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Inside the Matchup

Week 16

By: Andy Swanson | Ken Ilchuk | Nick Caron | HC Green





Sunday Early:



Sunday Late:




- Green highlight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

49ers @ Titans - (Swanson)
Line: SF -3.5
Total: 45.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The 49ers head to Tennessee to take on the Titans on Thursday Night Football. Despite all of the distractions surrounding the first-round selection of rookie Trey Lance, Jimmy Garoppolo has handled the situation well, and the 49ers look like they have a solid chance to lock up a wild card berth.

Prior to last week’s game in which the Niners scored three rushing touchdowns, Jimmy G averaged 20 points against both the Seahawks and Bengals and continued his solid play with 235 yards and a score and completing nearly 80% of his passes against the Falcons.

A big reason for the 49ers and Jimmy G’s success as of late is the emergence of George Kittle. Kittle’s 17.9 fantasy points per game over the past five is nearly four points per game better than Mark Andrews at No.2 on the list. Kittle has been a monster and should get a ton of work in this road matchup against a Titans team that has been tough to run on.

The 49ers are a run-first offense that takes advantage of teams via play action. That is their bread and butter, and even against a Titans team that has given up the fourth-fewest points to running backs, Kyle Shanahan will still try to run.

The question is will he succeed at running as much as he would like. Regardless, look for Kittle and Deebo Samuel to be active early and often in this game, which Brandon Aiyuk providing some big third down catches across the middle.

An interesting matchup to watch in this game will be linebackers Harold Landry and Rashaan Evans on Kittle in the passing game. Only two opposing tight ends have reached the end zone vs. Tennessee, and no tight end has topped 65 yards. Considering Kittle has at least one score or 93 yards in all, but one of his last seven games, this strength against strength matchup should be fun to watch.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: Shanahan said that rookie sensation Eli Mitchell has cleared the concussion protocol but will not play with a knee injury. Veteran Jeff Wilson will get another start and a chance to build on his 18.9 point fantasy performance against the Falcons.

Wilson’s performance vs. Atlanta was the third-best performance this season by 49er running backs and a good sign that the veteran is getting back to his old ways.

The Titans are not a great team to target in the run game and just did an excellent job shutting down both James Robinson and Najee Harris in Weeks 14 and 15. Wilson should get around 15 carries, but expectations on a monster game should be tempered.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jimmy Garoppolo (High-End)
RB3: Jeff Wilson (High-End)
WR1: Deebo Samuel (Low-End)
WR3: Brandon Aiyuk (Low-End)
TE1: George Kittle (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Titans enter this game after a disappointing loss on the road to a reeling Steelers team. Ryan Tannehill and the passing game struggled mightily, with just 153 passing yards and no passing touchdowns. Tannehill somewhat salvaged his day with a rushing touchdown, but it did not make up for the fact that the passing offense continues to struggle.

Reinforcements could be on the way with A.J. Brown coming off of IR. Considering the teams’ desperate need for help in the passing game and Julio Jones’ paper-thin hamstrings continue to fail, Brown will be a welcome relief.

The Titans rank 5th in most sacks allowed this season, and the 49ers have been dominant as of late with their pass rush. Even with Brown coming back, if Tannehill does not get enough time to throw, he could be in for a long day.

Despite their potent pass rush and solid linebacking group, the 49ers secondary is very beatable, with rookie cornerback Aubry Thomas constantly getting beat by opposing wide receivers and veteran Josh Norman, not the player he once was.

This defense is built on pressure and stopping the run. If you can give Tannehill time, Thomas can be exposed by Brown or Nick Westbrook-Ikine outside.

On the injury front, the starting safety Jaquiski Tartt suffered an ankle injury last week against Atlanta and was listed as limited in the team’s walkthrough on Monday. We think he will play, but an ankle injury for a defensive back is always something to watch.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: Fantasy owners of Derrick Henry who have held onto the star running back will need to wait another week, as Henry is not going to play in this game. He is likely out until the playoffs, although there is some hope he could return in Week 18.

D’Onta Foreman led the Titans in touches last week by a large margin and looks to be the starting back in this game, barring injury. Foreman rushed for 108 yards on 22 carries and added 27 yards in the passing game on three receptions.

Forman was listed as limited in the team’s walkthrough but should be good to go despite leaving the game twice last week with ankle issues.

Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold III and Taylor Lewan were listed on the walk-through injury report as well, but both should be good to go.

From a matchup standpoint, the 49ers have been a dominant run defense at times this season, and other times they have looked anything but dominant.

They shut down Joe Mixon and the Bengals two weeks ago and followed with a strong game against the Falcons, but they have been manhandled recently by the Seahawks and the Cardinals.

With Fred Warner back to full speed (he missed the Seahawk game), we anticipate the 49ers to be stout against the run on Thursday. You can still start Foreman as a low-end No.2, but expecting 100 yards of total offense might be a stretch.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ryan Tannehill (High-End)
RB2: D’Onta Foreman (Low-End)
WR2: A.J. Brown (Low-End)
WR3: Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (Low-End)
TE2: Geoff Swaim (High-End)

Prediction: San Francisco 28, Tennessee 24 ^ Top

Browns @ Packers - (Green)
Line: GB -7.5
Total: 46.0

Passing Game Thoughts: With Baker Mayfield (illness) and Case Keenum (illness) both ineligible to play in Week 15 after being placed on the COVID list, Nick Mullens was thrust into the starting role. Mullens, who made 16 starts while with the 49ers, isn’t your typical third-string QB and played fairly well under the circumstances. Mayfield is eligible to be activated on Friday and looks to be in line to start. The Oklahoma alum has had a tough year, enduring several injuries, and isn’t someone to consider in his return after more than a week without practice.

Jarvis Landry (illness) is in the same boat as Mayfield, having missed Cleveland’s last game but being eligible to return for the Christmas game. While the veteran has had a quiet season, he’s been better of late, catching 11 passes for 152 yards and a TD in his last two games, both against Baltimore. Donovan Peoples-Jones leads the Browns in receiving on the season with a 27-478-3 line, most of it coming in his last seven games. Both could be rolled out as flex plays.

Green Bay ranks ninth in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 217.9 yards per game. They sat back in soft coverage against Tyler Huntley last Sunday to limited effectiveness, but they certainly have the talent to make things tough on Mayfield and company. One piece of good news for Cleveland is that Jaire Alexander (shoulder) will not return this Sunday despite being back at practice.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: With Kareem Hunt (ankle/illness) out on Monday, Nick Chubb got 23 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown. Hunt may clear COVID protocols, but his ankle is still an issue, and he is not expected to play on Christmas. D’Ernest Johnson, who has been so effective when called upon, went essentially unused as Cleveland has definitively shown they don’t want to slide him into Hunt’s role when Chubb is healthy. The Packers are 12th against the run, allowing 107.9 yards per game, though many of their struggles have been with running quarterbacks. Chubb is an RB2 here, while Johnson could be used in an emergency as a flex.

Value Meter:
RB2: Nick Chubb
Flex: D’Ernest Johnson
Flex: Jarvis Landry (IR/COVID)
Flex: Donovan Peoples-Jones
Bench: Baker Mayfield (IR/COVID), Kareem Hunt (IR/COVID)

Passing Game Thoughts: It was iffy at times last Sunday, but the Packers ultimately picked up a win in Baltimore to become the first team to lock up a playoff spot while also capturing the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers was solid, completing 23 of 31 passes for 268 yards and 3 TDs, though he left a fourth TD on the field when he overthrew a wide-open Allen Lazard. Assuming he throws a touchdown pass on Christmas, he’ll pass Brett Favre for the Packers’ all-time TD pass record. Suddenly in the thick of another MVP push, Rodgers is a quality QB1.

Baltimore devoted substantial resources to slowing down Davante Adams (6-44-1), and it served to break the veteran’s three-game run of 100-plus receiving yards. All that attention allowed Marquez Valdes-Scantling to shine with the speedy wideout hauling in five passes for 98 yards and a score -- it was the second time in four games that MVS has led the team in receiving. Lazard, who posted a 6-75-1 line in Week 14, finished with a 2-23-0 but should’ve had a touchdown.

