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RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT: Week 16

Welcome back to this week’s edition of “Red Light, Green Light”, which is a matchup guide for all of this weekend’s (and Monday’s) NFL contests. While this piece is not intended to be solely a start/bench list, it can be used for some of those decisions as well.

In each of the NFL Week 16 game profiles below, players mentioned in the green light sections have a great matchup, and can be counted on as rock solid options for the week. Players mentioned in the yellow light sections have just an okay matchup and/or usage concerns, meaning they are passable fantasy options but don’t expect them to set the world on fire. Players in the red light sections have serious concerns, and need to have expectations lowered for the week, and/or should be avoided if possible. Remember, seeing your stud listed in the yellow or red light section isn’t necessarily grounds to bench them, but more of an indication they may not be the guy(s) carrying your team to victory this week.

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Colts Ravens
Quarterback 8th 31st
Running Back 6th 12th (tied)
Wide Receiver 7th 30th
Tight End 9th 12th
Defense/Special Teams 3rd 26th
Vegas Line: Ravens -13.5
Vegas Over/Under: 40.5
The Baltimore D/ST is an elite play as two-touchdown home favorites against a Colts squad that has allowed the most QB sacks this season. Despite the 51 total yard clunker against Cleveland last week, stick with Alex Collins, as the Colts allow the 5th-most rushing yards per game to opposing backfields. Averaging 92.3 receiving yards per game, Mike Wallace could potentially garner an even larger target share in the likely event Jeremy Maclin (knee) sits.
Jack Doyle has been held to three catches or fewer in three of his last five games, though the Colts tight end has probably been the most consistent of all the teams’ pass-catchers. Look for the Colts to attack the middle of the field in the passing game where the Ravens are most vulnerable, especially over the last four weeks as the they’ve allowed the third-most receiving yards to opposing tight ends during that span. Joe Flacco has recorded 269 passing yards or more and accounted for two touchdowns in each of his past three games.
Outside of Doyle, there’s not much to like about the rest of the Colts offense this week. Despite struggling against the run earlier in the season, the Ravens defense has allowed just the 6th-fewest rushing yards to opposing RBs over their last four contests, making hard to put much faith in Frank Gore, or to a lesser extent, Marlon Mack making an impact. Not helping matters is the fact the Colts recently placed starting C Ryan Kelly (concussion) on injures reserve. T.Y. Hilton‘s game-high in receiving yards over his past five contests is 51, and the Ravens have not allowed an opposing wideout to reach the end zone during that span. While Ben Watson‘s 74 receiving yards last Sunday were his most since Week 2, the Colts defense is more of a neutral matchup for him (14th-most receiving yards allowed to TEs this season), not to mention Watson has posted more duds this season than usable fantasy outputs (including goose eggs in Weeks 1  and 14). Jacoby Brissett has not recorded more than 200 passing yards or one touchdown since Week 10.

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Vikings Packers
Quarterback 29th 7th
Running Back 32nd 9th
Wide Receiver 24th 5th
Tight End 32nd 30th
Defense/Special Teams 30th 13th
Vegas Line: Vikings -9
Vegas Over/Under:
 40.5
Chalk up Adam Thielen‘s lowest output of the season last Sunday (3-30) to game flow, as the Vikings simply did not need to feature him in a blowout victory. Thielen will be an elite play against a Packers defense that has allowed the 9th-most receiving yards and second-most receiving touchdowns to opposing wideouts this season. Case Keenum has thrown exactly two touchdown passes in each of his last four contests, and the Packers defense has provided zero resistance to opposing signal-callers over that span. With the Packers out of playoff contention, they’ve opted not to place Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) at risk for further aggravation by sending back to injured reserve (IR). With that news, Minnesota’s D/ST goes from a decent play to a great one, as the Packers will be thrusting backup QB Brett Hundley back into the fray.
Randall Cobb has 15 catches over his last two games, and figures to play a larger role with Davante Adams (concussion) likely out.  Last Sunday, Stefon Diggs scored his first touchdown since Week 10, and has averaged 44.8 receiving yards per game during that span, though he stands a chance of breaking out against Green Bay’s struggling secondary. Kyle Rudolph‘s 8 receiving touchdowns are second to only Jimmy Graham among NFL tight ends, and Rudolph himself is on a four game scoring streak. Latavius Murray tends to be the preferred Vikings RB when the team is a favored, as they are heavily this week. Jerick McKinnon has not seen double-digit carries in any of his past three games, though he’s made up for it somewhat with 14 receptions over that span, and the Packers have allowed the 6th-most receiving yards to opposing RBs this season.
Even with Aaron Rodgers playing last Sunday, Jordy Nelson was still unable to get anything going, putting up just 3-28-0 against Carolina. Now with Rodgers out and Hundley in, there’s zero reason to think Nelson will have success in Week 16, as in addition to subpar QB play, he will be the likely recipient of CB Xavier Rhodes‘ coverage.  This contest also figures to be another day of mediocre rushing stats from Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, as the Vikings allow the third fewest rushing yards per game to opposing backfields.

Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Rams Titans
Quarterback 26th 16th
Running Back 3rd 29th
Wide Receiver 27th 10th
Tight End 13th 11th
Defense/Special Teams 31st 16th (tied)
Vegas Line: Rams -6.5
Vegas Over/Under:
 47.5
Todd Gurley‘s 152 rushing yards last week against the usually stingy Seahawks defense were his most in a single game this season, as Gurley has continuously proven the matchups don’t matter with him. With that in mind, feel free to ignore the fact the Titans have allowed fewer rushing yards to opposing RBs than every NFL team except the Eagles. Look for the Rams D/ST to continue their dominance, as the Titans are averaging just 18.2 points per game over their last five contests, and are fifth in the NFL this season with 23 giveaways.
Jared Goff has been held to 220 passing yards or less over his last three contests, though has still managed to toss exactly two touchdown passes in each of them, and the Titans are not an imposing QB matchup. Robert Woods slid right back in as the Rams’ no. 1 wideout last Sunday after a three game absence, going 6-45-1. The Titans are tied with four other teams for allowing the fourth-most receiving touchdowns (15) to opposing wideouts this season. With six catches for 95 yards and a score last Sunday, Rishard Matthews appears back on top of the Titans’ WR heirarchy. The Rams are stingy against opposing wideouts, but Matthews clearly has the strongest bond with his QB out of the rest of Titans’ receiving corps. After not catching any touchdown passes over his first 10 games this season, Delanie Walker has snagged three in his last four. while averaging 51.2 yards per contest.
Marcus Mariota has just three games all season where he’s thrown multiple passing touchdowns, while the Rams rank in the top third of the NFL in terms of the fewest passing yards/touchdowns allowed to opposing QBs. DeMarco Murray has not rushed for more than 66 yards in a game since Week 3, though is still out-touching Derrick Henry by a wide margin. As ineffective as the Titans rushing game has been lately, both running backs could become victims of game script if this contest unfolds as Vegas predicts. Robert Woods’ return had a particularly adverse effect on Cooper Kupp last Sunday, as the Rams rookie went just 2-21 on three targets. Expect Kupp to revert back to averaging the 48.1 yards per game he was putting up between Weeks 1 and 10, as opposed to his 100.7 between Weeks 11 and 13. Sammy Watkins has caught just 8 passes for 63 yards over his last three contests, and is looking like he’s back to third fiddle among the Rams receivers.

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Bills Patriots
Quarterback 30th 6th
Running Back 1st 15th
Wide Receiver 28th 2nd
Tight End 17th 24th
Defense/Special Teams 15th 32nd
Vegas Line: Patriots -12.5
Vegas Over/Under:
 47.5
Rob Gronkowski faces a Bills team he lit up for 147 receiving yards just three weeks ago, and with Rex Burkhead (knee) out, Gronk should have a monopoly on red zone opportunities. Another beneficiary of Burkhead’s absence should be Dion Lewis, who is averaging 5.2 yards-per-carry (YPC) on the season, and faces the NFL’s second-worst rush defense in terms of yards allowed to opposing backfields. The Patriots run defense hasn’t quite been the sieve it was to enemy rushers earlier in the season, but LeSean McCoy will be the engine driving the Bills offense as they strive to grind out the clock and keep the Patriots offense off the field.
Tom Brady has just two touchdown passes vs. four interceptions over his last three games, including a 258 yard, 1 INT performance against the Bills back in Week 13. Also trending down lately the past few weeks is Brandin Cooks, who has just 115 receiving yards and a score over his last three contests. With Kelvin Benjamin ailing, Charles Clay stepped up as the Bills top pass-catcher (as he had been doing earlier in the season) with a 5-68 line against Miami last Sunday. Clay’s matchup isn’t great, but as long as his own knee issues are subdued, he should be in for a healthy diet of targets.
Tyrod Taylor appeared healthy last Sunday after sitting out the prior week with a knee injury, though he’s unlikely  to light up the score sheet against a Patriots defense that held him in check the last time these two teams met. Chris Hogan (shoulder) caught just one pass for one yard in Week 14 before sitting out entirely last Sunday, and is no lock to be active for Week 16. Even if Hogan plays, it would seem the injury is still affecting him to a degree. James White and Mike Gillislee are presumable in for expanded roles due to the Burkhead injury, though White has not put up a fantasy-worthy performance in over a month, while Gillislee has not been active since Week 8. Kelvin Benjamin (knee) continues to gut through his inury, and has not put up more than 42 receiving yards in any game as a member of the Buffalo Bills as a result. With two catches or fewer in four of his last 7 games, Danny Amendola is more useful to the Patriots than he is to your fantasy lineup.

About Will Weiler

An NFL Red Zone addict and all-around data nerd, I've been obsessed with the NFL and stats ever since I started playing the virtual pigskin game in 2005.