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Week 16 Flex Rankings: Bad Beats and Good Causes

No lead is ever safe in fantasy football until every NFL game for the week has concluded and every stat correction has been made. One play can change everything, resulting in triumph for one team and anguish for another. Or sometimes, it’s a series of events that leads to victory or defeat, so inevitable that fantasy owners can only sit back and watch the impending train wreck with horror. One such case was this past Sunday when I entered the afternoon games with a fair lead over my good friend and co-host of our podcast, Nick. Of course, our friendship was tabled for the weekend, as I saw him only as my opponent for the fantasy semi-finals.

Surprisingly enough, neither of our teams had any players in the Sunday night or Monday night games, so the afternoon slate would decide our fates. Among others, Nick had Julio Jones as one of his starting wide receivers, and I had George Kittle at flex having started Travis Kelce at tight end. The rest is history. Jones and Kittle somehow had the exact same stat line facing off against each other, each logging 13 receptions for 134 yards. The difference was that Jones also scored two touchdowns, the second of which came on Atlanta’s final offensive drive late in the game. Even before the call was officially overturned by the officials, I knew that it was a touchdown. My girlfriend, Rachel, who puts up with my Sunday ritual of couch surfing, was sitting next to me at the time. Upon the official ruling that it was indeed a touchdown, my furious outburst startled her, and the specific words used will not be published here. That last-second score sealed the fate of both the 49ers and as well as that of my fantasy team.

“No one cares about your fantasy team”, and I get that. But this bad beat is just the first half of this story. After an hour so of brooding and some not so kind words (sorry Julio!), I remembered that I’ve been on the other side of these bad beats before, including an unlikely title run in the same league back in 2017. That was when Jones won me a fantasy championship with his seven-catch, 149-yard performance against the Saints in Week 16. I was so ecstatic about that championship win that I decided to donate part of my winnings to a charity that the highest-scoring player that week, Jones supported. That year, his choice for his My Cause, My Cleats was the International Justice Mission, a global organization that partners with local advocates and groups to help end modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

Since then, I’ve made it a point to donate 10 percent of fantasy championship winnings each year to a charity supported by the top scorer that week. I’ve seen similar proposals on Twitter and elsewhere, so I will in no way take credit for this, but I do staunchly support it. If you’re reading this and are in a stable financial situation playing fantasy mostly for fun and not the money, then please consider donating a portion of your winnings. Whether it’s 10 percent or just $10, whatever you feel comfortable with giving could go a long way to helping good causes and those in need. And if anything, consider it good fantasy karma for next season as well.

That’s the end of my spiel. First things first, you have to win the fantasy title to donate a portion of the prize! So let’s get to the fantasy advice that will hopefully lead your team to victory this week. Lineup decisions are often tough calls, so here are my Week 16 flex rankings, listing the top-100 PPR options at running back, wide receiver, and tight end. With a lot of injured players questionable to play, including big names like Dalvin Cook, Chris Godwin, and more, make sure to check back for injury updates before finalizing lineups. Congrats if you’ve made it to the fantasy championship game, and best of luck in your match-ups this week!

For more help getting ready for Week 16, check out our Waiver Wire Recommendations

Shooting for Shootouts

We discussed the Texans last week in a potential shootout against the Titans, and there was indeed plenty of scoring in that game. As we discussed in Week 15, the most accurate evaluation of the Texans is probably that they have a good but inconsistent offense paired with a pretty bad defense. With Tampa Bay also boasting a good offense and a bad defense, this could be another high-scoring game for Houston with Vegas projecting a combined 49.5 points scored, the third-highest total of Week 16.

Deshaun Watson should again be an excellent start this week, and Hopkins is also a premium option, coming in as the No. 2 overall flex option with the Buccaneers allowing the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this year. The big surprise last week was Kenny Stills, who scored two touchdowns against Tennessee. However, Will Fuller was the second most-targeted player behind Hopkins by a large margin in Week 15. Fuller had five catches for 61 yards on seven targets compared to just three catches for 35 yards on three targets for Stills. Fuller remains the better fantasy play as my WR20 given his higher target share compared to Stills, who comes in at WR47.

There’s plenty of fantasy potential on the Tampa Bay side as well. Though Winston has been inconsistent over that span in real life, throwing 14 interceptions in the eight games since the Buccaneers’ Week 7 bye, he’s been an excellent fantasy quarterback. Since Week 8, Winston has been the second highest-scoring quarterback in fantasy, trailing only Lamar Jackson. Though Winston will be without his top three wide receivers with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Scotty Miller all out with hamstring injuries, he remains a solid fantasy QB1 option.

