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The Fantasy Blueprint

The Fantasy Blueprint: A Week 15 Preview

by Hayden Winks
Updated On: December 20, 2020, 3:00 am ET

Posted Thursday and updated Friday evening, “The Fantasy Blueprint” will get you the stats and information that actually matter for fantasy football, and it will be produced in a way that doesn’t waste our time. If you don't know what "Fantasy Usage" is, read this. If you want my best bets, they’ll be at the top on Friday night. If you need live Vegas odds, go here. If you simply just want my weekly rankings, subscribe here for $3.99 per month and use promo code WINKS10 for 10% off. If you have other questions, reach out on Twitter (@HaydenWinks)


1. Titans (31.0 points, -10.5 spread) vs. DET

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Despite the Titans being 27th in pass attempts, Ryan Tannehill enters Week 15 as the QB9 per game thanks to his No. 3 passing EPA efficiency. Already bad, the Lions’ No. 30 passing EPA defense will be without CBs Desmond Trufant and CB Jeffrey Okudah. It should be easy work for Tannehill and the pass game, as evidenced by their 31.0-point team total which is the highest of the week. Tannehill is a QB1. … A.J. Brown is a rare player. A WR1/2 weekly on WR3 fantasy usage, Brown should feast on Detroit’s backup corners in their standard man-to-man coverage, one that very rarely blitzes. Brown’s big-play odds are enhanced here. A fourth-year breakout, Corey Davis is up to second in yards per route run on the season as Brown’s sidekick. Over the last four weeks, Davis is the WR54 in fantasy usage on a 21% target share. That’s just enough to start as a PPR WR3 with matchup on his side, especially with slot man Adam Humphries on injured reserve. The Lions are 24th against fantasy receivers. … Jonnu Smith is averaging 8.4 expected PPR points per game when both he and Brown are healthy. He’s been on the TE1/2 border as a touchdown-dependent option in a potent passing offense. The Lions’ top-five ranking against the position is noise. It’s a plus matchup for Smith as a low-end TE1. Geoff Swaim and Anthony Firkser will rotate in behind him. … 

The Lions have allowed the most points to fantasy running backs. They’re 28th in rushing EPA defense while allowing the fourth most raw carries per game (27.7). Now without DT Danny Shelton, the Lions have suspect odds of stopping Derrick Henry as he shoots for not only the rushing title but for a 2,000-yard rushing season. He’s an elite RB1. 

 

 

2. Rams (30.5, -17) vs. NYJ

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Teams are opting to pass against the Jets in neutral situations (2nd) because their secondary is such a disaster. With the Rams also ranking second in neutral pass rate over the last four weeks (62%), I have little concern over Jared Goff’s overall volume despite being 17-point favorites. For the Rams to hit their 30.5-point team total, Goff will have to be producing. Goff is a good bet to beat his QB20 per game ranking. The Jets are dead last in passing EPA defense. … Robert Woods is averaging 11.5 targets per game over the last four weeks (4th) while ranking as the WR10 in fantasy usage. He’s benefited from the Rams’ increased neutral pass rate and will benefit from the cupcake matchup on Sunday as a low-end WR1 in PPR formats. Cooper Kupp isn’t too far behind in fantasy usage (WR24) and will face the Jets’ backup slot corner with CB Brian Poole on injured reserve. There’s room for both Woods and Kupp to eat with the Jets allowing the third most plays per game on defense (65.6). There’s an ongoing battle for No. 3 duties between veteran Josh Reynolds and rookie Van Jefferson. It’s a situation to avoid until one wins the full-time gig. … Last week, Tyler Higbee ran 15 routes to Gerald Everett’s 14. It’s an even split as evidenced by their nearly identical fantasy usage (WR30 vs. WR27). Either are capable of a blowup game on limited volume, but neither can be trusted as more than boom-bust TE2s. The Jets are dead last against the position for those looking for a dart throw. … 

Cam Akers has earned lead-back duties with Darrell Henderson appearing a step slower due to various lower-leg injuries. Last week, Akers played a season-high 50-of-67 snaps while handling all third-down and inside-the-10 opportunities. That equated to 21.8 expected PPR points. A prospect with three-down potential, Akers has league-winning potential if his third-down plus goal-line job continues. The Jets’ No. 7 rushing EPA defense is better than their record would indicate, but Akers projects for 20-plus touches as an RB1. Henderson and Malcolm Brown will pick up the scraps. 

 

 

3. Ravens (30.25, -14) vs. JAX

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We can trust Lamar Jackson as a fantasy QB1 more than Jackson can trust a fart right now. After Monday’s heroics, Jackson has fully re-entered the top-five quarterback discussion after months of highly questionable passing. The matchup obviously couldn’t get easier with the Jaguars 29th against fantasy quarterbacks, 31st in passing EPA, and 29th in adjusted sack rate. The secondary is currently missing CBs C.J. Henderson, D.J. Hayden, and possibly Sidney Jones. Jackson has week-winning upside with Baltimore projected for 30.25 points. … Marquise Brown and Miles Boyking haven’t been able to practice this week while on the COVID-19 list, but they are eligible to play assuming they continue to test negative. They were just close contacts. Brown’s reliance on the deep ball and the fact that he missed practice all week leave his floor at questionable levels, but the matchup will not get easier than this. The Jaguars’ Cover 1 man defense doesn’t have the personnel to matchup with Brown’s speed if he can catch the ball. He’s a boom-bust flex play. Slot man Willie Snead is the next best bet, but he’s averaging 7.4 expected PPR points this season. … Mark Andrews is averaging 12.0 PPR points on 11.1 expected PPR points this season despite the passing offense’s major negative touchdown regression. He’s a mid-range TE1 in bad matchups and a top-four option in good ones. This qualifies as the latter. Jacksonville is 22nd against the position and the Ravens project for the third most points of the week. Brown being unable to practice all week adds to the intrigue. … 

Overall rushing volume won’t be an issue here, but it’s still an unknown on how the pie will be cut. Easily the most explosive option on the roster, JK Dobbins led the backfield in offensive snaps last week -- Dobbins (37-of-60), Edwards (16), Hill (6), and Ingram (1) -- and projects for upwards of 15 touches with everything aligning on paper here. The Jaguars have allowed the third most carries per game (28.1) and game script will almost certainly be on Dobbins’ side. He was the only back to see an inside the 10-yard opportunity last week. The rookie is a boom-bust RB2 with an Akers-like ceiling. Gus Edwards is a big-play threat averaging just 7.1 expected PPR points per game as an RB4. 

