6 Interesting Tidbits for Week 15 (Fantasy Football)
If you’re here, then that likely means you vanquished your foes in Week 14 and are one step closer to a fantasy championship. Congratulations! Let’s jump right in and take a look at the surprises, stats, and trends entering Week 15, and how they might help your fantasy team get to the promised land.
Derrick Henry’s 238 rushing yards in Week 14 were more yards than his last six games combined
Henry went absolutely bonkers in Week 14, single-handedly slaughtering the Jaguars with all four of the Titans’ touchdowns in a 30-9 laugher. However, chances are he did all this on the bench or possibly even the waiver wire in your fantasy league. Even if you were lucky enough to have him in your lineup, you probably did so out of necessity and weren’t particularly thrilled by his prospects. Of course, if you’re in the latter group, you’re pretty thrilled now!
But in any case, if you do have Henry, the question is what to do this week? His 238 rushing yards were more than his last six games combined, and his 17 carries were his most since Week 3 and just the third time he’s exceeded 12. It’s also the only time all season he’s surpassed even 60 rushing yards. Obviously, we’re not expecting him to repeat those four touchdowns as well, two of which were runs of 99 and 54 yards.
Perhaps most surprisingly, Henry didn’t even see a higher snap rate last week (40%), which was actually lower than both of the prior two weeks. Dion Lewis was still on the field more (63%) and was barely out-touched by Henry 17-15.
It stinks if you missed out on a career game, and Henry is certainly far more intriguing than he was a week ago, but we should remain skeptical that he will suddenly be a major fantasy difference maker. Sure, it wouldn’t be surprising if Henry has earned more touches moving forward, but Lewis isn’t going anywhere, and this is still very much a split backfield. Henry also only has 15 targets this season, including zero last week, leaving him game-script dependent.
However, the one area that’s encouraging is Henry’s red zone usage of late. On the season, Henry leads Lewis in red zone carries by a relatively small margin (28-22), but over the last two games, Henry leads the split nine-to-two, logging all three red zone carries against the Jets in Week 12, followed by a six-to-two disparity last week. It’s a small sample size, but one that could have legs following Henry’s big performance.
For that reason, although expectations should be tempered, there’s at least some evidence for cautious optimism against the Giants in Week 15. From a game script perspective, it’s not totally ideal that the Titans are 2.5-point road underdogs, but at least the small spread suggests the game should remain close. Don’t feel like you have to chase the points, but with all the recent running back injuries and backfield shake-ups, there’s enough touchdown potential here to keep Henry in the low-end RB2/flex range.
Ian Thomas leads the Panthers in targets (11) against the Browns in Week 14
Greg Olsen’s replacement, Thomas, is a popular name popping up in waiver wire articles this week and rightfully so after catching nine-of-11 targets for 77 yards in Week 14. If you’ve been struggling to find a worthwhile tight end all season, hopefully you already snagged him by the time you read this.
But even if you didn’t, Thomas could still be out there, as this is the fantasy semifinals in most formats, so your remaining competition could very well be content at tight end already. If you’re one of those people who just lost Jordan Reed or have been struggling through the likes of Trey Burton, Kyle Rudolph, or a hobbled Jimmy Graham, Thomas might be the answer you’ve been looking for. Those may be some big names, but their box scores have looked awfully barren of late, so you’re not taking a big risk in looking elsewhere, and Thomas’ 11 targets (25.6% market share) is a rarity at tight end these days. Furthermore, with Cam Newton continuing to deal with a sore shoulder, there’s all the more reason to expect a short-passing game that benefits Thomas to continue.
The one potential negative is that the Panthers face a Saints defense that’s performed well lately (New Orleans hasn’t allowed more than 17 points in five straight games) and hasn’t allowed many fantasy points to tight ends. Still, the Saints just allowed a two-touchdown game to Cameron Brate, and betting on Thomas’ volume might be wiser than holding out hope that these other guys suddenly turn things around.
Allen got a mention here last time, but we’re bringing him up again because while Allen was touted as a fantasy add in Week 14, considering the favorable matchups for most of the top quarterbacks last week, he simply wasn’t a guy needed in most one-quarterback leagues. However, if you’ve been rolling with Aaron Rodgers (at Chicago) or Jameis Winston (at Baltimore), they have some pretty daunting road opponents this week. In the regular season, you might just go with it, but the stakes are higher now in a win-or-go-home game, and there’s a very real chance both players flop.
