Week 16 served as the title game for many fantasy leagues and in order to bring home a championship, you probably needed Rams RB Todd Gurley on your team. The Christmas Eve slate featured many playoff scenarios being decided, along with the return of Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott. Here’s a full run down of the day’s action.
Snowy conditions in Chicago lead to a run-heavy offense for the Bears as they easily dispatched the still winless Browns, who clinched the top overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft with their 15th loss of the season. The Browns visit Pittsburgh next week for their final chance at avoiding a winless season.
The Bears leaned on their running game and as he’s shown through most of the season, RB Jordan Howard is very game-script dependent. With the Bears in control for most of the game, Howard drew 22 carries, but only turned those into 44 rushing yards. He did save his fantasy box score with a pair of rushing touchdowns against the solid Browns run defense. Rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky also used ground work to prop up his fantasy numbers, tying Howard with 44 rushing yards and a rushing score of his own. Otherwise, Trubisky threw for 193 scoreless yards. WR Kendall Wright remained the top target for the Bears, catching four balls for only 27 yards. Rookie TE Adam Shaheen missed another game with a chest injury.
Rookie QB DeShone Kizer, who was nearly benched after last week’s loss, had a very typical stat line, throwing for 182 scoreless yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Unlike the Bears, Cleveland barely ran the ball at all as RBs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson combined for 16 carries for 64 yards. Johnson did lead the team in receiving, catching all seven targets for 81 yards. The team’s talented pass-catchers made very little impact on this game. WR Josh Gordon led the team with eight targets, but caught only two passes for 19 yards. WR Corey Coleman posted a 1/3 line on six targets and rookie TE David Njoku caught one pass for 13 yards.
One of the surprises of the day was the Bengals’ hard-fought win over a Lions team that needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. In a back and forth game, the Bengals had the answers for every Lions score and then doubled their scoring in the fourth-quarter alone to pull off the big surprise and eliminate the Lions. The Bengals got rookie RB Joe Mixon (concussion) back but he didn’t last long as he exited the game with an ankle injury after just five touches. Veteran backup RB Giovani Bernard then came in and took over the game, totaling 168 yards and a touchdown, carrying the Cincinnati offense. WR A.J. Green broke out of his mini-slump, catching six passes for 81 yards on a team-high 10 targets.
Lions QB Matthew Stafford reverted to some of his old bad habits and was very inefficient, throwing for just 203 yards and a touchdown, along with one pick. Detroit’s three-man backfield continued with rookie RB Tion Green the most effective on the ground, rushing for 43 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. TE Eric Ebron stayed hot, leading the team with 83 yards and a score on five receptions. The Lions needed Ebron because the team’s top wideouts floundered, with WR Marvin Jones gaining 50 yards on three receptions and WR Golden Tate posting a 3/14 line. The Bengals had some defenders back from injury and the Lions felt the impact.
Kansas City- 29
The Chiefs showed once again they are over the mid-season lull that threatened their playoff spot. With a convincing win over the Dolphins, Kansas City clinched their second straight AFC West title. QB Alex Smith threw for 300+ yards for the fifth time this season and eleventh time in his career. The entire Chiefs offense was at the top of their games Sunday, with RB Kareem Hunt matching a career-best with 29 rushes for 91 yards and a touchdown. He also caught all four of his targets for 15 yards. WR Tyreek Hill caught six of seven targets for 109 yards, including a long reception of 52 yards. TE Travis Kelce posted a 4/47/1 line on a team-high eight targets.
The Dolphins were in the running in the first-half before being shut out after intermission as the Chiefs ran away with the game. QB Jay Cutler threw for 286 yards and a touchdown. He targeted his go-to WR Jarvis Landry early on, but after the wideout lost a fumble, Cutler began to spread the ball around. WR DeVante Parker (5/63) led the team with 10 targets and WR Jakeem Grant (4/107/1) enjoyed a career-best game. Landry finished with five catches for 51 yards, continuing his streak of at least five receptions in every game this season. RB Kenyan Drake slowed down his recent torrid pace, rushing for 57 scoreless yards on 13 carries and failing to catch any of his three targets.
