Thumbs Up of the Week: Geno Smith (@ KC)
It was interesting to hear Patrick Mahomes talk up Smith this week by saying he throws a “perfect spiral” on every pass, which is something we’ve said at Wolf Sports—and a trait Mahomes accurately pointed out is very helpful to pass-catchers. Even without Tyler Lockett (finger), Seattle should be able to play through DK Metcalf versus a struggling secondary, and Smith is a midrange QB1 for a possible shootout.
Thumbs Up: Tom Brady (@ ARI)
Brady turned it over four times last week, but he threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns in the loss, and now he’ll face an Arizona defense allowing the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. On a very rare opportunity to play on Christmas Night, I’d expect TB12 to come out firing after all three of Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Russell Gage were able to put up numbers in Week 15. Brady is a top-ten option for me.
Thumbs Up: Daniel Jones (@ MIN)
If you are in need of a replacement for Jalen Hurts (shoulder), Jones is probably the top option if he’s available because of the combination of matchup (the Vikings are allowing the second-most passing yards per game in the league) and his upside as a runner. Before last week’s outlier game in which Indy led 33-0 at halftime, Minnesota had allowed 343.6 passing yards per game in their previous five outings, so Jones is positioned for a very strong day.
Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (@ CAR)
The forecast in Carolina “only” calling for temperatures in the mid-20s and relatively mild wind makes it one of the more pleasant games of the week, so Goff—who says he’s playing the best football of his career—is worth streaming as a high-end QB2 on the road. Dating back to Thanksgiving, the Lions have thrown it 37+ times in each of their past four games, and Goff has the weapons to avoid top cornerback Jaycee Horn.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Deshaun Watson (v NO)
A game where the weather will likely be a factor is in Cleveland, as wind gusts could hit upwards of 60 miles per hour—which calls for a heavy dose of Nick Chubb and the ground attack. Watson hasn’t played well to begin with, so he’s a risky QB2 that likely needs to capitalize with rushing production of his own to be worth a start for a game with an over/under of 31.5.
Thumbs Down: Brock Purdy (v WAS)
The Commanders are quietly a towards the top of the league in passing yards per game allowed (197.2), and you would think that Purdy might eventually hit a bump in the road after some signs of frustration last week from Kyle Shanahan. If the chunk plays stop hitting for the rookie, he could disappoint from a fantasy perspective, and I’d rather play Gardner Minshew II or Kenny Pickett on Christmas Eve.
Thumbs Down: Andy Dalton (@ CLE)
Dalton is already splitting snaps with Taysom Hill at an increased rate, and that should undoubtedly continue this weekend due to the Cleveland weather. In general, the wind will limit the downfield upside for the rookie duo of Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed, so Dalton has a lowered ceiling and a very low floor for what is expected to be a slugfest. We have him in the bottom five at quarterback for our weekly rankings.
Thumbs Down: Trevor Lawrence (@ NYJ)
Lawrence has been phenomenal in recent weeks and might not be an option that fantasy owners want to take out of lineups, but he’s a borderline QB1/QB2 with rain in the forecast versus one of the NFL’s stingiest pass defenses (13 touchdowns allowed on the season). Fortunately, Lawrence can also do damage with his legs, but Josh Allen is the only quarterback to reach at least 15.0 fantasy points against New York since the start of October.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Ezekiel Elliott (v PHI)
We haven’t seen huge yardage totals from Elliott this year, but he’s always played well against the Eagles, and the red-hot touchdown streak (seven games, with nine touchdowns over that span) started in a matchup versus the NFC East rival back in Week 6. In a highly anticipated showdown, Zeke should be a definite RB2 option with Philadelphia showing they can be run on when teams stay committed to it, especially with Jordan Davis playing less than 25% of the defensive snaps in every game since his return from injured reserve. Elliott has notably averaged 95.6 rushing yards per game against Philly in his career.
Thumbs Up: Rachaad White (@ ARI)
White has had back-to-back quiet games, but they came in tough matchups versus the 49ers and Bengals—so hopefully the Buccaneers get a more positive game script for a trip to face the Cardinals. I think that will be the case with Trace McSorley (career completion percentage of 46.2%) possibly starting in place of Colt McCoy (concussion), and Arizona just allowed Denver’s struggling offense to rush 32 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns against them. White is a borderline top-15 option on Christmas.
