Fantasy Football Recap & Takeaways: Week 15
There were three games before Sunday’s main course, and all three were close contests. Sunday provided a few close games and a few blowouts. From a fantasy perspective, quite a few of this year’s studs delivered duds.
Chargers 29 at Chiefs 28
These two AFC West foes delivered a fun, nail-biting contest in the final Thursday Night Football game of the season. The Chargers were blanked through one quarter and dug themselves a 14-0 hole, in part, because Rivers tossed an interception on the second play from scrimmage. It looked like it could be another Rivers’ clunker at Arrowhead, but he pulled it together and earned a win. He finished with 313 yards passing, two touchdowns, two interceptions, and the game-winning two-point conversion pass. Rivers posted strong numbers despite losing No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen early in the game. Allen came down hard on his hip on a near-touchdown grab that he couldn’t quite secure in bounds. He returned for one more play but then exited after that. He’s since been diagnosed with a hip pointer, and he could be out this week. Second-year receiver Mike Williams stepped up in a big way in Allen’s absence. He torched the Chiefs for a 7-76-2 line on nine targets with a 19-yard touchdown run and the game-winning two-point conversion. Tyrell Williams led the Chargers in targets with 12 and finished with a 6-71-0 line. Both would get a substantial value bump in fantasy Super Bowl week if Allen is out. Melvin Gordon was out, and Justin Jackson led the Gordon-less backfield with 16 carries, 58 yards rushing, three receptions, 27 yards receiving, and one touchdown run. Detrez Newsome served as a change-of-pace option with 34 yards rushing on six carries and two receptions for 19 yards. Neither is likely to have value this week with Gordon expected back. Antonio Gates turned back the clock for a 4-54-0 line and is a desperation steamer option at tight end in a plus matchup.
Patrick Mahomes was mostly sharp while getting outdueled. He finished with 243 yards passing, two touchdown passes, and zero turnovers. With Spencer Ware out, Damien Williams was fantastic rushing for 49 yards and a pair of scores on 10 carries and adding a 6-74-0 line on six targets. If Ware is out again, Williams is an RB2. If Ware returns from his injuries, the backfield projects to be a fantasy headache with both backs capable and deserving of work. Tyreek Hill was mostly held in check with negative-5 yards rushing on three attempts and a 4-46-0 line on seven targets. Travis Kelce didn’t post a dominant line, but he was solid with a 7-61-0 line on nine targets.
Texans 29 at Jets 22
The Texans and Jets also played a tightly contested game that came down to the wire. Lamar Miller finished with just eight yards on three carries and played only 11 snaps due to an ankle injury he suffered early in the game. Alfred Blue was highly inefficient rushing for only six yards on nine carries and adding nine yards on two receptions. Even if Miller’s ankle injury forces him to miss time, Blue’s a low-ceiling flex who could be challenged for playing time by D’Onta Foreman. Foreman was activated from the PUP list earlier this month but has been inactive on game day. Deshaun Watson picked apart the Jets for 294 yards passing and two touchdowns while completing 22 of 28 attempts. He added 26 yards rushing on four carries and didn’t turn the ball over, though, he did absorb six sacks. DeAndre Hopkins was a stud and flamed the Jets for a 10-170-2 line on 11 targets.
Sam Darnold looked sharp and played arguably his best game of the year. He completed 24 of 38 passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns, and zero turnovers. He also added 35 yards on six carries. He’s turned it over just once in two games since returning from injury. Robby Anderson was far and away the top option in the passing attack. He caught seven of 11 targets for 96 yards and a touchdown. The backfield was headed by Elijah McGuire. He played 75% of the team’s offensive snaps and parlayed his playing time into 18 carries for 42 yards, one touchdown, and three receptions for 29 yards while losing a fumble. Trenton Cannon served as his change-of-pace backup an didn’t do much to earn a bigger piece of the pie with seven carries for 13 yards and three receptions for 24 yards.
Browns 17 at Broncos 16
All three games before Sunday were highly entertaining and came down to the wire, and this was no exception. Baker Mayfield struggled mightily in the first half. He made adjustments, though his overall line still left a lot to be desired. The rookie completed 18 of 31 passes for 188 yards, two touchdowns, and had two turnovers (one interception and one lost fumble) while rushing for six yards. Nick Chubb got stronger as the game went along and rushed for 100 yards on the nose on 20 carries. He dropped his only target. Duke Johnson totaled 53 yards from scrimmage and caught four passes. No one on the Browns bested 40 yards receiving, and Jarvis Landry led the way with 37 yards on three receptions. He caught less than half of his eight targets. Antonio Callaway turned in a 5-35-1 line on the second-highest team target total at seven. David Njoku squandered another juicy matchup by catching three of five targets for 30 yards.
