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Inside the Matchup

Week 17

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

Sunday Early:

MIA @ TEN | ATL @ BUF | JAX @ NE | LV @ IND | TB @ NYJ


Sunday Late:

DEN @ LAC | HOU @ SF | ARI @ DAL | DET @ SEA | CAR @ NO | MIN @ GB



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

Dolphins @ Titans - (Swanson)
Line: TEN -3.5
Total: 39.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Dolphins became the first team in NFL history to have a 7-game winning streak and a 7-game losing streak in the same season. Just when people thought they were out of contention and Tua was a bust, the Phins stormed back with seven wins in a row, including last week’s beat down of the Saints.

To win their 8th in a row, Tua and the Phins will need to beat a solid team in the Titans that just broke a losing streak of their own with an impressive win over the 49ers.

It will be challenge to beat the Titans, who have been impressive against opposing quarterbacks over the past five games. Only the Dolphins, themselves, have given up fewer points to opposing quarterbacks, and the Titans have not given up 20 fantasy points to a QB since Week 12.

Tua is not someone you should be starting this week in the championship game, but his receiving options are well worth a start. Jaylen Waddle is on pace to set the rookie record for catches and in a must-start. The team does a great job of manufacturing targets, and he should give you a solid baseline of around 80 yards and a score.

Miami should find it difficult to run the ball against the stout run defense of the Titans, and Waddle may become an extension of the running game with quick screens and other short passes.

It will take some guts to start DeVante Parker after he goosed you last week. The matchup should force Tua to use Parker more in this game, but we do not blame you if choose to look elsewhere.

As the 15th-ranked TE in points per game, Mike Gesicki has clearly lost some value in the passing game with the emergence of Waddle. Although he topped 100 targets for the first time in his career, his 7.7 points per game and only two receiving touchdowns is a huge disappointment.

Tennessee is not a plus-matchup for tight ends, as they give up the 5th-fewest points on the year. If possible, we recommend looking to another option.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: The Dolphins backfield is a mess. Myles Gaskin has gone from an industry favorite and the fantasy MVP for more than a few prominent analysts to a guy who is the odd man out in a backfield that includes Phillip Lindsay, Duke Johnson, and Salvon Ahmed.

Gaskin saw just three carries and one catch last week against the Saints and should be on your bench.

It might be a wise choice to bench Lindsay, Johnson and Ahmed as well. Tennessee has given up the third-fewest points to opposing running backs and just 964 rushing yards on the year.

On a positive note, the Dolphins have just three players listed on their injury report and all three were full participants in practice.

Value Meter:
QB2: Tua Tagovailoa (Mid-range)
WR2: Jaylen Waddle (Low-End)
WR3: DeVante Parker (Low-End)
TE1: Mike Gesicki (Low-End)
Bench: Myles Gaskin, Duke Johnson, Phillip Lindsay

Passing Game Thoughts: Ryan Tannehill got an early Christmas present last week in the form of A.J. Brown returning from IR. Without Brown in the lineup, the passing game for the Titans struggled and Tannehill was one of the least efficient passers in fantasy.

Brown caught 11 passes for 145 yards and a score against the 49ers on a whopping 16 targets last Thursday against San Francisco. It was the third time this season in which Brown garnered more than 10 targets and his third game of over 130 receiving yards.

To beat the red-hot Dolphins, Tannehill and Brown will need to have similar production.

Julio Jones is on the COVID list and not someone you would want to start if he is able to clear by Sunday. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine is also on the list, but it is not clear if he will be activated in time under the new COVID rules.

On the season, Miami ranked 9th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. However, over the past five games, they have given up the second-fewest, and no receiving touchdowns in the last four games.

Brown is a must-start based on volume. The other options in the passing game are risky at best.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: A key matchup in this game will be the running back trio of the Titans going against the stop Dolphins run defense. It may surprise many to learn that the Dolphins give up the fifth-fewest points to opposing running backs on the season.

In the first half of 2021, the Phins were an excellent matchup for running backs, with three 100-yard games given up over the first month. Yet since Week 4 when Jonathan Taylor rushed for 103/1, no opposing running back has topped 100 yards and no running back has reached the end zone on the ground.

Mike Vrabel will want to run the ball. Mike Vrabel will try to run the ball. But, it is likely that the trio of D’Onta Foreman, Dontrell Hilliard, and Jeremy McNichols will not be successful running the ball.

If forced to start one, we would go with Foreman. He is the short-yardage back and gets enough work in the passing game.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ryan Tannehill (High-End)
RB3: D’Onta Foreman (Low-End)
WR1: A.J. Brown (High-End)
WR4: Chester Rogers/Julio Jones (High-End)
TE2: Geoff Swaim (High-End)

Prediction: Tennessee 24, Miami 17 ^ Top

Falcons at Bills - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: BUF -14.5
Total: 44.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The production simply hasn’t been there from QB Matt Ryan this year, mostly because he lacks the targets he’s had in the past, and while rookie TE Kyle Pitts appears to be a generational talent (he accounted for nearly half of Ryan’s passing yards in Week 16), there are no Julio Jones’ or Calvin Ridley’s currently on this roster.

WR Russell Gage has been wildly inconsistent in recent weeks, posting 12 targets in two of his last four games, and a combined 11 in the other two. I don’t expect this to be an “up” week. Buffalo can rush the passer, they can cover, and they will take the ball away. Stick with Pitts if you can and move on.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: On the other hand, the run game may be the secret sauce for Atlanta this week. The Bills have shown recently that they can be susceptible to the run (everyone should be thanking the Patriots for that blueprint), and Cordarrelle Patterson is versatile and explosive. And if Buffalo’s defense starts chasing him all over the field, Mike Davis could get some sneaky production and provide some flex value if you’re looking for a sleeper.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matt Ryan (low-end)
RB2: Cordarrelle Patterson (high-end)
RB3: Mike Davis (mid-range)
TE1: Kyle Pitts (low-end)
FLEX: WR Russell Gage
BENCH: WR Tajae Sharpe, WR Olamide Zaccheaus, TE Hayden Hurst

Passing Game Thoughts: QB Josh Allen is coming off his best day in over a month, and it came against a solid Patriots defense. Allen has thrown multiple-TD passes in seven of the last nine games, including eight in the last three games. With a favorable matchup against the Falcons this week, he’s the top QB play in fantasy in all formats.

Allen posted 314 yards last week without two of his top receivers. While Emmanuel Sanders seems highly questionable with a knee issue, Cole Beasley and Gabe Davis return. Davis could get the starting nod on the outside if Sanders can’t go, while Beasley should return to a positive role in the slot, though after a stellar outing in New England, Isaiah McKenzie could steal some snaps at that spot as well. TE Dawson Knox is Allen’s favorite target along with Stefon Diggs. Both should be starters in the fantasy playoffs.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: The Bills seem to have settled on Devin Singletary as their go-to guy in the backfield. Matt Breida was a healthy addition to the inactive list last week, and while Zack Moss got the nod, he got very few touches on the ball. After a season-long RB committee approach, Singletary seems like a safe RB2 play this week.

Value Meter:
QB1: Josh Allen (high-end)
RB2: Devin Singletary (low-end)
WR1: Stefon Diggs (low-end)
TE1: Dawson Knox (mid-range)
FLEX: WR Cole Beasley, WR Gabriel Davis
BENCH: RB Zack Moss, RB Matt Breida, WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Isaiah McKenzie

Prediction: Bills 33, Falcons 14 ^ Top

Jaguars at Patriots - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: NE -16.0
Total: 41.5

Passing Game Thoughts: For all future Trevor Lawrence wanna-be’s, this is why you don’t want to be the first pick in the draft. Lawrence is a talented dude, but he hasn’t gotten the coaching, the protection, or the necessary help from his skill position players to approach anything resembling success as a rookie. The story is in the numbers. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in four weeks and has just one in his last eight games.

Deep threat D.J. Chark has been out of the mix for a while, Laviska Shenault is on the Covid list, and Marvin Jones and Laquon Treadwell are the “best” options playing with a QB who is averaging 5.9 yards per attempt. To top it all off, security blanket TE James O’Shaughnessey (hip) likely won’t play and RB James Robinson is out this week.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: Five-year pro Dare Ogunbowale steps in for Robinson, who went on IR with a torn Achilles. More receiver than runner, he played well last week against a bad Jets defense and posted 19 total touches. New England has been gashed by the run this season, but with little to defend in the passing game, I would suspect they’ll be ready for this. I suppose someone has to get the ball for Jacksonville, and they can’t get things opened up in the passing game, so D.O. could be a flex play this week, but you’re reaching pretty deep.

