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2023 NFL fantasy football waiver wire, Week 16: QB Jake Browning, RB Ty Chandler among top targets

Ho, ho, ho -- hello there! If you won a game in the first round of the fantasy playoffs to get here, congratulations. If you made it to this point via bye, I hope you're feeling fresh and well-rested.

Now it's crunch time.

As a playoff contender, you should have your fair share of studs to start, but with the ever-changing landscape that is fantasy football, there are waiver-wire players worth a look, as well!

As always, these are the most intriguing players who are rostered in less than 60 percent of leagues. If you have questions, my DMs are open: @MattOkada on Twitter ... or X ... or whatever it is.

And of course, Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!


Jake Browning
Cincinnati Bengals


Listen. We can all pretend that Browning isn’t playing better football than Joe Burrow was over the course of an injury-marred season. But we would indeed be pretending. In his four starts (including three straight Cincy wins), Browning is averaging 295 passing yards per game with a 76.0 completion percentage, 9.2 yards per attempt and a 109.3 passer rating. Those numbers would rank first, first, second and second (both behind only Brock Purdy) among all qualified QBs on the season. Even with a 12-point fantasy dud in his first ever NFL start, Browning has averaged 20.3 per game as the starter. The other shoe may eventually drop, but until then, we should consider Browning a legitimate fantasy starter. The Steelers (Saturday's opponents) sound scary, but they just allowed 20.6 fantasy points to Gardner Minshew and 20.9 to Bailey Zappe. All the numbers would suggest Browning’s in store for an easy 20 points.

Joe Flacco
Cleveland Browns


Alright, it’s been fun with Flacco, but how much of this touchdown-interception-touchdown-interception whiplash can we take? Apparently, a bit more. Despite throwing three picks in Sunday’s comeback win over the Bears, Flacco still nearly hit 17 fantasy points, thanks to 374 passing yards and a pair of scoring strikes. He has averaged a whopping 313 yards per game through three weeks and thrown at least two touchdown passes in all three outings. That’s roughly a 20-point target mark that can survive a couple interceptions and still be valuable. If he can protect the ball a bit better in this week’s critical matchup with the Texans, Flacco brings a legitimate QB1 ceiling.

Baker Mayfield
Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Speaking of Browns passers ... How about a former Cleveland quarterback making a legitimate case for Comeback Player of the Year? Mayfield was superb against the Packers on Sunday, racking up 381 yards and four touchdowns through the air to finish with 29.04 fantasy points. That’s 20-plus in two straight (after a rough stretch that included expectable duds against the 49ers and Panthers). This coming Sunday, the leader of the division-leading Buccaneers gets a Jaguars defense that’s been ... #notgood. Since Week 10, Jacksonville has allowed 18-plus fantasy points to five of six opposing QBs (a list that includes both of the names listed above, Jake Browning and Joe Flacco). A grand total of three teams have allowed more passing yards than the Jaguars on the season (Chargers, Bucs, Commanders). Bake is piping hot and draws a cake matchup this week (puns intended). I’d consider him a mid-range QB1 and a top-tier streamer.

Gardner Minshew
Indianapolis Colts


The Minshew Magic has been a little hit or miss over this last month. He threw no touchdown passes in Week 12 and only one in Week 14, coming up short of 15 fantasy points in each contest. But he threw for 312 yards and two tuddies in Week 13 and then 215 and three on Sunday, topping 18 fantasy points and finishing as a QB1 in both of those weeks. So which Minshew can we expect in Week 16 at Atlanta? Well, the Falcons have been relatively soft on quarterbacks all season (against a very unimpressive list of QBs, to boot), and with Zack Moss now in wait-and-see mode with an arm injury and Jonathan Taylor (thumb) having just missed his third straight game, Minshew may be called upon to carry the offense a bit more than normal this Sunday. I’d much rather have any of the three names above, but Minshew is a viable QB2 if you need one.