The good news for Case Keenum’s fantasy output starts and ends with his one-yard rushing touchdown. He completed 31 of 48 passes for 257 yards and threw two interceptions to zero touchdown passes. Phillip Lindsay posted a total dud with 24 yards rushing on 14 carries and 20 yards receiving on four catches. It’s his second straight week of 30 or fewer rushing yards and under 25 receiving yards, and, unlike in Week 14, he wasn’t able to pick up the slack with a touchdown. If gamers who’ve used him have somehow survived and advanced, they’ll be treated to a get-right game in Oakland against a Raiders squad he creamed in Week 2 for 107 yards rushing on 14 carries. DaeSean Hamilton led the team in targets (12) and receptions (seven) and finished second in receiving yards (46). He’s played his way into PPR-league usability as a flex or WR3. Courtland Sutton caught five of six targets for 42 yards. He’s been playing at less than 100% and unable to fully take advantage of Emmanuel Sanders’ absence. Tim Patrick has joined Hamilton as the primary beneficiaries, and Patrick led the team in receiving yards with 65 on five receptions. His eight targets were second to Hamilton’s 12. All three young receivers are defensible options against the Raiders.
Buccaneers 12 at Ravens 20
Jameis Winston had a dreadful game in Baltimore passing for a paltry 157 yards and an interception. Mike Evans was immune to Winston’s struggles with a 4-121-0 line on nine targets, but no one else cleared 25 yards receiving, and only one other receiver — Adam Humphries — reached double-digit yardage receiving. Peyton Barber did have a surprisingly good game rushing for 85 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries while adding two grabs for four yards.
Lamar Jackson and the Ravens leaned heavily on the running game, which has been the formula since the rookie quarterback has taken over the starting job. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown, but he did the bulk of his damage rushing for 95 yards on 18 carries while losing a fumble. Gus Edwards led the way with 19 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. The rookie posted another bagel in the receiving categories. Kenneth Dixon touched the ball only three times in the first half, but he finished with 48 yards rushing on 11 carries and one reception for two yards. He also started the second half. Both backs appear poised to cut into one another’s work, rendering each risky plays. The pass-catching options remain toxic from a fantasy perspective as a result of Jackson’s limitations as a passer and Baltimore’s run-heavy approach.
Cardinals 14 at Falcons 40
I’m not sure if a first-year head coach in the NFL has ever been fired, but I do have a hunch Steve Wilks will be searching for new employment soon. David Johnson was one of the only bright spots in another ugly loss. Johnson rushed for 33 yards and a touchdown, and he caught three of his six targets for 68 yards. Larry Fitzgerald caught seven of eight targets for 82 yards. Josh Rosen stunk up the joint and was lifted for Mike Glennon in the fourth quarter. In meaningless garbage time, Glennon completed 10 of 14 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.
Matt Ryan had a big day completing 22 of 36 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns while adding 18 yards and a score with his legs. Tevin Coleman rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown. He did the bulk of his damage on two runs. One was a 65-yard carry, and the other was a 43-yard touchdown run. Calvin Ridley turned in a ho-hum 5-42-0 line, while Julio Jones was the only member of the Falcons to best 50 yards receiving with a 6-82-1 line.
Cowboys 0 at Colts 23
The Cowboys were their own worst enemies in a shutout loss. Dak Prescott reverted back to bad Dak with just 206 yards passing, one interception, three sacks taken and zero contributions with his legs. His struggles resulted in a disappointing 4-32-0 showing with one 11-yard carry for Amari Cooper. Ezekiel Elliott wasn’t a total bust with 87 yards rushing on 18 carries and seven receptions for 41 yards, but he didn’t reach pay dirt and did lose a fumble. They host the Buccaneers this week, and I fully expect Dallas’ current Triplets to right the ship with big games. That will offer little solace to the gamers who lost in their fantasy matchups with them in Week 15, though.
Andrew Luck totaled game-manager numbers with 192 yards passing, 20 yards rushing, zero sacks taken, zero touchdowns, and zero turnovers. Luck’s quiet game hurt Eric Ebron (1-8-0 on three targets), but T.Y. Hilton still got his with a 5-85-0 line on eight targets. This game was all about Marlon Mack, though. The lone blemish for the second-year back was a lost fumble, but that was a forgivable offense with 27 carries, 139 yards rushing, two rushing touchdowns, one reception, and 10 yards receiving.
