Fantasy Football Start/Sit Week 15
December 13, 2017 | Josh Stanley
Should we have expected anything less from the first week of the fantasy playoffs? We saw ankle-deep snow in Buffalo, a top quarterback go down for the year in Los Angeles, and even Jay Cutler outplay Tom Brady. Week 15 promises to bring surprises of its own, but through careful line up construction you can keep your team rolling towards that championship.
In an effort to make sure you don’t have to spend your offseason regretting a roster move, this column is intended to get you thinking and help you through the frustratingly enjoyable pursuit of putting together a winning lineup. We will skip over the studs and duds because some players will simply stay true to their talent level no matter who the competition. But, through the use of the tools and film we have available, we will create a clearer picture going into kickoff of this unpredictable sport we love so much.
Matt Ryan vs Buccaneers
The winner of the NFC South will be determined over the next three weeks and the Falcons will get one more shot at each team in the division starting in Week 15 with the Buccaneers. We have to imagine that Ryan will bring his best to these last games. He had a rough outing last week against the Saints secondary, throwing 3 interceptions, but this Thursday night game was more of an outlier than the norm. In Weeks 9-11 we saw Ryan go on a streak where he threw 2 touchdowns a game for 4 straight games. While he has not been able to throw multiple touchdowns for the past 3 games, this still shows his ceiling is higher than what we have seen lately. In his first matchup against Tampa Bay he threw for 317 yards and 1 touchdown while avoiding any turnovers. This was not only his second highest passing yards of the season, but he also ended up with his second highest yards per attempt (9.06). The Buccaneers defense has only trending downward since that Week 12 game in Atlanta. In 3 of their last 4 games they have given up over 350 yards passing and at least 1 passing touchdown. This defense has also given up an average of 26 points over this span as well. Look for Ryan to bounce back and give us all a reminder of why he was voted MVP last season.
Ben Roethlisberger vs Patriots
In the last month Big Ben has been as consistent as his namesake across the pond. He has thrown for at least 290 yards and 2 touchdowns in the past 4 games. In this time we have also seen just how many points he can bring to your team. In 2 of these games he threw 4 touchdowns and on Sunday night we saw him put on a show and throw for 506 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Steelers have not been afraid to lean on Roethlisberger’s cannon either, averaging 49 pass attempts over the last month. This has put him as the number 2 overall quarterback in fantasy in this time frame. He’ll now have what promises to be another shootout in Week 15 against the Patriots. The Steelers defense has been vulnerable in recent weeks and will more than likely cede a significant amount of points, as many other teams have, to the efficient Patriots offense. This means that Roethlisberger and the rest of this offense will be forced to keep pace. We’ve seen how the Patriot’s defense has improved from giving up the most fantasy points to quarterbacks to sitting squarely in the middle of the league against the position (15th). They have allowed over 200 passing yards twice in the past 4 games, but we also have to consider that they have not played an offense of Pittsburgh’s level in recent weeks. When up against the Patriots on Monday night, they played surprisingly well, but still let Brady throw for 233 yards and a touchdown. Big Ben should deliver another big day for your fantasy team in Week 15.
Andy Dalton vs Vikings
The Red Rifle misfired in Week 14 and as a result he rode the bench to close out the Bengals game against the Bears. In Week 15 you should follow Marvin Lewis’ idea and keep Dalton on the bench. He has surpassed 250 passing yards once since Week 5, which may have be the result of his offensive line allowing him to be the 7th most sacked quarterback this season. He has thrown 4 touchdowns over the past 2 weeks, which is tied for 3rd most, but he won’t be able to count on that against a Vikings defense that has allowed only 12 passing touchdowns this season. Minnesota is number 5 against quarterbacks in fantasy this season and has allowed 3 passing touchdowns in the past 4 games. However, the catch by Funchess in Week 14 should be fluky as it was on a broken play. The Vikings are number 1 in the league against offenses in the red zone and fall just to 2nd when considering only passing plays. This unit only allows 23 percent of passes to be successful in this high scoring area meaning that Dalton will be forced to strike from deep. Dalton has only done this more than once in 30.77 percent of games this season. Dalton will be hard pressed to break this secondary, especially with Rhodes likely to cover A.J. Green, so avoid him if possible.
