Strength in Numbers: Actionable Week 15 Stats

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  • Buffalo Bills
    Buffalo Bills
  • Devin Singletary
    Devin Singletary

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Week 15 sported the fewest touchdowns on a Sunday since November 27, 1994 (minimum 10 games played).

Of course, that had to come during the first round of the fantasy playoffs. There were four total games on Monday and Tuesday this week, which is abnormal, but it's still pretty incredible how little scoring happened over the weekend – and how many touchdowns came from players that didn't actually help fantasy managers move onto the next round.

For those who survived: Congrats. Survive and advance, that's all it is this time of year. Most leagues enter the semifinals this week, and fantasy players eyeing a title need all of the information possible at their disposal, but that's easier said than done with so many games every weekend. Fortunately, Strength in Numbers is here to break down the most actionable stats from each week in a concise, numbers-filled format. Let's get right to it.

1. Devin Singletary played 65-of-70 snaps (92.9%) against the Panthers, marking a new career-high in snap rate and a season-high in that metric for any Bills running back in 2021. Zack Moss was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game, leaving Singletary and Matt Breida as the two backfield players. Breida notched just three snaps, ran zero routes, and had one carry. Meanwhile, Singletary ran 30 routes on 38 Josh Allen dropbacks (78.9%) and got 22 carries.

This is the second consecutive game in which Singletary has been a workhorse for the Bills. While his box-score numbers didn't show it in Week 14 – he had just four carries because Buffalo was in negative game script all night long against the Buccaneers – Singletary played 82% of snaps in that game before surpassing that mark with a 93% clip in Week 15.

Jake Tribbey of Fantasy Points noted how Singletary could be a league-winner despite the Bills' pass-heavy approach if he continues this kind of market share dominance.

Bills coach Sean McDermott said postgame that he wouldn't comment on whether Singletary had established himself as the lead back, but actions speak louder than words, and he has been a workhorse over the past two weeks. McDermott did go on to say that he has a lot of confidence in the third-year running back, although that seems more like vague coach-speak than anything else. As long as Moss remains off the gameday actives list, Singletary has league-winning potential.

2. With Elijah Mitchell (head, knee) out in Week 15, Jeff Wilson led the 49ers' backfield, playing 50-of-57 snaps (87.7%), the highest percentage by a San Francisco running back this season. Notably, Wilson also ran 15 routes on 24 Jimmy Garoppolo dropbacks, while backup JaMycal Hasty ran just one. Deebo Samuel – who is the 49ers' real RB2 right now – also had six carries.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan indicated that Mitchell is likely to miss Week 16 as well with the 49ers having a short week before facing the Titans on Thursday.

That means Wilson should play a healthy complement of snaps again during semifinal week. It's particularly interesting that Wilson took over a true three-down role sans Mitchell rather than ceding third-down work to Hasty – who has often taken over on passing downs this season. While Samuel will take a healthy portion of rushing attempts in his dual-threat role, Wilson is an every-down back as long as Mitchell is out. Wilson could go nuts in Week 17 in a picture-perfect matchup against the Texans if Mitchell still isn't ready. Fantasy managers will need to monitor reports and it's likely too early to make a judgment on whether Mitchell could play in two weeks, but it is evident that Wilson is in must-start territory for Week 16.

3. In Michael Carter's first game back from an ankle injury, the rookie and Tevin Coleman each recorded eight carries. Carter led Jets running backs in snaps (31-of-57, 54.4%) and routes (17 on 34 dropbacks vs. 12 for Coleman). Ty Johnson was a surprise healthy scratch, allowing Austin Walter to step into the RB3 role.

It was a slightly disappointing return for Carter, who was emerging as a three-down star for the Jets prior to his injury. However, the decision to make Johnson a healthy scratch shows some faith in Carter as a pass-catcher, and it's possible New York wanted to ease him back into the swing of things after three weeks off. Carter has a brutal matchup in Week 17 against the Buccaneers, but he's on the fantasy radar this weekend against a beatable Jaguars run defense.

4. The Dolphins' backfield is a total mess. Duke Johnson had 22 carries on Sunday vs. 10 for Myles Gaskin, as both Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed were on the reserve/COVID-19 list until Friday. Phillip Lindsay was activated from the COVID list on Monday, meaning he's eligible to play next weekend. Malcolm Brown hasn't played since Week 7, but he practiced ahead of Week 15 and could also return in Week 16.

To make matters worse, the Dolphins face one of the best run defenses in the league in New Orleans in Week 16. Miami has five running backs – Gaskin, Johnson, Ahmed, Lindsay, and Brown, in no particular order – who could be active next weekend, and it's anyone's guess who spearheads the attack against the Saints. Maybe we get some idea of who'll be the lead back next weekend, but this is more likely to just be a headache to avoid for fantasy managers. Don't overreact to Johnson's massive Week 15, and avoid playing a Dolphins running back next weekend unless you have to.

