It’s week 15 of fantasy football season, and the playoffs are upon us. Decisions made this week have never been more critical. One wrong decision could end the season. Alternatively, the right decision means it’s time to play for that coveted title of “2018 Fantasy Football Champion.”
Let’s focus on the “fringe” players as they could make you or break you. All player matchups are based on PPR scoring with projections and stats from Rotoworld, Gridiron Experts, and One Week Season.
Dak Prescott vs Indianapolis Colts
The Amari Cooper trade after Week 8 was the best thing to happen to Prescott. While Zeke is undoubtedly an elite weapon, Dak lacked even a serviceable passing option. Cooper changed that. Since the trade, the Cowboys’ passer has averaged 20 fantasy points per game.
The Colts are as average as it gets against the pass, 18th in yards allowed per pass. They are also allowing a completion rate of 71%, 31st in the league.
With this game having the potential to reach 50 total points scored, Dak should be poised for a big day on the ground and passing. He should finish with a top 10 performance.
Jared Goff vs Philadelphia Eagles
There is no way to sugar coat Goff’smatch-up vs the Bears last week, it was absolutely dreadful. In fact, he wasn’t much better against the leaky Lions the week before causing some concern for fantasy owners.
Luckily, he finds himself in a “get right week” at home against the Eagles. Goff has thrown 18 of his 27 touchdowns this season at home along with 366 yards passing per game.
The Eagles pass defense has been putrid this year, allowing almost 200 yards per game to WRs. The Eagles secondary has been ravaged by injury and since Week 10, have allowed 73% of passes to be completed against them.
Goff had an awful two-game road streak coming off the bye. He is back playing at the Coliseum in a game with a 53.5 implied total. Start Goff he has top 5 potential.
Andrew Luck vs Dallas Cowboys
Fantasy owners may be scared off by a high-flying Dallas defense, don’t be. Luck has been a top-10 quarterback in 9 of his last 10 games, scoring more than 22 fantasy points in those games. Dallas is allowing almost 18 points to QBs on the road opposed to just 15 at home. The defense is not as strong in away games.
The Colts rank 7th in the NFL in red zone conversion rate. Dallas has a stout defense up front, therefore, those conversions should come through the air. This game between the Colts and Cowboys could very well become a shoot-out; greatly benefiting both Luck and Prescott.
Aaron Rodgers vs Chicago Bears
Rodgers will almost certainly be a first ballot Hall of Famer. The fantasy playoff is no time to get cute and bench the studs, but Rodgers has been anything but a fantasy stud this season.
Rodgers has passed for 300 yards just once in his last seven games. In those seven games, he has not surpassed 23 fantasy points, falling under the 20 point mark five times. He hasn’t passed for three touchdowns since Week 5. Rodgers has been nothing but a streamer this year. Far from a must start.
When facing the best defense in football, 1st in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) and 2nd yards allowed per pass, this is the week to look beyond his name and sit him on the bench.
Josh Allen vs Detroit Lions
Allen has single-handedly saved some fantasy seasons. He broke Mike Vick’s record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in his first eight starts. He ranks first among all QBs with 490 rushing yards despite missing four games due to injury.
He is the first QB to rush for 100 yards back-to-back since 1970. The Bills draw the Lions this week who rank 31st in DVOA and 29th in yardage allowed per pass.
This isn’t the game for Allen to succeed. For starters, QBs have beat the Lions through the air, Allen has a 51% completion rate good for worst in the NFL.
Second, the Lions haven’t allowed a QB to rush for more than 18 yards all season, and that includes Cam Newton, Mitchell Trubisky, Russell Wilson, and Prescott.
Allen has been getting it done for fantasy teams because of his legs, not his arm. Fantasy seasons cannot be put on the line with the arm of Allen.
Quarterback – Temper Expectations
Philip Rivers vs Kansas City Chiefs
The Thursday night showdown between Chiefs and the Chargers is expected to be a high scoring affair. Coming in at one of the highest implied point totals of the week at 53 points. The Chiefs have the best offense going into Week 15. While the Chargers are well within the top 10 in the league.