Tampa Bay- 19
This should’ve been a lopsided battle between one of the league’s hottest teams and a struggling Buccaneers teams, but instead it looked like a game neither team really wanted to win with many mistakes on both sides. In the end, Panthers QB Cam Newton fumbled, recovered the ball and scored from three yards out for the go-ahead score with just over 30 seconds remaining to give his team the win. Newton finished with only 160 scoreless passing yards, but led the team with 52 rushing yards and the game-winner. Both RBs Christian McCaffrey (58 total yards) and Jonathan Stewart (18 yards) were largely ineffective, while WR Devin Funchess busted once again, catching three balls for 11 yards. TE Greg Olsen wasn’t able to repeat his big game from a week ago, posting a 3/27 line.
Although Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston avoided throwing an interception, he did lose multiple fumbles, along with his 367 passing yards and one touchdown. Veteran RB Doug Martin was back among the active Bucs, but was clearly playing a backup role to RB Peyton Barber, who finished with 55 total yards, compared to Martin’s six rushes for seven yards. Expect next week to be Martin’s final game as a Buccaneer. WR Mike Evans put together his second straight strong game, catching six passes for 107 yards. That was Evans first 100-yard game since Week Twelve of 2016. With WR DeSean Jackson out, rookie WR Chris Godwin saw increased playing time and made the most of it with 98 yards on three receptions. TE Cameron Brate flopped even with rookie TE O.J. Howard done for the year. Brate posted a 3/13 line and Howard will clearly be the Tampa Bay TE to own in 2018.
New Orleans- 23
The NFC face off of potential playoff teams Atlanta and New Orleans would end with one teams punching their post-season ticket with the other left to wait another week. In this situation, you might expect a close game throughout, but the Saints ran away with this one and then held on as the Falcons attempted a late comeback. This game was not the offensive spectacle that most expected with a combined three touchdowns. Saints QB Drew Brees threw for 239 yards and a touchdown, spreading the ball around to his backs and receivers. There was some concern that WR Michael Thomas would miss the game after he dealt with a hamstring issue late in the week, but he suited up and caught four passes for 66 yards. WR Ted Ginn caught Brees’ only touchdown of the day, a 54-yarder, leading him to a 4/76/1 line for the game. We are at this point after watching Saints RBs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara that we don’t even get excited about their level of production. Ingram finished with 66 total yards and a touchdown, while Kamara totaled 90 yards, leading the team with nine targets.
On again, off again superstar WR Julio Jones was certainly on against the Saints, despite coverage from rookie DB Marshon Lattimore. Julio caught seven of his 11 targets for 149 yards. RB Devonta Freeman disappointed, totaling 56 scoreless yards and losing a fumble inside the five-yard line. RB Tevin Coleman (concussion) returned to the field and made an impact in the receiving game, catching all four targets for 40 yards and a touchdown.
LA Rams- 27
The dramatic turnaround of the Rams hit a pinnacle Sunday as the team clinched their first division title since 2003 in the same week that former HC Jeff Fisher essentially took credit for the team’s success and suggested he wants to coach in the league once again. This game was back and forth the entire time as the Titans continue to compete despite the season-long struggles of their offense. QB Jared Goff eclipsed the 300-yard barrier along with his four passing touchdowns. Rookie WR Cooper Kupp posted a 4/65/1 line and WR Sammy Watkins caught another touchdown among his three receptions for 30 yards. The story for the Rams though, as it has been for much of the season, is the MVP caliber season of RB Todd Gurley. Gurley led the team in both rushing and receiving and totaled 276 yards and two touchdowns. Gurley set new career-highs with his 13 targets, 10 receptions, 158 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. Considering most fantasy league playoffs span from Weeks 14 through 16, Gurley has clearly won many fantasy footballers some championships, averaging over 41 PPR fantasy points per game.