Updated Friday: This game features the most injured corners of any game this season with the Jaguars their top four and the Ravens missing Jimmy Smith and possibly Marcus Peters. That's good for the Ravens' passing game all around.

 

Fantasy Rankings

Dobbins is my RB21 this week. Subscribe to Rotoworld EDGE+ here to unlock the rest of my personal weekly positional rankings (posted Wednesday) for only $3.99 per month. Use promo code: WINKS10 for 10% off.

 

 

4. Packers (29.75, -8.5) vs. CAR

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Aaron Rodgers has his eyes on a first-round bye and an MVP trophy. The Panthers’ No. 28 passing EPA defense has little shot at slowing those ambitions down. Green Bay is seventh in neutral pass rate (59%) over the last month, and he’s been passing at league-high levels inside the 10-yard line. Rodgers should face as little pressure as any NFL quarterback this week, adding to his elite QB1 profile. The Packers are projected for 29.75 points, the fourth most of the slate. … Davante Adams is coming off season-low usage, but even that meant 14.7 expected PPR points. He’s the highest floor player in all of fantasy with the easiest path to a week-winning ceiling. The Panthers’ Cover 3 zone defense is willing to allow intermediate passes, which is where Adams is making a living. He’s the obvious WR1 overall. Slot man Allen Lazard and deep-threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling are both low-volume players. Lazard is averaging just 7.2 expected PPR points on a 13% target share since his injury, while MVS is a one-trick pony on the perimeter. Between the two, MVS has a much higher ceiling. He has four games above 19.0 PPR points. The rest are below 10.0. … Robert Tonyan is averaging 10.3 PPR points per game on 6.8 expected PPR points since the bye. He’s a bankable efficiency outlier with Rodgers ranking first in passing EPA and has earned every-week TE1 treatment despite TE2 usage. The Panthers are 25th against fantasy tight ends, partially because they play a Cover 3 zone defense that’s most vulnerable within 5-15 yards of the line of scrimmage. … 

Aaron Jones is averaging 14.6 PPR points on 13.8 expected PPR points in the seven games since the bye. He’s now sharing the field with target-hog Adams, losing snaps to Jamaal Williams in an attempt to keep Jones fresh for the NFL playoffs, and hasn’t been featured at the goal-line. In Weeks 1-6, Jones averaged 3.1 inside the 10-yard opportunities per game compared to 0.7 from Weeks 9-14. Some argue it’s the #RodgersMVP narrative. Either way, Jones profiles as a boom-bust RB1 rather than the elite RB1 we saw in September. Of course, the matchup (27th vs. RBs) and the team total (4th) point to a potential boom week here. 

 

 

5. Colts (29.25, -7.5) vs. HOU

 

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The Colts are fifth in passing EPA and catch the Texans’ No. 29 passing EPA defense at home as 7.5-point favorites. Houston’s secondary is missing at least two starters and is already allowing the fourth most plays per game on defense (65.2). Philip Rivers has found his rhythm in recent weeks with his receivers healthy. A light’s out efficiency game should be enough for QB2 numbers despite being subbed out near the goal-line for QB sneak cheat code Jacoby Brissett. Indy is projected for 29.25 points, the fifth most of the week. … The Texans’ secondary is missing top corner Bradley Roby (suspended) and starting deep safety Justin Reid (IR), making their Cover 3 base defense very susceptible to deep passes. T.Y. Hilton just hung 8-110-1 on Houston two games ago and is the best bet to win downfield on Sunday. In addition to looking healthier, Hilton is up to WR32 in fantasy usage over the last month. Michael Pittman is averaging 10.9 expected PPR points in the five games since Hilton has returned. He’s the clear-cut No. 2 receiver but maxes out as a fantasy WR4/5 while ranking as the WR63 in fantasy usage in his last four games. Slot man Zach Pascal rounds out the starting lineup in three-receiver sets. … The Colts’ three-man rotation at tight end is largely one to avoid. Last week, Jack Doyle ran the most routes (15) with Trey Burton (13) and Mo Alie-Cox (7) not far behind. The order of the three seems to rotate at random. … 

Jonathan Taylor handled 22 touches in Week 14 with 20 of them coming on early downs. Even with Nyheim Hines rotating in on obvious passing situations, Taylor profiles as a fantasy RB1 in this matchup. Houston is 31st in rushing EPA defense and 31st against fantasy backs as a whole. Taylor has said his recent surge is due to having a better understanding of running out of shotgun, something he rarely did at Wisconsin. Taylor projects for 20 touches. Hines isn’t likely to be in the negative game script necessary for RB3 numbers.

 

 

6. Bills (28.5, -7) @ DEN

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Primarily a Cover 1 man defense, the Broncos are missing their top three corners in A.J. Bouye (suspended), Bryce Callahan (IR), and Essang Bassey (IR). It’s a great recipe for the Bills, who are third in neutral pass rate (62%) over the last four weeks. Fantasy’s QB5 per game, Josh Allen has the team fourth in passing EPA in addition to his value as a goal-line bruiser. The Bills’ 28.5-point team total is enough for Allen to be plugged into top-six rankings even if playing in Denver is a warning sign. … Stefon Diggs is averaging 11.3 targets over his last four games (6th) and continues to operate as one of the NFL’s top 10 talents at the position. He’s up to WR5 overall in fantasy usage and catches backup corners in what typically is an aggressive defense. Diggs is locked into WR1 territory. Cole Beasley is the WR30 in fantasy usage and is a positive regression candidate after coming up relatively empty on 15.8 expected PPR points last week. Beasley is the most reliable underneath target and has benefited from Buffalo’s top five rating in neutral pass rates. He’s a PPR WR3. Gabriel Davis has 9.2 and 15.3 expected PPR points in the two games without John Brown. The rookie has a 14.1 aDOT as Allen’s current go-to deep threat. Davis has 119 air yards in Week 14. He’s a boom-bust WR4. … Dawson Knox has 10.0 and 10.1 expected PPR points in his last two games with the Bills opting for fewer four-receiver sets. In Week 14, Knox ran a season-high 36 routes as a capable TE2 streamer for as long as Brown misses. … 

The backfield continues to swing back and forth. After dominating touches in Week 13, Devin Singletary was out-snapped by Zack Moss, 30 to 44. There’s no way to have confidence in either option. Both rank outside the top-35 in fantasy usage over the last month. Moss is the slightly better bet for a touchdown between the two.

