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Inside the Matchup


Week 16

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | HC Green
12/24/20

Friday:

MIN @ NO


Saturday:

TB @ DET | SF @ ARI | MIA @ LV


Sunday Early:

ATL @ KC | CLE @ NYJ | NYG @ BAL | CIN @ HOU | CHI @ JAX | IND @ PIT


Sunday Late:

DEN @ LAC | CAR @ WAS | LAR @ SEA | PHI @ DAL | TEN @ GB

Monday:

BUF @ NE

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

Vikings @ Saints - (Swanson)
Line: NO -6.5
Total: 50.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Minnesota Vikings head to the Super Dome to take on the Saints in a Christmas Day showdown with a ton of playoff implications. The Vikings are technically not mathematically eliminated, but their playoff chances are on life support. The Saints have already clinched a playoff berth and currently lead the Bucs for the division title. They are hoping to win out and get some help from the Titans for any shot of securing the top spot in the NFC and the lone first-round bye.

Kirk Cousins has been a difference-making streaming quarterback down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs. His 24.5 fantasy points per game over the last five weeks ranks 5th at the position, ahead of other more popular fantasy players like Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Kyler Murray.

Justin Jefferson appears to have taken over the No.1 receiving role for the Vikings after garnering 31 targets in his last three games. Adam Thielen is still a red zone favorite and leads the team in receiving touchdowns, but you have to think Jefferson will be the volume play again this week based on recent trends. He also is on pace to set the NFL record for receiving yards for a rookie, which could give Cousins some added motivation to look his way.

Irv Smith has a touchdown and a should-have-been touchdown in each of his last two games. Although the Saints have given up just one receiving touchdown to tight ends dating back to Week 5, Smith could be a streaming option in very deep leagues.

The Saints are reeling on defense as of late, giving up 254 yards and three touchdowns to Patrick Mahomes and 106 rushing yards to Jalen Hurts. This game projects to be high scoring based on the Vegas over/under, and the Saints are the stingiest defense to opposing running backs, leading us to believe Cousins and the passing game weapons will need to come up big for the Vikings to win.

A matchup to watch in this game is Jefferson and cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore has struggled this season currently ranks 97 at the position, according to PFF.com. Don’t be surprised to see the rookie beat Lattimore deep on a play or two.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: The matchup this week for Dalvin Cook against the Saints could not be any worse for fantasy managers looking to win their fantasy title. New Orleans leads the league in fewest points allowed to running backs, and only one player has posted a 100-yard and two touchdown scores.

Miles Sanders benefited from Jalen Hurts and the read option to torch the Saints for 115 yards and a pair of scores back in Week 14; otherwise, only five other backs topped ten fantasy points against Dennis Allen’s team.

Of course, you are starting Cook in this matchup based on his elite ability and threat to score a rushing touchdown. Just don’t be too shocked if he fails to reach 100 rushing yards.

Some injuries to the Saints that may improve the efficiency of both the pass and ground game of the Vikings are injuries to defensive tackle Malcom Brown and defensive ends Trey Hendrickson and Carl Grandson.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins (Low-End)
RB1: Dalvin Cook (High-End)
WR1: Justin Jefferson (Low-End)
WR1: Adam Thielen (Low-End)
TE2: Irv Smith (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Drew Brees returned to the field last week against the Chiefs after missing four games with multiple rib fractures. The veteran QB was rusty, completing just 44% of his passes for 234 yards and one interception. For fantasy purposes, he came through with a solid game because of his three passing touchdowns, but he did not look sharp and clearly missed Michael Thomas.

Speaking of Thomas, the team placed the stud wideout on IR before last week’s game, effectively ending one of the more disappointing fantasy seasons for a first-round wide receiver in recent memory.

In addition to losing Thomas, it appears as though Brees will be without Tre’Quan Smith as well, as Smith is dealing with an ankle injury and has not been able to practice.

That leaves Emmanuel Sanders to be the No.1 WR in a matchup that is very attractive for fantasy managers. Only the Falcons and Cowboys have given up more fantasy points to wide receivers than the Vikings. Fifteen different players have topped ten fantasy points against the young Minnesota cornerbacks, and four of those wider receivers topped 20 points.

Starting linebacker Troy Dye is listed as questionable with a concussion and hamstring, and stud cover linebacker Eric Kendricks did not practice today due to a calf injury that forced him to miss last week’s game against the Bears. If Hendricks is out, it will be a big boost for tight end Jared Cook in the passing game.

Another injury to watch is cornerback Cam Dantzler, who is limited with a foot injury.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: On this December 23rd, there are more than a few fantasy managers of Alvin Kamara who would like to air some grievances against head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Taysom Hill.

Although Kamara has a touchdown in each of his last three games and currently sits as the No.3 fantasy running back, he does not have a single multi-touchdown game since Hill took over for
Brees, and his receiving volume in three of those games was a far cry from what is was with Brees under center.

Hill is a thorn in Kamara managers' sides, but at least Brees is playing in this game, and Kamara should see a healthy dose of volume again in the passing game.

Kamara owners should be licking their chops at this week’s matchup against a Vikings defense that just gave up 32/146/2 to David Montgomery and the Bears. You can run on the Vikings. Heck, the one 100-yard game on the season for Zeke Elliott came against the Vikings back in Week 11.

Start Kamara with confidence as a top-5 play. Latavius Murray could see around ten touches as well, but he is more of a glory play at this point for teams who are in the Super Bowl.

Value Meter:
QB1: Drew Brees (Low-End)
RB1: Alvin Kamara (Elite)
WR2: Emmanuel Sanders (Low-End)
TE1: Jared Cook (Low-End)

Prediction: New Orleans 28, Minnesota 24 ^ Top

Buccaneers @ Lions - (Green)
Line: TB -10.0
Total: 54.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Even after 14 games it's tough to get a read on Tom Brady and the Bucs offense from one week (or even one half) to the next. In a four-game stretch where Tampa lost three times, Brady threw seven INTs and often looked lost, especially against the Saints. He struggled for a time last Sunday against the Falcons as well with Tampa Bay spotting Atlanta a 17-0 halftime lead. Then the team came alive as Brady ended the day with 390 yards passing and two TDs, but that level of inconsistency this late in the year is concerning.


Perhaps no player has embodied the team's Jekyll and Hyde performance more than Mike Evans, who posted a 6-110 line last week in what was only his third 100-plus-yard outing of 2020 and first since Week 4. He's been better recently, and has moved slightly ahead of Chris Godwin (4-36-1) for fantasy purposes. Antonio Brown (5-93-1) has primarily served as an underneath target since returning from suspension, but he's coming off his best game with the team. Within that group, Evans and Godwin are solid WR2s while AB is more of a low-end WR3 or flex.


Rob Gronkowski (3-29) has been wildly uneven recently, finishing with fewer than 30 yards receiving four times in his last six games but sprinkling in a 106-yard effort against the Chiefs in Week 12. He's a decent TE1 this week, in part because the Lions are 27th in pass defense (264.1 yards per game) and have struggled to apply even modest pressure in recent weeks. Look for Brady to pick this group apart and be a possible top-5 fantasy QB in Week 16.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: With Ronald Jones (finger) already dealing with a broken finger he tested positive for COVID last week and remains on the reserve list. He is not expected to play in Week 16, meaning Leonard Fournette (14-49-2) will get the call as the primary back once again. The former fourth overall pick has been rather quiet this year, but he has done a solid job when filling in for Jones. He holds low-end RB2 or strong RB3 value against a Detroit defense that is currently 29th versus the run at 137.3 yards allowed per game.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady
RB2/RB3: Leonard Fournette
WR2: Mike Evans
WR2: Chris Godwin
WR3/Flex: Antonio Brown
TE1: Rob Gronkowski
Bench: Ronald Jones (inj)

Passing Game Thoughts: Despite sustaining a rib injury late in Week 14, Matthew Stafford managed to make the start last Sunday against Tennessee. He played well, connecting on 22 of 32 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown before giving way to Chase Daniel when the Titans pulled away late. Stafford's toughness is commendable, but his production has lagged in the all-important touchdown category as he has thrown more than one TD pass in a game just once in his last five.

There's little doubt that part of those struggles are related to the ongoing absence of Kenny Golladay (hip), who hasn't played since Week 8 and is highly unlikely to play again this season. Without Golladay, Marvin Jones (10-112-1) has been the primary option. While Jones has filled in admirably, he lacks Golladay's physicality in the red zone. That allows defenses to focus on T.J. Hockenson (2-18), who has only scored twice during the seven games missed by Golladay.

Tampa Bay's inconsistency extends to the defense as well. They have a quality pass rush but haven't tallied an interception in their past three games; they also gave up 356 yards and three TDs to Matt Ryan last Sunday (without Julio Jones). Given the strength of the Bucs' run defense this is where Detroit figures to attack. Stafford is a QB2 with decent upside while Jones rates as a WR2 and Hockenson as a TE1. Possession options Danny Amendola (3-20) and Mohamed Sanu (4-38) might even offer some fringe appeal as streaming plays in PPR leagues.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: D'Andre Swift (15-67-2) ran effectively against the Titans, and his two-yard touchdown was particularly encouraging after the team had tended to lean on Adrian Peterson (6-23) in those situations. He'll have his hands full in Week 16 with Tampa Bay leading the NFL in run defense (77.8 yards per game; 3.4 yards per carry), though Swift's receiving ability allows him to retain moderate RB2 value.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matthew Stafford
RB2: D'Andre Swift
WR2: Marvin Jones
TE1: T.J. Hockenson
Bench: Adrian Peterson, Danny Amendola

Prediction: Buccaneers 37, Lions 21 ^ Top

49ers at Cardinals - (Caron)
Line: ARI -5.0
Total: 48.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The quarterback situation in San Francisco continues to be ugly this season and the team will now be moving on to third string quarterback C.J. Beathard as second-stringer Nick Mullens joins Jimmy Garoppolo on the sidelines with an injury. QB hasn’t been a spot to target for fantasy purposes in the 49ers offense for quite some time now so that isn’t going to change much now, but the important thing is that we should expect roughly similar numbers with Beathard as we saw from Mullens and that should be enough to continue to make Brandon Aiyuk a strong fantasy play here in Week 16.

