The (Not Quite) NFL Handbook – Week 16

Life doesn’t always go as expected, and the simple fact that you’re reading this tells me that you’ve experienced this in one way or another. Whether it be the guy on your fantasy team who had the perfect matchup and did nothing, or the team that had no reason to not cover the spread but didn’t. We’ve all experienced it.

Well, on Monday, I had every intention of getting the NFL Handbook published by the Thursday deadline.

That didn’t happen.

By a long shot.

And the result? Well, the result is the (Not Quite) NFL Handbook. Same “analysis”, same betting picks, same random gibberish. Except there’s only four games this time around.

My bad, but Happy Holidays!

For the fantasy portion, I’ve broken each team’s fantasy relevant players into four categories:

  1. Ballers –  Either the guys you just aren’t benching, or the ones with favorable match-ups. Either way, they should be in your lineups.
  2. Under the Radar – Guys who you may not start regularly, or have what appear to be tough matchups, but have a good opportunity to produce. Good for dfs (DraftKings, Fanduel, etc.) as they should have low(er) ownership.
  3. Temper Expectations – Proceed with caution. May be players you’d normally start, or guys who’ve been playing well in recent weeks/have a plus matchup, but might not put up the numbers needed to justify a start this week.
  4. Bums – It’s a good idea to just avoid these guys in your lineups.

Complete Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings

For the betting side, I used the opening spread and over/under totals from sportsinsights.com. The lines have moved in reaction to the money, injury updates, etc., but picking and choosing which current odds to use felt a bit too arbitrary.

Cleveland Browns (0-14, 3-11 ATS) at Chicago Bears (4-10, 6-7-1 ATS)

Spread: CHI -7

O/U: 38.5

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
CLE 18.86 (29th) 17.43 (11th) 19.55 (14th) 10.19 (31st) 12.79 (32nd) 8.57 (22nd)
CHI 13.96 (8th) 16.77 (9th) 20.56 (18th) 6.36 (9th) 9.07 (27th) 8.93 (26th)

DeShone Kizer ranks 35th out of 35 QBs in passer rating this season. His counterpart, Mitch Trubisky, ranks 30th. Luckily, it looks like it’ll be a typical December day in Chicago – temperatures in the 20s, plenty of wind, and the possibility of snow. So, if you’re planning on watching this game you’ll probably see more handoffs than less than unsightly QB play.

If you’re planning on watching this game I’d also have to question your mental capacity.

As a matter of fact, they should make one of those DirecTV commercials out of this game. You know the ones where it’s like some people still like cable just like some people like these ridiculously horrible things: spilling hot coffee on yourself, opening a shaken up soda, getting a bad haircut…

Some people like watching two terrible football teams. For everyone else, there’s DirecTV Sunday Ticket (holla at me DirecTV brass, I’ve got ideas for days).

I forgot my point… Oh yeah, running backs (and punters).

Only Le’Veon Bell, Kareem Hunt, and Todd Gurley have more rushing yards this season than Chicago’s Jordan Howard. Thing is, he’s about as reliable as an alcoholic surgeon. Through 14 games, Howard has seven double-digit fantasy performances (standard scoring) with two 20+ point outings. If you majored in Math, you know that the seven remaining games were single-digit performances; with three of them producing three or fewer fantasy points.

No, I’m not suggesting that he should put up 100+ yards every time he steps foot on a football field, but the ineptitude of this Bears passing attack hasn’t done him any favors. Howard has seen 8+ defenders in the box on 41.22% of his snaps (7th highest rate), and when you consider the aforementioned weather conditions, you have to figure the Browns will be completely contented with Mitch Trubisky killing them through the air.

I probably should also point out that Cleveland has held RBs to just 3.33 yards per carry (3rd) and 83.3 rushing yards per game (8th) while allowing just 6 rushing TDs (tied for the 5th fewest).

Now you’re starting Howard based on opportunity and talent alone, but the odds at a monster day aren’t exactly in his favor.