Value Meter:
WR3: Laquon Treadwell (low-end)
TE2: James O'Shaughnessy (low-end, if he plays)
BENCH: QB Trevor Lawrence, RB James Robinson, RB Dare Ogunbowale, WR Marvin Jones, WR Laviska Shenault, WR D.J. Chark

Passing Game Thoughts: Last week was not good, and QB Mac Jones has now thrown four INT’s in his last two games. However, the Jaguars present a get-right opportunity for Jones. I would expect him to throw early and produce before Bill Belichick shuts it down and just runs the ball down Jacksonville’s throat. Jones is a back-end QB2 this week because of the matchup.

Jakobi Meyers has been the Patriots only consistent WR this season, but the numbers are less than staggering. Kendrick Bourne has been a big play threat, but is feast or famine. This could be a feast week for him, but I wouldn’t bet my league championship on it. Nelson Agholor has failed to clear concussion protocol and can’t be relied on, and N’Keal Harry has done a fantastic job of playing his way straight into Belichick’s doghouse. TE Hunter Henry had one catch after a two-TD performance in Week 15 against the Colts. He should be in your lineup this week, but fellow TE Jonnu Smith is probably wondering why he came to New England at all.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: Damien Harris had himself a day last week (3 TDs) with Rhamondre Stevenson out. Expect him to get the ball again this week with Stevenson giving him a blow on run downs and Brandon Bolden continuing his limited role as the 3rd down receiving back.

Value Meter:
QB2: Mac Jones (low-end)
RB1: Damien Harris (low-end)
WR3: Jakobi Meyers (mid-range)
TE1: Hunter Henry (mid-range)
FLEX: RB Brandon Bolden, WR Kendrick Bourne
BENCH: RB Rhamondre Stevenson, WR Nelson Agholor, WR N’Keal Harry, TE Jonnu Smith

Prediction: Patriots 27, Jaguars 10 ^ Top

Raiders @ Colts - (Swanson)
Line: IND -7.0
Total: 44.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Derek Carr and the Raiders head to Indy this week to take on the Colts in a pivotal AFC matchup with playoff implications for both teams. If the Raiders can pull off the upset and beat the Colts, and then win their Week 18 matchup at home against the Chargers, and they are in the playoffs.

A loss, and they will need a ton of help to get in.

Beating a team that has won eight of their last ten, including impressive wins over New England and Arizona, will be a difficult task for Carr and company.

It also does not help that the Colts have the top running back in the league, and a defense that is near the top in forced takeaways. Carr and the Raiders will need to run the ball effectively, and limit the number of mistakes and turnovers.

If you made the fantasy finals, you likely have a top 10 quarterback on your roster and do not need to consider starting Carr. The two Raiders who are in play in the passing game are WR Hunter Renfrow and TE Foster Moreau.

Renfrow has evolved into a must-start WR in all formats based on his volume and red zone targets, while Moreau has an excellent matchup against a Colts defense that ranks first in yards and catches allowed to tight ends. There is a tiny possibility that Darren Waller (Covid list) returns to action this week, and managers should insert him into their lineups if available.

The Colts have a sizable number of players on the COVID list that could affect the outcome of this game. Most predominantly is quarterback Carson Wentz, who tested positive and is unvaccinated. Originally it was thought that Wentz would need to miss ten games, but the NFL adjusted the rules based on changes to the CDC’s guidelines late Tuesday night. It is possible that he plays, but we will not know until Sunday.

The defense has been hit as well with COVID positives, including all-pro linebacker Darius Leonard and defensive backs Khari Willis, Jahleel Addae, and T.J Carrie. Leonard should return, while the others are still waiting to clear the protocols.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: Josh Jacobs posted his best game of the season last week with 129 yards on 27 carries in Vegas’ 17-13 win over the Broncos. It was the most rushing yards and attempts by a Raiders running back this season.

He will need to have a similar performance this week for Las Vegas to win this matchup. The Colts started off the season as a stout run defense, but have become much more susceptible over the past month.

Over the past five games, the colts have given up the fifth-most points to opposing running backs, including four rushing touchdowns to Tampa Bay back in Week 12 and 127 total yards and a score to Chase Edmonds last week.

The return of Leonard and other starters should bolster the run defense, but Jacobs is still a solid No.2 RB.

Value Meter:
QB2: Derek Carr (High-End)
RB2: Josh Jacobs (Low-End)
WR2: Hunter Renfrow (Low-End)
WR4: Zay Jones (Low-End)
TE1: Foster Moreau (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: We started the week with news that an unvaccinated Carson Wentz would not be available for this game, only to learn late Tuesday night that the NFL and NFL Players association agreed to follow new CDC guidelines for five days of quarantine.

With the new change, it is possible for Wentz to play on Sunday against the Raiders. He is not someone you would want to start in your fantasy championship, but his presence is critical for the success Michael Pittman Jr., T.Y. Hilton, and most importantly, Jonathan Taylor.

The Raiders would presumably stack the box more than usual with Sam Ehlinger under center. It also does not help that two of the Colts starting offensive linemen are still on the COVID list in Mark Glowinski and Braden Smith.

On a positive note, Question Nelson, the team’s all-pro guard was activated from the COVID list and will play.

Should Wentz play, Pittman should be in your lineup and Hilton could be played in deeper leagues with more than one flex. The former was pelted with targets last week and the latter is always a threat to score, but is more of a boom/bust play.

The Raiders have been fairly solid against opposing quarterbacks over the past five weeks, giving up the eighth-fewest points to the position. Although, those numbers are a bit skewed when you consider that the Raiders faced Drew Lock and Nick Mullens in that span.

Both Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott each had solid games against the Raiders, and Wentz should be able to put up around 250 and 2.

LV FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
LV FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
LV FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
LV FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: Last week for the first time since Week 3 that Jonathan Taylor failed to score a rushing touchdown. Although he did top 100 yards for the ninth time this season, the Cardinals did a solid job limiting his production and held him to just four yards per carry.

This should be a get right game for Taylor and the running game for two reasons. First, the Colts are getting back Nelson and a few other starters on the offensive line. Second, the Raiders on the season have given up the 5th-most points to opposing RBs and 14 different players have topped 10 fantasy points.

Taylor is a must-start and the top running back play of the week. I would be shocked if he did not post 150 total yards and a few scores.

Value Meter:
QB1: Carson Wentz (Low-End)
RB1: Jonathan Taylor (Elite)
WR2: Michael Pittman Jr. (Low-End)
WR4: T.Y. Hilton (Low-End)
TE2: Jack Doyle (Low-End)

Prediction: Indianapolis 34, Las Vegas 21 ^ Top

Buccaneers at Jets - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: TB -13.0
Total: 45.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Tom Brady’s cupboard is looking pretty bare these days. But this is Tom Brady, and this is the New York Jets defense. He’ll make it work and is a top QB1 play in every format this week.

Chris Godwin is out, Mike Evans might be back, but is still feeling the effects of a hamstring injury and a stint (though short) on the Covid list, and Tyler Johnson, despite a lack of receiving threats in the offense last week was a non-factor. Breshad Perriman has been activated off the Covid list and could get a start, or at least see snaps in three-wide sets, particularly if Evans can’t go, or is limited.

Antonio Brown would seem to be the go-to guy, especially after being targeted 15 times last week, but he’s working through an ankle injury and didn’t practice Thursday. Fantasy owners should keep a close eye on Friday’s practice reports. TE Rob Gronkowski should be a beneficiary of all this chaos because, well, when in doubt, Brady goes to Gronk.

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.8

Running Game Thoughts: With Leonard Fournette on IR, Ronald Jones takes over the majority of the workload in the backfield. Even though Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s long TD run might earn him some more carries this week, Jones is still the guy and a legit RB1 against the Jets defense.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady (high-end)
RB1: Ronald Jones (mid-range)
WR1: Antonio Brown (high-end)
WR2: Mike Evans (low-end, if he plays)
TE1: Rob Gronkowski (mid-range)
FLEX: WR Breshad Perriman, TE O.J. Howard
BENCH: RB Leonard Fournette, RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, WR Chris Godwin, WR Tyler Johnson, TE Cameron Brate

Passing Game Thoughts: People in New York, or at least Jets fans, keep trying to find reasons to get excited about Zach Wilson. Yes, he had a 52-yard TD run on a broken play, very nice. It was the Jaguars for crying out loud. He threw for 102 yards and his only TD pass went for one yard to an offensive lineman. Granted, he was without his top three receivers, but I’m not seeing it.

The Bucs have been devasted by injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Lavonte David, Shaq Barrett and Antoine Winfield Jr. are just a few of the guys who won’t be suiting up this week. But WR’s Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, and Elijah Moore are all out or highly questionable, leaving Braxton Berrios as the main receiving threat. Oh yeah, and TE Tyler Kroft has been added to the Covid list. There’s nothing here for anyone who is playing in their fantasy championship this week.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: Michael Carter turned 16 carries into nearly 120 yards last week, and Tevin Coleman also got some significant work. If you really need to reach deep, Carter is the play here as a RB2, as Coleman has landed on the Covid list.