5. Tennessee's backfield also remains difficult to decipher. D'Onta Foreman led Titans running backs in snaps with 31 – but the Titans ran 80 plays on Sunday, meaning Foreman still only played 38.8% of snaps. Dontrell Hilliard (29 snaps) and Jeremy McNichols (23) followed Foreman closely. Foreman had 22 carries, Hilliard had nine, and McNichols had six, but Hilliard led Titans backs in routes (17) and targets (six). Foreman had three targets on six routes, while McNichols had three targets on 12 routes.

Foreman is the preferred back on early downs, as evidenced by his 59.5% rushing attempts market share, but it seems like Tennessee wants to rotate Hilliard and McNichols in passing situations. On the whole, this means all Titans running backs are nearly impossible to depend on. Foreman is still the most likely one to return fantasy-viable production, but he likely needs positive game script to do it. The Titans are currently 3.5-point underdogs on Thursday, so Foreman is at best a volatile flex option. Hilliard and McNichols should be left on the bench or the waiver wire.

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Quick Hits

This section will be used for stats I think are worth mentioning (and for which the takeaway is fairly intuitive) but aren't important enough to write up fully. Let's get to it:

  • Tony Pollard did not appear limited in his return after a one-week absence despite reports suggesting he may have a smaller role than usual. Pollard had 12 carries (for 76 yards!) to Ezekiel Elliott's 16 (for 52 yards) and ran 15 routes vs. 22 for Zeke. Expect the same situation as earlier in the year in which both running backs are highly involved. Elliott is a fringe RB1, while Pollard is on the flex radar.

  • Fourth-round Lions rookie wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown has at least 11 targets in three consecutive games. Over that span, he is boasting an enormous 33% target share. His worst performance over the past three games is eight catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.

  • Craig Reynolds played 42-of-65 snaps for the Lions and had 26 carries in the stunner of the week when the Lions upset the Cardinals. Reynolds also ran 12 routes to Godwin Igwebuike's eight, but the Lions only dropped back to pass 28 times. In Week 14, Igwebuike handled the majority of passing downs, and that likely would have been the case again if Detroit had needed to throw. Regardless, Reynolds appears to be a workhorse on early downs with D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams out.

  • Gabriel Davis tied for the team-lead in routes (34) and targets (seven) without Emmanuel Sanders, and the former Central Florida Knight posted a strong 5-85-2 line. Davis is a solid fantasy starter if Sanders misses any more time. Sanders had three straight DNPs last week, so fantasy players will need to monitor injury reports ahead of Buffalo's Week 16 matchup.

  • Chase Claypool's route participation has torpedoed in recent weeks, culminating with a 59.4% route rate in Week 15. Both Diontae Johnson and Ray-Ray McCloud have been running ahead of Claypool lately.

  • In Chase Edmonds' first game back from injury, he played three fewer snaps than James Conner (32 to 29) and ran the number of routes (16). Conner had eight carries to Edmonds' six. It remains to be seen whether the Cardinals go back to the system they used earlier in the year when Edmonds and Conner split early-down work, but the former got all passing-down work. They could have just used Conner more in that role because it was Edmonds' first game back, or there could have been a legitimate change where Arizona uses both backs interchangeably (except presumably still with a strong Conner lean at the goal-line).

  • With Carlos Hyde out, James Robinson played 59-of-70 snaps, ran 32 routes on 42 Trevor Lawrence dropbacks, and got 18 carries to Dare Ogunbowale's one. Jaguars interim head coach Darrell Bevell was quite clear when asked how Robinson would be used moving forward following Urban Meyer's firing.

  • It cannot be overstated how bad Mike Glennon was against the Cowboys. He averaged 4.1 yards per attempt and threw three picks. Jake Fromm came into the game in the fourth quarter and nearly matched Glennon's passing yardage output in half a quarter.

  • Aaron Jones returned to his role as the Packers' primary back in Week 15, carrying the rock 13 times to A.J. Dillon's seven and running 18 routes to Dillon's 12.

  • Latavius Murray got more work than usual in Week 15; in fact, he actually had seven rushing attempts to Devonta Freeman's six. Freeman still held the edge in the passing game, notching 29 routes compared to 16 for Murray and out-snapping Murray 39-28. Still, this could be more of a split in the coming weeks, whereas Freeman previously had a dominant touch share in both facets.

  • The Saints split work between Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram pretty evenly. Kamara got 11 carries; Ingram had nine. Kamara ran 17 routes; Ingram ran 15.

Thanks for reading the Week 16 edition of Strength in Numbers! Check back next week for the Week 17 version.