Football

Fantasy football highs and lows from NFL Week 16

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Week 16 of the fantasy football season featured plenty of notable performances around the NFL. What should we make of them? Matt Bowen and Tristan H. Cockcroft offer their analysis.


Travis Kelce reached end zone, sets more records

It was a record-setting day for Kelce, as his 11-yard, second-quarter reception gave him 100 for the season, making him the first tight end in history with multiple 100-catch campaigns. He then added a 36-yard, fourth-quarter reception to surpass George Kittle for the most single-season receiving yards by a tight end, as Kelce concluded his day with 1,416 yards for the year. In fantasy terms, Kelce finished with 22.8 PPR fantasy points, the fourth consecutive week that he has scored at least that many and the 10th time he has scored 20-plus, breaking a tie with Rob Gronkowski (2011) for the most such performances by a tight end in a single season.

Kelce now has a career-high 312.8 PPR fantasy points for the season, which is already the second most by any tight end in history with one game to play, trailing only Gronkowski’s 330.9 in 2011. Kelce’s Chiefs, however, have already locked up the AFC’s No. 1 seed, and while they do get a first-round bye thanks to earning it, it’s possible that they won’t play him extensively enough for him to capture that positional fantasy points record. — Cockcroft

A game for the ages by Alvin Kamara

His 56.2 PPR fantasy points on Christmas night were the second most by any player in Week 16 of the NFL season in history, and the most by any running back, as the Saints standout probably decided many a fantasy championship matchup all on his own. Not a single running back from any of Saturday’s three games or Sunday’s six during the 1 p.m. ET block came within 22 points of Kamara’s total, illustrating the sizable early advantage it provided. You can read more about Kamara’s historic performance here.

In the process, Kamara enjoyed career highs in rushing attempts (22) and goal-to-go rushing attempts (6), though it’s difficult to see him matching or exceeding those numbers too often in the future, especially the latter number. He now has a position-best 377.9 PPR fantasy points, enjoying a 40.1-point lead over second-place Dalvin Cook, and that’s already the 28th-best single-year total by any running back in NFL history. Kamara and the Saints have one more game to play, and if he can score even just his 25.2 that he has been averaging in 2020, he’d finish with the 11th-best single-year total. But here’s the problem: The Saints have already wrapped up the division title, and unless they value the NFC’s No. 1 overall seed, and the first-round bye that comes with it, they might not give Kamara much playing time in Week 17. He’d have a great matchup against the Panthers, however, if the Saints go for that top spot. — Cockcroft

Tom Brady comes through with best half of his career

In a matchup versus a Lions defense that looked checked out at times, Brady racked up 29.92 fantasy points on Saturday — in just two quarters of work. That’s it. The Bucs pulled the veteran quarterback at the half, after Brady threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns. The Bucs schemed open windows, he found the matchups versus man, and the ball location was classic Brady. Dialed in. Going back to Week 15 versus the Falcons, Brady has now thrown for 738 yards in his past two games, with a total of 53.32 fantasy points. And his next matchup for managers in 17-week leagues? It’s Atlanta again. Brady will be a top-five QB in my ranks. — Bowen

Here’s a fun one, if you were among the many surely rooting for the Buccaneers to keep Brady in and keep rolling up the score: Brady scored 29.9 fantasy points and Blaine Gabbert, who came on in relief, scored 15.2 points of his own. Instances of multiple quarterbacks from the same team scoring 15-plus fantasy points were more commonplace in the pre-merger NFL and AFL; they’ve happened less frequently in recent years, as this was only the eighth such occurrence since the merger. Brady’s fantasy managers surely lament the midgame switch, considering Gabbert’s relief numbers. — Cockcroft

Jalen Hurts experiences rookie growing pains

A week after racking up 37.82 fantasy points versus the Cardinals, Hurts had a multiple-turnover game on Sunday versus the Dallas defense. Yes, Hurts did make some throws, highlighted by the schemed-up deep ball to DeSean Jackson. And we saw his ball carrier traits, as he finished with 69 yards rushing. However, the rookie was simply too loose with the ball in this one, registering three turnovers, which lowered his scoring total to 18.58 points. — Bowen

