The fantasy football semifinals offered plenty of action for fantasy managers in Week 16. Those who used the waiver wire in recent weeks benefited greatly from big days by the likes of Ronald Jones, Justin Jackson, Rex Burkhead, Alexander Mattison and Sony Michel.
PFF's fantasy football recap focuses on player usage and stats, breaking down all the vital information you need to achieve fantasy success in 2021.
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- Snaps include plays called back due to penalties like offensive holding or defensive pass interference. The other three stats have these plays removed.
- Targets may differ from official NFL sources. The most likely discrepancy would be from a clear thrown away pass, where the NFL may give the target to the nearest receiver, while this data will not.
- Carries are only on designed plays. Quarterback scrambles won’t count for the total number of carries in the game.
- Ronald Jones: 20 carries, 65 yards, (53 yards after contact), 1 TD, 2 receptions, 16 receiving yards
- Antonio Brown: 10 receptions, 101 receiving yards, (51.8% threat rate)
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Carolina Panthers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Terrace Marshall Jr.||41||34||1||0|
The Buccaneers' changing wide receivers: The Buccaneers experienced several changes at wide receiver over the last week with Chris Godwin landing on injured reserve and Mike Evans week to week with a hamstring injury. Antonio Brown returned from suspension to take one of the receiver spots. When everyone was healthy, Brown would only play in three receiver sets. He was able to stay on the field nearly every play in this game, giving him a higher ceiling than usual.
Cyril Grayson leaped over a few other receivers on the depth chart to take the other starting role. The journeyman has spent just over two years with the Buccaneers on and off their practice squad. He caught a 62-yard pass in this game and ended up with 81 yards on three catches. It’s possible Evans is able to play next week or that Breshad Perriman is activated off the Covid-19 list and takes that spot, so Grayson isn’t a great waiver wire option. Even if he starts one more week, the matchup against the Jets secondary isn’t all that favorable.
The Buccaneers without Leonard Fournette: Fournette landed on injured reserve after an injury to his hamstring. Ronald Jones was one of the most popular waiver wire pickups last week. He put up a solid game with a touchdown, but Ke’shawn Vaughn was also productive. Vaughn was the third down back and was utilized in other clear passing situations. He broke a 55-yard run for a touchdown in the first quarter, which helped him lead the team in rushing yards. Jones is still worth starting next week, but Vaughn limits his upside.
Avoid the Panthers running backs: Carolina’s run game was completely ineffective against the Buccaneers' run defense. All three running backs were held to single-digit rushing yards. Reggie Bonnafon hadn’t seen any offensive snaps all season and ended up leading the group in receiving yards. All of his snaps occurred in the last five minutes of the game when Carolina no longer had a chance at winning. Next week they face the New Orleans Saints, who have allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs.
- Rex Burkhead: 22 carries, 149 yards, 2 TD, (4.8 yards after contact per carry), 2 receptions, 0 receiving yards
- Justin Jackson: 11 carries, 64 yards, 2 TD, 8 receptions, 98 receiving yards, (27.6% threat rate)
|Los Angeles Chargers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Houston Texans||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
The Chargers without Austin Ekeler: Ekeler landed on the Covid-19 list a week ago, forcing him to miss his first game of the season. Justin Jackson took the role as the lead back, as expected, with Joshua Kelley functioning as the primary backup. Jackson led the team in both rushing yards and receiving yards. He also scored two touchdowns, making any fantasy manager who trusted him very happy. He would be a must-start next week if Ekeler misses another game but can be dropped the second Ekeler is off the Covid-19 list.
Add Rex Burkhead: The veteran RB has been the top back in Houston for a few weeks but had a particularly good game today. Backup David Johnson was out with a quad injury, allowing Burkhead to dominate the carries. He took advantage of the Chargers run defense to put up his best game of the season. Houston has a decent matchup against the 49ers run defense next week. He probably isn’t someone to put immediately into starting lineups but is a good backup option if Covid-19 hits too many players.
