Sunday 1:00 PM ET Games
Cincinnati @ Cleveland
Team Totals: Browns 27, Bengals 17.5
For whatever small step back Baker Mayfield took in last week’s 17-16 win at Denver, he should take multiple steps forward in Sunday’s cupcake matchup with The Great Hue Jackson’s Bengals. Already torched once by Baker for 9.9 yards per attempt and four TDs in Week 12’s QB5 result, Cincinnati has coughed up the NFL’s fourth-most touchdown passes (28) while giving quarterbacks clean pockets with the league’s ninth-fewest sacks (33) and tenth-fewest QB hits (76). The biggest concern for Mayfield’s box-score ceiling is the likelihood struggling Jeff Driskel fails to answer back, allowing the Browns to ride their rushing attack in pass-unfriendly script. … Posing an even juicier matchup for Nick Chubb, Cincinnati got clocked for 163/796/8 (4.88 YPC) rushing in its last six games and has yielded an AFC-high 20 touchdowns to running backs this year. Averaging 20.5 touches per game since the Carlos Hyde trade, Chubb is a home-favorite workhorse with week-winning upside in a best-case-scenario draw. Last week, Chubb’s 100-yard effort could have been much bigger had he not lost a 35-yard sprint in the third quarter on LT Greg Robinson’s holding flag. … Although Duke Johnson reappeared for eight touches on 39% of last week’s offensive snaps in Denver, Johnson remains unplayable in fantasy leagues with ten or fewer touches in all 14 games and just seven receptions in four contests since Cleveland’s Week 11 bye.
Mayfield’s targets with Freddie Kitchens as OC: Jarvis Landry 38; David Njoku and Antonio Callaway 26; Johnson 23; Rashard Higgins 18; Chubb 17; Breshad Perriman 15. … Landry led Cleveland in Week 15 targets (8) but finished below 60 receiving yards for the sixth time in his last seven games. The Bengals have shored up their slot coverage, containing Willie Snead (5/51/0), Landry himself (3/30/0), Seth Roberts (3/29/0), and Emmanuel Sanders (4/19/0) since slot CB Darqueze Dennard’s Week 11 return from a sternum injury. Keenan Allen had a strong Week 14 (5/78/1) versus Cincinnati, but none of Allen’s production came against Dennard. … Mayfield is throwing to open men rather than forcing it to individual players, so no Browns pass catchers are bankable bets. Njoku has suffered because of it, logging a superb 73% catch rate with one drop since Week 7 but averaging fewer than 30 yards per game. Njoku’s main Week 16 selling point is his matchup; the Bengals allow the NFL’s eighth-most catches per game to tight ends (5.1), including a 4/77/1 stat line to Raiders tight ends last week. … Strangely but truly, Callaway has emerged as Mayfield’s most-consistent box-score weapon with 50-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five of his last seven games. 4.41 speedster Callaway hit in these teams’ Week 12 meeting (4/62/1), while Cincinnati has permitted the NFL’s fourth-most completions of 20-plus yards (54). … Higgins and Perriman continued to share No. 3 duties against the Broncos. Higgins drew three targets on 20 routes; Perriman ran 17 patterns and was thrown to twice.
Editor's Note: If you love Fantasy Football you have to be playing on DRAFT. It's daily fantasy football snake drafts instead of salary caps. All the fun of season long drafts but with no management and they last for just one week. They take minutes to complete and there's even auction drafts! No more setting lineups or constantly worrying about pros, just draft and win! Right now DRAFT is giving Rotoworld readers an exclusive FREE entry into a real money draft when you make your first deposit! Here's the link
The Bengals survived Jeff Driskel’s season-worst effort in last week’s Joe Mixon-driven win; Driskel couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn beyond targets to Tyler Boyd, got picked at the Raiders’ six-yard line, and averaged a putrid 3.9 yards per attempt. With fantasy scores of QB21 – QB23 – QB21 in his three starts and Boyd (MCL) likely done for the year, Driskel is not in play against a Browns Defense that has held 10-of-14 enemy passers to fantasy results of QB15 or worse. … Mixon is easily the Bengals’ top play with touch counts of 31 and 29 in his last two games and 5.02 yards per carry in the last month. Mixon’s 47-yard run in last week’s second quarter was a career long. Touched up for 155 yards by Mixon in Week 12, the Browns allowed 12 rushing TDs in their last nine games. … Driskel has targeted C.J. Uzomah a team-high 25 times. Boyd’s loss frees up 7.7 targets per game, while Uzomah’s matchup is ripe versus a Browns Defense that gave up 7/99/2 to Travis Kelce in Week 9, 10/56/1 to Austin Hooper in Week 10, 6/39/0 to Uzomah himself in Week 12, 3/32/1 to Jordan Thomas in Week 13, 9/77/0 to Ian Thomas in Week 14, and 4/43/0 to Matt LaCosse last week. … John Ross has 19 receptions on 48 targets this year, “good’ for a 40% catch rate. On throws 20-plus yards downfield, Ross has caught 3-of-14 for 98 yards. He is the Bengals’ likeliest wideout to draw Denzel Ward. … Alex Erickson is a PPR sleeper after replacing Boyd in the slot last week and drawing five targets, all on the interior. Fellow slot WRs Boyd (7/85/1), Mohamed Sanu (6/47/0), DaeSean Hamilton (7/46/0), and DeAndre Carter (6/32/0) turned in above-expectation catch totals against the Browns in the last five weeks.
Score Prediction: Browns 30, Bengals 10
Tampa Bay @ Dallas
Team Totals: Cowboys 26.5, Buccaneers 19.5
Their five-game win streak snapped in last week’s shutout loss at Indy, the Cowboys return home to face a Bucs defense that has tightened up under interim DC Mark Duffner, allowing 18.5 points per game in the last month. Tampa Bay’s inability to stop the run still makes this a get-right spot for run-first Dallas; Duffner’s unit got drilled by enemy backs for 166/928/6 (5.59 YPC) rushing in Weeks 9-15, while the Bucs have allowed a league-high 78.4% of opposing red-zone trips to go for touchdowns. Averaging 28.7 touches per game since Dallas’ Week 8 bye, Ezekiel Elliott is Week 16’s top RB1 play. … A big part of Tampa’s defensive improvement has been Duffner’s lean away from ex-DC Mike Smith’s vanilla zones into more man coverage, against which Dak Prescott throws the ball best. The Bucs also allow the NFL’s sixth-most QB rushing yards per game (20.9). 10-of-14 quarterbacks have logged top-12 fantasy finishes against Tampa, including fellow dual threats Cam Newton (QB10) and Lamar Jackson (QB9) within the last month. Dak is an upside play at JerryWorld with massive home-away splits, averaging 8.22 yards per attempt with a 13:3 TD-to-INT ratio in Dallas versus 6.42 YPA, four scores, and five picks on the road.
Dak’s Weeks 9-15 target distribution: Amari Cooper 60; Elliott 53; Michael Gallup 36; Cole Beasley 28; Blake Jarwin 19; Dalton Schultz 11; Allen Hurns and Rod Smith 7. … This is a prime bounce-back spot for Cooper, who like Dak has performed much better versus man than zone coverage while destroying at JerryWorld with home-game stat lines of 10/217/3 – 8/76/0 – 8/180/2 – 5/58/1 as a Cowboy. Tampa Bay has allowed the NFL’s fourth-most TDs to wide receivers (19). … Catch-less last week, Gallup has one touchdown all year, topping 51 yards twice. He does check in as Week 16’s No. 5 buy-low player in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model, putting Gallup on the DFS-tournament map. … Beasley has hit pay dirt once and averaged 25.4 yards in seven games since the Cooper trade. … Jarwin played a season-high 62% of Week 15’s offensive snaps and drew seven targets for the second straight game. A dump-off specialist averaging 10.0 yards per catch with zero career touchdowns, Jarwin is a matchup- and opportunity-based streamer against a Bucs defense yielding the NFL’s fifth-most yards per game to tight ends (69.1).
Shut down in Baltimore for last week’s QB30 result – his first non-top-ten score in a full game all year – Jameis Winston catches another tough draw against the Cowboys, who like the Ravens are capable of ruining passing offenses and controlling games with their rushing attack to suck play-volume life out of opponents. The Bucs’ offense entered Week 15 averaging 67.5 plays per game, then ran just 47 plays at Baltimore. This game’s indoor environment and Tampa’s plus weapons keep Winston’s ceiling intact, but his floor is lowered by the matchup and his own team’s run-defense deficiency. The Cowboys put the brakes on Matt Ryan (QB19), Andrew Luck (QB23), and Drew Brees (QB30) within the last five weeks. … Two of Week 15’s biggest surprises were Dallas’ previously-dominant run defense getting shredded by Marlon Mack (27/139/2) and Peyton Barber successfully running on the Ravens (19/85/1). Held below 70 total yards in five of his last seven games, Barber’s odds of repeating are low as a seven-point road dog with negligible passing-game usage. Barber has double-digit receiving yards in just 2-of-14 games.
