Week 15 was among the wildest we've seen in some time, headlined by the return of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and many teams fighting for playoff positioning. A major blow to the Steelers early in the game and another late in the contest made for one of the games of the year, but was surely tough to swallow for Pittsburgh fans. Here's the weekly rundown...
After looking like a dominant team in all facets of the game in last week’s upset win over New England, the Dolphins laid an egg in a divisional loss at Buffalo. It should not be surprising from a team that has shown multiple personalities all season long, somehow winning six games, yet playing like the worst team in the league at times. The Bills took the early lead and were ahead 21-6 at halftime. While the Dolphins pushed hard for a fourth-quarter comeback and had a chance after a late score and successful onside kick, QB Jay Cutler sealed the game with an interception. Cutler finished with 274 passing yards, but no scores to go with his trio of picks, a very Cutler-like stat line. A trio of Dolphins saw double-digit targets as Miami was in comeback mode for much of the game. WR Jarvis Landry (10/99) led the team, as usual, while WR DeVante Parker (6/89) finally enjoyed a productive game, but needed 12 targets to get his six receptions. Finally, RB Kenyan Drake didn’t get as many carries as he’s seen in recent weeks, rushing 16 times for 78 yards and a score, but he did add six grabs for 35 yards.
The Buffalo offense relied on the duo of QB Tyrod Taylor and RB LeSean McCoy, both playing multiple roles. Taylor threw for 224 yards and a touchdown, adding 42 yards and another touchdown on the ground. McCoy scored as a runner and receiver, totaling 96 yards on the day. WR Kelvin Benjamin has been serving as Taylor’s favorite target, but he was in and out of the lineup with injury issues and finished with only a pair of catches for 20 yards. TE Charles Clay led the team with a 5/68 receiving line.
This was one of the easiest wins of the year for a team whose defense has created a ton of opportunity for wins this season, but it still came in surprising fashion. Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette was ruled out late Saturday night, which opened opportunity for RBs Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon, as well as QB Blake Bortles and the passing game. The Jags scored in all kinds of ways, but it wasn’t who you might expect. Bortles played one of the better games of his season, throwing for 326 yards and three scores, but those scoring passes went to rookie WR Keelan Cole and little-known WR Jaydon Mickens (twice). Cole (7/186/1) finished with over 100 yards for the second consecutive week and Mickens (4/61/2) came out of nowhere following an early ankle injury that ended the day for WR Marqise Lee. We might have expected rookie WR Dede Westbrook to be the one to step up his production, but he managed just two catches for 21 yards. The running game was also flipped as Yeldon and Ivory combined for 69 rushing yards, which was matched by backup RB Corey Grant in garbage time. Oh, and the touchdowns? Those went to FB Tommy Bohanon, who scored a pair of short scores.
There were few positives for the Texans, as you can tell based on the score alone. Houston needed a second-half touchdown to WR DeAndre Hopkins to avoid a shutout. Hopkins was essentially shut down all day with the exception of that one drive, in which he had three of his four receptions and 70 of his 80 total yards. RB Lamar Miller struggled as the team fell behind early, finishing with 33 total yards and being out-rushed by backup RB Alfred Blue. WR Will Fuller caught all five of his targets for 44 yards.
New Orleans- 31
NY Jets- 19
It was the same ole’ story for the Saints, who were carried by their RB duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara to a win in a game that was much closer than expected. Ingram totaled 151 yards, sealing the game with a late 50-yard touchdown run, adding to his first-half score. Kamara actually had a relatively quiet game compared to some of his other performances this season, but still totaled 89 yards and a touchdown. WR Michael Thomas had a potential blowup game, catching a pair of touchdowns that were taken away after replay, but he did make his third attempt count and finished with nine grabs for 93 yards on a team-high 11 targets. QB Drew Brees threw for 285 yards and a pair of scores.
The Jets lost QB Josh McCown last week, so backup QB Bryce Petty got the start in this game. No one would’ve blamed the Jets for laying down and giving up the fight, but that didn’t happen. After falling behind early, the Jets essentially matched New Orleans score for score. WR Robby Anderson was the go-to target for Petty, but he caught only five of 12 targets for 40 yards. Veteran RB Bilal Powell led the team in rushing with a meager 44 yards and a touchdown, while rookie RB Elijah McGuire hauled in a 38-yard reception, which resulted in him leading the way with a 3/48/1 receiving line. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (2/13) threw up another clunker and shouldn’t be in fantasy lineups going forward.