The Browns are 12th in pass defense this season, giving up 216.1 yards per game, but they’ll be without John Johnson and Greg Newsome, both of whom are on the COVID list, while Ronnie Harrison’s status is up in the air. In a recurring theme, Valdes-Scantling is also on COVID IR, though he has a chance to be cleared in time to play Saturday. If he does, both MVS and Lazard are flex plays. If not, Lazard could bump up to a WR3 while Adams is, of course, a high-end WR1.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: For the first time since Week 9, Aaron Jones (13-58-0) led the team in carries instead of AJ Dillon (7-22-1). It’s a luxury to have two backs of this caliber, something the Browns are intimately familiar with. Cleveland is currently ninth in run defense, yielding 105.6 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry. While both backs carry value into Christmas day, Jones’ ability to reach the end zone (10 TDs) puts him a notch or two above Dillon (5 TDs). Play Jones as an RB1 and Dillon an RB3.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers (inj-toe)
RB1: Aaron Jones
RB3: AJ Dillon
WR1: Davante Adams
Flex: Allen Lazard
Flex: Marquez Valdes-Scantling (IR/COVID)

Prediction: Packers 34, Browns 20 ^ Top

Colts at Cardinals - (Caron)
Line: ARI -1.0
Total: 49.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Carson Wentz had been on a bit of a hot streak through the middle part of the season, but the train has absolutely fallen off the track over the past few games. We can blame it on the effectiveness of the Colts running game all we want, but the reality is that this passing game is just not seeing enough volume or efficiency to be very confident starting really anyone at the moment.

Wentz has now finished with fewer than 12 standard fantasy points in four of his past five games, including a comically bad Week 15 performance in which he threw for just 57 yards on 12 attempts in a win over the Patriots. This shows us that if the Colts get out to a lead, they’re perfectly content with almost completely abandoning their passing game.

With that being the case, the only Colts passing game weapon who we should have much confidence in at all is wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. Pittman produced his worst game of the season this past week when he caught just one pass for seven yards, but the fact that he was targeted on over 41% of the Colts’ pass attempts should be looked at as a positive. It’s unlikely that they’ll be in a situation where they throw that infrequently again, and he had been targeted 18 times over his previous two games, so there’s still reason to be optimistic about him against the Cardinals here in Week 16.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: This run that Jonathan Taylor is currently on is the stuff that fantasy football championships are made from. Taylor has been absolutely steamrolling defenses for the better part of the season, having now produced at least 18 PPR fantasy points in 11 straight games. He’s exceeded 100 rushing yards in all but three of those 11 games while scoring at least once in every single contest over that stretch.

Sure, the Cardinals have been pretty good at containing opposing running backs throughout the season, but they’re coming off of a loss to the Lions in which they gave up a 100-yard rushing performance to the relatively unknown Craig Reynolds. This is an excellent matchup for Taylor and one that he should be able to exploit to help secure quite a few fantasy football championship appearances for managers.

Value Meter:
RB1: Jonathan Taylor (high end)
WR3: Michael Pittman Jr.
Bench: Carson Wentz, Nyheim Hines, Zach Pascal, T.Y. Hilton, Ashton Dulin, Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox

Passing Game Thoughts: If you were lucky enough to make it out of Week 15 after a dud performance from Kyler Murray against the Lions, you should be hopeful that things will get better here in Week 16 against a Colts defense that ranks as one of the 10 worst defenses in fantasy points given up to opposing quarterbacks this season. This past week they were successful on the field, but still gave up a 20-plus-point day to Mac Jones.

The unfortunate truth for the Cardinals, though, is that their offense just does not look the same without wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The team has had to pivot to sort of a “by committee” approach to their pass catching situation. The two biggest beneficiaries have been A.J. Green and Christian Kirk, who each turned in solid fantasy performances in Hopkins’ absence his past week. Rookie Rondale Moore suffered an ankle injury in the game which has him listed as questionable going into this week, but Green took advantage, catching four of the eight passes that came his way for 64 yards. Meanwhile Kirk led the team across the board with nine receptions on 12 targets for 94 yards and a touchdown. Both receivers look like they should be in for a strong share of the targets again this week, especially if Moore ends up missing the game.

The only other wide receiver who fantasy managers should perhaps have their eye on is Antoine Wesley. Wesley saw a big uptick in playing time when Moore went down, so look for that to continue again this week with him likely finishing near the top of the team’s snap chart at wide receiver this week. Wesley isn’t much of an option in normal seasonal leagues, but he could be a decent desperation play for those in deep leagues who’ve lost their starters to injury and illness.

Tight end Zach Ertz hasn’t delivered huge fantasy numbers as of late, but the peripherals look excellent as he’s been targeted at least six times in four of his past five games, including a season-high 11 targets this past week. He’s only scored two touchdowns since Week 7, but the tight end position is in terrible shape right now and Ertz is a pretty solid option considering the competition.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: Week 15 gave us our first glimpse of the Cardinals backfield now that Chase Edmonds has returned from injury, but things are still pretty up in the air as we head into Week 16. James Conner out-touched Edmonds by a 10-to-six ratio but it was Edmonds who was by far more effective with his touches, as he had been earlier in the season. Normally we’d love to see per-touch efficiency like Edmonds delivers, but Conner has been one of the league’s most prolific goal line snipers in recent memory this season, having already scored 16 touchdowns on the year, many of which came in games wherein he was definitively the “backup” to Edmonds.

Conner is a bit banged up heading into Week 16 but he’s expected to play which should lead to another split backfield. We have to expect that the Cardinals won’t face a shockingly negative game script again like they did against the Lions in Week 15, but the fact that we could see a nearly even touch distribution really puts a cap on both backs’ upside. Still, assuming he’s healthy, Conner’s role as the goal line back in one of the league’s best offenses makes him one of the better RB2s in fantasy.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kyler Murray
RB2: James Conner
WR2: Christian Kirk
TE1: Zach Ertz
Flex: Chase Edmonds, A.J. Green
Bench: Rondale Moore, Antoine Wesley

Prediction: Cardinals 27, Colts 24 ^ Top

Lions @ Falcons - (Swanson)
Line: ATL -6.0
Total: 42.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Jared Goff and the Lions shocked the world last week by beating up on Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. Goff finished 9th on the week with 20.6 fantasy points, with touchdown passes to Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds.

Unfortunately, Goff tested positive for COVID and will not play in this week’s matchup against the Falcons. The momentum built between Goff and his receivers will be sidelined for a week, as Tim Boyle will likely get the start at QB with David Blough backing him up.

Goff’s absence has to be a knock to the value of both St. Brown and Reynolds, two players who have emerged as solid WR3 options in all formats. Boyle threw for just 77 yards and a pair of interceptions in his one start this season, with the Lions losing on the road to the Browns.

The Falcons are not the defense the Browns are, but they still should provide enough of a challenge for Boyle to find success. We are higher on St. Brown than Reynolds, as the latter will likely see a heavy dose of AJ Terrell, who is the highest graded CB this season by and has seven games of fewer than 10 yards allowed.

As the slot receiver, St. Brown should get more targets and will be the safety net for Boyle.

Look for the Lions to run the ball early and often with their collection of running backs and solid offensive line. If you are not comfortable with your quarterback throwing all over the field, the best remedy is running the ball.

From a matchup standpoint, it does not get much better for the passing weapons on the Lions than the Falcons. Atlanta gives up the second-most points to opposing QBs and the 5th-most to opposing WRs.

The problem is Boyle may not be given full reign to throw against this secondary, which could limit WR production.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: On the season, the Lions running backs have collectively scored more fantasy points than the Saints, 49ers, and even the Vikings. This is a solid running team with a talented offensive line - exactly the type of team you would expect with a head coach like Dan Campbell.

Craig Reynolds ran 26 times for 112 yards last week against the Cardinals, and Jason Cabinda added a six-yard receiving touchdown.

Both Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift (shoulder) returned to practice on Wednesday and could play in this game.

If they join Reynolds in the backfield, look for Williams and Reynolds to share early-down work, with Swift getting eased back in from his shoulder injury.
The crowded backfield makes projecting fantasy production difficult. Swift is the most talented back of the three, but he could be eased back in. Reynolds ran the ball well over the past two weeks, but Williams is the presumed starter.

Value Meter:
QB2: Tim Boyle (Low-End)
RB2: Jamaal Williams (Low-End)
RB2: D’Andre Swift (Low-End)
WR3: Amon-Ra St. Brown (High-End)
WR4: Josh Reynolds (Low-End)
TE2: Brock Wright (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: If you made it through last week’s carnage and are in the fantasy semi-finals, we sincerely hope you have a better option at quarterback than Matt Ryan. The aging veteran who is past his prime sits 20th on the season in fantasy points scored by quarterbacks.

His 15.6 points per game are the third-worst of his career, and he is on pace to throw for fewer than 25 touchdowns and will barely top 4000 passing yards. In essence, he is one of the worst fantasy options and should not be in consideration, even in this matchup.

The other skill position players in the passing game are in consideration, including Cordarrelle Patterson and Russell Gage. Patterson’s work in the run and receiving game make him a must-start, and Gage has quite been a top-12 WR in fantasy points per game over the past five weeks.