Aiyuk has now caught at least five passes in each of his past six games while contributing 17 or more PPR fantasy points in each game during that stretch. This remarkable consistency from a rookie wide receiver in what has been a bad offense overall has been under-the-radar to a large extent, but we’re at the point where Aiyuk should be considered a low-end WR1 or at least a high-end WR2 right now. It’s worth noting that Aiyuk has performed significantly better this season in games where the 49ers have been without Deebo Samuel, but Samuel is expected to be out yet again this week, which should lead the way for Aiyuk to again lead the team in target share, this time against a Cardinals defense that is coming off of an embarrassing week where they allowed three receiving touchdowns to the Eagles combination of Greg Ward and Quez Watkins with rookie Jalen Hurts behind center. There’s some brand equity left in Patrick Peterson and fantasy owners might be worried about him in this matchup, but Peterson has not been the lockdown cornerback this season that we’ve seen from him in the past. Fire up Aiyuk as you normally would here in Week 16.

Fellow San Francisco wideouts Richie James and Kendrick Bourne are sort of low-upside options that we really shouldn’t be concerned with for fantasy purposes. Bourne did catch a late-game hail mary touchdown from Beathard in the 49ers’ Week 15 loss to the Cowboys, but that’s incredibly fluky and he had just three targets prior to that miraculous catch.

There has been some rumbling around the team that tight end George Kittle could make his return still in 2020 but the 49ers are not in the playoff picture and it would seem to be unlikely that we see him risk his health again this season. With that said, fantasy owners need to pay close attention to the game day inactives because if Kittle is healthy then he needs to be in your lineup. He’s one of, if not the best fantasy player at the position and even a 60 percent healthy Kittle is worthy of TE1 status.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: Raheem Mostert will now miss the remainder of the 2020 season due to a high ankle sprain and the team will again be turning to what appears to be a committee situation here in Week 16. This past week it was Jeff Wilson who led the way in the 49ers backfield, rushing 16 times for 60 yards and a touchdown while Tevin Coleman got only three touches and Jerick McKinnon just two, but that was also in a game which saw Mostert touch the ball 14 times prior to his injury. Look for both McKinnon and Coleman to see an increase in touches with Wilson still leading the way, making for a cloudy and somewhat risky backfield situation.

Wilson should nevertheless be ranked as an RB2 this week given that he’s produced as such in just about every game where he’s been given a decent touch share, including last week when he got into the end zone. Wilson is not much of a contributor in the passing game, however, so there’s always a possibility that this game gets away from the 49ers and they end up leaning heavily on their passing game, which does give him a somewhat low floor.

The Cardinals are a middle-of-the-pack run defense, but they’ve done a good job of containing opposing individual running backs this season. No back has exceeded 85 rushing yards in a game against Arizona and only one back - New England’s James White - has scored more than one touchdown against them in a single game here in 2020.

Value Meter:
RB2: Jeff Wilson
WR1: Brandon Aiyuk (low-end)
TE1: George Kittle (probably inactive but start him if he plays)
Bench: C.J. Beathard, Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James, Jordan Reed

Passing Game Thoughts: A tough stretch against some of the league’s better pass defenses had some Kyler Murray fantasy owners questioning themselves heading into the playoffs, but Murray re-established himself as fantasy football’s top scorer this past week with a masterful 406-yard, three touchdown passing day and added an additional 29 yards and a touchdown as a runner. Murray now has 26 passing touchdowns on the season alongside 11 rushing touchdowns while also leading all quarterbacks with 741 rushing yards.

This week he does face another very good pass defense in San Francisco, a team that held him to just 230 yards and a single passing touchdown with an interception when these teams faced off back in Week 1. Murray did, however, contribute 91 yards and a touchdown as a runner in that contest, further solidifying why we have to continue calling him a QB1 even in these perceived-to-be difficult matchups.

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is really the only other player in this passing game who fantasy owners should have any interest in and he has now been targeted at least 11 times in each of his past three contests. It’s been a wildly successful fantasy season for quite a few wide receivers this season but Hopkins has been exceptionally consistent while maintaining the high weekly floor that we love to see. He completely smashed the 49ers for 14 catches for 151 yards on a season-high 16 targets back in Week 1 so there’s no reason to think that he won’t again be in line for a heavy target share here in Week 16. He’s one of the best plays on the entire board.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: The Cardinals backfield committee reared its ugly head again this past week as Chase Edmonds surprisingly out-touched starter Kenyan Drake in Arizona’s victory over Philadelphia. Edmonds also scored the only touchdown between the two on a reception, making things even more frustrating for Drake’s fantasy owners in what was a very important game.

While we still have to assume that Drake is the lead horse in this backfield given that he’s carried the ball at least 10 times in every game he’s played this season, there’s still a bit of a cap on his upside given that Edmonds continues to get touches even in games where Drake is performing well. There’s enough of a concern that we need to bump Drake down from being a high-end RB2 to more of a low-end RB2 in this matchup. Drake did rush the ball 16 times for 60 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers back in Week 1, but San Francisco has mostly been quite good against opposing running backs this season, despite the fact that they looked a bit futile in stopping Dallas’ Tony Pollard this past week. Of course, there’s always the “they’ve given up” narrative that could begin to creep into fantasy owners’ minds and perhaps there’s even some truth to that, but this is still a fairly solid run defense overall.

Edmonds is someone who could be spot-started in PPR formats if you’re in a tough spot due to injuries, but his upside is very limited. Aside from this past week, Edmonds has been out-touched by Drake in every other game they’ve played together this season. Look for that to continue again this week, but Edmonds is good enough that he could sneak into the end zone again and deliver a solid fantasy day.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kyler Murray
RB2: Kenyan Drake (low-end)
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins
Flex: Chase Edmonds (PPR only)
Bench: Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Dan Arnold

Prediction: Cardinals 28, 49ers 20 ^ Top

Dolphins at Raiders - (Caron)
Line: MIA -3.0
Total: 47.5

Passing Game Thoughts: A severely depleted wide receiver group combined with a difficult matchup against an excellent New England secondary led to a less-than-stellar passing day for rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Week 15. The Dolphins QB threw for just 145 yards and no touchdowns and an interception in the win over the Patriots, but he actually came through in a somewhat surprising fashion as he was able to rush for a pair of short-yardage touchdowns, saving what would’ve otherwise been a fairly ugly fantasy performance.

This week Tua may again be without top wide receiver DeVante Parker (Questionable) and tight end Mike Gesicki (Questionable) as both players have been limited in practice again this week after a similar timeline led to them being ruled out in Week 15. If that’s the case, look for rookie Lynn Bowden Jr. to again be the team’s top target. He’s quietly caught 17 passes over his past three games that he’s been shoved into a starting role and while he hasn’t yet gotten into the end zone, he’s a dynamic player with excellent ability to make big plays and a trip to the end zone could happen at any time.

The Miami offense faces a Las Vegas defense that has been pretty bad as of late, having allowed exactly two touchdown passes in each of their past five games. While only Tom Brady’s four touchdown day in Week 7 really produced a huge fantasy day against the Raiders this season, they’ve been a high-floor option for opposing quarterbacks throughout the year - even some of the bad ones like Sam Darnold and Drew Lock have had quality fantasy days against Las Vegas.

If Parker does play then he’s probably a WR3/Flex option given his low floor/ceiling combination that we’ve seen throughout the season. Gesicki could be considered a low-end TE1 again due to the recent red zone success he’s seen with Tua behind center. Both players, however, would really be a boost to Tua who lacks the volume to be a QB1 but could be considered a QB2 for some teams.

LV FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
LV FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
LV FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
LV FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: Salvon Ahmed was scheduled to return in Week 15 after spending three weeks sidelined with a shoulder injury and most fantasy owners had low expectations in what looked like a difficult matchup against the Patriots. Ahmed blew past those expectations, though, on his way to a 23-carry, 122-yard, one touchdown performance in the Dolphins’ big win.

Miami heads on the road this week to face a Raiders defense that has been awful against opposing running backs this season, including recently conceding 100-plus yard rushing days to the Jets’ Ty Johnson and the Colts’ Jonathan Taylor. With Myles Gaskin back from the IR/COVID-19 list, it’s unclear how the running back touches are going to shake out. This is a very enticing matchup and one where we have to consider Ahmed to be, at minimum, a solid RB2 should he get the bulk of the carries.

Value Meter:
QB2: Tua Tagovailoa (low-end)
RB2: Salvon Ahmed
WR3: DeVante Parker
TE1: Mike Gesicki (low-end)
Flex: Lynn Bowden Jr. (if Parker is out)
Bench: Bowden Jr. (if Parker is active), Jakeem Grant

Passing Game Thoughts: A potentially season-ending groin strain to Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has the Raiders already thin playoff hopes looking quite unlikely as they head into a difficult matchup against a very good Dolphins defense. Assuming Carr will be out this week, Las Vegas will again turn to backup Marcus Mariota, who actually performed quite well in relief of Carr. Mariota completed 17 of 28 pass attempts for 226 yards and a touchdown with one interception, but more importantly ran the ball nine times for 88 yards and a touchdown.

