Week 12 of the 2015 NFL season saw injuries continue to pile up, but fantasy football owners may have been saved from another hellish week of season-killers. It was a week of many huge performances, but not all good and bad performances give us new decisions to make. Every Monday, we try to hone in on the standouts, busts, and injuries which will influence our play most for the rest of the season.
Stud of the Week: The QB2
All 32 teams were in action for Week 12 with byes over. Of the ten QBs who scored over 28 points in standard scoring leagues, Russell Wilson was the only one started in more than 48% of Yahoo! leagues this week and no sane person has had Wilson in their top-12.
Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Derek Carr, and Blake Bortles are the ones on this list who I had in my rest of season top-12 coming into the week. Of the others, there is a lot of reason for optimism:
- Wilson is averaging a 247.5 yards per games--way above his 2014 career-high of 217.2. His fantasy points have been so underwhelming because he hasn't rushed for a TD yet this season and only threw for 10 in his first nine games with seven INTs, on pace for a career-low in the former and a career-high in the latter. Over the last two weeks with Marshawn Lynch, he has thrown for eight TDs without raising his volume. He averaged just under 30 passes per game in those first nine and has only thrown 29 and 30 times in each of those recent two.
Wilson is still outside of the top-10 because that volume is low and he cannot be faithfully started in Week 13 against the Vikings. But he is a must-own platoon option, facing the Ravens and Browns in Week 14 and 15. I will keep him as a QB2, rest of season because those are really the only games we will want to start him, as he closes the season against the Rams in and Cardinals in Weeks 16 and 17. In leagues where we don't play Week 17, top-12 is legit, though.
- Stafford has been blowing great matchup recently by not throwing TD passes. The regression toward the mean is here. After three weeks with nice matchups against the Chiefs, Raiders, and Packers where he averaged only around 247 yards per game and threw only three TDs to go with three INTs, his five-TD performance on Thanksgiving coincided with Calvin Johnson doubling his total TD count to six.
As always, the two players go hand-in-hand. Johnson was not my stud of the week only because we weren't benching him anyway, as he was on pace for a 90-catch, 1,300-yard type of year anyway. What is changing is Stafford nearing the top-12. The schedule is great--hosting the Packers on Thursday, and going to New Orleans in Week 15, hosting the 49ers in Week 16, and going to Chicago in Week 17. And don't put too much on a "short week" for Week 13. Week 12 was a short week and Stafford killed a terrible Eagles secondary, and the previous short week still gives the Lions a week's rest before Week 13.
- Rivers showed that with limited weapons, he can still kill a great matchup like the Jaguars. The problem is two-fold: (1) he had only thrown one TD over the previous two weeks, despite great matchups against the Bears and Chiefs; and (2) owning Rivers still requires a second QB, as he still has to face the Broncos twice over the remainder of the season. As leagues get deeper, his value diminishes, but a roster spot we can use on a handcuff, the following week's DST, or a streaming flex option has to be used on a second QB, despite no more bye weeks, where we own Rivers.
- Fitzpatrick is playing with a surgically-repaired thumb on his non-throwing hand, but Chris Ivory appears to be hurt or is struggling through the injuries on the Jets offensive line. After losing two straight, where Brandon Marshall only hauled in eight of 20 targets, Fitzmagic took advantage of a great matchup with Brent Grimes on Marshall and Marshall returned to stud status with a 9/131/2 slash. It was Marshall's first game of over 47 yards since Week 8, but scored in those three games to save his fantasy line. With Fitz-Marshall only having each other to truly trust, the two are raising each others' value in a way similar to Stafford-Johnson.
- Cousins is a garbage time soldier who is now killing great matchups in two of his last three weeks. Great schedule to close the season (Cowboys twice, Bears, Bills, and Eagles) to elevate him to a strong streaming option, rest of season. I've hated on him all year, but the running game is so bad in Washington, so they are forcing Cousins to lean on Desean Jackson and Jordan Reed to make them sneaky-risky DFS super-stacks, rest of season.
- Don't trust the volume for Taylor and Tannehill. Jarvis Landry is still a stud, rest of season, as he is staying in my top-10 after his 13/165/1 slash in Week 12 and has juicy matchups for the rest of the season, but Miami is a mess. Lamar Miller went his second week in a row with under ten touches, Tannehill threw 58 times on Sunday after not throwing more than 36 times in the previous three, Rishard Matthews (chest) left the game and did not return, it's an interim head coach in place, the offensive coordinator was just fired, blah, blah, blah.
Taylor is tempting because the skill is there in him and Sammy Watkins, but let's put the two's game into perspective. Watkins' 6/158/2 slash was achieved in a game where he had only one second-half target, it was Watkins' first game this season with more than eight targets, the Chiefs have been torched many times this season by the aerial attack, Taylor threw the ball 38 times--only the third time he has surpassed 30 in nine games. The volume just is not there for this Greg Roman-Rex Ryan passing attack; it never is with those guys.
- Bortles has had to perform without his secondary weapon, Allen Hurns, at full strength. Hurns has battled two leg injuries over recent weeks and was concussed in Week 12. The runner-up for Stud of the Week was Julius Thomas (9/116/1) who has seen 18 targets in the last two weeks. Without Hurns, Thomas' volume should stay high to solidify him in the TE1 range we start every week.
The Jaguars are so bad that T.J. Yeldon could only muster nine carries against the worst run defense in the NFL in the Chargers while Bortles threw 49 times. Allen Robinson (5/56/1) and Thomas should see double digit targets every week, rest of season. Even Yeldon got five targets and his 4/46/0 slash in the pass game marked his fourth straight week with three or more catches, averaging 4.5 targets per game in his last six games.