NY Giants- 29
Another game that was much closer than expected was the back and forth NFC East battle between the rival Eagles and Giants. QB Eli Manning, benched just two weeks ago, threw for a season-high of 434 yards and tied his season-best with three passing scores. In fact, the yardage is Manning’s most since Week Five of the 2015 season. Manning spread the ball around, but his top target was easily WR Sterling Shepard, who strangely saw just three targets a week ago, registered a career-high 16 targets, catching 11 for 139 yards and a touchdown. TE Evan Engram (8/87) and WR Roger Lewis (4/74) chipped in big games, as well. As usual, there was nothing noteworthy from the Giants' running game.
This was the Eagles first game without breakout QB Carson Wentz, who suffered a torn ACL a week ago, ending his potential MVP campaign. Backup QB Nick Foles was an admirable replacement in this game, throwing for 237 yards and four touchdowns and the Eagles needed every one of them. The Giants have had trouble covering slot receivers and tight ends all season, so it is no surprise to see WR Nelson Agholor (7/59/1) and TE Zach Ertz (6/56/1) with big games to lead the Eagles. WR Alshon Jeffery (4/49/1) led the team in targets and produced solid numbers. The running game continues to trend towards former Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi as he had 12 carries compared to 13 total for RBs LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement and Kenjon Barner, but Ajayi managed just 49 rushing yards in a nice spot against the Giants. The win gives the Eagles a bye for the first week of the playoffs.
A game that seemingly no one cared about was played just that way with little offensive production for either the Cardinals or Redskins, who did just enough to come out victorious at home. QB Kirk Cousins broke out of his recent slump, throwing for 196 yards and two touchdowns, while not committing a turnover. WR Jamison Crowder was the top target, catching five balls for 55 yards and a score. WR Josh Doctson (2/16) and TE Vernon Davis (2/18) were both disappointments, as was starting RB Samaje Perine, who rushed 14 times for 37 yards. He did chip in two receptions for 29 yards, slightly boosting his PPR fantasy numbers. Cousins is seemingly all the Redskins have going for them, which will make this off-season free agency period even more important than normal.
Having already lost their top two quarterbacks and top two running backs, it is no surprise that the Cardinals offense is failing them. Future Hall of Fame WR Larry Fitzgerald caught five passes for 60 yards, but that was the only thing close to a bright spot for this team. With veteran RB Adrian Peterson placed on the injured reserve list last week, the backfield now belongs to Kerwynn Williams, who rushed 17 times for 61 scoreless yards.
On Sunday, we saw “bad” DeShone Kizer and the Browns were never even in the game against the Baltimore Ravens, who cruised to an easy win over the Browns, who remain winless on the season. Ravens QB Joe Flacco threw for 288 yards and a score and also added another touchdown on the ground. RB Alex Collins, who had been one of the hottest players in the game in recent weeks, was limited to only 19 yards on 12 carries in what turned into a shared backfield. RB Buck Allen rushed 13 times for 70 yards and was easily the more effective of the duo. WR Mike Wallace led the team with six receptions for 89 yards and because the Browns can’t stop any tight end, veteran Benjamin Watson posted a 4/74/1 line. WR Jeremy Maclin has been a non-factor for weeks now and this week, he caught one pass for 22 yards before leaving the game with a knee injury.
As I mentioned, the rookie QB Kizer really struggled in this matchup, even against a battered Ravens defense. Kizer threw for just 146 scoreless yards and committed multiple turnovers. Kizer did look often to WR Josh Gordon as he has for three consecutive games now. Gordon saw a team-high 11 targets, catching five for 47 yards. Some of the teams other key players did not even contribute to that level. RB Isaiah Crowell totaled 67 yards on nine touches, which included four receptions for -7 yards. RB Duke Johnson totaled 63 yards and a score, while WR Corey Coleman disappointed with one catch for 16 yards.
Prior to the games on Sunday, it was reported that Bengals HC Marvin Lewis and the team would be mutually parting ways after 15 seasons with Lewis as the head man. While he did get the team out of the dumpster, he also failed to win a single playoff game in his tenure. The Bengals were coming off a no-show effort last week and facing a tough defense, led by their own former defensive coordinator, Vikings HC Mike Zimmer, made the situation only more difficult.
As most could predict, the Bengals barely put up a fight as the Vikes dominated the game from start to finish. QB Case Keenum threw for 236 yards and a pair of scores and he played well enough that the team turned to backup QB Teddy Bridgewater for mop up duty, his first playing time since suffering his nearly career-ending knee injury. The running backs led the way for the Vikings as RB Latavius Murray rushed for 76 yards and a score and RB Jerick McKinnon led the way, catching seven passes for 114 yards. The team’s top weapons, WR Stefon Diggs (5/30/1) and Adam Thielen (3/30) were held under wraps for most of the game. TE Kyle Rudolph was initially ruled out for the game before being surprisingly left off the inactive list. Then as the Vikings' lead grew, Rudolph appeared to be done for the day, standing on the sidelines without his helmet. He would later re-enter the game and catch a short touchdown, finishing with two catches for 17 yards and the score.
