Championship Week is finally here, and the Rotoworld crew has everything you need to leave your Week 16 matchup with a win. Patrick Daugherty answers your lineup questions with his Week 16 Rankings, Nick Mensio tells you who to start and who to fade in Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em, Ian Hartitz dives into which receivers are destined for production in his WR/CB Matchups Analysis, Hayden Winks breaks down every matchup in his famous Fantasy Forecast Column, and I preview Sunday's primetime bout in my Sunday Night 7 piece.
I'm also here to shed some light on the most important injury situations facing fantasy owners heading into the weekend. The sister resource to this column is the Rotoworld News Page, which will have every single inactive and all the late-breaking news up to kickoff and beyond. I'll also join Josh Norris and a rotating member of the crew Saturday morning at noon ET on the Rotoworld Fantasy Football Show to answer all of your pressing up-to-the-minute start/sit decisions.
Texans @ Buccaneers
*Much like last week, Will Fuller (hamstring) was limited for every session and slapped with a question mark on the team’s final injury report. He did return to a featured role behind the box score, though, racking up a team-high 93 air yards and 30 routes on 94 percent of Houston’s snaps. With Keke Coutee presumably healthy scratched for the second straight week, both Kenny Stills and Fuller garner contrarian double-stack consideration as pivots away from DeAndre Hopkins in short three-game DFS slates. Stills has oddly stuffed the stat sheet in his last three starts alongside Fuller, totaling 10/201/3 as the Texans’ primary slot wideout; those marks plummeted to 14/115/0 in Stills’ last four games in place of Fuller on the perimeter. Carlos Hyde is also listed as questionable with an ankle injury but fully expected to play. The Bucs’ front-seven has bottled enemy runners to 3.11 yards per carry, succumbing Hyde to touch-based RB4 status if active. Duke Johnson would sit up like the Undertaker and grasp must-play footing as a low-end RB2 and DFS cash game lock if Hyde’s surprisingly ruled out.
*Fresh off a career-high three receiving touchdowns against the Lions, Breshad Perriman will undoubtedly play every snap as a season-long WR2 with both Chris Godwin (hamstring) and Scotty Miller (hamstring) ruled out. Second-year SPARQ standout Justin Watson and AAF journeyman Ishmael Hyman are unknowns in this offense, but the former in particular is an interesting WR4/5 and cheap pivot away from Perriman’s higher salary across DFS sites given the ex-Browns wideout’s obvious touchdown regression coupled with Saturday’s ownership projection. Mike Evans’ and Godwin’s vacated 17 targets and 220.2 air yards per game also creates paths for O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate to get peppered frequently in multi-tight end sets, which Jameis Winston has averaged 9.7 YPA from this season. Winston notably went 9-for-11 for 154 yards and two touchdowns from 12 personnel after losing Godwin and Miller in-game last week.
Common thought suggests Tampa Bay’s secondary has pulled it together of late, permitting two top-10 QB finishes and a lowly 6.12 yards per attempt through the air over their last five games. Dive deeper and you’ll spot they’ve faced Drew Brees (24 hours after the entire organization celebrated Sean Payton’s engagement with 3-for-1 shot deals on Bourbon Street), Matt Ryan (sans Austin Hooper and Devonta Freeman), some machination of Nick Foles and a cold Gardner Minshew off the pine, Jacoby Brissett post-knee injury, and career backup David Blough in that stretch. Top corner Carlton Davis also sustained an ankle injury at practice Thursday and is considered questionable to suit up. In other words, fire up Watson everywhere.
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Bills @ Patriots
*29-year-old run-stuffing DT Corey Liuget (knee) was limited throughout the week and remains questionable to play.
