A few years ago, I decided to use the final Blitz of the season
to give fantasy managers a sounding board for their toughest lineup
decisions entering their league's fantasy championship game. Given
how well that idea has been received, it only makes sense to apply
the same logic to all three fantasy playoff weeks.
Below are several reader questions (submitted via Twitter
or the FFT
forum) and my answers. PPR scoring should be assumed unless
otherwise noted. Any other special scoring rules will also appear
in the question or immediately thereafter.
Gepetto: Starting Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Hopkins and Tee Higgins.
Need one more of the following: Christian Watson (@ MIA), D.J.
Moore (vs. DET), Chris Olave (@ CLE), Brandon Aiyuk (vs. WAS)
or Treylon Burks (vs. HOU)
Scoring format: one point per 10 yards, six points per touchdown,
40+ yard long receiving bonus of two points, 100+ receiving yards
game bonus of three points.
Let us begin by ranking the receivers in terms of their matchup
Moore (Lions give up the third-most points to WRs on the season)
There is little question that Sam Darnold's insertion into the
lineup has been the best thing for Moore's fantasy prospects,
as the latter has recorded at least 73 yards receiving and a touchdown
in two of the three weeks the former has played. The one exception
was a run-heavy win over the Seahawks in Week 14 in which Moore
was targeted only three times (zero catches). Working against
Moore is the vast improvement the Lions have made during their
recent 6-1 stretch. Detroit has been brilliant versus the run
over that span, but it can still be had through the air. In just
the last four games (beginning with the Thanksgiving Day loss
to Buffalo), the Lions have surrendered 13-plus fantasy points
to Isaiah McKenzie, Stefon Diggs, Christian Kirk, Justin Jefferson,
Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn and Garrett Wilson.
The Dolphins appeared to be a middling matchup overall, but the
amount of yardage they have surrendered to opposing receivers
(2,218) ranks 10th in the league. Somehow, they have only permitted
eight receiving scores to those wideouts, which ranks as the third-fewest.
To what can we attribute this? I believe the answer lies in some
weather luck (played Buffalo twice, once in extreme heat and once
at around 20 degrees with some late snow) and a fair amount of
average (at best) quarterback play from recent opponents. Since
losing to Joe Burrow in Week 4, Miami has opposed Zach Wilson,
Kirk Cousins, Kenny Pickett, Jared Goff, Justin Fields, Jacoby
Brissett, Davis Mills, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brock Purdy, Justin Herbert
and Josh Allen. Even during a down year, Aaron Rodgers ranks on
the high end of that group. Another reason to be confident in
Watson this week is the success similar receivers have enjoyed
against Miami. Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Mike Williams
have each touched up the Dolphins for at least 14.9 PPR fantasy
points. Considering how much Rodgers seems to enjoy playing with
Watson right now, we should expect a similar or better effort
from the rookie in what should be a high-scoring game.
Aiyuk's fantasy viability has been on life support a bit since
Purdy took over, as the third-year wideout has only eight catches
on 14 targets for 99 yards and a touchdown in the 11-plus quarters
since Garoppolo got hurt. Some of that has been a product of San
Francisco not needing much from the passing game in wins over
Tampa Bay and Seattle. It seems unlikely Washington will put enough
heat on the 49ers to change their approach, and it is not as if
the Commanders are giving up much through the air these days (five
straight games with less than 200 yards passing allowed).
Olave has built a decent case for Offensive Rookie of the Year
honors, but the Saints' offense is dragging him down - especially
now as opponents are making him the primary focus of their game
plan. The Ohio State product has one WR1-level performance in
his last five games and four WR3 efforts. Juwan Johnson appears
to be the apple of Andy Dalton's eye in the red zone, further
hurting whatever upside Olave could have. The Saints' passing
game could also be highly impacted by what is expected to be some
bad weather (projected temperature in the teens with winds between
Burks, who was starting to flash before his Week 13 concussion,
is likely to return this weekend following a two-game absence.
Working against him this week is the twice-a-year thrashing Derrick
Henry gives to Houston and the expected absence of Ryan Tannehill
(ankle). To their credit, the Texans have not been quite the laughingstock
against the run they were during the teams' first meeting in Week
9, so there is an opportunity for Burks to push for 6-8 targets
this time around. Even so, I have my doubts this is a blow-up
spot. Not only will Tennessee avoid putting its fate on Malik
Willis' right arm right now, but Darius Slayton's 18.5 PPR fantasy
points in Week 10 are also the most an individual receiver has
scored against Houston since the Texans' Week 6 bye.
