The Best Of Week 16

Matt Waldman scouts our in-season content and shares five must-knows and his takes on each.

You guys have a ton of articles. 

This statement about Footballguys is a blessing but it can feel like a curse. Our staff delivers insights that change seasons for the better yet realistically, no fantasy owner has the time to read everything we publish in a week. 

If this describes you, let me be your scout. Here are five insights from Footballguys articles that I find compelling for the weekend ahead. I'll share what should help you this week, touch on the long-term outlook, and sometimes offer a counterargument.  

This week:

Let's begin. 

Need an RB? Begin with the Bengals LBs

Sometimes the best place to begin looking for a fantasy starter is the team matched up with a weak linebacking corps. The Bengals have qualified in recent weeks and they will again in Week 16. 

Sigmund Bloom's Sleepers highlighted Riddick as a solid play for those in need of a good matchup and lack the reinforcements of a stud back: 

Theo Riddick, DET (at CIN) - Riddick is practicing in full and the wrist injury that popped up in Week 15 is not a worry for his Week 16 status. He appears to be the lead back for the Lions now, with 11 touches last week in the first half before leaving the game, and at least 14 in the previous two weeks. Riddick also scored twice on goal to go carries in Week 14, and he also had at least five catches in each of Week 13 and 14 to give a high floor in PPR leagues.

I drew the same conclusion earlier this week in my Gut Check column: 

The Vikings confused the Bengals linebackers and safeties in Week 15 and when they didn't confuse them, they physically outmatched them.  The Bengals gave up 130 rushing yards to Cleveland's backfield tandem, 194 total yards to the Steelers backs, 217 rushing yards to the Bears backfield, and 242 total yards to the duo of Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray

All four opponents have solid if not strong offensive lines and the Lions are the worst rushing attack in the NFL. However, the Bengals have given up 399 receiving yards to running backs in the past five weeks — including a pair of 100-yard games to individual runners. 

It makes Riddick the obvious off-the-radar play if you need an upside match-up this weekend. During the past three weeks, Riddick has earned 14 receptions for 117 yards against the Ravens (5-41), Buccaneers (6-64), and Bears (3-12). He's also earned 27 carries, 99 yards and 3 scores on the ground. 

Jon Norton's Eyes Of The Guru also highlighted the Bengals linebacking woes: 

Cincinnati may have lost yet another linebacker when Jordan Evans left Sunday's game with a forearm injury. As I write there has been no update on the severity of the injury and Evans was not mentioned on the Wednesday practice report. The way he looked when leaving the game leaves some doubt about his availability so check the late week reports is you are looking at any of the Bengals linebackers this week. If Evans is out, it would leave Vincent Rey and youngster Hardy Nickerson as the only two healthy bodies at linebacker other than Carl Lawson who is more of an outside pass rush specialist. In most situations the Lions are a poor matchup for linebackers but bad as the Bengals are hurting, even Detroit will probably be able to run on them. I like Rey as a decent LB3 this week.

And Ryan Hester's Trendspotting also presented the data that points to Riddick as a solid play: 


Sometimes, the funnel effect can happen in reverse, where a team is very good against the pass but poor against the run (hence, "runnel" defense)

Team PaYd/Gm RuYd/Gm NYd/Att Yd/Rush %PassYd %RushYd
Cincinnati Bengals 214.0 131.5 5.8 4.2 61.9% 38.1%
Los Angeles Chargers 201.9 128.3 5.6 4.8 61.2% 38.8%
Los Angeles Rams 208.1 120.8 5.5 4.7 63.3% 36.7%
New Orleans Saints 213.4 115.0 6.0 4.5 65.0% 35.0%
Seattle Seahawks 217.9 112.9 5.9 4.1 65.9% 34.1%
Action Items
  • It's a shame Detroit can't run the ball well, or else they'd be in a great spot against a team that is poor vs. the run and appears to have given up on their season. Regardless, Theo Riddick is a cash game option at his price, given his recent usage since the team officially soured on Ameer Abdullah.
My Take: See above. 