The Bengals are not worth discussing, but here we go. With rookie RB Joe Mixon (concussion) out once again, RB Giovani Bernard got the start and scored the team’s only touchdown late in the game. Bernard finished with 43 total yards. WR A.J. Green was predictably shut down by the Vikings defense, catching two passes for 30 yards. With Lewis on his way out, there are already scary rumors that the Bengals are interested in reuniting with current Browns HC Hue Jackson.
Green Bay- 24
One of the most anticipated games of the day was all about the return of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who had not played since injuring his collarbone in Week Six. The individual results were a mixed bag, which is to be expected. Rodgers did throw for 290 yards and three scores, but also tossed three picks. In the broader team aspect, this game was a back breaker. The Packers had a long list of scenarios needed in order to claim a playoff spot and while this loss does not eliminate them, the list is now much longer and a Falcons win tonight would seal the deal. That would also likely mean the team puts Rodgers on ice for the final two games of the season and nothing to play for in those games. WR Davante Adams could also miss time after he suffered a second crushing helmet to helmet hit from a defender. It first happened back in Week Four against the Bears and Adams returned the next week. This time, he did not return to the game and could certainly miss next week’s game. Adams did post a 5/57/1 line before being forced from the game, serving as the favorite target of Rodgers. Following his departure, Adams looked to WR Randall Cobb, who led the team with 14 targets, catching seven for 84 yards and a touchdown. The expectation was WR Jordy Nelson would return to prominence after his struggles with QB Brett Hundley, but his struggles continued, catching just three passes for 38 yards. Rookie RB Jamaal Williams was another dud, rushing ten times for 30 yards as he was easily outgained by fellow rookie RB Aaron Jones, who totaled 53 yards on four touches.
The Panthers' stars put on an offensive show, giving fantasy owners huge points. QB Cam Newton played a complete game, throwing for 242 yards and four scores, adding another 58 yards on the ground. Rookie RB Christian McCaffrey’s touches had been decreasing in recent weeks, but he was featured on the team’s opening drive and involved throughout. McCaffrey finished with 136 total yards and a score. Veteran TE Greg Olsen has had somewhat of a lost season due to a foot injury, but he exploded for nine receptions and 116 yards and a score on 12 targets. WR Devin Funchess was in an excellent spot and many fantasy owners had huge expectations. He disappointed with only one reception for 19 yards and dealt with a minor injury on a missed end zone target. Our own Evan Silva was pushing WR Damiere Byrd as a DFS sleeper for the week and he paid off big time, catching two touchdowns among his three receptions for 25 yards. After a three touchdown game a week ago, RB Jonathan Stewart did not reward the point chaser, totaling 36 yards on 12 touches.
LA Rams- 42
While some of the day’s blowout victories were quite predicable, this one came as a major surprise. The Rams went into Seattle and made quick work of the Seahawks, leading 34-0 at the half and cruising to an easy win. Much of the work was done by RB Todd Gurley, who totaled 180 yards and four scores, even though he sat for much of the fourth-quarter. Gurley carried many teams to playoff wins with this huge performance. QB Jared Goff also was rested after throwing for 120 yards and two touchdowns. WR Robert Woods returned after missing three games and picked up where he left off as the team’s top receiver. He caught six passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. With Woods back, rookie WR Cooper Kupp caught just two balls for 21 yards. Consistent disappointment WR Sammy Watkins made two catches for 14 yards.
As you can tell by the score alone, this was a disastrous game for the Seahawks. Every key player was shut down and performed well below expectation. QB Russell Wilson threw for 142 yards and a touchdown, and he also led the team with 39 rushing yards. That obviously does not bode well for RB Mike Davis, who managed 19 yards on six carries. The pass-catchers were even worse, if that’s possible. WR Doug Baldwin (1/6), TE Jimmy Graham (1/-1), WR Paul Richardson (2/18) and WR Tyler Lockett (2/8) were all busts. Seattle is now 8-6 and in great danger of missing the playoffs. The matchup looks better against the Cowboys in Week 16.