 

 

7. Raiders (28.25, -3.5) vs. LAC

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Once a top five passing offense, the Raiders have regressed in recent weeks. Playing without Henry Ruggs (COVID-19) won’t help. Neither will the short week against an in-division opponent. Derek Carr, the QB17 per game, has a limited ceiling with the team ranking 21st in pass attempts per game and 23rd in neutral offensive pace. The Raiders’ 28.25-point team total seems too high on the surface, but it’s enough to keep Carr ranked as a QB2. The Chargers are 25th against fantasy quarterbacks. … Nelson Agholor is the WR12 in fantasy usage over the last month, although some of that can be explained by hail mary-type throws. Still, Agholor’s 135 air yards per game over the last four weeks ranks fourth among receivers, and he projects for slightly more downfield usage with Ruggs out. A date with CB Casey Hayward isn’t ideal but isn’t one to fade either. Agholor is a volume-based WR3. Hunter Renfrow only has one game above 14.5 PPR points but projects for an above-average game with less target competition and the Chargers’ Cover 3 zone defense working in the slot receiver’s favor. Renfrow is on the WR4/5 spectrum with an easier path to reaching a ceiling than normal especially if he slides into 2-receiver sets, something he wasn’t doing with Ruggs. Rookie Bryan Edwards and Zay Jones will compete for the second outside receiver spot, but it’s a role that’s rarely led to fantasy production outside of random big plays. Over the past month, Edwards has run slightly more routes than Jones, but the rookie missed Tuesday’s practice due to personal reasons. … Darren Waller is the TE1 overall in fantasy usage over the past month while operating as Vegas’ default top receiver. The Chargers’ forgettable linebacker and safety groups aren’t a major threat to stopping Waller over the middle (19th vs. TEs), neither is their defensive scheme that’s better defending the deep ball than the underneath pass. Waller easily is the TE2 overall. … 

Out of 64 qualifying RBs, Josh Jacobs ranks 55th in 15-plus yard rate while dealing with a nagging ankle injury. On a short week, Jacobs will need touchdowns to pay off as a top-15 fantasy back. He’s underperformed on RB9 fantasy usage over the last month but will see 15-plus touches if the game stays close. Jacobs is on the RB1/2 border. The Chargers are just 22nd against the position. Devontae Booker is averaging 4.7 expected PPR points with Jacobs healthy. He’s subbing in on passing downs with Jalen Richard, who has primarily played in garbage time.

 

 

8. Bucs (28.25, -6) @ ATL

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The Bucs are eighth in neutral pass rate over the last month, and they could opt for even more passing on Sunday. The Falcons are better at stopping the run (3rd in EPA) than they are stopping the pass (23rd), and Ronald Jones (COVID-19) is out. Tom Brady projects for top 10 overall volume and sits at No. 9 in passing EPA efficiency. The Bucs’ 28.25-point team total and the Falcons’ dead last ranking against fantasy quarterbacks keep Brady in the low-end QB1 mix. He’s the QB10 per game entering the week. … Here are the expected PPR points per game since Brown’s signing: Mike Evans (16.4), Chris Godwin (10.9), and Antonio Brown (10.4). Evans’ 21% target share over the last month isn’t on par with other top-15 receivers, but his league-high nine inside the 10-yard line receiving touchdowns more than make up for the forgettable target share. There’s nobody in the Falcons’ Cover 1 man defense capable of matching up with Evans one-on-one if his hamstring holds up. A lower aDOT (8.4), more target competition, and worse game environments have led to WR3 numbers for Godwin. He’s the WR38 in fantasy usage over the last month on a 20% target share. The matchup is pristine, but Godwin is stuck in upside WR3 territory until proven otherwise. Brown is the No. 4 target in the red zone and doesn’t play often in two-receiver sets. The veteran needs big plays between the 20s to pay off as a fantasy WR3/4, something within the range of outcomes against this poor-coached man defense. The Falcons are 30th against fantasy receivers. … Rob Gronkowski’s 5.0 targets per game over the last month ranks 12th at tight end. He’s the TE13 in overall fantasy usage while running a route on 60-75% of Brady’s dropbacks. The Falcons’ No. 27 defense against the position is one to target. Gronk is a low-end TE1. Cameron Brate is a touchdown-or-bust TE3 who is averaging 4.5 expected PPR points with Brown. … 

No Ronald Jones means Leonard Fournette will be active after being healthy scratched last week. It’s unclear who will get more run -- Fournette or LeSean McCoy. It may not matter much for redraft purposes. The Bucs have rotated backs in for most of the season, and the ground game matchup is far tougher than the one through the air. The Falcons have allowed the fourth fewest carries per game (22.2) and are fourth against fantasy backs overall. Neither should be parked in the RB2 lot. 

Updated Friday: Falcons No. 2 outside CB Darqueze Dennard (quad) is out. That's a slight upgrade for Antonio Brown

 

 

9. Cardinals (27.5, -6.5) vs. PHI

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From Weeks 1-10, Kyler Murray averaged 13.4 fantasy points on the ground. Over the last four, it has dropped to 2.7. The Cardinals are seeing more defenders in the box and more looks with safeties creeping down (video), largely because their pass game has been mostly limited to underneath throws near the sideline. Even with the recent struggles, Murray projects for QB1 numbers. The Cardinals remain first in neutral pace and have a 27.5-point team total, the ninth highest of Week 14. Expect the Eagles’ typical Cover 1 man defense to use more zone looks. Philly had a lot of success against Taysom Hill last week by switching to zone. … DeAndre Hopkins handled his business in Week 14 on 100 air yards and 18.4 expected PPR points. He looks healthier now and should feast on CB Darius Slay, who’s simply having a tough time in isolation this year. Hopkins remains plugged into WR1 rankings. There’s little behind him, however. Christian Kirk is down to WR69 fantasy usage over the last month, possibly because Murray is throwing downfield less due to shoulder problems. Since 26% of his targets are downfield and 96% are near the sideline, Kirk’s week-to-week consistency is nonexistent as a WR4/5. Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t scored more than 15.0 PPR points this season, and Andy Isabella was healthy scratched last week. … Dan Arnold has run fewer than 25 routes in all games since Week 3 with coach Kliff Kingsbury using four-receiver sets more than just about anyone. Arnold’s recent touchdown dominance is largely random luck. … 

With defenses selling out to defend Murray on zone reads, Kenyan Drake is seeing more volume where it matters -- in the red zone. Drake is averaging 17.4 PPR points over the last four weeks compared to 12.1 from Weeks 1-10. Most of this can be attributed to his increase in inside the 10-yard line opportunities (from 1.9 to 4.0 per game over these time frames). Drake isn’t a difference maker himself, but he is up to RB5 fantasy usage and belongs on the RB1/2 border. Chase Edmonds is averaging 10.9 expected PPR points with Drake as the passing-down back. The Eagles are 21st in rushing EPA defense and 9th against running backs overall. 