The Chargers are thin at wide receiver: Mike Williams was placed on the Covid-19 list, leaving him out for both this week and next. Jalen Guyton was also placed on the Covid-19 list. This allowed rookie Joshua Palmer to work as the top outside wide receiver, while Jason Moore also saw his first significant action of the season. The Chargers spread the ball around a lot, so none of them had a great game. Palmer had the best performance with five catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. The rookie will likely start again in a tough matchup against the Broncos next week.
- Tee Higgins: 12 receptions, 194 yards, 2 TD, (10 other catches were all first downs)
- Mark Andrews: 8 receptions, 125 yards, 1 TD, (4 explosive plays)
|Baltimore Ravens||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Stanley Morgan Jr.||15||7||0||0|
Rashod Bateman trending up: The first-round rookie’s playing time has been limited throughout the season anytime Sammy Watkins has been healthy. Watkins missed last week while on the Covid-19 list, and Bateman played over 70% of offensive snaps for the first time in his career. Watkins was back this week but only played three offensive snaps. This allowed Bateman to see over 70% of offensive snaps for the second straight week. He caught four of five passes thrown his way for 26 yards and a touchdown. Those aren’t great numbers, but the Ravens were using their third-string quarterback.
This might not mean much for 2021 but makes it more likely Watkins leaves in free agency this offseason, making Bateman a clear starter in 2022.
Start your Bengals: The Bengals offense had an incredible day. Joe Burrow had the fourth-most passing yards in a game in NFL history. All three of his wide receivers had over 85 receiving yards. Their player usage all season has been the same, with all five starters consistently seeing a vast majority of snaps when healthy. Next week they play Kansas City, which has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
- DeVonta Smith: 5 receptions, 80 yards, 1 TD, (15.0 aDOT)
- Boston Scott: 12 carries, 41 yards, 1 TD, (2.3 yards after contact per carry)
|New York Giants||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Monitor the health of the Eagles running backs: Miles Sanders was the clear lead back for Philadelphia despite not practicing all week with a quad injury. He had a solid start to the game with 45 yards on seven carries but suffered a hand injury late in the first half, which kept him out the rest of the game. All three other backs saw some snaps in the first half, with Jordan Howard as the top backup.
Howard was the main back in the third quarter and start of the fourth, with Boston Scott seeing significant playing time. Howard suffered what the Eagles described as a stringer, which left Scott to finish off the end of the fourth quarter. Both Howard and Scott are worthy waiver wire pickups in case Sanders isn’t able to play next week.
Saquon Barkley trending down: Barkley had a disappointing 32 rushing yards on 15 carries, with his rushing production declining each game over the past month. The Giants turned to Devonta Booker more often than usual, including typically using him on third downs. Barkley had a slight lead in offensive snaps through three quarters. The Giants stuck with Booker for the entire fourth quarter with the game out of reach, giving Booker a clear lead in snaps. It will be difficult to start the former All-Pro next week. He will be one of the biggest high-risk, high-reward players in 2022 redraft leagues.
The return of Kadarius Toney: The Giants rookie receiver had two straight excellent games with 16 carries for 267 yards in that stretch but has failed to stay healthy since then. He played part time in a few games but missed just over a month of football with an oblique injury before landing on the Covid-19 list. He split time with Pharaoh Cooper as the Giants eased him into action. Once the fourth quarter hit, he was tied for the lead in offensive snaps for Giants wide receivers. He led the team in targets (8) and receiving yards (28) despite the limited time. He will likely see more playing time next week.
- Michael Carter: 16 carries, 118 yards, (6 avoided tackles), 2 receptions, 6 receiving yards
- Dare Ogunbowale: 17 carries, 57 yards, (36 yards after contact), 1 TD, 2 receptions, 15 receiving yards
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Marvin Jones Jr.||61||39||13||0|
|New York Jets||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Add Dare Ogunbowale: James Robinson suffered an achilles injury on a non-contact play that looked serious. Ogunbowale took over as the lead rusher for Jacksonville. He is traditionally a receiving back, but that didn’t stop Jacksonville from giving him the ball 17 times on the ground. They have a favorable matchup against the Patriots next week. The combination of volume and matchup could be enough to make him a fantasy starter.