He might earn himself a QB1 ranking for Week 17 simply because others in that tier might play limited series as they rest for the playoffs, not to mention his mobility, but Hurts’ matchup certainly doesn’t inspire much confidence. Entering the week, Washington had allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and Ben Roethlisberger (18.2 points, Week 13) and Russell Wilson (12.0, Week 15) had ordinary performances against the defense. — Cockcroft

Lamar Jackson continues to roll

With 21.32 fantasy points in the win over the Giants, Jackson has now produced 20 or more points in his past four games. And I really think he has played his best football of the season over the past month. During that four-game stretch, Jackson has racked up 12 total touchdowns (eight passing, four rushing) and we are seeing the Ravens scheme a little bit more in the pass game. Plus, with the rushing volume/production on both designed carries and scrambles, Jackson has played himself back into a top-five play at the position — with a Week 17 matchup versus the Bengals’ defense up next. — Bowen

Nick Chubb, Browns’ run game ineffective vs. Jets

With the Browns’ top wide receivers out versus the Jets due to COVID protocols, I expected a heavy run-game script from Kevin Stefanski’s offense on Sunday. Sets with two or three tight ends. Downhill schemes. Controlling the front. Instead, Baker Mayfield attempted 53 passes, with the Browns rushing for just 45 yards — on 18 carries. Now, game flow played a role here, as the Browns fell behind early in New York. Both Nick Chubb (17.6 PPR points) and Kareem Hunt (14.2 PPR points) did score second-half touchdowns, while adding numbers in the pass game, to bump up their totals. However, I couldn’t have predicted this one given the matchup versus the Jets or the anticipated run-game volume I was looking for. — Bowen


Quick hitters

Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans: Somewhat quietly — probably due to his team’s otherwise miserable season, if not the influx of mobile quarterbacks in 2020 — Watson has put together a very productive campaign, his 26.8 fantasy points tops at his position from Sunday’s 1 p.m. ET games. With it, he has set a new single-season high with 343.5 fantasy points, giving him a third consecutive season with at least 300, and making him the first quarterback in history with at least three such seasons in his first four in the NFL. Watson will get another chance to pad his statistics in a favorable Week 17 matchup against the Titans, against whom he scored 32.0 points in Week 6. — Cockcroft

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts: The rookie’s end-of-the-year run continued in a tough matchup versus the Steelers’ defense. Taylor, who found the end zone twice on Sunday, finished with 19.4 PPR points. And over the past four weeks, Taylor has totaled 91.9 PPR points. Just a reminder here to give these rookies some time to figure out the NFL game, because Taylor is now producing consistent RB1 numbers in the fantasy playoffs. — Bowen

Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals: After scoring at least 20 or more fantasy points in his first 10 games of the season, Murray has failed to hit that mark in four of his past five games. With only 15.38 fantasy points in the loss to the 49ers on Saturday, which was boosted by his 75 yards rushing, Murray’s end-of-the-year slump continued. He struggled versus the 49ers’ pressure looks in this one, and the Cardinals’ offense lacked the schemed throws to create both space and explosive gains. — Bowen

Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Evans’ 40.1 PPR points on a Saturday were a season high, and that Detroit defense didn’t have answers for the Bucs wide receiver. Evans, who also posted season highs in receptions (10), targets (12) and receiving yards (181), caught two touchdowns in that game — with one coming from Blaine Gabbert in the second half after Brady shut it down for the day. Isolation routes, play-action, more. Just an awesome performance on the fantasy championship stage for managers in 16-week leagues. — Bowen

Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami Dolphins: He enjoyed a heck of a return to the lineup on Saturday, his 33.9 PPR fantasy points the 10th most by any Dolphins running back in history, and the most since Lamar Miller scored 38.6 in Week 7 of 2015. Despite Gaskin’s smallish size, he has been a productive fantasy option when given the chance, and the team’s handing him 19-plus touches in each of his past three games, all of them games in which he was returning from injury, illustrates its trust in him as a starter. He’s a capable pass-catcher, easing any game-flow worries, and the Dolphins’ need to win in Week 17 to secure a playoff spot will probably lock him in for another 20-or-so touches in the regular-season finale. — Cockcroft