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

Prediction: Buccaneers 34, Jets 10 ^ Top

Rams @ Ravens - (Green)
Line: LAR -4.5
Total: 46.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Fresh off a Pro Bowl snub, Matthew Stafford went out... and played like someone that didn’t belong in the first place. Perhaps it was returning to Minnesota after all those years with Detroit. Whatever the case may be, Stafford hit on just 21 of his 37 passes for 197 yards, 1 TD and 3 INTs -- that was a season low in yards and a season high in picks. Despite that, the Rams emerged with a win and control of the NFC West. Up next, Stafford will try to pile on the Ravens, which have been torn apart by opposing passing games of late.

For the fifth time this season, Cooper Kupp had double-digit receptions, hauling in 10 passes for 109 yards; it was also his fourth straight game of 100-plus yards. For as well as Kupp played nobody else really joined him. Odell Beckham Jr. (4-37-1) did score LA’s lone passing touchdown but was otherwise quiet, and Van Jefferson (1-6-0) logged just one catch on six targets. Tyler Higbee (5-41-0) returned off the COVID list after a two-game absence and finished second in receptions and yards.

Considering that they gave up 525 yards to Joe Burrow in Week 16, it should come as no surprise that the Ravens now occupy the bottom slot in pass defense at 280.5 yards per game. Injuries have been the story all year long for Baltimore, starting in the preseason and continuing through last Sunday. While Kupp and Stafford are locks, Jefferson and OBJ should offer additional upside from the WR3/flex realm.

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

Running Game Thoughts: With Darrell Henderson (knee) being placed on IR, Sony Michel (27-131-1) takes over as the top back in LA, at least for the time being. Michel has averaged 106 yards and 0.5 TDs per game over the past four weeks. He should be viewed as a strong RB2. Cam Akers (Achilles) could make his season debut after tearing his Achilles in the offseason, but they’ll doubtless want to ease him back in. Baltimore’s run defense is tops in the NFL (85.6 yards per game), and they’re one of six clubs allowing less than 4.0 yards per carry.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matthew Stafford
RB2: Sony Michel
WR1: Cooper Kupp
WR3: Odell Beckham Jr.
Flex: Van Jefferson
Bench: Darrell Henderson (IR), Cam Akers (inj-Achilles), Tyler Higbee

Passing Game Thoughts: With Lamar Jackson still dealing with an ankle injury and Tyler Huntley (illness) on COVID IR, the Ravens turned to journeyman Josh Johnson to lead them in Week 16. Under the circumstances, Johnson played pretty well, though the team is hoping to have Jackson back in Week 17 after he missed most of the last three games. Jackson threw for five touchdowns in his only career meeting against the Rams back in 2019, something both sides most assuredly remember.

There were times this season when the pecking order in Baltimore felt like Marquise Brown (5-44-0) and Mark Andrews (8-125-1) were 1a/1b, but that has skewed over time with Andrews now clearly the focal point of the passing game. He’s been on fire of late, posting three straight games of 100-plus yards and scoring four TDs despite the turmoil at the quarterback position. Brown has stagnated. The Oklahoma product hasn’t topped 60 yards in a game since Week 9 and hasn’t scored since Oct. 24. Rashod Bateman did score his first career TD last Sunday but paired that with just 26 yards on four grabs.

Everyone knows the names associated with the Rams defense: Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey. All three demand constant attention and any one of them is capable of wrecking a gameplan. While LA ranks 22nd in pass yards allowed (242.2 per game), they’re tied for fifth in sacks (42) and are one of four clubs to have more interceptions than TD passes allowed. If Jackson can go, he’s a QB1. Andrews is a top-three TE right now, and Brown should be a fringe WR2/WR3.

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

Running Game Thoughts: With a third-string QB that just joined the team at the helm, it’s no surprise the Bengals stacked the line and locked down the tandem of Devonta Freeman (6-17-1) and Latavius Murray (5-12-0). The Rams are capable of making things tough on Baltimore’s ground game as well -- they are sixth in the NFL at 96.9 yards per game allowed -- but Jackson is the X factor. His presence opens things up, and that should be enough to roll the dice on Freeman as an RB3. Murray can be benched.

Value Meter:
QB1: Lamar Jackson (inj-ankle)
RB3: Devonta Freeman
WR2/WR3: Marquise Brown
TE1: Mark Andrews
Bench: Latavius Murray, Rashod Bateman

Prediction: Rams 34, Ravens 24 ^ Top

Eagles at Washington - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: PHI -4.0
Total: 45.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The only time in the last 12 weeks that Jalen Hurts has thrown for 250 yards or more was Week 15 against Washington when he had 296. In fact, that was one of only two times in that span he was even over 200 passing yards. That Washington contest saw Hurts post nearly 350 total yards and three scores, and even with a bad ankle limiting his running game, Hurts should be considered a QB1 against a defense that has had more success hitting each other on the sideline than hitting any opposing players with the ball. The Mighty Maroon are in a freefall, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

Look for Dallas Goedert, who has struggled in recent weeks, to return to form. As we mentioned, Hurts will likely be limited as a runner except near the goal line, so the short-passing game is in play and Goedert is the top target along with DeVonta Smith, who has caught eight of 12 targets for 120 yards and a score over the last two games, also in play. Jalen Reagor posted his first 50+ yard game since Week 3 two weeks ago against Washington.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: RB Miles Sanders is out again, this time with a hand injury, so all eyes have been on Jordan Howard. He was also questionable with a neck stinger, but seems to have returned to practice late in the week. He has been a reliable handcuff to the oft-injured Sanders, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and amassing over 50 yards in five of the six games he’s played with Philly this season.

Speaking of handcuffs, if you have Howard, you should probably roster Boston Scott just in case Howard has a setback and can’t go.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jalen Hurts (mid-range)
RB2: Jordan Howard (low-end)
RB3: Boston Scott (low-end)
WR3: DeVonta Smith (low-end)
TE1: Dallas Goedert (high-end)
FLEX: WR Jalen Reagor
BENCH: RB Miles Sanders, RB Kenneth Gainwell, WR Quez Watkins

Passing Game Thoughts: QB Taylor Heinicke has been epically bad the last two weeks, failing to complete 50% of his passes (he was 7 of 22 against Dallas last week), failing to amass even 125 passing yards in either game, and tossing just two TD’s to three interceptions. If you’re still not sure, word out of Washington this week points to Kyle Allen getting in the game at some point, as he did last week against Dallas.

When a team can nearly count all its’ completions on one hand, there’s not much love to go around the receiver’s room. McLaurin is the best of the bunch in a group that just can’t count on its’ quarterback. Receiving RB J.D. McKissic is on IR, Adam Humphries and DeAndre Carter are afterthoughts, and TE John Bates out-targeted Ricky Seals-Jones, who had only one catch against the Cowboys. Curtis Samuel has negative yards over the last two games…literally.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: Antonio Gibson has been the workhorse, and while he’s reportedly banged up and limited in practice this week, it’s been like that every week this season. RB’s Jaret Patterson and Jonathan Williams would split carries if Gibson can’t go, but they are hardly worth a handcuff. Gibson is the only real option here.

Editor's Note: Antonio Gibson was placed on the Covid list Friday and will miss Week 17. Jaret Patterson is expected to start.

Value Meter:
RB2: Antonio Gibson (mid-range)
WR3: Terry McLaurin (low-end)
TE2: John Bates (low-end)
FLEX: TE Ricky Seals-Jones
BENCH: QB Taylor Heinicke, RB J.D. McKissic, RB Jaret Patterson, RB Jonathan Williams

Prediction: Eagles 28, Washington 9 ^ Top

Giants @ Bears - (Green)
Line: CHI -6.0
Total: 37.0

Passing Game Thoughts: As the late John Madden said, if you have two quarterbacks you have none. That hypothesis was again confirmed to be accurate this past Sunday when the tandem of Jake Fromm (6-for-17, 25 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT) and Mike Glennon (17-for-27, 93 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) combined to do diddly poo in a 34-10 loss to Philly. No matter which one gets the nod this Sunday, they hold negative fantasy appeal.

New York’s receiving corps has had a tough year with injuries thinning the group, but even at full strength there’s not a lot to be done when the likes of Fromm and Glennon are delivering the football. Kenny Golladay (3-22-0) has endured a miserable debut after coming over from Detroit, but his size gives him at least some semblance of upside; he has also been targeted eight times in each of the past three games. Rookie Kadarius Toney returned from an oblique injury in Week 16 and has flashed some potential, but he and Evan Engram (4-17-1) are better off on the bench.

