The final week of the fantasy regular season can be a cruel and cold reminder of how little control we really have. You can do all your homework and make informed decisions and still stand no chance. Sometimes, there really is nothing you can do. For some of you, Eddie Lacy’s no-show on Thursday night ended your season. But how were you supposed to know he missed curfew the night before the game? What about Richard Rodgers. He had as many yards, thanks to a Hail Mary, on Thursday, as he had in the previous six games combined. What are you supposed to do if that’s what keeps you from the playoffs?
Some of you went up against the Eagles defense this weekend. Even with the Patriots being decimated by injuries, they are the Patriots: they have Brady and Belichick, and anyone who bets against those guys is insane. The Eagles defense had negative points the past two weeks. But against the Patriots, they had 24 points because they had a punt return for a touchdown, a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, and a pick six. Or you started Jarvis Landry against a bottom five pass defense and he gave you zero standard points… You made the right decision. You just got really unlucky.
I could go on. The point is, there’s only so much you can do. Sometimes you can make every right decision, and it still doesn’t matter.
Packers 27, Lions 23
What better way to kickoff the make-or-break regular season finale than a miracle Hail Mary? The Packers shocked the Lions on the road on Thursday night, rallying from a 20-0 deficit, culminating with a last second 61 yard Hail Mary. The Packers did so, despite dud performances from nearly every key offensive contributor. Richard Rodgers was the star of the night. He caught the Hail Mary that won the Packers the game, and he finished with a career high 146 yards. That helped salvage a great fantasy game from Aaron Rodgers, who had nearly half of his fantasy points in the final five minutes. Rodgers ended up with 273 yards, three total TDs (two passing and one rushing), and an interception.
The rest of Green Bay’s offense fell flat. Except for Eddie Lacy, who fell fat. Bad jokes aside, Lacy gave owners a doughnut, thanks to a missed curfew the night before. He was on the bench for much of the game, even with James Starks fumbling twice, one of which he lost. Rodgers actually led the team in rushing. The Packers wide receivers flopped. Randall Cobb had 29 yards, Davante Adams had 21 yards and a touchdown, and James Jones had one catch for 19 yards.
What looked like a promising night to start for the Lions slowly turned disastrous. Matt Stafford threw two touchdowns in the first quarter, one to Calvin Johnson and one to Eric Ebron, but failed to throw another the rest of the game. Stafford had 220 yards and two touchdowns. Calvin Johnson, after his tip-toe touchdown snag, was mysteriously absent from the Lions’ offense. Golden Tate led the Lions in the air with 8 catches for 63 yards, while Ameer Abdullah had his second straight game with at least 60 rushing yards, totaling 67.
Bills 30, Texans 21
After giving up 35 points in the past five games combined, the Texans defense gave up 30 to the Bills on Sunday. For the second straight week, Sammy Watkins surpassed 100 yards, ending with 109 yards and a touchdown. Charles Clay scored for the first time in nine weeks, though few people are probably starting him after so many bad weeks. Tyrod Taylor had his best fantasy game of the season, as he found the end zone four times, three times in the air and once with his feet. One funny coincidence: for the third time in five games, LeSean McCoy finished with exactly 112 rushing yards. More importantly, McCoy left the game with a concussion off a vicious hit, but somehow returned to the game after “clearing” protocol.
For the second consecutive week, someone other than DeAndre Hopkins led the Texans in receiving yards. Cecil Shorts had 91 yards, while Hopkins had 88 yards and a touchdown. Nothing of consequence happened in the Texans’ backfield, as Chris Polk led the team in rushing and it’s hard to imagine anyone starting him in the most important week of the season. Brian Hoyer had 293 yards, 3 TDs and a pick, which is one of his most productive performances of the season.
49ers 26, Bears 20
The shock of the day as the lifeless 49ers upset the Bears, who’d won three of their past four. Blaine Gabbert’s career day energized the Niners, throwing for 196 yards and a TD and adding a Kaepernick-like 44 yard TD scamper. He finished with 75 rushing yards and 25 fantasy points. Shaun Draughn had his best professional start on Sunday with 86 total yards and a touchdown. Since becoming the starter four games ago, he has topped 75 total yards in every start. Tight end Vance McDonald, who was coming off two games with at least 65 yards and a touchdown, left the game early with a concussion. Ending the game was a 71 yard Torrey Smith bomb, which fills his December quota of usable fantasy games. One good game per month is standard for Smith.
