Week 16 Booms and Busts: Todd Gurley rips up the record books

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/28398/" data-ylk="slk:Todd Gurley">Todd Gurley</a> couldn’t be stopped in Sunday’s win at Tennessee (AP)
Todd Gurley couldn’t be stopped in Sunday’s win at Tennessee (AP)

Move over, LaDainian Tomlinson. Make room, Jamaal Charles. Have a seat, Larry Johnson. Clear some space, Odell Beckham.

Todd Gurley has beaten everything and everyone in his path in the final quarter of the season. If you owned Gurley on your fantasy team in 2017, it was very difficult to go wrong — especially in the fantasy playoffs. This wasn’t just a December to Remember; this was the December to Remember.

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Let’s start with Sunday’s exploits. Gurley was a monster in Sunday’s 27-23 victory at Tennessee, racking up 276 total yards and two touchdowns. Gurley’s 22-118 on the ground was just the appetizer; he went nutty as a pass receiver (10-158-2), scoring from three and 80 yards away.

It adds up to 49.6 points in PPR formats, which is even better than the 45-point outburst he posted at Seattle (180 total yards, four scores). Gurley almost looks like a slacker in Week 14, when he settled for 135 total yards and two scores against Philadelphia.

Gurley might be running into the MVP discussion with this explosion — and with that, a pedantic discussion on what the word “valuable” really means. That’s an argument for another day. But fantasy owners, we just want the numbers. The wonderful Pro-football Reference website can research specific fantasy playoff runs, covering Weeks 14-16 or Weeks 15-16, and Gurley will top those lists when the site refreshes in the overnight.

The visuals look just as good as the numbers. Gurley has run inside and out, with power and with finesse. He’s been dynamite as a pass receiver, something the Jeff Fisher regime never seemed to understand. It certainly helps that every offensive piece around Gurley was improved into the 2017 season, but outlier seasons require elite skill packages. I guess those snarky Trent Richardson comparisons are gone for good.

Gurley looks like the No. 1 consensus pick for the 2018 fantasy season, for whatever those lists mean to you this far in advance. Surely Le’Veon Bell fans will have their say, and maybe Ezekiel Elliott, Antonio Brown, David Johnson and others will crash the party. The front of the first round is generally a fun spot to draft, and next year looks no different.

But put the telescope aside. Let’s focus on the erasing Gurley did this week (to the record books) and the engraving he did all over the country (to fantasy trophies, real and imagined). Sit back and appreciate history, it doesn’t knock on your door every week.

• What would it take for Matt Ryan to have a big fantasy day? A congressional order? Ryan did his usual thing in the non-competitive loss at New Orleans — 288 yards passing, but just one touchdown. Ryan somehow has gone 15 games without throwing more than two touchdown passes in any week. Everyone expected regression from the 2016 MVP, but I can’t imagine anyone saw the crash being this severe.

Oh the other side, Drew Brees continued to play the cool game-manager role. A 97.2 rating, 8.5 YPA, 21-of-28 completions, that’s all nice, but Brees only had one touchdown pass and ranked as the QB20 of the week when Sunday’s games finished. Not even the New Orleans backfield of dreams could shake loose in this game — the Saints averaged just 2.8 YPC, and neither Mark Ingram or Alvin Kamara broke 100 total yards. But they all can’t be Picassos; sometimes you need a color-by-numbers job.

Both teams had a pregame concern with their best receiver, but everyone played and nobody seemed worse for wear. Julio Jones posted 7-149 on 11 targets — but shocker of shocker, no touchdown — while Michael Thomas had a respectable 4-66-0 on five looks. Ted Ginn Jr. had the lone Saints score, capping a 4-76-1 day. Oh, and Devonta Freeman had another fumble, just short of the goal line.

• Look at Eric Ebron, all growns up. The Lions tight end entered Week 16 on a bit of a surge — the No. 7 tight end through the previous six weeks — and he had his way with the Bengals secondary (5-83-1, eight targets). The touchdown came on a pretty 33-yard hookup with Matthew Stafford. Ebron is finally starting to flash the form that made him the No. 10 overall pick in the loaded 2014 draft — two spots ahead of Beckham, and one slot ahead of Aaron Donald.

• The Patriots were expected to dust off Mike Gillislee this week, and he did more or less what was expected — 43 yards on seven touches, one short touchdown. But the Patriots preferred to let Dion Lewis steer the offense against Buffalo, and Lewis had the biggest say in the 37-16 victory. He scampered for 129 yards and a touchdown on 24 attempts, and added five catches — including a screen-pass touchdown — for 24 yards.

Lewis’s pass-catching was not a major factor in the first half of the year, but he’s had his moments of late. He collected five catches for 50 yards in the Miami loss, for instance. He’s managed an outstanding 93 percent catch rate on 28 opportunities and he’s also averaging better than five yards per carry. He’s probably the most underrated back in the game right now.

• The Chiefs left a few points on the field in Sunday’s 29-13 victory over Miami. But fantasy owners nonetheless received a helpful boost, as the narrow Kansas City usage tree was in full effect. The Chiefs simply don’t utilize that many players in prominent roles.

Kareem Hunt (106 total yards, touchdown) had 29 of the team’s 32 rushes, not counting two end-of-game kneeldowns. Tyreek Hill (6-109-1) and Travis Kelce (4-47-1) both made it into the end zone. Although the Chiefs did skim eight looks to Albert Wilson (who dropped a sure touchdown pass) and seven to Demetrius Harris, they know where their bread is buttered. Hunt, Hill, and Kelce have very high weekly floors as we look forward to the NFL playoffs and the fantasy variants that come along with it. Andy Reid & Company have their mojo back.

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