Is it already Week 15? Where has the season gone? We’ve got just a few weeks left of normal sized slates. I’ll probably take a few more chances in these closing weeks, looking for a higher upside team, so keep that in mind when reading this week’s column.
If you’re looking for DraftKings recommendations, come back tomorrow when Neil posts his week 15 DK picks.
This may be the first week all year where I don’t absolutely love any single quarterback. There are a few interesting predicaments this week as have a handful of bad or below average (fantasy) quarterbacks that have the juicy matchups. Then we have our usual fantasy studs who, for the most part, have tough matchups that we typically wouldn’t want to target.
The rest of our quarterback pool is somewhere in the middle of the two. There is one guy that doesn’t necessarily fit either predicament above, but he has his negatives too. That guy is Matt Ryan ($8,500). Ryan has a great matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, but I worry about one thing. I’ve mentioned this numerous times throughout the year, but the Falcons are better than anyone at basing their game plan around exploiting their opponents weakness. While the 49ers are just bad in general at defense, they have the worst run defense in the league. The Falcons are built to hand the ball off 35-40 times and grind out a comfortable win.
That said, even if they do skew run heavy, Ryan still has a great matchup and could easily throw for 300 yards and two touchdowns. I want to watch this situation a little more as the weekend progresses to gauge ownership percentage, etc. Ultimately, I think Ryan has the highest floor and ceiling this week. While his floor is safe, I worry he could hover closer to it than his ceiling.
I respect the Chicago Bears defense, but Aaron Rodgers ($8,500) has a safe floor and we know he’s going to throw the ball a ton. After a bad end to last season and start to this season, Rodgers has now thrown for 300 yards and/or three plus touchdowns in seven of his last eight games. He has a safe floor and a high ceiling, just like Ryan, but also like Ryan, I worry he ends up closer to his floor in this one.
Ryan and Rodgers seem to be strong cash game plays this week, but as I mentioned, I’m going to be looking to take some risks these last few weeks.
In the highest total game, we find Carson Palmer ($7,600). Palmer is a guy that hasn’t looked very good this year. H reminds me of Peyton Manning last year, but was never near as good as Manning to begin with. He scares me, but he will probably throw the ball 45 times in this game, and if that is the case we have to consider him. The volume and his price, along with the matchup against the Saints continues to make me look long and hard at him. After a brutal midseason stretch where he threw just two touchdowns in four games, he has now thrown for 300+ yards in three of his last six and two or more touchdowns in five of those six.
Lastly, Joe Flacco ($7,400) is squarely in play as well. The Ravens are in the playoff hunt and the wheels have fallen off for the Eagles pass defense. Flacco should get plenty of pass attempts here, and if his receivers can catch a couple of deep touchdowns (which the Eagles give up – see DeSean Jackson mentioned here last week). Ultimately, I expect Flacco to be overlooked this week, and I think that’s a mistake in a situation where he could legitimately could reach 300 yards and a couple touchdowns.
If I would have told you beforehand that you were going to get 64.4 combined points out of David Johnson ($9,800) and Le’Veon Bell ($9,400) in Week 14, you would have been VERY happy. Well that’s exactly what happened, but most of that was because of Bell’s 49.8 FanDuel points. Pairing these two guys in your running back spots continues to pay off every single week. I want to do it again this week and can’t find a ton of reasons not too, other than I’m playing Bell in my season long semifinals, so I really don’t want him to have a good game.
In all reality, I will probably end up on Johnson, but I may fade Bell, and not just because of my season long fantasy. I’ve mentioned this before earlier in the year, but the Bengals game plan very well for the Steelers and know their divisional foe probably better than anyone else. They will pull out all the stops to try and slow down Ben, Bell, and Brown. Will they be able to? Maybe, maybe not, but I’m willing to take that chance. To reiterate, I am listing Bell in the plays and think he is a solid play. Of the three Steelers, he’s the one that I think this game sets up best for.
The reason I will may not end up rostering Bell is because I LOVE LeSean McCoy ($9,000). His price is climbing to DJ and Bell status, but for good reason. He’s been an animal the past three weeks when fully healthy, and now he gets to face a defense I don’t pick on enough, the Cleveland Browns. While it’s unlikely, it wouldn’t surprise me if he averages 10 yards a carry on 15-20 carries in this game.
The one cheap guy I’m still looking into and have some interest in is Kenneth Dixon ($5,100). I’ve been a fan of exploiting situations where a player’s price isn’t adjusted due to a Monday night game. He just plain looked like a good football player on Monday Night. The Ravens should just give him the ball 20+ times in this game and let him do his thing. If they do that, we have a lot of upside at this price. This is why Dixon is interesting to me; you’ll find out below why he scares me.
I’m going to stop here. The usage we are getting out of the top priced running backs is almost unprecedented. You can consider a handful of other running backs, but you won’t feel anywhere near as comfortable with the guaranteed touches that your going to get from the top guys, especially Johnson and Bell.
That leads me to my next point. As you go down the running back price chart, the expected touches and floor drops off faster than the price. However, with wide receivers, we can find cheaper guys who we expect to see upwards of 10 targets. While not all targets are created equal, Robby Anderson has a much closer chance of taking 10 targets and turning that into similar production of a top price receiver like Odell Beckham Jr, than Jerick McKinnon would have of turning in similar production as Johnson or Bell.
Ultimately what I’m getting at is that the variance between the higher priced and lower priced receivers is much less than that between the higher and lower priced running backs. For this reason, I like paying up at running back and finding value at wide receiver.
With that said, I’m really interested in Jordy Nelson ($7,700). Nelson is a red zone target beast. He leads the league in that area by a wide margin. The chemistry with Rodgers is second to none; he has two touchdown upside and could also eclipse 100 yards. I like him better than any of the four guys priced above him.
