Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 16
One of the things that makes fantasy football so captivating is the variance. Even throughout Cooper Kupp's historic, unflappable season, he was the top wideout for the week just three times in 2021. That means, on individual weeks, some very strange players may pop in terms of fantasy points at their positions.
That opens the door for some room to be "spicy" and make some fun predictions. In a landscape increasingly set ablaze by "hot takes," it can be difficult to understand the difference between a bold prediction -- based on a particularly strong spot for a team or player -- and a senseless take with the prayer of becoming correct based on variance.
Let's shoot for the former with five interesting spots to target during this weekend's NFL games.
Note: All predictions are for half-PPR formats (and FanDuel scoring for quarterbacks).
1. Not Very Purdy: Brock Tumbles Below 15 Fantasy Points Against Washington
Brock Purdy has been one of the best sentimental stories of the season. I'm going to be that guy and ask if it can last.
Don't get me wrong, Purdy has shown the level of effectiveness to, in the right matchup, win games. He's posted 0.24 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back in his limited action -- oddly enough tied exactly with Jimmy Garoppolo for third amongst QBs with at least 75 attempts.
However, this might be the single worst matchup for him. San Francisco has given Christian McCaffrey 73 touches in Purdy's three games with extended action, and McCaffrey will have a tough road against the Commanders. They're numberFire's top overall rushing defense.
Washington is also our sixth-best defense overall and eighth against the pass. This -- by far -- is Purdy's toughest test to date, and I wouldn't be so sure he's a top-15 guy again this week in fantasy as a result.
2. Strong with the Wind: Kamara and Chubb Both Rush for 80+ Yards
As you'd expect, it's weather-related. Deshaun Watson hasn't been that bad. In Cleveland on Saturday, freezing temperatures will be joined by sustained 20-plus mile-per-hour winds. It's going to be a hellish environment to be outside -- much less play football.
But, with winds that high, you can actually expect some pretty hefty work from Alvin Kamara and Nick Chubb in fantasy. Chubb's role is already getting better; he logged a season-high 71.9% of the snaps last Saturday. We know Kamara's role has been strong for the bulk of the season, and he's been over 60.0% of the snaps in three straight with 13.3 carries on average.
These two are true lead tailbacks entering conditions that call for them. Plus, they'll be facing numberFire's 6th- and 12th-worst rush defenses, respectively, so neither should have difficulty inside the matchups.
While scoring conditions could be poor for all players, I'd still start these studs with confidence.
3. Silence of the Lamb: CeeDee Duds with Fewer than 12 Fantasy Points
As the betting line moved away from the Eagles (now 5.5-point underdogs), we might be forgetting something. They're a great team with a great defense (numberFire's eighth-best overall), and that'll still cause tremendous issues for Dallas.
CeeDee Lamb might be one of those who have the hardest time getting going. The Eagles are a true run funnel. They beg you to do it. Per our nERD rankings, Philadelphia has our fourth-best pass defense with our seventh-worst rush defense, and Dallas -- with Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott -- will do that all day if allowed.
Lamb was bottled for just 5 catches (on 10 targets) for 68 yards in his first matchup with Darius Slay. There are arguments for and against his improvement from that day. The "for" column firmly acknowledges he didn't have Dak Prescott in that one, but the "against" was also that Dallas was in an extremely negative script, adding volume to all.
With higher stakes in Saturday's contest, expect Dallas to run the ball plenty on this Eagles squad that might not dramatically pull ahead without their star quarterback.
4. Mark Prior: Andrews Reappears with 70 Receiving Yards Against Atlanta
I felt pretty solid about the spots I drafted Mark Andrews early in the year. It goes without saying that those teams aren't in the fantasy playoffs anymore.
Andrews was injured in Week 7, missing a large portion of Weeks 8 through 10. While he didn't produce high-end, matchup-winning results, he did return with two top-12 weeks at tight end before Lamar Jackson was injured against Denver. Like the Ravens' entire offense, he's been in the toilet with Tyler Huntley.
If you're somehow still alive with Andrews, your patience might lead to an extreme reward. Baltimore is hopeful they'll get Jackson back in Week 16, and the matchup couldn't be a softer landing. Atlanta is numberFire's second-worst pass defense, per our nERD rankings.
The Falcons also cede the fifth-most FanDuel points per game to tight ends (12.2), so this is an elite matchup for Andrews as much as the entire Baltimore passing offense. With the return of their signal-caller, and -- you guessed it -- cold, windy weather incentivizing more short routes to tight ends, this could be the week Andrews turns it all around.
5. Baker's Dozen: Denver's D/ST Posts 12+ Fantasy Points in Los Angeles
Say this out loud -- Baker Mayfield will face numberFire's top overall passing defense this week. That doesn't sound great.
Mayfield's raucous intro against Las Vegas (our worst passing defense) might have created some false hope for the Rams. His Monday night clunker against Green Bay, where he posted a dismal -0.07 Passing NEP per drop back, was more of what we expected from this last-minute marriage.
As our 14th-worst unit against the run, the Denver D/ST has been susceptible at times on the ground. The Rams don't do that well, though. They're our ninth-worst rushing offense, and they haven't had a 100-yard rusher all season. It'll mostly be on Mayfield, Van Jefferson, and Tyler Higbee facing the most difficult matchup in the sport. Yikes.
The Broncos likely aren't floating on your wire at this point because they've been a top unit all season. But if they somehow are (or if you play daily formats), prioritize this explosive matchup that could result in a banner day. If you're already a manager of their defense, this is an early "Merry Christmas" of sorts to you and yours.