We’ve always known that Mariota has some high-end rushing ability - maybe not Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray-level rushing ability, but certainly enough that it felt odd that the Titans didn’t use him much in that capacity when he was starting in Tennessee. Certainly a mid-game switch to Mariota meant that the team didn’t have a defined gameplan with him behind center which likely led to more of a “just do what you think is right” type of on-the-fly play calling in Week 15, but there’s at least some hope for fantasy success with Mariota behind center.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, this matchup against the Dolphins is a difficult one. The Dolphins have held their past five opponents to a total of just three passing touchdowns and one of those quarterbacks was Patrick Mahomes who contributed two of those three scores. Aside from that, the Dolphins have been feasting on backup and low-level quarterbacks like Mariota for the better portion of the 2020 season. This looks like a potentially low-scoring game as well, so don’t be surprised if there’s not a ton of fantasy value coming out of this passing game. With that said, Mariota could be a spot-starter as a low-end QB2 if you’re in need. You’ll probably need a rushing touchdown for him to contribute any sort of a difference-making performance, but that’s always a possibility with him.

Las Vegas’ wide receivers are still way too unpredictable to be trusting for most fantasy teams, but if there’s one player who could be an option this week it’s Nelson Agholor. Agholor has quietly seen an average of nearly nine targets per game over his past five so he’s seeing plenty of volume and could again break off another long touchdown in this one. He and Mariota haven’t had much time to gel - and it’s still Nelson Agholor - so there’s plenty of risk, but he’s someone who has upside if you’re in a bad spot.

Tight end Darren Waller, of course, continues to be an absolute fantasy superstar and he’s now contributed a ridiculous 425 receiving yards and three touchdowns over his past three games. He’s also seen a high-end WR1-type target share with 39 targets over that stretch. Waller is by far and away this team’s top receiving option and he’s someone who should be started in any matchup at this point.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: 2020 has mostly been a disappointment on weekly points average for second-year running back Josh Jacobs, but the Raiders’ first round pick in 2019 is still almost certain to finish as a fantasy RB1 this season because he’s been able to stay mostly healthy in a year when the running back position has been completely decimated by injuries. Jacobs seems to still have the full trust of the Raiders coaching staff as he ran the ball 26 times this past week against the Chargers. He only contributed 76 yards with those carries but he did get into the end zone. He’s also now caught at least three passes in four of his past five games, seemingly getting closer to his early-season contributions as a pass catcher.

Jacobs is a low-end RB1 this week despite facing a tough matchup against the Dolphins. While Miami’s run defense ranks in the top 10 in fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs this season, they’ve also had the benefit of facing quite a few committee backfields while avoiding most of the league’s top producers at the position. Jacobs, in fact, is the highest-scoring running back they will face all season and he should be in line for another heavy workload here in Week 16.

Value Meter:
QB2: Marcus Mariota (low-end)
RB1: Josh Jacobs (low-end)
TE1: Darren Waller (high-end)
Flex: Nelson Agholor
Bench: Devontae Booker, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, Zay Jones

Prediction: Dolphins 24, Raiders 21 ^ Top

Falcons at Chiefs - (Caron)
Line: KC -11.0
Total: 53.5

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s been a tough stretch for Matt Ryan as he’s been trying to navigate without superstar wide receiver Julio Jones. It’s been a tough stretch of defenses that he’s been against as well, including this past week’s matchup with Tampa, but Ryan finally put things together in that contest as he threw for 356 yards and three scores in a bit of a shootout with the Bucs.

We still don’t know the status of Julio and we won’t likely be sure until game-time so pay close attention to the injury reports. We do, however, know that Jones has been pushing to play despite this being a lost season for the Falcons as he received a platelet-rich plasma injection which he hopes will get him back onto the field yet this season.

This is another potential shootout for the Falcons as they will be facing the Chiefs who, of course, are led by MVP front-runner Patrick Mahomes. Assuming Jones is back on the field, both he and Matt Ryan have to be top-12 options at their respective positions this week. If he’s unable to play, however, Ryan becomes more of a low-end QB1/high-end QB2 as we’ve seen him struggle as of late without Jones.

One player who has seen a big uptick in fantasy value with Jones’ absences has been Calvin Ridley. Ridley has now gone over 100 yards in three straight games. He’s been targeted at least nine times in five straight contests and hasn’t been held below 14 PPR fantasy points in any of those five matchups. He has legit top-overall-WR upside in this matchup even though he’s facing a Chiefs defense that ranks in the top three in fewest fantasy points given up to opposing wide receivers so far in 2020.

Likewise, Russell Gage has seen a significant boost in fantasy production with Jones out. He’s seen an average of over eight targets per game over his past five contests and while he hasn’t produced any huge games over that stretch, he’s been a double-digit PPR fantasy producer in all but one of those games. Gage’s value really rests on whether or not Jones is active, but he’s at a WR3 if he’s again thrust into a starting role with Jones sidelined.

Tight end Hayden Hurst had some steam heading into 2020 and he actually got into the end zone this past week against the Bucs, but he’s only scored four times this season and has been held to five or fewer targets in four of his past five games. The Falcons could be in a very pass-heavy game script if things go south early in this one so Hurst could see a higher-than-usual total target number, but he’s still a low-floor/low-ceiling play who we probably want to avoid.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris made it clear this week that Ito Smith has taken over as Atlanta’s lead runner, officially usurping offseason acquisition Todd Gurley. Gurley has been less than spectacular this season, particularly in the second-half of the season, so this was somewhat expected although an official statement on the matter is rarely uttered by NFL head coaches.

That bit of news does clear things up to some extent, but Smith isn’t a spectacularly talented player to begin with and really hasn’t been all that productive with the opportunities he’s had either. Morris didn’t say that Smith was the bell cow or anything of that nature, he merely stated that Smith was now the lead back. That, of course, could and likely will mean a continued committee approach between Smith, Gurley and Brian Hill in what is already a pass-heavy offense to begin with.

The Chiefs are a top-12-friendly opponent for opposing fantasy running backs, but this is just not a great backfield. Those in desperation could than Smith as a Flex option, but that’s about as far as we should be willing to go with the Atlanta backfield.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matt Ryan (low-end if Julio is out)
WR1: Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones
WR3: Russell Gage (if Julio is out)
Bench: Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, Gage (if Julio plays), Hayden Hurst

Passing Game Thoughts: The top overall player on the board this week has to be Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is again making a strong case to be NFL MVP and he continues to produce elite fantasy numbers on a weekly basis, including this past week in what was supposed to be a tough matchup against a good New Orleans defense. Mahomes shredded the Saints for 254 yards and three scores while also adding 37 yards as a runner. The guy can really do it all and of course is a no-brainer high-end QB1 against the Falcons and their 32nd-ranked fantasy defense against opposing quarterbacks.

In addition to Mahomes, wide receiver Tyreek Hill’s monster season continues as he has now scored 15 touchdowns on the season. He looks well-equipped to finish the 2020 season as the top-scoring fantasy wide receiver, especially considering his matchup this week against Atlanta. The Falcons have given up six double-digit non-PPR fantasy point days to opposing wide receivers over just their past three games and Hill looks like a strong bet to add to that total here in Week 16. If he’s not the absolute top receiver on the board then he’s certainly top three and needs to be started in all formats.

Kansas City’s other wide receivers continue to be extremely difficult to project anything from on a weekly basis. While Sammy Watkins has been the most consistent of the bunch, his fantasy production has been lackluster throughout most of the season. Meanwhile speedster Mecole Hardman has had a few nice games mixed in this season but he’s mostly been a low volume option who needs a long touchdown to be worthwhile in your fantasy lineup. Hardman did, however, see a season-high nine targets this past week against the Saints and while he only caught three of them, he was able to secure a touchdown. The lack of consistency with volume makes Hardman and fellow depth receivers like Demarcus Robinson too difficult to trust especially in such an important week for fantasy football.

Tight end Travis Kelce, of course, could be argued as one of the most valuable players in all of fantasy football this season. He’s been an absolute super-stud producer, scoring 10 touchdowns on 98 receptions for 1,318 yards already this season. He needs just 60 yards to break George Kittle’s single-season receiving yards record and given that the Chiefs may not have anything to play for in Week 17, there’s a good chance that they try to get him there this week in a cushy matchup against the Falcons and their terrible defense.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: With rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire unlikely to play, we may get our first glimpse of Le’Veon Bell as the team’s workhorse back in this one. Bell has mostly been lackluster in his limited work since joining the Chiefs earlier this season, but he steps into one of the best situations possible for a running back. Defenses are absolutely (and rightfully) terrified of the Chiefs passing game which has led to some light boxes for Kansas City backs to run through this season. Bell is also, of course, known as one of the better pass catching backs in the league and could be relied upon to fill that role even more than Edwards-Helaire was so far this season.

While the Falcons defense has been embarrassingly bad against opposing passing games this season, they’ve actually not been too bad against opposing runners in 2020. In fact, they rank in the top five in fewest fantasy points given up to the position on the year. Of course, some of this is due to the fact that opposing teams have been so successful throwing the ball that they don’t even bother to run against Atlanta, but there’s still something to be said for them being a rather tight run defense. Bell did, however, carry the ball 15 times for 62 yards and a touchdown against the Saints defense this past week and they are still the top-scoring fantasy defense against the position this season, so a difficult matchup doesn’t necessarily preclude him from being a valued fantasy asset here in Week 16. The days of Bell being a locked-in RB1 are gone, but he’s certainly worthy of RB2 consideration this week.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes (high-end)
RB2: LeíVeon Bell
WR1: Tyreek Hill (high-end)
TE1: Travis Kelce (high-end)
Bench: Darrel Williams, Darwin Thompson, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson

Prediction: Chiefs 34, Falcons 24 ^ Top

Browns at Jets - (Katz)
Line: CLE -9.0
Total: 47.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Don’t look now, but the Browns have a real shot at winning the AFC North as the Steelers continue their freefall. With Baker Mayfield’s improved play this season, particularly over the past month, this is a perfect spot for Mayfield to just destroy the Jets, who are coming off their “super bowl” win. The Jets allow 22.4 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and have allowed 30 passing touchdowns this season. The Jets are actually kind of a pass funnel defense, allowing 40.4 fantasy points per game to wide receivers and 17.7 fantasy points per game to tight ends.

