Shawn Siegele breaks down 15 of the most fantasy-relevant developments from Week 12. Why 15? That’s the jersey number of ultimate quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The Thanksgiving games offered enough fireworks for a whole column, but we’ll focus on the weekend. With the Chiefs on the bye, I wore my new Game of Mahomes shirt as a ward against evil.
1. Byes had a big impact on what was the first week of the playoffs in many leagues. While Chiefs and Rams owners gained the advantage of a key extra week’s points to make the playoffs, it was unfortunate to see these late byes distort the initial playoff round in big contests.1
2./3. Christian McCaffrey and JuJu Smith-Schuster explode. Getting to own your favorite players in many locations and still watching them beat you in many others – this is the thrill and the heartache of playing multiple leagues. The 47-point game from McCaffrey and 38-point eruption from Smith-Schuster acted as the culmination of a season-long theme. RotoViz owners are likely overweight in these players after we told you McCaffrey was on the verge of a Marshall Faulk-like season, while the second year WR was poised to crush ADP. But you probably faced them in leagues this weekend as well.2
McCaffrey moves into a virtual tie with Alvin Kamara and Melvin Gordon in full season PPG. He sits just behind Kamara’s volume translated into expected points (EP), with the Saints runner earning a small edge due to the value of his touches in their high-powered offense. Although I haven’t included points over expectation in the following table, you can see from their PPR numbers that all three players are outperforming expectation and that McCaffrey is matching Kamara in this category.
With Gordon suffering an MCL injury against the Cardinals and Kamara’s numbers down since the return of Mark Ingram, McCaffrey is positioned to finish the season as the overall RB3. We can probably expect their respective splits to be closer to what we’ve seen since the beginning of Week 5.
While there’s plenty of competition at the top of the RB ladder, McCaffrey slides comfortably into No. 3 in dynasty as well. He’ll face challenges from the likes of Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, and Kareem Hunt, but he’s solidified himself ahead of the stars of recent past – Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson – and now sets his sights on Todd Gurley.
4. The new look Browns continue to roll behind the No. 1 overall pick. Baker Mayfield threw for 258 yards and four scores, while again spreading the ball around as three players tied with a team-high five targets. The splits since Hue Jackson was fired couldn’t be more entertaining.
Mayfield is throwing far fewer passes, but his jump in yards per attempt (6.7 to 9.3) gives him a better yardage pace. His TD/INT ratio is even more humorous, morphing from “struggling rookie” (21-16) to “newfound superstar” (48-5).
5. Their rookie RB doesn’t look too bad either. Carlos Hyde was traded before the Browns’ Week 7 game with Tampa, and Nick Chubb is one of 12 backs to average 20 PPG since that point. He even caught three passes for 44 yards and a TD against Cincinnati. The TD catch was of the spectacular variety, landing on his back in the end zone as he pinned the ball to the shoulder pads of the defender. He eventually secured the football to his chest, although not before a bobble that made the “catch” call on the field crucial – it almost certainly wouldn’t have been overturned in favor of a catch – but that doesn’t make the effort any less extraordinary.
Those developments as a receiver are crucial to taking the next step, as receiving volume is the only thing separating him from a back like Elliott.
6. By contrast, things have gone from bad to worse for Jarvis Landry. Blair Andrews has discussed Landry’s woeful efficiency on multiple occasions in the EP Report. He now fits with a motley crew of busts (Josh Doctson), washed up vets (Michael Crabtree), struggling rookies (James Washington), and scrubs in poor passing offenses (Kelvin Benjamin, Jermaine Kearse). While most of the others are doing it on lighter volume, Landry continues to lead the way in negative expected points (reEP).
To make matters worse, his volume has collapsed in the new offense. While owners could at least count on target volume before the change, that workload has evaporated in the spread.
Landry reached double-digit targets in seven of the first eight games but hasn’t come close to that mark with Freddie Kitchens in charge.
7. Hue Jackson goes to new lengths to prove he’s the worst coach in NFL history. If you watched the first half of the NFL season but then had to go on a survivalist show and all you knew about Week 12 was that the Browns jumped out to a 35-7 lead on the Bengals, what would be your first thought? If it wasn’t, I’m not really sure how it would have happened – surely, no one would let Hue Jackson around their players – but I’ve got to imagine Jackson was fired by the Browns and hired as a consultant by the Bengals . . . well, then it was probably something else fairly uncharitable about the Bengals, or maybe even something factual about what an A.J. Green injury would do to the team. Either way, it’s getting very dark in Cincinnati. Nothing boggles the mind quite like mid-week reports that Jackson might be in the mix to take over at the end of the season.
8. There are a few bright spots. Tyler Boyd has emerged as a clear WR2 with upside, and Joe Mixon is banging at the RB1 door. Boyd’s 89 targets rank 16th at WR, and while that’s far behind the leaders, only seven WR have accumulated more points over expectation, a list that includes Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, and Davante Adams.
