It is all just a matter of perspective.
Early season storylines focused on the success stories around the New York Giants (6-1 start), New York Jets (5-2), Seattle Seahawks (6-3), and Tennessee Titans (7-3). Meanwhile, the public collectively wrote obituaries for the Detroit Lions (1-6), Washington Commanders (1-4), Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6), and Carolina Panthers (2-7).
Week 14 further shifted the perspective.
Sunday, things got interesting. The Titans once sat five wins clear of the Jaguars and on cruise control toward another AFC South title. Trevor Lawrence has shifted his career outlook over the past month, and Sunday was a career game. His 368 yards while leading Jacksonville over Tennessee were a career-high, and his three touchdowns tied his best game. In his first eight games, he posted a 62% completion, 230 yards per game, and a 10 to 6 touchdown to interception ratio. Those numbers have rocketed to 72%, 272 yards, and a 10 to 0 ratio in his last five. The loss was the Titans' third in a row, and the team is looking for answers, particularly for a passing offense that ranks 30th in yards per game. We are a long way from this division tightening up; the Titans would need to lose two of three to the Chargers, Cowboys, and Texans, while the Jaguars would need to win games over all three of the Jets, Cowboys and Texans, but if that happened the teams would face a winner take all Week 18 matchup.
Sunday's Seahawks matchup with the Panthers saw two other teams directly facing shifting perspectives. The Seahawks started 6-3, while the Panthers started 2-7. The Panthers' start cost Matt Rhule his job, and Pete Carroll was an early coach-of-the-year candidate. The Panthers went into Seattle and won 30-24 to further a shift. Over the last four games, the Seahawks are 1-3, and the Panthers are 3-1. The loss pushes the Seahawks out of the current NFC playoff picture, and the team is looking for answers. Geno Smith has continued his strong season, throwing for two or more touchdowns in 11 of 13 games, but turnovers are creeping into the conversation. He only threw two interceptions in his first 188 pass attempts, a 1.06% rate. But in his past 240, he has thrown six, more than doubling to a 2.5% rate. The team has no margin for error with a defense that ranks in the bottom five, allowing 25.3 points per game. There is no rest for the weary; the Seahawks' next three games are against the 49ers, Chiefs, and Jets.
Meanwhile, the Panthers have found an identity as a physical team able to run the football with young emerging stars on defense. The team is just one game back on the Buccaneers with a head-to-head win already. They do not play another team with a winning record, finishing with the Steelers, Lions, Buccaneers, and Saints. The Buccaneers are vulnerable; the 49ers blew them out 35-7 and now face the Bengals, a team on their own 9-2 run. Assuming the Panthers can take care of their business, a Week 17 matchup that could decide the division looms.
Two early-season success stories in New York have hit the skids after crushing division losses. The Jets started 5-2 and were riding high following a win over Buffalo to push their record to 6-3. But revenge is best served cold, and Buffalo brought it upon the Jets to move three games clear with four left. The Jets were physically beaten in this game, with Mike White hospitalized for internal injuries following the loss. The team has not made the playoffs since 2010 and has to correct a string that has seen them go 2-4 immediately. Somehow the fates of all these teams are tied together as the Jets face the Lions, Jaguars, Seahawks, and Dolphins.
Staying in the East, the Giants also had a crushing defeat to a division leader. The Eagles manhandled the team 48-22. The Giants may have been THE early story, sitting at 6-1. But a 1-4-1 stretch has them reeling and facing their polar opposite in Week 15 in a Washington team that started 1-4 before ripping off a 6-1-1 stretch. The saving grace for the Giants may have been a tie with Washington in Week 13, as they are down the head-to-head tiebreaker with two other teams pushing for the last playoff spot in Seattle and Detroit.
Detroit is the team that weaves all of this together. A 1-6 start erased all good vibes from their offseason Hard Knocks appearance. But digging deeper showed them, victims of a brutal opening season schedule, losing games to the Eagles, Vikings, Seahawks, and Dolphins by a combined 14 points. Those teams are a joint 37-15. But a win against the Packers has been the turning point as the team is on a 5-1 run, with their only loss on a Thanksgiving walk-off field goal against the AFC-leading Bills. The Lions have their chance to win their way in, facing the Jets, Panthers, Bears, and Packers to close the season, and few teams are playing better.