While Chicago ranks fourth in passing yardage allowed this year (202.4 yards per game), their 28-to-6 TD:INT ratio is among the worst in the NFL. They held up alright in Seattle last Sunday, though, and for whatever struggles Russell Wilson has had this season, he’s light years beyond what the G-Men will put on the field in Week 17.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: Will we ever see pre-injury Saquon Barkley again? That’s impossible to know, but we can safely say we didn’t see him in 2021 as the former No. 2 overall pick hasn’t topped 65 yards in a game and is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Barkley has seen steady usage lately, which provides a pathway to value, but he’d be no more than a risky RB3 even against a Chicago defense that is 25th against the run and just struggled with injury-prone Rashaad Penny (17-135-1) in Seattle.

Value Meter:
RB3: Saquon Barkley
Flex: Kenny Golladay
Bench: Kadarius Toney (shoulder), Evan Engram

Passing Game Thoughts: With both Justin Fields (ankle) and Andy Dalton (hand) banged up, Nick Foles got the call last Sunday. The results were surprisingly good with Foles connecting on 24 of his 35 passes for 250 yards and 1 TD in a 25-24 win over Seattle in snowy conditions. It’s unknown who will be under center for Week 17, though Fields would almost certainly get the nod if he’s healthy enough as he’s the only quarterback on roster that’s guaranteed to be back in 2022.

Another player that’s definitely in Chicago’s plans for next season is Darnell Mooney, who logged five receptions for 57 yards -- that gives him 860 yards on the year, so he has a shot at reaching the 1,000-yard mark, which would be a nice accomplishment. Allen Robinson (illness) missed a second consecutive game on the COVID list but has since been activated. He’s almost certainly playing his final two games with the Bears after being franchise tagged before the season. Cole Kmet (4-49-0) has enjoyed some growth in Year 2, though he’s still outside the TE1 ranks at this point.

The Giants sit 18th in pass defense, yielding 238.5 yards per game. As a group they deserve some credit for holding up despite the absolute negative the offense has been this year -- even more so since the Daniel Jones injury -- but there’s only so much that can be done when the offense gains 2.6 yards per play. Despite that, Mooney as a WR3 is the lone playable choice.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: Although David Montgomery (21-45-1) didn’t get much going on the ground, he still finished Week 16 with 106 total yards and a score. He’s the focal point of the offense and by far the most desirable fantasy option associated with this entire game. The G-Men are 26th against the run, allowing 125.3 yards per game, which affords Montgomery RB1 appeal this Sunday.

Value Meter:
RB1: David Montgomery
WR3: Darnell Mooney
Bench: Justin Fields (inj-ankle), Khalil Herbert, Allen Robinson (IR-COVID), Cole Kmet

Prediction: Bears 23, Giants 13 ^ Top

Chiefs @ Bengals - (Green)
Line: KC -4.5
Total: 51.0

Passing Game Thoughts: For all the struggles he endured earlier in the year, Patrick Mahomes seems to have found his footing. Over the last three games, the former MVP has thrown for 926 yards, 8 TDs and 1 INT as KC has extended its winning streak to an NFL-best eight games. That puts Mahomes in the top five in both passing yards and touchdowns, and just four of his 13 INTs have come during the win streak. He’s back at must-start QB1 levels.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Mahomes’ performance in Week 16 is that it came with Travis Kelce (illness) on the COVID list and Tyreek Hill (2-19-0) barely involved in the offense. Instead, it was Byron Pringle (6-75-2) and Derrick Gore (3-61-0) that led the way. Barring further evidence to the contrary it’s prudent to chalk that up as an aberration, and double down on Hill and Kelce being the only playable options for fantasy owners with both filling No. 1 slots. Pringle is worth watching, though, as the team has been on the look for a true WR2 for years now.

Only three teams have given up more passing yards this season than the Bengals, which have allowed 252.8 per game. They do rank seventh in sacks (41), however, and that’s an area they’ll need to do some work if they want to topple the Chiefs. With KC’s ground game compromised, expect Mahomes to do a lot of heavy lifting this Sunday.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: Although Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) avoided major injury last Sunday, he’s not expected to play this week. As such, the tandem of Darrel Williams (11-55-0) and Gore (12-43-0) will be expected to pick up the slack. Williams has been a nice dual-threat, and he had some big games earlier this year when CEH landed on IR. Gore has done some nice things recently in spot duty as well. The Bengals are not easy to run on, allowing just 92.1 yards per game on the ground, which is fourth in the NFL. Williams is an RB2/RB3 with Gore as a possible flex.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
RB2/RB3: Darrel Williams
Flex: Derrick Gore
WR1: Tyreek Hill
TE1: Travis Kelce (IR-COVID)
Bench: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (inj-shoulder), Byron Pringle

Passing Game Thoughts: Only three players in NFL history have passed for more yards in a game than Joe Burrow did last Sunday when he torched the Ravens for 525 yards and four TDs in a win that gave Cincinnati control of the AFC North. There’s still plenty at stake for the Bengals, though, as if they lose and Cleveland wins on Monday night, the two teams will square off in Week 18 for the division. Burrow has been inconsistent in terms of production -- he threw for just 157 yards in Week 15 -- but has enough upside to warrant a spot as a low-end QB1.

Although Ja’Marr Chase (7-125-0) may get the headlines (and the Pro Bowl selections), you’d be hard pressed to make a case against Tee Higgins (12-194-2) being Cincy’s true No. 1 receiver right now. Higgins has topped 100 yards in four of his last five games, and he has four touchdowns during that span. For Chase, meanwhile, last Sunday was his first 100-plus-yard showing since Week 7, which was also against the Ravens. Tyler Boyd (3-85-1) remains the clear No. 3 option for Burrow, but he’s produced 17 catches, 321 yards and 2 TDs in his last four games. That’s solid production.

Kansas City’s early-season defensive struggles have been cleaned up over the past couple of months, though they still rank 25th in pass defense at 245.7 yards per game. It’s worth noting that KC has also been quite fortunate with their timing, facing Green Bay when Aaron Rodgers was out, the Raiders twice after Henry Ruggs was released, the Cowboys minus Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, and so on. The only comparably intact and talented offense they’ve faced recently is the Chargers, and LA put up 428 yards on them. Don’t hesitate to start all three of Cincy’s top WRs in this one.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: When you see how much success Joe Mixon has had as a receiver some weeks, it’s hard to understand why he doesn’t see more looks in the passing game. Last Sunday, Mixon turned 24 combined touches into 135 yards and a pair of TDs. The Chiefs are 20th against the run (116.5 yards per game) and tied for 27th in yards per carry (4.7), so this is an area the Bengals could look to attack. Keep Mixon in your lineup as an RB1.

Value Meter:
QB1: Joe Burrow
RB1: Joe Mixon
WR1: Tee Higgins
WR2: Ja’Marr Chase
WR3/Flex: Tyler Boyd
Bench: Samaje Perine, C.J. Uzomah

Prediction: Chiefs 30, Bengals 26 ^ Top

Broncos at Chargers - (Caron)
Line: LAC -6.5
Total: 45.5

Passing Game Thoughts: With Broncos starter Teddy Bridgewater still yet to clear the league’s concussion protocols, there’s a strong likelihood that we’ll again see Drew Lock behind center in what has turned out to be one of the NFL’s most disappointing offenses in 2021. Lock has been terrible this season, having thrown just one touchdown pass in 62 attempts and there’s little reason to be excited about him or anyone else in the Denver passing game.

With another pathetic game in the books this past week, the Broncos pass catchers—wide receivers and tight ends included—have provided a total of just four double-digit PPR games over their past five games since their bye. No pass catcher has reached even 15 PPR points in a game over that stretch. With wide receiver Tim Patrick placed on the reserve/COVID list on Wednesday, there could be some hope that Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton see some additional targets come their way, but this just isn’t an exciting fantasy situation right now.

We have to assume that brighter days will be ahead for this group of wide receivers and tight ends, but for now, whether it’s Bridgewater or Lock throwing the passes, we want nothing to do with anyone in this abysmal passing attack.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: With the Broncos unable to do anything through the air, the Raiders focused on shutting down their running game this past week and it worked to incredible success. Both Melvin Gordon (-1 rushing yards) and Javonte Williams (12 rushing yards) were held to season lows on the ground and Williams was only able to salvage an otherwise disastrous fantasy day by getting into the end zone on one of his 12 carries.

The Broncos backfield duo did have some success rushing against the Chargers when these teams played back in Week 12, but it’d be wise to assume that the Chargers coaching staff is watching what worked for the Raiders and will likely attempt to implement plenty of that this week while daring Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater to beat them through the air. It’s worth noting, however, that the Texans’ Rex Burkhead embarrassed this same Chargers defense this past week, scoring two touchdowns and nearly rushing for 150 yards in that contest.

