be a good week to bench him. The Panthers linebackers are great against opposing running backs. Coleman has failed to move past 33 total yards in either of his past two outings versus this defense and I suspect the Falcons will have better luck challenging the secondary. The same rationale applies to Devonta Freeman, though his higher workload gives him a better shot at producing RB2/Flex numbers for Week 16. Both running backs are capable of finding the end zone multiple times which gives them a little more upside when comparing flex options this week.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matt Ryan
RB2: Devonta Freeman
WR2: Julio Jones
Flex: Taylor Gabriel, Tevin Coleman
Bench: Austin Hooper, Aldrick Robinson

Passing Game Thoughts: Cam Newton is coming off just his third 300-yard passing game of the year but failed to register a single rushing yard in Week 15 against the Redskins. This would qualify as a solid fantasy performance but the supporting numbers are still discouraging. Though he was able to complete more than 50 percent of his passes for the first time since Week 10, a 56.8 completion percentage isn’t anything to brag about. He hasn’t attempted more than 30 passes against the Falcons since 2014 and HC Ron Rivera isn’t going to abandon the run against an offense capable of putting a lot of points on the scoreboard. It’s been a down year for the Panthers entire passing attack and I wouldn’t want to be counting on them to deliver in Week 16. Greg Olsen is typically the most consistent fantasy option on the team and even he has fell short of his usual expectations. Carolina’s tight end remains the leader at the position (standard scoring) but he has been the 15th rated TE over the past five weeks. I’d feel better about using him in PPR leagues but he remains a borderline starter for Week 15 with a decent match up. Kelvin Benjamin has completely fallen off the fantasy map, failing to catch more than three passes in five straight weeks. Devin Funchess hasn’t caught more than three passes in a single game this season. Instead, it has been Ted Ginn Jr. leading the way for the Panthers. He has touchdown catches in four of the past games to be the most credible of Carolina’s risky fantasy bets this week. He’s usually dependent on one big play a game to make up most of his (modest) scoring.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: With 55 carries, 198 rushing yards and one lost facemask over the last two weeks, Jonathan Stewart is doing his best to help fantasy owners finish strong this season. The Falcons have improved against the run as the season has progressed and the Panthers are on a short week of rest. The good news is simply that Carolina is one of the few teams not using a RBBC at this juncture of the year, including quarterback Cam Newton. As I noted above, the Panthers definitely have employed a ball control strategy against Atlanta in the past so there is a real good chance that Stewart hovers around the 20 carry mark for the third straight game. The lack of competition for carries gives Stewart’s owners a higher floor than other options at the running back position and makes him a decent RB2 versus the Falcons.

Value Meter:
QB2: Cam Newton
RB2: Jonathan Stewart
TE1: Greg Olsen
Flex: Ted Ginn Jr.
Bench: Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess

Prediction: Falcons 30, Panthers 24 ^ Top

Titans at Jaguars - (Gordon)

Passing Game Thoughts: Marcus Mariota may have helped a lot of teams make the fantasy playoffs this season but he isn’t winning any fantasy titles. Matchups play a huge role in deciding fantasy titles and the Titans face another less than ideal opponent this week. The Jags’ defense didn’t get Gus Bradley fired after last week’s loss to the Colts. They have been one of the top five hardest defenses for opposing fantasy quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends this year and the Titans have struggled against top rated defenses in recent weeks. I’d recommend looking hard for other options before settling on any of Tennessee pass catchers this week. If you were to start anyone it would be Delanie Walker. Mariota’s safety valve is still getting plenty of targets and has a higher floor than your average tight end. Rishard Matthews fantasy value has taken a hit once the touchdowns stopped rolling in (only one over the past four games). He’s been outside the top 50 players at his position over the past three weeks and I wouldn’t take a chance on him turning it around with the way the running game has chugged along. After Walker, Matthews and the running backs, there shouldn’t be too many targets left for anyone else.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: The heart of “Smashmouth” football in Nashville has been effective enough to keep the Titans playoff hopes alive. DeMarco Murray has ceded carries to rookie Derrick Henry in a way that seems almost by design. I don’t think Murray is dealing with any sort of injury; it just looks like Henry’s role has been elevated in the weeks following the bye. The strategy is looking good for the Titans win column but it’s taken the wind out of the sails of Murray. The timeshare situation has resulted in both backs being useful RB2/Flex options but each rank outside the top 20 at the position over the past three weeks. That’s a stark contrast to Murray being a weekly fixture in the top 10 fantasy rushers for much of the regular season. The supporting numbers suggest that Murray is just as good as he was earlier in the year so I wouldn’t abandon ship. The tougher choice facing fantasy managers this week is whether or not to use Henry. The answer should be yes based on the standpoint that he has been productive with the increase in workload. Tennessee’s coaching staff knows what they have in their rookie and I don’t expect his role to change as they look to wear down the Jacksonville defense.

