Bumps, Bruises and Bowouts
Bryce Petty – Chest
Adam Thielen – Neck
Kenjon Barner – Hamstring
Brock Osweiler – Broken Final Straw
Taylor Gabriel – Shoulder
Ladarius Green – Concussion
Week 15 of the NFL served up more cold games but the scoring was much higher than Week 14 when so many fantasy studs suddenly turned in bad performances. We were still limited to only three quarterbacks throwing for more than 300 yards and nine failed to throw a single touchdown.
Austin Hooper, Luke Wilson, Hunter Henry, Erik Swoop, Charles Clay, Garrett Celek, Dion Sims and Cameron Brate were the only tight ends to catch a touchdown and yet none were fantasy starters in most leagues. Remember that next summer when you start considering the position before the run starts in your fantasy draft.
Kick Up Your Score
The reality with place kickers is that there is no single criteria that can accurately predict which teams get the most kicking points – except one. For Week 15, the highest point scorers were Chris Boswell (18), Dan Bailey (14), Sebastian Janikowski (13), Nick Novak (13), Will Lutz (12), Caleb Sturgis (12), Mason Crosby (12), Matt Bryant (11), Adam Vinatieri (10) and Stephen Gostkowski (10). Only Sturgis played for a team that lost and that was only by one point.
The worst kickers were Phil Dawson (0), Greg Zuerlein (3), Brandon McManus (3), Andrew Franks (4), Josh Lambo (4), Chandler Catanzaro (5) and Cairo Santos (5). Only Franks kicked for a winning team.
The Other Guy
Fantasy playoffs are underway and when the cold weather comes, it’s always good to own running backs. When the passing stats fall – and they have for two weeks – the rushing offense comes to the rescue because it’s much easier to hand off than hit a moving target blanketed by defenders. Colder weather always drives the passing stats down. But owning the primary back is no guarantee of fantasy points.
Mike Gillislee (Bills) – LeSean McCoy is already a top back with 1462 total yards and 13 touchdowns. But he’s seen Gillislee already run in six touchdowns this year including one last week against the Browns and two in Week 13 in Oakland. Gillislee scored five times over the last six games.
Derrick Henry (Titans) – DeMarco Murray currently totals 1585 yards and 12 touchdowns. But he’s been capped at 21 carries for the last six games while Henry is pitching in eight to 12 carries per week. That saves Murray from excessive wear but has allowed Henry to gain around 50 yards in each of the last three games and score twice last Sunday in Kansas City.
Robert Turbin (Colts) – Frank Gore winds down his career as the primary back for the Colts and even ran for 101 yards in Minnesota on Sunday. But Gore only rushed in four touchdowns this season along with four more scores as a receiver. Turbin has been a true touchdown hawk since he’s been limited to only 38 carries this season and yet totals six scores including an unexpected two against those Vikings.
Tim Hightower (Saints) – Mark Ingram disappointed this year with only 1137 total yards and four touchdowns despite being selected as a starting back for fantasy teams. Ingram managed 92 total yards in the win over the Cardinals on Sunday but Hightower added 48 yards and scored twice. The Saints play the Buccaneers next though they just faced them in Week 14 when Ingram was limited to seven runs and Hightower was allowed six runs.
Another problem with Week 15 running backs is that Travaris Cadet with the Saints was the only running back to catch a touchdown. There have been 77 such positional scores this year and typically five or six per week. The previous low was three during both Weeks 6 and 8 that combined for eight teams out on their respective byes. All teams played but only Cadet caught a score as a running back.
Just Like Old Times
Adrian Peterson tore his MCL in Week 2 and missed 12 games. His only full game was the opener when he ran for 31 yards on 19 carries at the Titans. He was held to only 19 yards on 12 runs by the Packers before injuring his knee. He returned earlier than expected when he was active for the Week 15 matchup with the Colts. He ended with six runs for 22 yards and caught one pass for one yard while the Vikings were dominated by the Colts. This week he’ll face the same Packers from Week 2 only this time he’ll be in their stadium.
Timing is Everything
The fantasy owners of Marcus Mariota, DeMarco Murray, Delanie Walker and Rishard Mathews just caught a break with the Week 16 matchup with the Jaguars. Head coach Gus Bradley was terminated after losing 21-20 in Houston after losing a 12 point lead in the second half. The Titans already beat the Jaguars 36-22 in Week 8 which led to the replacement of their offensive coordinator. Blake Bortles passed for a season high 337 yards and three touchdowns in that game but declined since and only managed to complete 12 of 28 for 92 yards and one interception in Houston. On second thought, add in the Titans defense as a “must start” this week.
