Did your team make it to the fantasy Super Bowl this coming Christmas weekend?
If so, a couple of things:
- Your wife, jealous husband or significant other most likely isn’t overjoyed at the prospect
- Your roster more than likely contains Todd Gurley II and/or Kareem Hunt
- Or you’ll be facing a team containing at least one of the two Week 15 super-stud backs in your league’s championship game
I’ve whittled my fantasy participation down to three main leagues this season, and in each of the three, a team containing Hunt will be playing for the title. In two of the three, the Hunt teams jumped out to big early leads after the K.C. rookie rolled up 39.6 point-per-reception fantasy points Saturday night against the Chargers and then survived semifinal scares from Gurley squads as the Rams’ back ran wild to the tune of 45 points late Sunday afternoon in Seattle.
That’s how a whopping 135.9 fantasy points – the combined PPR totals from Hunt and Gurley over the last two playoff weekends – can easily chart the course of legions of leagues.
Even aside from Gurley and Hunt, though, there is hardly a shortage of statistics to sift through. So let’s delve deeper into the significant stats, notable numbers and illuminating integers of the weekend and figure out what they mean for your Week 16 fantasy fortunes – and beyond.
And while we could go on and on about the exploits of the Hunts, Gurleys, Rob Gronkowskis and Michael Thomases here, that’s really not solving the actual lineup and/or roster conundrums facing the majority of fantasy general managers. So, instead, we’ll focus on a sampling of surging or slumping fringe fantasy starters whose Week 16 starting statuses are slightly more in question.
Here goes …
Yes, Blake Bortles
The Jaguars – the Jacksonville Jaguars – are 10-4 and will be a part of the playoffs for the first time in a decade after notching their seventh win in their last eight games Sunday.
And while the Jags’ rugged defense and rookie RB Leonard Fournette deserve most of the plaudits, don’t overlook the late-season surge by much-maligned quarterback Blake Bortles. Fantasy GMs certainly shouldn’t.
In Sunday’s 45-7 pasting of the visiting Texans, Bortles threw for 326 yards, three touchdowns and nary an interception to slot himself as Week 15’s fifth-best fantasy quarterback through play Sunday. And that was with Fournette inactive with an ankle injury, leading receiver Marqise Lee bowing out early with an ankle issue and the likes of Keelan Cole (7 receptions-186 yards-TD) and Jaydon Mickens (4-61-2) serving as Bortles’ top pass-catchers.
Sunday’s showing has been the rule rather than the exception of late with Bortles, who’s now accounted for at least two touchdowns and 18.5 fantasy points in four straight games.
In fact, over that Week 12-15 span, only Ben Roethlisberger with 95.5 fantasy points, has more than Bortles’ 91.2, and only the Vikings’ Case Keenum has had a better QB rating at 111.2 than Bortles’ 109.7 among quarterbacks who have started more than one game.
The key has been avoiding the killer mistakes as Bortles has thrown only one interception over those four contests and eight all season. In the previous three seasons, his first three in the league, Bortles tossed 51 picks – a total which trailed only Philip Rivers’ 52 over that span.
So if you’re in need of a late-season fantasy QB, cast aside your outdated perceptions and cast your lot with the suddenly red-hot Bortles.
Surging in South Beach
Bortles isn’t the only Sunshine State-based player on a late-season fantasy roll.
Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake rolled up 113 total yards and scored a rushing TD Sunday in Buffalo to extend his December surge. Over the last three weekends, Drake has rushed for 312 yards and two scores and added another 135 yards on 14 receptions, giving him 447 yards and 56.7 standard-scoring fantasy points on a league-leading 78 touches over that span.
Only Gurley (473) and Le’Veon Bell (472) have gained more yards from scrimmage and only Gurley (83.3), Bell (77.2) and Hunt (58.7) have had more fantasy points among running backs during that timeframe.
Now, sure, Drake’s surge started when fellow Miami back Damien Williams went down with a shoulder injury that has kept him out the last three weeks, but even if Williams returns, don’t hesitate in keeping Drake locked into your starting lineups, especially with the RB-fantasy-friendly matchups with the Chiefs and Bills on the docket the final two weeks for the Dolphins.
