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Fantasy Football Beyond the Box Scores: Everything You Need To Know For Championship Week

Ted shares his top fantasy football takeaways from Week 16’s NFL action.

If you are reading this, congrats on making it to the finals of your fantasy football league!! (If your league’s finals extend into Week 18, change your settings — there is nothing worse than losing because the stud that has carried you all season also already carried their team to the first seed and sits out). This week, I will also be including info from Monday’s three games, just in case you made the crazy decision to spend Christmas with your family instead of watching football. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the trends that could help you make the correct add/drop and start/sit decisions for the fantasy football finals!

Note: All fantasy scores and rankings will be for Half-PPR formats. Data courtesy of PFR, Next Gen Stats, FantasyLife, and PFF (among other places). 

Indianapolis Colts @ Atlanta Falcons
  • Colts tight end Kylen Granson saw seven targets with Michael Pittman sidelined, and I always say any tight end seeing that many targets is worth considering. But Granson doesn’t need to be considered for long, as those seven targets came on just 18 routes (a 39% participation rate). He shouldn’t ping your fantasy radar.
  • In classic Kyle Pitts fashion, his second-best game of the season (not that 12.4 Half-PPR points is a very impressive silver medal performance) came immediately after his usage dropped off a cliff in Week 15. His route participation rate was back up in this one, but with that likely to plummet at any time and no games over four receptions since Week 5, I’d hope you can find a better option for your fantasy football championships.
  • Jonathan Taylor’s usage in his return from injury was very good, with 18/21 RB carries and two targets on 41% route participation. The Raiders’ defense is suddenly on fire, but he’s still a solid starting option against them in Week 17 (assuming Zack Moss, who didn’t practice at all in the lead-up to this one, is still out).