This was supposed to be a gimme for the Bears that would put them a game back from the wildcard. But Jay Cutler had his worst start of the season, unable to throw a touchdown for the second time in three weeks. Starting him in the playoffs is dicey considering his recent performance. His struggles trickled down to the passing game, as Alshon Jeffery had 85 yards, which is not awful, but disappointing given the easy matchup. Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford were supposed to have a 50-50 split, but Forte got the bulk of the work and totaled 123 total yards and a touchdown off 26 touches, while Langford had 68 yards off 14 touches.
Bengals 27, Browns 3
One of the surest defenses this week was the Bengals’ defense, considering Austin Davis was starting the game for the Browns. And one of the surest quarterbacks this season is Andy Dalton, who turned in his highest passer rating of the season, 146.8. He had two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown, along with 220 passing yards. With Tyler Eifert missing the game due to injury, A.J. Green had his second highest yardage total of the season with 128 yards, and he scored too. In the air, Marvin Jones also scored a touchdown to go with 55 yards. The running game has slowly been changing hands in the past few weeks, and now it looks like Jeremy Hill is the back to own in Cincinnati. He had 22 rushes for 98 yards and a touchdown, while Gio Bernard had only six total touches for 35 yards.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the Browns. The only Browns you’re probably invested in (I hope) are Travis Benjamin and Gary Barnidge. Benjamin left the game with a shoulder injury, and Barnidge had 5 catches for 59 yards. Maybe of note, depending on how deep your league is, Brian Hartline has three straight solid performances. Especially if your league rewards receptions. In the last three games, he has 7, 8, and 8 catches. He has over 70 yards in each of those games.
Dolphins 15, Ravens 13
Here’s your first nominee for dumpster fire game of the week. The Dolphins fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor after he seemed to refuse to run the ball, and things were different on Sunday, but not much improved. Lamar Miller was better. He had his third 100+ yards rushing game of the season with 20 rushes for 113 yards, though he was unable to find the end zone. That is, by the way, the second time in his career with at least 20 carries. Things get ugly when you move past the running attack. Ryan Tannehill threw for 86 yards and a touchdown, and top target Jarvis Landry had two catches for 5 yards, which was the second best (!!) receiving game for any Dolphin on Sunday. The most intriguing game came from rookie DeVante Parker, who had 63 yards and a touchdown showcasing why he was a first round pick.
One way to stream defenses: take whoever is playing the Ravens; Matt Schaub has a pick six in both games he has started. That’s not something to actually count on happening, but the Ravens are decimated by injuries, so they are a good team to stream against. The one Raven who should be locked in all starting lineups is Javorious Allen, who had 170 total yards and a touchdown, including 12 catches. Schaub threw for 308 yards, a TD, and two picks. Kamar Aiken had been playing well as the Ravens’ top receiver, but he only tallied 48 yards, despite 11 targets.
Seahawks 38, Vikings 7
In the past three weeks, Russell Wilson has exploded and the Seahawks look like a team whose identity is its offense. He had been having an underwhelming season, but he has back-to-back games with over 30 fantasy points. Wilson was 21/27 for 274 yards and 3 TDs, and for the first time all season, he rushed for a touchdown (regression alert), along with 51 yards. Doug Baldwin, a receiver who’s never elicited much excitement out of fantasy owners, is having the best stretch of his career. He had 94 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. In his past four games, he has five touchdowns and is averaging about 91 yards per game. He’s Seattle’s unquestioned top target. Judging by the last month, he should probably be in your lineup next week, but it’s understandable if owners are wary of starting him in the playoffs, given his career production.
Tyler Lockett has made strides in the passing game and is Seattle’s second receiving option, but he is not fantasy relevant, save for the deepest leagues. However, someone, who should be in your lineup next week without a doubt, is Thomas Rawls. On Sunday, Rawls had 123 total yards and a touchdown. That is his lowest yardage output since starting, but he is one of the best running backs in fantasy from here on out.
This was the worst case scenario for the Vikings: Go down early, so that they have to abandon the run. Adrian Peterson had the third worst rushing game of his career, and voiced his frustration with the coaching staff after the game. After averaging nearly 105 receiving yards per game in his first four starts, Stefon Diggs has hit a wall and is averaging 41 yards in his last five games. Keep Diggs out of your starting lineup next week. I doubt anyone is starting Teddy Bridgewater, and for good reason, as he had 118 yards and a pick.
