With the fantasy season coming to an end for the vast majority of the world this week, I am making a temporary change to the basic structure of this column. It no longer makes sense to talk about players in terms of season long values, so I will devote my attention exclusively to Week 16. Let’s get started with some injuries.
It was revealed on Monday DeMarco Murray would undergo surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand. Cowboys VP Stephen Jones did not sound confident about his chances on Monday, but DallasCowboys.com’s Bryan Broaddus said the “early thinking” is Murray will be able to play Week 16 against the Colts. His left hand is his non-ball carrying hand, so it is feasible Murray will be able to play this week, though his owners certainly need to make contingency plans.
Perhaps the best of those contingency plans is the much maligned Joseph Randle. Randle would likely form something of a committee with Lance Dunbar if Murray is out, but Randle would be the heavy favorite for the early-down and short-yardage work. Randle flashed in the preseason after an underwhelming rookie campaign, and he would be a very interesting RB2 against the Colts’ leaky run defense.
T.Y. Hilton tweaked him hamstring Week 15 against the Texans. Hilton played through the injury, but he could not corral any of his four third-quarter targets and did not see a single pass thrown his way as the Colts sat on the ball in the fourth. Hilton’s post-game MRI came back clean and he “hopes” to practice on Wednesday, but a hamstring injury is a big concern for a player that relies on speed to get open. His practice status need to be closely monitored leading up to Week 16.
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Keenan Allen suffered an ankle injury Week 15 against the Broncos in the third quarter. He tried to return to the game several times before eventually heading to the locker room. He was spotted in a walking boot following the game. At this point, it does not appear Allen will be able to play against the 49ers on Saturday. Antonio Gates could see some more work with Allen sidelined, but the Chargers’ passing game is not a place to look for fantasy value.
Rashad Jennings aggravated his ankle injury Week 15 against Washington. Coach Tom Coughlin did not sound optimistic about Jennings’ status on Monday, and there is a reasonable chance he is finished for the season. Andre Williams struggled against a tough Washington defense with Jennings limited, and he would not be a recommended play Week 16 against the Rams.
Robert Griffin III came to the relief of an ailing Colt McCoy against the Giants Week 15 and may have had his best game of the season. Griffin completed 18-of-27 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 46 yards and what should have been another score if not for the NFL’s inane possession rules.
Griffin’s success has a great chance to carry on when Washington hosts the Eagles on Saturday afternoon. The Eagles just got torched by Tony Romo on Sunday night, and they gave up 48 yards and a touchdown on the ground to Russell Wilson the week before. Kirk Cousins was the starter for Washington the last time these two teams met, and he was able to hang 427 and 3 on the Eagles’ secondary. It is set up for a big game from Bobby Three Sticks.
That is nothing but good news for Alfred Morris, who has traditionally been dominant with Griffin in the lineup. Morris averages a full yard per carry more with Griffin calling the shots and averages 2.5 more fantasy points a game. The Eagles have a stout run defense, but Morris is back on the RB2 radar with Griffin back at quarterback.
The Raiders’ coaching staff inexplicably abandoned the run Week 15 against the Chiefs, but it was clear Latavius Murray was the lead back in Oakland. Murray started the game, played 52-of-83 snaps and out touched the rest of the Raiders’ backs 14-4. Darren McFadden did not get his first touch until the end of the first quarter, and Maurice Jones-Drew did not get a look until the fourth.
This week Murray gets a Bills run defense that has been dominant at times this season, but Buffalo has been susceptible to the run as of late. Eddie Lacy rumbled for 97 yards and a touchdown against the Bills last week, and C.J. Anderson scored three times on a balky ankle Week 14.
Some of that success has to be attributed to the Bills playing a soft box against Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, which is something they decidedly will not do against Derek Carr. Even so, Murray has the talent to be effective even in a tough matchup, and the Bills offense is unlikely to get this game out of hand. He should get 20 carries and has a great chance to score.
Mark Sanchez continues to be otherworldly terrible as the Eagles’ starting quarterback, but Jeremy Maclin keeps finding ways to score fantasy points. Against the Cowboys it was a 72-yard catch in the third quarter in which Maclin was tackled at the one-yard line, and the week before it was a one-yard touchdown catch. Maclin has 90 yards or a touchdown in four of Sanchez’s six starts, and he blew up Houston for 158 and 2 in Sanchez’s relief appearance.
This week Maclin gets the terrible Washington secondary that he burned for 154 yards and a score Week 1. Washington has been Mark Sanchez level bad against No. 1 receivers this season and just got finished giving up 143 yards and three scores to Odell Beckham. Maclin should shred them to pieces.
After putting together a top-ten fantasy quarterback season through the first 12 weeks, Ryan Tannehill has turned into a pumpkin when it matters most. Tannehill threw for 346 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions Week 15 against the Patriots, and he now has two total touchdowns over the last three weeks with two of those games coming against the Ravens’ and Jets’ doormats of secondaries.
This week Tannehill gets a Vikings defense that has been solid against the pass as of late. Minnesota has held Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford to sub-20 point games in three of the last four weeks and has only allowed two quarterbacks all season to break the 20-point mark. I do not see Tannehill accomplishing the feat in Week 16.
Browns’ Running Game
There was some hope the Browns turning to Johnny Manziel would help what had been a struggling running game. It did not work out Week 15. Manziel was horrendous, and the whole Browns’ offense went down in flames with him. Isaiah Crowell managed just 17 yards on seven carries and Terrance West got 23 on five against what is one of the bottom-three rush defenses in the league. The only word is welp.
The road will not get any easier for the Cleveland backs this week. After getting run over early in the season, the Panthers’ run defense has bounced back in lately. The Panthers have not given up a double-digit fantasy point week to an opposing running back since Week 9, and Doug Martin is the only back to go over 55 rushing yards over that span. He needed a 63-yard run to do it.
The Panthers defense is back to playing at a level similar to 2013, and that is terrible news for the Browns’ offense. With Isaiah Crowell hurting, perhaps Terrance West gets the workload necessary to be a fantasy factor Week 16, but it is not a bet I am willing to make in the fantasy Super Bowl. This is a situation to avoid.