In fact, this game offers quite a few players with league-winning potential who were on the waiver wire just last week or are still available in many leagues. In two games with Evans out, Breshad Perriman has scored four touchdowns on just 11 targets. While there’s still risk in starting Perriman, he should get a healthy target share with Godwin also now out. Perriman is my WR14 this week facing a Houston defense ranked seventh-worst against the pass in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) per Football Outsiders. Justin Watson also has some potential in PPR formats at WR45. Though he only contributed two receptions for 17 yards against Detroit, that was with Godwin and Miller playing for the majority of the game. Their 11 combined targets are now also up for grabs.

And let’s not forget about the tight ends. It’s been a brutal season for O.J. Howard after being highly touted in fantasy circles this preseason, but he may finally vindicate himself when it matters the most. Howard saw a season-high eight targets against the Lions, reeling in four of those for 46 yards. Cameron Brate also benefited from the absence of healthy receivers, seeing seven targets of his own, the second-most he’s gotten in a game this year. Both are viable flex options this week with Houston allowing the eight-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Howard is my TE6 with the potential to finish as the top fantasy tight end this week, and Brate has a decent floor and ceiling as well and comes in at TE13.

Houston is the better team on paper, but Tampa Bay’s defensive line could disrupt Watson and the Texans’ offense enough to eke out a narrow home victory. Even with the Buccaneers playing without their top three receivers, I am projecting a close 30-28 victory over the Texans.

Benching Big Names?

It’s unusual to be concerned about a team that just beat the Rams 44-21 last Sunday, but a lot of Cowboys players are going to be risky starts for the fantasy championship week. The concern stems from a right shoulder injury Dak Prescott sustained against the Rams. While Prescott is expected to play against the Eagles, Jason Garrett stated on Wednesday that Prescott is “not very functional at the moment”. The fact that Prescott did not throw at all during practice is not reassuring, and his ability to throw, or lack thereof, greatly lowers the floor and ceiling of both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Despite the great matchup against a Philadelphia team that ranks 20th in pass defense DVOA, worry about Prescott’s shoulder places him outside of my top-12 fantasy quarterbacks this week. And while Ezekiel Elliott should see a large workload regardless and is still a safe RB1, I’ve also downgraded Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup to WR23 and WR38, respectively. These rankings may change if Prescott gets in a full practice or two before the end of the week, but that doesn’t sound likely at this point.

Another name to be wary of starting this week is Julian Edelman. Already facing a tough matchup against a Buffalo defense that ranks third in pass defense DVOA, Edelman could be further hampered by a knee injury that’s he’s been battling over the last few weeks. Though he suited up against the Bengals, Edelman looked tentative on his routes and tallied just two catches for nine yards. Details emerged on Monday that Edelman is dealing with a potentially serious tendon injury in his left knee. There’s speculation that it could be tendonitis or even a tear to his patellar tendon, both injuries that could worsen or even end his season if Edelman continues to play through it. Either way, a limited Edelman against a top-ranked Bills secondary bodes ill for his fantasy outlook this week. I have Edelman ranked as just my WR42 and would strongly consider other options for your fantasy championship lineup. It’s not out of the question that Edelman could be in a decoy role and held without a catch against the Bills even if he’s active.

Week 16 Flex Rankings (PPR)

Notable injured players currently assumed to be OUT for Week 16 include Dalvin Cook, Josh Jacobs, Damien Williams, Jordan Howard, Chris Godwin, Taylor Gabriel, and Gerald Everett. Rankings will be updated as injury news and practice updates are received.

Last updated on Friday, December 20th at 11:54 AM CST. 