The First Step is Acceptance
This late into the season offenses should be well established and the chance for any notable depth chart changes are slim. Even more so for the most important position – quarterback. And yet the NFL still brings the surprises.
Chicago Bears – The 3-11 cellar-dweller of the NFC North already churned through starting quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer. Matt Barkley was the warm body they never intended to rely on. But the little-used fourth-year player passed for 316 yards and three scores in his 2016 debut in Week 12 versus the Titans. After two less stellar outings that included beating the 49ers with little more than Jordan Howard’s rushing, Barkley faced the visiting Packers in a game that was played in nine degree weather. And all he did was come in second only to Drew Brees with 362 passing yards for Week 15. Barkley tossed two touchdowns and was one of the top fantasy quarterbacks for the week. The Redskins visit on a short week this Saturday.
Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill disappointed with only 19 passing scores over his 13 games this season. He was lost with a grade-2 MCL sprain and Matt Moore was pressed into starting after minimal action for the last five years. Moore passed for 236 yards and four touchdowns in the win over the Jets – one more score than Tannehill produced in any game this year. He not only found tight end Dion Sims for two scores, he connected with Jarvis Landry for 108 yards that included a 66-yard touchdown catch. And Kenny Stills caught just one pass that went for a 52-yard score. One game in and the dink-n-dunk of Tannehill gave way to two 50+ yard touchdowns from Moore.
Houston Texans – While they are tied for the AFC South lead with the Titans, their success has been in spite of their lack of passing offense. Brock Osweiler had been a bitter disappointment after signing a four-year, $72 million contract but he continued to play if only because $37 million was guaranteed. So he averaged around 205 yards, one touchdown and one interception per week. Against the Jaguars on Sunday, he was finally benched in the second quarter after passing for only 48 yards and interceptions on two consecutive series while trailing 13-0 against a visiting 2-11 team.
Third-year backup Tom Savage played for less than three full quarters and yet completed 23 of 36 for 260 yards and led the Texans on a fourth quarter drive that scored the winning touchdown with under three minutes left. He connected with DeAndre Hopkins for 87 yards on eight receptions. It was Hopkin’s highest yardage since Week 2. The Texans face the visiting Bengals on Saturday in a must-win game. That should involve Savage again.
MIA 34, NYJ 13
The Jets scored on their first drive, then threw a red zone interceptions and never again challenged. Bilal Powell ran for 84 yards and caught 11 passes for 78 yards while Robbie Anderson (4-80, TD) caught the only score. Jay Ajayi only ran for 51 yards and never had a pass. But Matt Moore shook off five years of rust immediately with 236 yards and four touchdowns with Jarvis Landry (3-108, TD) the top receiver and Dion Sims (4-31, 2 TD) was the tight end that no one started. The 9-5 Dolphins head to Buffalo this week while the 4-10 Jets get to go get pummeled in New England.
PHI 26, BAL 27
This was a very good game that came down to the wire. The Eagles drew within one point with 12 seconds left but rather than kick the extra point to tie, they went for the win and the pass to Jordan Mathews was incomplete. Carson Wentz only passed for 170 yards but ran in one score. Ryan Matthews had a big game with 128 yards and a score on 20 runs but Zach Ertz (6-80) was the only Eagles receiver with more than 27 yards so throwing for that two point conversion had little to suggest it would be successful. The Ravens only threw for 206 yards but had two scores. Terrance West ran for 77 yards but Kenneth Dixon (9-36) got the rushing score. The 5-9 Eagles host the Giants this week and the 8-6 Ravens head to Pittsburgh.
CLE 13, BUF 33
One day the Browns will be good and it will be a sad day for fantasy football. Thankfully none of us will probably be alive then. Robert Griffin III threw for 196 yards and scored on a run. Duke Johnson (5-62) was the only Browns receiver with more than 35 yards. Tyrod Taylor passed for 174 yards and a score to Charles Clay (7-72, TD). LeSean McCoy totaled 169 yards and two scores as the main hammer in the game though even Mike Gillislee ran for 37 yards and a touchdown. The 0-14 Browns host the Chargers this week while the 7-7 Bills host the Dolphins.