Against Cleveland, Boyd recorded his sixth game with 20-plus points, and it could have been much larger as he rose up to catch a 46-yard jump ball on the final possession. Unfortunately, a motion penalty negated the play. It’s been a feast or famine season for Boyd – he hasn’t reached 12 points in any of the other five games, but there shouldn’t be any lingering concerns about NFL athleticism for anyone who witnessed his variety of circus catches in this one.
Meanwhile, Mixon rebounded from several down outings with his third seven-target game of the season. Gio Bernard hasn’t been heavily involved since returning from injury and only earned a single look.
9. The Giants gave the game away by not deploying their superstar in the second half. This was bizarre.
Saquon Barkley scored 31 fantasy points on 16 first-half opportunities, but New York used him only five times after the break, blowing the game and scuttling any hopes of climbing back into an NFC East race that lacks a good team, much less a great one. The Giants pushed their lead to 19-3 on Barkley’s second TD, a 51-yard dash that again demonstrated why Barkley’s blend of size, speed, and agility sets him apart. It was unfortunate that they went away from him in a very winnable game, but you can understand why they’d want to preserve his health for the long haul.
10. The season went from bad to worse for Evan Engram owners. Engram injured his hamstring in warmups, and backup Rhett Ellison turned six targets into four catches for 77 yards. After an excellent rookie season, fueled in part by the absence of Odell Beckham, Engram has not been able to take the next step in a lineup loaded with receiving talent and featuring Barkley in the run game.
11. Alshon Jeffery joins Landry on fantasy benches. Jeffery’s numbers are up almost 2.0 PPG from last season, with the veteran exploding onto the scene in Week 4 after missing the first three contests to injury. Unfortunately, three games with 20-plus PPG in his first four have been replaced by four consecutive games in single digits. Last week I discussed how poorly the Golden Tate trade had worked for Philadelphia, and it’s not just the Lions import who had his fantasy value decapitated.
Tate got free for eight targets in this one – three more than Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Jordan Matthews combined – but turned them into only 40 yards. Jeffery finished with a season-low three targets, a stunning fall from grace and a continued bad sign for the offense.
12. Josh Adams took control of the RB position in Philadelphia. Adams rumbled for 84 yards and punched in a TD on 22 carries, 17 more than Corey Clement. Although Clement looked explosive in this one, gaining 76 yards on only seven touches, this backfield has shifted in Adams’ direction. Adams and Phillip Lindsay each rushed for more than 1,400 yards last season before going undrafted in April. Injury played a role for the former and size for the latter, but their respective journeys to the top of the depth chart offers another reminder that production translates. I mention this in part because …
13. Justin Jackson is in line to earn committee touches in the absence of Melvin Gordon. Gordon’s MCL injury opens the door for a RotoViz favorite who accumulated 1,300-plus yards from scrimmage all four years in college. The 251st pick in the year’s draft, Jackson still slots behind my favorite small back in Austin Ekeler,3 but there should be plenty to go around. Ekeler resides at RB22 and notched seven double-digit results despite playing behind a starter who averaged 24.8 PPG.
14. Austin Ekeler should be a monster down the stretch. He took advantage of Gordon’s departure to catch 10 passes for 68 yards and score a rushing TD. Despite limited playing time, Ekeler has accumulated the fourth-most reFPOE, which gives him mouthwatering upside in an expanded role.Fantasy playoff games against Cincinnati (Week 13) and Kansas City (Week 14) offer plum opportunities to push your team into the finals. Ekeler scored 23.6 points against KC in Week 1. Don’t be surprised if he meets or exceeds those numbers the second time around.
15. If Gordon’s fantasy season is over, it’s a heartbreaking conclusion to a year that showcased his career progression. Gordon took a massive leap in efficiency after three years as a high-volume plodder. His elite receiving ability finally translated in the running game, and that hybrid threat helped the Chargers offense finally take the step that had appeared imminent for years. Somewhat lost in the justified buzz surrounding Gurley, Barkley, McCaffrey, and Kamara, the Chargers bell cow was having a Le’Veon Bell or David Johnson type of season (or at least the type of season those players used to have before they became dirty words in the mouths of their owners). 2018 could now end in the same fashion as his breakout 2016 campaign, but it won’t erase the way he’s carried teams to this point.
Good luck tonight, everyone. Houston and Tennessee both offer difficult matchups for struggling, young QBs, but I’m expecting a wildly entertaining contest.
- I dropped a Kitchen Sink free-for-all with Travis Kelce and Robert Woods on the bench, and plenty of owners dealt with even more difficult scenarios. (back)
- In my most important Main Event, they were both on the roster of a squad swiftly clawing back into the points chase. (back)
- Although it’s a tight battle with Tarik Cohen. (back)