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It hasn’t been pretty, but if you’re still around heading into Week 16, congratulations on making it this far. The fantasy championship is upon us, and some surprising names could be in your lineup this week.
Mike Williams got Week 15 started on a high note with the best performance of his career. Of course, that came in a game with more than a few disappointing players, including Keenan Allen, who had to depart with a hip injury. Williams’ fantasy value for Week 16 will certainly be tied to Allen’s status.
Aaron Jones was in for a tough matchup with the Chicago Bears, but a knee injury knocked him out early, opening the door for Jamaal Williams to take the lead. Williams will be a coveted addition from the waiver wire since it looks like he’ll stay in the lead this weekend.
The Miami Dolphins took an ugly defeat to the Minnesota Vikings and also lost Frank Gore to a foot injury. Instead of turning to Kenyan Drake, the Dolphins had Kalen Ballage pick up the slack. He’s an intriguing name to consider if you’re hurting at running back.
The B.S. Meter breaks down 10 of the most pressing issues in fantasy football heading into Week 16. The statements will be rated from 1 to 10, with 1 being completely true and 10 being total B.S.
Note: All fantasy stats used to calculate finishes are from FantasyPros. All advanced stats are calculated using data from Pro Football Reference. All stats are based on a points-per-reception (PPR) format.
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For most of the season, Jamaal Williams has taken a backseat to Aaron Jones in the Green Bay Packers backfield, and rightfully so since Jones is the more talented player. Week 15 saw Williams come back into the picture.
Jones had just four carries for eight yards before exiting toward the end of the first quarter with a knee injury. He was unable to return, so Williams took over for the rest of the game. He saw a season-high 86.8 percent of the snaps and carried 12 times for 55 yards and a touchdown in addition to four receptions for 42 yards on five targets. With 19.7 fantasy points, Williams finished the week as a top-15 fantasy back.
According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jones thought he suffered a sprained MCL. After losing to the Chicago Bears, the Packers were eliminated from playoff competition, so it’s fair to believe Jones won’t be rushed back this week or for the season finale. That puts Williams atop the waiver wire for the fantasy championship.
Williams has an average matchup on the road against the New York Jets on Sunday. The team added Kapri Bibbs as some insurance, but it should be Williams getting the majority of the snaps and workload, which should make him a decent RB2.
B.S. Meter on Williams being the top waiver add: 1/10
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Bill Kostroun/Associated Press
It’s been a lost season for the New York Jets for quite some time, yet it doesn’t seem like the coaching staff was too eager to move into evaluation mode. That might have something to do with a lack of job security for head coach Todd Bowles. However, with Isaiah Crowell on the injured reserve list, the team had to take a longer look at Elijah McGuire in the Saturday afternoon Week 15 tilt with the Houston Texans.
McGuire was nothing more than a desperation fantasy option considering he had a less-than-ideal matchup. Luckily, McGuire got plenty of volume and was able to squeeze 42 rushing yards and a touchdown out of 18 attempts. He also snatched three of four targets for 29 yards. That was enough for 16.1 fantasy points and a top-25 effort, which should be considered a great success.
Over the last two weeks, McGuire turned eight targets into six receptions for 52 yards and 35 carries into 102 yards and two touchdowns while playing more than 74 percent of the snaps in each game. His fantasy value has been saved by the touchdowns, but the volume has been strong enough to make him a viable option.
In Week 15, Trenton Cannon played 30.7 percent of the snaps with seven carries for 13 yards and three receptions for 24 yards on four targets, so he’s been involved, yet not a big threat to McGuire’s workload.
The Jets face the Green Bay Packers in a battle of two teams with nothing to play for other than pride. It should be another busy week for McGuire in a more attractive matchup, which makes him easier to start with confidence.
B.S. Meter on the Jets featuring McGuire: 2/10
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Ed Zurga/Associated Press
The Kansas City Chiefs played arguably the biggest game of the season with their third-string running back getting the start. They didn’t come away with the victory, but Damien Williams did more than enough to satisfy fantasy owners.