Stefon Diggs ($6,300) is close to a free square this week. He’s way too underpriced. He has scored single digits each of the past three weeks, but this is his bounce back week. He played two top five pass defenses in those three games. This week his matchup is one of the best, and I expect him to get have a chance to find the neighborhood of his ceiling, somewhere around 20 points.
I haven’t played Mike Wallace ($5,900) one time this season, but I think that will change in Week 15. I’ve been watching Wallace all year and have been impressed with his play making ability. I have actually said to myself on a couple occasions, “Mike Wallace will win somebody a GPP this year.” While considering him a few times, I haven’t pulled the trigger yet. All it took was for me to see the Eagles on the schedule and I knew this was my Mike Wallace week. All of that aside, the Eagles give up plenty of deep balls. That’s what everyone says, right? I decided to dig in myself and see how true that was. Let me tell you, it’s true. I had to go back eight games to find a game where they didn’t give up at least one completion to a wide receiver of 44 yards or more. The team that ended that streak was the Vikings, and even Sam Bradford completed three passes over 25 yards in that game. Wallace has the speed to exploit the Eagles deep ball weakness, and I am really excited about rostering him this week. I hope this is the week he wins someone a GPP and I hope that someone is me…. or you.
A very sneaky value wide receiver is Rishard Matthews ($5,800). He’ll be a forgotten man after only registering one catch last week against the Denver Broncos. Prior to that game, he had just one game with fewer than 11.2 FanDuel points in his last eight.
If you can afford it, I think Travis Kelce ($6,900) is an excellent play. Kelce has four straight games with over 100 yards receiving. Watching those games, it was obvious that the Chiefs offensive game plan revolved around Kelce, and I don’t think that changes this week. The Titans pass defense is BAD. The only thing that should be able to stop Kelce this week is Andy Reid.
If I can’t afford Kelce, I’m just going to lock in Jermaine Gresham ($4,500) and move on. Gresham has been very consistent over the past three weeks and should be even more involved this week. Michael Floyd getting cut this week opens up some extra targets, and if two or three of those are going to come Gresham’s way, it makes him hard to fade. He’s already averaged nearly eight targets in his last three with five catches in each. He’s a strong play at minimum price.
The Green Bay Packers ($4,500) defense has really ratcheted things up the past few weeks. Against the Bears offense, there is a definite path to 10+ FanDuel points. There’s not a lot to love for me at the position this week, but this is one direction I’ll look.
The other defense I’m considering to help me fit in the stud running backs is the Detroit Lions ($4,100). The Lions have played very well on the defensive side of the ball over the past five weeks, giving up only 14.4 points per game in that span. Part of that is because they limit their opponents plays through their slow offensive pace. We can expect that to remain the same this week. On top of that, we know there is a version of Eli Manning that can throw two or three interceptions in a game. In fact he’s throw two interceptions in exactly five games this year. I think the Lions force a couple turnovers in this game. And my last prediction: the Lions have a special teams touchdown in this one. You know by now I’m a huge Lions homer. I’ve been watching closely and they’ve been a block or two from taking a kickoff to the house on a couple different occasions in recent weeks. I think this could be the week they finally break one.
Matt Bryant ($5,100) – That’s all I need to say. Just roster him. Huge total, indoors, and one of the best kickers in football. There are a ton of kickers kicking in sub freezing temps this week. There’s no reason not to take Bryant in this spot, in his home dome.
Week 15 Stay Aways
We have a lot of places to stay away from this week. There are a lot of very cold situations and you need to monitor them closely and really think about how the guys you are rostering might be affected.
We know not to play Ben Roethlisberger ($8,000) and Drew Brees ($8,200) on the road, so I won’t elaborate too much there.
The other quarterback I’ll warn against is Tyrod Taylor ($7,600). I actually started on Taylor this week in my absolute first roster. Then I realized everyone else is talking about him. He has the dream matchup and should perform well, I just don’t think he’ll need to do too much in this game. I think he has a safe floor for cash games, but I see something like 220 yards passing and two touchdowns as his ceiling here. I want more than that. Regardless of whether or not the game stays close or the Bills take a big lead, I think their game plan will revolve around McCoy doing most of the damage.
People are talking about playing Jerick McKinnon ($5,600) this week, but I would caution you not to. This offense isn’t suited to run the ball, and even if it was, he isn’t that good. Call me crazy, but I just don’t think we’ll ever hear someone say (at any point in the future), that McKinnon won them a GPP.
Kenneth Dixon ($5,100) – Huh? But I listed him above in my plays. I’m also putting him here to play devil’s advocate. I’m split down the middle on him this week. You read the pluses above. What worries me is that his rush attempts weren’t much different than what we saw during the past few weeks. What changed is that he saw 11 targets and caught eight balls for 42 yards and a touchdown. I understand they were trailing in this game, hence the low rush attempt number, but I just worry if the game stays close, Dixon will get 10-12 carries and four targets, relegating him back to where he was the previous weeks. I’ll continue to monitor this situation, but I’m going to have to be thoroughly convinced to move off a high priced guy down to Dixon.
I cautioned you against Antonio Brown ($8,800) against the Bengals earlier in the year, and he came out and put up a 4-39-0 line – that was at home. The Bengals have had his number, and in this spot I’m fine leaving him on my fantasy bench this week.
Adam Thielen ($6,000) has seen his stock rise each week, but I think we missed the boat if we haven’t been rostering him yet. His price is reaching an uncomfortable level and I think this is going to be a Diggs week.
Well, that’s it for this week. Be sure to follow me on twitter at @mrclutchdfs if you want to get any updates from me on which way I’m leaning on some of these plays once Sunday gets here.
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