Updated Friday: Eagles CB Darius Slay (concussion) is questionable and No. 2 outside CB Avonte Maddox (knee) is out. DeAndre Hopkins could be facing Philly's third outside corner. Christian Kirk will be facing a backup regardless. It's unknown if the Eagles will opt for less man coverage this week because of the injuries and Kyler Murray's scrambling ability.

Updated Friday II: Chase Edmonds (ankle) is questionable after going DNP-DNP-limited in practice. Already seeing more work near the goal-line, Kenyan Drake could be in-line for a bellcow workload on Sunday. That would vault him into the top eight.

 

 

10. Chiefs (27.0, -3) @ NO

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The matchup of the week is between Patrick Mahomes and the Saints’ No. 5 passing EPA defense. Essentially matchup proof, Mahomes remains a top-three fantasy option despite heading on the road to a fully healthy defensive unit featuring the No. 2 adjusted sack rate. The Chiefs’ 27.0-point team total is as low as it’s been all year with New Orleans playing at a snail’s pace on offense (29th). Mahomes putting on a ceiling performance here would be special. … It’s unclear how the Saints will game plan for Tyreek Hill because CB Marshon Lattimore is inconsistent and doesn’t have the speed to match Hill in man coverage (nobody does). It’s possible the Saints roll safety help over Hill, but he’s still a major threat for a 50-yard score. His 11.5 targets per game over the last month is tied for fourth. He’s a WR1. Sammy Watkins could face the easiest matchup of the Chiefs’ pass catchers and ran a route on 35-of-39 dropbacks. His production is inconsistent, but he looked healthier in Week 14 following his hamstring injury. His boom-bust flex projection hasn’t budged. Demarcus Robinson (21 routes) and Mecole Hardman (15 routes) are in a tier or two below. … Travis Kelce is the NFL leader in receiving yards and is on pace for the second most PPR points of all time at tight end. He’s the TE1 overall in any matchup as fantasy’s biggest cheat code. Kelce’s individual matchup against the Saints’ speedy linebackers and quality coverage safeties is a tough draw. New Orleans is 10th against the position. … 

The Chiefs are fourth in neutral pass rate (61%) over the last four weeks and the Saints have allowed the fourth fewest plays per game (58.5) this season, so there’s only so much work to go around for the Chiefs’ running backs. Last week, Clyde Edwards-Helaire had one of his better games, totaling 16.3 expected PPR points on 46-of-62 offensive snaps. It’s possible that the rookie begins to go on a Damien Williams-type run with Le’Veon Bell struggling in his low-volume role. Edwards-Helaire is a ceiling RB2/3 play in this miserable on-paper matchup. New Orleans is first against fantasy backs. 

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11. Steelers (26.5, -13) @ CIN

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With injuries and age working against him, Ben Roethlisberger seems to have lost zip and thus some touch on his passes in recent weeks. It hasn’t prevented the offense to move towards a balanced attack, however, with Pittsburgh ranking first in neutral pass rate (64%) over the last four weeks. Roethlisberger, the QB11 per game, should rebound against the lifeless Bengals who are 31st in adjusted sack rate and 27th in passing EPA defense. The Steelers have no excuse to hang points here. … Diontae Johnson’s drops don’t matter until they do. Last week, they did. He was benched for two quarters, but the Steelers are likely to start him and ride the wave assuming Johnson’s drops take a chill pill. The matchup couldn’t get easier for Johnson, who still ranks as the WR9 in fantasy usage over the last month. He’s a highly volatile WR2/3. Chase Claypool is in a similar but worse position as Johnson. He ran the fewest routes of the top four receivers in Week 14 while James Washington suddenly plays more. Claypool remains the most electric playmaker in the entire offense, but his floor keeps him in the flex mix only right now. He’s the WR43 in fantasy usage over the last month. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the safest receiver in Pittsburgh. He led the team with 40 routes in Week 14 and has a reasonable WR3 floor as Big Ben’s underneath slot target. JuJu’s WR27 fantasy usage from the last four weeks is a good over/under for his finish against the Bengals who are 17th against the position this year. Washington hasn’t earned enough targets to be counted on in redraft leagues. … Eric Ebron is also dealing with drops which explains why he’s “only” been the TE9 over the last month while checking in as the TE3 in fantasy usage. Ebron’s 8.5 targets per game over that stretch and his red zone share have him in the mid-range TE1 mix. Cincy is 31st against tight ends. … 

James Conner had a season-low 5.0 expected PPR points last week while watching Jaylen Samuels play on passing downs and Benny Snell mix in for the occasional early-down carry. Conner was barely on the RB2 map as a bellcow. Now he’s in RB3/4 land while in a committee that’s being worked out on the fly. Conner’s upside as 13-point favorites is the only positive.

