Saints Go Marching In, While Cam Dabs a Dud
With most Fantasy Football leagues now officially done, congrats go out to all the winners out there! Hopefully, advice from RotoExperts.com contributed to your success this year. One lesson that can be learned from the 2015 season is that you’re never out of it! With all the injuries and downright awful play from some of the high draft picks, the waiver wire and trading became vitally important this year. Players that contributed to many championship teams were plucked off of the waiver wire and inserted into starting lineups down the stretch, paying off big time. Blake Bortles, Kirk Cousins, Tim Hightower, and Jordan Reed will possibly go down as the MVPs for the 2015 playoffs with great performances when it mattered most. If you stuck to your guns and decided to make a minimal number of transactions, then you were more than likely watching from the sidelines. This was the year that proved more than any other that you should never stand pat. Instead, stay busy and makes moves to improve your roster. You never know when you may have an injury hamper your lineup, but if you are doing your homework and making the right acquisitions, it could lead you to a title.
[caption id="attachment_102791" align="alignright" width="449"] Drew Brees played a great game despite a serious foot injury. Photo Credit: Keith Allison[/caption]
Saints Go Marching In
Talk about an offense making a statement! For most of the week leading up to the game, many Fantasy owners were left wondering whether Drew Brees would even play in this game. Brees not only played with a torn plantar fascia, but was on absolute fire against the Jaguars, finishing with 412 yards and three TDs, rewarding owners who stuck with him with a championship performance. It definitely helped that the Jaguars did not go away quietly after the Saints jumped out to a big lead in the first half, allowing Brees to keep the passing game going and stuff the stat sheet. A lot of analysts were suggesting that this injury, similar to the one that has sidelined Peyton Manning, would hamper Brees’ ability to perform. But watching this game you could not tell a difference, as he moved well in the pocket and his timing was spot on. The primary beneficiary on the receiving side of this game was Brandin Cooks, who after an early 71-yard TD reception, finished with 123 yards on five receptions. Cooks will finish the 2015 season as a WR1 in most 12-team leagues. Aside from Cooks, waiver gem Willie Snead chipped in with a solid four catch, 75-yard performance as a WR3 in many title-winning lineups.
Tim Hightower capped off an amazing run with what was potentially one of the biggest surprises in Fantasy Football playoff history, a 122-yard, two-TD performance after coming in off the street following a three-year absence. Not only did Hightower put forth a great effort on the ground, but the 47 yards he added in the receiving game was a big help to PPR scoring as well. Once CJ Spiller was a healthy scratch in this game, you had to be silly to not get him into your lineup. The 44-yard TD pass to Travaris Cadet may have stung Hightower owners a little, but by game’s end he provided you with more than a fair share of points. Truly, Hightower should be considered a playoff MVP for 2015, and it’s quite possible that he was on the roster of several championship Fantasy teams.
Looking towards the future of this Saints offense, there will be some questions that need to be answered. Brees will have the largest cap hit in NFL history potentially, but all indications are that his deal will be restructured. With Brees coming back, this offense should continue to hit on all cylinders, as long as head coach Sean Payton returns. Rumors about whether Payton will be welcomed back or sent packing will swirl during the offseason. Without Payton pulling the strings on this offense, there could be a season of growing pains. Mark Ingram will be back as the staple of the ground game, but the future is less clear for Spiller and Hightower. Spiller could be given another year as the third down back after a fully healthy offseason, whereas Hightower will likely look for a job elsewhere. The receiving corps should be fully intact for 2016, with the only potential change being the departure of Marques Colston, who would be replaced by sleeper Brandon Coleman.
