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Was there a play that better encapsulated what the past two weeks have been like for a Fantasy owner than the Dolphins' "Lateral 'heard round the world"?
Craziness! Kenyan Drake had a measly seven touches in the first 59:53 before that play. You thought you were close to winning something in your Fantasy league? The Patriots were seven seconds away from clinching the AFC East! The play resulted in Ryan Tannehill's third touchdown of the day ... and his second consecutive game with three touchdowns. Tannehill and Tom Brady will both finish as top-five Fantasy quarterbacks this week. And how about Rob Gronkowski being the last defender between Drake and the end zone?!
Week 14 also left us with some serious concerns, perhaps the biggest of which being the outlook for Cam Newton for the rest of the season. For the second consecutive week, Newton left Fantasy owners feeling jittery after turning in a 265-yard, one interception result at Cleveland. It was enough to make last week's two-score, four-pick game look good.
Newton's arm was again an issue. Though he started out okay (15 of 20 passing), he didn't challenge downfield very often and narrowly escaped a fumble due to replay review and an interception wiped out by a holding penalty. His longest completion went for 40 yards but the ball didn't travel far as Moore ran a slant route and broke away from several Browns on the play. Otherwise, his longest connection was for 25 yards to Curtis Samuel. Backup Taylor Heinicke came in again at the end of the first half to attempt a Hail Mary. Newton completed 62 percent of his passes, which would have been just fine in years past but stands as his second-lowest rate of this season. The 6.3 yards per attempt also rates as his third-worst in that category. In a game where Newton faced a Browns defense minus its top cover cornerback, he once again showed that defenses can contain him.
The Panthers have back-to-back home games in Weeks 15 and 16 against the Saints and Falcons. To call them must-win games is an understatement; the Panthers need to win them plus win in Week 17 to have a chance to make the playoffs as a wild-card team. But if Newton's accuracy and efficiency continue to sink, it won't matter.
For now, Fantasy players who had been relying on Newton must consider all options, beginning with an assessment of players on waivers. Gross as they might seem, Josh Allen (vs. DET), Eli Manning (vs. TEN) and even Nick Mullens (vs. SEA) have favorable matchups in Week 15. Finding one of those guys (or, hopefully, someone better) would at least give you options in case something trickles out of Charlotte this week about Newton's arm just not being right.
Whether you consider a backup quarterback or not, you're taking a bigger chance than normal by starting Newton in your Fantasy lineups moving forward, even if he's at home.
Three big questions from Week 14
So what to do about these waiver wire running backs?
What to do? How about start them again? And, in Justin Jackson's case, you may not have a choice:
After recently dealing with stingers, Chargers’ RB Austin Ekeler aggravated the injury today and will require further testing, per source. With a game Thursday night vs. Chiefs, the short week will make it tough for Ekeler to be ready.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 10, 2018
If Austin Ekeler can't play in Week 15, Justin Jackson could be in line for a huge opportunity. The matchup against the Chiefs means he could be in a shootout as well, which would make him a must-start Fantasy option ... if he's the starter for the Chargers.
That will, of course, depend on Melvin Gordon's health. There are a lot of moving parts to watch out for on the injury report this week, but if neither Ekeler or Gordon is able to play on Thursday, Jackson's going to be in your lineup.
The other two may be start-worthy too.
Jeff Wilson didn't totally disappoint with a 90-yard performance, though the one reception he caught is a stark contrast to what he had last week. If Matt Breida's still not ready to play, Wilson will absolutely be on the No. 2 running back radar again at home against the Seahawks.
Jaylen Samuels did indeed lead the Steelers in carries and finished second in receptions with seven grabs. You'll be happy with the 92 total yards but the sickening 2.5-yard rushing average and goal-line touchdown for Stevan Ridley are causes for concern. Samuels will be a safer PPR starter as a No. 2 choice in Week 15 versus the Patriots provided that James Conner is still sidelined.
Is it safe to start Jarvis Landry again?
Last week was a good sign — Landry went over 100 yards for the third time this year and had six catches to boot. He followed it up with an improbable 54-yard rushing, 57-yard receiving, two-score game against a hapless Panthers defense Sunday. Though it would have been nice for Landry to land more than four targets (a season low), it feels like he's back as a featured regular in the Browns offense. He'll be needed next week at Denver, where the Broncos got seared by the 49ers passing game this week. There's little doubt he'll be a No. 2 receiver again, potentially ahead of the Panthers' collection of pass-catchers.
So we're just gonna gloss over Henry's ridiculous game huh?!
What else is there to say? Henry was outstanding and played like the guy the Titans thought they drafted. But it was his first game with more than 58 rush yards this season and only his third with more than 12 carries (his first since Week 3). It goes without saying that the Titans will try to keep feeding him in hopes of breaking some more long runs, and the matchup at the Giants in Week 15 and versus the Redskins in Week 16 aren't bad in the least. Some people might suggest not overreacting but with so many rushers missing playing time and the Titans fighting for their playoff lives, I say get excited! Henry has serious potential to score every week and if the Titans give him more carries, the yardage will follow. Hey, maybe it's not such a bad thing the Titans have limited him up to this point — he's got plenty of fuel left in his tank.
Seven waiver pickups for Week 15 and beyond
- Ian Thomas (16 percent owned): The Panthers' tight end of the future, Thomas' 11 targets, nine grabs and 77 yards were more than Greg Olsen had in any game this season. It might have been a byproduct of Newton not throwing downfield, but that's not necessarily going to change. Thomas has a tough matchup at home against the Saints last week but Cameron Brate just spiked them for two scores on Sunday and the tight end position is deli-slice thin.
- Nick Mullens (18 percent owned): I have no idea how many people need a quarterback to stream in Week 15 but Mullens is it. Not only has he netted 23-plus Fantasy points in his last two but he'll be back at home against a Seahawks defense that will be on the road after a Monday night game. It's the perfect formula for him to have yet another solid outing.
- Zach Zenner (0 percent owned): The Lions gave up on LeGarrette Blount and offered a chance to Zenner. With all of his carries coming in the second half, Zenner turned 12 runs into 54 yards and a late, game-clinching touchdown. I know, you'd have to be 3:00 a.m. desperate to even consider starting Zenner, but a running back is a running back. He should have a chance to help the Lions again at Buffalo next week if Kerryon Johnson is still out.
- Elijah McGuire (30 percent owned): Crowell was limited this week with a toe injury and left the Jets' win against the Bills with a foot problem. If he can't play next week against the Texans, McGuire will see more playing time. He's as unsightly as Zenner but offers someone to plug into lineups if need be.
- Kenneth Dixon (7 percent owned): It is noticeable that starter Gus Edwards split carries this week with Dixon, who seems to have earned the guy-behind-the-guy role in the Ravens run game. He's also a much better three-down player than Edwards. The Ravens should steamroll the Buccaneers run defense at home next week, and Dixon could get in on the fun.
- Daesean Hamilton (9 percent owned): Case Keenum has made it a point to rely on slot receivers and did so this week with Hamilton, connecting for 47 yards and a touchdown over seven catches. Expect more of the same, particularly if defenses scheme to take Courtland Sutton away from Keenum like the Niners did on Sunday. Also consider Tim Patrick, who led the team in targets, receptions, and yards.
- Robert Foster (2 percent owned): In Buffalo's first game without Kelvin Benjamin, Foster reeled in 7 of 8 targets for 104 yards. That's the first 100-yard game by a Bills wideout this season! His deep speed gives him a chance every week to be on the other end of a Josh Allen bomb. The matchup against the Lions in Week 15 is sensational.