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Hill seized the lead role in the Cincinnati backfield this week, then feasted on the road, in a division matchup. The rookie rushed for 148 yards and two scores on 25 carries, adding four receiving yards on one reception. Giovani Bernard was invited to the party, too, gaining 103 scrimmage yards on 18 touches. But Hill absolutely dominated the rushing workload in the first-half, when the game was still competitive. He needed only two quarters of play to reach the 100-yard plateau.
Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson basically telegraphed Hill's usage earlier in the week, when he indicated a preference to rely on a single featured runner. Hill delivered in a massive way on Sunday. At 230-plus pounds, the kid runs with plenty of power, but he's more than simply a run-to-contact punisher. Check the Week 15 highlights right here. Hill is a patient runner with tackle-dodging ability, and he also happens to wield a stiff-arm of fury. He's now averaging 4.95 yards per carry on 177 totes this season. I'm sold. Hill faces a degree-of-difficulty matchup next week at home against the Broncos, but he cannot be benched ... unless Denver signs that end-zone Browns fan, which seems unlikely.
• What the heck are we gonna do with Odell Beckham Jr. in fantasy drafts next season? Is he a top-five fantasy wideout? Top-three? We have a few months to sort out the player pool, but that kid has certainly put himself squarely in the top-of-draft discussion. Beckham shamed Washington's defense on Sunday, snagging 12 balls on 15 targets, finishing with 143 yards and three scores. No other member of the Giants' receiving corps saw more than four targets, and none finished with more than 30 yards. Beckham was the whole show, basically. And he was uncoverable.
We should note that Robert Griffin III made an appearance in relief of an injured Colt McCoy, and the results were encouraging (although the opposing D was nothin' special). RG3 completed 18 of 27 throws for 236 yards, one score and no picks, plus he added 46 yards on the ground on five carries. Griffin also had an apparent rushing TD wiped out by review, which resulted in a glorious Santana Moss explosion.
• If you were banking on a Chris-Johnson-unleashes-hell-on-former-team scenario in Week 15, you didn't exactly win the fantasy lottery. CJ carried 10 times for 55 yards against the Titans, catching no passes. The Jets two touchdowns went to Chris Ivory and fullback John Connor. The game wasn't such a fun watch until its absurd final play, a multi-lateral near miracle that ended at the 6-yard line.
• Buffalo's defense has faced Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers over the past two weeks, which sure seems like a scheduling nightmare. But the Bills were more than ready, holding Manning and Rodgers to a combined 358 passing yards, zero TDs and five turnovers. Simply put, that's ridiculous. Mario Williams, you're a terror. Buffalo travels to Oakland next week, and my early projection for the game's final score is 24 to -8.
(If you need more details on Rodgers' no-good fantasy day, Scott Pianowski has you covered.)
• Jamaal Charles owners, you have every right to complain. It should not have gone down this way — not in the fantasy semis, not with the Raiders on the schedule. Charles carried just 12 times for 52 yards in Kansas City's relatively easy home win over Oakland, which of course means Knile Davis did work. Davis poached a short rushing score in the third quarter — one of his nine carries for 11 yards — and he converted his only catch into a 70-yard touchdown. Thus, those of us who started Charles in a dream matchup are somewhat displeased. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr put the ball in the air 56 times on Sunday, while Latavius Murray saw only 12 carries. Seems like a reasonable approach. It's not as if Murray did anything the last time these teams met, right?
• At halftime in Foxboro, the Pats appeared to be involved in a serious skirmish with the Dolphins, leading 14-13. Miami had pulled to within a single point in the final seconds of the half, on a beautiful 32-yard touchdown grab by Mike Wallace. But when the third quarter began ... well, things escalated quickly. LeGarrette Blount scored, then Gostkowski, then Gronk, then Edelman. And a mauling was underway. Blount investors should note that we had a Jonas Gray sighting in Week 15, an unwelcome development. Gray out-carried Blount 11 to 8, gaining 62 yards to LeGarrette's 17. Jonas was involved before garbage-time kicked in, so let's not dismiss his workload as a total fluke.