Jets 23, Giants 20
Despite a nonexistent run game, the Jets pass attack is peaking at the right time. Chris Ivory inexplicably only got 10 carries, his second lowest workload of the season, efficiently racking up 47 yards though he did lose a fumble. Last week, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four touchdowns. This week he threw for 390 yards and two touchdowns. That’s back-t0-back weeks with at least 25 fantasy points.
Brandon Marshall, despite dealing with an incredibly swollen foot, had an identical game to last week: 131 yards and a touchdown. There aren’t many wide receivers you’d rather have in the playoff run than Marshall. Per ESPN, Eric Decker has had either 80 yards or a touchdown in every game he has played this season. On Sunday, he surpassed 100 yards for the first time all year with 101 yards off 8 catches. The Jets’ pair of receivers are among the safest in fantasy.
The Giants looked like they were well on their way to a win against their stadium partner Jets, until coughing up their 10 point lead in the fourth quarter. Odell Beckham Jr. had his highest yardage game of the season, including another one-handed grab and a 72 yard touchdown burner. Beckham has five straight games over 100 yards. He was responsible for more than half of Eli Manning’s output. Manning threw for 297 yards, a TD, and pick. No one else on the Giants, aside from OBJ and Eli, did anything.
Cardinals 27, Rams 3
In twelve games, Carson Palmer has thrown for over 300 yards eight times. On Sunday, he threw for 356 yards and two touchdowns, with the scores going to J.J. Nelson and David Johnson. Johnson got the start since Chris Johnson broke his leg, and Johnson, who has produced in his limited opportunities all season long, contributed 120 total yards and a touchdown. Larry Fitzgerald had his second worst game of the season with 8 catches for only 55 yards. For the first time this season, both John Brown and Michael Floyd caught for over 100 yards in the same game. Brown had 113 yards and Floyd had 104 yards.
Poor Todd Gurley. The Rams’ offense is pathetic that Gurley doesn’t stand a chance right now. The quarterback play is horrendous and the defense is decimated by injury – a bad mix for any running back. In Nick Foles’ last three starts, he has five picks and no touchdowns. For the second straight week, Gurley only received nine carries, as the team faced a massive deficit. Gurley had 34 yards on one rush and 7 yards on the eight other rushes. Amazingly, Gurley only has 49 more rushing yards than fellow rookie Thomas Rawls. There’s no one else on the St. Louis’ offense worth highlighting. They were all awful. You can’t be starting Gurley with much confidence for the remaining three games. Especially when two of them are against the top rushing defenses, Seattle and Detroit.
Buccaneers 23, Falcons 19
No one really went off on either team. Doug Martin played well, rushing for 95 yards and a score, and isn’t far off the pace for the rushing title. He did fumble on Sunday too. Jameis Winston had 18 fantasy points, despite only throwing for 227 yards and a touchdown and interception. What helps Winston is his rushing ability in the red zone. He ran in a score for the fifth time this season. Mike Evans had 61 yards and a touchdown, notching his third straight game with yardage in the 60s. That’s what you want out of a golfer more than your top wideout. He’s still one of the more reliable target monsters in the league. Vincent Jackson led the Bucs in receiving on Sunday with 87 yards.
For the seventh time this season, Matt Ryan did not have a multi-TD game. He had a typical 2015 Matt Ryan game: 269 yards, a TD, and pick. A couple of tweets to summarize his season:
Ryan has been downright awful in the red zone this year. If you are in the playoffs, chances are, Ryan is not on your roster. If he is, do not play him. I guarantee you there are better options elsewhere. After his initial explosion, Devonta Freeman has been just solid. He had 103 total yards, including 10 catches for 56 yards. Of course, you keep him in your starting lineup, but just reminding everyone that he has one touchdown in the last five games he has played (albeit one of those those games is the one where he left in first quarter with a concussion). Ryan’s struggles are dragging Julio Jones down. Jones had an inefficient 93 yards off 17 targets. And he has not scored in a month. Good luck to those whose season rests on his matchup against Josh Norman next week. You’ll need it. I’m sorry.
