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In case it slipped your mind, NFL football fans have the opportunity to vote on top performers at the running back and quarterback position following every week of action.
Now, let's take a look ahead at some quarterbacks and running backs that could be up for nomination after Week 16 and might help lead your fantasy squad to a championship title.
Antonio Brown owners playing in the fantasy finals are scrambling for a plug-and-play option this week. And his absence will probably mean a down-tick in pass attempts for Ben Roethlisberger against the Texans. The Steelers quarterback is averaging a ridiculous 45.2 pass attempts per game since Week 11, including a 66-throw game in Week 14. During that span, Ben has averaged about 24 fantasy points per game. While both of those numbers are likely to regress, and Roethlisberger may not be as much of a fantasy powerhouse without his No. 1 receiver, the Steelers do actually have other players on the roster who can catch passes. Le'Veon Bell is second on the team in targets for the season, while Juju Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant have stepped up when needed.
If you're a Rothlisberger owner, you shouldn't be too reluctant to use him this week, mainly due to the extremely favorable matchup against the Texans. In the eight games since Houston's Week 7 bye, its defense has allowed six top-10 fantasy quarterback finishes to Jacoby Brissett, Blaine Gabbert, Marcus Mariota, and Blake Bortles, among others. Roethlisberger ranks fourth in the NFL with 26 pass touchdowns and is averaging over 300 pass yards per game since Week 6. He goes up against a Texans defense that is giving up an average of 259 pass yards per game and has allowed 30 passing touchdowns, second-most in the league. Ben should be just fine, even without AB.
The Packers defense has been one to attack as a favorable matchup for opposing passers much of the season, and this week is no different. Case Keenum should be in the conversation this week for FedEx Air candidates, as he's commanding one of the top offenses in the NFL. Keenum owns the highest passer rating in the NFL since Week 10 (111) and owns a 5-1 record in those last six starts. During that time, he is averaging 268.2 pass yards per game with a 13:4 TD:INT ratio. His success has equated to 20.3 fantasy points per game average, and even in the games in which he threw multiple interceptions (Week 10, Week 14) he posted 24 and 19 points for fantasy owners.
On the matchup front, Green Bay is allowing the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks over the last four weeks (24.47). During that time, the Packers defense has given up the most passing touchdowns (13), the ninth-most pass yards (1,077) and the ninth-most completions (94). Every quarterback who has faced Green Bay in the last month has finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback, and two of them were the QB1s in their respective week. Here's a fun fact: Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have combined for 1,915 receiving yards this season which is the second-most by a teammate wideout duo (Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster are tops with 2,232). You can bet they'll be out there wreaking havoc on the Packers secondary on Saturday evening. Keenum might still be available on the waiver-wire, too. If he is, pick him up and ride him to a fantasy title.
The Panthers' rookie running back was somewhat frustrating as a fantasy asset earlier in the season. He was seeing volume as a pass catcher but wasn't producing the yardage totals or scoring touchdowns necessary for fantasy success on a consistent basis. But the Panthers have won six of their last seven games, own the NFL's fourth-ranked rush offense and Christian McCaffrey has found a groove. In his last six games, the rookie is averaging 12.8 touches per game, 79.8 scrimmage yards per game, 5.0 yards per carry and has scored five scrimmage touchdowns. He leads the Panthers in total scrimmage yards on the season with 974, leads all rookie running backs in receptions (73) and posted a career-high in total yards last week against the Packers (136).
His matchup this week is a favorable one, as the Panthers welcome the Buccaneers to Carolina. Tampa Bay's defense is bad at pretty much everything at this point. They can't stop the pass or the run, and are absolutely riddled with injuries. Devonta Freeman just ran roughshod on the Bucs defense last week, piling up 194 total yards and a touchdown. In terms of fantasy points allowed to backs, Tampa Bay ranks fifth-worst (20.47 FPPG) including 16 total touchdowns given up, tied for second-most allowed in the league. Start McCaffrey with confidence in the fantasy championship round, he's only getting better.
Kerwynn Williams embodies the theory that in fantasy football, volume and opportunity wins out over talent. Over his last three starts, Williams has racked up 53 rush attempts for 231 yards on the ground. That ranks him 12th among all NFL running backs in rushing yards during that three-game span. Think about that for a second: 12th in rushing yards. This is a third-string player in an offense that's averaging 14.3 points per game over their last three, has lost two of their last three and ranks 30th in the league in rushing offense from a season-long perspective.
But Williams sees about 17 touches per game on average and his offensive line has blocked decently for him. Per Next Gen Stats, Williams' mark of 0.9 Yards Gained Before Close (see more on this metric from James Koh here) ranks eighth-best among 40 running backs with at least 25 carries in that span. He was vultured by Elijhaa Penny in Week 13 and he's not getting receiving volume, with just two receptions in three games. But, New York is traveling to Arizona, and while Drew Stanton will reportedly start at quarterback for the Cardinals, Williams, at worst should still see his 17 or so touches. Against the league's last-ranked defense overall, and 31st ranked-run defense that's allowing 128 rush yards per game, Williams' matchup against the Giants in Week 16 could lay out some sleeper potential.