Thumbs Up: Zack Moss (v LAC)
It’s tough to pass on a running back that handled 24 touches last week as a recommended start, and the matchup should lock Moss in as a clear FLEX option with upside against a Los Angeles defense allowing the second-most yards per carry in the league (5.3). For what it’s worth, Moss rushed nine times for 59 yards versus the Chargers a couple of years ago, and Brandon Staley’s defense has allowed 24.1 fantasy points per game to opposing runners in 2022.
Thumbs Up: Raheem Mostert (v GB)
The Dolphins not having Jeff Wilson Jr. (hip) last week opened the door for Mostert to again lead the backfield—and a touchdown was the only thing lacking with 18 touches for 156 total yards. Even if Wilson returns this week, Mostert should be an RB2 play with Green Bay allowing 148.9 rushing yards per game (fourth-most in the NFL) and having just let Cam Akers record 100 total yards for the first time since the 2020 season.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Cam Akers (v DEN)
Speaking of Akers, he has looked significantly better since regaining his starting job (particularly compared to early in the season), and he should be locked in as a weekly low-end RB2/FLEX option to close out the season. That said, the Broncos have allowed just eight rushing touchdowns this year, and they have struggled more defending opposing running backs through the air than on the ground. Plus, the Rams being officially eliminated from playoff contention might lead to more of a split in the backfield as the franchise evaluates the position for 2023.
Thumbs Down: James Conner (v TB)
I’m not knocking Conner out of the RB2 ranks based on how good he’s been in recent weeks (18.2 fantasy points per game over his past five appearances), but again, the game script is something to be concerned about for Arizona with Trace McSorley—who I like—set to make his first career start. Conner is only averaging 4.2 yards per carry during his hot streak, so not finding the end zone for the first time since Week 9 could lead to disappointment based on his recent fantasy outputs.
Thumbs Down: Tyler Allgeier (@ BAL)
Allgeier is somewhat quietly up to 743 rushing yards on the season, but his explosion last week versus a usually stout run defense of the Saints was a surprise—as the rookie rushed 17 times for 139 yards and a touchdown. On Saturday, though, I’d anticipate Baltimore completely stacking the box to make rookie Desmond Ridder beat them, and the Ravens have limited enemy backs to 111 carries for 342 yards (3.1 YPC) since acquiring superstar linebacker Roquan Smith. I wouldn’t chase Allgeier’s Week 15 performance.
Thumbs Down: D’Onta Foreman (v DET)
As expected, Foreman was contained last week against the Steelers with ten carries for nine scoreless yards, and now he gets a Detroit defense that has completely transformed into a top defense versus the run—allowing an average of single-digit fantasy points per game (9.96) to opposing running backs over the past seven weeks. In a brutal matchup and splitting work with Chuba Hubbard, Foreman is a low-floor FLEX option.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Keenan Allen (@ IND)
I’m continuing to view Mike Williams as a WR1 this week, but Allen likely gets the better draw between the two with less of a chance to see Stephon Gilmore in coverage. Over the past three games, Allen has been on fire with averages of 12.3 targets, 8.7 receptions, and 88.7 yards per game—and he’s roasted the Colts in both career matchups by going for lines of 9/107/1 and 8/123/1. Allen needs a touchdown to really hit, but he’s elevated to the clear WR1 ranks and is worth mentioning here as a DFS recommendation on Monday night.
Thumbs Up: Brandon Aiyuk (v WAS)
Aiyuk unfortunately didn’t pan out last week, but he caught ten passes for 119 yards against Washington a couple of years ago—and it’s easy to picture him having success sitting in open holes similar to how the Giants attacked the Commanders in Week 15. With most ranking San Francisco’s current No. 1 wideout as more of a FLEX option, he’s still in the top 24 at wide receiver for me; we’ll see if Kyle Shanahan and Brock Purdy are able to get Aiyuk going on Saturday.
Thumbs Up: Russell Gage (@ ARI)
Gage is here under the assumption that Julio Jones (knee) is out again to get him closer to 100%, but it’s easy to forget that Tampa Bay viewed the 26-year-old as a big part of the offense by signing him to a three-year, $30-million deal in the offseason. After catching two touchdowns last week, look for Gage to work the intermediate areas of the field where Arizona typically struggles to defend—making him a quality flier that you might be able to grab-and-start off the waiver wire.
Thumbs Up: DeVante Parker (v CIN)
Parker not practicing on Tuesday doesn’t bode well for his chances of clearing the concussion protocol by the weekend, but if he does, the former first-round pick would be set up very favorably versus a Cincinnati defense that has a smaller group of cornerbacks and just allowed Mike Evans to get going with 83 yards. Two weeks ago, it looked like Parker was going to be the focal-point of the passing attack before leaving, and I’d view him as an upside FLEX option if active.