 

 

12. Vikings (25.25, -3.5) vs. CHI

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The QB15 per game, Kirk Cousins has benefited from an elite receiver duo and the Vikings’ increased neutral pass rate. In the last month, Minnesota is up to 19th in neutral pass rate (47%). This matchup is still one to temper expectations, however. Both teams rank in the bottom eight in neutral pace, and the Vikings only project for 25.25 points, the 12th highest of the week. Cousins maxes out as a low-end QB2 with Chicago allowing the fifth fewest points to quarterbacks. … Partially due to Thielen’s one game absence, Justin Jefferson is now the WR13 in fantasy usage over the last month and continues to play with elite efficiency. He’s third in the predictive yards per route run. While the matchup does him no favors, Jefferson has earned every-week WR2 status. Adam Thielen’s production is less bankable because he’s more touchdown-reliant. Still, Thielen’s WR19 fantasy usage and overall ball skills are enough to prop him up as a WR2/3 even in tough on-paper matchups. Chicago is fifth against fantasy receivers. … Kyle Rudolph hasn’t practiced this week after missing Sunday’s game, making Irv Smith a usable TE2/3 streaming option for those in a pinch. In his only game with Rudolph out, the second-year pro had 7.0 expected PPR points. For whatever reason, the Bears have been far worse defending the tight end (30th) than defending receivers (5th). … 

Dalvin Cook is averaging 24.5 PPR points on 21.0 expected PPR points as an elite RB1 regardless of matchup. The slow-paced nature of this game makes a total ceiling harder to find, but his workload keeps his floor at rare levels. Alexander Mattison returned to practice this week after missing all of December with appendix surgery. He's due for just a handful of touches.

Updated Friday: Bears slot CB Buster Skrine (concussion) is out and impressive rookie CB Jaylon Johnson (shoulder) is questionable after not practicing all week. Players who don't practice all week are typically ruled out on game day or are very limited if active. This is a bump for Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.

 

 

13. Seahawks (25.0, -5.5) @ WAS

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The Seahawks are 17th in neutral pass rate (50%) over the last month with their running backs back to full health. It has hurt Russell Wilson’s ceiling and floor, although he’s still the QB4 per game on the season. Wilson’s Week 15 matchup is a challenge as DEs Chase Young and Montez Sweat put pressure on quarterbacks at a scary clip. The Seahawks’ No. 30 adjusted sack offensive line versus Washington’s No. 4 defensive line is one of the biggest mismatches of the week. Vegas’ 25.0-point team total reflects Wilson’s mid-range, not elite QB1 projection. … The definition of an outlier, DK Metcalf checks in as the WR6 per game this season on WR2/3 fantasy usage. He’s the WR21 in expected PPR points over the last month with Seattle scaling back, but he’s still averaging 18.1 PPR points over that span. There isn’t a corner capable of running with Metcalf in Washington’s Cover 3 defense. He’s an upside WR1. Tyler Lockett’s evaluation is more challenging. Perhaps due to injury, Locket is averaging just 11.1 expected PPR points since his monster game against Arizona. He’s the clear-cut No. 2 option but his floor has lowered him to volatile WR3 levels. The receivers in that range just don’t have Lockett’s week-winning ceiling. It’s simply down to your risk tolerance. David Moore rounds out the offense as a low-volume dart throw on WR85 fantasy usage. … Jacob Hollister led the Seahawks’ tight ends in routes (19) but still loses playing time to Will Dissly (11) and to a lesser extent Colby Parkinson (6). Hollister is the best bet for a random touchdown, but he’s the TE33 in fantasy usage over the last four weeks. Washington is 20th against tight ends. … 

Chris Carson has exactly 15.4 expected PPR points in each of his last two games. If last week’s contest would’ve been closer, Carson would have had more and Carlos Hyde would’ve barely played. 11 of Carlos Hyde’s 15 touches came in garbage time. As Seattle’s bellcow-lite back, Carson sits on the RB1/2 border. Washington’s front seven won’t make this easy between the tackles, however. 

 

 

14. Browns (24.8, -4) @ NYG

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Everything points to Baker Mayfield being a mid-range QB2. He’s the QB24 per game this season but has played better recently. The Browns’ team total is 14th highest this week. And the Browns’ being four-point favorites suggests the game script will be neutral. New York’s No. 4 defense against fantasy quarterbacks takes a hit with top CB James Bradberry heading to the COVID-19 list. … Jarvis Landry is averaging 17.2 PPR points in the four games he’s played without Odell Beckham when the weather wasn’t a stone-cold disaster. His WR17 fantasy usage over the last month is a nice over/under for his Week 15 outlook, one that’s upgraded by Bradberry being out. New York’s Cover 3 zone defense’s weakness is defending the underneath pass, which is where Landry wins of course. Rashard Higgins is on the flex radar. Over the last four weeks, Higgins is 25th in air yards per game (83) and is the WR36 in fantasy usage overall. He’s a big-play threat in an offense that appears to playing at its peak. Electric rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones will round out the offense if KhaDarel Hodge misses again. Quite frankly, he should play over him regardless. … Austin Hooper is expected to return after getting in two-straight limited practices to start the week. Still, he’s been a part-time player when healthy with MFin Mackey Award Winner Harrison Bryant and David Njoku mixing in. Hooper is the TE32 in fantasy usage over the last four weeks. … 

Nick Chubb leads the NFL in PFF’s elusiveness rating and is a certified regression breaker as an every-week RB1. As 4.0-point favorites against a backup quarterback, Chubb isn’t likely to be game scripted out of the mix and safely projects for upwards of 20 touches. He’s averaging 2.0 inside the 10-yard opportunities per game. Kareem Hunt was an all-too obvious rebound candidate last week and remains on the RB2 map despite Chubb’s dominance. He’s averaging 14.4 expected PPR points in his five games since Chubb returned from injury. The Giants’ No. 23 defense against fantasy backs isn’t one to worry about too much. 

Updated Friday: Browns elite RG Wyatt Teller (ankle) is out. He's been one of the best run-blocking interior linemen this year. While he'll be missed, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt can only be moved down so much with their workload and talent. It's a slight downgrade overall.

Updated Friday II: The Giants will be without two of their top three corners. James Bradberry is out after being deemed a close contact of the coronavirus, and slot defender Darnay Holmes is out with a knee injury. Jarvis Landry is an upside WR2 play. Rashard Higgins is a viable flex play.

