Often in life, we need to take a minute and pause, appreciating the scenery. Week 15 was one of those moments, crystalizing the playoff picture and setting up a sprint to the finish.
The action started early, first with the 49ers clinching the NFC West championship, squeezing struggling Seattle, and pushing an early season success story outside the playoff picture. The 49ers have their eyes on playoff seeding, and they almost caught a huge break. Seattle is up against it, facing Patrick Mahomes II and the Chiefs in Week 16 after losing four of five.
Saturday football defined the week. The 49ers and Vikings are locked in a battle for the second seed, and the Vikings could not have played a worse first half, eventually trailing the Colts 36-0. The Colts did not score again. Meanwhile, the Vikings did not stop. What ensued was the greatest comeback in NFL history. Everyone on the Vikings' offense got their share. Kirk Cousins's 460 yards were the third most in team history, and Cousins has 885 yards over the two weeks. For context, Dak Prescott holds the record with 974 yards in back-to-back games. The Vikings maintained their one-game lead over the 49ers while locking down the NFC North.
Later on Saturday night, a definitive blow in the AFC East race was struck.
When it comes to postcard images, it may not get better than snow falling in Buffalo at a night game while the crowd sings Frank Sinatra's Christmas classic "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" The weather was the week's talk, but it held out to allow Miami and Buffalo to enter another chapter in what is shaping up as one of the league's best rivalries. The Dolphins played great, fighting to hold an 8-point lead in the fourth quarter. But Josh Allen proved the difference on a night he threw four touchdowns and provided a classic image, diving to score the tying two-pointer as the snow blanketed the stadium. The Bills' defense stopped the response in a night Dolphins receivers left Tua Tagovailoa to dry with dropped passes, allowing the Bills to drive the length and kick a game-winning field goal with no time left. Any Bills win, or Dolphins loss will clinch the division for Buffalo and Miami needs to recover after losing three straight games.
Sunday's early window continued the unpredictable theme. Houston gave a playoff-bound team a scare for the second straight week, though the Chiefs were able to escape and clinch the AFC West.
The Lions and Jets entered and headed in opposite directions. Trends did not reverse as the Lions won their sixth out of seven, and the Jets lost their fourth in their last five games. Following Week 8, the Lions were 1-6, while the Jets were 5-3. Now both sit 7-7 and just outside the playoff picture.
Five division races are almost over, but three are heating up after some fireworks.
The Jets will face another red-hot team to start Week 16 with a Thursday night matchup against Jacksonville. The Cowboys led the Jaguars 27-10 in the third quarter. They did not quit on this game or their season after sitting at 2-6. Trevor Lawrence has developed rapidly, with 318 passing yards and four touchdowns in the comeback. Lawrence has posted a 14-1 touchdown to interception ratio since the loss to Denver to fall to 2-6.
The AFC South got interesting on Sunday. Following Week 11, the Titans were 7-3, while the Jaguars were 3-7. But a loss to the Chargers, the Titans' fourth straight, puts Jacksonville in a position to control their destiny.
In addition to Jets vs. Jaguars and Chiefs vs. Seahawks, Week 16 sees the Vikings vs. Giants, Bengals vs. Patriots, 49ers vs. Commanders, and Lions vs. Panthers in games that hold playoff interest for both sides. Take some time and enjoy these matchups.
Rookies have made a large impact on the 2022 season, and Week 15 was no different. One player, in particular, is positioning himself as a late-season story. Can you place this production?
Revenge! A Dish Best Served On The Field
- WR Marquise Goodwin, Seattle vs San Francisco, Loss 21-13, 2 catches, 10 yards
- WR Nelson Agholor, New England vs Las Vegas, Loss 30-24, 1 catch, 3 yards
- RB Brandon Bolden, Las Vegas vs New England, Win 30-24, no stats
- RB Giovani Bernard, Tampa Bay vs Cincinnati, Loss 34-23, 1 rush, zero yards
- RB James Robinson, NY Jets vs Jacksonville
- WR Jarvis Landry, New Orleans vs Cleveland
- WR Chris Conley, Tennessee vs Houston
Deep Dynasty Watch List
RB Deon Jackson, RB Zack Moss, Indianapolis - Jonathan Taylor left Saturday’s Vikings game with an ankle injury, and the Colts are on the verge of elimination from the playoffs. The team will likely employ Moss in an early down role while Jackson works passing downs. Jackson is the most interesting. He could emerge as a passing-down complement to Taylor in 2023. Moss is the only potentially more available in deep leagues, depending on if managers cut bait. Still, they both enter the radar as options in an emergency. The shared work on a lousy offense limits their upside to emergency options only, and at this point in the season, the remaining teams likely have better options.