*Saturday makes for the sixth consecutive game Julian Edelman (knee/shoulder) enters as a question mark. Now battling multiple injuries and spotted limping at practice, his impact is obviously concerning after 2/9 receiving (on just five targets, nonetheless) behind an 11-week low in snaps (40, 62%) against the Bengals. He’s merely a high-floor WR2 projected to lead New England in targets. Fantasy players should also expect J.C. Jackson to drape Cole Beasley in the slot if Jason McCourty (groin, questionable) isn’t cleared. That role would typically fall to nickelback Jonathan Jones (groin), who was ruled out Thursday. Reminder Beasley saw 13 targets against Jones from the middle of the field the last time these two teams met in September.
Rams @ 49ers
*Gerald Everett practiced in full mid-week and was promptly removed from the team’s injury report. His presence obviously throws a wrench into Tyler Higbee’s elite usage from the past three weeks as the latter’s run 101 routes on Jared Goff’s 129 dropbacks whilst logging 91.3 of Los Angeles’ snaps in that span. Higbee’s fourth-year unfolding shouldn’t be faded entirely, however, since he did previously usurp Everett when both were healthy in Weeks 11-12, out-snapping the former second-rounder 77 to 31 and running 24 routes to Everett’s 19. I would only start George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Mark Andrews, Hunter Henry, Darren Waller, and Austin Hooper over Higbee in fantasy championships. Everett pops as a stone-min DFS tourney punt since he ranked as the No. 8 tight end in air yards (479) with a 14 percent target share to boot prior to injury.
*Pro Football Focus has charged Rams No. 4 corner Darious Williams in allowing 8/127/1 (including 2/56/1 directly from the slot) on just nine targets this year. The Niners’ run-happy attack lacks any vertical threat worth shadowing for Jalen Ramsey, potentially sticking the stud free-agent-to-be onto George Kittle and allowing Deebo Samuel to erupt opposite Williams in place of usual starter Troy Hill (thumb, out). Kittle of course spiked 8/103 against Wade Phillips’ scheme back in Week 6. The return of Richard Sherman and K’Waun Williams is also terrific news only one week after Matt Ryan tossed for 210 yards and two touchdowns on San Francisco’s depleted secondary.
Panthers @ Colts
*Odds are Curtis Samuel (knee, questionable) was injured in practice mid-week since he was added to the injury report on Thursday and sat out Friday altogether. For what it’s worth, coach Perry Fewell said he still expects Samuel to play. The Panthers’ curveball in throwing Will Grier under center is more concerning than any injury since it puts every possible outcome on the table, including an outright shovel to Christian McCaffrey’s 8.3 looks per game from Kyle Allen. With so many jobs on the line, it’s still probable Run CMC’s fed in a variety of ways since he remains just 186 receiving yards shy of joining the 1,000/1,000 hierarchy. Continue firing up D.J. Moore as a bet-on-talent top-10 wideout despite his previous rapport with Allen, but others such as Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas, and even Samuel can’t be trusted until we visually see how Grier fares against NFL starting talent.
*T.Y. Hilton was rested Friday and will reportedly “see more playing time” in the final two games. I would rather miss out on a miraculous 100-yard performance from Hilton than bank on increased snaps only one week after the Colts were officially eliminated from playoff contention. Any glass-half-full Grier optimists should note Indianapolis’ defense will also be short No. 1 corner Kenny Moore II (ankle) and DT Denico Autry, the latter who leads the team’s interior with 3.5 sacks this year.
Bengals @ Dolphins
*Joe Mixon (calf) was limited on Thursday but is expected to have “no issues” after being removed from the injury report. The Bengals lock up the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft with a single loss over their next two games, but Mixon’s last six touch counts (32 > 16 > 18 > 23 > 26 > 28) are that of an indisputable top-six option — especially with Raekwon McMillan, Pro Football Focus’ No. 17 linebacker (among 167 qualifiers) versus the run, now done for the season.
*There’s a terrific chance every player on Miami’s active roster is available come Sunday. Allen Hurns’ green light is notable since his in-game injury against the Giants allowed Albert Wilson to achieve season-highs in snaps (88%) and targets (8) in the interim.
