Last updated: December 18th at 7:45pm ET
Team Totals: Falcons 26.5, Jaguars 20
Although Jacksonville’s offensive trustworthiness remains low considering its atrocious five-game run prior to last week’s eked-out Black Hole upset, there are reasons to believe Gardner Minshew could outkick Week 16 expectations inside Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz dome. Top playmaker D.J. Chark (ankle) is due back against the Falcons, who won’t have top CB Desmond Trufant (broken arm) or DE Takk McKinley (shoulder) and seem likely to pour points on Jacksonville’s defense, giving this game some high-scoring potential. Minshew has padded his stats with 28.7 rushing yards per start, while Atlanta has yielded the NFL’s 12th-most QB rushing yards (237) and a league-high five QB rushing TDs. … Leonard Fournette has re-reached positive-TD-regression territory during a scoreless three-game stretch while continuing to handle elite RB1 volume amid results-based ups and downs. Averaging 23.5 touches over the last month, Fournette encounters an Atlanta defense that faces 27.4 touches per game from enemy backs. Fournette’s usage keeps him in DFS-tournament play each week, and this is an unimposing spot.
Early-week reports gave Chark a realistic shot to return from his high ankle sprain after missing just one game, which seems aggressive considering the nature of his injury. High ankle sprains can be debilitating for weeks on end even after a player is cleared to play, as Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, and Tevin Coleman among many others can attest. Chark’s mere presence on the field may aid Jacksonville’s offense as a unit, but he’ll be at risk of decoy usage as a boom-bust WR3 even in this plus draw. … Last week’s fourth-quarter hero with two TDs including the Jags’ game winner against the Raiders, Chris Conley now has 80-plus yards and/or a touchdown in three of Minshew’s last four starts. Even if Chark is active, Conley is probably just as good a fantasy bet considering Chark’s uncertain health. … Dede Westbrook has shown neither a stable floor nor much ceiling regardless of whether Minshew or Nick Foles has been under center, hitting pay dirt once since Week 1 and recording 32 yards or fewer in four of Jacksonville’s last six games. Lacking any hint of consistency, Westbrook is an unexciting WR4.
Still playing hard in apparent hopes of saving Dan Quinn’s job, the Falcons return from a thrilling last-play road upset of the 49ers to complete back-to-back wins. Even after Jacksonville’s own road triumph at lowly Oakland, the motivation of Doug Marrone’s club is in far more doubt, especially after the NFL Players Association publicly turned on the Jags’ organization this week. Andy Dalton, Deshaun Watson, Ryan Tannehill, and Philip Rivers have all dropped top-12 fantasy results on Jacksonville since Week 7. While Matt Ryan isn’t quite a safe season-long QB1 due to the up-and-down nature of Atlanta’s offense and the Jaguars’ always dangerous pass rush, Ryan does offer a high enough ceiling for DFS-tournament discussion in stacks with Julio Jones. … Devonta Freeman catches the premier matchup in Atlanta’s skill-player corps versus a Jaguars defense enemy backs clocked for 159/940/8 (5.91 YPC) rushing over its last six games. Freeman has lost enough sixth-year juice that Dynasty leaguers should fully expect the Falcons to upgrade at running back this offseason, but he’s also a strong bet for 16-plus touches at home in this near-optimal draw, rendering Freeman a confident RB2 play in fantasy championship week.
Ryan’s Week 15 target distribution: Julio 20; Austin Hooper and Russell Gage 6; Freeman 3; Kenjon Barner 2; Luke Stocker and Christian Blake 1; Olamide Zaccheaus 0. … Julio experienced an immediate post-Calvin Ridley spike with an otherworldly 20 targets as the Falcons circumvented San Francisco’s dynamic defensive front with quick passes to Jones. As the Jaguars also field an imposing pass rush, a similar game plan would make sense here. Jones has a chance at a monster rest-of-season finish with Tampa Bay up next. … Limited in his Week 14 MCL-sprain return, Hooper resumed full-time usage at San Francisco by running 37 routes – his most since Week 10 – on 82% of Atlanta’s offensive snaps. The Jaguars coughed up 8/122/0 receiving to Darren Waller last week, a combined 3/53/2 stat line on five targets to Chargers tight ends the week before, and 5/61/1 receiving on six targets to once-dead O.J. Howard in Week 13. This looks like a get-right game for Hooper. … Gage remains a low-ceiling, PPR-specific option having cleared 60 yards once all season. … Blake operated as Atlanta’s No. 3 wideout over Zaccheaus in Week 15, finishing scoreless on one target. They can be safely avoided in Week 16.
Score Prediction: Falcons 27, Jaguars 20