Gordon and Williams have been hovering around the 15-to-20 range most weeks for fantasy and that likely won’t change. Fantasy managers will be hesitant and with good reason, but these backs are still seeing plenty of work and should continue to be pretty good fantasy options, especially given the injury and illness situations throughout the league.

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

Passing Game Thoughts: This past week’s surprising loss to a bad Houston Texans team has to have Chargers fans a bit worried as we head into a Week 17 matchup against what has quietly been one of the NFL’s best defenses. The Broncos are actually tied with the Patriots this season with the fewest points given up to opposing offenses, averaging just 17.3 points against them per week. This is particularly impressive given that they’ve had some horrible offensive performances themselves which has often left their defense in vulnerable spots.

The Chargers already struggled once against this defense when they went to Denver and scored just 13 points in a 15-point loss to the Broncos. While this game will be played at home in Los Angeles, fantasy managers have reason to be a bit concerned that this could end up being a more difficult matchup than many would assume by just quickly glancing at the two teams.

While the Chargers haven’t always come out on top this season, the one thing that fantasy managers have been able to rely on is Herbert producing solid high-end QB2 numbers or low-end QB1 numbers almost every week. Even in losses like the one the Chargers suffered in Week 16 to the Texans or Week 12 to these very same Broncos, Herbert still turned in 300-plus passing yards and was able to deliver nearly 20 fantasy points and nearly 17 fantasy points in those respective contests. He’s averaging about 24 fantasy points per game over his past six games, which includes both of those down performances, and that’s made him a weekly lock as a QB1. We should expect that to continue again this week even if his ceiling is probably not as high as it usually is in a tough matchup against the Broncos.

With Herbert continuing to deliver, the Chargers’ top pass catcher, Keenan Allen, should be back in the low-end fantasy WR1 conversation this week. He struggled to get things going against the Texans, catching just four passes for 35 yards—his worst fantasy output of the season—but the Chargers may be without Mike Williams and Jalen Guyton although both have cleared Covid protocol. Depending on how much they play, there’s an opportunity for some seriously high-end target volume for Allen this week. Allen was targeted 10 times, catching seven of those passes for 85 yards, when these teams met back in Week 12.

Wide receiver Josh Palmer has been quietly productive in recent weeks when given additional opportunities. He was targeted six times this past week against Houston when Williams and Jalen Guyton were out, catching five passes for 43 yards and a touchdown.

Tight end Donald Parham was placed on IR on Christmas Day and will miss the remainder of the regular season, which should have led to more opportunities for fellow tight ends Jared Cook and even Stephen Anderson, but neither player has done much as of late and it’s tough to be too excited about them as they face a good Broncos defense. Keep an eye on the snaps and targets, though, as this could potentially be a situation to watch for Week 18.

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.29

Running Game Thoughts: Austin Ekeler missed Week 16 due to being placed on the Reserve/COVID list, allowing backup Justin Jackson to shine in what was a disappointing Chargers loss but a huge fantasy performance for Jackson. With Ekeler activated on Monday, however, we should expect that he’ll return to his usual role as one of the league’s few true do-it-all bell cow running backs.

Ekeler was held to one of his worst rushing performances of the season when he faced the Broncos earlier this year as he carried the ball 12 times for just 31 yards, but it was his usage in the passing game that still allowed him to turn in an excellent fantasy day. Ekeler caught six passes for 68 yards and a touchdown in that contest, showing why he is one of the few true game script-independent running backs in today’s game.

Value Meter:
QB1: Justin Herbert
RB1: Austin Ekeler
WR1: Keenan Allen (low end)
Bench: Justin Jackson, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, Jared Cook, Stephen Anderson

Prediction: Chargers 24, Broncos 16 ^ Top

Texans at 49ers - (Caron)
Line: SF -12.5
Total: 44.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The Texans earned their biggest win of the season this past week against a good Chargers team. While it was certainly a team effort, rookie quarterback Davis Mills had one of his most efficient games of the season, completing 21 of 27 pass attempts for 254 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The multi-score game was his second in a row and the first time he’s accomplished that back-to-back feat thus far in his career. What’s perhaps most impressive about that performance is that he did it without top wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks had been dominating in recent weeks, but was forced out of the Chargers game after being placed on the COVID/Reserve list. With Cooks out, Mills spread the ball out, attempting passes to eight different pass catchers, four of whom saw four or more targets and none of whom saw more than six targets. This meant that none of the Texans’ receivers were particularly relevant for fantasy purposes. Cooks was activated on Wednesday and expected to play.

The 49ers have been quite good against opposing quarterbacks this season, having not conceded more than two passing touchdowns in a game since Week 1. They held both Matt Ryan and Ryan Tannehill to under 250 passing yards and one single passing touchdown each over their past two contests. While Mills is probably a borderline QB2 right now, this isn’t a particularly great matchup and it’s one that you’ll probably want to avoid if you have a higher upside option available to you.

Cooks, on the other hand, should be back in fantasy lineups. He had gone for over 100 yards in each of his previous two games prior to being held out this past week and he was targeted 11 and 10 times respectively in those contests. We have to assume that he’ll be back to his role as the top pass catcher and that should give him enough volume to have some success against a San Francisco defense that just gave up an 11-catch, 145-yard day to A.J. Brown this past week.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: The Texans haven’t often been ahead on the scoreboard this season, but we got a glimpse of what this offense would like to do when it has a lead this past week when they—surprisingly—blew out the Chargers. The team ended up running the ball 34 times with their two running backs, compared to just 27 pass attempts from Davis Mills. It was Rex Burkhead who led the backfield with 22 attempts for a season-high 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but Royce Freeman also saw 12 carries. Burkhead has now touched the ball at least 15 times in five of his past six games—a surprisingly high number for a back on a team that doesn’t often find themselves having much of an opportunity to run the ball.

While it was interesting to see Burkhead’s usage, the reality is that we’re probably back to him being a low ceiling option this week as the Texans face the 49ers. San Francisco had some struggles containing running backs earlier this season, but they’ve really locked things down as of late. Since Week 10, only one running back has rushed for more than 60 yards against the 49ers and that back, Travis Homer, only did so because he broke off a 73-yard gain early in the contest. Aside from that one run, the 49ers have locked down opposing backs, particularly on the ground, but even in the passing game. Sure, Dalvin Cook caught six passes for 64 yards against them in Week 12, but no other back has exceeded 30 receiving yards against the 49ers over their past seven games.

Injuries and illnesses have caused some seriously chaotic situations in fantasy football so it’s very possible that Burkhead has to be in your lineup this week just because of his high usage, but this is not a great matchup for him and it’s one that we’ll rank him outside of RB2 territory for.

Value Meter:
QB2: Davis Mills (low end)
WR2: Brandin Cooks (low end)
Flex: Rex Burkhead
Bench: Royce Freeman, Nico Collins, Chris Conley, Danny Amendola

Passing Game Thoughts: A thumb injury has forced San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the sidelines this week, likely leading to Trey Lance’s return to the lineup this weekend. While Garoppolo has been the butt of the joke in a lot of NFL circles this year, there’s no question that the 49ers coaching staff trusted him to run their offense and things will certainly change with Lance behind center.

We got a glimpse of the San Francisco offense with Lance in the lineup back in Weeks 4 and 5 and while there were some things to be excited about, fantasy owners need to be aware that the rookie completed just barely over 50 percent of his passes in those two contests and he failed to reach even 200 yards through the air in his only start, in Week 5, against the Cardinals.

The 49ers were without tight end George Kittle in that game, so it’s hard to draw many conclusions as to what type of connection he’ll have with his star tight end, but we did see both Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel on the field in that one. Samuel was targeted nine times in that game, catching just three of those passes for 58 yards. He did chip in a rushing score which saved his otherwise ugly fantasy day, but it was not a particularly inspiring performance from a future projections standpoint. Aiyuk, meanwhile, had not yet broken out of the dog house in San Francisco and was targeted just four times, catching two passes for 32 yards in what was one of his worst games of the season.

It’s tough to be too excited about Samuel or even Kittle heading into this one, but they’ve both been such consistent producers when they’ve been healthy that it’d be difficult to bench them, especially in your fantasy championship. Especially in Samuel’s case, he’s getting between five to 10 carries each week in addition to his passing game work, so there’s just no way we can bench him. Aiyuk, on the other hand, is a player who may not make the cut in some lineups. While he’s certainly been better in the second half of the season than he was in the first, Aiyuk has not yet reached 100 receiving yards in a game and he doesn’t have a multi-touchdown game in 2021. He’s still seeing between five to eight targets per week when Garoppolo’s been in the lineup, but that could easily drop this week if the 49ers end up implementing another run-heavy approach. It’s certainly not time to panic-bench Aiyuk for some borderline rosterable options, but if there’s one player who’s most likely to be negatively affected by Lance’s presence in the lineup, it’s probably the second-year wide receiver.

