Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Playing without Travis Kelce for the first time since the first game of his career, Patrick Mahomes still finished as a top-five fantasy QB this week despite a quiet performance from Tyreek Hill.
After failing to beat 7.0 YPA in five of six games, Mahomes is getting 9.2 over the last three (with an 8:1 TD:INT ratio). The Chiefs fell to +210 to win their division in October but won their eighth straight game Sunday, clinching the AFC West for the sixth straight season.
Byron Pringle led Kansas City with seven targets, scoring two touchdowns. He’s the clear KC receiver to have stashed in fantasy leagues should injuries strike in the future. Speaking of which, X-rays on Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s collarbone were negative, but he’ll undergo an MRI on Monday. Darrel Williams and Derrick Gore would split KC’s backfield should Edwards-Helaire miss time. CEH had an impressive touchdown run before departing Sunday.
The Steelers were much worse than the box score may indicate, as Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson and company did most of their damage well into garbage time. Johnson had a brutal fumble and committed a bad drop on the next drive, while 11 of Ben Roethlisberger’s touchdown passes this season have come during the fourth quarter.
Pittsburgh hasn’t scored a first-half touchdown in five straight games and Sunday became the first team in NFL history to trail by 23+ points at halftime in three straight road games.
The Steelers also kicked a field goal down 30-0 in a league that continues to baffle.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers
Ronald Jones acted as Tampa Bay’s lead back and finished as a top-12 RB this week, but he also dropped a would-be touchdown and watched Ke’Shawn Vaughn record TB’s longest run of the season. There was a Lev Bell sighting late, but Jones will be a legit top-three fantasy back during championship week with the Bucs opening as 13-point favorites over a Jets defense allowing by far the most fantasy points to RBs … Antonio Brown racked up 15 targets as expected, but Rob Gronkowski improbably didn’t see his first until 10 minutes were left in the third quarter despite no Mike Evans, Chris Godwin or Leonard Fournette. Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller were oddly invisible too … Sam Darnold (-14.4) and Cam Newton (-14.2) were nearly identically bad in CPOE, with Darnold missing a wide-open Ameer Abdullah for a would-be walk-in touchdown.
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles
I was optimistic Jake Fromm would be an upgrade over Mike Glennon but instead, he put together a historically, epically bad 22 snaps that included the 2nd percentile EPA/play (-0.69) and 1st percentile CPOE (-32.1!) before getting benched. Glennon’s 3.4 YPA was more than twice as high as Fromm’s. He can go back to State Farm now.
Jalen Hurts finished with a season-low seven rushing yards and both of his TD strikes came in the final 20 minutes, as his performance was far shakier than his 102.5 Passer Rating may suggest … Miles Sanders was set for a big game before suffering a broken hand, ending his season with zero touchdowns on 163 touches. Boston Scott and Jordan Howard should split Philadelphia’s rushing work (along with Hurts) in Week 17 … The Eagles entered allowing the most fantasy points to tight ends and lived up to expectations by somehow letting Evan Engram (he who recorded one TD on 109 targets last season) reach paydirt despite some truly offensive quarterback play.
Remember when Saquon Barkley was fun to watch? He doesn’t have a run for 35 yards since Week 2.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Houston Texans
Justin Jackson was fantasy’s No. 1 RB this week despite seeing just 11 carries, while Keenan Allen had his worst fantasy game of the season despite LAC missing Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton and Austin Ekeler. Rex Burkhead finished as the No. 3 RB this week, as he finally turned volume into production — likely on fantasy benches … Detective Davis Mills outscored Justin Herbert and continues to impress, posting a 9:1 TD:INT ratio at home this season. Mills won Sunday with Houston as near two-touchdown underdogs and without Brandin Cooks. A pick-six helped seal the upset late, but he finished in the 93rd percentile in total EPA and absolutely deserves credit for playing so well lately.
Mills suddenly looks like the team’s quarterback of the future.
Detroit Lions @ Atlanta Falcons
Kyle Pitts made this one-handed catch Sunday when he became the youngest tight end in NFL history to record 60+ catches and 900+ yards in a season (he has two more games left during his “disappointing” rookie campaign) … The Lions ran a successful fake punt, split work between Jamaal Williams and Craig Reynolds, and continued to feed Amon-Ra St. Brown in the slot no matter the team’s QB … Cordarrelle Patterson scored but was otherwise a fantasy bust in a plus matchup, with the same to be said about Russell Gage, who also lost a late fumble.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow took full advantage of facing Baltimore’s extreme pass-funnel defense that’s been destroyed by injuries to its secondary, throwing for the fourth-most yards (525) in a game in NFL history while finishing as fantasy’s No. 1 QB this week. Burrow was terrific, connecting for big plays to Tyler Boyd and another downfield to the new OchoCinco (Tee Higgins).