For only the third time in his career, Williams registered double-digit carries when he rushed for 49 yards and two touchdowns on 10 attempts. He also converted six targets into six receptions for 74 yards on a 73.3 percent snap share. His 30.3 fantasy points were second only to Todd Gurley for the week, so if you had to plug and play Williams out of necessity, he had one of the best games you’ll see out of a desperation lineup replacement.
The only other Chiefs running back to touch the ball was Darrel Williams, who had two carries for 13 yards and two receptions for 19 yards and a score on two targets. He was on the field for just 25 percent of the snaps.
Spencer Ware had to sit out Week 15 with what was listed as hamstring and shoulder injuries, although it appeared the hamstring was the primary reason for Ware’s absence.
When asked about Ware’s injury, head coach Andy Reid said, per Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star: “He’s making progress with his hamstring. That was the primary thing. He tweaked it. It’s not a severe hamstring, but it was just enough he couldn’t open up for the game. He’s making progress there. We’ll just have to see on that. Day-to-day.”
In the two games before his injury, Ware rushed 29 times for 122 yards and a score and had six receptions for 59 yards on six targets. Williams has 12 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets and 23 carries for 101 yards and three scores in the last three games.
Williams has done more than enough to keep a significant role if Ware is ready to return this week, but if Ware isn’t close to 100 percent, Williams should continue to lead the way. He doesn’t have to see a lot of carries, as long as he continues to get plenty of touches.
B.S. Meter on if Williams should remain the Chiefs’ lead back: 3/10
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If you’re still alive heading into Week 16, it’s not because of Adam Thielen‘s fantasy production in Week 15. In fact, Thielen has been a frustrating player to deal with for the last three weeks.
The firing of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo after Week 14 seemed to signal somewhat of a philosophy shift for the Minnesota Vikings offense. Simply put, head coach Mike Zimmer wanted to run the ball more, and that’s exactly what happened when the Vikings hosted the Miami Dolphins. Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray combined for 204 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries in a 41-17 victory.
That was great for the Vikings but bad for Thielen. He caught his only two targets for 19 yards. In two previous games, Thielen turned 17 targets into 10 receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown. After opening the season with eight 100-yard efforts, Thielen has just one 100-yard performance in his last six games. He’s failed to register 75 yards in five of the last six games.
Hopefully, Thielen can get back on track this weekend in Detroit. The Lions have been an average matchup for wide receivers, although he had just four receptions for 22 yards and a touchdown on seven targets when the teams last met back in Week 9. Even if the Vikings stay committed to the run, it’s hard to see Thielen seeing another low target share considering he had at least seven targets in every other game this season. He’s not a lock to be a WR1, but you shouldn’t shy away from using him.
B.S. Meter on Thielen bouncing back in Week 16: 4/10
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The defending Super Bowl champions may not be back on the path to a first-round bye, but the Philadelphia Eagles are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. Injuries continue to pile up, and the latest is a back issue for Josh Adams. That gave Wendell Smallwood increased opportunities against the Los Angeles Rams.
The back injury wasn’t enough to put Adams down for the count, although he wasn’t very productive. Adams saw just 37.5 percent of the snap share after playing at least 40 percent in four previous games. He still led the backfield with 15 carries but wound up with just 28 yards and a score and failed to catch his only target. In the last two weeks, Adams has 64 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
Smallwood was completely off the fantasy radar until Adams’ injury. He entered Week 15 with four carries for three yards in five previous games. Luckily for the Eagles, Smallwood was able to handle 10 carries and racked up 48 yards and two touchdowns in addition to catching both of his targets for nine yards. Smallwood was on the field for 31.3 percent of the offensive snaps.
With Corey Clement on injured reserve and Darren Sproles playing a complementary role (six touches, 46 yards), the Eagles may need more of Smallwood if Adams continues to struggle with back and shoulder injuries. Since Adams made it through the game, there isn’t major concern with his status, although that should be monitored throughout the week. Smallwood is far from a slam-dunk waiver addition with the Eagles facing the Houston Texans in Week 16.