Jarvis Landry has been rock solid for a month now with at least six receptions and 52 yards in four straight games as well as a touchdown in three of his last four. Mayfield has also been leaning on Rashard Higgins, who has three straight games of strong production. Landry is a must start while Higgins is also viable, but the real question is whether you can trust Austin Hooper in a pristine matchup. His 5-41-1 line last week bodes well and the Jets have been torched by tight ends so my inclination is you can, but by no means is Hooper a sure thing. It is worth noting that the Jets allow the most touchdowns to tight ends.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: Nick Chubb had a lackluster performance last week that was salvaged by a touchdown, but he’s just really good at football. Chubb has scored in all but one game since returning from IR and, as a result, has 114 yards or a touchdown in every game since his return. The Jets may be a pass funnel defense, but it’s safe to assume the Browns are scoring anywhere from 3-5 touchdowns. They will move the ball at will and be in scoring position a lot. Chubb will have his opportunities to punch one in.

Kareem Hunt is much more of a dicey proposition as he does his best work with the Browns in negative game script. There will be none of that against the Jets. Hunt has seen more than four targets in a game just twice and both times it was against the Ravens with the Browns having to throw. Hunt’s 33% snap share last week was a season low. He’s talented enough to produce on limited volume, but we want volume with our running backs and it is unlikely to be there this week.

Value Meter:
QB1: Baker Mayfield (low end)
RB1: Nick Chubb (low end)
WR2: Jarvis Landry (mid-range)
WR3: Rashard Higgins
TE1: Austin Hooper (low end)
Bench: Kareem Hunt

Passing Game Thoughts: Sam Darnold completed a season high 71% of his passes last week in a win that may go down as a true history changing moment. It was Darnold’s best game of the season, which isn’t saying much given the low bar, and the first time he surpassed 200 passing yards since Week 4. Jamison Crowder returned to his lead receiver role with a team high eight targets. He is in play as a volume based option this week. Denzel Mims has been playing quite well, but his usage is too unreliable. The same goes for Breshad Perriman.

The Browns really struggle against the tight end as well, allowing 16.7 fantasy points per game to the position. Teams exploit this by targeting tight ends 22% of the time against the Browns. Unfortunately, the Jets don’t have a tight end you can trust. Chris Herndon is their primary tight end, but he has five games this season without so much as a target. Even in a great matchup, you cannot trust Herndon.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: The most important thing for a team to do in a lost season is to make sure they feed Frank Gore. Adam Gase has made that abundantly clear. There is no benefit in seeing what you have with Ty Johnson as a primary back – not when you have young phenom Frank Gore to give 23 carries on a season high 62% snap share. It is worth noting that Johnson caught all six of his targets for 39 yards and a touchdown. He could be in play if you’re desperate given the negative game script expected, but I would not advise going out of your way to start him. I guess you could do worse than Gore’s massive volume, but the Browns allow just 13 fantasy points per game to running backs via rushing, which feels a lot like Gore’s absolute ceiling.

Value Meter:
WR3: Jamison Crowder
Flex: Frank Gore
Bench: Sam Darnold, Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims, Ty Johnson

Prediction: Browns 38, Jets 13 ^ Top

Giants @ Ravens - (Green)
Line: BAL -10.5
Total: 44.0

Passing Game Thoughts: With Colt McCoy making the start in Weeks 13 and 15 it's fair to ask just what the Giants' medical staff was thinking when it cleared Daniel Jones, who was dealing with a hamstring injury, to start against Arizona in Week 14. Jones looked anything but healthy while being sacked six times before mercifully being replaced by McCoy. It's unclear who will get the call at this point, but the options are a journeyman or a banged up second-year QB with turnover problems.

Neither of those options sound very good against a Ravens team that has turned things around since their COVID outbreak, and neither should be in your lineup this Sunday. On the outside, volume target Sterling Shepard (4-51) is the steadiest option, though the fact that he hasn't eclipsed 75 yards receiving in a game this year speaks to his low ceiling as a flex play. Evan Engram (4-46) can fill a low-end TE1 slot based on usage and an overall lack of production at the position across the fantasy landscape.

Darius Slayton (4-74) has had his moments, too, but they've been few and far between after a fast start. As such, he isn't worth playing. Baltimore's defense ranks 14th versus the pass on the year (233.8 yards per game), and they'll hope to get Marcus Peters (calf) and/or Jimmy Smith (shoulder) back this weekend after both missed the team's Week 15 win over Jacksonville.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: In McCoy's first start, Wayne Gallman rushed for 135 yards in an upset win over Seattle. Last Sunday, Gallman managed just 29 yards on nine carries; that was his worst showing since taking over for an injured Devonta Freeman (ankle), who was designated to return from IR last week. Even if Freeman is activated, expect Gallman to continue as the primary option with RB3 value against Baltimore, which ranks 10th in rushing yards allowed at 109.9 per game.

Value Meter:
RB3: Wayne Gallman
Flex: Sterling Shepard
TE1: Evan Engram (low-end)
Bench: Daniel Jones (inj), Darius Slayton

Passing Game Thoughts: After doing work with his legs in the previous two games, Lamar Jackson threw for 243 yards and three touchdowns during the team's blowout win over the Jags last Sunday. He added another score on the ground and has now accounted for 10 TDs (six passing, four rushing) in three games since he returned from the COVID list. It's by far his best stretch of the season and the closest we've seen him play to his 2019 version. Jackson is back to being a solid QB1.

Marquise Brown (knee) spent most of last week on the COVID list due to close contact but was activated in time to post a 6-98 line. While it was his most receiving yards in a game since Week 1 it did spell the end of his three-game scoring streak. Mark Andrews (5-66-1) had no such issues as he scored for the second time in four games; he's also topped 60 yards receiving in each of them to solidify his spot as a top producer at the position. Andrews is a TE1 while Brown could serve as a flex or a low-end WR3 if he's able to shrug off his knee injury prior to Sunday.

For the year, the Giants rank 21st in passing yards allowed (244.6 per game) and tied for 13th in sacks (34). While those aren't great numbers they're still a sight better than what they did against Baker Mayfield on Sunday night as the former No. 1 overall pick barely threw an incompletion in a low-stress performance. The G-Men will need better from their defense if they hope to pick up a much-needed win in Week 16.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: With Mark Ingram a healthy inactive, J.K. Dobbins (14-64-1) got the majority of the carries against Jacksonville. It's the continuation of an upward trend for the rookie that should've started even earlier. He's now scored in four straight games and is averaging 4.9 YPC in that time. Gus Edwards (9-42) has leapfrogged Ingram as the No. 2 back and offers some flex potential alongside Dobbins' borderline RB2/RB3 spot. New York has a stout run defense. They've surrendered 101.8 yards per game on the year (sixth) and limited a dangerous Browns attack to 3.5 yards per carry.

Value Meter:
QB1: Lamar Jackson
RB2/RB3: J.K. Dobbins
Flex: Gus Edwards
Flex: Marquise Brown (inj)
TE1: Mark Andrews
Bench: Mark Ingram

Prediction: Ravens 27, Giants 13 ^ Top

Bengals @ Texans - (Swanson)
Line: HOU -7.5
Total: 45.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Ryan Finley and the Bengals delivered an upset for the ages with a 26-15 win over the 11-2 Steelers last week on Monday Night Football. The win for the Bengals was more of an indictment on the sad state of the Steelers than an endorsement for the Cincinnati offense and defense.

Finley completed just seven of 13 passes for 89 yards and a score while adding ten rushes for 47 yards and a score. He did enough to get the win, and the Pittsburgh offense did the rest with ineptitude and turnovers.

You are not starting Finley in any league, even in a great matchup like this against a Houston defense that ranks 18th in points allowed to quarterbacks and the second-most to running backs.

Tyler Boyd did not practice on Wednesday and is questionable with a concussion. It does not look like he will play and should not be in your lineup. That could open the door for A.J. Green and Tee Higgins to get more targets, yet that will not really matter if Finley completes less than ten passes again.

The trio of Giovani Bernard, Samaje Perine, and Trayveon Williams combined for just one catch last week against the Steelers. That pass did go to Bernard for a 14-yard touchdown reception, but clearly, passing to running backs is not something Finley excels at.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: Joe Mixon delivered his best A.J. Green impersonation this season by teasing fantasy owners for most of the season on a possible return to the field, only to disappoint and eat up a wasted roster spot.

Mixon is out and can be dropped in non-keeper formats. Assuming he doesn’t fumble and lose favor of the coaching staff, Bernard should get the bulk of work against a terrible Texans run defense. Gio got 25 of the teams 31 carries last week, delivering 21.7 fantasy points in the semi-finals.

Hopefully, you can do better than Bernard in your fantasy Super Bowl, but there might be a few other owners like myself who have Mixon and CMC in their dynasty league and have no other option than to run out Gio.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ryan Finley (Low-End)
RB2: Giovani Bernard (Low-End)
WR2: Tee Higgins (Low-End)
WR4: A.J. Green (High-End)
TE2: Drew Sample (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Deshaun Watson fantasy managers who weathered an up-and-down season and made the fantasy playoffs are treated to an excellent fantasy matchup this week with the Texans hosting the Bengals.

The Bengals have been surprisingly solid against quarterbacks over the past five weeks, giving up zero 20-point games to opposing QBs since Week 10. While this may sound impressive, you have to take it with a grain of salt based on the subpar quarterbacks they face during that time, including Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy, Andy Dalton, and Alex Smith - not exactly the Rushmore of fantasy superstars.

Good quarterbacks like Watson have found great success against the Bengals, including Ryan Tannehill and Baker Mayfield. Yes, I am being facetious, but if Tannehill and Mayfield can drop 30 on the Bengals, I would imagine Watson can too.

