Dec 16

Inside the Locker Room, NFL Week 15 Review: A look at Sunday’s action

Thanks for reading the text-version of our NFL Week 15 review. We’ll share our thoughts via broadcast live from Shark Club Yonge-Dundas at 6:30pm Eastern on Monday Night. Check it out here.

With strong games from Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery (again) the Bears and their QB survived Week 15, if by the skin of their teeth only (Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Getty Images)

With strong games from Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery (again) the Bears and their QB survived Week 15, if by the skin of their teeth only (Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Getty Images).

Right when I was starting my ‘nice start by Jay Cutler’ bullet point, after a 3/3, 43 yard effort had moved the Bears quickly into the Redzone when he through a pick to Tashaun Gipson in the endzone. He bounced back to lead a field goal scoring drive on the next play, and started with one incompletion and 100 yards in the first quarter, typifying the ‘good with the bad’ commentary that preceded his start. Uneven all day, Cutler got it done when it counted and finished with 265 yards passing and three scores to go with his two picks. He was helped by his receivers, Alshon Jeffery made another catch he shouldn’t have this week. In this case, it was more about the defense than his athleticism – on his 45 yard touchdown Jeffery was double covered on an underthrown ball from Cutler – but Jeffery still made a nice grab and found himself in the endzone yet again. Brandon Marshall saw 13 targets compared to just five for Alshon Jeffery which is an item of note with Cutler back behind center. Jeffery stays relevant but his BFF should be our top Bears receiver in Week 16 ranks. Matt Forte was again a beast on the ground, and we should see lots of opportunities for this offense next week against a Philadelphia team that yielded 48 points to Minnesota today. Keep your Bears rolling out there, including a QB that will be buoyed by risk taking and by the talent of his pass catchers, and Matt Forte who delivered another 100 total yard outing. They survived a tight game today, and find themselves in an interesting position with Green Bay winning late and Detroit taking the field on Monday night.

