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Sunday Scaries: Week 17

Week 17 Matchups:

DeVonta Smith vs. Chris Olave +3

Both first-round pick WRs in consecutive seasons have crushed in 2022.

DeVonta Smith has ascended comfortably into WR2 range with WR1 upside shown on a week-to-week basis even with the addition of AJ Brown and Dallas Goedert playing at a high level. Smith is 11th in receiving yards and 15th among all WRs in fantasy points per game. He's played 2 fewer games than his rookie season and already has career highs in targets, receptions, yards, and receiving TDs. Smith commands a 26.1% target share, 16th among all WRs, and has earned 115 targets, 17th among WRs. The "Ealges run too much for Smith to be productive" narrative has been proven false in 2022. Smith has seven top-20 WR weekly finishes, with four straight such games heading into Week 17. He's also earned a WR1 overall and WR2 overall week on the season.

Chris Olave missed his Week 16 game against the Cleveland Browns due to a hamstring injury. Even if he played, the "lead" receiver for the Saints Rashid Shaheed played fewer than 50% of snaps in that contest. It was not an ideal situation for fantasy. The Eagles allow the 9th fewest fantasy points to opposing WRs. But it's not all bad news for Olave as he's 3rd among WRs in air yard share, 5th in deep targets, and 7th in average depth of targets-- he's a talented WR who earns a high volume of valuable targets. And he's made the most of those targets, standing at 8th among WRs in yards per route run.

Final Pick: DeVonta Smith. Don't get cute. 3 points aren't enough juice to get above the 3rd leading receiver over the last 4 weeks.

Amari Cooper vs. Terry McLaurin

Since this is one of those rare toss up comparisons, I decided that I would do a side-by-side comparison of some of the major stats for these players. Both are alpha receivers on their teams with quarterbacks-- Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz-- who have experienced their share of struggles this season.

Cooper has commanded more targets, scored TDs at a higher rate, and does have more fantasy points per game than McLaurin. However, McLaurin catches more yards and has a higher yard per target rate than Cooper.

McLaurin tends to have a lower target share with Wentz as the starter. Wentz targets TEs and gadget WR Curtis Samuel at a higher rate than did Taylor Heinicke. Logan Thomas, for instance, was targeted 6 times on Wentz's 16 pass attempts in the 2nd half of the matchup vs. the 49ers (37.5%). Jahan Dotson, the unheralded rookie, has also contributed lately with 6 top-25 wide receiver finishes in 9 games where Dotson players more than 50% of snaps.

Final Pick: Amari Cooper. Cooper caught 6 passes on 10 targets for 72 yards in Week 16. Why does this matter? The weather in Cleveland was historically cold & windy-- and still, the Browns coaching staff and Deshaun Watson heavily targeted Cooper down the field. McLaurin is a higher boom-bust risk this week.

Tyreek Hill vs. Davante Adams +2.5

Just when we thought Davante Adams would be a league-winner-- with three WR1 overall finishes in week 9, Week 11, and Week 13-- Adams has finished no better than the WR39 since Week 14. And that's despite earning 25 targets during that span. Adams has the lowest reception % over the last 3 weeks among WRs with 20+ targets, catching only 9 of 25 passes. And there's even worse news-- Jarrett Stidham is expected to start for the Las Vegas Raiders after coach McDaniel decided to bench Carr for the remainder of the season. Stidham has four career games with 10+ pass attempts-- two of those games finished with lower than 40% completion rate. Moving from Carr to Stidham is bad news for Adams trying to access the upside of one of the league's best wide receivers.

Tyreek Hill also gets a backup quarterback under center in Week 17. At least Teddy Bridgewater has some reasons for optimism. Bridgewater finished as QB7 back in a spot start for Tua Tagovailoa, throwing for 329 yards and 2 TDs against Minnesota. New England is one of the most difficult Pass DVOA matchups on the season, but Bridgewater has finished as a top-10 weekly quarterback in 8 of his last 42 games-- while it isn't special does give hope for Hill's receiving score. The last time Bridgewater started for the Dolphins, Hill went 12-177 on 15 targets, accumulated 189 air yards, and finished as the WR3 on the week.

Final Pick: Tyreek Hill. The 49ers are one of the league's toughest defenses and it will be difficult for Adams to find room to boom.

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Week 15 (1-2) & Week 16 Updates:

Miles Sanders vs. Joe Mixon +0.5. Somehow Sanders had his worst game of the year against a porous Chicago defense. Mixon wasn't great, but this was a surprise.

Juju Smith-Schuster vs. Michael Pittman +0.5. Pittman went 10-60 on 14 targets and rushed for 30 yards. Juju went 10-88 but lost a fumble which got me there. Gritty W.

Isiah Pacheco vs. Latavius Murray +1. Murray crushed and I took the L even though Pacheco had 97 total yards.

For Week 16, I joined Brian Drake of PFF and we held a TopProp Fantasy Spaces, answering Start/Sit questions and diving into TNF between the Jets and Jags. There was no Week 16 matchup column due to the Christmas holiday and 11 games falling on Saturday (ya know, Sunday Scaries aren't so scary on Christmas).

Running Season Record: 28-17. - 62.2% correct on the season. Guaranteed above 50% for the regular season.

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