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David Montgomery entered Week 12 averaging 3.65 yards per carry for his career. In a dysfunctional offense with poor blocking, Montgomery failed to take advantage of a plus Week 11 matchup in the Titans, turning 14 carries into 30 yards. More of the same for a player who had become a meme. There was zero indication that an even softer turn in the schedule would be enough to spark appreciably better results, especially since the drain-circled Bears were making the injury-induced switch from Nick Foles back to Mitchell Trubisky.
And then it happened. 11/103 as a rusher and 6/40/1 as a receiver in a 41-25 loss to the Packers. It was just the third 100-yard rushing effort of Montgomery’s career. It was good for the RB7 finish in half PPR. What followed in Week 13 was an even better setup in the Lions. 17/72/2, 4/39/0. RB1. Yes, it was a bad week for the position, but RB1? For David Montgomery? That simply does not happen. But now fantasy managers were forced to ask: Will this train keep rolling against the Texans’ even worse run defense? 11/113/1 and 3/42/0 later, it did. RB7.
“Takes advantage of good matchups” might sound like damning with faint praise, but it is one of the first boxes any good player must check. What kind of star doesn’t rock their plus spots? For the fantasy semifinals, the Vikings presented a potential reality check. Although Mike Zimmer’s run D is hardly dominant, it is not the doormat Montgomery was greeted by vs. Green Bay, Detroit and Houston. They are middle of the pack. How did Montgomery fare? As the RB1, rushing 32 times for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns.
Four weeks, the four highest scoring fantasy efforts of Montgomery’s career. Maybe it’s “just” the schedule. Maybe it’s Trubisky’s running threat taking attention away from his running back. Whatever it is, it is not going away for Montgomery’s Week 16 date with the Jaguars, a collapsed defense on par with Detroit and Houston’s. Every good career starts somewhere. Maybe nothing has changed and Montgomery will be a 2021 bust. Or maybe he just needed a soft stretch in the schedule to get his affairs in order and start playing the football the Bears envisioned when they traded up for Montgomery in the 2019 third round.
Five Week 15 Storylines
Jets ruin their perfect tank with upset stunner over Rams. Truth be told, the Jets did not exactly seize the day in Los Angeles. A first half interception and blocked punt set the stage for the shocker, but coach Adam Gase didn’t approach the proceedings like a wild man. This was not an “end the winless season at all costs” performance. The Jets went for it on only one fourth down and punted five times. Gase dialed up two field goals from inside the Rams’ seven-yard line. He let Frank Gore carry the ball 23 times for 59 yards. Gase cannot credibly be accused of costing the Jets their shot at Trevor Lawrence. The Rams just played worse and the Jets did what any football team with a modicum of pride would do. Now 1-13, the Jets are tied with the Jaguars for the league’s worst record, with the Jags owning the Lawrence tiebreaker by virtue of their easier schedule. With the Jets closing their season with vs. CLE and @NE compared to vs. CHI and @IND for Jacksonville, Lawrence is suddenly looking likely to be sporting teal in 2021.
Rams surrender the initiative in NFC West. Which brings us to the Rams. How did this happen? It was a little bit of everything, but mostly, the nothing. Jared Goff could not create instant offense even against the Jets, completing just one pass longer than 16 yards and averaging 6.1 yards per attempt. In the first half, Goff appeared as if he was facing the 2000 Ravens or 1985 Bears. Goff can pile up yards with the best of them when the Rams get an early lead and operate from advantageous situations for Sean McVay’s manipulations. When they don’t? You get back-to-back game-ending fades, ones no one could really explain after the fact. To pin the loss solely on Goff would be absurd. But when this team has questions, the quarterback is not the answer. That will remain McVay’s biggest liability as the “next Bill Belichick” for however long he is associated with Goff.
Drew Brees struggles mightily in return vs. Chiefs. Playing for the first time in 35 days, Brees completed just 44.1 percent of his 34 passes, the third lowest mark of his 20-year career. The only two lower came on Sept. 9, 2004 as a member of the Chargers and Dec. 24, 2006, his first year as a Saint. Missing security blanket Michael Thomas, Brees looked Alvin Kamara’s way a modest six times, never finding rhythm in a game that remained improbably close if not necessarily competitive. At one point 7-for-24, it is impossible to think Brees was not encumbered by his broken ribs. With Thomas done for the regular season and the Saints for some reason playing on Christmas Day/Friday afternoon, there will be no rest for the Week 16 weary. Considering Sunday’s showing and his limited supporting cast, Brees cannot be trusted as a QB1 for the fantasy finals.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire gets leg twisted up against Saints. Being listed with hip and ankle issues following an awkward, ugly hit, CEH is expected to miss Weeks 16 and 17 before being reassessed in January. With the seemingly unstoppable Chiefs cruising toward a first-round bye, that gives Edwards-Helaire three weeks to get healthy. The injury ends a disappointing rookie year in the NFL’s most high-flying offense. Barely an RB2 by average half PPR points, CEH accounted for just five of the Chiefs’ 48 offensive touchdowns. Replacement-level on early downs, CEH did not provide nearly as many big plays in the passing game as expected. He caught only 27 passes in 10 contests after September. He will have offseason work to do to nail down 2021 three-down duties.
Tony Pollard has best game by Cowboys running back all season. Operating on “just” 18 touches, Pollard’s 132 yards from scrimmage bested Ezekiel Elliott’s 2020 high. 40 of Pollard’s yards came on what amounted to a game-ending touchdown run with 2:27 remaining. That was 14 more yards than Zeke has managed on any of his 2020 scampers. It is too early for 2021 takeaways. Elliott’s production was mostly as expected with Dak Prescott under center, while offensive line injuries have made the Cowboys’ rushing attack difficult to evaluate. It’s just hard not to notice that Pollard has shown more zip first as a change-of-pace option and now as a starter. Pollard will be a low-end RB1 if Elliott misses the fantasy finals against Philadelphia.