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger’s 25.48 fantasy points versus the Colts were his highest total since Week 10, and only the fifth time this season he has topped the 20-point mark. So, what changed, especially in the second half? The Steelers started to scheme more throws for Roethlisberger, attacking the coverage tendencies of Indianapolis. I saw more spacing on the field, and formation variation, too. And while the run game remains almost nonexistent in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger is going to throw with consistent volume, as he attempted over 40 passes for the eighth time this season. — Bowen

Jeff Wilson Jr., RB, San Francisco 49ers: He scored 27.4 PPR fantasy points on Saturday, meaning that he’s now the owner of the two best single-game scores by any 49ers running back this season (also: 32.0 points in Week 7). Wilson benefited in a huge way from Raheem Mostert’s (ankle) placement on injured reserve, rushing 22 times, something that might be repeated in Week 17 so long as game flow remains on his side in that one. It’s a favorable matchup against the Seahawks’ mediocre run defense, so Wilson should be a locked-in RB2 for the final week. — Cockcroft

Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Chicago Bears: In a very favorable matchup versus a subpar Jags defense, Trubisky posted 23.6 fantasy points, his third-highest total of the season. We expected Trubisky to post QB1 numbers here, given the defensive tendencies of Jacksonville, plus the offensive structure in Chicago over the past four weeks. This is now a heavily schemed, play-action system. That means defined reads for Trubisky, boot, max protection on vertical throws, more. Yes, we still see examples of Trubisky’s struggles as a pocket thrower. And his red zone interception on Sunday was a very poor decision. Can’t toss the ball into traffic there. However, the Bears are now mirroring the run and pass game to give the quarterback open windows. And with wide receiver Allen Robinson II (10 receptions, 103 yards receiving) winning on in-breakers, Trubisky has a No. 1 to work the ball to on quick game targets. Trubisky came into Week 16 as a lower-tier QB1, but for managers in 17-week leagues, I’ll probably drop him down to the QB2 mix with the Packers up next in the regular-season finale. — Bowen

Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Started in just 11.7% of ESPN leagues, Gallup totaled 30.1 PPR points for his season high, and his 121 receiving yards were the most for the Cowboys wide receiver since way back in Week 3. Going against an Eagles defense on Sunday that continued to stay in man coverage — despite obvious matchup issues on the perimeter — Gallup scored two touchdowns and averaged 20.2 yards per reception. Gallup and the Cowboys’ wide receivers get the zone-heavy Giants defense in Week 17. — Bowen

Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers: While his fantasy production hasn’t been quite as good in the past five weeks as it was in the season’s first 2½ months, Herbert nevertheless has etched his name into the record books for rookie quarterback performances. On Sunday, he completed his rookie-record 28th touchdown pass, resulting in 16.7 fantasy points that moved his season total to 299.9. That’s the third most in history by a rookie quarterback, trailing only Cam Newton’s 370.3 in 2011 and Robert Griffin III’s 317.5 in 2012. Herbert will surely be tasked with throwing early and often against the Chiefs in Week 17, making him a worthwhile QB1 for that matchup. — Cockcroft

Irv Smith Jr., TE, Minnesota Vikings: With a season-best 23.3 PPR fantasy points on Saturday, Smith is certainly capitalizing on his expanded opportunity with Kyle Rudolph (foot) sidelined. Smith has 46.3 points in his past three games, has played at least 80% of the Vikings’ offensive snaps in each of the past two, had a 24% target share (9-of-38) in Week 16 and stepped up while facing a tough Saints defense in the process. Now Smith draws the Lions, a defense that has been a disaster against the pass in recent weeks, meaning that he could be a viable TE1 should Rudolph sit again. Looking forward, Smith might see an even larger role in 2021, should the Vikings choose to cut Rudolph during the offseason. — Cockcroft

Younghoe Koo, K, Atlanta Falcons: He was the kicker most commonly found, and eighth most-rostered overall player, on ESPN finalists’ rosters, finding a place on said teams in 33% of leagues, which is why his — and the Falcons offense’s — stinker of a performance was surely frustrating to watch. Koo missed a critical field goal, only his second miss all season and first on an attempt within 40 yards, that could’ve tied the game for the Falcons, resulting in a season low of one fantasy point. In the process, he ceded the positional lead for fantasy points, as Jason Sanders, who scored 15 on Saturday, now holds a 160-157 seasonal points advantage. — Cockcroft

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