 

 

15. Chargers (24.75, +3.5) @ LV

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The Chargers are fifth in neutral pass rate (60%) over the last four weeks and catch a beautiful on-paper matchup. The Raiders just fired their defensive coordinator on a short week -- that’s extremely rare -- and could potentially be without DE Clelin Ferrell, CB Damon Arnette, LB Nicholas Morrow, S Jeff Heath, and S Johnathan Abram, although the latter has been one of the worst defenders in the entire league. Justin Herbert is the QB8 per game on the most pass attempts per game, and his efficiency against the Raiders’ No. 25 passing EPA defense should carry the rookie to a QB1 finish. The Chargers’ 24.75-point team total feels too low. … Despite a slightly lower target share with Ekeler active, Keenan Allen’s 12.8 targets per game over the last four weeks is the most in the NFL. Allen is the WR4 in fantasy usage over that same span and will face a backup corner at times on Thursday. The Raiders’ defense is an obvious plus draw, as he toasted them for 9-103-1 earlier this year. Allen’s concern is his hamstring. He was limited in practice and was unable to finish last week’s game. There’s a chance Allen plays at nowhere near 100%. Mike Williams managed to get in a limited practice on Tuesday after leaving Week 14 with a back injury. At full health, Williams was a volatile producer on WR4 usage as the Chargers’ primary intermediate and deep threat. He’s been the WR39 in fantasy usage over the last month but offers no floor given his injury and reliance on the deep ball. 31% of his targets are 20+ yards downfield. Last week with Williams leaving earlier, Tyron Johnson set a season high with 12.0 expected PPR points while running the same number of routes as Allen (36). Jalen Guyton actually led the position with 41. Guyton will be the clear-out option in three-receiver sets if Williams plays. Johnson will get more run on the outside if Williams is out. … Hunter Henry has been consistently underperforming his mid-range TE1 usage. Over the last month, Henry is the TE5 in fantasy usage while running a route on about 75% of dropbacks. Henry is a floor-based low-end TE1. …

Austin Ekeler is the RB1 overall in fantasy usage over the last month. His 23% target share is simply unmatched at the position. The matchup couldn’t get softer either with the Raiders ranking last in rushing EPA and 28th against fantasy running backs. The only knock on Ekeler is the short week since he’s been less explosive while working through his hamstring injury. He is 64th out of 64 qualifying RBs in 15+ yard rate. That’s obviously not enough to move him outside of the top six PPR rankings. Kalen Ballage is failing in a miniature version of the MGIII role from seasons past. He has 8.3 and 7.5 expected PPR points in his last two games and could get replaced by Justin Jackson, who played 11 snaps to Ballage’s 23 last week. It’s a situation to avoid. 

Updated Thursday: Keenan Allen is a game-time decision and could be on a pitch count if active. This report aligns with medical analysis done by those Twitter doctors. It's simply difficult to "play through" a hamstring injury. You either have one or you don't. I don't trust the Chargers to make the right decision and am tempted to bring Allen down to WR4 territory even with Mike Williams (back) likely being ruled out. Tyron Johnson and Jalen Guyton are upside WR4s given the injury news. They both were near full-time route runners in Week 14. They should get more underneath targets this week, too.

 

 

16. 49ers (24.0, -3) @ DAL

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In his five starts since Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury, Nick Mullens is averaging 274 yards, 1.2 touchdowns, and 1.4 interceptions per game as a serviceable fill-in option with Shanahan steering the ship. While the matchup looks tasty on paper, Mullens is likely to finish with bottom-10 volume and maxes out as a fantasy QB3. The 49ers will reach their 24.0-point team total on the backs of their run game. The Cowboys have allowed the second fewest pass attempts per game (33.5). … No Deebo Samuel (hamstring) pushes Brandon Aiyuk up to the WR1/2 border. In his last four games including games with Samuel, Aiyuk is averaging 22.6 expected PPR points. He’s the WR2 in fantasy usage over the last month on 11.5 targets per game. After Deebo left last week, Shanahan schemed Aiyuk touches within five yards of the line of scrimmage in addition to working him downfield. The Cowboys 21st-ranked passing EPA defense is one to target. Kendrick Bourne, who is averaging 10.3 expected PPR points in games without Deebo, was a two-receiver set starter over Richie James last week. … Jordan Reed is the TE15 in fantasy usage over the last month and projects for a higher target share with Deebo out. Despite duds in two of the last three games, Reed belongs on the TE1/2 border. The Cowboys linebackers will have their hands full figuring out the ground game, increasing his odds of winning on play action over the middle. … 

Updated Friday: After Monday's MRI, Raheem Mostert went from DNP to limited to full. He's off the final injury report and will start. Mostert hasn't been as effective while grinding through his ankle injury -- he is 60th out of 65 qualifying RBs in PFF’s elusiveness rating -- but is a big-play threat against the Cowboys' blind linebackers. Dallas is 29th in rushing EPA and are likely to be gashed by Mostert and Jeffrey Wilson. Mostert is a boom-bust RB2/3. Wilson is a no-floor RB3.

 

 

17. Saints (24.0, +3) vs. KC

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This game feels too important for the Saints not to get Drew Brees back in the lineup. His initial timeline suggested this is when he’d return, so I’ll assume he’s back here (and even took the over/under earlier in the week). Even with Taysom Hill mixing in and Michael Thomas missing time, Brees is the QB12 per game this season and should be in ideal game script for fantasy production on Sunday. The Saints’ 24.0-point team total feels low and arguably gives too much respect to a Chiefs’ defense that’s average on tape. Brees is an upside QB1/2 if active. … Michael Thomas is fully over his ankle injury now and projects for his 2018-19 workload with Brees back. The Chiefs’ two-deep coverage plays into Thomas’ strengths as an underneath target, and there’s not a corner to be worried about. He’s back in the elite WR1 conversation here. Emmanuel Sanders’ 2020 box scores can be tossed out. The veteran is an upside WR4 if Brees is in the lineup after being phased out with Hill struggling to go through his progressions. Sanders’ 75% catch rate and 8.5 YPT average suggest he has enough left in the tank. … Jared Cook is averaging 8.0 expected PPR points with Brees compared to 5.6 with Hill. He’s an obvious winner with the quarterback change, and the Chiefs’ No. 21 defense against fantasy tight ends is one to target. The Cover 2 defense can be had down the seam by athletic tight ends. …

Perhaps a little inflated by Thomas’ absence, Alvin Kamara was averaging 27.8 PPR points on 23.8 expected PPR points in his nine games with Brees earlier this season. After a few weeks of a lighter workload, Kamara returns back to the RB1 overall conversation. Expect Kamara to get pounded with screens and check downs, something Hill struggled with timing- and touch-wise. The matchup also aligns beautifully. The Chiefs have allowed the third most receiving yards to running backs, a common theme with classic two-deep zone defenses.

