Our NFL Insiders predict Week 16‘s biggest upsets, fantasy flops and sleepers. Plus: Will quarterback Blake Bortles still be in Jacksonville in 2018? Who should be the No. 1 pick in PPR leagues next year?
What’s your top upset pick for Week 16?
Dan Graziano, NFL writer: Broncos over Washington. There’s a whole lot of ugly out there on this week’s betting lines. Among the reasonable picks, I just can’t bring myself to predict a Browns or a Giants win at this point, and I think the Jaguars’ defense brings 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo down to earth. So give me a Denver defense that has looked better the past two weeks against a Washington offense that’s struggling to find 11 guys every week. Low-scoring slog in Landover, but this time the visiting team comes out on top.
Mina Kimes, senior writer: Giants over Cardinals. Even after his improved performance last week, I’m a little nervous about betting on Eli Manning against a very good Cardinals defense. But given what the Giants are facing on the other side of the ball, I don’t believe he’ll have to produce very much to win — and I think Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, both of whom excelled, are good for at least a pair of scores.
Aaron Schatz, editor-in-chief of Football Outsiders: 49ers over Jaguars. Jacksonville is the least consistent team in the league this season. The Jaguars have had huge wins but also lost to the Jets and Cardinals. A top upset pick usually involves an inconsistent team having a down game, plus there’s no question Garoppolo has improved the 49ers’ offense and made them more dangerous.
Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Falcons over Saints. It’s all part of my plan to be correct with my prediction from a couple weeks ago that Carolina would win the NFC South, and it seems more likely than my other upset pick (Miami at Kansas City).
Field Yates, NFL Insider: Browns over Bears. In another roundtable earlier in the season, I forecasted that the Browns would win one game this season … against the Bengals. So, at the peril of speaking out of both sides of my mouth, I’m going to stick to my one win pick for Cleveland, just alter the opponent.
Where will Blake Bortles be playing in 2018?
Graziano: Jacksonville. This is an upset, based on where things were at the start of the season. But at this point, I expect the Jaguars to approach Bortles about a short-term extension. I also expect him to reject it unless it’s a lot bigger than I expect it to be. Bortles should play out his $19 million option year and be in position to cash in if he has a 2018 season that looks anything like his finish to 2017.
Kimes: Jacksonville! Like my colleagues, I’m genuinely shocked by this conclusion, but at this point, it’s undeniable: Bortles’ play over the past couple of months has been more than serviceable — it’s been downright good. Over the first six weeks of the season, he ranked 26th in both QBR and passer rating. And since Week 7, he’s ranked 6th and 11th. I don’t think the Jaguars will let him go next year.
Schatz: I never would have expected to say this in September, but Jacksonville. Bortles has finally blossomed in Year 4 — not into greatness, but at least into reasonableness. He’s currently 13th in the league in Football Outsiders’ passing value (DYAR) stat, and 13th in Total QBR. His big fantasy numbers in some games were pumped by easy opponents, but overall, he has finally become the kind of starting quarterback who can probably win a title if you build a great team around him. He won’t put the Jaguars on his back, but they don’t need him to do that with their defense. So why not just re-sign and stay where you know the scheme, where you know your teammates and where you know you’ll be playing with a great defense?
Sando: Jacksonville is the favorite over any other destination. The question is really one of Jacksonville versus the field. I’ll lean toward the Jaguars, especially if the team proceeds with Dave Caldwell as general manager, given that Caldwell drafted Bortles and has been a strong advocate for him. Bortles’ recent play works in his favor.
Yates: Jacksonville. Although many want to connect Eli Manning to Jacksonville, would he really be an upgrade on Bortles at this stage of his career? I think Bortles is back under center next year, and commend him and the Jacksonville coaching staff for his performance this year. He has steadied his mechanics and has helped to have this team primed for a playoff run.
Who’s your pick to be the biggest fantasy flop this weekend?
