- Sheesh: The New England Patriots’ game-ending fumble turned touchdown stole the headlines, but they also had five different reasonable opportunities to score on a first-half drive that resulted in just three points.
- Get it together refs: Minnesota Vikings CB Chandon Sullivan is the “sheesh” player of the week for having not one but two different scoop-and-scores not count because the referees blew the play dead too quickly.
- C’mon man: Buffalo Bills RB Devin Singletary did the annoying thing where he put the interests of his real-life team ahead of fantasy football and went down short of the goal line late in the fourth quarter to ice the game with a field goal instead of a touchdown
Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
Week 15 has come and gone, as 16 NFL games brought joy, laughs and tears. Today, we’ll focus on the latter sadness and break down just how close some came to achieving fantasy football glory.
What follows is a breakdown on all the “sheesh” moments from Week 14. I’ve watched every game and used PFF’s backend tools to help determine instances when:
- Pass-catchers did receive an accurate pass that should have resulted in a score or big gain, but the ball was dropped
- Pass-catchers could have scored or picked up big yardage with a more accurate pass
- Players scored or picked up big yardage, but the play was nullified by penalty
- Ball carriers managed to get all the way to the one-yard line, but didn’t score
- Other random shit happened that tilted fantasy football managers of all shapes and sizes
But first: The single sheeshiest team of Week 15 goes to …
The New England Patriots for nearly scoring touchdowns on five consecutive plays and later quite literally throwing the game away
Everybody saw Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers’ ill-fated heave to Mac Jones result in Las Vegas Raiders DL Chandler Jones stiff-arming Jones on his way to the end zone in one of the absolute nuttiest finishes to a game that a football fan will ever witness.
And yet, that play may have never happened had the Patriots managed to convert one of their five reasonable touchdown opportunities on a first half drive that eventually ended with just a field goal:
- Jones targeted Meyers deep on what could have been a 17-yard score with a perfect pass. However, a combination of inaccuracy and pass interference gave the Patriots the ball at the two-yard line instead.
- RB Rhamondre Stevenson got stuffed at the one-yard line.
- Jones airmailed a pass to a wide-open Jonnu Smith on what should have been an easy touchdown.
- Jones connected with Meyers for a one-yard touchdown, only the play didn’t count because of a timeout just before the snap. Note that none of the players appeared to hear the whistle; the touchdown sure seemed to happen with players on both sides giving their best effort.
- Jones scored on a QB sneak – but not so fast my friend. Smith (perhaps in retaliation from sheesh No. 3) never got set before snap, resulting in a false start penalty that forced a field goal.
Sheesh player of the week: Minnesota Vikings CB Chandon Sullivan
Congratulations to Sullivan for being the first defensive player to win this “award.”
Next, Zack Moss clearly lost a fumble in the middle of the line of scrimmage that was also taken back to the house by Sullivan, only for the officials to initially rule Moss down by contact. A challenge would at least give possession to the Vikings, but it would have been a lot cooler for Sulivan if either of these plays had been called correctly.
Second fumble today that should’ve been a scoop and score for the #Vikings
— Tony Clements (@TonyCMKE) December 17, 2022
Sheesh play of the week: Buffalo Bills RB Devin Singletary
Sometimes NFL players do the silliest thing: Stop short of the end zone late in the fourth quarter with their opponents at zero timeouts to more or less ice the game for their real-life team at the expense of, you know, scoring a touchdown for their faithful fantasy managers. I guess this makes sense for their aspirations of team success and all that jazz, but the infamous Brian Westbrook/Todd Gurley special continues to be absolute nightmare fuel for fantasy faithful to deal with.
Devin Singletary goes down early on purpose pic.twitter.com/7eukaX5owe
— alex (@highlghtheaven) December 18, 2022
This was way too cool to not be a touchdown
Yes, NFL players are ruled out of bounds the second a part of their body goes, you know, out of bounds.
Also yes, Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields should have been granted temporary immunity from this rule after breaking roughly 60 tackles on his way to the end zone on what at first appeared to be a 48-yard house call.
