The fantasy football season can be a blast to some and torturous to others! But if you are still reading this column, the chances are you have had a good season and on the verge of capping it off with a league championship.
One team that is going to win fantasy managers championships is the Cleveland Browns, led by QB Baker Mayfield. He is the QB4 since Week 11, averaging 24.72 fantasy PPG in that span. He has scored over 18 fantasy points in each of those games and twice topped 29 fantasy points — showing you he brings a safe floor and high ceiling as of late. But this is a great opportunity to showcase his ceiling against the Jets, who despite holding Jared Goff in check last week, have still allowed the most fantasy PPG to QBs since Week 8 (25.59). That includes allowing the most passing yards per game (308.4) and touchdowns (19) to QBs in that span. Mayfield is a top 10 fantasy QB in the Week 16 rankings this week. I would pick him up and start him over Russell Wilson this week. C’mon Baker, win us a championship!
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Chicago Bears
Trubisky has been a little up and down scoring 19, 13, 25, and 13 fantasy points in his last four games. He has taken advantage of some good matchups, but also faltered in them, such as Week 13 against the Lions. His run of favorable matchups continues though against the Jaguars who have allowed the second most fantasy PPG to QBs this season (22.34), including a league-high 31 passing touchdowns. I love this matchup and what Trubisky has done in recent weeks has given me more faith. Not enough to have him inside my Top 12 QBs this week, but he is just outside as a high-end QB2.
It’s Backup Running Back Week!
Week 16 rosters are going to look very different with so many RBs going down with injuries as of late. Tony Pollard was the star of the backup RB show last week, going off for 32 fantasy points. That is more than Ezekiel Elliott has in any of his last 31 games. Pollard showed last week that if Zeke is out, you play Pollard. That is exactly the case if you can nab him off the waiver wire. Another backup RB who started last week was Leonard Fournette. He stepped in for Ronald Jones last week and is looking likely to do so once again this week for the Bucs. He finished with 21.5 fantasy points, largely because he was able to turn two goal-line carries into touchdowns. But the Bucs face the Lions, who allow the most fantasy PPG to RBs this season (31.86). He is just one of many new starting RBs, as the 49ers’ Jeff Wilson is expected to start with Raheem Mostert landing on the IR. This season Wilson has averaged 18.93 fantasy PPG when Mostert sits and just 6.43 PPG when he plays. He is an RB2 on volume alone and has RB1 upside if he can find the end zone. Oh, you want more backup running backs to start? How about Le’Veon Bell for the Chiefs with Clyde Edwards-Helaire going down for the rest of the regular season. Bell put up nearly 15 fantasy points in relief duty, and while I do not love the matchup against the Falcons, he is still tied to Patrick Mahomes. That is enough to put him in the RB2 discussion this week. Lastly, there is Devine Ozigbo who I would expect to see a good amount of work if this year’s waiver wire darling, James Robinson is forced to sit with an ankle injury. Currently, Robinson is pushing to play but the expectation is he will not practice, which clearly puts this week in jeopardy. Ozigbo only has seven touches on the season, so we do not have a whole lot to go off, and the Bears have been stingy to RBs. But the Jags have shown in recent seasons that they prefer to rely on one back to lead the way. If you are in a deeper format and lost one of these many starters, Ozigbo can be a deeper backup plan this week, if Robinson sits. And if you unfortunately missed out on these backups that are now starters, some deeper backups I like this week are Chase Edmonds, Jerick McKinnon, Ito Smith and Lynn Bowden.