Value Meter:
QB2: Marcus Mariota
RB1: DeMarco Murray
TE1: Delanie Walker (low end)
Flex: Rishard Matthews, Derrick Henry
Bench: Tajae Sharpe, Kendall Wright

Passing Game Thoughts: Where’s Mark Brunell when you need him? Blake Bortles sealed the fate of now former HC Gus Bradley after setting career lows in pass completions and yards last week. This offense needs more than a new coach to change its fortunes so fantasy owners should steer clear of everyone for Week 16. Interim coach Doug Marone hasn’t exactly wowed anyone with his high scoring offenses since coming to the NFL via Syracuse. Blake Bortles will still be under center. That means Allen Robinson will only catch about a third of the balls thrown to him and Marqise Lee has a 50 percent chance of producing quality stats as a flex option. Unless you like torturing yourself or play in a super deep league, there really isn’t a bankable fantasy starter in the passing game.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: Chris Ivory rushed ten times for 44 yards in his return from a hamstring injury last week. Although he is likely to get the bulk of the carries against the Titans this week he still plays on a team that struggles to pick up first downs and score touchdowns. Oh and the Titans are one of the best rushing defenses in the league. Starting Ivory this week translates to crossing your fingers that he ends up with a touchdown. At least T.J. Yeldon moonlights as a flex option for PPR leaguers to salvage some fantasy value on this team. He’s averaging five catches a game over the past three weeks to make him a top 25 running back in full point PPR leagues. The lack of a useful tight end should continue to allow Yeldon just enough work in the passing game against Tennessee to be an effective fantasy option for deeper leagues.

Value Meter:
Flex: T.J. Yeldon (only in PPR)
Bench: Everyone else

Prediction: Titans 20, Jaguars 9 ^ Top

Bengals at Texans - (Gordon)

Passing Game Thoughts: A.J. Green is doing what he can to get back on the field to help fantasy owners win a title. He practiced on Wednesday and appears to be in line to play but his owners will want to check in on Friday to get the latest updates on his status for Saturday’s tilt against the Texans. Green’s return would provide Andy Dalton a much needed lift. Cincinnati’s quarterback has been held under 200 yards over his past two games and went without a touchdown pass for only the second time of the year during last week’s loss to the Steelers. Another guy hoping Green gets back on the field is tight end Tyler Eifert. Opposing defenses have been keying in the team’s best red zone target and his stats have suffered as a result. The matchup isn’t great but he’s always a threat to score and should be a low end starter for Week 16. An increase in playing time hasn’t really helped Tyler Boyd emerge as a legit fantasy option and he only stands to lose time if Green makes it back onto the field. Brandon LaFell hasn’t been overly consistent with his results but he has averaged eight targets a game over the past five weeks. If the team doesn’t get their top receiver back, then LaFell would be a player of interest to fill a flex slot.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: Jeremy Hill did individual drills in practice Wednesday and is questionable to play this week. He was able to return from an injury in Week 15 but he is clearly banged up. Hill has been taking advantage of injuries to the team’s play makers (A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard) to get him more volume and opportunities in the red zone. He’s clinging to RB2 status but the Bengals may also opt to use Rex Burkhead more over the last week or two as they look towards next season. Burkhead’s playing time is worth monitoring because he has been averaging over five yards a carry on the year. A few more touches are all he needs to become a RB3/Flex option for RB needy playoff teams.

Value Meter:
QB2: Andy Dalton
RB2: Jeremy Hill (if he plays)
WR1: A.J. Green (if he plays)
TE1: Tyler Eifert
Flex: Brandon LaFell, Rex Burkhead (if Hill is out)
Bench: Tyler Boyd

Passing Game Thoughts: Welcome to the Tom Savage era! Not many first place squads are changing quarterbacks in Week 16 without an injury involved but that’s exactly what is happening in the “topsy turvy” AFC South. The Brock Osweiler experiment lasted way too long but finally ended midway through last week’s game against the Jaguars. Based on a small sample size of about three quarters of play, Savage should be a breath of fresh air to this entire offense. By offense, I really mean DeAndre Hopkins. The stud receiver led all wide receivers in Week 15 with 17 targets. Savage has little to lose by chucking the ball to #10 whenever possible. I’d be cautious with using Hopkins in shallow leagues but he is firmly in the WR3 mix in 12-plus team leagues. He still has an unproven quarterback throwing him the ball and the Bengals have been on the hardest defenses for opposing fantasy receivers to score on this year. A tough opponent and fewer targets for everyone else make it extremely difficult to trust anyone else in the passing game this week.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: Ever watch “Press Your Luck?” Lamar Miller owners will be hoping for “No Whammies” when the Texans take on the Bengals this weekend. Miller hasn’t exactly been a trustworthy fantasy back this year, but he has been a steady RB2 over the past two weeks. Unfortunately, he is going up against the first team in over a month to prevent Le’Veon Bell from rushing for 100 yards last week. A new starting quarterback isn’t always a good thing for a veteran running back going against a quality defense either so I’d prefer not pressing my luck with Miller despite the favorable workload. The Alfred Blue buzz is tough to get a handle on as well. Houston rolled him out 16 times in Week 14 only to give him one carry last week. He is best viewed as lotto ticket for Week 17.

