Thumbs Up of the Week: Trevor Lawrence (v TEN)
Lawrence torched the Titans last month with 368 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-22 victory, so he should be viewed as a top-five option for Week 18 despite the trouble Dak Prescott had against Tennessee last Thursday night. Overall, Mike Vrabel’s defense is stingier up front than on the backend—which should lead to Jacksonville putting a lot on Lawrence’s shoulders with their season on the line.
Thumbs Up: Dak Prescott (@ WAS)
Those in a two-week championship are fortunate to have Dallas still playing for the NFC East crown and possible No. 1 seed—making Prescott a clear QB1 option that has gone 9-1 with an 18:3 touchdown-interception ratio versus Washington throughout his career. Furthermore, Prescott had 300+ yards and four touchdowns in post-Christmas matchups against Ron Rivera’s squad in both 2019 and 2021.
Thumbs Up: Aaron Rodgers (v DET)
Rodgers typically dominates on Sunday Night Football, and I would expect him to come out firing with Green Bay needing a win to make the playoffs. Detroit was able to contain the Packers in the first matchup this season (a 15-9 victory), but they are allowing the most passing yards per attempt in the league (8.0), and Rodgers is unlikely to disappoint with so much on the line. I have him as a top-ten option.
Thumbs Up: Jarrett Stidham (v KC)
Even as someone that liked Stidham coming out of Auburn, it was a shock to have him light up San Francisco’s defense for 365 yards and three touchdowns (two interceptions) in his first career start—which certainly puts him on the streaming radar for the final week of the season. Kansas City is already vulnerable against the pass, and potentially being without top cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (hip) could allow Stidham to put up numbers again in a shootout versus Patrick Mahomes.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Russell Wilson (v LAC)
It’s very encouraging for the future that Wilson has run more in recent weeks, and that includes two rushing touchdowns in a near upset win over the Chiefs last Sunday. However, he was limited to 188 yards and one touchdown through the air against the Chargers earlier this season, and I’d expect Los Angeles will force Denver to commit to the run this weekend. Wilson should be viewed as a QB2 with a limited ceiling if the rushing production doesn’t repeat.
Thumbs Down: Tyler Huntley (@ CIN)
Huntley is another option that’s reliant on producing as a runner—but that surprisingly hasn’t happened with yardage totals of 31, 15, 26, and 24 on the ground in four starts this year. He also hasn’t scored on the ground since coming off the bench for Lamar Jackson (knee) in Week 13, and I’m sure the Bengals will be extremely committed to stopping the run. We currently have Huntley as our overall QB18 for Week 18.
Thumbs Down: Teddy Bridgewater (v NYJ)
It’s unclear if Bridgewater (finger) will suit up with Miami hoping to sneak into the postseason, but he’d get another difficult matchup versus a Jets defense that has the NFL’s second-ranked pass defense in terms of both yards per game (192.5) and touchdowns (15) allowed. In the first meeting, Robert Saleh made sure that Tyreek Hill (47 yards) and Jaylen Waddle (23 yards) didn’t beat them, and the game plan should be the same this weekend.
Thumbs Down: Sam Ehlinger (v HOU)
I doubt anyone playing for a fantasy championship would consider Ehlinger based on the state of the Indy offense, but if you were, Houston quietly leads the league in touchdown passes allowed (13), and they’re the only defense with more interceptions (14) than scores allowed through the air. In two starts this season, Ehlinger absorbed 11 sacks and averaged 6.78 fantasy points per game.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Aaron Jones (v DET)
Jones has been dealing with some injury issues down the stretch, but he handled a healthy 16 touches for 113 total yards last week—and I expect him to be featured on Sunday night. Notably, Jones has absolutely destroyed the Lions with a whopping seven touchdowns in the past two home games against them, and we have him as a top-three option at running back for Week 18 with Detroit allowing 5.3 yards per carry on the season.
Thumbs Up: Zack Moss (v HOU)
Texans-Colts is a shaky game to put stock into with “tanking” being the elephant in the room, as I’m sure the Colts—as an organization—would love it if Houston didn’t get the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. That said, Jeff Saturday seems like a guy that would rather resign than not try to win, and Moss has arguably been Indy’s best offensive player over the past two weeks with 27 carries for 139 yards (5.2 YPC). Facing the league’s worst run defense, Moss should be a low-end RB2 that gets a more positive game script.
