Five Week 15 Storylines
Mac Jones, Pats go all the way off the rails in nightmare loss. Every quarterback has a defining characteristic. For Jones in 2022, it's screaming. Screaming at his inept wideouts that they're lined up in the wrong spot. Screaming at his impostor offensive coordinator that he didn't get the play in fast enough. Screaming at himself for making yet another abominable throw. It was all there in abundance on Sunday, where the Pats' offensive operation remained the embarrassment of the league. Matt Patricia still can't get his calls in on time even though we are now in month four of the regular season. It led to two burned timeouts on one goal-line series in Las Vegas and endless confusion and multiple pre-snap penalties. It also negated a touchdown after Patricia called timeout right before a play where Jones found Jakobi Meyers in the end zone. Oh, and Meyers? He was so desperate to make a play in the Pats' dispiriting circumstances that he literally gave the game away to the Raiders. It was tough to watch, but an understandable impulse in an environment where the team's leaders keep setting the players up to fail. Jones should remain firmly affixed to benches even for potential shootouts with the Bengals and Dolphins over the next two weeks.
Rashid Shaheed makes case for 2023 role in New Orleans. How under-scouted was then 23-year-old Rashid Shaheed coming out of small-school Weber State? He entered the league without a formal 40-yard dash time to his name. He tore his ACL last fall and no one ever bothered to put a number to the young man's speed. So there was plenty conspiring against Shaheed making a 2022 impact. The only thing the NFL hates more than an old rookie is an old, injured rookie. But Shaheed made the Saints' roster and now he's bookended their Week 13 bye with a pair of team-leading receiving efforts. He can't stop scoring 40-plus yard touchdowns, including Sunday's 68-yarder that was the Saints' longest play of the year. The fastest man on the field, Shaheed might max out as a gadget guy, but he has forced Dynasty league players to take notice ahead of the offseason.
Zay Jones continues late-season emergence with three-touchdown effort. Jones entered 2022 with two touchdowns in the past four years. He bettered that on Sunday alone, also reaching 100 yards receiving for the second time in four games but just the third time in his career. Although the man himself deserves credit, it's also a case of being in the right place at the right time. That would be Trevor Lawrence's second-year breakout, one that is now seeing him shred one of the most imposing defenses in the league and leading late-game comebacks. Still barely averaging 10 yards per catch, Jones isn't really a ceiling option despite what the three-score outing might lead you to believe. He is a WR3, something that doesn't usually come along this late in the year absent injury ahead of you on the depth chart.
Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow combine for only seven targets in return. Waller had not played since Week 5. Renfrow, since Week 9. Together, they had combined for just 11 2022 appearances. They were a needed shot in the arm for a Raiders team running low on weapons behind Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs. So how did they still draw fewer combined looks than Mack Hollins? It's just that kind of year in Vegas, where the abnormal has become normal on a weekly basis. Waller did manage to at least find the end zone even as he posted his fewest targets in a full game all year. He will return to the TE1/2 borderline for the fantasy semifinals even if we aren't entirely certain about his role. Renfrow hasn't shown enough at any point this season to earn WR4 treatment for Week 16.
Kadarius Toney barely plays in return vs. Texans. By now, fantasy managers know to keep their Toney expectations in check, but he's the kind of player where it remains tempting to daydream about a miracle. He's so talented. He's also playing five snaps and drawing one target. The Chiefs, understandably, don't trust the man, and now they will be getting Mecole Hardman (abdomen) back for Week 16 against the Seahawks. Is it impossible Toney forces the Chiefs' hand and breaks out? No. Is it a scenario worth betting on in either re-draft or DFS? Also no. Toney's next true test has become a healthy and full offseason program in his second NFL home.
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Five More Week 15 Storylines
Desmond Ridder disappoints in NFL debut. As I wrote in my game blurb, there is no way to sugarcoat it: Ridder was just plain bad in his first start. He generated fewer than 100 yards passing on 26 attempts, taking eight more yards off his net by absorbing four sacks. He “added” four carries for 38 yards on the ground, but 18 of that production came on the final play of the game where Ridder scrambled before … running out of bounds. That miscue didn't show up in the box score, nor did Ridder's several dropped picks, one of which could have been returned for a 99-yard touchdown. Ridder's 26 passes were a number Marcus Mariota reached only four times all year, but they came against the backdrop of 39 rushes. Sunday's performance made it clear a reduction will be coming to even that modest number. There is no streamer “there” there for the final two weeks of the fantasy regular season.
Royce Freeman emerges triumphant in Texans' post-Dameon Pierce committee. Maybe it would be Rex Burkhead. Maybe it would be Dare Ogunbowale. No one even stopped to consider Option 3 in the league's most inept offense. But Option 3 it was as recent practice squad promotee Freeman took the rock 11 times for 51 yards, adding a five-yard reception in the passing game. Cool, but what exactly is the prize for fantasy managers? Ogunbowale and Burkhead still combined for 10 touches. We wouldn't exactly consider the matter settled, especially since Sunday's production came in a stunningly close contest with the Chiefs. Game script could be completely different for Houston's Week 16 road date with the Titans, a defense more burnable through the air than on the ground. Freeman is worth adding for only the most desperate of players.