Don’t bench Rivers but keep in mind, he comes with some red flags. First off, traveling QBs have struggled in Arrowhead this season. QBs are only averaging 15.4 fantasy points per game at Arrowhead. On top of that, here are Philip Rivers stats from the last four games at Arrowhead:
- 20/34 291 yards 0 TD 2 INT
- 24/43 263 yards 0 TD 1 INT
- 25/36 243 yards 1 TD 0 INT
- 20/36 227 yards 1 TD 3 INT
While Arrowhead is not a friendly place for any QB to play this year, Rivers has especially struggled there for the past four years. Not to mention he will be operating without Austin Ekeler and likely, Melvin Gordon. Rookie Justin Jackson is slated to start. It’s almost impossible to bench Rivers, but temper expectations for him.
Running Back Starts
Doug Martin vs Cincinnati Bengals
Martin at this point in his career is a plodder. No break-away speed, not very quick, offers little in the pass game. He’s hard to get excited about. However, it’s not his skills (or lack thereof) that make him a start this week. It’s his volume and the match-up.
Martin is averaging 15 touches per game over the past six games while coming in with a consistent rushing floor of 50 yards. However, he has found the end zone in three straight games. He has been splitting carries with Jalen Richard who suffered a rib injury last Sunday, so its possible his share of carries may slightly increase.
The above information is certainly nice, what makes a real start this week is the match-up. The Bengals defense is allowing 148 yards per game and the Bengals defense comes in at 28th DVOA and 24th in yards per carry. The Bengals defense is a RBs dream.
He needs to find the end zone to make a start worth it and the chances are high. Since Week 8, Martin has 16 carries within the 10-yard line, and no team has given up more touchdowns to RBs this season (20). Martin needs to find his way into starting lineup.
Kenneth Dixon vs Tampa Bay Bucs
This one may be going off on a limb, but when it comes to the playoffs it is better to be a week early than a week late. Recently activated off of IR, he has slowly been integrated back into the Ravens defense. He has a snap rate of 21% in week 13 and its now up to 31%. Not great. However, with his limited snap share, he was able to put together a 15 point fantasy day.
What makes him a start is he is clearly the best RB on the Ravens. He can catch, unlike the current starter Gus Edwards. Gus has caught zero balls in the past three games. The Ravens do have Ty Montgomery but he is only a pass catching back. Dixon can do it all. The Ravens have just had to wait for him to get healthy.
For those who don’t believe in Dixon so far, here is a fun stat:
Kenneth Dixon (ranked by Missed Tackles forced per touch) per @ScottBarrettDFB
- 2018: 1st of 88
- 2017: DNP
- 2016: 1st of 66
- 2015: 4th of 114
- 2014: 5th of 108
But wait, there’s more! The Ravens play the Tampa Bay Bucs, whose run defense is 30th DVOA and 25th in yards per carry. Starting him will require a leap of faith, but with his increased workload, ability and match-up, he can be flexed this week.
Damien Williams vs San Diego Chargers
Williams entered Thursday night as the de-facto RB1 for the Chiefs. Kareem Hunt has been dismissed and Spencer Ware is doubtful to play. While the Chargers run defense is average, Williams should still thrive as he is simply the RB on the Chiefs offense, simple as that. Start the Chiefs starting RB every week, don’t look back.
Running Back Sits
Adrian Peterson vs Jacksonville Jaguars
AP has shown flashes of greatness this year on multiple occasions. However, he is extremely game script dependent and the Redskins are riding the struggle bus as of late. This is bad for AP. The Redskins are on a four-game losing streak and during that time AP is averaging a mere 12 touches per game.
The negative game scripts they are likely to face, due to starting a 4th string QB, is a huge blow to AP’s fantasy stock.