The one thing that Lance does bring to the table, however, is individual fantasy upside. His rushing numbers alone are as close to Lamar Jackson-level as we’re likely to see throughout the league. He rushed 16 times for 89 yards in his only start this season, which carried his fantasy value for the week after an otherwise measly passing performance would’ve left fantasy managers disappointed. We have to be a bit concerned that he hasn’t had much passing success, but the ceiling is just too high to justify benching Lance for anyone other than certified stud quarterbacks. He’s a low-end QB1 this week with overall QB1 upside if he can just put together a respectable passing game performance to go along with high-end rushing numbers.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: With Elijah Mitchell out, the 49ers have turned primarily to Jeff Wilson to lead their backfield in recent weeks. Wilson has delivered for fantasy managers in each of his past two games, having scored a touchdown in each contest, but the peripheral numbers are not very inspiring. Wilson is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry this season, whereas Mitchell had been nearly a full yard per attempt better at 4.6. We don’t yet know if Mitchell will play, but the 49ers are reportedly “hopeful” that he’ll be able to suit up on Sunday. We’re likely headed for another game-time decision, though, so make sure you have an alternate option available if he’s not on the field again.

Assuming Mitchell will be out again, look for Wilson to lead the backfield yet again and he’ll be against a Texans defense that is one of the absolute best matchups for opposing running backs. Houston has given up the second-most standard fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season, including 20 total touchdowns to the position on the year. This past week they got lit up by Chargers backup Justin Jackson and two games before that it was Seattle’s Rashaad Penny who went for 137 yards and a pair of scores on the ground against Houston. Needless to say, this is an ideal matchup for any back who is likely to see a significant share of his team’s carries.

The one major concern for Wilson, aside from if Mitchell plays, is that Trey Lance is likely to be extremely involved in the rushing game, especially near the goal line. That could pose a problem for Wilson’s upside as he’s not much of a pass catcher himself and much of his fantasy success has come via goal line rushing scores. Still, if he’s the starter, Mitchell is a borderline RB2/Flex play against this horrible Houston run defense.

Value Meter:
QB1: Trey Lance (low end)
RB2: Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson (if Mitchell is inactive)
WR1: Deebo Samuel
TE1: George Kittle
Flex: Brandon Aiyuk (low end)
Bench: Jeff Wilson (if Mitchell is active), Kyle Juszczyk, JaMycal Hasty, Trent Sherfield, Jauan Jennings

Prediction: 49ers 27, Texans 17 ^ Top

Cardinals at Cowboys - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: DAL -6.0
Total: 51.5

Passing Game Thoughts: QB Kyler Murray is a fantastic athlete and one of the top dual-threat QB’s in the league. But his inaccuracy, or inconsistency as a passer limits his ceiling, especially this late in the season against an ever-improving Dallas defense. If he’s on your roster, you’re not benching him this week. He’s one big play away from bringing you a championship, but he would make me nervous as my QB in this spot.

WR Christian Kirk and TE Zach Ertz have become the top targets in the passing game, with Ertz being a top fantasy play at TE this week. RB Chase Edmonds also showed last week that he can be a viable piece of the air attack with eight catches for 71 yards. Beyond that, A.J. Green is a potential flex option for you, but there are some who believe Antoine Wesley may have surpassed him on the target list, or at the very least will be stealing snaps from the veteran.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: With RB James Conner likely out again due to a heel injury, look for Edmonds to carry the load. He’s totaled over 100 ground yards and a touchdown on 22 carries over the last two games, averaging just under 5.0 yards per tote. With Kyler Murray also providing a serious running threat, Edmonds is a solid RB1 option, even against Dallas’ strong front.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kyler Murray (low-end)
RB1: Chase Edmonds (low-end)
WR2: Christian Kirk (low-end)
TE1: Zach Ertz (high-end)
FLEX: WR A.J. Green
BENCH: RB James Conner, WR Rondale Moore, WR Antoine Wesley

Passing Game Thoughts: QB Dak Prescott had a return to form last week, throwing for 330 yards and four touchdowns against a reeling Washington defense. It will be a tougher road to hoe against a Cardinals defense that can get after the QB (39 sacks) and doesn’t give up the big play. Still, he’s playing if he’s on your roster, and he’ll need a big game to help the Pokes grab hold of the top seed in the NFC.

CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, who saw an uptick in targets and production last week, and Michael Gallup are all in play, as is TE Dalton Schultz, who now has TD’s in back to back games and three of the last five. Dak has been seeking him out in the red zone.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: Zeke Elliott is talking about being 100% by the postseason, which sort of says he’s not 100% now. When given the chance to rest him in last week’s blowout win, the Cowboys did, and it makes sense that, with a playoff berth firmly in hand, they will continue to be cautious in these final two games. At the very least, look for he and Tony Pollard to continue to share the load, which will unfortunately limit the ceiling on both players. But if you own Elliott or Pollard, you already understand by now that this is standard operating procedure for these guys. Find your RB1 elsewhere and fill in the back end of your run game with these guys.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott (low-end)
RB2: Ezekiel Elliott (low-end)
RB3: Tony Pollard (mid-range)
WR1: CeeDee Lamb (low-end)
WR2: Amari Cooper (mid-range)
TE1: Dalton Schultz (low-end)
FLEX: WR Michael Gallup

Prediction: Cowboys 20, Cardinals 17 ^ Top

Lions at Seahawks - (Caron)
Line: SEA -7.0
Total: 42.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Quarterback Jared Goff (knee) was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday and is now expected to suit up Sunday as the Lions head to Seattle. Goff has mostly been awful for fantasy purposes this season, but he’s quietly thrown multiple touchdowns in three of his past four games which should give fantasy owners some hope this week. Unfortunately the Lions are against a Seattle defense that ranks in the top 12 of fewest fantasy points given up to opposing quarterbacks so far this season so it’s not a particularly good matchup, but fantasy managers really shouldn’t be focused on Goff anyway.

Instead, the attention should be on rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. St. Brown had a very slow start to his season, having failed to reach 15 PPR fantasy points in any of his first 11 games. Since that point, however, St. Brown had exceeded 15 PPR points in four straight games, averaging over 22 PPR points per game over that stretch, while clearly establishing himself as the team’s new top pass catching weapon. It’s perhaps not entirely coincidental that St. Brown’s increased usage has coincided with tight end T.J. Hockenson going on season-ending IR. St. Brown has now been targeted at least 11 times in each of those past four contests and there’s really no reason to think that he won’t continue to see an extremely high target share this week against Seattle. He performed even when Goff was sidelined and Tim Boyle got the start at quarterback so this isn’t just a “Goff’s new favorite weapon” situation, either. It’s clear that the team is making a concerted effort to get the ball to their young playmaking wide receiver and fantasy owners should take advantage of that.

Editor's Note: Jared Goff is listed as Doubtful. Tim Boyle is expected to start.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: The Lions really have nothing to play for at this point and pushing their not-fully-healthy running back onto the field with two weeks remaining just doesn’t seem wise, but D’Andre Swift practiced in full on Wednesday and head coach Dan Quinn seemed to indicate that he expects to have the second-year player back for this weekend’s game in Seattle.

Assuming Swift does return, we should probably not expect that he’s going to immediately return to his usual role as the team’s unquestioned top back. Still, Swift’s usage in the passing game has been substantially more impressive than any other back in the Detroit offense and if he’s activated, he should probably be in most fantasy lineups this weekend.

If we’ve been misled by the staff in Detroit once again, the team may turn to backup Jamaal Williams to be their primary ball carrier. Williams himself had missed Weeks 14 and 15 due to injury which led to Craig Reynolds getting some extremely high usage, but Reynolds played the “1B” role to Williams this past week in the Lions’ loss to the Falcons. Not only did Williams see more touches than Reynolds, but he was also significantly more effective with his carries which will likely mean that he continues to play the role of the team’s primary back, perhaps even extending his lead on Reynolds this week.

Williams didn’t catch any passes this past week, but he’s shown to be at least a competent pass catcher in the past and that does increase what is otherwise a low ceiling for him, for fantasy purposes. Still, the Detroit offense is horrible and they just don’t often have many opportunities to score touchdowns, so Williams’ upside is limited. You could do worse than him as your Flex, but we’ll need to see him fully take over the backfield before Williams can be back in the RB2 conversation.