Verdict: With two of the candidates appearing
to lose some steam for varying reasons and one coming back from
injury in a run-heavy offense, my decision comes down to Moore
versus Watson. Making this decision easier is that Gepetto has
two WR1s in Hill and Hopkins and another potential one in Higgins.
That kind of solid floor-ceiling mix likely means we can shoot
for the most upside with the final slot. While Moore certainly
has upside anytime he steps on the field and Detroit struggles
mightily against receivers who spend a fair amount of time in
the slot, he doesn't come attached to one of the game's most accurate
quarterbacks or play in an offense capable of engaging (or willing
to engage) in a shootout. Watson's floor should be 15 points,
which makes him my choice.
polecatt: Justin Herbert (@ IND) or Trevor Lawrence (@ NYJ)
Scoring format: All touchdowns worth six pts, three pts for
40+ yard TD bonus, six points for 50+ yard TD bonus; one point
per 50 yards passing, six points bonus at 300 yards and another
three points at 400 yards.
With Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both healthy, Herbert had
turned in four consecutive strong fantasy efforts before last
week's mostly unexplainable dud against a Tennessee defense that
had been shredded in consecutive games by Jalen Hurts and Lawrence.
It is difficult to get back on the horse and ride it again after
such a showing, but we all know that the Chargers' offense goes
as Herbert goes and that the volume will be there (four straight
games of at least 42 pass attempts and nine in all for the season).
While the Colts are not the cakewalk matchup for quarterbacks
they may appear to be, Indy has surrendered at least 20 fantasy
points and two total touchdowns to six of the last nine signal-callers
it has faced.
Accounting for four touchdowns in consecutive games at the pro
level is an impressive feat regardless of the competition, so
Lawrence is rolling. Shredding a Titans defense that made Herbert
look normal one week later and following that performance up with
a near masterpiece against the vaunted Cowboys' defense gives
the impression Lawrence has arrived and is on a hot streak. One
of those two things might be true, but Josh Allen (twice) is the
only quarterback to account for two scores against the Jets since
Week 3. New York's defense is for real and probably features the
best secondary the Jaguars have seen since at least Week 8 (Denver).
Verdict: It does not feel great to leave
the "hot" player on the bench in favor of "the
other guy," but the good news here is that Herbert only seems
like a step down because he spent most of the first part of the
season without his top two receivers. It also does not help he
is coming off a down game in a matchup he should have crushed.
Nevertheless, I will gladly take the quarterback facing an Indy
defense that has yielded seven touchdown passes in the last two
games. The Jets are a scary matchup for quarterbacks. Lawrence
is showing he is ready to join the QB1 conversation, but leave
him on the bench in favor of Herbert this week.
gcmmidwest: Two flexes and one WR. Brandon Aiyuk (vs. WAS),
J.K. Dobbins (vs. ATL), Terry McLaurin (@ SF), Christian Watson
(@ MIA), A.J. Dillon (@ MIA), Tyler Boyd (@ NE), D'Onta Foreman
(vs. DET) and Tyler Allgeier (@ BAL)?
I feel comfortable in eliminating Aiyuk, Boyd, Foreman and Allgeier
from consideration immediately. Aiyuk is a dicey play at best
moving forward for the reasons discussed above, Boyd has been
a hit-or-miss flex for reasons I cannot explain - even when he
should have been a solid WR2/3 option - and Foreman faces a Detroit
defense that has stifled running backs for about two months. Allgeier
is coming off a career game, but he is still sharing too much
work with Cordarrelle Patterson and does not get enough work in
the passing game to justify the risk in starting him against a
tough Baltimore run defense.
Very quickly, we are down to four options for three spots. I
discussed Watson above. McLaurin is averaging 15.3 PPR fantasy
points since Taylor Heinicke took over as the starting quarterback
in Week 7 (11.1 before). Squaring off against the 49ers' defense
is not the preferred matchup in the fantasy semifinals, but Washington's
likely inability to run the ball is going to allow McLaurin to
get some volume. If there is one thing we have learned about McLaurin
over the years, it is that his fantasy upside is limited only
by the play of his quarterback. He will get open, even against
underrated CB Charvarius Ward.
Dobbins is likely somewhere in the neighborhood of being 70-80
percent healthy - it is obvious he isn't 100 percent - but that
has not stopped him from ripping off a pair of 120-yard rushing
days since returning. Working against him are several factors:
a lack of volume (no more than 15 carries in a game in his NFL
career), limited involvement in the passing game, the absence
of Lamar Jackson and an Atlanta defense that has allowed two running
back touchdowns in the last five games. The Falcons have struggled
more with power backs (Leonard Fournette, Foreman, Nick Chubb
and Brian Robinson Jr.) and tend to hog the ball more than most
opponents, so Dobbins is a high-risk option in Week 16 with a
lower-than-usual ceiling. Making matters worse is how inept the
Ravens have been offensively for most of the season.