GUY TO 'STACHE: I write the first draft of this column on Sunday night. That was just a few hours after Ron Rivera had pulled Sam Howell for Jacoby Brissett late in the loss to the Rams. On a total of 10 pass attempts, Brissett logged eight completions, 124 yards and two touchdowns (for a 157.9 passer rating). During his postgame press conference, Rivera said Howell remains the team's starting quarterback. But if that changes as the week progresses, and you're desperate in a two-QB league, you could consider the veteran passer against the Jets. Emphasis on "desperate" and "two-QB league."


Ty Chandler
Minnesota Vikings


When Alexander Mattison was ruled out with an ankle injury ahead of Saturday's showdown with Cincinnati, Chandler became an intriguing (if risky) RB stream. For the 25 percent of managers brave enough to start him, he was a 25-point fantasy revelation, taking 26 touches for 157 total yards and a goal-line rushing touchdown. He was efficient and explosive -- two words rarely used to describe Mattison this season -- against what had been a solid defensive front. Now, the Lions have been even more stout against running backs, and it’s possible Mattison returns for their Week 16 bout, which would drastically reduce Chandler’s ceiling. But Chandler is clearly a valuable asset to this offense who should remain involved (at least by the laws of common sense). If Mattison is back, Chandler's a risky flex -- if Mattison’s inactive, fire Chandler up as an RB2 in the semifinals.

Zamir White
Las Vegas Raiders


Let’s be clear off the rip: If Josh Jacobs returns from his quadriceps injury to play in Week 16, White becomes nothing more than a ‘stache (with very few weeks left to ‘stache for). However, if Jacobs sits again, White will have a strong chance at Christmas-miracle status, coming off his 17.5-point starting debut last Thursday night. The Raiders face the Chiefs a few weeks after Jacobs tagged them for 22.5 fantasy points back in November. I wouldn’t necessarily project White to match Jacobs’ output against Kansas City -- or even to repeat his own dominance against a hapless Chargers defense on TNF -- but he’ll still be in the starter conversation and has that kind of upside if the cards fall right on Christmas Day.

Jerick McKinnon
Kansas City Chiefs


Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Kansas City Chiefs


The Chiefs' running back room is rather befuddling right now. Isiah Pacheco had a “cleanup surgery” on his shoulder last week ... but is expected to return for Week 16 against the Raiders barring a setback. Edwards-Helaire heavily out-touched McKinnon in Pacheco’s two-game absence (and managed 16.4 fantasy points as a receiver on Sunday) ... but has just 76 rushing yards on 24 carries (3.2 yards per carry). And McKinnon has a meager 15 touches over that span ... but has a touchdown rushing, receiving and passing. It's a tough backfield to parse out and start/sit decisions depend heavily on Pacheco's status. If Pacheco plays, as head coach Andy Reid anticipates, McKinnon is a dart-throw flex and CEH is unplayable. If Pacheco doesn't return to action, I'd prefer CEH but be willing to flex either "backup" in a matchup with the Raiders that should feature plenty of opportunities with the Chiefs as heavy home favorites.

Chase Brown
Cincinnati Bengals


Brown is simultaneously one of the most exciting and frustrating options in fantasy right now. Like Keaton Mitchell and De’Von Achane, this rookie has consistently proven that he could be a legit RB1 with a full workload but is instead playing the change-of-pace role behind a “reliable” early-down “plodder” (those words are both used loosely, as Gus Edwards, Raheem Mostert and Joe Mixon have all been good in their own right). The toughest part with Brown is that I don’t particularly expect his role to change much (though he did earn 10 touches to Mixon’s 13 in the overtime win on Saturday), at least not enough to trust him as a must-start asset. Still, his explosiveness makes him a viable flex play regardless and he holds massive handcuff value should anything happen to Mixon this Saturday. The Steelers aren’t a particularly concerning matchup -- you can roll Brown out in a deeper lineup, if you’re in need.