Keke Coutee has been limited in practice this week with a foot injury and is questionable for the game. Coutee has been a stud over the past three weeks with a touchdown or 100 yards in all three games, but he could play in this game and aggravate the foot, making him a risky option.

It only took 15 weeks for the Texans to realize that they have one of the best pass-catching backs at their disposal in David Johnson, who posted his first 100-yard receiving game of the year and his lone week with over ten targets.

With Duke Johnson likely out, David Johnson should once again be in your lineups, and hopefully, the team will continue the recent trend of peppering him with targets. The Bengals ranked 10th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, but they have not given up more than 55 receiving yards in a game to an opposing RB. That will change this week with Johnson getting around 75 receiving yards and a possible touchdown.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: The Bengals surprised everyone last week with an upset win over the Steelers that drastically changed the outlook of the AFC North standings. Nothing went right for the Steelers, except for the impressive play of Benny Snell, who posted 107 total yards and a score on 23 touches.

I anticipate a similar stat line for David Johnson this week, with more of his production coming in the passing game than on the ground. The Bengals have played better as of late against RBs, but they still are not a top-notch defense against the run and do not have linebackers who can match up with Johnson in the passing game.

Value Meter:
QB1: Deshaun Watson (High-End)
RB1: David Johnson (Low-End)
WR2: Brandin Cooks (Low-End)
WR3: Keke Coutee (High-End)
TE2: Jordan Akins (High-End)

Prediction: Houston 30, Cincinnati 21 ^ Top

Bears @ Jaguars - (Swanson)
Line: CHI -7.5
Total: 47.0

Passing Game Thoughts: With wins over Houston and Minnesota and strong performances against the Packers and the Lions, Mitchell Trubisky has made a strong push over the last four weeks to be a viable fantasy option and the quarterback of the future for the Bears.

Trubisky has completed over 70% of his passes in three of those four games, including a season-high 76% of his passes against the Lions back in Week 13. He gets another strong matchup this week against a Jaguar defense that ranks second in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks on the year.

If you made your fantasy championship, you likely have your quarterback locked up and do not need a streaming option like Trubisky. However, if you are in the consolation bracket or are playing DFS and want an upside play, Trubisky should be a consideration.

Allen Robinson has quietly put together another strong season despite up and down quarterback play. His 10.5 points per game place him 15th at the position and are nearly a full point per game better than last year.

If you are looking for a boom/bust streaming option, Darnell Mooney should be on your shortlist of receivers. The rookie from Tulane has a touchdown in each of the last two games and continues to get around 80% of the snaps.

Fellow rookie Cole Kmet was a sleeper play for many fantasy analysts last week against the Vikings, only to come through with two catches for 12 yards. With how effective the Bears are running the ball and efficient Trubisky is hitting his wide receivers, it makes sense to avoid starting Kmet and Jimmy Graham despite the plus matchup against the Jags.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: Christmas came early for David Montgomery fantasy managers, with the second-year running back from Iowa State posting a breakout sophomore campaign down the playoff stretch.

Montgomery trials only Derrick Henry in fantasy points scored over the past five games, with at least one touchdown and over 100 total yards in each of his last four games. He likely was the catalyst for getting owners to the playoffs and the championship game, and he should be the centerpiece in your league-winning lineup.

The Jags are pretty solid against opposing running backs and have given up the eighth-fewest points to running backs over that past three games. That should not sway you from starting Montgomery. Stay in the fire and raise your fantasy trophy.

Value Meter:
QB1: Mitchell Trubisky (Low-End)
RB1: David Montgomery (Elite)
WR1: Allen Robinson (High-End)
WR3: Darnell Mooney (High-End)
TE2: Cole Kmet (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: As of now, we do not know who Doug Marrone will roll out at quarterback for the Jaguars, and frankly, it may not matter for fantasy managers in the championship game.

You are not starting Gardner Minshew or Mike Glennon in the fantasy Super Bowl, and neither option provides enough upside to D.J. Chark or the other receiving options on the Jags to put them in your lineup.

Honestly, the only player you are going to start without question is running back James Robinson, who did not practice on Wednesday and is likely a game-time decision.

The Bears are dreadful against tight ends and should have two more touchdowns scored against them if Irv Smith and Jordan Akins did not drop wide-open touchdown passes. Chicago has given up a whopping ten receiving touchdowns vs. tight ends and should be tied with the Jets for the most touchdown receptions allowed.

We are not advising to start Tyler Eifert in season-long super bowls, but he could be an excellent DFS play, especially considering he posted 3/51 last week against the Ravens.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: The two running backs in this game should be on a shortlist for fantasy MVP based on how much value they provided to their fantasy managers relative to draft cost.

James Robinson is the No. 4 running back in total fantasy points scored on the season despite going undrafted in both the NFL and fantasy drafts. David Montgomery overcame a disappointing rookie season to deliver a top-10 season and a monster playoff run.

The former is dealing with an ankle injury that could keep him out of this game. It is not a great matchup against a Bears defense that ranks 21st in fantasy points allowed to running backs, but that should not keep you from playing Robinson if he is active.

Robinson has come through against difficult defenses this season and should be in your lineup if he is active.

Value Meter:
QB1: Gardner Minshew (Low-End)
RB1: James Robinson (High-End)
WR3: D.J. Chark (High-End)
WR4: Keelan Cole (High-End)
TE1: Tyler Eifert (Low-End)

Prediction: Chicago 21, Jacksonville 14 ^ Top

Colts @ Steelers - (Green)
Line: IND - 1.5
Total: 45.0

Passing Game Thoughts: It was another workmanlike performance from Philip Rivers in Week 15 as he completed 22 of 28 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns against Houston in what proved to be a competitive affair. It was the veteran's fourth straight start with two TD strikes alongside some consistent yardage -- he's thrown for between 225 and 295 yards in each of those games. That's a pretty safe outlook for this Sunday's matchup with Pittsburgh, making Rivers a middling QB2.

Over his first nine games of 2020, T.Y. Hilton failed to top 70 yards receiving in a game and didn't score a touchdown. In the last four, the veteran has combined for 21 catches, 348 yards and four TDs -- he's also topped 70 yards in each of those four outings. He should be viable as a WR3 against the Steelers in Week 16. After Hilton you're looking at pure inconsistency. Zach Pascal posted a 5-79-2 line last weekend but had one catch in each of his three previous games. Michael Pittman looked to be emerging in back-to-back wins over Tennessee and Green Bay; in four games since, he has 135 yards total. You can't trust either player right now.

Pittsburgh is one of just two teams allowing fewer than 200 yards passing per game on the season, and they still lead the league in sacks (47) and interceptions (17) despite slowing in both areas recently. Cincy threw for just 89 yards against them Monday night, but Rivers is in a different area code than Ryan Finley.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: Jonathan Taylor took some lumps earlier this year, but the rookie has found his groove, averaging 127 total yards per game over his last four and scoring four touchdowns. He's on the cusp of RB1 status, even against a solid Pittsburgh defense. Nyheim Hines (5-43 in Week 15) continues to make the most of limited work and is a possible flex candidate. While Pittsburgh ranks eighth against the run this year (104.6 yards per game) they let the Bengals control the game Monday night with 152 yards on 41 carries.

Value Meter:
QB2: Philip Rivers
RB2: Jonathan Taylor
Flex: Nyheim Hines
WR3: T.Y. Hilton
Bench: Zach Pascal, Michael Pittman Jr.

Passing Game Thoughts: If the concern over Pittsburgh's offense was at DEFCON 3 heading into Monday night, their performance in an upset loss to the woeful Bengals has brought it to DEFCON 1. Ben Roethlisberger was, in a word, awful, particularly in the first half when the name of backup Mason Rudolph was trending on Twitter. He was better over the final 30 minutes but still finished 20 of 38 for 170 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT (and there should've been more picks).

Among the team's dangerous wideouts, only Diontae Johnson (8-59-1) delivered a solid performance. Chase Claypool (3-54) also had a few moments, but JuJu Smith-Schuster (3-15) did nothing after getting tuned up by Vonn Bell on a crossing route. All roads lead back to Big Ben, however, as without better play from the triggerman Pittsburgh's WRs will continue to struggle. This weekend you should view Roethlisberger as a QB2 with Johnson as a WR2, Smith-Schuster a WR3 and Claypool a low-end WR3 or flex.

Eric Ebron (back) departed early from MNF with a back injury after taking a wicked shot on his only target of the game. The injury is not believed to be serious, but on a short week it may be tough for Ebron to get up to speed. If he plays he'd make a low-end TE1 against a Colts defense allowing 236 yards passing per game (17th) this season; they just gave up 373 to a depleted Texans air attack in Week 15.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: With James Conner (quad) held out Monday night, Benny Snell stepped in and rushed the ball 18 times for 84 yards and a score. That prompted Mike Tomlin to suggest that Snell will continue to play a role even when Conner returns, which should be this Sunday. It's a messy situation for fantasy owners made messier by Indy's fifth-ranked run defense (98.1 yards allowed per game). Until we see otherwise in game action the assumption should remain that Conner is the lead back, giving him RB3 appeal, with Snell as the backup/change of pace.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ben Roethlisberger
RB3: James Conner
WR2: Diontae Johnson
WR3: JuJu Smith-Schuster
WR3/Flex: Chase Claypool
TE1: Eric Ebron (inj/low-end)
Bench: Benny Snell

Prediction: Steelers 24, Colts 22 ^ Top

Broncos at Chargers - (Caron)
Line: LAC -3.0
Total: 48.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Drew Lock blew up with a huge fantasy performance against the Panthers in Week 14, but things got back to normal in Week 15 as the second-year QB again turned in what was a horrible performance against the Bills in a blowout loss. Lock threw for a season-low 132 yards and just one score and while he added 37 yards on the ground it was still an ugly fantasy day. Lock himself hasn’t been a fantasy option most weeks even in two-QB/SuperFlex leagues, but the real problem is that his erratic performances have led to his pass catchers also being essentially useless in most leagues. Only tight end Noah Fant has really been much of a fantasy producer and even he is barely clinging on to a top-12 season ranking at a position as depleted and talent-deficient as tight end has been.