Simply too cool to not be a touchdown pic.twitter.com/GpNbzsDBlz
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) December 19, 2022
RB David Montgomery scored a touchdown on the next play, so it didn’t wind up mattering that Fields just barely stepped out of bounds from the nine-yard line. That said, it certainly would have been a lot cooler if this unreal run had produced six points.
Touchdown! Wait, why is everyone walking back to the line of scrimmage
Penalties are obviously called for a reason, but there isn’t a more chaotic few seconds in the minds of fantasy managers between their player scoring a touchdown on a play with a penalty and the foul being announced.
Detroit Lions RB Jamaal Williams appeared to have his 15th rushing touchdown of the season, but in reality, the jaunt was called back on a holding penalty. It would have been an 11-yard touchdown if Ray Charles happened to be the referee on Sunday.
A rarity occurred last Thursday night: The pick-sheesh. San Francisco 49ers CB Deommodore Lenoir took a short Geno Smith pass 37 yards the other way to the end zone on a pass intended for Tyler Lockett. Fortunately for the Seattle Seahawks, the referees decided to make their weekly atrocious roughing the passer penalty at that very second, nullifying the touchdown on a drive that eventually resulted in a field goal.
Washington Commanders RB Brian Robinson appeared to get the team just a two-point conversion away from tying the New York Giants on Sunday night after punching the ball into the end zone from the one-yard line. Plot twist: The officials threw a flag for an illegal formation, saying Terry McLaurin wasn’t on the line of scrimmage. The problem with accepting this penalty is that McLaurin quite literally asked the ref if he was good on the line of scrimmage, and the official seemed to indicate that he was, leading to “Scary Terry” giving a thumbs up. McLaurin himself clarified after the game that this was what happened. Sheesh.
There were three plays that featured an official PFF drop on what would have otherwise been a touchdown:
- Cincinnati Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase got a step deep on what had the chance to be a 24-yard touchdown. Joe Burrow did his job by putting the ball right on Chase’s numbers. The problem was that Chase flat out dropped the potential score, undoubtedly hindered and/or ignored at the missed defensive pass interference call that happened just shy of the end zone.
- Miami Dolphins WR Trent Sherfield got open from three yards out and received a more-than-catchable pass from Tua Tagovailoa that hit him in the chest. Unfortunately, Sherfield dropped the potential score and forced the Dolphins to settle for a field goal.
- Bills WR Stefon Diggs got late separation in the back of the end zone and received a catchable ball from Josh Allen, but Diggs failed to record the catch – potentially due to being too worried about getting his feet down inbounds. Either way: Sheesh.
Also note that Houston Texans TE Jordan Akins (from 18 yards out, did draw DPI), Jacksonville Jaguars TE Evan Engram (from 10 yards out), Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup (six) and Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill (three) had end zone targets that would have resulted in a touchdown if caught, but they couldn’t come down with what would have needed to be a rather awesome catch.
Seriously, penalties are annoying, man
Sometimes the defense commits a foul that technically benefits the offense, but unfortunately, the penalty also prevented a potential big play from happening and producing fantasy points.
Two potential touchdowns instead went into the books as nothing more than a defensive penalty:
Bills TE Dawson Knox nearly added to his big day with a 19-yard touchdown just before the half on a lovely back-shoulder throw from Josh Allen. However, Knox couldn’t quite haul in the dart – in large part because he was being held while trying to make the catch. The Bills got a first down and wound up scoring on the drive, but just realize Knox’s 6-98-1 performance was almost even more fantastic.
Carolina Panthers WR Terrace Marshall managed to get open deep on what could have been a 31-yard touchdown with a perfect pass. Alas, Sam Darnold underthrew the bomb, leading to a 27-yard defensive pass interference penalty instead of a score. The Panthers were forced to kick a field goal on the drive a few plays later.
Pass-catchers who could have scored with a more accurate pass
The following players should have had a much bigger day at the office, but unfortunately, their respective quarterbacks weren’t quite up to the task for at least a moment. The following handful of players had to deal with some subjectively shitty near misses:
Jaguars WR/gadget Jamal Agnew managed to get open in the back of the end zone from 14 yards out while QB Trevor Lawrence scrambled around behind the line of scrimmage. The problem was that Lawrence stumbled before attempting the throw, which was eventually too high and fell incomplete.