The Titans just couldn’t match the offensive firepower of the Rams, but they came very close. Rookie WR Corey Davis left the game early with a minor injury, but returned and enjoyed a career-best day, catching six passes for 91 yards. The Tennessee running game continued to disappoint as RB DeMarco Murray and RB Derrick Henry combined for 23 rushes for 73 yards, though Murray did add a rushing score to aid his stat line. Fantasy bust QB Marcus Mariota threw for 275 yards, but failed to find the end zone. WRs Eric Decker (6/73) and Rishard Matthews (2/48) posted reasonable numbers, but were far from week winners.
New England- 37
In an AFC East battle, this game was much closer than the final score would appear as New England, led by RB Dion Lewis, pulled away with two fourth-quarter scores. Lewis was expected to dominate with RBs Rex Burkhead and James White out for the game and despite a slow start, he didn’t disappoint. Lewis finished with 153 total yards and a pair of touchdowns, rankings him as a top five fantasy RB for the week. TE Rob Gronkowski continued both his strong recent play, along with his usual dominant play against the Bills. Gronk led the team with five receptions for 67 yards and a beautiful one-handed touchdown catch. QB Tom Brady bounced back from some recent poor fantasy performances to throw for 224 yards and two scores, though he did throw a pick six in the first half. WR Brandin Cooks flopped, just as he did in the first game between the two teams, catching two passes for 19 yards. RB Mike Gillislee was active for the first time in weeks and rushed for a touchdown against his former team.
The Bills failed to score an offensive touchdown and QB Tyrod Taylor struggled, throwing for 281 scoreless yards. After the Bills had multiple first-half calls go against them, including what looked to be a touchdown for WR Kelvin Benjamin was overturned, they seemingly gave up the fight. RB LeSean McCoy rushed for 71 yards and also added 76 receiving yards. WR Deonte Thompson (4/91) and Benjamin (5/70) both finished with solid fantasy numbers despite the Bills overall lack of offense.
The Broncos have had a majorly disappointing season and they were never in the game against the Redskins, who bounced back after dealing with multiple significant injuries throughout the season. QB Kirk Cousins threw for 299 yards and three scores, finding WR Jamison Crowder (4/47/1), WR Josh Doctson (2/61/1) and TE Vernon Davis (2/42/1) for touchdowns. Rookie RB Samaje Perine left the game early with an injury and totaled 74 yards before he departed. Backup RB Kapri Bibbs drew some pre-game hype as a sleeper option, but totaled 54 yards on nine touches, not quite the expanded workload the coaching staff suggested prior to the game.
Broncos RB C.J. Anderson continued his resurgent late-season play, totaling 133 yards and a touchdown, including a rare heavy passing game role, catching a team-high seven passes. With QB Brock Osweiler under center, it is no surprise the passing offense flopped. WR Demaryius Thomas led the team with a 4/52 line, while WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer missed the game with injuries.
LA Chargers- 14
NY Jets- 7
With the Chargers playoff chances out of their hands and the Jets season long over with, this game featured almost no offensive production from either side. Chargers QB Philip Rivers threw for 290 yards and a touchdown, while RB Melvin Gordon totaled 128 yards and a touchdown. With TE Hunter Henry out for the year, veteran Antonio Gates had one last hurrah, catching six passes for 81 yards and a score. WR Keenan Allen saw a team-high 10 targets, hauling in five for 63 yards.
Veteran RB Bilal Powell served as nearly the entire Jets offense, rushing for 145 yards and a touchdown. QB Bryce Petty threw for only 119 yards and looked to be in danger of being benched for QB Christian Hackenberg, though the team’s former second-round pick never saw the field. WR Robby Anderson once again led the team in receiving with a 5/51 line, but there just wasn’t much passing offense to go around.
