As hard as it is to believe, we’re heading into the final week of the 2015 regular season. We’re just one week from wrapping a bow on the year. If your fantasy league continues championship week into Week 17 or you’re looking to dabble in the waters of daily fantasy, let’s recap Monday Night Football and Monday’s news with an eye towards the final week.
Monday Night Football Recap
The Broncos edged out the Bengals in overtime 20-17 and secured a playoff spot on Monday Night Football. After a Brandon McManus shank that would have ended the game in regulation, McManus avenged his missed field goal attempt in overtime by drilling a 37-yarder to put Denver ahead. On the ensuing Bengals drive, A.J. McCarron and the center failed to properly execute a shotgun snap resulting in a sack/fumble that ended the game. I’m sure fantasy leagues were settled or altered thanks to the three fantasy points swing (sack plus fumble) in favor of the Broncos D/ST on the final play of the game.
Per a report earlier on Monday by FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer, Brock Osweiler will remain Denver’s starter for the rest of the season “barring some sort of collapse.” Osweiler certainly didn’t fail in his sixth career start on Monday Night, tossing for 299 yards (on 39 attempts) and one touchdown. He completed 69% of his passes, averaged 7.7 yards per attempt, and commanded two separate drives that set up Denver in field goal position to win the game twice – once in regulation and once in overtime. C.J. Anderson was Denver’s leading rusher with nine carries for 73 yards and one touchdown while Ronnie Hillman converted his nine carries into 35 yards rushing. Demaryius Thomas led the Broncos in targets (12) while Owen Daniels had 7, Emmanuel Sanders received 5, Hillman had 4, and Anderson had two passing targets.
On the other side of the ball, A.J. McCarron was up-and-down in his second start while Andy Dalton (thumb) remains sidelined. McCarron threw for 200 yards (on 35 attempts) and one touchdown to A.J. Green in Monday Night’s loss. He did open up the first half white-hot, completing 12-of-17 attempts for 119 yards and his only touchdown pass by halftime. A.J. Green led Cincinnati in targets (9), receptions (5), and receiving yards (57) against Denver. He gets the shred-able Ravens secondary in the league’s final week of 2015. Green torched Baltimore for 10-227-2 in Week 3 earlier this year. Jeremy Hill led the Bengals in rushing (19-63) against Denver, while Giovani Bernard continued to struggle. He turned his eight attempts into just 14 yards on the ground. Bernard has 147 yards rushing (on 49 attempts) over his past six games (3.0 yards per carry) while Hill has 339 yards rushing (96 attempts. Hill is averaging 3.53 YPC during that span.
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Monday’s News and Notes
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said Jonathan Stewart (foot) “might be” ready to play in Week 17 against Tampa Bay after missing the prior two weeks. It’s obviously very early in the week and a lot is due to change, but Carolina needs a win in Week 17 to secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC and take home-field advantage throughout their playoff run. Already down change-of-pace and depth back Fozzy Whittaker (ankle) in Week 17, the Panthers are painfully short at running back heading into the final week of the season. Cameron Artis-Payne was in on 21 (of 53) snaps in Week 16’s loss to Atlanta, while Mike Tolbert played 20 snaps and Whittaker had 18.
Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer is in the last step of the league’s concussion protocol, per coach Bill O’Brien. Hoyer will get the start in Week 17 against the Jaguars, pending protocol clearance. Houston is all but locked into the No. 4 seed, barring a laundry list of nearly impossible sequences that the Colts need to occur to sneak into the playoffs in the final week of the season. Hoyer has actually been a passable fantasy quarterback in his six starts in which he played 90-plus percent of snaps with weekly finishes of: QB8, QB16, QB13, QB8, QB23, and QB30. He has also thrown multiple passing touchdowns in seven of his 10 total games played. For what it’s worth, Jacksonville entered Week 16 ranked 30th in Football Outsiders’ Pass Defense DVOA metric. Hoyer could be on the back-end of the “QB1” (top-12) radar in Week 17.
We’ll get through this one quickly: Colts head coach Chuck Pagano had “no update” on Andrew Luck’s (kidney) status for Week 17. In all likelihood, Luck will not be available to play in the final week of the season. “Checkdown” Charlie Whitehurst (hamstring) has already been placed on injured-reserve while Matt Hasselbeck (shoulder, other injuries) is listed as “doubtful” for Week 17 against the Titans. Undrafted free agent from Miami Stephen Morris is the only quarterback currently on the Colts’ roster that is available to play.
Per Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, “if today and tomorrow go well” Marshawn Lynch could practice this coming Wednesday and has a “chance” to return in Week 17. Lynch's return in the final week of the season – even if it were for just a few carries – would be huge for Seattle to get their run game tuned up for the Wild Card round and their playoff run. Seattle desperately needs Lynch back for the playoffs at the latest. Christine Michael and Bryce Brown have been unsteady since Thomas Rawls (fractured ankle) went down in Week 14. In Week 15-16, Michael has rushed for 22-90 (4.09 yards per carry) while Bryce Brown has turned his 16 carries into just 52 yards rushing (3.25 YPC). Neither back has scored a touchdown in that two game span. 11 of Michael’s 22 carries (50%) have gone for 5-plus yards while just two (12.5%) of Brown’s carries have done as much over the past two weeks.
Finally, Washington head coach Jay Gruden said he has “to be smart” about resting players in Week 17. Washington currently has nothing to play for with the NFC East title and No. 4 playoff seed in hand. In all likelihood, most starters will play limited snaps against the Cowboys in the final week of the season. Of course this risk makes virtually every offensive player a bit of a gamble in fantasy. We’ll get a clearer picture of Washington’s attack plan in Week 17 as the week goes on.