Michael Carter trending up: The Jets had all of their running backs healthy for the first time in a long time. Carter saw a season high 74% of offensive snaps despite the other backs being available. He has stayed below 60% in the last four games he was healthy with Tevin Coleman more involved. Coleman still had double-digit carries, but Ty Johnson has completely lost his role in the offense. Carter will be a borderline fantasy starter next week with a tough matchup against Tampa Bay. He will be a highly drafted player in 2022 redrafts.
James O’Shaughnessy trending down: The Jaguars tight end was a popular waiver wire target this week for those hurting at tight end. He had been the clear receiving tight end for Jacksonville in an offense that liked to throw to the position.
The Jaguars changed their strategy this week, with Jacob Hollister splitting the receiving role with O’Shaughnessy. A lot of his lost snaps came in 12 personnel, and the team used more 12 personnel than usual with multiple wide receivers missing. Even if they use 11 personnel more often next week, the Patriots have allowed the fewest fantasy points to tight ends this year. He can be dropped in favor of a different waiver wire option.
- Sony Michel: 27 carries, 131 yards, 1 TD, (30.8% first down rate), 1 reception, 4 receiving yards
- Justin Jefferson: 8 receptions, 116 yards, (4 for 5 on contested catches)
|Los Angeles Rams||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||63||37||8||0|
|Minnesota Vikings||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Sony Michel trending up: Michel raised eyebrows in Week 13 by putting up the first 100-yard rushing game for a Ram this season with Darrell Henderson out. Henderson returned last week, but Michel retained the starting job. Today he has an even more clear hold of the job. Henderson saw his first carry of the game in the fourth quarter and suffered a knee injury on that play. Michel is now a must-start player next week, while Henderson should only be held onto in case Michel gets Covid. Cam Akers was put on the active roster before this game, but he’s very unlikely to play next week.
Monitor the Adam Thielen injury: Thielen missed last week with a high-ankle sprain. He returned to the Vikings this week despite being limited in practice all week. He was in his usual role to start the game but was clearly not doing well after a catch in the second quarter. He tried to return to the game for a few plays early in the third quarter, but was done for the day after those three plays. K.J. Osborn returned to being an every down receiver after that point, while Dede Westbrook took over in three receiver sets. Thielen can only be trusted next week if he gets some practice in the middle of the week. Even then, the Vikings have a tough matchup against the Packers secondary, which might be better to avoid.
The Vikings without Dalvin Cook: The Vikings star running back landed on the Covid-19 list, which pushed Alexander Mattison back into the starting lineup. He handled double-digit carries but only gained 41 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Kene Nwangwu saw double-digit offensive snaps for the first time in his career and took a few more carries from Mattison than anticipated. Mattison would still be a must-start if Cook misses another week, but his upside will be a little more limited with Nwangwu getting more involved in the offense.
- Damien Harris: 18 carries, 103 yards, 3 TD, (44.4% first down or touchdown rate)
- Isaiah McKenzie: 11 receptions, 125 yards, 1 TD, (8 first downs)
|Buffalo Bills||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|New England Patriots||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Add Isaiah McKenzie: The Bills didn’t have Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis both due to Covid-19. Neither player is vaccinated, making it more likely they miss next week’s game, too. McKenzie took over as the team’s slot receiver and put together a dominant performance. It’s possible even if one or both Bills players returns that they still rely on McKenzie. Bills wide receivers have a very favorable matchup against the Falcons secondary next week, so whoever is available should have a big day.
Drop Matt Breida: The veteran back surprisingly had some good games during the end of November, but his role has declined since that point. He was inactive today in favor of Zack Moss. Devin Singletary remained the primary rushing back as well as the primary receiving back. Singletary remains a relatively safe start. Moss should only be on rosters in case Singletary gets Covid-19.
