It feels like just yesterday that I was writing Week 1 up and the promise of an untold story lied before us, yet here we are. Week 16 is bearing down on us and with it, the hopes of many fantasy football championships. Kudos to all who survived the lowest-scoring week of the 2018 season and advanced! Let’s see what we can whip up to get us across the finish line and atop that podium.
Catering to all formats is impossible, but I’ll do my best to provide context as I go. The ECR given is for standard leagues since that’s what we are scored on. Please note that I’m using Tuesday night’s ECR and updates will surely roll in from Wednesday morning on, as well as injury news. I’ll use players that I’m higher or lower on against the consensus within a start/sit range from 10- to 14-teamers, or so. Let’s dive in.
Mitch Trubisky (at SF): Mariano Rank: 10, ECR: 13
Trubisky shook off the rust from Week 14’s dud and completed 20-of-28 passes for 235 yards and two scores with 16 rushing yards sprinkled in. He and the Bears now travel to San Francisco to face a 49ers team that hasn’t picked off a QB since Josh Rosen in Week 8 and has just two INTs on the season — easily the worst (Arizona and Detroit are next with six each) — and three fumble recoveries (also tied for the worst). While it may be maddening to determine which pass-catchers will score for Chicago, Trubisky remains a steady force under center while offering a quiet rushing contribution.
Josh Allen (at NE): MR: 11, ECR: 14
Allen and the Bills have slipped from 10.5-point underdogs to 13-point dogs in the early week, but that just means one of the best fantasy QBs of the past four weeks will need to get creative! While I wish his rushing volume was built on scripted runs rather than impromptu scrambles, he’s worthy of the top-12. He didn’t turn the ball over in Week 15’s win despite lacking an active RB at points and just missed a long TD to Deonte Thompson. The Bills offense is more trustworthy lately thanks to scrapping veterans Kelvin Benjamin and Andre Holmes while elevating Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie, and the Pats defense is a bottom-10 unit against QBs and recently let Ryan Tannehill toss three TDs against them.
Cam Newton (vs. ATL): MR: 15, ECR: 12
Newton’s pass attempts on Monday night made me (and likely Ron Rivera) squeamish as he was outperformed by his star running back at his own job. After getting embarrassed on a weekly basis, Atlanta’s defense has held Baker Mayfield, Drew Brees, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers and Mike Glennon (oy) each under 220 passing yards. It was bad enough when Cam was being lifted on Hail Mary attempts, but now he’s regularly spiking 12-yard crossing routes. He can only go as far as Christian McCaffrey dump offs will take him, which is admittedly a lot farther than he deserves to. Carolina should shut him down, but that appears unlikely.
Dak Prescott (vs. TB): MR: 16, ECR: 9
Much like the Falcons, the Buccaneers defense has found itself recently and it’s come by putting Mike Smith in the rearview mirror. After giving up at least 330 pass yards in their first five games and an absurd 16 pass TDs in that span, they’ve held opposing signal-callers to under 300 yards in eight-of-nine games and haven’t yielded more than two TDs to them once. That one 300-yard game was Cam Newton and he was picked off four times. The Cowboys offense flows through Ezekiel Elliott and Dak has only thrown six TDs in his last five games, so I’d rather not bank on his play getting elevated to QB1 levels.
Jamaal Williams (at NYJ): MR: 18, ECR: 21
Williams played on 87% of Green Bay’s snaps in Week 15 with Aaron Jones leaving with a knee injury. The Jets defense hasn’t been generous to opposing RBs, but they’ve also benefited from LeSean McCoy and Lamar Miller going down with early injuries in each of their last two games. Hmm, maybe they’ve got some voodoo curse going. You don’t have to love Williams, Aaron Rodgers or the matchup, but Williams is coming off 16 touches and 16 fantasy points against the Bears in Chicago. His touch floor is RB2-worthy here.
Doug Martin (vs. DEN): MR: 28, ECR: 31
Martin and the Raiders return home after falling on their faces against the Bengals in Cincinnati last weekend. Martin’s streak of games with a TD was snapped at three as he turned in 39 scoreless yards on nine touches in the 30-16 defeat, though Oakland’s just 2.5-point dogs at home in Week 16. While Denver has held up at the goal line, they’ve yielded at least 95 total yards to starting RBs in each of their last three games.
James White (vs. BUF): MR: 30, ECR: 25
White has only compiled 65 total yards on 13 touches over New England’s last two games on just 40% of the team’s snaps in each contest. His snaps sat between 60-80% in Weeks 5-10 but the diminished work has seen him fail to break double digits even in PPR formats in three of the Patriots last four games. Not only has the return of Rex Burkhead cut into his passing-down work, but Burkhead’s also siphoned away some red-zone touches.