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Replacing Antonio Brown And Devante Adams

Footballguys Roundtable featured free agent wide receiver candidates this late in the season who could at least give some upside to those missing the likes of Antonio Brown and Devante Adams. Our panelist share their thoughts on several receivers and their matchups.  

Matt Waldman: Antonio BrownKeenan Allen, Devante Adams, Emmanuel SandersJeremy Maclin, and Marquise Lee all suffered injuries that — with the potential exception of Allen — will keep them out of Week 16. 

Here's a list of receivers I've seen available as free agents. While it can go unsaid that none of these players will deliver the potential upside of many of these injured options, pick at least three that you like as potential replacements who can help your squads in championship matchups: 

Feel free to include receivers I haven't mentioned. 

Maurile Tremblay: Three players I like here are Keelan ColeRoger Lewis, and Chris Moore. Cole is on a hot streak, so don't expect him to match his recent production. In his last three games, he's converted 15 targets into 13 receptions for 334 yards and 3 touchdowns. He's actually the second-highest-scoring fantasy WR in the league over that period behind only Tyreek Hill.
Expect him to cool off considerably as his efficiency stats come back to earth, but what should remain elevated are his targets. He led the Jaguars with 9 targets last week, and Marqise Lee is expected to miss at least Week 16, and possibly Week 17 as well. (Allen Hurns could also be limited.)
As capable as Cole has played recently, expect the Jaguars to keep looking in his direction. He is the cream of the waiver-wire crop at wide receiver this week, in my opinion.

Roger Lewis will also continue to get volume, but in this case, it will be by default rather than because of recent stellar performance. The Giants lost Odell Beckham Jr Jr. and Brandon Marshall early in the season, and they've been struggling to find production in the passing game ever since.
Sterling Shepard is the team's best wide receiver remaining when he's healthy, but he has been unreliable. Tavarres King is a mediocre talent who is currently in the concussion protocol.
That leaves Roger Lewis as a primary cog in the passing offense, and indeed he has led the team with 21 targets over the last two games (edging out tight end Evan Engram by one). Any player getting volume has the chance to score fantasy points, and Lewis is among the highest-volume WRs likely to be on anyone's waiver wire.

Chris Moore isn't on the list, but I'll write him in as a high-upside candidate. I don't know how many people have noticed, but quarterback Joe Flacco has actually played some good football over the past few games.
With Jeremy Maclin likely out this week, some might expect Mike Campanaro or Breshad Perriman to get the biggest uptick in targets, but I'm putting my money on Chris Moore. Since the Ravens' Week 10 bye, Moore has gotten as many or more targets than either Campanaro or Perriman in every single game.
And he's flashed terrific playing speed and open-field run skills as a kick returner. If he can get the ball in his hands on offense, he can make good things happen, and I expect him to get the opportunity this week in Maclin's absence.

Waldman: I think Moore is a solid choice for a player not on this list — and a better choice than Perriman, who still hasn't shown enough development with the smaller facets of wide receiver player that make pros consistent producers. The coaching staff has also been public about trying to bolster is confidence, which is not a great sign. 

Daniel Simpkins: I don’t really feel good about throwing any of these guys into my lineup, but there will be some championship teams who lost Antonio Brown this week that will need a band-aid and have few choices.
Keelan Cole is the most interesting of the names here. Not only has he been on fire the past few weeks, I think his quarterback is the second most trustworthy option of all those listed. 
I trust Roethlisberger more than Bortles to have a good fantasy day, but the majority of Roethlisberger’s targets will probably go to Bell, Smith-Schuster, and Martavis Bryant. That said, Eli Rogers has a decent chance to get a few targets and possibly even score, as he did this past week.
Kendall Wright has been prone to disappearing from the game plan at certain times during the season, but in the last two games, he has seen more balls coming his way. When I watched the game last week, I saw Trubisky target him in the end zone a couple of times against the Lions. The passing matchup against the Browns is favorable, so it could pay off.

Paul Richardson Jr wasn’t of much help last week, but I still think he can deliver for fantasy owners if Wilson doesn’t have an abysmal game again. The fact Wilson and company are in a do-or-die situation against the Cowboys gives me a little bit of courage to play Richardson, who can make your fantasy day if he can haul in one of those deep targets he gets several times a game.