Winston’s Weeks 12-15 target distribution: Mike Evans and Adam Humphries 29; Chris Godwin 23; Cameron Brate 16; Jacquizz Rodgers 11; Barber 7. … Evans beat expectations for his seventh 100-plus-yard game of the year in last week’s defeat, whipping Ravens RCB Jimmy Smith for a second-quarter 64-yard gain on a third-and-20 play and leading Tampa in targets (9). In RCB Byron Jones (6’1/199) and LCB Chidobe Awuzie (6’0/202), Dallas’ corners are more equipped than most to handle gargantuan Evans (6’5/231). Like last week, Evans is a fade-matchup fringe WR1 facing a Dallas defense yielding the NFL’s third-fewest fantasy points to wideouts. It does help that DeSean Jackson’s (thumb) return will take away coverage, while Evans should play with a chip on his shoulder as a Pro Bowl snub despite ranking No. 2 in the NFL in receiving yards (1,328). … Godwin has a single 13-yard catch on 13 targets over the last two weeks and will lose snaps with D-Jax back. … Humphries needs volume to pay fantasy dividends as a possession-slot receiver with a team-low 6.6-yard Average Depth of Target (aDOT), putting Humphries at heightened risk of a Week 16 dud based on Dallas’ ability to limit offensive volume. … Held below 40 yards in all 14 games, Brate defines touchdown-or-bust tight end. Dallas has given up six TDs in 14 games to tight ends.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 28, Buccaneers 20
Minnesota @ Detroit
Team Totals: Vikings 24.5, Lions 19
Full-year fantasy flop Matthew Stafford returns home from last week’s predictable loss at Buffalo with two touchdown passes since Week 11 – hilariously complete to LT Taylor Decker and No. 5 WR Andy Jones – to face a Vikings Defense that has held nine straight enemy quarterbacks to fantasy results of QB16 or worse, including Tom Brady (QB16), Aaron Rodgers (QB25), Russell Wilson (QB27), Drew Brees (QB29), and Stafford himself (QB23). Detroit’s pathetic offense is averaging 15.9 points over its last eight games. After dropping Ryan Tannehill nine times in last week’s blowout win, the Vikings visit Ford Field leading the NFL in sack rate (9.8%) and ranked No. 5 in QB hit rate (17.7%). Mike Zimmer’s team sacked Stafford ten times in these clubs’ Week 9 date. … With Kerryon Johnson (knee) on I.R., Zach Zenner started at Buffalo, led Detroit’s backfield in snaps (46%) and carries (10), and even ran more routes (13) than Theo Riddick (9). It was the second game in a row in which Zenner operated as the Lions’ lead back. Unfortunately, this remains a three-man RBBC with Riddick (10 touches) and LeGarrette Blount (7) still involved facing a full-strength Vikings Defense after it dealt with myriad early-season injuries. Zenner is a low-floor, touchdown-or-bust flex option. Riddick’s targets are down in the last three weeks (4 – 4 – 3).
Stafford’s Weeks 11-15 target distribution: Kenny Golladay 42; Bruce Ellington 30; Riddick 25; Levine Toilolo 13; Andy Jones and T.J. Jones 7; Blount 6; Zenner 5; Luke Willson 4; Brandon Powell 3. … With Ellington (hamstring) out for the year, Golladay slid inside to run a season-high 43% of his routes in the slot, exploiting linebacker matchups in Buffalo’s zone coverage. Perhaps most impressively, Golladay whipped Bills top CB Tre’Davious White for 40- and 33-yard gains. If OC Jim Bob Cooter is smart – debatable based on this year’s offensive performance – Cooter will take a similar approach this week to keep Golladay away from Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes, who covers the slot on just 2% of snaps. Golladay has quietly gained 27% of his yards on slot routes over the course of the year. Ultimately, Golladay is best approached as a high-variance, volume-based WR3 play with eight-plus targets in five of his last six games. Golladay also popped as Week 16’s No. 4 buy-low player in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model.
As expected, interim OC Kevin Stefanski’s Week 15 game plan successfully carried out Mike Zimmer’s mandate to emphasize Dalvin Cook, who exploded for 163 yards and two TDs on 20 touches, rushing for 100 yards for the first time since Week 1 of Cook’s rookie year as Minnesota thumped the Dolphins for its highest point total (41) of 2018. Detroit’s run defense has been better than Miami’s, limiting enemy backs to 167/666/5 (3.99 YPC) rushing in its last eight games, a timeframe that coincides with NT Damon Harrison’s acquisition. The Lions placed RE Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder) and stud run-plugger DT Da’Shawn Hand (MCL) on I.R. in consecutive weeks, however, and permitted 5.8 running back catches per game in Weeks 10-15. Albeit not quite the obvious lock-and-load play he was last week, Cook is a quality RB2 with RB1 upside on upward-trending touch counts of 17 > 18 > 20 in his last three games. … Even at domed Ford Field facing a beatable Lions pass defense, Kirk Cousins is a less-confident play after Zimmer and Stefanski scaled him back to a season-low 21 pass attempts against the Fins. Cousins did himself no favors with a second-quarter pick six on a telegraphed bubble screen to Stefon Diggs, which Minkah Fitzpatrick read all the way and returned 50 yards to the crib. Cousins leads all NFL quarterbacks in turnovers (10 INTs, 7 fumbles lost) and may be pigeonholed to game managing the rest of the way.
Cousins’ post-bye target distribution: Stefon Diggs 48; Adam Thielen 40; Cook 25; Kyle Rudolph 23; Aldrick Robinson 16; Laquon Treadwell 12. … Diggs was lucky to escape Cousins’ volume reduction with 4/49/1 receiving, scoring a first-drive touchdown when Dolphins CB Bobby McCain bit on Cousins’ play-action fake. Promisingly, Stefanski upped Diggs’ slot rate to 36% after Diggs ran just 22% of his routes inside under ex-OC John DeFilippo. This will help Diggs avoid Lions 90% boundary CB Darius Slay. … A 58% interior receiver under “Flip,” Thielen’s slot rate surprisingly plummeted to 36% in Week 15, same as Diggs. Perhaps Stefanski simply plans to move his wideouts around more to create advantageous matchups. Thielen has still fallen into WR2 territory, getting out-targeted by Diggs on an increasingly run-first team with 70 yards or fewer in five of his last six games. It does help that Thielen is popping as Week 16’s No. 9 buy-low player in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model. … Stefanski’s final notable Week 15 adjustment put rookie TE Tyler Conklin on the field for a career-high 33% of plays, while Rudolph’s 74% snap rate and 18 routes were both season lows. Conklin led the Vikings in receiving (2/53/0) but ran only five routes, mostly blocking. A former D-IAA basketball player, Conklin was the No. 4 SPARQ tight end in this year’s draft behind Mike Gesicki, Ian Thomas, and Dallas Goedert. Conklin should be stashed in all Dynasty leagues. The Vikings can save $7.63 million in cap space by cutting Rudolph after this year.
Score Prediction: Vikings 17, Lions 13
NY Giants @ Indianapolis
Team Totals: Colts 28, Giants 19
Surging toward a playoff berth with seven wins in their last eight fresh off last week’s 23-0 humbling of previously-hot Dallas, the Colts should drop Week 16 hammers on a 5-9 Giants team road tripping after its shutout loss in a must-win game to the Titans. Two-score home-favorite feature back Marlon Mack is set up to build on last week’s 149-yard, two-TD eruption in this date with New York, which got punished by enemy backs for 184/891/7 (4.84 YPC) rushing in its last seven games. Now missing every-down ILB Alec Ogletree (concussion), Giants defenders will be especially softened up after “tackling” 247-pound Derrick Henry 34 times last week. Mack’s minimal receiving role lowers his floor – he hasn’t topped two catches in a game all year – but Mack offers RB1 upside on rushing outlook alone. As the Colts average 4.5 yards per carry with C Ryan Kelly on the field and only 3.2 YPC without him, Kelly’s Week 15 return from a three-game MCL injury made an instant impact. This week, RG Mark Glowinski is back from an ankle sprain. … Andrew Luck’s biggest Week 16 concern is the continued absence of Odell Beckham (quad), curbing the Giants’ scoring expectation and raising the risk of a Week 15 repeat, wherein Luck comfortably game managed while Indianapolis’ defense and run game made quick work of Dallas. Over the past two seasons, the G-Men average 6.8 points per game fewer without OBJ. Still a top-eight QB1 in nine of his last 11 starts, Luck will tear apart the Giants if Frank Reich’s play calling allows.
Luck’s Weeks 13-15 target distribution: T.Y. Hilton 33; Eric Ebron 27; Nyheim Hines 20; Zach Pascal 9; Dontrelle Inman and Chester Rogers 7; Ryan Grant 5; Mack 3. … Despite missing practice all last week, Hilton led the Colts in routes (27), targets (8), and receiving (5/85/0), and his day would’ve been bigger had Luck not missed him for a wide-open goal-line TD on Indy’s opening drive. Mack scored on the very next play. With 75-plus yards and/or a touchdown in 10-of-12 appearances, this has been Hilton’s most-consistent season adjusted for injuries. Despite that, Hilton was snubbed for an AFC Pro Bowl berth and should play this game on a mission. … As Luck completed a year-low 16 passes in last week’s smooth-sailing win, Hilton was the lone Colt to top 45 receiving yards. Ebron committed an egregious drop on a second-quarter slant, but his three targets were Ebron’s second fewest all year as Dallas failed to mount a fight. Ebron’s Week 16 matchup is no obstacle; passes to tight ends against the Landon Collins-less G-Men connect at a 79% clip and average 9.06 yards per target. Ebron needs the Giants’ OBJ-less offense to incentivize the Colts to resume throwing passes. … Week 15 route totals for Colts complementary wideouts: Rogers 19; Inman 15; Pascal 13; Grant 11. Colts routes at tight end: Ebron 21; Mo Alie-Cox 5.