WR Marquise Goodwin, Seattle - Tyler Lockett broke his hand, which puts his return this season in question. Goodwin has run as the clear third receiver, playing twice as many snaps as 2021 second-rounder Dee Eskridge. Goodwin is an option that can provide immediate production in the deepest of leagues. Eskridge would be the dynasty name to watch here, but a hand injury has kept him out of the lineup. Keep an eye out for Dareke Young, a physical freak who posted a 9.93 in Kent Lee Platte’s great Relative Athletic Score concept. Young was a seventh-round pick in 2022 and had been seeing some snaps lately.
RB Royce Freeman, Houston - Talk all week centered on Rex Burkhead or Dare Ogunbowale leading the Texans backfield with Dameon Pierce out, so of course, it was Freeman from out of nowhere. Freeman is an emergency play only if Pierce is out, but he should lead the backfield in carries in that scenario. Freeman performed well, with 51 yards on 11 carries. The Texans have been live underdogs over the past two weeks against Dallas and Kansas City. However, they face the Titans in Week 16, one of the best run defenses in the NFL.
RB Salvon Ahmed, Miami - Ahmed ran very well to complement Raheem Mostert with Jeff Wilson out of the lineup, with 43 yards on just six carries and scoring in the game. Wilson and Mostert have extensive injury histories and have broken that seal multiple times during the season. Ahmed is the player to swing playoff matchups if an opportunity presents itself.
QB Trace McSorley, Arizona - This is a desperation play only, but a concussion to Colt McCoy gave McSorley an opportunity. McSorley struggled, hitting only 7 of 15 with two interceptions. The team should be conservative with McCoy, as they were officially eliminated from the playoffs. The bigger story may be how much McSorley brings down the value of players like James Conner and DeAndre Hopkins in this offense.
Stats Of The Week
WR A.J. Brown, Philadelphia - 181 receiving yards - Brown set a career-high in receiving yards and became the first Eagle since Jeremy Maclin in 2014 to top 170 receiving yards. Brown set his single-season career high in receiving yards, topping 1,200 yards with three games left. He is 208 yards away from the single-season team record.
QB Justin Fields, Chicago - 1,000 rushing yards - Fields became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Fields would need to average 69 yards per game to hit that number. Lamar Jackson holds the single-season record for quarterback rushing yards with 1,206.
RB Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta - 139 rushing yards - Allgeier became the second most productive Falcons rookie running back as his 743 yards sit behind William Andrews’ 1,023 in 1979. Allgeier’s role in the Falcons' offense leaves a lot to be desired in the passing game, but this type of game shows ceiling outcomes are possible at a time of year when many rookies have hit a wall.
RB Rhamondre Stevenson, New England - 172 rushing yards - Stevenson became the first Patriot to rush for over 170 yards since the infamous Jonas Gray saga in 2014. It was his second game over 160 yards in 2022 and only the seventh Patriots game over that number since 1995. Stevenson now stands 86 yards away from becoming the first Patriot to top 1,000 rushing yards since LeGarrette Blount in 2016.
RB Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas - 1,495 rushing yards - Jacobs has the second most rushing yards in Raiders’ single-season history. He would need to average 88 yards per game over his last three games to top Marcus Allen’s franchise record of 1,759.
QB Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia - 13 rushing touchdowns - Cam Newton holds the quarterback single-season record with 14 rushing touchdowns. Hurts scored three times on the ground on Sunday, pushing his total to 13. With three games left, Hurts has excellent odds of breaking this record.
The Target Report
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