Mark Wimer: Of this list, Keelan Cole is the "Hottest Hand" after last week's "boom" performance, and the Jaguars are still jockeying for playoff seeding so there is something at stake for this team to keep their starting lineup on the field for all four quarters on Sunday. If he's still on the waiver wire, go grab him.

Damiere Byrd caught two TDs last week as well, and on a Panther's roster where the fight for the NFC South crown is still very much in contention, he's another rising star on a playoff-bound team that will likely keep their best players on the field for all four quarters on game day. Byrd has seen nine targets in the last two games so he's getting quite a bit of chance to make plays on an (admittedly) run-oriented team. I like Byrd as well and actually picked him up on my playoff-bound redraft team - he's another guy to go grab if available. 

Tavarres King had a big game last week but is in the concussion protocols as of Monday, December 18 so the better option on the Giants' roster may actually be Roger Lewis in Week 16 — he's seen a whopping 21 targets in the last two games and looks primed to go off if King is sidelined due to his injury in Week 16. I'll be less interested in Lewis if King is able to clear the protocols, though - this is a developing situation to keep an eye on. 

Dan Hindery: I’ll start with a receiver that isn’t listed: Damiere Byrd. Since returning from injury in Week 13, Byrd has somewhat quietly stepped into a major role in the Carolina Panthers offense. His percentage of snaps played has increased each week: 44 percent in Week 13; 60 percent in Week 14 and 73 percent in Week 15.
He has emerged as the clear No. 2 wide receiver for the Panthers, playing 28 snaps more than the No. 3 wide receiver (Russell Shepard) last week. Byrd is stepping into the Ted Ginn Jr role in the Carolina offense (which has had real fantasy value when the Panthers offense is humming like it is currently) and has the perfect skill set for the task (Byrd ran a blazing 4.28-second forty-yard dash coming out of South Carolina).
While Byrd has seen only 9 targets over the past two weeks, he has been productive with 8 receptions for 62 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Week 16 matchup for Byrd couldn’t be any better against a Tampa Bay defense that has allowed the most points in the league to opposing wide receivers this season.

Roger LewisEli Manning is running out of wide receivers to target. Odell Beckham Jr and Brandon Marshall landed on injured reserve long ago. Now, Tavarres King is in the concussion protocol after taking a big shot in Week 15.
Only Roger Lewis and Sterling Shepard remain from the opening day roster and early speculation is that Patrick Peterson will shadow Shepard in the Week 16 matchup. Lewis has already been seeing a big workload (10+ targets each of the last two weeks) and has a good chance to again see double-digit targets in Week 16. 

Kendall Wright is a great target for desperate teams. The biggest thing to look for at wide receiver is an opportunity in the form of targets. Wright has seen a whopping 24 targets over the last two weeks. He has been relatively efficient too, catching 17 of those 24 targets for 189 yards.
His matchup against Cleveland in Week 16 is very good as well. Cleveland’s serviceable slot cornerback, Brian Boddy-Calhoun, has missed the last two weeks with a knee injury and is questionable again this week.
Cleveland plays a scheme heavy on run blitzes, which has contributed to their No. 1 ranking in run defense DVOA. Their weakness has been against the pass (28th in pass defense DVOA) and especially short (29th in DVOA) and over the middle (29th in DVOA), the area of the field where Wright does most of his damage.
The Bears have loosened the reins on Mitchell Trubisky in recent weeks (as evidenced by his 46 pass attempts in Week 15) and have a great opportunity to try to develop their young franchise passer in an ideal Week 16 matchup, which could again lead to a bunch of targets for Wright.

Chad Parsons: There is not a lot of juice on this list for title game owners needing a starter. Keelan Cole is my No.1 of the group with his big-play ability and role within the Jacksonville offense to have occasional 100-yard upside or a long touchdown.
Kendall Wright is the high floor of the group as Mitch Trubisky has shown well on short and intermediate throws between the numbers in contested windows. Wright is a sturdy interior receiver and his target floor may be the highest of the group.
Finally, I will mention Tyler Lockett as Seattle has struggled on the ground and Russell Wilson's backyard style of finding big gains through extending plays brings Lockett and all Seattle receivers into the bucket of big game potential with only a few receptions.

