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Week 18 Fantasy: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Kyler Murray (v SEA)

Murray is looking to make a closing argument for his case to remain Arizona’s franchise quarterback with a big performance this weekend—and his confidence should be high after completing 25-of-31 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns (one interception) in the upset win over Philadelphia. The former No. 1 overall pick has also been good for at least a couple of fantasy points on the ground in all seven appearances this season, and we have him as a top-five option for Week 18.


Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (v MIN)

Although he had a modest fantasy day a couple of weeks ago versus Minnesota, Goff completed 75% of his passes, and I believe the ceiling should be raised at home—where he tossed five scores in the only appearance last month. Also, it sounds like Detroit is ready to take their anger out on the division rival this week, and the Vikings did not play well defensively in their Week 17 loss. Consider Goff a strong QB1.


Thumbs Up: Geno Smith (@ ARI)

Smith was solid last week in the loss to Pittsburgh with 290 yards and a touchdown through the air (plus 33 rushing yards), and now Seattle enters a must-win spot versus Arizona with a healthy collection of playmakers after DK Metcalf was out in the first matchup. Basically, I don’t see the Cardinals being able to stop Smith and the pass-catchers for the Seahawks, so the veteran passer should be viewed as a definite top-12 play.


Thumbs Up: Blaine Gabbert (@ LAC)

There are a few backup quarterbacks playing this week that seem to be positioned for success, but perhaps none more so than Blaine Gabbert with an opportunity to run Andy Reid’s offense. And while it sounds like Travis Kelce and other pass-catchers might be rested along with Patrick Mahomes, the trio of Kadarius Toney, Mecole Hardman Jr., and Justyn Ross is still exciting in my opinion, so Gabbert can be a high-end QB2 for anyone seeking a streaming option on Sunday.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Baker Mayfield (@ CAR)

Mayfield has as much to play for as any quarterback this week, but Tampa Bay might be wise to lean on Rachaad White and the running game with Carolina having a top-three pass defense in terms of yards per game allowed (175.1). Just a month ago, Mayfield himself was limited to 14-of-29 passing for 202 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in a close win, so he lands in the QB2 ranks despite a handful of resting starters around the league.


Thumbs Down: Tyler Huntley (v PIT)

I was originally going to put Huntley as a “Thumbs Up” because he’s a playmaker that will do damage with his legs, but he’s already started three games versus Pittsburgh in his career—with all three being slugfests with 30 or fewer points scored by the AFC North foes. Additionally, Huntley has seen his rushing yards decline in each matchup (72 > 31 > 24) with just one touchdown and three interceptions. I’d look elsewhere due to the opponent.


Thumbs Down: Mason Rudolph (@ BAL)

On the other side of the Steelers-Ravens matchup, Rudolph is looking to go 3-0 as the starter this year to at least give Pittsburgh a shot at making the playoffs—but again, this has the making of a low-scoring game no matter who is or isn’t playing for Baltimore. In the previous two weeks, Rudolph was reliant on hitting chunk plays to George Pickens, so he could disappoint if the duo is unable to connect versus the NFL’s top scoring defense (16.4 points per game allowed).


Thumbs Down: Jarrett Stidham (@ LV)

I thought Denver throwing the ball around last week was a real possibility following the benching of Russell Wilson, but that didn’t happen as Stidham threw for 224 yards and one touchdown in a great matchup—and now he’ll face a Las Vegas defense that continues to play well. On the season, only Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and Patrick Mahomes have surpassed 18.5 fantasy points against the Raiders.


Running back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Ezekiel Elliott (v NYJ)

Elliott has handled 15+ touches in each of the past five games, and he’s firmly established himself as a volume-based RB2 that should get receiving work and goal-line carries. Earlier this season, Zeke turned 17 touches into 87 yards versus the Jets with Rhamondre Stevenson healthy, so look for the offense to revolve around him in the final opportunity to show he can still be a productive back before hitting free agency again.


Thumbs Up: Najee Harris (@ BAL)

Harris has emerged down the stretch in each of the past two seasons, and last week was one of his best career games with 27 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns to get Pittsburgh to 9-7 ahead of the finale. I know the Ravens can be stout (especially if the key defenders suit up), but Harris went for 123 total yards and a score in Baltimore last January, and the Steelers should lean on him this week to be a solid RB2.