  • Not to be outdone by Cutler, the second pick that Jason Campbell to Zach Bowman went straight to him. Looked like he took a little off it, just to make sure it nestled in there just right. I dropped the ball on Chris Ogbonnaya, as early down carries went to Edwin Baker (he managed a score) and Ogbonnaya finished with just 10 touches, which was the number typical for him in a regular week. Still, Cleveland backs put up 160 total yards against the Bears. Enjoy the LeSean McCoy show in Week 16. Josh Gordon was quiet in the first half again for Cleveland, but wound up with ten targets. A number were overthrown by Jason Campbell, but Gordon left some yards on the field. Still, with a garbage time stutter step he beat his coverage and got open for a score, finishing with 67 yards and a TD.
  • Jamaal Charles singlehandedly won or cost you a championship this week. Depending on what side of the ledger you’re on, you may be upset… but in fairness to Charles he has been getting it done all season. His first year in Andy Reid’s system has been impressive and today’s effort (getting it done differently too, with some impressive TD receptions and also taking in a goal line plunge) is just the icing on the cake for those who invested in him. Amazingly, he had just 20 yards rushing on eight carries but half of his eight receptions went for scores, all of them of the long variety. He finished with 215 total yards and five scores. The highest fantasy output since 2000 (which is as far back as I checked). With the game in hand, Dwayne Bowe was asked to do nothing. Unpleasant news in the matchup I faced off against Charles in.
  • Steven Jackson took advantage of a soft matchup and found his way to the endzone early against Washington, and he punched another one in later in the game. He finished with just 43 yards on 19 touches but the 16 points work just fine in fantasy. His play in recent weeks is making a case for his 2014 draft-stock. Most reasonable minds expect the Falcons to return to strong form offensively… is there gas left in this tank when healthy? I didn’t see enough of this game to talk about Roddy White’s knee/how he looked on the field but at least a five catch, 53 yard performance won’t sink your team – he’d have done so with a ‘floor’ effort earlier this year.
  • Tom Brady’s first drive against Miami was impressive. The team didn’t look like they missed Rob Gronkowski all that much against a Dolphins defense that has defended WRs well all season. For a team that has started slowly in recent weeks, it is a positive sign. Now, the drive ended in a field goal, and without Gronkowski’s size in the red zone that isn’t a shock, but still Brady was 6/9 for 56 yards and moved it well to start the game. New England didn’t exactly go off on offense, but there was one drive in the third quarter after going down 17-10 where Tom Brady passed to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola on repeat, largely running slants, and hit them with pinpoint accuracy. It ended in another field goal, however. In the end, both receivers posted extremely useful lines (particularly in PPR) with 13 and 10 catches respectively, and over 130 yards a piece, including an Edelman TD. Tom Brady threw 55 passes and topped 350 yards, yet again though the red zone struggles were the theme of the day. The Patriots passing game will continue to be useful – it was a quiet week for Shane Vereen but he’s a tough sit moving forward.
  • On the other side of this contest, Ryan Tannehill had a great outing. He showed nice touch on a number of throws and connected with 10 different pass catchers. With both Miami backs on the field, Daniel Thomas’ workload was dwarfed by Lamar Miller, but it was Thomas who had the short receiving TD. Moving forward into 2014, Tannehill has significant redraft upside.
  • CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson picked up a combined 30 carries for 147 yards, but with both of them carrying the ball effectively against Jacksonville they rendered one another moot. At receiver, Steve Johnson had a quiet day as well, with Robert Woods making five catches and scoring.
  • If Maurice Jones-Drew is forced to miss another game, it seems that Jordan Todman deserves a look. He had a workmanlike 153 yards on 29 touches. Ace Sanders caught one of two Chad Henne touchdown passes, but was targeted a surprisingly low three times after seeing significant volume in recent weeks, even with Cecil Shorts out. I like Sanders as a player of interest, but he’s tough to use in your season’s biggest week.
  • Nick Foles had three first quarter carries for 36 yards. He’s not a running QB, but always finds a way to add fake points on the ground. A smart player that knows when to escape.
  • While they didn’t really go for big yardage, TY Hilton’s five first quarter receptions were as many as he’d had in any game over the last month. He wound up with eight of them for 72 yards but failed to find the endzone again. Andrew Luck didn’t have a lot going in the passing game, but Da’Rick Rogers looked to be a one week sensation, at least for 2013 (two catches, 23 yards). Donald Brown’s string of relevance is over. Inexplicably, he’s fallen far behind Trent Richardson in the Indianapolis pecking order. The latter had a strong game as a pass catcher, with four receptions for 38 yards and a score, but ran for just 3.4 YPC on 19 totes despite a long carry of 22. Brown had five carries.