Updated Friday: The Saints named Drew Brees the starter and ruled Michael Thomas (ankle) out. It's a massive late-week development, one that makes Alvin Kamara the No. 1 overall fantasy asset of the week. Kamara's splits are massive with and without Brees as mentioned above, and the Chiefs ruled out their run-stuffing LB Damien Wilson. Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook are back on the 12-team map now, too. Even Tre'Quan Smith can be started in deep leagues as the primary deep threat on the roster. For DFS, I'll be lock-buttoning Kamara and sprinkling in Sanders and Cook when necessary.

 

 

18. Falcons (22.25, +6) vs. TB

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Over the last three seasons, Matt Ryan averages 23.1 fantasy points with a healthy Julio Jones and just 15.5 without him. His YPA also drops from 7.9 to 6.4. On top of that, Ryan just looks like an aging quarterback on tape. It’s a combination that has him as the QB22 per game in 2020. The Falcons’ 22.25-point team total (18th) suggests this is the tier where he belongs assuming Jones is out. The only positive here is his projected volume. The Bucs have allowed the fourth most pass attempts per game (41.2) while leading the NFL in neutral pass rate against, meaning opposing offenses are viewing Tampa as a pass funnel. … For this reason, Calvin Ridley is a locked-in WR1. He’s leading the NFL in air yards per game this season (133) and over the last four games (150). Ridley’s WR11 fantasy usage is a good over/under line for his fantasy finish against the No. 24 fantasy receiver defense. The rest of the receiver corps consists of backup-level talent. Russell Gage is averaging -1.4 PPR points over expected this season as a low-aDOT slot man on 12.1 expected PPR points per game. Even with game script on his side, Gage is a PPR WR4/5. Brandon Powell was the No. 3 receiver with Jones out last week. … Hayden Hurst is averaging 9.0 expected PPR points in the games Jones has missed. There’s no reason to move him off the TE1/2 border with Tampa ranking 22nd against fantasy tight ends. Hurst should see low-end TE1-level volume. … 

The Bucs have allowed the fewest carries per game (21.0), are second in rushing EPA defense, and are fifth against fantasy running backs. It’s arguably fantasy’s toughest matchup. With Todd Gurley only playing 19-of-57 snaps last week, there’s no way to trust the veteran right now. Typically a pass-catching back only, Ito Smith led the backfield in snaps (25) in Week 14. Brian Hill played nine. Avoid.

 

 

19. Dolphins (22.0, -2.5) vs. NE

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Player Interim Preview

Myles Gaskin

14.6 PPR per game on 19.4 xFPs in starts.

DeAndre Washington

Bad on 14.4 xFPs Wk 14. Should be benched.

Patrick Laird

5-of-5 touches in garbage time Week 14.

Mike Gesicki

Likely to miss with shoulder injury.

DeVante Parker

MIA passing more (chart). Gesicki injured?

Jakeem Grant

Wk 14 routes: Bowden (51), MH (35), JG (23).

Lynn Bowden

Season-high 15.1 xFPs on 51-of-67 routes.

Mack Hollins

Season-high 13.5 xFPs on 35-of-67 routes.

 

Full preview coming after more injury reports surface.

 

 

20. Bears (21.75, +3.5) @ MIN

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A sign coach Matt Nagy doesn’t trust his quarterback, the Bears are 30th in neutral pass rate (37%) over the last four weeks. Despite this, Mitchell Trubisky has survived as a QB2 in good matchups, something he’ll have once again on Sunday. The Vikings are 20th in passing EPA, 23rd in adjusted sack rate, and 18th against fantasy quarterbacks as a whole. Chicago’s 21.75-point team total is the 20th highest of the week, a quality over/under line for Trubisky’s Week 15 ranking. His 6.7 YPA average this season is in line with his career average. … Allen Robinson is the WR1 overall in fantasy usage and WR3 overall in PPR points per game over the last month on a 30% target share. Trubisky is simply more likely to lock onto Robinson compared to Nick Foles, who actually tries to go through his progressions as a passer. Robinson is a bet on volume, talent, and matchup here. The Vikings’ inexperienced secondary has allowed the fourth most points to fantasy receivers. Because Robinson’s target share is so large, there’s little room for Darnell Mooney (WR60 fantasy usage) and Anthony Miller (WR70 fantasy usage) to operate. Even in this strong on-paper matchup, these two are nothing more than stack options in large-field DFS tournaments. … Rookie Cole Kmet ran more routes (24) than Jimmy Graham (16) last week and is now up to TE11 fantasy usage over the last month. With Trubisky at quarterback, efficiency is a problem, but Kmet’s athletic profile and upgraded usage has him posted as a TE2 streamer. The Vikings missing stud coverage linebacker Eric Kendricks (calf) is the feather in his cap. Graham’s touchdown odds are diminished with Kmet earning more looks. … 

David Montgomery is now averaging 17.6 PPR points without Tarik Cohen. His RB8 fantasy usage is bankable now that he has the goal-line plus third-down role, and the matchup is a plus with Kendricks sidelined. Montgomery also cracks the top five in PFF’s elusiveness rating, which aligns with his better tape in recent weeks. He set a career-high in max speed in Week 14 per NextGenStats. Montgomery is an RB1.

 

 

21. Texans (21.75, +7.5) @ IND

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Deshaun Watson has better odds of rebounding in Week 15 with Cooks expected to play, but this is another tough draw on paper as evidenced by the Texans’ 21.75-point team total. It’s a road contest, one that’s the second time through the division. Plus, the Colts’ two-deep zone defense, particularly when fully healthy like it is now, matches up well with Watson’s primary strengths -- deep passing and scrambling. Watson’s elite playmaking is the only reason to have him on the QB1/2 border. Everything else is working against him. … Brandin Cooks had 5-65-0 on eight targets against Indy in Week 13 before missing last week with a neck injury. After two-straight limited practices, Cooks should be healthy enough to suit up as Watson’s de facto top receiver. The Colts’ No. 7 defense against fantasy receivers works against Cooks, but another 7-10 targets should be on the docket with game script projected to be in his favor. Cooks has at least 60 yards in seven of his last eight games. Keke Coutee is the next best bet as the slot man and certified zone beater. He’s produced as a PPR WR1 against this defense historically (8-141-0, 11-111-0, 3-25-0, and 11-109-0), possibly because his low aDOT aligns with the soft spots of the two-deep defense. Coutee is a flex option in PPR formats after seeing 15.6 and 6.4 expected PPR points in his two starts. Chad Hansen is the poor man’s Will Fuller in the same exact role on the boundary. Hansen’s 81 air yards per game is 27th among receivers over the last month, so there’s a ceiling to chase for those desperate. In theory, Hansen’s downfield looks will be difficult to convert against this scheme. The Colts have allowed the fourth fewest pass attempts per game (34.9). … Jordan Akins just might be bad. He’s the TE32 per game over the last four weeks despite TE19 fantasy usage. With the Colts ranking second against fantasy tight ends and LB Darius Leonard healthy, the only positive for Akins is that he ran a route on 26-of-44 dropbacks last week. He’s touchdown or bust. … 