Others: Kadarius Toney (v SEA), K.J. Osborn (v NYG)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Amari Cooper (v NO)
As stated, the wind should be a major factor for Saints-Brown, and Cooper—who I listed here last week—has yet to get on the same page with Deshaun Watson while averaging just 46.7 yards per game over the past three weeks. The Browns are already a slow-playing offense in games they don’t trail (Watson has averaged 15.0 completions per game in two wins since his return), so Cooper is little more than a talent-based FLEX option on Christmas Eve.
Thumbs Down: Chris Olave (@ CLE)
The same is true for Olave on the other side of matchup, and he’s also dealing with a hamstring issue on top of the weather concerns. New Orleans’ first-rounder has shown an extremely high floor this season—and I could easily see him capitalizing on a “short” deep ball by winning at the line of scrimmage—but he’s downgraded from the WR2 ranks this week and will get another tough spot next week in Philadelphia for those looking ahead.
Thumbs Down: Treylon Burks (v HOU)
It sounds like the Titans have more confidence in Malik Willis than they did in his first start this season, but if the rookie plays in place of Ryan Tannehill (ankle), lower volume for the passing attack will still be extremely likely. That leaves Burks—assuming he clears the concussion protocol—as a capped-ceiling FLEX that would need to hit on a big play and/or score with the offense running through Derrick Henry (219 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Houston in Week 8).
Thumbs Down: Terry McLaurin (@ SF)
McLaurin is a star-level player that shouldn’t be benched without an absolutely loaded roster to replace him in lineups, but he’s been contained in two career meetings with the Niners—catching just three passes for 35 scoreless yards. After we saw Charvarius Ward give problems to DK Metcalf last Thursday night, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see San Francisco’s top corner used in shadow coverage on McLaurin; or worse yet, the Niners could consistently shade over him with double teams to take away Taylor Heinicke’s favorite target.
Others: Allen Lazard (@ MIA), Zay Jones (@ NYJ)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Taysom Hill (@ CLE)
The Browns have improved defending tight ends compared to previous years, but Hill is more of a runner than anything else—and I don’t see Cleveland’s soft run defense having fun bringing him down in a frigid environment on Saturday. With at least 40% of the team’s offensive snaps played in each of the past five games, Hill should be a top-ten option at tight end, and you can also consider him as a FLEX.
Thumbs Up: Pat Freiermuth (v LV)
Freiermuth was a massive disappointment last week by not even getting targeted, but Kenny Pickett should be back under center on Christmas Eve to boost his outlook. Before the goose egg, Freiermuth had seen a very solid 6.8 targets per game, and the only thing that’s held him back from a breakout has been the lack of touchdown success (two scores on the season). If that changes, Freiermuth can reward those that stuck with him.
Thumbs Up: David Njoku (v NO)
A tight end facing the Saints often makes the “Thumbs Down” list, but Njoku should have the passing attack funneled through him with short throws underneath to counter the wind. Also, New Orleans has been more forgiving to the position in recent weeks with 40+ yards allowed to opposing tight ends in four of the past six games, and Njoku also has a key role in scoring territory. He remains a clear TE1.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Chigoziem Okonkwo (v HOU)
For the same reasons that Treylon Burks is someone to sit this week, Okonkwo joins him as a pass-catcher to avoid—and he could see his role significantly decreased with Burks taking a chunk of his targets away. In the first matchup, the rookie played 41% of Tennessee’s offensive snaps, but was limited to just one reception for three yards. I’d look elsewhere.
Thumbs Down: Mike Gesicki (v GB)
Gesicki was able to at least get back on the board with a catch last week, but it was just for five yards and came on his only target—as Miami simply doesn’t prioritize him at this point. While it’s notable that Gesicki dipping below 40% of the snaps played has coincided with the Dolphins’ three-game losing streak, there’s no reason to believe they will suddenly re-install him as a bigger part of the offense on Christmas Day.
Thumbs Down: Cole Kmet (v BUF)
Kmet has cooled off with 35 or fewer yards in three of the past four games (with zero scores over that span), and now he gets a difficult matchup versus a Buffalo defense that hasn’t allowed a touchdown to the position all year. In another game that could have weather impact the passing attack, Kmet has extremely limited upside with Justin Fields averaging 13.1 completions on 21.1 pass attempts per game.