DeShone Kizer vs Ravens
Kizer has played fairly well since Josh Gordon rejoined the team, but that may not prove good enough for you to start him in Week 15 against the Ravens. In the 3 of the last 4 games Kizer has been below 60 percent in completion rate, thrown for under 220 yards, and has thrown only 1 touchdown. Gordon may be a boost to this stagnate passing attack, but Kizer remains the same quarterback we have seen all season. He still holds onto the ball for too long (2.83 seconds) and is prone to interceptions, throwing at least 1 pick in 10 of his 12 games. Similarly to Kizer, the Ravens defense cannot be measured on Week 14 alone. They allowed Roethlisberger to throw for over 500 yards and 2 touchdowns, but before this had played much better against the pass. They’ve allowed 13 passing touchdowns, but have also hauled in 20 interceptions, which is the most in the league. This puts the turnover prone Kizer in a very risky situation. This defense is also only giving up 10.6 fantasy points to the quarterback position per game, meaning you can find much better streaming options than the Browns signal caller in Week 15.
Jordan Howard vs Lions
After a 2 week absence, Howard came back to life in a big way in Week 14 and rewarded those owners who stuck with him. Averaging 6.39 yards per carry, he gained 147 yards and scored 2 touchdowns for his highest scoring fantasy output of the season so far. More of the same could come in Week 15 against the Lions, who Howard already ran over for 125 yards and a touchdown in Week 11. In that game Howard actually saw his highest yards per carry of the season at an impressive 8.33. Despite the lack of performance in Weeks 12 and 13, Chicago has still not abandoned the run. They are still running at one of the highest percentages in the league and are top-10 in run play percentage in the red zone. Cohen remains a nonfactor when in the run game as well, being out-touched by Howard in each game in the last month, so this should not concern you either. Detroit’s run defense remains a weakness for the team and has allowed the 4th most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Over the past 5 games they have given up over 100 rushing yards each week. They have also allowed 14 rushing touchdowns to only 1 receiving touchdown to running backs, meaning Howard should be a key to the Bears win in Week 15.
Jay Ajayi vs Giants
We lost the potential MVP on Sunday, when Carson Wentz tore his ACL against the Rams. This was a terrible scene to watch and a blow to the excitement of the league for the rest of the season. So the question is now, how will the Eagles respond and keep their championship hopes alive? They will more than likely turn to their two veteran running backs and it looks like Ajayi’s committee to lead. Over the last 2 weeks Ajayi has out-touched Blount by 30:17. He has also played 47.3 and 41.3 percent of offensive snaps, while Blount has only played 16.5 and 18.7 percent over the past 2 games. The Giants meanwhile have allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to running backs in the league. This is primarily a result of the league leading 1,464 yards they have surrendered and the high yard and touchdown total they have given up to the position. Much of this has come from runs outside the tackles, which is where Ajayi is likely to run. Most recently in Week 14, he ran 9 of his 14 attempts outside. While you would also assume the Giants poor run defense would have given up a number of touchdowns this turns out to not be true. They have only allowed 8 so far this season. Therefore, Ajayi will be the back to trust in this game unlike Blount who relies on touchdown production to be fantasy viable.
Orleans Darkwa vs Eagles
The Giants are ready for this season to be over, but there are still a few weeks to be played and their players will still be available for us throughout the playoffs. While there may be some good spots here and there, Week 15 for Darkwa will not be one of those. He’s coming into this game having seen less than 15 rushing attempts in 3 straight games and not running for more than 32 yards. He was able to score a touchdown in Week 13 against the Raiders, but that has been it. You could hang your hat on his involvement in the passing game, but the 1.67 targets per game he is seeing are turning into nothing. This week he’ll have to try and find success against a Philadelphia team that is the best at containing running backs. This first overall run defense is only allowing 3.23 yards per carry and allows only a 38 percent success rate on runs in the red zone. With the passing game becoming less of a threat, the Eagles may bear down on the run and leave no room for Darkwa.
