The Market Report: Week 18

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The Market Report: Week 18

The Market Report is your one-stop Monday shop for all the movement from a big weekend of NFL football.

These are the players who stood out for fantasy-relevant reasons — the good reasons, the bad reasons, and the in-between.

This column will be posted every Monday afternoon.

NOTE: The Week 18 Market Report is different for obvious reasons. Most fantasy leagues are over, and many NFL teams will treat Week 18 differently because their playoff seeding and positioning is locked up one way or another.

For a comprehensive breakdown of playoff seeding likelihoods, visit this extremely informative link at FootballOutsiders.

TEAMS THAT COULD REST STARTERS

Green Bay Packers — The Packers locked up homefield advantage and the NFC’s opening-round bye with their victory over the Vikings on Sunday Night Football. Aaron Rodgers could use some time off since he’s been playing through a broken toe in the second half of the season. Jordan Love and Green Bay’s backups should handle the majority of work against the Lions in the season finale. (Tom Brolley)

Cincinnati Bengals — The young Bengals clinched the AFC North title with their upset victory over the Chiefs in Week 17, which was their first division title since 2015. The Bengals have an outside shot at claiming the top seed in the AFC but they’ll need both the Chiefs (@Den) and the Titans (@Hou) to both lose as double-digit road favorites. The Chiefs happen to play on Saturday evening and the outcome of their game with the Broncos could dictate if the Bengals play or rest their starters. The Bengals are most likely looking at the #3 or #4 seed in the postseason, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they rest their starters if the Chiefs win on Saturday, especially after Joe Burrow left the field for their final two offensive snaps with an injury scare. It’s also notable that Zac Taylor comes from Sean McVay’s coaching tree, and McVay has been one of the more aggressive coaches when it comes to resting his starters when there’s little to gain in regular season games. (TB)

Dallas Cowboys — With their loss to the Cardinals and the Packers’ win over the Vikings on Sunday night, the Cowboys are almost certainly locked into the NFC’s #4 seed — they’ve already clinched the NFC East. With WR Michael Gallup tearing his ACL and key players like Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, and Amari Cooper having all dealt with injuries at points this year, it seems highly likely the Cowboys won’t give 100% in Week 18. (Joe Dolan)

Philadelphia Eagles — The Eagles are locked into the NFC’s 6th or 7th seed and are likely to be playing a Cowboys team that isn’t giving its 100% effort in Week 18. Maybe they play their starters a series or two, but they’re guaranteed to go on the road in a difficult matchup in the Wild Card Round anyway. That matchup is most likely with the Buccaneers, though the Eagles have no incentive — or really any ability — to “game” their first round matchup. Keep in mind QB Jalen Hurts has been playing through a high ankle sprain, plus RBs Jordan Howard (shoulder) and Miles Sanders (hand) are both hurt too. (JD)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers –– The Bucs’ are certainly a candidate to rest their key starters in Week 18 since the Packers just locked up the No. 1 seed with their resounding win over the Vikings. Tampa can still be the No. 2 seed, but they have the tie-breaker loss to the Rams from early in the season working against them. Los Angeles is still playing for the NFC West crown and will be the No. 2 seed, no matter what, if they beat Arizona. With the first-round bye out of reach and little to play for in terms of seeding, HC Bruce Arians could give his guys a much-needed game off against the Panthers. Mike Evans played through a hamstring injury yesterday, Ronald Jones got dinged up, and their defense has been battling injuries all year. Oh, and Antonio Brown did the most AB thing ever yesterday. Tampa could desperately use a week off to get their heads sorted. (Graham Barfield)

UPGRADES

Players about whom we’re feeling more optimistic based on recent play or news.

Passing Games

Darren Waller (LV) — Waller has the chance to finally return to the lineup in the season finale, which is far too late for most owners who rostered him for the entire month of December in hopes of a return last week. Waller sounded poised to play against the Colts in Week 17 after more than a month off for a knee injury, but he missed his fifth consecutive game after landing on the COVID list. Waller has been out for such a long period of time that he’ll likely need to practice this week to play on Sunday Night Football against the Chargers, so he’ll ideally be activated off the COVID list by Thursday at the latest. Waller posted 7/116 receiving on eight targets in his last full game in Week 11 before his injury, and he had 4/50/1 receiving on seven targets against Los Angeles back in Week 4. (TB)

Los Angeles Chargers — The Chargers got Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, and Jalen Guyton back from the COVID-19 list in Week 17, and it wasn’t a moment too soon — they shellacked the Broncos with Justin Herbert throwing for 237 yards and 2 TDs. Now, they have their receiving group at full strength in a must-win game on Sunday Night Football against the Raiders — in all likelihood, it’s a win-and-in game (the Raiders have an outside shot to clinch a playoff spot without a win, but it’s highly unlikely). The Chargers are going on the road against a Raider team they beat 28-14 in Week 14, with Herbert throwing for 222 yards and 3 TD. (JD)

Running Backs

Elijah Mitchell (SF) — Mitchell stepped right back into his workhorse role in his first game after a month-long absence for a knee injury and a concussion. He finished with 21/119 rushing and 2/11/1 receiving on a 58% snap share in San Francisco’s two-score victory over the Texans in Week 17. The rookie has now seen 21+ carries in his last four contests and he’s registered 16+ FP in six of his 10 appearances this season. Mitchell is locked into a massive role heading into San Francisco’s pivotal matchup with the Rams, whom he posted 27/91 rushing against back in Week 10. (TB)

Devin Singletary (Buf) — Last week, our Greg Cosell said the Bills were the “most QB-centric offense” in the NFL. And given Josh Allen’s skill set, that makes sense. But Greg has also decried the Bills’ lack of a meaningful run game at multiple points this season, and now that they have one — thanks to Singletary — we see why. Allen was awful in Week 17, throwing 3 INTs and completing just 11/26 passes for 120 yards. But Singletary steadied the ship for the Bills in the second half, winding up with 23/110/2 rushing, the best fantasy performance of his entire career. He played 80% of the offensive snaps in Week 17, meaning he’s played 68% of the snaps or more in five of the Bills’ last six games. He is entering the playoffs as Buffalo’s bell cow back and a rock-solid fantasy option. For those playing in Week 18, his matchup with the Jets is glorious as the Bills look to lock up their second consecutive AFC East championship. (JD)

Rhamondre Stevenson (NE) — Stevenson posted 19/107/2 rushing in a 50-10 win over the hapless Jaguars in Week 17, as one of three Patriots who scored twice in the game, along with RB Damien Harris and WR Kristian Wilkerson (who?). Harris didn’t play in the second half with a hamstring injury, and Stevenson absolutely took over, but it’s possible the Patriots were just being cautious with Harris given they were dominating the Jaguars from start to finish. Nonetheless, Stevenson is clearly the healthier of the two Patriots’ backs, and they still have an outside shot at the AFC East title and technically the AFC’s #1 seed as we head into Week 18. But with the Pats most likely the AFC’s #5 seed, it’s possible Bill Belichick chooses to hold Harris out against the Dolphins, which could make Stevenson the bell cow in Week 18. (JD)

Darrel Williams (KC) — Once again, Darrel came up big in a spot start with Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) out. Darrel Williams came through for anyone who started him in their championship with a 14/88/2 rushing line and added 3/19 as a receiver while playing on a bell-cow 80% of the snaps. In his six starts this year, Williams has averaged 19.1 fantasy points per game which would make him the RB4 over Leonard Fournette (18.3 FPG) on the season. The Chiefs could sit CEH again next week, which would put Darrel right back in the mix as a top RB play against the Broncos. Kansas City has plenty of playoff motivation because they can still win the No. 1 seed and a first round bye if they win and the Titans lose to the Texans. (GB)

Rashaad Penny (Sea) — Penny closed out his fantasy season with a bang as he shredded the Lions for 25/170/2 for his third game of 130+ yards in his last 4 outings. Finally healthy, Penny is showing off the immense talent that made him a first-round pick in the first place. Penny’s surge couldn’t have happened at a better time, too – he is on the last year of his rookie deal and has easily played well enough to earn a legitimate chance at a starter role in 2022 either in Seattle or elsewhere. (GB)

DOWNGRADES

Players about whom we’re feeling less optimistic based on recent play or news.

Passing Games

Kyle Pitts — Pitts became the first rookie tight end to reach 1000 receiving yards since Mike Ditka finished with 1076 yards as a rookie with the Bears all the way back in 1961. Pitts needs 59 receiving yards against the Saints to break Ditka’s rookie record, but he may not be available to do it after he missed the second half of Week 17 with a hamstring injury. The Falcons have little incentive to push Pitts to play this week since they were eliminated from playoff contention with their loss to the Bills. Pitts had one of the quietest 1000-yard seasons a rookie receiver will ever have considering his fifth-round fantasy draft status and the fact that he scored just one touchdown on 105 targets. The arrow is still pointing straight up for Pitts entering his sophomore season even though he didn’t quite live up to the fantasy hype as a rookie. He should see some positive touchdown regression next season but good luck trying to get a discount on him in 2022 drafts. (TB)

Running Backs

Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon (Den) — Denver’s offense was nothing special with Teddy Bridgewater leading the group, but their rushing attack has vanished the last two weeks since Drew Lock took over the offense. Javonte has managed just 21/42/1 rushing (2.0 YPC) and 3/10 receiving in the last two contests while Melvin hasn’t been much better with 17/39 rushing (2.3 YPC) and 4/33 receiving. Both Javonte (knee) and Melvin (hip, thumb) have been gutting it out through injuries the last couple of weeks and it wouldn’t be surprising if one or both of them is shut down now that the Broncos are officially eliminated from playoff contention. Mike Boone would be slated for a role against the Chiefs if either Javonte and/or Melvin sit out this week. (TB)

