First things first, to all the owners that moved on to the championship round in your leagues, congratulations! You deserve the recognition for surviving all the obstacles thrown your way throughout the season. I know it has been mentioned time and again, but this has truly been one of the strangest seasons in recent memory in Fantasy Football. Between the slew of injuries to top tier talent and the usual big names having less than stellar seasons, 2015 was a minefield. Go back and look at the first round selections in this year’s drafts. It could be argued that only two players (Antonio Brown and Adrian Peterson) lived up to the billing of their selection. Any way you slice it, the teams that avoided the whammies the most, are the teams competing in Week 16. Huge performances from guys like Cam Newton and David Johnson more than likely propelled you to a chance for a title. While subpar performances from top talent like Aaron Rodgers and A.J. Green may have sent your team packing. Regardless of whether you won or lost, we are entering the last week of the Fantasy Football season for most leagues, which is a tough pill to swallow for all of us out there that love the sport.
Steelers Offense Rolls
Ben Roethlisberger continued to roll with his fifth 300-yard passing game in the last six contests. On a day when the rushing attack simply wasn’t working, Roethlisberger took to the air against one of the toughest pass defenses in the NFL. Big Ben threw the ball 55 times on Sunday, tying his high for the season. He completed 40 passes for 380 yards and three TDs, an exceptional performance considering the tough matchup. With the weapons at Ben’s disposal, it is really tough to consider any team to be a bad matchup for the Steelers while this offense is rolling. Antonio Brown (16-189-2) and Martavis Bryant (10-87) were seemingly open at will in the secondary, which created easy completions for Roethlisberger, though most of this damage was done in the second half. Had Big Ben not lost games due to injury earlier in the year, he might have finished as the top QB overall, with a shot at MVP honors. Brown, with his 16 receptions, became the first player since 1970 to record two games in a season with at least 15 receptions. This aerial attack, with a healthy Big Ben, has certainly lived up to the hype during this 2015 campaign.
DeAngelo Williams just couldn’t get things going on the ground on Sunday. His five receptions and rushing TD may have salvaged his Fantasy day, but overall you were likely expecting more. With so much attention devoted to stopping the passing game, 26 yards rushing would have eliminated most Fantasy managers in Week 15. After getting down early, the offensive strategy began to go away from Williams; but being a three down back came in handy for PPR owners getting the extra eight points from catches. Overall, Williams has continued to play like a RB1 since the loss of Le’Veon Bell, and if you moved on to the championship round Williams may be rewarding your team one last time.
The Steelers are on the road against the Ravens in Week 16, in what should be a cake matchup for this offense. But in a Ravens/Steelers game you always throw out the record book, as these two generally play tough, low scoring contests. Given how inept the Ravens are both offensively and defensively, I would expect the Steelers to get ahead early in this game. That means the passing game could be shut down early, as the focus shifts to Williams and the run game. Of course, you’ll be starting the key Steelers in this game, but I see Williams piling up the points in this matchup.
Jaguars Disappoint Owners
In what was possibly the most disappointing game on Sunday, the Jaguars offense put up an absolute stinker against the hapless Falcons. In typically frustrating fashion, the Jaguars’ offense once again came out of the blocks slowly in the first half. As the offense was building steam late in the half, Bortles threw a back-breaking interception at the goal line in what proved to be the difference in the game. This missed scoring opportunity could have been a nail in the coffin for Fantasy owners in their semifinals matchup as well. As much as Bortles disappointed in this game, the biggest letdown had to be from Allen Robinson. After being virtually matchup proof all season, he has now posted just four catches in his last two games. His drop off in performance has come at the worst possible time, helping to eliminate many owners as the Fantasy playoffs wind down. Even though this Jaguars’ offense has surprised many this year, many owners may not be able to look past the subpar performances the past two games.
If you went to the waiver wire and scooped up Denard Robinson hoping for a big game against the Falcons, boy were you let down. He finished the game with 28 yards on 14 carries. Suffice to say we expected him to produce a great deal more against one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL. Not only did Robinson not produce, he was actually pretty awful, but there is plenty of blame to go around. In fact, Robinson’s long run on the day was only nine yards, so clearly the offensive line was doing a poor job of opening up running lanes for the shifty back. On a brighter note, Robinson did lead the team in receptions with eight. However, this was a product of Blake Bortles checking down from well covered receivers more than anything else. With the Jaguars now being out of playoff contention, it’s hard to imagine that they would risk the long term health of starter T.J. Yeldon. So going into Week 16, I would definitely expect to see Robinson get a majority of the work in the backfield.
If you were lucky enough to advance to your title game, then rejoice. The Jaguars now draw a matchup against one of the worst single season defenses in NFL history, as they travel to New Orleans. Even though the Saints play tougher at home, the Jaguars should be able to feast in this game. Bortles and the passing game have to get off this slow first half trend and build momentum early. If this happens, look for big games from both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. All-purpose back Denard Robinson should be in store for a busy day and post RB2 type numbers by the end of the day.
Beckham Loses His Cool
The highly anticipated matchup between Odell Beckham and Josh Norman turned into a UFC fight that could rival any PPV match. Face slaps, mask grabs, and head shots occurred more than good one on one play between two highly skilled athletes. Norman seemed to be in Beckham’s head before the kickoff, and once the game actually started the frustrations showed. Held in check for most of the game, Beckham moved into the slot in certain situations, and Eli Manning started to get him involved in the game. Once the Panthers got up big, they mistakenly backed off coverage and Beckham then got into the end zone on his sixth catch of the day. On the game tying TD catch, OBJ mockingly stepped over Norman before celebrating. This was the cap on an otherwise embarrassing day for Beckham.
Now one day later, OBJ has been suspended for Week 16, pending appeal. If the appeal is upheld, Beckham misses a good matchup against a Vikings secondary that has shown some dents lately. It will be a tough hit for owners in the title round losing their WR1, and a receiver that has scored in six of his last seven games. Replacing him in your lineup this late in the season is a task in itself, primarily due to the fact that those points just can’t be replaced by a reserve player. If he wins the appeal, he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder, which will have his owners salivating at the possibilities. Beckham on the field in Week 16, after winning an appeal could result in an Antonio Brown type performance. The Giants would look to feed him the ball.
The question is, does OBJ deserve to be suspended during the most important week in Fantasy Football? Personally, I don’t believe that a suspension is warranted. I think the fault lies more on the shoulders on the referee crew during this game for letting it get out of hand. Both Norman and Beckham were giving each other the business. Not much is being said today of Norman’s knee to OBJ’s head, or the hands to the face under the face mask. The media is focused solely on Beckham, and I believe it to be unfair. If Beckham receives punishment, so should Norman. So now the wait is on for many Fantasy owners. The appeal will be heard on Tuesday, and the decision will come down on Wednesday. This will be either the first win, or first loss for many owners during championship week.
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