Defensively, the Bears haven’t allowed a rushing TD to a back in five-straight games, but they have allowed them to pick up nearly 4.5 yards per carry over that stretch. Quietly, Isaiah Crowell ranks 16th among RBs in yardage on the season. Problem is (for his fantasy owners), his two rushing TDs are just two more than mine – putting him tied for 42nd at the RB position.

However, Crowell has averaged 82.3 yards per game over the Browns last four, and ironically, the 4.4 yards per carry he’s put up on the season are tied with Howard for the 12th highest clip among RBs. So while he probably won’t score, limiting his ceiling, he should flirt with 100 yards making him a justifiable play this week.

Alright, so obviously there will be passes thrown in this game, and while typing that last sentence left me loaded with displeasure, someone has to be on the receiving end.

I’d be doing us all a disservice if I didn’t at least touch on these catchers of passes.

Bears Kendall Wright has averaged 94 receiving yards over their last two games, and in the three games since returning for the Browns, Josh Gordon has averaged 67. Well, Trubisky hasn’t thrown multiple TD passes in a single game this season and ranks 32nd with seven passing TDs. Kizer, on the other hand, has more than twice as many interceptions as he does TD passes and his nine rank 29th.

Wright has just one TD in 14 games, Gordon has one in his three. And, remember those cold, windy, snowy conditions I mentioned earlier? Yeah, it’s not likely the wideouts will be filling up the stat sheet on Sunday. Target the TEs – Adam Shaheen or David Njoku – if you’re just hellbent on having a piece of either passing game in your fantasy lineup.

It’s probably not the greatest of ideas, though.

All told, there probably won’t be many points scored in this game (pretty obvious stuff), and for that reason, the Browns actually have a chance at their 1st win of the season. There’s just one thing standing in the way of them pulling it off, themselves. The Browns have just 11 takeaways this season (fewest) but have turned the ball over 36 times (most), and their -25 differential is nearly double that of the league’s 2nd worst team in Denver (-15).

Hard to have any confidence in a team who has more turnovers than offensive TDs.

Browns 13 – Bears 21

CHI -7, UNDER 38.5

Ballers: Jordan Howard

Under the Radar: Isaiah Crowell, David Njoku, Adam Shaheen

Temper Expectations: Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, Kendall Wright

Bums: DeShone Kizer, Duke Johnson, Rashard Higgins, Seth Devalve, Mitch Trubisky, Josh Bellamy, Dontrelle Inman, Markus Wheaton, Dion Sims, Daniel Brown

Detroit Lions (8-6, 7-6-1 ATS) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-9, 7-7 ATS)

Spread: DET -3.5

O/U: 43.5

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
DET 15.86 (14th) 20.24 (26th) 19.58 (16th) 8.58 (25th) 8.00 (23rd) 6.79 (8th)
CIN 15.92 (14th) 20.66 (30th) 16.59 (4th) 6.95 (16th) 9.00 (26th) 9.29 (28th)
re·dun·dant
rəˈdəndənt/
adjective

exceeding what is necessary or normal: superfluous

In other words: excessive, needless, repetitive…

If you read my preview of the two Saturday games on the Week 16 slate, watched any type of sports talk show over the past week, or listened to a football related podcast, you’ve surely heard one message ad nauseam – this is the time of year where some teams have something to play for while others don’t.

Well, on the surface, this is another one of those cases.

While slim, the Lions have a chance to sneak into this year’s playoffs. The Bengals don’t. In order to get into the dance, Detroit needs to win out, and have a couple teams lose out during a lunar eclipse with the temperature between 20 and 33.7 degrees Celsius while N.E.R.D.’s “Lemon” is being streamed on at least 3,000,000 devices simultaneously.

The Bengals still have no chance to make the playoffs, but Cincinnati does have something to play for – head coach Marvin Lewis.

Lewis and the Bengals will part ways after this season, and seeing that his tenure was largely unsuccessful (in terms of playoff success), there has to be a reason he lasted 15 years in Cincy. I’m guessing it has something to do with his relationship with his players.

When’s the last time you heard someone say anything bad about Marvin Lewis?!

Yeah, that might seem minuscule, but having played for coaches I loved (and coaches I hated) I can tell you firsthand that it certainly impacts motivation. That said, it’s hard to imagine this Bengals team quitting – with just two games left for Lewis – and I’d like to think they’ll want to send him out on a high note.

