NFL Fantasy: Playoff positioning at stake in bumper Week 16 Christmas slate


Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is back in action against the Baltimore Ravens in a crucial Week 16 matchup

Sky Sports‘ NFL Fantasy Football guru Hannah Wilkes helps you navigate your way through the season in her weekly column where, this week, she gets into the holiday spirit ahead of a bumper festive fixture list…

Three points! Three points is all I needed to secure a win over my NFL Overtime co-host Josh Denzel and book my place in the Sky Sports NFL Fantasy Football playoffs. Those three points will haunt me for a long old time because, stupidly, I made a very bad decision at around 9pm on Sunday evening.

I followed my own advice and played Jimmy Garoppolo at QB, electing to “get points on the board early” on the back of his multiple touchdown throws in five of the San Francisco 49ers’ last six games. And because they were playing the ATLANTA FALCONS. I was worried about the little ‘questionable’ designation next to Jalen Hurts not going away by Wednesday and my hopes then resting on backup Gardner Minshew.

The San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15 but quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw just the one touchdown pass

The San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15 but quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw just the one touchdown pass

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If you played Jimmy G on my advice, I humbly apologise. However, if I pointed you in the direction of Miami Dolphins running back Duke Johnson, you are most welcome. Straight off the practice squad to Miami’s RB1 spot, Johnson rushed to the tune of 107 yards, two touchdowns and 25.70 fantasy points! He’s also landed himself a place on Miami’s active roster as a result. All in all, a good weekend for DJ. (He was on my bench, naturally).

Anyway, eyes now firmly on the Sky Sports NFL Consolation Cup, we move. I’m still in contention in another couple of leagues too, boasting a 12-3 record with the excellently named ‘My Kupp Runneth Over’, I might add. So the party isn’t over yet.

And, we’ve made it to Christmas, which feels like an epic achievement considering the last couple of years. I hope you get to spend your December 25th in a way that makes you happy and, if you need some respite from whatever you’re up to, there’s a festive double-header of football from 9.30pm. Merry Christmas indeed!

On the Good List: Week 16

This weekend’s slate of games, coupled with the current playoff situation, makes this one of the most entertaining run-ins we’ve had for years.

Heading into Week 16, there are still 24 teams in playoff contention! The permutations this weekend are almost endless as to which teams can clinch those January spots. But in the AFC, the New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs can all clinch with a win and losses to their divisional rivals. In the NFC, it’s a little simpler (which isn’t saying much), with the Tampa Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys all getting there with a win or other results going their way if they lose.

On the Good List: The Detroit Lions

I’m still not over it, and may not be for some time, but the previously 1-11-1 Detroit Lions beat the 10-win Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night. And they didn’t just scrape past them, they did the business 30-12 to pick up their second win of the season.

Jared Goff picks out Josh Reynolds with pinpoint accuracy for a touchdown in the Detroit Lions' shock win over the Arizona Cardinals

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Jared Goff picks out Josh Reynolds with pinpoint accuracy for a touchdown in the Detroit Lions’ shock win over the Arizona Cardinals

Jared Goff picks out Josh Reynolds with pinpoint accuracy for a touchdown in the Detroit Lions’ shock win over the Arizona Cardinals

The loss prevented the Cardinals from booking their spot in the playoffs for a second week in a row, following a loss to the Rams in Week 14, and proved (by my science) that Jared Goff is actual kryptonite to Kliff Kingsbury, who has never beaten the former No 1 overall draft pick in five career meetings.

I’m a Rams fan (have I mentioned that?), so I’m inherently biased against the Cardinals and I find myself forever wanting good things for the much-maligned Goff, who had a stat line that would make most quarterbacks green with envy on the day: 21 completions from 25 pass attempts, 216 pass yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and a passer rating of 139.7.

For context, a perfect passer rating is 158.3 (inexplicably). So here’s to Goff, Amon-ra St.Brown, the hitherto unheard of Craig Reynolds, and head coach Dan Campbell for a never say die attitude. Meanwhile, the Cardinals now host the Indianapolis Colts and the red-hot Jonathan Taylor late on Saturday night. A bleary-eyed Boxing Day awaits.

