Shawn Siegele looks at 15 of the most fantasy-relevant developments from Week 14 as namesake Patrick Mahomes (No. 15) takes another hero turn.
You knew it wasn’t going to be your typical first week of the fantasy playoffs when Derrick Henry set fire to the festivities, going off for 238 yards and four touchdowns Thursday night. Henry has actually been coming on by his standards, as he’d reached double figures in four of his previous six games. But that 47.8-point explosion represented more than a third of his points for the entire year, and he’s been such a small fantasy contributor that only one of 158 teams in the FFWC Grand Prize race had him in the lineup.
Henry’s night foreshadowed an exciting Week 14 full of surprising explosions and high profile duds. We take a closer look in The 15.
1. Patrick Mahomes is swiftly becoming legend. With Kansas City facing 4th-and-9 and just over a minute to go, Mahomes was forced from the pocket. He scrambled madly to his right and finally heaved a pass across his body that somehow came down in the arms of Tyreek Hill for a 48-yard gain. Four plays later he calmly ignored the rush and tossed another fourth-down completion, this one a 3-yard TD to Damien Williams that tied the game. In the final analysis, Mahomes scorched the NFL’s best defense for 377 yards on 53 attempts and rescued the Chiefs on a day where many of the AFC heavyweights went down in disgrace.
2. Tyreek Hill guts out his most impressive performance yet. Hill has had bigger games than his 8-139-0 result against the Ravens. Four times this year he’s scored more than 30 fantasy points, and by that standard, his 22.5 points – just above his seasonal average – hardly rates, but this one was different. Baltimore’s defense has been simply throttling opponents. They were coming off of a game where they mugged Julio Jones, holding him to two catches and 18 yards. That’s the only time Jones has been held under 100 yards in his last eight, and they didn’t just barely pull it off. The Ravens swallowed him whole.
They didn’t have the same answer for Hill, and the Kansas City speedster was far less than 100 percent. He left early after his wrist was pincered on a blocking play, and then later missed time with an injured heel. He re-entered, taped and limping, and continued to torch the defense. The fourth-down miracle was his signature play, but he also corralled three of his eight catches on the overtime drive that cemented a Chiefs victory.
3. Damien Williams and Spencer Ware admirably filled the Kareem Hunt-sized hole in KC’s rushing offense. Ware rambled for 129 yards from scrimmage and Williams splashed in for the two TDs, but both players offer Kansas City flexibility due to their well-rounded skill sets. Ware and Williams each crest 220 pounds yet possess above average ability in the passing game. They combined for nine catches on 10 targets in this one, and Ware offered a highlight that would put even Hunt to shame on a 31-yard catch-and-run right before the half. It concluded with a brutal blow that sent him to the locker room early. Fortunately the x-rays were negative and he returned for the second stanza.
4. This was a heartbreaking loss for the Ravens, but we haven’t heard the last of them in the AFC. A miracle play away from winning their fourth straight, Baltimore looks like the third best team behind the Chiefs and Chargers. They have the third best point differential in the conference, are allowing the fewest points in the NFL, and have their quarterback of the future already here to rescue the present. Lamar Jackson injured his ankle late but is expected to be fine. He led a three-headed monster on the ground with 71 yards, and his rushing threat paved the way for Gus Edwards (67) and Kenneth Dixon (59). He also calmly tossed two TDs. Despite the awkward throwing motion and occasional overthrow, Jackson appears ready for prime time.
5. Kenneth Dixon could be the playoff savior for those deluged by injuries/suspensions. If you picked up Dixon some time in the last two weeks, he inched closer to fantasy starting lineups with his 80 yards and a score against Kansas City. Although out-touched 16-9 by Edwards, he caught a pass, scored a TD, and generally looked like the bigger threat, often carrying multiple Chiefs defenders as he churned out the yards. He’s a tough start on such a limited workload, but desperate owners will be tempted in next week’s soft matchup with Tampa.
6. It’s not me, it’s you. Part 1: Amari Cooper. 13 more targets. 10 more receptions. 210 more receiving yards, and 3 more TDs. When you select someone with the No. 4 overall pick and he starts his career with two 1,000-yard seasons, maybe take a good look in the mirror before you trade him away.
In one move, the Cowboys rescued two careers. Dak Prescott couldn’t be happier.
7. Miami defeated New England in a game where Ryan Tannehill completed 14 passes and the Dolphins held the ball for more than 10 fewer minutes and attempted more than 30 fewer plays. As a football fan, you’ve no doubt seen The Play – and I continue to believe the Dolphins need to get hero Kenyan Drake more involved – but Kenny Stills kept them alive in this one with eight catches on nine targets for 135 yards and a score. He was one of only two Dolphins to draw more than a single target. (Devante Parker was the other, and that, predictably, resulted in a line of 1-18-0.) Stills is always a difficult play due to the combination of his vertical profile and poor QB play in Miami, but that’s been even more the case this season. Before his mini-outburst last week against the Bills – emphasis on mini – he hadn’t caught more than two passes since Week 4.
Stills posted as many points over expectation (reFPOE) in Week 14 as he had the rest of the season combined.