Eli Manning has lacked upside all year and is especially tough to back sans OBJ against a Colts Defense hot enough that rookie DC Matt Eberflus is garnering head-coaching buzz. In an assignment-sound zone, Indy has held five straight quarterbacks to QB17 scores or worse, including Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott in Weeks 14-15. … Even after busting badly with 56 generational yards on 18 touches in last week’s shutout loss, Saquon Barkley remains a top-five RB1 play against Eberflus’ defense, which hemorrhages an AFC-high 7.4 running back catches per game, willingly conceding underneath receptions but refusing to get beaten deep. Although Indianapolis permits an AFC-high 71% completion rate, only three teams have allowed fewer 20-plus-yard pass plays (35), and all three have faced far fewer pass attempts. The Colts quieted Ezekiel Elliott on the ground last week (18/87/0), but he still paid dividends with seven catches en route to 128 total yards. Barkley's matchup is improved by Colts every-down MLB Anthony Walker's (shoulder) absence.
The same zone concepts make Indy's defense vulnerable to tight ends, and they indeed allow the NFL’s second-most tight end catches per game (6.1). This bodes well for Evan Engram, who set a two-month high in routes run (36) and a season high in targets (12) against the much-stingier Titans last week. It’s not chasing points to consider Engram a top-six TE1 play with his role enhanced in a plus draw where the Giants project to play catch up. In his two-year career, Engram averages 2.3 more targets and 17.7 more yards per game when Beckham sits. … Held under 40 yards in seven straight games, Sterling Shepard was sub-optimally forced to play outside receiver with OBJ inactive in Weeks 14-15 and managed 54 yards on 15 targets (3.6 YPT). Russell Shepard took over in the slot but was ruled out with an ankle injury on Friday. Sterling projects to resume playing inside at Indianapolis with Corey Coleman, Bennie Fowler, and perhaps Cody Latimer on the perimeter. Sterling also popped as Week 16's No. 13 buy-low player in Josh Hermsmeyer's Air Yards model.
Score Prediction: Colts 34, Giants 17
Jacksonville @ Miami
Team Totals: Dolphins 21, Jaguars 17
Jags-Fins is Week 16’s second-lowest-totaled game after Ryan Tannehill played last week’s blowout loss to Minnesota through a bum ankle, absorbing a bone-crunching nine sacks on only 33 dropbacks and throwing for fewer than 270 yards for the eighth time in nine 2018 starts. … Kalen Ballage dominated the Fins’ Week 15 backfield after Frank Gore’s year-ending ankle injury, logging 13 touches to Kenyan Drake’s 4 and Brandon Bolden’s one. Ballage ripped a highlight-reel 75-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, and afterwards coach Adam Gase stated Ballage has demonstrated similar ability in practice, explaining why he was used so much more than Drake. The coaching staff simply does not trust Drake, who was victimized in blitz pickup for two sacks last week and has been beaten in pass protection for five sacks since Week 8, easily most among NFL backs. Plus sized (6’2/228) with 4.46 speed and 82 college catches, Ballage spent almost his entire Arizona State career as a committee back but always offered high-end raw tools. He is easily the best RB2/flex bet in Miami’s Week 16 backfield. The Jaguars’ defense has been clobbered for 13 rushing TDs over its last ten games and 373 rushing yards in the last two weeks. … Throwing darts at Dolphins pass catchers has been a losing 2018 proposition. Miami’s lone wideout worth legit consideration is Kenny Stills, who could easily get blanked by Jalen Ramsey.
Quarterbacked by Cody Kessler – who literally rushed for more yards (68) than he passed for (57) in last week’s embarrassing home loss to the Redskins’ fourth-string quarterback – the Jaguars are an offense to stream defenses against rather than invest in for skill-position starts. Back home after last week’s predictable burial at Minnesota, this is a rebound spot for Miami, which gets back NFL interceptions leader CB Xavien Howard (knee) from a two-game absence. Kessler has engineered one touchdown drive in his last 12 quarters. In LT Cam Robinson (ACL), LG Andrew Norwell (ankle), C Brandon Linder (knee), and RT Jermey Parnell (knee), the Jaguars are missing 4-of-5 starting offensive linemen. … Leonard Fournette (foot) practiced fully this week, but he is difficult to trust after receiving one touch in the second half of last Sunday’s defeat, despite a close score. After the loss, coach Doug Marrone explained Fournette sitting was pre-planned; the Jags wanted to see more of 2018 seventh-round RB David Williams. Looking gassed down the stretch of a lost, injury-marred season, Fournette admitted Thursday he "could be in better shape." Despite this plus draw, Fournette is a boom-bust RB2.
Score Prediction: Dolphins 24, Jaguars 13
Buffalo @ New England
Team Totals: Patriots 29, Bills 15.5
New England’s away splits reared their ugly head in last week’s loss at Heinz Field, managing ten points to bring the Pats’ road scoring average to 21.6 versus 33.5 PPG in Foxboro. This is also convenient since Bill Belichick’s team plays its final two games at home. Tom Brady’s Week 16 matchup is hardly a cinch, however; 11 of the last 12 quarterbacks to face Buffalo logged fantasy scores of QB14 or worse, while Brady himself has one finish above QB15 in his last seven starts, sadly regressing into a bet-on-legacy play. Josh Gordon’s indefinite ban deletes arguably Brady’s top run-after-catch weapon. Gordon had contributed 70-plus yards and/or a touchdown in six of his last eight games. … In real-life football, the most disappointing aspect of OC Josh McDaniels’ play calling has been his insistence on forcing the issue with Sony Michel, whose rushing-only usage invites eight defenders into the box on 23% of Michel’s runs versus James White’s 11% stacked-box clip. Target-less since Week 13 with just three targets since Week 7, Michel’s one-trick role has increased offensive predictability and combined with Rex Burkhead’s return to diminish all three backs’ fantasy appeal. Still TD reliant, Michel’s backfield-high workload and lead-back role as a two-score home favorite safely keep him as the best running back play on the Pats. … These are White’s touch counts (13 > 6 > 7) and snap rates (45% > 41% > 41%) since Burkhead came off I.R., rendering White a low-floor flex play on a team that is not optimizing its running back usage.
Brady’s post-bye target distribution: Julian Edelman 36; White 25; Rob Gronkowski 24; Josh Gordon 18; Cordarrelle Patterson 10; Chris Hogan 8; Burkhead 7; Michel and James Develin 3. … The best area to attack the Bills’ zone is in the slot, where Edelman (9/104/0), Kenny Golladay (64 of 146 yards), Anthony Miller (5/49/0), Dede Westbrook (3/44/1), and Kenny Stills (4/37/1) all did recent work against Buffalo’s interior coverage. … His movement on par with late-stage Frankenstein, Gronk has reached boom-bust, mid-range TE1 territory with 60-plus yards in just 4-of-11 games. The Steelers silenced Gronk by hitting him at the line and doubling him in the open field, tactics Sean McDermott won’t struggle to copy. The Bills allow the NFL’s second-fewest yards per game to tight ends (34.3). … Gordon’s 6.6 targets per game figure to be split three ways between Patterson, Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett flashed playmaking ability prior to Gordon’s acquisition, although that was before Edelman returned from his four-game suspension. Dorsett has been a ghost ever since, whereas Patterson and Hogan maintained key roles.
Buffalo’s pre-Week 14 cuts of big-bodied black-hole WRs Kelvin Benjamin and Andre Holmes were the smartest moves of the Sean McDermott-Brandon Beane era. Piggybacking a recent Chris Raybon stat, Allen went 18-of-43 (41.9%) for 239 yards (5.6 YPA) with one touchdown and three picks throwing to Benjamin and Holmes. Allen is 114-of-210 (54.3%) for 1,394 yards (6.6 YPA) with a 5:6 TD-to-INT ratio targeting everyone else. New England yields the NFL’s tenth-most QB rushing yards per game (17.5), while run-first Allen leads all quarterbacks in fantasy points over the last month. With top-ten results in 5-of-8 full games, Allen has earned every-week QB1 treatment and DFS exposure. Fellow plus-mobility QBs Mitchell Trubisky (QB2), Blake Bortles (QB3), Patrick Mahomes (QB3), Marcus Mariota (QB6), and Andrew Luck (QB6) all dropped difference-making box scores on the Pats’ molasses-slow defense. … For whoever the Bills trot out at tailback in Week 16, game script and workload are far bigger concerns than matchup. The Patriots were throttled by enemy backs for 122/716/4 (5.87 YPC) rushing in their last six games and have allowed the NFL’s eighth-most receiving yards per game to the position (53.6) this year. LeSean McCoy (hamstring) and Chris Ivory’s (shoulder) full practices suggest they’ll return this week.