Value Meter:
RB2: D’Andre Swift
WR2: Amon-Ra St. Brown
Flex: Jamaal Williams (if Swift is inactive)
Bench: Jamaal Williams (if Swift is active), Jared Goff, Craig Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Josh Reynolds

Passing Game Thoughts: Another sub-200-yard passing performance from Russell Wilson led to another less-than-exciting fantasy performance for the Seattle quarterback who has now failed to reach 20 fantasy points in seven of his past eight games and hasn’t passed for more than two scores in a game since all the way back in Week 1. Wilson remains good enough to be a mid-level QB2 for fantasy in most matchups, especially like the one he’ll face against a bad Detroit defense this week, but this has been a lost season for him and the Seahawks as a whole.

Realistically, we only care about two players in this passing game right now—wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. While Metcalf snuck into the end zone this past week, he only caught two passes for 41 yards which was just enough to get him a 12-point PPR day. Metcalf has now gone seven straight games without exceeding 60 receiving yards and he’s scored just that one touchdown in Week 16 over that stretch. To say that he’s been a disappointment would be an understatement. Metcalf is borderline unstartable at this point and there’s really not much to be excited about in this matchup. Sure, the Lions are horrible as a team, but they’ve actually been decent against opposing wide receivers, probably due to the fact that their competition doesn’t have to pass much against them in order to stay ahead on the scoreboard. We know that Seattle is more than willing to get into a low-scoring “grind-it-out” type game against a willing opponent so there’s a strong possibility that this will be another low volume passing day for the Seattle offense as a whole and that just doesn’t do much for Metcalf. Sure, you can still throw him in your lineup as a low-end WR3 or Flex if you’re still hoping for a bounce back game to end the 2021 season, but this has been an absolutely disastrous end to the season for Metcalf and it’d be entirely reasonable to bench him if you have another option who could give you more upside.

Lockett had been on a great stretch of fantasy performances prior to missing Week 15 on the COVID-19 list. He averaged over 17 PPR points per game over his previous six contests prior to landing on that list. When he came back in Week 16, however, Lockett was held in check against the Bears as he caught just three passes for 30 yards on six targets. We’ve seen him have down games in the middle of impressive streaks before so this isn’t a death sentence to Lockett’s fantasy value, but it’s also worth considering that he was realistically far out-performing his per-target expectations over that stretch, so it’s tough to be surprised when he turns in a dud when only six passes come his way. The Seahawks just are not passing enough for anyone in this passing game to be extremely exciting, but at least we have some recent history of Lockett turning in some nice fantasy performances. Lockett’s a low-end WR2 this week against the Lions.

If you’re looking for a tight end this week, one option could be Seattle’s Gerald Everett. Everett hasn’t really given fantasy managers any huge weeks this season, but he’s produced four double-digit PPR point performances over his past five games. The Lions defense has been exposed by opposing tight ends as of late, including giving up a 102-yard game to Kyle Pitts this past week in addition to a touchdown to fellow tight end Hayden Hurst, a 74-yard game to Arizona’s Zach Ertz in Week 15, 92 total receiving yards and a touchdown to the Broncos’ tight end duo of Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam in Week 14, seven catches to Vikings tight end Tyler Conklin in Week 13, and eight catches to Bears tight end Cole Kmet in Week 12. Don’t expect a huge game out of Everett, but the position is pretty bad overall and he’s someone who could produce low-end TE1 numbers.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: Alex Collins had been Seattle’s primary back earlier this season when Chris Carson went on IR, but various injuries and a bout with COVID-19 led to him missing time. While he was away, former first round running back Rashaad Penny took over the backfield to the point that Collins—who was without injury designation—was inactive this past week.

If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about who the Seahawks’ starting running back now is, consider that Penny has now turned in two 100-yard rushing performances over his past three games. He rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans in Week 14 and then he was successful this past week against the Bears when he ran the ball 17 times for 135 yards and a touchdown. He’s still almost completely inconsequential in the passing game, as pretty much all Seattle backs have been for years, but Penny’s rushing usage has been quietly very strong over the past month.

Now Penny gets an excellent matchup against a Lions defense that has given up the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. A month ago it would’ve seemed nearly impossible that we’d ever get to the point where Penny would be a viable RB2, but that’s where we’re ranking him in this matchup. Look for the Seahawks to lean heavily on him in this one.

Value Meter:
QB2: Russell Wilson
RB2: Rashaad Penny
WR2: Tyler Lockett
TE1: Gerald Everett (low end)
Flex: DK Metcalf
Bench: DeeJay Dallas, Alex Collins, Travis Homer, Freddie Swain, Will Dissly

Prediction: Seahawks 23, Lions 16 ^ Top

Panthers @ Saints - (Swanson)
Line: NO -6.5
Total: 38.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Head coach Matt Rhuel announced today that Sam Darnold would start this Sunday for the Panthers. Both Darnold and Cam Newton played in last week’s shellacking by the Buccaneers, but Darnold got the majority of snaps and will once again get the majority of plays this week.

Newton will no doubt be active again, but in reality, you want nothing to do with either player in your fantasy Super Bowl.

The Saints defense is one of the best in the league and will shut down the Panthers rushing offense, forcing Darnold to beat them in the air. When you consider that Darnold has completed fewer than 60% of his passes this season and has four more interceptions than touchdowns, relying on him to beat the Saints is likely going to keep Rhuel up at night this week.

The Saints will also be getting back Taysom Hill from the COVID-19 list, so we can thankfully close the book on the Ian Book debacle that we had to watch last Monday Night. This means their offense should be able to put up points on the Panthers and force more throws from Darnold - again, not something that is good for this team.

Both D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson are in play this week, as both players saw double-digit targets last week. Neither did a ton with those targets, but the volume they will likely see will make them interesting. Moore is more of a high-end WR3 and Anderson is a flex in deeper leagues.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: It is strange to see the Panthers so far down on the list of team running back points after the previous few seasons with CMC dominating. In 2021, the Panthers have just seven total touchdowns scored by running backs and just four dating back to Week 7.

The backfield tandem of Chuba Hubbard and Ameer Abdulalh have been borderline dreadful, and it doesn’t help that Cam Newton rejoined the team and took away almost any chance for a goal line rushing touchdown.

This is a backfield to avoid even in good matchups. Against a team like the Saints that has given up the second-fewest points to running backs, you should avoid starting anyone in this backfield like the plague.

Value Meter:
QB2: Sam Darnold (Low-End)
RB4: Chuba Hubbard (High-End)
WR2: D.J. Moore (Low-End)
Flex: Robby Anderson (Low-End)
TE2: Tommy Tremble (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: It appears as though the Ian Book has just one, painfully ugly chapter, as Taysom Hill has been activated from the COVID list and is set to start on Sunday. In Book’s defense, the offensive line is decimated with injuries and he was under constant pressure against the Dolphins.

At least with Hill under center, the treat of a running attack from the quarterback position will force the Panthers to play more neutral and will not tee off on the passing game with unrelenting pressure.

On paper, the Panthers have given up the fourth-fewest points on the season to opposing QBs and just eight passing touchdowns since Week 9. A closer examination shows a team that did give up two rushing touchdowns to Jalen Hurts back in Week 5 and 24 rushing yards to Josh Allen back in Week 15.

Hill’s value lies mostly in the running game, and he will need to post a solid rushing performance against this team to be start-worthy in your title game.

It is a shame that the Saints are not a more efficient passing team with Hill, as the matchup dictates a solid opportunity for the receivers on the Saints. Carolina has given up 16 receiving touchdowns to wide receivers in 15 games, including 100 yards or a score to an opposing WR dating back to Week 10.

The Saints also are starting to get back to full strength with 11 players activated from the COVID list on Wednesday, including Hill and defensive captain Malcom Jenkins.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: Last season, Alvin Kamara proved to be a league winner with six rushing touchdowns against the Vikings on Christmas Day. Kamara would end the season with 21 total touchdowns and his best season as a pro.

In 2021: Not so much.

The absence of Drew Brees has negatively impacted Kamara in both the running and passing game. His 3.7 yards per carry is by far the worst of his career, and he is not going to come close to reaching the 80-catch threshold he has posted in each of the previous four seasons.

In this matchup, the return of Hill will certainly help Kamara and increase the likelihood of him posting a solid performance for fantasy managers. Carolina is a strong running team, but they have been weak as of late, with three rushing touchdowns allowed in the last two games.

Value Meter:
QB1:Taysom Hill (Low-End)
RB1: Alvin Kamara (High-End)
WR3: Marquez Callaway (Low-End)
WR4: Tre’Quan Smith (Low-End)
TE2: Adam Trautman (High-End)

Prediction: New Orleans 28, Carolina 14 ^ Top

Vikings @ Packers - (Green)
Line: GB -6.5
Total: 46.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Coming off a pair of poor performances, Kirk Cousins was uneven last Sunday, passing for 315 yards but just one touchdown with much of that production coming after the Rams pushed out to a 27-13 lead. It’s still been a good all-around season for Cousins, who enjoyed probably his best game of 2021 at Green Bay’s expense back in Week 11 when he threw for 343 yards and 3 TDs in a 34-31 win. He could fill a low-end QB1 role in the rematch.