Titans 42, Jaguars 39
What a game! 11 days before the new Star Wars comes out, Marcus Mariota showed us all the true power of the force. Mariota had his signature game, throwing for 268 yards and 3 TDs, as well as rushing for 112 yards and a touchdown – including this 87 yard touchdown sprint. He did have an interception and fumble too. The young guys flourished on Sunday. Antonio Andrews scored and had 58 yards, while Dorial Green-Beckham had the best game of his rookie season with 119 yards and a touchdown. DGB’s touchdown was a tantalizing preview of his potential, showcasing his brute strength and massive size. And as is customary, Delanie Walker had 8 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown. There’s only one or two tight ends who are more reliable on a week-to-week basis than Walker.
With Allen Hurns out due to last week’s concussion, Allen Robinson had to take on the majority of the receiving responsibility. And that he did. The superstar had his game of the year: 10 catches, 153 yards, three touchdowns. Stud. Oh yeah, he’s 22 years old. He has over 1,000 yards now and 11 touchdowns for the season. Fellow young gun T.J. Yeldon also had the best game of his rookie year: 136 total yards and a touchdown. Blake Bortles was much better than the last time he faced the Titans. Two weeks ago, on Thursday night, Bortles had 242 yards, a TD, and two turnovers. On Sunday, he had 322 yards and 5 TDs (and zero turnovers). Julius Thomas and Rashad Greene also scored on Sunday, both with two catches for 15 yards apiece.
Chiefs 34, Raiders 20
The great thing about Alex Smith – yeah, you read that right – is that he can give you 24 fantasy points when he only throws for 162 yards. He had 162 yards, two passing touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown on Sunday. He also had 23 rushing yards. You wouldn’t feel like it was a great game, but you add it up and he was top 10 QB this week, as he is more often than you’d think. After a midseason lull, Jeremy Maclin is back in the swing of things and has two straight great starts. On Sunday he had 9 catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns. What a fall for Travis Kelce. After a monster opening to the season, he has been completely average. He’s barely been a top 10 tight end after week one. He had 42 yards and a fumble on Sunday.
The running attack was as messy as people expected. Neither running back got enough carries to comfortably start. Charcanderick West had the slight edge with 9 carries for 35 yards, but it was Spencer Ware who had the better fantasy day with 26 yards and a touchdown.
Derek Carr had one his worst starts of the season thanks to three interceptions. He also threw two touchdowns and 283 yards. Amari Cooper led the way for the Raiders with four catches for 69 yards, while Michael Crabtree added 45 yards and a score. Out of the backfield, Latavius Murray had one of his better games, as he had 97 total yards and a touchdown. The Raiders, as a whole, submitted an underwhelming performance.
Broncos 17, Chargers 3
A messy struggle of a game. There was one offensive touchdown scored and it went to Demaryius Thomas, who has scored in two of Brock Osweiler’s three starts. Though Thomas has had mediocre yardage, and he had only 61 yards on Sunday. Meanwhile, Osweiler had an ugly 166 yards and interception to go with his touchdown toss. Emmanuel Sanders almost had as many targets (8) as yards (19) and that is not a good thing. After last Sunday’s primetime win over the Patriots, there was excitement over Denver’s running attack, but neither Ronnie Hillman nor C.J. Anderson got much going on Sunday, though in Anderson’s case, he left the game early with an injury. Hillman had 19 carries for 56 yards and Anderson had 7 carries for 42 yards.
The star of the day was the Broncos’ defense, which had its second best fantasy outing of the season. It had a pick six and collected two fumbles, totaling 22 fantasy points. Its playoff matchups aren’t easy, but how can you not play them?
The Chargers looked great last week against the Jaguars, but the Broncos are not the Jags. I mean, the Titans dropped 42 on the Jags! The Chargers are decimated offensively. For the second time in three weeks, Philip Rivers had a single digit fantasy day. No one had more than 50 receiving yards, which is what Antonio Gates finished with on Sunday. Melvin Gordon had two
Melvin Gordons fumbles, including one that he lost. Danny Woodhead is in the midst of his worst fantasy stretch of the season, and it’s coming at the worst possible time. He has not scored, nor has he cracked 50 total yards in the past three weeks. If you’re starting him, now is the time to consider someone else if you can.