Josh Adams (vs. HOU): MR: 32, ECR: 27
The Texans are one of four defenses to give up fewer than 1,000 rushing yards thus far and have held each RB under 50 ground yards that they’ve faced in their last four games. Wendell Smallwood has earned some additional work in Week 16 and Darren Sproles should get the passing downs after Adams gained just 28 yards on 15 carries against the Rams last week. He’s not trustworthy in this spot.
Adrian Peterson (at TEN): MR: 34, ECR: 28
Once again, you cannot play Peterson. Washington sit as 10-point underdogs in a game with the lowest projected Vegas total (37) on the week, which gives them about 13 implied points. The Titans just held Saquon Barkley to peanuts and All Day appears to be fading down the stretch behind what’s left of Washington’s offensive line. I doubt any of you still playing are relying on him, but it feels like a tradition to go even lower than the ECR here.
DaeSean Hamilton (at OAK): MR: 22, ECR: 35
Hamilton was on the field for 72 of Denver’s 73 snaps in Week 15 and led the Broncos in targets with 12, which easily stood above Tim Patrick’s eight and Courtland Sutton’s six. Somehow, Sutton still hasn’t seen more than seven targets in a game despite Demaryius Thomas’ trade and Emmanuel Sanders’ injury. Sprinkle a date with the Raiders and we’ve got a start on our hands.
Taywan Taylor (vs. WAS): MR: 50, ECR: 74
This is for you deep sharks. Taylor returned from injury in Week 13 and has proceeded to garner 17 targets in Tennessee’s last three games — one more than Corey Davis. The Titans have started leaning on Derrick Henry more down the stretch, which is hard to argue with and does cap Taylor’s ceiling, but the 50-slot gap between Davis and Taylor is a bit odd to me. With Davis likely drawing Josh Norman, Taylor makes for a viable dart throw against Fabian Moreau.
Larry Fitzgerald (vs. LAR): MR: 37, ECR: 30
There are few positive words one can ascribe to the Cardinals’ Week 16 prospects as Vegas paints them as 14-point underdogs despite being at home. NFL teams typically receive a three-point bump for home-field advantage with betting. I can’t trust Josh Rosen or Mike Glennon to stand in the pocket against Aaron Donald and make throws that can beat Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and company. Fitz has seen just one red-zone target over the last four games, so standard-leaguers should leave Larry on the bench and buy into a better offense.
Curtis Samuel (vs. ATL): MR: 38, ECR: 33
The bottom fell out on Samuel along with the aforementioned Cam Newton and the Panthers in Week 15. While I’m encouraged that Carolina remains creative in getting Samuel a couple of rushing looks along the way, it’s worth noting the Over/Under from Vegas has dropped to 46.5 at some books from a 50.5 open. With Newton looking like a broken trebuchet in the pocket, I wouldn’t feel comfortable starting anyone but CMC.
Jimmy Graham (at NYJ): MR: 11, ECR: 17
Graham’s 252 air yards are fifth out of all tight ends in the past four weeks, more than Zach Ertz and Eric Ebron, alongside a 10.1 average depth of target. Graham and Rob Gronkowski are the only two with an aDOT greater than 10 and over 20 targets in that span, which is the right combination of opportunity and volume for a blowup game. The Jets yielded TDs to Gronk and Anthony Firkser in back-to-back games recently and are still without athletic LB Darron Lee thanks to a suspension, which leaves Graham in a positive spot.
Blake Jarwin (at OAK): MR: 18, ECR: 28
Jarwin has seen seven targets in each of his last two games as Dallas finally realizes that only Jason Witten retired and not the tight end position as a whole. The looks have resulted in Jarwin’s being 1-of-11 TEs with more than 100 air yards in the past two weeks. While I talked down Dak Prescott before, the Buccaneers had given up at least 46 receiving yards to opposing TEs in five straight games (Weeks 9-13) and remain vulnerable there.
Austin Hooper (at CAR): MR: 14, ECR: 11
Hooper flopped with zero catches on one target in Week 15 after his target share had turned into roughly five looks per game in Weeks 12-14. He’d seen 10+ targets in three of five games in the middle of the season, catching at least nine balls in each of those tilts, but hasn’t topped 45 yards since Week 10. The Panthers defense had given up nine TDs to TEs through their first 10 games, but have held them scoreless with a game-high total of 36 yards (Cameron Brate, Week 13) since then. Throw in that this is a road game, and I’d rather not deal with Hooper’s low floor.
Chris Herndon (vs. GB): MR: 15, ECR: 12
The Packers are one of three teams yet to give up more than two touchdowns to opposing TEs this season. While Herndon showed some signs of chemistry with rookie QB Sam Darnold in Week 15, I have a hard time buying into this matchup. He’s still seen just 12 targets over his last three games and his lone red-zone look in Week 15 was the first he’s seen since Week 8.