Welcome back loyal 5thDownFantasy readers! With Week 15 officially in the books we’re officially in the endgame for most fantasy leagues. Months have led to this moment, and it’s finally here! The fantasy football finals are upon us and two skilled (partially lucky) owners are gearing up to do battle one last time for a date with fantasy immortality.
We had some monster performances by some unlikely names in Week 15 and they’re just the names you’ll need to know to hoist that trophy high. Let’s meet the gang for this very special Week 15 edition of the rundown.
DALVIN COOK (Minnesota Vikings)
Underrated is far from the first word most fantasy owners would use to describe Dalvin Cook in 2018. The word BUST has been thrown out far more often this fantasy season due to the 2nd year back’s issues with staying on the field and low level of performance overall. Cook seems to have taken those labels to heart, because he’s done nothing but produce at a high level since returning to the team fully healthy in Week 12.
Since Week 12, Cook has finished with double-digit fantasy totals each week (13/10/14/33) and scored four times (2 rushing/2 receiving). His breakout performance in Week 15 finally brought this reality to light for most fantasy owners as the former Florida State stand-out shredded the Dolphins for 163 total yards and 2 TDs on 20 touches. Cook’s 19 carries in the game marked a season long high and he made the most of every opportunity he received, embarrassing defenders with moves straight out of a Madden video game.
With his fantasy stock fully revitalized and the Vikings clinging to the final wild card spot it’s safe to say Cook will continue to see plenty of work in the last weeks of the season.
MARLON MACK (Indianapolis Colts)
Jumping from one breakout RB to another, we find ourselves once against talking about Marlon Mack. In a game where the Colts were completely dominating the Cowboys, Mack was entrusted with the largest workload of his young career (27 carries). He took those touches and burned Dallas’ run defense to the ground (especially in the red zone), rushing for 139 yards and 2 TDs in the rout. Statistically this was Mack’s most impressive performance of the season, and his 2nd highest fantasy total of the year (eclipsed only by his 31-point breakout in Week 8 against Oakland).
The common thread between these two monster performances is volume, in Week 8 Mack carried the ball 25 times and this past week he carried it 27 times. The writing is on the wall for this Colts offense: feed Mack the ball through the air and on the ground and you will win football games. I trust Frank Reich and Andrew Luck to continue looking for No. 25 in the backfield as they continue their AFC Wild Card push.
ALSHON JEFFERY (Philadelphia Eagles)
Do you guys remember when Alshon Jeffery mossed Eric Rowe in Super Bowl 52? Do you remember when he scored 9 Touchdowns last season? That Alshon Jeffery looked to be a fading memory for most the 2018 Eagles season, until Week 15 rolled around.
With Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles back under center for the injured Carson Wentz, Jeffery immediately reignited his postseason chemistry with No. 9 and played a vital role in keeping Philadelphia’s playoff hopes alive. Coming into Week 15 Jeffery’s production from both a real life and fantasy sense had hit rock bottom. He was averaging 4 points per contest and catching just 3 balls per game regardless of opponent. Wentz’s focus on Zach Ertz in the offense had made Jeffery the odd man out in big game scenarios. With Foles under center the script completely flipped, Ertz saw only 3-4 targets and Jeffery hauled in all 8 of his for 160 yards (both season highs).
With Wentz still week to week at best with a fractured vertebrae it’s going to be the Foles show once again in Philly, and that’s music to Jeffery’s ears. With two middle of the road pass defenses left on the calendar (Houston/Washington), and a renewed hope for the playoffs I think we’re going to see the 2017 version of Jeffery come back to prominence.
JOE MIXON (Cincinnati Bengals)
The Cincinnati Bengals are a M.A.S.H. unit right now. They’ve lost their starting QB in Andy Dalton, their two top wideouts in A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd and they long ago lost Tyler Eifert to his yearly injury.
The last man standing with any name value on this team is Joe Mixon, and he’s continued to evolve into one of the best backs in the league despite all of the negativity surrounding this franchise. Taking handoffs from Jeff Driskel, Mixon has posted double digit fantasy totals in 4 of his last 6 games (he scored 9 in the other two). He’s gone over 100+ yards from scrimmage in each of the Bengals last 2 games and acted as a lightning rod for anything this offense does.
In just his 2nd season in the league Mixon has drawn comparisons to Le’Veon Bell for his elusiveness and versatility in the receiving game, and he’s shown a DeAndre Hopkins-like ability to thrive even in less than stellar circumstances. True star power shines through all adversity and Mixon’s efforts over the last two weeks speak volumes to his star power. In Weeks 14/15 Mixon’s combined for (53 Carries/240 Yards/3 TDs) and posted a combined 54 fantasy points during the fantasy playoffs. If you’re an owner that has Mixon, you may want to start crafting a fantasy MVP award for the man. He gets an exploitable Cleveland run defense for fantasy championship week (Week 16).