In wins, AP averages 105 rushing yards per game, in losses hes at just 35 per game. With the litany of injures to the Redskins offense, I am banking on a lot of negative game scripts for the Redskins going forward. Those negative game scripts will likely feature pass catching back Chris Thompson. Bench Adrian Peterson.
Marlon Mack vs Dallas Cowboys
Mack has proved to be a non-factor in the passing game this season. Mack sports an ugly 3.6 yards per carry since the bye and has seen his volume decrease. The Colts seem to want to feature Nyheim Hines on 3rd down and when in negative game scripts. Mack’s recent snap share goes as follows:
- Week 12 – 52%
- Week 13 – 37%
- Week 14 – 60%
While not atrocious, its certainly not ideal from a RB who is averaging under 4 YPC. What makes him a hard sit is the match-up this week. The Cowboys are 4th DVOA and 1st in yards allowed per rush. With the lack of volume, below average YPC and brutal match-up, bench Marlon Mack.
Kenyon Drake vs Minnesota Vikings
Drake is peaking right now as he was responsible for the Miami Miracle touchdown this past Sunday, an incredible play in its own right. However, one trick play doesn’t put Drake into lineups this Sunday. Frank Gore continues to dominate touches, and the Dolphins take to the road in a tough match-up at the Vikings.
Drake has single-digit touches in three of his past five games, and the Vikings run defense comes in at 12th DVOA and 7th in yards allowed per carry. Factor in the lack touches and a bad match-up with the fact that the Dolphins are a massive road dog; this is a recipe for a disappointing day from Drake.
Running Back – Temper Expectations
Sony Michel vs Pittsburgh Steelers
For a while there it seemed like Bill Belichick had a predictable backfield. This was only due to injuries to Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel. With all three primary backs at 100%, this backfield has returned to nightmare status for fantasy owners. Take a look at the snap shares from the past two weeks:
- James White – 45% and 40%
- James Develin – 47% and 44%
- Sony Michel – 41% and 41%
- Rex Burkhead – 23% and 21%
Usually, we could depend on Sony to get the goal line carries, but Develin has been vulturing them the past few weeks. The Pittsburgh Steelers are surrendering only 20 fantasy points per game to RBs. With fourRBs on that 20 point pie, Sony is hard to trust. His volume will keep him in the starting lineup (carries the last 3 weeks are 21-17-20). However, if the Patriots go down or Develin steals more goal-line touches, Sony will disappoint.
Wide Receiver Starts
Tyler Lockett vs San Francisco 49ers
Lockett has been a statistical anomaly this season. The rate at which he scores touchdowns when compared to his modest target share is unprecedented. Before last week, Russell Wilson’s passer rating when targeting Lockett was 158, that’s a perfect passer rating. While he had his worst line of the season last Sunday, he needs to be started going forward.
Lockett has scored double digit fantasy points in every game this season but one. He has nine touchdowns on the year. He presents a solid floor and a fairly high ceiling.
Lockett is expected to run his routes largely away from Richard Sherman and is in a great spot to put up some points this week, he needs to be flexed.
Robby Anderson vs Houston Texans
Anderson is finally healthy and is starting to build rapport with rookie QB Sam Darnold. This is a great thing as we saw what Anderson can last year (63-941-7).
Anderson’s target share has been consistent for three weeks (5-7-7) and he owns over 30% of the Jets air yards. As Darnold begins to trust Anderson deep, it couldn’t come at a better time.
This week, the Jets draw the Texans. TY Hilton is a very similar WR to Anderson and burned the Texans deep last week; catching 9 balls for 199 yards. The Texans have allowed a league-high 13 completions of 20+ yards over the past two weeks. Anderson is in a great position to help fantasy owners win weeks while offering an acceptable floor.
Jarvis Landry vs Denver Broncos
Landry has scored 40 fantasy points in the last two weeks. While earlier in the season he was dependent upon heavy volume, he is now doing more with less. Regardless of volume, Cleveland clearly wants to get the ball in his hands as he is even getting some carries.