Christian Kirk posted a solid 9/94/1 line against this defense last week, and Justin Jefferson and Darnell Mooney also posted solid games over the last month. The Broncos did not do much back in Week 14, but that was more of a game script issue with Denver running all over the Lions.

You can run on the Lions, which is why Patterson is such an attractive play in this game. It would not surprise us to see a rushing touchdown or two by the veteran skill player.

Look for Gage to get between seven and ten targets, with around 80 yards and a possible score.

The Lions lost a key member of their defense last week with a season-ending injury to linebacker and defensive captain Alex Anzalone. For a team that already ranks second in most points allowed to running backs, the loss of Anzalone is a big deal.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: If somehow you held onto Mike Davis this long and advanced to the semi-finals, you deserve a reward. With Detroit’s sieve of a run defense that is now without starting linebacker Anzalone, your reward might just happen on Sunday.

Yes, Davis has been terrible, and Patterson will eat into his touches. But you cannot look past this matchup, as the Lions have given up 22 total touchdowns in 14 games to running backs. And that includes last week’s odd performance by the Cardinals in which one of the league’s top-scoring backs, James Conner, did not run well.
Both Davis and Patterson are worthy starts, with the latter coming in as a must-start in this game.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matt Ryan (High-End)
RB3: Mike Davis (High-End)
WR1: Cordarrelle Patterson (Low-End)
WR2: Russell Gage (Low-End)
TE1: Kyle Pitts (Low-End)

Prediction: Atlanta 24, Detroit 17 ^ Top

Giants @ Eagles - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: PHI -10.0
Total: 46.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Move along folks, nothing to see here! Daniel Jones is out for the remainder of the season as they work out his neck issues. Mike Glennon was an unmitigated disaster last week, so much so that Jake Fromm actually entered the fray…and didn’t do much better.

That renders every conceivable receiving target on the Giants roster unusable for your fantasy playoff this week. Not that there’s many to choose from. Sterling Shepard suffered a torn Achilles, Kadarius Toney is off the Covid list, but still working through an oblique injury, and Darius Slayton is an after-thought, even when those guys aren’t playing. If you’ve gotta have one, Kenny Golladay squeezed 54 yards out of a handful of targets last week and could probably capably fill a flex spot on your roster.

TE Evan Engram is the top target in this offense. As the Giants continue to return to 3rd and long on a regular basis, young or inexperienced QB’s will use Engram as their outlet, but his ceiling is limited as there is little else for opposing defenses to defend in the passing game.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: Saquon Barkley has 31 carries over the last two games. So based on the workload I suppose he could have some RB2 upside, but he is averaging 3.5 yards per carry, so this week he’s an RB3 for me and I wouldn’t expect much. Devontae Booker might be a flex option, but a weak one for sure.

Value Meter:
RB3: Saquon Barkley (mid-range)
TE2: Evan Engram (mid-range)
FLEX: RB Devontae Booker, WR Kenny Golladay
BENCH: QB Daniel Jones, QB Mike Glennon, QB Jake Fromm, WR Sterling Shepard, WR, Darius Slayton, WR Kadarius Toney

Passing Game Thoughts: Jalen Hurts had his biggest passing day in some time last week with 296 yards and a touchdown. But he has been limited in practice all week, and fantasy managers should be legitimately concerned about his ability to suit up for the Giants. Smart owners will handcuff Gardiner Minshew, and in re-draft leagues the smart play is to stay away.

WR DeVonta Smith caught three passes and had an impressive TD grab against the Cowboys, but his lack of targets leaves him as a marginal flex play this late in the season. Jalen Reagor saw an uptick in targets with less down the field routes and more of a presence in the catch and run department, and Quez Watkins has been activated from the Covid list, but with the over the top commitment to the run game this team has employed, there’s not a lot of reason to pursue receivers from Philly.

TE Dallas Goedert continues to produce and will be the top receiving target no matter who plays QB. He’s the safest bet in this entire offense right now.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: Miles Sanders has made a strong return with over 250 rushing yards on 42 carries over the last two games. But he didn’t finish last week’s contest. Jordan Howard did. Howard has had at least 10 carries in every game he’s played this season and should be handcuffed by all Sanders owners.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jalen Hurts (high-end)
RB2: Miles Sanders (mid-range), Jordan Howard (low-end)
WR3: DeVonta Smith (low-end)
TE1: Dallas Goedert (mid-range)
FLEX: RB Kenneth Gainwell, WR Jalen Reagor, WR Quez Watkins
BENCH: RB Boston Scott

Prediction: Eagles 14, Giants 3

Jaguars @ Jets - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: NYJ -1.0
Total: 41.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Looking long term, Trevor Lawrence has the talent to be a very good NFL QB, if the Jaguars can get their act together, get him some coaching, and get him some support out on the field. He has been less than sharp and shown rookie-like inconsistency throughout the season. Despite all that, he could have some Super-flex, or even low QB2 value because the Jets secondary is just that bad.

As the Jags look to get Lawrence back on the rails, they have leaned on the run and tried to streamline things in the pass game, which is another way of saying they aren’t getting many big plays out of the passing attack. Laquon Treadwell is a big target, and Marvin Jones should get a bump in targets with Laviska Shenault headed to the Covid list. But neither is more than a WR3 play, even against the Jets.

Lawrence’s security blanket, TE James O’Shaughnessey has been a target hog and should produce solid numbers against the Jets who have been crushed by TE’s this season.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: Urban Meyer is out and James Robinson is back in. Trevor Lawrence’s favorite back had 18 carries for 75 yards and a score last week, and even picked up six targets in the passing game. Expect more of the same against a Jets defense that is allowing over 4.5 yards per carry and over 140 ground yards per game.

Value Meter:
RB1: James Robinson (high-end)
WR3: Laquon Treadwell (low-end), Marvin Jones (low-end)
TE1: James O’Shauhnessey (low-end)
FLEX: QB Trevor Lawrence (low-end)
BENCH: RB Carlos Hyde, WR Laviska Shenault, TE Dan Arnold

Passing Game Thoughts: QB Zach Wilson just hasn’t gotten it. The light has not turned on for him, and as a result, to use a hockey term (tis the season), this offense hasn’t lit the lamp, in any way or form.

Corey Davis is out. So is Elijah Moore. Jamison Crowder has a new injury and has been limited in practice all week. Even Ryan Griffin is out of the mix. Could Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios, or even Tyler Kroft pop this week? Well, I suppose Wilson will have to throw to someone at some point. And I suppose he might even complete a couple, too. But I know I won’t be counting on any of it. Not to be a scrooge, but not all Christmas wishes come true, especially if you’re a Jets fan. Stay away.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: Speaking of Jets fans, they were excited to have RB Michael Carter returning last week. He posted a meager eight carries for 18 yards. Tevin Coleman is running well enough to steal carries right now, and he’s a factor as a receiver, so he will continue to eat into Carter’s opportunities. Again, if you’re desperate, both could post some relevant fantasy production against a Jaguars team playing out the string, but it’s hard to recommend relying on that this late in the season.

Value Meter:
RB2: Michael Carter (low-end)
WR3: Jamison Crowder (mid-range, if he plays)
FLEX: RB Tevin Coleman, TE Tyler Kroft
BENCH: QB Zach Wilson, WR Corey Davis, WR Elijah Moore, WR Keelan Cole, WR Braxton Berrios, TE Ryan Griffin

Prediction: Jets 16, Jaguars 13

Buccaneers @ Panthers - (Swanson)
Line: TB -10.0
Total: 43.0

Passing Game Thoughts: If by some miracle you played Tom Brady last week against the Saints and lived through his 8.8-point debacle, congrats to you. It was the worst game of Brady’s season by far and his worst performance since he played the Saints back in Week 9 of 2020.

Brady is a QB1 this week and should be in your lineup, but he could give you another less than spectacular performance with Chris Godwin out for the season with a torn ACL and Mike Evans looking doubtful with a hamstring injury.

One would think that this would be a running game with Ronald Jones, mixed in with play action passes to Rob Gronkowski and Tyler Johnson.

The problem with that strategy is the Panthers on the season have given up the third-fewest points to running backs behind only the Saints and Bucs, and they are the only team who has yet to give up a receiving touchdown to running backs.

However, Carolina has been fairly strong against opposing tight ends, with just five touchdowns allowed and just two dating back to Week 6.

You are stating Brady and Gronk regardless, and Tyler Johnson could be a nice flex option based on his high snap count from last week. Johnson should see around 90% of snaps should Evans not be able to suit up.

The wild card in this game is Antonio Brown, who is returning to the field after a three-game suspension for providing a fake vaccine card. Brady and Brown have an excellent rapport, and Brown could be a league-winning asset for owners who were able to hold onto him through the suspension.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: Ronald Jones was the premiere waiver claim of the week with the news of Leonard Fournette going down with a hamstring injury. Chances are, whoever added Jones to their roster did so with all or most of their remaining FAAB, as getting a starting running back on one of the league’s most potent offenses is worth a ton.

