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Here’s the top 10 things to watch for in Week 15. Good luck in your fantasy semifinals!
1. Let’s start in Philadelphia where the league’s top scoring offense has a new quarterback in place of leading MVP candidate Carson Wentz. A typical adjustment would be pretty marginal, with Nick Foles expected to cost the team about three or four points. But the problem for Foles and the Eagles is that they are a poor offense on first and second down (10th worst play success rate) and elite on third downs and especially on third and long. With Foles performing at his career rate, I project the Eagles would have 81 less points through 13 games just because of all the extra possessions lost relative to how Wentz has thrived. So if the Eagles play to form, they can suddenly look really bad even against the Giants. This isn’t a 2016-like Cowboys offense that plays in hitter’s counts. Note that even in his incredible 2013 season, Foles rarely faced third and long while the Eagles this year have 115 plays needing at least six yards, trailing (through Week 14) only the Colts, Broncos and Bills.
2. Is Jarvis Landry just fantasy good or real-life good, too? Josh Hermsmeyer of Rotoviz thinks both. His reasoning: “What matters is if the player creates yards on those (short) passes above league average. That’s what the charts show. Landryis well above baseline where he gets targeted.” My question is that when a player’s targets are predominantly shorter and he can’t really threaten other parts of the field, is merely yards relative to air yards the best objective measure of skill level? I don’t have an answer yet but I’ll say this for Landry: he produces no matter the quarterback.
3. Speaking of air yards, a lot of people are down on Chris Hogan off his terrible Week 14. But he had 107 air yards and coverts them as a Patriot prior to Monday night at a rate of about 71%, So he should have had about 76 yards and of course came very close to scoring a TD (on five targets). I’d play him without hesitation against the Steelers, who made Joe Flacco look great last week.
4. Check out my column from earlier this week on Aaron Rodgers’s return to the Packers and what it portends for him and his supporting cast. But let’s talk about how bad his counterpart this week, Cam Newton, is at passing. As my colleague Scott Pianowski pointed out on our Breakfast Table podcast, Newton is having his third terrible passer rating season in the last four years. And the only quarterbacks with at least 500 attempts since 2016 and a worse rating than Newton, entering Week 15, are Brock Osweiler and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
5. A.J. Green has been terrible this year in catching only 65 of his 119 targets and has struggled through his career in being efficient with Andy Dalton (his passer rating is about the same throwing to Green as overall). The last two games are good news (28 targets), bad news (12 catches for just 141 yards). But he did score twice against the Steelers. I’m bearish against the Vikings defense in Minnesota but you have to hope he can somehow gain some efficiency. There’s nowhere to go but up.
6. People are off of Drew Brees all year but beyond the “he’s Drew Brees” theory is the fact that the Saints are a 16-point favorite over the Jets. Since 2011, 13 teams have been favored by at least 15 points. They’ve all won. They’ve averaged 34 points per game. And their QBs threw for an average of 280 yards and 2.9 touchdowns with 0.5 picks — 22.3 points in Yahoo scoring. Warren Sharp last summer researched the notion that the key to fantasy projections is playing guys on teams who are the biggest favorites, forgetting about the implied totals.
7. Leonard Fournette is hurt again after finally being efficient last week. He’s game-time now with a quad injury. It seems the “durability” red flags last year were warranted. Yet he has 231 carries.
8. Here’s my Todd Gurley mea culpa, sort of. The nature of this column is modeling and historical comps. And Gurley was historically bad last year — that’s just a fact. The question was whether to bet on him this year and how much. But let’s model this year’s performance and look at all backs since the merger with at least 4.3 yards per carry and 11.0 yards per catch (200 carries, 50 catches). Gurley thus far is joining Walter Payton, Marshall Faulk, Arian Foster, Tiki Barber, Roger Craig, James Brooks, Lorenzo White. So this modeling works both ways and Gurley has gone from the outhouse to the penthouse.
9. Where should Jimmy Garoppolo be ranked next year? First, we have to know where he’ll play but it’s almost certainly to be in San Francisco. He’s only averaging about 15 fantasy points per start. But he sure looks better than that. He’s a prime candidate for a late-round QB strategy after 10 or 11 teams have made their pick.
10. Definitely Garoppolo over Derek Carr now and in 2018. In the past, Carr has had a TD% far exceeding his YPA when you compare both to the league average. In 2015 his YPA was indexed to 94 where 100 is exactly average and higher is better, according to Pro-Football-Reference. Last year, it was 97. But his TD% was 114 and 107 in 2015 and 2016, respectively. This year, the YPA is 97 again and the TD% is about the same (100). This is what we should always expect. Carr merely is no longer defying gravity.