Raiders @ Chargers
*Friendly reminder DeAndre Washington handled 21 touches (including seven catches) and two carries inside the 10-yard line on 63 percent of Oakland’s snaps in his lone start for Josh Jacobs (shoulder, out) this year. While the former Texas Tech product is a strong RB2 injected into a woeful spot in Los Angeles’ regular season home finale, Jalen Richard is an intriguing leverage-based pivot in DFS tourneys at lower ownership since Oakland’s likely to be stonewalled up the middle without Pro Bowl RT Trent Brown (pec, IR) and OG Richie Incognito (ankle, out). Hunter Renfrow’s (ribs) return for this meaningless contest also knocks Darren Waller down a peg since the latter has averaged 8.3 targets in his last three games and merely 5.6 in a backseat to Renfrow’s increased role in Weeks 8-12.
*Though it may seem insignificant, Justin Jackson’s (hamstring, questionable) potential absence would at the very least ensure blowout carries for Melvin Gordon in what could be Philip Rivers’ home sendoff in Chargers colors.
Ravens @ Browns
*Mark Andrews wasn’t given a designation on Baltimore’s injury report for the first time since Week 5, firmly planting him as a top-six TE for Week 16.
*Olivier Vernon (knee) remains questionable for what projects as Cleveland’s toughest test to date. Not only do the Ravens need to keep their foot on the gas to clinch the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, this side has skyrocketed from -7 to -10 in their favor.
Lions @ Broncos
*Even if Kerryon Johnson is ignorantly activated from injured reserve prior to kick-off, toting the rock in altitude with David Blough under center isn’t a situation worth chasing. Bo Scarbrough (ribs, questionable) also has a chance to return and lend the Lions four active backs on game day.
*Noah Fant (shoulder, questionable) missed the entire second quarter against the Chiefs after landing hard following a 4th-and-one catch but should suit up here. Denver’s long list of impactful question marks still includes pass rushers DeMarcus Walker (ankle), Dre’Mont Jones (ankle), and NT Kyle Peko (illness).
Jaguars @ Falcons
*D.J. Chark (ankle) is expected to play “unless there’s some type of setback” stemming from Friday’s practice. While the second-year breakout did average 8.4 targets in nine starts with Gardner Minshew as a clear-cut WR1 prior to rolling his ankle, the current state of the Jaguars renders Chark into a cross-your-fingers low-end WR2 as he chases 44 yards to eclipse 1,000 for the year.
*Julio Jones (shoulder) was limited all week but wasn’t given a game designation. He’s obviously one of Week 16’s premier plays at any position after accruing a 51 percent target share (!!!) in Atlanta’s first game without Calvin Ridley (abdomen, IR).
Steelers @ Jets
*JuJu Smith-Schuster openly acknowledged his knee isn’t fully healed despite dodging Friday’s injury report altogether. His availability would push this situation (for fantasy outlooks, anyways) from bad to worse as Devlin Hodges has struggled to support one healthy receiver, let alone three. There’s no need to chase Smith-Schuster on Championship Week if you’re one of the few still holding your breath.
*Robby Anderson (illness), Jamal Adams (ankle), Quinnen Williams (neck), and Henry Anderson (shoulder) are all expected to play despite being labeled as questionable. Much like last week’s impossible matchup against the Ravens, Anderson files in as a boom-or-bust WR4 opposite Joe Haden and Steven Nelson along the perimeter.
Saints @ Titans
*Adoree’ Jackson (foot) was initially poised to return before suffering a mid-week downgrade and promptly being ruled out. Rookie DE Jeffery Simmons’ (knee, questionable) likely absence from the interior is also less than ideal.
Giants @ Redskins
*Kaden Smith will continue logging 96.2 percent of the Giants’ offensive snaps for Evan Engram (foot, IR) and Rhett Ellison (concussion, out) but remains a desperate flier from Daniel Jones with all of the team’s wideouts finally healthy.
*Quinton Dunbar’s soft tissue injury reverts Josh Norman back into the fire against Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard on the outside. Whereas Dunbar quietly sits on a pedestal as PFF’s No. 2 corner among 206 qualifiers in coverage this year, you have to scroll down to No. 182 to find his 32-year-old peer.