Dolphins 17 at Vikings 41
Miami followed up their shocking final-play win in Week 14 with a blowout loss in Minnesota. Ryan Tannehill posted passing numbers that look fitting of many decades ago. He completed just 11 of 24 passes for 108 yards while taking nine sacks. Danny Amendola’s 30 yards receiving were the high-water mark for the Dolphins, and only two others bested 20 yards. But wait, there’s more! If gamers using Kenyan Drake weren’t already enjoying Frank Gore and Brandon Bolden tilt this year, they received a cherry on top with Kalen Ballage rumbling for 123 yards and a touchdown on a dozen carries. I’ve already made a note to myself to avoid Adam Gase’s running backs in 2019.
Minnesota did a masterful job of establishing the run in the wake of firing former offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Dalvin Cook trucked the Dolphins for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries while hauling in one of two targets for 27 yards. Latavius Murray joined in the fun with 15 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown run. Kirk Cousins was tasked with throwing the ball a season-low 21 times. He completed 14 passes for 215 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception while rushing for seven yards. Stefon Diggs was rock solid with four receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown, but Adam Thielen did little to help fantasy gamers with only two receptions for 19 yards on his two targets.
Lions 13 at Bills 14
The Lions lost their ninth game of the season thanks in part to a missed point-after attempt. Matthew Stafford passed for only 208 yards and a touchdown. Detroit provided some hilarious statistical nuggets. LeGarrette Blount rushed seven times for nine yards, and Zach Zenner caught three passes for zero yards. Zenner did add 45 yards and a score on 10 carries, though. Kenny Golladay brought his “A” game reeling in seven of eight targets for 146 yards. He’s a matchup-proof wideout whose biggest problem is his team’s clock-burning, inept offense.
In this piece last week, I cautioned Detroit’s NFL-best stinginess in terms of rushing yards allowed to quarterbacks. They held Allen to just 16 yards on nine carries. Allen still bailed gamers who used him out, though. He rushed for a score and passed for 204 yards and another touchdown. His fantasy play is very Cam Newton-like. Buffalo’s backfield was without LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory, and fill-in starter Marcus Murphy left with an arm injury. Keith Ford was the last-man-standing and led the team in rushing with 14 carries for 46 yards. Slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie had a decent game in PPR formats with six receptions for 53 yards and a carry for four yards. He had a scare going to the ground without contact on a punt return. He was carted off the field but later returned. If the injury doesn’t prove serious after the adrenaline wears off, he’s usable in PPR formats this week against the Patriots. Zay Jones was ineffective securing one of six targets for 11 yards, and Robert Foster has emerged as the top dog in Buffalo’s passing attack. Foster caught four of five targets for 108 yards and a score. He’s been a late-season stud besting 100 yards in back-to-back games, hitting triple-digit yardage in three of his last five, and besting 90 yards receiving in four of his last five. Foster’s caught a couple of touchdowns during his five-game heater.
Packers 17 at Bears 24
It was a bad day all around for the Packers yesterday. They were eliminated from the playoffs while the Bears clinched the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers passed for just 274 yards and zero touchdowns while seeing his record streak of attempts without an interception come to an end at 402. He did add 25 yards rushing, but that’s hardly enough to offset his lack of touchdowns. Aaron Jones had a worse day exiting with a knee injury after only four carries for eight yards. Jamaal Williams filled in admirably rushing for 55 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and catching four balls for 42 yards. Davante Adams was targeted 13 times and turned his heavy workload of looks into eight receptions for 119 yards.
Mitchell Trubisky played a good game completing 20 of 28 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns, and he rushed for 16 yards, too. Jordan Howard turned in a workman-like effort with 19 carries for 60 yards and a score and one reception for 15 yards. Backfield mate Tarik Cohen totaled 52 yards from scrimmage, five receptions, a receiving touchdown, and a lost fumble. Only Allen Robinson (3-54-0) bested 50 yards receiving in a passing attack that featured eight players catching passes.
Raiders 16 at Bengals 30
The Raiders aided their quest for the No. 1 pick with a loss to the Bengals. David Carr completed 21 of 38 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown. Jordy Nelson was the apple of his eye with six receptions for 88 yards. Jared Cook (2-23-0) pulled a typical year’s past Jared Cook move by disappearing in a dreamy matchup. Doug Martin‘s 39 yards rushing on nine carries led the team in rushing.
Jeff Driskel was awful completing only 14 of 33 passes for 130 yards, one touchdown, and one interception while adding 32 yards on seven carries. In his defense, he didn’t have much to work with after Tyler Boyd (4-38-1) left the game with a knee injury. Joe Mixon put the Bengals on his back and rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. He also hauled in two receptions for one yard.
