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The Primer: Week 16 Edition (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Dec 19, 2019

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What a wild ride 2019 has been. When I sat down and shared my personal Larry Bird story in Week 1, I didn’t expect so many readers to reach out to me, saying they loved the personal touch to the introduction of The Primer. As the weeks went on, more and more readers started reaching out to me, saying that while they appreciated my football information, they’ve grown to love the introductions just as much (and some saying more). Thank you to those who’ve written/said something to me about them. While I may not be able to respond to everyone, I do read every message and the overwhelming support is why I continued to do them.

What most don’t know is that I sit down to write the intros the Saturday before that week’s edition comes out. It’s the one day of the week I have to myself where I don’t have to do anything football related. But that’s how I know I love doing it; I’m writing them on my day off. As long as you guys/gals enjoy them, I’ll continue writing them.

The final message I’ll be sharing this year is one that I believe should be instilled in kids who are nearing their end in high school. I think we get it wrong when we ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. When you’re a teenager, you probably don’t know the answer to that question. There are certainly a select few who do, but for the most part, they don’t have that luxury. How can we expect them to?

My daughter Alyssa is going to be 17 years old next week. It’s pretty incredible how time flies, as I can still remember when she used to sing in the mirror with zero cares in the world, not caring what anyone thought. If I remember her doing that, it wasn’t that long ago, as my long-term memory is what would be described as “less than ideal.” To expect her to know what she wants to do for a living at this age is unrealistic. On her own, that is.

What I believe we should be asking them is, “What do you love to do with your spare time? What are some of the hobbies you have that you cannot get enough of? If you were given the day off school tomorrow, what would you do?” Those are a series of questions that will do much more than asking them what they want to be when they grow up.

Why must we limit their imaginations in a world full of possibilities? You like playing video games? There are video game streamers out there making six-figure incomes. You like watching movies? There are jobs out there as a movie critic. Love to talk about sports? Start a podcast and see where it takes you. You want to take time helping others? Being a social worker or nurse is extremely rewarding. In today’s world, anything is possible.

We are limiting these kids’ futures because we’re limiting their imaginations. They don’t know the jobs that are available. All they know is that they want to make money, and they’ve heard about certain jobs that’ll help them do that.

To this day, she still has a beautiful voice, but at some point, society started telling her what is appealing and/or successful. No matter what we do as parents, it’s tough to overcome what kids their age are saying, but we must try. When we talk about regrets in life, do we want our kids to suffer the same ones we went through?

It doesn’t have to be about their career, but this is a major thing in my life right now because of where my daughter is in her life. I remember what it’s like being a teenager, thinking that no one understands what you’re going through. That’s all acceptable because it’s a phase; it’ll pass. Their career choice is different. It’s what they’ll be working towards for the rest of their life. The last thing you want is to see your kids working a dead-end job or being stuck at a career they dread going to every day.

I know there are times my daughter doesn’t want to hear what I have to say and that’s fine. But if I try to talk to her about it a dozen times, maybe it’ll stick during one of them. If you feel like you’re beating a dead horse, maybe talk to the social worker at the school. They can often pull kids into the office to talk to them without feeling judged by the other students, and without feeling like they’re talking to a “parent” that doesn’t understand.

By putting this in print, I’m hoping that Alyssa can refer to it from time to time and understand that all I want for her is to be happy. That starts by following your dreams and not getting sucked into what people tell you you’re supposed to do. Do what you want to do. Do what makes you happy. You may not know what that is just yet, but now is the time to shoot for the stars. I hope you have a great birthday and know that I love you with all my heart.

In case you’ve missed it, I’ve been going back into The Primer on Saturday morning trying to update you on the injury reports that impact your decisions. While I cannot write a whole new article, I do talk about a lot of these things on our Sunday morning livestream, which is FREE to everyone. It’s where I discuss all the latest injury news and then take your questions live from 11-12am EST. Click here to be taken to our YouTube page where you can get notifications when we go live.

If you’re new around these parts, here’s what you can expect out of this article: Numbers, facts, stats, opinions, and some shenanigans here and there. It’s my unbiased opinion about everyone on your roster. Whether it be season-long advice, DFS advice, wide receiver/cornerback matchups, or snap counts, it’s all covered. The idea here is to give you as much information as possible and give you as much confidence as possible when you hit that ‘submit lineup’ button each week. Who should be in your lineup this week?

