Top Fantasy Football Performers: Antonio Brown, Zach Ertz, More Week 16 Highlights
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports. Pictued: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84), New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23).
- Steelers WR Antonio Brown torched the Saints defense for two touchdowns in a Week 16 loss.
- Eagles TE Zach Ertz dominated in a record-setting performance against the Texans.
Before we move on to Week 17, let’s break down some key fantasy football performances from Week 16.
Sunday featured double-digit victories for the Vikings, Falcons, Patriots, Jaguars and Rams plus divisional title clinching victories for the Cowboys and Patriots as well as exhilarating late-game losses for the Steelers, Texans, Giants and Jets.
The following players were the brightest stars at their positions this week.
Fantasy Quarterback of the Day: Aaron Rodgers
Many foresaw a strong late-season run for Aaron Rodgers after the team parted ways with Mike McCarthy following their Week 13 loss to the Cardinals, but the offense scored a modest 51 combined points against the Falcons and Bears.
Sunday’s 44-38 overtime victory over the Jets wasn’t perfect, but the offense at least demonstrated a variety of capable weapons for one of the first times all season.
- Rodgers completed 37-of-55 passes (67%) for a season-high 442 yards (8 Y/A) with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also chipped in 32 rushing yards and another two scores on the ground.
- Davante Adams caught 11-of-18 targets for 71 yards and a walk-off 16-yard touchdown. His 169 targets this season are easily the most by a Packers player since Rodgers took over under center in 2008.
- Rookie receivers Equanimeous St. Brown (5 receptions-94 yards-0 touchdowns) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (5-75-0) were each productive in Randall Cobb’s (concussion) absence.
- Starting running back Jamaal Williams converted 21 touches into 156 total yards and a touchdown with Aaron Jones (knee, IR) sidelined.
- No. 4 receiver Jake Kumerow caught all three of his targets for 68 yards, including an electric 49-yard touchdown.
Rodgers is going to attempt to dice up any defense he faces regardless of if the Packers are in the playoffs. That means Green Bay’s DFS ownership could by high for their Week 17 matchup against the Lions at Lambeau Field.
Fantasy Running Back of the Day: Christian McCaffrey
It would’ve made sense if the Panthers wanted to limit their stud running back’s workload with Cam Newton (shoulder) sidelined and their playoff hopes all but eliminated. Instead, McCaffrey posted 21-101-0 rushing and 12-77-0 receiving lines and served as the offense’s workhorse for almost the entire afternoon.
McCaffrey’s workload this season has been nothing short of ridiculous, as he joins Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Todd Gurley and David Johnson as the only backs with at least eight games with 20-plus touches. Still, getting the Panthers’ three-down back to the ground has proven to be a difficult task for defenders all season long.
CMC needs 155 receiving yards against the Saints in Week 17 to join Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig as the only players in NFL history with at least 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season.
Fantasy Wide Receiver of the Day: Antonio Brown
The Steelers had their way with the Saints secondary for most of Sunday afternoon, although Drew Brees and company ultimately emerged victorious with a 31-28 victory. Still, Ben Roethlisberger completed 33-of-50 passes (66%) for 380 yards (7.6 Y/A) with three touchdowns and zero turnovers.
Juju Smith-Schuster (11-115-0) had a big day, but Big Ben had most of his success when targeting long-time BFF Antonio Brown. Overall, AB caught 14-of-19 targets for a season-high 185 yards and two touchdowns against Marshon Lattimore and the rest of the league’s 20th-ranked defense in DVOA vs. No. 1 wide receivers.
AB’s “down year” has now consisted of 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and a franchise-record 15 receiving touchdowns. Brown might not ever regain the same GOAT-level efficiency numbers we saw from 2013-2017, but he remains more than capable of being the featured piece of one of the league’s most-explosive offenses.
The passing game will need to pull out all the stops in Week 17 to keep the Steelers’ playoff hopes alive in a smash spot at home against the Bengals.
Fantasy Tight End of the Day: Zach Ertz
Travis Kelce is having one of the best seasons ever by a tight end… and Zach Ertz has somehow been even better. Ertz’s latest performance consisted of 12 receptions for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns on a team-high 16 targets. The Texans’ porous tight end defense wasn’t able to slow down Ertz all afternoon, and he now owns the NFL record for most receptions in a single season with 113.
Ertz certainly benefits from his offensive system and extra-terrestrial volume, but he’s largely functioned as one of the best players on the field for the better part of the last two seasons.
The Eagles aren’t eliminated just yet, and they’ll have a chance to make things interesting in Week 17 against the Redskins. Ertz has posted 9-83-0, 5-89-1, 8-93-0 and 10-112-0 lines in his last four games against the Eagles’ divisional rival.
