January 3, 2023, 2:32 pm
Final score: 49ers 37, Raiders 34 in OT (Raiders covered +9.5, O 41)
Not only did this game turn out to be way more competitive than expected, especially with QB Jarrett Stidham replacing Derek Carr in the starting lineup, but the reinvigorated Raiders even led by double-digits early in the 3rd quarter before the NFC West champs came roaring back to win in OT and hand Las Vegas yet another loss after blowing a double-digit lead. Most of the players that fantasy managers were likely depending on delivered, so the competitive nature of the game and a final combined score that beat the projected O/U by 30 certainly helped. The most important piece of injury news for dynasty leaguers was probably the “mild” ankle sprain that Christian McCaffrey (19-121-1 rushing, 6-72-0 receiving, nine targets, 28.3 total fantasy points) picked up, though head coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t seem too concerned. Rookie Jordan Mason (2-13-1 rushing) still isn’t eating much into CMC’s workload, and as long as the ankle doesn’t get worse, the Niners will likely continue to lean heavily on CMC in their aspiring Super Bowl run.
WR Davante Adams
Timing is everything when it comes to winning a fantasy title, and Adams (7-153-2 receiving, 11 targets, 30.8 total fantasy points) got his mojo back at the perfect time. Hopefully fantasy managers simply had lowered expectations and did not bench Adams after a miserable combined 15.9 fantasy points over his previous three games, as Stidham and Adams showed a shockingly potent chemistry as the veteran signal caller locked on to Adams frequently with a 32.3% target share. Stidham did a good job of playing to Adams’ strengths as a contested catch maestro, including a pivotal 45-yard pass in the closing minutes of the game. It’ll be interesting to see what direction the Raiders go in this offseason at QB, which will directly affect Adams’ ADP.
TE Darren Waller
Like Adams, it was better-late-than-never for Waller (3-72-1 receiving, five targets, 14.7 total fantasy points). Because of the dire state of the tight end position, it’s likely that fantasy managers with Waller didn’t have many better alternatives in the championship round, but that turned out to be just fine with a TE4 finish (his best since Week 2). Volume was not in Waller’s favor (14.7% target share) in his first game with Stidham at the helm, but Waller’s rare skill set as a move TE always gives him the ceiling for a touchdown and he delivered the first score of the game with a 24-yard strike from Stidham. Again like with Adams, Waller’s 2023 ADP will be highly dependent on how the QB situation shakes out.
TE George Kittle
There honestly weren’t many underperformers in this shootout, but given the volume that Kittle (4-23-1 receiving, eight targets, 10.3 total fantasy points) had been producing lately, the 23 yards definitely represented a bit of a letdown. Kittle still salvaged his day with a short TD catch in the 2nd quarter and gave fantasy managers at least a double-digit fantasy point total for the third straight week. This season was far from consistent for Kittle, who had exactly the same number of games with 5.2 or fewer fantasy points (seven) as he did with at least 10.3. It’s safe to say, however, that his 2023 fantasy arrow would be pointing up much higher if the Niners ultimately decide to hand Brock Purdy the starting job over Trey Lance.
Final score: Seahawks 23, Jets 6 (Seahawks covered +1.5, U 43)
The Jets’ faint postseason hopes were dashed in the Pacific Northwest as QB Mike White’s return from his rib injury was a disaster and New York’s normally stout defense couldn’t hold off the Seahawks. White (240-0-2 passing, 5.6 total fantasy points) barely completed half of his passes while turning the ball over three times and getting sacked four times. Since White’s four-game run in the fantasy season was highlighted mainly by the yardage (298.0 per game), he somewhat quietly has now gone 147 consecutive pass attempts without a touchdown through the air. This unfortunate faceplant ultimately doomed fantasy managers who were depending on Garrett Wilson (3-18-0) in the finals. While NFL Network reported recently that Jets GM Joe Douglas “does not plan” to shop Zach Wilson around the league in the offseason, everything points to the Jets trading for a veteran QB to compete with White for the starting gig in 2023.