Fant is again a low-end TE1 this week as he’s coming off what was his best game of the season from a catch and target standpoint, while contributing his first touchdown since all the way back in Week 2. He’s still a low-upside option overall right now given the Broncos’ offensive woes, but the position is just so bad that he’s probably still going to be a starter for most teams.

The only other player in this passing game who should even be considered for fantasy purposes is Tim Patrick. Patrick hasn’t been targeted more than six times in five of his past six games, but he’s still been able to produce four double-digit fantasy days over that stretch. The upside isn’t great and he’s probably not someone who has the potential to be a difference-maker in most fantasy football championship rounds, but he’s a player who will likely turn in another four or five catch day with a decent possibility at a touchdown.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: The Broncos backfield remains about a 50/50 split between Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay (hip) which has continued to limit both of their upsides from a fantasy standpoint, but Gordon was able to break through a bit this past week when he scored a pair of touchdowns in the Broncos’ loss to the Bills. Lindsay, meanwhile, has not gotten into the end zone since he played against the Chargers back in Week 8, which was coincidentally his only score thus far in the 2020 season.

One interesting thing to note about this matchup against the Chargers is that the previous matchup between these teams saw Lindsay far out-perform Gordon, at least on the ground, by rushing for 83 yards on six carries compared to Gordon’s eight for 26. Gordon added a season-high six receptions so he avoided a completely disastrous day from a fantasy standpoint, but it’s worth considering that the Chargers mostly bottled up the Broncos backfield aside from Lindsay’s 55-yard touchdown run.

Many fantasy ranking services have Gordon ranked significantly ahead of Lindsay at the moment and while recent finishes certainly do favor Gordon due to his usage near the goal line, it’s probably closer than the raw fantasy numbers might indicate. This is still practically an evenly split backfield in terms of carries and neither player has done much as a pass catcher this season. However, Lindsay is bothered by a hip injury this week and has missed practice time. Neither player is a particularly strong fantasy play this week, so we’ll put Gordon down as a low-end RB2 whereas Lindsay is more of a mid-level RB3/Flex. If Lindsay is ruled out, then Gordon becomes a more-confident RB2.

Value Meter:
RB2: Melvin Gordon (low-end)
TE1: Noah Fant (low-end)
Flex: Phillip Lindsay (inj), Tim Patrick
Bench: Drew Lock, KJ Hamler, DaeSean Hamilton

Passing Game Thoughts: Justin Herbert’s strong push to be the 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the year continued this past week as he led Los Angeles to an overtime victory over Las Vegas, capped off by a goal line score on a QB sneak. Herbert is now a top-10 scorer at the position this season and he has now proven that he can produce QB1 numbers even with top wide receiver Keenan Allen severely hobbled.

Allen is still dealing with the hamstring injury that severely limited him in Week 15, but he’ll have a week to recover and should be back on the field for Week 16’s contest against the Broncos. Allen produced a solid game with nine catches for 67 yards and a touchdown back in Week 8 so look for him to be in line for another heavy target share assuming he’s active this week. He’s been targeted at least 10 times in 10 of the Chargers’ 14 games so far this season and he needs just eight yards to get to 1,000 receiving yards for the fourth straight season.

Tight end Hunter Henry has been the Chargers’ next-most reliable pass catching weapon as he has now produced double-digit PPR fantasy points in five of his past six games, including his five-catch, 65-yard and a touchdown game this past week against the Raiders. That performance came in a contest where the Chargers were mostly without star wide receiver Keenan Allen so it’s possible that he was just featured more given that situation, but he’s seen at least six targets in six of his past seven games as well, so the floor is pretty solid for Henry as of right now. Unfortunately, Henry has been placed on the COVID-19 list and will not play in this game.

If Allen doesn’t play, things do open up for the pass catchers down the depth chart for Los Angeles, but it’s still not enough that we should be trusting any of them as anything other than high-variance DFS plays. Both Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson had solid fantasy days with Allen sidelined for most of this past week’s game, but neither player really established himself as a true target hog in that situation. Most disappointing, of course, was former first round pick Mike Williams who was able to suit up after battling a back injury throughout the week heading into Week 15, but produced just two catches for 22 yards. Williams just has not been seeing enough volume, whether fully healthy or not, to be considered anything more than a touchdown-or-bust type player and he has scored just once since Week 9 so there’s not much value there anyway.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: Austin Ekeler’s fantasy day was capped this past week when Kalen Ballage vultured a goal line touchdown from him, but Ekeler has still been a very solid fantasy contributor since returning from injury back in Week 12. Ekeler has now caught 28 passes in the four games he’s played since coming back and he should be in line for another heavy workload here in Week 16.

Denver struggled against the backfield trio of Justin Jackson, Troymaine Pope and Joshua Kelley when these teams played back in Week 8. The group rushed for 188 yards in that contest and added an additional nine catches for 74 receiving yards. While we can’t expect that all of that production would go to Ekeler, he’s certainly established himself as the workhorse in this backfield and someone who can contribute in any situation regardless of game script. His pass catching contributions make him one of the highest floor plays at running back in PPR formats and he also possesses high-level RB1 upside depending on the game script.

Value Meter:
QB1: Justin Herbert
RB1: Austin Ekeler
WR1: Keenan Allen
TE2: Donald Parham
Bench: Kalen Ballage, Joshua Kelley, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Tyron Johnson, Hunter Henry

Prediction: Chargers 27, Broncos 23 ^ Top

Panthers at Football Team - (Katz)
Line: WAS -1.0
Total: 43.0

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s been two full games since Teddy Bridgewater last threw a touchdown pass (although he rushed for a touchdown in each of those games). Bridgewater is what he is – he is not going to lose you a game, but he’s not going to win you a game either. Seven of their last eight games have been one score games, yet they’ve lost them all. The Panthers are pretty much just going through the motions to close out this season, but, as we know, players are always going to try because they can’t turn it off. That keeps all of D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Robby Anderson in play.

Moore has been better than many realize this season – he just hasn’t found the end zone much (just four times this season). Samuel has been just as valuable as Moore this season, while Anderson has been the most reliable pass catcher. The Football Team is strong against wide receivers, especially the slot, where they allow just 10 fantasy points per game. None of the Panthers’ receivers are primary slot guys, but Samuel leads the team in slot snaps at about 54%. Although that may seem like a reason to fade Samuel, the team has been manufacturing touches for him on quick screens and handoffs. Even in what should be a low scoring, defensive affair, all three Panthers’ wide receivers can be started if necessary. Ian Thomas plays tight for the Panthers, but you wouldn’t know that by checking the box scores. He’s not fantasy relevant in even the deepest of leagues.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: Let’s call a spade a spade here: Christian McCaffrey is not playing again in 2020. Mike Davis will finish the season as the primary back and is a solid fantasy option. He’s clearly slowed down as the season has gone on and he’s been ceding more snaps to Rodney Smith, but Davis is still very fantasy viable.

Davis’ lack of usage in the passing game was surprising last week. That should revert back to normal this week, but keep in mind that just 11% of the receiving yards allowed by the Football Team have come from running backs. They allow just 19.5 fantasy points per game total to the position. The reason you start Davis is because of the volume and hat is not going anywhere. Davis has at least 16 touches in each of his past four games.

Value Meter:
RB2: Mike Davis (mid-range)
WR3: Robby Anderson
WR3: D.J. Moore
WR3: Curtis Samuel
Bench: Teddy Bridgewater, Ian Thomas

Passing Game Thoughts: This week, if Dwayne Haskins starts, it will only be because Alex Smith isn’t healthy. Haskins broke Covid protocols last week, but evidently the NFL determined the appropriate punishment is to make Washington play another game with Haskins at quarterback.

Haskins managed to maintain the value of Logan Thomas last week, peppering him with a season high 15 targets for a season high 13 receptions for a season high 101 yards. Thomas is a strong option regardless of who starts at quarterback against a Panthers’ defense that has allowed 22% of its total receiving yards against to tight ends.

Terry McLaurin (ankle) also had a bounce back game with 77 yards on seven receptions. The two duds prior are hard to dismiss, though, and despite the heavy volume, McLaurin is more reliant on quality quarterback play than Thomas. Panthers’ opponents have targeted the wide receiver position on just 56% of attempts, one of the lowest rates in the league. You’re probably not benching McLaurin, but a boom week seems unlikely. The rest of the Football Team’s pass catchers are not fantasy relevant.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: The good news is the Panthers remain one of the worst teams against the run, allowing 25.5 fantasy points per game to running backs. J.D. McKissic is the unquestioned primary option now. He played a season high 88% of the snaps last week and, perhaps most importantly, handled 13 carries, also a season high. MsKissic’s passing game usage spiked back up with the Football Team facing negative game script.

The Panthers don’t make for a game where they’ll have to play catch up, but McKissic is locked into elite level volume, which makes him a must start. Antonio Gibson got in a couple limited practices this week. It still feels like he’s on the wrong side of questionable, but in the event he is active, expect him to go right back into his role as the primary back with McKissic as the passing game specialist.

Value Meter:
RB2: J.D. McKissic (high end, falls to flex if Gibson plays)
WR2: Terry McLaurin (low end)
TE1: Logan Thomas (mid-range)
Bench: Dwayne Haskins, Antonio Gibson (RB2 if he plays)

Prediction: Panthers 23, Football Team 20 ^ Top

Rams at Seahawks - (Caron)
Line: SEA -1.0
Total: 47.5

Passing Game Thoughts: A humiliating loss to the previously-winless Jets has to have head coach Sean McVay looking to bounce back here in Week 16 as the Rams fight for a playoff spot in a competitive NFC race. This week they face a Seattle team that quarterback Jared Goff threw for 302 yards against back in Week 10 home victory. Goff hasn’t been quite so successful through the air in recent weeks, however, as he’s failed to reach even 210 passing yards in three of his past four matchups, including what should’ve been a juicy matchup with the Jets in Week 15.

