Fantasy Football: 4 Things We Learned in Week 15
As if Week 15 wasn't exciting enough with the fantasy playoffs in full swing, this week was packed full of explosive NFL action.
9 different teams scored over 30 points. There were insane blowouts -- starting with the Baltimore Ravens' obliteration of the New York Jets -- and completely unpredictable upsets, like the Atlanta Falcons besting the San Francisco 49ers.
All that action translated to fantasy football, too -- 18 different flex-able players scored 20 or greater fantasy points, while 5 scored over 30. Kenyan Drake nearly hit 40 fantasy points himself, all but sealing David Johnson's fate.
You might think that we would know everything we have to know by this point of the season -- I mean, it's Week 15 after all -- but if the NFL is good for one thing, it's keeping us entertained and on our toes deep into the season. They've done that and more in 2019, and that means we need to do our best to keep up -- especially with the fantasy championships on the line. On that note, here are 4 Things We Learned in Week 15.
The Bucs Have Been Hamstrung
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been on a little tear recently, but at what cost? While the team has won five of their last six contests, their wide receiver corps has suffered. They lost Mike Evans last week to a season-ending hamstring injury, and appeared to lose both Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller to similar injuries in their Week 15 win over the Detroit Lions -- in Miller's case this seemed to be an aggravation of the injury that sidelined him in previous weeks, but Godwin's was serious enough that he had to be carted off the field.
Godwin's injury is bad news for fantasy football -- Godwin's 233.1 fantasy points through Week 15 were the second-most in the league, behind only Michael Thomas (who hasn't even played yet this week as of this writing). Godwin's loss is a massive blow to any teams out there that made the championship in their leagues, or to any teams trying to avoid brutal last place punishments. It would be shocking to see any of the three injured Bucs receivers out there in Week 16, so if you were relying on any of them -- though you probably weren't relying on Scotty Miller -- you'll need to plan ahead for next week.
The good news is that Jameis Winston is always in play to throw for over 400 passing yards, like he just did for the second game in a row. Both his 554 pass attempts and his 4,573 passing yards lead the league, while his 30 passing touchdowns rank only behind Lamar Jackson's 33. And when your quarterback is throwing that much, there will always be at least one pass-catcher that benefits.
This week, that pass-catcher was none other than Breshad Perriman, whose 113 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns were more than enough to propel him into the WR1 overall finish of the week pending Monday Night Football. As a side note, if nothing too drastic happens on MNF, this performance would make Perriman the third Bucs receiver to finish as the top wideout for fantasy football this season.
Perriman's performance was certainly surprising, but he had actually kind of been heating up recently. He's had target totals of 6, 5 and 6 over the past 3 games, and receiving totals of 87, 70, and 113. Jameis is a factory for producing receiving yards and is more than willing to chuck the ball downfield, so Perriman should be a pretty safe option for your fantasy championships. It's also worth noting that the injuries to Evans, Godwin, and Miller free up enough targets for a second receiver behind Perriman to make a splash. It's hard to trust O.J. Howard at this point, but he's worth consideration at the tight end position. And if you're looking for a deeper option, Justin Watson is available in most leagues.
Something Isn't Right With Dalvin Cook
Another week, another injury scare for Dalvin Cook.
It's tough to see one of the most electric players in the league get banged up so often. Cook looked special from the moment he took the field in his rookie season, only to miss most of that season with a torn ACL. He followed that up with a promising sophomore campaign that was shortened due to hamstring injuries. Cook has been one of the best running backs in the league while healthy this year -- he's the RB2 on the season behind Christian McCaffrey -- but injuries have once again bubbled to the surface.
Cook banged up his shoulder just before the Minnesota Vikings' Week 12 bye, and had been visibly suffering since then. He appeared to aggravate that injury this week and was quickly ruled out for the remainder of the game. Subjectively speaking, given the pain he appeared to be in, it would be shocking to see Cook again this fantasy season. At 10-4, the Vikings are virtual locks to make the NFL playoffs, so the coaching staff might think it's in their best interest to rest one of their best players before then. And given the patience with which the team approached Adam Thielen's injury this year, it really shouldn't be surprising if they take a similar path with Cook.