B.S. Meter on Smallwood taking over the Eagles backfield: 5/10
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Opportunity goes a long way when making lineup decisions, even this late in the season. The best fantasy options have the perfect combination of opportunity and talent. Mike Williams has plenty of talent, but he hasn’t had many opportunities to shine in his second season. That finally changed in Week 15.
In last week’s Big Board, Williams was featured as a sleeper because Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler were not expected to play. Gordon and Ekeler occupied the second and third spots of the Los Angeles Chargers’ target leaders. With both players out and a favorable matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, Williams was primed for a bigger role.
That role got even bigger when Keenan Allen had to exit the game with a hip injury that wound up keeping him out for the entire second half. The Chargers needed a lot more out of Williams and got it when he hauled in seven of nine targets for 76 yards with two touchdowns and the game-winning two-point conversion. He was the No. 2 wide receiver for the week with 34.5 fantasy points.
Now the question is can Williams keep it up? Philip Rivers attempted 38 passes against the Chiefs, which marked only the sixth time this season he had at least 30 pass attempts in a game. This week’s game comes back at home against the Baltimore Ravens. That’s a much tougher matchup and a team that doesn’t have anywhere near the firepower of the Chiefs. Those are factors workings against Williams.
More importantly, the Chargers could be getting healthier for Week 16. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the team believes Allen, Gordon and Ekeler all have “a legitimate chance” to play against the Ravens. Those returns could cut into Williams’ target share. Plus, Tyrell Williams had six receptions for 71 yards on a team-high 12 targets against the Chiefs.
Mike Williams came through when the team needed him the most, but he may not be needed to play as big of a role this weekend when the Chargers host the Ravens. His value will depend on the health of the team’s injured players.
B.S. Meter on Williams sustaining his Week 15 production: 6/10
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Dealing with Kenyan Drake has been frustrating for most of the season. When he’s gotten chances to shine, he’s looked like the best part of the Miami Dolphins offense. Those chances haven’t been consistent, nor have they been plentiful. The team clearly trusted Frank Gore to carry nearly the entire workload on the ground all season. They had to pivot in Week 15.
A foot injury put Gore on the sidelines toward the end of the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings. He didn’t return, and instead of turning to Drake, it was Kalen Ballage who got the call. Ballage carried 12 times for 123 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown, and he caught his only target for negative-two yards. The rookie played 49.1 percent of the snaps. Ballage’s 26 snaps in Week 15 matched his entire snap total for the season.
Meanwhile, Drake was on the field for 52.8 percent of the snaps, which is close to his norm. Unfortunately, he also took his normal role as an afterthought in the offense with one carry for six yards and three receptions for 28 yards on three targets. Even if the Dolphins didn’t trust Drake to pick up the slack for Gore, it’s hard to explain why he didn’t see a bigger role as a receiver with the team trailing 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports Gore isn’t expected to play this season because of his sprained foot. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, head coach Adam Gase said Drake’s light touch count had nothing to do with the shoulder injury that’s been lingering for a month. That doesn’t make much sense, but it’s been the case all season, and that needs to be accepted after how the team handled Drake and Ballage in Week 15.
Drake has just four games with double-digit carries all season, and the last one came in Week 8. It would be nice to think he’d see a bigger role in the passing game, although it’s hard to believe that will happen when he’s failed to record more than four targets nine times this year. If Drake does lead the way in Week 16, it would be a major surprise.
B.S. Meter on Drake being the next man up for the Dolphins: 7/10
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It’s hard to completely avoid players on teams that are out of contention, although rolling with the best players on the bad teams usually isn’t too dangerous, unless those players get injured. Even if the issue is minor, teams are unlikely to risk further damage to a star player in what amounts to a meaningless game. That might explain what happened to Leonard Fournette in Week 15.
