NFL Real/Not Real: Week 14

Welcome to another edition of the “Real or Not Real” article for the 2016 NFL season. In this piece, Ricky Sanders will examine whether the hype and/or recent production surrounding certain players warrants deeming them as “for real” or remaining skeptical and considering them “not for real.”

Here are Ricky’s thoughts surrounding players who opened some eyeballs with their Week 14 performances one way or another:

Trevor Siemian, Broncos – Okay so Trevor Siemian has been around for a while at this point considering this was his 13th game of the season. However, it was only the second time he had produced a QB rating of 90-plus since Week 4 and the second straight game he has thrown for 300-plus yards. The reason he seemed worth mentioning is because the recipe he has been using for success seems sustainable over the long run by targeting Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders a combined 60-plus percent of the time over the past four weeks. In fact, each of them has received at least 30.6-percent of the team’s targets during that span and both their percentages rank in the top four of all receivers. Only Odell Beckham Jr. has been targeted at a higher percentage than Thomas over the last month and Mike Evans rates just behind Thomas and above Sanders…that is it. Both are fantastic talents and by far the best pass-catchers the team has to offer so heavily relying on them gives the team the best chance to win. Neither have particularly impressive catch rates (66-percent and 61-percent respectively) but that probably has more to do with the QB than the receivers. As long as the volume is there with the receivers, they will get it done over the long run. All of this is a long-winded way of saying Siemian is properly using the weapons provided to him, especially lately, and that is coinciding with an uptick in production. Consequently, it is safe to conclude the success will continue as long as he keeps doing what he has been doing lately. Verdict: For Real

Carlos Hyde, 49ers – Facing a stout Jets rushing defense, Carlos Hyde made for an enticing play due to the price tag. Even those who sought out the value of his cost could not have fathomed just how productive he would be; he rushed for 193 yards on 17 carries (11.4 yards per carry (YPC)) and even caught one pass for seven yards that resulted in a TD. One of the main issues for 49ers offensive players has been the fact team ranks dead last in time of possession (26:24) so there is not always enough opportunity to go around. Even though the team runs a fast-paced offense, they only average the 22nd most offensive plays per game (62.5) of any team. Starting Bryce Petty presented an opportunity for the 49ers to possess the ball more than usual and yet the Jets ended up winning that battle 41:55-24:30. Hyde has fallen victim to this trend quite often as evident by his 14 carries or less in three of his last six games. During that stretch, Hyde has topped 4.5 YPC four times (each of the past four weeks). So basically, this game featured an ascending back against a defense/team that had basically mailed it in and the 193 rushing yards were the result. At this point, the Jets fantasy points allowed per game (15th most per game) portrays a more accurate picture of the defense than Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) which ranks them as the second best rushing defense. This is a case where the eye test supersedes statistics and numbers do lie. Nevertheless, Hyde should continue to be featured in an option-based offense and be put in an excellent place to succeed as long as Colin Kaepernick remains the starter. He will be usable on the weeks he is able to receive the volume and not fall victim to the game script and will struggle when neither of those factors go his way. Did we learn anything about Hyde this week that we did not know already? Not really, but at the same time, did he remind the fantasy community he is still a rock solid RB2 on most weeks? Absolutely. Verdict: For Real

Bilal Powell, Jets – The injury to Matt Forte opened up an opportunity for Bilal Powell who went absolutely crazy: he carried the ball 29 times for 145 yards (5.0 YPC), two rushing TDs and caught five passes for 34 yards en route to 37.90 fantasy points. Really the only question here is whether the production was a result of the volume or the matchup. The answer is probably a combination of both but I am not ready to crown Powell a high-end RB2 just yet. No team has allowed more 100-yard rushers nor fantasy points to opposing RBs than the 49ers heading into this week so Powell just added to the long list. Assuming Forte is out for a while, Powell will earn enough volume to be fantasy relevant and the question is simply to what degree. With Petty under center, the passing game is not exactly a gigantic threat so a fair amount of attention should be paid to the Jets running game. After averaging a career-best 4.5 YPC last year, he has upped that total to 5.8 this year so the struggling offense has not affected his production. Additionally, Powell’s 47 catches were 11th most amongst RBs last year and he has already caught 42 this year. Essentially, he is a well-rounded, improving talent in an offense that is now going to focus around him. As much as I would like to switch this article up and throw in a guy who is “not for real” by this point, Powell simply cannot be overlooked despite dominating in a cupcake matchup this week. This was not a fluke and Powell should produce in a starting role. Verdict: For Real

Terrance Williams, Cowboys – Literally no one on the Cowboys provided fantasy owners with a respectable performance other than Terrance Williams in Week 14. The Giants defense played a fantastic ballgame and credit to them protecting the middle of the field for the first time in over a month (Jason Witten and Cole Beasley were both kept quiet). Williams drew the matchup against Eli Apple, who rates by far as the team’s worst starting corner in nickel formation, so his success was not incredibly shocking. Most defenses are not able to keep Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten quiet on the same week and it likely will not happen again. Williams exploited a weakness in the defense for one week but he has not ascended in the pecking order because of it. Sure the five receptions, 76 yards and a TD was nice, but the expectations for Williams have not changed moving forward. Verdict: Not For Real

Zach Ertz, Eagles – Like Siemian, Carson Wentz’s recent success seems to correspond with the late season surge by Zach Ertz. Strangely, Ertz seems to do this every single year where he starts quiet and ends the season on a high note. Ertz had managed 10-plus fantasy points just once in his first five games this season and now has topped 11 fantasy points in five of his last six games. Now, in back-to-back weeks, Ertz has topped 22 fantasy points and it is not coincidence Wentz has produced two of his best four games as a professional during that stretch as well. Wentz has turned to Ertz as one of his safety blankets as he targeted him a team-high 13 times this week and he caught 10 of those passes for 113 yards. Without scoring, Ertz still managed to finish as TE1 this week despite not scoring (and Tyler Eifert scored twice). This performance comes on the heels of leading the team in targets with 15 last week as well. 28 targets in two weeks is a monster number and the second most on the team during that stretch is 19 by Trey Burton (the team’s other TE). After hitting a rookie wall, it appears Wentz’s reliance on his big targets has rejuvenated him and has led to an improvement. Do not expect the game plan to change any time soon as long as it is working and Ertz has always possessed elite talent. Welcome to (at least temporary) fantasy stardom, Mr. Ertz. Verdict: For Real