Worst fantasy football performances of Week 17: Matt Ryan, Greg Olsen, Kelvin Benjamin fall flat
You’d think two teams fighting for a playoff berth would bring their best offenses. But you’d be wrong.
I complained much of the week about the NFL’s choice for the flex game. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati is usually a good game, sure, but both of those teams were already in the playoffs. Wouldn’t it have been far more interesting to put on the win-and-in game of Carolina and Atlanta?
Sure, I knew the Panthers and Falcons both had losing records, that the NFC South winner is only a playoff team due to the fiddly-bits of geography. But come on, shouldn’t the win-and-in, lose-and-go-home game be the Sunday nighter?
As it turns out, no.
The 4:25 p.m. ET Carolina-Atlanta game was brutal, with Atlanta unable to get out of its own way and Carolina’s defense so dominant that the offense barely had to do anything. It led to a lot of entries in the space below — two teams desperately needing a win decided instead to have a bunch of awfulness.
(To be fair, the actual Sunday night game, Pittsburgh-Cincinnati, wasn’t exactly some paragon of great football, but it couldn’t have been worse than that NFC South one, really.)
That brings us to this week’s breakdown of the worst performances. I normally use this space to discuss what it means for players’ fantasy stocks next week, but with the regular season over, I’m looking instead at what these performances mean for each guy’s 2015. Are we seeing the end of some fantasy relevance?
Worst quarterbacks in Week 17
Philip Rivers, SD (291 passing yards, 2 interceptions, 2 rushing yards, 1 fumble lost, 5 fantasy points)
Matt Ryan, ATL (260 passing yards, 2 interceptions, 6 rushing yards, 6 fantasy points)
There were three quarterbacks Sunday for whom a win would mean a playoff spot. One of them, Cam Newton, had a strong day. The other two fell totally flat, so I’m lumping them together. Rivers and Ryan combined for no touchdowns, five turnovers and 10 total team points. Both are still young by quarterback standards, and have good enough supporting casts that we’ll still like them for next year, but the ends to their respective seasons were pretty brutal.
Next season: If I had to commit now, I’d choose Ryan in 2015 over Rivers. That’s based largely on weapons like Julio Jones. Either way, both are going to be fringe fantasy starters for next season.
Russell Wilson, SEA (239 passing yards, 1 interception, 7 rushing yards, 7 fantasy points)
The Seahawks needed Sunday’s win to lock up a first-round playoff bye. While the Rams had stopped the team last time they faced one another, most of us assumed big things for Wilson Sunday. Instead, he continued his frustrating late-season trend of alternating good games and bad games — in the last five weeks, Wilson’s fantasy scoring went 16, 28, 10, 35 and 7, and he had a similar stretch early this season. He’s got enough talent, brains and a good situation to be a top-flight quarterback, but until he can do it consistently, he’ll always be a step below in fantasy.
Next season: He probably warrants being drafted as the fourth or fifth fantasy quarterback next year, but I can tell you now that that possibility scares the absolute hell out of me.
Peyton Manning, DEN (273 passing yards, -5 receiving yards, 1 fumble lost, 8 fantasy points)
The last five weeks of the season, Manning totaled 48 fantasy points. If he didn’t have the last name, we might be talking about him as a guy to be benched in fantasy. I don’t know if it’s the cold weather, age or just a push for maintenance leading into the playoffs, but this hasn’t been close to the same old Peyton Manning in recent weeks, and I will be wary before signing him up for the fantasy playoffs.
Next season: Who the heck knows. Manning might not even play next year, though I expect he will. He’s still who he is, so he’ll be near the top of the fantasy quarterback rankings. I’d take Aaron Rodgers before him, and probably Andrew Luck as well, but that’s about it.
Worst running backs in Week 17
Jamaal Charles, KC (54 rushing yards, 8 receiving yards, 5 fantasy points)
In a game the Chiefs came in needing a win to have any shot at the playoffs, with an emergency fill-in quarterback, you had to think Kansas City would lean hard on Charles, the one true superstar in the offense. Instead, he ran the ball only 13 times and was barely a factor in the win. Charles combined for 14 fantasy points in his last three games, and I’d guess he cost some owners a shot at the title.
Next season: Unless we hear something about Charles being injured down the stretch, I don’t see how we just write him off. He’s still so good. I expect Charles will be a first-rounder again next year.
Bishop Sankey, TEN (18 rushing yards, 1 fumble lost, -1 fantasy point)
It’s easy to forget now — or to say that we were overstating our memories of the start of the season — but people were all over Sankey in the preseason. He went in the fourth round of my primary league, and was a popular pick in almost all of them. It was obviously premature, but the completely forgotten guy of the recent weeks is not the reputation Sankey had early on. It’s only fitting that one of the most frustrating and disappointing players in the league finished up with his single worst game.
Next season: I guess he’ll be Tennessee’s lead running back going into next year again, barring a complete overhaul. Better days are ahead for Sankey, but if you draft him as a starter, it’s your funeral.