Thumbs Up: Zamir White (v DEN)

This will change if Josh Jacobs (quad) returns, but the Raiders are now eliminated from playoff contention, and White has seen touch totals of 20, 22, and 25 over the past three weeks. Furthermore, the matchup is tremendous versus a Denver defense that’s allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, and Antonio Pierce will want to be committed to the ground game. We have White as a top-20 option for Week 18.


Thumbs Up: Khalil Herbert (@ GB)

Herbert’s talent made it questionable that he was overtaken for the lead role due to injury, but Chicago has recommitted to him as the starter over the past couple of weeks—resulting in a combined 38 carries for 236 yards (6.2 YPC) and two touchdowns. Green Bay has quietly been better versus the run over the same span, but Herbert has averaged 5.0 yards per carry for his career and has plenty of upside if the workload remains what it’s been since Christmas Eve.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Austin Ekeler (v KC)

It wasn’t long ago that Ekeler would be viewed as a high-end RB1 for a potential shootout versus the Chiefs, but his struggles continued last week in the loss to Denver with 50 scoreless yards on 14 touches. The outing came with Joshua Kelley and Isaiah Spiller combining for just three carries, so we could see Los Angeles give the younger guys a bigger slice of the pie this weekend, and worsened outlook for Ekeler puts him in the low-end RB2/FLEX ranks.


Thumbs Down: Joe Mixon (v CLE)

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said the team will do whatever it takes to win this week, but they still might use Sunday as an opportunity to evaluate for the future—including the potential for more work for rookie Chase Brown. If that’s the case, Mixon might be given a scaled-back workload versus a Cleveland defense that will still play extremely hard with key players resting, though the veteran needing 77 rushing yards to reach 1,000 on the season is something to keep in mind.


Thumbs Down: D’Andre Swift (@ NYG)

Swift had 20 carries for 92 yards and a score against the Giants on Christmas, and running the ball might continue as the Eagles hope to get back on track ahead of the playoffs. However, Rashaad Penny was notably active last week, and Swift didn’t have the best game versus Arizona with plenty of yards left on the field; the combination of Philly wanting to see what they have in Penny and preserving Swift could result in limited touches on the road.


Thumbs Down: Chuba Hubbard (v TB)

Hubbard surprisingly rushed 25 times for 104 yards and two touchdowns against the Bucs in Week 13, but Tampa Bay is unlikely to allow a repeat with their playoff hopes on the line, and the Panthers remain very inconsistent on offense. Focusing only on the past two weeks, Carolina followed up a season-best 30-point performance by getting shut out, and the Bucs are allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing runners.


Wide receiver


Thumbs Up of the Week: Brandin Cooks (@ WAS)

Washington is a dream opponent for Dallas to finish the season against, as they’ve allowed the second-most passing yards per game (259.3) and the most passing touchdown (35) in the league, while Cooks has been more involved down the stretch and had a 4/72/1 line in the first matchup versus the Commanders. Last week, it was pointed out that Cooks’ touchdown potential has increased, and that remained the case with a score versus Detroit and can continue in the season finale. I like the veteran as a WR2 option.


Thumbs Up: Gabe Davis (@ MIA)

The roller-coaster production for Davis continued with him following up a 4/130/1 line by going for 21 scoreless yards on New Year’s Eve, but the matchup versus Miami profiles as one for him to take advantage of—especially with Xavien Howard (foot) likely out. For his career, “Big Game Gabe” has scored in five of eight games versus Miami (including playoffs), and Sunday night is the perfect opportunity for him to come through again to get Buffalo the No. 2 seed in the conference.


Thumbs Up: Kadarius Toney (@ LAC)

Relying on Toney for anyone still competing for a fantasy title is a very risky proposition, but the Chiefs are expected to play him quite a bit this weekend—which makes sense as they look to rebuild his confidence as a potential difference-maker for the postseason. To reiterate, the risk is high, but Toney’s talent has flashed whenever he gets the ball in his hands, and Kansas City has nothing to lose by featuring him on Sunday.


