STATS 2018 Fantasy Football Projections: Week 16

By: Derek Wolff | December 21, 2018

It’s not your fault.

If you were a season-long fantasy player who got tripped up at the final hurdle this past weekend and lost your semifinal matchup, it’s not your fault. Well, it probably isn’t your fault.

Week 15 will likely be remembered for a long time as a giant killer. Statistical studs were cynically slain left and right in what became the lowest total fantasy scoring week in the past two years. Hell, Matt Ryan was the top overall quarterback in a week in which he threw for just 231 yards and two touchdowns.

If you somehow survived to fight for your championship in Week 16, congratulations! Nobody likes you and we’ve all become too engrossed in DFS plays to care.

This week, STATS took a position-by-position look around the NFL at some of the biggest names and best value plays, then compared our projections to the 90 experts that make up the Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) on FantasyPros.com. We did this to see where our models differed from the mainstream thinking, from a points-per-reception (PPR) standpoint for scoring purposes.

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta

  • Ryan eclipsed the 4,000 career completions mark in last week’s blowout win over Arizona and is closing in on career-bests in passing yards, rushing yards and completion percentage in a single season.
  • Atlanta’s backfield woes continued last week with an injury to Ito Smith, meaning they’ll rely heavily on Tevin Coleman in the running game this week. Against a stout Carolina rush defense, that should give Ryan more of an opportunity to throw and our model likes him at around 39 attempts this week, with an additional 64 percent chance to throw for 300 yards or more.
  • When these teams met in Week 2, Ryan carved the Panthers secondary up with a surgical 23 completions on 28 attempts for 272 yards and two touchdowns. Carolina has taken a step back this season and is allowing an average opponent passer rating of 99.3, seventh worst in the league.
  • Aside from Patrick Mahomes, Ryan has been the only other quarterback to stack top-10 fantasy performances in Weeks 14 and 15. He’s our QB No. 5 this week, up significantly from his ECR QB No. 10.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota

  • After a relatively down week, Kirk Cousins travels to Detroit to play against a Lions defense that underperformed last weekend against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.
  • Detroit is yielding 7.5 opponent passing yards per attempt, fifth-worst in the NFL, and 11.4 yards per completion, fourth-worst.
  • In new offensive coordinator (and former quarterbacks coach) Kevin Stefanski’s debut last week in a blowout 41-17 win over Miami, Cousins had a season-low 21 attempts. STATS likes the pair to rebound this week, with Cousins’ volume increasing to 36 attempts.
  • Every game down the stretch is a must-win for the playoff hopeful Vikings and we like Cousins’ chances here to make an impact. He’s our QB No. 6 this week, considerably higher than his ECR QB No. 15.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland

  • Mayfield has been a feather in the cap for fantasy players who stream quarterbacks in season-long leagues, and he seemingly has a plus-matchup this week when the Browns welcome former head coach Hue Jackson and the Bengals.
  • The Cincinnati rush defense has presented dream matchups for opposing running backs week after week, but the pass defense? Different story. Mayfield torched them for four passing touchdowns in Cleveland’s Week 12 35-20 win, but that’s an outlier for an improving secondary.
  • Cincinnati hasn’t allowed an opposing passer to throw for more than 300 yards in the past six weeks, including matchups against Mayfield (258), Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. They’ve additionally held opposing passers to one touchdown or fewer in each of the past three weeks and four of the last five.
  • Our model likes Mayfield to throw for under 300 yards this week as well as under two touchdowns. With the very real chance that the Browns turn to the run game early and often if the score gets out of hand, Mayfield’s down at our QB No. 18, compared to an ECR of QB No. 7.

Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee

  • Henry exploded back onto the fantasy scene over the past two weeks. If you own him in season-long leagues and decided to give him a chance last week after his breakout in Week 14, chances are he rewarded you with a trip to your championship game this week.
  • The tailback totaled 408 yards and six rushing touchdowns on 50 carries in his prior two games. This week the Titans will host a Washington side that’s been gashed by the run lately, yielding 176.3 opponent rushing yards per game over the past three weeks, second most in the NFL during that stretch.
  • Henry totaled just 128 carries in his first 12 games this season, so his recent volume suggests that he’s earned Mike Vrabel’s trust and should continue to see a higher percent of the overall workload. With the Redskins yielding 4.6 opponent rushing yards per attempt (5.7 over the past three weeks), STATS is giving Henry a 51 percent chance to rush for over 100 yards this week.
  • Henry’s one downside is that he doesn’t catch passes, so he’s been downgraded to ECR RB No. 15 this week in PPR scoring. But even as a non-factor in the receiving game we have him as our RB No. 9, estimating that he’ll receive around 21 carries, which should give him an excellent chance to find the end zone once again.