Just my thoughts.

In order to accomplish that, they’ll need to slow down Matthew Stafford and this Lions team which ranks 7th in the league scoring 25.6 points per game. The good news for Cincy is that their 5-9 record isn’t exactly a reflection of their defense, and slowing down this Lions offense is far from unworkable.

Just one QB has gone over 300 yards passing against this Bengals D, and he goes by the name of Aaron Rodgers. He also happens to be pretty good. The 229.1 passing yards Cincinnati is allowing per game are the 6th fewest, and the 17 passing TDs they’ve allowed the QB position are also the 6th fewest. Antonio Brown, and Kendall Wright (yes, Kendall Wright) are the only two WRs to go over 100 yards against the Bengals (excluding OT), and the 10 receiving TDs they’ve allowed to opposing receivers are the 7th fewest.

Basically, what I’m saying is, the likelihood of Stafford coming out and dissecting this defense isn’t very high. At all. Especially when you consider it’ll be near freezing in Cincinnati, rainy (with a chance of snow), and a bit windy.

The Lions also rank 31st in rushing yards this season, so again, not completely unworkable. But the problem is, the 109.9 rushing yards the Bengals have allowed RBs to pick up per game are more than any other team in the league, and the 52.4 yards a game backs have added through the air against them are more than every team but Tennessee.

Theo Riddick has put up some of his best performances of the year in recent weeks, and odds are he’s in for a nice game in this one. He’s the only Lions back to trust.

Now if the Lions rank 31st in rushing on the season, that would mean there’s just one team who’s been worse… Yeah, it’s the Bengals. The Bengals who will be without two offensive linemen in Cedric Ogbuehi and Andre Smith. The silver lining is that Detroit has allowed backs to gain 4.5 yards per carry and over 100 yards per game since losing Haloti Ngata, and the 14 rushing TDs they’ve allowed RBs are the 2nd most in the league.

Joe Mixon will be back this week, and that’s great news for Cincy as he was starting to show signs of his potential before leaving against the Steelers with a concussion. Expect him to pick up where he left off. Even if he doesn’t put up monster yardage numbers, he had scored in three of four games prior to leaving early vs. Pittsburgh, so you have to think he’s a pretty good bet to find the endzone here. Especially given the matchup.

Now, I know, I’ve spent a lot of time on the running backs for the two worst rushing teams in the league like this game doesn’t feature three receivers who find themselves in the Top-15 at the position in terms of yards. Yeah, well, the weather conditions aren’t suitable for an aerial attack, and the matchup isn’t either.

Bengals A.J. Green will be dealing with Darius Slay, and while he’s not a shutdown corner, he’s pretty damn good. Here’s a quick rundown of the top #1 WRs vs. Detroit: Larry Fitzgerald (6 rec., 74 yds), Odell Beckham (4 rec., 36 yds), Julio Jones (7 rec., 91 yds), Antonio Brown (5 rec., 70 yds), Mike Evans (2 rec., 25 yds)…

Notice anything?

Zero TDs, and zero 100 yard receivers. That’s not even factoring the 57.4 yards Green has averaged over the Bengals last five. Yes, it may seem foolish to bench A.J. Green – he’s one of the best receivers in the game – but guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Keelan Cole (who were likely waiver pickups) offer similar floors with much higher ceilings this week.

On the flip, we have Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. This will be Jones’ first game in Cincinnati after spending his 1st three seasons donning the black and orange, but I’m not expecting much of a “revenge” factor. For one, he’s almost two calendar years removed. And for two, he made a money move – it’s not like the split was nasty. In any case, as mentioned earlier, the Bengals have been one of the best against the pass and I’m not overly excited about either option.

There’s plenty to like about the tight ends here, though.

Detroit has allowed five TDs to the TE position over their last five games, and the 57.2 yards a game they’ve allowed the position rank 24th (9th most). Cincinnati has allowed a TE to score in back-to-back games, and the 52.4 yards they’ve allowed the position rank 20th. Neither Tyler Kroft nor Eric Ebron is the sexiest option at this point, but they’re both serviceable fantasy options which should put up some solid numbers.

