Fantasy Football Weekly Recap: Week 15
Well, it’s been an honor. This is my final weekly recap of the year! I hope you’ve enjoyed thumbing through this column each week, and more importantly, I hope that my advice as been helpful. So without any further ado, I present the key storylines from Week 15.
And as always, check back on Monday mornings for storylines from the week’s late afternoon slate and Sunday Night Football.
Story #1: David Montgomery ran for 146 yards and two scores.
Montgomery took advantage of Minnesota’s rushing defense this week, as the running back totaled an impressive 146 rushing yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns. He added 16 yards on one catch, too, giving him a total of 33 touches and 162 all-purpose yards.
David Montgomery powers in for his second TD of the game! #DaBears
— NFL (@NFL) December 20, 2020
Montgomery has been on fire recently. Over the last four games, he has 71 rushing attempts, 434 rushing yards, and five rushing scores. He faced bottom-five defenses against opposing rushers in three of those games (notably, not this one), and he’ll face another bottom-five team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, next week.
The sophomore is rewarding those managers who stuck with him despite a mediocre start to the year. If you made it to the playoffs with him on your roster, you’ve probably got a good shot at a championship — let’s hope you’re not up against Derrick Henry!
Story #2: With Ezekiel Elliott inactive, Tony Pollard exploded for 132 all-purpose yards and two scores.
Ezekiel Elliott was ruled questionable after failing to practice last week, so it wasn’t that shocking to see him miss time. Mike McCarthy even said that Elliott was “further away [from playing] this week than he was last week.”
However, Pollard’s explosion in Elliott’s absence was surprising. The 49ers were giving up the fifth-fewest half-PPR points per game to running backs (17.4) entering this game, yet Pollard ran all over them. He posted 68 rushing yards on 12 carries (5.8 YPC), including a late-game 40-yard score, and added 63 more yards on just six catches (10.5 YPR).
— NFL (@NFL) December 20, 2020
Pollard’s breakout is more evidence that holding onto handcuffs is a fantastic late-season strategy — especially if they’re not the handcuffs for your own running backs. They give you RB1/RB2 upside if the cards fall your way, and you can feature them at RB2/FLEX, depending on your roster construction. It’s hard to find more upside than a handcuff running back sitting on waivers.
Pollard will face the Eagles next week, and their defense was giving up the 10th-fewest half-PPR points per game to opposing rushers (19.4) heading into Week 15. It’s another tough matchup, but since he just shredded the 49ers, I’d be comfortable using Pollard as an RB2/FLEX if Elliott misses another game.
Stories #3-5: Injuries.
Football is a violent game, and unfortunately, that means we’ll lose players to injury each week. A few fantasy-relevant players went down in Week 15’s first slate of games: James Robinson, Raheem Mostert, and Jeffrey Wilson.
#3: Robinson went down late against the Ravens. He suffered an ankle injury and was ruled questionable to return, but he walked off the field and eventually found his way back onto the field. He finished with 53 all-purpose yards and two scores.
This will be a story to monitor throughout the week. Robinson is tough, but the Jaguars would now get the first-overall pick if the season ended today, so they have no incentive to get Robinson back out there. If you’re a Robinson manager, you should put together a backup plan in case the Jaguars opt to keep him off the field against the Bears.
#4-5: Mostert and Wilson — I feel like I’m always using this space to write about the 49ers. Mostert tried (and failed) to play through his high ankle sprain, and he left the game after totaling 68 rushing yards. Wilson came in for him and posted 60 rushing yards and a touchdown (along with four uncaught targets), but he left late with a hamstring injury. After the game, Wilson told reporters that he was “perfectly fine. No problem.”
San Francisco’s backfield has been a roller coaster all season, but it looks like some combination of Mostert, Wilson, Tevin Coleman, and Jerick McKinnon will form Shanahan’s backfield in Week 16. I’m not sure what it’ll look like exactly, but the 49ers have been eliminated from playoff contention, so it’s unclear how many banged-up players the team will trot out next Saturday.
Story #6: Eight players finished with triple-digit receiving yards in the early-game slate.
Wow. Big shout outs to Calvin Ridley (163 receiving yards), Marvin Jones (112), Jakobi Meyers (111), Mike Evans (110), Corey Davis (110), David Johnson (106), Justin Jefferson (104), Logan Thomas (101) for their playoff-altering performances. Not all of these players added touchdowns to their strong stat lines, but they didn’t need them to give your fantasy team a boatload of points.
Ridley, who led these guys in receiving yards (and who will probably lead the week, too), caught a whopping 10 passes from Matt Ryan and found the end zone once. He may have to compete with Julio Jones for targets next week, but with Atlanta’s season now over, I don’t know why they’d force him to play through his nagging hamstring injury.