Value Meter:
RB2: Lamar Miller
WR3: DeAndre Hopkins
Bench: Everyone else

Prediction: Texans 20, Bengals 17 ^ Top

Buccaneers at Saints - (Gordon)

Passing Game Thoughts: The last time Jamies Winston entered the Superdome (September of 2015) the Bucs signal caller was an inexperienced rookie. Now he has almost two years under his belt and is chasing his first division title. I don’t think he will struggle nearly as much this weekend but there is a lot of pressure on the youngster in this pivotal road game. I’ve said this before, but I’ll stress it one more time…the Saints have been good at holding down opposing team’s top wideouts. Yet Mike Evans is having a Pro Bowl caliber season and the Bucs will continue to throw to him so it’s tough to keep him benched. Still, he hasn’t scored in three games, nor has he topped 60 yards receiving. At least search for alternatives before stubbornly locking him into your WR slot in Week 16. Choosing someone other than Mike Evans in this passing attack is like playing roulette. Somebody is going to be useful but the chances of you picking the right guy are more luck than skill with the other players receiving minimal targets. TE Cameron Brate has tallied 10 receptions, 159 yards and two touchdowns in Tampa’s last two road games so don’t overlook him if you are mining for a tight end this week.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: Doug Martin keeps doing his thing as a RB2 and more often than not he gets the job done. His 16 carries against the Cowboys a week ago matched his lowest of the year from Week 10 (excluding the Week 2 game when he left early due to injury). Expect a stronger outing this week. Martin is averaging double digit fantasy points against the Saints and has touchdowns in each of his last two meetings. Charles Sims has 9 targets in two games since returning from the IR. He’s slid right back into the role he was filling before going down with an injury. He’s also the type of player that could excel on the turf as a high efficiency target to take the pressure off of Winston. He figures to be busy in a close game but would see even more work if the Bucs are playing from behind making him a solid flex option in PPR leagues.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jameis Winston
RB2: Doug Martin
WR2: Mike Evans
TE1: Cameron Brate (low end)
Flex: Charles Sims (PPR only)
Bench: Adam Humphries, Russell Shepard

Passing Game Thoughts: The real Drew Brees stood up last week against the Cardinals to win a shootout and that’s what fantasy owners will be hoping for against this week. That scenario might be tough considering the Bucs have scored more than 20 points only once in the past five weeks. That shouldn’t stop Brees from hooking up with Brandin Cooks. The Saints’ top man on the outside has moved back into the top ten fantasy receivers with his huge Week 15 performance. This week won’t be that good but Brees is looking his way again (27 targets in three games since his Week 12 goose egg) and the results have been solid. Cooks and Michael Thomas (coming off his fourth game with at least ten targets) may become the first teammates to get to ten touchdowns this weekend. Cooks presence on the outside will allow Thomas and Willie Snead to have a field day working the short and intermediate zones. Tight end Coby Fleener is probably going to be requisitioned to help in the blocking game so he’ll need to cash in on his limited targets in the red zone to have a shot at a moderate fantasy output. Expect solid, but not spectacular, performances from the Saints leading passing game in Week 16.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: The Bucs bottled up Mark Ingram extremely well in their last meeting by limiting him to 23 total yards so expect HC Sean Peyton to alter his strategy this time around. Tim Hightower wasn’t much better with 39 total yards in Week 14. Tampa’s front seven is good so there is a good chance that New Orleans chooses to abandon the run and opt for more passing to move the ball down the field against the Bucs. Ingram is getting more touches and is the better choice if you are picking from the pair to be a flex option this week. Hightower, despite rushing for two scores last week, has only averaged 8 touches a game over the past three weeks. If either one of these running backs is able to have success it will need to come via the pass. That would also favor Ingram who has four receiving touchdowns this year (tied for 2nd in the NFL).