Allen’s 2018 targets: Zay Jones 49; Robert Foster 28; Charles Clay 23; McCoy and Isaiah McKenzie 21; Jason Croom 13; Deonte Thompson 8; Logan Thomas 7. … Jones’ move from slot to outside receiver hasn’t gone well, catching 4-of-15 targets for 33 scoreless yards in Weeks 14-15. This week’s No. 3 buy-low player in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model, Jones would be the most contrarian of contrarian DFS-tournament punts. … Foster’s stat lines are 4/108/1 - 7/104/0 – 1/27/0 – 2/94/1 in the last month, where he ranks top ten in the NFL in Air Yards (409). Running a more diverse route tree on 6.5 targets per game since Benjamin and Holmes got cut, Foster has earned every-week WR3 treatment as a big-play threat in the NFL’s most-vertical passing attack. New England has allowed the NFL’s ninth-most 20-plus-yard completions (52). … Locked in as Buffalo’s slot receiver, McKenzie was a huge part of OC Brian Daboll’s game plan with three catches for 24 yards on last week’s opening drive against Detroit. With four-plus touches in four straight games plus rushing value, McKenzie is an underrated PPR play against a Belichick defense far more likely to devote resources to stopping Allen as a runner and Foster downfield.
Score Prediction: Patriots 21, Bills 20
Green Bay @ NY Jets
Team Totals: Packers 24.5, Jets 21.5
Sam Darnold has caught fire down the stretch of his first year with highlight-reel out-of-structure throws and just one turnover in his last two starts, a comeback win at Buffalo and last week’s one-score loss to 10-4 Houston. Utilizing his quick feet on second-reaction plays, Darnold’s QB3 finish versus the Texans was by far his best all year, buoyed by a season-high 35 rushing yards with Darnold seemingly taking the Jets’ on-field offensive reins from soon-fired OC Jeremy Bates. Green Bay’s defense has significant home-away splits, coughing up 28.1 points per game with a low of 24 on the road versus 19.1 PPG at Lambeau. As four of the last five quarterbacks to face the Packers logged top-ten fantasy scores – Josh Rosen was the lone exception -- Darnold is a two-QB-league starter stackable with Robby Anderson in DFS. … Elijah McGuire maintained Week 15 workhorse duties, out-touching Trenton Cannon 21 to 10 on a career-high 75% snap rate and turning an otherwise ho-hum effort into a fantasy-useful one with a fourth-quarter goal-line TD and three catches for the fourth time in six appearances. Albeit not a dynamic playmaker, McGuire’s usage, versatility, and matchup give him RB2/flex appeal with back-to-back 20-plus-touch games facing a Packers Defense that yielded a crisp 221/1,017/8 (4.60 YPC) rushing line to enemy running backs in the last nine weeks. Green Bay opened the season with a promising three-man front of Muhammad Wilkerson, Mike Daniels, and Kenny Clark. All are now on I.R.
Darnold’s Weeks 14-15 target distribution: Robby Anderson 18; McGuire 8; Jermaine Kearse 7; Chris Herndon 6; Trenton Cannon 5; Quincy Enunwa 4; Jordan Leggett 3; Rishard Matthews 2. … Anderson has earned upside WR2 treatment by ranking 13th among NFL receivers in targets (25) and fifth in Air Yards (388) over the last three weeks. Darnold’s rapport with Anderson is obvious, targeting him in contested situations and seeking out Anderson when under duress. This is a plus draw for the Jets’ No. 1 wideout; Green Bay was torched by fellow perimeter WRs Josh Gordon (5/130/1), Marquise Goodwin (4/126/2), Julio Jones (8/106/2), Kenny Golladay (4/98/1), Stefon Diggs (8/77/1), Tyler Lockett (5/71/0), and Josh Reynolds (3/42/2) over its last nine games. On the year, the Packers have allowed the NFL’s fourth-most touchdowns to wide receivers (19). … Darnold may want to reconsider throwing to Kearse, who has an abysmal 37.8% catch rate and 3.4 yards-per-target average over the Jets’ last eight games with just one touchdown across Kearse’s last 18 appearances. … Herndon ran a season-high 35 routes in last week’s loss, staying in the streamer hunt against a Packers Defense that permitted 6/75/1 receiving to Bears tight ends last week. … Roberts caught a second-half TD against Houston after Mathews (hamstring, I.R.) departed and figures to round out the Jets’ three-receiver set with Enunwa (ankle) still on the shelf.
Set to start even with Green Bay’s playoff hopes dashed, Aaron Rodgers catches a plus draw against the Jets, who yielded top-ten fantasy results to 7 of their last 11 quarterbacks faced and have been tortured by No. 1 outside WRs DeAndre Hopkins (10/170/2), Robert Foster twice (7/104/0, 3/105/0), Corey Davis (3/42/1), and Josh Gordon (perfect 5/70/0 on 5 targets) over the past five weeks, especially notable for Rodgers because of how heavily he leans on Davante Adams. With only statistical milestones to play for, Rodgers-Adams stacks are firmly in DFS play. … Jamaal Williams, Monday waiver claim Kapri Bibbs, and practice-squad callup Lavon Coleman are the Packers’ three available running backs against a Jets Defense that got trampled for 130-plus rushing yards in four of its five games, including five rushing TDs. In Weeks 5-15, Todd Bowles’ unit allowed a combined 222/1,015/7 (4.57 YPC) rushing line to enemy backs. Averaging 21.2 touches in Jones’ last five missed games, Williams is a volume-based RB2 play in this favorable spot.
Rodgers’ Weeks 13-15 target distribution: Adams 37; Jimmy Graham 20; Randall Cobb 18; Marquez Valdes-Scantling 11; Williams 10; Equanimeous St. Brown 7; Lance Kendricks 4; Jake Kumerow 3. … Adams can only hope Bowles’ Week 15 insistence on leaving Hopkins singled up spills into Week 16. Although Hopkins is better, Adams’ game is similar as a route technician who feeds on quarterback chemistry. Cobb’s (concussion) absence enhances Adams’ target projection, while Adams needs 13 catches in the final two games to break Sterling Sharpe’s franchise record (112), and 205 yards to pass Jordy Nelson’s team-best mark (1,519). “I’m not counting, but that’d be cool,” Adams said this week. “Hopefully A-Rod’s counting.” … St. Brown projects as Green Bay’s No. 2 outside receiver after finishing third (29) behind Adams (49) and Cobb (35) in Week 15 routes run. ESB is a dart-throw WR4 based on opportunity and matchup. He is scoreless on the year with one game above 20 yards in his last seven. … Valdes-Scantling is the most-logical candidate for slot work sans Cobb, although MVS hasn’t cleared 20 yards since Week 10, and Kumerow (18) ran more routes than Valdes-Scantling (14) last week. There is a chance the Packers might play St. Brown inside with Kumerow outside. St. Brown has run 21% of his 2018 routes in the slot. … Held below 35 yards in five of his last six games, Graham is a touchdown-or-bust tight end who isn’t scoring. The Jets allow the NFL’s second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends.
Score Prediction: Packers 24, Jets 23
Houston @ Philadelphia
Team Totals: Eagles 24, Texans 22
Nick Foles flashed his playoffs magic on multiple Alshon Jeffery bombs in Week 15’s stunning upset of the Rams, as Philly’s line kept Foles clean for no sacks and only three hits against Aaron Donald & Co. Even as Foles’ fantasy results are QB29 - QB18 - QB22 in three 2018 starts, playing with Jeffery has made a massive difference dating back to last winter, while Foles’ anemic 0.9% touchdown rate (TDs/attempts) is bound for positive regression. (His career TD rate is 4.4%.) Foles is 36-of-48 (75%) for 533 yards (11.1 YPA) and an 8.3% touchdown rate when targeting Jeffery over the past two seasons. He’s 176-of-272 (64.7%) for 1,708 yards (6.28 YPA) and a 2.9% TD rate to everyone else. Facing a Texans Defense that has yielded four straight top-13 quarterback weeks -- including Sam Darnold and Andrew Luck’s consecutive top-three results -- Foles is an enticing low-cost DFS play stackable with Jeffery and/or Zach Ertz. In stud RT Lane Johnson and RG Brandon Brooks, the Eagles are the rare team equipped to neutralize Texans All-World LE/DT J.J. Watt. … More reason to buy into Foles is the likelihood Philadelphia will struggle to run the ball, creating pass-funnel situations. The Texans have held enemy backs to AFC lows in yards per carry (3.25) and rushing yards per game (65.9), although DC Romeo Crennel’s unit has yielded the league’s ninth-most running back catches (83). Losing work to Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams is a touchdown-or-bust flex with zero catches since Week 11. Sproles led last week’s backfield in routes (12) and targets (4) and offers Hail Mary PPR appeal. Smallwood’s out-of-nowhere two-score game is tougher to chase.