Bortles is third in the NFL with 435 pass attempts and sixth with 39.5 per game. He has weapons and is on pace for over 4,000 yards and 30 TD passes. Firmly still a QB1, no matter how bad he and his team are in real life.
- Roethlisberger and Carr are still studs. Start them every week. The matchup doesn't matter.
Dud of the Week: DeAndre Hopkins
We are never benching Hopkins and he is a DFS stud, rest of season, with no matchups to consider fearing any week, facing the Bills, Patriots, Colts, Titans, and Jaguars to close the year. Nuk had season lows in targets (8) and yards (36) in Week 12, despite a super juicy matchups against the Saints at home. Whatever.
Hopkins has had 11 or more target every week this season before Sunday and his catch rate is due to regress back toward the mean after only five catches in each of the last three after catch at least eight balls in all but two of his first eight. He is fourth in the NFL in receptions (81), third in receiving yards (1,081), fifth in yards per touch (13.3), and third in total TDs (9).
He is worth mentioning here because he was started in almost half of DFS lineups and Brian Hoyer was the most started QB in Week 12. Expect a lot of people to turn on Nuk-Hoyer and their ownership may moderate for us. TheTexans scored twice very early and the defense just took care of the rest. The Texans improving defense makes them ones of fade opposing players and may lower the passing volume, but their running game still sucks and the ball has to go somewhere.
Maybe #chalk was the collective dud of the week. Between Nuk-Hoyer and Eli-Beckham stacks, all of the Cardinals in San Francisco, Doug Martin, and Julio Jones all losing points per dollar in FanDuel lineups this week and dominating the tops of ownership percentages, the pivots noted above were the keys to victories.
Thud of the Week: Rob Gronkowski (knee)
Gronk left Sunday night's game on a cart. It was scary for every Patriots fan and fantasy owners who largely drafted him in the top-15, if not the top-8. Mostly, it was frightening for NFL fans. Even those who hate the Patriots. This season has been so dominated by injuries that recent weeks have made for bad football. Week 12 was exciting and we felt back on track to go into some exciting playoffs, but rumors quickly started about an ACL tear for Gronk.
But, lol us. Gronk might not miss any time with his knee injury. Maybe only one game. Danny Amendola (knee) is slated to return in Week 13, so the Pats are not headed toward a fantasy wasteland. R-E-L-A-X.
Of course, this could all be juvenile gamesmanship by the Pats who disguise the real injuries with fake injuries, so we can never really know if Gronk will just be a decoy over the next couple of weeks or legitimately in the gameplan. Same goes for Amendola. Against the Eagles, it is very difficult to fade either, but always remember that Bill Belichick hates your fantasy team.
UPDATE (1:53 p.m. CST): MRI shows Gronk is only suffering from a bruised knee and is week-to-week, Dianna Russini reports at ESPN.
Tyler Eifert (neck)
The NFL's league leader in TDs (12) left Sunday's game with a pinched nerve in his neck. The only healer is time, so Eifert owners should be prepared. And DFS players may want to fade him, despite a great Week 13 matchup in Cleveland.
Jimmy Graham (torn patellar tendon)
Sucks for Graham, but let's be honest: his fantasy season was over when he signed with a team that does not shape gameplans to maximize the strengths of receiving weapons. This is the same injury which is killing the career of Victor Cruz, so we cannot truly expect Graham to be back and well early next season. It is good to hold him in dynasty formats to try to trade him to a gullible optimist for the best best draft pick we can get, but that is about it. He may otherwise be dead weight through next season.
Jeremy Hill (ankle)
Jeremy Hill is terrible. He had his fourth game of 15 or more carries in the last six weeks, breaking 60 yards for the first time since his 63-yard performance in Week 1. A nice 86-yard game against a strong Rams defense, but--of his 140 carries--only two have been for more than 13 yards and none for more than 15, including his second 15-yard run of the season on Sunday.
Hill is clearly holding Giovani Bernard back. Bernard is averaging 5.1 yards per carry to Hill's 3.5 and has gained 958 total yards to Hill's 544, despite only two more touches (151 to 149). Hill is still a startable flex in 12-team standard leagues, but Hill missing time instantly makes Gio a top-12 or top-15 RB.
Chris Johnson (knee) and Andre Ellington (toe)
Both Johnson and Ellington are having MRIs on Monday. Johnson suffered a bone bruise and Ellington likely a sprained toe. If either miss time, it's David Johnson time.
UPDATE (2:00 p.m. CST): Ellington week-to-week with turf toe.
Allen Hurns (concussion)
Mentioned Hurns' concussion earlier in the Bortles points, but need to stress that the concussion is not his only problem. If he continues to play hurt, we cannot even faithfully start him as a WR3, despite his WR2 production throughout the first ten weeks of the season.
Karlos Williams (shoulder)
Williams left Sunday's game in the first half and did not return, which added to the overall pass volume. Where we want to hope in Taylor and Watkins, this may be it, but that is a stretch. Matchup sucks for Week 13 anyway against the Texans, but the added volume can stabilize LeSean McCoy's value.
Eric Fisher (neck) and Jeff Allen (ankle)
Who? Oh, you, just like a fantasy player.
The left tackle and left guard for the Chiefs both left Sunday's game and did not return. Spencer Ware (19/114/1) had a great game to make us believe that RB CHIEFS is a top-8 RB, but he ran to the left only once the entire game. Kansas City overwhelmingly goes up the middle and to the right more often, but backups on the left side can push the line over and stuff RB CHIEFS from behind. Even if Charcandrick West is back for Week 13, the matchup against the Raiders is tough enough to fade RB CHIEFS in DFS.
Ahmad Bradshaw (wrist)
Just when Bradshaw was sniffing PPR relevance, Frank Gore's role just got a stay of execution. Bradshaw was placed on season-ending IR Monday.
Stats via Pro-Football-Reference.com.