Week 14 Wrap: 49ers-Saints gives us NFL and fantasy game of the year

San Francisco 49ers @ New Orleans Saints

A battle featuring two of the better defenses in the league turned into an epic 48-46 high-scoring affair (there were twice as many touchdowns as incompletions at halftime) and immediately goes down as one of the best regular-season games of the decade. The teams combined for 12 TDs while hitting the over midway through the second quarter in a memorable barnburner that saw Jimmy Garoppolo and Drew Brees each throw for 349 yards with a combined 9:1 TD:INT ratio while getting 9.3 YPA. Facing a San Francisco defense that had been playing historically well, Brees didn’t take a sack and totaled six touchdowns (including his first rushing score of the year) in a dominant performance that hopefully wasn’t on your fantasy bench, given the matchup.

Brees also lost Jared Cook to a concussion early, but he made both of his targets count with each going for touchdowns against a 49ers defense that entered ranked No. 1 in DVOA vs. tight ends. Cook’s second TD was oddly not overturned on a play ruled not a catch 99 times out of 100, and he was on his way to a huge game before exiting … San Francisco’s defense also came in ranked first in DVOA against running backs, and Alvin Kamara wasn’t so lucky in his tough matchup, as he was held to a season-low in yards from scrimmage (43) and lost a fumble. For teams that manage to stay alive, he’s going to explode in Week 15 and carry people to fantasy title games with a home date against the Colts next Monday night.

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Michael Thomas is as consistent as it gets and he remains on pace to set the NFL record with 149 catches this season, while Emmanuel Sanders came through as the 49ers’ No. 1 wide receiver now that he’s fully healthy again. Sanders saw a team-high nine targets, scored on this 75-yard touchdown and added a TD pass as well. He’ll be a strong WR2 start in Week 15, with Deebo Samuel more of a FLEX play.

Raheem Mostert emerged from San Francisco’s backfield committee and led the team with just 10 carries in a day that was dominated by the pass. One week after playing the most snaps (74%) of any 49ers RB this season, Mostert scored both on the ground and through the air and got 6.9 YPC against a strong New Orleans run defense, while Matt Breida’s return moved Tevin Coleman to a distant third. Mostert won’t be treated like a true workhorse moving forward, but he entered Sunday top-10 in elusive rating and top-5 in YPC after contact, and he’s the lead back for a team that’s going to run the ball a ton at home as big favorites over the next two weeks. Mostert can be started with confidence in all fantasy lineups in Week 15.

The 49ers are 11-2 after the huge victory (thanks in no small part to George Kittle being one of the bigger beasts currently roaming planet earth) but remained a wild-card team until Seattle’s loss Sunday night. The loss obviously has seeding implications for New Orleans as well. In a battle featuring two of football’s brightest minds (there’s an argument that 39-year-old Kyle Shanahan is the single most valuable commodity in the NFL right now), the 49ers won a thrilling game that could’ve gone either way (New Orleans lost its first fumble of the year Sunday). Everyone should be hoping for a rematch in the postseason.

Is George Kittle the best tight end in the NFL? (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Is George Kittle the best tight end in the NFL? (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Washington Redskins @ Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers was quiet in a game with the Packers as big favorites, as Aaron Jones scored his ninth touchdown of the year at home (seven games) and totaled 192 yards on just 22 touches while leading Green Bay in targets. Jones is the rare fantasy back who’s been elite this season despite not seeing a real workhorse role. He’s on pace to score 19 touchdowns despite seeing 20 carries in a game just once (and with his backfield teammate stealing six scores) … Derrius Guice got 8.4 YPC before leaving with a knee injury, as he continues to offer big upside/injury risk at the same time … It was nice to see Terry McLaurin regain a pulse, but he can’t be trusted in fantasy lineups until next year.

Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans

In an apparent letdown game after beating the Patriots, the Texans were down 38-3 Sunday before Deshaun Watson added three garbage time scores that were meaningless only to those who don’t play fantasy (or bet the over/under). Watson got just 5.8 YPA and tossed two picks, but two fourth-quarter rushing scores will pay the bills. Meanwhile, Drew Lock got 11.4 YPA with three TD strikes while posting a 136.0 Passer Rating in a highly encouraging performance that if nothing else has Courtland Sutton’s dynasty managers feeling a little better now … Will Fuller was missed, while Noah Fant continued to look like a future monster before unfortunately being carted off with a foot injury.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns

Joe Mixon got 186 YFS and scored, while Nick Chubb got 7.1 YPC but lost rushing scores to Kareem Hunt and Baker Mayfield Jarvis Landry continues to act as Cleveland’s WR1 ahead of Odell Beckham Jr., who at least now has an excuse for his disappointing year with the sports hernia revelation.

Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan had a nice game (other than badly missing a wide-open Julio Jones for a 50-yard TD) despite getting nothing from Austin Hooper and with Calvin Ridley leaving early, while Carolina didn’t put up much of a fight following coach Ron Rivera’s firing … Kyle Allen continues to be a walking turnover/sack who’s hurting Christian McCaffrey’s fantasy value, as CMC racked up 11 catches but was held out of the end zone and under 55 rushing yards for the second straight week. McCaffrey is averaging 5.7 YPC at home this season and could erupt in a bounce-back spot against Seattle next week … Devonta Freeman took advantage of a terrific matchup and looked the best he has all season, including his first rushing touchdown since 2017 (and losing another GL score to Brian Hill in garbage time, when the Panthers still had McCaffrey out there in a 40-13 blowout during the closing minutes).

Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings

David Blough didn’t experience as much success during Start Two against a beatable Minnesota secondary, but at least he found Kenny Golladay for a late score. Despite the shaky QB situation, both Golladay and Marvin Jones will be tough to sit next week at home against a Bucs defense that’s easily been the friendliest to fantasy wide receivers this season … Dalvin Cook saw 20 touches and scored but managed just 3.4 YPC in a highly disappointing performance in such a favorable matchup, with Alexander Mattison not any better (3.3) during his 14 carries … This marked the first game in which Detroit didn’t have a lead this season, with the Ravens and 49ers now the only two teams able to say that.

Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets

Ryan Fitzpatrick struggled while losing DeVante Parker to a concussion in the first half, although he did lead Miami in rushing (Patrick our Laird and savior did manage 86 YFS), while Robby Anderson’s big game would’ve been huge had Sam Darnold not missed him wide open in the end zone late in the fourth … Bilal Powell became a chalky DFS play with Le’Veon Bell ruled out late in the week, and he saw 19 carries (Bell has reached that amount just once all season) in a plus matchup but got jut 3.9 YPC, didn’t score and was curiously quiet in the passing game in a disappointing performance (the same could be said for Jamison Crowder).

Indianapolis Colts @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Despite playing with a fractured hand that caused him to miss snaps, Jameis Winston finished with 456 yards (10.1 YPA), four touchdowns and three interceptions (including a pick-six) in maybe the most Winston performance yet. He’s thrown 18 of his league-high 23 interceptions at home, but he led Tampa Bay from down 35-21 with 17 unanswered points to finish the game despite the hurt hand and also losing Mike Evans to injury while he recorded a 61-yard touchdown. Chris Godwin could be looking at a ton of targets (and O.J. Howard is back on the radar) next week in a favorable matchup in Detroit with Evans down, but it’s unclear who’ll be throwing to him … Jack Doyle was a bust, but Zach Pascal took advantage of an inviting Bucs secondary while once again leading the team in targets.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Philip Rivers threw for 314 yards and three scores on just 22 attempts against a checked-out Jacksonville defense that somehow also allowed Austin Ekeler to run for more than 100 yards on just eight carries. Ekeler actually totaled 213 yards on just 12 touches, while Tyrod Taylor added a TD pass on five attempts for good measure as well. Things got so bad for the Jaguars’ defense, even Mike Williams reached the end zone Sunday … Gardner Minshew struggled badly, giving fantasy managers in Superflex leagues pause to use him in a plus matchup in Oakland in Week 15 … Game script prevented a big outing from Melvin Gordon, although his wasn’t as negative as Leonard Fournette’s.

Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots

The Patriots entered winners of 21 straight at home but lost thanks in part to a couple of questionable calls (why blow the whistle early on plays where there might be a fumble, I’ll never understand). Patrick Mahomes’ regression tour continued in an extremely tough matchup, as he's now thrown one TD or fewer in four of the last five games when he’s gotten just 7.2 YPA. Of course, that looks high compared to Tom Brady, who managed just 4.7 YPA at home Sunday and continues to engineer a New England offense that looks lost (he did have his longest run in five years) … Sony Michel somehow totaled fewer than 10 yards against a KC defense that’s been among the most favorable against fantasy backs this season. He hasn’t scored in seven weeks (he entered with the sixth-most carries inside the 10) and came in ranked among the bottom-five backs in elusive rating, but other than that, he’s had a fine season … The Chiefs’ backfield remains a stay-away situation during the fantasy playoffs, especially with Denver and Chicago up next on the schedule.

Baltimore Ravens @ Buffalo Bills

In a matchup with the most ever combined rushing yards by QBs, Josh Allen finished with his fewest rushing yards of any game during his career, while Lamar Jackson had his lowest output since Week 1. Jackson added three TD strikes despite not reaching 170 passing yards for the third straight game, and if you go back the last five contests, he has remarkably thrown 16 touchdowns without reaching 225 passing yards (expect him to go nuts at home against the Jets in Week 15). The Bills really impressed despite the loss, but they now have to travel to Pittsburgh and New England the next two weeks … 118 YFS and 5.2 YPC against this defense is impressive — I want Devin Singletary on all my fantasy teams next year.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Arizona Cardinals

The Steelers won on the road despite Devlin Hodges barely throwing for 150 yards and none of their running backs reaching even 50 rushing yards, thanks in no small part to a Pittsburgh defense that’s playing as well as any unit in the league and is now up to an NFL-high 33 takeaways on the season. Pittsburgh also curiously attempted an unsuccessful fake punt up 20-10 with fewer than eight minutes left … Kyler Murray has dealt with an awfully tough schedule recently, and Christian Kirk is going to be someone to target during fantasy drafts next year.  

Tennessee Titans @ Oakland Raiders

Ryan Tannehill had another big game, throwing for nearly 400 yards and three scores (14.5 YPA) without taking a sack, and it’s going to be funny looking back on Corey Davis’ ADP once being higher than A.J. Brown’s. The highly impressive rookie entered Sunday already top-five in yards per route run among all receivers, and he’s flying up next year’s draft boards. Oakland is really limping to the finish line, but DeAndre Washington will be FLEX worthy next week if Josh Jacobs is out again.

Seattle Seahawks @ Los Angeles Rams

Jared Goff had his second straight strong performance (his pick-six was bad but the other interception worked like a good punt, and he got 9.5 YPA without a sack), while Russell Wilson and company didn’t produce an offensive touchdown … The biggest fantasy takeaway was the knee injury suffered early by Rashaad Penny, who looked like a potential difference-maker in the fantasy playoffs, but now Chris Carson is locked into a workhorse role with Carolina’s last-ranked run defense in DVOA up next … Tyler Lockett has averaged 4.0 targets, 2.0 catches and 26.8 yards with zero TDs over the last four games … Todd Gurley continues to see heavy work and looks like an RB1 down the stretch, while Tyler Higbee is a borderline top-five tight end as long as Gerald Everett is out. Robert Woods finally scored for the first time this season as he, Gurley and Higbee became the first trio since 2000 (Cris Carter, Randy Moss, and Robert Smith) to record 100+ scrimmage yards in back-to-back games … It appears the Rams have turned a corner recently, but they now travel the next two weeks to Dallas and San Francisco.

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