The first week of the fantasy football playoffs are almost in the books. Did you ride Derrick Henry, Davante Adams or a Ryan Tannehill-A.J. Brown stack to the next round? Did you lose when Josh Allen kneeled down at the end of the Bills-Steelers game? I actually saw someone post a photo of that corazon roto on Twitter to show proof of that one.
If you survived or had a bye into the second round, saludos, well done. Now comes the most important week. Week 15. Why is it the most important? Because if you don’t win this week, you don’t play for the championship. Keep it simple.
I’m going to write up an article emphasizing the week ahead instead of focusing on recent success or struggles. You’ve heard me mention playing for the week in front of you, not the one behind. There are several examples of that from recent weeks.
For now, here are some takeaways from Week 14 that hopefully will help you the next couple weeks:
Jalen Hurts was pretty close to incredible. The 167 yards passing were nothing to shout about, though that back-shoulder throw to Alshon Jeffery was plenty sweet. Gouging the Saints’ D for 106 yards rushing when no other player had hit triple digits in yards against them in more than three years (Miles Sanders did it, too). I don’t know about starting him against the Cardinals, but Week 16 against the Cowboys would be tempting. The replay of Lamar Jackson’s TD run up through the guts of the Dallas D is very fresh in my memory.
The Steelers need to figure out their running game. They had just 17 runs against 38 pass plays (1 sack). James Conner wasn’t the answer, and looked sluggish running 10 times for 18 yards. First game after recovering from COVID-19, so he might still be getting his legs under him. There’s a get-right game coming up against the circling-the-drain Bengals, who are bad against the run.
Any Tyreek Hill owners who almost tossed up their lunch when he grabbed at the back of his leg toward the end of the game Sunday, they can ease their minds after Ian Rappoport reported that it was a leg cramp.
When Aaron Rodgers throws his next TD pass, he’ll be the first player in NFL history with 40 TDs in three separate seasons. He had 38 and 39 TDs in two other seasons. Peyton Manning hit 40 twice, and had seasons of 37 and 39 TDs sandwiched around his historic 55-TD season in 2013. Of course, if Patrick Mahomes hits 40 this year (he’s at 33 with 3 games to go), he could reach that level three times in his first four years as a starter.
The trio of Mitchell Trubisky, David Montgomery and Allen Robinson are going to be league winners. I had them in my schedule column last week, and can’t emphasize the competition remaining: @Minnesota & @Jacksonville. The Vikings remain vulnerable to the pass, and the Jaguars just give up yards everywhere. The schedule makers smiled on these Bears, though I still doubt a hot finish saves Trubisky’s starting gig.
Keep an eye on dome teams traveling into the elements this time of year. The Saints yesterday are a great example. No team other than the Rams had looked as dominant the past month other than the Saints. Then they looked flat and unprepared against a rookie QB making his starting debut. I saw a stat as of 2019 that showed dome teams playing on the road in temperatures 32 degrees or colder are just 4-18 in the NFL playoffs. Good news for New Orleans, the next two games are at home.
Interesting how after all the hand wringing and head slapping the fantasy community has had in talking about this rookie class of RBs, there is cream rising to the top from this draft. Jonathan Taylor and Cam Akers were great this week. J.K. Dobbins could continue to take over the Baltimore backfield tonight. D’Andre Swift had taken over lead caballo duties before his concussion and illness. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has had a couple 100-yard games, and at 724 yards still has an outside chance to reach 1000 yards on the season.
Brandon Aiyuk needs to be started the next two weeks after seeing 16 targets, catching 10 of them for 119 yards. If Deebo Samuel misses time as expected, and the 49ers do the right thing and keep George Kittle under wraps until 2021, there really won’t be another pass catcher of note to target other than Aiyuk.
We need to appreciate Adams, Hill and Travis Kelce. All are having historic seasons, with Hill and Adams having shots at 20 TDs – Adams might already be there if he didn’t miss 2 games and most of a third. Kelce is leading the NFL in receiving yards. All-time greats like Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates never accomplished that.
The one-handed grabs by A.J. Brown, Kenny Moore and Xavien Howard were freakishly great. Thank you for showing off your athletic greatness! Especially Brown for effortlessly snatching the ball with his right hand while the DB had a lock on the left arm for a 37-yard TD. That boosted my fantasy team into the Final 4. Gracias!