NFL Week 15 Hot Takes
Howard Bender offers up some hot takes on what went down during the Week 14 NFL games and how you should interpret for fantasy football purposes.
Wow. Just wow. Now THIS was a Week 15 for the ages. We had some amazing performances come from out of nowhere, we had some serious busts from some normally reliable guys and we made a ton of money thanks to the NFL DFS Playbook. It’s the type of week you just have to take a step back for a moment, drink it all in and then figure out how to sort things from there.
We saw just four quarterbacks throw for 300 or more yards, but one of them was Jameis Winston who became the first one to ever throw for 450-plus yards in back-to-back games. We saw nine different running backs clear the 100-yard threshold with just one, Joe Mixon , failing to find the end zone. But the big one was on the receiving end as 17 different players…yeah, that’s right, 17…posted at least 100 yards, four of whom were tight ends. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget about Kenyan Drake ’s four-touchdown game or the three Breshad Perriman posted. Like I said….wow. Just wow.
With a week like this, there’s bound to be a few reactions, both good and bad, right? Maybe some overreactions? Yeah, for sure. So let’s bust out a few hot takes, shall we?
“He’s due!” is Quality Analysis
How many times have you seen a struggling marquee player and listened to analysts talk about how he will eventually break out? That “he’s due” for a big day? Just keep going back to the well and eventually someone will right the ship and all will be harmonious. Well, if you started Julio Jones in either your seasonal playoffs or DFS, then you know it’s quality analysis. After 10 weeks, Jones finally posted that coveted 100-yard, multi-touchdown effort that vaulted you to a victory and/or a big DFS pay-out. Matt Ryan hit him for 13 catches, 134 yards and two touchdowns, the second being the game-winner as time was expiring. So you see, when an analysts tells you a guy is due, you have to believe him.
Ugh. I really tried to say all of that with a straight face, but to no avail. Why? Because it’s the worst thing anyone can tell you. Yeah, I could sit here and tell you to stick by Alvin Kamara and you know what…? Eventually I’ll be right. At some point he will have a big game, but does that erase all the crap he put you through during the season? Hell no. How aggravating is it when an analyst comes back after a big game like we saw from Julio and says, “See? That’s why you stick with him. You know he’s going to win you a title.” Nothing like lazy analysis, am I right? That analyst is the same person who raved about Saquon Barkley scoring two touchdowns against the Dolphins; the same person who told you Baker Mayfield was a top-five quarterback after his Week 12 performance. It’s the same person who told you, “This is why you drafted Christian Kirk ,” after he torched a hapless Bucs secondary for 138 yards and three touchdowns in Week 10.
Are there some studs you start no matter what? Yes. But those are the guys who have also been producing all year long regardless of match-up. Football is all about how teams matchup against each other – offense vs defense, coach vs coach, WR vs CB, etc. The depth of our analysis has vastly surpassed the idea of “start your studs,” and anyone still relying on that archaic mentality needs to go away. Start your studs? OK. Tell that to the fantasy players who just left Miles Sanders, Kenyan Drake or Joe Mixon on the bench so they could use Kamara against a Colts run defense that has allowed fewer than 100 rushing yards per game all year and ranks fourth in the league in defending against running back pass-plays.
Jameis Winston Has No Receivers Left
So Winston throws for over 450 yards in back-to-back games and he did it with a fractured thumb. Pretty impressive, right? What is even more impressive is that he did it with his top wideouts dropping like flies. In Week 14, he hit Mike Evans on a 61-yard touchdown and then lost his top target to a hamstring injury. He went on to hit Chris Godwin for a total of 97 yards while mixing in some of his secondary and tertiary targets to hit the mark against the Colts. In Week 15, he connected with Godwin for 121 yards on five catches and then lost him to a hamstring injury as well. Both injuries were serious enough that now Evans and Godwin are expected to miss the rest of the season. That doesn’t sound good for your chances of using Winston during championship week, right? His luck has to run out, doesn’t it? Nope. Not at all. Winston showed the world that he can sling the rock to any able-bodied receiver and do it in style. He hit Breshad Perriman for 113 yards and three touchdowns while also dropping in a 33-yard strike to Scotty Miller, who also suffered a hamstring injury, for another touchdown. Looking ahead to Week 16, the Bucs host the Houston Texans who gave up another 279 yards to Ryan Tannehill and have now allowed and average of 304.7 passing yards per game over their last three. Winston still has Perriman. He still has Justin Watson . Toss in tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate and you’ve got plenty of receiving targets for Winston to find around the field. Will he hit 450 again? Who knows? But what you do know if that, no matter what, he’s going to keep on throwing and that means fantasy points galore.
Receivers? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Receivers
The Bucs aren’t the only team in the league that doesn’t need wide receivers. Just take a look at the roster for the Eagles. The lost DeSean Jackson to an abdominal injury earlier this season. They just lost Alshon Jeffery for the rest of the year after watching him play just once in the last four weeks (well, technically he appeared in Week 14, but left hurt after two snaps). Nelson Agholor has now missed three of their last four games and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is starting to look like the Matt Breida of wide receivers as he can’t seem to stay on the field for more than a handful of snaps at a time. They are now sitting with undrafted receiver Greg Ward and recently-promoted from the practice squad Robert Davis as their top two wideouts.
But have no fear, the tight ends are here. Granted, their last three games have come against the Dolphins, Giants and Redskins, so the impact of the receiver injuries hasn’t really hit hard, but with Zach Ertz , Dallas Goedert and now Josh Perkins, Carson Wentz has had no trouble keeping the passing attack strong and moving forward. In fact, this stretch of games is where Wentz has shined brightest, throwing for over 300 yards twice and posting a 8:1 TD:INT in that span. He was due, right?