From a matchup standpoint, this is not the best game for those Jones managers looking for a big playoff performance. You are starting Jones, but keep in mind the Panthers have given up the third-fewest points to opposing running backs.

They have allowed just two 100-yard rushers on the season and only eight total touchdowns. On a positive note, Devin Singletary scored a rushing TD last week and logged 86 rushing yards on 22 carries, and Myles Gaskin scored twice back in Week 14.

On a negative note, the team brought in Le’Veon Bell to possibly work as the team’s receiving back, which could eat into Jones’ value in the passing game.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady (Mid-Range)
RB2: Ronald Jones (Low-End)
WR2: Antonio Brown (High-End)
WR3: Tyler Johnson (Low-End)
TE1: Rob Gronkowski (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The quarterback situation in Carolina is a mess. Cam Newton looks to be the starter in this game after getting all of the work in last week’s loss to Buffalo, but he is a few interceptions away from a third benching for P.J. Walker. We also learned this week that Sam Darnold is back in the mix and could see some snaps.

John Madden is thought to have said, “If you have two quarterbacks, you actually have none.” Who knows what Madden would say if you have three subpar QBs.

For fantasy purposes, it would make sense to avoid this situation altogether. Sure, Newton could have a few rushing touchdowns and a decent fantasy day, but he could also get benched and leave you cursing his name all offseason.

Regardless of who is at QB, you should consider playing D.J. Moore (hamstring). Although he has just four receiving touchdowns the season, he has averaged ten targets in his last three games, and the Panthers will need to throw if they have any hope to win this game.

Robby Anderson has 20 targets in his last two games and has played in nearly 100% of the team’s snaps over the span. He could be in line as a flex option, but hopefully, you have better options.

The Bucs were one of the worst pass defenses in the league at the start of the season but have turned things around as they start to get healthy in the secondary. They have given up just three receiving touchdowns to wide receivers in the past five games, but allowed Marquez Callaway to post a nice 6/112/0 game last week.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: The Panthers would like to run the ball with Chuba Hubbard, Ammer Abdullah, and Cam Newton. It will shorten the game and keep Tom Brady and the Bucs offense on the sideline.

The problem is the Bucs are solid against the run and will likely force Carolina into multiple third-and-long situations in which Newton will be forced to throw.

Of the two backs to start, it looks like Abdullah is the one to play based on the likely game script of chasing points and the fact that he is the pass-catching option in the offense.

Hubbard would be more valuable as the short-yardage back, but that duty is usurped by Newton.

Value Meter:
QB2: Cam Newton (High-End)
RB3: Ameer Abdullah (Low-End)
WR2: D.J. Moore (Low-End)
WR3: Robby Anderson (Low-End)
TE2: Tommy Tremble (Low-End)

Prediction: Tampa Bay 30, Carolina 10 ^ Top

Chargers @ Texans - (Swanson)
Line: LAC -10.0
Total: 46.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Justin Herbert and the Chargers head to Houston to take on the 3-11 Texans in what looks to be a game with significant COVID-19 issues.

As of now, the Chargers have 11 players listed on the COVID-IR, including starting stud running back Austin Ekeler, along with starting center Corey linsey and pro-bowl defensive end Joey Bosa.

Should Ekeler not clear protocols before Sunday, look for Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley to carry the load.

The Texans were also hit hard by COVID, with top wide receiver Brandon Cooks and starting linebacker Eric Wilson added to the list.

Of the players listed so far, we know for certain that Bosa is out for sure as he tested positive and is not vaccinated.

Herbert owners could not ask for a better matchup this week. Houston has given up seven games of 19 or more fantasy points, including 260/2, to Russell Wilson back in Week 14. There should be plenty of opportunity to Herbert to connect with Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, with the biggest threat to a mediocre game coming from a negative game script.

If you look at some of the lopsided losses that Houston has posted this season, the opposing quarterback was not forced to throw more than 30 passes in multiple games. With Davis Mills starting and the Texans likely without Brandin Cooks, this game could go sideways quickly, and Herbert may not need to put up big numbers.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: Stud running back Austin Ekeler did, in fact, test positive and was officially added to the COVID-IR on Wednesday. We do not know if Ekeler will be cleared by Sunday, and if he is not able to go, Justin Jackson becomes a very interesting play.

Houston ranks 5th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, with 12 games of double-digit fantasy points allowed. Five different players topped 20 fantasy points, including Rashaad Penny, two weeks ago when he logged 16/137/2.

There is a ton of fantasy production to be had for Chargers running backs in this game, and it will be disappointing for Ekeler managers if he is out.

If Jackson is available on waivers, he is a must-add and a must-start.

Value Meter:
QB1: Justin Herbert (Elite)
RB1: Austin Ekeler (High-End) - COIVD
RB2: Justin Jackson (Low-End)
WR1: Keenan Allen (Low-End)
WR2: Mike Williams (Low-End)
TE1: Jared Cook (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: It may surprise some readers to know that Davis Mills has the same number of 300-yard passing yard games as Aaron Rodgers in 2021. Of course, we are not comparing Mills to Rodgers, but it should be pointed out that the rookie has not been as bad as some may think.

He faces a stiff challenge this week against a Chargers team that held Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, and Joe Burrow to just one passing touchdown each. He will also likely be without his top wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who is on the COVID-IR.

You are not starting Mills in any playoff games, and really, the only player of consideration in the passing game would have been Cooks, who just posted 7/102/2 against Jacksonville.
You could take a flier on Phillip Dorsett or Nico Collins in the deepest of leagues, but we would not advise that play.

Two injuries of note that could make things better for the Texans are safety Derwin James, who was limited with a hamstring on Wednesday, and cornerback Asante Samuel Jr, who is in the concussion protocol. If both those players are out, along with Bosa, this defense is nowhere near as formidable as it could be.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: The good news for anyone looking to start a running back on the Texans is this matchup could not be any more choice. The Chargers rank 4th in points allowed to the position, and they are hurting on their defensive line.

The bad news is the Texans, as a team, are the second-worst running offense, and only the Falcons have scored fewer fantasy points at the position.

It also does not help that the Texans continue to use multiple running backs, despite none of them having much success.

Bottom line: the matchup is good, but we hope you have a better option in your semi-final game than Rex Burkhead, David Johnson, or Royce Freeman.

Value Meter:
QB2: Davis Mills (Low-End)
RB3: Rex Burkhead (Low-End)
WR3: Phillip Dorsett (Low-End)
WR4: Nico Collins (Low-End)
TE2: Pharaoh Brown (Low-End)

Prediction: Los Angeles 31, Houston 10 ^ Top

Bills @ Patriots - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: NE -2.5
Total: 43.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Josh Allen threw three TD’s last week in what was otherwise a conservative game plan for the Bills. He now has six scoring tosses in the last three weeks and has thrown multiple TD passes in four of the last five, five of the last six, and six of his last eight games this season. Despite matching up with a tough New England defense, and missing part of his arsenal, he’s a money-down QB1 in a game the Bills have to have.

Cole Beasley and Gabe Davis ended up in Covid protocols this week and won’t play. But Stefon Diggs and Emmanuel Sanders is a pretty good duo to land on your feet with, and TE Dawson Know should see a bump with Beasley and Davis out. All are in play this week.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: The one thing that could put a ceiling on the passing attack is the emerging run game. The team seems to have settled on Devin Singletary as their lead back, and the Patriots have struggled to stop the run this season. I would still like to see more designed runs for Allen, but with his ankle still a minor issue, I don’t know that we’ll get much of that. Still, I do expect another run heavy game plan this week, with Allen and the passing game having more of a red zone role.

Value Meter:
QB1: Josh Allen (mid-range)
RB2: Devin Singletary (low-end)
WR2: Stefon Diggs (low-end)
WR3: Emmanuel Sanders (mid-range)
TE1: Dawson Knox (mid-range)
FLEX: RB Matt Breida
BENCH: RB Zack Moss, WR Cole Beasley, WR Gabriel Davis

Passing Game Thoughts: Mac Jones actually put up some nice fantasy numbers last week against the Colts with 299 yards and two TD passes. But it also featured some significant mistakes and wasn’t the game that Bill Belichick usually likes to play. Given the up and down nature of that performance, and the success the Patriots had running the ball the last time these teams met, you might expect Jones to be reined in. But with injuries and illness running rampant through the New England running back room, it might fall on Jones this week. He’s a QB1 in my rankings and could surprise this week.