Ronald Jones (TB) — RoJo? Coming up small in championship week? Who could have possibly seen that coming? Ronald Jones was busting in front of our eyes as he turned his first 10 carries into 26 yards against the Jets before he tweaked his ankle and left the game. RoJo is getting an MRI on Monday. In the meantime, the Bucs’ have one healthy back remaining… Le’Veon Bell. With Leonard Fournette (hamstring) trying to make it back for the first round of the playoffs, Gio Bernard nursing a knee injury, and RoJo being, well, RoJo – it would make a ton of sense for HC Bruce Arians to wave the white flag, rest Brady, and just play Blaine Gabbert on Sunday. (GB)

WATCH LIST

Players whom we’re not ready to upgrade or downgrade, but their situations demand monitoring based on recent play, injuries, or news.

Tennessee Titans (Ten) — Unbelievably, the Titans — who have at points this year literally been without a useful skill position player — control their own destiny and can clinch the AFC’s #1 seed with a win over the Texans in Week 18. Obviously, that means they’ll go hard on Sunday, but for those who play in playoff contests, it’s important to note that they could well be approaching full strength on offense once they get to the playoffs. AJ Brown is already back in the lineup. Presumably, Julio Jones will be activated from the COVID list (and, ironically, got a week of rest for his hamstring). But most importantly… the Big Dog could be back. Derrick Henry could very well play in the playoffs, and though D’Onta Foreman has done a remarkable job filling in for him, a healthy Henry — with potentially fresh legs — would be fun to watch from a fantasy perspective for those playing in postseason contests. (JD)

Minnesota Vikings (Min) — The Vikings are done, with their playoff hopes tanked by two consecutive losses. Their most recent loss, to the Packers on Sunday night football, was without unvaccinated QB Kirk Cousins, who had to miss with COVID protocols, while Sean Mannion was awful in his stead. But if you’re playing in Week 18, Cousins is likely to clear protocols, and that would give a big boost to the offense, especially WRs Justin Jefferson and KJ Osborn. (JD)

Lamar Jackson (Bal) — The Ravens still have a slim chance to make the playoffs with a lot of help this week, but it’s such a slim chance that Lamar will likely have to prove he’s close to full health if he’s going to play against the Steelers this week. Jackson’s ankle wasn’t ready last week as he logged two DNPs to end the week after he tried to practice last Wednesday. ​​Jackson has missed the last three games and his replacements, Tyler Huntley and Josh Johnson, have each played fairly well in his place. Huntley hung 35.9 FP against the Packers in Week 15 before missing Week 16 with COVID, and he struggled a bit in Week 17 with 12.3 FP in a loss to the Rams. When Lamar has played since Week 9, he’s been pretty miserable, averaging 6.0 YPA with six TDs and eight INTs in his last four full games. He posted 253/1 passing and 8/55 rushing when the Ravens played the Steelers in Week 13, which was his last full game of the season. (TB)

Damien Harris (NE) — Harris has 5 TD in his last two games… which is essentially six quarters of football because he didn’t play in the second half of the Patriots’ drubbing of the Jaguars to rest his bum hamstring. We still don’t really know if he tweaked it or if the Patriots were just being smart, given they were absolutely blasting the Jaguars at halftime. The Patriots still have an outside shot to win the AFC East and an extreme outside shot at the AFC’s #1 overall seed, but more than likely they will be the 5th seed in the AFC. It’s possible they choose to rest Harris in Week 18 with Rhamondre Stevenson running well. (JD)

James Conner (Ari) — Conner has now missed two-straight games with a heel injury and is definitely in danger of missing Week 18, too. Chase Edmonds is playing well in place of Conner and if he’s still really hurting, there is no reason for the Cardinals to push Conner back with the playoffs right around the corner. After being loaded up with 47 touches in his last two games, Edmonds will be on the low-end RB1 radar again next week against the Rams if Conner misses. (GB)

Antonio Gibson (Was) — Gibson missed Week 17 as Washington’s COVID outbreak continued, but he may have missed the game anyway with a toe injury. Jarret Patterson ended up getting extended burn and had 12/57/1 on the ground and 5/41 through the air as Washington’s featured back in place of Gibson. Washington plays the Giants in Week 18 in the most pointless game of the slate, so they should just rest their guy after an up-and-down season plagued by injuries. Gibson ended the fantasy season as the RB18 in fantasy points per game. (GB)

George Kittle (SF) — After carrying fantasy teams with 28/425/3 in Weeks 13-15, Kittle has come up extremely small in his last two outings. Kittle’s fantasy season ended with a whimper as he caught just one pass and saw just 2 targets total as the 49ers cruised over the Texans. After a slow start was compounded by a calf injury that caused him to miss Weeks 5-8, this was yet another up-and-down year. I’ll be very interested to see where Kittle goes in 2022 drafts considering all of his production came in six games this season. (GB)

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