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Truths and Lies - Week 18

By Steve Schwarz | 1/3/24

The final week of the 2023 NFL regular season will be anticlimactic for most, since their season ended in Week 17. For others, the difficult final week and “sitting by coach’s decision” will have them scanning the waiver wire for alternative options. It’s been a great season and I already can’t wait for 2024.


“I think a coach’s duty is to avoid complicating matters.” – Bill Belichick

1) The San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns have nothing to play for in Week 18.

True. The 49ers and Ravens have clinched the top seeds in their respective conferences, the Chiefs are a three-seed and the Browns are the five-seed. Therefore, you can’t expect any of the top players on those teams to play in Week 18 or, at best, play past halftime.

2) You might be thinking about playing Baltimore backup quarterback Tyler Huntley in Week 18… but don’t do it.

Fact. Huntley made four starts for the injured Lamar Jackson in 2022 and averaged 10.3 fantasy points. He’s also unlikely to have any of the team’s best weapons on the field with him. Look elsewhere.

Baker Mayfield

3) Baker Mayfield is the hottest quarterback guaranteed to play four quarters in Week 18.

The top-three quarterbacks since Week 15 are; Jackson (29.3 FPts/G), Joe Flacco (28.3) and Mayfield (27.0). Since the top-two have nothing to play for, Mayfield vs. Carolina is a top play. Jordan Love vs. the Bears is also a top play as Love has produced nine touchdowns (seven passing, two rushing) over the past three weeks.

4) Breece Hall has scored more points than Kyren Williams since Week 15.

Hall has produced 73.5 fantasy points against 73.0 points for Williams. While they have similar production, they go about it in different ways. Williams is almost exclusively on the ground while Hall is used in the passing game as well. However, I like Williams a lot better this weekend. Hall will face a tough Patriots defense in New England. The Jets managed 10 points and a total of 171 yards on offense in their first meeting. Meanwhile, Williams will likely face 49ers backups for most of the game.

5) David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs have a chance to be just the eighth pair of running backs to reach 1,000 yards rushing in the same season.

True. Monty, who averages 15.2 FPts/G, needs just 25 yards and Gibbs (16.8 FPts/G) needs 85 yards. The last pair of back to accomplish the feat was Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams in 2009. The last pair of teammates to accomplish the feat was Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram in 2019. The first pair of 1,000-yards teammates was Larry Czonka and Mercury Morris in the Dolphins’ undefeated 1972 season. They are also the only pair to go on and win the Super Bowl. It would be better for the Lions Super Bowl hopes if they don’t join this club.


“The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head.” – Terry Pratchett

1) Saquon Barkley has averaged just 10.6 FPts/G over the last three games so avoid him in Week 18.

False - he’s got a great matchup in Week 18. The Eagles have allowed the opposing team’s best running back to average 20.2 FPts/G over the past five games and seven backs to crack double digits. In seven career games against the Eagles, Barkley has averaged 19.8 FPts/G.

2) With Christian McCaffrey already declared out, Elijah Mitchell should be a fantasy-worthy option.

Probably not. Mitchell had some pretty good games as a starter in 2021 and even produced 14 fantasy points in less than a full game against Washington last Sunday, but I’m not expecting much from him in Week 18. First, he’ll share time with No.3 back Jordan Mason. Second, I wouldn’t expect to see All-Pro LT Trent Williams to be on the field and the 49ers can’t run the ball when he’s not out there. Williams missed two weeks back in October and even with McCaffrey running the ball, the star back managed a combined 99 yards on the ground in those games.

3) Derrick Henry is still a top running back for 2024.

If, by top back you mean totally dependent on scoring touchdowns and game script, then sure. Henry will end the season with his worst “yards-per-carry” total of his career – 3.9 ypc. Meanwhile, for the past two seasons, most of his scores are from the red zone – specifically from five yards or less. Seventeen of his last 24 scores, all rushing by the way, have been from inside the 5-yard line. That’s 71-percent of his scores from close range. For the first six years of his career, 48-percent came from inside the five and 52-percent came from longer distances. Also, he averages 82.6 rushing yards in wins and just 54.6 yards in losses. Unless the Titans suddenly get good, Henry (assuming he returns) will be inconsistent at best in 2024.

4) You can’t start any Steelers players in Week 18 given their date with the No.1-ranked Ravens in Baltimore.

False. Most of the guys who start for the Ravens’ defense will be taking the week off or play a quarter at best. Najee Harris has sprung to life the past two games producing 38 fantasy points. Additionally, George Pickens had 55.6 fantasy points over that same span. Both are must starts against Baltimore backups in a game Pittsburgh needs to win to have a chance for the playoffs. Even Mason Rudolph has been respectable the past two weeks throwing for over 270 yards in each game.

5) The Ravens offense is sunk without Mark Andrews.

Maybe it was never Andrews, but Lamar liking to throw to his tight ends, because Isaiah Likely has been every bit as good as Andrews the past four games. Likely is averaging 16.03 FPts/G since Week 14 while Andrews had averaged 13.5 over his 10 games. Also, the Ravens have averaged 37.3 points per game the last four.