Week 16 hasn't been a perfect week for Fantasy – just ask people with Jonathan Taylor or Matthew Stafford on their team about that – but it's certainly been a much better week than Week 15 was for offense. Or at least, it feels like that way, especially if you were relying on one of the big injury replacements this week.
Chase Edmonds had 26 PPR points in Saturday's game against the Colts and Justin Jackson had 36 and Ronald Jones and Alexander Mattison had 16 in their respective games, as all four stepped up in a big way to help Fantasy players advance to the championship. Obviously, we'd rather have seen the likes of Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, and Austin Ekeler – especially if you weren't able to add one of those replacements – but the thing about injuries is, they often create opportunity, as well.
And there are going to be a few more opportunities in Week 17. We don't know if Mattison, Jackson, and Edmonds will have the same roles next week, but injuries to James Robinson, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Miles Sanders could create similar opportunities next week, even if expectations won't be quite that high.
Ogunbowale likely has a more obvious path to Fantasy relevance after James Robinson left Sunday's game with an Achilles injury. If, as feared, it's a torn Achilles, Robinson's season is over and we'll just hope we can see him in training camp – a devastating outcome for an undrafted free agent who starred last year before having to deal with the mercurial (at best) Urban Meyer this season. However, it would likely put Ogunbowale in position to play a significant role in Week 17. It's a less than ideal matchup against the Patriots, but Ogunbowale might be in line for something similar to Sunday's 17 carries and four targets, and that could make him a viable starter for the championship week.
Edwards-Helaire's injury, which forced him to miss much of the second half of Sunday's game against the Steelers, likely pushed Darrel Williams into the starting role for the Chiefs, but it won't be an every-down role. The Chiefs have shown a willingness to trust Derrick Gore, and he has, in turn, showed skills as both a pass catcher and runner. The two will likely split work, with history suggesting Williams is more likely to see whatever goal-line work exists. That'll make him the better option, but both should be in the RB3 range for Week 17 against the Bengals.
The hole Sanders' hand injury may leave in the Eagles offense is a bit less clear. Before Sunday, I would have bet on Jordan Howard stepping up into a bigger role, but he ended up with just nine carries for 37 yards (along with two catches for 19), while Boston Scott was actually the lead back, rushing for 41 yards on 12 carries with the team's lone touchdown against the Giants.
Scott figures to have a bigger role in the passing game moving forward while splitting rushing work with Howard, though Howard would probably be more likely to score a touchdown next week. With a matchup against Washington on the way, I figure both would likely be in the RB3 discussion if Sanders is out, and I may even prefer Ogunbowale to both.
We'll find out more about those two and other injuries from Week 16 Monday and Tuesday, but for now, here's who looks like an early waiver-wire target for Week 17:
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K.J. Osborn WR
MIN Minnesota • #17
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
One of those injuries we'll be watching is Adam Thielen's. He came back from a two-game absence Sunday from an ankle injury but was forced out again shortly before halftime. He tried to come back into the game but just wasn't able to make it through, putting his availability for Week 17 in some question. That creates another potential opportunity for Osborn to step up. He put together a nice game Sunday and showed what he was capable of with 83 yards and a touchdown on nine targets in Week 14. He caught only six passes between the two games Thielen missed, so he's by no means a sure thing. But he could be a viable WR3 next week.
Rex Burkhead RB
HOU Houston • #28
Age: 32 • Experience: 10 yrs.
In a weekend of unexpected performances from running backs, perhaps none was more surprising than Burkhead's. The Chargers have been vulnerable to the run all season, and the Texans were able to exploit that in a shocking 41-29 win – something to keep in mind with Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon set to face the Chargers next week. With David Johnson out with a quad injury, Burkhead served as the Texans lead back, playing 64% of the snaps, and he had a monster game, beginning with a 36-yard touchdown run on the team's first drive. This performance came relatively out of nowhere, and he'll find things a bit tougher in Week 17 against the 49ers, but Burkhead should continue to see the majority of the snaps in the Texans backfield and should be in the RB3 discussion next week.
BUF Buffalo • #6
Age: 27 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Okay, this might have actually been the most unexpected performance by anyone in Week 16. McKenzie entered play Sunday with just seven catches and six carries for 73 total yards on the season, but with Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis out after testing positive for COVID, he played a significant role, running a route on all but five of the team's 49 pass plays and leading the receiving group in every receiving category. McKenzie has been deployed as both a runner and receiver in the past, but he played all 64 of his snaps either in the slot or split out wide, and he could be in line for a similar role in Week 17 – Davis is out for that one, so we'll have to see if Beasley can clear the COVID protocol. It'll be tough to trust McKenzie given his lack of a track record, but with a matchup like the Falcons on the way, he just may be worth starting.
Josh Palmer WR
LAC L.A. Chargers • #5
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Palmer stepped up for the Chargers Sunday with Mike Williams out on the COVID list, and he'll have the opportunity to do the same next week with Williams expected to miss that game as well. That's a touchdown in two out of three games for Palmer, one with Williams out and one with Keenan Allen out in Week 14. You want a piece of this passing game, even in a tough matchup against the Broncos, and Palmer is your best chance to get one for free.
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