Hello and welcome to Beyond the Box Scores for Week 17. For those of you who had fantasy championships last week, I hope you won … and what are you still doing here? If you’re in a league that happens to continue into Week 18, never fear, I will still be breaking down yesterday’s action, keeping it short and sweet with just the single most important note for each team from each game. Let’s get into it. 

Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Football Team

  • Keep an eye on Miles Sanders and his broken hand. He may return in Week 18. If not Boston Scott is the lead back, but not by much. He scored both TDs but Jordan Howard also saw goal-line work and had just three less carries on the day.
  • Antonio Gibson should be back next week from the COVID list. Neither Jaret Patterson or Wendell Smallwood was uninspiring yesterday, so Gibson’s role is safe. He could have a big game against a nice matchup with a Giants team that looks to have given up

Los Angeles Rams @ Baltimore Ravens

  • Van Jefferson appeared to suffer an injury on Sony Michel’s third quarter TD, and didn’t appear in later drives. If he misses time, Odell Beckham Jr.’s role will expand and Ben Skowronek could be a sneaky play as the WR3 in an offense that plays plenty of three-wide looks.
  • Rashod Bateman led the Ravens in snaps yesterday, especially significant given that Sammy Watkins, who earlier this season consistently cut into Bateman’s snaps, was active. He also saw double-digit targets and caught seven passes for 58 yards. In this expanded role the talented rookie is worth a flier in Week 18. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New York Jets

  • So Antonio Brown is gone. Cyril Grayson is the most hype-worthy pickup thanks to his game-winning TD, but I might prefer Tyler Johnson. Johnson, unlike Grayson, started the game in three-WR sets with AB and Mike Evans. I trust that his role will remain steady more than Grayson’s, especially as Breshad Perriman may still be slowly working back from COVID-19.
  • Braxton Berrios is a legit fantasy weapon, in the way that a team’s only receiving target can be a fantasy weapon thanks to pure unadulterated volume. Especially in PPR, he’s a solid play in Week 18. 

Miami Dolphins @ Tennessee Titans

  • Over the last four weeks, D’onta Foreman has been a top 10 fantasy running back, averaging nearly 14 Half-PPR points a game. He’s done it the old-school way, with huge carry totals and goal-line scores, which makes him vulnerable to bad game scripts. Luckily, the Texans are unlikely to deliver a negative game script next week, making Foreman a smash play for Week 18.
  • If you ignore his Week 16 shutout at the hands of Marshon Lattimore, DeVante Parker has seen an average of nearly nine targets per game since his return from injury. That’s barely less than Jaylen Waddle in that same span, and the difference in their rankings in next week’s matchup with New England should reflect that. If Waddle is a PPR WR1 candidate (he is), Parker is in the WR2 conversation.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ New England Patriots

  • Damien Harris suffered a hamstring injury in this one. It’s unclear if he would have returned if the game was not so out of hand, but his health bears monitoring. If he can’t go, Rhamondre Stevenson is a must-start, even though he likely let down many fantasy managers in Week 15 with Harris sidelined. His TD upside in this offense is too high to not play.
  • The Jaguars are very very bad. Even worse, the team is clearly lacking leadership, as rookie QB Trevor Lawrence was the only player to speak to the media after their blowout loss. You can start Dare Ogunbowale or Marvin Jones out of sheer desperation in deep leagues. Otherwise, steer clear of this offense for fantasy purposes. 

Las Vegas Raiders @ Indianapolis Colts

  • Zay Jones’ targets over the last four weeks: 7, 9, 8, and 10 yesterday. Anyone seeing those numbers deserves some fantasy consideration. I’m not suggesting you start him over any reliable season-long producers, but especially in this COVID-stricken season, it’s good to have an eye on a waiver receiver that could produce something in a pinch.
  • Michael Pittman’s second half of 2021 has been much worse than his first half, it’s undeniable. Yesterday’s six-catch 47-yard performance did nothing to change that. But the volume is still there, and in a quality matchup with the Jaguars I’d still consider Pittman a solid WR2.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Cincinnati Bengals

  • Start Darrel Williams, Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce. Yes some of them have disappointed at times (Hill especially likely ensured that none of his fantasy managers have reached a Week 18 finals if they had the opportunity), but this is the NFL’s most explosive offense, even in a down year. Don’t get cute.
  • Speaking of explosive offenses, the story is much the same with the white-hot Bengals. Joe Burrow, who was QB12 in average points just two weeks ago, has passed for 971 yards and EIGHT touchdowns in the last two weeks. He, as well as all four of his main weapons, can be started against the Browns.

New York Giants @ Chicago Bears

  • Even as the Giants put up -10 net passing yards, the worst since 1998 and Ryan Leaf’s Chargers, Saquon Barkley rushed for over 100 yards. However, he still saw just three more snaps and one more touch than backfield-mate Devontae Booker. That split, and Barkley’s production, is uninspiring. He’s a flex option, but no more.
  • Shockingly, yesterday’s seven receptions were the most of Darnell Mooney’s sophomore season. With 69 yards and a TD even as the Bears hardly had to pass in the second half, Mooney bounced back from a streak of mediocre outings. He can be considered a WR2 next week against a Vikings secondary that has allowed the most points to WRs on the season.