RB Kenneth Walker III
While not quite on the level of teammate Rashaad Penny’s league-winning run to close out last season’s fantasy playoffs, Walker (23-133-1 rushing, 1-9-0 receiving, one target, 14.7 total fantasy points) still rumbled for a combined 240 rushing yards across the fantasy semifinals and finals as a rookie. He averaged nearly six yards a tote (5.8) against a decent Jets run defense, so Walker very much closed out his rookie fantasy campaign on a high note. With a resurgent offense under OC Shane Waldron and Penny likely having already played his final snap in a Seahawks uniform months ago, Walker should find himself squarely in the late-first round consideration for 2023 fantasy drafts.
RB Zonovan Knight
Despite allowing the 3rd-most rushing yards per game on the season, credit should be given where due as the Seahawks defense made huge strides down the stretch, improving all the way to 12th-best in that metric over their previous three games. Those who were hoping for a bounce-back from Bam Knight (8-27-0 rushing, 2-17-0 receiving, three targets, 5.4 total fantasy points) were left sorely disappointed. As a rookie, Knight still had an impressive three-game stretch earlier in the season where he turned in back-to-back top-14 efforts. However, this starting job in 2023 is still safely Breece Hall’s as long as Hall can emerge fully healthy from his ACL and meniscus recovery.
WR DK Metcalf
When Ahmad Gardner was taken fourth in the 2022 NFL Draft by the Jets, he was famously told he would have to prove himself before truly earning his “Sauce” moniker in the pros. Gardner turned in his signature performance that should put him atop the consideration lists for Defensive Rookie of the Year with a career-high four pass defenses (adding to his league-leading 20 on the season) against the Seahawks while locking up Metcalf (1-3-0 receiving, five targets, 0.8 total fantasy points) for the receiver’s worst game of the season in the most important week of the season for fantasy owners. It’s an extremely tough pill to swallow for Metcalf managers, but this was always potentially the outcome against Gardner and the Jets pass defense that has limited opposing wideouts to the 2nd-fewest fantasy points in all of football. Fantasy managers will officially need to check their 2023 schedules for when their receivers face the Jets, as Sauce Island is the new Revis Island in East Rutherford.
Final score: Packers 41, Vikings 17 (Packers covered -3, O 47.5)
While the Vikings remain undefeated on the season in one-possession games, they got absolutely demolished at Lambeau to keep their division rival Packers’ postseason hopes alive. This is the kind of game that is every fantasy manager’s nightmare in the championship round where an offense implodes in a way that takes away any sort of floor for its fantasy assets. One of the biggest elephants in the room for the Vikings this season (aside from its luck in one-possession games) has been the mediocrity of Kirk Cousins. The QB had his fifth weekly finish of QB20 or worse on the season, which puts a big wet blanket over the seven top-10 finishes he’s had too. The fact that Jalen Nailor (if your question is who that is, that’s precisely the point) led all Vikings in fantasy points (3-89-1 receiving, three targets, 16.4 total fantasy points) says it all.
RB Aaron Jones
Despite dropping 41 points on Minnesota, there weren’t a ton of high performers from the Packers passing game, which took a back seat to Jones (14-111-0 rushing, 2-2-0 receiving, three targets, 12.3 total fantasy points) and the rushing attack. It was a bit surprising considering the Vikings have given up the 4th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, but fantasy managers with Jones aren’t complaining after he had come into this one desperately needing some positive momentum after 7.5 or fewer fantasy points in two of his last three games. Despite two receiving scores over the last five games, Jones has actually now extended his rushing score drought to six games as AJ Dillon (12-41-1 rushing, 10.1 total fantasy points) continues to play a much more prominent red zone role with his fifth straight game of punching at least one in on the ground.