Goff has to be better here for the Rams if they hope to sweep the regular season series with the Seahawks, but Seattle’s defense has actually been improving as of late. They started the season off in absolutely in absolutely abysmal fashion and were one of, if not the best matchup for opposing quarterbacks for much of the first half of the season. A glance at the season-long statistics will show that Seattle still ranks in the top five in fantasy points given up to opposing QBs on the season, but a deeper dive will show that they haven’t allowed a 300-yard passer since Goff barely cracked that number back in Week 10. They’ve also held opposing QBs to just six total passing touchdowns over their past six games combined.

Goff is a low-upside play most weeks anyway, but this is not a particularly great matchup for him. Because of that, we need to bump him down from being a low-end QB1 to a mid-level QB2.

Wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp have mostly been able to continue to produce even in the face of struggles from their quarterback this season. The consolidated Rams target share has seen Woods targeted at least five times in every game this season, including eight or more targets in each of his past five games. While he struggled when these teams played back in Week 10, catching just five passes for 33 yards, the high volume he continues to see makes him a solid floor WR2 option with plenty of upside to break into the WR1 range.

Kupp hasn’t seen quite the consistency with his target share as of late, although he too has seen at least five targets in every game this season. Unfortunately, he has scored just three times on the year, which has really limited his “boom” weeks despite the fact that he’s finished with double-digit PPR points in all but four games this season. Kupp is more of a mid-to-low-end WR2, but he’s still a solid play this week against the Seahawks who he caught five for 50 against in Week 10.

Neither tight end Tyler Higbee or Gerald Everett sees enough of a target share to make them trustworthy fantasy options in this contest - or really any contest - unless the other player is sidelined for one reason or another.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

Running Game Thoughts: Rookie running back Cam Akers suffered a high ankle sprain during the Rams’ loss to the Jets in Week 15 and that has forced him to be ruled out for this week’s contest against the Seahawks. The team hopes they will have Akers back at some point this season but as we’ve seen with other players with similar injuries, it’s probably more likely that he’ll miss the remainder of his rookie campaign due to this unfortunate setback.

With Akers out, the Rams backfield again opens up and it would seem that Darrell Henderson will again assume the role of the team’s primary back. We saw this be the case earlier in the season when Henderson was producing borderline RB1 numbers while partially splitting the backfield with veteran Malcolm Brown. Henderson did score against the Seahawks when these teams played in Week 10, but he did so on just seven carries and. Brown remains healthy and will almost certainly be involved in the offense, but he lacks the upside that Henderson does so he’s more of a potential vulture for Henderson than he is a fantasy asset on his own. He did, however, score twice against the Seahawks in Week 10 while splitting the backfield almost evenly with Henderson so there’s a real possibility that this is an ugly backfield split that will frustrate fantasy owners. With that said, we need to shoot for upside in our fantasy playoffs and Henderson does give us that. We’ll call him a low-end RB2 this week and hope for the best.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jared Goff
RB2: Darrell Henderson (low-end)
WR2: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp (low-end)
Bench: Malcolm Brown, Josh Reynolds, Van Jefferson, Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett

Passing Game Thoughts: The Seahawks were lucky to escape with a narrow victory over the Washington Football Team in Week 15 and it’s now been six straight games where Russell Wilson has failed to reach even 270 passing yards. He also only has two multi-touchdown performances over that stretch.

The Seahawks’ passing game woes have coincided in large part with the return of running back Chris Carson, who has been seeing a healthy workload alongside Carlos Hyde in this Seattle backfield. The team’s commitment to the run has led to fewer pass attempts than we saw from them earlier this season when Wilson looked to be on pace to shatter some NFL records. We’re now back to recent-year Russell Wilson who is still a viable weekly QB1 but seems to lack the real week-to-week upside to make him a high-end option at the position.

This week Wilson faces a Rams defense that held him to his lowest fantasy point total of the season back in Week 10 when he threw for just 248 yards and no touchdowns - his only zero-touchdown day of the season. He was able to contribute 60 rushing yards in that game which helped get him near double-digit fantasy points, but it was an otherwise truly ugly performance for the Seahawks QB. It likely wasn’t a fluke, either, as the Rams have actually allowed by far the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks so far in 2020, including both the fewest passing yards and passing touchdowns given up to the position. That reality makes it difficult to fully trust Wilson in what is, for most fantasy owners, championship weekend. Wilson will be ranked as a mid-to-low-end QB1 across most services, but the chances are that you’re facing a quality opponent this week and may need real upside. Wilson doesn’t provide that in this matchup, whereas perceived riskier options like Ryan Tannehill, Justin Herbert and even Jalen Hurts do provide higher upside for those needing a big boom game to walk away with a league championship.

Alongside Wilson’s recent struggles has been similarly disappointing fantasy performances from veteran wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Lockett started the season off red hot and even gave us one of the biggest single-game fantasy performances of the season when he went off for 15 catches, 200 yards and three scores against the Cardinals back in Week 7. But since that point, Lockett has just one game in his past eight where he’s been over 13 PPR fantasy points. Realistically speaking, he’s been outside of even Flex scoring consideration in hindsight. While Lockett did catch five passes for 66 yards against the Rams when these teams played in Week 10, his upside at this point looks dismal. He’s still someone you could consider putting in your lineup as a Flex play or WR3, but there might be better upside options available on your waiver wire. Don’t just put him in your lineup because you’re comfortable with the name - make sure that he’s giving you the best opportunity to win this week.

DK Metcalf has also seen a bit of a dip in his production as of late but he’s been so spectacular this season that a “down” week is still typically double-digit PPR fantasy points. Of course, Metcalf, like his quarterback, had his worst fantasy game of the season when these teams played back in Week 10, as he caught just two of the season-low four targets that came his way for just 28 yards and no score. Stud cornerback Jalen Ramsey will almost certainly be locked in with Metcalf throughout most of the game so understand that there is a much lower floor for Metcalf in this game than there is most, along with a lower ceiling, but he’s likely to see more targets this week than he did in that Week 10 contest so feel free to still put him in your lineup as a low-end WR1.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: A 55-yard breakaway touchdown from Carlos Hyde was not something we expected in Week 15, but it ended up being the difference in Seattle’s victory over Washington. Hyde’s usage has been up-and-down as of late since starter Chris Carson returned to the lineup. He’s seen exactly 15 carries in two of the games and exactly two carries in the other two games. Of course, we have to assume that Carson will remain the team’s primary ball carrier so Hyde is not much of a fantasy option himself, but his presence does bring a bit of a cap to Carson’s upside.

Thankfully Carson’s usage has remained fairly strong as of late as he’s now seen at least 15 touches in each of his past three games. This heavy workload makes Carson a strong bet to produce at least solid RB2 numbers along with the upside of being a low-level RB1 this week against the Rams.

Los Angeles has been excellent against the pass this season, but they’ve also been quite good against opposing running backs as well. They’ve given up the fifth-fewest fantasy points to the position on the year, but they are coming off of a game where they gave up 120 total yards and a pair of touchdowns to the Jets duo of Frank Gore and Ty Johnson.

Value Meter:
QB1: Russell Wilson (low-end)
RB2: Chris Carson
WR1: DK Metcalf (low-end)
Flex: Tyler Lockett
Bench: Carlos Hyde, David Moore, Jacob Hollister, Will Dissly

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Rams 21 ^ Top

Eagles at Cowboys - (Katz)
Line: PHI -2.5
Total: 49.5

Passing Game Thoughts: It still baffles me that it took Doug Pederson 13 weeks to realize there was no conceivable way Jalen Hurts could be any worse than Carson Wentz. Hurts legitimately looks like a bigger Kyler Murray. In two starts, he has carried the ball 18 times for 169 yards. Hurts had a better game last week than Wentz ever had in his entire career. Now he gets a Cowboys defense that has been playing better lately, but has been doing so against weak offenses. Hurts played well against a good Saints defense and a solid Cardinals defense. He will not be slowed by the Cowboys.

Hurts threw for 338 yards last week, but did so without honing in on any singular receiver. Zach Ertz led the team with 69 receiving yards, but he only caught two passes. Alshon Jefferey was second with 63 receiving yards, but, again, only two receptions. Dallas Goedert and Jalen Reagor shared for the team lead in targets with eight. Greg Ward and Quez Watkins caught all three of Hurts’ touchdowns, but they are not anywhere near fantasy viable.

The question is what to do with Goedert, Reagor, and Jeffery. 73% of the receiving yards allowed by the Cowboys has gone to wide receivers and they allow just 10.8 fantasy points per game to tight ends. Those numbers suggest that Reagor and, to a lesser extent, Jeffery, could be the primary beneficiaries of another strong Hurts game. However, Goedert has been the main guy for the Eagles all season and I don’t see that changing. Hurts will look to do damage on the ground as well so the reality is the value here lies solely with Hurts and not so much with any of his supporting cast.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: Miles Sanders volumed his way to exactly 10 fantasy points last week. It’s no secret that I view Sanders as just a guy. He has two things going for him: volume and splash play ability. Sanders has a number of long touchdown runs in his short career. The fact that he is always capable of busting off a big play combined with the ample opportunities to do so makes him hard to bench. He’s played 82% of the snaps over the past two weeks.