All eyes will be on Hunter Henry after his big game against Indy. And by that we mean the Buffalo defense. He is Jones’ top target, so don’t be surprised to see Buffalo lock him down and force Jones to make some throws further downfield. Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor are next in line for targets but Agholor will miss with a concussion, meaning we should see more of N’Keal Harry in the passing game. RB Brandon Bolden could be in play as well, with Rhamondre Stevenson out and Damien Harris nursing a hamstring injury.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: I’m sure the Pats would love to grind up the dirt the way they did in their last meeting with the Bills, but I expect Buffalo will have something to say about that. That was embarrassing, and no one wants to go through that twice. Look for eight and nine in the box early in this week’s contest. Jones will have to hit on some things downfield to loosen up the defense and give New England a chance to re-establish the ground game.

With Stevenson out look at Brandon Bolden over Damien Harris, who hasn’t made it through a full practice in multiple weeks now. J.J. Taylor will be active but isn’t a trustworthy fantasy play.

Value Meter:
Q21: Mac Jones (mid-range)
WR3: Jakobi Meyers (low-end)
TE1: Hunter Henry (mid-range)
FLEX: RB Brandon Bolden (if he plays), WR N’Keal Harry, TE Jonnu Smith
BENCH: RB Damien Harris

Prediction: Patriots 21, Bills 20

Rams @ Vikings - (Green)
Line: LAR -3.5
Total: 49.0

Passing Game Thoughts: For much of Tuesday it felt like the Rams were going to give the game away, but the combination of Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp stepped up and put Seattle away. While Stafford’s final line (244 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) wasn’t great, the veteran did enough to move LA into a first-place tie with Arizona. The Vikings boast a middling secondary, but they have proven capable of rushing the passer, pacing the NFL with 44 sacks. Stafford has absorbed seven sacks in the last two weeks, which makes that a possible issue.

At this point, when you start listing off the best receivers in the NFL you shouldn’t go much past Davante Adams before you mention Kupp (9-136-2), who leads the league in receptions (122), yards (1,625) and touchdowns (14). He’s 1a/1b with Jonathan Taylor for Offensive Player of the Year. While Kupp is a clear WR1, there’s less clarity with the duo of Van Jefferson (2-23-0) and Odell Beckham Jr (1-7-0). Both players had three-game TD streaks snapped on Tuesday with similar total yards in that stretch. They were background players against the Seahawks, though.

As noted, Minnesota has issues on the back end, and if they can’t get pressure, it could be a long day. Even with their pass rush, the Vikings rank 29th in the NFL with 252.1 pass yards allowed per game. They recently released Bashaud Breeland as well; the veteran had started all 13 games this season, so while he wasn’t a star, his departure still further weakens this group. Kupp and Stafford should be No. 1s, while you can view OBJ and Jefferson as WR3/flex types. Tyler Higbee (illness), who missed Tuesday’s game on the COVID list could return; if so, he might be OK to fill a low-end TE1 slot.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: Back after a two-game absence, Darrell Henderson (6-23-0) worked behind veteran Sony Michel (18-92-0) in Week 15. Head coach Sean McVay talked about a timeshare leading up to Henderson’s return, but whether that’s the kind of split we should expect moving forward remains to be seen. It creates uncertainty at a bad time for fantasy owners. The Vikings are an accommodating group to opposing backs, allowing 128.5 yards per game (27th) and 4.7 yards per carry. Both Michel and Henderson should exist in that RB3/flex range with risk/reward potential.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matthew Stafford
RB3: Sony Michel
Flex: Darrell Henderson
WR1: Cooper Kupp
WR3: Odell Beckham Jr.
Flex: Van Jefferson
Bench: Tyler Higbee

Passing Game Thoughts: As I’ve often written here, Kirk Cousins has a weekly ceiling that’s as high as almost anyone, but he’s prone to lower lows than his contemporaries. After completing 14 of 31 passes in Week 14, Cousins was even worse Monday night, connecting on 12 of his 24 attempts for 87 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. He was sacked four times as well, and only Chicago’s self-destructive nature saved the Vikings from an upset loss. It’s the same story as always with Cousins this week. He could be a low-end QB1 but carries all manner of risk.

The common thread in Cousins’ back-to-back struggles is the absence of Adam Thielen (ankle), who has missed his last two games but returned to practice on a limited basis this week with the hope he can play in Week 16. The thought that Justin Jefferson (4-47-1) would go off without Thielen proved unfounded as the second-year wideout had a couple of quiet outings by his lofty standards, though he did score in each game. K.J. Osborn (3-21-0) did a decent job filling in for Thielen, but if the veteran returns there’s no value left for Osborn. Jefferson is a WR1 regardless. Thielen could be a WR2 if he returns while Osborn would be a flex if he doesn’t.

While LA allowed only 156 passing yards to Russell Wilson on Tuesday, it could’ve been much more had Wilson not missed on a couple of big throws. Football being neither horseshoes nor hand grenades, however, close doesn’t matter, and the Rams rolled to a much-needed win. For the season, Los Angeles has given up 238.4 yards per game, which is right in the middle. When you have stars like Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey, however, there’s always the potential to overwhelm an opponent.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

Running Game Thoughts: With Dalvin Cook (illness) on the COVID list, the Vikings will once again turn to Alexander Mattison. In his three starts, Mattison has averaged 149 total yards and 0.67 TDs per game, which is RB1 stuff to be sure. One caveat to those numbers, two of his three starts came against Detroit, which ranks No. 28 in run defense. LA is one of just six teams allowing fewer than 100 yards per game on the ground. Despite a tougher matchup, Mattison is at least a strong RB2.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins
RB2: Alexander Mattison
WR1: Justin Jefferson
WR2: Adam Thielen (inj-ankle)
Bench: Dalvin Cook (IR-COVID), K.J. Osborn, Tyler Conklin

Prediction: Rams 34, Vikings 23 ^ Top

Ravens @ Bengals - (Green)
Line: CIN -3.0
Total: 45.0

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s hard to find much to nitpick about after Tyler Huntley accounted for 288 yards (215 passing, 73 rushing) and 4 TDs (2 passing, 2 rushing) in a Week 15 loss to Green Bay. Whether he’ll make a second straight start remains to be seen as Lamar Jackson (ankle) has yet to return to practice. Certainly, Huntley’s work should give Baltimore confidence no matter who starts, though with a division crown perhaps hanging in the balance you can bet they’d prefer to have Jackson.

Whatever plan the Packers had for defending Mark Andrews (10-136-2), the Bengals would do well to ignore. To their credit, Cincy held the talented tight end to 48 yards on just three receptions when they locked up in Week 7. Marquise Brown (10-43-0) was used exclusively underneath coverage in Week 15 but led the way against Cincinnati with 80 yards and a TD on five receptions. Rashod Bateman (1-5-0) matched Brown’s yardage, but he has only topped 40 yards once since that game.

Although they held the Broncos to 159 yards passing last Sunday, the Bengals rank 26th on the season at 249.8 yards per game. Jackson passed for 257 yards and a TD during the first meeting, though it came in a 41-17 blowout loss in Baltimore. Obviously, the big story to follow is Jackson’s status. If he plays, he can be used as a QB1. If it’s Huntley, he has some desperation potential. Either way, Andrews is a high-end TE1 with Brown as a midrange No. 2 receiver.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: After weeks of Baltimore’s backfield trending toward more Devonta Freeman (6-22-0) and less Latavius Murray (7-48-0) they basically split the load 50/50 against the Packers. The Ravens leaned heavily on the short passing game in that one, and it might be smart to do it again. Cincinnati sits fourth in the NFL against the run, yielding 95.9 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry. Freeman still feels like a better play than Murray, though don’t rely on either as more than a flex.

Value Meter:
QB1: Lamar Jackson (inj-ankle)
Flex: Devonta Freeman
WR2: Marquise Brown
TE1: Mark Andrews
Bench: Latavius Murray, Rashod Bateman

Passing Game Thoughts: Coming off consecutive games of at least 300 yards passing, Joe Burrow played very conservatively in Week 15, completing 15 of 22 passes for 157 yards, 1 TD and 0 INTs. While none of those totals were season lows, they were bottom two or three across the board. His best game of the year came in Week 7 against the Ravens when he racked up 416 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT -- it was his only game of more than 350 yards this season. Pencil him in as a QB1 this weekend.

Of Cincy’s top-three wideouts, only Tyler Boyd (5-96-1) did much in Denver as he more than tripled the combined output of running mates Tee Higgins (2-23-0) and Ja’Marr Chase (1-3-0), who had by far his worst game of the year. Despite that, Boyd remains the shakiest fantasy option, checking in at his usual risk/reward flex level. Higgins’ quiet day broke a three-game streak of 100-plus-yard performances, so don’t read too much into it and keep him as a WR2. Chase lit up the Ravens the first time he faced them, hauling in eight passes for 201 yards and a touchdown. While he hasn’t topped 100 yards since, he still rates as a midrange WR2.