The crazy thing is that over the next two weeks, the Eagles face the Cowboys and the Giants, two teams who notoriously suck against the tight end. Dallas just yielded 100-plus yards to Tyler Higbee of the Rams and rank 29th against the position, according to DVOA numbers. The Giants may rank 10th, but they just gave up two touchdowns to Ertz in Week 14 while Goedert and Perkins combined for eight catches and nearly 80 receiving yards. If the Eagles are going to win the division and squeak into the playoffs, they’re going to have to do it in a rather unconventional way – the Zero-WR theory.
The Patriots Don’t Need an Offense
With a win over the hapless Bengals, the Patriots move to 11-3 on the season and are holding onto the No. 1 seed in the upcoming AFC playoffs. But are these the big, bad Patriots of old? Nope. Not even close. They’ve gone 3-3 over their last six games and Tom Brady has now thrown for fewer than 200 yards in three of his last four games. Their ground game looks average, at best, and in addition to Brady’s elbow issues and mediocre showing in recent weeks, his No. 1 target, Julian Edelman , is dealing with shoulder and knee issues. But is that stopping them? Of course not. Why? Because their defense continues to crush it. Granted, it was Andy Dalton and the Bengals, but Sunday saw the Patriots defense tally four interceptions, one of which Stephon Gillmore took to the house for a 64-yard defensive touchdown, while also snagging a fumble recovery from receiver Alex Erickson . The Patriots now lead the league in takeaways with 36 (25 INT, 11 fumbles), they’ve allowed the second-fewest passing yards per game (170.3), the seventh-fewest rushing yards per game (98.1) and the fewest points per game allowed (12.9). With top-shelf defensive numbers like that, who needs an offense?
Sorry New England, but that just ain’t gonna cut it in the playoffs and we’re going to see a first-hand look at just how difficult it’s going to be next week when they host the 10-4 Bills. The regular season is one thing, but the playoffs re another. The Patriots have had the luxury of two games against the Jets, two against the Dolphins and out-of-division/conference games against a bunch of tomato cans like the Redskins, Giants, Browns, Eagles and yes, even the Cowboys. Blame the division, but this is legitimately the softest schedule a Super Bowl champion has ever seen the following season. What a joke! We’ll see how the seeding plays out, but with regular season losses to both the Ravens and Chiefs, two contenders, we just might be witnessing a full changing of the guard. Defense is great, but if you’re not putting up points against Baltimore or Kansas City, you’re not winning anything.
Kenyan Drake is a Must-Start in Your Fantasy Championship
Speaking of Kenyan Drake , how about that performance Sunday against the Cleveland Browns? In what was easily the best game of his career, Drake grinded out 137 yards on 22 carries and found his way into the end zone four different times. For those who started him in their seasonal leagues, mazel tov. The sun shines on a dog’s ass at least once, right? You probably had injuries with which to contend or, simply put, you had no other options. What a time for him to bust out. The overall performance may have come from out of nowhere, but at least you had a reason to do it. Cleveland ranked 25th in DVOA for run defense and they were allowing an average of 176.3 rushing yards per game over their last three games. I mean, I don’t want to get too bragadocious but there was actual reasoning behind me having Drake in the primary GPP example lineup on Draft Kings. I had my Browns stack all set and coming back, I used Drake instead of Christian Kirk due to Cleveland’s ineptitude. It wasn’t enough to get him into the Playbook, but it was in the stacks part of the Example Lineups write-up and then, obviously, the lineup itself.
But now the question remains as to whether we go back to the Drake well next week for the fantasy championship. The Cardinals are heading to Seattle to face a Seahawks team that allowed 115 yards on the ground the first time these two teams played. Drake wasn’t a part of the team back then, but looking at Seattle’s run defense right now, it could be a decent match-up. Over the last three games, the Seahawks have given up and average of 128.3 rushing yards per game with five rushing touchdowns allowed. Obviously, the issues of playing on the road in a stadium like that of the Seahawks can be troubling, but if Drake is who you’ve got, then Drake it is for Week 16!
Mike Boone Will Be a Fantasy Savior
Here’s hoping you saved a little of your FAAB for the tail-end of the season! Hearts stopped, once again, as Dalvin Cook left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury and a return was ruled out virtually immediately. It was the same shoulder he hurt a few weeks back and this time it looks worse. That is casting quite the shadow of doubt on his availability for the Vikings Week 16 match-up with the Packers, a team he rushed for 154 yards and one touchdown against back in Week 2. To make matters worse, Alexander Mattison was out all week with an ankle injury and we’re all still wondering what his availability will be like. That puts the backfield into the hands of Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah . Probably more Boone who did manage 56 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers on Sunday. Abdullah did get five carries for 25 yards, but Boone was clearly the preferred choice.
While I certainly won’t take anything away from Cook or even Mattison, this is one of those perfect times where we can look at the system as opposed to the runner. Cook has looked fantastic in Gary Kubiak’s and Rick Dennison’s system. So has Mattison. These guys seem to create star running backs wherever they go and that’s what gives you some hope. Remember Denver in the 90s? Guys like Orlandis Gary and Mike Anderson? How about what they did in Houston with Arian Foster? It’s understanding a team and a system that will have you dancing around the winner’s circle and who knows…maybe it will be Mike Boone who gets you there.