The Browns Continue to Roll
Baker Mayfield are 5-2 since cutting ties with Hue Jackson following their Week 8 loss to the Steelers. New offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens has been cooking with Baker (sorry) during the last two months.
- Weeks 3-8: 58% cmp | 6.6 Y/A | 8 TDs, 6 INTs | 245 yards per game
- Weeks 9-16: 71% cmp | 8.5 Y/A | 16 TDs, 5 INTs | 268.3 yards per game
The only negative for fantasy investors has been Mayfield’s willingness to spread the ball around. No single receiver had more than eight targets during the Browns’ 26-18 victory over the Bengals. Of course, the Browns will take Mayfield’s 284 yards and three touchdowns with zero turnovers any day of the week.
Also helping matters has been the performance of stud rookie running back Nick Chubb, who has posted a 183-972-8 line on the ground this season despite not having more than three rush attempts in a game until Week 7. The Browns’ workhorse back’s efficiency has been nothing short of spectacular.
The Browns will face arguably their toughest challenge of the season in Week 17 on the road against the Ravens’ top-ranked defense.
Robby Anderson is Mr. December
The Jets were able to keep pace with the Packers this week thanks in large part to their newfound passing game. Overall, Sam Darnold completed 24-of-35 passes (69%) for 341 yards (9.7 Y/A) and found Robby Anderson (9-140-1), tight end Chris Herndon (6-82-1) and running back Elijah McGuire (3-50-1) for touchdowns through the air.
Anderson has balled out ever since Darnold returned from injury in Week 14, and he’s undoubtedly helped win a couple fantasy championships along the way.
Overall, Anderson (31) easily leads the team in targets over the past three weeks, with the likes of Eli McGuire (13), Christopher Herndon (13), Jermaine Kearse (11) and Trenton Cannon (7) rounding out Darnold’s top-five targets.
Anderson will look to keep riding high in Week 17 vs. the Patriots, although he’s caught just 9-of-25 targets for 134-scoreless yards in five career games against Bill Belichick and company.
No Gurley? No Problem
Todd Gurley has gifted fantasy owners some truly exceptional weeks over the past two years, although it’s been a bit of en emotional roller coast during the second half of 2018.
The Rams were without their stud running back Sunday despite pregame reports stating otherwise, so they entered the game with C.J. Anderson, John Kelly and Justin Davis available at running back.
Anderson posted a 24-104-0 rushing line in nine games with the Panthers this season before converting his 20 rushes into 167 yards and a score on Sunday. The Cardinals held Jared Goff and the passing game to just 216 yards and one touchdown, but they never quite had an answer for CJA and company.
The Saints clinched the No. 1 seed, so it’d behoove the Rams to get Gurley some more rest for their Week 17 home matchup against the 49ers.
T.Y. Hilton Remains a Fantasy Cheat Code Indoors
The Colts managed to take care of business in Week 16 with a hard-earned 28-27 victory over the Giants. Hilton was a game-time decision Sunday and seemingly far from 100%, but he still managed to catch 7-of-8 target for 138-scoreless yards against the Giants’ league-worst defense in DVOA vs. No. 1 WRs.
Andrew Luck and his No. 1 receiver are more than capable of balling out in any environment, but T.Y. HIlton’s performance indoors has been phenomenal this season.
Their playoff hopes hinge on on Week 17, when they’ll travel to Nashville to take on the Titans.
The NFC’s Road to the Super Bowl Goes Through NOLA
The Saints managed to lock up the overall No. 1 seed in the NFC thanks to massive performances from the likes of Drew Brees (326 passing yards), Mark Ingram (43 total yards and a touchdown), Michael Thomas (11-109-1 receiving) and Alvin Kamara (105 total yards and two touchdowns).
The latter players performance over the past two seasons leaves him in the company of legends when it comes to finding the end zone.
It’s unlikely the Saints expend much, if any, energy for their Week 17 matchup against the Panthers.
Hurt in Battle and Returning Soldiers
There were plenty of key injuries on both sides of the ball this week. We won’t know more about Week 15 availability until later in the week, but the following skill-position players will certainly be worth monitoring:
- Dante Pettis, WR, 49ers (knee)
- Matt Breida, RB, 49ers (ankle)
- Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Cardinals (stinger)
- Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Packers (concussion)
- Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons (groin)
- Demaryius Thomas, WR, Texans (Achilles)
- Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Patriots (knee)
- DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers (foot)
- Eric Ebron, TE, Colts (concussion)
- Taylor Heinicke, QB, Panthers (elbow)