Sunday was an action-packed day in the fantasy football world as the playoffs continued, with high-profile players delivering huge stat lines and unheralded players chipping-in with valuable points to boost fantasy squads to victory. There were numerous NFL backfields that left fantasy owners guessing prior to Sunday, and the production from these spots ranged from predictable to infuriating as injuries left fantasy teams in trouble with playoff matchups looming. Let’s dive right in and recap backfield developments, the scorching Seattle passing game, and two extremely impressive running back performances in Monday’s Daily Dose.
Free Agency Fallout
As we discussed in Friday’s Fantasy Roundtable, there were multiple NFL backfields with new candidates for fantasy production this week with injuries running rampant around the league. Fantasy waiver wires were hopping as speculation swirled around the freshly vacant touches and how they would be distributed. Some of these situations shook out how fantasy owners anticipated, and others missed the mark during an interesting Sunday slate of games. Let’s quickly touch on the most notable situations:
Seattle: The Seahawks signed Bryce Brown and Christine Michael last week after losing Thomas Rawls (ankle) for the season, and promised to get Derrick Coleman involved on Sunday as well. After the smoke cleared, it was Michael leading the way with 84 yards on 16 carries in a solid performance as Seattle downed Cleveland. Brown chipped-in with 43 yards on nine carries, and Coleman’s five carries all came in the first quarter. It appears that long-time fantasy community addiction Christine Michael is the back to own in Seattle for the remainder of the fantasy playoffs.
New England: Brandon Bolden was expected to handle the early-down work for the Patriots, with James White staying in his passing-down role this week after LeGarrette Blount (hip) was placed on injured reserve. This assumption was mostly correct, but recent practice squad signee Joey Iosefa barged in on the party, rumbling his way to 51 yards on 14 carries. Bolden still saw 12 touches in this game and White flashed his usual pass-catching skills, but it appears White is the only back in this picture with a clearly defined role. Bolden is still preferable to Iosefa moving forward but his weekly workload is as reliable as your 1989 Honda Civic.
Jacksonville: Denard Robinson was the man for the Jaguars as expected, but he did more work in the passing game than on the ground. Robinson caught eight of a team-high 10 targets for 46 yards while running for only 28 yards on 14 carries. The 22 touches were nice, but Robinson was stopped just short of the goal line once and was also vulture by Blake Bortles, who scored on a goal line run. Robinson will remain a startable asset as long as T.J. Yeldon is out. A Week 16 matchup with New Orleans looks awfully enticing.
Carolina: With Jonathan Stewart (foot) out on Sunday, the Panthers split their backfield touches between three backs, with rookie Cameron Artis-Payne receiving the most work. Artis-Payne ran for 59 yards on 14 carries and added 34 receiving yards on two catches on Sunday, with Mike Tolbert and Fozzy Whittaker playing lesser roles. If Stewart misses more time, Artis-Payne appears to be the running back to own but Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton will still receive their usual goal line chances.
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Seattle Still Rolling
And now for your weekly Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin update. The Seattle passing game kept motoring down the track on Sunday and NFL defenses have been unable to slow this runaway freight train. Wilson threw three touchdowns on Sunday, giving him five-straight games with three or more passing scores and 19 touchdowns in that five-game span. Two of Wilson’s touchdown passes went to Doug Baldwin in Seattle’s win over Cleveland, giving Baldwin 10 scores in the last four weeks after having a single-season career-high of five touchdowns prior to 2015. Yes, he has doubled his career single-season high in one month of play, and has become a touchdown scoring machine in Seattle’s offense. Baldwin now has an absurd 13 touchdowns this season, putting him ahead of Rob Gronkowski, DeAndre Hopkins, Calvin Johnson, and Antonio Brown in this category and we could spend weeks making more crazy comparisons for Baldwin’s career year but we have fantasy championships to win next Sunday.
Two fantasy running backs combined for seven touchdowns on Sunday, with one player lighting up fantasy box scores while the other was likely causing heartburn as his name was unfortunately displayed on fantasy benches. Arizona running back David Johnson received 33 touches on Sunday night as Arizona topped Philadelphia, his third-straight game with 24 or more touches. Johnson has been a workhorse for the Cardinals recently, and he did his best to score like one in Week 15 as he found the end zone three times. The hat trick was tasty for fantasy owners, who also enjoyed a nice side dish of 229 total yards from Johnson on the evening. A solid matchup with Green Bay is waiting for the rookie in Week 16.
The other scoring explosion on Sunday came from San Diego’s Danny Woodhead, who hadn’t scored a touchdown since Week 9 and had largely been an afterthought in the Chargers’ offense in recent weeks. Naturally, Woodhead erupted for four touchdowns on Sunday, with three coming through the air from Philip Rivers. Woodhead was given some extra run with Melvin Gordon (knee) leaving the game early, but the mini-running back handled only 14 touches of the day and managed the four-pack of scores, further highlighting the unpredictable nature of this performance. If Gordon misses time, Woodhead could be useful in PPR leagues alongside Donald Brown but I think we can all agree not to expect four touchdowns from Mr. Woodhead on Christmas Eve, whether he is on the nice list or not.
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Injury Quick Slants
Adrian Peterson (ankle) missed parts of Minnesota’s game on Sunday with an ankle injury but ultimately finished the game. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata would be in line for more work if Peterson misses time. … LeSean McCoy (knee) injured an MCL on Sunday and was unable to finish the day. Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee will fill-in if McCoy misses time. More news to come this week. … A.J. Green (back) caught one pass for 37 yards then left Cincinnati’s game in the third quarter with back concerns. The Bengals were nursing a big lead, but Green’s status needs to be monitored this week. … Marcus Mariota (knee) left Tennessee’s loss to New England early with a knee injury and did not return. If Mariota is held out of the next two games, Zach Mettenberger would be the Titans’ starter. … Danny Amendola (knee) departed New England’s game early on Sunday and did not return. The fragile receiver’s status is unknown at the moment, but Julian Edelman’s return is getting closer anyhow. … Melvin Gordon’s (knee) unsuccessful Week 15 was cut short with a knee injury after the rookie ran for 41 yards on 15 carries. Donald Brown handled the rushing duties while Danny Woodhead handled the scoring duties after Gordon left. … San Francisco’s Shaun Draughn (knee) left Sunday’s game with a knee injury and did not return after tallying 42 total yards. Travaris Cadet and Kendall Gaskins are now all the 49ers have left at running back. … Houston QB T.J. Yates (knee) tore his ACL on Sunday, leaving Brandon Weeden to start for Houston moving forward until Brian Hoyer (concussion) is ready.