The other two notable names here are David Johnson and Logan Thomas, as both players led their teams in receiving yards from non-wide receiver positions. Johnson didn’t do much on the ground, running for 27 yards on eight carries, but he was Deshaun Watson‘s favorite target in the passing game. Meanwhile, Thomas exploded for 13 receptions against Seattle’s soft secondary. Both players should continue to see high-volume roles moving forward, as their offenses lack traditional weapons for their quarterbacks to target.
Story #7: Miami totaled 250 rushing yards and three rushing scores against the Patriots.
Entering Week 15, the Patriots were a league-average team against the run, but the Dolphins made their defense look like a bottom-five unit. Salvon Ahmed totaled 122 rushing yards and a score on 23 carries (5.3 YPC). He also caught a pass for five yards.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 20, 2020
Matt Breida earned 86 yards on 12 carries (7.17 YPC), and Patrick Laird ran the ball twice for 20 yards, adding two catches for 12 more. Hybrid players Lynn Bowden and Malcolm Perry both carried the ball once each for nine and four yards, respectively, and Tua Tagovailoa added nine more yards and two scores.
Miami’s running game needed to compensate for the team’s poor health at receiver, as Jakeem Grant, DeVante Parker, and Mike Gesicki all missed this game. Tua Tagovailoa only attempted 26 passes in the victory as Miami emphasized the run.
The Dolphins could get Myles Gaskin back from the COVID-19/reserve list next week, and they could get some of their pass-catchers back, too. They’ll play a vulnerable Las Vegas Raiders team on Saturday, giving them a shorter-than-usual week to heal up.
If Gaskin comes back, expect him to split work with Ahmed, diluting their fantasy value. They’ll both be high-ceiling, low-floor plays against a Raiders defense that entered this week third-worst against opposing rushers.
Story #8: Ryan Tannehill scored five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing).
I was worried about Derrick Henry vulturing Tannehill’s scores, but the opposite happened. Henry still ended up with 147 rushing yards and a score, which are very solid numbers, but Tannehill’s contributions near the goal line kept him from hitting his ceiling.
Tannehill kicked things off with a 75-yard touchdown strike to Corey Davis. He then ran it in from 17 yards out and, later, from three yards out. With the game well in hand, he also tossed touchdown passes to A.J. Brown and rookie Darrynton Evans.
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) December 20, 2020
Tannehill should end up as the QB1 on the week, and to those semifinalists who started him, congratulations on making it to the finals!
Story #9: Matt Ryan threw for 356 yards and three scores without Julio Jones.
Well, I wasn’t expecting this. Ryan had struggled mightily without Jones all year; in all four of the four games that Jones missed prior to this, Ryan had thrown for fewer than 250 yards and had tossed at least one pick. In fact, 54.5% of his interceptions had come in games without Jones, even though Jones had missed just 30.8% of Atlanta’s games.
Not this week, however, as Ryan led the Falcons out to an early 17-0 lead with touchdown passes to Russell Gage and Calvin Ridley.
📺: FOX pic.twitter.com/iTziH5DnnH
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) December 20, 2020
The Falcons chocked and lost the game, of course, but that’s to be expected. They were playing against Tom Brady.
Ryan’s rebound performance suggests that he may have fantasy value next week even if Jones can’t play. Atlanta will travel to Kansas City for what should be a high-scoring battle with the Chiefs, and while I’m unwilling to call him a QB1, Ryan should be a viable streamer and decent QB2.
Story #10: Darnell Mooney finished with 65 yards and a score.
If you don’t know who Darnell Mooney is, well, you should! He’s rostered in only 10% of Yahoo leagues, yet he has scored no fewer than 8.3 PPR points over the last four weeks. Mooney led the Bears in air yards for four-straight weeks earlier in the year, and he’s been a high-ceiling, low-floor player for most of the season.
The Bears have been finding ways to get Mooney the ball in space recently, including his eight-yard touchdown catch. The Bears also gave Mooney one rushing attempt, which he turned into a 16-yard gain.
Mitch ➡️ Mooney for the early strike!
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 20, 2020
Mooney, a 2020 fifth-round pick out of Tulane, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds (96th percentile) and earned a 71st-percentile speed score from PlayerProfiler. Only two wide receivers had better times than Mooney: Henry Ruggs (4.27) and Quez Watkins (4.37); Denzel Mims tied with Mooney.
The Bears will play the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16. Entering Week 15, Their defense was allowing the eighth-most half-PPR points to opposing wideouts, including the sixth-most receiving yards per game (184.2). If your lineup is in desperate need of some upside, Mooney is worth a waiver claim heading into Week 16.
Story #11: Antonio Brown caught his first touchdown since September 2019.
What a wild few years it’s been for the troubled wideout. Brown’s last touchdown reception came in Week 2 of 2019 on a 20-yard pass from Tom Brady. He finally found the end zone again on a 46-yard pass from… Tom Brady.