Foles’ Week 15 target distribution: Jeffery 8; Zach Ertz 7; Golden Tate 5; Sproles 4; Smallwood, Nelson Agholor, and Dallas Goedert 2. … The Texans got cooked by mostly-outside WRs T.Y. Hilton (9/199/0), Robby Anderson (7/96/1), Corey Davis (4/96/1), Antonio Callaway (3/84/0), Zach Pascal (5/68/1), and Rashard Higgins (4/62/1) in the last month, promising for Jeffery, who sees 87% of his targets on the perimeter. Beginning with most recent, Alshon’s last six stat lines in full Foles games are 8/160/0 - 3/73/1 – 5/85/2 – 4/61/0 – 0/0 – 4/49/1. … This is a prime bounce-back spot for Ertz; tight ends have efficiently caught 74-of-98 targets (75.5%) for 906 yards (9.2 YPA) and seven TDs against Houston. Jeff Heuerman (10/83/1), Jordan Reed (7/71/1), Eric Ebron (4/65/1), Jonnu Smith (2/63/1), and Anthony Firkser (4/52/0) all beat expectations against the Texans within the last six games, while Jets tight ends combined for a near-perfect 5/72/0 receiving line on six targets versus Crennel’s unit last week. Per Sports Info Solutions, QBs targeting tight ends against Houston have a 114.0 passer rating, sixth highest in the league. … Eagles Week 15 route totals at wideout: Jeffery and Agholor 32; Tate 19; Jordan Matthews 1. … Agholor and Tate are WR4 darts in a potentially high-scoring affair. … Taking the “L” on their failed trade for Tate, the Eagles restored Goedert as a big part of their Weeks 14-15 offense with 70 snaps to Tate’s 42. The Texans’ tight end vulnerability combined with this game’s shootout potential give Goedert streamer and low-owned DFS-tournament appeal.
Fresh off last week’s hard-fought win at the Jets, the Texans stay on the road to face an injury-depleted Eagles Defense that especially struggles against mobile quarterbacks, yielding top-12 fantasy results to Dak Prescott (QB1), Cam Newton (QB3), Marcus Mariota (QB7), Dak again (QB9), and Blake Bortles (QB12). As Lamar Miller’s (ankle) loss may force more onto the passing game’s plate, this is a high-floor, high-ceiling spot for Deshaun Watson, who is averaging 40.5 rushing yards over his last four starts. Unprepared to contain a play-extending QB, Philly’s defense played a league-high 167 snaps over the past two weeks, 41 above expectation for a two-game stretch. As the Eagles lead the NFL in QB hits (116) and Watson targets DeAndre Hopkins at a league-high 27% rate when pressured, Watson-to-Hopkins is an exciting DFS stack. This week, Eagles DE Michael Bennett (foot), NT Timmy Jernigan (back), and slot CB Sidney Jones (hamstring) will join FS Rodney McLeod (MCL), DE Derek Barnett (shoulder), and CBs Ronald Darby (ACL) and Jalen Mills (foot) on the shelf. … Miller's absence leaves feature duties to Alfred Blue with D’Onta Foreman likely to debut in a breather-back role. Although Blue has long been an inefficient runner (career 3.58 YPC), he offers volume-based RB2/flex appeal with touch counts of 28 - 25 - 14 in Miller's three missed games over the past three seasons. Blue caught eight passes in a Week 5 spot start against Dallas. Tired and depleted, the Eagles served up a generous 130/749/7 (5.76 YPC) rushing line to running backs in their last six games while yielding the NFL's sixth-most receiving yards per game to enemy backs this year (54.2).
Watson’s Weeks 11-15 target distribution: Hopkins 45; Demaryius Thomas 25; Miller 13; Keke Coutee 11; Jordan Thomas, Ryan Griffin, and DeAndre Carter 11; Jordan Akins 6. … Hopkins has double-digit targets in three straight games and the NFL’s fourth-most receptions of 20-plus yards (21), convenient against an Eagles Defense that has allowed the league’s second-most 20-plus-yard catches (55). Hopkins is Week 16’s premier WR1 play. … This best-case-scenario matchup gives Demaryius WR3/4 life after he drew eight targets in last week’s win over the Jets, his most through six games as a Texan. Eagles DC Jim Schwartz’s secondary coughs up a league-high 15.4 catches and the NFL’s second-most yards per game (200.0) to wideout units. Thomas also popped as Week 16’s No. 10 buy-low player in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model. Demaryius maintains touchdown reliance with just two games above 70 yards over his last 25. … Coutee (hamstring) was ruled out on Saturday. Fill-in slot WR Carter ripped a 50-yard gain up the seam against the Jets. … Houston’s Week 15 routes run at tight end: Griffin 20; Thomas 11; Akins 8.
Score Prediction: Eagles 27, Texans 24
Atlanta @ Carolina
Team Totals: Falcons 23, Panthers 20
Mercifully shutting down clearly-injured Cam Newton (shoulder), the Panthers will turn to 2015 UDFA Taylor Heinicke, who’s been cut by the Vikings, Patriots, and Texans. Heinicke is an undersized (6’0/214) Colt McCoy knockoff with plus speed (4.62) and athleticism but a dink-and-dunk passing style and five career attempts. As the tanking Panthers could easily sit additional starters, the Falcons’ D/ST is squarely in Week 16 play having quietly logged top-nine fantasy results in 2-of-3 games since MLB Deion Jones came off I.R./return, including last week’s No. 1 overall D/ST finish against Arizona. … Cam’s shutdown and Christian McCaffrey’s absence from Thursday’s practice raise questions about whether McCaffrey will see his usual workload in a meaningless Week 16 game. CMC does have career milestones to play for, including a chance to join Matt Forte and LaDainian Tomlinson as the only players in NFL history to log 1,000 rushing yards and 100 catches in the same year. McCaffrey is just 21 rushing yards and six receptions shy, however, and he could conceivably reach both marks by the end of Sunday’s first half. … You’re on your own throwing darts at Panthers pass catchers with Heinicke making his first NFL start.
With Ito Smith (knee) and Devonta Freeman (groin) on I.R. and only plodder Brian Hill and practice-squad callup Jeremy Langford in reserve, Tevin Coleman should handle a near-full workload for crucial free-agency marketing opportunities in the final two games of his contract year. A 2018 real-life and fantasy disappointment, Coleman showed signs of Week 15 life by smoking Arizona for a career-high 145 yards rushing and a touchdown on just 11 carries despite losing another would-be 44-yard scoring sprint on WR Russell Gage’s illegal block. As soon as Cam was ruled out, this game’s spread swung from Carolina favored by 3 to Atlanta favored by 3, positioning Coleman for run-friendly script versus a Panthers Defense that has allowed at least one rushing TD to a running back in six straight weeks and is without WLB Shaq Thompson (shoulder). Albeit at an admittedly arbitrary cutoff, these are Coleman’s seven career touches/yards/TD lines with at least 18 touches, starting with most recent: 18/156/2 – 20/125/0 – 19/97/2 – 21/58/1 – 21/88/1 – 18/110/0 – 20/80/0. ... Matt Ryan visits the Panthers with top-12 fantasy results in seven of his last nine starts, outliers coming against Dallas and Baltimore’s elite defenses. Carolina has improved since Ron Rivera stripped DC Eric Washington’s play-calling duties, stymieing Baker Mayfield (QB21) and Drew Brees' (QB28) box-score impact in consecutive weeks. Struggling on the road all year, Ryan is not an exciting Week 16 QB1.
Ryan’s post-bye target distribution: Julio Jones 71; Calvin Ridley 47; Mohamed Sanu 41; Austin Hooper 39; Coleman 24; Smith 19; Gage 5. … Jones dominated last week’s first half for 6/82/1 receiving, ripping a first-quarter slot gain for 22, a screen for 17, and a diving 21-yard TD directly in Patrick Peterson’s coverage. Jones tweaked his rib and hip on the touchdown, however, and played just one second-half snap. Coach Dan Quinn said Friday Jones will be a game-time decision but hinted he expects Julio to play. Jones has milestones at stake; he leads the NFL in receiving yards (1,511) and is tied with Davante Adams for No. 4 in catches (100) behind Zach Ertz (101), Adam Thielen (105), and league-leader Michael Thomas (109). … Far removed from his fluky early-season TD binge, Ridley has fewer than 55 yards in nine of his last ten games and is no better than a WR4 option barring a Julio setback. Ridley hasn’t found the end zone since October 18, well over two months ago. … Hooper was tough enough to gut out significant knee/ankle injuries in last week’s win over Arizona but finished catch-less with season lows in routes run (21) and snaps (51%). … The story never changes for Sanu, who needs touchdowns to matter. He would become more interesting on the off chance Julio sat.
