Fantasy Football Week 15: Beyond The Box Scores
Ted Chmyz goes beyond the box scores of Week 15 to discuss the most significant takeaways from a fantasy football perspective.
That was quite the first Sunday of the fantasy playoffs. We had huge performances from shocking sources (Tyler Huntley and Duke Johnson) and some just-as-huge duds from players who were likely started in nearly every fantasy league (Ja’Marr Chase, Amari Cooper). Many matchups are sure to still be undecided, with four games left to play. In the meantime, those of us lucky enough to still be in the hunt can get a head start on Week 16 by breaking down all the action from Sunday’s smaller-than-usual slate of games.
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
- Dak Prescott scored just 10.58 fantasy points, passing for 217 yards and one TD while losing a fumble. Dak has now scored less than 15 points in four of his last five outings. Those four duds consist of one true real-life stinker and three games like this in which the Cowboys just didn’t need much from Dak en route to a win. That’s almost more worrying, as I would trust Prescott to bounce back from a bad outing more than I’d expect the Dallas staff to change what’s working.
- Sterling Shepard suffered a torn achilles, ending his season. Even with Shepard gone, however, none of the rest of the Giants’ pass-catchers should be started in all but the deepest fantasy leagues. Rumors are that Daniel Jones is done for the season, and neither Mike Glennon or Jake Fromm is going to give this offense a spark.
- Dalton Schultz led the Cowboys in receiving yards, catching all eight of his targets for 67 and a TD. That he managed to produce despite sharing the field with all three of Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb are encouraging for Schultz for the rest of this season and seasons to come.
Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars
- It turns out James Robinson is still a really good running back. Everyone but Urban Meyer knew that, but it’s good to see his usage skyrocket with a new coaching staff in Jacksonville. He can be confidently inserted back into lineups against the Jets next week.
- Brandin Cooks was Sunday’s highest-scoring WR. Davis Mills seems willing to target him early and often, as he’s now had double-digit targets in each of the last two weeks. Cooks has a tough matchup coming up next week against the Chargers, but with that kind of volume, he deserves at least flex consideration.
- There’s very little else to say about this game from a fantasy perspective. Laquon Treadwell might be the Jags’ WR1. Rex Burkhead is the Texans’ RB1. But hopefully, you’re not relying on either in the fantasy playoffs except in the deepest of leagues.
Tennessee Titans @ Pittsburgh Steelers
- D’Onta Foreman is obviously not Derrick Henry, but the Titans coaching staff doesn’t seem to know that, which is great news for fantasy managers. Despite leaving the game briefly with an injury, Foreman managed over 100 rushing yards on 22 carries. He also received three targets and should be locked into fantasy lineups going forward.
- In order, the Steelers’ top three fantasy performers in their 19-point win were their D/ST (15 points), kicker Chris Boswell (14 points), and Ben Roethlisberger (11.92 points). While this was an off week, you, of course, have to keep starting Diontae Johnson and Najee Harris. After them, however, there isn’t much fantasy goodness to be found: Chase Claypool’s snap count continues to decline, and Pat Freiermuth’s injury does not mean Zach Gentry deserves consideration.
- With Julio Jones ruled out early with a hamstring injury, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine returned to his de facto WR1 role. He saw a team-high seven targets, although he turned that into just 32 yards. He performed earlier in the year when thrust into a lead role, so he deserves flex consideration, especially if A.J. Brown can’t return by Thursday’s matchup with the 49ers.
New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins
- So … Duke Johnson? Really? I would say that the former Brown rolled back the years, but his 102 rushing yards were literally a career-high, not to mention two touchdowns on the ground plus a 20-yards reception. There were rumors that Myles Gaskin wouldn't see a normal load in his return from the COVID list, but I don’t think anyone expected this. Johnson is worth a super speculative add, but don’t expect anything similar as Gaskin should be back to a normal role next week.
- With no Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker served as the Dolphins clear top wideout. He ran nearly double as many routes as the next WR and turned eight targets into 68 yards and TD. Parker has been reliable all season when healthy, don’t hesitate to start him.
- With Ty Johnson a surprising inactive, there was hope that rookie RB Michael Carter would have a big game in his return to action. Instead, Carter saw just eight carries, the same amount as Tevin Coleman, on which he averaged just 2.3 yards per touch. Carter did outsnap Coleman 31 to 21 and gets a nice matchup with the Jaguars next week, but even still is a risky flex option.
Arizona Cardinals @ Detroit Lions
- After missing four straight games with an ankle injury, Chase Edmonds didn’t quite return to his old role. Where before Edmonds consistently saw a majority of the work in the Cardinals’ backfield, yesterday he split almost 50/50 with James Conner, with Conner actually getting the edge in snaps, targets and carries. It’s uncertain if Edmonds will have a more normal role in Week 15, so keep an eye on reports coming out of Arizona. If this split remains, both Edmonds and Conner will be tough to trust as the season ends.
- For the second straight game, Craig Reynolds dominated the Lions’ backfield and turned that into a respectable fantasy outing. Jamaal Williams is likely back next week, however, so don’t start Reynolds unless absolutely necessary.
