Fantasy Football Week 16: Keys to Victory

By | December 22, 2023

Fantasy football analyst Sal Vetri will use this space to deliver his keys to victory each week of the 2023 NFL season.

Finding No. 1: The best (RB) spot of the week belongs to Aaron Jones

He returned in week 15 and was somewhat limited. Jones only played 50% of the Packers’ snaps, but when he was on the field he earned touches. Jones totaled 17 touches for 69 yards in a tough game against the Bucs.

This week he finds himself in the best spot of the week as the favorite against the Panthers. Carolina is allowing the third-most points and fifth-most yards to opposing RBs this season. The Panthers also give up the highest efficiency in the league to running backs and Jones is in the top 10 in RB efficiency this year. Expect an expanded role this week as Jones gets healthier and the Packers battle injuries in their receiver room (more on that later).

Finding No. 2: The sketchy spot of the week belongs to Tony Pollard

Pollard had a down game in week 15 and this was mainly due to the game script. Pollard was quite efficient on the ground, gaining 52 yards on 11 carries, but he saw less usage as the Cowboys played from behind. Pollard now ranks 39th in running back efficiency this year.

This week he finds himself in a precarious spot as he is an underdog against the Dolphins’ No. 2-ranked defense. Miami has allowed the least production to RBs over the last month of the season. Last week we saw the very talented Breece Hall gain just 12 yards on six carries. The week before, Derrick Henry totaled 34 yards on 17 carries. This defense has allowed just 2.5 yards per carry to opposing backfields over the past month. Tempered expectations for Pollard in week 16.

Finding No. 3: The Pick-up-and-Play of the week is Parker Washington

Washington scored six goals in Week 15. He has now seen six goals in two of his last three games and is developing some chemistry with Trevor Lawrence. This is important because Zay Jones left in Week 15 with an apparent hamstring injury, and continues to do so week after week. Washington is expected to start for the Jaguars in Week 16.

His matchup would make him a pick-up-and-play option. Washington will face the Bucs, who allow the third-most production to opposing receivers. We saw this last week when both Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks each produced over 12 fantasy points. The fifth-round rookie is in a great spot this week; a favorable matchup and his team is pitching at the fourth highest level in the league.

Of course, this all depends on if Trevor Lawrence plays (concussion). If he does that, you can start Washington.

Dameon Pierce returned from injury in Week 12 and we saw this backfield become divided once again. But that changed in Week 14 when Singletary earned 13 carries to just four for Pierce. This divide in usage became even greater in the past week.

Singletary played 75% of the snaps and earned 30 touches, compared to just one touch for Dameon Pierce. Despite the massive usage, Singletary was very efficient, averaging 5.6 yards per touch and 170 total yards. This was his second game of over 160 yards this season. He will face an injured Browns defense in Week 16. Singletary is a starter this week.

Finding No. 5: The recovery of the week is Ezekiel Elliott

Elliott started his second straight game for the injured Rhamondre Stevenson in Week 15. After a 140-yard performance in Week 14, Elliott struggled against Kansas City in Week 15. Zeke totaled 46 yards on 16 touches. His production wasn’t great, but his usage was. Elliott commanded 88% of the snaps and over 70% of the backfield carries. This usage would have been even higher, but he was withdrawn late in the match. Rhamondre Stevenson is still not practicing and is in danger of missing Week 16.

This week, Elliott gets a much more favorable matchup. He will face a Denver-run defense that is allowing top-five production for opposing backfields this season. In Week 15, the Broncos allowed 185 rushing yards to Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery. The Patriots are six-point underdogs, so expect Zeke to remain involved in the receiving game. He has scored fourteen goals in the past two games.

Finding No. 6: Start Darren Waller, but monitor his usage closely

Waller returned in Week 15 and was expected to be limited in this game. This is exactly what we saw happen when Waller completed less than 50% of the Giants’ routes against the Saints. But here’s the good news: Waller was targeted 18% of the time in his first match with Tommy DeVito. This was second on the team behind Darius Slayton, who ran 50% more routes than Waller.

Waller’s usage is something to watch. He will face the Eagles in Week 16. Philadelphia has a man-sized defense, which is good news for Waller. He will have a built-in advantage against the Eagles’ linebackers, the weakest part of Philly’s defense. Start this week with Waller.

Finding No. 7: Consider streaming the Denver Broncos D/ST

The Broncos defense is available in over 50% of leagues. They only gave up 42 points to the Lions, but that was a brutal game for them. Denver’s secondary has been a top-10 unit over the last two months of the season. But the run defense remains poor. The game against Detroit’s No. 5-ranked rushing attack was never great.

But the Broncos’ schedule in Weeks 16 and 17 is favorable. Over the next two weeks they face Bailey Zappe and Easton Stick. Both the Patriots and Chargers pose no threat locally. Both rushing offenses rank in the bottom half of the league, with the Chargers being the third-worst in the NFL. The Broncos are an easy way to secure an upside playoff defense from the waiver wire at no cost. Add them if you still can.

Finding No. 8: Dalton Kincaid is moving down

Dawson Knox returned in Week 14 and it didn’t seem to affect Kincaid’s role. Kincaid still ran over 85% of the Bills’ routes and earned seven targets. But in week 15 his use changed. Kincaid only managed 65% of routes and earned two targets, while Knox saw his routes increase to around 50%.

Buffalo made its first run-heavy game script of the season possible. Josh Allen only threw 15 times. I wouldn’t panic here, but it’s worth noting that Dawson Knox’s usage did indeed increase after he was still a week removed from his injury. This is an outlier performance from the Buffalo offense; We won’t draw any drastic conclusions here, but we should keep an eye on this course in week 16.

Finding #9: Consider taking Joe Flacco off the waiver wire

Flacco was great in fantasy, while in real life he could just about get by. He leads the NFL in interceptions since becoming the Browns’ starter, completing just 58% of his passes. But he’s been good enough to pick up some wins and remain the Cleveland starter.

Through his three starts with the Browns, Flacco is averaging 313 yards per game and seven total touchdowns. This week he gets a Texans secondary that recently made Zach Wilson the AFC Player of the Week, throwing for 301 yards and completing 75% of his passes. You can stream Joe Elite this week.

Finding No. 10: Consider Dontayvion Wicks in deep leagues

The Packers are dealing with injuries in their receiver room. Christian Watson is still not practicing with a hamstring issue and Jayden Reed missed practice to start the week with a toe/chest injury. There’s a chance Wicks could play a bigger role against the Panthers in Week 16 if his own injury doesn’t hamper him.

Wicks is a fifth-round rookie out of Virginia. He broke out at age 20 with a 1,200-yard season and nine scores. His role with the Packers has continued to grow over the past month. His routes run have increased over the past four weeks and he is averaging 5.3 targets during this stretch. Wicks is coming off a career-high 97-yard performance in Week 15. He’s a deep-league option if Watson or Reed are out this week.

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