Week 16 Fantasy Preview: AFC North

 

First and foremost, win that ‘Ship this weekend! If you need ANY advice not covered below for this crucial weekend, hit me up on Twitter (@DFF_JoshB) and I’ll help you bring home the hardware!

What We Learned from Last Week

Two Heartbreaking Losses

In a potential AFC Championship Game Preview, Ben Roethlisberger (22/30 281 Yds, 2 TDs 1 INT) made one mistake the entire game. Unfortunately, that bad decision was throwing into a tight window in the RZ with 10 seconds left. The pass was picked off, and the game was over. While Big Ben’s stats were solid, if unspectacular, from a fantasy perspective, the majority of his production came after Antonio Brown exited the game with a severe leg injury (AB has a partially torn calf muscle and will miss the rest of the regular season). Even without the best WR in the league, the former Miami (OH) RedHawk is a rock-solid QB1 in the Fantasy Super Bowl against Houston’s pass-funnel D who has given up the second most fantasy points to QBs on the season.

Le’Veon Bell, per usual, had a strong performance for his fantasy owners with 117 yards and a TD on the ground while adding five receptions for 48 yards through the air. In a hard rain sans Antonio Brown, the Steelers leaned heavily on Bell (24 carries) and the run game. Bell should get a similarly large workload again this Sunday. The Michigan State product might need to do some of his damage in the passing game as Houston is a Top 10 D against the run (10th), but struggles in the secondary (27th ranked pass D).

A Minneapolis Beatdown

Andy Dalton’s atrocious play (11/22 113 Yds 2 INTs) led to his fourth-quarter benching for A.J. McCarron with the game already out of hand. The pessimistic prediction of a low single-digit PPR finish for A.J. Green (2/30/0) came true thanks to the Red Rifle’s misfiring, along with lockdown coverage from Xavier Rhodes and the MIN secondary. With or without a QB change, and despite a tough matchup against CB Darius Slay and the Lions, I’m still starting Green in my Fantasy Championship. Green has 32 targets in his past three games, and I expect him to use this volume and follow a similar script to Week 13. The Pro Bowl WR  overcame both shaky QB play and a tough matchup against Pittsburgh to produce 7/77/2, and I expect similar this Sunday. Giovani Bernard struggled both on the ground (14/30) and through the air (3/13), but a late garbage-time TD saved his fantasy day. If Joe Mixon gets out of concussion protocol before Sunday, Gio will return to the fantasy back bench. No matter who starts at RB for the Bengals, they will be in the RB2 conversation as the Lions have given up the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing RBs this season.

What to Watch For

Can You Trust Josh Gordon to Win You a Fantasy ‘Ship?

Fantasy owners of Josh Gordon who expected the troubled WR to give them an edge in their Semifinal matchups were disappointed with his 5/47/0 final stat line against Baltimore. Gordon once again led the team with 11 targets, but he and Kizer were not on the same page all day. JG has been targeted 28 times in three games. Unfortunately, he’s only converted those 28 targets into 12 receptions, 201 yards, and a TD. If you survived and advanced, even with Gordon’s mediocre performance, can you trust the Baylor product not to lay an egg in the Championship?

Talent and opportunity are the hallmarks of success in fantasy football. Nobody will ever doubt Gordon’s natural, God-given abilities and he’s getting plenty of opportunities (targets). However, those opportunities are originating in a dumpster fire of an offense led by an overmatched rookie QB. Head Coach Hue Jackson hinted at benching Kizer in his post-game presser but decided against it on Monday. No matter who plays QB for the Browns in Week 16, Gordon is a WR3/Flex play with a floor of 5-9 points and WR1 upside. If you are a decided underdog in your matchup, play Gordon for the upside. If you’re favored, or the contest is too close to call, you will need to determine the risk/reward of playing Gordon over a safer option on your bench.

The Ravens RBs

The exact moment when the fantasy community coins Alex Collins as a must-start, he lays an egg in a plus matchup in the Fantasy Semifinals. Collins subpar rushing performance (12/19), he was stuffed twice at the goal line, almost sank his fantasy day but his usage in the passing game (5/33) helped prop us his floor. Javorius “Buck” Allen (13 Car/70 Yds) took the last ten carries of the game as Collins appeared banged up, but John Harbaugh assured reporters Collins left the game with no major injury concerns. Collins is a high-end RB2, and Allen has some flex appeal in a tasty matchup against a Colts run D that has allowed the fifth highest rushing yards to opposing RBs on the season.  

Who Drops the Boom

JuJu Smith-Schuster & Martavis Bryant

Both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant picked up the baton and ran with it for the Steelers’ WR corps following the loss of AB early in the game.  In his return from a one-game suspension, JSS caught all six of his targets for a scoreless 114 yards. Smith-Schuster made the play of the day for the Steelers when he took a short crossing route 69 yards to put the Steelers in position to win the game. Bryant (4/59/1 )looked to be a key cog in the Steelers’ gameplan as he made both a diving 39-yard catch and a spectacular one-handed TD catch right before halftime. With AB already ruled out for the game, both JuJu and Martavis have a golden opportunity in a great matchup against Houston’s fantasy-friendly secondary (4th most points allowed to opposing WRs on the season). JSS is a WR2 with sky-high upside as he looks to inherit the most volume from Brown while Bryant is more of a low-end WR2 with similar ‘Ship winning upside. Start both of these men with confidence as this Houston secondary just gave up 11/247/3 to the combination of Jayden Mickens and Keenan Cole from Jacksonville.  

Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco (26/42 288 Yds, 1 TD, 0 INTs) had another solid fantasy day in a victory over the hapless Browns giving him 826 yards, 5 TDs, and 1 INT in his last three games. I recommended Flacco as a deep-league streamer for those who lost Carson Wentz (hand raised!) and the Delaware product did not disappoint. Flacco is not only a rock-solid QB1 in Week 16, but over 300 yards and multiple touchdowns are not out of the question against a reeling Colts defense. The same Indy defense who made Brock Osweiler (Yes, that Brock Osweiler) look like vintage Peyton Manning on TNF with a near perfect (147.7) QB rating. If you depended on Aaron Rodgers playing in Week 16 then pick up Flacco immediately off waivers and feel confident starting him in your championship. [Author’s Note: The weather report calls for a quarter inch of rain around game time, monitor this situation as it gets closer to game day as you CANNOT start Flacco in a driving rain.]

Who Drops the Ball

The Entire Browns Offense Besides Josh Gordon

The Browns were dominated by a seasoned Baltimore team and DeShone Kizer’s erratic play (3 turnovers) continues to ruin any fantasy relevancy for his pass-catchers (even Josh Gordon [see above]) as Corey Coleman (1/16) and David Njoku (0/0) could not continue their momentum from Week 14. You are a Fifty Shades of Grey-like sadomasochist if you start any members of the Browns passing game not named Josh Gordon in your Fantasy Championship. Isaiah Crowell gained the majority (59) of his 72 yards on one long run while Duke Johnson Jr. found paydirt on the ground (7/23/1) while contributing in the passing game (5/40). Both Duke and the Crow are risky flex options against the Bears solid run defense (9th fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs) as there’s neither rhyme nor reason to Hue Jackson’s workload distribution to his RBs.

  

jbrickner

I have been playing fantasy football since 1995 when I was 10 years old. When not locked in the grip of my fantasy football addiction, I love having my heart broken by Cleveland professional sports teams, quenching my thirst for travel with my wife, and taking long walks with my four-legged best friend Roosevelt. My wife and I will often joke that fantasy football is my mistress, and I look forward to sharing my love for my mistress with the world! Give me a follow on Twitter @DFF_JoshB.

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