Baltimore is holding their secondary together with duct tape. Only the Seahawks have allowed more passing yards this season than the Ravens (264.9 per game), and they had few answers for Green Bay in Week 15. One name to consider if you’re in need at tight end is C.J. Uzomah, who logged a 3-91-2 line against Baltimore in their first meeting. That gives him lottery-ticket upside.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: Denver’s stout run defense held Joe Mixon to 58 yards on 17 carries (3.4 YPC) this past Sunday; that makes three straight games of fewer than 60 yards on the ground. He’s also faded from the passing game after a brief midseason uptick in usage. Mixon ran for 59 yards and a score against the Ravens in October. They’re a tough team to run on, allowing a league-low 86.2 yards per game on a per-carry average of 3.9 yards. Consider Mixon an RB2 in this one.

Value Meter:
QB1: Joe Burrow
RB2: Joe Mixon
WR2: Ja’Marr Chase
WR2: Tee Higgins
Flex: Tyler Boyd
Bench: Samaje Perine, C.J. Uzomah

Prediction: Bengals 27, Ravens 23 ^ Top

Bears at Seahawks - (Caron)
Line: SEA -6.5
Total: 42.5

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s been tough to trust anyone in this Chicago offense over the second half of the season, but it’s been nice to see the progression - at least from a fantasy standpoint - of quarterback Justin Fields. The rookie looked downright horrible for most of the first half of the season and he was also not getting it done in fantasy, but at least he’s finally been making fantasy owners at least somewhat happy as of late. While the passing game hasn’t really been significantly better, it’s been Fields’ rushing that’s been saving the day. After rushing for just a total of just 140 yards over the Bears’ first seven games, Fields has now averaged 56 yards on the ground per game over his past five starts and that includes a Week 11 game in which he didn’t even finish due to injury. He may not be Lamar Jackson or Jaylon Hurts, but Fields is delivering the rushing floor that makes him at least fantasy viable, especially in two-QB leagues.

While Allen Robinson could be back this week after missing Monday night’s game due to being placed on the COVID list, he remains a non-factor for fantasy at this time. Instead, his lack of presence would seemingly help Darnell Mooney, the team’s only fantasy-relevant receiver, in his bid to finish as a WR2 on the year. Mooney has been targeted at least five times in all but one game this season and he’s averaged nearly nine targets per game over his past five. He remains a player who has a relatively low floor due to the Bears’ offense as a whole, but Mooney is someone who should be a WR3 most weeks, especially on the road against a Seahawks defense that has seen three opposing wide receivers targeted 10 or more times against them over the past two games.

The other potential sneaky fantasy play this week for the Bears is tight end Cole Kmet. We know that the tight end position is a complete disaster throughout the league right now and a lot of fantasy managers are going to be scrambling for a replacement option off the waiver wire. Kmet hasn’t produced huge numbers, but he’s seen a nice target share in the Bears’ offense as of late. He’s averaging nearly seven targets per game over his past eight games and has clearly established himself as the team’s second-best receiving weapon. Don’t expect a monster game, but you could do worse as a low-end TE1 this week.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: With Khalil Herbert and Damien Williams still only playing minimal snaps, it’s been the David Montgomery show in the Chicago backfield throughout the second half of the season. The Bears running back has seen at least 15 touches in every game since returning from injury in Week 9 and while he’s yet to reach the 100 yard rushing mark and he’s only scored one touchdown over that stretch, Montgomery has really stepped up in the passing game as of late. His 19 receptions over his past three games have helped elevate him into the consistent RB1 range and he has an excellent matchup this week, facing a Seattle defense that has struggled to contain running backs this season, especially in the passing game. Nine different running backs have caught at least six passes against the Seahawks this season and if Montgomery is able to make it to that number then he’ll almost certainly deliver for fantasy owners.

Value Meter:
QB2: Justin Fields (high-end)
RB1: David Montgomery
WR3: Darnell Mooney
TE1: Cole Kmet (low-end)
Bench: Damien Williams, Khalil Herbert, Allen Robinson, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin, Jakeem Grant

Passing Game Thoughts: Another disgustingly bad performance from Russell Wilson this past week pushed him even further down the season-long fantasy rankings. The Seahawks QB has now turned in four sub-10-point fantasy days over his past seven games, a stretch more akin to his early-career numbers than what we’ve come to expect from the perennial Pro Bowler. The Seahawks simply are not passing the ball often enough to allow him to produce fantasy points on a consistent basis and to make matters worse, he’s essentially become a non-factor as a runner as well this season. Wilson himself does have a decent matchup against a Bears defense that has given up multiple passing touchdowns in five of their past six games, but the upside just isn’t strong in this one. This could very easily be a low-scoring game and we don’t like that for fantasy.

Wide receiver DK Metcalf is nursing a foot injury heading into this game, but he’s expected to be on the field. While that’s good to hear, it’s hard to get overly excited about a player who hasn’t even reached 12 PPR fantasy points in a game since all the way back in Week 8 despite missing no games. While his build and skill set would seemingly indicate more of a boom/bust type of player, Metcalf has actually been surprisingly consistent throughout most of his career, which makes this recent stretch quite concerning. Obviously Wilson isn’t playing at his best which doesn’t help, but this has been really bad. What’s crazy is that Metcalf continues to see plenty of opportunities. He’s actually been targeted an average of eight times per game over this bad stretch, but he hasn’t eclipsed 60 receiving yards or scored a single touchdown. We have to assume that better days are eventually coming and it’s hard to believe that many fantasy owners have multiple players who have a higher likelihood of a breakout game than Metcalf, but it’s hard to blame someone if they’ve finally reached their wit’s end on Metcalf.

Teammate Tyler Lockett doesn’t get nearly the hype of Metcalf, but during that same stretch of Metcalf’s struggles, Lockett has been absolutely torching opposing defenses. Lockett has averaged nearly 100 receiving yards per game over his past six games while adding a pair of touchdowns. He missed Week 15 due to being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but his five catch, 142-yard performance against the Texans in Week 14 was his third 100-plus yard game over that stretch. Lockett is a notoriously streaky player, so if you’re not going to start him now, when will you? Get him in your lineup this week.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: A week after Rashaad Penny completely dominated the backfield touches for the Seahawks, it was back to a committee approach in Week 15 as Penny split touches with DeeJay Dallas in the team’s road loss to the Rams. It’s hard to know whether that was game script-related or not, but Dallas touched the ball 11 times to Penny’s 13 and he also scored the team’s only touchdown on the day.

We have to assume that Penny is going to continue to be the Seahawks’ primary back for the remainder of this season, but this isn’t a backfield that fantasy owners should want much of. The offense isn’t very good, they don’t pass much to their backs, and unless they get out to a big lead, then they’re probably not going to give Penny a huge workload.

The running back landscape throughout the league is pretty ugly so it’s okay to put Penny in your lineup as a Flex or even a low-end RB2 if needed, but understand that he’s a low-upside option.

Value Meter:
QB2: Russell Wilson (high-end)
WR2: Tyler Lockett (high-end), DK Metcalf (low-end)
Flex: Rashaad Penny
Bench: DeeJay Dallas

Prediction: Seahawks 23, Bears 17 ^ Top

Broncos at Raiders - (Caron)
Line: Pk
Total: 41.5

Passing Game Thoughts: With Teddy Bridgewater sidelined due to a concussion, the Broncos will again turn to Drew Lock to quarterback what has been one of 2021’s most disappointing passing games. The Broncos wide receiver trio of Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick combined for just five catches against an awful Bengals secondary in Week 15 and while Patrick was able to get into the end zone, it was Jeudy who was held without a catch for the first time this season.

With even the tight ends Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam eating into one another’s production, there honestly isn’t a player in this passing game who can be trusted for fantasy purposes right now. It’s a disgusting situation and one can really only hope for a quarterback upgrade and/or an offensive coordinator switch for next season.

LV FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
LV FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
LV FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
LV FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: While the passing game has been abysmal in Denver, the running game remains pretty good both from a fantasy standpoint and a real-life NFL standpoint. Both running backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams have remained relevant most weeks this season and while neither has really broken out from the other, it’s looking fairly likely that they’re both going to finish as top-24 running backs this season.

This week the duo faces a Las Vegas defense that they actually struggled a bit against earlier this season. These teams played back in Week 6 and both backs were held to fewer than 75 total yards and neither got into the end zone. This was in a game in which the Raiders scored 34 points on offense, however, so the game script didn’t really allow Denver to lean as heavily on their running game as they have been especially as of late. The Raiders have averaged just 17 points per game scored over their past seven games, however, so things have certainly shifted in the wrong direction for this offense since the last time these teams played. Look for this to be a much lower-scoring affair with the Broncos having the opportunity to get both running backs involved. We expect that both of them will play even though they’re listed as questionable, so we’ll rank both of them as mid-to-low-end RB2s.