  • I didn’t see Andre Johnson’s face after the game, but I’m going to guess he had some choice words/expressions, after making four catches for 18 yards – unable to connect effectively with Case Keenum after ten targets.
  • Michael Crabtree picked up his first touchdown since rejoining the San Francisco starting lineup, making him the first player not named Davis or Boldin to catch one from Colin Kaepernick. The catch was on a broken play where Crabtree went school yard on his coverage, just reversing directions multiple times until he wore him out and came open for the four yard strike. Davis managed a score of his own, of the 52 yard through the air variety – both he and Crabtree had five receptions. With 39 yards on the ground and two scores, Colin Kaepernick was a productive fantasy QB again. Speaking of the ground game, Frank Gore was productive enough (22-86) but hasn’t had a ‘big’ fantasy game in some time.
  • Bobby Rainey, as we tried to suggest last week, wilted in a tough matchup. I’m not trying to give Rainey a hard time, he’s filling in admirably as a guy who bounced around numerous rosters before finding a role in Tampa. His 20 total yards on 12 touches were far below reasonable projections, but he’s been hovering dangerously around 2.0 YPC outside of his 80 yard burst last week.
  • Michael Hoomanawanui scored his first Patriot TD this week, but don’t start thinking anything about using him, please. (1/3, 13, TD).
  • Pierre Garcon found his way to the endzone for the first time in five games. I said this week in a FantasyPros commentary that he can’t do worse with Cousins than Griffin and while the offense as a whole was underwhelming and maintained their difficulties in holding onto the football, Garcon got open (by three or four steps) and his QB identified it, hitting him over the top on a gentle rainbow – something that Griffin III had failed to do despite high volume over the last few weeks. The Redskins had a remarkable seven turnovers as a team, including three by Cousins, but his 382 yards and three scores will play just fine from a fantasy perspective. Still, I’m picking on this offense next week. As far as ball security goes, this offense is a total unequivocal mess. Everyone is fumbling, they have no interest in holding onto the ball. The Cowboys D has to be considered as one of your top waiver priorities this week. Washington takes on Dallas’ we don’t want to stop anyone defense next week so there will be fantasy points put on the board – though I’m not sure Alfred Morris wants to score any of them – he ran well enough with 18 carries for 98 yards this week but scored just 6.6 fantasy points given his two fumbles.
  • Nobody fights for the extra yard quite as well as Marshawn Lynch. His 2 yard TD today was about an unwillingness to be tackled and nothing more. He didn’t run all that well against the Giants (16-47) but picked up his owners with a 6-6, 73 game through the air.
  • An interesting thing happened in Minnesota when Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were injured. The team was forced to unleash Matt Cassel, and he was a monster. It means little for Week 16, but is of interest for 2014 as to whether he stays in Minnesota or gets yet another unwarranted starters look elsewhere. Minnesota put up 24 points through two quarters and some change, the first time Philadelphia had allowed more than 21 since Week 4. Cassel wound up with just nine incompletions and made both Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson fantasy relevant, though it took a late score for the latter. Matt Asiata had an interesting debut, picking up 33 touches and going for just 51 yards on 30 carries (an average of 1.7 YPC) but scored three times.
  • Nick Foles had to put a ton of balls in the air, throwing just short of 50 passes but putting up 428 yards, including 195 of them to DeSean Jackson. With the Bears (and if you care about Week 17 the Cowboys) Foles should continue to post solid numbers, with Jackson look like the primary benifciary.
  • Cam Newton’s first TD pass will go down as a 74 yard strike, but they don’t come much easier for QBs. He did a great job selling the fake to his left before finding DeAngelo Williams on a (roughly) five yard throw on the other side of the field… Williams did the rest, largely uncontested. That would be Newton’s only touchdown on the day. He moved it well in the first half, but the team had to settle for field goals and then in the second half, the game was never really pressed (despite just a 10 point margin of victory) so he wasn’t pushing it downfield. Riverboat run did go for an ill-advised 4th and 2, mind you. Williams had a monster fantasy day though, with 168 total yards and a score – which bodes well for anyone that was hanging on to him given Jonathan Stewart’s injury. The Jets had been a strong run d coming in, but Williams carried the ball effectively too (15-81).
  • Sheldon Richardson scored a touchdown for the Jets, and you’re probably just as well using him the rest of the way than any other Jet. Santonio Holmes had eight targets but just two receptions.