Waldman: I think Lewis, King, and Cole are the safest options on this list. The combination of the Giants defense creating garbage-time opportunities for the passing game to stay in continual catch-up mode makes Lewis and King appealing options.

Both players have the quickness to get deep and they're solid route runners. Neither are A+ athletes at the position, but Lewis is above average at tracking the ball on vertical routes. If you can get Cole, he's the best of the three because Blake Bortles is playing smart football and despite not having the name recognition, Cole, Dede Westbrook, and Jaydon Mickens are all fast receivers with skills after the catch. 

Westbrook is often commanding the opponent's top cornerback because of his skill against tight coverage, which is allowing the Jaguars to match Cole against linebackers and safeties in the middle of the field. Although Marqise Lee is out, Mickens might be the faster player. Jacksonville used Cole and Mickens on routes where they crisscrossed under zone coverage and it earned one, if not both, wide-open targets. 

I actually like Mickens more than Westbrook this week. It's a risk because of the lack of name factor, only one game of data, and Westbrook is a skilled option. However, Mickens is a reliable pass catcher that I've scouted two years ago and the Jaguars are doing an excellent job of using him. Opponents will be more concerned with Cole and Westbrook, which will once again create opportunities for Mickens.

Wright is also gelling with Trubisky and the matchup is worth consideration. Hindery's reference to the data that illustrates Cleveland's soft spots on defense is a good supporting argument.

Even so, I would much prefer a player who has an equally high target and red zone potential that also includes upside in the vertical game.  If you're trying to replace any of the receivers I mentioned above, getting a safe 8-12 points may only be good enough to sustain you if you're missing the likes of Sanders, Maclin, and Lee.

If you're missing Brown, Adams, or Allen, an output of 8-12 points will likely make your impending loss look closer than it really was. In this case, I'd go for the upside of players who are earning vertical routes and red zone opportunities with an experienced quarterback and a supporting cast that helps them earn strong mismatches. 

Those players are Cole, Mickens, King, Lewis, and Benjamin. I also like Maurile's thoughts on Moore.

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Keep Going to The Well With Woods

I profiled Woods' return performance in this week's The Top 10 and I was pleased with the outcome: 

I didn't see any rust from Woods or major rapport issues between him and Jared Goff. Woods didn't have any problems taking contact and making plays after the catch. 


R Woods wr throw out

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onDec 17, 2017 at 7:15pm PST



Woods ll

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onDec 17, 2017 at 7:28pm PST

Woods also displayed the strong route running skills that the Rams coveted this offseason. This release against Byron Maxwell is a great illustration of varying the rhythm and pattern of footwork to test the patience of cornerbacks who've studied the film and expected something else.  


Woods winning with an off rhythm release pattern that disrupts Maxwell

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onDec 17, 2017 at 8:07pm PST

The Titans gave up some huge plays in the middle of the field to Kendrick Bourne and Garrett Celek yesterday. Look for Woods and Cooper Kupp to have a strong outing thanks to these linebackers reacting hard to the play-action game that Todd Gurley's running generates. 

Several staffers greenlit Woods this weekend as a strong start. Here's Hester's outlook in Trendspotting:



Action Items

Todd Gurley is awesome, but refer to previous mentions of Tennessee's defense, and you'll find that they're bad against the pass. Jared Goff is a solid GPP play as an overlooked option with an elite matchup. The question then becomes, with whom do we stack Goff?

  Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 15
Player Snaps Tgt Yds Snaps Tgt Yds Snaps Tgt Yds Snaps Tgt Yds
Robert Woods 76.3% 30.6% 36.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 92.9% 30.4% 36.3%
Cooper Kupp 93.2% 19.4% 28.9% 79.2% 2.3% 32.8% 87.9% 19.4% 30.9% 89.3% 13.0% 16.9%
Sammy Watkins 83.1% 11.1% 16.0% 83.1% 20.9% 23.2% 100% 12.9% 17.3% 92.9% 21.7% 11.3%
Team Total 59 36 225 77 43 354 58 31 220 56 23 124

Robert Woods is clearly this team's WR1. The 76.2% of Week 11 targets represent 11 targets. The week prior, Woods saw 10 targets. While Cooper Kupp and company filled in admirably in Woods' absences, he came back to clearly be the top receiver in last week's domination of Seattle. The volume wasn't there, but over one-third of team targets is in elite company. Woods is a solid play in any format, and unless you're absolutely loaded with three top-10 receivers in your traditional league, you're starting Woods there too.