GB 30, CHI 27
This was another game that was far better than expected and much higher scoring given it was almost zero degrees. Ty Montgomery ran for 162 yard and two scores and Christine Michael scored on his four runs for 45 yards. Aaron Rodgers passed for 252 yards but no scores since the running backs were doing so well. Jordy Nelson (7-124) was the only notable wideout. Matt Barkley (362 yards, 2 TD) was again better than expected with Deonte Thompson (8-110) and Cameron Meredith (9-104)
PIT 24, CIN 20
The Steelers trailed 6-20 before rallying in the second half and holding the Bengals scoreless. The best receiver for the Steelers was Eli “No one started me” Rogers (5-75, TD) and Antonio Brown was held to 58 yards on three catches. Le’Veon Bell ended with just 131 total yards and no scores. Getting SIX field goals from Chris Boswell helped more than Ben Roethlisberger (286 yards, TD) did. The Bengals only passed for 157 yards and Jeremy Hill gained only 43 yards on 20 runs but scored once. Brandon LaFell (7-91) was the only Bengals receiver with more than 18 yards. This was another cold game but the Steelers didn’t have the monster game from Bell this time. Now the 9-5 Steelers host the Ravens in a very big game and the 5-8-1 Bengals head to Houston.
JAX 20, HOU 21
Texans were favored but the Jaguars gave them all they could handle. Brock Osweiler was finally shown the bench and Tom Savage came in and threw for 260 yards and no turnovers. DeAndre Hopkins was thrown 17 passes and yet caught eight for 87 yards with Osweiler holding a clipboard. Lamar Miller ran for 63 yards and one score. Blake Bortles ran in a score but only completed 12 of 28 for 92 yards just to put a futile stamp on this offense. Hopkins was the only interesting part of this game. Now the 2-12 Jaguars host the Titans and the 8-6 Titans will host the Bengals.
TEN 19, KC 17
Nice upset by a Titans team that varies between average and very good. It was bone-chilling cold but Marcus Mariota passed for 241 yards and Ryan Matthews (4-105) had a 46-yard catch to help boost his stats. DeMarco Murray ran for 89 yards and had five catches for 52 yards. But Derrick Henry (9-58, 2 TD) was the heart breaker for the Murray owners. Alex Smith threw for his standard 163 yards and Jeremy Maclin (6-82) was better than usual. Tyreek Hill had no catches but ran once for a 68-yard touchdown. Spencer Ware totaled 95 yards but Travis Kelce was held to only 41 yards. The 8-6 Titans play in Jacksonville next while the 10-4 Chiefs host the Broncos.
IND 34, MIN 6
The return of Adrian Peterson (6-22) was everything we remember about him in the season opener. The Vikings went passed for 291 yards but no one scored. Kyle Rudolph (8-97) and Jerick McKinnon (9-59) had decent games but the Vikings only rushed for 34 yards in total. The Colts never got the memo that they should be scared of the Vikings defense. Andrew Luck passed for 250 yards and two scores while Frank Gore ran for 101 yards on 26 carries. No receiver had more than 50 yards for the Colts. The loss makes the 7-7 Vikings decline official and they get to go play in Green Bay this week. The 7-7 Colts head to Oakland.
DET 6, NYG 17
Yeah, it was this exciting. Eli Manning passed for 201 yards and two scores between Odell Beckham (6-64, TD) and Sterling Shepard (4-56, TD) while Rashad Jennings ran for 38 yards on 18 runs and yet Paul Perkins gained 56 yards on only 11 yards. The Lions had no rushing game of course and the only player of any note was Golden Tate (8-122). This was a cold game and these were cold offenses.. The 9-5 Lions get to go play in Dallas this week while the 10-4 Giants travel to Philadelphia.
