Like the McCallisters on their flight to Paris, I knew something was missing. As one does, I scoured the very depths of FanDuel, searching high and low for the week’s best bargains. Donkey-diving can feel icky (Nick Mullens and Chase Daniel have both made cameos in my FanDuel lineups this year), but with only $60,000 to work with and stars like Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott typically costing an arm and a leg, it’s a necessary evil. So, because I’m a Grinch and fantasy football will always take precedent over things like good tidings and holiday cheer, I decided to go full Abe Simpson and give FanDuel a piece of my mind.
— Jesse Pantuosco (@JessePantuosco) December 21, 2018
I do feel a little bad for airing my grievances so publicly, especially when FanDuel countered with a polite, entirely reasonable response.
We’re afraid Anderson was rostered after our contests were opened to the Lobby, so we’re not able to get him added this week. Sorry about that! He’ll be available going forward in post-season contests.
— FD Customer Support (@FanDuel_Support) December 22, 2018
I’d be lying if I said my cries for C.J. Anderson were completely altruistic. Sure, he would have been chalk, but can you imagine the kind of lineup you could put together slotting in a presumably minimum-priced Anderson in the flex spot? At least I gave it the ol’ college try, doing my best to shame the powers that be into freeing Anderson from DFS purgatory. And of course, because fantasy football is the greatest troll of all, Anderson balled all the way out in his Rams debut, blowing Arizona off the map with 167 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. In doing so, he became the first Ram other than Todd Gurley (the player he replaced on Sunday) to top 100 yards rushing since Tre Mason in 2014.
Anderson spent his brief, uneventful Carolina tenure buried behind Christian McCaffrey before getting a cup of coffee with the running-back-needy Raiders earlier this month (he never saw the field in his one-week stint). Yet somehow the stars aligned for the 27-year-old Cal product, who rushed for his most yards since Week 13 of 2014 just five days after opening Sean McVay’s playbook for the first time. And all any of us could do was watch, resenting FanDuel with each passing play, simmering in hatred as Anderson dragged the hapless Cardinals for 8.4 yards per carry. Now that Anderson has finally returned to the player pool, we can’t even enjoy him—the folks at FanDuel set his price at $6,200, not a king’s ransom by any means but certainly a much steeper cost than the $4,500 price tag he would have carried last week.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s turn the focus back to the Saints, who downed the Steelers to earn top billing in this week’s Power Rankings.
1. New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 1
Back home after a three-game road swing, the Saints survived the Steelers to lock up home field in the NFC. After snoozing through most of December, Michael Thomas finally showed a pulse, dusting Pittsburgh for 11 catches, none more important than his go-ahead touchdown with 1:25 remaining. Alvin Kamara used his Pro Bowl snub as motivation, blasting Pittsburgh for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Week 16. Ted Ginn shined in his return from a 10-game absence, delivering a clutch third-down conversion en route to a season-high 74 yards in Sunday’s win.
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2. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week: 4
C.J. Anderson did the heavy lifting at Arizona, but the game’s lopsided score also afforded more opportunities to sixth-round rookie John Kelly, who set a career-high with 11 touches in Sunday’s blowout. Robert Woods enjoyed his stay in the desert, blowing up for 104 yards and two touchdowns including his first career rushing score. The 26-year-old contributed his longest play of the season on a 39-yard touchdown bomb from Jared Goff. Aaron Donald’s 19.5 sacks this year are both a franchise record and the most ever by a defensive tackle.
3. Chicago Bears
Last Week: 5
Mitchell Trubisky has been a maestro, leading the Bears offense with a sizzling 119.4 quarterback rating over his last two starts. The Monsters of the Midway haven’t lost a game with Trubisky under center since Week 7 against New England. Feature back Jordan Howard has followed up a five-game scoreless spell by finding the end zone in consecutive weeks for the Bears, who are eying a first-round bye in the NFC. Among rookies, only Atlanta’s Calvin Ridley has scored more receiving touchdowns (nine) than second-round slot man Anthony Miller (seven).
4. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week: 2
The Chargers fell flat in their home finale, managing just 198 yards of offense and a season-low 10 points in Saturday’s loss to Baltimore. That snapped a four-game winning streak for the Bolts, who remain tied with Kansas City atop the AFC West. Melvin Gordon notched his career-high 14th touchdown in his return from a three-week knee injury, though the Ravens held him to a season-low 54 yards from scrimmage. Philip Rivers has hit a slight rough patch, hurling an uncharacteristic four interceptions with just two touchdowns over his last two outings.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 3
What would a shortstop look like as an NFL quarterback? Patrick Mahomes answered that with a new batch of highlight-reel moments in Week 16, wowing with jaw-droppers like these. The Seahawks got the better of Kansas City, but Damien Williams made them work for it, filling the stat sheet with 140 yards and a touchdown, his fifth of 2018. The Chiefs will have plenty on the line this week. They can secure downfield advantage with a win over Oakland, but a loss can drop them all the way to fifth in the AFC.