Cam Dabs a Dud
Divisional games are always considered tough matchups regardless of record, which Cam Newton found out on Sunday. With Fantasy owners title hopes on the line, Newton chose a fine time to put up his worst statistical game of the season with 142 yards passing and one lone rushing TD. The Panthers looked out of sorts all day, with Newton being off target for most of the game, and surprisingly being shut down by one of the worst defenses in the NFL. This was a classic case of taking the best weapon (Greg Olsen, four receptions, 40 yards) out of the game, which will make a team reevaluate their game plan. No Panther receiver recorded more than 40 yards receiving, rendering the passing game useless during the most important week to Fantasy owners. This final performance could leave a sour taste in many owner’s mouths heading into 2016 drafts.
With Jonathan Stewart inactive for Sunday’s game, the thought was the Cameron Artis-Payne would be a great plug and play against the below-average Falcons run defense. But who was the starting running back for this game? Fozzy Whittaker. It didn’t take long for Whittaker to get hurt, opening the door for Artis-Payne. But there was only so much Artis-Payne could do with five carries and he finished with 49 rushing yards. All told, five Panthers received carries in this game, with Newton leading the pack with seven rushes. It was definitely a slow day on the ground for this crew.
Looking ahead to 2016, this Panthers offense should become a little more balanced with the return of a healthy Kelvin Benjamin to help the passing game. Newton is the QB that routinely finishes inside the Top 10 in rankings, but we all hesitate to draft him. After this season, his stock will be similar to that of Russell Wilson after his 2014 campaign. Jonathan Stewart will again be out to prove that he can stay healthy, but look for the Panthers to add a change of pace back to split time with him, hurting his value. Olsen will again be among the top TEs in the league, while the big question will be where to draft Benjamin. Do you grab him as a WR2 or WR3? It will all depend on the health of the knee and the shape he is in during training camp.
Steelers Play Soft
In what could easily be the biggest upset in terms of Fantasy production, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers laid an egg against the Ravens on Sunday. The offense that had previously rolled up the tough Broncos defense the week before, was shut down by the porous Ravens unit. Again, division matchups are tough to predict and this particular rivalry is traditionally a low scoring affair. Although Roethlisberger completed a high percentage of his passes, what was missing in this game was the long ball. His 6.3 YPC on the day is a sign of just how well the Ravens were covering the receivers, leading to plenty of dump-offs. Finishing with zero TDs and two INTs, Roethlisberger probably cost many owners a shot at a title this week, which is disappointing considering how hot this offense has been. Antonio Brown once again paced the receiving game with seven catches for 61 yards, which is considered a down game in this matchup. Martavis Bryant was invisible in this game, finishing with only one catch on three targets. Needless to say, this passing attack turned in one of their ugliest performances in a prime matchup at the worst time.
The only bright spot in this game was the continued strong play from the rejuvenated DeAngelo Williams. Finishing with 100 yards on 17 carries, while scoring two TDs, Williams rewarded the owners that handcuffed him after drafting Le’Veon Bell this season. Adding in six catches for 53 yards, Williams had a very strong game in PPR formats. Williams was among the biggest surprises of the 2015 season, as he will finish as a Top 10 RB in all formats. Of course, all this was made possible after the Steelers lost Bell to injury in Week 8. But after many disappointing seasons in Carolina, no one could have predicted this type of performance from Williams.
Entering 2016, The Steelers will again boast one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses. Roethlisberger will be among the Top 5 QBs off the board due to the weapons around him and the pass-heavy attack. There is no reason to suspect that Roethlisberger cannot improve on this year’s numbers; all he has to do is stay on the field. Staying healthy is something that is beginning to hamper him as his career progresses. Keep an eye on Bell’s progression from injury early on next preseason, as he sustained an ugly knee injury that could take time to fully heal. It could be the smart play to once again to grab Williams early as a handcuff to Bell in case he is slow in his return from injury. The electric Antonio Brown will once again be a first round pick in many drafts, and is in line for another big season. Another offseason to grow in this offense will only help boost Martavis Bryant’s stock. Look for the Steelers to bring in a younger TE, as Heath Miller draws closer to retirement. All in all, this is an offense that you will want several players from on your Fantasy team, as they sport top tier talent at each position.
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