WR Justin Jefferson
Perhaps just as shocking as DK Metcalf’s one-catch disaster was Justin Jefferson’s (1-15-0, five targets, 2.0 total fantasy points). Just like Sauce Gardner’s crowning achievement of the season, Packers CB Jaire Alexander also starred with a performance so impressive that he even broke out the griddy himself to celebrate an early key pass breakup. There were no griddys from Jefferson, who now remains 194 receiving yards shy of breaking Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving record of 1,964 receiving yards even after the near goose egg against the Packers. Jefferson is unlikely to break that mark with a meaningless game on tap in Week 18 against the Bears and the Vikings in dire need of recuperating from the jarring loss before the real playoffs.
RB Dalvin Cook
The nightmare scenario for Cook (9-27-0 rushing, 2-17-0 receiving, three targets, 5.4 total fantasy points) managers took shape quickly once the Packers made it a three-possession game by halftime. Once the negative game script turned negative for Cook, it stayed that way. Cook has pretty much struggled since Week 11, as this was the fifth time in seven games that he’s failed to reach double figures in fantasy points. It’s a very strange juxtaposition to a first place team that has thrived in one-possession games that normally calls for elite time of possession dominance through the ground game. All in all, it’s been a pretty disappointing season for managers with Cook, who actually was out-rushed by Alexander Mattison (8-38-0) in this finale.
Final score: Chargers 31, Rams 10 (Chargers covered -6.5, push 41)
The Bolts secured their first 10-win regular season since 2018 with an easy win over their same-town counterparts. Despite S Derwin James (concussion) being out and newly-activated Joey Bosa playing less than half of snaps as he got eased back in post-IR, the Chargers were still able to keep the Rams in check and shut them out in the second half. QB Justin Herbert (212-2-0 passing, 16.6 total fantasy points) called it a day halfway through the fourth quarter, but not before bouncing back from consecutive duds for his fantasy managers and snapping a two-game streak without a passing TD. On the other side, Baker Mayfield (132-0-0 passing, 4.0 total fantasy points) failed to impress against a beatable Chargers defense, and leaves a lot of open questions going into 2023 about the Rams starting quarterback spot.
RB Cam Akers
The Rams will certainly have question marks at a lot of positions next season, but one that they may be starting to feel more confident about is at tailback. Akers (19-123-0 rushing, 1-10-0 receiving, two targets, 13.8 total fantasy points) has been a changed player since Week 13, averaging 17.2 fantasy points per contest in five games since then and closing out the fantasy playoffs with consecutive rushing totals above the century mark. This five-game sample size is really what fantasy managers have been expecting from a player of Akers’ skillset and draft pedigree this entire time, so it’s good to see that the issues with the coaching staff and mental aspects have seemingly cleared up. The momentum is likely enough to put him back into mid-round consideration in fantasy drafts in 2023.
RB Austin Ekeler
In addition to breaking the century mark in receptions for the first time in his six-year career, Ekeler (10-122-2 rushing, 4-39-0 receiving, four targets, 30.1 total fantasy points) also came through big for his fantasy managers with his fourth 30-plus point performance of the year. The normally extremely pass-happy Chargers (3rd in NFL with 64.8% pass rate) ran it exactly half the time against the Rams and controlled the game through the ground with the game script in their favor. That has been the case for the greater part of a month now, as Ekeler has carried the ball 10-plus times in five straight games for the first time all season. After many pegged him as a negative regression candidate in the touchdowns department, Ekeler officially set a new career-best with 13 rushing scores and now has a ridiculous 38 all-purpose TDs over his last 32 games.
WR Keenan Allen
It was far from a championship round flop for Allen (5-60-0 receiving, six targets, 9.3 total fantasy points), but fantasy managers were just expecting more after averaging nearly 15 fantasy points per game over his last five. The 19% target share was surprising as Herbert and Chase Daniel combined to spread the ball around to nine different pass-catchers. Without a pass-happy game script to help pad his totals in the second half, Allen was left with just a mediocre line even in PPR formats. Overall, it was a mixed bag of a season for Allen and his fantasy managers, who excruciatingly stomached a seven-game absence from him before finally getting close to what they paid for him on draft day down the stretch. There still seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank as Allen enters his age-31 season next year, but the key will be avoiding the same kind of nagging injuries that sidelined him for much of the 2022 season.