There was optimism for Rodgers putting up big numbers against Atlanta — including by yours truly — and although he was hardly a bust, given the matchup and coaching change narrative, 196 passing yards and two touchdowns isn’t quite the slump-busting performance we were hoping for. Sure, the game was a blowout, so it wasn’t like Rodgers needed to push the envelope, but he now faces a Bears defense on the road that just squashed one of the league’s best offenses in the Rams. Just ask the teams who started Jared Goff or Todd Gurley last week.
Meanwhile, while Baltimore couldn’t quite shut down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offensive juggernaut — frankly, no one has — they’ve allowed the fewest real-life points per game (18.5), third-fewest passing yards per game (206.2), and rank third in quarterback hits (89). Winston has been rock-solid since regaining the starting job, but we’ve seen what can happen when things go wrong and another mid-game benching would totally kill your championship hopes.
Allen doesn’t come without some risk as he’s only averaged 199 passing yards per game in the three games since returning from injury, and he has just a 52.4% completion percentage, five passing touchdowns, and nine interceptions over all nine of his games this year. Yeah, that’s all pretty gross, but the 111.7 rushing yards he’s averaged over those three is a game-changer, as it’s like getting a running back who also happens to throw the ball instead of catch passes. The end result has been fantasy scores of 26.3, 28.7, and 18.3 points. Whether or not you feel the need to bench Rodgers, Winston, or another fringe starter this week will be up to you, but Allen looks like an awfully interesting fill-in for someone still widely available.
In Week 14, Gus Edwards saw his fewest carries (16), rushing yards (67), and snap rate (44%) in the last four games
We’ve seen a number of running backs emerge out of nowhere late in the year, and Edwards is one such player who has earned his way onto fantasy lineups. But he might be trending back in the wrong direction at a crucial time, as his Week 14 result was his lowest output in the last four games, carrying the ball 16 times for just 67 yards with zero targets. To make matters worse, he was outperformed by Kenneth Dixon, who turned eight carries and one reception into 80 total yards and a touchdown. Head coach John Harbaugh has already indicated he wants Dixon to have a bigger role moving forward, and we could very well see a fantasy-killing committee between Edwards, Dixon, and also Ty Montgomery this week.
The matchup against the Bucs’ woeful defense is still amazing, so Edwards does remain on the radar for his touchdown potential. But we probably won’t see him getting 20 carries anymore and the lack of targets continues to limit his appeal, relegating him to more a risky flex play than an RB2 in most leagues.
Over the last two weeks, Dalvin Cook has seen his highest touch totals (17, 18) and targets (10, 7) since Week 1
Due in part to health issues, Cook has been one of the bigger busts at running back this year, but at least he might be saving his best for last. Cook’s totals in both touches (17, 18) and targets (10, 7) over the last two weeks are his most since Week 1, and his 85% snap rate in Week 14 is just the third time he’s exceeded 80% in eight games.
The Vikings are currently 7.0-point favorites over the Dolphins, suggesting a positive game script for Cook, and Miami ranks just 29th in rushing yards allowed per game (139.5). Cook also draws a plus matchup versus the Lions next week, so hopefully Cook can take advantage of this favorable fantasy playoff schedule.
David Johnson compiles season-highs in targets (10) and receptions (eight) in Week 14
We touched on David Johnson last week, and he finally saw an uptick in receiving work, drawing a season-high 10 targets and eight receptions versus Detroit. It’s a very welcome sign after Johnson curiously only saw eight targets in the prior three weeks combined.
However, this being the Cardinals, Johnson was held out of the end zone for the fourth straight game and only compiled 61 total yards, so his box score was ultimately only useful in PPR leagues. Still, let’s hope the receptions keep coming, as he now gets the Falcons, a team that’s allowed the second-most receptions (98) and fourth-most receiving yards (729) to opposing backfields. Atlanta also ranks dead last overall in DVOA.
Frustrating as this season has been, you’re probably starting Johnson anyway, but at least this will be one the best matchups he sees all year. Here’s hoping he finally breaks that four-game scoreless streak.