Value Meter:
QB1: Drew Brees
WR2: Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas
Flex: Mark Ingram, Willie Snead
Bench: Tim Hightower

Prediction: Saints 26, Buccaneers 24 ^ Top

Colts @ Raiders - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Snubbed from the Pro Bowl in the eyes of many fans and analysts, Andrew Luck continues to enjoy what has been a bounceback season in 2016. He’s thrown multiple touchdown passes in four straight starts despite some inconsistencies from his top targets, wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. A hamstring injury limited Moncrief in practice early in the week but he made a full return to practice on Thursday and is currently expected to play this weekend against the Jets. Still, there is plenty of risk with Moncrief who has been surprisingly touchdown-dependent since returning from injury back in Week 8. He hasn’t had more than 55 receiving yards in a game over that stretch. Hilton is closing in on 1,300 yards for the season which has made him one of the best receivers in fantasy football. Hilton remains a solid WR1 while Moncrief is only a borderline Flex option who has a respectable ceiling but also a floor of zero. Luck, of course, should remain an elite fantasy option even on the road against an Oakland defense that hasn’t given up more than two passing scores in a game since Week 5. The Colts will likely need to pass the ball quite often to stay in this game and they’re playing for their playoff lives so letting their franchise quarterback throw the ball as many as 50 times in this contest seems like a realistic possibility.

OAK FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
OAK FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
OAK FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
OAK FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: Frank Gore continues to shock us with his ability to produce quality fantasy numbers in his elder years and he was a big part of what ended up being the gameplan for the Colts in Week 15 as the team surprisingly blew out the Vikings. Gore took 26 carries for 101 yards while also catching four passes in that game – his highest workload of the season. It’s worth noting, however, that the gameflow from this past week is highly unlikely to play out the same in Week 16. The Raiders are certainly not great against the run and there is a good chance that Gore gets a few goal line carries, but this looks like a pass-heavy game in the making with two MVP-caliber quarterbacks slugging it out to secure a division title. Gore is a better option in standard scoring options where he’s more of a high-end RB2, but he should still be a reliable middle-to-low end RB2 option even in PPR formats. Robert Turbin’s recent goal line touches are a bit of a concern, but the Colts didn’t need to risk Gore this past week, which is a big reason why Turbin had as many “money” touches as he did.

Value Meter:
QB1: Andrew Luck
RB2: Frank Gore
WR1: T.Y. Hilton
Flex: Donte Moncrief
Bench: Robert Turbin, Phillip Dorsett, Dwayne Allen, Jack Doyle

Passing Game Thoughts: We’ve seen a recent slowdown in the production of Oakland quarterback and NFL MVP candidate Derek Carr, but a home matchup against a mediocre Indianapolis pass defense could be just what he needs to start putting up huge fantasy numbers again. Wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are both listed as questionable for this weekend which is a bit of a concern, but both are expected to play. Crabtree, who is dealing with a finger injury, has been quite productive as of late while Cooper has been dealing with a bit of a late-season slump, just as he did in 2015. The biggest worry is that Cooper was only targeted three times this past week against the Chargers. While some of that had to do with the coverage he was seeing, there could also be something more to the shoulder injury he’s dealing with. There is risk here, particularly with Cooper, but the upside in this matchup is so great that both he and Crabtree should be in most fantasy lineups as long as they suit up for the Raiders.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: The Oakland passing game hasn’t been quite as dominant as of late, which has led to some nice opportunities for Latavius Murray and the running game to prove their worth. Murray has produced 85 or more total yards in four straight contests, but his biggest fantasy asset has been his ability to get into the end zone while playing behind one of the best offensive lines. Murray has scored 12 rushing touchdowns in 12 games played this season. He’ll have the opportunity to improve upon those numbers on Saturday against an Indianapolis defense that has been gashed by good running games as of late. If the Raiders get out to a lead, which is quite possible, look for them to lean heavily on Murray in this contest as he continues to out-touch DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard by a wide margin.

Value Meter:
QB1: Derek Carr
RB1: Latavius Murray
WR1: Michael Crabtree
WR2: Amari Cooper
Bench: Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Seth Roberts, Clive Walford, Mychal Rivera

Prediction: Raiders 28, Colts 23 ^ Top

49ers @ Rams - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: The toilet bowl of the NFC West will take place on Saturday as the 49ers head to Los Angeles to face the Rams. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be back at the helm against a Los Angeles defense that has really struggled recently against opposing quarterbacks. The team has given up 11 total passing touchdowns over their past four games, including some huge fantasy numbers during that span. Of course, they haven’t had it easy as of late, playing against some of the league’s best quarterbacks including Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson. Kaepernick is certainly not anywhere near that level as a passer, but as a fantasy producer, he’s not all that far off. Partially due to his own wild inconsistencies, but also due to a lack of real options, Kaepernick is the only player who should even be considered for fantasy purposes in this passing game. His rushing numbers have been a little weak as of late, but he’s still giving fantasy owners at least a few points per week on the ground while passing for somewhat respectable numbers and somehow avoiding turnovers.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: Carlos Hyde has been a tough player to own throughout his fantasy career, often due to injury concerns, but also because he’s been stuck on a terrible team that often falls behind in games and does not give him the opportunity to get those late-game “closer” carries that so many other backs thrive on. That was the case this past week as he failed to produce big numbers against a bad Atlanta run defense. He wasn’t terrible, but the gameflow just didn’t allow him to touch the ball late in the game as the 49ers fell further and further behind. This weekend he’ll face a Los Angeles defense that is statistically better against running backs than the Falcons were, but their own lack of offensive explosiveness should allow the 49ers to stick in the game much longer than they did against the Falcons, which should lead to more touches for Hyde. There’s always risk to starting any 49er, but Hyde is probably the safest of the bunch and he has a good chance of producing RB1 numbers this week.

