Our analysts break down what they’re most confident heading into the Second Round of the Fantasy Football Playoffs to help you feel better about the upcoming roster decisions. For more tips on getting started with sitting, check out our Week 16 ranking position by position.
The rookie is finally entering must-start status
It finally happened. The rookie we’ve been dying to see blossom into a permanent role finally gets that promotion. Over the past two weeks, Rashee Rice has run a route on 80.2 percent of the Chiefs’ downs. That jump from the 60% range north of 80% is critical. His aDOT over the last two weeks is just 5.1. He is still only tasked with running a small handful of routes over the middle of the field as a slot or wide receiver off the ball. He doesn’t run out in the assignment of a typical #1 wideout. But that’s more important for discussing his long-term outlook. So far, he has a 23.5% target share, which is the highest on the team. Being on the field more was all we needed to get that bump in production. He’s a clear must-receiver coming into a good Week 16 matchup against the Raiders. — Matt Harmon
The Seahawks’ receiver trio is flying high
Seattle will face the Titans this week. Tennessee is above average against the run this season, but poor in coverage. The Titans are allowing the most production to outside receivers this season. We even saw Noah Brown get 82 yards on eight catches last week against Tennessee with Case Keenum as his quarterback.
We’ve seen all three Seahawks receivers earn at least 20% of the targets over the past three games. Jaxon Smith-Njigba has stepped up and continues to beat man coverage in his rookie season. Tyler Lockett has been consistently getting targets, seeing at least 20% of the target share in every game since Week 1. DK Metcalf is still a walking cheat code. He leads the NFL in the combination of deep targets and red zone looks — the most valuable targets in fantasy football.
All three Seattle receivers start this week against the Titans’ 30th-ranked second baseman. — Sal Vetri
A little-known tight end records a top-five finish
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is in dire straits after losing two key inside linebackers to season-ending injuries, leaving the middle of the field quite vulnerable in recent weeks. That will get even worse in Week 16, now also down to their top three safety options, with Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee) out, Damontae Kazee out with a suspension and Keanu Neal on IR with a rib injury.
Look for veteran tight end Tanner Hudson to register his best game of the season thus far, with a favorable matchup and the potential for an increased workload in the absence of WR Ja’Marr Chase. Hudson ranks third on the team in targets by QB Jake Browning this season, behind only Chase and teammate Tyler Boyd, and could enter as a key feature in the game plan this week against a series of Steelers backups covering the middle the field. The Steelers have allowed one or more touchdowns to opposing tight ends in each of the last four weeks, and Hudson will try to make it fifth here on the road in Week 16. — Kate Magjuk
The wideout tight end can perform again
The climax of the New England season will be when it mercifully ends.
But let’s appreciate the relationship Bailey Zappe seems to have with Hunter Henry. The veteran Henry has been the TE3 and TE4 the past two weeks, and he lost a second touchdown against Kansas City due to a suspension. The Broncos defense has been terrible in seam coverage all year (nine touchdowns allowed to tight ends and the worst TE-coverage rate by DVOA). I’m amazed that Henry hasn’t been declared in over 70% of Yahoo leagues yet. Assuming he’s released by the end of the week (Henry didn’t practice Wednesday), he’s cleared for proactive fantasy use. — Scott Pianosky
Vikings backup (backup?) QB solid streamer
Nick Mullens is getting 8.4 YPA since taking over as Minnesota’s QB and getting a home game against Detroit’s pass-funnel defense; The Lions are giving up the second fewest fantasy points to running backs, but the fourth most to quarterbacks this season. Mullens will continue to benefit from the throwing of a healthy Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and TJ Hockenson, and last week’s sudden success is unlikely to repeat itself on Sunday. The Vikings have a strong implied team, so Mullens finishes as a top 12 fantasy QB for the second week in a row. – Dalton Del Donne
Don’t overlook this veteran star running back
Aaron Jones returned last week to a 17-touch workload, which should allay concerns about his overall health and availability. When he’s right — which is rarely the case this season — he’s one of the most dangerous all-around defenders in the league. He is also, in all likelihood, the best healthy receiving option available to the Packers right now. On Sunday, he faces a Carolina defense that has been shredded by opposing running backs this year, allowing a league-high 21 rushing scores and the third-most fantasy points to opposing RBs. Despite the fact that Jones has been largely worthless over the last 15 weeks, you should light him up in the fantasy semifinals. — Andy Behrens
Double that QB with a perfect performance
Last week’s 381-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 34-20 rout of the Packers at Lambeau Field not only kept the Buccaneers’ NFC South title hopes alive, but was the second-highest rushing game of Mayfield’s career. Mayfield is now poised for a great closing shot during the fantasy playoffs, as he gets optimal home conditions this week (72 degrees and a slight chance of rain and light wind) against a Jacksonville defense that ranks in the bottom-three in fantasy points allowed . Weeks 12-14, Joe Flacco, Jake Browning and C.J. Stroud each passed for more than 300 yards against the Jaguars. To add to the fun, the Bucs have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, so look for some offensive fireworks in this game.
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Mike Evans has been fantastic this season going 66-1,077-11 to be the WR5 so far, and Chris Godwin returned to relevance last week with a 10-155-0 performance after a lackluster season. With both of his top pass catchers in top form, expect Mayfield to post a top five QB outing in this important fantasy playoff week. — Jorge Martin