The first round of the fantasy football playoffs are (mostly) in the books, and the NFL had a wild and woolly week! It started with the 49ers clinching the NFC West, continued with the biggest comeback in NFL history, the Lions and Chargers outdueling their opponents, the Raiders getting the most improbable victory, and ended with… the Giants and Commanders on Sunday Night Football. Well, okay it wasn’t all great. But, there were a lot of fun things to learn this weekend. Let’s take a look at three burning questions from this weekend’s NFL action.
Can We Feel Good About Starting Mark Andrews in Week 16 Without Lamar Jackson?
Mark Andrews struggled on Saturday night against the Cleveland Browns, posting three targets for 31 yards as Tyler Huntley just sort of vomited all over himself and the field all game long. If you started Mark Andrews and were lucky enough to make it to your fantasy football semifinals, can you trust him again this week? After all, he’s struggled mightily lately, going for five receptions and 48 yards without Lamar Jackson these last couple of games. However, he wasn’t playing very well from a Being Named Mark Andrews perspective prior to that, as his five games prior to the last two ended with zero touchdowns and 39.8 yards per game on 3.4 receptions (and 6 targets). He’s been a massive disappointment since his seven-catch, 106-yard, touchdown game back in week six. So, can we go with him next week, if there’s no Lamar Jackson?
Yes, yes we can. Do not worry, as the Ravens have another bird team on the docket, and it’s the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons are top-eight in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing tight ends, and as I write this at half-time of the ten AM games on Sunday, they’ve already allowed 3 catches, 45 yards, and a touchdown to Juwan Johnson (and some Taysom Hill B.S., to boot). That’s three-straight games in which they’ve allowed double-digit PPR points to a tight end. Plus, Mark Andrews has all the production indicators, he just hasn’t cashed it in. Find me another tight end of Mark Andrews’ skills, playing in Mark Andrews’ matchup, who has averaged seven targets per game over the last five weeks, who you can find on the waiver wire? You’re riding Mark Andrews into the ground, with or without Lamar Jackson.
Is Jerick McKinnon a Must-Start Running Back Going Forward?
As I write this one, CBS is showing replays of Jerick McKinnon’s game-winning touchdown run, giving him 34.2 PPR points on 10 carries, 52 yards, and 8 catches for 70 yards, and two scores. He out-touched Isiah Pacheco, who had 16 touches for 97 yards in his own right, and outproduced him for fantasy football (obviously). He had himself a massive week, and pretty much everyone who started him this week punched their ticket to the next round of the playoffs. But, can we trust it? After all, the Texans are the worst team in the NFL against opposing running backs, allowing four 30-point games to running backs so far this season, which represents 20% of the 30+ PPR games from running backs this year. They’ve allowed four such games and after the 10 AM games on Sunday, only two other teams had allowed multiple, with nobody allowing more than two. So, this definitely had something to do with the matchup this week.
But, it also had something to do with Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon has been bubbling under the surface all season long, getting over 40% of snaps in 9 of 13 games this season entering Sunday’s action. This also marks the second-straight game in which McKinnon had multiple touchdowns and over 100 total yards. We’ve said it all along on the Football Absurdity Podcast, that Isiah Pacheco is good, but in the wrong way for fantasy football. Jerick McKinnon is also good… in exactly the way that is good for fantasy football. He now has at least 8 targets in back-to-back games and has done nothing but produce with them. Next week, things will be great for him, as well: he gets the Seattle Seahawks, who allow the second-most fantasy points to running backs on the season. Keep firing up your Jericks McKinnon, they could get you a lot of… jelly beans… in the fantasy football playoffs.
Should We Worry About Zonovan Knight?
Zonovan Knight had himself a great run in his first three career games: 15 carries and 3 catches per game for 99.4 yards per game. He made the Jets barely miss Breece Hall and made them forget that they traded for James Robinson in the middle of the season. Then, this weekend, he hit the wall. He had 13 carries for 23 yards, and zero targets against the Detroit Lions this weekend. For the people who have been riding Zonovan Knight, this spelled disaster in the first round of the fantasy football playoffs. If you overcome this, can you trust Knight going forward?
First and foremost, this was an entirely predictable outcome today. The Lions have been on an absolute tear lately, allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs in the last five weeks. They’ve also not allowed a double-digit fantasy day to a running back since Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott each pulled it off half a season ago in week seven. So, if it were me, I would say that we can take this came and set it aside as the first real tough out of Bam Knight’s young career. But what about the next couple of games? Well, Knight gets the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Seattle Seahawks in the next two weeks. The Seahawks and the Jags are both in the top ten in fantasy points per game allowed to running backs, with Seattle ranking first and the Jags ranking ninth. It’s even better lately, with Seattle allowing the most fantasy points over the last five weeks, and the Jaguars giving up at least 20 PPR points to a running back in two of their last three games. You can go back to Bam Knight next week in what should be an incredible matchup… if you survived this one.