Dillon's situation is somewhat similar to Dobbins' in that the
matchup is not great and his touch upside is limited. What is
different is that Dillon is used considerably more as a receiver
and faces a Miami defense that has been exploited repeatedly by
running backs in the passing game. One other notable difference
is that Packers-Dolphins should be a much higher-scoring affair
than Falcons-Ravens, and there is a decent chance Green Bay will
be playing from behind in the second half.
Verdict: As far as I am concerned, Watson
and McLaurin are strong WR2 plays at worst this weekend with WR1
upside. McLaurin may not do anything special against San Francisco,
but I would be very hesitant to sit him in any game where I think
he has 10-target upside. I think he has that in Week 16. Perhaps
it is wishful thinking on my part, but I believe Watson is poised
to bounce back in a big way against the Dolphins after the cold
weather in Green Bay stifled the passing game on Monday night.
Seeing Miami struggle with big receivers who can stretch the field
such as Tee Higgins, Mike Williams and Donovan Peoples-Jones gives
me even more hope. Last but not least, I will take Dillon over
Dobbins in the battle of strong committee backs. Not only is Dillon
getting significant work near the goal line again, but he is also
attached to the better offense.
jrokh: Half PPR. I need two - at least one RB - from Joe Mixon
(@ NE), Najee Harris (vs. LV), Chris Godwin (@ ARI), Travis Etienne
(@ NYJ) and Jerry Jeudy (@ LAR).
While I believe the Tampa Bay offense has overcompensated for
its offensive line issues by throwing everything quicker and shorter
than Tom Brady usually does, the change has been good for Godwin.
Since Week 5, Godwin has earned no fewer than eight targets. That
kind of volume will typically lead to good things in fantasy.
Arizona brings the heat as much as any defense (34.4 percent blitz
rate ranks third) but does not have anyone the Bucs need to fear
in the slot on defense. (LB Isaiah Simmons leads the team in slot
coverage snaps with 212. CB Byron Murphy, who missed Week 15 due
to injury, is second with 105.)
Jeudy is a good - if not very good - receiver, but I want nothing
to do with the Denver offense for the rest of the season. Yes,
passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak is getting more out of the
offense since taking over as the play-caller, but it feels as
if Jeudy's recent run has been fueled more by the absence of Courtland
Sutton than Kubiak taking over for HC Nathaniel Hackett. The Rams
are not an imposing matchup this year, but it should be noted
the only receivers to do much of anything against them lately
play for Seattle.
I have yet to figure out why Jacksonville insists on using Etienne
mostly as a runner and not as a receiver. After all, all he did
at Clemson was set school records for his work in the passing
game. It makes even less sense considering how often Trevor Lawrence
was the one throwing him the ball back in their college days.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to get behind Etienne has a must-start
in tougher matchups like the Jets until he becomes more of an
option as a receiver. The Jets are not giving up much in the way
of total yards (Dalvin Cook's 83 is the most in the last three
games) or touchdowns to running backs (two since Week 7), so I
would avoid Etienne as anything more than a flex in most leagues
The one good thing about Mixon's upcoming matchup with the Patriots
is that New England has coughed up two touchdowns to running backs
in the last three weeks. The bad news is that those two TDs account
for half of the scores they have allowed to the position all year.
In other words, Mixon is a floor play this week and could struggle
to finish inside the top 20 running backs in Week 16.
Fantasy managers should feel much better about firing up Harris.
While the Raiders mysteriously found a way to bottle up Austin
Ekeler and the Chargers in Week 13, Las Vegas has surrendered
at least one TD to a running back in every other game since Week
7. It would be foolish to expect Harris to match the 168 total
yards that Rhamondre Stevenson posted against the Raiders last
week, but Pittsburgh is giving him enough volume to push for 100-plus
and a score.
Verdict: Even though jrokh does not necessarily
need to start one receiver from this bunch, Godwin is a must-start.
Due mostly to the fact Mixon and Etienne are facing very difficult
matchups, I feel confident in recommending Harris and Godwin.
Jeudy has a chance at outperforming Harris, but the likely return
of Sutton and my general disgust for the Broncos' offense make
it hard for me to rank Jeudy higher than third on this list.
easilyscan: Ravens DST (vs. ATL) or Browns DST (vs. NO)?