San Francisco- 25
The matchup of teams headed in very different directions went under the radar as more high-profile games grabbed our collective attention. The Titans thought they had the game won with a late-game drive resulting in a field goal, but the Niners were able to match them with less than two minutes remaining to steal a win. In the end, 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo led his team to their third consecutive win after just one win in the season’s first ten weeks. Garoppolo has now thrown for at least 293 yards in all three of his starts with a new career-high 381 against the Titans. The Niners continue to have trouble finishing drives though, scoring just one touchdown, along with six Robbie Gould field goals. WR Marquise Goodwin is clearly locked in as the top target, catching 10 of 13 looks for 114 yards and rookie WR Kendrick Bourne (4/85) also had a nice stat line. Given the success of the 49ers in recent weeks, the production from RB Carlos Hyde has been a letdown. He totaled 39 yards on 19 touches in this one.
The Titans also heavily relied on their kicker, but QB Marcus Mariota did throw a pair of scores among his 241 passing yards. WR Rishard Matthews led the team with six receptions for 95 yards and a score, while TE Delanie Walker had the other touchdown along with a 5/37 line. Rookie WR Corey Davis continues to flop, catching three passes for 28 yards. The Titans running game, which once looked so promising with the duo of RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, has struggled over the past month. Murray totaled 63 yards, while Henry managed just 28 yards on nine touches.
New England- 27
The game most were looking forward to, some even calling it the game of the year, did not disappoint. The Steelers controlled the game through much of the day, but a late-game comeback got the Patriots back in the hunt. For the Steelers, the game was marred by the first-quarter loss of superstar WR Antonio Brown, who suffered a leg injury on an end zone target. He was unable to return and had to be sent to the local hospital for further testing. Those tests eventually revealed a partially torn calf that will end Brown’s regular season, though the team is hopeful he can return for the playoffs. With Brown out, the Steelers were able to stay in the game, leading most of the way. The Patriots scored 11 points in just three minutes late in the fourth-quarter to take a three-point lead, shocking the Steelers and leaving QB Ben Roethlisberger with under a minute to lead his team to a win. On the first play of the final possession, Big Ben hit rookie WR Juju Smith-Schuster on a simple slant that he took for 69 yards, weaving his way through the defense. The next play was ruled a touchdown to TE Jesse James, but was overturned after he failed to maintain control. With time running out, the Steelers were going to be forced to spike the ball, stopping the clock for a game-tying field goal attempt. Instead, Roethlisberger faked the spike and tried to fit the ball into tight coverage. The pass was picked in the end zone and the Patriots got the win, moving into first place in the AFC. What a ballgame!
As you might expect, there were some big fantasy performances in this matchup. Patriots QB Tom Brady threw for 298 yards, one touchdown and a pick, often looking to TE Rob Gronkowski, who was back after a one-game suspension. Gronk finished with nine receptions for 168 yards. With WR Chris Hogan out once again, WR Brandin Cooks posted a 4/60/1 line. WR Kenny Britt made his Patriots debut after being cut by the Browns a week ago and he caught his only target for seven yards. The Steelers were not the only team to lose a valuable player. Pats RB Rex Burkhead suffered a knee injury and was quickly ruled out. What was initially feared to be a torn ACL now looks like a less severe injury, though Burkhead could still miss some time. RB Dion Lewis totaled 80 yards and a touchdown.
With Brown out for the majority of the game, the Steelers used WR Martavis Bryant (4/59/1) and Smith-Schuster (6/114) more than usual, while RB Le'Veon Bell saw 29 touches for 165 yards and a touchdown, carrying the Steelers' offense. The Steelers are now left to battle for a playoff bye in the regular season’s final two weeks, but they’ll do it without their star, Brown.
The Sunday night tilt was basically a must-win game for both teams to have any shot at a playoff berth. After being shut out in the first-half, the Raiders started hot in the second-half and came back to tie the game. That led to a back and forth final few minutes, which included a measurement for a first-down using a piece of paper. We’re sure to hear much more about this story than anyone wants to. Regardless, the result was a field goal for the Cowboys to take the lead with under two minutes remaining. The Raiders were able to answer and had a chance to take the lead. QB Derek Carr ran for the score, dove for the end zone, but lost control of the ball, which went through the end zone, resulting in a touchback and essentially, the end of the game.
QB Dak Prescott faltered after his huge game a week ago, throwing for 212 scoreless yards, but he did add a rushing touchdown and 32 yards on the ground. WR Dez Bryant, in a perfect spot against the lowly Raiders secondary, caught just two passes for 59 yards.
Raiders WR Michael Crabtree saw a game-high 17 targets, catching seven for 39 yards and a pair of touchdowns. RB Marshawn Lynch rushed 16 times for 76 scoreless yards, while QB Derek Carr again struggled, throwing for 171 yards and two scores, but committing the costly turnover to end the game.