Joe Mixon is up to 16 touchdowns on the season, while Mark Andrews is now averaging 10 catches for 125 yards with four touchdowns over the last three games with backup and third-string QBs … Speaking of backups, Josh Johnson led the way, and he’s now finished as a top-eight fantasy QB during both weeks he’s started this season (the other came for the Jets).
Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota Vikings
The Rams won rather easily despite a bad performance from Matthew Stafford (-9.9 CPOE) that included multiple truly ugly interceptions … The Justin Jefferson/Cooper Kupp battle lived up to expectations, with the latter extending his NFL record to 11 straight games with 90+ receiving yards. Jefferson broke the record for most receiving yards over the first two seasons in NFL history (and he didn’t even start right away as a rookie) … Sony Michel impressed and was dominating LA’s backfield well before Darrell Henderson left injured on his lone carry but unfortunately ends the year with a couple of tough matchups (@Bal, SF) … The Rams had the NFL’s second punt return for a touchdown this season and are now 45-0 under Sean McVay when leading at halftime.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Jets
Zach Wilson was wildly inaccurate and threw for just 102 yards (4.6 YPA) but finished as this week’s No. 4 fantasy QB thanks to a big rushing performance. Meanwhile, fellow disappointing rookie Trevor Lawrence has just one touchdown pass over his last eight games and Sunday clocked the ball on third down at the one-yard line with 12 seconds left. The nerd stats (10.9 CPOE) suggest Lawrence actually had a really encouraging game otherwise … James Robinson suffered a torn Achilles, while Michael Carter passes the eye test and should be targeted in 2022 fantasy drafts.
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots
Josh Allen somehow finished as the No. 3 QB this week despite losing touchdowns to penalties and a bad Emmanuel Sanders drop in the end zone, playing through a sprained foot and without multiple receivers and offensive linemen, AND facing a New England defense allowing the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Allen led the Bills in rushing and turned Isaiah McKenzie into a PPR star for a day. With weather not a factor this time, Allen simply dominated a Patriots defense that entered ranked first in DVOA … Damien Harris’ hamstring sure looked recovered while scoring three touchdowns. His game-script projects as favorable next week with New England opening as 15.5-point favorites over Jacksonville.
The Bills became the first team ever not to punt in a game against Bill Belichick.
Chicago Bears @ Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson was outplayed by Nick Foles, who helped David Montgomery put up a nice fantasy day (thanks to a team-high nine targets) despite running for just 45 yards on 21 carries. Montgomery also had an angry run ... Rashaad Penny would be a super productive back if he could ever stay healthy, but more than 25% of his career rushing yards have now been totaled over the last two weeks (three games). He’ll be a must-start in fantasy championship week at home versus the Lions ... The Bears won thanks to a great catch on a late two-point conversion.
I don’t understand what happened to Seattle’s passing attack this season.
Denver Broncos @ Las Vegas Raiders
Play calling left a lot to be desired in a disastrous day for Denver, as Vic Fangio continues to prove he’s a much better defensive coordinator than head coach. Drew Lock’s numbers could’ve easily been a lot better, and he’s a clear upgrade (11.2 aDOT) for Broncos receivers … Hunter Renfrow surprisingly saw just three targets but scored while joining Tim Brown and Jerry Rice as the only Raiders players to ever record 90+ catches in a season … Bradley Chubb had a terrific interception while Jerry Jeudy had an awful drop on third down.
Washington Football Team @ Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott didn’t score 1.0 fantasy point after halftime and still finished as the No. 2 QB this week when he became just the second player in NFL history (Kurt Warner) to throw a TD pass to a WR, TE, RB and OL in the same game.
Having played four of their last five games on the road, the Cowboys got right at home Sunday night. Prescott was much sharper and even had his second-longest run (13 yards) of the season; he now has a 20:2 TD:INT ratio over seven games at home this year.
A blowout prevented bigger games from Cowboys receivers and backs, as Dallas’ 42 first-half points were more than any other team scored in Week 16 — and more than the Giants totaled in December. The Cowboys tied a franchise record scoring eight touchdowns … Taylor Heinicke struggled mightily (-30.9 CPOE) and was on the losing end of a terrific pick-six by DeMarcus Lawrence ... Trevon Diggs is the first player to record 11 interceptions in a season in 40 years, as Dallas’ defense continues to look like arguably the best in the league.