Thumbs Up: Latavius Murray (v LAC)
Chase Edmonds saw ten touches and impressed with 73 total yards last week, but Murray remained the lead back by handling 16 touches for 72 total yards. Now facing a Los Angeles defense that ranks towards the bottom of the league against the run and allowed Murray—after having just joined the team—to rush 15 times for 66 yards back in Week 6, the veteran should at least be a strong FLEX option if Denver can keep it close.
Thumbs Up: Damien Harris (@ BUF)
Harris returned from a four-game absence to turned 12 touches into 50 total yards last week—but the results were more encouraging than the production might suggest. In addition to playing a season-high 48% of the team’s offensive snaps, Harris caught all three of his targets (for 18 yards) and looked noticeably spry with the ball in his hands. He’ll be worth considering as a low-end RB2/FLEX option based on his history of success against the Bills (100+ rushing yards in all three meetings, including five touchdowns in those matchups).
Thumbs Down of the Week: David Montgomery (v MIN)
The absence of Justin Fields (hip) downgrades the outlook for Montgomery with more attention paid to him, and there is also a chance he won’t see a heavy workload anyway with the Bears looking ahead to 2023. In the first meeting, Chicago’s starter was saved by a rushing touchdown and 62 receiving yards, but Minnesota limited him to 12 carries for 20 yards on the ground; I’d consider Montgomery a risky FLEX rather than an RB2.
Thumbs Down: D’Onta Foreman (@ NO)
The hot-and-cold nature of Foreman’s game that I mentioned last week led to another low-floor outing for him (13 carries for 35 yards)—and now he’ll face a New Orleans defense that has played hard down the stretch to finish the season on a high note. With a limited role in the passing game and by splitting work with Chuba Hubbard, Foreman is ranked as more of a low-end RB3 on the road, and it might be wise to look elsewhere if you have a comfortable lead in a two-week matchup.
Thumbs Down: Matt Breida (@ PHI)
Saquon Barkley and the key players for the Giants are expected to rest this week, so I’d certainly be avoiding those who do play in lineups versus a Philadelphia team that’s attempting to lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Breida was limited to 15 total yards on five touches against the Eagles last month, and the run defense should get a boost if Jalen Hurts (shoulder) returns to get the offense moving for Philly. Breida is outside the top 40 at running back for me.
Thumbs Down: Cordarrelle Patterson (v TB)
Maybe the calendar needed to turn for it to happen, but Patterson was finally utilized as a pass-catcher last week with season-high in targets (eight), receptions (six), and receiving yards (42) after previously not recording 20+ receiving yards all season. However, Tyler Allgeier remained the lead back with 21 touches, and particularly with Tampa Bay said to be playing their starters, I’d rather avoid a 1B option on an offense that has scored more than 20 points just once since Halloween.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Christian Watson (v DET)
Watson was unable to connect on a deep ball last week despite multiple attempts from Aaron Rodgers, but the outing—with just one reception for 11 yards—makes me even more optimistic about his Week 18 outlook. Aside from the deep shots Rodgers kept taking at the athletic rookie, he encouragingly played 60% of the team’s offensive snaps despite barely practicing with a hip injury. Watson has major upside on Sunday night and should be in all lineups.
Thumbs Up: Jahan Dotson (v DAL)
The Commanders starting rookie Sam Howell complicates matters, but Dotson will perhaps be the No. 1 option for Washington with Brian Robinson Jr. banged up and Terry McLaurin set to draw shadow coverage from Trevon Diggs. The rookie was able to catch three-of-four targets for 43 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting before leaving with a hamstring injury, and Dallas has only gotten shakier in coverage since then—making Dotson a high-upside FLEX.
Thumbs Up: Kadarius Toney (@ LV)
Mecole Hardman (abdomen) having a minor setback last week might lead to Kansas City resting him until the postseason, so Toney—after catching four-of-four targets for 71 yards against the Broncos—should again get a chance to be a key part of the offense on Saturday. Las Vegas focusing on Travis Kelce after he scored four touchdowns against them in the first meeting could allow Toney to have a big game to begin Week 18.
