The following players moved significantly up or down this week’s updated Rest of Way Rankings:
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
Here’s your new #1 QB in the Rest of Way Rankings — despite the question marks surrounding Julio Jones and his turf toe.
Ryan proved in Week 14 that he can produce even without his #1 WR. He smoked a lifeless Rams defense for 237 yards and 3 TDs. The numbers could have been even bigger if Los Angeles had kept it close. Ryan threw it just 5 times in the 2nd half of the blowout win.
He gets 3 more plus matchups to close out the season. Next up is the 49ers’ 28th-ranked QB defense. San Francisco is even worse against the run, and Ryan’s volume might be down again in what should be an easy win. But there should be production to go around for everyone on an offense Vegas projects to score 32 to 33 points.
Ryan draws the Panthers’ 24th-ranked QB defense in Week 16. Carolina has allowed the 2nd most passing yards and the 4th most TDs. Ryan is responsible for a lot of that damage, racking up a ridiculous 503 yards and 4 TDs vs. the Panthers back in Week 4.
If you’re still playing in Week 17, Ryan gets the Saints’ 20th-ranked QB defense. He beat New Orleans for 240 yards and 2 scores earlier this season.
Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders
Oakland has turned its backfield over to Murray. His 3 highest snaps rate (66%, 70%, 69%) and his 3 highest touch counts (22, 23, 22) have come over the past 3 games. He’s responded by totaling 230 rushing yards, 66 receiving yards and 4 TDs. Only 3 RBs scored more fantasy points than Murray during that stretch.
He should keep rolling the rest of the way. Next up is a beatable Chargers defense. They’ve actually held RBs to 3.8 yards per carry. But they’ve also allowed the 3rd most receptions to RBs, the 8th most receiving yards and the 2nd most total TDs. San Diego ranks 28th in PPR points allowed to RBs and 24th in non-PPR.
Murray gets an even better matchup in Week 16 against a Colts defense that's allowing 4.5 yards per carry to RBs and ranks 31st in Football Outsiders' run defense rankings.
Week 17 brings a Broncos matchup that isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think. Denver ranks 22nd in fantasy points allowed to RBs and coughed up 127 total yards and 3 TDs to Murray earlier this season.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills
Watkins didn’t leap up the ROW rankings. But it’s worth highlighting his WR1 potential going forward.
Last week vs. Pittsburgh, Watkins played a season-high 94% of the snaps. He returned 4 grabs, 54 yards and 1 score despite a modest 6 targets.
Tyrod Taylor’s shaky play is concerning, but Buffalo’s lack of pass game targets will continue supplying Watkins with upside. A sweet schedule doesn’t hurt, either. The Bills draw the Browns on Sunday before another home date with Miami. Both teams are bottom-10 in fantasy points allowed to WRs.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints
You have to go back to 2009 to find the last time Brees went 2 straight games without a TD. He’s NEVER — in 231 career regular-season games — thrown 3 INTs in back-to-back outings.
So it’d be fair to say that Brees is coming off the worst 2-game stretch of his career. After a shocking 326-0-3 line at home for the Lions in Week 13, he mustered just 257 scoreless yards with another 3 picks against the Bucs this past Sunday.
Brees obviously isn’t playing his best football right now. But those games also came against a pair of surging defenses. And a pair of slow-paced teams. In fact, Detroit and Tampa Bay have allowed the fewest plays per game over the past 5 weeks.
Brees and the Saints will be up in pace this coming week against the Cardinals, who rank 15th in Football Outsiders’ situation-neutral pace. That’ll provide Brees with more opportunities. Of course, he’ll also be on the road facing the league’s 4th-ranked QB defense. He’s more of a lower-end fantasy starter for that one.
A bounce-back performance against Arizona would make him a lot easier to trust for a Week 16 rematch against the Bucs. That game is in New Orleans, where Brees had averaged 357 yards and 3.2 TDs per game prior to the Lions debacle.
Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars
There was no big change with Robinson from last week to this. His 7-place move down our default ROW rankings was more of a reluctant correction that probably should have come sooner.
Robinson’s much better than what he’s put forward over the past 4 weeks. Even his already-disappointing numbers from earlier in the season beat his 9 total catches for 90 yards over the past 4 games.
Jacksonville endured matchups with Denver and Minnesota the past 2 weeks, the league’s top 2 pass defenses in Football Outsiders’ ratings. Two weeks before that came Detroit, which has stepped up its pass defense over the 2nd half.
Before that 4-game stretch, though, came 3 consecutive weeks of 12+ targets for Robinson, with lines of 6-70 or better in each and TDs in 2 of them.
You’d take more of that in your fantasy lineup the rest of the way, and the remaining matchups might help. A Week 16 home date with Tennessee, at least, looks like a good spot to use Robinson. This Sunday at Houston might be a good one—especially when you consider that Robinson posted season highs of 9 catches and 107 yards in his last match with the Texans. But emerging top corner A.J. Bouye missed that contest.
Combine that with Robinson’s maddening season overall, and it’s just impossible to actually predict what he’ll provide this Sunday. Let’s just hope he does enough to get us to that Titans matchup. And if you play into Week 17, a trip to Indianapolis awaits.