SF 13, ATL 41
No surprise here. The always woeful 49ers did get 183 yards and two scores from passing but the best receiver was Blake Bell with one catch for 45 yards. Carlos Hyde gained 71 yards on only 13 runs and had no business carrying it that many times anyway. Devonta Freeman ran for 139 yards and three touchdowns as the big player of the game. Matt Ryan passed for 286 yards and two scores with Aldrick Robinson (4-111) and Taylor Gabriel (3-60, TD) as the top receivers. The win sends to 9-5 Falcons to Carolina this week while the 1-13 49ers head to Los Angeles
NE 16, DEN 3
Remember when these teams would meet and have a shootout? This is what they have become. Tom Brady passed for 188 yards and no score while LeGarrette Blount (17-31, TD) and Dion Lewis (18-95) were the main weapons. Julian Edelman (6-75) was the only Patriot with more than 35 receiving yards. The Broncos only rushed for 51 yards on 16 carries as a team and their only receiver with more than 48 yards was Demaryius Thomas (7-91). The 12-2 Patriots host the Jets (yawn) this week and the 8-6 Broncos travel to Kansas City for what used to seem like a big game.
OAK 19, SD 16
Yeah, this matchup was 34-31 in Week 5. Derek Carr only passed for 213 yards and a score to Michael Crabtree (6-60, TD) while Amari Cooper (1-28) has almost entirely disappeared. Latavius Murray ran for 81 yards but this was not nearly as productive as Week 5 and weather was not a factor. Phillip Rivers passed for 206 yards and two scores but Dontrelle Inman (5-68) was the top receiver and as a team they only rushed for 73 yards on 22 carries. The 11-3 Raiders host the Colts this week while the 5-9 Chargers head to Cleveland where they should avoid another loss by three points or less.
TB 20, DAL 26
Good game for the late Sunday time slot. Jameis Winston passed for 247 yard and two scores but ended with three interceptions. The top receiver was Cameron Brate (5-73, TD) and Mike Evans was held to 59 yards on four catches. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 159 yards and one score plus caught three passes for 29 yards. Dak Prescott passed for 279 yards and Dez Bryant ended with eight catches for 82 yards. It was a sold game that went down to the final series. Now the 8-6 Buccaneers play in New Orleans and the 12-2 Cowboys host the Lions.
Huddle Player of the Week
Devonta Freeman – The great part of this selection is that Freeman not only rushed for 139 yards and three touchdowns, plus two catches for 16 yards. It was that last week he only ran for six yards and had 12 yards on two catches. There’s a healthy swing though fantasy owners may not be in their playoffs still after last week’s flop.
Drama 101 – Somebody has to Laugh, Somebody has to Cry
|QB||Matt Moore||236||4||QB||Tom Brady||188||0|
|RB||Robert Turbin||54||2||RB||Matt Forte||28||0|
|RB||Derrick Henry||58||2||RB||Jay Ajayi||51||0|
|WR||Deonte Thompson||110||0||WR||Amari Cooper||58||0|
|WR||Eli Rogers||75||1||WR||T.Y. Hilton||45||0|
|WR||Aldrick Robinson||111||0||WR||Antonio Brown||58||0|
|TE||Charles Clay||72||1||TE||Tyler Eifert||9||0|
|PK||Chris Boswell||6 FG||PK||Brandon McManus||1 FG|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 133||Huddle Fantasy Points = 29|
Saints 48, Cardinals 41
How does this happen? The Saints lost 11-16 in Tampa Bay in Week 14. So traveling to Arizona probably should not have allowed them to score their highest score of the year. Drew Brees had gone two games without a passing score for the first time in seven years. And yet – he passed for 389 yards and four touchdowns as the top fantasy quarterback in the NFL – playing in Arizona.
Brandin Cooks merely caught seven passes for 186 yard and two scores as the best fantasy wideout of the day. Willie Snead (8-76) and Michael Thomas (7-52, TD) suggested that the Cardinals implosion was reaching critical mass. Tim Hightower last played for the Cardinals back in 2010 but ran for 37 yards and two touchdowns.
Carson Palmer threw for 318 yards and two scores. Kerwynn Williams ran for a 49-yard touchdown to open the game and David Johnson turned 12 carries into 53 yards and two touchdowns but 55 yards on four catches. John Brown was the leading receiver with five catches for 81 yards and one score after only catching one pass over the last four games. Larry Fitzgerald only gained 57 yards on his seven catches.
It was the biggest game where once all teams dreaded to visit. By a team that has long struggled to win at all let alone on the road. But what would 2016 be without more surprises?
Good luck to all advancing to their league championships! It’s been a very tough year marked with injury and disappointments – more so than usual. And yes, we say that every year but really mean it this time.
Happy Holidays to you all!
Now get back to work…