What We Saw: Week 15

Vikings and Raiders and Jaguars - oh my!

Giants @ Commanders

Final Score: Giants 20, Commanders 12

Senior Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)


After an entertaining tie a few weeks ago, the repeat matchup in Maryland saw the stuttering New York Giants trying to keep their playoff hopes alive against a resurgent Washington Commanders team that has seen Taylor Heinicke work his determined magic. Combined with a ferocious defensive front led by the indomitable Jonathan Allen, the Commanders have found a way to win under Ron Rivera. Meanwhile, Brian Daboll has worked wonders with a roster lacking talent but those cracks have slowly started to widen in recent weeks. Could he muster something special for this crucial division contest between two teams who share identical records coming in at 7-5-1? Let’s get into the action.

The first half belonged to the Giants defense, who stepped up in a huge way to limit the Commanders to three punts and a field goal alongside the play that made everyone go, “oh wow” and give New York a key advantage. It was first round rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux menacing the Commanders offensive line and forcing a strip sack fumble that the exciting young pass rusher pick up himself to return for a touchdown. What a play at a perfect time for his team!


With the Giants defense inspiring the sidelines, Jones then orchestrated an 18-play, 98-yard touchdown drive that blended the perfect balance of rush and pass to give New York an opportunity to extend their lead before the half. Saquon Barkley, who touched the ball six times on the drive, took a direct snap and hit paydirt for a crucial touchdown.


After the break, the Commanders finally found some space downfield amongst the Giants secondary, which up to that point had been excellent in limiting Heinicke’s ability to find playmakers down the sidelines. The determined Washington quarterback led a 6-play, 91-yard touchdown drive after a big screen pass to Terry McLaurin setup a chance to find promising rookie Jahan Dotson deep for an important score.


The Washington defense then did its job in limiting the Giants to three punts and two long field goals to give the offense an opportunity to come back and win the game. After another huge connection with Dotson, Heinicke had three plays inside the Giants 11-yard line but coughed up the ball on a strip sack on third down midway through the fourth quarter that handed the ball back to the Giants and significantly deflated the mood on the Commanders sideline. Improving young outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari combining with elite veteran defensive end Leonard Williams to take the ball away for the Giants.



The Giants went down the field and added a field goal to make it an eight point game with just 1:55 left on the clock in the fourth quarter. A huge 43-yard kick off return by Antonio Gibson gave the Commanders excellent field position and a great throw from Heinicke found Curtis Samuel down the sideline giving Washington a first down at the Giants 10-yard line with still well over a minute left. It was not to be, however, as a Brian Robinson touchdown run was called back for an illegal formation penalty. Although more controversy around the officiating crew here as it appears McLaurin checks with the line judge that he is ok where he stood!


Heinicke could not link up with Samuel on fourth down on the next play – the Giants once again getting the benefit of the doubt after what looked like clear defensive pass interference. No call from the officials. Oh dear!



New York Giants




Daniel Jones: 21/32, 160 Yards | 10 Carries, 35 Yards


In his first single digit fantasy score for six games, Daniel Jones took a backseat as the run game and the defense did the majority of the hard work in a hard fought win. It was the first time Jones didn’t throw for a touchdown since Week 8 but more importantly this performance continued a streak of five games without an offensive turnover. And that’s all he needed to do today. The lack of goal line involvement will always kill Jones’ fantasy score and so it went in a key spot with the fantasy playoffs in full swing.


Running Back


Saquon Barkley: 18 Carries, 87 Yards, TD | 8 Targets, 5 Receptions, 33 Yards

Matt Breida: 2 Carries, 6 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 6 Yards


With Jones reduced to a game-manager role, up stepped the electric Saquon Barkley to emerge as the fantasy star of the game. Barkley was held to just 25 snaps in Week 14 after he worked through a neck injury and a negative game script against a marauding Eagles’ offense. Daboll probably felt it more prudent to save his superstar for this game and it sure did pay off. Barkley looked elusive and quick between the tackles, breaking tackles and jelly-legging defenders with some elite footwork. He played significant roles in all the Giants’ scoring drives.


It really was a starring role as Barkley’s production accounted for nearly half of the Giants’ overall yards and of course he scored the team’s lone offensive touchdown. It was a show fantasy mangers will appreciate in the playoffs!