Patriots injury replacements: Rhamondre Stevenson missed this game due to Covid, while Nelson Agholor missed the game with a concussion. The Patriots running back strategy was very predictable, with Damien Harris getting all of the rushing game work and Brandon Bolden handling all of the receiving work. The Patriots backfield seems destined to be frustrating in 2022 — Harris and Stevenson are inconsistent when both are healthy, but when one is out the other is capable of being a league-winner.
At wide receiver, N’Keal Harry was a direct replacement for Agholor. Harry was restricted to 15 yards on two receptions. Harry can be left on the waiver wire even if Agholor misses another game.
- Amon-Ra St. Brown: 9 receptions, 91 yards, 1 TD, (32.3% threat rate), 2 carries, 19 rushing yards
- Kyle Pitts: 6 receptions, 102 receiving yards, (4.64 YPRR)
|Detroit Lions||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Amon-Ra St. Brown||58||32||10||2|
|Atlanta Falcons||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
The return of Jamaal Williams: Williams returned to the Lions after missing the last few weeks due to Covid-19. He immediately went to the top of the depth chart despite how well Craig Reynolds played the last two weeks. The former Packer outplayed Reynolds, gaining 77 yards on 19 carries compared to 29 yards on 11 carries. Reynolds can be dropped at this point, as the Lions could also be getting D’Andre Swift back next week.
Cordarrelle Patterson trending down: The league’s all-time greatest kick returner made his mark over the first half of the season as a receiver, scoring five receiving touchdowns in the first eight weeks with three games over 80 yards. He hasn’t been nearly as involved in the pass game over the last six games, with only 5 receiving yards over the last three games.
Patterson's fantasy value seemed safe, as he was consistently seeing double-digit carries over the past month. He only had 14 rushing yards on seven carries today. He and Mike Davis saw nearly identical usage, but Davis was more effective. It’s worth considering benching Patterson in the fantasy championship round.
- Rashaad Penny: 17 carries, 135 yards, 1 TD, (5.6 yards after contact per carry)
- David Montgomery: 21 carries, 45 yards, 1 TD, (5 avoided tackles), 7 receptions, 61 receiving yards
|Chicago Bears||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Seattle Seahawks||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
The return of Marquise Goodwin: Goodwin had been out since Week 12 with a foot injury but returned to the Bears lineup today. Chicago was without Allen Robinson II due to COVID-19 and Jakeem Grant due to a concussion. The Bears still limited Goodwin’s snaps despite them being thin at the position. Sixth-round rookie Dazz Newsome saw significant playing time for the second straight week and tallied his first NFL catch. Expect the position group to look a lot different in 2022 outside of Darnell Mooney.
Rashaad Penny trending up: Penny had a disappointing Week 14. Due to the game script and two-minute drills, DeeJay Dallas ended up gaining more rushing yards than him and vulturing a touchdown. The Seahawks' running back usage went more as expected this week. Penny was the clear early-down back and had a dominant day on the ground. Dallas still took most of the third downs, as well as the two-minute drill snaps. Penny has a very safe matchup next week against the Lions. He will get the opportunities, and the matchup and game script should also be in his favor.
- Josh Jacobs: 27 carries, 129 yards, (6 avoided tackles)
- Hunter Renfrow: 3 receptions, 40 yards, 1 TD, (15.7 aDOT)
|Denver Broncos||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Melvin Gordon III||23||8||1||7|
|Las Vegas Raiders||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Replacing Bryan Edwards: It was announced just a few hours before the game that Edwards landed on the Covid-19 list. It was assumed DeSean Jackson would see a significant increase in offensive snaps, but he only played roughly half the snaps. The Raiders also used undrafted rookie Dillon Stoner on offense for a career-high 10 snaps, but he still didn’t see his first NFL target. They also used a little more two tight end sets than usual. Expect Las Vegas to make significant changes to their outside receiver group in 2022.
Broncos running backs with Drew Lock: The Broncos skill players were all relatively healthy coming into the game, but they were without their leader, Teddy Bridgewater. The Raiders to stacked the box a little more than the Broncos are used to, resulting in a combined -5 yards before contact for Broncos backs on 14 carries. Lock threw a higher percentage of passes to the wide receivers than Bridgewater typically does, which also hurt the fantasy value of both backs. The Broncos running backs should both rebound next week against the Chargers run defense.