Trey Sermon
Indianapolis Colts


This is becoming a theme with the Week 16 waiver backs: Sermon’s value as a pickup depends entirely on the status of Zack Moss (arm) and Jonathan Taylor (thumb). Should both primary backs miss the Christmas Eve contest in Atlanta, Sermon will be a wildly popular play after taking 17 carries for 88 yards following Moss’s injury on Saturday. The former third-round pick (by the 49ers) out of Ohio State has done next to nothing in three NFL seasons. But we don’t live in the past. We live in the fantasy playoff present, where Sermon will be a strong bet for 15-plus touches and an RB3 week should he start on Sunday.

GUYS TO 'STACHE: With only two weeks left in the fantasy season, this is less about "guys to 'stache" and more about "guys to consider if all else fails on a deep roster in a deep league." Roschon Johnson led all Bears running backs with 11 opportunities on Sunday, importantly highlighted by six targets (of which he caught four). Johnson and Chicago draw arguably fantasy's best RB matchup this week in the Cardinals -- he could have a surprise day. Keep an eye on the RB room in Washington: If Brian Robinson misses another week, I could see rookie Chris Rodriguez or veteran Antonio Gibson having some value against the Jets' front (their run defense is far more beatable than their secondary).


Josh Palmer
Los Angeles Chargers


In what was otherwise one of the ugliest performances we’ve ever seen by an NFL football team, Palmer stepped up big for fantasy managers on Thursday Night Football. With Keenan Allen out, Palmer led the Chargers with 113 receiving yards and a touchdown on four catches (also on four targets). Honestly, it's kind of baffling that he only saw four targets, considering how the 63-21 game played out. Going forward, I’m willing to stream Palmer against the Bills on Saturday, whether or not Allen is active. With some luck, the Bolts will get the scientifically proven “new coach bump” following the firing of Brandon Staley, and Palmer will turn in a start-worthy week in the fantasy semis.

Noah Brown
Houston Texans


“Texans WR1” feels like one of the most lucrative positions in fantasy football these days. Whether it’s Tank Dell, Nico Collins or (as seen on Sunday) Noah Brown, you’re seemingly guaranteed to get a top-10 wideout on the week from Houston’s go-to guy. Brown’s Week 15 performance -- 22.2 fantasy points on eight catches (11 targets) for 82 yards and a score -- is even more impressive considering he was catching passes from Case Keenum, rather than C.J. Stroud (concussion protocol). Collins participated in a pregame workout on Sunday and should be good to go by this Sunday's game against the Browns, but Stroud also could be back in action. Stroud has elevated Houston's No. 2 receiver all year, as well, so I think you can keep starting Brown no matter what.

Curtis Samuel
Washington Commanders


There aren’t many ways to beat the Jets' defense, but your worst bet is to attack Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed on the outside. That leaves the run game (which is a massive question mark for the Commanders right now) or the slot -- also known as Curtis Samuel. In a fortunate coincidence, Samuel has hit double-digit fantasy points in three straight games, with 18 catches, 206 yards and two touchdowns (both on Sunday) over that span. With Jahan Dotson a complete afterthought, Samuel is the clear-cut No. 2 to Terry McLaurin (and even out-targets McLaurin on occasion). The rest of the offense is in flux, and I think we could see another game from Samuel with eight-plus targets and a couple shots at a touchdown, making the vet a viable flex play in a pinch.

Demarcus Robinson
Los Angeles Rams


Speaking of viable flex plays in a pinch, that’s what we tagged Robinson as last week -- and he rewarded us with 14.7 fantasy points on 67 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. The eighth-year vet has now hit 40-plus receiving yards and a touchdown in three straight games, finishing between 13 and 16 fantasy points in all three. Betting on the TD isn’t the comfiest proposition in fantasy, but it’s a little comfier when the Next Gen Stats back up the production: Robinson has run 24 routes in the red zone over these past three weeks (tied with Cooper Kupp for most on the team) and drawn six targets on those routes (second only to Kupp’s seven). He’s being intentionally and successfully integrated into Sean McVay’s offense, and it has him in the weekly streamer conversation, even in the fantasy playoffs.