- With DeAndre Hopkins done for the season, there was much interest in how Arizona’s WR opportunities would be divided. Christian Kirk was clearly the WR1, turning team-highs of 72 snaps and 12 targets into a good fantasy day — he should be started in all leagues. Second in snaps was actually Antoine Wesley, who managed just 19 yards but saw eight targets on his 44 routes run (sneaky DFS play next week?). A.J. Green also saw eight targets on fewer snaps than Wesley, while Rondale Moore continues to be the most inexplicably hyped WR4 in the league.
Carolina Panthers @ Buffalo Bills
- I hope some of you listened to me last week and added Gabriel Davis, who led the Bills in snaps while putting up 23 points in half-ppr. As I said a week ago, his role now is a combination of his previous snaps and those vacated by Emmanuel Sanders, which clearly equates to quality fantasy production.
- If the firing of Joe Brady has benefitted anyone, in particular, it’s Robby Anderson. He saw 12 targets last week in Carolina’s first post-Brady game, then another eight as well as two carries today. Today’s 7.7 fantasy points weren’t great, but last week’s 17.9 was. Anderson should be added, and keep an eye on DJ Moore’s status as he was limping at times during yesterday’s contest.
- After hardly using their running backs at all last week, the Bills did an abrupt about-face this week, treating Devin Singletary like a workhorse. Singletary saw all but three snaps, as Zack Moss was inactive, and Matt Breida was a nonfactor and turned 22 carries into 86 yards and a TD. There’s always the worry that the Bills return to a “let Josh Allen do everything” game plan, but as the clear lead back, Singletary is a flex or RB2 play.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Denver Broncos
- While last week was an example of how both Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams could produce, this week showed why fantasy players hate RB by committee approaches. While together their stats would have been a quality outing, a near-even split meant neither Williams nor Gordon surpassed 11 fantasy points. Luckily a date with the flailing Raiders should allow both to return to RB2 form next week.
- I don’t even know what to say about Ja’Marr Chase’s one-catch four-yard performance, except this: If you somehow managed to survive it and advance in playoffs (or happened to be on a bye), start him next week. He still led the team in snaps and was second in targets and gets a good matchup against a very depleted Baltimore secondary next week.
- If, on the other hand, you are still holding out hope for Jerry Jeudy, don’t. Drop him, and drop Courtland Sutton for good measure while you’re at it. Despite being, by far, the least-heralded, Tim Patrick is the only Broncos receiver with any double-digit fantasy games since WEEK 6. And even he has done it just twice, including yesterday’s 42-yard one-TD outing.
Atlanta Falcons @ San Francisco 49ers
- Lack of workhorse volume finally caught up to Cordarrelle Patterson yesterday, as he managed just 23 total yards and likely cost many fantasy managers a playoff matchup in the process. He did have one TD called back, and the Falcons as a team had not one, not two, but THREE turnovers on downs inside the 49ers’ 10-yard line. On a normal week, Patterson likely punches at least one of those in, making his day just bad, not terrible.
- After disappointing last week, Jeff Wilson Jr. had a big day, rushing for 110 yards and a TD. He might not seem like a priority target on waivers, given that Elijah Mitchell is theoretically coming back, but Mitchell sitting out a second straight week with vaguely defined “knee soreness” is concerning. Snap him up ASAP if he was dropped in your league after last week’s dud.
- Russell Gage’s averages over the last five weeks: 8.8 targets, 79.2 yards and 13.3 fantasy points. Next week he gets to play the Lions and should be in your lineup.
Green Bay Packers @ Baltimore Ravens
- Last week, AJ Dillon led the Green Bay backfield in volume, while Aaron Jones relied on two TDs to bolster a mediocre yardage day. This week, Jones saw more carries (13 to 7) and receptions (2 to 1) while they split the TDs one apiece. Watching the game as a manager of either is going to be frustrating, but as long as they keep producing two TDs and over 100 yards, they both belong in lineups.
- If you squinted your eyes and watched this game, Tyler Huntley looked like Lamar Jackson. His stat line certainly could be Jackson’s, as two each rushing and passing TDs make Huntley the highest-scoring player of the week (so far). As always, rushing production from QBs is gold and makes Huntley a fringe QB1 as long as Lamar is out.
- Just as soon as we got some consistent clarity in the Ravens backfield, it’s gone again. Devonta Freeman had been handling the clear majority of the carries over the last few weeks but was outtouched and outproduced by Latavius Murray in this one. When the backfield was split like this earlier in the season, neither was startable, and that’s likely to be the case for the last couple weeks of the fantasy season.
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- It looks like both Mike Evans’ and Chris Godwin’s seasons might be done. Coincidentally, Bruce Arians mentioned after the game that Antonio Brown will be welcomed back to the team now that his suspension is up. Brown is going to win some fantasy leagues as the new de facto WR1 in Tampa. Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller should also be added in deeper leagues, although Breshad Perriman might jump both for the WR2 role behind Brown if he returns from the COVID list.
- This was always going to be a tough matchup for Alvin Kamara, but 11 carries for 18 rushing yards and two catches for 13 receiving yards is especially disappointing. It’s even more concerning to see Taysom Hill and Mark Ingram combined for 20 carries, although Ingram was even less efficient than Kamara. None of this really matters, though: He’s still a must-start in a better matchup with the Dolphins next week.
- Leonard Fournette hurt his hamstring, so you know what to do: Add Ronald Jones and plug him into your lineup. He won’t quite get Fournette’s usage as Ke’Shawn Vaughn took third-down snaps, but even early down work could make RoJo a clutch RB2.