Kickoff: Sunday, December 27th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Betting Odds: HOU -8.5, 44.5 total via Oddsshark
Ryan Finley (Sit)
Ryan Finley led Cincy to an unlikely victory last week and managed a QB2 finish. He still managed just 16 fantasy points. That’s just not going to get it done for fantasy managers in the fantasy playoffs.
Giovani Bernard (Sit, Low-end Flex)
Cincinnati has ruled out Joe Mixon for Week 16, and he hasn’t played since Week 6. Giovani Bernard had a solid game last week against the Steelers, in a well-earned victory. However his work was volume-based, he carried the ball 25 times but managed just 83 yards, a 3.3 average. Gio has rushed for more than 4 yards per carry just twice since Mixon injured his foot. Stay away from Gio if you can, it is likely that Houston gets up quickly and Gio disappears for the day.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Tyler Boyd (Sit), Tee Higgins (Sit), Drew Sample (Sit)
The second half of the season has been a real shame for the talented Cincinnati receiver corps. Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins have all but disappeared since Joe Burrow left the lineup four weeks ago. The young duo has just one WR2 finish and is averaging just 8.75 points per game. Boyd earned just one target last week and was shutout in the boxscore. He’s still in the concussion protocol after he was forced out of last week’s game early. Higgins’s numbers have been trending down in the last four weeks. Both are talented young players but neither can be trusted this week, even in a great matchup against the Texans. Drew Sample has yet to score a touchdown this season and caught more than 50 yards just once. Sample should not be on your radar this week.
Deshaun Watson (Start, QB1)
Deshaun Watson is enjoying the best statistical season of his young career, and last week he exploded for 29 fantasy points in a critical fantasy matchup. Watson has dialed back his rushing attempts but he has set career highs in several passing categories. Watson is still taking tons of sacks, 44 after adding four more last week. Part of that is his offensive line but Watson is also a player that holds the ball to make plays. This week he draws a Bengals defense that has been good defending the position all season. Still, Watson should lead his team to a victory and easily perform for his fantasy managers. He is an easy start this week.
David Johnson (Start, RB2), Duke Johnson (Sit)
David Johnson struggled on the ground last week but the negative game script and the absence of Duke Johnson allowed David to collect 11 targets and 106 yards receiving. Duke missed practice on Wednesday but he may be in line to practice Thursday and Friday in hopes of playing this weekend. Still, David Johnson is a solid RB2 option this week for fantasy managers. Don’t expect the double-digit targets but he will still see a heavy snap share and plenty of carries. The Bengals are allowing 19 points to the position and north of 100 yards per game on the ground.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Brandin Cooks (Start, low-end WR2), Keke Coutee (Start, Flex), Chad Hansen (Start, Flex), Jordan Akins (Sit, TE2)
Brandin Cooks returned to the lineup after dealing with a neck injury and provided managers the safe 10-digit floor that we have come to expect from Cooks. Outside of a two-game stretch in Weeks 5/6 where he scored 30 and 22 points, Cooks has scored about 10 in nearly all other games he’s played. He is a safe start this week if you are needing a flex play and a consistent return. If you are a heavy underdog and need a big day, Cooks may not be the guy to start this week.
Keke Coutee (19 targets) and Chad Hansen (17 targets) have become consistent fantasy options in the past three weeks. The volume each is earning vaults them firmly into flex status, with upside. Watson has the ability to elevate any receiver who is on the field with him and seeing targets. The Bengals are a cement defense but the 27.5 implied Texans total leaves plenty of room for each to read a floor and room for more. If you are looking for an option at flex both Coutee and Hansen are solid plays.
Jordan Akins is a talented tight end that struggles to remain consistent. That is not what managers need in the final weeks of the season. Akins should be on the bench this week.
-Marc Salazar (@dingwog on Twitter)