Welcome to Championship Week!
Luckily, this slate doesn’t look filled with a litany of injury situations to monitor. Plus, every team in the playoff hunt still has plenty to play for as seeding in the AFC and NFC is not yet set. Only the Eagles can clinch the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC if Minnesota loses as nine-point road favorites over Green Bay on Saturday Night.
Keep in mind, there is no TNF game this week -- so owners have until 4:30 pm (EST) on Saturday to finalize season-long decisions! Let’s hit the news:
In good news to start the week, Leonard Fournette (quad) is back practicing, and HC Doug Marrone fully expects him to play in Week 16 on the road in San Francisco. Fournette played season-high snap rates in Weeks 13-14 (79% and 76%) before his quad injury derailed his Week 15 prospects. The 49ers run defense has stiffened recently -- they’ve allowed 3.06 YPC to RBs over the last five weeks, second-fewest -- but Fournette’s volume is locked-in as the Jags’ are still fighting for a first-round bye in the AFC. Fournette has handled 31, 15, 24 and 30 opportunities (attempts plus targets) in his last four full games.
Shocker: We have another headline that reads along the lines of, “Julio Jones is dealing with…” This time, Julio Jones is nursing a balky ankle that Falcons HC Dan Quinn says Julio hurt on the second play of Atlanta's MNF win over Tampa Bay. Jones still played on 76% of snaps and saw eight of Matt Ryan's 31 targets (26% share). Owners should fully expect Julio Jones to play in Week 16. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore has been fantastic this year, but Jones ripped him for 73 yards on five targets when these two sides met in Week 14 (per PFF data). Jones remains a low-end WR1 with distinct nuclear upside in every draw.
Davante Adams (concussion) did not practice on Wednesday as he’s still in the league’s protocol after Panthers LB Thomas Davis’ cheap shot in Week 15. His second known concussion of the year, Adams’ chances of playing in Week 16 are likely long -- especially since the Packers are drawing dead towards the playoffs. If Adams misses Week 16, it will lock in Xavier Rhodes’ shadow coverage on Jordy Nelson against Minnesota on Saturday Night. With Brett Hundley back under center, this is a losing situation for the Pack’s pass attack.
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In a little more positive concussion news, Joe Mixon returned to a full practice on Wednesday after missing Weeks 14-15. Mixon returns to a near perfect matchup against a slumping Lions’ front-seven that has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points (PPR) per touch to RBs over the last five weeks. In that span, only the Bengals (16% of plays) have allowed rushing gains of 10 or more yards more often than the Lions (15% of plays). In his last five starts before sustaining a concussion, Joe Mixon averaged 18.2 opportunities per game on 67% of Bengals' snaps. Even though Cincinnati are home dogs (+4.5), Mixon will be back on the RB2 radar if he does indeed pass the league's final stages of concussion protocol this week.
Finally, Damien Williams (shoulder) returned to a limited practice on Wednesday -- but the Dolphins will be hard-pressed to take Kenyan Drake off of the field if Williams is well enough to play in Week 16. Since Damien Williams was injured three games ago, Kenyan Drake has played on 88% of snaps and handled 28.7 opportunities per game. For reference, Le’Veon Bell has played 91% of snaps and 28.9 opportunities per game this season. Averaging 149 yards from scrimmage per day in this three-game hot-streak, Drake is a no-brainer RB1 play in Week 16. The Chiefs are heavy favorites (-10.5), but Drake's all-purpose role makes him game-script proof.
Offensive Quick Hits
The Rams placed K Greg Zuerlein (back) on injured reserve, ending his season. Sam Ficken was signed in the corresponding move. … Chris Hogan (shoulder) practiced on a limited basis Wednesday. He’s still very questionable for Week 16. … Redskins LT Trent Williams (knee) admitted he's unlikely to play again this season. … DeSean Jackson (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday. … The Bucs placed TE O.J. Howard on injured reserve with an ankle injury, ending his season. Meanwhile, Cameron Brate (hip, knee) was limited at Wednesday's practice. … Theo Riddick (wrist) is practicing in full for Week 16 against the Bengals. … The Giants interviewed ex-Panthers GM Dave Gettleman for their general manager vacancy on Wednesday. … The Dolphins placed TE Julius Thomas on injured reserve with a foot injury, ending his season. … Kelvin Benjamin (knee) did not practice Wednesday. … Bears RG Kyle Long (shoulder, I.R.) underwent neck surgery on Tuesday. … Kerwynn Williams (quad) didn't practice Wednesday. … Ted Ginn (ribs) was limited at Wednesday's practice.
Defensive Quick Hits
Eagles slot CB Patrick Robinson is in the league's concussion protocol. … The Bears placed OLB Pernell McPhee on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, ending his season. … The Bucs placed CB Vernon Hargreaves on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, ending his season. Tampa also placed S Justin Evans on injured reserve with an ankle injury, ending his season. … The Texans placed NT D.J. Reader on injured reserve with a sprained knee, ending his season.