Week 15 may be one of the best slates of the year, with 49ers-Seahawks, Dolphins-Bills, Lions-Jets, Bengals-Buccaneers, Titans-Chargers, and Giants-Commanders holding massive playoff ramifications. But before we step into Week 15, let's look at trends emerging from Week 14.
After all, it is a matter of perspective.
This week is a mix of quarterbacks potentially headed for the Hall of Fame and possessing high draft capital. But one is not like the others. Can you place this production?
Revenge! A Dish Best Served On The Field
- TE T.J. Hockenson, Minnesota vs Detroit, Loss 34-23, 6 receptions, 77 yards
- RB Sony Michel, LA Chargers vs Miami, Won 23-17, no attempts
- WR Marquise Goodwin, Seattle vs San Francisco
- RB Brandon Bolden, Las Vegas vs New England
- RB Giovani Bernard, Tampa Bay vs Cincinnati
Deep Dynasty Watch List
- RB Zonovan Knight, NY Jets - Most every dynasty league has Knight rostered now, but the breakdown between him, Michael Carter II, and Ty Johnson was a mystery. Against Buffalo, Knight was the guy, with 17 rushes and two targets. Carter saw usage in the passing game, with six targets to complement his five rushing attempts. A 19 to 11 split was in line with Robert Saleh’s praise through the week, and Saleh called Knight “Pure Gas.” This backfield is Breece Hall’s long-term, but Knight can also be a valuable complement in the long term, especially as we have seen ACL injuries like Hall’s take a year or more to mend fully.
- RB Jordan Mason, San Francisco - Deebo Samuel escaped fears surrounding a significant injury, but the latest report suggests a high ankle sprain, and he will miss time. It is hard to expect his passing game production to create another usable fantasy piece outside of Brandon Aiyuk or George Kittle, but the team will miss his impact in the run game. Mason has topped 50 yards in back-to-back games and complements Christian McCaffrey. Add him everywhere.
- QB Brett Rypien, Denver / QB Anthony Brown, Baltimore / QB Mitchell Trubisky, Pittsburgh / QB Joe Flacco, NY Jets - Injuries are mounting this late in the season, and teams out of the playoffs have increased reason to protect franchise players for the long haul. None of the injuries that created opportunities for these players are expected to be long-term, but in Superflex leagues, managers need to keep their heads on a swivel.
- RB Marlon Mack, Denver - Mike Boone’s return looked to relegate Mack to the bench, but Boone left early in the first half, and Mack responded with a 66-yard receiving touchdown. Denver is a mess, but we must keep grabbing pieces whenever backfield situations shift.
- TE Peyton Hendershot, Dallas - Jake Ferguson left Week 14 with a neck injury, and his status is uncertain. Hendershot, the other rookie, had shown glimpses, with two touchdowns on the season and a 43-yard game against the Giants in Week 3 when Dalton Schultz was inactive. Hendershot is a very deep name, but as we approach the offseason and Schultz heading for free agency, both Ferguson and Hendershot are under the radar offseason stashes.
- RB Eno Benjamin / RB Rex Burkhead / RB Dare Ogunbowale, Houston - Dameon Pierce exited Week 14 with an ankle injury, and the Texans are playing for the number one overall pick, which is to say, nothing. Pierce has shown enough to know he is a piece moving forward. The team should be cautious with him, and this could be an opportunity for Eno Benjamin to earn a roster spot in 2023.
- RB Julius Chestnut, Tennessee - Dontrell Hilliard was carted off with a neck injury, and Hassan Haskins has missed two straight games with a hip injury. As it stands, Chestnut would be the primary beneficiary if Derrick Henry missed any time. Chestnut is an undrafted rookie who gained buzz during camp in the summer. Another stash looking towards the end of the season and 2023.
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