David Johnson, RB, Houston Texans
David Johnson might not seem like “sleeper” material, but he was started in just a quarter of NFL.com leagues in Week 15. He went off for over 24 fantasy points on 19 touches. He did it all while rushing for just 27 yards. He was the Texans top target, catching all 11 for 106 yards. It’s the best D.J. has looked this season and maybe in a couple. But with the Texans’ depth at WR being tested and Duke Johnson banged up, he could see increased pass game usage again this week. He has a strong matchup against the Bengals, who allow 115 rushing yards per game to RBs, the fifth most in the NFL. Johnson is an RB2, but he has a lot more upside than previously thought if he can continue to be a factor in the passing game.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Fantasy football is a fickle beast and perhaps no better example than that is the recent outcomes for Giovani Bernard. Prior to Week 15, he had a stretch of five games being held in single digits, that includes against the Cowboys in Week 14, who allow more rushing yards than any team in the NFL. Yet, then he faces the Steelers, who allow the fewest fantasy points to RBs heading into that game, and he goes off for nearly 23 fantasy points. Sandwiching those five games in single digits are three 20-plus point games, showing you that he has a ceiling, but not really a floor you can trust. This week he faces the Texans, who have allowed the most scrimmage yards per game to RBs and the second-most fantasy points to the position. This is more of a shoot for the upside play but given the matchup I do like him a bit more than usual this week. He is a low-end RB2 in a favorable matchup.
Rashard Higgins, WR, Cleveland Browns
Get used to seeing a lot of Browns on this list! Higgins has been playing good ball as of late, putting up over 11 fantasy points in three straight, including over 18 in two of those. In each of those 18-plus point performances he saw over nine targets. Volume like that could lead to a big week against the Jets who have allowed the second most fantasy PPG to WRs since Week 8 (45.74). That includes 196.9 receiving yards per game and 11 touchdowns, both second-most in that span. Higgins is a WR3 with a lot of upside in this great matchup against the Jets secondary.
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions
Marvin Jones probably has not received enough credit for his play as of late, so let’s give him some shine! Jones has topped 25 fantasy points in two of the past three games and has 12 targets in three of the past four games. That is big time volume that could once again lead to big fantasy points this week against the Bucs, who have allowed the most fantasy PPG to WRs since Week 8 (47.2). They’ve allowed the most catches (16.7) and yards per game (206.7) and the second most TDs (11) in that span. Jones is a sneaky WR2 this week.
Chad Hansen, WR, Houston Texans
Chad Hansen is another player who deserves his due. He has done nothing but put up fantasy points since being asked to step in for the suspended Will Fuller. Hansen has scored at least 12 fantasy points in all three of his games with the Texans. He had seven targets in each of the first two, before dipping down to just three last week, but he did catch his first TD of the season last week. This week he faces the Bengals who have allowed 16 touchdowns to WRs, tied for the sixth most in the NFL. This defense is no match for Deshaun Watson and Co.
*Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets *
I’ve written about the Brown so much against the Jets this week that I need to give the Jets a chance to defend themselves! The Jets might be a good team to stream against, but their top weapon, Jamison Crowder, has scored over 12 fantasy points in two of his last three, including nearly 22 fantasy points in one of those. He is a safe bet to get at least seven targets this week and can do damage against the Browns. Cleveland has allowed the third most fantasy PPG to slot WRs this season (15.13) including seven touchdowns, which ties for the third most. Crowder runs 70 percent of his routes from the slot this season. He is a WR3 in this favorable matchup.
Austin Hooper, TE, Cleveland Browns
Sorry, Jets fans, but there is another Brown who I like this week. It’s Austin Hooper, who scored a season high 15.1 fantasy points last week and now has a touchdown in two of his past three games. But the real reason to get excited here is the matchup. The Jets allow the most fantasy PPG to TEs (17.47). That includes giving up the most yards per game (66.1) and touchdowns (13) to the position this season. If you are diving a little deeper for a tight end this week, play the matchup and go with Hooper.
Denver has allowed a league-high 2.1 giveaways per game this season. They’ve also allowed a top 12 fantasy defense in nine games since Week 2. They are just a favorable offense to stream against right now. If you missed out on some of the top streaming defense options, the Chargers are a solid fallback option.
Good luck in Week 16 and happy holidays all!