Underdog Battle Royale Picks: Week 16

Dec 23, 2021
Underdog Battle Royale Picks: Week 16

Leading up to Week 15 of the NFL season, there was some fear that teams weren't going to be able to play or that the league may opt to do a league-wide bye week as teams weathered COVID breakouts. But as the NFL did in 2020, they pushed through Week 15, regardless of who was suiting up and powered through the week.

To be honest, there are probably plenty of fantasy managers (myself included) who would have been fine with a bye week, which may have helped us avoid some of the awful fantasy performances we received from our Cardinals, Saints and Buccaneer players as those games likely resulted in a lot of teams being axed from the playoffs rather than advancing.

The great news about daily fantasy and Underdog Fantasy Battle Royale is you can be buried one week, and a champion the next. With three more weeks left of Battle Royale tournaments, here are some of my favorite plays for this week.

Week 16 Spread and Over/Under

  • Minnesota (+3) vs. Los Angeles Rams - O/U 49
  • Cincinnati (-3) vs. Baltimore - O/U 45.5
  • Houston (+9.5) vs. Los Angeles Chargers - O/U 45.5
  • Kansas City (-7.5) vs. Pittsburgh - O/U 44.5
  • Carolina (+10.5) vs. Tampa Bay - O/U 44
  • New England (-2.5) vs. Buffalo - O/U 43.5
  • Seattle (-6.5) vs. Chicago - O/U 43
  • Atlanta (-6) vs. Detroit - O/U 42.5
  • New York Jets vs. Jacksonville - O/U 41.5
  • Las Vegas (+1) vs. Denver - O/U 41.5
  • Philadelphia (-9.5) vs. New York Giants - O/U 40.5

Quarterbacks

Tyler Huntley, Baltimore Ravens

The status of Ravens quarterbacks is one to monitor heading into Week 16, but as of Wednesday, Lamar Jackson (ankle) had still not taken the practice field for Sunday's divisional game against Cincinnati.

If Jackson doesn't play, Huntley becomes one of my favorite value plays at quarterback given how he has performed this season.

In what many thought would be a blowout loss to Green Bay last week, Huntley and the Ravens put up a fight in a game that came down to the final play and a controversial two-point conversion attempt by Baltimore that came up short.

In the loss, Huntley completed 28-of-40 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns while rushing another 13 times for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Surprisingly, Huntley became the first Ravens quarterback to ever throw for two touchdowns while rushing for two more, and this came against a top-flight Packers defense.

Cincinnati's defense has been tough on fantasy quarterbacks as of late, allowing just 16.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks over the last five weeks, but Huntley has looked well prepared in his two starts for Baltimore and could prove to be a value in play in Battle Royale drafts if Jackson is out.

Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Keeping things within the confines of the Bengals vs. Ravens game, Joe Burrow looks like an attractive play against a Ravens secondary that has only gotten worse since he last faced them, and put up a season-high 26.6 fantasy points.

In the first matchup of this series, Burrow torched the Ravens for 416 passing yards and three touchdowns, leading the Bengals to a 41-17 win that served as a statement win for the Bengals early in the season.

Now the Bengals have a chance to hang another statement win on a banged-up Ravens team that will be without cornerback Marlon Humphrey and could be without Lamar Jackson. The Ravens defense has struggled all season against the pass, allowing the second-most passing yards per game (264.9) while also surrendering 1.71 passing touchdowns per game.

Cincinnati has an elite trio of wide receivers in Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, but despite that trio, Burrow has thrown two or more touchdowns in just one of his last six games.

Running back Joe Mixon is also banged up and could be a risk at missing. If that ends up being the case, I like Burrow to be in line for a strong day against the Ravens. Our rankings project Burrow as the QB12 on the week with 17.6 fantasy points.

Running Backs

Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I have a feeling that Ronald Jones is about to turn into a top-12 running back over the remainder of the season with Leonard Fournette now landing on IR and being done for the regular season.

That's not a particularly bold statement to make, but the Buccaneers are without not only Fournette but also running back Giovani Bernard, who suffered a hip injury in Week 14. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said of Jones after the Buc's 9-0 loss to the Saints, that Jones has the chance to be to the 2021 team what Fournette was to the 2020 team.

For those who need a refresher, in Weeks 16 and 17, Fournette turned into a short-term league winner for fantasy managers, going for 20.0 fantasy points in Week 15 against the Falcons, and 14.1 points in Week 16 against the Lions. Fournette totaled three touchdowns in those two games, rushing for 83 yards while also catching six passes for another 48 yards.

Jones could see a true lion's share of the Buccaneer's running back workload with his taking over of the team's lead role in Fournette's absence, and could be in line for a solid day against a Panthers team that has allowed the 14th most fantasy points to opposing running backs over the last five weeks.

From a playmaking ability, Jones looks like a player who deserves to be on the field. But mental gaffes such as fumbles and dropped passes tend to land him in the team's doghouse on any given week. This time around, however, with such a thin running back corps, Tampa Bay may have no choice but to play Jones come hell or high water.