Antonio Brown with his first TD of 2020 and it gives the Bucs the lead! pic.twitter.com/TAPp69N6Y7
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) December 20, 2020
Those managers who stuck with Brown through his suspension and early few weeks with Tampa Bay were rewarded handsomely — if they started him. Brown will play the Lions next week, another vulnerable secondary, and he’ll be a boom-or-bust WR3/FLEX in the matchup.
Story #12: Dez Bryant caught his first touchdown since December 2017.
After spending two years removed from the league, Bryant has found a role in Baltimore’s low-volume passing offense. He only caught one pass in Week 16, but it was good for his first touchdown since the Cowboys played the Giants in Week 14 of 2017.
FIRST DEZ BRYANT TOUCHDOWN IN THREE YEARS ❌
— ESPN (@espn) December 20, 2020
For some perspective, Alfred Morris and Terrance Williams started that game for Dallas, while Eli Manning started for New York. LeSean McCoy, Jordan Howard, Frank Gore, Isaiah Crowell, and Alex Collins led the league in rushing that week. While Bryant is no longer the fantasy WR1 he once was, it’s good to see the former star back on the field.
Story #13: DeAndre Hopkins earned 169 receiving yards and a score.
Hopkins had a moster day against the Jalen Hurts-led Eagles. He hauled in 9-of-11 targets for 169 yards and a score, including a 45-yard catch while in double-coverage.
DeAndre Hopkins! UNREAL. #RedSea
— NFL (@NFL) December 20, 2020
The David Johnson trade sure worked out for Houston, didn’t it? Hopkins now ranks second in receptions (103) and first in receiving yards (1,324). He is on pace for 1,513 receiving yards, which is close to his career-high of 1,572 (2018). He is also on pace for 117 receptions, which would be the most in his career.
Hopkins will end his 2020 fantasy campaign with a game against the San Francisco 49ers. That’s not a great matchup, but Hopkins posted 22.1 half-PPR points against them back in Week 1. He caught 14-of-16 targets for 151 yards and finished as the half-PPR WR6 (PPR WR4) for the week. He’s a safe bet to once again yield high-end WR1 numbers.
Story #14: The New York Jets won a football game.
Congratulations, New York! You won’t be joining the 2008 Detroit Lions or the 2017 Cleveland Browns in the 0-16 club. Unfortunately, you may have taken yourself out of the race for Trevor Lawrence. At least the Lions and Browns got franchise quarterbacks out of their 0-16 seasons.
In true Adam Gase fashion, Frank Gore was New York’s best fantasy asset in the victory. The ageless wonder totaled 59 rushing yards and a score on 23 attempts (2.56 YPC), adding one catch for six yards. With La’Mical Perine done for the year, Gore has enough work on lock in this offense to be a low-upside RB2/FLEX play.
Of the Jets’ other weapons, Jamison Crowder posted a decent stat line with six receptions for 66 yards. Ty Johnson caught Sam Darnold’s only touchdown pass, while Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims combined for only four catches and 39 yards. These players just don’t have the floor to justify starting in fantasy, and I would avoid them outside of very deep leagues.
Stories #15-16: Injuries II.
#15: Edwards-Helaire left Sunday’s game with an apparent high ankle sprain. He’ll undergo additional MRI testing to confirm the extent of the injury, but fantasy managers probably won’t have him in Week 16. Edwards-Helaire ended the day with 79 rushing yards on 14 attempts (5.64 YPC).
With CEH sidelined, Le’Veon Bell should get the bulk of the work at running back. He totaled 62 yards and a score on 15 attempts 4.13 YPC) last week, and he caught one pass for 14 more yards. He could end up splitting snaps with Darrel Williams, but Bell has the most value of the two, and he’s a low-end RB2/high-end FLEX for Week 16.
#16: Smith shouldn’t be a starter for your fantasy team, but his injury directly affects someone who could be: Emmanuel Sanders. With Michael Thomas and Marquez Callaway on injured reserve, Smith’s ankle injury left New Orleans with just Sanders, Juwan Johnson, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Tommylee Lewis.
Sanders could be in for a lot of work next week, and if he’s still available on waivers, he’s well worth a claim. Callaway could be worth one, too, as he’s eligible to return from injured reserve this week.
Story #17: Drew Brees struggled in his return from injury.
Brees finally came back from his rib contusion this week, but he did not look great under center. He was already looking washed-up earlier in the year, and aside from a 51-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders and some late-game heroics, Brees didn’t do much to prove his critics wrong on Sunday.
He opened the day with six incompletions and a pick. He finished with just a completion percentage of just 44.1%, but he salvaged his fantasy day with three scores. Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, and Lil’Jordan Humphrey all caught touchdown passes from the quarterback.
Brees’ return is fantastic news for Kamara, as the running back previously had to compete with Taysom Hill for rushing attempts — and red-zone touches. The Saints have an easy matchup with the Vikings next week, and Kamara has a great chance to finish as a high-end RB1 with Brees back at the helm. Brees himself ranks as a low-end QB1/high-end QB2 for the matchup.
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