The first round of the fantasy playoffs may be behind us, but the fight has just begun for teams still in the hunt for their league title. With Andy Dalton and Thomas Rawls done for the fantasy season, owners had to hit the waiver wire hard when it opened on Wednesday morning.
Hopefully you were able to grab Denard Robinson, Bryce Brown or Brandon Bolden to shore up the running back position. Christine Michael was signed by the Seahawks on Wednesday, but he has been released by two other teams (Redskins and Cowboys), and was traded by the Seahawks already this season. I'd tap the brakes until we know more about this particular RB, given his multitude of addresses this season.
Quarterback is a little murkier though, with the fantasy outlook for A.J. McCarron unknown, and the waiver wire being a hodgepodge of QBs. My waiver wire list for QBs would be: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor, then McCarron. I'd honestly feel more comfortable with Fitzpatrick or Taylor starting for my fantasy team simply because the sample size for McCarron is so small. But if McCarron is what you have in a deeper or 2QB league, he has a great matchup and the weapons to be a big-time sleeper.
Wide receiver is down to one man, Tyler Lockett.
Matthew Stafford – Lions: Stafford and the Lions have been one of those NFL teams you just can't trust this season, both in fantasy and reality. However, they get a one-week reprieve from that status as they take on a bottom-feeding Saints secondary that gives up 27.5 PPG to fantasy QBs. To put that in perspective, that is 3.4 more PPG than the Eagles, who are the 2nd-worst team.
This should be Thanksgiving all over again for Stafford and Calvin Johnson.
Blake Bortles – Jaguars: Bortles has been fantasy gold all season long, and this is certainly no time to jump off the bandwagon! Even though the Falcons are the 6th-best fantasy defense against QBs (18.3 PPG allowed), Bortles, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Julius Thomas have come through in a big way for owners who were smart enough to listen to me before the big-box websites jumped on board with them.
Given how poorly the Falcons have been playing lately, I am looking for higher-end QB1 stats from Bortles when all is said and done this weekend.
Denard Robinson – Jaguars: The chances are that T.J. Yeldon won't play this weekend, which puts Shoelace in the driver's seat for carries in the Jaguars backfield. The Falcons have allowed the most rushing touchdowns to RBs (15), and are tied for 3rd for the most receiving TDs (3) by RBs. Add that up and you get a defense that is giving up the 3rd-most fantasy points to the RB position (23.4 PPG) this year.
Robinson is a high-end RB2 with real upside into the RB1 ranks if he scores.
Eddie Lacy – Packers: Lacy was a big disappointment in Week 13 after he was benched for missing curfew, but he came back hard in Week 14 with 124 rushing yards, 24 receiving yards and a TD. This week the Packers hit the road to take on a Raiders team that is giving up 18.1 PPG to fantasy RBs, the 18th-most in the NFL. The Packers look committed to running the ball to finish out the season given their complete lack of consistent production from their WRs, and Lacy says he is refocused after the benching.
I am looking for RB1 stats from Lacy as the Packers try and protect Aaron Rodgers from Khalil Mack.
Doug Baldwin – Seahawks: Who is the hottest WR in the NFL over the past month? If you said Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, DeAndre Hopkins, or Antonio Brown, you'd be wrong. If you said Doug Baldwin, you'd be a winner!
If you look at fantasy points, Baldwin is the #1 WR over the past month thanks to his 8 touchdowns, 381 yards and 23 receptions. Russell Wilson is on absolute fire right now, and he is throwing lit matches to Baldwin each and every game. These two are in sync and it is paying off for fantasy owners smart enough to play them.
I could make a case to play Baldwin over Julio Jones and Beckham this week.
John Brown – Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald is the big name in Arizona because he will one day have his bust in the Hall of Fame as a WR. But did you know Brown has been the better fantasy receiver the past month by hauling in 18 catches for 333 yards and 2 TDs compared to Fitzgerald's 31/252/0 line? The Eagles secondary is generous with WRs this season, giving up 21 touchdowns and 28.7 PPG to them. Both of those numbers are the 2nd-most in the NFL.
Brown is a sneaky WR2 play this week with upside given the Eagles' defensive problems.
Ben Watson – Saints: The Lions give up anywhere between the 5th- and 7th-most fantasy points to TEs this season, depending on if you are in a PPR or standard league. Either way, Watson has a sweet matchup this week and the Saints are looking for answers on offense. While I'm not a fan of Watson's, I can recognize value when I see it.
Watson is a mid-TE1 this week with real upside given Drew Brees' propensity for throwing to him (9.3 targets per-game average over the past month).
Jacksonville Jaguars defense: The Jaguars are one of the more underrated defenses in the NFL this season, and yet they are the 7th-best fantasy defense over the past month, and undeniably destroyed the Colts in Week 14. This week they draw a Falcons team that is on a 6-game losing streak, but worse than that is how many fantasy points their offense gives up to opposing defenses.
