Ride Marcus Mariota's bounce back to a fantasy title

Welcome to FedEx Air and Ground fantasy analysis. Each week, we'll highlight some favorable quarterback plays and a few running backs that could prove valuable for fantasy owners based on matchups, projected game flow, and most essentially, talent. With Week 15 in the books and another sample of fantasy points against data to work with, here are a few matchups to exploit in Week 16. These players might just win your week.

Air Analysis:

Marcus Mariota at Jaguars

When I was checking the waiver wire in my league of record for a quarterback streamer ahead of Week 16, I was shocked to see Marcus Mariota hanging out with some of the new kids on the block like Matt Moore and Tom Savage.

Obviously I snagged Mariota the GOAT.

It's understandable if you're skeptical about Mariota's outlook given his performance the last two weeks. He hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in two straight games and has posted fantasy point totals of 7.32 and 5.44 in those games. But look at his opponents: Denver allows the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season (even Tom Brady struggled against them last week), and Kansas City's defense has not been kind to the position at Arrowhead this year.

But let's not forget how amazing Mariota was both in real and fantasy football earlier this year. From Week 5 through Week 12, the second-year signal caller averaged 259.1 pass yards and 2.6 pass touchdowns per game, sprinkling in an average of 30 rush yards per contest with two rushing scores for good measure. During that span he averaged 23.6 fantasy points per game and was the QB2 in fantasy, second only to Aaron Rodgers.

Mariota has also been great this season when throwing the ball downfield. He owns a 44.6 percent completion percentage on passes of 20-plus air yards to go along with a six-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 119.6 passer rating.

The Jaguars are not considered a favorable matchup for Mariota as they allow fewer than 15 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this year, but they're not even close to Denver or Kansas City. The last time the Titans faced the Jaguars, Mariota logged his second-fewest pass attempts of the season, 22. Yet he still put up 19 fantasy points on 18 completions for 270 yards and two touchdowns in a game that the Titans won handily. He only had three pass attempts in the third quarter and didn't play in the fourth. His fantasy total would have been even more impressive had he stayed in the game.

In his young career, Mariota has already faced the Jaguars three times, which is definitely an advantage when it comes to reading defensive schemes and learning the tendencies of this familiar opponent. The Titans are in a must-win situation and it's an ideal bounce-back spot for Mariota. I'll be starting him on Saturday in hopes of a fantasy title, and you should too.

Philip Rivers at Browns

Philip Rivers has thrown 15 interceptions since Week 7. So why should you trust him in fantasy championship week? Browns, that's why.

It's no secret that the Browns defense is bad, bad, bad. They've allowed more touchdown passes than any team in the NFL, 31. They've also allowed the highest quarterback rating this year, 104.0 and the second-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, 19.32, second only to Atlanta.

Rivers, despite his interception epidemic of late, has thrown multiple touchdown passes in every game dating back to Week 8 and ranks third in the NFL with 29 on the season. Rivers has also completed 15 passes of 40-plus yards, the highest total of his career and second-most in the NFL this year.

The Chargers also have the lethal tight end duo of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry, who have combined for 11 red-zone touchdowns this season. The Browns have allowed six tight end touchdowns in their last six games.

Fantasy owners can expect the Chargers to come out of the gate hot against Cleveland. They've been doing it frequently this year with eight first-possession touchdowns. We saw it last week when Rivers connected with Travis Benjamin for a 47-yard scoring play.

Ground Analysis:

Frank Gore at Raiders

Maybe you're hesitant to use Frank Gore because he was robbed of two touchdowns last week by his teammate Robert Turbin. Yeah, that was frustrating, but Gore still racked up 101 rush yards and was a solid flex play. He's going to be just fine as a high-end flex again this week against the Raiders.

The veteran back has had fewer than 15 rush attempts just once in his last six games. He's basically immune to game script, because he has a three-down skillset that keeps him on the field during passing downs too. If the Colts are winning, they can run him between the tackles. If they're losing or running a hurry-up, they can use Gore as a check-down target which only elevates his floor.

Speaking of his floor, Gore has posted fewer than 10 fantasy points in just four games all season, and in three of those four he finished with seven-plus standard points. The usage is there, and the matchup is favorable.

In terms of matchup, Gore faces an Oakland defense that ranks near the bottom of the league in yards per game allowed (375.9) and yards per play allowed (6.1). The Raiders are also one of just seven teams to allow greater than 1,400 rush yards to running backs this season, and they've given up a total of 15 touchdowns to the positon.

Don't hesitate to make room for Gore in your championship lineup this week.

Carlos Hyde at Rams

Let's be realistic for a second. Carlos Hyde is pretty much all the 49ers have going for them on offense. He's been the centerpiece of an offense that ranks in the top five in the NFL in terms of run percentage (46 percent run, 54 percent pass) and there's a million reasons you should be starting him this week. Here are just a few.

Since his return from injury in Week 10, Hyde has logged no fewer than 13 rush attempts in any game and has 80-plus total yards in each of his last five contests. During that span he has averaged 4.5 yards per carry for an impressive combined average of 6.2 yards per rush. And while he hasn't scored a rushing touchdown since Week 5, he has two receiving touchdowns in his last four games.

The matchup is favorable too. The Rams have the league's 19th ranked rush defense. They're allowing 107.6 rush yards per game and have allowed 12 runs of 20-plus yards this season. With the volume upside, a favorable matchup on paper and the fact that San Francisco runs the ball more often than three quarters of the league, Hyde is a perfect high-end RB2 play for your fantasy championship.

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