Every week, at least one player becomes my fascination of whether he’s worthy of a fantasy football start or bench. The decision can be a mental wrestling match, but for the purpose of brevity, only one player can be chosen as the fantasy football gamble of the week.
The best fantasy football gamble for Week 16
Tracking my predictions: 7-8-0
Win: Player produces ≥ 75% of projected fantasy points
Loss: Player produces >75% of projected fantasy points
Tie: Player is ejected, leaves with an injury, or lands on COVID-19 list after publishing
Last week’s choice was Miami Dolphins wideout DeVante Parker. He finished with 16.8 of the 21.9 PPR points I forecasted, just barely sneaking in as a win at 76.7 percent of the projected total (4-68-1 as his final stat line). I’ll be the first to admit, even vs. a lousy New York Jets’ run defense, I’m still having a hard time reconciling the numbers Duke Johnson posted in that one.
Looking at Week 16, I turn to a quarterback whose fantasy football ceiling generally is low due to being mostly a game manager, but he can spin it when needed. And I’m banking on him having to do just that …
QB Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings vs. Los Angeles Rams
Normally, someone of Cousins’ status wouldn’t make the cut …. I tend to view it as being too easy of a selection, but when he’s down his top running back, may still be without one of his best receivers, and also is facing arguably the best secondary in football, things can get dicey in a hurry.
The risk here is three-fold. Just because Minnesota will be without Dalvin Cook for 10 days after he tested positive for COVID-19, it doesn’t mean the Vikes will abandon the running game. Alexander Mattison was activated from his stint on that same reserve list, and he’ll draw his fourth start of 2021. He has been rock-solid in relief of Cook thus far, and Los Angeles is best attacked on the ground.
Which brings me to the second serious concern, being the Vikings may resort to dinking and dunking their way up the field when they actually do throw the ball. In that scenario, it will take a tremendous volume of passes or serious yards after catch to make up for a lower per-attempt average from Cousins. I fear this scenario the most because of pressure from Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Leonard Floyd forcing quick throws. And there’s that Jalen Ramsey guy to worry about, too.
Finally … will Cousins have Adam Thielen (ankle) available to catch passes? Justin Jefferson is an absolutely monster, but this projection will feel much safer if the veteran wideout rejoins the fold.
What I do like: The Rams are far from bulletproof against quarterbacks, and we’ve seen several guys get into respectable fantasy territory vs. this defense in 2021.
A look at the best stat lines vs. LA this year:
- Tom Brady (Week 3): 432-1-0 passing, 3-14-1 rushing (33 fantasy points)
- Kyler Murray (Week 4): 268-2-0 passing, 6-39-0 rushing (25.3 points)
- Davis Mills (Week 8): 310-2-1 passing, 0-0-0 rushing (23.5 points)
- Aaron Rodgers (Week 12): 307-2-0 passing, 2-0-1 TD (29.4 points)
- Kyler Murray (Week 14): 383-0-2 passing, 7-61-0 rushing (25.3 points)
While Cousins isn’t a threat to run it like Murray, he still has at least one rushing touchdown in each of his seasons as a full-time starter. And when your best rushing weapon isn’t on the field, it slightly improves the odds we see a short plunge from the veteran. That said, I have a fundamental grievance with projecting a rushing TD for a traditional pocket passer.
Eight different QBs posted fewer than Carson Wentz‘s 20.1 fantasy points against this defense, which came in Week 2, and every name on that list is someone you’d expect to see, minus Russell Wilson (post-surgery).
Can Cousins get into the 20s without a rushing TD? That will be the decider in whether he can really go big against this group. It all comes down to game script. Should the high-power LA passing offense get it going early against a Minnesota defense that has been throttled through the air in 2021, my answer is a resounding “yes.” … If not, then start getting nervous. I do, however, fully expect the Rams to destroy Minnesota’s secondary, leading to increased passing by necessity from Mike Zimmer’s group.
I don’t think we’re at the point of questioning whether Cousins is a fantasy starter vs. the Rams as much as the debating, “Just how good can he be vs. this mostly scary defense?”
Presuming Thielen returns from a two-game absence, Cousins’ odds of approaching 25 fantasy points greatly improve. If not, then all bets are off. The veteran has thrown at least two touchdowns in seven straight and eight of the last nine games, including the last two without this star receiver, which is encouraging. He has topped 275 yards four times in that same window and seven times on the year. In the three games without Cook, Cousins accounted for 28.4 points against Seattle, 18.2 vs. Detroit in a game Mattison generated 28.3 PPR points of his own, and then 25.6 points against the Lions in Week 13. None of those units are in the same universe as the Rams, but Seattle is considerably better vs. the pass than the run.
Given the narrow scope of playoff teams remaining at this point, this one might be best for daily fantasy sports lineups. Cousins wasn’t drafted as a starter in most traditional leagues, so depending upon one’s options, he’s a worthwhile gamble for finishing between QB7-12 this week.
I hope Santa is good to everyone, especially when it comes to delivering a Christmas miracle in fantasy leagues. Stay safe and healthy, and if I’m wrong about Cousins, just know I’ll blame it on the eggnog!
My projection: 332 passing yards, 2 touchdown passes, 0 interceptions, 8 rushing yards (25.4 fantasy points)