Our projections have Jones as the overall RB8 on the week with 14.5 projected points. He ranks as the RB7 on Underdog Fantasy at 13.3 points.

Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers

Running back Austin Ekeler has landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and his situation heading into the Chargers' Week 16 matchup against the Texans is reportedly not looking good.

Ekeler has not been officially ruled out yet, but in the event that he does miss, backup running back Justin Jackson looks to be in a potential blow-up spot against a Texans defense that is allowing the most rushing yards per game (145.0).

Last week against the Chiefs, Jackson saw 13 carries for 86 yards while also catching one pass for 13 yards, as Jackson saw some additional work due to Ekeler nursing an ankle injury.

Jackson has upside as not only a runner but also a pass catcher, having totaled 54 receptions in 40 career games.

We would be dying to draft Ekeler this weekend if we knew he was suiting up against the Texans. While Jackson may not ignite quite as much excitement, he seems like an excellent dart throw against a bad Texans defense. If given enough volume, Jackson's ceiling could be as high as a top-five running back this week.

Wide Receivers

Ja'Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals

I'm more than happy with doubling up on Bengals offensive players against what I previously mentioned is a depleted Ravens secondary.

In Cincinnati's Week 7 win over Baltimore, Joe Burrow wasn't the only Bengal to have a great day, as Chase was the key benefactor of Burrow's 416-yard performance, hauling in eight receptions for a season-high 201 yards and one touchdown while finishing with 30.1 fantasy points.

As if Baltimore's secondary isn't depleted enough with injuries (Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters), cornerback Jimmy Smith also missed Sunday's game against the Packers due to landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and is no lock to return in Week 16 against Cincinnati.

Even if Smith does return for this game, Cincinnati shouldn't be too intimidated by Baltimore's secondary in a game that could all but secure the Bengal's spot in the playoffs with a divisional win.

Our rankings project Chase as the overall WR10 on the week with 12.4 fantasy points. For what it's worth, fellow wide receiver Tee Higgins is projected as the overall WR12 with 12.3 points. Both could be very solid plays this weekend.

Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills

Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis has been on a heater as of late.

Davis has scored at least one touchdown in each of his last three games, and had a two-touchdown performance in last weekend's 31-14 win over Carolina. He isn't just scoring touchdowns, however, as Davis has seen 19 total targets over those last three weeks while catching 12 passes for 158 yards.

This week, Davis gets a game against a Patriots team that embarrassed the Bills in Week 13, defeating the Bills 14-10 while throwing the ball just three times.

With an AFC East title on the line, Buffalo will need all hands on deck in a big game against Belichick and company, but the Bills will be without wide receiver Cole Beasley, who we were shocked to learn landed on the COVID list early this week and will be out for Week 16.

With Beasley out, and Davis' recent hot streak of posting fantasy points and scoring touchdowns, he could be in for a big fantasy week in Week 16. Our rankings project Davis as the overall WR19 on the week at 11.6 fantasy points.

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers are in need of playmakers with Chris Godwin being ruled out for the season with a torn ACL, Mike Evans being week-to-week with a hamstring injury, and Leonard Fournette landing on the IR with a hamstring injury that has ended his regular season.

Fortunately, quarterback Tom Brady has a familiar face in tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was peppered with 11 targets in Tampa Bay's Week 15 loss to New Orleans as his teammates around him dropped throughout the evening.

Gronkowski only managed to catch two of those 11 targets for 29 yards on the day, but he could be in line for another high-volume day in Week 16 against the Panthers.

Over the last five weeks, the Panthers have allowed the 10th most receptions per game to opposing tight ends (5.2) and the 19th most receiving yards to tight ends (46.4).

With Fournette also banged up, the Buccaneers, a team that is already throwing a league-high 43.6 times per game, could lean on the pass even more, as has been their identity all season. Our rankings project Gronkowski as the overall TE3 on the week with 10.6 fantasy points.

Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

The Bears have been an underwhelming offensive production all season, and head coach Matt Nagy is undoubtedly waiting for his name to be called on Black Monday, as he will likely be one of the first coaches fired at the conclusion of the season.

Despite the Bears' struggles on offense, second-year tight end Cole Kmet has offered some fantasy production. Over his last eight games, Kmet has seen six or more targets in six of those games, which included an 11 target, eight reception performance against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day.

The one downside to Kmet is that he is seemingly not allowed to score touchdowns. Despite ranking 11th in the league in targets (76) and 12th in receptions (49) amongst tight ends, Kmet has as many touchdowns this season as the person writing this article, and the person reading this article - zero.

With that being said, Kmet could be in a sneaky spot here to have more than just a nice volume-based day. The Seahawks have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to tight ends over the last five weeks, and have allowed the fourth-most receiving yards per game to tight ends over that span (72.4).

Our projections have Kmet as the overall TE14 on the week with a projected 6.7 fantasy points. But if he ever manages to score one touchdown this season, it could be this week against a Seahawks team that has allowed one touchdown per game over the last five weeks.

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