- Byron Pringle: 6 receptions, 75 yards, 2 TD, (2 avoided tackles)
- Diontae Johnson: 6 receptions, 51 yards, 1 TD, (6.6 aDOT)
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Ray-Ray McCloud III||45||30||8||0|
|Benny Snell Jr.||16||9||1||5|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Monitor the Clyde Edwards-Helaire injury: Kansas City employed its usual strategy at running back in the first half, with Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams splitting time. Edwards-Helaire saw more work on rushing downs, which included a touchdown run, while Williams saw more work in the passing game. Edwards-Helaire suffered a collarbone injury early in the third quarter. Williams handled an increased role in the rushing game in the second half, while Derrick Gore also took on significant playing time. Williams could be a league-winner if Edwards-Helaire has to miss next week’s game.
Chiefs young receivers stepping up: Tyreek Hill landed on the COVID-19 list earlier in the week but was able to come back for this game. Kansas City used him in a decreased role, playing less than half of the team’s offensive snaps. That allowed the younger receivers to handle increased roles. Byron Pringle took advantage of this the most with his two-touchdown day, while Mecole Hardman also scored a touchdown.
Travis Kelce also landed on the COVID-19 list early in the week, but he wasn’t able to play in this game. Noah Gray took over as the receiving tight end, while Blake Bell played significantly in run situations. Gray had only two catches for 12 yards. The Steelers have been relatively good against tight ends this season, so it’s not too surprising that Gray didn’t make much of an impact. He would have a better game next week if Kelce misses more action.
Chase Claypool trending up: There weren’t many positives for the Steelers today, but at least Claypool fantasy managers can be happy about his playing time. He had played between 59%-63% of offensive snaps the past three weeks but was back to his usual role of a near-every snap receiver today. He was off the field along with other starters to end the game. This led to only four catches for 41 yards, but no one on the Steelers' offense had a good day. Pittsburgh has a tough matchup against the Browns next week, where Claypool will be a borderline fantasy starter depending on the league setup.
- Amari Cooper: 7 receptions, 85 yards, 1 TD, (15.4 aDOT)
- Dalton Schultz: 8 receptions, 82 yards, 1 TD, (3 for 3 on contested catches)
|Washington Football Team||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
|Dallas Cowboys||Snaps||Routes Run||Targets||Carries|
Monitor Antonio Gibson‘s health: The snap counts will be misleading because Dallas held a 35-point lead by halftime, leading both teams to adjust their strategy as the game went on.
Gibson was questionable coming into the game with a toe injury that kept him out of practice all week. He was the clear every-down back on the first few drives of the game, playing on 20 of the first 23 offensive snaps. He played in the first two snaps of the second half, but at that point, Washington shut Gibson down for the rest of the game. There was no sign that he suffered any sort of setback. Even if he’s a limited participant in practice this week, he can safely be put into starting lineups.
The Cowboys' running back split: There was talk before the game that the Cowboys would have a 50/50 split at running back with both players healthy. Instead, we saw the same kind of distribution as past weeks, with a near split in carries but Ezekiel Elliott running several more pass routes. Corey Clement didn’t start playing offensive snaps until the rest of the backups came in. This is likely what we’ll see next week, as well. In Week 17, Dallas has a rough matchup against the Cardinals, which will leave Tony Pollard as a borderline starter, depending on the league.
DeAndre Carter on the decline: Washington’s had Terry McLaurin at one wide receiver spot all season, while Adam Humphries has held onto the slot role. The other outside receiver position has been in flux all season. Carter seemed to have taken hold of it over the second half of the season, as he’s the only other Washington player outside of McLaurin with over 200 receiving yards since Week 8.
Both Dyami Brown and Cam Sims saw more playing time than Carter on pass plays tonight. Carter was held to one catch for five yards. It’s possible Curtis Samuel is back next week to make the situation even more unpredictable. This has been a position to avoid all season, but Carter shouldn’t be trusted in any daily formats or over props next week.