Lions WR Jameson Williams hasn’t had the biggest impact upon returning from injury, although he certainly gave the offense an opportunity for six points upon breaking wide-open deep downfield. Potential non-call offensive pass interference aside, Williams gained more than enough separation for Jared Goff to connect on the potential 45-yard score. Too bad he didn’t.
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) December 19, 2022
Dolphins WR Jaylen Waddle got all kinds of open deep down the right sideline on what had the potential to be a 69-yard house call against the Bills last Saturday night. While Tua Tagovailoa threw an accurate enough pass for Waddle to make a 32-yard catch, a perfect pass in stride likely would have resulted in another fun penguin celebration.
Bills WR Stefon Diggs finally got all kinds of separation on Xavien Howard when the Dolphins corner fell down attempting to track Diggs across the field. Too bad Josh Allen failed to deliver an accurate throw on the run and sailed the potential 55-yard touchdown long and incomplete. It’s possible the incoming safety could have tackled Diggs just short of the goal line, but either way: Sheesh.
Commanders WR Curtis Samuel got wide open deep on the first play of the Commanders’ unfortunate final drive during their Sunday night loss to the Giants. Samuel had five-plus yards of separation on his nearest defender, who had briefly forgotten he had to carry the wheel route while the deep safety was all the way at the hash after biting on the post. Alas, Taylor Heinicke’s duck of a throw caused Samuel to drift even further to the sideline to the point where he simply need to worry about getting his feet down in bounds and securing the 27-yard gain.
Rams WR Tutu Atwell has been a regular in this column throughout the season. Yes, Atwell has the catch radius of a house cat. Also yes, he's one of the speedier receivers in the league and continuously finds a way to get behind opposing secondaries. Atwell did just that and had plenty of separation on what could have theoretically been an 81-yard touchdown with a perfect pass, but Baker Mayfield‘s heave was underthrown and simply drew a 40-yard pass interference penalty.
Unrealized air yards are a helluva drug
PFF’s Josh Hermsmeyer breaks down the week’s top buy-low candidates with his handy-dandy air yards model; don’t be surprised if certain pass-catchers from the Raiders and Jets are featured ahead of Week 16. The following nine players had more than 70 unrealized air yards in Week 15, meaning they had a ton of downfield opportunities, but failed to capitalize on them for one reason or another:
- Raiders WR Mack Hollins (166 air yards – 40 receiving yards = 126 unrealized air yards)
- Commanders WR Dyami Brown (93)
- Patriots WR Nelson Agholor (84)
- New York Jets WR Braxton Berrios (83)
- Raiders WR Davante Adams (79)
- Vikings TE T.J. Hockenson (78)
- Arizona Cardinals WR Robbie Anderson (76)
- Philadelphia Eagles WR A.J. Brown (75)
- Jets WR Garrett Wilson (74)
Good ball, no dice: Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence hit WR Christian Kirk in the hands on a crosser that would have been good for at least 20 yards and potentially more with some YAC goodness, instead the pass was dropped, so here we are sheeshing. … Jets WR Jeff Smith had a step on Lions CB Jeffrey Okudah down the sideline on what could have been a 16-yard score with a perfect pass. Alas, Zach Wilson’s pass sailed just a hair too long past Smith’s outstretched hands, mostly because it sure looked to be defensive pass interference even though no penalty flag was thrown. … Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes made one of his patented off-balance, side-arm 50-yard heaves downfield and the football somehow landed in the chest of WR Justin Watson, but he dropped what would have been a chunk 48-yard gain. … Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert threw a seed down the seam to an open Keenan Allen for what initially appeared to be a 27-yard gain, however, further replay showed that Allen failed to hold onto the ball through contact. Incomplete. … Bengals QB Joe Burrow threw one of his patented beautiful deep balls down the right sideline to a slightly open Ja’Marr Chase for what could have been a solid 30-yard gain. The only problem was that Chase had his head turned by the defender and didn’t even get a penalty called. Sheesh. … Vikings WR K.J. Osborn got open in the back of the end zone from just