Ryan Tannehill plays through ankle injury vs. Chargers. It was another week, another ankle issue for the Titans' starter, though his team insisted he return rather than force it to rely on overwhelmed rookie Malik Willis. Tannehill ended up missing only one drive after getting a new tape job on his injured joint, and he remained reasonably effective despite an undermanned receiver corps that was still missing Treylon Burks (concussion). Tannehill hasn't come close to providing QB1 returns in 2022, but he continues to be more efficient than he has any right to be with a laughably-undermanned supporting cast. There has been talk for some time than Tanne's tenure under center will soon be coming to an end, but his perseverance and Willis' struggles highlight the fact that he will almost certainly be back in 2023. That is unless coach Mike Vrabel is determined to make a splash after winning a power struggle with former GM Jon Robinson. It would require draft resources the 7-7 Titans are unlikely to possess.
Zach Wilson continues to provide more questions than answers. Forced into the lineup by Mike White's rib injury, Wilson threw for more than 300 yards for only the second time in his NFL career. He also completed only 18 throws and displayed a baffling tendency to loft the ball like he was trying to land a blimp instead of drop in rockets to his receivers. There was visible frustration on the face of his wideouts, and a palpable sense there should have been something more against what has been one of the league's worst pass defenses on the whole this season. Were Wilson's lofts the “yips” the Jets have been referencing? Whatever they were, it was just the latest sign Wilson cannot be who the Jets rely on if they sneak into the playoffs. It remains very much up for debate if Wilson gets a third chance to lead this team in 2023.
Colt McCoy suffers head injury, knocking Cardinals down to No. 3 quarterback. McCoy isn't doing much at this stage of his career. Trace McSorley is doing far, far less. For as poor as McCoy has been in relief of Kyler Murray, he has kept the Cardinals in games. McSorley did no such thing against the similarly-struggling Broncos, tossing two interceptions and failing to give his offense a chance against a team starting Brett Rypien. Breaking down and generally made of glass at this stage of his career, 36-year-old McCoy was already battling several issues before injuring his head in Denver. As dismal as McSorley is, the 4-10 Birds may let him take the reins for the final three games as a resetting team completes its accidental tank and hunts for better draft position. That would be bad, bad news for DeAndre Hopkins and Marquise Brown fantasy managers during the final two weeks of the playoffs.
1. Does Miles Sanders know it doesn't have to be like this?
2. Who is the better tight end, Taysom Hill or Jeff Driskel?
3. Should Tom Brady step down as head of the Bucs? He will abide by the results of this poll.
Early Waivers Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Brock Purdy (vs. WAS), Tyler Huntley (vs. ATL), Ryan Tannehill (vs. HOU), Andy Dalton (@CLE)
RB: Tyler Allgeier, Deon Jackson, Zack Moss, Kyren Williams, Jordan Mason, Marlon Mack
WR: Treylon Burks, Mecole Hardman, Chase Claypool, Elijah Moore, Van Jefferson, Jahan Dotson, Romeo Doubs, K.J. Osborn, Russell Gage, Rashid Shaheed
TE: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Juwan Johnson, Taysom Hill, Trey McBride,
DEF: Titans (vs. HOU), Steelers (vs. LV), Rams (vs. DEN), Bengals (@NE), Raiders (@PIT), Lions (@CAR)
Stats of the Week
The Bears have 104 receptions by wide receivers this season. The Titans have 105. The Falcons have 111. The Ravens have 118. Justin Jefferson has 111 by himself. (This started as a “I wonder how many passes the Ravens' receivers have caught” search.)
Patrick Mahomes has 477 more yards than any other quarterback even though he lost the league's current No. 2 overall receiver, Tyreek Hill.
Drake London has cleared 70 yards in back-to-back games for the first time since Weeks 1 and 2 and 10 targets in back-to-back games for the first time all year. Unfortunately, Desmond Ridder played poorly enough against the Saints that the trend cannot be counted on to continue for Week 16.
Justin Herbert's 8.2 average depth of target is 35-of-38 amongst qualifying quarterbacks.
There are seven players with 1,000 yards rushing, already matching the entire total from 2021.
Alvin Kamara hasn't had a rush over 20 yards since Week 6. His long run for the season is 27.
Week 15 Fantasy All-Pro Team: QB Jalen Hurts, RB Jerick McKinnon, RB Dalvin Cook, WR Zay Jones, WR Justin Jefferson, WR K.J. Osborn (lol), TE George Kittle
The I Will Now Turn Into Quicksand Award: Mac Jones' “tackle” attempt on Chandler Jones. Admittedly, it was not a fair fight.
The What's That Do For The Greater Good? Award: The Bucs' 2022 season.
Let's Take These Timeouts to Heaven Award: Robert Saleh.
Most Pointless Version of the Falcons Yet Award: The Falcons.