The first week of the Fantasy playoffs are in the books and continuing the trend of the regular season, injuries played a huge factor in Sunday’s games. Owners lost major players in Thomas Rawls and Andy Dalton, which likely contributed to a loss in the first round for some owners. Rawls and Dalton will be out the remainder of the season, but other injuries to Tyler Eifert, T.J. Yeldon, and Greg Olsen could prove problematic as you set your lineup for Week 15. Early indications are that Olsen should be good to go, but Eifert and Yeldon could miss this week’s games. Not all was bad news from Sunday, as there were a few standouts like Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin continuing their hot streak, with Baldwin becoming the first receiver with eight TDs over a three game stretch since Jerry Rice in 1993. Blake Bortles crossed the 30 TD threshold (who saw that coming this year?), and Rob Gronkowski was back on the field doing Gronk things, like scoring TDs. So not all was bad during the first week of Fantasy playoffs, but hopefully the rash of injuries will subside and the cream will rise to the top.
The Jaguars Show Some Teeth
The Jaguars put on a show on Sunday that left every Fantasy owner either happy that they own a piece of their offense, or irate that they faced them in the first round of the Fantasy playoffs. As is the case with every Jaguars game, they came out of the blocks slow, which is unbelievably frustrating to watch if you own these players. But in the second half the offense caught fire and never cooled off as they took the Colts to the woodshed. Sure, Blake Bortles only threw for 250 yards in this game, but the four total touchdowns more than made up for that. And who doesn’t love a QB sneak for a score when you’re up 44-16?! With Vontae Davis shadowing Allen Robinson all day, he ended up with just one catch, a four-yard touchdown that came while Davis was off the field with an injury. Hurns had the big day with 105 total reception yards, including an 80-yard TD catch. Julius Thomas also had a good day; he had five receptions for 54 yards and a TD. Bortles spread the ball around to nine different receivers in all.
The running game for Jacksonville even got into the act, with T.J Yeldon having a very solid day (11 carries for 64 yards) until he went down with a PCL strain. Once Yeldon left the game, Denard Robinson came in and looked like the same back that was scoring week after week down the stretch in 2014. Robinson finished the game with 75 yards on 14 carries, and added a TD late in the game. Of course, this was all for naught, as it’s doubtful anyone thought to roster Robinson, much less play him. Now, the Yeldon injury news will be something to keep an eye on; if you own Yeldon, Robinson should be the top waiver priority for you this coming week. Right now it’s not clear whether Yeldon will play next week, so it’s important to have Robinson available as a backup play if you own Yeldon. Next week, the Jaguars play the Falcons, a team that has allowed well over 100 rushing yards in each of the last three weeks and 15 rushing touchdowns so far this season.
If you own a piece of this offense, and are still alive in the playoffs, then congratulations are in order. The Jaguars will be facing perhaps the easiest all around schedule the remaining two weeks. A home game against the lowly Falcons, and a road tilt against the worst defense known to man in the Saints are on the docket. This leaves the Jags with the easiest, and second ranked pass/rush defenses in points allowed to each position. So load up your Jaguars, and let the points rain down upon you!
Chiefs Win and Fantasy Owners Lose
Kansas City may have won the game, but boy did they provide some stinkers to Fantasy owners at the worst time. Sure, the weather played a huge part in how this game played out, but Alex Smith was back to his game manager best on Sunday, passing for 191 yards and one TD. Smith did add 40 yards on the ground, but not even that could help his overall performance in a matchup that the Chiefs should have taken advantage of against the Chargers. Albert Wilson was the big performer of the day on the receiving side with 87 yards and a score. Jeremy Maclin had an average PPR day with six grabs and 68 yards on nine targets. The biggest issue was with Travis Kelce, who began the year on a tear but has become an afterthought recently, which is a bit of a head scratcher since he is a supreme talent at the position. It appears he is getting the Andy Reid treatment. Reid has a tendency to forget about the tight end position on the field, no matter how talented the player. If you drafted Kelce, odds are you drafted him too high to bench him in the playoffs.
The Chiefs’ backfield had a pretty decent game on Sunday. The problem is that it was split between Charcandrick West (10 carries for 54 yards) and Spencer Ware (8 carries for 52 yards). Just two weeks ago, West looked like the workhorse type of back that you could count on during the playoff run, but then a hamstring injury opened the door for Ware to carve out a role. Over the last two weeks, this backfield has been a headache to Fantasy owners at the wrong time. However, after Sunday’s game we found out that Ware is dealing with a rib injury that typically takes several weeks to heal. This injury could be just what the doctor ordered for owners of West, who may now resume the lead back role going forward. Look for this offense to center around the running game, as the Chiefs try and lock up a playoff spot.
The Chiefs will have a favorable schedule over the next two weeks as well, with a road game against the Baltimore Ravens and a home game against the Browns. Alex Smith will try to take advantage of a defensive schedule that ranks eighth in points allowed to the position (18.4 PPG), which should benefit Maclin as well, as he continues to rack up the catches each week. Hopefully, the Chiefs will see this as an opportunity to get Kelce back into the swing of things with the favorable matchups. As long as Ware is on the sideline, West should provide some major numbers the next two weeks against the seventh ranked defense in points allowed to running backs(19.3). He’s proven before that he can stuff a stat sheet, but if Ware returns from his injury, this backfield will be back to a complete guessing game.
The Falcons are Still Grounded
What is going on in Atlanta? Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, and Julio Jones are the centerpieces of an offense that on paper is supposed to be explosive. Currently, nothing could be further from the truth, as this offense and team in general is in shambles after being shut out by the Carolina Panthers. Over the course of the last two months, Matt Ryan has regressed to the point where you can no longer count on him as a starter in Fantasy leagues. Could you imagine saying that in August? No chance at all. But after another dismal performance in which he only mustered 224 yards with zero scores, Ryan has become as reliable as Jay Cutler. Of course this effort came against one of the NFL’s elite defenses on the road, but this has become a trend, not a one game effort. For those that drafted Ryan in leagues this year, you’re more than likely plugging in the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick or Tyrod Taylor as your QB1 in most weeks, which speaks to just how far Ryan has fallen. Julio Jones continues to put up eye-popping numbers, even with the subpar play from Ryan. But, outside of Jones there isn’t another receiver to rely on, which could be a lot of the problem with this offense.
Just a month ago, Devonta Freeman was the darling of the Fantasy world, ranking as the top overall RB. Then he suffered a concussion and missed a week, and now looks like he is not the same back. Whether it’s the offensive line play, Ryan’s play, or defenses finally catching up to his technique, Freeman seems to have lost a step. In fact, Freeman has not topped 50 yards rushing in any of his last four games. Perhaps the early season workload is getting to him because he certainly has hit a wall, which is not what you want to see from your starting RB as you are fighting for a title. Can he turn it around? Well, in any given week he could return to form, but from what I see on the field, this has the looks of a team that is mailing it in as the losses start to pile up.
The schedule is not going to lighten up for the Falcons either, as they go on the road to play a hot Jaguars team, and then have a rematch at home against the Panthers in Week 16. Ryan will be playing from behind against the 23rd ranked schedule in points allowed to the position, but there is not a lot of confidence that he can put up the points that would warrant a start from him in your playoffs. Freeman, on the other hand, will be facing the 25th ranked schedule in points allowed to backs, making him tough to trust as well. You may not be able to count on much on the ground from Freeman, but his value may come in PPR leagues, where he should see plenty of opportunities coming out of the backfield while this team plays from behind. Odds are you are in a position, if still alive in the playoffs, that you have to start Freeman and hope for the best.
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