THE WIRE TAP: WEEK 15
December 13, 2016 | Scott Cedar
Hello and welcome to the Wire Tap: Week 15. If you’re reading this, congratulations on not playing against Le’Veon Bell last weekend.
Of course, Bell wasn’t the only thing that might’ve sunk your season. There was Melvin Gordon and Matt Forte leaving early with injuries. Dez Bryant being outscored by every wide receiver in the league. Julio Jones MIA. Russell Wilson doubling his season-long interception total. I mean, things got so bad that even Jeff Fisher—a guy with 165 losses to his name, the Teflon Don of ugly football— didn’t survive the weekend.
As ugly as last week was, we move on to Week 15 with a fresh slate. As always, the focus is on players owned in under 40% of Yahoo or ESPN leagues, ranked roughly in order of preference.
PAY THE IRON PRICE
(Pry these players from your leaguemates’ cold, dead hands. Figuratively.)
Bilal Powell (46% Yahoo, 37% ESPN)
Matt Forte left early in Sunday’s game, with his knee reportedly “crackling and popping.” I’m no doctor, but it’s not good when your knee sounds like Rice Krispies.
In his place, Powell crushed the worst run defense in football with 29 carries, 145 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He’s been confined to the passing game much more than I thought he’d be heading into the season (4.1 rushing attempts per game, 4.6 targets per game), but proved last year to be a capable runner as well as receiver. The Dolphins will offer far more resistance next week than the 49ers did last week, but the Jets can’t exactly lean on Bryce Petty, making Powell an easy start if Forte can’t go.
Kenneth Farrow (4% Yahoo, 1% ESPN)
In a weekend full of “why do I play fantasy” moments, Melvin Gordon getting carted off the field after just 3 carries for 5 yards was the biggest “seriously, why the @$#% do I play fantasy” moment.
Filling in for Gordon, Farrow ran 16 times for 55 yards and caught 6 passes for 23 yards. Pro Football Focus gave reason for optimism on Farrow pre-draft, and he’d be an intriguing option if he inherits Gordon’s workload (23.9 opportunities per game, 3rd most among running backs). I think he has a good shot to do it. The Chargers are 5-8 and sinking, so it’s hard to see them rushing Gordon back. San Diego’s only other options are Andre Williams (the worst) and Ronnie Hillman (the epitome of replacement level), so why not roll with the rookie?
Ty Montgomery (37% Yahoo, 35% ESPN)
Just when I think Mike McCarthy can’t get any dumber, he goes and does something like this and totally redeems himself.
“This” being featuring Montgomery as the man in Green Bay’s backfield. He took 9 carries for 41 yards and a score, while also getting 3 catches and 45 yards receiving. Christine Michael actually led the Packers in carries (10 for 36 yards in his revenge game—no doubt they were sleepless in Seattle about letting him go), while the James Starks experience is dead (2 carries, 3 yards on just 7 snaps). Montgomery was awesome in his first game against Chicago (126 total yards on 19 touches), so you’d figure he plays a big role in the rematch, but the workload is never guaranteed with McCarthy. There’s a reason I started this off by quoting Dumb and Dumber.
Check your wire (players owned in <75% of leagues): Fantasy football’s funny sometimes, not in a “ha ha” way, but in a “psych, everything you thought is wrong” way. Case in point: Ryan Mathews is the lone healthy back in Philadelphia… Alshon Jeffery returns this week. I’d be fine starting him in a good matchup against Green Bay; it’s been 3 weeks in a row now that Matt Barkley has not been vomit-inducing… Not many tight ends are their team’s #2 option. Cameron Brate is, and he’s being fed in the red zone…. Tyrod Taylor was almost the Ryans’ 2nd fall guy of 2016, but gets the start in a great matchup against Cleveland… Speaking of which, if the Buffalo Defense could give Ben Roethlisberger that much trouble, what will they do to RGIII…The Baltimore Defense didn’t look great against New England on Monday Night Football; they will against Carson Wentz and the Eagles.
PRETTY-AY, PRETT-AY, PRETT-AY GOOD
(Should be owned in 10- and 12-team leagues, whether by you or someone else.)
Dontrelle Inman (23% Yahoo, 27% ESPN)
Inman’s last 3 games:
- 6-6-100-1 (targets-catches-yards-TDs), 17.9 fantasy points
- 5-2-49-1, 10.9 fantasy points
- 7-6-71-1, 13.1 fantasy points
Philip Rivers’ annual 2nd half meltdown hasn’t slowed Inman at all, and his schedule over the next 2 weeks literally—not figuratively, literally—can’t get any better. He’ll face the Raiders and Browns, whose pass defenses rank 32nd and 31st in net yards/attempt. Add. Him.
Green Bay Defense (32% Yahoo, 48% ESPN)
After a brutal year, the Packers’ D has looked much better the last 3 weeks, scoring 10, 8, and 19 fantasy points. Sure, 2 of those games were against Carson Wentz and Brock Osweiler, but it’s not like the Bears are any better. At some point Matt Barkley is going to live up to the tradition set by fellow Trojan alumni Mark Sanchez, John David Booty, Matt Cassel, Matt Leinart, and Carson Palmer Except For Last Year. There are actually a lot of good defensive options this week around 50-60% owned, so check your wire, but Green Bay is a strong streaming play.
Tyler Lockett (43% Yahoo, 26% ESPN)
Yeah, the offense was gross last week at Green Bay. And it was gross two weeks ago at Tampa Bay. I trust them at home this week against a Rams’ defense that was absolutely shredded by Atlanta without its top 2 receivers. Lockett wasn’t even all that bad last week. He had 6 targets for the 4th time in 5 games, catching 4 for 41 yards. He also added 2 carries for 15 yards. Modest production, but good to see Seattle finding ways to get him touches. A high upside WR3/flex play this week.