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Matchup Links:

PIT at NYJ | CIN at MIA | BAL at CLE | JAC at ATL | NYG at WAS | CAR at IND | NO at TEN | DET at DEN | OAK at LAC | ARI at SEA | DAL at PHI | KC at CHI | GB at MIN

Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets

Total: 38.5
Line: PIT by 3.0

Devlin Hodges:
Does it really matter who the Steelers starting quarterback is? You’re not going to start either of them, right? Many see the Jets on the schedule and automatically think you may want to stream a quarterback against them, but that’s not the case. They’ve held 8-of-14 quarterbacks to less than 7.0 yards per attempt, so when you add in the fact that Hodges has thrown the ball 21 times or less in three of his four starts, it’s a situation that’s less than ideal. There’s been just one quarterback over their last five games who’s finished with more than 15 fantasy points, which included borderline streamers Ryan Fitzpatrick, Derek Carr, and Andy Dalton. The only quarterback who did score more than that mark was Lamar Jackson, who is the front-runner for MVP. Hodges isn’t going to carry you to a fantasy championship.

Sam Darnold: There have been four different games that Darnold has posted more than 15 fantasy points over his last nine games. The teams those games came against? The Dolphins, Raiders, Redskins, and Giants. None of them are good defenses, which is putting it nicely. The Steelers have been among the best defenses in the NFL since acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick. Over those 12 games with him on the roster, they’ve allowed just 16 passing touchdowns while intercepting 18 passes. It’s not just the touchdown to interception ratio, as they’ve also held quarterbacks to just 2,503 yards on 394 pass attempts. That amounts to just 6.35 yards per attempt and 208.6 yards per game. You’re likely starting to understand why this game has one of the lowest totals on the slate, right? There isn’t a team in the NFL who pressures quarterbacks more than the Steelers, who are still fighting for the final playoff spot in the AFC, while Darnold is the second-most pressured quarterback in the league. You don’t want to play Darnold in this game.

James Conner:
The Steelers did say they were going to share the workload last week, though they may change their thoughts as they head into a must-win game against the Jets. Conner totaled 51 yards and a touchdown on his 12 touches, while the remaining running backs on the roster combined for 10 yards on seven touches. The Jets have allowed a miniscule 3.16 yards per carry on the ground this year, but the injuries have started to pile up. Still, they’ve allowed just two teams of running backs to average more than 3.81 yards per carry against them all season. That’s kind of ridiculous. Because of that, there have been just two running backs who’ve cracked 100 total yards against them. Those two running backs were Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette, who both totaled 26-plus touches, a mark that Conner isn’t getting close to. This game has slow-paced written all over it, as both teams rank in the bottom seven for total plays per game. That’s important because the Jets have allowed the eighth-fewest PPR points per opportunity to running backs. Still, the Steelers should give Conner a lot of touches in a must-win game in order to limit turnovers, especially if they’re down near the goal-line, so consider him a mid-to-low-end RB2 who should find his way into the end zone.

Le’Veon Bell: It’s been a rough fantasy season for anyone who drafted Bell and he hasn’t even taken advantage of the good matchups on his schedule. He has finished with just 10.7 and 10.8 PPR points over his last two games and hasn’t finished better than RB10 in any game since Week 2. Will a matchup with his former team bring out the best in him? It’s highly unlikely considering they’re arguably the best team in the NFL at slowing down fantasy running backs. The volume that Bell gets won’t even help him all that much, as the Steelers are allowing a league-low 0.66 PPR points per opportunity. Not that this game is likely to present a whole lot of opportunity, as both of these teams rank in the bottom seven in terms of total plays per game. The craziest part about the Steelers defense is that no running back has totaled more than 92 total yards against them this year, and that’s despite 10 different running backs totaling at least 15 touches against them. When you combine the fact that Bell has yet to average more than 0.93 PPR points per opportunity (there are four teams who allow more than that on average) with the Steelers ridiculous ability to stop both the run and the pass, you have a low-upside RB3. You’re probably still going to start him considering the guaranteed touches aspect of his game, but Bell isn’t likely going to be the reason you win a fantasy championship.

JuJu Smith-Schuster:
You shouldn’t plan on having Smith-Schuster, who re-aggravated his knee injury in practice last week. If anything changes, I’ll come back and update. *Update* Smith-Schuster practiced in full on Thursday and Friday, though he did proclaim himself that he’s not 100 percent. With Hodges under center, there are a lot of outcomes possible, though none particularly great, as Brian Poole has done a fine job defending the slot for the Jets this year. The silver lining is that Poole is still in the concussion protocol and may not play for the third straight week. If he’s out, Smith-Schuster may sneak into the WR3 conversation. If Poole does get cleared to play, Smith-Schuster should be considered a middling WR4.