The DFS Roundtable also like Woods this weekend, especially John Mamula who touted him in two pieces this week: 

John Mamula: One of my favorite QB/WR stacks is Jared Goff paired with Robert Woods. The Rams offense has been electric averaging an NFL best 31.3 points per game. Much of the attention will be on Todd Gurley after his 180 total yards with four touchdown performance. Don't sleep on the Rams passing attack in this matchup. The  Titans defense has held up much better versus the run (3rd best) as compared to the pass (8th worst) this season. Goff has multiple touchdowns in six of his past seven games and has flashed GPP-winning upside with four touchdowns on the road versus the Giants and three touchdowns versus the 49ers and Texans. Robert Woods has emerged as the Rams top receiving option with five touchdowns in his past four games. 

My Take: I had Antonio Brown and I have Dez Bryant. I'm starting Woods ahead of Bryant this weekend. I trust the volume and the offense.

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Beyond The Stats

Jeff Haseley's weekly feature is one of my favorites because he often delivers stats that tell readers a lot about the state of a player, unit, or team. Here are some of my favorites for Week 16's matchups and the season as a whole: 

  • All your money on Philly. This week a team with over 100 quarterback rating (PHI, 102.6) will play a team with over 100 quarterback rating against (OAK, 102.6)
  • Pretty close with these other teams - KC vs MIA (103.2 vs 94.1) and NO vs ATL (104.0 vs 95.8) and MIN vs GB (99.7 vs 100.5).
  • Did the 49ers find their franchise QB? - Yards gained per pass completion leaders this year are Deshaun Watson (13.5) and Jared Goff (12.8). In three starts, Jimmy Garoppolo is at 13.0.  
  • More on Jimmy - 43.5% of Jimmy Garoppolo's passes are first downs. Highest of any quarterback with 100 pass attempts this season.
  • Equilibrium - Drew Brees has as many touchdown passes as the Saints have rushing touchdowns (21)

My Take, Part I: Nick Foles remains a strong play for those QB-needy squads that scuffled their way to a championship appearance. Garoppolo is the matinee idol of football writers and 49ers fans this month. The Jaguars defense will be the stiffest test of his young career. I don't expect the bottom to fall out, but I won't be surprised if we see some turnovers from Garoppolo and the 49ers offense. Even so, don't be surprised if the 49ers also keep this game much closer than some expect.   

I recommended McCaffrey as an obvious play this weekend and probably a higher rated play than some established starters because I believe that Tampa Bay's secondary will continue leaving huge swaths of grass open in the middle of the field for McCaffrey to roam — especially with Greg Olsen clearing out the safeties and outside linebackers. Expect another receiving TD for McCaffrey working under Olsen's clear-outs this weekend. 

Great offenses have balance. As a football fan, it's great to see Brees working from an offense that can pound the ball. I wrote about Brees at another site when he was a third-year player and touted his potential as a difference maker. Back then, he was working in San Diego with Marty Schottenheimer — whom Brees credits more than any coach for his development. Schottenheimer was known as a run-first practitioner with a prehistoric bent, but I'll argue that he's always sought balance with a smart quarterback. 

Bernie Kosar, Joe Montana, and Brees is a pretty good trio of starters during his tenure with three of his four stops as a head coach in the NFL.

Beyond The Stats Continued: 2017 ROOKIE PERFORMANCE

In the 2017 Rookie Scouting Portfolio I listed Kizer as the passer whose game as the most "ready" to play in a traditional offensive setup. I didn't say he'd be highly productive and I cautioned readers that it's my preference for quarterbacks to spend at least a year on the bench learning behind a veteran on and off the field.