Overall, these two teams are pretty evenly matched and this should be a fairly competitive game. If you can still catch the 3.5, I’d take the points with Cincinnati, as I think this will come down to the wire. It’ll likely also come down to which team can run the ball more effectively.

Lions 20 – Bengals 17

CIN +3.5, UNDER 43.5

Ballers: N/A

Under the Radar: Theo Riddick, Eric Ebron, Joe Mixon, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Kroft

Temper Expectations: Matthew Stafford, Ameer Abdullah, Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Andy Dalton, A.J. Green,

Bums: Tion Green, Kenny Golladay, T.J. Jones, Giovani Bernard, Alex Erickson, Josh Malone

Los Angeles Rams (10-4, 9-5 ATS) at Tennessee Titans (8-6, 6-7-1 ATS)

Spread: LAR -7

O/U: 49

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
LAR 13.81 (7th) 20.61 (29th) 16.63 (5th) 7.73 (20th) 2.93 (5th) 5.86 (2nd)
TEN 16.31 (17th) 15.27 (4th) 21.59 (21st) 7.89 (22nd) 7.21 (17th) 11.21 (32nd)

Rams win, Rams are NFC West Champions. Titans win, and the Ravens/Bills lose, and Tennessee clinches their playoff spot. Plenty at stake here, but despite their 8-6 record, does anyone really think the Titans are a good football team?

I sure as hell don’t.

Not only have they lost two-straight games to two teams with a combined 10-18 record, but Marcus Mariota has been more like Mark Mariota, DeMarco Murray has been Mike Murphy, and their receiving corps are about as intimidating as an angry chihuahua. These three things are correlated, and neither is likely to change this week.

Except maybe Mike Murphy.

The Rams haven’t allowed a RB to score in two-straight games, but the 11 rushing TDs they’ve allowed on the season are the 6th most. They also rank 30th allowing 4.6 yards per carry, and 27th allowing 105 yards per game to the RB position.

Much has been made about Derrick Henry being the better of the two backs in Tennessee, and at this point in Murray’s career, he might just be. But Murray is the superior back in pass protection so as long as the Titans have this suspect offensive line guess who’ll continue to be on the field?

As a result, they’ve eaten into each other’s numbers from the fantasy perspective, and that’s something that definitely won’t change this week. And when it comes to the fantasy championship, every point matters. Neither guy is the greatest play this week despite the favorable matchup. Sure, one of them is bound to find the endzone – making them a good fantasy play – but good luck predicting which one.

Too risky for my liking.

The matchup might seem a bit risky for Mr. Todd Gurley as well, as the Titans have been a beast against the run. No team has allowed fewer rushing TDs to opposing backs than the four given up by Tennessee, and only the Eagles have allowed fewer rushing yards per game/carry. In the same breath, no team has allowed more receiving yards to the running back position than the Titans and Gurley ranks 2nd among backs with 630 yards through the air.

He’ll find a way to get his numbers. You’re not benching Todd Gurley  – don’t live with that regret.

Speaking of regret, you ever find yourself stuck in a relationship about a year (or three) too long? Maybe you’re just comfortable, maybe they know too many secrets, maybe you’re just scared to be alone… Whatever the reason, you stick around when you know good and damn well that you shouldn’t?

If you own Marcus Mariota in your fantasy leagues, and have been holding on to hope, don’t fall for the gifts and sweet words. Yeah, he’s balled out in two of his last three games, but over their last 10 games the Rams have faced Russell Wilson (twice), Drew Brees, Case Keenum, and Carson Wentz. Over the Rams last 10 games, only two QBs have put up 15 or more fantasy points – Keenum and Wentz.

LA has also allowed just one rushing TD to a QB all season.

It should go without saying at this point in the season, but if he plays for the Titans and isn’t named Rishard Matthews, or Delanie Walker… Don’t trust him in your fantasy lineup this week.

Same can be said for the non-Gurley Rams players too… Kinda.