Diontae Johnson: He’s totaled 15 targets over the last two weeks, so he’s definitely on the fantasy radar as we enter Week 16. The issue is that the targets are coming from Hodges, who’s been extremely inefficient. The Jets, however, have been a matchup to target with wide receivers, as they’ve allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to the position. The injury to Trumaine Johnson earlier this year surely didn’t help, which led to Arthur Maulet starting, who was forced to miss the Week 15 matchup against the Ravens. That led to Bless Austin and Maurice Canady starting, which oddly enough hasn’t been the worst thing for the Jets. Those two have combined to allow 21-of-36 passing for 206 yards and no touchdowns in their coverage. Three of the touchdowns the Jets allowed last week were with linebackers in coverage. Knowing how good the Jets have been against the run, the Steelers will have to move the ball a bit through the air, so Johnson is on the low-end WR4 radar, though you must understand the risk you’re taking with his quarterback situation.

James Washington: He’s coming off a career-high 11 targets last week in a game the Steelers let Hodges throw the ball 38 times, which isn’t happening again. The Steelers decided to put Washington back on the perimeter, while having Tevin Jones play most of the slot snaps in Smith-Schuster’s absence. That’s actually a good thing in this matchup, as Brian Poole (who should be able to return from his concussion in Week 14 this week) has been the Jets best cornerback this year, and he covers the slot for them. Washington will see a mixture of Bless Austin, Maurice Canady, or Arthur Maulet in coverage this week, as they’re the three cornerbacks who cover the perimeter (Maulet was out last week). There have been 24 receivers who’ve seen at least six targets against the Jets, and 19 of them were able to post double-digit PPR points. If Smith-Schuster remains out, we should see Washington get near that number, and he has totaled at least 69 yards in five of his last seven games, so he’s on the WR4 radar despite the quarterback struggles. *Update* With Smith-Schuster returning, Washington is going to be moved into low-end WR4/high-end WR5 range as someone who needs a big play to produce.

Robby Anderson: It was a tough matchup to gauge for Anderson last week, who had seen double-digit targets in two straight games. Finishing with 4/66/0 on six targets against the Ravens isn’t a bad line for a perimeter wide receiver. He’ll follow that matchup with another brutal one against the Steelers who’ve allowed just six top-24 wide receiver performances in the 12 games since acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick. We did, however, just watch John Brown post a seven-catch, 99-yard performance against them on Sunday night. You have to follow the targets at wide receiver and Anderson’s 27 targets over the last three weeks is among the highest in that time. He’s going to see a lot of Steven Nelson in coverage this week, who is fresh off a game where he allowed 6-of-9 passing for 91 yards in his coverage. That was easily his worst game of the season in coverage, as it was the first one he allowed more than four receptions or 47 yards in his coverage. He has allowed eight plays of 20-plus yards in his coverage this year, so he’s not immune to allowing big plays. Anderson comes with risk but does belong in the low-end WR3/high-end WR4 conversation this week as someone who can pay off with one big play.

Jamison Crowder: Welcome to the rollercoaster that is the Crowder Express. After catching just seven of his last 20 targets for 55 scoreless yards in his previous three games, Crowder exploded for 90 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens. Sometimes fantasy football can be cruel. The one sticky thing for Crowder has been his targets, as he’s seen at least six of them in six of his last seven games. He’ll need them against the Steelers who are one of the toughest pass defenses in the league. There have been just eight wide receivers who’ve been able to post more than 60 yards against them since Week 2, with four of them seeing double-digit targets. Since acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick, they’ve allowed just 69-of-110 passing for 697 yards and four touchdowns in the slot. That’s just 6.34 yards per target and a touchdown every 27.5 targets. The Ravens were really good against slot receivers, which will have many wondering why they shouldn’t trust Crowder again, but I’m not one to bet against the odds twice in a row. Don’t forget Crowder had less than 30 yards in each of the previous three games. He should be considered a middling WR4 who’s offered very little consistency this year.

Vance McDonald:
He was held out last week with a concussion, though it’s not as if you should be considering him anyway. Despite all the injuries the Steelers have dealt with to pass catchers, McDonald has yet to top 40 yards in a game and he’s scored one touchdown since Week 2. His 5.2 yards per target ranks dead last among 42 tight ends with 25-plus targets. The Jets did allow a lot of production to the Ravens tight ends last week, but they were without Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, who is expected to return for this game. McDonald isn’t a streaming option.

Daniel Brown: He is going to be the starter moving forward, as Ryan Griffin was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Not that you’ll contemplate using him, though. He split snaps right down the middle with Trevon Wesco last week and saw just one target. You’re not contemplating Brown in fantasy championships.

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