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Fantasy Football Week 15: What We Learned

Jamaal Charles was fantasy football’s Grim Reaper for those unlucky enough to face off against the all-world Kansas City running back.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles

Dec 15, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) catches a 71 yard touchdown pass against the Oakland Raiders in the third quarter at Coliseum. The Chiefs defeated the Raiders 56-31. Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

That Vegas’ wily number crunchers and odds makers know something we don’t is hardly a surprise.

The house, as the saying goes, always wins, but fantasy footballers can win too. All it takes is a glance at the numbers — the projected points for every NFL contest every week — to see which games, exactly, hold the most fake football promise.

The four Week 15 games with the highest Vegas point totals went well over their respective projections. Vegas was tapping fantasy owners on their shoulders, telling them to deploy their Eagles, Vikings, their Washington players and Falcons and Packers and Cowboys.

In the same degenerate breath, Vegas was telling you to beware the fantasy defenses in each of these contests. I wrote quite a bit last week about how the Vikings-Eagles over-under was causing me moderate to severe anxiety about using the Philadelphia defense. Vegas odds makers were convinced this one would be a barn burner, and it was, with a whopping 78 points scored.

Four of Week 15’s top-eight fantasy quarterbacks played in the week’s four highest-projected games, as did three of the top-six running backs, three of the top-five tight ends, and five of the top-seven wide receivers.

Vegas won’t be so kind as to answer your nagging start-sit questions (that remains the domain of fools willing to pin their reputation to their ability to accurately predict the future).

The weekly projections coming from the brains in Sin City, however, should be a glaring signal in all the statistical noise that so readily clouds our fantasy judgment.

  • Jamaal Charles was fantasy football’s Grim Reaper for those unlucky enough to face off against the all-world Kansas City running back. Charles, on a day in which he rushed for a meager 20 yards, posted the sixth best fantasy line of all time: 215 total yards on 16 touches for five touchdowns. The Chiefs’ seemed to know something about Oakland’s overly aggressive front seven and exploited that overzealous approach with quick screens to Charles early and often. It was altogether a spectacle to behold and a reminder of what could’ve been for Charles, a criminally underused part of the Chiefs’ running game until Andy Reid brought sanity to the team’s offensive approach. For those whose fantasy seasons ended at the hands of Charles’ 51-points outburst, remember this: your opponents’ lineup is firmly outside of your control. You can only maximize your weekly points; that’s where your control begins and ends.
  • To call the Cowboys’ defense a sieve is an insult to sieves everywhere. This is a unit that managed to make Matt Flynn — he of no arm strength or ability to read defenses — a top-five fantasy quarterback. Dallas’ inability to play an semblance of what we’d call “defense” is somewhat unique in fantasy circles. The Cowboys aren’t just bad against quarterbacks or running backs. They don’t just give up monster lines to tight ends or receivers. They’re being gouged by almost everyone, every week. Dallas is now allowing a league-worst 21.1 fantasy points to quarterbacks, 22.6 points to running backs, and 23.5 points to receivers (10th worst). Monte Kiffin’s crew should be the prime target for every fantasy owner in every format.
  • Larry Fitzgerald was doing less than well after suffering what might have been a concussion on an onside kick against the Titans. An Arizona beat writer said Fitzy was “out of it” after a big hit on the kick. Owners should prepare for fantasy championship life without their No. 1 wideout. Victor Cruz will likely be out of commission for fantasy title bouts too after spraining his knee and being concussed on the same play. Cruz’s absence would make Big Blue a hands-off fantasy situation for Week 16.
  • Shane Vereen owners miss Rob Gronkowski almost as much as Gronk owners miss their lynchpin. Vereen had been free to roam underneath with Gronkowsi drawing double and triple teams down the seam, as we saw in Week 14 when Vereen caught 12 balls for 153 yards (on 17 targets) against the Browns. Vereen, suddenly the defense’s focal point, managed just 21 yards on six touches yesterday against the Dolphins. Miami defenders said after the game that their primary goal against New England was to stop the team’s running game, and specifically the versatile Vereen. I don’t doubt Vereen was supposed to be a big part of the Patriots’ game plan, but when a defense is keying on him — consequently letting Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola post gaudy stat lines — he’s not going to be the top-10 back he appeared to be when Gronk was healthy.
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