The Jacksonville Jaguars suffered a 16-13 defeat at the hands of the Washington Redskins. Fournette had just 11 carries for 46 yards and three receptions for 18 yards on four targets. He was on the field for just 51.9 percent of the snaps, which was down from the 77.5 percent he had in Week 14.
Fournette’s 10th carry of the game came with 1:04 left in the first half and the score tied at three. His next and final touch of the game came on a 25-yard run to get the Jaguars to midfield in a tie game with 5:46 to go in the fourth quarter. Cody Kessler got picked off later in the drive, and the Redskins converted that into a game-winning field goal as time expired.
After the game, head coach Doug Marrone said backup David Williams had a good week of practice, so the team wanted to see him in there, according to John Oehser of Jaguars.com. Fournette said, “That was the plan coming in.” It should be noted Carlos Hyde was a healthy scratch.
On Monday, Marrone said Fournette would be on the injury report this week with a foot injury, per John Reid of the Florida Times Union. That provides a little more clarity on his lack of touches, especially since Fournette has had foot problems dating back to his time at LSU. Plus, he missed significant time with a hamstring injury earlier in the season.
At 4-10, the only battle the Jaguars have is for the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. If they were willing to rest Fournette in Week 15, nothing can be assumed about his role or playing time for Week 16.
B.S. Meter on concern for Fournette being overblown: 8/10
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Last week’s B.S. Meter covered just how hard it was to trust any Atlanta Falcon besides Julio Jones. Of course, that was before we knew about Ito Smith’s knee injury. Smith went from full practice to limited practice last Friday, but he was active for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. Despite the positive matchup, Smith’s presence made it hard to get too excited about Tevin Coleman’s fantasy value.
Smith equaled Coleman in touches, but the production was far different. Smith carried nine times for 34 yards and turned three targets into two receptions for five yards. Coleman didn’t catch his only target, but he did rack up 145 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. The yardage was a season high for Coleman and only his second 100-yard game of the season. It was also only the third time Coleman had at least 60 rushing yards. Smith saw a pretty normal snap share at 43.3 percent, while Coleman played 50.7 percent.
Smith’s knee was an issue toward the end of the game, and he landed on injured reserve as a result. That means Coleman has far less competition for touches and snaps heading into Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers. The 25-year-old is likely coming up on his final two games as a Falcon with his contract up at the end of the season, so he’ll have a chance to leave a strong impression ahead of free agency.
Coleman will be much easier to use with confidence as a solid RB2 knowing Smith can’t steal touches away this week.
B.S. Meter on Coleman having a one-week resurgence: 9/10
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After Week 13, it looked like Phillip Lindsay would have a good chance of finishing the season as an RB1. The Denver Broncos were riding a three-game winning streak and found themselves back in the playoff hunt thanks to Lindsay’s 346 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 44 carries (7.9 yards per carry) during that span.
The last two weeks brought Lindsay and the Broncos crashing back to earth along with fantasy owners who were banking on Lindsay to stay hot in the fantasy playoffs. In Week 14, he managed to find the end zone but had just 30 yards on 14 carries and added four receptions for 21 yards on seven targets. He followed that up with another four receptions for 20 yards on six targets and his second-worst rushing performance of the year: 24 yards on 14 carries.
He’s averaging 15.4 fantasy points per game on the season and is 13th in overall fantasy points (215.1) among running backs, although the last two weeks have seen him score a total of 23.5 fantasy points. If you survived two down weeks from Lindsay, the fantasy gods may be back on your side for Week 16, when he faces the Oakland Raiders.
Even though they’ve been better than average in recent weeks, the Raiders provide the seventh-easiest matchup for running backs on the season while allowing the most rushing yards per game at 146.4. Back in Week 2, Lindsay got the Raiders for 107 yards on 14 carries, so there’s past success to be excited about. Get Lindsay back in your lineup with high hopes.
B.S. Meter on Lindsay’s slump continuing against the Raiders: 10/10