Week 15 Observations

I just have to laugh at some of my fantasy football teams. One top-seeded semi-final team lost Kareem Hunt two weeks ago and started both Aaron Jones and Keenan Allen. Its top scorers were Justin and Lamar Jackson. The team I lost to wasn’t great, either, but Derrick Henry and Jaylen Samuels were pretty much enough by themselves. The longer I play fantasy football and the more teams I own, the less I sweat it. Work the waiver wire, set your lineups, let the results play out how they will. 

On the other hand, I went 10-4-1 against the spread. There was one terrible beat (the Jets), one terrible pick (the Giants), and one lesson (the Eagles) which I re-learned for the 100th time: always buy at the moment of maximum pessimism (I took the Rams, but the Eagles taught me the lesson.)

• It’s funny how everyone seems to think Sean McVay’s a genius when he hasn’t yet won a playoff game. So what if he can remember every play since 1996? Chip Kelly was a genius his first year too before the league caught on.

• I hope the Eagles can sneak into the playoffs so this tweet (made entirely in jest) ages well:

• Why did the Eagles not use Alshon Jeffery (8-8-160) until Week 15? Why couldn’t Carson Wentz run the offense the way Nick Foles (8.7 YPA, no sacks, one pick) did? Unless Foles were to go on another highly improbable run in the playoffs, I imagine Wentz’ job is secure, but it’s bizarre to discover the unwatchable dink and dunk garbage he was doing all year might have been on him and not the system.

• Jared Goff had a bad game. What was he doing on the key play where he slipped and didn’t immediately spring to his feet? He actually had time to make a play if he hadn’t started to give himself up. The Rams offense looks pedestrian other than Todd Gurley (who seems to leave with a phantom injury every other game now) and a scrappy, but hardly game-breaking Robert Woods. If the Saints lay an egg Monday night, the NFC is wide open.

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• Whenever the narrative gets too obvious, e.g., the Rams will shred the Eagles secondary at home, it’s a good time to fade it. Not only does the point spread compensate for it, but teams are also aware of their weaknesses and will often make adjustments.

• I don’t know what Tom Brady was up to on the final series, lofting long passes out of bounds, but he didn’t look washed up to me, despite the bad pick on the penultimate series. His arm looks fine, and the Pats will be tough in the playoffs if they get home games, though the divisional round in now in jeopardy as they’re one game behind the Texans.

• Rex Burkhead is a hell of a special teams player.

• Julian Edelman (11-7-90) is Brady’s first read by far. Rob Gronkowski (5-2-21) and Josh Gordon (2-1-19, with one bad drop) were afterthoughts.

• Jaylen Samuels (19-for-142) had his way with the Pats defense and caught two passes for 30 more yards. There’s no reason to rush James Conner back.

• Nick Mullens is a player, but Kyle Shanahan’s offense does wonders for everyone except C.J. Beathard. The 49ers will be exciting next year with Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, George Kittle, Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis (5-5-83) and whoever they draft.

• The one healthy week all year I left Doug Baldwin (6-4-77-2) on my bench in the Steak League was this one. It’s not just what stats a player puts up, but what usable ones.

• Chris Carson (22-119-1) is a bull, scoring on a third effort after being stuffed by half the Niners defense at the goal line.

• The Ravens at least had the good sense to commit to Lamar Jackson and send Joe Flacco packing after this year. I hope the Giants see the light and do the same with their “glory days” QB too. Granted the Ravens are playing 1970s style football, but give me outdated schemes that work with the surrounding personnel over modern ones that fail:

• Jameis Winston might be worth a flyer for a QB-needy team, but he’s a mediocrity in Tampa’s current system. Of course, Tampa will almost certainly have a new coach/system next year too.

• I’ll skip the Redskins-Jaguars game.

• After an abominable game against the Titans, Eli Manning is down to 7.3 YPA (below league average) with 46 sacks taken (4th.) It’s one thing when a mobile QB like Deshaun Watson or Dak Prescott (Nos. 1 and 2 in sacks) takes a sack while buying time to make a big play, but statues like Manning should be near the bottom of the the league with Drew Brees (14) and Tom Brady (19.) At worst he should be like Philip Rivers (29.) Manning threw another pick and fumbled away a game that the defense (and a bad Marcus Mariota) had kept within range.

• I took the Giants minus 2.5 in this game (before Odell Beckham was scratched), but even then I knew it was a mistake. Tennessee (running game, tough defense) was the better team all year and a bad matchup for the finesse Giants who could not get Saquon Barkley (14-31-0, 10-4-25) going.

• Who is this year’s Todd Gurley in the playoffs? It’s Derrick Henry, who had 170 yards and two more TDs. He now has 408 rushing yards and six TDs over his last two games and is the leading PPR back over that span despite catching one pass for zero yards.

• Maybe Kalen Ballage (12-123-1) is good, or maybe Adam Gase astutely saved him for Week 15. It looks like Frank Gore might be out with a foot injury, and if so I’d be shocked if he didn’t call it a career. What a career it was – no one other than Eli compiles stats (and with such class!) the way Gore did – and both will almost certainly reach the Hall of Fame in the Harold Baines-era. They’ll even take Jason Witten with them too!

I wrote about Gore’s non-“character” qualifications for the Hall a few weeks ago:

• Nice of Dalvin Cook (19-136-2, 2-1-27)  to help people flat-out crush the consolation bracket. He’ll get drafted in the second round again in 2019.

• I made the Colts minus three my best bet even though I thought the Cowboys were the better team. Sometimes, the set-up (Colts at home, fighting for their playoff lives, the Cowboys on the road after an overtime, having essentially locked up the NFC East) makes a difference. Or maybe it was just a coincidence, and I’ll selectively remember this narrative because it happened to coincide with the result.

• Marlon Mack (27-139-2) ran hard against a normally stout Dallas front, while Ezekiel Elliott (18-87-0, 8-7-41) put up gargantuan numbers relative to his team’s scoring output.

Like Cook, Joe Mixon (27-129-2) crushed it in the consolation round, while Tyler Boyd (5-4-38-1) got hurt in the game, but apparently the injury wasn’t serious.

• Derek Carr took five more sacks and is now ahead of Eli on the season with 48. Jon Gruden would be making a big mistake treating him as anything more than a short-term rental.

 Aaron Rodgers didn’t do much against the Bears, but Davante Adams (13-8-119) is like a poor man’s DeAndre Hopkins – he always gets his. Aaron Jones left the game early with a possible MCL sprain, unleashing Joe Philbin’s and Mike McCarthy’s greatest dream – to use Jamaal Williams (12-55-1, 5-4-42) as the team’s feature back, and Williams delivered! Depending on who gets the head coaching job next year, the Aaron Jones-Jamaal Williams saga might get a third season.

• The Bills lost all their running backs, but it’s kind of like a baseball team losing all its first basemen. You’d rather have a person who practiced at the position play it, but it’s not the end of the world if a WR or TE had to take some handoffs. (And I’m a person who believes good running backs matter.)

• After disappearing for a month, Kenny Golladay (8-7-146) lit up the Bills vaunted secondary on people’s benches. Robert Foster (5-4-108-1) had another good game and likely goes into the offseason as the team’s top receiver, for whatever that’s worth.

• The Falcons had been such a doormat the last month, when they finally found a team they could beat on, they didn’t hold back. Tevin Coleman (11-145-1) came out of the woodwork to dominate bench scoring, and Matt Ryan came out of hibernation to throw two TDs and rush for one. Julio Jones (8-6-82-1) is now up to six TDs on the year too.