Sanders missed the Eagles’ previous game against the Cowboys. In that game, Boston Scott was effective on the ground, but did nothing through the air. That’s been the only real strength of the Cowboys defense this season – they only surrender 6.3 fantasy points per game to running backs via receiving, which is the lowest number in the league. On the flip side, they allow 19.1 fantasy points per game via rushing, which is the third most the league. Sanders is not that good of a player, but he’s going to be good this week. Start him with confidence.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jalen Hurts (unless your other QB is Mahomes, start Hurts)
RB1: Miles Sanders (low end)
WR3: Jalen Reagor
TE1: Dallas Goedert (mid-range)
Bench: Boston Scott, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery

Passing Game Thoughts: Andy Dalton has turned the Cowboys into a surprisingly competent offense the pass two weeks. Since his return from the COVID list/concussion, Dalton has thrown multiple touchdowns in all but one game, including his last three straight. We can throw out everything the Cowboys did against the Eagles last time around as Ben DiNucci made his one and only career start.

Prior to last week’s dud, Amari Cooper had at least 67 yards or a touchdown in every game since the DiNucci Disaster. You should still start him confidently. CeeDee Lamb is coming off a nice game where he also returned an onside kick for a touchdown, but he’s just not seeing enough volume consistently to be trusted. The Eagles only allow 10.6 fantasy points per game to slot receivers, where Lamb spends 85% of his time. Michael Gallup has just 26 and 23 yards over his past two games. Dalton Schultz has caught 100% of his targets of his last four games, but that number has decreased by exactly one in each game. Nevertheless, Schultz is in play this week against a defense that allows 14.1 fantasy points per game to tight ends.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: The Eagles have been pretty solid against the run this season. They allow 21.6 fantasy points per game to running backs and, like the Cowboys, also defend pass catching backs well. Just 12% of the receiving yards they’ve allowed have gone to running backs. With that being said, what to do with the Cowboys running backs is very black and white. If the guy who is good at football starts, he is a locked in must start RB1. If Ezekiel Elliott starts, you should go out of your way to avoid starting him. To use an analogy apropos to this game, Tony Pollard is to Ezekiel Elliott what Jalen Hurts is to Carson Wentz. Zeke returned to practice this week and looks on track to play, which is actually problematic for the entire offense. Everything works better with Pollard on the field. Even if Zeke does play, expect Pollard to be more involved than usual given Pollard’s performance and Zeke undoubtedly being less than 100% healthy.

Value Meter:
RB1: Tony Pollard (low end, if Zeke sits)
WR2: Amari Cooper (low end)
TE1: Dalton Schultz (low end)
Bench: Ezekiel Elliott (regardless of whether he plays), Pollard (if Zeke plays), Andy Dalton, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb

Prediction: Eagles 31, Cowboys 24 ^ Top

Titans @ Packers - (Green)
Line: GB -3.5
Total: 56.0

Passing Game Thoughts: After a hot start, Ryan Tannehill has largely settled back into his role of handing the ball to Derrick Henry and taking shots off of play action. He was a bit more active last week, throwing for 273 yards and three TDs -- it was only his second game of more than two TDs since Week 5 -- and added 21 yards and two more scores with his legs. Look for a return to normalcy in Week 16 as the gameplan figures to revolve around Henry. That makes Tannehill a QB2.

Although they don't get much national attention, A.J. Brown (5-44-1) and Corey Davis (4-110-1) form one of the NFL's top receiving tandems. It's been a redemptive campaign for Davis, who entered the league in 2017 as the fifth overall pick but averaged just 622 yards and two TDs per season over his first three years. Now, he stands just 55 yards shy of registering his first 1,000-yard season. Despite missing two games with injury, Brown has a good shot to reach that milestone as well. Brown's big-play ability makes him a WR2 while Davis is a steady WR3 with upside.

Green Bay is currently ninth in the NFL in both pass defense (227.6 yards per game) and sacks (38). Their pass rush has looked formidable recently after a slow start, and they feature one of the game's top CBs in Jaire Alexander, who was named a Pro Bowl starter earlier this week. Alexander has been particularly dominant in primetime games, which casts some doubt on the rankings for Tennessee's wideouts; expect whoever is covered by Kevin King to see more looks on Sunday night.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: December football is Derrick Henry time. A year ago, Henry averaged 137 yards and 1.5 TDs rushing per game. This year, he's averaging 141 yards and 1 TD through three games. Despite a respectable 11th-placed ranking against the run (110.1 yards per game), the Packers are considered suspect as a run defense. Look for a steady diet of Henry on Sunday night and deploy him as a high-end RB1.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ryan Tannehill
RB1: Derrick Henry
WR2: A.J. Brown
WR3: Corey Davis
Bench: Tannehill, Jonnu Smith

Passing Game Thoughts: For three drives, the Packers dominated Carolina, pushing out to a 21-3 lead while doing whatever they wanted. After that, though, things went south in a hurry as they managed only a field goal in the second half. Aaron Rodgers avoided any major mistakes but played what might've been his worst game of 2020. He finished with a season-low 143 yards passing and one TD in a frustrating performance full of dropped balls, bad reads and surprisingly poor pass protection.

As you'd suspect, Rodgers' struggles extended to Davante Adams (7-42), who saw his eight-game touchdown streak snapped. Carolina clearly made stopping Adams the focus of its gameplan, and there's some belief that the Packers played into their hands by trying to force the ball to Adams instead of sticking with the run. Allen Lazard (5-56) actually led the team in receiving, though he had one of the critical drops, and Robert Tonyan (3-18-1) caught Rodgers' only TD pass -- it was Tonyan's 10th of 2020. The up-and-down year of Marquez Valdes-Scantling also continued as he followed a 6-85-1 outing in Week 14 with zeroes across the board versus the Panthers.

While much of the matchup focus on this game has centered on Henry against the Packers run defense, Rodgers against the Titans pass defense is the other side of the coin. Tennessee is 29th in pass defense (276 yards per game) and dead last in sacks (14), and the one thing you don't want to do is give No. 12 time in the pocket. You can play Rodgers, Adams and Tonyan as 1s while Lazard or MVS could offer flex value with Lazard a steadier, lower-upside option and MVS as a lottery ticket.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: With Jamaal Williams (quad) bothered by a quad injury, Aaron Jones (20-145-1) got most of the work in Week 15. Like Henry, Jones has been a strong finisher; in 2019 he averaged 110 yards and 1.25 TDs per game in his final four outings, and through three December games this year he's averaging a 17-115 line with two total TDs. It is possible Williams won't play this Sunday, which would move A.J. Dillon into the backup spot. Either way Jones is likely to get most of the touches. Against Tennessee's 15th-ranked run defense, Jones is a solid RB1.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers
RB1: Aaron Jones
Flex: Jamaal Williams (inj)
WR1: Davante Adams
Flex: Marquez Valdes-Scantling (low-end)
TE1: Robert Tonyan
Bench: AJ Dillon, Allen Lazard

Prediction: Packers 31, Titans 27 ^ Top

Bills at Patriots - (Katz)
Line:
Total:

Passing Game Thoughts: With the second bye no longer a thing in the NFL playoffs, the Bills have every incentive to beat the Patriots so they can take Week 17 off. Outside of that anomalous 2.5 game run where Josh Allen failed to throw a touchdown pass, he’s been outstanding. Including rushing, Allen has multiple touchdowns in all but those two games this season. Last week’s performance against the Broncos was one of his best all season. The Patriots may be a bit of a run funnel defense, but Allen is too good to bench.

Contributing to Allen’s success is elite WR1, Stefon Diggs. Last week, he posted his third consecutive game with double digit receptions. The Patriots will try and erase Diggs with their strong secondary, but with Stephon Gilmore done for the season, it will be a tall task for a team no longer playing for anything.

Cole Beasley has seen double digit targets in three straight games as well as four of his last five, three of which he hit 100 yards receiving. The Patriots allow 13.7 fantasy points per game to the slot, which is not terrible for Beasley. He is definitely in play.

Gabriel Davis had scored in three straight games prior to last week, but the target volume is nowhere near where it needs to be. Dawson Knox has also scored in three of his last four, but he’s surpassed four targets in a game just once all season. He’s not an option.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: If it weren’t for his 51-yard garbage time touchdown last week, Devin Singletary would have been completely useless for fantasy. He and Zack Moss split snaps once again, but Moss was more effective with 81 yards on 13 carries. Unfortunately, Moss just can’t seem to find the end zone. Positive game script and a defense allowing 23.9 fantasy points per game to running backs helps, but this is a Josh Allen offense and both Moss and Singletary are just afterthoughts.

Value Meter:
QB1: Josh Allen (high end)
WR1: Stefon Diggs (mid-range)
WR3: Cole Beasley
Bench: Zack Moss, Devin Singletary, Dawson Knox

Passing Game Thoughts: The Patriots’ offense is just plain terrible. Cam Newton doesn’t have it anymore. There are whispers that perhaps Jarrett Stidham could close out the year as the starter. Newton’s 209 passing yards last week was actually his fourth highest total on the season. Newton has started 13 games this season but just five passing touchdowns. He’s still a threat to rush one in, but he hasn’t been running as much as he was early in the season and, at this point, there’s no reason to put his body on the line more than he has to. Somehow, Jakobi Meyers managed 111 yards on seven receptions last week. The Bills allow 20.6 fantasy points per game to outside receivers. Meyers is at least a desperation option. N’Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd are not startable.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: With the Patriots just incapable of moving the ball offensively, the running game doesn’t have much of a chance. Damien Harris is likely to miss another game and they might as well shut him down for the season. That gives us another Sony Michel game. He actually wasn’t bad last week with 74 yards on 10 carries, but let’s be honest, you’re not starting Michel in a fantasy championship. James White has played just under half the snaps the past two weeks, but I’m only even talking about him because he’s James White. He hasn’t been fantasy viable all season. That does not change against a Bills defense that allows just 8.7 fantasy points per game to running backs through the air.

Value Meter:
Bench: Cam Newton, Sony Michel, Damien Harris, James White, Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, NíKeal Harry

Prediction: Bills 30, Patriots 14 ^ Top