Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Sleeper plays with upside for Week 16

2TC4E1K Cincinnati Bengals running back Chase Brown (30) rushes with the ball during an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Cincinnati, OH. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)

Cincinnati Bengals RB Chase Brown is stepping up: Over the past three weeks, Brown has led the running backs room in Cincy with a 21% missed forced tackle rate, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt to Mixon’s 3.9, while leading the entire offense with a 93.2 PFF receiving grade in that span.

Cincinnati Bengals TE Tanner Hudson could be in for an expanded role: With Ja’Marr Chase out in Week 16 due to a shoulder injury, the Bengals could look to Hudson to help pick up the pieces against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that has struggled to cover the middle of the field in recent weeks.

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

If you’ve made it this far to the fantasy football playoffs, congratulations! It’s been a challenging season overall, and things aren’t necessarily looking any better in Week 16, as the status of top performers such as Ja’Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill, Kenneth Walker and Josh Jacobs are either up in the air or having already been declared out. If you need a high-upside flex or streaming quarterback for your fantasy lineups, here are some sleeper plays to consider with high upside (albeit often high risk) for Week 16.

WR:CB Matchup Chart RB Chase Brown, Cincinnati Bengals

The theme of this article might just be, “Stream any and all assets against the Pittsburgh Steelers defense!” That includes Cincinnati Bengals backup running back Chase Brown, who’s seen an increased role in the offense over the last three games, totaling nine touches for 50-plus yards in each of his last three outings. He’s seen some work alongside Mixon as a receiver, too, which could be a big-time plus against a Steelers defense that’s been decimated over the middle of the field due to injuries at linebacker and safety. 

Over the past three weeks, Brown has led the running backs room in Cincy with a 21% missed forced tackle rate, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt to Mixon’s 3.9, while leading the entire offense with a 93.2 PFF receiving grade in that span. If Brown has another 10-plus touch outing, expect him to find a little wiggle room to pose some viability as a flex play available on most waiver wires in fantasy leagues.

RB Isaiah Spiller, Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers are in dire straights as of late, with their season officially a lost cause, clearing house by firing former HC Brandon Staley and GM Tom Telesco after Week 15’s embarrassing loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. In that loss, they surprised fantasy managers with a decreased role for veteran Austin Ekeler, instead looking to backups Joshua Kelley and Isaiah Spiller to get the majority of work in the blowout. 

Though circumstances are not the same in Week 16 as in the week prior, there is some reason to believe that Spiller could see more volume in the season's final three games. As this team looks to the future, it’ll need to look into its backup running backs for an opportunity to evaluate some of the depth on the roster in preparation for the years to come. This week, the Chargers will host the Buffalo Bills, who rank top-12 in explosive run rate allowed dating back to Week 10, though a middling matchup in terms of fantasy scoring, which could give fantasy managers a potential flex option in case of injury.

WR Parker Washington, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars are headed to Tampa Bay this week for the great Battle of Florida, with each of these teams in a “must-win” situation as they fight for the lead in their respective divisions. The Jags themselves are dealing with a few injuries that could set them back, including QB Trevor Lawrence, who is in the concussion protocol, as well as WR Zay Jones, who is considered “week-to-week” due to a hamstring injury. 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ secondary has been their greatest weakness to this point in the season, tied for the fourth most passing plays of 15 or more yards allowed and the seventh-lowest contested target rate dating back to Week 10. That’s translated to 180.8 receiving yards per game allowed to opposing receivers – the fourth-most in the league. Unfortunately, they’ve been fairly stingy in the touchdown department during that span, which has them ranked as a middle-of-the-pack matchup in terms of fantasy points allowed to wideouts, but the volume could very well be there for a big-time outing from the rookie in a must-win week. Parker has commanded six targets in two of the last three games, including touchdowns in back-to-back outings in Weeks 13 and 14. Consider this an interesting spot start if you need a flex play available on the waiver wire in most leagues.

TE Tanner Hudson, Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals offense has been a huge surprise under backup Jake Browning since taking over for an injured Joe Borrow. They’ve scored 27 or more points while producing 375-plus yards of offense in each of the past three weeks. Now, they head to Pittsburgh for their second matchup of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers – a defensive unit that’s been decimated over the middle of the field between injuries at inside linebacker, also set to be without their top options at safety this week. Opposing teams have taken full advantage of those weaknesses,  

The Steelers have allowed one or more touchdowns to opposing tight ends in each of their last four matchups, including one in their first meeting back in Week 12 – albeit to Hudson’s teammate, Drew Sample. Given the weaknesses of this Steelers defense at this point in the season and the fact that WR Ja’Marr Chase has been ruled out with a shoulder injury, Hudson could be in for a respectable and stream-worthy outing in Week 16, ranking third on the team in total targets from Browning this season, only behind Chase and teammate Tyler Boyd.

QB Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield is coming off the best game of his career, throwing for 381 passing yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions for a perfect 158.3 passer rating. His efforts were good for a performance as the overall QB2 – his best finish to date this season – and a 91.2 passing grade that tied to lead the league in Week 16. This week, he’ll look to keep it rolling at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars, allowing the third most fantasy points per game (20.19) this season. Things have only continued to worsen for this defense throughout the season, too. Since Week 10, the Jaguars have allowed the fourth-most completions, second-most passing yards (1,696), second-most yards after the catch (840) and second-most passing plays of 15 or more passing yards (40), third-highest passing touchdown percentage (6.1%). Mayfield is throwing to one of the best and most dynamic receiving duos in the league between Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, along with one of the most productive receiving back in the NFL this season. Don’t be surprised if Baker Mayfield wakes up feeling “dangerous” and posts another top-10 outing in Week 16.


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