While the Broncos usually field a tough pass defense, their secondary is down two corners in Chris Harris and Issac Yiadom. The former being a elite slot corner, likely lining up against Landry.
Landry is showing he can produce with less volume, Baker Mayfield is looking like a budding star and the it’s a clear plus match-up for Landry. He can be slotted as a WR2 or flex this week.
Wide Receiver Sits
Chris Godwin vs Baltimore Ravens
Godwin was in a smash spot last week and flopped (one catch for 13 yards) even though he was targeted 10 times. People will point to volume as a reason to roll him out there this week, but Week 15 is not the week to do so.
The Bucs are in a brutal road matchup against the Ravens whose pass defense is 4th in DVOA and 1st in yards allowed per pass. The Ravens are allowing only 25 points to WRs at home this season; split that between Evans, Humphries, and Godwin, Godwin could receive fewer looks.
Kenny Stills vs Minnesota Vikings
Stills has seen an uptick in fantasy points ever since Ryan Tannehill took over the reins. After a break out Week 14, fantasy owners may be tempted to roll him out, don’t. Minnesota is not a defense to target with a below average QB delivering the ball to an inconsistent WR.
The Vikings pass defense is 8th DVOA and 16th in yards per pass allowed and have only allowed nine touchdowns at home this season. The Dolphins offense has been awful on the road — only 19/66 of their drives on the road yield points, 29th worst in the NFL. This is not the week to start Stills.
Alshon Jeffery vs Los Angeles Rams
Like Stills, Jeffery had a break out Week 14 and owners may feel safe to roll out in the fantasy playoffs. Don’t do this. For starters, Nick Foles is slated to start for the Eagles on Sunday.
Despite Foles, Ertz is still the clear top option in that offense and guessing between Golden Tate and Jeffery is a risky game. The Rams run defense is surprisingly susceptible as they are ranked at 24th DVOA and 32nd in yards allowed per carry.
While the game script might call for passing, the Eagles may opt to run it more. Add in the fact that a healthy Aqib Talib will likely be on Jeffery; Jeffery needs to get cozy on your bench.
Wide Receiver – Temper Expectations
Mike Evans vs Baltimore Ravens
Evans is the clear WR1 on the Bucs but has proven to be genuinely boom or bust. With the emergence of Humphries and Godwin, he isn’t the clear target hog he once was. Going into last week, it was Humphries, not Evans that led the team in catches and TDs. It is clear Jameis is going to spread the ball around.
Going into a nightmare match-up against the Ravens whose pass defense is 4th DVOA and 1st in yards allowed per pass, expectations need to be tempered for Evans as he can only be viewed as a low-end WR2 this week.
Tight End Start of the Week
Anthony Firkser vs New York Giants
Firkser enters week 15 as the TE1 for the Titans. As an undrafted rookie he has been thrusted into a starting role as the two starters ahead of him have gone down with season ending injuries.
The TE position has been a complete disaster this year outside the top 5. Firsker has caught at least three balls for 27 yards the past three weeks, offering a stable floor. Mariota has publicly stated that they need to get they ball to him and he has been “easy to throw to.”
What makes him the start of the week is the matchup vs. the Giants. The Giants have allowed a near 80% completion rate of targets to TEs in the last 10 games. The Giants pass defense is beatable at 24th DVOA and 17th yards allowed per pass. He could sneak his way into the top 12 TEs this week.
Tight End Sit of the Week
Evan Engram vs Tennessee Titans
Engram had a good game last week. He caught three balls for 77 yards. Don’t chase the points here; he is due to disappoint owners. For starters, the Titans are one of the better teams in the NFL at taking away the TE position. The Titans pass defense comes in at 22nd DVOA.
A key factor to his success last week was Odell Beckham Jr’s absence. With OBJ likely back, Engram will fall back into the fantasy unknown. Even if Odell misses, Engram should still bust in this match-up. This early season draft darling needs to be away from lineups on Sunday.
Follow @TOrginski on Twitter and feel free to send your start/sit questions.