Fantasy Football: Week 16 matchups to exploit and avoid
MACTHUPS TO EXPLOIT
VIKINGS (at Packers)
The Packers have allowed 13 passing touchdowns over their past four games — including a pair to receiving backs over the past two. Christian McCaffrey logged a career-high 136 yards from scrimmage vs. a shorthanded, discombobulated Packers ‘D’ Sunday, the same day Jerick McKinnon had his first 100-yard receiving day in the NFL. Case Keenum has accounted for multiple scores in six of his past seven games, including finding Kyle Rudolph in four straight. The Packers’ success vs. tight ends was dashed by Greg Olsen, whom they completely lost sight of on his first 2017 touchdown. And we haven’t even gotten to Adam Thielen, who has shredded Dom Capers’ unit to the tune of 21-298-2 over the past two meetings.
Must start: Case Keenum, Latavius Murray, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph
Solid play: Vikings D/ST, Stefon Diggs and Jerick McKinnon
STEELERS (at Texans)
The only time we’ve seen Pittsburgh’s offense without Antonio Brown since Brown’s Hall of Fame ascension truly began was in a meaningless Week 17 game last season vs. Cleveland, where Landry Jones tossed three touchdowns to players no longer on the roster. A big reason why they’re gone? Martavis Bryant is back from suspension and JuJu Smith-Schuster is the NFL’s second-leading rookie wideout. That pair accounted for 10-213-1 last week, with nearly 70 percent of the yards, plus the touchdown, coming after Brown left with a calf injury. The Texans are one of five fantasy defenses that have allowed more receiving touchdowns than New England. Like their fellow Pennsylvanian Eagles thrived immediately without Carson Wentz, the Steelers will be fine without Brown in Houston.
Must start: Le’Veon Bell, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers D/ST
Solid play: Martavis Bryant
SAINTS (vs. Falcons)
The Falcons’ win over the Bucs on Monday night was nothing if not unconvincing. Jameis Winston tossed three touchdowns in arguably his best game in the NFL, and now Atlanta goes to New Orleans, where Drew Brees seeks revenge for his game-sealing pick two weeks ago. Alvin Kamara was lost to a concussion on the Saints’ eighth offensive play, after amassing 31 yards on his first three touches. Michael Thomas is beginning to assert his dominance, with touchdowns in three consecutive games. With a postseason berth at stake, expect the Saints offense to march in Vegas’ highest-projected scoring game (52 ½, Saints giving 5 ½) after being held to 17 in the first go-around.
Must start: Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas
Solid play: Saints D/ST
RAVENS (vs. Colts)
Baltimore is averaging 30.7 points over its past seven games, up from 16.7 over its first seven. The Colts are 31st in defensive points allowed (26.3 points) and have held one opponent below 20 since Week 2 — the Bills, and we’d argue the Buffalo thunder snow played better ‘D’ than Chuck Pagano’s group. Mike Wallace can comfortably be used as a WR2, while Alex Collins, after his worst rushing day as a Raven, again looks like a rock-solid RB1 vs. a defense that just lost tackling leader Jon Bostic. Heck, 37-year-old Ben Watson even has streaming appeal coming off his best fantasy outing (4-74-1) and bracing for battle vs. Indy’s 24th-ranked TE ‘D.’
Must start: Alex Collins, Mike Wallace, Ravens D/ST
Worth a look: Joe Flacco, Ben Watson
MATCHUPS TO AVOID
PACKERS (vs. Vikings)
Aaron Rodgers’ season — and the Packers’ eight-year playoff streak — has come to an end. Davante Adams’ status after his second scary concussion on an illegal hit resulting in suspension remains uncertain, but he’s at best a longshot to clear protocol in five days. Suffice to say, the absence of Rodgers and Adams zaps Green Bay’s fantasy potency. Particularly vs. a Vikings ‘D’ that just surrendered 161 yards in Cincinnati — the lowest of the Mike Zimmer era — and picked Brett Hundley three times after Rodgers’ exit in the first meeting. Plus, Aaron Jones may have shown enough juice in Carolina (3-47 rushing) to threaten Jamaal Williams’ workload, which has declined in four consecutive weeks.
Solid play: Jamaal Williams
Worth a look: Randall Cobb
RAIDERS (at Eagles)
What else is there to say until Jack Del Rio attempts to remedy his awful decision to replace the coordinator of one of the NFL’s best offenses in Bill Musgrave with Todd Downing, overseer of perhaps its most disappointing? Derek Carr has lost far more than a fumble through the end zone Sunday night; his confidence appears to be shot. Michael Crabtree has been force fed 30 (!) targets the past two weeks without Amari Cooper because Downing can’t scheme anyone else open. And Marshawn Lynch, despite his excellent second half of 2017, won’t be given the 20-plus touches he and the offense deserves. We expect Philly’s ‘D’ to get right here, not the Raiders.
Must start: Michael Crabtree
Solid play: Marshawn Lynch
Worth a look: Amari Cooper*, Jared Cook
JETS (vs. Chargers)
We all need more Josh McCown in our lives, but Robby Anderson does more than the rest of us. His breakout season has hit the brakes the past week-and-a-half with McCown’s replacement, Bryce Petty, behind the wheel. Anderson and Petty should have a rapport from their work together last season, but forget rekindling it at home Sunday against the Chargers — fantasy’s third-stingiest vs. wideouts over the past month. The Chargers just allowed Kareem Hunt’s Chiefs to rip off the most rushing yards against L.A. since Week 4. Yet Bilal Powell continues to cede passing-game work to Matt Forte in the Jets’ uncooperative fantasy RB committee and has failed to crack 4.0 yards a carry and 15 touches in six of his past seven games.
Worth a look: Robby Anderson, Bilal Powell
Last resort: Matt Forte, Jermaine Kearse
BENGALS (vs. Lions)
We close with a quit alert, as it certainly appears like the Bengals players — and coaches — are already working on their offseason wish list (and checking it twice). They have seven points since the second half of the Week 13 bloodbath vs. the Steelers. Five NFL backs, one wideout and one tight end had more yards from scrimmage than the entire Bengals offense a week ago. And Andy Dalton has followed his six-game interception-less streak with three in the past six quarters, while Detroit has tallied five in its past two games. A.J. Green goes from Xavier Rhodes to Darius Slay; it’s painful, yet not crazy to think some owners may have better options for championship week.
Solid play: A.J. Green, Joe Mixon*, Gio Bernard (depending on Mixon’s status)
Last resort: Tyler Kroft