  • Eli Manning threw five interceptions this weekend. You don’t need to see the tape to know that it was, again, ugly. Andre Brown didn’t do much either (11-17), but he didn’t have much room to run given that the passing game wasn’t keeping them honest. If you started anyone on the Giants, you struggled, unless you took that Jerrell Jernigan flier. He had one more target than Victor Cruz’s seven, but caught seven balls himself compared to just two for the Salsa-dancer. Word is that Cruz may miss the final two games of the season, but I don’t know that that is even fantasy relevant at this point.
  • Marcel Reece joined the do it all back club, staying relevant despite the return of Rashad Jennings to the lineup, including a 22 yard pass on a fake punt. It was a nice throw against contested (albeit a presumed punt) coverage. With that completion, Reece was the highest rated passer for Oakland on the day. Matt McGloin posted 296 yards but committed five turnovers. In a brief appearance, Terrelle Pryor managed to throw four passes and a pick as well. Credit Rashad Jennings, during the mess that was Oakland’s outing, for scoring twice and topping 100 total yards on 25 touches. There is an interesting situation shaping up in Oakland with Darren McFadden’s contract.
  • Delanie Walker was left totally unattended on his one yard TD against Arizona, which isn’t uncommon against the Cardinals, of course. He had a nice day overall, and tallied the 15th TD Arizona has allowed to the position this year. Go ahead and get your waiver claim in on Zach Miller, gamers. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four touchdowns against Arizona, because everyone threw for four TDs this week, and after a quiet line in Week 14 Kendall Wright was relevant again (12-150). Chris Johnson had 91 total yards and a score, though his limited use in the passing game surprised me, given 58 attempts from Ryan Fitzpatrick and his 17 yard average on three targets.
  • It was almost unfair to anyone that started Andre Ellington that he managed 158 total yards on just 14 touches that the two TDs went to Rashard Mendenhall but the veteran back was productive enough and posted his highest workload (21 carries) in some time.
  • Drew Brees wound up throwing for almost 400 yards but make no mistake – the Saints offense stunk in this one. Their turnovers dug an early hole for the team, and they ran poorly as well. Marques Colston’s late TD made a liar out of my start/sit column, but gives him three in his last two games. In non-fantasy commentary, I’ll be interested to see how the Saints fare away from New Orleans in a pivotal matchup against Carolina next week with the division on the line.
  • Zac Stacy was, and is, the only ram worth starting. He had 28 carries for 133 yards and paced the offense on the day, also finding the endzone. He’s a workhorse who has held up well in high volume games for St. Louis this year. Amazingly, Stacy checked out briefly with a hip injury after St. Louis’ first series and still finished with 29  touches, showing no ill effects.
  • Dallas allowed Tony Romo to attempt 50 (48) passes in a game where they led the entire time. And, the narrative will be that Romo blew the game. He did. With that said, I can’t fathom the play calling. They should have run it every time in the fourth quarter but were instead heavily tilted to the pass. DeMarco Murray was a monster, too. With 18 carries for 134 yards (and a score) he had a great fantasy day, but his owners were robbed a few bonus points and the Cowboys were robbed of a win by his limited use late. Looking forward to next season, I’ll have some serious injury questions to consider, but it is hard to see him as anything but a top 12 back – especially if someone with half a mind takes control of the offense. Dez Bryant had 17 targets (one fewer than Murray’s carries) and was vastly productive, including a TD through double coverage. After writing the bullet, I’m seeing that Romo reportedly checked to a pass on the blitz that became his first interception, but as a whole I stand by the fact that the play calling was brutal. It is also an interesting decision, made by Garrett, to publicly throw his QB under the bus.
  • It was lost in a game that ended reasonably close, but Eddie Lacy was just the latest back to gouge the Cowboys defense. In the second half in particular, the Cowboys couldn’t tackle the rookie back when running up the middle. Lacy posted 141 yards rushing on 21 carries and added 30 through the arir. Dallas draws Washington next week, and it is hard to know exactly what to expect out of Alfred Morris who has disappointed greatly of late, but he’s got a dream matchup in Week 16. Credit Matt Flynn for putting up 299 yards and getting Green Bay in position to win with four TDs.


  1. mike allan

    Hi Jon,thanks for all the advice this year it has been much appreciated,i started Pierre Garcon but unfortunately was up against Jamaal Charles in both semis and predictably lost(not by much) so now it is back to keeper decisions until draft time next year,have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, cheers Mike

    1. Jon Collins

      I too faced Charles in a semi-final last night, and I’ve still got a shot but that’s a tough obstacle to overcome. Glad you rolled with Pierre, at least.

      Thanks for checking in all season Mike. Hopefully you’ll stick around for baseball and the others through the year, and if not we’ll be here and happy to help with football in 2013.

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