On the Bad List: Analytics

In a lot of ways, the NFL has a maths (yes, I added the ‘s’ like they do stateside) problem. There is so much information available (not knocking it, the 100-page NFL Research pack is my favourite weekly read), so many models, algorithms and analytics that the simple fact that sometimes things just don’t work out how you hoped get lost in the debate.

Green Bay Packers held on for the win as the Baltimore Ravens failed with their two-point attempt after Tyler Huntley's eight-yard touchdown run in the final minute

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Green Bay Packers held on for the win as the Baltimore Ravens failed with their two-point attempt after Tyler Huntley’s eight-yard touchdown run in the final minute

Green Bay Packers held on for the win as the Baltimore Ravens failed with their two-point attempt after Tyler Huntley’s eight-yard touchdown run in the final minute

Let’s take the Baltimore Ravens and their recent failed two-point conversion attempts. They’ve gone for two three times in three weeks following fourth-quarter touchdowns and missed on each occasion. They’ve lost those games 19-20, 22-24 and 30-31.

If a field goal means overtime, where you might not even get the ball, your defense are tired, and in the most recent case the quarterback is Aaron Rodgers, going aggressively for the win has to be the right choice. With the way Tyler Huntley was playing (like Lamar Jackson 2.0 if we’re honest), and given the depleted Ravens roster, common football sense has to overrule whatever the analytics say and John Harbaugh just wanted to get it done.

It’s similar to Brandon Staleys penchant for going it for it on fourth down. The Los Angeles Chargers went for it three times versus the Chiefs last Thursday, all within field goal range, and walked away pointless, losing the game 34-28.

Watch highlights from week 15 of the NFL as the Kansas City Chiefs took on AFC West divisional rivals LA Chargers

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Watch highlights from week 15 of the NFL as the Kansas City Chiefs took on AFC West divisional rivals LA Chargers

Watch highlights from week 15 of the NFL as the Kansas City Chiefs took on AFC West divisional rivals LA Chargers

Have you passed up nine points? Sure. But if even one of those attempts had led to a touchdown, add the extra point (or two) and that’s the game. The Chargers have a bigger problem when it comes to the red zone – they had 12 plays within the five-yard line and none of them resulted in a score – but the aggressive approach certainly makes for entertaining football, and that’s the bottom line.

Some Moderately Useful Fantasy Advice

Covid is still rife in the league, so backing up your stars remains key in Fantasy Football. At the time of writing, the following are on the reserve/CovId-19 list this week:

Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Austin Ekeler, Brandin Cooks, Jared Goff, Cole Beasley, Marquez Valdez-Scantling.

And, still on the Covid list, but potentially back in time for their games:

Tyler Lockett, Kareem Hunt, Jarvis Landry, Tyler Higbee, Baker Mayfield, Taylor Heinicke, Allen Robinson.

There are also some problems in Tampa Bay this week; Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette all wound up hurt in the shutout loss to the New Orleans Saints. They’ve signed Le’Veon Bell but it’s Ronald Jones who will likely pick up Lenny’s workload against the Carolina Panthers. He’s still available in around 74 per cent of NFL.com leagues.

Antonio Brown is set to return to action for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 16

Antonio Brown is set to return to action for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 16

A certain Antonio Brown is back from his three-game suspension. If he’s not been gathering dust on an opponents bench, or if indeed you have him parked there, he’s likely going straight into the starting lineup given the Evans and Godwin injuries. Allen Lazard is also a good option in the absence of MVS in Green Bay.

At QB, Joe Burrow is back against the struggling Ravens secondary, having scored 32 points against them in Week 7, but keep an eye on Tyler Huntley too if Jackson is still out.

Join Hannah Wilkes, Josh Denzel and guest Phoebe Schecter on NFL Overtime, Thursday at 9pm on Sky Sports NFL.





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