NY Giants- 0
The Cardinals posted their first shut out in 25 years and veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald, potentially playing in his final home game of his career, looked more like a 23-year old superstar. Fitz matched a season-high with 15 targets, catching nine for 119 yards and a score. Fitzgerald even completed a pass for 21 yards. The Cardinals didn’t have much more to speak of on offense, but WR John Brown did catch a 15-yard touchdown. There was some concern that new starting RB Kerwynn Williams could miss the game, but he played, rushing for 51 yards on 16 carries.
Giants veteran QB Eli Manning threw for 263 scoreless yards, spreading the ball around. Four different pass-catchers saw at least seven targets, with TE Rhett Ellison leading the way with a 4/60 line. WR Sterling Shepard caught five balls for 45 yards. TE Evan Engram left the game early after catching one pass for 12 yards and was unable to return. It is also worth noting that rookie RB Wayne Gallman continues to slowly take over the backfield, rushing 10 times compared to nine total carries for RBs Orleans Darkwa and Paul Perkins. Although he only gained 18 yards on the ground, Gallman’s work in the passing game (6/44) gave his fantasy numbers a boost.
This game was a big one and should’ve been the headliner for the day. It featured a pair of teams hanging onto playoff hopes, though the loser of this game would be officially eliminated. It also featured the return of superstar RB Ezekiel Elliott from a six-game suspension. The Cowboys offense has struggled without Zeke, but many expected him to remedy those issues on Sunday. Elliott got off to a hot start with over 50 rushing yards in the first-quarter, but slowed down and finished with 118 total yards on 28 touches. QB Dak Prescott’s woes continued as he threw for 182 scoreless yards and two interceptions. Although WR Dez Bryant led the team with three receptions and 44 yards, his struggles continued, including a blatant dropped pass that led to an interception. There is reason for growing idea that Bryant and the Cowboys could be headed for a divorce following the season.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson wasn’t much better, though he did protect the ball. Wilson finished with just 93 passing yards, but did connect for two touchdowns. He also led the team with 29 rushing yards. Veteran TE Jimmy Graham’s woes continued with just one reception, though he made it count as a three-yard score. Graham now has just two catches for two yards in his past three games combined. WR Doug Baldwin led the team with his 4/35/1 box score.
San Francisco- 44
The story of the day and of the past month in the NFL has been 49ers starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo. After the team turned to the former Patriots backup to lead the team, the 49ers won three games in a row. Many argued that the quality of their opponents, the Bears, Texans and Titans, didn’t really tell us much about how well Garoppolo or the team overall was playing. That would change Sunday as the Niners played host to the Jaguars, champions of the AFC South and a 10-game winner. All Garoppolo and San Fran did was get out to an early lead and then pull away with a three-touchdown final quarter for their fourth consecutive win. 49ers beat writer Eric Branch pointed out that before their current four-game winning streak, it took the 49ers 31 games to earn four wins.
Garoppolo threw for 242 yards and a pair of touchdowns, though he did throw an end zone interception after the ball was tipped. Rookie RB Matt Breida used a late-game 30-yard touchdown run to outrush starting RB Carlos Hyde 74-54, though both backs found the end zone on Sunday. WR Marquise Goodwin was shut down by the Jaguars strong pass defense, catching three passes for 37 yards. The Niners spread the ball around, but surprisingly, FB Kyle Juszczyk led the way with a 5/76 line.
Jaguars QB Blake Bortles played like the Bortles of old, throwing a trio of interceptions, including one that was returned for a 49ers touchdown. Bortles did throw for 382 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Rookie RB Leonard Fournette never got going, rushing for 48 yards on 18 carries, but he did chip in 22 yards as a receiver. In their comeback attempt in the second-half, the Jaguars used pass-catching back T.J. Yeldon and he ended with 77 total yards and a score. We can stop asking if rookie WR Keelan Cole is for real. For the third consecutive game, Cole had at least 99 receiving yards. This time, his 6/108 line on 13 targets led the team. Fellow rookie WR Dede Westbrook posted a 4/74 line.
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