Value Meter:
RB2: Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon
Bench: Drew Lock, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s been a weird season for fantasy football and one of the least predictable outcomes has to be that Raiders slot receiver Hunter Renfrow is flirting with a top-12 fantasy WR season. While he disappointed in Week 15 in what we hoped would be another productive game against the Browns, Renfrow has otherwise been an excellent PPR option this season. He’s finished with double-digit PPR fantasy points in all but three games this season. Unfortunately, this week he faces one of the league’s best secondaries and one that locked him up back in Week 6 when he caught just three passes for 36 yards on five targets. That was, in fairness, when the team was still rostering Henry Ruggs III and Darren Waller was healthy, so there should be more opportunity for Renfrow in this depleted passing game, but it’s still not a great upside situation for Renfrow. He can still be put into PPR lineups as a WR2, but don’t expect WR1 numbers this week.

The only other pass catcher we really care about in Las Vegas is Waller. Waller has missed three straight games for the Raiders and hasn’t yet practiced this week, indicating that he’ll probably be out yet again. Perhaps we can justify putting backup Foster Moreau in lineups in leagues where you start multiple tight ends, but this is mostly a passing game that you’ll want to avoid, aside from Renfrow, assuming Waller is out.

Quarterback Derek Carr is normally a solid QB2 for fantasy, but he hasn’t even been that over the second half of the season. Since the team’s Week 8 bye, Carr has averaged about 13 fantasy points per game and he’s been held to under 12 points in five of those games. This is just not a good offense and one that you want to avoid even in two-QB leagues, if at all possible.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: Josh Jacobs continues to dominate the backfield in Las Vegas especially now that Kenyan Drake is on IR and while he’s still only reached 60 rushing yards twice on the season, Jacobs has now caught 47 passes on the year and appears to be turning himself into a full blown bell cow. We wish the Raiders offense was a bit better overall so he’d have more opportunities to get into the end zone, but Jacobs has delivered double-digit PPR fantasy points in all but one game he’s played this season and there’s little reason to think that he won’t continue to produce solid RB2 numbers down the stretch.

The Broncos haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown since Week 7 and only two running backs have caught more than three passes against them over that stretch, but Jacobs should see a pretty good number of total touches this week and that makes him a solid floor RB2 with RB1 upside if he does end up sneaking into the end zone.

Value Meter:
RB2: Josh Jacobs
WR2: Hunter Renfrow
TE1: Darren Waller
Bench: Derek Carr, Peyton Barber, Bryan Edwards, DeSean Jackson, Zay Jones

Prediction: Raiders 23, Broncos 20 ^ Top

Steelers at Chiefs - (Caron)
Line: KC -10.0
Total: 46.0

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s been a very up and down season for veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but he’s actually been quite a bit better throughout the second half of the season than he was in the first half. Unfortunately, this week Roethlisberger and the Steelers head on the road to face a Chiefs defense that has actually taken big strides of improvement especially in the second half of the season. They started the season off playing horribly, but they’ve now held every opposing QB they’ve faced to under 275 passing yards and two or fewer passing touchdowns since Week 5.

Certainly Roethlisberger isn’t someone we’re looking to start in single-QB leagues, but the quarterback position is brutal right now and you could probably do worse in two-QB leagues given that at least the Steelers have multiple viable pass catching weapons.

Wide receiver Diontae Johnson has been one of the league’s true breakout WR1s this season, but - like many others - he suffered from the Week 15 curse. For the first time all season, Johnson was held to fewer than 10 PPR fantasy points in a single game in his Week 15 matchup against the Titans. It should’ve been a crush matchup, at least on paper, but Johnson was targeted just five times in the game. This was, in fact, just the third time this season that he wasn’t targeted at least 10 times. The disappointment is valid, but there’s no reason to go away from Johnson right now in fantasy. He’s one of the most highly-targeted players in the game and he’s been converting all year, delivering both a high floor and boom weeks. He’s a WR1 in any matchup.

Fellow wide receiver Chase Claypool has seen some big highs and some very low lows this season, but nothing was lower than his disappointing Week 15 performance against the Titans. The Steelers offense as a whole struggled on the day, but Claypool was targeted just twice - a number that simply has to increase for him to have any fantasy relevance whatsoever going forward. We’ve seen the skills before and he’s had some decently high target games recently, including Week 14 when he caught eight of the nine passes that came his way, but his variance makes him more of a Flex play than anything else. If Pat Freiermuth is unable to play then both Claypool and Johnson should see a slight uptick in targets.

Speaking of Freiermuth, he is currently dealing with a concussion and is yet to practice this week as of Thursday. There’s still a chance for him to suit up this week, but it’s getting less likely by the day. Assuming he’s able to play, Freiermuth should again be a low-end TE1 with his heavy end zone usage. If not, look for Zach Gentry and Kevin Radar to split the snaps at tight end in what would be a pretty non-fantasy-friendly situation.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: Listen, yards per carry are certainly not everything when talking about a running back, but it’s hard to ignore that Steelers first round pick Najee Harris has finished with 3.5 or fewer yards per game in nine of Pittsburgh’s 14 games this season, including a season-worst 1.5 yards per carry against Tennessee a week ago. While the rookie has been able to get into the end zone and contribute enough in the passing game for him to remain an RB1 on the season, his performance in Week 15 highlighted what can happen when the Steelers get into an ugly “run-the-clock” matchup against a bad offense.

This week they face a Kansas City offense that has been struggling quite a bit throughout the second half of the season and now could end up being without both of their top two pass catching options, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, as both players were placed on the COVID list this week. If they’re unavailable, this could be a bad situation for the Kansas City offense and, potentially, in turn a bad situation for the Steelers offense. Certainly we could also end up seeing additional carries from Harris as he’s carried the ball 20 or more times in seven games already this season so there’s not a ton to worry about for him, but a shootout would actually probably benefit him more, as it’d likely increase his usage in the passing game which is where he’s made a bigger impact on a per-touch basis in 2021.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ben Roethlisberger
RB1: Najee Harris
WR1: Diontae Johnson
TE1: Pat Freiermuth
Flex: Chase Claypool
Bench: Zach Gentry

Passing Game Thoughts: It looked like we were headed for another disappointing day for fantasy managers of Patrick Mahomes in Week 15, but the Chiefs quarterback really rallied in the fourth quarter to deliver a 410-yard, three touchdown game. It ended up being Mahomes’ second-straight 20-point fantasy day which doesn’t sound like much for a player of his caliber, but he had been struggling over the previous seven weeks. It looked as though the Chiefs passing game was finally clicking again, but then they got bit by the COVID bug.

Both super-stud tight end Travis Kelce and super-stud wide receiver Tyreek Hill are currently on the COVID list and could end up missing this week’s contest if they’re symptomatic. For what it’s worth, Kelce was placed on the list on Monday and Hill on Tuesday so it would seem more likely that Kelce is active than Hill, but the virus affects everyone differently so that also might not matter at all.

Assuming they’re active, of course, Hill and Kelce remain must-start fantasy options in any league. If they’re inactive, however, things become quite murky. The immediate reaction would probably be to boost Mecole Hardman up the rankings, but Hardman has been out-snapped by both Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle in five straight games. Sure, he’s the more natural one-for-one replacement for Hill, but we’ve seen Hardman play before when Hill’s been out and it’s rarely been anything to be excited about for fantasy. Realistically, though, these receivers will probably all play similar snap counts, they’ll probably not produce anything much for fantasy, and we’ll be left wondering what it’d be like if the Chiefs had a viable WR2 on their roster yet again.

At tight end, if Kelce is out, the Chiefs will likely have to turn to Noah Gray as fellow backup tight end Blake Bell was also placed on the COVID list alongside Kelce. Either way, this isn’t a tight end situation you’ll want to be invested in if Kelce is out.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: Clyde Edwards-Helaire returned from injury back in Week 11 and it had been essentially a perfect 50-50 split backfield between him and Darrel Williams ever since. This past week, though, we finally saw Edwards-Helaire pull ahead and he did so in a big way, out-snapping Williams by about a five-to-two ratio in the Chiefs’ big road victory over the Chargers.

While Edwards-Helaire didn’t do a whole lot from a fantasy standpoint as he carried the ball just nine times for 32 yards and caught just two passes for 18 yards, his playing time increase is something that savvy fantasy managers will be taking note of as we head into the championship weeks.