one yard outside the goal line. Kirk Cousins’ lob was secured by Osborn, but here we are sheeshing because he was shoved out of bounds before getting two feet down. … PFF officially deemed a potential four-yard touchdown from Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson to TE David Njoku catchable, but Njoku stumbled at the last second and couldn’t come down with the ball in the corner of the end zone. Not necessarily a drop, but absolutely a sheesh. … Bills QB Josh Allen threw a deep ball to Isaiah McKenzie that sure looked like it was caught for a 27-yard gain. The Bills clearly agreed – that’s why they challenged the call on the field – but the refs decided to be lame and upheld the ruling. … Packers WR Christian Watson snapped his touchdown streak on Monday night, but it wasn't because Aaron Rodgers didn't try. Up 24-12 at the two-minute warning, Rodgers dialed up a quick screen for Watson from the four-yard line and it sure seemed like a touchdown was there to be had, but Watson didn't catch the audible and spent the play blocking instead. Rodgers after the game: “If you want to catch touchdowns, you run the right routes.”
Not the worst throw, but also not the best: Nine plays stood out that featured an off-target throw, albeit something close to perfection would have been needed to pull off the chunk-gain completion:
- Eagles WR A.J. Brown is seemingly a candidate to come down with any given target thrown his way. Still, it’s tough to be too hard on Jalen Hurts for his off-target deep ball on what could have been a 30-plus yard completion considering AJB didn’t exactly have a ton of separation.
- Cowboys RB Tony Pollard had a step or two deep on a wheel route that could have produced a solid 25 or so yard gain down the sideline, only for Dak Prescott’s deep ball to be underthrown and fall incomplete.
- Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes had a rare misfire to an open Marquez Valdes-Scantling on what had the potential to be a 52-yard score. A reception probably would have “only” netted the Chiefs around 30 yards, but either way: Sheesh.
- Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers broke wide open down the seam for what should have been an easy 30-plus yards, unfortunately, Mac Jones had other plans and sailed the pass long and incomplete.
- Raiders WR Mack Hollins had multiple 50-yard bombs that just barely soared past his out-stretched fingertips. Anybody who watched the Patriots-Raiders game probably wasn’t surprised to see Hollins’ name at the top of the unrealized air yards leaderboard.
- Chargers WR Mike Williams had enough separation down the sideline to gain at least 20 yards during the middle of the fourth quarter, but Justin Herbert was saving his best throws for later and sailed this particular target long and out of bounds.
- Vikings WR K.J. Osborn’s big-time 10-157-1 performance could have been even bigger had Kirk Cousins been just a bit more accurate downfield on what had the potential to be a 64-yard house call. It wouldn't have been a given that Osborn would have scored on the play, but that a more accurate ball would have given the third-year receiver a real chance at breaking 200 receiving yards on the afternoon.
- Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers actually might deserve his own category coined something closer to “horrific throw to a wide-open target.” In this case, that target was Allen Lazard, who should have had a solid 30-yard gain upon breaking wide open on a throwback post, but Rodgers' pass sailed too high and directly to the Los Angeles Rams for an interception.
Just short. Sheesh: The following players were tackled at the one-yard line in Week 14. Note that sequences where a player was downed just short of the goal line, but later went on to score the touchdown themself on the same drive, aren’t listed:
- Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (did throw a touchdown on the same drive)
- Jets QB Zach Wilson (did throw a touchdown on the same drive)
- Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke
- Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry
- Patriots RB Rhamondre Stevenson
- Cowboys RB Tony Pollard
- Vikings RB Dalvin Cook
- Pittsburgh Steelers RB Najee Harris
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette
- Jets RB Michael Carter
- Eagles RB Miles Sanders
- Eagles RB Kenneth Gainwell
- Colts RB Zack Moss
- Lions RB Justin Jackson
- Colts WR Ashton Dulin
- Packers RB Aaron Jones