Score Prediction: Falcons 23, Panthers 21
4:05 PM ET Games
LA Rams @ Arizona
Team Totals: Rams 29, Cardinals 15
D/STs facing Arizona continue to be high-upside fantasy plays, regardless of the quality of the defenses themselves. Seven of the last nine D/STs to face the Cardinals logged top-12 scores, including top-five finishes by the Falcons (DEF1), Lions (DEF3), Chiefs (DEF5), 49ers (DEF5), and Broncos (DEF1). Tee up the Rams’ D/ST with confidence. With little around him, Josh Rosen has thrown four pick sixes this year. … David Johnson started last week’s game fast, beating Falcons MLB Deion Jones on a slot-wheel route for a 40-yard gain and exiting the first quarter with 66 yards and a touchdown. As the Cardinals’ deficit quickly grew, Johnson managed 35 scoreless yards over the final three frames and finished with 14 touches, Johnson’s fewest since Week 1. The Rams pose a plus draw, permitting 4.83 yards per carry and 5.3 catches per game to running backs. Johnson remains a volume-based RB2 capable of hitting RB1 value if Arizona stays close, but failing if they don’t. … Larry Fitzgerald is the Cardinals’ lone usable pass catcher with 17 targets over the past two games and career milestones to play for down the stretch of a lost year. He is 32 shy of Tony Gonzalez for the second-most all-time receptions and one behind Antonio Gates for sixth-most receiving TDs of all time. Fitzgerald has not announced whether he’ll play in 2019.
Jared Goff has fallen on hard times. Cooper Kupp (ACL) was his go-to guy under pressure, and Goff faced pressure on 38.6% of his Weeks 13-15 dropbacks, up nearly ten percent from his Weeks 1-12 pressure rate (29.6%). Throwing off his back foot to ruin ball placement, Goff’s 50.0 under-pressure QB rating ranks 30th among 35 passers at PFF. Daring the Rams to run with banged-up Todd Gurley (knee, ankle), defenses are playing Cover 4 designed to eliminate deep passes. In Weeks 13-15, Goff went 2-of-13 for 59 yards, no TDs, and three interceptions on 20-plus-yard attempts. As the zone-based Cardinals are very capable of copying this approach, and Arizona’s Chandler Jones-keyed defensive strength is pass rush, Goff may be headed for another tough week. He’s struggled all year on the road, managing a 9:9 TD-to-INT ratio and paltry 7.41 yards per attempt outside of L.A. … Big betting money came in heavily on this game's under as Gurley’s health has deteriorated – he could barely finish last week’s loss to Philadelphia – and he now appears likely to miss Sunday's game. Although Arizona has yielded a league-high 128.9 rushing-yards average and 19 TDs in 14 games to running backs, neither street free agent C.J. Anderson nor day-three rookie John Kelly is trustworthy in a projected timeshare. Clearly out of shape, Anderson was easy to mistake for old FB Mike Tolbert in Carolina before getting cut. Forced to choose, I'd rather throw a backfield dart at Kelly, who was one of the NFL's most-exciting players this preseason.
Goff’s target distribution sans Kupp: Robert Woods 55; Brandin Cooks 45; Gurley 40; Josh Reynolds 38; Gerald Everett 25; Tyler Higbee 16. … His slot rate up to 83% in last week’s loss to the Eagles, Woods remains the Rams’ steadiest pass catcher on stat lines of 5/78/0 – 5/70/1 – 4/72/1 – 5/67/1 – 7/61/0 – 7/74/0 in Kupp’s six missed games. … As a deep threat on the outside, it makes sense that Cooks would experience more downs than ups in an offense struggling to go deep. Cooks’ receiving lines in Kupp’s absences are 4/64/1 – 3/74/0 – 8/107/0 – 4/62/0 – 3/22/0 – 6/59/0, and he will likely catch Patrick Peterson on over half of Sunday’s snaps. … Reynolds runs the Rams' fewest interior routes and will also have his fair share of Peterson battles. Reynolds’ no-Kupp stats are 2/19/0 – 3/42/2 – 6/80/1 – 1/19/0 – 3/36/0 – 5/70/0, rendering Reynolds a touchdown-or-bust WR3/flex. Still coming off a team-high 12 targets, Reynolds popped as Week 16’s No. 12 buy-low player in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model. … In order, Everett’s Weeks 13-15 route totals were 20 > 29 > 32 for corresponding target counts of 3 > 7 > 7. The Cardinals have played stingy tight end defense, but opportunity gives Everett streamer appeal.
Score Prediction: Rams 20, Cardinals 13
Chicago @ San Francisco
Team Totals: Bears 23.5, 49ers 19.5
Dead set on winning and unconcerned with draft position, the 49ers played themselves out of No. 1-pick contention in back-to-back upsets of Denver and Seattle. This is the toughest challenge Kyle Shanahan’s offense has faced to date; the Bears have allowed top-15 fantasy scores to just three quarterbacks since Week 1, notably silencing Aaron Rodgers (QB18) and Jared Goff (QB32) in back-to-back games, albeit both at Soldier Field. Although Nick Mullens has vastly outplayed expectations, he is a tough sell in Week 16’s fourth-lowest-totaled game (43). Bears ballhawking FS Eddie Jackson’s (ankle) absence does help Mullens’ two-quarterback-league case. … Matt Breida retook clear-cut lead-back duties in last week’s return from his aggravated high ankle sprain, out-touching Jeff Wilson 22 to 7 with season highs in snaps (72%) and routes run (22) in San Francisco’s overtime win. Although Chicago poses a brutal on-paper matchup, enemy touches/yardage/TD counts tallied by LeGarrette Blount (20/103/2) in Week 12, Saquon Barkley (27/146/0) in Week 13, and Jamaal Williams (16/97/1) last week show DC Vic Fangio’s front isn’t impenetrable. Breida is flex-play viable in another sneaky-upset spot for the upstart Niners.
Mullens’ Weeks 14-15 target distribution: George Kittle 17; Dante Pettis 12; Kendrick Bourne 8; Breida 5; Trent Taylor and Kyle Juszczyk 4; Wilson, Garrett Celek, and Marquise Goodwin 3. … Even as Kittle was a Week 15 dud, he paced San Francisco in targets (8) and is averaging 95 yards per game in Mullens’ six starts. Kittle is a fade-matchup TE1 against a Bears team playing the stingiest tight end defense in the league this year. … Pettis has been Mullens’ most-consistent weapon on stat lines of 4/77/1 (Tampa Bay) – 5/129/2 (Seattle) – 3/49/1 (Denver) – 5/83/0 (Seattle) in the last month. Pettis’ matchup is softer than Kittle’s; Chicago quietly allows the NFL’s sixth-most yards per game to wide receiver units (171.6). … These were the 49ers’ Week 15 route totals at wide receiver: Pettis 30; Bourne 28; Taylor 9; Goodwin 2; Richie James 1. Goodwin lost his starting job to Bourne a few weeks ago. … Week 15 route totals at tight end: Kittle 29; Celek 4. Celek made the most of his small opportunity, turning his two targets into a 20-yard gain and 41-yard touchdown. Celek blocks on over 80% of his snaps compared to Kittle’s 44%.
Mitchell Trubisky shook off an ugly Week 14 for last week’s QB6 finish in Chicago’s 24-17 win over Green Bay, avoiding turnovers, finding Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen for red-zone scores, and averaging 8.4 yards per attempt, Trubisky’s fourth-highest clip through 12 starts. Short on pass rush and flammable in the secondary, San Francisco has supported high fantasy floors by yielding top-14 scores to 10-of-14 quarterbacks, including top-ten results in three of its last four games. As the Niners offer pass-funnel tendencies with a stout front but leaky backend, Trubisky is a Week 16 upside play with top-ten finishes in six of his last nine starts. The streaking 49ers keeping this game close would help Trubisky, and San Francisco is 7-1 under Shanahan in December games. … His five-game scoreless streak snapped against the Pack, Jordan Howard is being leaned on lately with 17-plus touches in four of the last five weeks and 20 touches in consecutive games. Sturdy up front for most of the year, San Francisco did spring Weeks 12-15 run-defense leaks by coughing up 100-plus yards rushing in all four games, including a 71/350/3 (4.93 YPC) combined line to running backs specifically in the last three. Howard maintains touchdown dependency because of his near-nonexistent passing-game role, but he is firmly back in the RB2/flex hunt. … Cohen’s matchup is still more favorable; the 49ers are allowing the NFL’s fifth-most catches per game to enemy backs (6.4). Cohen ranks second among running backs in receiving yards (710) this year. A consistent part of Matt Nagy’s offense, Cohen has logged double-digit touches in six straight games.
Trubisky’s Weeks 14-15 target distribution: Allen Robinson 15; Trey Burton 12; Cohen and Taylor Gabriel 10; Howard and Adam Shaheen 2; Anthony Miller 1. … With 7 and 8 targets since Trubisky returned from his shoulder injury, Robinson is an upside WR3/flex play as Week 16’s No. 6 buy-low player in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model. PFF charged 49ers LCB Richard Sherman with 13-of-14 targets allowed for 203 yards (14.5 YPA) and a touchdown in the last month, while third-round rookie RCB Tarvarius Moore got taken to task by Seahawks wideouts last week. Scoreless since Week 10, Robinson is a prime positive-TD-regression candidate. I like the idea of pairing Robinson with Trubisky as a low-owned DFS-tournament stack. … Although Burton snapped his five-game TD-less streak in last week’s win over Green Bay, he hasn’t topped 40 yards since Week 7 and remains at constant risk of Shaheen red-zone vultures. Shaheen logged season highs in snaps (45%), routes run (13), and yards (39) against the Packers. … Scoreless since Week 4, Gabriel is a low-floor WR4 dart with big-play potential but fewer than 55 yards in 12-of-14 games. … Miller is catch-less in consecutive weeks, losing snaps as coach Matt Nagy has opted for more two-tight end personnel than three-receiver sets with Shaheen at full health.