While Pittsburgh is normally touted as an excellent defense, they’ve quietly not been great against opposing running backs this season. Most recently they gave up 245 total yards to the Titans ugly committee of D’Onta Foreman, Dontrell Hilliard and Jeremy McNichols. That actually marked their second-straight game of conceding over 200 total yards to a backfield as Dalvin Cook did it to them by himself back in Week 14. While we certainly shouldn’t be expecting that kind of production from Edwards-Helaire, there’s a real chance that the Chiefs could be without their top two passing game playmakers which would almost certainly lead to them relying more heavily on their running game than normal. We usually like to see running backs involved in the passing game for their touches, but in Edwards-Helaire’s case, we just want to see him touching the ball more often.

This is an RB2 situation with RB1 upside if things break his way. Either way, Edwards-Helaire should be in for a good share of touches this week which should allow him to at least avoid being a complete dud.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
RB2: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WR1: Tyreek Hill
Flex: Mecole Hardman (if Hill is inactive)
Bench: Mecole Hardman (if Hill is active) Darrel Williams, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, Blake Bell, Noah Gray

Prediction: Chiefs 30, Steelers 20 ^ Top

Football Team @ Cowboys - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: DAL -10.5
Total: 46.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Taylor Heinicke has been activated off the Covid list and will be back behind center this week. But Washington is heading to Dallas to play a tough Cowboys defense that has been putting immense pressure on QB’s in recent weeks. With a limited arsenal at his disposal, and an offense that has been sluggish at best, Heinicke isn’t in play, and neither are many of his offensive teammates.

Terry McLaurin is athletic and will compete to make plays on the ball. With Heinicke back, he could help you as a WR3, but any lack of production really isn’t his fault, so while I trust him, I don’t know that he gets enough chances to matter this week. Curtis Samuel (hamstring) may play, but maybe not. He hasn’t played much football all season. Receiving back J.D. McKissic is on IR with a concussion, and DeAndre Carter and Adam Humphries, while serviceable, are not productive enough to consider for the fantasy regular season, much less the postseason. TE Ricky Seals-Jones can get up the seam, but he’s no Logan Thomas.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: Antonio Gibson was hampered by a toe injury all week, and working on a short week, it’s not inconceivable that he misses this Cowboys game. With McKissic out, Washington could be leaning on Jaret Patterson and Jonathan Williams. There’s too much uncertainty, and the payoff isn’t worth the risk of using a roster spot on anyone here.

Value Meter:
QB2: Taylor Heinicke (low-end)
RB2: Antonio Gibson (high-end)
WR3: Terry McLaurin (high-end)
FLEX: RB Jaret Patterson, RB Jonathan Williams, TE Ricky Seals-Jones
BENCH: RB J.D. McKissic, WR Curtis Samuel, WR DeAndre Carter, WR Adam Humphries

Passing Game Thoughts: This is not your early season Dak Prescott. This Washington defense held him to 211 yards and a TD two weeks ago while picking him off twice and forcing a fumble. He only had 217 yards and a score against the Giants last week!...the GIANTS! Whatever Dak’s issues are, if you have him, you’re probably playing him as there’s not much out there on the waiver wire equal in value.

Prescott seems so intent on forcing the ball to CeeDee Lamb that he’s pretty much forgotten about his guys Amari Cooper, who was chirping about a lack of targets on critical downs this week, and Michael Gallup. The worse news is that with all those receivers healthy and on the field, TE Dalton Schultz has seen a drop in production, and he was flying high just about a month ago.

The moral of the story is, play CeeDee Lamb if you have him, play Dak if you have to, and hope for the best.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: Zeke Elliott is essentially splitting the load with Tony Pollard and averaging under 4.0 yards per carry right now. That’s alarming. Pollard has actually looked better, but Elliott is the more likely mail carrier in the red zone and around the goal line, which is keeping his value elevated. Both are marginal RB2 to flex options and could pop against this Washington defense, which is a shell of the unit that started the season with such high hopes.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott (low-end)
RB2: Ezekiel Elliott (low-end)
RB3: Tony Pollard (high-end)
WR1: CeeDee Lamb (low-end)
WR3: Amari Cooper (mid-range)
TE1: Dalton Schultz (low-end)
BENCH: Michael Gallup

Prediction: Cowboys 23, Washington 19

Dolphins @ Saints - (Swanson)
Line: MIA -1.5
Total: 37.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins head to the Super Dome to take on a COVID-depleted Saints team that will likely be starting Ian Book at QB.

Since returning from injury back in Week 10, the Tua and the Dolphins have been on a hot streak, taking advantage of a weak schedule that included a pair of matchups against the Jets and a home game against the lowly Giants.

This game should be a more challenging match for Tua and the passing game, but we think the Dolphins will still come out on top.

During the winning streak, the wide receiving corps for Miami have combined to average the 7th most points in the league, with rookie sensation Jaylen Waddle and veteran DeVante Parker putting up large numbers.

Even with Waddle out last week due to COVID, the team put up 31 points against the Jets, and Tua was a top-12 play.

From a matchup perspective, the Saints are riding high on an impressive win over the Bucs in which Tom Brady was held without a touchdown pass. On the season, the Saints have not been great against opposing WRs as the No. 10th ranked team in points allowed, but if they play like they did last week, this could be rough for Tua and the Dolphins.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: Duke Johnson took over the lead back role for the Dolphins last week to the tune of 22/107/2 against the lowly Jets. It was the first 100-yard performance in Johnson’s career and the first 100-yard game of the season for any Dolphin running back.

Before you get too excited about picking up Johnson and firing him up for this week’s tilt against the Saints, you should know that Flores has not committed to Johnson as the lead back, and the team was easing Myles Gaskin back into action after missing time with COVID.

You also need to keep in mind that the Saints have given up the fewest points to opposing running backs and no 100-yard games this season. Only seven players have managed to score more than 10 points against this defense, so Johnson’s outlook is not the best from a matchup standpoint.

Johnson is a skilled pass-catching back and could have more value in PPR formats. But if you are expecting 100 yards rushing and a score or two, you are likely in for a disappointing end to your Week 16 slate.

The Saints have been decimated by COVID on the defensive side of the ball as well, with linebackers James Carpenter and Jordan Mills, along with safety Malcolm Jenkins and defensive lineman Christian Rigo and Jayln Holes all being added to the list.

Value Meter:
QB2: Tua Tagovailoa (High-End)
RB3: Duke Johnson (High-End)
WR2: Jaylen Waddle (High-End)
WR3: DeVante Parker (Low-End)
TE1: Mike Gesicki (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Former Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book will likely get his first NFL start after Taysom Hill, and Trevor Siemian were both added to the COVID IR. Book will have his hands full against a Miami defense that has given up the second-fewest points to opposing quarterbacks over the past five weeks.

Miami has given up just two passing touchdowns in that span while forcing four interceptions.

Of course, you are not starting Book in your fantasy semi-final matchup. The question is can he provide enough of a threat to keep the Miami defense honest with regards to Alvin Kamara and the running game.

The Book has yet to be written on the rookie QB, and we really have no idea how he will respond. He is not a runner like Hill, but he is just as mobile as Siemian and could make plays with his legs.

He flashed a solid arm while playing for the Irish, with 34 passing touchdowns in 131 games as a senior in 2019. His extra COIVD senior season was not as solid, with 15 passing touchdowns in 12 games. Overall, he finished college with a 147 passer rating, with 72 touchdowns and 20 picks. Not the most impressive stat line, but certainly not the worst.

It was nice to see Marquez Callaway get behind the defense for 100 yards last week against the Bucs. He will be in play in this game as well as a very low-end flex, but hopefully, you have better options.

It would make sense for head coach Sean Peyton to design a run-heavy offense that limits the number of passes for the rookie. Look for Kamara and Ingram to get a heavy dose of carries, with Kamara also being active as usual in the passing game.

Look for Miami to be aggressive with their blitz packages, with the goal of flustering the young QB and forcing turnovers. The Saints will counter with passes to Kamara on screens and quick targets to tight end Nick Vannett.

If possible, the best course of action for the passing options on the team is avoidance. There are too many uncertainties to risk your title chances with this team.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: After an extremely slow start that included three 100-yard performances and six touchdowns allowed in five games to begin the season, the Dolphins have turned that aspect of their game around.

Over the past five weeks, only the Titans have given up fewer points to opposing running backs, and Miami has not given up a touchdown since Week 6.

You are still starting Kamara, but you should keep your expectations in check. His work as a receiver should give him a solid floor, but the ceiling in this game is not the highest.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ian Book (Low-End)
RB2: Alvin Kamara (High-End)
WR3: Marquez Callaway (Low-End)
WR4: Tre’Quan Smith (Low-End)
TE2: Nick Vannett (Low-End)

Prediction: Miami 24, New Orleans 17 ^ Top