Swim54: Eagles DST (@ DAL) or Broncos DST (@ LAR)?
Baltimore has played well defensively of late, compiling at least
three sacks in all but four games. The Ravens have also held five
of their last six foes to 14 or fewer points. The problem with
choosing Baltimore this week is that Atlanta's offensive philosophy
in 2022 is not unlike the Ravens': run the ball, chew the clock
and limit mistakes. As a result, the Falcons are one of the worst
teams to target for fantasy purposes. Conversely, the Saints are
one of the best. (At least, they were until recently.) New Orleans
still is not scoring at a prolific clip, but Andy Dalton has not
thrown an interception in four straight. The Saints have occasionally
given up a few sacks, but only more than two in four of 14 contests.
The great equalizer could be the miserable playing conditions
It may be a bit of a market overcorrection, but the Broncos'
defense is finally starting to perform - in fantasy - up to its
talent level. Nine sacks over the last three weeks are good, but
it is the eight interceptions - two more than they recorded over
the first 11 weeks - that stand out. The downside of that production
is that two of those games came against backup quarterbacks (Tyler
Huntley and Colt McCoy/Trace McSorley) and the other one happened
in a game Denver fell behind 27-0. What is more pertinent here
is that this week's matchup is against the Rams, who are also
using a backup quarterback (Baker Mayfield) and have been held
to less than 20 or fewer points in nine of its last 11 contests.
Conversely, the Eagles have compiled 19 sacks and forced two turnovers
over the last three games. Philadelphia has a dominant and deep
front seven that plays a bit too soft on the back end for my liking
but gets away with it because it can afford to, often pouncing
on an opponent trying to do too much while trying to rally from
a two-score deficit. The Cowboys are not an ideal matchup with
a trip to the fantasy championship game on the line, but Dak Prescott
has been a bit too careless in recent weeks with seven interceptions
over the last four games. Although I acknowledge not all of those
interceptions were his fault, it is reflective of the team that
is not playing its best football right now.
Verdict: While recent performance affects
my DST decision every week, I tend to focus more on what the opponent
has done recently - especially against similar opposition. Atlanta's
offensive philosophy might be good for winning real football during
a rebuild, but it is not great for fantasy managers trying to
find a favorable DST matchup. The Saints rank as a highly favorable
matchup over the course of the season, but they are the sixth-worst
matchup over the last five weeks. I would lean toward Baltimore's
recent sack production as my tiebreaker in this decision. I am
not doing so with a lot of confidence, however.
The Eagles vs. Broncos decision is the ultimate better defense
versus better matchup decision. At the end of the day, I can see
the Broncos-Rams contest being a highly conservative affair that
may only see about 50 passes thrown. There is more potential for
fireworks - and thus, turnovers - in the Eagles-Cowboys game.
I could not live with my decision of sitting the Eagles just because
of a perceived difficult matchup and missing out on a fantasy
championship as a result. I could live with myself if Denver's
defense throttles another down-on-its-luck offense and that is
the decision that keeps me out of the title game.
Dr. G: Zack Moss or Deon Jackson (both vs. LAC)?
As most fantasy managers already know by now, the Chargers present
a highly favorable matchup for running backs. The biggest problem
with targeting that matchup this week is determining which Colt
will benefit the most. Perhaps just as importantly, what kind
of game script can we expect? The Chargers have not been the kind
of team that starts fast en route to building an early 14-point
lead. The reason this is important is that Indy appears to prefer
Moss as the early-down pounder in a post-Jonathan Taylor world
and Jackson in more of a passing-down role. If the Chargers can
avoid the same fate that befell Minnesota - namely coming out
listless and falling behind early - then Jackson should be highly
involved. If the Chargers cannot get rolling early, then Moss
(and possibly Jordan Wilkins) might see the bulk of touches out
of this backfield.
Verdict: Can the answer be neither? Even
in the best of times, I think we know Moss is not a legitimate
option on passing downs. That is a big deal when he is stuck on
a team that wants to run the ball but struggles to block. The
odds are much better that Jackson not only does more with his
rush attempts versus the Chargers, but that he will also see the
bulk of the action as a receiver. I would not be fired up about
playing any Indy running back in Week 16, but I believe Jackson
offers the highest floor and the most upside. With Moss, fantasy
managers would need to hope he finds the end zone. It is possible
against the Chargers, but his floor is 30-40 scoreless yards and
about half of the 24 carries he handled last week.
Dr. G: Dallas Goedert (@ DAL), Gerald Everett (@ IND) or Evan
Engram (@ NYJ)?