Value Meter:
QB1: Colin Kaepernick (low end)
RB1: Carlos Hyde
Bench: Shaun Draughn, Jeremy Kerley, Torrey Smith, Garrett Celek

Passing Game Thoughts: Rookie quarterback Jared Goff cleared the NFL’s concussion protocol and will start this Saturday, but that isn’t exactly great news for the Los Angeles passing game which continues to be among the worst in the league no matter who is behind center. Goff has now thrown just one total touchdown pass over his past three contests, effectively rendering he and the entire Rams passing attack obsolete for fantasy purposes. Kenny Britt could be slid into lineups in daily formats if you’re looking for a cheap option who could potentially score a touchdown, but the 49ers have actually been decent against opposing passing games in recent weeks, so look for the Rams to control the clock with the run versus put the game on the shoulders of their young QB who has, frankly, looked terrible.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: It’s been a long and awful season for second-year Rams running back Todd Gurley. He went from arguably the top fantasy running back the league heading into the season into a player who owners are asking about for Flex purposes despite him getting a full workload and being healthy. The touches have been there in most games, but the production just isn’t. His Week 1 performance against the 49ers is a long time ago, but the San Francisco run defense has proven to be perhaps the worst in the league, so his lack of performance (47 rushing yards, 0 TD) in that contest looks even worse now. Still, despite all of the bad that we’ve seen, there’s still real upside in this matchup. With the 49ers unlikely to run away with the lead, Gurley should have a great opportunity to approach 20 touches. Against a defense that ranks dead last in the league against opposing running backs, there’s plenty to like about that opportunity. If you’re not starting Todd Gurley this week, what was the point of you keeping him rostered? Plug him in, cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Value Meter:
RB1: Todd Gurley
Flex: Kenny Britt
Bench: Jared Goff, Tavon Austin, Brian Quick, Pharoh Cooper

Prediction: Rams 24, 49ers 17 ^ Top

Cardinals @ Seahawks - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: They fell short this past week against the Saints, but Carson Palmer proved that he is still capable of producing QB1 numbers if the matchup allows for it. Unfortunately, in Week 16, he’ll head to Seattle to face one of the NFL’s best defenses in perhaps the most hostile territory in the league. The Seahawks have been dominant against opposing quarterbacks once again this season, having allowed just 14 passing touchdowns against them in 14 games, while forcing 11 interceptions. Earlier this season, they held Palmer himself out of the end zone despite him throwing for 300-plus yards in what ended up being a 6-6 tie game. That was when the Cardinals still had hopes for the playoffs, though. Now that they’re out of the race, look for Seattle to lean on this aging, crumbling quarterback until he eventually breaks and makes the mistakes that will put them out of the game. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is the only player in this passing game who should be used in fantasy and even he is just a WR2 in this difficult matchup. Yes, Fitzgerald did catch nine passes against the Seahawks when these teams played earlier this season, but he has scored just one touchdown in his past eight contests against the Seahawks. As such, he’s a low-upside WR2.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: If a team’s record wasn’t so heavily impactful to the NFL MVP award, a case could be made for Arizona’s David Johnson walking away with the hardware in his second season. Johnson has been nothing short of superb this season, including producing the best fantasy numbers in the NFL at the running back position. Johnson has been over 100 total yards in every game this season. That type of run is almost unprecedented for a running back in today’s NFL – especially on a team with a losing record. Yes, the matchup against Seattle here in Week 16 is a tough one – they haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown since Week 10. But there’s not a more consistent, productive player in all of fantasy football this season than Johnson. He had 161 total yards when these teams played earlier this season, so look for another productive day from him, especially in PPR formats.