One caveat to that designation is the health of Adam Thielen (ankle), who returned this past Sunday after missing two games with a high ankle sprain only to aggravate the injury and miss most of the rest of the game. Thielen has since been placed on IR, ending his season. That’s significant because Cousins’ two worst games were the ones that Thielen missed. He still has Justin Jefferson (8-116-0), though, who sits in the NFL’s top five in receptions and yards in his second season. He’s a strong WR1.

Obviously, the wild card here is K.J. Osborn (5-68-1), who has done yeoman’s work filling in for Thielen but doesn’t command the veteran’s level of respect. Still, Osborn could be a WR3 or flex in Week 17. The Packers are 10th in pass defense (216 yards per game) and have become one of the league’s better ball-hawking units; their four INTs on Christmas gives them 18 on the year, which is the fourth-most in the NFL. They nearly had multiple picks in the first meeting with the Vikings as well, though those were erased on penalty and/or replay review.

Editor's Note: Kirk Cousins landed on the Covid list Friday. Backup Sean Mannion was just removed from the list Friday and could start. If not, rookie Kellon Mond will be starter. This is a downgrade to all Vikings players.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: Minnesota’s best chance to spring the upset probably lies with Dalvin Cook (illness), who didn’t play in Week 16 while on the COVID list but has been activated and should be available Sunday night. His last trip to Lambeau was a bloodbath with Cook amassing 226 total yards and four touchdowns. With Green Bay coming off a brutal tackling performance on Christmas, Cook is an RB1 if he goes. If not, Alexander Mattison (13-41-1) would hold RB2 appeal as the lead back.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins
RB1: Dalvin Cook (inj-illness)
WR1: Justin Jefferson
WR3/Flex: K.J. Osborn
Bench: Alexander Mattison, Tyler Conklin, Adam Thielen (IR)

Passing Game Thoughts: In his last five games, Aaron Rodgers has passed for 1,503 yards, 16 TDs and 0 INTs. That’s MVP stuff. The run actually began during the Week 11 loss to Minnesota when he posted 385 yards and 4 TDs -- that gives Rodgers 1,040 yards and 11 TDs without a pick in his past three games against the Vikings. While the offense scuffled in the second half on Christmas day, Rodgers has been dialed in, and he knows how close they are to claiming the top seed. Expect a big game from No. 12.

After spreading the ball around in Week 16, Rodgers focused on Davante Adams last Saturday. As usual, it proved a sound strategy as Adams posted 10 receptions, 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns. A late drop cost him an even bigger day, but as always you can lock Adams into your lineup as a WR1. Marquez Valdes-Scantling (illness) didn’t play against Cleveland while on COVID IR, but he should return Sunday night against a Vikings team that he’s had some big games against; he has a combined 9-238-2 line over his last three meetings with Minnesota. He’s a low-end WR3 or flex with upside.

Allen Lazard (2-45-1) missed the earlier Vikings game with a hip injury, but he has scored in two of the past three games, including catching Rodgers’ record-breaking 433rd TD. He could be a risk/reward flex play if MVS is back. The Vikings rank 27th against the pass this season, giving up 248.5 yards per game. They gave Matthew Stafford and a potent Rams pass attack some trouble last week, which is somewhat encouraging, though that came indoors at home, and it wasn’t Rodgers on the other side.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: For the second straight week there was more work for Aaron Jones (12-66-0) than AJ Dillon (9-41-0), though given how solid the running game was you could argue there wasn’t enough of either of them. Jones was out each of the past two times Green Bay faced Minnesota, but in the previous three meetings he ran for 336 yards and 4 TDs. Dillon had 97 total yards versus the Vikings in Week 11. Only four teams have allowed more rushing yards this season than Minnesota (130.5 per game), and they had little success slowing Sony Michel last weekend. Consider Jones an RB1 and Dillon as an RB3 with a bit of upside due to the cold forecast.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers (inj-toe)
RB1: Aaron Jones
RB3: AJ Dillon
WR1: Davante Adams
WR3/Flex: Marquez Valdes-Scantling (IR/COVID)
Flex: Allen Lazard

Prediction: Packers 37, Vikings 27 ^ Top

Browns @ Steelers - (Green)
Line: CLE -3.0
Total: 41.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Fresh off the COVID list, Baker Mayfield returned on Christmas day just in time to absorb five sacks and throw four interceptions. It was an odd game in which the Browns moved the ball successfully -- they punted once all day -- but found ways to undo their good work time and time again. His first meeting with Pittsburgh was far more uneventful as Mayfield threw for 225 yards, 0 TDs and 0 INTs. At this point there’s no reason to let the Oklahoma product near your fantasy lineup.

If there’s one thing you can say about Mayfield in Week 16 it’s that he spread the ball around with a dozen players catching a pass, nine of them on offense. Jarvis Landry, who also returned from COVID IR, had four catches for 55 yards in the loss. Meanwhile, Donovan Peoples-Jones turned six targets into a five-yard reception. While Rashard Higgins (5-58-0) actually led the team in receiving, it’s Landry and DPJ that can offer a little fantasy value with both being potential flex plays.

Pittsburgh didn’t have any answers on either side of the ball last Sunday, allowing the Chiefs to build up a 30-0 lead despite the absence of Travis Kelce (illness). For the year, the Steelers rank 13th in pass defense at 225.7 yards per game. Their pass rush is still dangerous, though T.J. Watt (ribs) is clearly operating at less than 100 percent. Despite their opponent’s current state, Cleveland has definitively proven that their passing game can’t be relied upon this season.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: When you consider the Browns averaged 8.8 yards per carry as a team on Christmas it boggles the mind that Mayfield was allowed to throw enough passes to be intercepted four times. Nick Chubb (17-126-1) was dominant, and the team even mixed in a little D’Ernest Johnson (4-58-0) to good effect. The Browns are hoping they can get Kareem Hunt (ankle) back this week as well. Pittsburgh is shockingly last in run defense (142.7 yards per game), though they held Cleveland to less than 100 yards back in Week 8. Chubb is an RB1 here with Hunt a potential RB3 if he returns.

Value Meter:
RB1: Nick Chubb
RB3: Kareem Hunt (inj-ankle)
WR3: Jarvis Landry
Bench: Baker Mayfield, D’Ernest Johnson, Donovan Peoples-Jones

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s been a rough season for Ben Roethlisberger, who at times has looked ready to hang up his cleats midgame. That could’ve been the case in KC when he managed just 159 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT against the Chiefs with most of his modest production coming after the outcome was determined. Big Ben was solid versus Cleveland earlier this season, connecting on 22 of 34 passes for 266 yards and a score in a road win over the rival Browns. Outside of a late rally in Minnesota, Roethlisberger has looked done the past three games and cannot be trusted for fantasy purposes.

Roethlisberger’s struggles have had a trickledown effect, though Diontae Johnson (6-51-1) did enough in garbage time to salvage a respectable output in Week 16. The same can’t be said of Chase Claypool, who had a couple of nice grabs but had to settle for 41 yards on four receptions. Johnson comfortably led the team in Cleveland with a 6-98-0 line while Claypool’s 4-45-0 output was nearly a carbon copy of what he did in KC. Both players remain playable even with the offense’s struggles; Johnson is a borderline No. 1 or No. 2 receiver while Claypool is a shaky WR3.

Cleveland had almost no success stopping Green Bay early on last Saturday, but they held the Packers to just a field goal after halftime. The Browns are eighth against the pass this season, yielding 215.1 yards per game, though just five clubs have allowed more TD passes than Cleveland’s 27. The Steelers will hope to get Pat Freiermuth (head) back this week after he missed Week 16 with a concussion. The rookie tight end scored Pittsburgh’s lone receiving TD back in Week 8. He could be a TE1 if he’s back.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: You have to give Najee Harris (19-93-0) credit for running hard even in a blowout loss with the rookie accounting for 110 total yards on 24 touches in Kansas City. The Alabama product posted 120 yards and a score against the Browns earlier this season, which is a good day’s work. Cleveland is 10th in run defense (105.9 yards per game), though they did allow 5.1 yards per carry to the tandem of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon on Christmas. Consider Harris an RB1 this Monday.

Value Meter:
RB1: Najee Harris
WR1/WR2: Diontae Johnson
WR3: Chase Claypool
TE1: Pat Freiermuth (inj-head)
Bench: Ben Roethlisberger

Prediction: Browns 23, Steelers 19 ^ Top