Score Prediction: Bears 24, 49ers 23
4:25 PM ET Game
Pittsburgh @ New Orleans
Team Totals: Saints 29.5, Steelers 24
Week 16's second-highest-totaled affair behind Chiefs-Seahawks, Steelers-Saints is Drew Brees’ first home game since November 22. Not since November 18 versus Philadelphia has Brees topped QB15 fantasy results. Brees’ home-away splits are as massive as ever this year with top-three finishes in 4-of-6 Superdomed games but QB17 scores or worse in 6-of-8 road starts. Thankfully, the Saints play Weeks 16 and 17 at home. As just one of the last ten quarterbacks to face Pittsburgh logged a top-12 result, however, Brees is largely a bet-venue, bet-total play best DFS-stacked with Alvin Kamara and/or Michael Thomas. It's possible Sean Payton will resume calling plays more aggressively with LT Terron Armstead finally back from a five-game pectoral injury. … Although Mark Ingram ran hard in Week 15’s three-point win at Carolina, Kamara’s 21-to-14 touch advantage reinforced the fact that Kamara is New Orleans’ locked-in lead back whenever games are close. Pittsburgh poses plus draws in no discernible areas – holding enemy backs to 3.95 yards per carry and the NFL’s third-fewest receiving yards per game (29.6) – but the spread suggests this is likely to be a one-score contest, in which Kamara averages 19.7 touches to Ingram’s 12.3 this year. It wouldn’t hurt if Kamara drew extra motivation from being snubbed for an NFC Pro Bowl berth.
Brees’ post-bye target distribution: Michael Thomas 78; Kamara 48; Tre’Quan Smith 33; Ingram 20; Dan Arnold and Ben Watson 19; Keith Kirkwood 17; Josh Hill 12; Austin Carr 6; Tommylee Lewis 2. … Guarding slot receivers with linebackers in zone coverage, Pittsburgh has been rinsed for at- or above-expectation production by interior WRs Keenan Allen (14/148/1), Jarvis Landry (7/106/0), Julian Edelman (7/90/0), Emmanuel Sanders (7/86/1), Seth Roberts (5/76/0), Mohamed Sanu (4/73/1), Tyler Boyd (7/62/2), and Willie Snead (7/58/0, 6/56/0). Leading the Saints in slot routes this year, Thomas’ home-away splits have naturally mirrored Brees with a 10-target average for 114 yards and 0.83 touchdowns at the Superdome versus 8.4 targets for 72.9 yards and 0.38 TDs on the road. This is an obvious smash spot. … All other Saints pass catchers are shots in the dark with low-volume roles on an increasingly low-volume passing team. Although Smith's 2018 receiving lines are 10/157/1 – 2/23/1 – 3/111/2 at home since Ted Ginn (knee) went on I.R., Ginn's Saturday activation to the 53-man roster suggests Smith and Ginn may share time against Pittsburgh. … These were the Saints’ Week 15 wide receiver route totals: Thomas 36; Smith 29; Kirkwood 22; Lewis 4. … These were New Orleans’ Week 15 routes run at tight end: Watson 16; Hill 12; Arnold 11.
Rather than Ben Roethlisberger’s road splits – he’s been just fine in both domes and 4PM ET away games – is the shutdown nature of New Orleans’ defense, which has permitted an anemic 12.3-point average in the last six weeks despite facing non-cupcake offenses including Dallas, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Philly. With RE Marcus Lattimore healthy and LE Cameron Jordan cooking, DC Dennis Allen’s white-hot pass rush is averaging 4.7 sacks and 8.2 QB hits in that span; 2018’s NFL leaders in those categories are the Vikings (3.4 sacks) and Eagles (8.3 hits). The Saints’ D/ST has reached every-week-start territory. Roethlisberger is a bet-on-shootout play best viewed as having a lowered floor but still-lofty ceiling. … Jaylen Samuels is a volume-based RB2 play in one of the toughest-possible running back matchups. 11 of the last 13 teams to face New Orleans finished below 100 rushing yards, while enemy backs average a paltry 3.23 yards per carry versus Allen’s stout front. Samuels’ main source of value is likelier to come in the passing game, where Panthers (8/67/0), Bucs (5/40/0), Cowboys (6/60/1), and Falcons (5/24/1) backs all supplemented their box scores with plus receiving stats against the Saints in the last month.
Big Ben’s post-bye target distribution: Antonio Brown 76; JuJu Smith-Schuster 75; Vance McDonald 37; Conner 33; Ryan Switzer 23; James Washington 19; Samuels and Jesse James 17; Eli Rogers 4. … Despite finishing below 70 yards in three of the last four weeks, Brown figures to be the focus of Allen’s game plan. In D.J. Moore (2/12/0), Mike Evans (4/86/0), Amari Cooper (8/75/0), and Julio Jones (11/147/0), the last four No. 1 receivers to face New Orleans produced all over the map. Ultimately, A.B. is a fade-opponent, fade-recency-bias play with this game’s track-meet projection working in his favor. … After a three-game stint playing mostly outside, JuJu resumed running 63% of his Week 15 routes in the slot, promising ahead of a game where Saints top CBs Eli Apple and Marshon Lattimore patrol the boundary. PFF charged slot CB P.J. Williams with 15-of-19 (79%) targets allowed for 172 yards (9.05 YPA) and a touchdown in the last month. Smith-Schuster has out-targeted Brown 72 to 69 since Week 8. JuJu tweaked his groin on Thursday and missed Friday's practice but is expected to play. ... The Saints allow an NFC-low 37 yards per game to tight ends, bottling up Austin Hooper (5/31/0), C.J. Uzomah (3/23/0), Zach Ertz (2/15/0), Ian Thomas (2/14/0), Cameron Brate (2/12/2), and Blake Jarwin (1/12/0) over the past six weeks. Held under 50 yards in eight straight games, McDonald is a touchdown-or-bust punt. … With Rogers back from PUP, these were Pittsburgh’s Week 15 route totals at receiver: Brown 36; Smith-Schuster 35; Washington 28; Rogers 19; Switzer 15. If JuJu can't play, Rogers and Switzer would share slot work with Washington starting outside.
Score Prediction: Saints 23, Steelers 21
Sunday Night Football
Kansas City @ Seattle
Team Totals: Chiefs 28.5, Seahawks 26
Bet up to Week 16's highest-totaled game, Chiefs-Steelers matches up the NFL’s No. 1 run game (SEA) with the No. 2 passing attack (KC). Although Russell Wilson is their best player, Chris Carson is featured in Seattle’s throwback offense, and is fresh off parlaying 28 touches into a season-best 148 yards in last week’s loss to San Francisco, sparked by a year-high six targets with Rashaad Penny (knee) inactive. Penny appears likely to miss again; Carson’s touches/yards/TD totals in Penny’s three absences are 20/127/0 – 27/124/1 – 28/148/1, giving Carson RB1 upside against a Chiefs Defense yielding the third-most fantasy points to running backs. … Penny sitting also helps receiving back Mike Davis, who has touches/yards/TD lines of 14/75/1 – 11/35/0 – 13/84/0 sans Penny. Coming off an eight-catch Week 15, Davis is a sneaky PPR flex with Kansas City coughing up an AFC-high 62.6 receiving yards per game to enemy backs. The Chiefs were clocked for team rushing lines of 24/119/2 (Chargers), 39/198/1 (Ravens), and 28/171/1 (Raiders) in Weeks 13-15. … As Kansas City’s ability to score at will elevates opponent pass volume – quarterbacks facing Andy Reid’s team average an AFC-high 40.7 attempts for a league-high 304.6 yards – this is a smash spot for Wilson, who has top-12 QB1 scores in nine of his last ten starts. Whereas Kansas City permits just 20.1 points per game at Arrowhead, DC Bob Sutton’s unit hemorrhages 33.7 PPG on the road. Wilson has averaged a whopping 9.2 more fantasy points per game with Doug Baldwin active. Baldwin is all systems go.
Wilson’s Week 15 target distribution: Davis 8; Carson and Baldwin 6; David Moore 3; Tyler Lockett and Ed Dickson 2; Nick Vannett 1. … Taking Week 14 off served Baldwin well against the 49ers, matching his second-highest yardage total of the year (77) and hitting pay dirt twice. Isolating the last six weeks in which he’s played, Baldwin is the PPR WR18 with five-plus catches and/or a touchdown in five straight. Baldwin runs a team-high 67% of his routes inside, where Chiefs slot CB Kendall Fuller will play in a cast after undergoing hand surgery. … Lockett has a 44% slot rate even with Baldwin active and could also benefit if Fuller’s effectiveness is compromised. As Lockett is Seattle’s best deep threat and Wilson leads the NFC in passer rating on 20-plus-yard attempts (126.5), it is notable that Kansas City has given up a league-high 61 completions of 20-plus yards. … Despite logging 79% and 77% snap rates in Weeks 14-15, Moore has one catch for nine yards over the past three weeks. He is a low-floor WR4 dart in a plus draw with shootout likelihood. … No. 4 WR Jaron Brown has gained zero yards in 6-of-8 games since Seattle’s Week 7 bye. … Neither Dickson nor Vannett has been a fantasy factor in quite some time, and Chiefs SS Eric Berry is expected to resume full-time duties this week after playing just a half in last week’s defeat.