Theo Riddick, RB, Detroit

  • The Lions have been somewhat of a revolving door on offense this season, with new faces constantly added to the mix thanks to trades and injuries. The running back carousel has seemingly stopped for the rest of the season at the feet of Riddick.
  • Minnesota has been torched by the ground game lately, giving up a league-high 176.7 opponent rushing yards per game over its past three. The Vikings yielded four rushing touchdowns over that stretch and five in their past four contests.
  • With injuries plundering Detroit’s receiving options, STATS is projecting Riddick to receive 23 percent of his team’s total target share. When James White and the Patriots defeated the Vikings 24-10 in Week 13, White had seven receptions for 92 yards off nine targets. Riddick has been targeted on 19.2 percent of his snaps on offense this year, while White comparatively has been targeted 21 percent of the time he’s on the field on offense.
  • Riddick’s dual-threat abilities have placed him among our projected reception leaders at the running back position this week, and therefore we’ve got him as our RB No. 14, compared to an ECR as RB No. 28.

Tarik Cohen, RB, Chicago

  • After season highs in receptions (12) and receiving yards (156) against the Giants in Week 13, Cohen has fallen back down to Earth.
  • The electric runner has been held to a relatively paltry 51 receiving yards off nine receptions combined in his past two games, though he did have a receiving score last week against the Packers. He’ll now face a 49ers defense that has allowed just one receiving touchdown by a running back this season, the lone score coming via Todd Gurley all the way back in Week 7.
  • Cohen hasn’t received more than 10 carries in a game since Week 4 and has rushed for more than 50 yards just once in that time, so we’re not optimistic about his chances there, despite a relatively favorable matchup on the ground. STATS is projecting about eight carries for Cohen in this game.
  • Due to his clipped upside this week in the passing game, we like Cohen as our RB No. 21, down a bit from his ECR as RB No. 12.

Robert Woods/Brandin Cooks, WR, Los Angeles Rams

  • Jared Goff has had his fair share of struggles on the road this season but a weekend trip to Arizona should be a welcome one for the Rams, who’ve suddenly lost in back-to-back weeks after losing just once during their first 12 games.
  • When these teams met in Los Angeles’ 34-0 drubbing back in Week 2, Cooks exploded for 159 yards off seven catches, while Woods grabbed six for 81 yards. The memory of that performance might force Arizona to move star cornerback Patrick Peterson off Cooks and onto Woods, who has four or more receptions and 61 or more receiving yards in each of his past 13 games.
  • With Todd Gurley fighting an injury, we like Goff’s chances to throw plenty of times in what should be a get-right game. STATS is projecting Woods and Cooks to receive 44.5 percent combined of their team’s total target share and likes each wideout at around 100 yards receiving.
  • Cooks is our WR No. 7 this week, with Woods right behind at WR No. 8. Those figures are up slightly from their ECR rankings, with Woods at No. 12 and Cooks at No. 15, respectively.

Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets

  • Anderson closed out the 2017 season on a high note and looks poised to repeat that this season, with 17 receptions for 242 yards and two touchdowns over the past four weeks.
  • His 17 catches over that span have come via 30 targets, including a season-high 11 in last week’s loss against Houston. As the primary option in New York’s passing attack, we like Anderson’s total target share expectancy at 21.5 percent this week when the Jets host the Packers.
  • Green Bay is yielding nearly 50 yards more to opposing passers away from Lambeau Field.
  • With an excellent price point in DFS and a flex-worthy matchup for season-long leagues, Anderson is our WR. No. 15 this week, up slightly from his ECR WR No. 22 listing.

Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay

  • Across the field from Anderson, Green Bay’s receivers find themselves in a tasty matchup as well. The Jets have allowed one receiver to eclipse the 100-yard mark in each of the past three weeks and in four of the past five.
  • The Titans, Texans and Bills receiving corps combined for 60 receptions, 782 yards and four scores over the past three weeks. With all due respect, Green Bay’s passing offense should be considerably better than both Buffalo and Tennessee’s.
  • Cobb’s status is questionable as he recovers from a concussion, but if he plays he should be Green Bay’s second option in the passing game, behind Davante Adams, STATS’ WR No. 1 this week. We’re projecting Cobb to receive 19.5 percent of Green Bay’s total target share after averaging six targets per week over his last three games.
  • Cobb’s value as a slot receiver has him as our WR. No. 23 this week. He’s a relatively cheap DFS option and his potential given the matchup should easily exceed his ECR as WR No. 78.

Matt LaCosse, TE, Denver

  • Outside of a few players at the top, tight end continues to be a mercurial position. Oakland has been a sieve against tight ends this season so LaCosse finds himself in a friendly matchup.
  • The Raiders are yielding 70.2 yards per game to opposing tight ends this season, third most in the league. That number jumps to the highest in the NFL on a per-attempt basis.
  • LaCosse tied his season-high in receptions last week with four on a season-high six targets for 43 yards. Case Keenum spreads the ball out, so we like his chances to garner 17 percent of the team’s total target share this week, tied for second most and only one percent behind expected leader DaeSean Hamilton.
  • LaCosse is incredibly cheap in DFS this week and honestly you could do much worse if you’ve been streaming at the position in season long and aren’t confident in your matchup. He’s our TE No. 6, compared with an ECR of TE No. 27.

Greg Joseph, K, Cleveland

  • Joseph hasn’t missed a field goal in nearly two months, though admittedly his opportunities have been few and far between. He has, however, made 14 of 16 tries on the season.
  • The Bengals struggle to get off the field and therefore also routinely lose the time of possession battle. Cincinnati is allowing 7.1 opponent third down conversions per game, worst in the league by a wide margin (Atlanta is second worst at 6.0). Opponents have averaged 32:12 of possession against them this season, third most in the league.
  • Cincinnati allows 2.2 field goal attempts per game, sixth worst in the league and 2.8 per game on the road.
  • Our model is giving Joseph an excellent chance at kicking two field goals under 39 yards and one over 40, which makes him our K No. 9 this week. Given the matchup and his low price point, he’s a guy worth targeting in DFS and should outkick his ECR projection as K No. 18.

Cleveland Browns Defense

  • Remember when I rattled off those stats about the Bengals consistently losing the time of possession battle? That affects the amount of plays their offense can run per game, which helps explain why the Bengals run just 60.5, fifth lowest in the NFL. That number additionally dips to 58.0 per game when on the road, fourth lowest.
  • In four starts in lieu of Andy Dalton, Bengals quarterback Jeff Driskel has thrown one touchdown in each game, though he’s only eclipsed 170 passing yards once, in a 236-yard performance during a 24-10 loss to Denver in Week 13. He’s turned the ball over three times in that four-game span.
  • The Bengals have averaged 20.25 points per game since Driskel took over, including 20 when these teams met in Cincinnati in Week 12. Our model likes the Bengals to score slightly under that at around 18 points this weekend, giving the Browns a projected three sacks and a chance at two picks.
  • Behind only the Rams and Patriots, the Browns are our Defense No. 3 this week, up considerably from ECR Defense No. 10.

Chicago Bears Defense

  • The Bears defense has been a stalwart of the position all season long and with a seemingly plus matchup on the table against the 49ers it may be surprising to see that we’re not fans of the play this week.
  • Traveling to San Francisco this week and without newly-elected Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson, the Bears will face a 49ers offense that led the league in passing yards over the past three games, averaging 316.0. San Francisco is third overall in team yards per game during that span, averaging 397.3.
  • Quarterback Nick Mullens leads the NFL in both passing yards and yards per attempt during that time span, throwing for five touchdowns and two interceptions during the hot streak. The Bears are averaging 310.9 opponent yards per game against them, which is third best in the league, but that number jumps to 344.5 on the road, 10th best.
  • Coming off a NFC North clinching victory and traveling without one of its major assets, we’re down on this unit this week. The Bears are our Defense No. 13, despite an ECR ranking of Defense No. 1.