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Fantasy Football

Michael F. Florio's Week 16 Saturday matchups

There are more Saturday games this week -- three in fact! This is going to be the greatest championship week in fantasy history as Week 16 kicks off on Friday and continues through Monday!

Tampa Bay Bucs

The Tampa Bay Bucs and Detroit Lions will kick off the Saturday slate in what could be a very fantasy friendly game for the Bucs. The Lions defense has struggled this season all around, but particularly against the run. On the season, they have allowed the most fantasy PPG to RBs (31.86). Ronald Jones had scored over 15 fantasy points in two of his last three games before being forced to miss Week 15 -- when Leonard Fournette filled in and finished with over 21 fantasy points. If Jones is activated off the reserve/COVID list and his hand injury is behind him, he will be a high-end RB2 with RB1 upside in a great matchup. Fournette has similar value, but he is less explosive than Jones, so his ceiling is not as high. Whoever draws the start is in play this Saturday.

The Lions have also struggled to contain wide receivers. Through 15 weeks, the Lions have issued the second-most fantasy PPG to WRs (41.59), including 194.6 receiving yards per game, the third-most in the NFL. That bodes well for each of the Bucs WRs, but especially for Mike Evans. Not only is he their top WR on the season, but he is since they have signed Antonio Brown. In that span, he leads them in targets (7.8) and fantasy points per game (15.3). Chris Godwin and Brown have put up similar numbers since AB joined in Week 9. Godwin has averaged 6.5 targets and 12.7 fantasy PPG, to Brown's 6.8 targets and 11.13 fantasy points. Both are in that WR2 or WR3 range. Godwin is the safer option of the two, but I do think Brown is the higher upside play in this strong matchup. In that same span, Rob Gronkowski has averaged 5.2 targets and 8.1 fantasy points per game, proving to be the odd man out of the four. He has been up and down, and the Lions are strong against tight ends -- allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy PPG to the position (10.72). Gronk is a bit risky, but he is still a borderline TE1 this week.

So, if his weapons are in play, that means Tom Brady is too this week, right? Brady has been hot and cold like a Katy Perry song as of late, scoring over 21 fantasy points in three of his last five games, and less than 16 in the other two. But I like his chances to showcase his upside this week as the Lions allow the fourth-most fantasy PPG to QBs this season (21.56). The Bucs could put up a lot of points this week and it all starts with TB12. He is a QB1 this week and will win some managers a fantasy championship.

The Lions have also allowed a top-six fantasy defense in four of their last eight games. The Bucs average 3.1 sacks per game, which is tied for the fourth-most. They also pick up 1.5 giveaways per game, which is tied for the fifth-most in the NFL. The Bucs defense is very much in play in championship week.

Detroit Lions

This matchup is not nearly as friendly for the Lions as the Bucs, especially at the RB position. The Bucs have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy PPG to RBs this season (20.65), including just 56.3 rushing yards per game, the fewest in the NFL. While they are extremely tough on the ground, they do allow the most catches per game to the position (6.8). D'Andre Swift has been playing well when healthy, scoring over 15 fantasy points in three straight, including over 22 in two of them. He has just two games all season with fewer than 11 fantasy points. He comes with a very safe floor and a high ceiling and is the clear pass-catching back for Detroit, so he can rack up catches in bunches in this game. He is the one Lion you can start and not even think twice. As for Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson, they can be benched, or even dropped, in Week 16.

Early in the season, it looked like the Bucs' struggles against receivers were behind them. While it is not as bad as it had been the past two years, it is still the weakness of this defense as it allows the eight-most fantasy PPG to WRs (40.45), which includes 186.6 yards per game to receivers, the sixth-most. Kenny Golladay has been missing in action since Week 8, but if he was somehow able to suit up for this game, he would be an option. But that would be a surprise. Instead, you should plan on having Marvin Jones, who has been playing good ball as of late. He has over eight targets in four straight games and over 25 fantasy points in two of his last three games. He is a WR3 with a high ceiling in this matchup. T.J. Hockenson is the other part of the Lions passing game that should interest fantasy players. He did put up a dud just scoring just 1.8 fantasy points -- but he had scored double-digits in his previous four games and in seven of the previous eight games. He is still worth trusting this week, especially since the Bucs allow the seventh-most fantasy PPG to tight ends (14.34).