MIKE WILLIAMS (Los Angeles Chargers)
Watching Mike Williams’ rise through the target ranks for the Chargers offense has been one of my favorite things to monitor this season. Williams is right up there with a guy like Kenny Golladay in Detroit as one of the potential big-time receivers of the next few years and he showed exactly why in Week 15. In a game where the Chargers were (once again) seemingly doomed to lose, Philip Rivers and company pulled off the unthinkable. The Chargers did what their fellow LA Rams could not; they slayed the mighty Chiefs.
The win brought the Chargers to 11-3, tied them with the Chiefs overall and stopped Mahomes and company from clinching the AFC West for at least one more week. The MVP of the game was undoubtedly Mike Williams, whose 3-touchdown performance not only served as his breakout game but gave this Chargers team it’s signature win. Williams saw his highest target total of the year (9) and caught 7 of them for 76 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air, adding another 19-yard rushing score on the ground.
His importance to this offense in the red zone was on full display as he used his size and athleticism to box out and out work DB’s for jump balls in the end zone. His wide open 2-point conversion play to seal the game was just the well-deserved cherry on top of one of the most stunning comebacks in recent NFL history. With Keenan Allen now on the injury report it makes all the sense in the world to believe that we’ll be seeing a lot more of Williams in these last few weeks, and he’s earned it.
ROBERT FOSTER (Buffalo Bills)
Welcome to this week’s edition of “Is that even a real player!?”. Yes, it’s everyone’s favorite past time, trying to figure out if a player is either fake or actually on the Bills roster. If you guessed REAL this week than you’re correct! Robert Foster may not have any name value outside of Western New York, but the young wide-out has been lightning it up for Buffalo, and he deserves to be talked about. In just his first season in Buffalo the former Alabama wide-out has quickly made an impression on Bills fans and fellow rookie Josh Allen.
The first sign of his game breaking potential was in Week 10 against the Jets when he caught 3 of 4 targets and went for 105 yards. He then followed that up with a (2 Rec/94 Yds/TD) performance against the once vaunted Jacksonville secondary in Week 12. Foster had one down week in Week 13 against Miami (1 Rec/27 Yds), but has since bounced back again, posting (11 Rec/212 Yds/TD) over the past two weeks.
As a whole, the former undrafted free agent is a genuine diamond in the rough for the Bills and fantasy owners. Foster’s posted double digit fantasy totals in 4 of his last 5 match-ups and he’s combined for 38 total points in the first two rounds of the fantasy playoffs. This is a rare commodity to find so late in a fantasy season, a legitimate point scorer on an offense that’s seemingly devoid of them at all other positions. If Foster is still available in your league I recommend giving him a shot if you need a FLEX/WR3 option. He gets New England in Week 16.
DERRICK HENRY (Tennessee Titans)
Alright, cards on the table, I was very wrong about Derrick Henry this week. In fact, I was even more wrong about Henry this week than I was last week! The guy just keeps proving me wrong in the fantasy playoffs, and I thank the lord I haven’t been matched up against him in any of my leagues.
To put it simply, Henry’s been an unstoppable battering ram for the Titans over the past two weeks, and there doesn’t seem to be any way of slowing him down. In just two weeks Henry’s produced a total of 87 fantasy points (good for nearly HALF of his total for the entire 2018 season), and he’s done it against one of the better run defenses (JAX) and one of the worst (NYG).
Henry is indiscriminately destroying teams on the ground and the Titans are riding him to victory with mile wide grins on their faces. In those two weeks Henry has rushed for an astonishing 408 total yards and 6 touchdowns. This was the running back that we saw beat the Chiefs last year in the playoffs, and this is the running back most people thought they were drafting with upside in the 4th/5th rounds of fantasy drafts back in September.
As it turns out, Henry is the Russell Wilson of fantasy backs. He’s middle of the road/borderline bench worthy for most of the year, and then he becomes one of the deadliest commodities in fantasy in December when it really matters. I don’t suggest drafting Henry as high as some of you did this past season, but his postseason juggernaut status definitely makes him an appealing later round bench stash. Just don’t get greedy and think he can be your RB2 or even a FLEX during the regular season.
DAMIEN WILLIAMS (Kansas City Chiefs)
The Chiefs are so damn talented on offense that even in defeat they can have a breakout player. Damien Williams came to Kansas City this offseason after being a largely forgettable 2nd/3rd string back for the Dolphins. He quickly took on the role of forgettable 2nd/3rd string back for the Chiefs but was called to action due to a combination of Kareem Hunts dismissal and Spencer Ware getting injured.
Williams took this opportunity and ran with it to the greatest extent of his ability in Week 15 posting a final stat line of (16 Touches/123 Yds/2 TDs) and keeping the KC offense ahead of the Chargers for 90% of the contest. His 24-fantasy point performance marked Williams’ 2nd straight double-digit finish (15 points in Week 14), and his second straight game with a rushing touchdown.
