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Truths and Lies - Week 15

By Steve Schwarz | 12/13/23

Congratulations on making the playoffs. I assume you wouldn’t be here and would be hiding in a far off cave if you failed to qualify for the “second season.”

Byes: N/A


“To live in the past is to die in the present.” – Bill Belichick

1) Protecting quarterbacks is important to the NFL and fantasy.

Fact. Easton Stick, Aidan O'Connell, Davis Mills, Nick Mullens, Bailey Zappe, Mitchell Trubisky, Drew Lock, Jake Browning, Joe Flacco, Tommy DeVito, Gardner Minshew and Will Levis will likely be starters this weekend as we begin the fantasy playoffs. None were starters on Opening Day 2023. We may not like some of the ticky-tack fouls called on defensive players, but how much more competitive would your roster be with; Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Kirk Cousins, Anthony Richardson, C.J. Stroud, Deshaun Watson and Geno Smith in the lineup instead of one of the above?

2) Try to imagine the “playoff-bound” New York Jets, if they had signed Joe Flacco, when Aaron Rodgers went down and Zach Wilson became the Jets starter in Week 2.

When Wilson collapsed, Flacco and the Jets defense could have led them to the playoff Promised Land. In Flacco’s first two starts of 2023, he’s averaging 24.1 FPts/G which would rank him in the top-10. Garrett Wilson would be ranked higher than 26th and the actual threat of a passing game would likely have helped Breece Hall too. Wilson, in 10 starts this season has produced one game above 24 fantasy points this season… ironically, last weekend.

Evan Engram

3) The hottest tight end in the league plays in Jacksonville.

True. No one has been more productive the last two weeks that Evan Engram. He’s been targeted 21 times over the last two games and caught 20 balls for 177 yards and three touchdowns. His explosion of offense corresponds with the injury to wideout Christian Kirk. His 55.7 fantasy points over the two games is well ahead of the rest at his position. Kirk (core muscle surgery) isn’t coming back this season making it likely that Engram’s hot streak will continue.

4) The easiest way into the RB top-15 is to score touchdowns.

While catching the ball is great and rushing for a good yards-per-carry is important, most of the top-30 were similar. But the most important characteristic which separates the top-15 from 16-30 is touchdowns scored. Next year, when deciding which running back between two options, ask yourself “Which one will have the most opportunities to score touchdowns?” I’ll try to remember to remind you next August.

 2023 RBs thru Week 14
  Ru Att YPC Ru TDs/G Rec/G Rec Yds/G
Top - 1-15 15.1 4.5 0.81 3.14 7.69
Top - 16-30 13.7 4.2 0.46 2.65 7.56
Based on FPTs/G in full PPR

5) Imagine if Courtland Sutton was used to his fullest?

True. While Deebo Samuel benefits from running the ball in the innovative Kyle Shanahan offense which makes his dominance appear larger than life, the name which jumped off the page for me was Sutton. One day in the future (I hope), he’ll be in an offense which features the pass and he’ll shine. Also, you can see the C.J. Stroud “effect” with two Texans receivers in the top-10.

 Top-10 Receivers - Fantasy Points per Target
  Tm G FPts Tgts FPts/T
Deebo Samuel SF 11 189.0 62 3.05
Tyreek Hill MIA 13 324.7 132 2.46
Brandon Aiyuk SF 12 197.3 81 2.44
Courtland Sutton DEN 13 182.9 79 2.31
Nico Collins HOU 12 196.4 86 2.28
D.J. Moore CHI 13 233.2 103 2.26
Tank Dell HOU 10 165.0 75 2.20
CeeDee Lamb DAL 13 283.7 131 2.17
Justin Jefferson MIN 6 115.8 56 2.07
Mike Evans TB 13 224.0 109 2.06


“It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be uneducated.” – Alec Bourne

1) Patrick Mahomes is not playing at an MVP level.

False. Mahomes is still playing at an elite level, but the team around him is falling apart. It’s part of why quarterbacks get too much credit when they win and too much blame when they lose. It’s a team sport. The Chiefs are averaging 22.5 ppg which is 11th of 32 teams. They were No.1 last season averaging 29.2 ppg. Mahomes’ “Bad Throw %” has dropped from 15.4% in 2022 to 11.1% in 2023, but his receivers’ drop percentage is up from 5.4% to 6.6%. Perhaps we (and the Chiefs) underestimated the value of JuJu Smith-Schuster (78-922-3). Also, the team used running back Jerick McKinnon much more in the passing game in 2022 (56-512-9). He’s just 22-173-3 in 2023.

2) The new “quarterback darlings” (Jake Browning and Flacco) can lead you to a fantasy title.

Probably not. While they have been great of late, the schedule-maker did them no favors. All of the six teams they will face from Week 15-17 are in the top half of “QB fantasy points allowed” for the season. Furthermore, four of the six games will be against “hot” defenses which rank in the top-10 since Week 10.

3) Will Levis is young and inexperienced and will be of no value in the fantasy playoffs.

Possibly false. Did you just barely sneak into the playoffs and are going up against a juggernaut team? An average day from your average quarterback just won’t cut it? If you need a “long-shot” with high ceiling to upset that guy, Levis might just be the guy. Levis has the most favorable schedule in the fantasy playoffs. He faces Houston, Seattle and Houston again. The Seahawks rank 23rd against opposing quarterbacks for the season and Houston is 25th. Since Week 10 they rank 24th and 28th, respectively. Levis is coming off a huge comeback win to beat the Miami Dolphins so he’s full of confidence after putting up 327 yards and a touchdown.

4) Easton Stick can fill in for Justin Herbert.

OK, he can take his position in the lineup, but I’m not expecting Stick to perform like Herbert. Stick has 25 career passing attempts. Stick has yet to throw a touchdown pass. But what his arrival might do is bring out more value in Austin Ekeler. A smart head coach would lean on his veterans to help out his inexperienced quarterback. More rushing attempts. More short passes out of the backfield. Nobody is better out of the backfield than Ekeler. He produced his highest fantasy point total in a month last weekend after Stick replaced Herbert.

5) Dak Prescott is not playing at an MVP level.

False. While not my current choice for the award, he’s certainly in the top-three. He’s playing as he did in 2021 (24.4 FPts/G, 4,449 passing yards, 37 TDs, 10 INTs), but getting more praise because his team’s defense has improved and he doesn’t have to force anything. If you watched Monday night football, you saw my top MVP candidate - Tyreek Hill. When he’s on the field, the Dolphins offense is all but unstoppable, when he’s sidelined, the Titans can beat the Dolphins.