Tre Mason, STL (28 rushing yards, 29 receiving yards, 4 fantasy points)
It wasn’t exactly a surprise that Mason struggled on the road against that Seattle defense, but after the rookie did so well a month or so ago, his season petered out at the end. Sure, Mason had 13 fantasy points in Week 16, but from Week 14 on, he totaled 24. It was a frustrating end to a promising season. As long as Mason is with the Rams — facing the Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals twice a year –he’ll continue having days like this.
Next season: It’s not fair to Mason, but it’s impossible to look at his season and not see Zac Stacy, circa last year. It will likely keep Mason’s draft stock in check next year, meaning whoever gets him might do so at a reasonable discount.
Worst wide receivers in Week 17
Mike Wallace, MIA (0 receiving yards, 0 fantasy points)
Wallace’s day was just bizarre. He came in off of his two best games of the season and against an awful pass defense, only to be held quiet in the first half and get benched in the second after apparently telling the team he didn’t want to play anymore. After the game, he didn’t even speak for himself in the press conference. Wallace is still crazy talented, but with that sort of behavior, it wouldn’t surprise me if the team makes an example of Wallace and goes into next season with Jarvis Landry, Brian Hartline and a free agent or draft pick.
Next season: No idea. Check back when we know for sure whether he’ll stay in Miami.
DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (5 receiving yards, 0 fantasy points)
If you used T.Y. Hilton in Week 17, you weren’t paying enough attention, since we all knew the receiver would be limited and/or held off the field with his injury. But if you used Hopkins, you can be forgiven. Sure, he was dealing with injury — and Andre Johnson had seen more looks the week before — but Hopkins has had a great sophomore season, and with Houston needing a win Sunday, it was reasonable to think he’d perform. Whether it was the injury, or Case Keenum, or the simple vagaries of wide receiver-dom, Hopkins no-showed Sunday.
Next season: Assuming Houston has a competent quarterback in the fold for next year (no safe assumption), Hopkins will be an easy starter at receiver.
Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (9 receiving yards, 0 fantasy points)
Benjamin had a big drop early in the game, and then the Panthers’ defense carried them to a rout, so Carolina just didn’t have to look the rookie’s way much Sunday. He led the team with five targets, but the Panthers just weren’t throwing the ball much. It was a frustrating end to a good rookie year for Benjamin.
Next season: You’d like Carolina to get a complementary receiver to go with Benjamin for 2015, but even if they don’t, he’ll be a fantasy starter for next season.
Vincent Jackson, TB (11 receiving yards, 1 fantasy point)
Jackson ends his 2014 with two touchdowns on the season, and none since Week 4. His one catch Sunday brought him over 1,000 yards for the third straight year. This wasn’t a bad season for Jackson, just one where he saw almost all of his theoretical scores wind up in the arms of Mike Evans. His usage and production had gone up the last few weeks before Sunday, so to end the season with a one-catch, 11-yard game must have been a crusher for anyone hoping for good things.
Next season: The Bucs locked up the No. 1 pick in the draft with their loss Sunday, and the early money is on Marcus Mariota joining Tampa Bay next season. We’ll see what that means for Jackson, but with Evans in the fold, he’ll be little more than an upside guy off the bench no matter who’s playing quarterback.
Worst tight ends in Week 17
Julius Thomas, DEN (0 receiving yards, 0 fantasy points)
We still had to be nervous about Thomas going into Week 17. He had six combined fantasy points and 66 yards since Week 10, with some games missed to injury. Still, everything about Thomas’ prep for Week 17 indicated he was improving, and it stood to reason the team would want to get Thomas going for the playoffs. Instead, Thomas was pointless Sunday, not even seeing a target.
Next season: Even if Thomas is still banged up — and you have to assume his ankle isn’t 100 percent — there’s no reason to think he’ll be hurt for next season. Which means he’ll be a top-three tight end again.
Tim Wright, NE (15 receiving yards, 1 fantasy point)
As soon as the Patriots announced Rob Gronkowski would be inactive Sunday, eyes turned to Wright under the thinking that the team still had a TE-heavy gameplan, and Wright would see the benefit. Instead, the tight end continued his late-season fizzle, with three combined fantasy points in his last five weeks. Guess he’s not the next Aaron Hernandez after all.
Next season:You’d have to expect Wright will still be in New England next year. Assuming that’s true, he’s nothing but a desperation fill-in until we see otherwise.
Greg Olsen, CAR (27 receiving yards, 2 fantasy points)
This one hurt. With Carolina needing a win Sunday and facing a bad Atlanta defense, it stood to reason that Olsen (and Benjamin, and Jonathan Stewart) would have a big game if Carolina was going anywhere. Instead, the Panthers’ defense did all the work, and Olsen and his compatriots were largely held quiet.
Next season: Coming off his best season, Olsen will be an interesting option for next season. He’s going to be behind the likes of Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas, but Olsen might be the top of that next tier.
Worst defense/special teams in Week 17
Miami Dolphins (37 points allowed, 1 fumble recovery, 1 sack, -5 fantasy points)
After 98 fantasy points through the first eight games, the Miami defense had 15 total in its last eight. Injuries and regression came on like a dang banshee, rendering a once-stout defense completely pointless. Put it this way: When you’re a defense, and you let Geno Smith put up a perfect passer rating on you, things are bad, Jack.