Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 18
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. Most Valuable Patrick: Mahomes Caps MVP Season with 350+ Passing Yards
In a season where many (including yours truly) doubted Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense after losing Tyreek Hill, he's answered the bell with his most impressive season as a pro. In my mind, there's no doubt he's this season's MVP. FanDuel Sportsbook agrees.
K.C. has still tasked Patrick with carrying the bulk of the offense. They lead the league in pass rate over expectation despite a really iffy corps of wideouts beyond the forever-reliable Travis Kelce, and yet, the Chiefs' yards per play (6.4) is actually the highest of the Mahomes era. He's been sensational.
We now have an ambiguous situation for the AFC's top seed, but this much is certain: Kansas City needs a win in Week 18 to notch the top spot. Mahomes can absolutely help with that.
They're taking on a Raiders pass defense that is bloodied and bruised, holding the worst mark in numberFire's power rankings at present. Mahomes hasn't struggled with the Raiders historically, averaging 315.3 yards per contest in his career against them.
He's only broached this mark four times this year, but in need of a statement to lock up a bye and the award, he should slice through the league's worst secondary.
2. Tortoise and the Harris: Najee Continues to Finish Strong with 90+ Rushing Yards
Kupp's injury aside, the Steelers' lead tailback has still truly surged in the fantasy playoffs, and he's got another tremendous matchup here.
In the past three weeks, he's posted at least 12 fantasy points on a minimum of 24 adjusted opportunities per game. That's with a dwindling snap rate (67.2%) from the near-every-down role he's played in Pittsburgh previously. Quantity over quality, I suppose.
This is a great matchup to keep it rolling. The Browns have been atrocious defending the run all year, sitting eighth-worst in our nERD ranks.
If your league is still rolling in Week 18, Pittsburgh does need a win to make the playoffs here, so Najee is in a great spot to continue a run toward a prize.
3. Captain Kirk: Christian Posts 100+ Yards Receiving Versus Tennessee
The AFC South's winner-take-all battle will happen on Saturday -- not Sunday -- night, so set those lineups a day earlier than the finale.
Inside this battle, Christian Kirk has a great chance to make amends for a slow start to the fantasy playoffs. Because last week's game was of zero importance to Jacksonville, Kirk posted a measly 3.1 fantasy points in just a half. This was after an ugly 4.1 fantasy points during a rainy game in New York two weeks ago.
Kirk had been one of the stars of the fantasy season up to this point, posting double-digit games in 6 of his 15 contests. His rock-solid target share (22.9%) is all you could have asked for from his ADP. If you're -- somehow -- still alive for a title amidst his struggles, or need a fill-in for a guy that won't play, he can help.
The Jags are facing the Titans, who are an abysmal secondary ceding the most fantasy points per game to wideouts (33.5). For good measure, they're fourth-worst in numberFire's ranks.
The big play threat (9.2 aDOT) has eclipsed 100 yards four times this year. He'll look to make it five in this must-win showdown.
4. Med Kittle: Brock Purdy's Favorite Target Posts 15+ Fantasy Points Again
It wasn't always pretty through early-season injuries, but believe it or not, George Kittle may have ended up being the tight end to have in fantasy football this year after all.
As Kelce and Mark Andrews have stumbled, Kittle's playoff run has been epic. In the past three weeks, he's commanded 7.0 targets per game (25.9% share) from Brock Purdy, and in that time, he's put up a sensational 20.2 fantasy points per game.
As no surprise, that leads the weak tight end position during that time. He'll have a great chance to keep it rolling this week against the Cardinals.
Arizona has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to tight ends (13.7), and if you don't believe me, you could just look at Kittle's box score, too. He torched the Cards for 22.4 fantasy points during a two-touchdown effort in Mexico Cty.
5. Hog Mild: The Dallas D/ST Posts Double-Digit Fantasy Points Against Washington
Many felt Ron Rivera made a mistake starting Carson Wentz last week. I'm just not sure it mattered.
Factoring in both quarterbacks, Washington has posted the eighth-fewest Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back in the NFL this year (0.00). It's been below-average production all year; numberFire's eighth-best defense just carried this squad to a few wins in the middle of the season.
It'll now be Sam Howell to start this week, but really, no quarterback would have a great shot behind the Commanders' offensive line. They're ceding the second-highest pressure rate in the NFL (30%), which only trails the Titans.
The bad news? They're matched up with arguably the league's best pass rush here. The Dallas D/ST forces pressure at a 40% rate, which is the best mark in the league. It hasn't always translated to sack volume, but it did translate to two sacks and two interceptions in Dallas earlier this year. That was good for 10 fantasy points.
Especially as the rookie mixes in, Washington is in for a long afternoon with the Cowboys hungry for a win and still technically alive for the NFC East crown.