Welcome to this week’s edition of the “3M Report” – a weekly look back at the mayhem, magic and mishaps from around the NFL, focusing on situations and players that caught my eye or made me scratch my head in either awe or disbelief. So let’s take a look at week number 16 of the NFL season.
The final week of the regular season came and went with plenty of playoff drama and a few blips on my dynasty radar. Here’s a rundown of what caught my eye last weekend.
Rex Ryan and the Bills spoiled the Jets’ chances of making a playoff appearance. Considering the hot streak the Jets’ offense was riding, many AFC teams are breathing a sigh of relief. While they only really had three options on offense (Chris Ivory, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker) for much of the season, that was seemingly all they needed. I expect the Jets to continue with what worked so well this season, along with a healthy Jace Amaro at tight end.
Meanwhile, the Bills’ second year receiver Sammy Watkins reestablished himself as a top dynasty wideout after an early season swoon that had some calling Watkins a bust. His 11 receptions on Sunday marks a new career high.
The Dolphins were also AFC East spoilers as they upset the Patriots, ending any hopes of a top seed for New England. Dolphins’ rookie receiver DeVante Parker looks like a star in the making and he again led the team in receiving with 106 yards, scoring a touchdown along the way. Don’t be surprised when he starts slipping into the second round of dynasty startup drafts this off-season.
A game that once would have been a marquee matchup was just another game pitting two non-playoff teams as the Falcons hosted the Saints. This game did feature another impressive game in what has been a record breaking season for Atlanta’s Julio Jones, making his case to be the top overall dynasty asset as we enter the off-season.
The Bengals outlasted the Ravens and Jeremy Hill had one of his best games all season. Last off-season, I was uneasy with my higher than average rank of both Hill and fellow Cincinnati back Giovani Bernard, but never felt confident in either individually to make a stand. Now that the season is complete, they’ve essentially cancelled each other out all year. Both finished as mid-level RB2s, but both also had several games where they disappointed, making it difficult to trust either on a weekly basis. I still have this duo ranked fairly high and that will be one of my first changes during the off-season rankings update.
In a game that should’ve been celebrating the Steelers sneaking into the playoffs or the greatness that is Antonio Brown, the talk again centered on Browns’ quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was a no-show for Cleveland’s final game of the season. With a new coaching staff now a certainty for the Browns, this should signal the end of Manziel’s time with the team. Reports say he is positioning himself for a move to Dallas. Let’s hope for Dez Bryant, Tony Romo and anyone else involved with the Cowboys, this doesn’t come to fruition.
The Texans and Jaguars game featured two of the best young receivers in the game, Allen Robinson and DeAndre Hopkins, but the player who caught my eye was Texans’ rookie receiver Jaelen Strong. Strong saw the most extensive playing time of the season and responded with six grabs for 56 yards, modest stats but an encouraging sign as he caught all but one of his targets. The team might go back to Nate Washington, if healthy, for the playoffs, but Strong seems to be in line to be the team’s second option in 2016.
All you really need to know about the Titans-Colts game is the name of the four quarterbacks who took snaps for either team: Zach Mettenberger, Alex Tanney, Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley. The Titans nearly found a way to win this game, which would’ve pushed them out of the top spot in the NFL Draft. Instead, they are now on the clock and we can be certain, barring a trade, that a quarterback will not be selected with the first overall pick.
Kirk Cousins just continues to impress. He played less than a half against the Cowboys in a meaningless game, but that was enough to set the Redskins’ franchise record for passing yardage. Cousins continues to move up my dynasty quarterback rankings and deservedly so. Since the team’s bye in Week Eight, Cousins is the QB4, behind only Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Blake Bortles.
The Giants lost a tough home game to the Eagles, one which will prove to be the end of Tom Coughlin’s tenure as New York’s head coach. This game included many big plays from top players, but the continuing high level production from Eagles’ tight end Zach Ertz is encouraging for dynasty owners. He was nearly invisible all season before the final month, when he was the TE2 behind only Jordan Reed. Ertz is again in the mix to be a mid-range TE1, maybe even cracking the top five for some dynasty players.
The Lions-Bears matchup may have just signaled the end of the road for a pair of fantasy stars. Matt Forte is entering free agency and it is presumed the Bears will let their longtime starting running back walk, preferring the youth and contract of rookie Jeremy Langford. For the Lions, this is far from a done deal, but some reports have the team cutting superstar receiver Calvin Johnson, who is owed nearly $16 million in 2016. Although he has four years remaining on his deal, the team may not be able to afford their All-Pro receiver. It was good to see both Forte and Johnson find the end zone Sunday.
The Panthers cruised to their fifteenth win of the season. I didn’t really take much from this game other than the Bucs didn’t put up much of a fight, outside of receiver Mike Evans, who whined his way to an early exit after complaining to officials. Evans’ season has been viewed as a massive letdown, but his numbers have been fairly consistent with his rookie year, outside of a drastic drop in touchdowns.
The Denver Broncos got a big win, clinching the top seed in the AFC, but creating a quarterback controversy at the same time. After starter Brock Osweiler struggled early in the game, turning the ball over three times, Peyton Manning entered the game. Manning only threw nine passes, but did lead the team to victory and now the there is uncertainty who will start for the team in the playoffs. More importantly for dynasty players, there is a great deal of uncertainty about who will quarterback the team in 2016. It certainly won’t be Manning, who should retire following the season. It also might not be Osweiler, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.
The Cardinals-Seahawks game was fairly meaningless for Arizona and it showed in their play as they were hammered by Seattle. Both teams enter the playoffs hoping to surprise Carolina and earn a berth in Super Bowl 50.
The Packers fell to the Vikings in a race for the NFC North crown, though now Minnesota will play host to the hot Seahawks. After stringing together some big games, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater came crashing back down, throwing for less than 100 yards in the win. It’s difficult to see him ever becoming a fantasy star. The Packers continue to struggle on offense, with Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb putting up yet another poor game. Both players have lost a lot of value this season and I’m not sure the return of Jordy Nelson in 2016 will fix everything.