Atlanta Falcons @ Buffalo Bills

  • The season of Cordarrelle Patterson has officially ended, with much less explosiveness than it began. Patterson is splitting work about as evenly as possible with Mike Davis, who has actually been the much more efficient rusher over the last four weeks. With this usage and his incredible TD efficiency of the early season gone, Patterson belongs on fantasy benches in Week 18.
  • I said last week to not rush out and grab Isaih McKenzie, and, sure enough, his snaps dropped to just 32% as Cole Beasley returned to his slot role in the Buffalo offense. Gabriel Davis on the other hand led the Bills in snaps even with Beasley’s return, playing 87%. If Emmanuel Sanders’ knee keeps him out another week, Davis is a high-upside flex option.

Houston Texans @ San Francisco 49ers

  • Trey Lance’s ridiculous arm strength and tendency to improvise added a vertical element to this 49ers offense. This seemed to benefit Brandon Aiyuk, while hurting George Kittle, who thrives on the middle-of-the-field routes where Jimmy Garoppolo excels. If Lance starts again in Week 18, Aiyuk, who according to reports has been practicing specially with Lance, gets a nice bump and Kittle drops out of the elite TE tier. 
  • Over the last three weeks, Brandin Cooks has produced 32 targets, 269 yards and 3 TDS. Even better, that production was split very evenly over the three outings, giving him one of the highest floors in the league. You can trust him as a solid flex option for Week 18.

Denver Broncos @ Los Angeles Chargers

  • With Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick both on the COVID list, Noah Fant had one of his best outings of the season, catching six of seven targets for 92 yards and a score. However, Patrick and Jeudy will likely both be back next week, signaling a return for Fant to a much lower fantasy floor and ceiling: Yesterday was his first outing with above 60 yards or 9 fantasy points since Week 6.
  • With their full complement of talent back healthy, the Los Angeles Chargers’ fantasy outlook is simple: Start Keenan Allen, Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler. Likely also start Mike Williams, unless you have other great WR options and can’t risk his potential floor games. 

Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints

  • Although he easily out-snapped fellow TE Juwan Johnson (45 to 27), Adam Trautman actually ran less routes (17 to 19). Trautman briefly trended towards fantasy relevance prior to his injury, but at this point, neither New Orleans TE should be anywhere near your fantasy radar.
  • Sam Darnold may not be good at football, but one thing he’s very good at is targeting DJ Moore. Yes, yesterday’s fantasy stat line for Moore was nothing to write home about, but he still saw eight targets, nearly a third of Darnold’s 26 attempts. Moore is certainly not a must-start, but he’s not a must-bench either. You can give him his final chance next week in hopes he replicates his early-season connection with Darnold.

Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks

  • In his return to the Detroit lineup, D’Andre Swift served as more of a third-down back than anything else. Jamaal Williams handled most of the early-down work, carrying 11 times and pounding in a one-yard TD. In a matchup with what is likely to be the Packers’ backups next week, both Swift and Williams are in the flex conversation. 
  • Rashaad Penny has always flashed talent when on the field but never been able to string enough games together to make much of a fantasy impact … until now. He’s staying healthy, serving as the Seahawks’ workhorse, and making the most of it. Play him in Week 18.

Arizona Cardinals @ Dallas Cowboys

  • Even though yesterday was his biggest fantasy day of the year thanks to two TD catches, Antoine Wesley’s role is actually trending down in the Arizona offense. He saw just 57% of snaps yesterday, easily less than his 85% and 77% in the first two weeks without DeAndre Hopkins. That small of a role means he can’t be trusted in Week 18 fantasy championships.
  • It’s funny how fast things change in the fantasy world. Just two weeks ago there were rumors that Tony Pollard had officially earned a 50/50 timeshare with Ezekiel Elliot. Yesterday, he played just 30% of snaps, his lowest number since Week 8, and carried the ball just three times. A 31-yard reception and two other catches saved his fantasy day from being truly terrible, but Pollard is back to playing second fiddle for Dallas so should stay out of your lineup in Week 18.

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

  • With just 13 total yards yesterday, Dalvin Cook likely lost many people’s fantasy championships. However, it’s hard to blame him as the Packers defense was free to essentially ignore Sean Mannion and key in on packing the box. Kirk Cousins’ return next week should help free up Cook, so roll him out again as an RB1. 
  • So the Packers have locked up the first seed in the NFC, meaning all bets are off for their Week 18 lineup. If you desperately need a QB in two-QB leagues, Jordan Love is a sneaky pickup. Patrick Taylor Jr. served as their clock-killing RB with the game out of hand yesterday and could be a hail-mary play for RB-needy teams if both Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon get the week off.