Five More Week 15 Storylines
Jalen Hurts trades blows with Kyler Murray. Hurts took off the training wheels in favor of a jet pack, completing 24-of-44 throws for 338 yards and three scores while adding 11/63/1 on the ground. A QB1 overall day for the fantasy finals, one that featured eight more fantasy points than Carson Wentz managed in any of his 2020 starts. Hurts contributed seven 20-plus yard completions, and finished second to only Marcus Mariota in Week 15 QB rushing yardage. We will worry about the 2021 implications later — Wentz’s untradable, uncuttable contract says hello — but the Week 16 impact is clear: Hurts will be winning fantasy leagues against the Dallas Cowboys.
J.K. Dobbins slowly solidifies control of Ravens backfield. With Mark Ingram healthy scratched, Dobbins out-touched Gus Edwards 15-11, making it the third time in as many post-COVID appearances Dobbins has handled more work than his backfield mate. This has not been the full-on commandeering we have witnessed from Jonathan Taylor in Indianapolis, but Dobbins has turned the steadier gig into RB16, RB20 and RB17 finishes in half PPR. He has scores in four straight starts. Ceiling might not be achievable with Edwards stealing work and Lamar Jackson keeping most of the glory for himself, but Dobbins will be a clear-cut top-20 option for the fantasy finals against the Giants.
James Robinson has second straight down game, tweaks ankle. It took much longer than expected, but Robinson is finally having trouble out-running the game script law. His 35 yards rushing against the Ravens were his second fewest of the season. Robinson has only 28 carries over the past two weeks as the Jags have suffered back-to-back blowout defeats. Sunday’s down day was influenced by an ankle issue that cost Robinson fourth quarter time. With the Jags now in the driver’s seat for Trevor Lawrence, it’s quite possible they give Robinson all the time he needs to heal and more, especially since he’s already reached 1,000 yards rushing. If Robinson does not go in Week 16 against the Bears, journeyman pass-catching back Dare Ogunbowale would be in the lead for touches.
Salvon Ahmed Dolphins’ first 100-yard rusher since 2018. Not since Kalen Ballage in Dec. 2018 had a Dolphins runner reached the century mark. There’s a 2020 factoid if there ever was once. Ahmed keyed a lethal rushing attack that dropped 250 yards on the Patriots, a necessity since the Dolphins’ entire skill corps was on the inactives list. This would normally be an invitation for Week 16 dominance, but Ahmed managers can’t yet pencil him in for a dream matchup with the Raiders. That’s because Myles Gaskin figures to come off the COVID-19 list this week. If and when that happens, neither Ahmed nor Gaskin will be startable as an RB2 absent some sort of clarification from the Dolphins’ coaching staff. That, of course, is not going to happen.
Russell Wilson continues not to cook. Your early-season MVP? He’s the QB12 over the past six weeks. That’s a span in which Wilson has nine total scores and is averaging 211 passing yards. He is partly compensating with 35 weekly rushing yards, but Wilson is no longer Path A to weekly victories for your fantasy team. The trickle down effect has Tyler Lockett generating 378 total yards in eight contests since his 200-yard blowup against the Cardinals. As was the case with Wilson in the past, he is still providing QB1 days on limited volume. That might have to be the formula for Week 16 vs. the Rams, who held Wilson to a scoreless 248 sides in the sides’ first meeting in Week 10.
1. Did the Rams’ punt protector going on the COVID-19 list give the Jaguars Trevor Lawrence?
2. Are the McVays and Lawrences family friends?
3. If you are a Saints special teamer, why wouldn’t you dramatically cannonball onto the football in the end zone instead of simply making sure you secure it for a touchdown?
Early Waiver Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Jalen Hurts (@DAL), Baker Mayfield (@NYJ), Philip Rivers (@PIT), Mitchell Trubisky (@JAX), Tua Tagovailoa (@LV), Drew Lock (@LAC)
RB: Tony Pollard, Gus Edwards, Salvon Ahmed, Dare Ogunbowale, Frank Gore, Ty Johnson, Lynn Bowden
WR: Keke Coutee, Rashard Higgins, Sterling Shepard, John Brown, Jalen Reagor (check health), Russell Gage, Lynn Bowden, Laviska Shenault, Allen Lazard, Chad Hansen, Jalen Guyton
TE: Irv Smith, Jordan Reed, Dalton Schultz, Cole Kmet, Jordan Akins, Tyler Eifert
DEF: Cardinals (vs. SF), Chargers (vs. DEN), Texans (vs. CIN), Eagles (@DAL), Panthers (vs. WFT)
Stats of the Week
24-7. The lead the Falcons blew against the Falcons. Honestly, why bother with leads at this point?
Despite tweaking his ankle, Cam Akers out-touched Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown 16-4. He has handled 92 percent of the Rams’ carries over the past two weeks.
John Daigle lays out D’Andre Swift’s return to cooking: 65 percent of the Lions’ snaps, 71 percent of their running back carries, 100 percent of their running back targets and 4-of-6 running back touches inside the 10-yard line.
Tweet of the Week, Hayden Winks on Ke’Shawn Vaughn: I'm very surprised the Illinois-to-Vandy-transfer who entered the league as a 23-year-old fifth-year senior isn't looking good.
Tweet of the Week II, from Arif Hasan: Got more likes on the "Dan Bailey makes the XP" tweet than "Adam Thielen gets a TD catch" tweet.