For the second week in a row, the Buzz comes to you in full-blown
playoff mode. Some of the trains that brought you to your league
semi-finals kept right on rolling, while others got derailed leaving
you looking for answers. Whatever your status, we’ve got Week
Todd Gurley delivered one of the best fantasy
running back performances of the season in Week 15.
Fantasy Playoff Heroes
To The Future: Running Backs Win Championships
Until this decade, the longtime mantra in fantasy football was
that championships were won and lost on the feet of great running
backs. Players like Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes, and LaDainian
Tomlinson won many fantasy owners titles in the RB-dominant decade
that was 2000-2009. But since then, the committee phenomenon has
taken over most backfields, leaving the path to a fantasy title
wide-open. This past weekend however, the “stud” RB
reigned supreme. With star receivers nowhere to be found, the
lead actors in the RB melodrama did their thing. Tops was Todd Gurley, whose 180 yards and 4 TDs came in a game that owners would
have been thrilled to get half that amount. The night before,
Kareem Hunt returned to September form with a pair of end zone
trips and over 200 total yards from scrimmage. Other RBs that
netted 20+ fantasy points in a non-PPR format included Mark Ingram,
Le’Veon Bell, Melvin Gordon, Devonta Freeman, and LeSean McCoy. With the exception of Ingram, all were first round picks
in August and delivered on the semi-final stage. In a world where
retro is always coming back into focus, Week 15 was a blast from
the past. Here’s hoping one or more of these “studs”
were in your stable.
Fantastic 4 TD QBs: The Cam and Nick Show
There were plenty of question marks coming into Sunday about
how well Cam Newton and Nick Foles would do in the fantasy realm
- Foles in particular. And, while neither QB put up big yardage
numbers (at least through the air), both Newton and Foles threw
for 4 touchdowns apiece - tops amongst all their peers for the
weekend. The Eagles just seem to do things better in the red zone
than everyone else as evidenced by their now 37 team touchdowns
via the pass. Foles isn’t going to produce 4 TDs against
better defenses, but if you plugged him into your lineup this
week and took a deep breath, you can exhale. It was a great decision.
Meanwhile, Newton supplemented his work through the air with 58
additional yards on the ground. That’s nothing new for the
multi-dimensional fantasy threat, but with Devin Funchess ailing
Sunday, not much was expected of Cam. Sometimes, he just rises
up and scores big when the match-up or situation doesn’t
call for it. Look at 2015 for proof of that over and over again.
At least Cam had one of his main weapons back…
Short-Term/Long-Term Returns: Gronk and
…And that weapon was none other than TE Greg Olsen. Olsen’s
day (9-116-1) was both bitter and sweet. For those owners able
to either stash Olsen on IR or actually keep him in leagues that
allow for deeper rosters, getting the anticipated production was
nice. However, owners whose season ended last week or the week
before who never got a return this season on the Olsen investment
must be shaking their head. As a selector of Olsen in several
summer drafts, I can relate to that outcome the most. As for shorter
term returns, Rob Gronkowski bounced back from his one-game suspension
with his best game of the season. In his last two games played,
Gronk has erupted for 18 receptions and 315 receiving yards. Tom
Brady is leaning on him heavily and that is likely to continue
with Rex Burkhead (knee) on the shelf. Gronk and Olsen were the
tight ends to own in Week 15.
Sterling Shepard: The Ultimate Flex Play
The Flex play of the week had to be Sterling
Shepard. His 11-catch, 139-yard, 1 TD day represented the
third time this year that he’s topped the 130-yard mark in a game.
Yes, that makes him a poor man’s version of T.Y.
Hilton, but it also represents the upside he carries in a
role that does not require him to be “the man”. As a third WR
in your lineup, thus, he likely made all the difference this weekend
with so many WRs tanking for one reason or another. As long as
Engram stays healthy, look for Shepard to continue to be a
factor next week…Eli simply looks his way too much for his floor
to be low (16 targets on Sunday).
Fantasy Playoff Head-Scratchers
This category is reserved for guys that would have been “heroes”
in Week 15 but very few probably had them in a starting lineup…meaning
their great performances didn’t make much of an impact. They are
Eli and Bortles: Dynamic Duo?
In addition to Cam Newton and Nick Foles, the other two most
productive quarterbacks in Week 15 were Eli Manning and Blake Bortles. An astute owner might have inserted either into a lineup
given that the Texans are simply brutal against the pass and the
Eagles are dominant against the run. Still, at playoff time, you
normally roll the dice at QB with the guy that got you there.
In this case, if that guy was Wilson, Brady, or Cousins for example,
you were left wishing for Eli or Bortles instead. Of the two,
Bortles has the better match-up next week, but as is the case
with all Buzz “Head Scratchers”, don’t look
for lightning to strike twice.
Cole, Mickens, King: Who Are These Guys?
All right…it is conceivable that someone had Keelan Cole
in their lineup on Sunday. After all, Cole came in having scored
TDs in each of the last two games and garnering 99 yards receiving
in one of them. As a WR3 or 4, he was an intriguing option and
we’re willing to concede that. That being said, if you had
King or Mickens in your lineup, I want to hear from you in the
comments section…. like right now! The whole Jacksonville
situation is worthy of its own paragraph, so we’re going
to do that momentarily. Just remember next week that December
is full of players getting meaningful playing time that no one
has heard much about. Picking the right one to produce is tricky,
but do keep an eye on Cole. With Marqise Lee likely to miss next
week’s game, he’s worth the gamble if you start three
or more WRs.
The Return of C.J. Anderson
Finally, the Broncos seemed to find their identity for the rest
of the season, albeit against the lowly Colts. Their offensive
scheme has been predictable and QB play amongst the worst in the
league, but they finally figured out what they do best last Thursday
evening. They should have already known. After all, C.J.
Anderson averaged 21 touches for exactly 100 yards a game
in the four weeks preceding Denver’s Week 5 bye. After Week 5,
the Broncos went away from Anderson for reasons unknown to the
point that he had drifted to being an afterthought in weekly lineups.
30 carries for 158 yards against the Colts puts him back on track
for a possible 1,000 yard rushing season. TDs remain hard to come
by in the stagnant Denver offense, but consider Anderson a solid
RB2 for fantasy championship game purposes.
It was like déjà vu all over again this weekend.
An early injury to a fantasy superstar doomed many teams as Antonio Brown left for the day with 13:00 to go in the second quarter
after catching 2 balls for 24 yards on 3 targets. There’s
little doubt Brown would have gone on to have a huge game just
like Alvin Kamara would have done the week before. The first two
weeks of the playoffs have seen two of fantasy football’s
most dynamic stars silenced early. At least Kamara made it back
to the field this week and was productive. Brown will be sidelined
for the next two weeks at least, meaning the path to a title for
a Brown owner just got tougher…if you made it out of Week15
While losing Brown on Sunday was rough, nothing could compare
to what owners of Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, and/or Jimmy Graham
must have been feeling about supper time on Sunday night. Seattle’s
42-7 loss to the Rams included less than 150 passing yards from
Wilson, one catch apiece for Baldwin and Graham with very minimal
yardage, and a Seattle D/ST that was worth nothing. There’s
not much to say other than “I’m sorry” if you
were caught in this tidal wave of futility. Wilson has still been
a huge asset all year and I he’ll likely bounce back next
week vs. Dallas, but Graham’s complete disappearance the
past two weeks has stung those counting on him. U-G-L-Y.
The Jacksonville Horror Show: Replacing
Fournette and Lee
All right…bear with me here as this was the most ridiculous thing
that’s happened all season in fantasy football. Bar none. Leonard
Fournette was declared out Sunday morning. Owners then scrambled
to get Chris
Ivory into lineups or possibly T.J.
Yeldon as a flex play. Likewise, Dede
Westbrook made his way into numerous lineups in anticipation
of the Texans giving up the usual endless production in the passing
game. And Jacksonville responded to those banking on them with
- get this - 3 rushing touchdowns…and 3 receiving touchdowns…and
464 total yards from scrimmage. Hooray for Ivory owners! Hooray
for Westbrook owners! Except…the 3 rushing TDs were turned in
by Tommy Bohanon (2) and Corey
Grant. The receiving TDs went to the aforementioned Cole and
Mickens. Ivory only had 42 yards on the ground with no TDs. Westbrook
caught 2 balls for 21 yards. And, this with Marqise Lee going
down early. There are no words. Only a recap without reason.
Finally, RB2 was a pasture full of fantasy goats on Sunday as
we grant the nod of futility to the likes of Carlos Hyde, Alex Collins, Lamar Miller, DeMarco Murray, and Jamaal Williams. Basically,
every guy ranked between No.10 and 20 at RB in weekly cheat sheets
fell flat. While the upper tier excelled, this bunch did NOT help
you get out of the semi-finals. And, the Bears went away from
Jordan Howard again this weekend to the anguish of his owners.
When will they learn to feed the Big Bear with more than 10 carries?
Maybe next year under a new coaching regime, I guess.
We’ll put a bow on the fantasy season next week here at
the Buzz. Until then, hope you win some championships on Christmas
weekend! Best of luck from us to you and come and see us next
Tuesday - same time and place.