Value Meter:
RB1: David Johnson
WR2: Larry Fitzgerald
Bench: Carson Palmer, J.J. Nelson, John Brown, Jermaine Gresham

Passing Game Thoughts: Russell Wilson was coming off of one of the worst games of his professional career, but he should be back in the good graces of fantasy owners after a nice day against the Rams in Week 15, including his first multiple-touchdown performance since Week 10. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin continues to be the team’s most consistent and best fantasy producer, having caught at least four passes in every game since Week 2, but he’s been held out of the end zone in all but four games this season which has kept his production at just a WR2 level for most of the season. Another player who has really stepped up as of late is wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Lockett has been used in a variety of ways, but his seven catch, 130-yard performance against the Rams this past week is a reminder that he still has potential to produce good fantasy numbers. Unfortunately, while Lockett has stepped up, one player who has not been great as of late is tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham has just two catches over his past two games and now he’ll be against an Arizona defense that has held opposing tight ends to the fewest points in the league this season.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: After a horrendous performance of 21 carries for just 34 yards this past week against the Rams, fantasy owners have every reason to doubt Thomas Rawls in this, the fantasy championship weekend for most leagues. Aside from one game where he exploded for over 100 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Panthers, Rawls has been held under 10 total fantasy points (standard scoring) in every other game this season. The Cardinals have given up the sixth-fewest rushing yards per carry in the league this season and they held the Seahawks backfield to just 54 rushing yards earlier this season. Of course, that was when Rawls was out with injury, but the point remains that the Arizona defense is still very capable of performing well and Rawls is a risky play – and very touchdown dependent – in this contest.

Value Meter:
QB1: Russell Wilson (low-end)
RB2: Thomas Rawls (low-end)
WR2: Doug Baldwin
Flex: Tyler Lockett
Bench: Jermaine Kearse, Jimmy Graham

Prediction: Seahawks 23, Cardinals 16 ^ Top

Broncos @ Chiefs - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Coming off of one of his biggest games of the season, Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders laid an egg in Week 15, catching just three passes for 48 yards against the Patriots. Demaryius Thomas caught seven passes for 91 yards, however, and has now caught at least five passes in every game since Week 1 this season despite some serious question marks at the quarterback position. Trevor Siemian, obviously, has had his ups and downs, but he does not look like a good option this week as he’s coming off of a bad game and will now be on the road against a Kansas City defense that has held Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota out of the end zone over their past two games. Yes, Siemian lit this defense up to the tune of 368 yards and three touchdowns no interceptions, but that was when the Broncos still had a great shot at making the playoffs. Now that they’re likely on the outside looking in and with Kansas City needing a win to lock up their own playoff chances, there’s a good possibility that this is a classic late-season letdown for the Broncos and thus a potentially tough day for Siemian. Still, Thomas and Sanders are still worthy options given the high percentage of targets that they see in this offense.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: The Devontae Booker experiment appears to be all but over at this point as the young running back has now been out-touched by the recently signed veteran Justin Forsett in back-to-back weeks. Neither player has been doing anything that should make fantasy owners excited whatsoever, but Forsett has at least shown that he has the trust of the coaching staff to some extent. Booker is still getting enough touches to limit any real upside, though, so do your best to avoid this situation if at all possible. Kansas City is not great against opposing running games, but Denver is not a team that appears equipped to exploit that fact at this point.

Value Meter:
QB2: Trevor Siemian
WR1: Demaryius Thomas
WR2: Emmanuel Sanders
Flex: Justin Forsett
Bench: Devontae Booker

Passing Game Thoughts: Alex Smith has not thrown for multiple touchdown passes in a game since Week 7. If that doesn’t tell you what his fantasy potential is in this matchup, let’s make it even worse – he’ll face the NFL’s best fantasy defenses against opposing quarterbacks in Week 16. Denver hasn’t given up a single touchdown pass in three straight contests heading into this game and they’ve only given up two multi-touchdown passing days to opposing QB’s this season. Jeremy Maclin showed some potential this past week, but he’ll be blanketed by the league’s best secondary, as will Tyreek Hill. Hill, at least has the potential to make something happen on a trick play or on special teams, but he should probably be on most benches in this contest. The only strong fantasy play in this Kansas City passing game is tight end Travis Kelce who disappointed a bit this past week but is still among the top options at the position on a week to week basis. He beat the Broncos for eight receptions and 101 yards when these teams played back in Week 12.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: The opportunity continues to be there for Spencer Ware, but the production just hasn’t followed in the second half of the season. Ware has scored just one touchdown since Week 6 of the season and he hasn’t eclipsed 80 rushing yards in any game over that span. What’s perhaps been most disappointing, though, is Ware’s lack of usage in the passing game. He’s not completely forgotten as a receiver, but Ware hasn’t caught more than three passes in a game since Week 1 of the season. The way to attack the Broncos, however, is definitely with the running game. If the Chiefs hope to win this one, Ware will likely need to do more than the 17 carries for 64 yards that he had against the Broncos when these teams played in Week 12, but his lack of performance as of late doesn’t give much hope for a huge day.

