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Fantasy Football Beyond The Box Scores Week 18: Who To Start In This Wacky Week?

Ted takes a look at trends to know heading into Week 18 in this season’s final edition of Beyond the Box Scores.

Hello and welcome to the final Beyond the Box Scores of the season! I hope you won a fantasy championship or two last week!

If you are (unfortunately) still playing this week, never fear! I’m still here to go over trends to help you take home the trophy, but I will be going about things slightly differently. Because there’s just one week left, instead of looking back at Week 17’s games, I’m going to look ahead to Week 18. Of course, as last week is always the most relevant data we have, I’ll still be referencing Week 17’s games quite a bit.

I’m also going to do my best to reign myself in in terms of length, focusing on super-quick bits of info … because is anyone actually reading this article in Week 18? If I don’t mention a particular player, that just means there’s nothing outstanding worth mentioning about their Week 17 usage or Week 18 outlook. If you still want my take on someone, hit me up on Twitter or in the Discord. Without further ado, let’s do this!

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). 

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
  • We start with a perfect encapsulation of why fantasy football leagues should end in Week 17. The Ravens have locked up the AFC’s one seed and have no incentive to try in Week 18. Even if it is announced that they will technically start the game, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with any of their usual starters in my fantasy lineup, as they could be benched at any time. If it’s announced that the usual suspects will be resting, players like Charlie Kolar, Tyler Huntley, and Melvin Gordon (lol) become desperation streaming options.
  • George Pickens had a 45% target share last week. In a game where he might be facing the Ravens’ backup corners, he should be in your lineup.
  • The results have been better for Najee Harris in the last two weeks, but his usage has actually been worse. He’s seeing a similar share of the rushing work but is running way fewer routes and has zero targets in the last three games combined. He’s only a flex play despite the potential “playing against the Ravens’ backups” boost.
Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts
  • Don’t be worried about Dameon Pierce seeing eight carries to Devin Singletary’s 16. Not only did he average a full 3.0 fewer yards per carry, but five of his eight carries came on the Texans’ final two garbage-time drives.
  • Josh Downs had a 52% route participation rate last week. That’s too low to trust him in your Week 18 lineups.
  • Michael Pittman had a 35% target share last week. That’s too high to not have him in your Week 18 lineups.
  • Keep an eye on the health statuses of Robert Woods and Noah Brown, who somehow both sustained hip injuries in Week 17. In a pace-up spot against the Colts and with C.J. Stroud healthy, the Texans’ WR2 spot is likely to be productive. Depending on availability, I think the favorites for that spot are Brown > Woods > Xavier Hutchinson > John Metchie.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers
  • Rachaad White had one of his worst games of the season in Week 17, but you have to start him in Week 18. The Panthers’ run defense is bad.
  • The Buccaneers’ secondary is also bad, but I’m not sure that’s enough for me to want to start anyone from the Panthers’ passing game. There’s a solid chance someone has a good game, but who knows whether it will be Adam Thielen, D.J. Chark, or Jonathan Mingo (placed on IR) Terrace Marshall … and I certainly don’t trust this offense to give us more than one good WR performance in any given week.
  • I would start Chuba Hubbard, though. This was his first week outside the top 24 RBs since Week 11, and he scored 22.4 points against the Buccaneers in Week 13.
Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals
  • Cedric Tillman, followed by David Bell, is the Browns WR to target if Elijah Moore (concussion) and/or Amari Cooper (heel) miss this game.
  • Jerome Ford scored a red-zone TD!! But he was still out-snapped (nine to four) and out-touched (five to two) by Kareem Hunt in the red zone. They’re still both flex plays, nothing more.
  • Don’t be surprised if Tee Higgins misses this one even though he returned to Week 17’s game, as the Bengals have nothing to play for. If so, upgrade Tyler Boyd, although the Browns’ defense will make things hard on Jake Browning and Co.
Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions
  • Alexander Mattison and Ty Chandler were in a bit more of a true committee in Week 17, at 40% and 56% of snaps respectively. Chandler saw more carries, 10 to three, while Mattison ran more routes, 16 to 12. Chandler is still the preferred option, but he’s tough to trust on less than a full workload in a terrible matchup with the Lions.
  • On the other hand, the matchup with the Lions is good for the Vikings’ wide receivers. However, you have to downgrade everyone on the Vikings’ offense if Jaren Hall gets another shot at starting — he managed just 39 net passing yards in his one half of action. I think you start Justin Jefferson regardless, but Jordan Addison is only on the table if Nick Mullens gets the nod.
  • Don’t panic and bench Jahmyr Gibbs. He scored 22 points against these Vikings just two weeks ago.
New York Jets @ New England Patriots
  • The only players I’d recommend playing in this matchup are Breece Hall, Garett Wilson, and Ezekiel Elliott. No one else sees enough volume to overcome the incompetence of these two offenses.
Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints
  • Despite his solid Week 16 and huge Week 17, I’m not sold on Juwan Johnson for Week 18. His usage in terms of snaps and routes hasn’t really changed from his season averages over the last two weeks. And while the Falcons are technically the sixth-best matchup for tight ends, their 10.5 points allowed per game is closer to average (9.5) than the Buccaneers’ (12.1) and Rams’ (11.6) defenses that Johnson took advantage of.
  • After Alvin Kamara’s early exit, Jamaal Williams played 78% of the Saints’ snaps and handled 17 of 19 RB touches. He’s a must-start if Kamara misses Week 18.