Matthew Stafford has showcased his ceiling at times this season, but you are much more likely to get around his season average of 16.95 fantasy points. He has scored 16 fantasy points or less in four of his past five games and the Bucs rank middle of the pack against QBs. Go in another direction here, do not let your title hopes ride on Stafford this week. As for the Lions defense, there are sure to be better options on the waiver wire. Get away from them.

San Francisco 49ers

The Niners offense has not been pretty for fantasy, with Brandon Aiyuk being the lone exception. Aiyuk should get talked about in the same breath as Justin Jefferson and the other elite rookie receivers this season. He has now scored over 17 fantasy points in six straight games, including over 20 in four of the past five. He has at least nine targets in each of the past five games, including at least 13 in the last two. And if the volume and recent production wasn't enough to win you over, know that the Cardinals allow nearly 39 fantasy PPG to WRs (11th-most), including the sixth-most TDs allowed to the position at 16. Kendrick Bourne is coming off a big game, but he only had four targets. Richie James did finish with seven last week, but he was held under 10 fantasy points. Both are purely high upside flex options in deeper leagues.

If you must dive a little deeper at tight end this week, Jordan Reed is another option that you can consider here. He is purely a TD dependent option though, as he has been held under 50 yards in four straight games. But he does have over nine fantasy points in three of his past five games, two of those due to catching a touchdown. The Cardinals have been tough against tight ends, but if you start Reed you are just hoping for a TD. C.J. Beathard will start in place of Nick Mullens, but he is not an option you want to be starting in a championship game, regardless of the matchup.

Raheem Mostert will be out in Week 16 and longer after reinjuring his ankle that has hampered him all season and landing on the IR. Remember, he missed a good amount of time earlier this season with a high ankle sprain and has been up and down ever since. It's almost been better for fantasy managers that he sits and clears a starter's workload for Jeff Wilson, because the duo is likely to split if Mostert was active. Wilson has averaged 18.9 fantasy PPG in games without Mostert this season. Wilson is a safe RB2 with high upside this week. You can expect Jerick McKinnon to also be more involved, particularly in the passing game, but he is best left for deep formats.

You can get away from the Niners defense this week against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, who are averaging nearly 28 points per game this season, just inside the top 10 in the NFL.  

Arizona Cardinals

Murray has had an up-and-down season of sorts, scoring over 21 fantasy points in each of the first nine games. He had 10 rushing TDs in those nine games and was looking like a fantasy MVP. Then he suffered a shoulder injury and failed to score 21 fantasy points for four straight games. But he bounced back last week with over 33 fantasy points and his first rushing TD in over a month. This season, the Niners have allowed 16.51 fantasy PPG to QBs, which ironically is the ninth-most. But Murray went off for 26 fantasy points against them in Week 1. He is a QB1 and if he got you this far, keep riding with him. The same is true for his teammate, DeAndre Hopkins. DHop is trending up along with Kyler, scoring over 19 fantasy points in three straight, with over 135 yards in two straight. His fantasy points have increased in each of the last five games. Plus, he went off for 29 fantasy points against the Niners earlier this season. Start DHop, but he is the only WR I would trust here as the Niners are in the bottom third of fantasy PPG allowed to WRs.

The Niners have been tough against running backs, allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy PPG to the position (20.63). Tony Pollard went off against them in Week 15, but he was only the fourth RB to finish as an RB1 against them this season (top-12 RB). Last week, it was also Chase Edmonds, who played more snaps than Kenyan Drake – 56 percent to 47 percent – and had more scrimmage yards (66 to 40). Drake did hobble to the sidelines at times last week, so his health will have to be monitored. But it was Edmonds who was sidelined at practice early this week. If one of these two is out or limited, it would be a boost in value to the other. Still, given the tough matchup, the potential health concern and the fact that the work can go to either back or even just be split in half, I would look to get away from this situation. Currently, both are ranked as RB3's in the Week 16 rankings.