It also helps that the team has a running back they can rely on in Mike Boone. Boone has been a preseason stud for the past two years, and is a 91st-percentile SPARQx athlete according to PlayerProfiler.com. He put that athleticism on display this week in relief of Cook, taking advantage of a pretty soft Los Angeles Chargers run defense for 56 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 carries. He doesn't add the same kind of value that Cook does in the passing game and wasn't targeted in the victory, but given the Vikings' matchup with the Green Bay Packers near-worst run defense next week, his work on the ground should be more than enough to produce numbers for fantasy.
Boone was clearly the lead dog when Cook went down this week -- Ameer Abdullah did total five carries, but four of those came on the Vikings final drive when the game was well out of hand -- but Alexander Mattison would likely step back into a significant role if he can get healthy before next Sunday. Mattison missed this week's game with a knee injury and wasn't able to practice at all, but played well ahead of Boone earlier in the season.
Dalvin Cook may have gotten you to the championship this year, but you'll need to make alternative arrangements for that game if you were counting on the stud running back. Both of his main backups are talented runners, and both are available in the majority of fantasy leagues. Expect them to be some of the hottest waiver claims for Week 16.
The Miles Sanders Breakout is Here
It took him long enough, but the Miles Sanders breakout game finally happened.
Sanders was a promising pick in this year's NFL Draft. Despite a limited portfolio of college production -- he did play behind Saquon Barkley at Penn State, after all -- the Philadelphia Eagles selected him in the second round on the back of his one season as a starter and his top-notch athletic profile.
However, despite his high draft capital, the Eagles were reluctant to give the back a full workload for much of the season. The decision did make sense -- Jordan Howard was a better pure runner than Sanders -- and the team still found ways to utilize his skillset in the passing game, but his workload disappointed anyone who drafted him in fantasy football. That disappointment had reached a boiling point over the past few weeks with Howard sidelined, as Sanders' production did not match his opportunity.
That definitely changed this week. Pending Monday Night Football, Sanders will finish as the RB3 overall for Week 15. Just as anyone who drafted him in September had hoped, he was dominant in all phases of the game. He racked up 122 rushing yards on just 19 carries, and added an additional 50 yards through the air on 6 receptions -- and we can't forget about the pair of touchdowns he scored, either. Boston Scott was still involved and did see more work in the passing game, but Sanders thoroughly won the touch battle this week (25:13).
Sanders' heavy workload hopefully demonstrates that the Eagles' coaching staff has put their faith in the young running back. It's unclear when Jordan Howard will return -- or even if he will do so at this point -- but Sanders' electric performance should make it hard for the team to justify taking him off the field. Sanders balled out in every phase of the game and should continue to do so next week against the Dallas Cowboys. He's somehow only owned in 89% of Yahoo! leagues, so make sure to check your waiver wires for him just in case.
Terry McLaurin is Still a Baller
On the other side of Miles Sanders' breakout game, Terry McLaurin was gently reminding us all that he is a special talent on a terrible football team.
McLaurin just about put Washington on his back in this one, catching all 5 of his targets and converting them into 130 yards and a touchdown. He flashed his ability to do everything in this one, breaking tackles, dusting defensive backs with his elite speed, catching the ball in traffic over the middle of the field, finding the soft spot against the zone, and even making a play when former Ohio State teammate Dwayne Haskins was forced to escape the pocket. All on just five targets.
Watching McLaurin the past few weeks has been reminiscent of watching A.J. Brown earlier this season -- he's clearly the best talent on the team, but for whatever reason, he seems not to be the focal point of the offense. The Tennessee Titans finally changed up their scheme a few weeks ago, and it seems fair to say that it's been working out great for them.
Hopefully, Washington decides to make a similar commitment to McLaurin, who somehow only has 32 targets over the past 5 weeks. His 22% target share leads all receivers on the team but pales in comparison to the target shares of other teams' top wideouts. It's especially frustrating given the relatively weak talent surrounding McLaurin in his receiver corps -- McLaurin should be getting the D.J. Moore treatment, not the Cole Beasley special.
However frustrating it is, you should be able to rely on McLaurin again in Week 16. Washington squares off against the New York Giants next week, who have allowed the fifth-most points to opposing wideouts this season. The team was already bad against receivers, then cut their top-performing defensive back last week following Janoris Jenkins' offensive remarks off the football field. Even the Miami Dolphins were able to take advantage of the Giants secondary last week, so we should feel confident in Terry McLaurin's ability to do the same.