Value Meter:
RB2: Spencer Ware
TE1: Travis Kelce
Bench: Alex Smith, Charcandrick West, Tyreek Hill, Jeremy Maclin

Prediction: Chiefs 20, Broncos 14 ^ Top

Redskins @ Bears - (Schwarz)

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s a testament to how good a fantasy quarterback Cousins has become that even on a bad night he managed to crack the 20-point mark against Carolina. It also says that the Washington offense isn’t as balanced as it was a month ago. DeSean Jackson has become the top option again, off his second consecutive 100-yard receiving night, with Pierre Garcon a viable option as well. Jamison Crowder hasn’t produced in a month and is borderline WR3 at best. Tight end Jordan Reed (shoulder) isn’t healthy and can’t be counted on and if he plays, he’ll likely split snaps with Vernon Davis.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: The offensive line can’t open holes for Robert Kelley and only a short touchdown run saved his night from complete disaster in Week 15. Third-down back Chris Thompson is only viable in PPR leagues, and then, only if you expect the Redskins to fall behind on the scoreboard. The Bears are middle of the road in fantasy points allowed to running backs.

Value Meter:
QB2: Kirk Cousins
RB3: Rob Kelley
WR1: DeSean Jackson
Flex: Pierre Garcon
Bench: Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Barkley’s second 300-yard passing performance in four starts should give fantasy owners a bit of confidence in this one. Sure, he still throws too many interceptions, but he’s producing points. The additional work Alshon Jeffery and Barkley put in last week during practice paid dividends and should continue going forward. However, he’s likely to see a lot of Josh Norman this weekend. That should open it up for Cameron Meredith or Deonte Thompson. I prefer Meredith, who works out of the slot, a position that gives the Washington secondary problems.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: It’s a one-man show in Chicago. Jordan Howard continues to produce solid numbers – four consecutive double-digit fantasy totals. He’ll face a subpar Washington run defense that was just run over by Jonathan Stewart and won’t have a lot of time to recover (ranked 29th in RB fantasy points allowed).

Value Meter:
QB2: Matt Barkley
RB1: Jordan Howard
WR2: Alshon Jeffery, Cameron Meredith
Flex: Deonte Thompson
Bench: Jeremy Langford, Logan Paulsen

Prediction: Washington 24, Chicago 23 ^ Top

Chargers @ Browns - (Schwarz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Philip Rivers probably had the easiest playoff schedule of any quarterback, but hasn’t produced as well as expected. That’s not to say he was horrible, throwing a pair of touchdowns in each game, but he couldn’t crack 240 yards. He’ll get one last shot to produce in a favorable matchup against the 31st-ranked defense versus opposing quarterbacks. Dontrelle Inman has actually been the most consistent Chargers receiver over the past month. The return of deep threat Travis Benjamin seems to have taken something out of Tyrell Williams’ game and both rate as flex options. It will be cold this weekend, but fantasy owners should only be concerned if forecasts predict 15-20 mph winds, and as of this writing, that isn’t the case.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: It doesn’t appear as if elite running back Melvin Gordon (hip) will return for Week 16, once again leaving the majority of the workload for Kenneth Farrow. Unfortunately, he was a backup for a reason and hasn’t shown much explosiveness making him difficult to trust even in a plus matchup against the Browns. He will also likely give up 6-8 carries to Ronnie Hillman.

Value Meter:
QB1: Philip Rivers
RB2: Kenneth Farrow
WR2: Dontrelle Inman
TE2: Hunter Henry
Flex: Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin
Bench: Melvin Gordon (RB1 if active), Antonio Gates, Ronnie Hillman

Passing Game Thoughts: The Browns offense is about as inept as they come, averaging 10.3 points over their last six games. And the passing game will need to improve just to get to inept. They have managed just 247 yards the past two games with Robert Griffin III under center. The Chargers defense has totaled a league-high 17 interceptions and rank No. 4 (15.8 FPts/G) against fantasy receivers. Stay away. Stay far away.

SD FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
SD FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
SD FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
SD FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: Browns coach Hue Jackson said he “wants to give (Isaiah) Crowell 20 carries" every game, but they fall behind in almost every game making that virtually impossible. In fact, he hasn’t rushed the ball more than 18 times in any game this season. When the inevitable happens and Cleveland falls behind on the scoreboard, Duke Johnson gets his shot and last week he combined for 93 yards on 10 touches. He’s had at least 75 combined yards in five games this season, but only scored one time, so has limited upside.