Pierre Garcon (36% Yahoo, 44% ESPN)
Talked about Garcon last week, and that’s really all I’ve got to say about that. He went 6-5-59-1 on Sunday, and gets another good matchup against Carolina (allowing the 6th most points to opposing WR) this week.
Dwayne Washington (4% Yahoo, 6% ESPN)
Lots of moving pieces in Detroit.
Theo Riddick was inactive with a wrist injury… this came as a surprise, so hopefully he’ll be ready to go next week. Even if he is, he may return to a reduced role. The Lions have the 7th highest pass/run ratio in the league and the 2nd fewest rushing attempts, but presumably will need to rely more on the running game with Matthew Stafford’s hand injury. That would mean more Dwayne Washington, who had a decent game on Sunday with 64 yards on 16 carries. Zach Zenner could also be involved, but he’s in the concussion protocol.
Whoever is healthy will get road games against the Giants and Cowboys over the next two weeks, bad matchups for running backs. I’d also expect the Lions, already one of the slowest paced teams in the league, to slow it down even further.
So in short, Washington may or may not have the job to himself, the offense will certainly be slow and might be ineffective, and they have a bad upcoming schedule. Only if you’re desperate…
Colin Kaepernick (36% Yahoo, 37% ESPN)
I know. Benched 2 weeks ago. Just 11 points last week in a good matchup. But Kaepernick was a starting quarterback for a solid month, and gets a prime matchup against Atlanta (allowing the most points to opposing quarterbacks even after that Jared Goff abomination). I’m fine rolling him out this week.
Matt Moore (0% Yahoo, 0% ESPN)
Ryan Tannehill sprained his ACL and is out for… we don’t know. At least this week. Matt Moore will get the start, and there’s a non-zero chance this is actually an upgrade for Miami. (No, really.) Moore’s last real action was in 2011 where he completed 60.5% of his passes and threw for 2,497 yards and 16 touchdowns vs. 9 interceptions. Not terrible. He gets a great matchup against the Jets, who have allowed the 10th most points to opposing quarterbacks and may or may not give a damn about the rest of the season. In a win-or-go-home week, it’s risky starting a mediocre backup QB who’s thrown 30 passes over the past 5 years, but Moore is a viable streamer. Why do we play fantasy again?
Marquise Lee (11% Yahoo, 7% ESPN)
Whatever Allen Robinson and Blake Bortles talked about last week didn’t work. Robinson now has 9 catches for 90 yards over the past month. Meanwhile, Marquise Lee continued his solid year with 5 catches for 113 yards against a tough Minnesota D. I wouldn’t start Lee this week against Houston, but he’s addable now for his Week 16 matchup against Tennessee, who has stopped a one-legged Trevor Siemian but not much else this season.
Check your wire (owned in <75% of leagues): Kenneth Dixon dominated the workload on Monday Night Football with 22 opportunities (carries + targets); just 14 snaps for Terrance West… Malcolm Mitchell is for real…With Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu out, Taylor Gabriel continued to make splash plays, including a 64-yard touchdown… His teammate, Tevin Coleman, will be an RB2 play against San Francisco’s terrible run defense… 90 total yards for T.J. Yeldon, if you’re in a pinch and Ivory remains sidelined… I’m not scared off by a bad game for Ladarius Green, though I do wish he played more snaps.
DEEPER LEAGUE PLAYS
(In no particular order.)
It has not been a good 2 weeks for the Saints’ offense. It won’t get any easier on Sunday at Arizona. Even so, if Michael Thomas misses another game then Brandon Coleman is playable. He was 2nd on the Saints with 8 targets against the Bucs (catching 5 for 47 yards), and is the big-bodied target Brees likes to work in the middle of the field and red zone.
Gary Kubiak said struggling rookie Devontae Booker would be splitting the workload with struggling journeyman Justin Forsett. He was a man of his word, as Booker took 29 snaps (3 carries, 1 yard) compared to Forsett’s 26 (6 carries, 17 yards). I think Forsett is the lead back on Sunday against New England, but you’d have to be desperate.
You don’t want to be playing Jets receivers, but if you must, Bryce Petty really likes Robby Anderson.
Ryan Griffin has been averaging 3.25 catches and 31.5 yards over the last month—not bad for a backup TE. C.J. Fiedorowicz, who led the Texans with 7 targets on Sunday, is in the concussion protocol. If CJF can’t go, Griffin steps into his heavy volume.
Arizona has the 2nd most passing attempts in the league, and after Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, it’s wide open. Jermaine Gresham has stepped into the void, with 45 yards or a touchdown in each of the last 4 weeks. He put up a 7-5-45-0 line on Sunday and gets the Saints next.
Another friendly reminder that Lamar Miller racks up an injury a week as he limps through his heaviest workload ever. Alfred Blue was the clear #2 on Sunday, with 16 carries for 55 yards.
Daniel Brown caught all 6 of his targets for 42 yards on Sunday. A converted wide receiver, Brown has now put up 2 decent games in 3 weeks following Zach Miller’s injury, and gets a Packers’ defense allowing 8.9 points per game to opposing tight ends (8th most in the league).
Aldrick Robinson led the Falcons in snaps and put up 3 catches for 42 yards on 6 targets. Gabriel is the best fantasy play while Jones and Sanu are out, but he’s also a limited receiver, leaving Robinson with a role in this passing game. The Falcons get San Francisco next—probably a heavy Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman game—but certainly a favorable spot for the entire offense.
Any questions, hit me up on Twitter, @scedar015. Be sure to check out Chris Manni’s Streaming Spotlight and Adam Cook’s Field of Streams for weekly quarterback, tight end, and defense pickups.