The Browns didn't provide Kizer a veteran in any capacity, which is unheard of in the NFL.  Even Deshaun Watson at T.J. Yates, whose had a few stops learning from the likes of Matt Ryan along the way. Go easier on Kizer because the Browns organization did a poor job of creating an infrastructure for a young quarterback. If they draft another in 2018 and do the same they did with Kizer, expect more doom and gloom on the shores of Lake Erie.

Hunt has played well overall, but his season also illustrated my analysis of him this spring. Give him good line play and he'll get what's blocked and a little more. When the Chiefs had a healthy and productive line early this year, Hunt was a top producer. When the line had a couple of injuries, Hunt went nearly two months as a non-starter in two-RB formats. 

McCaffrey reminded me of Brian Westbrook in style. Westbrook didn't like those comparisons because he was a better runner between the tackles. Even so, McCaffrey is competent in this respect and better than the characterization of him as a wide receiver disguised as a running back. 

We're seeing that in recent weeks. However, the debate will rage on because I bet McCaffrey will be doing, even more, work split wide from the formation next year now that Cam Newton is gaining more trust in the rookie as a receiver and learning to deliver the ball accurately on the targets Carolina wants to feed the back.

Kupp was my dark-horse selection as the most productive rookie fantasy receiver this year. If he didn't drop multiple touchdowns this year, he might have been a high-end WR2. His ceiling is higher than it may appear. By the way, if you didn't listen to me, listen to Steve Smith, who was on at the NFL Combine telling viewers that Kupp was the best rookie receiver in this draft.

The fact that Howard is tied with Engram for receiving touchdowns and Cameron Brate is still holding the rookie off is a surprising stat. I've always seen Engram as a Kellen Winslow, Sr. type of tight end: a wide receiver in disguise as a tight end. When Odell Beckham Jr got hurt, the disguise became flimsier. 

I'm not surprised that Jackson is leading in tackles; he's getting picked on (as one would expect). White impressed me greatly during the first 6-7 weeks of the season. He held his own with some excellent technicians. He was arguably the brightest spot of the Bills' season. 

Lattimore has been even more impressive than White, and when Lawson pushed around Washington's Pro Bowl left tackle, with a variety of moves this preseason, there was good reason to be excited.

Acquire TE Trey Burton

Missed out on this rich rookie tight end class that may prove to be the richest in recent memory? Jeff Tefertiller's Dynasty News You Can Use is one of a few features that has recently recommended the Eagles' Trey Burton as a dynasty stash:  

We wrote about Eagles tight end Trey Burton in last week’s Dynasty Rankings Movement.  An impending free agent, Burton is expected to sign a large deal this offseason.  Mike Garafolo said Sunday morning that he expects Burton to land a significant deal after the year.  There are few teams with strong weapons at the position, so Burton could be a great player to stash.  Imagine him as the replacement for Jason Witten or signing in San Francisco.  The upside could be huge. 

Bloom concurs in Buy Low, Sell High:

Trey Burton, PHI - The cat is out of the bag regarding Burton’s skills. He is going to be free agent next year and will likely be signed to start somewhere in 2018.

My Take: I shared some analysis on Burtin in Week 15:

Here's a throw with great placement on a touchdown pass to tight end Trey Burton.


Excellent throw by Wentz to Burton

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onDec 10, 2017 at 8:42pm PST

It seems like every week Burton earns significant playing time, he's delivering. Here's another target where he takes a tough shot working between defenders. 


T Burton

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onDec 10, 2017 at 10:23pm PST

If you're seeking the next Delanie Walker (Ari Ingel's well-stated reference on Twitter this morning) — a receiver-first playmaker at the position who has developed slowly with his first team and will become a starter during his second contract, Burton is a terrific candidate 

Wentz's mobility has been a great asset and part of the long-developing drama of the NFL is the career arc of players. How will they respond to the potential obstacles that occur with surrounding talent, coaching, and injury? Will he have this kind of mobility and aggressive playing style in 12-18 months or will he change?   


Wentz on the move, protecting ball from edge defender and resetting shoulders to fire downfield

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onDec 10, 2017 at 9:01pm PST

Good luck this week. Bring it home!

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