For most owners, Week 14 of the NFL season marked the beginning of the fantasy football playoffs. Longtime fantasy owners know that a dominant regular season means absolutely nothing once the playoffs begin. Even the deepest rosters with superstars have so-so weeks; just ask Drew Brees owners about the past two weekends. On the flip side, those owners that limped to the finish line but managed to qualify for the postseason get an opportunity to put together a bounce-back effort. Perhaps having the moxie to start Taylor Gabriel when it was announced Julio Jones was out provided the winning margin in a tight contest; perhaps it wasn’t quite enough.
Before we dive into the week’s performances and analysis, it was a busy day when it came to the injury report. Let’s check on those with fantasy impact.
Randall Cobb, WR, Packers: If you’ve stuck with Cobb all these weeks, then you’ve either been in denial or have done nothing to improve your roster. He returned after temporarily leaving the game with an ankle injury Sunday. There are simply better options than hoping Cobb catches a TD, which is really all you can hope for because he’s not accumulating yards. In nine games since recording a season-high 108 yards in Week 5, Cobb has seven games with 53 yards or less.
Matt Forte, RB, Jets: The New York tailback suffered a right knee injury on the second series of the game and was ruled out. Bilal Powell picked up the slack in a big way (more below) and stands to get the touches filling in for Forte.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers: Here’s the good news: The early report suggests Gordon (hip) avoided a serious injury. He’s scheduled to have an MRI exam Monday. Here’s the bad news: That comes as little comfort to Gordon owners in Week 14, as Gordon left before he could contribute anything to their team’s efforts. Obviously his situation needs to be monitored, but if he’s given the okay to play in Week 15, there’s no reason owners should hesitate to do the same. We’ll discuss San Diego’s options in case Gordon misses time below.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: It’s quite obvious that Rodgers is hurt, but until the Green Bay quarterback is removed from the field, it’s near-impossible to consider benching Rodgers. The veteran signal caller has 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions over the past four games. All that said, if you happen to have a strong alternative to Rodgers, let’s say Derek Carr, then you might like Carr’s matchup against the Chargers in Week 15. Rodgers and the Packers visit Chicago and the weather will need to be monitored. Green Bay probably needs to win out to have a shot at the postseason so Rodgers is going to give it all he’s got until they’re eliminated.
The aforementioned Rodgers shared co-leader honors with Matt Ryan following Sunday’s action in Week 14. Ryan Tannehill finished third, but likely saw his season end to what appeared to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck, Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford and Blake Bortles rounded out the top 10 leader board.
Let’s be frank: Words really can’t do justice to the debacle that was Drew Brees in Weeks 13 and 14. As we wrote last week, Brees hadn’t had one single-digit week all season until Week 13. And then he did it again Sunday. Brees owners who had a bye week or found a way to punch their ticket to Week 15 are probably a bit unnerved at this point. The Saints travel to the desert to face the Cardinals. Arizona’s defense is solid, but has given up its share of yards and points in recent weeks to the likes of the Vikings and Dolphins. We didn’t think Brees could play this poorly two weeks in a row and it seems far-fetched that this slump will extend to three weeks. Ultimately, owners don’t want to have look themselves in the mirror knowing they benched Brees in a fantasy playoff game. Reading those words makes it sound even more absurd and reminds me of the fantasy mantra I’ve longed subscribed to: Never sit your stars. Brees is one; you live and die with your stars.
Last thoughts: Brees wasn’t the only quarterback in Tampa Bay that disappointed Sunday. Jameis Winston did so little, he finished with fewer fantasy points than Rams QB Jared Goff. Winston’s matchup in Week 15 is a good one: The Cowboys rank 30th against the pass. . . . Other matchups with appeal in Week 15: Tyrod Taylor owners get the Browns in Buffalo. The weather is probably the only think preventing Taylor from having a solid performance. . . . If you’re an owner that somehow needs a QB in Week 15, Sam Bradford and the Vikings host the Colts, giving Bradford a pretty good chance to turn in a good week. He’s owned in 10 percent of ESPN leagues.