Value Meter:
RB3: Isaiah Crowell
Flex: Duke Johnson
Bench: Robert Griffin III, Terrelle Pryor, Corey Coleman, Andrew Hawkins, Gary Barnidge

Prediction: San Diego 30, Cleveland 10 ^ Top

Vikings @ Packers - (Schwarz)

Passing Game Thoughts: If you want about 250 yards and one touchdown pass, then Sam Bradford is your guy. For most fantasy owners that just isn’t enough. Stefon Diggs clearly isn’t healthy and his game has suffered and downgraded. Adam Thielen should be ready to go and is team’s best wideout option in this one, but tight end Kyle Rudolph is likely to see the most targets.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: Adrian Peterson returned, but didn’t show much and now is dealing with groin and knee issues. It’s hard to start a less-than 100-percent “AP” and we have already seen that Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata weren’t the answers even without the big man on the field because of this offensive line’s struggles.

Value Meter:
QB2: Sam Bradford
WR2: Adam Thielen
TE1: Kyle Rudolph
Flex: Stefon Diggs
Bench: Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon, Charles Johnson, Matt Asiata, Cordarrelle Patterson

Passing Game Thoughts: Aaron Rodgers had his streak of eight consecutive multiple passing touchdown games snapped in the cold of Chicago last weekend, but he’s healthier than he’s been in a long time and should be ready to help you this week. He’s averaging 24.9 FPts/G at home. Jordy Nelson is a constant while Davante Adams has been up and down. Adams dropped two touchdown passes last weekend, but I am confident he’ll rebound. Randall Cobb continues to freefall and has become a non-factor while Jared Cook is too inconsistent to trust during championship week. Weather should not be a factor.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: The Packers first 100-yard rushing game since Eddie Lacy in Week 3 came from converted wideout Ty Montgomery. I don’t expect he’ll repeat last week’s 162-yard output, put given the threat of Rodgers right arm, Montgomery has the talent to crack triple digits again. James Starks is still in concussion protocol, Christine Michael is only good for about 4-6 carries and fullback Aaron Ripkowski only a sometimes red zone touchdown vulture.

Value Meter:
QB2: Aaron Rodgers (upper end)
RB2: Ty Montgomery
WR1: Jordy Nelson
TE2: Jared Cook
Flex: Davante Adams
Bench: Randall Cobb, James Starks, Christine Michael

Prediction: Green Bay 26, Minnesota 16 ^ Top

Ravens @ Steelers - (Schwarz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Joe Flacco has thrown eight touchdowns over the past three weeks and cracked the 300-yard mark twice as he tries to keep his Ravens, and fantasy owners, in the championship hunt. But the Steelers defense has been improved over the past five games, ranking sixth-best against fantasy quarterbacks over that span (16.7 FPts/G). The result will leave the Baltimore quarterback as a QB2 this weekend. Most of the heavy lifting at wideout has been coming from Steve Smith and Mike Wallace, but neither is an elite option. Smith is more consistent and has a higher floor, but if you need the really big number, Wallace’s deep-threat ability is the choice.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: The Ravens’ backfield is the dreaded evenly shared situation between Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon. West usually gets more carries while Dixon has better hands, but Dixon missed a key block last Sunday against Philadelphia and the Ravens used fullback Kyle Juszczyk on passing downs. For that reason Dixon has been downgraded to a flex.

Value Meter:
QB2: Joe Flacco
RB2: Terrance West (low end)
WR3: Steve Smith, Mike Wallace
Flex: Kenneth Dixon
Bench: Dennis Pitta, Kamar Aiken

Passing Game Thoughts: Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t cracked 300-yards since the Week 10 shootout with Dallas. It’s not a coincidence that Le’Veon Bell exploded in Week 11 and hasn’t been slowed down since that day. Big Ben isn’t the only casualty, Antonio Brown hasn’t broken 100 yards in those same five games. He also was held under 100 yards by the Ravens in Week 9 this season and twice in 2015. He’s listed as a low-end WR1, but if Ravens CB Jimmy Smith (ankle) isn’t available, then Brown’s projection could jump much higher. Eli Rogers saw six targets last week, but that’s the first time since Week 11 that he saw more than three passes. Still, without injured Ladarius Green (concussion) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot) and Sammie Coates unproductive, someone other than Ball and Brown needs to step up.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: It’s says a lot when your running back posts 131 yards from scrimmage and fantasy owners feel unsatisfied. After Bell’s previous four performances (26.1 FPts, 20.2, 18.2, 47.8), that’s how I felt about his 13.1 points versus Cincinnati. The Ravens are No. 2 against opposing running backs (14.7 FPts/G), so he’ll have to work hard to get his points. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he fully expects DeAngelo Williams (knee) to return, but that shouldn’t effect Bell at all.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ben Roethlisberger
RB1: LeíVeon Bell
WR1: Antonio Brown (low end)
Flex: Eli Rogers
Bench: Sammie Coates, Ladarius Green

Prediction: Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 20 ^ Top