Isaiah Likely
Baltimore Ravens


Alright. Let’s make this simple. Here’s a list of the guys you’re definitely not benching for Likely in Week 16: Travis Kelce, T.J. Hockenson, Sam LaPorta and Trey McBride. That’s it. As for the guys in the same tier -- Evan Engram, George Kittle, Jake Ferguson, Dalton Kincaid -- there’s an argument to be made that Likely should be started over most (or all) of them after posting 18-plus fantasy points in consecutive weeks. If you don’t have one of those elite four mentioned a few sentences ago, add Likely and give him a long look for your starting spot. If you’ve been streaming all year, Likely is almost certainly your best bet in the semifinals.

Hunter Henry
New England Patriots


This one’s also pretty simple. Henry has scored in five games this season. In those games, he has averaged an elite 17.3 fantasy points per game. That includes each of the last two weeks, after scoring twice on the Steelers in Week 14 and once against the Chiefs on Sunday. In his other eight games (without a TD), Henry has averaged 4.2 points per outing. He’s the most touchdown-dependent startable tight end in fantasy. So why the intrigue? Well, the Denver have allowed nine receiving touchdowns to the position this season ... most in the NFL.



Let’s see. Open Week 15 column, copy, paste. Here we go: Pick up the Colts. Start the Colts. Keep starting the Colts. They rewarded wily managers (and readers of this weekly piece) with 14 fantasy points on Saturday against the Steelers. Now Indy draws Atlanta on Christmas Eve. Not sure if you’ve watched Desmond Ridder and the Falcons offense recently, but they’re not very good. And that’s being kind. The Colts are a top-tier start in Week 16 and also can be started against the Raiders in the fantasy championship round.

EDITOR'S UPDATE: The Falcons will start Taylor Heinicke against the Colts on Sunday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday.


Quietly, Chicago's defense has rounded into shape over the last several weeks, hitting nine-plus fantasy points in four straight games and fourteen-plus in each of their last three (against the Vikings, Lions and Browns). The Bears have snagged an incredible 12 interceptions over those last four games (that’s three per game, for the mathematically averse) and added a solid 12 sacks for good measure. Up next, they get a Cardinals offense that’s capable of putting up fun plays now and then, but is also prone to giving up sacks and turnovers. Chicago's D/ST is as good a bet as any unit to post double digits in Week 16.


Thanks to surprisingly strong days from Ty Chandler and Jordan Addison, the Vikings were able to scrape together 24 points and “hold” the Bengals D/ST to seven fantasy points this past Saturday. They still turned the ball over twice -- and provided the Lions with valuable tape on Nick Mullens for this Sunday's NFC North duel. I think Dan Campbell’s unit -- which has absolutely smothered run games of late -- will raise the bar on sacks and takeaways and lower the bar on points allowed. Altogether, Detroit's a superb stream against Minnesota in Week 16.


Honestly, I don’t even need to mention the Broncos' defense -- though they’d been quite good before a tough meeting with the Lions’ juggernaut of an offense -- to justify this play. It’s all about the Patriots' (lack of) offense. New England is still an absolute disaster. Bailey Zappe has no one to throw to (outside of Hunter Henry, we hope), and even if he did, I’d have little-to-no confidence in the Pats' ability to score. Denver should feast in this one.


Green Bay's defense has not done much for fantasy this season ... but the unit has yet to play Carolina. Panthers opponents are basically guaranteed for a floor of seven fantasy points (not a difficult bar to hit when the offense hasn’t scored 20 points in a game since the Week 7 bye), and every once in a while, Bryce Young will take six or seven sacks or give up a pick/fumble-six. The Packers can capitalize on either of those opportunities to post a double-digit performance in your fantasy semifinal.

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