1Michael ThomasWR
2DeAndre HopkinsWR
3Christian McCaffreyRBThough McCaffrey remains a must-start RB1, there is some risk to CAR's efficiency on offense with the rookie Will Grier making his first NFL start.
4Chris CarsonRB
5Davante AdamsWR
6Saquon BarkleyRB
7Ezekiel ElliottRB
8Tyreek HillWR
9Julio JonesWR
10Joe MixonRBCIN's offense has improved since Andy Dalton's return, and Mixon will face a MIA run def that's allowed the 5th most fantasy points to opposing RBs.
11Keenan AllenWRAllen has at least 5 catches in each of his last 5 games, and he'll go against an OAK def that gives up the 12th most fantasy points to opposing WRs.
12Melvin GordonRB
13Derrick HenryRB
14Travis KelceTE
15Zach ErtzTE
16Devonta FreemanRB
17Austin EkelerRB
18George KittleTE
19DeVante ParkerWR
20Mark IngramRB
21Alvin KamaraRB
22Courtland SuttonWRSutton is the clear no. 1 in DEN, and he'll face a DET def that allows the 3rd most fantasy points to WRs, including 3 TDs to Breshad Perriman last week.
23Austin HooperTE
24Todd GurleyRB
25Leonard FournetteRB
26Adam ThielenWR
27Allen RobinsonWR
28Aaron JonesRB
29Raheem MostertRBThe Rams' def has been gashed by the run the last 2 weeks by Carson and Elliott, and now Mostert will get a shot with SF's potent rushing attack.
30Tyler BoydWRMIA has allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing WRs, and Boyd has led the team with an average of 8 targets per game since Dalton's return.
31D.J. MooreWR
32Marlon MackRBMack predictably disappointed vs a tough NO run def, but now he'll go up against a CAR def that allows the most fantasy points to opposing RBs.
33Mike BooneRBAssuming both Cook and Mattison miss Mon night's game, Boone will be a workhorse vs a GB def that's top-10 in fantasy points allowed to RBs.
34A.J. BrownWR
35Breshad PerrimanWRPerriman has been excellent filling in for Evans, and now there are even more targets to go around with Godwin and Miller also out.
36Nick ChubbRB
37Tyler LockettWR
38Jarvis LandryWR
39James WhiteRB
40Stefon DiggsWR
41Devin SingletaryRB
42Kareem HuntRB
43Terry McLaurinWR
44James ConnerRB
45Le'Veon BellRBPIT boasts a top-3 run def, but Bell is invovled enough as a receiver to insulate his fantasy production, and the revenge game narrative is in play.
46Mike WilliamsWR
47Will FullerWR
48DeAndre WashingtonRBWashington was the clear lead back vs TEN 2 weeks ago with Jacobs out, and he should assume those duties again vs a poor Chargers run def.
49Mark AndrewsTE
50D.K. MetcalfWR
51Miles SandersRB
52Amari CooperWRPHI allows the 4th most fantasy points to opposing WRs, but Dak Prescott's shoulder injury is a concern that could limit Cooper's production.
53Adrian PetersonRB
54Anthony MillerWRAssuming Taylor Gabriel misses another game, Miller will continue to be the no. 2 WR in CHI, averaging 10 targets per game over the last 5 weeks.
55Deebo SamuelWR
56T.Y. HiltonWRDespite a great matchup vs a CAR def allowing the 5th most fantasy points to opposing WRs, Hilton looked slow vs NO and could still be limited.
57O.J. HowardTEWith Evans, Godwin, and Miller all out, Howard saw a season-high 8 targets vs DET. He has week-winning upside if he sees double digit targets.
58Christian KirkWR
59John BrownWR
60Phillip LindsayRB
61Darren WallerTE
62Odell Beckham Jr.WR
63Emmanuel SandersWR
64Tarik CohenRB
65Kenyan DrakeRB
66Darius SlaytonWRWith Daniel Jones expected back this week, Slayton has big TD upside given his chemistry with the rookie QB and has emerged as the Giants' top WR.
67Dallas GoedertTE
68Robert WoodsWR
69Cooper KuppWR
70Tyler HigbeeTE
71Cole BeasleyWRBeasley was targeted 13 times vs NE in Week 4 as the preferred check down option. He could again see double digit targets if NE takes away John Brown.
72Zach PascalWRHilton may not be 100% healthy, but his presence on the field will free up Pascal vs this CAR def giving up the 5th most fantasy points to WRs.
73Carlos HydeRB
74D.J. CharkWRIt's a tough matchup vs ATL, and though Chark is expected to play, it's unlikely that he's 100% healed from the high ankle sprain.
75Robby AndersonWR
76Jacob HollisterTEARI gives up the most fantasy points to opposing TEs, and Will Dissly burned them to the tune of 7 catches for 57 yards and a TD back in Week 4.
77Kenny GolladayWR
78Michael GallupWR
79Boston ScottRB
80Jamison CrowderWR
81Hunter HenryTE
82Cameron BrateTEO.J. Howard wasn't the only beneficiary of added targets, as Brate saw 7 vs DET. He's a preferred red zone target for Winston and has TD upside.
83James WashingtonWR
84JuJu Smith-SchusterWR
85Tevin ColemanRBWith Matt Breida in the doghouse after 2 fumbles vs ATL, Coleman should be the no. 2 RB this week behind Mostert vs a struggling Rams run def.
86Julian EdelmanWREdelman's knee injury sounds serious and is likely to limit his effectiveness in an already tough matchup vs a 3rd ranked BUF pass defense.
87Dede WestbrookWR
88David MontgomeryRB
89Marquise BrownWR
90Greg OlsenTETEs are generally a rookie QB's best friend, and Olsen could see a high target share from Will Grier this week in his first NFL start.
91Sony MichelRB
92Sterling ShepardWR
93Greg WardWRLike Perriman, Ward is the beneficiary of a depth chart devoid of healthy WRs. He's now had 9 targets in each of PHI's last 2 games as the top WR.
94Patrick LairdRB
95Kenny StillsWR
96Jared CookTE
97Brandin CooksWR
98Jack DoyleTE
99Justin WatsonWR
100Chris ConleyWR

For more fantasy football content or specific questions about your lineup, follow me on Twitter @FFA_Meng.

For a look at how the rankings break down at each position, take a look at Mick Ciallela’s Week 16 Rankings.

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