It’s the finals in most fantasy leagues, and there’s still a lot changing in the QB landscape, complicating fantasy on both sides of the ball. Before I get into my DST rankings for this week, let’s get into all the QB situations that are in flux:
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- Titans QB Ryan Tannehill had surgery for an ankle injury he sustained in Week 15. There’s a chance he’s back by Week 18, but in the meantime, backup Malik Willis, who wasn’t great last week, will get another start. That makes them a great matchup for the Cowboys this week.
- Colts QB Matt Ryan got benched again going into last week, with Nick Foles taking over the starting job and Sam Ehlinger serving as backup. This will allegedly be the arrangement for the rest of the season (barring injuries), but it’s not the first time we’ve thought Ryan was benched for good. Foles played poorly in his season debut last week, throwing three interceptions and leading the team to a measly three points against the Chargers.
- The Ravens have been tight-lipped about whether or not Lamar Jackson will return this week. The team has clinched at least a wild card spot but is a game behind the Bengals in the race to win the AFC North. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tyler Huntley (who is 3-1 as a starter, albeit in low-scoring games) this week in a home game against a Steelers team that he beat on the road in Week 14. It would make sense if the Ravens play it safe with Jackson and save him for the playoffs, or maybe their week 18 matchup against the Bengals if the division title is on the line.
- Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa suffered another concussion on Sunday, but this one wasn’t flagged during the game. He played horribly for the rest of the game, throwing three interceptions. He has since entered concussion protocol and almost certainly won’t play this week, and there’s a good chance he gets shut down for the season. Teddy Bridgewater will start in his stead. Bridgewater is certainly a downgrade. I’m still not interested in starting the Patriots this week, but the Jets in Week 18 are interesting.
- Washington Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke was benched in the fourth quarter of an unwinnable game against San Francisco despite putting up a decent stat line (he actually had his highest QB rating of the season). Carson Wentz took over and did manage a touchdown. We don’t yet know who the starter will be next week. Either way, I’m not interested in the Browns against them this week, but I am interested in the Cowboys in Week 18.
- Gardner Minshew started last week for the Eagles in place of Jalen Hurts, who suffered a shoulder injury the week prior. It’s possible that Hurts returns before the playoffs, but given that the Eagles need just one more win to lock up a bye in the playoffs and have two pretty weak teams to get it from (NO and NYG, both at home), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Minshew start the remainder of the regular season. The Eagles could also clinch the No. 1 seed without a win, if the Cowboys and Vikings (who have clinched the NFC North) each lose one of their remaining games.
- Jets QB Mike White has been cleared to play after being out since suffering a rib injury in Week 14. This is great news for Jets fans, who don’t have to deal with Zach Wilson losing winnable games anymore.
Week 18 Stashes
Trying to plan for Week 18 is difficult because teams with nothing to play for in the season’s final week are liable to bench their starters. If you’re in one of those fantasy leagues, you have to do it anyway. Here are the defenses I would consider stashing for Week 18:
- TB: If you used the Buccaneers against the Cardinals this week, consider holding on for their Week 18 matchup with the Desmond Ridder-led Falcons, who are eliminated from the playoffs. I would feel pretty nervous playing them against the Panthers this week, though it could be worse.
- LAC: The Chargers face the dysfunctional Broncos in Week 18. If Russell Wilson doesn’t play and we get Brett Rypien instead, that’s probably a slight downgrade for the Chargers.
- NYJ: There’s a chance the Jets’ Week 18 matchup against Miami is a win-and-in, with Teddy Bridgewater starting for the Dolphins. If that happens, it’s not an amazing matchup, but one I feel OK about for a defense as strong as the Jets.
- SF: This is not a surprise. The 49ers are great, and their Week 18 game is against the Cardinals, who Trace McSorley leads since Kyler Murray tore his ACL.
- DAL: Another great defense that you’re starting this week if you can, and they get the Commanders in Week 18. If the Eagles manage to lose to the Saints this week, the Cowboys may end up playing a “win-the-division-if-we-win-and-the-Eagles-lose” game in Week 18. We don’t yet know if NYG @ PHI and DAL @ WSH will happen at the same time - I’m sure the scheduling will end up depending on what’s at stake.
- JAC: The Jaguars could be a good play in Week 18 if Tannehill is still out and we get Willis again. This isn’t my favorite Week 18 stash, but it will likely be available in your league.
