Congratulations on surviving Week 16 and making it to the fantasy football championship. Last week's Five Players to Fade article did not age well as the NFL decided it was “Opposite Day” for a number of important matchups. Despite some head-scratching production, it's still important to look at teams' strengths and weaknesses to determine who has the opportunity and who should be played at your own risk.
Remember, this is not a must-sit piece. This explores certain players who have difficult matchups and should be treated with caution. If you have to start any of these players in your lineups, surround them with safe-floor, high-upside options to cover any deficit in your overall score.
Carolina Panthers Running Backs
I am lumping both Chuba Hubbard and D'Onta Foreman into one fade segment. Last week, both Foreman and Hubbard shocked the Lions and managers with dominant performances. Detroit boasted the best defense against running backs over the last four weeks heading into Week 16's game. In spite of that, Foreman and Hubbard rushed for 165 and 125 yards respectively and Foreman added a touchdown for 22.5 fantasy points in half-PPR scoring.
It is a reminder that anything can happen in the NFL.
This week, the Panthers will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who badly need a win. Over the last four weeks, they are ranked 20th against the run, so there is an opportunity for Foreman or Hubbard to be successful. However, the Buccaneers are averaging just 93.7 yards per game on 21 carries. Plus, no offense to the Lions or their fans, but Tampa Bay's defense is more robust and capable of limiting the run than Detroit.
It's unlikely that the Buccaneers will allow over 200 yards rushing. Either Foreman or Hubbard will have to score a touchdown to save their fantasy production. Treat either back as a low-floor option if you have them in your starting lineup.
Fantasy football guru Matthew Berry has joined the team and his two shows have you covered all season long. Spend weekdays at noon with the Fantasy Football Happy Hour and then, every Sunday at 11am getting ready for kickoff with the Fantasy Football Pregame. Watch both shows live on Peacock and catch replays for the weekday show on the NFL on NBC YouTube channel.
As of 9:00 am on Wednesday, Ron Rivera named Carson Wentz the Commanders starting quarterback. Fading him should go without saying, but he is in this piece due to the volume of start/sit questions I have been fielding. Wentz came into last week's game after Taylor Heinicke was benched in the second half. He went on to complete 12 of 16 attempts for 123 yards and a touchdown in their loss to the 49ers.
While that only translated into 8.92 points, there could be an argument that Wentz was shaking off some rust and only played one half. I don't buy it. Wentz can throw three interceptions as easily as three touchdowns on a good day, let alone against a tough defense.
The Commanders are taking on the Cleveland Browns who are ranked first against quarterbacks over the past four weeks. A majority of that is due to the success of the opposing offense in the run game. Still, between Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson, the Commanders will likely manage Wentz's passing and avoid turnovers and stick to the run. His upside is limited and his floor can possibly be in the single digits, even with a full four-quarters of football.
This is going to be a situation of “if this, then that” when it comes to Marquise Brown. If Colt McCoy is starting, Brown should be considered a high-upside but low-floor option behind DeAndre Hopkins. If Trace McSorley starts, Brown and Hopkins will have to fight for dominance over the safety blanket that is Greg Dortch.
With McSorley under center, Dortch saw 11 targets, Hopkins had 10, and Brown had only six. Despite Hopkins' 10 targets, he was only able to turn that into one reception for four yards while Dortch caught 10 of his 11 for 98 yards. With pressure in his face, McSorley appropriately dumped the ball off quickly and that target was usually Dortch.
With McCoy as the quarterback, Brown was more productive, but not by much. In Week 15, he posted four receptions on eight targets for just 19 yards.
Either quarterback isn't ideal for Brown.
The Cardinals will face the Atlanta Falcons who have been surprisingly stingy against wide receivers over their last four games. They have allowed just 20 completions for 331 yards and two touchdowns during that time. That is in the top-5 of defenses against wide receivers. Brown has an uphill battle with either McSorley or McCoy at the helm as well as a tough matchup in Week 17.
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Devin Singletary had a huge game against the Chicago Bears last week with 12 rushing attempts for 106 yards and a touchdown as well as two receptions for 19 yards for 19.5 fantasy points. It's easy to feel great about Singletary being the lead back moving forward and not having to worry about his production in Week 17.
There are some red flags to be aware of ahead of this week. First, the Bears have been gashed on the ground over the last four games giving up 379 yards on 66 attempts and three touchdowns. Second, that was Singletary's best game since Week 3 against Miami when he posted 19.6 points. Since that time, he has been hit or miss ranging between 4.8 (Week 14) to 16.7 (Week 11). He has a tendency to struggle against strong run defenses.
The Bills will face the Cincinnati Bengals this week in what should be an exciting matchup. Where the Bears are ranked 25th-worst, the Bengals are 6th-best against the run. They have allowed just 272 yards and two touchdowns on 76 attempts. That is just 3.58 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Cincinnati has a weakness against rushing quarterbacks.
Singletary may return to touchdown-dependent territory behind Josh Allen's legs as well as compete with a possible shootout if this game is close.
Admittedly, this one hurts. By no means is JuJu Smith-Schuster a must-sit (like the others in this piece) but is the epitome of using extreme caution. He can either blow up your starting lineup with 21.9 points (Week 7) or ruin it with 2.5 (Week 2). There is not much middle ground with Smith-Schuster and he doesn't play by the rules when it comes to production against good or bad defenses.
The Chiefs will face the Broncos at home in Kansas City in Week 17. We just saw the Rams annihilate Denver last week which promptly led to the firing of their head coach, Nathaniel Hackett. Prior to Week 16, the Broncos' defense has been the only bright spot during a terrible season with Russell Wilson.
Smith-Schuster could either go off against a defense that has given up or could be stymied against a defense that is rallying around each other after their head coach was fired.
Given his high upside, he is not a terrible start in the championship, but he is not a reliable one. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Kadarius Toney are active targets for the pass-happy Patrick Mahomes. Even worse, the Broncos' biggest weakness is against the tight end position leaving all three wide receivers playing second fiddle behind Travis Kelce.