In an amazing performance, Le’Veon Bell led all players with the top fantasy performance of the season, rushing for 236 yards with three touchdowns and adding four receptions for 62 yards. Bilal Powell seized upon the opportunity following the injury to Forte, rushing for 145 yards and a pair of scores. Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill, Lamar Miller, Tevin Coleman, Latavius Murray, LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, Todd Gurley and Rob Kelley rounded out the top 10 leader board.
Where’d they go? You could have put a number of names in a hat and drawn them to compile a team of tailbacks that failed to show up for their respective owners in Week 14. Some of that was bad luck, such as the injuries to Melvin Gordon and Matt Forte. Some of it was head-scratching, such as Devonta Freeman putting up a one-point game. Freeman owners were probably salivating at the Falcons facing the Rams. Atlanta was without Julio Jones so Freeman figured to benefit from that, too. That didn’t happen. However, if you’re still playing in Week 15 and own Freeman, a matchup against the 49ers, who own the worst run defense in the NFL, is a dream come true. . . . Mark Ingram was started in 60 percent of ESPN leagues and finished with one point, which was his second-worst outing of the season (yes, Ingram finished with minus-two points in Week 8). The result can’t be called a surprise at this point, but most Ingram owners were probably holding out he could provide at least a minor contribution in Week 14.
Last thoughts: Powell is owned in just over 37 percent of leagues. If Forte is out in Week 15, Powell becomes an intriguing play. While he won’t have the luxury of facing the 49ers’ porous run defense, he stands to inherit a lot of touches when the Jets face the Dolphins next week. Miami held Cardinals star David Johnson in check Sunday, but if Powell could duplicate Johnson’s numbers in Week 15, owners would be ecstatic. . . . In the event San Diego is without Gordon’s services, Kenneth Farrow will likely fill in when the Chargers face the Raiders in Week 15. Farrow ran for 55 yards and caught six balls for 23 yards Sunday. He’s available in all leagues.
Arizona’s J.J. Nelson had just one reception and one carry, but he found the end zone on both plays, good enough to give him a share of the lead with Indianapolis’s T.Y. Hilton among the league’s wideouts. DeSean Jackson, Jordy Nelson, Emmanuel Sanders, Davante Adams, Odell Beckham Jr., Kenny Stills, Ty Montgomery and Taylor Gabriel rounded out the top 10 leader board.
The wily veteran: When Calvin Johnson decided to retire, most fantasy owners knew the Detroit passing game wasn’t going away. Golden Tate had been a solid fantasy contributor for a couple of seasons playing opposite Megatron. The Lions brought in Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin. In his 14th NFL season, Boldin will probably finish with the worst statistics of his career. But he’s also at least a small reason owners of Tate and Jones have been frustrated throughout the year, because Boldin has picked his spots and been a late-game target for Lions QB Matthew Stafford. He has scored in double digits in two of the past three games for Detroit. Boldin would be a tough recommendation to owners, even though matchups against the passing defenses of the Giants and Cowboys the next two weeks offer upside. Still, if you’re an owner in a pinch, Boldin could shine in a spot-start. He’s owned in 35 percent of leagues.
Last thoughts: That’s three double-digit weeks in a row for Dontrelle Inman. He’s scored three touchdowns over that stretch as well. San Diego is playing for pride, but Rivers will continue to target Inman in the closing weeks. He’s owned in just 27 percent of leagues. Matchups against the Raiders and Browns are appealing. . . . Keep an eye on Breshad Perriman in Monday night’s game. He’s scored three touchdowns over the past month and reached double digits on two occasions. Perriman isn’t getting a lot of targets, but matchups against the Eagles and Steelers could provide him the opportunity to contribute. He’s owned in 2 percent of leagues. . . . Adam Thielen is only owned in 19 percent of leagues. He’s been serviceable for the Vikings and a Week 15 date with the Colts certainly has appeal. Thielen has 30 targets over the past four weeks. . . . Julio Jones owners that have a playoff game in Week 15 are hoping the Falcons star returns from a turf toe injury for what should be a tasty matchup at home against the 49ers. Atlanta has a lot to play for, but if the team is confident it can defeat San Francisco while resting Jones, then owners must start considering their alternatives. . . . DeAndre Hopkins finished 2015 as the No. 6 wideout in fantasy. On Sunday, he finished in single digits for the seventh time since Week 5. Needless to say, it’s been a season of disappointment for Hopkins owners.