Redskins 16 at Jaguars 13
There were a few unappetizing games in Week 15 that I’ve already covered, but this was probably the least interesting. Josh Johnson completed 16 of 25 passes for 151 yards, one touchdown, and zero turnovers. His mediocre passing work was only part of the story, though, as the mobile journeyman also rushed for 49 yards on nine rushes. Adrian Peterson rushed for 51 yards on 19 carries and added two receptions for 20 yards. Peterson’s receiving total was the second highest on the team behind Jamison Crowder‘s 46 yards on four receptions.
In a week of low passing yardage outputs, Cody Kessler’s 57 yards on 17 attempts took the cake. He actually rushed for more yards (68) than he passed for. He also rushed for more yards than Leonard Fournette‘s 46 on 11 carries. The second-year back also caught three passes for 18 yards.
Titans 17 at Giants 0
Kessler wasn’t the only starting quarterback who failed to crack triple-digit passing yards. Congrats, Marcus Mariota. He completed 12 of 20 passes for 88 yards and rushed for 11 on two attempts. Corey Davis had another dud with three receptions for 33 yards. Derrick Henry was the game’s only good fantasy performer with 170 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 33 carries. The burly back caught one pass for zero yards, too. His fresh legs and hard running style have been a handful for his last two opponents, and he should keep rolling next week at home against the Redskins.
Saquon Barkley’s in the midst of a monster rookie campaign, but this was not a good day for him. He was limited to 31 yards rushing on 14 carries and 25 yards receiving on four receptions. With Odell Beckham Jr. inactive again, Evan Engram led Big Blue in receiving for the second week in a row with eight receptions on 12 targets for 75 yards. Engram’s exceeded 65 yards receiving in three straight and bested 45 yards in four straight. Engram’s fallen well short of lofty expectations following his promising rookie season, but he’s a startable option at fantasy’s weakest position in Fantasy Super Bowl week.
Seahawks 23 at 49ers 26
The Seahawks fell flat in a textbook letdown spot. Russell Wilson was good, though, passing for 237 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 15 yards on five attempts. Chris Carson was a beast rushing for 119 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and catching six passes for 29 yards. Doug Baldwin was the top option in the passing attack with a 4-77-2 line. Tyler Lockett carried the ball once for 11 yards and caught both of his targets for 45 yards. Seattle will have their hands full this week, but their offensive players are in a drool-inducing spot hosting the Chiefs.
Nick Mullens helped lead the 49ers to victory completing 20 of 29 passes for 275 yards, one touchdown, and no turnovers. Dante Pettis (5-83-0) had another strong effort, and George Kittle caught three of his eight targets for 51 yards. Matt Breida returned and rushed for 50 yards on 17 carries and caught all five of his targets for 46 yards, but his return could be short-lived. Breida suffered an ankle injury on the final drive of the game. Jeff Wilson operated as the clear backup with Breida active, but he would be in line for feature back duties at home against the visiting Bears if Breida is shelved again.
Patriots 10 at Steelers 17
The Patriots have lost in back-to-back weeks and mustered only 10 points against the Steelers. Tom Brady completed 25 of 36 passes for 279 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Julian Edelman was the leading receiver with team-leading totals in receptions (seven), yards (90) and targets (11). Chris Hogan was responsible for New England’s only touchdown on a 63-yard grab. Josh Gordon (1-19-0) and Rob Gronkowski (2-21-0) had forgettable games. Sony Michel operated as the lead runner with 13 carries for 59 yards, but he was a non-factor in the passing game with zero targets. James White carried the ball twice for 12 yards and caught five of seven targets for 25 yards. Rex Burkhead muddied the situation further by carrying the ball four times for 25 yards and catching all three of his targets for 18 yards. The Patriots have opened as 13-point favorites at home against the Bills this week, per Pinnacle. If the game goes according to the betting line, Michel looks like the back to use as the guy who will be leaned on to salt away a win.
Ben Roethlisberger’s line was far from perfect with two interceptions and a mediocre 235 yards passing, but he did toss a couple of touchdowns. The absence of James Conner proved no problem for the host Steelers. Jaylen Samuels rumbled for 142 yards on 19 carries and caught both of his targets for 30 yards. Samuels’ strong play could threaten Conner’s stranglehold on bellcow duties in his expected return this week. I’m not advising sitting Conner in season-long leagues if he plays, but the combination of the potential for re-injury or a reduced workload do lower his floor. Antonio Brown didn’t have a vintage blowup game, but 4-49-1 is hard to argue with. JuJu Smith-Schuster led the team with 10 targets, but he managed only 40 scoreless yards on four receptions.