Cowboys @ Eagles
*An otherwise soft spot for Dallas’ offense as a whole could potentially crater if Dak Prescott (shoulder) is limited Sunday afternoon. He’ll undoubtedly suit up in this must-win scenario to crown the eventual champs of the NFC East, but there are looming concerns here as Prescott wasn’t able to throw in practice mid-week and reportedly told Michael Gallup in-game against the Rams that he "wasn't going to throw the RPO no matter what the read was” due to injury. This friendly matchup still entails fantasy players press forward with Dak as a low-end QB1 in 12-team leagues.
*Fletcher Cox’s (triceps) return to health is terrific news for DC Jim Schwartz, who’s had no answer to Ezekiel Elliott laying down the hammer for 22/96 > 27/103 > 19/151/1 > 28/113 > 22/111/1 rushing in five career games these two have squared off. Nelson Agholor (knee) and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (foot) are both questionable, but neither affect Greg Ward’s thin outlook as a WR4/FLEX from Carson Wentz. Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s presence in place of stud RT Lane Johnson (ankle, out), however, is cause for concern.
Cardinals @ Seahawks
*Coach Kliff Kingsbury labeled Christian Kirk (ankle) a game-time decision after the speedy wideout was limited for every practice this week. While his absence would open up Larry Fitzgerald as a cheap DFS cash game pivot, it would also tank Russell Wilson’s ceiling on the opposite side of the ball given the likelihood of fewer explosive plays for the Cardinals. Kirk’s a dicey WR3 if active due to his current status.
*Centerfield S Quandre Diggs (ankle, doubtful) and Jadeveon Clowney (abdomen, doubtful) will obviously be missed on defense if Kirk is in fact cleared. It becomes an easier spot for Kyler Murray as a sneaky top-eight QB if both Mychal Kendricks (hamstring, questionable), and Shaquill Griffin ((hamstring, questionable) ride the pine, too. Note that this total has increased from 48.5 to 51 (the week’s highest mark) since initially opening.
Chiefs @ Bears
*Now’s not the time to start chasing Damien Williams (ribs) since he returns to a loaded backfield alongside LeSean McCoy, Spencer Ware, and Darwin Thompson. Mecole Hardman (glute) was also removed from the final injury report ahead of Sunday night.
*Coach Matt Nagy said he would still play Chicago’s starters over their next two games after the team was officially eliminated from the postseason, but Akiem Hicks’ (elbow, questionable) late addition to the injury report warrants speculation towards that claim. Reminder the Bears allowed a full yard per attempt (3.94) more on the ground without Hicks available from Weeks 6-14. Anthony Miller remains a viable WR3 since Taylor Gabriel’s (concussion) absence has propelled the former into 10.4 targets per game over the Bears’ last five contests, fifth-overall only to Christian McCaffrey (58), Michael Thomas (56), D.J. Moore (54), and Zach Ertz (54) in total looks (52) as fantasy’s WR8 in that span.
Packers @ Vikings
*33-year-old Jimmy Graham (wrist/groin) is still battling multiple injuries ahead of Monday night’s divisional tilt.
*Alexander Mattison (ankle) is considered a “long shot” at best after missing two consecutive weeks of practice (Saturday pending). The Vikings are also reportedly eyeing holding out Dalvin Cook (shoulder) until their inevitable Wild Card berth. In short, Mike Boone should be viewed as a league-winning RB2 after grinding for 154 yards and two scores on 24 touches this preseason, and more recently coming off the bench cold and dusting the Chargers for 13/56/2 in the second half last week. For those still concerned, note that four of Ameer Abdullah’s five carries once Cook exited against Los Angeles only occurred after Boone's second score put the Vikings up 39-10 in the fourth quarter. The short list of running backs I’d start over Boone in this salivating situation includes Christian McCaffrey, Chris Carson, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Joe Mixon, Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, and Nick Chubb.