• Andrew Luck threw a pair of touchdown passes to teammates on Sunday (Nicks & Allen) and one to the Texans, and that pretty much sums up the scoring in Indy. Dan Herron and Trent Richardson again split carries for the Colts, with the usual results: 11-60-0 for Herron, 9-32-0 for T-Rich. Houston lost quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a nasty early injury (fractured tibia), which led to an appearance by rookie Tom Savage, who did nothing of note (127, INT). Savage actually limped away from Week 15 with a leg/knee injury himself, so the Texans are in desperate need of help. (Asking J.J. Watt to fill in at QB seems a bit much, but let's maybe keep an open mind.) Baltimore awaits next week.
Josh McCown was a mess for the Bucs this week, tossing one pick and losing two fumbles. But he managed to find Mike Evans for a score (no surprise), plus he added a rushing touchdown (small surprise). Doug Martin ran for 96 yards on Sunday, a total that he typically needs three games to reach. Derek Anderson played well enough for Carolina in relief of Cam Newton, completing 25 of 40 throws for 277 yards and one score. Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin dominated the receiving stats for the Panthers, combining for 214 yards and 18 catches on 26 targets. So at least we know Anderson can continue to feed the team's two must-start fantasy assets.
• Harry Douglas had a day against the Steelers, piling up stats with Julio Jones sidelined by injury (hip). Douglas was targeted 14 times, hauling in 10 balls for 131 yards. Atlanta gets an exceedingly friendly matchup next week, facing New Orleans on a short week. Keep Douglas in your plans, depending on the Julio news.
• Matthew Stafford entered the week coming off back-to-back excellent fantasy performances, so I suppose we should have seen a dud coming. He finished with just 153 yards and one score on Sunday against Minnesota, averaging just 5.5 YPA. The Viking scored the game's first 14 points, but Detroit scored all the rest. Joique Bell delivered all the yards you expected (103 total) and none of the touchdowns. All things considered, the game was a fantasy sinkhole. Let's move on...
• If you were expecting a shootout between the Broncos and Chargers on Sunday, um ... sorry. Request denied. Denver and San Diego combined for an unsatisfying 32 points and 625 total yards. Peyton Manning was apparently dealing with flu-ish symptoms, and he suffered a minor mid-game thigh injury, but he still delivered 233 passing yards and one score on only 20 attempts. Philip Rivers managed one less yard than Manning on 41 throws. With Ryan Mathews dinged, neither Branden Oliver or Donald Brown could dent the Broncos defensive front; the pair combined for just 44 rushing yards on 17 carries. Oliver had the lead role, not that it led to anything notable. The Bolts face San Francisco next week, so none of the team's backs will be a recommended fantasy play.
• Down the road, Johnny Manziel might very well become a useful fantasy weapon and a competent NFL quarterback. But on Sunday, he was neither of those things. He sailed plenty of throws, he was late on others, and his receivers weren't necessarily at their best. If you were among the few fantasy owners who started Manziel on Sunday, it's unlikely that you'll be advancing to title week. Johnny finished with an abysmal line: 10-for-18, 80 yards, zero TDs, two INTs. Josh Gordon claimed 48 of the yards, for what it's worth. (Not much.) Browns skill players are waaaay outside the circle of trust at this late stage in the season.
• Frank Gore suffered a concussion in his team's 17-7 loss at Seattle on Sunday, and his understudy Carlos Hyde was injured as well (ankle/leg). San Francisco is now eliminated from the NFC playoff race, so there's no obvious reason to rush any injured players back for Week 16. Alfonso Smith was the last RB standing on Sunday — and he apparently wasn't on the scouting report for Seattle...
Michael Bennett said of San Francisco losing top two running backs: "I don't even know who No. 38 is.'' For the record, Alfonso Smith.
— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) December 15, 2014
EARLY ADDS FOR CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK
QB Robert Griffin III, Was (vs. Phi)*
QB Kyle Orton, Buf (at Oak)*
QB Alex Smith, KC (at Pit)*
RB Kerwynn Williams, Ari (vs. Sea)
RB Matt Asiata, Min (at Mia)
RB Doug Martin, TB (vs. GB)
RB Toby Gerhart, Jac (vs. Ten)
WR Harry Douglas, Atl (at NO)
WR Cecil Shorts III, Jac (vs. Ten)
WR Marquess Wilson, Chi (vs. Det)
DEF Carolina (vs. Cle)
* OK, these are probably terrible ideas, but I feel obligated to include QBs in the pickups. Let's hope you have more reliable options.