This is a high-floor, high-ceiling spot for Patrick Mahomes facing a Seattle defense that surrendered top-15 fantasy scores to seven of its last eight quarterbacks faced. Despite Kansas City’s immense home-field advantage, Mahomes has played his best football outside of Arrowhead with a 28:6 TD-to-INT ratio and 9.47 yards per attempt on the road versus 17 touchdowns, five picks, and 8.17 YPA at home. He’s tacked on 21.9 rushing yards per game outside of K.C. but only 12.1 YPG in the Chiefs’ house. … With Spencer Ware (hamstring) out again, Damien Williams is an upside RB2/flex in this likely shootout with a huge passing-game role on a pass-first team facing the Seahawks, who permit the NFL's fourth-most receiving yards per game to running backs (58.7). While Charcandrick West played one solitary snap in last Thursday night's loss to the Bolts, Damien out-touched Darrel Williams 16 to 4, moving at the most explosive pace and running with the most physicality I've seen from Damien in his five-year career. Seattle got pasted for 124/646/4 (5.21 YPC) rushing by enemy backs in Weeks 9-15.
Mahomes’ Weeks 11-15 target distribution: Travis Kelce 46; Tyreek Hill 41; Chris Conley 21; Demetrius Harris and Demarcus Robinson 13; Damien 13; Ware 6; Darrel Williams 3. … Short SLB Mychal Kendricks (tibia), FS Tedric Thompson (chest/ankle), and potentially SS Bradley McDougald (knee), Seattle got rinsed for 5/112/1 receiving by 49ers tight ends last week, albeit with No. 2 TE Garrett Celek doing most of the damage on a 41-yard play-action TD where would-be tackler Thompson sheepishly fell down. Regardless, Kelce is fantasy’s top TE1 play each week. … Nagged lately by wrist and heel injuries and a few deep-ball drops, Hill stands to benefit from extra rest following last Thursday night’s loss to the Chargers. Popping as Week 16’s No. 2 buy-low player in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model, smallish speedster Hill will be a tough cover for plus-sized perimeter CBs Shaquill Griffin (6’0/194) and Tre Flowers (6’3/202). Among 117 qualified corners, PFF has charged Flowers with the NFL’s 15th-most yards allowed (639) and Griffin with the 18th most (609). As Hill draws half of his targets on slot routes, it’s notable that he has a massive speed (4.29) advantage on Seahawks slot CB Justin Coleman (4.53). Hill has scored 22 of his 32 career TDs on the road. … Conley is a low-floor WR4/5 with stat lines of 2/13/0 - 3/25/1 – 7/74/2 – 1/22/0 – 4/13/0 – 2/19/0 in Sammy Watkins’ (foot) six missed/limited games. … Kelvin Benjamin played just 12 snaps in his Week 15 Chiefs debut but could further cut into Conley and/or Robinson’s playing time on Sunday night.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 35, Chiefs 34
Monday Night Football
Denver @ Oakland
Team Totals: Broncos 23, Raiders 20
One of 2018’s least-compelling Monday nighters sends the lowly Raiders back home after last week’s two-score road loss at Cincinnati. As Derek Carr’s kryptonite is pressure, it is concerning that Denver ranks No. 7 in sack rate (7.8%) and No. 11 in QB hit rate (16.6%), while the Raiders have allowed the NFL’s third-most sacks (48). Carr maintains two-QB-league usability with top-15 fantasy scores in three of his last five starts facing a Broncos secondary missing top CB Chris Harris (fibula) and LCB Isaac Yiadom (shoulder). It helps that Oakland is averaging 6.3 more points per game at home than on the road. … For better or worse, the Raiders may have to lean especially heavily on Carr’s arm with slumping Doug Martin facing a Broncos front that held enemy backs to 166/637/0 (3.84 YPC) rushing over its last eight games. The last running back to score a rushing TD against Denver was Todd Gurley in Week 6. … Even as the Raiders played from behind against the Bengals, Jalen Richard logged single-digit touches for the fourth straight week and lost his second fumble in the past three games. Martin and Richard’s fantasy appeal is limited to one-game DFS slates, where Martin’s touchdown odds are higher but Richard offers more PPR upside.
Carr’s Weeks 13-15 targets: Jordy Nelson 26; Jared Cook 23; Seth Roberts 17; Marcell Ateman 13; Richard 11; Martin 3. … Seeing consistent volume with Martavis Bryant, Amari Cooper, and Brandon LaFell out of the picture, Nelson is averaging nearly nine targets with a team-high 224 Air Yards over his last three games. Although Jordy finished Week 15 with a rock-solid 6/88/0 stat line, his day would’ve been much bigger had Carr not underthrown his 44-yard catch, forcing Jordy to work back and get tackled at the seven-yard line. Jordy has reentered WR3 discussion against unimposing Broncos perimeter CBs Bradley Roby and Tramaine Brock. … Even as Cook turned in a dud at Cincinnati, his 88% snap rate was Cook’s highest since Week 5, and Cook is averaging 38 routes run over his last three games after averaging 25 routes in Weeks 8-12. This is a juicy bounce-back spot versus a Denver defense allowing a league-high 71.9 yards per game to tight ends. Cook should play with an edge after being snubbed for a Pro Bowl berth despite ranking top five among tight ends in catches (63), yards (848), and TDs (6). … Roberts has one TD since Week 2 and just two games above 43 yards all year. … Over the past month, Ateman has parlayed 23 targets into an anemic 97 yards (4.2 YPT). Sheer opportunity does give Ateman one-game DFS appeal with potential for a fade-route score. … Blocking TE Lee Smith vultured another goal-line TD in Week 15 but runs just three routes per game. … College WR Darren Waller delivered two big plays against the Bengals and is a player Jon Gruden may want to give a long look down the stretch. Waller’s route totals are 4 and 6 in two appearances, however.
Held below 60 total yards in back-to-back games, this is Phillip Lindsay’s softest draw since his Week 13 eruption at Cincinnati as a 4.39 burner facing the NFL’s slowest defense. Bengals backs annihilated Oakland for 162 yards and two TDs last week, while Lindsay maintained a stranglehold on Denver’s lead-back job versus Cleveland with 18 touches to Royce Freeman’s 5. Lindsay drew target counts of 7 and 6 in the last two weeks after averaging just 2.7 targets per game in Weeks 1-13. … Freeman’s touch counts are 5 – 6 – 12 – 6 – 8 since Denver’s Week 10 bye with eight receiving yards over his last seven appearances. … Throwing to rookies and practice-squad types since losing Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jeff Heuerman, Case Keenum has consistently fallen short of useful production regardless of matchups, delivering QB22 (Bengals), QB20 (49ers), and QB16 (Browns) scores in Weeks 13-15. Keenum has multiple touchdown passes in one of his last six starts.
Keenum’s Weeks 14-15 targets: DaeSean Hamilton 21; Tim Patrick 18; Lindsay 13; Courtland Sutton 12; Matt LaCosse 7; Devontae Booker 5; Brian Parker 4; Freeman 2. … With back-to-back seven-reception games since Sanders tore his Achilles’, Hamilton catches a plus draw against the Raiders, who let Tyler Boyd do whatever he wanted (4/38/1) in last week’s first half before Boyd got hurt. With usual slot CB Nick Nelson struggling, the Raiders tried mixing in journeyman S Marcus Gilchrist on interior coverage against the Bengals. Hamilton runs 72% of his routes in the slot. … Patrick has outplayed Sutton, registering Weeks 14-15 stat lines of 7/85/0 and 5/65/0 with consecutive team highs in receiving yards. Big (6’4/208) and fast (4.47), Patrick is a positive-TD-regression candidate against a Raiders Defense that has yielded the NFL’s second-most scores to wideouts (20) and may be without RCB Gareon Conley (concussion). Conley’s backup is previously-benched Daryl Worley, who got roasted for six touchdowns in Weeks 6-13. … Sutton remains a low-floor WR4 with one touchdown and three sub-50-yard performances in Denver’s last five games. Sutton did contribute more than Week 15’s 42-yard box score showed, drawing a long DPI flag on Browns LCB Terrance Mitchell to set up Keenum’s rushing TD. … After flopping as a Weeks 13-14 streamer, LaCosse flashed signs of Week 15 life against the Browns, catching 4-of-6 targets for 43 yards on season highs in snaps (93%) and routes (34). LaCosse is back in play as a matchup-based streamer; Oakland allows the most fantasy points in the NFL to tight ends.
Score Prediction: Broncos 24, Raiders 20