With Hunt out of the picture it seems Andy Reid’s taken a shine to using Ware and Williams interchangeably, with Williams operating as the better receiving option and Ware being a more trustworthy battering ram at the goal line. It will be interesting to see how each of them perform in Week 16 with Ware returning against a Bottom 10 Seattle run defense.
DEANDRE HOPKINS (Houston Texans)
DeAndre Hopkins could be on this run-down every week. In total honestly, he deserves to be on the run down every time I write it, but in fairness to other rising stars across the league I’ve limited him to select appearances. This week is one of those appearances, and it’s because the list would’ve been null and void without his inclusion. Hopkins proved once against in Week 15 that he’s arguably the best receiver in the league, laying waste to the Jets secondary and posting his highest fantasy total of the 2018 season (34 points).
In short, Hopkins went nuclear on Sunday, and when he goes to that next level there’s maybe 2 or 3 other players in the league that can follow him. His final stat line (10 Rec/170 Yds/2 TDs) tied his highest reception total of year, marked his highest receiving total of the year, and accounted for his second dual touchdown game of the year. He did ALL of that in one match-up. Hopkins is everything you want in a wideout, athleticism, speed, route running and durability. He’s played through multiple injuries for weeks now and he’s still produced at a level few can even dream of, all in search of the coveted two seed in the AFC playoff picture. Houston is one win away from clinching it, and they’ll have their chance in South Philly if they can get past the ski-masks and Folesmania 2 atmosphere at Lincoln Financial Field.
MY TAKEAWAY FROM WEEK 15:
The Super Bowl champs aren’t dead yet.
As a whole the 2018 Season has been unkind to the Philadelphia Eagles. The team currently sports an IR list that could field an entire unit of young talent, and their offensive woes have exposed a severe lack of innovation after the loss of Frank Reich in the offseason to Indianapolis.
Carson Wentz’s return from a torn ACL has been a mixed bag, seeing him post top 10 returns in most matchups but notably lacking his trademark mobility that made him so dangerous in 2017. The brain drain at the coaching position and mounting injury numbers forced the defending Super Bowl champions to the brink of elimination multiple times, but they’ve fought to avoid it.
This past Sunday night was supposed to be their death sentence, a matchup with the juggernaut Rams super-team in the LA Coliseum. If you asked Eagles fans around the Tri-State area about this game even at the beginning of the season they would have told you they expected it to be a loss. Mind you, this was before the struggling, before the injuries, and Eagles fans still saw LA as their biggest challenge (rightfully so). Now, add on all of the injuries and setbacks we discussed a moment ago, and you have the recipe for a fan base that wanted to believe in their team, but was disheartened to the point where this felt less like a football game and more like a march to the guillotine.
Then, the skies parted, birds started chirping and the City of Brotherly Love was re-energized by a hero from just a year ago. Nick Foles returned to the Eagles offense in Week 15 and performed yet another miracle against the same team and in the same building where his Super Bowl odyssey began last season.
Foles dared the Rams to beat Alshon Jeffery for jump balls down field and he put the fear of a deep pass in them so the running game could also put in one of its best performances of the season. It was a complete shock not only to the national audience watching, but for die hard Eagles fans as well. The Eagles played with a fire we hadn’t seen for most of the season, and they seemed to play of each other, relishing in each big hit and celebrating each other’s accomplishments. Foles didn’t even throw a touchdown in the game Sunday night, but he did something much more important, he reminded this team of last year’s incredible run.
In Philadelphia we’re hard on our sports teams because we care so damn much about their success. The team’s success is viewed as our success both as a fanbase and a city, and there’s an immense feeling of pride and emotion that wells up in any Eagle fans heart when they think of that 2017 team. They fought for each other, they embraced being the underdog in the eyes of the national media and they prided themselves on proving everyone wrong. That defiance in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds is a signature Philly mindset and I saw that mindset in this Eagles team on Sunday night.
They were left for dead by nearly everyone, and they fought to rise from the ashes on the backs of smart defensive play-calling, ballsy offensive risks and a commitment to not letting the season go out with a whimper. A lesser team would have folded after the OT loss to Dallas they suffered in Week 14, but this team showed that it’s much more than the sum of its parts, and it’s ready to fight for its spot in the playoffs.
There are no guarantees in football, but there’s a bit of magic brewing around this team once again. The Eagles will now host the surging Houston Texans at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 16 and then travel to face the battered and broken Redskins to finish the season. Anything can happen, but if Philly manages to beat Houston in Week 16 the entire league will officially be on notice that the champs are aiming for the playoffs once again. Crazier things can (and have) already happened within the last year in the City of Brotherly Love, and with St. Nick back at the reigns just in time for the holidays the city just may get another gift this year.