  • Everything is business as usual for the Falcons. I would start Bijan Robinson, and you can start either Drake London or Kyle Pitts, but all three have a chance to let you down completely.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans
  • Christian Kirk reportedly has a chance to play this week. It’s tough to trust anyone in their first game back from injury, but he could be a flex play straight off waivers if reports indicate he will see a full workload against a beatable Titans secondary.
  • The Jaguars are technically an above-average fantasy matchup for RBs, but they allow the sixth-fewest rushing yards per game and fifth-fewest yards per carry. With that and the fact that the Titans are 5.5-point underdogs in mind, I’m benching Derrick Henry.
Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals
  • At this point, Greg Dortch is almost an unironic must-start. He averages 11.5 Half-PPR points in 10 career games where he plays over 70% of offensive snaps. That would make him the WR24 on the season, right below Jaylen Waddle and right above Cooper Kupp.
  • Speaking of must-starts, Kenneth Walker and James Conner have to be in lineups this week. Walker has re-established his dominance of the Seahawks’ backfield (on the ground, anyway) and Conner has six touchdowns in his last four games.
Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers
  • After missing Week 16 with a personal issue, D’Onta Foreman was a healthy scratch in Week 17. The Bears are clearly looking to the future, and Khalil Herbert is a must-start, barring a surprise activation of Foreman.
  • Despite briefly exiting with an injury and sitting out the Packers’ final drive, Aaron Jones played 57% of Green Bay’s offensive snaps, racking up 120 rushing yards on 20 carries. He’s a start in Week 18.
  • With the Packers’ young receivers dropping like flies and Jordan Love cooking regardless, Bo Melton is a viable desperation play. However, I’d prioritize Romeo Doubs, who is likely also widely available, assuming Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks, and Christian Watson are out.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Chargers
  • Austin Ekeler is still getting volume and Alex Erickson is the latest random WR to outplay Quentin Johnston. They are the only players worth considering, but I wouldn’t want to have any Chargers in my lineup next week.
  • Here’s the thing. Travis Kelce has three straight performances below seven fantasy points and outside the top-20 tight ends … and he’s still the TE2 on the year. You don’t have to start him, but you don’t have to bench him, either.
Denver Broncos @ Las Vegas Raiders
  • With Courtland Sutton and Marvin Mims both out, Jerry Jeudy played just 48% of the Broncos’ snaps, his lowest mark of the season. Lil’Jordan Humphrey had an amazing highlight TD but played just 65% of snaps. Brandon Johnson (84% snap share, six targets) is the WR you want to throw a dart at in this group.
  • If Josh Jacobs is healthy, start him. If he isn’t, start Zamir White. Antonio Pierce is using a bell-cow RB, and the Broncos’ run defense is beatable.
Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants
  • The vibes in Philadelphia are at an all-time low, but don’t let that dissuade you from starting their key fantasy assets. Everyone except A.J. Brown had at least solid production against the Giants in Week 16, and I’m certainly not going to recommend you bench him (yes, he’s been disappointing lately, but he’s one of the league’s best receivers and still averaging double-digit targets).
  • After plummeting to 60% in Week 16, Wan’Dale Robinson’s route participation went back up to 80% in Week 17. He’s a fringe flex play.
  • Darren Waller also hit exactly 80% route participation — he’s a fringe TE1.
  • I made the case for Tyrod Taylor coming into Week 16, and he had a solid QB11 finish against the Rams. He’s definitely worth considering in the best possible matchup for QBs against the Eagles.
Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers
  • With the 49ers having clinched the first seed in the NFC, Christian McCaffrey has already been ruled out for Week 18. Don’t be surprised if the rest of the 49ers’ stars join him. Regardless, Elijah Mitchell, who looked good taking over for CMC against the Commanders, is a fringe must-start.
  • With double-digit targets against the Giants and double-digit fantasy points in each of his last five games, Demarcus Robinson is firmly in the flex conversation.
Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Commanders
  • It’s mostly been a losing call lately, but I’m going to recommend starting Tony Pollard one last time. With Rico Dowdle (who has yet to return to practice) out last week, he far exceeded his season averages with 76% of the Cowboys’ carries on an 85% snap share. That usage all but guarantees a solid outing against a lackluster Commanders run defense.
  • If their run defense is lackluster, the Commanders’ secondary is downright awful. Brandin Cooks is certainly worth considering as a starting option.
  • It didn’t end up mattering, as he missed the game with a hamstring issue, but I’d like to reiterate my point from last week about Jacoby Brissett: He should make this offense more efficient, but there’s no reason to think he will distribute targets much differently than Sam Howell has been. I don’t buy Terry McLaurin suddenly being a must-start in a tough matchup with the Cowboys if Brissett recovers in time to get the start.
Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins
  • Stefon Diggs averaged 9.92 targets per game on 93% route participation through Week 12. Since then, he is averaging just 8.0 targets per game on a weirdly low 80% route participation rate (which hit a season-low 76% in Week 16). On the other hand, his target share over that span is still 34%, actually above his season average. In a game that figures to be a shootout, you have to start him.
  • Dalton Kincaid’s usage rebounded this week after trending down in the weeks following Dawson Knox’s return. However, it’s hard to know if this will be a permanent reversal of the trend or just a one-week outlier, so I’d still look elsewhere if you can for Week 18.
  • Even if Raheem Mostert is back next week, you can still start De’Von Achane. He’s not a must-start (his usage and results in Weeks 14-16 make that clear), but the Bills are not a terrible matchup and he’s likely to see a slightly larger share of the pie coming off a solid performance against the Ravens with Mostert banged up.