Doug Martin vs Falcons
The Buccaneers claimed they were going back to Martin in Week 14, but their actions showed differently. Martin received only 10 carries, while Barber saw 12 and was far more productive with them. This came off a week where Barber, in Martin’s absence, rushed for over 100 yards on 23 carries. The team may be more reluctant to give the bulk of the work back to Martin than we thought. Even when Martin has seen the work he has been inefficient this season. In the past 5 games he has only gained more than 50 yards on the ground once and over this time he has also only scored 1 touchdown. His yards per carry have been abysmally low, below 3.00, expect for once in the past 4 games. Furthermore, he has only been successful on 36 percent of his runs, which is 103rd among all running backs with more than 3 carries. In week 15, he’ll face the Falcons who have only allowed 5 rushing touchdowns to backs this season. They have allowed almost as many touchdowns through the air (3) to running backs, which is not Martin’s strong suite, but is the strength of his backfield teammates. This defense has proven to hold its own against the run, but is can be beaten by backs like Sims or even Barber, who caught 4 passes while Martin was injured in Week 13. Martin will no doubt bring his best for this divisional game, but that may not be good enough for your starting lineup.
Devin Funchess vs Packers
Funchess can no longer be ignored on the field or in our fantasy lineups. Although he is not the target hog like many other WR1s, he has become increasingly efficient with the passes that are thrown his way. It also helps that despite his average weekly target total of 7.8, he still sees 42 percent of the Panthers air yards and 28 percent of Newton’s targets since Benjamin was traded to Buffalo. In the past 4 games he has amassed at least 59 yards and a touchdown or 100 receiving yards, landing him as the 14th best overall receiver. After this set of games we can see that even with the attention of number defensive backs and the target decrease caused by Olsen, Funchess can still be a strong receiver for your fantasy team. In Week 15 he’ll see a Packers defense that just finished giving up 2 receiving touchdowns and 60 yards to Cleveland’s top 2 wide outs. This defense has allowed the 3rd most fantasy point to wide receivers and is tied for 3rd in touchdowns allowed to the position, which is where Funchess truly excels. Green Bay’s secondary actually is 29th against opposing team’s WR1, giving up an average of 84.9 yards per game on the season.
Dede Westbrook vs Texans
As we looked at last week the Texans secondary has seen better days. They have given up 13 touchdowns and 161 yards per game to receivers. We also saw again their vulnerability to fast receivers after Goodwin dropped 106 yards on them. The Texans are actually allowing the 4th most yards per reception at 12.6. In Week 15 they’ll have to go up against Westbrook who ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at his pro day last spring and who now is averaging a depth of 10 yards per target. When Bortles throws deep for Westbrook there has been a 56 percent success rate, while he averages a 138 passer rating on such throws. He is also seeing 36 percent of the Jaguars air yards. Since Westbrook came back from his injury no other Jacksonville receiver has seen more deep targets (9). In fact he has seen 43 percent of passes thrown deep. Over the past 2 weeks Westbrook has caught at least 5 passes for 78 yards and scored a touchdown in Week 14. Not only is the rookie wide out trending upwards, he now gets a plus matchup in which he could truly breakout.
T.Y. Hilton vs Broncos
Hopefully Hilton will have a chance to thaw after playing in a foot of snow, but it doesn’t look like his game is going to heat back up in Week 15. Over the past 4 games Hilton has gained over 51 receiving yards once and has not seen more than 6 targets. He did catch 1 touchdown against Jacksonville in Week 13, which is the lone bright spot in his recent play. He has stayed remarkable consistent at only a 17 percent target share in Weeks 10-13 before he saw 18 percent in Week 14. The Colts simply are not throwing the ball at a high rate, nor is Brissett finding Hilton open. The Indianapolis receivers’ poor play already makes him a poor candidate to start, but the fact he must face Denver makes matters even worse. Many thought the Broncos had given up on the season in the past few weeks, but this defense proved everyone wrong by pitching a shutout against the Jets in Week 14. They’ve allowed a league low 1,423 yards to receivers and have shown us that Weeks 12 and 13 were just flukes. Last week they allowed exactly 100 total yards of offense, 41 of those being passing yards. On the season they are only allowing 191.1 passing yards per game. With the bounce back performance of this secondary in Week 14 Hilton needs to be sat in Week 15.
