At the start of the 2021 season, I made the bold prediction that I thought all four teams in the NFC West had the potential to finish the season with winning records, which is why I was bullish on drafting fantasy players from the division. Barring the Seattle Seahawks running the table, that isn’t going to happen, but another division has stepped up to live out the big talk I had for the NFC West.
The AFC North has found itself in a situation where all four teams control their own destiny to win the division and make the playoffs in the final three games. All four teams have looked dominant at times and awful at others, but their fantasy players are all filling up playoff lineups. When you’re fighting for a fantasy championship you need to have all your players in games that mean something. It would appear every game the teams from the AFC North play from here on through are going to have playoff implications, which is all fantasy owners can ask for with titles on the line.
Here is the Week 16 Fantasy Football Market Report:
Fantasy Football Risers
RB D’Onta Foreman, Tennessee Titans
When the Titans lost Derrick Henry, the organization’s first idea was to dust off Adrian Peterson. After three weeks, they gave up on that theory and went to Plan B. Foreman was signed in the days after Henry went down and, over the last three games, he has looked a little like the franchise – and played like him as well. In those three games, he has rushed 54 times for 264 yards and a touchdown – topping 100 yards in two of them and scoring a TD in the other. He won’t make fantasy owners forget Henry, but he likely won’t be a journeyman after this season.
WR Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have been an offense in transition. Future Hall of Famer Julio Jones was allowed to leave. Calvin Ridley left the team for personal issues. All-World Kyle Pitts has been up and down. The most consistent player over the last month has been Gage. He has help keep the Falcons’ dim playoff hopes alive over the last four games, catching 29 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns. He has become a go-to flex option and still is affordable in daily play as he makes his case moving forward on a Falcons team in transition.
RB Craig Reynolds, Detroit Lions
You don’t look to Detroit for fantasy players, especially in the playoffs, but Reynolds is making the most of his opportunity. The Lions are his fourth team in three years, and he has been little more than a practice squad live body. But with D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams both down, he has been thrust into the mix against a pair of good defenses (Denver and Arizona). He has responded with 37 carries for 195 yards. Like Foreman and Gage, Reynolds is making his statement to his current team and the rest of the league that he has the skills to be a factor in the NFL.
QB Mac Jones, New England Patriots
The rookie QB hasn’t been flashy and doesn’t bring a lot in the run game, but he has started putting together some solid fantasy numbers. In huge games with playoff implications against the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts, he has thrown for seven touchdowns and, in the last two of those games, he has 310 and 299 passing yards. They aren’t the kind of numbers that have him in fantasy playoff lineups, but his stock is on the rise heading into 2022.
RB Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys
The time share between Ezekiel Elliott and Pollard is getting less all the time. Pollard has 119 carries to Zeke’s 201, but Pollard’s rushing average (5.7 yards) is 1.4 more than Elliott’s (4.3), and he had a better rushing average in eight of the last nine games both have played. Anyone who has Elliott isn’t going to bench him, but the Cowboys are consistently getting more yardage out of Pollard. As games increase in importance, he may be seeing even time as the Cowboys season gets more intense and impactful with each coming week.
Fantasy Football Fallers
WR Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
Few players run as hot and cold as Cooper. Over the last seven games, he has played in five of them and, in those games, he has just 15 catches for 188 yards and one touchdown. An average of three catches for 37 yards over five games (technically seven) isn’t what fantasy owners bought into, and there has to be legitimate concern about continuing to play him with a fantasy season on the line.
QB Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
With all the weapons Burrow has, huge numbers are expected every week. Over his last six games, he has accounted for just eight touchdowns (six passing, two rushing) and has thrown for 190 yards or less in three of his last five games. Considering that he never had fewer than two touchdowns in his first eight games and 20 TD passes in those contests, his drop-off has been pronounced. He isn’t the must-start player he was the first half of the season.
WR Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
Through his first five games of the season, Williams was averaging 95 yards and scored six touchdowns, making him one of the breakthrough players of the early season. However, in his last nine games, he has more than 61 receiving yards just twice, less than 50 yards in five of them, and has scored just one touchdown. The Chargers offense has been lighting things up, but Williams hasn’t been a part of it enough to warrant staying in fantasy lineups.
TE Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
It’s been the tale of two seasons for Gesicki. He is among a growing number of fantasy tight ends those of whom without one of the Big 3 are looking to step up and make a statement to be a TE that plays every week. Over his first seven games, Gesicki had three games with 85 or more receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. Over his last seven games, he has fallen flat, registering 54 or fewer receiving yards in every game and scoring no touchdowns. Considering Miami has gone a six-game winning streak in that stretch, it has become apparent that the Dolphins don’t need Gesicki to come up big for them to win.
WR Kenny Golladay, New York Giants
The fact Golladay hasn’t scored a touchdown for the Giants after signing a big free-agent contract is bad enough, but his production has completely flat-lined. In his first four games, he was productive, catching 17 passes for 282 yards. In his last seven games, he has caught just 14 passes for 195 yards and no TDs – an average of just two catches for 28 yards a game, which not only will get you benched on a fantasy team, it will get you waived.