The Cardinals defense is a good streaming option this week as well. The Niners will have Beathard starting this week, which adds a kind of unknown to this offense. But we have seen some of Beathard in the past and in 10 career starts he is averaging 244 passing yards per game. Plus, the Niners were averaging just 20.8 fantasy PPG, the seventh-fewest in the NFL. They've averaged a league-high three giveaways per game in that span. They also gave up just under two sacks per game with Mullens. The Cardinals defense is a top-12 defense this week with upside.

Miami Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa had a huge test against Bill Belichick and the Patriots and I would say he aced it. Going into that game, Belichick had faced 25 rookie QBs as the Patriots head coach and in that span, rookies were averaging just 9.9 fantasy points and only six times did they top 15. Tua went out and scored 18.7 fantasy points. He has now scored at least 18 in two straight and over 16 in each of the past three. The Raiders are a favorable matchup as they allow the 10th-most fantasy PPG to QBs this season (19.76), including allowing at least 19 fantasy points to a QB eight times already this season. Tua is a top-15 QB for me this week and comes with a very safe floor.

The Raiders have been a favorable matchup for RBs all season, allowing the fourth-most fantasy PPG to the position (28.61). They've allowed 19 touchdowns to RBs, the second-most in the NFL. Myles Gaskin has been activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list and I would expect him to return as the starter and get the bulk of the touches. The only concern is that Salvon Ahmed, who just put up 21.7 fantasy points against the Patriots, played well enough to receive some work even with the starter back. Due to that, Gaskin is a high-end RB2 with RB1 upside. With Gaskin back, Ahmed can't be trusted as anything more than a deeper flex option this week, despite what he did last week.   

DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki have been limited at practice to begin the week, meaning they have a shot to play this week. They are also the top targets from Tagovailoa this season, with 30 a piece from the rookie. Gesicki is the more intriguing option here, as he scored over 23 fantasy points in his last two games before getting injured. That is a huge ceiling for a tight end and if he is healthy, you play him. Parker has not been nearly as good for fantasy with Tagovailoa. With the Raiders ranking 13th in terms of fantasy points allowed to receivers, it is a solid matchup. He would be a boom-or-bust WR3 or flex option if he suits up. If he sits, the biggest winner will continue to be Lynn Bowden, but I would look to sit him if both Gesicki and Parker play. There are just not enough targets to sustain three weapons in this offense.

The Dolphins defense has finished as a top-12 fantasy defense in nine of its last 10 games and is the top scoring defense on the season. The Dolphins are very much in play this week against the Raiders.  

Las Vegas Raiders

Derek Carr was forced to leave early last week after suffering a groin injury and Marcus Mariota filled in nicely, putting up 25.84 fantasy points behind 88 rushing yards and a TD. However, Carr has returned to practice and is pushing to play this week. Either way, this is a very tough matchup for the Raiders QB as the Dolphins allow the fourth-fewest fantasy PPG to QBs this season (15.99). Due to that, Carr, and Mariota if he must start, come in as more of a QB2 this week. I would look to go in another direction this week.

Josh Jacobs scored 20.4 fantasy points; it was the fourth time he topped 20 fantasy points this season. The issue is in every other game he has less than 15. But he does come with a pretty safe floor of about 12 or 13 fantasy points. That may be more of what to expect against the Dolphins, who give up 21.5 fantasy PPG to RBs this season, the ninth-fewest in the NFL. He is an RB2 due to his floor and the workload he sees weekly, but if you are hoping for a big Week 16 from Jacobs to lead you to a title, you may be disappointed.

Darren Waller is a must play tight end unless you somehow have him and Travis Kelce and can only play one. The Dolphins have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy PPG to TEs (10.49) but it does not matter. You are not playing a waiver wire tight end over him and he is matchup proof anyway. As for the Raiders WRs? Miami ranks in the middle of the pack against the position, but Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are two cornerbacks that scare me away from the receivers here. Nelson Agholor is a boom-or-bust flex option. The rest you can safely get away from this week.

Happy holidays!

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