DeVante Parker vs Bills
The Dolphins held their own and then some on Monday night against the Patriots, but Parker still took a back seat to Landry in one of Cutler’s best games. In a game where Cutler threw 38 passes, Parker saw 6 and caught 4 passes for 40 scoreless yards. This is indicative of what Parker has done recently as well. He has not scored a touchdown since Week 3 and is coming off two games in Weeks 12 and 13 where he only caught 1 ball for 5 yards a piece. His target share and continues to remain low, peaking at 16 percent over the past 3 games, which is not sustainable for a receiver in his role. In Week 15 he’ll face another stiff test in the Bills secondary. Although this defense has not been elite this season, they have done well against wide receivers, thanks in large part to rookie Tre’Davious White. This defensive unit is 3rd against receivers in terms of fantasy points allowed, giving up only 7 touchdowns all season. This includes not allowing a touchdown to a wide receiver in the past 2 games. Parker looks to be a sit in Week 15 as Miami travels north for a tough road game.
Jimmy Graham vs Rams
Graham has been one of the best tight ends over the past weeks and seems to be Wilson’s trusted target. Leading into Week 14 Graham had caught at least 1 touchdown in 4 straight games. Over the course of the season he has been the Seahawks receiver with the 2nd most targets and catches, only behind Baldwin. No other receiver on the team has as many touchdowns (9). Graham laid a goose egg last week, but that shouldn’t stop you from having confidence in him come Week 15. The Jaguars have proven to be a tough defense, which makes it less surprising but no less disappointing that he did not even get you a point. The Rams however, are a much kinder defense to tight ends. They are allowing 7.7 fantasy points per game and have given up 7 touchdowns. 4 of these have come in the red zone, where Graham has scored all 9 of his touchdowns. In this home game expect Graham to get back on track and help bring your team home a win.
Hunter Henry vs Chiefs
As Rivers continues to heat up in these closing weeks of the season, Henry has trended upwards as well. Over the past 4 games he has averaged 4.5 catches, 58 yards, and .5 touchdowns. These numbers have allowed him to be the number 6 overall tight end for the past 4 weeks. This trend should continue as he keeps seeing more and more work in the red zone. Over the same 4 weeks, Henry has seen 6 targets in the red zone after not seeing any for 3 weeks prior. This new role should help him keep his point totals high, especially since he does not waste these opportunities. The 2 touchdowns he has scored have come in this area of the field. He’ll now get the Chiefs, who as we looked at last week leave much to be wanting in the coverage of tight ends. They are top-10 in receiving yards allowed and have only given up 2 touchdowns, but 1 of these was last week to Jared Cook. This team is number 1 against tight ends in the red zone, but are not better than 18th in the league throughout the rest of the field in defense of this position. So the match up may not be necessarily a plus, however the volume and quarterback talent make Henry a good start this week.
Jared Cook vs Cowboys
Cook saved us last week with a big touchdown, but for most of the game he struggled along with the entire Raiders offense. This makes him a harder one to trust in Week 15. In last week’s column we discussed Cook’ s recent play and his poor performances in Week 12 and 13, where he finished with less than 10 yards in both games. But his matchup was one you couldn’t pass on and it paid off. Week 15 however, is a different story. The Cowboys will not allow as much freedom for Cook, especially now that Sean Lee has returned from injury. Dallas has allowed only 5 touchdowns and only 51.46 receiving yards to the position. It is a less than ideal matchup for a boom-or-bust tight end that is playing with a struggling quarterback. Sit Cook this week and look for another option.
Tyler Kroft vs Vikings
Kroft’s play has been declining recently and now has a matchup with the stout Vikings defense. He has only caught more than 20 yards once in 5 weeks, but his 2 touchdowns over that span saved him from irrelevance on your roster. Now however, he hasn’t caught one in 2 games and will have a tough challenge in the Vikings in Week 15. He was never a high volume player, but his red zone work kept him promising from week to week. Likely a cause of his lack of touchdowns, Kroft has also not seen a target inside the opponent’s 20 yard line in 2 games either. The Vikings will look to keep this the same as they have only allowed 3 touchdowns to tight ends this year. They are also ranked 15 against the position in the red zone, allowing only a 4 percent success rate of passes. With the entire Bengals defense looking out of sorts in Week 14 it tough to trust any of them come Week 15, but this is especially true of a player who seems to have lost his role in recent weeks.
Thanks for reading and good luck! Hit me up on Twitter @stanleyjosh or post below for any lineup questions you guys have!