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Minnesota Vikings

Week 16 Fantasy: “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Matt Ryan (v JAX)

Jacksonville held the Raiders in check last week, but overall, the defense has really fallen off, and Ryan—coming off a clutch performance versus San Francisco—should be poised for another strong fantasy showing if pass protection can hold up. We haven’t seen a monster game at home from Matty Ice this year, so Sunday is his last chance as the team hopes to continue proving Dan Quinn should be their head coach in 2020. I have Ryan as a top-six play.


Thumbs Up: Dak Prescott (@ PHI)

Prescott (finger, shoulder) carries some risk at less than 100%, but in what appears to be a rough week for quarterbacks, he is a clear QB1 option for me. Philadelphia has struggled to cover this month (20.6 fantasy points per game allowed to Ryan Fitzpatrick, Eli Manning, and Dwayne Haskins), and back in October, Prescott was 21-of-27 for 239 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in a blowout victory. Look for the receivers to be more involved and Dak to potentially do damage on the ground.


Thumbs Up: Aaron Rodgers (@ MIN)

Amazingly, Rodgers has just one game with multiple touchdown passes since the start of November, and he’s averaged 189.8 passing yards per game over that span. For a Monday Night Football matchup against the Vikings, though, I think the offense will need to be opened up—which is something Rodgers would surely welcome, as he owns a career 43:6 touchdown-interception ratio in this NFC North rivalry, while Minnesota has allowed at least two scores to every top-tier quarterback they’ve faced this season.


Thumbs Up: Kirk Cousins (v GB)

Green Bay was able to force three turnovers against Cousins back in Week 2, but the start of the season was largely a struggle for the Vikings’ passing attack, and they should be in much better position for a rematch whether or not Dalvin Cook (shoulder) plays. In three previous matchups against the Packers before this year, Cousins had averaged 380.7 yards per game with a 10:1 touchdown-interception ratio, and the wide receivers are all healthy after Adam Thielen got through last week without a setback. I’m typically lower on Cousins, but fantasy owners should feel good about him in Week 16.


Others: Andy Dalton (@ MIA), Philip Rivers (v OAK)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Josh Allen (@ NE)

Allen’s rushing ability can make him worth a start in any given week, but facing the Patriots in New England is the lone spot where I’d completely avoid him if possible. The Bills lost a slugfest earlier this year, 16-10, and we could see a similar style of game on Saturday—especially because of how much the Pats have struggled offensively. Perhaps having less pressure with a playoff spot locked up will allow Allen to have a huge game, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up.


Thumbs Down: Tom Brady (v BUF)

Including the aforementioned meeting earlier this year in which he was 18-of-39 for 150 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception, Brady has averaged 216.4 yards per game with a 3:5 touchdown-interception ratio in five matchups against Sean McDermott’s defense, so I’d have a very difficult time trusting him with a championship on the line. Buffalo could be a little beat up on a short week, but it shouldn’t impact Tre’Davious White and the stingy secondary trying to extend the AFC East race into the final week.


Thumbs Down: Jared Goff (@ SF)

As stated, this week is brutal for quarterbacks, and Goff is still barely a top-20 option against a defense that limited him to 78 passing yards in their previous matchup. The only thing saving Goff from being even lower is the change in offensive philosophy for Los Angeles potentially allowing them to have more success on Saturday night, so we’ll see if they can keep their playoff hopes alive in a must-win by playing through Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee. Fantasy owners should recognize that the chances of a big game aren’t great.


Thumbs Down: Baker Mayfield (v BAL)

Mayfield has thrown for 342+ yards in all three matchups against Baltimore to start his career (2-1 record), but Sunday will likely be the spot where his triumph ends. Since their loss to Cleveland, the Ravens have rattled off ten wins in a row and are allowing a measly 10.8 fantasy points per game to opposing passers. Not establishing the run with Nick Chubb could lead to a mistake-filled day for Mayfield and a defeated Browns offense. The former No. 1 overall pick doesn’t even make the top 25 at the position.


Others: Jimmy Garoppolo (v LAR), Sam Darnold (v PIT)


Running Back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Marlon Mack (v CAR)

Monday night was a major disappointment for those who played Mack, as the Saints sold out to stop the run and consistently met Indy’s starter in the backfield for what quickly became a lopsided game. However, that shouldn’t stop you from going back to Mack against a Carolina defense allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing backs (28.2)—including an insane 2.0 rushing touchdowns per game over the past ten outings. Mack should be an RB1 option in a blowup spot.


Thumbs Up: Devonta Freeman (v JAX)

Carolina is the worst team against opposing backs, but based on how the Jaguars have played since the London loss to start November (34.5 fantasy points per game allowed), they’ll be given a run for their money over the final two weeks. Although Freeman predictably struggled to get going last week in San Francisco, he’s shown enough burst to feel confident about making a difference this weekend, and the 27-year-old’s work as a receiver (nearly five targets per game) boosts his RB2 standing.


Thumbs Up: Kerryon Johnson (@ DEN)

It is still unclear if Johnson will be activated ahead of Sunday’s game in Denver, but he’s been on the practice field and should have zero limitations if he plays in Week 16. The Broncos are allowing a healthy 113.6 rushing yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry this season, so this wouldn’t be a matchup to completely avoid if you’ve been stashing Kerryon. Personally, I would rather roll with the star-level talent than rely on a committee runner or risky wideout.


Thumbs Up: DeAndre Washington (@ LAC)

Jon Gruden seems to indicate that Josh Jacobs (shoulder) could be done with Oakland no longer in playoff contention, so stop reading this and pick up Washington if you have a hole at running back. The Raiders gave their backup 20 touches (which he turned into 96 yards and a touchdown) when he started two weeks ago, and Gruden’s offense will continue featuring the running game no matter who is in the backfield. Washington will be a low-end RB2 if he draws the start.


