There are probably a few of you in leagues playing into Week 17, but for most us, this is it! Week 16 is the traditional Championship Week. We know all the patterns. We know who might vulture touchdowns. We know which players are maddeningly inconsistent and which ones we can count on for points, even on a bad day.
But just when we think we know it all, here come the curve balls. Every week had at least one big surprise. If it wasn’t an injury, someone was suspended for being late or missing a meeting. There is plenty of Week 16 news and updates to consider as you tinker with your championship game roster or DFS team.
Big news: Rodgers, Henry, and Zuerlein done
The biggest name in the news this week was Aaron Rodgers. With the Packers officially eliminated from the playoffs Monday night, the team announced they were putting Rodgers back on injured reserve, ending his season. Rodgers appears to have gotten through last week’s game with no repercussion from several sacks and hits. The decision was the team’s as Rodgers is reportedly unhappy about the situation.
Hunter Henry was showing some consistent numbers in the Chargers’ offense before handing in a 2.9-point dud last week and watching Antonio Gates score a touchdown. Now we know he was hurt bad enough to end his season, too. A lacerated kidney will shelve the tight end until 2018.
The most important injury was to kicker Greg Zuerlein. Zuerlein was on pace to set the record for most points by a kicker. He was reliable from all distances. The Rams picked up Sam Ficken. Ficken reportedly has some leg, but I can’t help but think Los Angeles will think twice before settling for any 55-yard field goals this week.
Running backs: Elliott, Fournette, Mixon, and Williams back?
If you held on to Ezekiel Elliott and made it to your championship game, congratulations. Elliott has bet a couple of folks he will total over 200 yards Sunday, but that was before he knew left tackle, Tyron Smith, might miss the game.
Smith did not practice Wednesday or Thursday with a sprained knee. Seattle will take advantage of Smith’s absence. Elliott could have a tougher time of it than expected, but since that still adds up to 100 yards, play him (you might think twice about Dak Prescott, though).
Leonard Fournette was a full participant in practice Thursday and is a “full go” barring a setback, according to the Jaguars. With the Jaguars’ return to the playoffs already decided, don’t be surprised to see more of Jacksonville’s backup committee and only a moderate showing of Fournette.
Joe Mixon practiced in full Thursday, indicating that he will clear the concussion protocol in time to play Sunday. I would not be eager to play Mixon. The main impact of Mixon’s return is that Giovani Bernard’s status as a good start ends. The two will likely share the load. Bernard will get the pass-catching role, so a PPR play is possible for desperate folks.
Likewise, in Miami, the news of Damien Williams’ return is not creating a rush to add him to any rosters. It is, however, making us think twice about Kenyan Drake. The Dolphins’ offensive coordinator said last week he was concerned with the workload of Drake. Drake has done well enough to be worth a start over most mid-range running backs, but he is not likely to have as big a game with Williams on the field.
Running backs: Samaje Perine, Kerwynn Williams, Matt Forte out?
Samaje Perine’s stock has fallen over the past two weeks, due largely to Washington’s decimated offensive line. With news that he left practice Wednesday and did not return Thursday with a groin injury has him questionable at best for this weekends’ games. If you are relying on him this week, you should pick up Kapri Bibbs as a last-minute handcuff to be on the safe side.
Kerwynn Williams did not practice through Thursday, leaving the door open for Elijhaa Penny to start against the Giants. The Giants run defense is bad enough to consider playing a banged-up Williams or the youngster, Penny.
Matt Forte also has not practiced all week. Bilal Powell would benefit most from Forte sitting out, especially with Elijah McGuire also banged up. The Chargers are a middle-of-the-road fantasy defense against running backs, but they are in a desperate playoff position after last week’s disappointment in Kansas City. If you believe in the wounded-animal theory, Jets running backs are a secondary option.
Wide receivers: Braxton Miller, Hurns, Ginn, and Amari Cooper back?
The good news is that Braxton Miller is expected back for the Houston Texans. The bad news is that TJ Yates will still pass the ball. This also should not affect DeAndre Hopkins’ targets. Hopkins remains the only possible play against the Steelers.
Allen Hurns returned to the practice field in Jacksonville. He is still listed as questionable, but his return would offset the probable loss of Marqise Lee. Dede Westbrook and rookie Keelan Cole remain viable starters as the Jaguars seem bent on convincing the league they have a passing game.
Ted Ginn practiced on a limited basis after missing Week 15 with a rib injury. He is little more than a WR-3 even at full capacity this week.
Amari Cooper is reportedly on track to return to action Monday night. He did not practice Thursday, though. Watch the news from Oakland carefully. Unless you have another Raider (or an Eagle) ready to back him up, his Monday night start might be too risky to chance in championship week.
Wide receivers: Davante Adams, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin out?
Davante Adams has been ruled out of Week 16’s game as he recovers from his second concussion of the season. That knocks out the only Packer you could trust in Week 16. Championship Week is not the time to guess at who might get his targets, especially against a tough opponent.
DeSean Jackson missed practice all week with an ankle injury suffered against Atlanta. He is not completely ruled out, but he is not expected to play. With OJ Howard also ruled out, tight end Cameron Brate stands to see more additional targets than rookie Chris Godwin.
Jeremy Maclin is likely to miss the Ravens’ game this week, which isn’t a big deal except that it might push those on the fence about Mike Wallace into starting Joe Flacco’s favorite recent target.
Wide receivers: Marqise Lee, Emmanuel Sanders, and DeVante Parker out, too?
Marqise Lee has not practiced all week and was still in a walking boot late Wednesday. The possible return of Allen Hurns would help, but otherwise, all three rookie Jaguars receivers are worth considering.
Denver’s Emmanuel Sanders has not practiced all week, either. He has skipped practices before and is not definitively ruled out, but you will have to watch his status carefully. Another potential quarterback change in Denver might affect his viability, too.
DeVante Parker has been fighting ankle problems all season. It looks like the same issue will keep him from following up on his highest-yardage game of the season for Miami.
WR: Devin Funchess and Kelvin Benjamin playing through
Devin Funchess did not practice all week but insists he is good to go Sunday. His shoulder limited him last week and could be an issue even if he plays in Week 16. With Russell Shepard already ruled out, handcuffing Funchess with Demaire Byrd is not an awful idea.
Kelvin Benjamin spent as much time with the strength and conditioning coaches as he did on the practice field this week. He is playing through a torn meniscus in his knee. He will be limited in practices but gut out the games as long as the Bills stay alive in the playoff picture.
Quarterback questions no one is worried about
Besides Aaron Rodgers’ placement on the IR, quarterback questions are not likely to affect anyone’s championship lineup. TJ Yates will start in Houston for the injured Tom Savage, but he probably won’t start in your NFL fantasy game.
Brock Osweiler’s showing in relief of Trevor Siemian had folks talking about him as a Week 16 sleeper for the truly desperate. Reports from Denver, however, state that Paxton Lynch has taken half the starter’s reps in practice all week. A decision on a starter is expected late Friday.
This is it! For those of you who play into Week 17, there will be an article or two next week to help you through any issues leading to your championship. But, this is the final regular article for the season. Thank you, everyone, for following. Be sure to check in at RealSport during the offseason for updates and advice for NFL Fantasy Football 2018.
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