Graziano: Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers. Yeah, you’ve been winning fantasy playoff games with your late-season waiver-wire pickup. I get it. And if you’re in the finals and you want to keep the magic going, go right ahead. But the Jaguars’ defense is no joke against opposing wide receivers. Only the Broncos have given up fewer fantasy points to receivers. There should be better options.
Kimes: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers. Garoppolo has been unbelievably fun to watch over the past few weeks, but he — and his dubious slate of weapons — has yet to meet a foe like the Jaguars’ defense. So far this season, Jacksonville has made mincemeat of opposing quarterbacks, allowing a league-low QBR of 38.0.
Schatz: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders. The Eagles are one of the league’s top defenses against the run, and they’re at home and ready to clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Sando: Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. Nelson caught nine passes for 154 yards and two scores against the Vikings on Christmas Eve last year, when Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes admitted he hadn’t played the proper coverages. My money says Minnesota will be on point defensively this time.
Yates: Jamaal Williams, RB, Packers. The rookie has at least 10 carries in six straight games, scoring five touchdowns over that stretch. However, he next faces the Vikings, who have been the league’s stingiest defense to opposing fantasy running backs, allowing an NFL-best 18.6 points per game. Williams was also limited to just 30 yards in Week 15.
Many fantasy title games are this weekend. So let’s help out fantasy players for next year. Who should be the No. 1 pick in PPR leagues in 2018?
Graziano: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. We don’t know for sure where Le’Veon Bell will be playing (or whether he’ll hold out). We don’t know what the offense will look like for David Johnson and the Cardinals if they change coaches. Gurley will be coming off his second huge year out of three and playing for a coach and in an offense that appears set up for big things for the foreseeable future. He catches passes and can’t be tackled.
Kimes: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. It’s hard to overlook Bell, but I’m a little concerned about his rushing volume (he has already topped 300 attempts) and Ben Roethlisberger‘s status. Meanwhile, the future in Los Angeles looks unbelievably bright.
Schatz: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals. Johnson was the No. 1 pick in most leagues this season, and I don’t see any reason to believe his wrist injury will carry over into 2018. That assumes the Cardinals will get a new quarterback next year, or Carson Palmer will return. But if they’re seriously going to start Blaine Gabbert, I would move Johnson behind Bell.
Sando: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers. He’s a sensational running back and wide receiver in one. We can reevaluate if Roethlisberger decides to retire.
Yates: Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers. You can utilize the top pick in a fantasy draft to chase either the player with the highest floor or the player with the highest ceiling. Brown offers both. He became the first player in NFL history to record at least 100 catches in five straight seasons, cementing his spot as one of the most prolific and consistent players the position has ever seen.
Pick a fringe fantasy player who should be started in the title games this weekend.
Graziano: Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens. Wallace has 277 yards over the past three games while the Ravens’ offense has surprisingly sprung to life. They’re playing the Colts. Jeremy Maclin is fighting something. If you’re stuck for an Antonio Brown replacement, maybe take a shot on his former Steelers teammate. Just make sure to get him in your lineup before Saturday’s kickoff.
Kimes: Jesse James, TE, Steelers. The player at the center of last weekend’s most controversial call was otherwise quiet for Pittsburgh, but he has a great shot of bouncing back on Christmas Day. Houston has given up the fifth-most fantasy points on average to the position this season.
Schatz: Theo Riddick, RB, Lions. Cincinnati has allowed more receiving yards to running backs than any other defense, and that’s Riddick’s game. His usage has gone up the past three weeks and should go up further next Sunday.
Sando: Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens. Flacco could be a good choice against a Colts defense that couldn’t stop Denver’s Brock Osweiler. Flacco has averaged 19.1 fantasy points per game over the past three games, up from 8.8 over the first 11.
Yates: Wayne Gallman, RB, Giants. Over the past two weeks, Gallman’s role has increased as he has handled 20 carries for 98 yards and added 13 catches for another 80. Gallman is on the flex radar for deeper PPR leagues. Although this Sunday’s matchup against Arizona profiles to have less high-scoring potential compared to the Week 15 shootout with Philadelphia, I still believe Gallman will stay busy enough in the passing game to score double-digit points.