Eagles 35, Patriots 28
The upset of the day. The Eagles scored 35 points with only two offensive touchdowns! Sam Bradford played mistake-free football, throwing 120 yards and two touchdowns, one to Jordan Matthews and one Zach Ertz. Meanwhile, Darren Sproles had exactly 100 yards, and DeMarco Murray disappointed with 8 carries for 24 yards. But the story was the defense and special teams. Eagles’ defense, which had negative fantasy points in its past two weeks, had 24 fantasy points on Sunday. It had the trifecta: a pick six, a punt return touchdown, and blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown. If you started Eagles defense – did anyone actually do this? – then count your lucky stars. And if Eagles defense knocked you out, what a cold reminder it was that so much of fantasy football comes down to pure luck.
Lots of people started probably started LeGarrette Blount thinking the game would be a blowout, especially after seeing hat the Lions did to the Eagles on Thanksgiving , and that Blount would get some cherry-on-top touchdowns. Instead, the Pats were down 35-14 in the fourth quarter, so the Pats had to stop running, and Blount finished with 54 yards. Tom Brady had 56 attempts on the day, ending with 312 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. And he also had the Patriots’ longest reception of the day (!!), off a trick play resulting in a 36 yard catch for Brady. Remember when everyone expected Brandon Lafell to finally come through against the porous Philadelphia secondary? I, for one, did. Yeah, well, four catches for 27 yards later, and people have these reactions:
Lafell is a disaster this season and it’s fair to wonder whether he’ll be of any use moving forward. The Pats were led by running back James White, who had 10 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. Danny Amendola and Scott Chandler had 62 and 61 yards respectively, each scoring a touchdown as well.
Panthers 41, Saints 38
The league’s last unbeaten team had its hands full on Sunday, much to the delight of Cam Newton owners, who enjoyed Newton’s second 5 TD performance in the past three weeks. Cam had his best game of the season with 331 passing yards, 49 rushing yards, 5 passing TDs, and a pick. Greg Olsen had one of his best games of the year with 129 yards, though he surprisingly didn’t score. Ted Ginn had 80 yards and two touchdowns, though he had some atrocious drops on wide open deep balls. For the third straight week, Jonathan Stewart received 21 carries. Stewart finished with 82 yards and a touchdown off an option play. Somehow, the Panthers still have to deal with trolls, even though they’re 12-0.
For the second time this season, Drew Brees tossed 3 TDs. He passed for 282 yards and 3 TDs and a pick. Remember when Brandin Cooks was a bust? We’re getting quite used to seeing his bow and arrow celebration. He had 104 yards and a touchdown, marking the second time he has exceeded 100 yards. Mark Ingram, AKA Mr. Consistency, had 79 total yards and a score. And Benjamin Watson scored the first time in a month. The Saints defense continues to be the worst in football, regardless of who’s in charge of it, and that bodes well for the offense since it has to put up lots of points.
Steelers 45, Colts 10
There is no better wide receiving duo in the NFL than Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Bryant would be the number one receiver on so many teams in the league – he is a total freak of nature. He has played 17 NFL games, and he has 15 touchdowns. On Sunday night, he had 114 yards and a touchdown, including a 68 yarder that looked way too easy for him. And what more can be said about Antonio Brown? He is the league’s most dynamic wide receiver. He had three touchdowns on Sunday night. Two of them were receiving and the last one came on a punt return with four minutes left and the Steelers up 35-10. Brown celebrated the punt return by shattering his manhood or something that looked like that. Brown also had 118 receiving yards. Also worth noting, Markus Wheaton had 50 yards and a touchdown and seems to have an improving chemistry with Big Ben.
Ben Roethlisberger had 364 yards and 4 TDs against Indy’s horrible defense. Big Ben is one of the best quarterbacks in the league as long as he is healthy. Despite not scoring, DeAngelo Williams had a great night with 165 total yards. Even with a tough remaining schedule, the Steelers are one of the best fantasy situations around.
What a total mess for the Colts. Matt Hasselbeck dinked and dunked his way to a horrendous stat line of 169 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. The offense could not move the ball at all. Frank Gore was the only Colts player who turned in a good performance with 104 total yards and a touchdown, largely because Hasselbeck kept throwing him short passes. Despite a juicy matchup, T.Y. Hilton only had three catches for 36 yards, thanks to getting only five targets. Donte Moncrief had a doughnut for the entire game, until the final possession, when Charlie Whitehurst completed a short pass to him that he turned into a 33 yard gain.