If you consider the past 9 games, the Falcons have given up an average of 16.61 fantasy PPG. Every league I'm in has a different fantasy scoring format for defenses, but the numbers will be generally the same regardless of format.
Linebacker Telvin Smith is the #1 LB in IDP leagues by almost 10 points (which is huge in IDP formats), and Paul Posluszny is 9th for LBs. Then you have Rashad Greene, who is making noise on the return team for leagues that count return yards or touchdowns for defensive stats.
History is telling us the Jaguars are again a sleeper defense in Week 15.
Matt Ryan – Falcons: As I said already, the Falcons are rocketing downhill like the Jamaican bobsled team from Cool Runnings! The Falcons passing game is Julio Jones, then check-down option Devonte Freeman, then last chance option Jacob Tamme. Shoot, the 3rd-most targeted WR on the team would be Leonard Hankerson (46; Roddy White has 56), and they cut him!
The reality for Ryan is he just doesn't have weapons in the passing game outside of Jones, and defenses are game-planning for that fact.
I'd consider Ryan off the fantasy QB radar this week unless you are in a 2QB league, and even then he is a QB2.
T.J. Yates – Texans: People are always looking for an edge when it comes to the fantasy playoffs, and a sleeper QB is a nice thing to have when your starter goes down or you play DFS leagues. The problem is, games like Yahoo are projecting Yates to have a sleeper type of game in Week 15 and thus they are creating a trend of owners picking him up in the wake of Dalton's injury.
Yates has played in three games this season, with his only good performance netting him 229 passing yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs and 1 lost fumble in Week 11.
I know the Colts give up a ton of fantasy points to QBs this season (23.3 PPG), but pinning your playoff hopes on a guy who is the backup to the backup in round 2 is certifiably crazy!
Darren Sproles – Eagles: When DeMarco Murray was benched and Sproles was vaulted to the top of the depth chart, there was a run on people picking him up and plugging him into their lineups. It worked out ok with 44 yards and a TD, but the Eagles showed just how all over the map they are with their RB depth chart after Sproles (7), Ryan Matthews (13), and Murray (11) all saw carries.
Arizona has a top-10 run defense, and you can't trust the Eagles to give Sproles enough of a workload to make it worth it unless you are counting on nothing more than flex numbers from him this week.
Javorius Allen – Ravens: The Ravens are completely devoid of any player on their team that could be considered a "playmaker" by most NFL analysts. And, to add insult to injury, this week they get a Chiefs defense that gives up the 3rd-fewest fantasy points to RBs in both standard and PPR formats this season (14.5 in standard, 18.6 in PPR).
Allen is far more of a low-end RB2/flex play than a true RB2 you can count on at this stage of the season.
Odell Beckham Jr. – Giants: Benching a WR of the caliber and pedigree of Beckham is fantasy heresy, I know. But consider that Josh Norman has already shut down Julio Jones (33 yards), DeAndre Hopkins (35 YDs), Mike Evans (0 YDs), T.Y. Hilton (15 YDs), and Dez Bryant (6 YDs) this season, and you have to wonder if Beckham will really have better luck given the Giants offensive ups and downs.
I know you probably can't sit Beckham, but I will warn you to temper your expectations.
Ted Ginn Jr. – Panthers: Ginn is the perfect definition of stats not reflective of reality. While Ginn put up 120 yards and 2 TDs last week, he did it on just 2 receptions and 3 targets. While he does receive a solid amount of targets each game (6.2), he only averages 49.6 yards each game.
He is truly a boom-or-bust WR that I would put in the WR4 category.
Jason Witten – Cowboys: If you own a Cowboys WR or TE at this point, then you must have been on the same island Tom Hanks was stranded on in Cast Away. Witten has managed to post 50-plus yards just once following the Cowboys' Week 6 bye, and hasn't scored since Week 1.
The Cowboys are stuck with Matt Cassel at QB, putting the ceiling low for any of the team's pass-catching players. I personally dropped Dez Bryant this week, and would cut Witten if you are still holding on to him for some reason.
Denver Broncos defense: The Broncos have been the best fantasy defense this season, and that makes them one of the tougher defenses to sit as we are in the middle of the fantasy playoffs. This week they face the Steelers, who are fighting for their playoff lives at 8-5 and in 2nd place in the AFC North.
I know the Broncos have Aqib Talib and Chris Harris at CB, and T.J. Ward at SS, but the Steelers have one of the best WRs in the NFL in Antonio Brown, a good supporting cast of WRs in Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton, and a dangerous RB in DeAngelo Williams.
I'd consider the Broncos an iffy fantasy defense for Week 15, that I would consider benching for the Jaguars, Texans or Packers.