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Green Bay Packers @ Carolina Panthers
  • A.J. Dillon played just 12 snaps in his return from injury. He did carry the ball seven times (including once at the goal line for a TD) on those 12 snaps, but that’s still not great. He’s only a desperation flex in a tough matchup with the Vikings. On the flip side, Aaron Jones, who saw 21 carries (including two goal-line carries to Dillon’s one, although he failed to convert) and saw three targets, is a solid RB2.
  • I don’t want to overreact to the Panthers’ offensive explosion. The Packers’ defense has been very beatable recently, and we have to remember that this 30-point outing was the first time the Panthers scored more than 20 since Week 6. Their early line for next week is set at 14.5 points. Chuba Hubbard is still the only player worth considering in anything but super-deep leagues.
  • The Packers’ receiving weapons just get more and more injured, as Dontayvion Wicks left this game early with a chest issue. If Wicks, Jayden Reed, and Christian Watson all miss next week, Romeo Doubs is very much an option, while Malik Heath (who tied Doubs with an 83% route participation rate) could be a dart throw play.
Cleveland Browns @ Houston Texans
  • It’s probably very tough to do coming off this week’s explosion, but Amari Cooper and Joe Flacco are both players to consider benching next week. The Jets allow an awful 12.2 points per game to opposing quarterbacks to go with 17.4 Half-PPR points to opposing receivers (that’s all opposing WRs combined, not individually). That second number is five fewer points than the next-closest team, as well as far less than half of what Cooper alone scored last week.
  • Last week, I pointed out that Xavier Hutchinson seemed to have passed up Robert Woods on the Texans’ WR depth chart. That wasn’t at all the case this week, as Woods’ 83% route participation rate was second on the team and nearly double Hutchinson’s. I think the key here is that Woods is primarily a slot receiver at this stage of his career. He ran 62.5% of his routes this week from the slot (that number is 56% for the season, but increasing of late). So, when Nico Collins was out, Hutchinson seemingly leapfrogged Woods by claiming the No. 2 outside role. But Collins’ (limited) return cut into Hutchinson’s snaps, not Woods’. All this to say, if you want to throw a dart at a Texans receiver outside of Collins or Noah Brown next week, Woods is the play.
  • Unlike Flacco and Cooper, I’m happy to ride the hot streak with David Njoku (although saying that about a tight end usually ends badly). The Jets are actually an above-average matchup for the TE position, and his volume and production are hard to ignore.
Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings
  • He managed just 7.7 points even with a touchdown, but this week was encouraging for Ty Chandler. He easily saw more snaps (65% to 9%), carries (eight to two), and routes (12 to one) than Alexander Mattison. He’s a startable option in Week 17 against the Packers, while Mattison is not.
  • Rostering David Montgomery likely hasn’t been fun lately, as Jahmyr Gibbs is clearly the more explosive and valuable half of this backfield at this point. But the veteran is still averaging 15.4 carries (plus a couple of targets) over the last five games. The Cowboys’ defense is scary on paper but has been exploited in the run game recently, so he’s a startable option, albeit with a much lower floor and ceiling than he had earlier in the season.
  • T.J. Hockenson is unfortunately done for the season, while Jordan Addison is dealing with an ankle issue. This makes K.J. Osborn my favorite streaming WR for championship week. If Addison can’t go, he will be the second target on one of the league’s pass-heaviest teams in a solid matchup. What’s not to like?
Washington Commanders @ New York Jets
  • Chris Rodriguez Jr. was spotted in a walking boot after exiting early with an ankle injury. If both he and Brian Robinson (who didn’t practice at all last week with a hamstring issue) are out next week, Antonio Gibson will likely find himself with all the work he can handle. In that case, even in an unfortunate matchup with an angry 49ers team, Gibson would be a great play.
  • According to PFF, Trevor Siemian had 45 non-throway pass attempts. A truly ridiculous 31 (69%) of them were intended for Breece Hall (16 targets) or Garrett Wilson (17 targets). Those two are must-starts, the rest of this offense is irrelevant.
  • For the second straight week, Jacoby Brissett immediately gave life to a previously sputtering Commanders offense. It has not been officially announced, but I have to hope Brissett will start against San Francisco next week. With that in mind, here are target shares for relevant Commanders on Brissett’s 23 attempts (small sample size alert) so far this season: Terry McLaurin 22%, Jahan Dotson 17%, Curtis Samuel 17%, Logan Thomas 13%, Antonio Gibson 9%. Unlike last week, when Brissett heavily targeted McLaurin, there’s nothing really to write home about here compared to season averages. I would still upgrade the Commanders across the board if Jacoby starts, but not by much, especially considering their matchup.
Seattle Seahawks @ Tennessee Titans
  • It sounds absurd to say about the RB6 coming off a 20-point RB4 finish last week, but I still don’t feel at all comfortable about Derrick Henry in Week 17. He was absolutely shut down by the Texans two weeks ago, finishing with an abysmal nine yards on 17 carries and one yard on four receptions. His touchdown equity is still the best in the business (he even threw for one this week), but you have to accept that his floor is very low, especially with C.J. Stroud’s potential return increasing the possibility that the King is game-scripted out of the contest.
  • Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet have firmly settled into a classic early-down/third-down split, with Walker dominating carries while the rookie runs more routes. Walker is the clear start of the duo heading into a winnable matchup with the Steelers, while Charbonnet is only a true desperation play.
  • I have been for weeks, and I’m going to just keep tooting the Chigoziem Okonkwo horn. Last week was just his first week inside the top 10 tight ends on the season, but he has seen 5.0 targets per game over the last few weeks and the Texans are the fourth-best matchup for tight ends in the league. He’s a streaming option.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • With Zay Jones and Christian Kirk inactive, 2021 UDFA Tim Jones actually served as the Jaguars’ WR2. He did only see four targets, catching three for 32 yards. Still, if the other Jones is out again next week, Tim is an option for those who are truly desperate.