Thumbs Up: Cedric Tillman (@ CIN)

It will be interesting to see how much Cleveland throws this week with Jeff Driskel at quarterback, but Tillman is set to operate as the No. 1 wideout with Amari Cooper (heel/rest), David Njoku (rest), and Elijah Moore (concussion/rest) all likely inactive—and the six-foot-three rookie certainly has talent based on what he showed in the SEC. Look for him to be treated as the focal-point of the passing attack and hopefully get a target or two in scoring territory.


Others: Chris Godwin (@ CAR), Darius Slayton (v PHI)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Terry McLaurin (v DAL)

McLaurin was able to carry the success with Jacoby Brissett over into another start for Sam Howell by going for 61 yards and a score last week, and I’m sure the Commanders would love to get him to 1,000 yards on the season—which he’s 54 yards away from doing. That said, Dallas limited McLaurin to four receptions (on 11 targets) for 50 yards on Thanksgiving, and they will be focused after losing to Howell last year in the season finale. I wouldn’t expect a huge performance from Washington’s No. 1 wideout.


Thumbs Down: Jordan Addison (@ DET)

Addison deserves credit for playing through an ankle injury last week, and he’ll do so again in the finale with Minnesota still having a shot at the playoffs with a win and a bunch of help. The ankle does seem to be a concern, though, and Addison was limited to one reception (for two yards) on 38% of the snaps before going down a couple of weeks ago versus Detroit—and outside of a 6/111/2 line a few Saturdays ago, the numbers has dropped off in general since Kirk Cousins (Achilles) has been out of the lineup.


Thumbs Down: Jerry Jeudy (@ LV)

The production for Jeudy with Courtland Sutton (concussion) out last week didn’t climb much (three receptions for 54 yards on six targets), and Sunday could be a lower-scoring game with both AFC West teams still playing hard. So, despite Jeudy’s impressive numbers versus the Silver and Black throughout his career (80.3 yards per game and 20.1 yards per reception in four matchups), the upside hasn’t really been there this season, and the Raiders are a different defense than they’ve been in the past.


Thumbs Down: DJ Moore (@ GB)

Moore might be in a similar spot to Mike Evans last week as a too-hot-to-bench option, and the connection between him and Justin Fields has been terrific since the first matchup when Green Bay limited Moore to 25 scoreless yards. At the same time, Evans did end up disappointing with 8.5 fantasy points in 0.5 PPR leagues in Week 17, and Green Bay—even without top cornerback Jaire Alexander—showed they can keep opponents in check by containing Justin Jefferson. Entering a win-and-in scenario, the Packers should make sure Moore doesn’t beat them, which pushes him towards the back of the WR2 ranks.


Others: Drake London (@ NO), Adam Thielen (v TB)


Tight end


Thumbs Up of the Week: Dalton Kincaid (@ MIA)

This is a bet-on-the-talent recommendation for Week 18, as Kincaid broke out of a slump with four receptions for 87 yards in last Sunday’s win, and I would expect Buffalo to make him a significant part of the offense in their biggest game of the season. Regarding the matchup, Bradley Chubb (knee) being done for the year could potentially allow the Bills to get Kincaid out on more routes with Jaelan Phillips (Achilles) obviously out as well, so he’s a clear TE1.


Thumbs Up: Juwan Johnson (v ATL)

With lines of 2/38/1, 4/48/1, and 8/90/1 over the past three games, Johnson has been this season’s late breakout candidate at tight end—and he’s positioned to finish on another high note with four receptions for 45 yards in the first matchup against Atlanta. It might be asking too much for his touchdown streak to continue, but Johnson is at least a low-end TE1 option with growing trust from Derek Carr.


Thumbs Up: Tucker Kraft (v CHI)

Kraft is another tight end that has quietly emerged in recent weeks—going for fantasy-point totals of 8.5, 5.2, 8.4, 13.7, 8.0, and 7.8 since Thanksgiving. And like Johnson, he’s also set up to finish strong with Chicago allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, including 50 yards to fellow Green Bay rookie Luke Musgrave in his career debut. If you need a steady option, Kraft could be the guy.


Thumbs Down: None

Tight end is thinner than usual with Travis Kelce and David Njoku being among the options that might be resting for the playoffs, so another player to keep in mind is Austin Hooper because of the matchup versus a Denver defense that’s allowed a whopping 13.2 fantasy points per game to the position (most in the league).