Others: Damien Williams (@ CHI), Boston Scott (v DAL)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Carlos Hyde (@ TB)

Hyde is rolling after 104 yards and a score in last week’s win over Tennessee, but this week has the makings of a disappointment. Aside from taking on the NFL’s top run defense (73.3 yards per game allowed), the veteran back is dealing with an ankle injury and will have had one fewer day to recover with Texans-Buccaneers kicking off the Saturday slate. Plus, for what it’s worth, Hyde’s previous game with 100+ yards and a touchdown was followed up by just 12 carries for 35 scoreless yards.


Thumbs Down: Adrian Peterson (v NYG)

Three consecutive games with 66+ rushing yards and a touchdown makes Peterson well worth considering as a low-end RB2/FLEX option, but I have him on the lesser end of that tier. AD had just 11 carries for 28 scoreless yards in the previous matchup against the Giants, and they have only improved against the run since then (70.6 yards per game allowed over the past five outings in particular). I expect Dexter Lawrence and the “hog mollies” to contain AD on Sunday, leaving him in need of a touchdown to be worth a start.


Thumbs Down: David Johnson (@ SEA)

The Cardinals talked Johnson up a bit prior to Week 15, but it didn’t carry over to game action as he rushed just three times for six yards; at the same time, Kenyan Drake went crazy on 26 touches (four of which were touchdowns). Unfortunately for those invested in DJ, things won’t be changing, so he’s just a low-end FLEX option with a zero-point floor despite catching eight passes for 99 yards against Seattle earlier this year.


Thumbs Down: Raheem Mostert (v LAR)

A touchdown saved Mostert last week, but he was limited to 54 yards on 14 carries, and the juice provided by Tevin Coleman (four carries for 40 yards) could lead to this being more of a timeshare again as San Francisco tries to figure out what works best ahead of January. Mostert is still the preferred play in the backfield, but don’t be surprised if both Coleman and Matt Breida take a large chunk of work. Consider him a low-end RB2/FLEX that brings more risk than you’d like.


Others: Jamaal Williams (@ MIN), LeSean McCoy (@ CHI)


Wide Receiver


Thumbs Up of the Week: Amari Cooper (@ PHI)

In three matchups against the Eagles since being acquired by the Cowboys, Cooper has gone for lines of 6/75, 10/217/3, and 5/106—catching 75% of his targets in those games. The schedule hasn’t done him any favors in recent weeks, but Cooper has been a hold for this spot alone, and Dak Prescott’s health shouldn’t deter you from getting your WR1 back in lineups. I have Cooper as a top-seven play thanks to his league-winning ceiling.


Thumbs Up: T.Y. Hilton (v CAR)

Hilton emerged from Monday night’s game without any setbacks, and his presence late into the fourth quarter of a blowout should inspire confidence for the final two games. Especially at home, T.Y.—who had nine targets in his return to the lineup—will provide high-upside WR2 value against a Carolina defense that just allowed Tyler Lockett to go for an 8/120/1 line and has really struggled to defend downfield passes.


Thumbs Up: Christian Kirk (@ SEA)

The Browns not holding up their end of a shootout or doing anything to stop Kenyan Drake limited Kirk’s opportunities/upside in Week 15, but I’m hoping for a better result against Seattle. Last week, both D.J. Moore (8/113) and Curtis Samuel (5/31/1 with 23 rushing yards) were able to find open space, and Kirk’s increased usage outside should allow him to have more success as Arizona tries to pull off a road upset. Consider him a low-end WR2.


Thumbs Up: James Washington (@ NYJ)

Washington did more than hold his own against the Bills last week by catching five passes for 83 yards, and his second-half breakout has a chance to takeoff this week in New York. Both he and teammate Diontae Johnson are underrated FLEX plays because of the matchup, but Washington’s ability to get deep is worth targeting in particular. I have him as a top-30 option.


Others: Breshad Perriman (v HOU), John Ross (@ MIA)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Cooper Kupp (@ SF)

The priority for San Francisco in the first matchup this season seemed to be containing Kupp, and if the Rams are able to keep things close, I would imagine Sean McVay will want to use mostly 12 personnel in order to offset the pass rushers. If so, Kupp’s playing time could dip back below 75%, and being bailed out by touchdowns isn’t something fantasy owners can rely on again. Jared Goff’s favorite target hasn’t surpassed 65 yards in a game since October.


Thumbs Down: A.J. Brown (v NO)

Brown is too hot to go away from in redraft leagues with championships on the line, but the Saints—a team that probably can’t believe how opponents let Michael Thomas do whatever he wants on a weekly basis—may have a game plan in place to slow down the rookie wideout on Sunday. New Orleans is still gunning for a first-round bye, so look for the defense to build on what they did last week when they dominated Indianapolis. Ranked as a borderline WR1 by most, Brown is more of a midrange WR2 for me.


Thumbs Down: Dede Westbrook (@ ATL)

Atlanta has been sensational on defense recently, and I doubt Westbrook—with eight catches for 39 scoreless yards over the past two games—is able to bust his slump against them. The former Heisman finalist has mostly been a low-floor FLEX with Gardner Minshew under center this season, so fantasy owners may need to rely on garbage time and/or Jacksonville making it a shootout on the road.


Thumbs Down: Jarvis Landry (v BAL)

Sometimes a team can simply overlook a flaw and have it hurt them week after week, but the league-best Ravens allowing a two-score game to Jamison Crowder last Thursday night combined with Landry going for 167 yards against them earlier this year should make stopping Cleveland’s Pro Bowl wideout a priority on Sunday. I wouldn’t want too much invested in the dysfunction of the Browns for championship week.


Others: Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel (v LAR)


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