8. I followed Ben Battle’s Buy Low advice and it paid off at a key moment. A month ago, I acquired T.Y. Hilton in a move that also brought George Kittle to my Casterly Rock Lannisters squad in the Iron Throne. On Sunday they combined for over 400 yards receiving. Hilton just missed the 200-yard threshold with his 9-199 performance. His 1,440-yard season from 2016 seems more than just two years ago – if you held through the Luck-less 2017 campaign and Hilton’s myriad minor injuries this year, you felt this acutely – but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him look as good as he did against the Texans. Separating with ease on some routes and making contested catches on others, Hilton was unstoppable as Luck uncorked one precision dart after another.
9. It’s not me, it’s you. Part 2: Eric Ebron. It was just another day at the new office for 2014’s No. 10 overall pick. The TE4 posted a 4-65-1 line as Indianapolis threw the ball at will against Houston.
When you’re part of the Detroit Lions front office, internal evaluations are difficult. You always have to ask the hard question: Was this pick the result of bad drafting or bad coaching? Also, you have to ask yourself why you ran off Calvin Johnson.
10. The Houston Texans are a mirage. If you’ve been reading the EP report from Blair Andrews, you know DeAndre Hopkins’ target numbers are cratering, and if you’ve watched a Houston game any time in the last month, you know the Texans run the ball on first down. Every. Single. Time. The announcers remind you of this constantly, which serves as little more than rubbing it in. Of course, the Texans had won nine consecutive games and sport a good defense and solid ground game. Whatever works, right? On the other hand, the Texans haven’t beaten a Super Bowl contender during that winning streak. Their best win was against a pre-Cooper Cowboys squad. When confronted with an improving Colts team on Sunday, they didn’t have the game plan to react.
The first query is first quarter RB attempts. The second query looks at RB attempts in the second and third quarters. The Colts began the game in their normal offense, but shifted to a pass-heavy approach when results demanded it. Houston kept Deshaun Watson in game manager mode even after Indianapolis jumped them. We can see the difference by looking at second- and third-quarter targets to wide receivers.
Both teams threw 11 passes to the RBs and TEs during this definitive stretch, giving the Colts a 27-17 edge in passing attempts. During this time period, the Colts turned a 7-0 deficit into a 24-14 lead.
11. Deshaun Watson is maturing … into a game manager? The Texans’ offense changed dramatically following Week 5, the culmination of a three-game stretch where Watson had averaged over 40 attempts and over 375 passing yards. Bill O’Brien has argued that Watson has matured during the time period, but the numbers tell the story of a coach simply losing confidence in his signal caller.
The TD/INT ratio has improved but the passing offense has been far less explosive. That’s fine when you’re facing Buffalo, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Miami, Denver, Washington, Cleveland, but it’s not a winning formula against legitimately good teams.
12. It’s not me, it’s you. Part 3: David Johnson. Johnson turned 25 opportunities into 61 yards against Detroit, bad numbers that become almost unfathomable when you realize that 10 of those opportunities were targets, and that eight of them were completed passes. One of those was a 10-yard slant, so you can imagine what the other seven were like.
At this point, it’s almost surprising that Johnson is on pace for over 1,400 yards from scrimmage.
13. It’s Zach Zenner time. It’s obviously not, but in a game that featured a single offensive TD, Zenner offered the lone bright spot. On that fourth-quarter TD drive, Zenner carried seven consecutive times with a Kenny Golladay DPI sandwiched in for the other 25 yards. The final play was a 1-yard scoring plunge that left Zenner with a rushing line of 12-54-1.
14. Josh Rosen threw for 139 yards more than Matthew Stafford. This may be hard to believe now, but from 2011 to 2012, Stafford threw for more than 10,000 yards in just two seasons. Anyone who says it’s easier to throw in 2018 hasn’t watched a full Detroit Lions game. Also, Golladay gained five yards on four targets. I’m not sure the 0-16 team ever looked quite so ready for a season to end. To be fair, Darius Slay and company were fantastic on the defensive side of the ball.
15. The most fun bad game of the week was definitely Carolina/Cleveland. As we finish on a high note, Robby Anderson (4-76-1) and Randall Cobb (5-43-1) both rejoined the land of the living for the first time this year, but those contests weren’t among my 10-game binge.1 Fortunately, Jarvis Landry also reminded us he was still in the NFL. Bizarrely unable to get him the ball in the passing game, the Browns ran the same handoff to him twice, once early for a 3-yard TD and once later for a 51-yard gain where he treated the entire Panthers defense like cartoon bad guys before Luke Kuechly came from more than 10 yards behind the play to make the tackle. Landry also caught a 51-yard TD in traffic, somewhat humorously almost connected with Nick Chubb on a 31-yard TD pass, and lost a weird fumble, again to Kuechly.2 Of course, Landry was probably sitting next to Derrick Henry on your fantasy bench while all of this happened, but maybe it gives you hope for Week 15 and beyond.
Good luck tonight, everyone. As you battle down the stretch of the fantasy quarters, the RotoViz staff is rooting for you. Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Tyler Lockett are playing, so it should be a fun one.