Thumbs Up: Mike Williams (@ DEN)
Williams is listed here because he was contained in the first matchup versus Denver with two receptions for 17 yards in shadow coverage from Patrick Surtain II—but I’m anticipating a much more productive day in the rematch. Basically, Justin Herbert and the Chargers should know that Williams needs opportunities regardless of opponent, and the upside is too high for him to fall out of the high-end WR2 ranks.
Others: Diontae Johnson (v CLE), Jameson Williams (@ GB)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Jerry Jeudy (v LAC)
Jeudy was cooled off last week, but his hot streak before that could lead to fantasy owners continuing to view him as a WR2 option. The Chargers have really given the former first-rounder fits, though, limiting him to 39.5 receiving yards per game in two matchups since Brandon Staley has been in Los Angeles—and Jeudy has caught 15-of-35 targets against them for his entire career. Consider him a FLEX option this weekend.
Thumbs Down: Jakobi Meyers (@ BUF)
Meyers is another wideout that has struggled to produce versus a divisional opponent, as Buffalo has contained him to 29.9 receiving yards per game in seven career meetings, and he’s never scored against them. Perhaps the recent touchdown surge with a score in each of the past two games and Mac Jones leaning on him in a must-win will result in a strong showing, but Meyers is a wideout I’d classify as a low-ceiling FLEX.
Thumbs Down: Joshua Palmer (@ DEN)
There was hope that Palmer’s play for much of the season would lead to him remaining a big part of the offense with everyone healthy, but he’s been an afterthought with Mike Williams and Keenan Allen in the lineup—totaling 11 receptions for 118 scoreless yards over the past four games. It would probably take a touchdown and/or downfield chunk play for Palmer to be worth a start this week.
Thumbs Down: Terry McLaurin (v DAL)
As if shadow coverage from Trevon Diggs wasn’t enough, McLaurin will be counting on rookie Sam Howell to get him the ball on Sunday—and I doubt the North Carolina product wants to test the Cowboys’ playmaking cornerback too much in his first career start. Over the past two seasons, McLaurin has been limited to zero receptions, three receptions for 40 yards, and two receptions for 15 yards against Dallas.
Others: Marquise Brown (@ SF), Courtland Sutton (v LAC)
Thumbs Up of the Week: David Njoku (@ PIT)
Njoku was again contained last week, and his production with Deshaun Watson under center has been a major disappointment down the stretch. On the bright side, Njoku did have his best game of the season in the first matchup versus Pittsburgh with a 9/89/1 line, and the Steelers have allowed double-digit fantasy points to opposing tight ends in five of the past eight games. I still have Njoku as a TE1 play.
Thumbs Up: Hayden Hurst (v BAL)
Facing his former team with the AFC North title potentially on the line (depending on if there is a decision made regarding Bills-Bengals), Hurst should be a borderline TE1 option as a key part of Cincinnati’s offense. In Week 5, the former first-rounder caught six-of-seven targets for 53 yards and a touchdown versus Baltimore, and he’s offered a relatively high floor this year at a weak position.
Thumbs Up: Cade Otton (@ ATL)
Otton has simply been unable to get on the same page as Tom Brady in recent games—but that leads me to believe that the Bucs might want to get him going before the playoffs. The first matchup versus Atlanta saw Otton catch six passes for 43 yards on a season-high 94% of the snaps played, so maybe he can get back on track as the clear top option at tight end for Tampa Bay.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Dawson Knox (v NE)
Knox was shutout by the Patriots back in Week 13, and he’s not had a ton of success against them in the regular season with an 11/167/1 line in six career meetings. Buffalo’s tight end isn’t a bad option because of his touchdown potential, but a few other options get the edge over him at the bottom of the TE1 ranks.
Thumbs Down: Trey McBride (@ SF)
McBride enjoyed a breakout game last week with ten targets, seven receptions, 78 receiving yards, and his first career touchdown; but now he’ll face a San Francisco defense that is always stout versus opposing tight ends and should be angry based on how last week played out. Don’t chase the Week 17 production by playing McBride over a more stable option.
Thumbs Down: Hunter Henry (@ BUF)
Including playoffs, Henry has played three games versus the Bills since joining New England—and he’s caught just four-of-15 targets for 52 scoreless yards in those matchups. In general, I’d say it’s difficult to feel good about anyone for the Patriots this week other than Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris.