Week 15 Recap: Paper Cuts
If you are still reading these pesky things, you are either my mother (hi mom!) or managed to make the playoffs. Congrats to all of you (especially my mom for raising such an amazing oldest son). For anybody not in the playoffs that still opened this thing up to see what nonsense I’d spew, please go take a long look at yourself in the mirror. (Seriously, your season is over, go outside. There is this thing called, “the sun.”)
Before we get started, please note that I am shifting the philosophy of the recap for the last couple of weeks. At this point we are down to only a few tough decisions on certain types of players. As such, the game write-ups will focus mostly on guys who are more on the fringe of start-worthy.
The other change for this week is that I am ditching the "hold" categorization for the remainder of the season. With so few weeks left, we are either buying or selling; there simply aren’t enough games left for anything else.
Chargers 27, Broncos 20
Because this was a Thursday game, I think the level of fantasy disappointment dished out will be more forgotten than it deserves. Of the 11 or 12 players fantasy owners may have started from this game, only two went so far as to meet expectations. If you own Ryan Mathews or Keenan Allen, you went into Sunday’s games reasonably satisfied. Otherwise, you were left somewhere between disappointed and catatonic.
The silver lining is that the loss will force Denver to play out the string. The even better news is that both teams have cherry Week 16 matchups. Don’t be foolish and overreact to a bad game at this critical time of the year.
Buy: Week 16 being a better game for almost everybody.
Sell: Andre Caldwell. Even if Wes Welker misses more time, Caldwell is not a player you should be starting. Peyton Manning spreads it around so well that next week it could be Jacob Tamme or Virgil Green, or, you guessed it, Frank Stallone.
Falcons 27, Redskins 26
Kirk Cousins had an interesting game, with tons of everything (yards, touchdowns, and turnovers). With Dallas' defense every bit as deficient as Atlanta’s, it would be fair to expect a similar performance when Washington hosts the Cowboys next week. There certainly is risk, but you could do worse for a QB2 in a deep or two-quarterback league.
Buy: Redskins offense against Dallas next week. The real news for the Skins is that Cousins propped up the value of their skill players. The train will likely slow down some due to natural regression, but Alfred Morris will be a border line RB1 and Pierre Garcon a solid WR2.
Sell: The Falcons’ offense in general, and especially against San Francisco Week 16. Do not want.
Bears 38, Browns 31
In his first game back from injury, Jay Cutler picked up pretty much where he left off, scoring 19 points on the back of three touchdown passes. He also threw two interceptions in the first half, clearly showing rust at times. But for most of the game he looked very good. I consider Cutler a QB1 against the Eagles next week.
The Browns provided nothing until the absolute last possible minute (literally), when Josh Gordon took a pass 43 yards to the end zone. At that exact moment, about a billion fantasy owners gave off one giant collective sigh of relief.
Buy: The Bears offense has the potential to score at will against the Eagles in Week 16. Start ‘em all and enjoy the show.
Sell: Browns running backs. Against the NFL’s worst run defense (according to our Adjusted Defensive Rush Net Expected Points per Play, or Adj. RNEP/P, metric), the Browns did nothing. It’s almost comical how bad their run game is.
Colts 25, Texans 3
Oh, the weather outside is frightful. So was this game.
Buy: Andrew Luck. The stat sheet doesn’t really show it, but the Colts’ offense looked competent this week. This is the second consecutive such game following a pretty rough patch. I like Luck as a low-end QB1 next week against a very overrated Chiefs’ defense.
Sell: Coby Fleener has all but disappeared the last three weeks. I wouldn’t recommend plugging him into your lineup with a league title on the line.
Dolphins 24, Patriots 20
For the third time in four games, Mike Wallace scored a touchdown and topped 14 fantasy points. He is impossibly hard to trust, but the matchup in Buffalo next week isn’t terrifying either. I think there is a strong/terrifying argument to peg him as a flex type with upside. (Giving Wallace an endorsement is like telling you to play Russian roulette against Hitler.)
Don’t look now, but despite not being a major part of the offense for a month stretch in October and November, Julian Edelman has a shot at 100 receptions and 1,000 yards. If you're in a PPR league, he has positioned himself as a high-end WR2/low-end WR1.
Speaking of Patriot wide receivers, as long as their rookie duo is on the shelf, Danny Amendola could easily see double-digit targets on a weekly basis. He is a WR3 with WR2 upside in PPR formats.
Buy: Julian Edelman
Sell: Every running back on both rosters.
Vikings 48, Eagles 30
Despite scoring a not unreasonable 10.6 points, LeSean McCoy left owners feeling like Santa filled their stockings with bedbug infested coal. The Vikings run defense ranks 26th according to Adj. RNEP/P, causing optimism for a huge day in a key spot, but McCoy was unable to deliver. Don’t expect a repeat disappointment next week against the Bears.
That’s right, kids, Jennings is a top-five wide receiver with Cassel under center. After seeing Cincinnati’s already beat up secondary lose approximately 17 players Sunday night, as long as Cassel is playing, I am treating Jennings as though he is at least a top-20 play.
Buy: Cordarrelle Patterson is the perfect sort of player to give Chicago fits in Week 16. There is a perception of risk with the rookie, but he hasn’t scored fewer than nine points for three consecutive weeks.
Bonus Sell: The Riley Cooper thing is no longer a thing. His catch percentage on the season is a middling 53%, but the last four weeks it has been 43% (a bottom-five figure). Making matters worse, the big plays have disappeared, taking the touchdowns with them. There is no way you can rely on him at this point in the season, even against the Bears next week.
Seahawks 23, Giants 0
Sometimes football doesn’t make sense. Like when Marshawn Lynch catches six passes in a game (his highest total in more than three years). Or when something named Jerrel Jernigan leads anybody in anything (he caught four more passes than any other Giant teammate). Then you see Eli Manning threw five interceptions and realize this isn’t the Twilight Zone after all, but just another game in the Giants’ miserable season.
Buy: The red hot Doug Baldwin (a touchdown in three of four games) mostly plays out of the slot, which is the position Kendall Wright just had 12 receptions and 150 yards from against the Seahawks’ Week 16 opponent (Arizona).
Sell: The Giants. All of them. Victor Cruz is in danger of missing the next game. If he does, there isn’t a New York player I’d touch against the Lions.
49ers 33, Buccaneers 14
Off of a hugely emotional (and physical) win against Seattle last week, I secretly thought this was a prime letdown opportunity for the 49ers. Turns out I was wrong in a pretty major way. Other than the shocking news I was wrong, not much noteworthy happened in a game that played out pretty by the books.
Buy: Michael Crabtree had an OK game that was buoyed by a four-yard touchdown in the first quarter. The real payoff happens next week as San Francisco hosts the truly awful Falcons. I’d pencil Crabtree in as a potential WR2 in an amazing matchup.
Sell: I feel like as soon as we all bail on Tim Wright, he has a big game and sucks people back in. A talented pass catcher, Wright does have potential to be a future TE1, but for now he is simply too inconsistent to be a trusted fantasy play.
Bills 27, Jaguars 20
If there was one thing I wish I could do for you, my loyal readers, it would be to make a definitive statement on C.J. Spiller. Well, actually, I wish I could give you all paper cuts (I am a sadist). But after that, it's definitely the Spiller thing. Where was I? Oh, yeah… As talented as Spiller is, he can’t seem to achieve any level of consistency or momentum. Normally I would say, “walk away,” but the problem with that is Spiller has fantasy title winning ability. Unless you have a clearly better option, I’d plug him in there against Miami next week and hope for the best. Then again, I am on record as enjoying the pain and suffering of my readership, so take that advice with a grain of salt.
Buy: The pretty talented Jordan Todman should probably be the number one waiver add this week (and is a very good keeper/dynasty stash, as he may be the Jags 2014 Week 1 starter). The rare late-season addition that could help you win a title, if Maurice Jones-Drew can’t go against Tennessee, Todman has low-end RB2 appeal.
Sell: Every receiver and tight end on both teams. Especially all of them.
Chiefs 56, Raiders 31
Jamaal Charles is amazing. And that’s all that really needs to be said about that.
Buy: Rashad Jennings is averaging 17.7 points in his last six games. He is a legitimate RB1 against the 31st-ranked Chargers run defense ((according to our metrics) next week.
Sell: Don’t get cute with the Chiefs’ defense by playing them against Indy next week. The reality is that they are not a particularly good defense anymore.
Panthers 30, Jets 20
As long as Jonathan Stewart isn’t playing, DeAngelo Williams is a surprisingly trustworthy play. This proved true yet again against the Jets with Williams exploding for 22.8 fantasy points. From the More Evidence Department: In seven 2013 games without Stewart, Williams is averaging 95 total yards on 18 touches. You’d be hard pressed to find a more reliable RB2.
Buy: DeAngelo Williams
Sell: Chris Ivory has really come around the second half of the season, but the Jets are so miserably bad on offense they just can’t make him anything more than a so-so flex play against the middling Cleveland run defense.
Packers 37, Cowboys 36
I have a theory that either Jason Garrett or Tony Romo own Aaron Rodgers in a high stakes fantasy league. Why else would they have given this game away if not to give Rodgers a chance to play next week? It may sound like a conspiracy theory to you, but people said that about those of us who thought we never landed on the moon and look how that turned out!
As frustrating as Dallas has been, Week 16 brings brilliant matchup in a must-win game against the Redskins. You are letting your Cowboys’ flag fly.
As frustrating as Green Bay has been, Week 16 brings a brilliant matchup in a must-win game against the Steelers. Even if Rodgers is still out, you are letting your Packers flag fly (albeit at half-staff).
Buy: Flying flags
Sell: The Cowboys franchise as a whole is becoming somewhat Raidersish at Jerry Jones’ old age. As a guy who loves a good old fashioned train wreck, I am going to keep a big supply of popcorn on hand so I can sit back and snack while this bad boy blows up.
Cardinals 37, Titans 34
The Titans had a huge offensive showing, especially considering the quality of the Cards defense. All that positive momentum will be a boon in an already very good Week 16 matchup against the Jaguars.
The Arizona offense didn’t quite matchup to Tennessee's from a statistics standpoint, but Andre Ellington had a great game, totaling 158 yards from scrimmage. As much as we all want him to see consistent touches, it isn’t going to happen in 2013.
Buy: After scoring at least 9.9 points in 12 of 14 games, Kendall Wright is the most reliable PPR WR2 in the NFL (he is also a very safe WR3 in standard leagues). Wright may not win you a title, but he most definitely won’t lose it for you.
Sell: There isn’t a Cardinal you can play next week at Seattle. Don’t ask on the Questions section of numberFire. Don’t tweet me. Don’t look at a bunch of sets of rankings in an effort to find one guy on some corner of the internet who says you can play Larry Fitzgerald. Sure, somebody may score a TD or break something for a nice gain, but Seattle at home is not to be messed with. Let’s visit the More Evidence Department again: In seven home games, the Seahawks have allowed 7.1 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, 11.3 to running backs, 10.5 to wide receivers and 6.0 to tight ends.
Rams 27, Saints 16
The Saints are a completely different team away from the friendly confines of the Louisiana Superdome. Nowhere is this more evident than in Drew Brees’ passing splits.
After getting demolished on the road in St. Louis, the Saints have to travel east to Carolina for a huge game next week. I suspect it doesn’t end well for the visitors.
Playing perhaps the biggest role in the shellacking was the Rams’ defense. They are home again next week to the Buccaneers, which should be a very viable matchup to stream them.
Buy: Zac Stacy is an every week start. Most of you are probably aware of this, but considering the Rams’ Week 16 opponent has played much better run defense recently, I thought I should mention it.
Steelers 30, Bengals 20
Pretty much nothing went right for the Bengals. Thankfully for those who own Cincy players, a late-game surge helped keep most folks from crippling disappointment. (BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the only guy to lay a total egg.)
Aside from a 16.7 point output from Le’Veon Bell, it wasn’t a great fantasy outing for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger tied his season-low from Week 1 with only 9.6 points, but did manage one touchdown to Antonio Brown.
Both teams have cake matchups next week when the Steelers head to Green Bay and the Bengals host the Vikings. Feel free to set your expectations high.
Buy: Both teams next week.
Sell: Andy Dalton playing not quite well enough to repeat as Pumpkin Head winner.
Picking a winner for the Week 15 Pumpkin Head Award was a difficult task. There were two main candidates who had great fantasy days despite very limited real life talent, but at the end of the day, Matt Asiata narrowly bear out Andre Caldwell. Soon to be a very small footnote in the history of the NFL, at least Asiata has those three TD’s and this award to remind him of better days.