- CAR: The Panthers could end up playing for a playoff spot in Week 18 against a weak Saints team that will be eliminated if they lose to the Eagles this week. Carolina will be a pretty good play in that scenario, and they have a very low rostership right now.
Week 16 D/ST Projections
This is a solid week for streaming, with six teams in my top tier and three teams with low rostership in my second tier. Rostership numbers are from Yahoo. You can find me on Mastodon or Twitter.
|The Start Them With Confidence Tier|
|The Still a Fine Choice Tier|
|The Surely You Can Find Something Better Tier|
- DAL @ TEN: Willis, who filled in for the injured Tannehill (and will again this week), was pretty bad against a middling Texans defense, throwing two interceptions and managing only one (rushing) touchdown. Now he has to face one of the best defenses in the league. If you’re in the fantasy playoffs with Dallas, you were probably going to use them anyway, but now this is a much better matchup than we thought it would be a few weeks before Tannehill’s injury.
- KC vs. DEN: Russell Wilson and the Broncos are the laughing stock in the sports world, so they cleaned house and fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett, along with their special team’s coordinator and offensive line coach. The Broncos will get annihilated in Kansas City. The only reason they aren’t ranked No. 1 is that Brett Rypien might score a couple of garbage time touchdowns against a middling KC defense after Wilson is inevitably benched in the third quarter with a 50-point deficit.
- BAL vs. PIT: Kenny Pickett has been a gift to opposing defenses when healthy, including last week when he managed a win against the Raiders with just 13 points. While Pickett has taken a step forward with regard to avoiding sacks, he still has two six-sack games earlier in the season. I don’t think Baltimore needs to get to him to have a good fantasy day, but they probably will.
- NYJ @ SEA: Geno Smith and the Seahawks had a rough one last week, managing just 10 points against an un-special Kansas City defense. Now they have to face a defense that is special in the Jets. This is a great defense in a good (but not great) matchup and one I have no hesitation starting.
- PHI vs. NO: The Saints’ offense, led by Andy Dalton with a healthy dose of Taysom Hill, has been inconsistent this season. They’ve put up some big scores, but they’ve also been shut out. Against a top-tier defense like Philly, I’m not worried about one of those big scores. Like the Jets, the Eagles are a great defense in a good (but not great) matchup.
- SF @ LV: Derek Carr threw three interceptions on Christmas Eve against an average Steelers defense. Now they face the best defense in the league. The 49ers aren’t ranked higher because we have seen this offense pop off occasionally, and Carr isn’t known for taking tons of sacks (though he has had three in back-to-back games). That said, if you’re in the finals and have the 49ers, dance with the one that brought you.
- JAC @ HOU: The Texans picked up their second win last week, but they did it with only 19 points. They are still a far cry from being an offense anyone is scared of. Football Outsiders’ DVOA ranks Jacksonville as second-worst against the pass but solidly above average defending the run. This matches up pretty well against an offense that plays conservatively to limit mistakes from a bad quarterback. In the three weeks since Mills was un-benched, Houston has thrown on just 48.7% of plays, which is the sixth-lowest in the league.
- WAS vs. CLE: In four weeks since Deshaun Watson returned from suspension to start for the Browns, the team has averaged just 15 points per game. That number is skewed a bit by 27 points against Houston in his first week back. In the three weeks since, their scores have been 10, 13 and 10. This is a mediocre offense led by a washed-up loser facing an above-average Commanders defense.
- NYG vs. IND: Nick Foles was pretty bad in his first game after being promoted to the Colts’ starting QB job, throwing three interceptions and leading the team to just a field goal against an average Chargers defense. The Giants are worse on defense than the Chargers, but if the Colts keep playing that badly, it doesn’t matter.
- LAC vs. LAR: I don’t typically start the “Surely You Can Find Something Better Tier” as early as rank 10, but with the three preceding defenses all below 30% rostership, I’m pretty sure you can find something better. The Baker Mayfield-led Rams put up 44 points on offense (in addition to a pick-six) against what should have been a good Broncos defense, though Russell Wilson‘s turnovers giving the Rams lots of time of possession and short fields certainly helped. I’m expecting Baker to go back to the sub-20-point, four+ sack games he had in his first two weeks with the Rams. Vegas agrees, with a team total of just 17.25, tied (with IND) for the fourth-lowest of the week. The Chargers have an average defense, but to their credit, they embarrassed Nick Foles and the Colts last week.
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