Everett has been steady for most of the season, but it feels
like any upside he carried left about the same time Keenan Allen
and Mike Williams returned. While that may or may not be true,
it is difficult to put any trust into a tight end that has not
scored in nearly three months. That is a rather remarkable feat
considering he ranks seventh among tight ends with 13 red zone
targets and eighth with five looks inside the 10.
Engram is finally getting the elite usage most of us expected
from him after seeing 115 targets as a rookie with the Giants
in 2017. Over the last three weeks, Engram's 32 looks are easily
the most among tight ends and two more than any other player in
the league (Justin Jefferson, 30). Attracting a high number of
targets against the Lions and Titans is one thing since both have
been among the worst at defending the position this season, but
doing so last week against the Cowboys suggests the Jaguars are
starting to view him as an important piece of the offense.
It did not seem like it before his Week 10 shoulder injury, but
Goedert was the epitome of consistency at tight end (after Travis
Kelce, of course). The 27-year-old managed at least 11 PPR fantasy
points in six of nine games and topped nine in all but one, giving
him a higher floor than just about any other tight end. Working
against him this week is a tough matchup and the likelihood he
will be catching passes from Gardner Minshew instead of Jalen
Verdict: Assuming he returns from IR as
expected this week, Goedert would probably be my choice if I also
knew Hurts was starting. We do not have that information now and
we probably will not have it until Saturday afternoon at the earliest.
Unfortunately, managers will be gambling if they wait for clarity
on those two very important moving parts. Considering how good
the Jets have been at shutting down perimeter receivers, the Jaguars
will likely be forced to rely heavily on their options in the
slot. The two Jaguars that spend the most time there are Christian
Kirk (423 slot snaps) and Engram (191). Engram has lined up in-line
on 181 snaps, meaning only 23.7 percent of his snaps have been
spent on the outside. The Jets are not a great matchup for any
position, but Engram's recent usage and the likelihood that Zay
Jones and Marvin Jones struggle on the outside - combined with
Travis Etienne's limited usage in the passing game - suggest he
and Kirk will stay busy. I would rather take my chances with him
than bet on Hurts and Goedert both being healthy enough to play
a full game.
Serenity Now: Dak Prescott (vs. PHI) or Geno Smith (@ KC)?
Pick three (standard scoring): Nick Chubb (vs. NO), Saquon Barkley
(@ MIN), James Conner (vs. TB), J.K. Dobbins (vs. ATL)
No individual quarterback has accounted for more than two touchdowns
against the Eagles this season. (The combination of Aaron Rodgers
and Jordan Love did put three passing touchdowns on Philadelphia
in Week 12, however.) Prescott was able to avoid the Eagles in
Week 6 as he was completing his recovery from a thumb injury.
The problem for him - and any other quarterback facing Philadelphia,
for that matter - is that the NFC East leaders have no discernible
weaknesses on defense. They may occasionally play softer in coverage
than I would prefer, but the Eagles can afford to do it because
they rush the passer so well and are usually playing with a decent
Smith has failed to throw for two passing scores only three times
this season, including both times the Seahawks faced the 49ers.
The Chiefs rank second in most TD passes allowed (30), meaning
they are coughing up an average of just over two per game. They
have a meager eight interceptions, which is tied for the eighth-fewest.
This same defense surrendered four TD passes to the Broncos in
Week 14 and two to the Texans in Week 15. For the season, 12 quarterbacks
have thrown for at least two scores versus Kansas City and six
have accounted for three TDs. Even without Tyler Lockett this
week, I believe Smith will be OK.
At running back, Chubb (foot) has an injury that could cast some
doubt on his availability and ability to perform at a high level.
If he sits, Serenity Now's decision will be made for him. If Chubb
plays, he should be started in fantasy against a defense that
just permitted 191 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to Tyler
Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson. Barkley starts regardless
of the matchup, but he gets a Minnesota defense that has struggled
to corral about any dynamic runner it has faced recently (Tony
Pollard, Rhamondre Stevenson and Zonovan Knight among them). Conner
is simply getting too much volume as a runner and a receiver to
bench right now. Tampa Bay has not been the force against the
run it has been in previous years (largely because Akiem Hicks
and Vita Vea have not played together very often this year), so
I would take 20 or so touches from him over 15 from Dobbins.
Verdict: The decision at quarterback is
a simple one for me: Smith.
The standard scoring aspect makes it a more difficult call
for me at running back. However, as long as Chubb is cleared for
Week 16, I would not think twice about going with him, Barkley
and Conner over Dobbins.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.