Each week in this space, we’ll be taking a look back at Sunday’s games to find five of the most important or most interesting stats for fantasy football owners heading into the following week. With 15 of 16 games from Week 15 in the books, here are the five stats you need to know:
1. Todd Gurley is currently on pace for 381.4 PPR fantasy points, which would rank 19th-most by any running back all-time.
Facing the Seahawks and Eagles over the past two weeks – two teams ranking top-five in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs – Gurley combined for 315 total yards and six total touchdowns.
If there’s an award for fantasy comeback player of the year, no one is more deserving than Gurley, who totaled just 198.2 fantasy points across 16 games last season. Heading into this season, there were 320 instances of a running back ever accumulating at least 275 carries in a single season. Among these 320 instances, Gurley’s 2016 season ranked fifth-worst in yards per carry (3.18).
Last offseason the debate was, “Is Gurley bad?” when the debate should have been, “How bad is Jeff Fisher?” The answer was “the worst.” On that list of 320 different running back seasons, four of the 12-worst seasons by yards per carry came from a running back coached by Jeff Fisher.
Kudos to Sean McVay for turning Gurley around, but also the offense in general. The Rams are currently averaging 31.3 points per game, which is tied for the league-lead. Last season they averaged a league-low 14.0 points per game.
2. Le'Veon Bell is on pace for 442.3 touches this season, which would rank eighth-most by any player all-time.
Bell leads all running backs in snaps with 898, or 172 more than the next-closest running back. He also leads in touches with 387, or 76 more than next closest. He's basically already played three more games than any other running back. Bell also came into the week averaging 22.4 expected fantasy points per game, which ranks highest by any player this past decade, breaking the record he set last season.
With Pittsburgh still battling New England for a first-round bye, Antonio Brown potentially out for Week 16 (implying the potential for even more volume), and up against a Texans defense that came into the week allowing a league-worst 4.91 yards per carry over the previous five weeks of the season, you have to feel good about owning Bell if you’re headed into your league championship.
3. Antonio Brown suffered a calf injury in Week 15, and it was apparently serious enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. This is brutal news for a player who was in legitimate consideration to be the first wide receiver to win the AP Most Valuable Player Award. Coming into this week, Brown was on pace for a season that would have ranked third-best all-time in receiving yards and eighth-best all-time among wide receivers in fantasy points.
It's hard to tell just what Brown's absence might mean for this offense. He's missed just one game since 2013, and it was in a meaningless Week 17 game with Landry Jones as quarterback. Obviously, this dents Ben Roethlisberger’s weekly projections, while giving a slight volume bump to JuJu Smith-Schuster, Martavis Bryant, and Le’Veon Bell. Roethlisberger will also be on the road next week (where he typically underperforms), but the Texans do rank bottom-three in opponent-adjusted fantasy points per game and fantasy points allowed per dropback to opposing quarterbacks.
4. In Week 15 – Eli Manning‘s second game with a head coach other than Ben McAdoo since 2015 – Manning totaled 28.4 fantasy points. This was the second-most of any quarterback this week, and Manning’s highest total since Tom Coughlin was the head coach.
As a team, the Giants totaled 509 yards on offense, 434 passing yards, and 29 total points. New York’s previous highs under McAdoo were only 470 total yards, 397 passing yards, and 28 total points.
Continuing with our theme of throwing former head coaches under the bus, it’s interesting to note that Manning’s best game came following the departure of supposed “offensive genius/quarterback guru” McAdoo. I’m reminded of a conversation with PFF’s Ryan Smith this summer at Giants training camp. I asked what he most attributed Manning’s recent decline to, and he surprised me by saying he thought Manning just wasn’t a good fit for McAdoo’s scheme, and vice versa.
Perhaps Sunday’s success was just a one-game outlier, or perhaps Smith was right and Manning still has quite a bit of gas left in the tank.
5. Since Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start of the season, three weeks ago, he is one of only two quarterbacks with at least 1,000 passing yards. He is also our fifth-highest-graded passer over this stretch.
During this stretch the 49ers are 3-0 and Marquise Goodwin ranks fourth among all players in receiving yards (319), and coming just one yard shy of three straight 100-yard games. While it's still early, it seems safe to applaud John Lynch's move to trade just a second-round pick for the former second-rounder who also spent four years surrounded by some of the sharpest minds in football. The team still has to deal with him impending free agency, but it seems plausible they may have found their long-term quarterback.
What’s especially interesting is how quickly Garoppolo has adapted to Kyle Shanahan’s system. As Evan Silva pointed out, Matt Ryan struggled to adapt to Shanahan’s scheme in their first season together, but in year two Ryan won the MVP and set the all-time record for yards per pass attempt (9.3), while his prior career-high was only 7.9 (in 2008). Similarly, in Shanahan’s second year working with Matt Schaub, Schaub led the league in passing yards with 4,770. That’s a number Andrew Luck has never reached, and Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have only ever topped once.
As it stands, Garoppolo is still a screaming buy in dynasty leagues.