6. New England Patriots
Last Week: 7
The Bills had Tom Brady rattled in Week 16, holding the future Hall of Famer to his lowest quarterback rating (48.3) since Week 9 of 2006. While Nathan Peterman took over Brady’s body, Sony Michel was on the warpath, ripping Buffalo for 116 yards as New England locked up its 10th straight division title. Michel’s 73.4 rushing yards per game are the most by a Patriot since Steven Ridley averaged 78.9 back in 2012. The Patriots can clinch a first-round bye with a win against the Jets in Week 17.
7. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 10
A day after giving head coach John Harbaugh a public vote of confidence, the Ravens went out and took care of business on the left coast, battering the Chargers for their fifth win in six games under new starting quarterback Lamar Jackson. Speaking of Lamar, the former Heisman Trophy winner showed he can do more than just run, delivering a career-high 204 passing yards in Saturday’s triumph. A chunk of that production came on a 68-yard touchdown strike to Mark Andrews, who leads all rookie tight ends in receiving yards with 498.
8. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 11
Doug Baldwin channeled his inner Saint Nick in Week 16, treating fantasy owners to his fifth touchdown in as many games. This lunacy accounted for 27 of his season-high 126 yards. Chris Carson was also feeling festive, spreading yuletide cheer with 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Sunday’s upset of Kansas City. He’s Seattle’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2014. As a reward for his sixth playoff appearance in seven years, the Seahawks handed coach Pete Carroll a contract extension that will keep him in town through his age-70 season.
9. Houston Texans
Last Week: 6
The Texans have followed up a 10-game winning streak by dropping two of their last three including a heartbreaker to the Eagles in Week 16. That defeat may have cost Houston a shot at a first-round bye. Houston fell in spite of a brilliant performance by Deshaun Watson, who erupted for 339 passing yards and four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing). D’Onta Foreman’s rust was evident in his 2018 debut as the sophomore ball-carrier lost a yard on seven carries in his return from a torn Achilles.
10. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 8
They say if you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute, which apparently was the Colts philosophy in Sunday’s win over the Giants, a game they led for all of 57 seconds. Chester Rogers sealed it with a late touchdown, setting up a play-in game with Tennessee in Week 17. With Eric Ebron concussed and Jack Doyle (kidney) on injured reserve, former college hoops star Mo Alie-Cox could see the bulk of tight end snaps for Indy in this week’s finale.
11. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 12
A week after no-showing in Indy, the Cowboys bounced back by beating the Bucs at Jerry’s World in Week 16, clinching a division title in the process. That gave Dallas its second NFC East crown in three years. Amari Cooper began his Cowboys tenure with a bang, but he’s taken his foot off the gas, producing just eight catches for 52 scoreless yards over his last two showings. The Cowboys raised eyebrows by making Sean Lee a healthy scratch against Tampa, opting to start stud rookie Leighton Vander Esch in his place.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 15
Nick Foles was a rude host to the Texans in Week 16, demolishing Houston by throwing for a franchise-record 471 yards as the Eagles kept their playoff hopes alive by notching their fourth win in five games. Philadelphia couldn’t have done it without Zach Ertz, who broke out of a mini-slump with a 12-grab, 110-yard masterpiece. That brought his catch total to 113, a team record and the most ever by an NFL tight end. Josh Adams has seen better days, struggling to 1.88 yards per carry with a lost fumble over his last two outings.
13. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 14
It hasn’t been the smoothest ride for the Vikings, but even with all their missteps, they still control their own destiny in the NFC. No one said it would be easy though. To reach the playoffs, they’ll have to go through Khalil Mack and the red-hot Bears in Week 17. Winning comes first but Stefon Diggs also has his sights set on an individual milestone, needing just 26 yards for 1,000. If he gets there, it will give the Vikings their first pair of 1,000-yard receivers since Randy Moss and Cris Carter teamed up in 2000.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 9
Antonio Brown lit up the Saints for a season-high 185 yards in Week 16, though it came in a losing effort. AB upped his touchdown total to 15 in Sunday’s outburst, improving on his previous career-best of 13. JuJu Smith-Schuster, who kept fantasy owners in the loop after coming down with a mid-week injury, may have fumbled away the Steelers’ playoff chances with his late-game gaffe against New Orleans (he’s sorry, though). To capture the AFC North, the Steelers will need an assist from the Browns, who face the first-place Ravens in Week 17.
15. Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 13
Derrick Henry only scored one touchdown in Week 16? What a letdown. While Henry was slacking, teammate Marcus Mariota was out doing what he does best—getting injured. Here’s a sentence I never envisioned writing—Blaine Gabbert led a fourth-quarter comeback against the Redskins to keep Tennessee’s playoff hopes alive. I don’t know if Scott Van Pelt is taking submissions for his “Bad Beats” segment on SportsCenter, but here’s one: Malcolm Butler’s last-second pick-six of Josh Johnson made Saturday’s game hit the over (37).
16. Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 16
Baker Mayfield strengthened his Rookie of the Year credentials with another gem in Week 16, slaughtering Cincy for 284 yards and a trio of touchdown passes while giving the Browns their longest winning streak since 2014. Baker has owned the Bengals this year, torturing them for seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Jarvis Landry showed off his left arm Sunday by hooking up with Breshad Perriman for a 63-yard completion. With 28 more yards, Nick Chubb will become the Browns’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Peyton Hillis in 2010.
17. Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 19
Aaron Rodgers dug deep in a come-from-behind win over the Jets, supplying 442 yards and four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) in Sunday’s 44-38 slugfest at MetLife Stadium. Jamaal Williams was also a menace, bleeding New York for a career-high 156 yards from scrimmage while starting in place of injured workhorse Aaron Jones (knee). Antonio Brown and Julio Jones are bigger names, but the most consistent receiver in fantasy football resides in Green Bay. Davante Adams has logged either 100 yards or a touchdown in every game but one this year.
18. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 23
It took him a minute, but now that he’s read the instruction manual, Julio Jones is really getting the hang of this touchdown-scoring thing. He leads the league with seven receiving scores since Week 9. Speaking of touchdowns, Calvin Ridley’s nine end-zone visits this year are the most by a Falcons pass-catcher since Julio put up a 10-spot in 2012. Falcons running backs are dropping like Mandelbaums. With Devonta Freeman (groin) and Ito Smith (knee) both shelved and Tevin Coleman (groin) facing a similar fate, 2017 fifth-rounder Brian Hill may have to carry the load for Atlanta in Week 17.
19. Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 17
Like Clark Griswold’s Christmas lights, Miami’s broken offense can’t seem to find the “on” switch. Pop-armed Ryan Tannehill has taken the “game manager” label to its logical extreme, averaging a listless 163.6 yards over his last seven contests. A house-cleaning may be in order for the Dolphins, who could be tempted to pull the plug on erratic head coach Adam Gase. So the Dolphins’ choices are A) pay DeVante Parker (two touchdowns in his last 24 games) $9.4 million next year or B) yank him like they’re starting a mower. Never mind—there’s only one choice.
20. New York Giants
Last Week: 22
After spending most of the past two months drowning in mediocrity, Sterling Shepard finally came up for air in Week 16, throttling the Colts for 113 receiving yards including 90 in the first quarter. He had averaged just 26.3 yards in his previous seven games. Blow a 10-point second-half lead? Check. Lose on a last-gasp Eli Manning interception? Double check. Sunday’s collapse was textbook Giants. In his two seasons, Evan Engram has averaged 20 yards per game more (57.5 to 37.5) when Odell Beckham sits.
21. Washington Redskins
Last Week: 21
A once-promising season for the Redskins went down the drain with a loss to the Titans in Week 16. That put the kibosh on Washington’s playoff chances. Josh Johnson flew too close to the sun, struggling to a dismal 55.2 quarterback rating with two interceptions against Tennessee. Meanwhile Adrian Peterson added another page to his Hall of Fame resume by becoming the oldest player in 34 years to reach 1,000 yards rushing. D.J. Swearinger (No. 12 in PFF’s safety grades) was critical of the Redskins’ play-calling after Saturday’s defeat. In related news, Swearinger now plays for the Arizona Cardinals.
22. Denver Broncos
Last Week: 18
The Broncos continued their march to rock bottom with another loss Monday against the lowly Raiders. Phillip Lindsay injured his wrist in that game, but not before reaching 1,000 yards rushing, becoming the sixth Denver rookie to accomplish that feat and the first since 2002. Penn State alum DaeSean Hamilton has flourished in Emmanuel Sanders’ absence, scoring in two of his last three outings while contributing 20 catches during that span. Meanwhile free-agent bust Case Keenum has collapsed down the stretch, faltering to a 69.2 quarterback rating over the Broncos’ three-game losing streak.
23. Detroit Lions
Last Week: 25
Where are all the touchdowns? That’s what Matthew Stafford’s fantasy owners (are there any left?) want to know. Stafford can point to a back injury and a talent-drained pass-catching corps as reasons for his recent dry spell, but there’s no escaping the fact that he’s thrown just three touchdown passes over his last six contests. A knee injury spoiled what was shaping up to be an impressive debut season for Kerryon Johnson, who averaged a masterful 5.4 yards per carry during his rookie campaign.
24. Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 24
What a long, hard fall it’s been for LeSean McCoy. A Pro Bowl participant and 1,000-yard rusher as recently as last season, the 10-year vet has gone completely off the rails, averaging a ghastly 2.72 yards per carry over his last eight contests. Shady saw just nine touches in Sunday’s loss to New England while out-snapping undrafted rookie Keith Ford by a razor-thin 31-30 margin. Two-time Pro Bowler Lorenzo Alexander was a thorn in the Patriots’ side in Week 16, collecting a career-high 15 tackles while also intercepting Tom Brady in the losing effort.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 27
This year got away from the Bucs, but that hasn’t deterred Mike Evans from having his best season. He enters Week 17 just four yards shy of the team’s single-season receiving yards record currently held by Mark Carrier. Does Chris Godwin know the season is still going on? Someone might want to remind him as the Penn State alum has vanished over his last three games (four catches for 52 yards on 19 targets). Jacquizz Rodgers made his long-awaited return to the end zone in Week 16, erasing a 29-game touchdown drought in the loss to Dallas.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 29
Cody Kessler squandered his starting chance by imploding against Miami (12-for-17 passing, 106 yards, five sacks, one lost fumble), leading the Jags to reinsert perennial disappointment Blake Bortles in Week 16. Jacksonville’s offense has been an eyesore, struggling to just 45 points over the last four weeks. The sophomore slump has taken hold of Leonard Fournette, who ranks 48th out of 50 qualified rushers in yards per carry (3.3). At least the Jaguars are consistent—this will be the seventh time in eight years they’ve finished with double-digit losses.
27. Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 20
After weeks of downplaying Cam Newton’s shoulder woes, Carolina finally gave up the charade in Week 16, turning over the offense to Old Dominion product Taylor Heinicke. Christian McCaffrey continued his season-long dominance with another blow-up performance on Sunday, soaking up 178 yards (101 rushing, 77 receiving) in a loss to Atlanta. McCaffrey’s 106 catches are the most ever by an NFL running back. He’s also the first Panther to rush for 1,000 yards since Jonathan Stewart in 2009. The Panthers’ current seven-game losing skid is their longest since 2010.
28. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 28
To be competitive in the National Football League, winning the turnover battle is an absolute must. That’s probably why San Francisco (league-worst -21 point differential) has just four wins to its credit this year. Ever see a stat so baffling that it almost knocks you off your feet? See if this one does the trick: 45 individual players have more interceptions than the 49ers do as a TEAM (two) this year. George Kittle’s 1,228 receiving yards are the most by a Niner since Terrell Owens’ heyday in 2002.
29. New York Jets
Last Week: 30
Football minds generally agree that Sam Darnold has the look of a “future” star, but after seeing him hang a career-high 341 yards on the Packers in Week 16, the future may be right now. The rookie has been a magician for the Jets, earning a phenomenal 106.2 quarterback rating with six touchdowns against one interception over his last three starts. Elijah McGuire has endeared himself to fantasy owners by providing four touchdowns over his last three games with two coming in Sunday’s loss to Green Bay.
30. Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 31
The Raiders closed out the Coliseum in style on Monday night, throttling the Broncos for their second win in three games. Stockton, California native Doug Martin brought out the big guns, rushing for his most yards (107) since Week 11 of 2015. There’s no doubt Jordy Nelson has lost a step (or several), but he’s still been productive down the stretch, collecting 75 yards or more in three of his last four appearances. Monday was only Jon Gruden’s second career win in 12 games against Denver.
31. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 26
Cincinnati’s season of horrors continued with another disheartening defeat Sunday at Cleveland as the Bengals fell for the sixth time in their last seven games. John Ross added his seventh touchdown of the year in Week 16. That’s a feather in the sophomore’s cap, though the rest of his profile needs work. Ross ranks near the bottom of the league in catch percentage (37.7) and is tied for 189th in receiving yards with 209. Joe Mixon’s 224 rushing attempts this year are the most by a Bengal since BenJarvus Green-Ellis handled 278 carries in 2012.
32. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 32
Sunday was more of the same for overmatched rookie Josh Rosen, who collapsed in another humiliating defeat, this time at the hands of the division-rival Rams. In fact, Arizona’s lone touchdown pass came from wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who found David Johnson all alone for a 32-yard score. That was Fitzgerald’s first passing touchdown in 233 NFL appearances. Chad Williams tanked in his return from a six-game absence, providing just one catch for seven yards in the loss to L.A. He’s reeled in just 15-of-42 targets (35.7 percent) since arriving as a third-round pick in 2017.
Biggest Jump: Falcons 5
Biggest Drop: Panthers 7
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