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Richie James: 5 Targets, 4 Receptions, 42 Yards

Isaiah Hodgins: 4 Targets, 4 Receptions, 37 Yards

Darius Slayton: 7 Targets, 5 Receptions, 23 Yards, 1 Fumble (Recovered)

Nick Vannett: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 15 Yards

Daniel Bellinger: 4 Targets, 1 Reception, 4 Yards


There was slim pickings for this receiving corps as Jones only completed 21 passes, many for short yardage and six of those went to the running backs. That left a measly 15 passes to be spread around. Darius Slayton led the team in targets but his couple of opportunities deep were not catchable and be was bottled up on third downs, a n area he has excelled in over the latter part of the season.

Richie James and Isaiah Hodgins made some nice grabs in contested situations but neither threatened to do anything fantasy-worthy. A ballsy call on fourth down prior to the half that led to a touchdown for the Giants was the play of the day – Jones finding James over the middle for an excellent catch.

Outside of Slayton, who is reliant on the big play for a touchdown, there isn’t much to shout about in this passing offense. It is Barkley or bust, I’m afraid.


Washington Commanders




Taylor Heinicke: 17/29, 249 Yards, TD, 3 Sacks | 3 Carries, 33 Yards, 2 Fumble (Lost)


The populists’ hero could not bring his team in from the cold in this crucial game although one would argue that the officials took this game away from the Commanders and Heinicke made two touchdown-worthy plays to draw level at the end of the game. He did carry the offense at times in the second half but struggled mightily in the first half. He came under significant pressure from an inspired Giants defensive line, who went quiet in the second half. Losing two fumbles effectively decided the game and drastically affected his fantasy score.


For all Heinicke’s playmaking abilities, he has only completed more than 20 passes three times in his eight starts this season. He shrugged off his first half and let the ball loose a lot more in the second half, playing risky and I think this is his best foot forward. He can also take off and make plays with his legs when chasing the game, something he tends not to do if the Commanders are in control or in a close game.


He made at least four elite throws in the final two drives in an attempted to draw level and his receivers showed they can match Heinicke’s bold approach. It would be nice to see him throw an extra eight to ten passes a game and take his fantasy relevance to the next level. Plays like the connection to Samuel here are not perfect but give his exciting young playmakers opportunities. Maybe it is the coaching that needs to adapt more.


Running Back


Brian Robinson Jr.: 12 Carries, 89 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 18 Yards

Antonio Gibson: 5 Carries, 21 Yards | 4 Targets, 2 Receptions, 6 Yards | 1 Fumble (Recovered)


It could have been a Saquon-type night for Brian Robinson Jr. if the game script had not rapidly gone downhill at the end of the first half and his gutsy touchdown drive at the end of the game had stood. The feel good story of the league this season ran hard and well for the majority of the game and showed why he has deserved to take the lead back role from Antonio Gibson.


Gibson himself saw the bulk of the work on third downs in passing situations and in the two-minute drill offense. This complementary role seems to suit him more but this will diminish he fantasy relevance. His kick off return on the final drive was crucial in setting up an exciting finish.


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Jahan Dotson: 6 Targets, 4 Receptions, 105 Yards, TD

Terry McLaurin: 6 Targets, 6 Receptions, 70 Yards

Curtis Samuel: 5 Carries, 1 Yard | 5 Targets, 3 Receptions, 44 Yards

Logan Thomas: 3 Targets, 1 Reception, 6 Yards

Dyami Brown: 1 Carry, 15 Yards | 2 Targets


Another week, another missed opportunity for Scott Turner to champion Terry McLaurin in this offense. “Scary Terry” can literally not do anymore to deserve fantasy WR1 treatment from this scheme but Turner seems reluctant to pepper the star wideout with another five or so targets per game at the minimum. He has shown time and time again what he can do at all levels, and he broke off a huge run on a screen pass which showcased all his talents.


Pair McLaurin with rookie star Jahan Dotson and the Commanders have a receiving corps that needs more opportunites. Dotson’s second meaningful game back from injury saw him go over the 100 yards mark for the first time in his career. He also has an impressive six touchdowns in as many starts this season. He is a playmaker with speed, route-running expertise and an x-factor. He should be firmly on your fantasy radars as a flex option throughout the playoffs and a WR2 for next season.


The one thing that didn’t work today for the Commanders, which has been a staple of their offense, is using Curtis Samuel out of the backfield as a runner. The Giants had clearly prepared for this and his five carries went nowhere. It really limited what Washington could do when face with certain defensive formations. It also killed Samuel’s fantasy day at a key time of the year.

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