In the four games since business was boomin’ for Antonio Brown in Week 11, no WR has caught a TD pass against this Titans defense. Not only have they not scored, but they’ve averaged just 140.3 yards collectively over that stretch. And no, we’re not talking scrubs either – T.Y. Hilton (17th), DeAndre Hopkins (3rd), and Larry Fitzgerald (9th) are all among the league leaders in yardage at the receiver position.

Oh wait, that was Jacoby Brissett, Tom Savage, and Blaine Gabbert… Savage dropped 365 on them, and last week Jimmy G went for 381. Goff, check. Woods, check. You might even be able to get away with Cooper Kupp. But, until we see Watkins and Woods co-exist against a non-wack defense, it’s back to the bench for Sammy.

Sorry.

Just one of the Titans six losses have come at home – where they’ve won five-straight, and boast a 5-1 record on the season – the Rams are just the better team.

Rams 26 – Titans 22

TEN +7, UNDER 49

Ballers: Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Robert Woods, Delanie Walker

Under the Radar: Tyler Higbee, Rishard Matthews

Temper Expectations: Cooper Kupp, Sammy Watkins, Marcus Mariota, DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, Eric Decker

Bums: Malcolm Brown, Corey Davis

Miami Dolphins (6-8, 5-7-2 ATS) at Kansas City Chiefs (8-6, 8-6 ATS)

Spread: KC -10

O/U: 45

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
MIA 16.66 (19th) 20.14 (25th) 17.67 (7th) 9.34 (27th) 9.71 (28th) 7.36 (12th)
KC 17.37 (23rd) 18.14 (14th) 23.10 (28th) 6.89 (15th) 2.43 (3rd) 5.93 (3rd)

Maybe it’s a coincidence, but in the three games with Darrelle Revis in the lineup the Chiefs D is allowing WRs 163.7 yards per game. They had given up 188.1 in the 11 games prior. Just like any of us regular folks, a new job brings with it a bit of training/acclimation… The Chiefs have allowed WRs just 101 yards over their last two with Revis.

It also doesn’t hurt that they’re currently about as healthy as they’re gonna get, or that their offense has risen from the dead. But, I like Revis.

Revis gets the credit.

Regardless of how you slice it, the Chiefs once again look like the team we saw start the season 5-0, and had many projecting them to contend with the Pats and Steelers for the AFC crown. Well, with a win over the Dolphins Sunday, they’ll clinch their division – bringing them one step closer to making that a reality.

And making that division crown a reality will start with that defense I just mentioned.

Kansas City is tied for 9th with 14 interceptions on the season, and despite playing in just 12 (of a possible 14) games Jay Cutler is tied for 2nd with 14 interceptions thrown. KC has also allowed QBs the 9th lowest passer rating (81.0), Jay Cutler ranks 26th of 35 qualified QBs (80.6). The Chiefs haven’t allowed a WR to find the endzone in three-straight games, 15 of Cutler’s 18 TD passes this season have gone to his receivers…

Let’s go ahead and give the Chiefs D the edge in the passing game.

Only one problem, though, Kenyan Drake has been going h.a.m. sans Damien Williams. He’s averaged 104 rushing yards per game, and another 45 yards through the air. He’s picked up 4.9 yards per carry, and hasn’t rushed for fewer than 78 yards. He’s also found himself dancing in the endzone twice.

H.A.M.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs have allowed a rushing TD in eight of their last nine games, are allowing backs 102.5 yards per game (7th most), 4.2 yards per carry (12th highest), and have allowed three-straight backs to put up double-digit fantasy points (standard scoring).

Yes, please. And, thank you.

That’s pretty much all there is here. What? Do I really need to discuss the Chiefs offense? Ok, you’re starting Alex Smith, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce. The Dolphins haven’t allowed a receiver to score in three-straight, but that’s because they faced Trevor Siemian, the Gronk-less Patriots, and the Bills.

You’re welcome.

Dolphins 10 – Chiefs 31

KC -10, UNDER 45

Ballers: Kenyan Drake, Alex Smith, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce

Under the Radar: Anthony Fasano

Temper Expectations: Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker

Bums: Jay Cutler, Jakeem Grant, Charcandrick West, Albert Wilson, Demetrius Harris, De’Anthony Thomas

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