  • Chris Godwin’s streak of double-digit-target games since his wife called out Todd Bowles is now up to three. Seeing as he has been productive and the Bucs have been winning, I see no reason they won’t keep feeding him. He’s a solid option in Week 17 against a Saints team that is beatable from the slot.
  • Even if he’s healthy, I don’t think you can start Trevor Lawrence in 1-QB leagues against the Panthers next week. Thanks to a terrible run defense and their own offensive ineptitude, Carolina is the fourth-worst matchup for opposing QBs, and T-Law has been inconsistent regardless of his matchup all season.
Arizona Cardinals @ Chicago Bears
  • Michael Wilson has caught just three of his 13 targets from Kyler Murray for only 34 yards in three games together. But he was still the Cardinals’ top receiver in terms of routes this week. Even if Marquise Brown plays and bumps him down to WR2, but especially if Brown is out, he should end his rookie season with a bang against the terrible Eagles’ secondary.
  • D’Onta Foreman missed this game due to a personal matter, leaving Khalil Herbert to dominate the Bears’ backfield and take advantage of the Cardinals’ terrible run defense. Unfortunately, the Falcons next week are a much tougher matchup. If Foreman returns, I wouldn’t want to start any member of this backfield. If he doesn’t, Herbert is a flex play.
  • James Conner has played just 13% of passing-down snaps for the Cardinals over the last two weeks. Given that the Eagles (who also have one of the league’s toughest run defenses) will likely force the Cardinals into plenty of passing situations next week, he’s more of an iffy flex play than a locked-in RB2.
Dallas Cowboys @ Miami Dolphins
  • Jaylen Waddle is dealing with a high-ankle sprain. This probably mostly means more targets for Tyreek Hill, but Cedrick Wilson is the next man up as the Dolphins’ WR2. He has solid upside as a deep-league streaming option, but also comes with plenty of downside in a very tough matchup with the Ravens.
  • You can, and maybe should, bench Tony Pollard against the Lions (who are the worst matchup for opposing RBs) next week. But you also can still start him. He’s still seeing 70% of snaps, 60%+ of carries, around four targets a game, and some (but by no means all) of the goal-line work on an elite offense. Don’t get too cute and bench him for some fringe WR3 just because he’s the most frustrating player to roster in the whole league (can you tell I have him in far too many leagues?).
  • Raheem Mostert technically ended this game available, but his snaps and usage were greatly limited by a shin injury suffered early in the second quarter. He had just three touches after that point (one of which went for a TD, of course), with none coming after the Dolphins’ first drive of the third. If he’s cleared for Week 17, he’s still a must-start. De’Von Achane, meanwhile, failed to take advatnage of Mostert’s absence and now has three straight games below 10 Half-PPR points. He’s a boom-or-bust flex play at best in a bad matchup with the Ravens next week.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs
  • I know he hasn’t been what you drafted him to be and is looking more washed by the week, but I don’t recommend benching Travis Kelce in your finals matchups. He’s averaging 8.14 targets for the season (7.0 for the last five games), and the Bengals are the second-best matchup for the tight end position. I’d recommend any mediocre tight end due to see volume against Cincinnati’s defense, so I’ll certainly recommend one of the GOATs.
  • I’m sure you’ve heard that Aidan O’Connell didn’t complete a pass after the first quarter this week (If you didn’t, isn’t that hilarious? Remember: The Raiders won this game). After a performance like that, it’s tempting to recommend benching even Davante Adams in a bad matchup with the Colts next week. But we should also not forget that the Raiders scored 60 points just two weeks ago. Adams isn’t necessarily a must-start given AOC’s struggles … but he’s eighth in the league in targets. I wouldn’t bench him.
  • If Isiah Pacheco can’t clear the concussion protocol in time for Week 17, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a must-start. With Jerick McKinnon also on IR, CEH would see tons of volume against a beatable Bengals defense and have insane touchdown equity as the last man left standing in this backfield.
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles
  • After hitting a season-high 91% last week, Wan’Dale Robinson fell back to a 66% route participation rate this week. He still managed to lead the Giants with seven targets, but you simply can’t trust him if his usage is this mediocre on such a bad offense (likely as a result of Darren Waller’s return cutting into his slot snaps).
  • The vibes around this Eagles team and offense are bad, but don’t let that fool you: All five of their core players are borderline or actual must-starts in Week 17 against the Cardinals. D’Andre Swift has been the most inconsistent of the group, but he has the best matchup against Arizona’s non-existent run defense.
  • Darren Waller increased his route participation rate up to 71% this week — still his lowest healthy number of the season, but far better than last week’s 47%. He caught just two of five targets for 32 yards, but Tyrod Taylor missed him on what should have been a big touchdown that would have changed his day. He’s a borderline TE1 for a Week 17 matchup with the Rams, who have the third-worst defense against the position.
Baltimore Ravens @ San Francisco 49ers
  • Gus Edwards was out-snapped (62% to 43%), out-carried (10 to nine), and out-targeted (three to one) by Justice Hill despite a positive game script. Yes, he does just keep scoring touchdowns, but you’re essentially relying on a touchdown if you start him against a tough Dolphins defense. I’d rather take a chance on a player who produces in other ways and has touchdown upside than rely on a touchdown by playing the Gus Bus next week.
  • This week was obviously terrible, but please don’t bench Brock Purdy if you somehow survived to Week 17 with him on your roster. He is fifth in total points and sixth in PPG at the QB position, and the Commanders’ secondary is potentially the worst single unit in the NFL.
  • Be careful when debating whether to start any of Baltimore’s WRs this week. The Dolphins rank just about average against the position for the season, but they have been much better of late. They have allowed 50 fewer passing yards per game since Jalen Ramsey’s Week 8 return, down to 182 from 233. That 182 mark would rank fifth-best in the league for the season, meaning they are much closer to a very bad matchup than a good one.