A pair of, meh, RBs
On the subject of set-’em-and-forget-’em RBs are two former members of the club who really aren’t any longer – even if the volume is still there.
The Texans’ Lamar Miller has managed only two TDs over his last seven games after scoring four in his first seven, and over his last three contests in the fantasy stretch run, he’s totaled 187 yards without a TD on 49 touches.
Meanwhile, the numbers are startlingly similar the last three weeks for a fellow AFC South starting back, the Titans’ DeMarco Murray, who has 179 TD-less yards on 45 total touches and has managed to find the end zone only once in his last five games after totaling five scores in his first nine outings.
So if there’s a question on who you should plug into your flex or No. 2 RB starting slot, there’s a very real possibility that Miller or Murray may not be the answer.
- It’s been a struggle of late in D.C. for the Redskins, and despite a 20-15 win over the visiting Cardinals on Sunday, Kirk Cousins totaled a mediocre 15.8 fantasy points in throwing for 196 yards and two TDs. Since a 322-yard, three-TD performance Week 11 in New Orleans, Cousins has thrown for just 840 yards, seven TDs and four interceptions while rushing for 18 yards over his last four games. So, in short, that’s four straight contests with 16.1 or fewer fantasy points after posting five 20-or-more-point games in his first 10.
- Panthers rookie RB Christian McCaffrey totaled a season-most 136 yards and a TD on 18 touches in Sunday’s win over the visiting Packers which was a welcome development for his fantasy owners after seeing him average only 9.8 touches and 62.3 total yards over his previous four games. On the season, McCaffrey leads all RBs in targets with 101 and is second to Bell (80) with 73 receptions.
- The Eagles’ Jay Ajayi is getting more work of late with double-digit touches in each of his last three games after averaging 7.3 in his first three contests in Philly, but the TDs still remain frustratingly elusive. In fact of the 42 backs who had totaled at least 126 touches on the season through play Sunday, Ajayi is the only player who doesn’t have multiple TDs as he remains stuck on one.
- Aaron Rodgers’ return Sunday didn’t prove to be the magic fantasy elixir for Packers WR Jordy Nelson who had only three catches for 28 yards and no TDs on six targets in Carolina. That means Nelson still hasn’t topped 35 receiving yards in a game over his last eight while also going without a TD catch in that span after reeling in six scores over his first six contests.
- With Nick Foles taking over the controls, Eagles WR Nelson Agholor continued his late-season surge Sunday, catching seven of his nine targets for 59 yards and a TD, giving him three scores in his last four games and eight among his 55 receptions on the season. By comparison, Agholor had only two TD catches among his 59 receptions over his first two years in the league. And over those last four games, Agholor leads the Eagles in receptions (25) and receiving yards (296) on 38 targets.
- No player has been targeted more of late than Raiders WR Michael Crabtree, who has 30 over the last two weeks. Efficiency, though, is another matter. Crabtree was targeted a league-most 17 times Sunday but finished with only seven catches for 39 yards and two TDs in a 20-17 loss to the Cowboys.
- Those fantasy GMs who were patiently waiting for a breakout from Panthers TE Greg Olsen were rewarded handsomely Sunday as he reeled in nine of a team-high 12 targets for 116 yards and a TD. In his previous four games this season, Olsen had caught four of 11 targets for 38 yards and no scores.
- In the Motor City, TE Eric Ebron led the Lions in targets for the second straight week as he reeled in five of seven targets for 33 yards and a TD in Saturday afternoon’s win over the Bears. Over Detroit’s last two contests, Ebron leads the team in targets (18) and receptions (15) while totaling 127 yards and the TD.
- Aside from red-hot wideout Marquise Goodwin, no 49ers player has benefitted more from QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s late-season success than kicker Robbie Gould, who has connected on a league-most 15-of-15 field goals since Jimmy G took over as the starter in Week 13. Gould booted a league-best six FGs Sunday, including the 45-yard game-winner as time expired against the Titans. Only the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein has more field goals (38) than Gould’s 36 on the season, but Zuerlein has accounted for 31 more total points thanks to his 44 extra points to Gould’s 19.