David Johnson is 55th out of 65 qualifying RBs in PFF’s elusiveness rating, and the Texans might have the worst offensive line in the league. It’s a combination that has Houston dead last in rushing EPA (and it’s not close). With DJ losing snaps to Duke Johnson on passing downs and with the Texans being 7.5-point road dogs, he’s a low-floor, touchdown-dependent RB3. The Colts’ run defense has been dominant whenever DT DeForest Buckner has been healthy.

Updated Friday: Duke Johnson (neck) didn't practice on Thursday or Friday and is questionable for Sunday. It's certainly possible he sits, making David Johnson a far more intriguing RB2/3 play. When both have been healthy, Johnson has been nothing more than an RB3. Another potential win for David Johnson is DT DeForest Buckner's (ankle) status. He missed practice on Friday and is officially questionable. Sunday's inactives list is worth tracking.

 

 

22. Broncos (21.5, +7) vs. BUF

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In his eight games since his injury, Drew Lock is averaging 245 yards with more interceptions (1.6) than touchdowns (1.5) per game. The Broncos seem to be hiding him in neutral situations (40% pass rate, 28th) probably for good reason. The 7.0-point spread should give Lock some garbage time production, but he’s stuck on the QB2/3 territory until proven otherwise. The Broncos’ 21.5-point team total is the 22nd best of the week. … Tim Patrick (13.0 PPR points on 10.7 expected PPR points) has been on the right side of downfield passing “luck” while Jerry Jeudy (9.1 PPR points on 11.8 expected PPR points) has been “unlucky”. These totals should even out in theory, especially with Jeudy passing the eye test on tape. Both are on the WR4 map in this neutral home matchup. Explosive rookie slot man KJ Hamler exploded for a season-high 22.6 PPR points last week on a season-low 5.0 expected PPR points. That’s rare, as is Hamler’s speed. With the Broncos spreading out targets and ranking 30th in passing EPA, Hamler is still more of a 2021 bet than a 2020 one. … Just as he was moving past his ankle injury, Noah Fant left Week 14 with an illness. It shouldn’t limit him again, but Fant has been more of an upside TE2 than a bankable TE1 in this suspect offense. The Bills’ No. 29 defense against the position does add to his ceiling potential. There’s just no floor like most tight ends. … 

Melvin Gordon is averaging 12.3 expected PPR points in his starts with Phillip Lindsay active. He’s been on the RB2/3 border depending on matchup with Lindsay being limited to just early-down between the tackles running. The Bills are 22nd in rushing EPA and 20th against fantasy running backs. There’s nothing unique about Gordon’s low-end RB2 outlook. Lindsay is purely insurance. 

 

 

23. Panthers (21.25, +8.5) @ GB

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Aided by consistently good play calling by future head coach Joe Brady, Teddy Bridgewater enters Week 15 as the QB14 per game, mostly on floor-based games due to negative game script. That’s the projected outcome on Saturday with Carolina listed as 8.5-point dogs on a 21.25-point team total (23rd). Bridgewater’s check-down nature will be enhanced by the Packers’ two- and four-deep coverages that invite underneath passing. … D.J. Moore will return to one of the more difficult individual matchups for an outside receiver. The Packers’ defensive scheme is solid against deep passing with CB Jaire Alexander chipping in, and 20% of Moore’s targets are deep shots. His WR2/3 fantasy usage should still win out as a WR3 even if the on-paper matchup suggests reaching a ceiling will be difficult. Robby Anderson is in a similar spot on the boundary, although his 9.6 aDOT matches up better against this scheme. Anderson is the WR23 in fantasy usage over the last month as a PPR WR2. Assuming his Thursday practice report downgrade is nothing, Curtis Samuel profiles as a WR3 who operates as Bridgewater’s underneath target (6.3 aDOT). Of the three, Samuel’s individual matchup is the softest. He’s up to WR22 in fantasy usage over the last month while sprinkling in reps out of the backfield with Christian McCaffrey out. … The Panthers rarely use their tight ends, but Ian Thomas is “their guy” for those playing in DFS tournaments. He ran a route on 33-of-48 dropbacks last week. … 

Mike Davis, who is second in PFF’s elusiveness rating, appeared rejuvenated off the bye last week and walks into what should be another RB1 workload. Davis is averaging 16.0 PPR points in starts this season and is the RB6 in fantasy usage over the last month. The Packers’ No. 30 defense against fantasy backs only solidifies his ceiling and floor. They’ve allowed the most receiving yards to running backs due to their Cover 2 and Cover 4 schemes. 

 

 

24. Cowboys (21.0, +3) vs. SF

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In his four games since his injury, Andy Dalton is averaging 222 yards, 2.0 touchdowns, and 0.8 interceptions while keeping the offense afloat on quick passing. The Cowboys are unlikely to match their current pass attempt averages here, however, with the 49ers allowing the third fewest pass attempts per game (34.0). San Francisco’s league-low offensive pace and zone defense clog opposing offenses. Dalton is a QB3. The Cowboys only project for 21.0 points (24th). … Amari Cooper is averaging 13.9 expected PPR points with Dalton under center and has out-produced expectations as the clear-cut No. 1 receiver. He’ll face CBs Richard Sherman and Jason Verrett this week but his talent and WR3 volume are worth betting on. It’s a tougher pill to swallow for Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb. As the second outside receiver, Gallup will run the hardest routes of the bunch against the toughest corners. He’s averaging 11.8 expected PPR points with Dalton as a boom-bust WR5. Lamb is coming off a season-low 3.9 expected PPR points but catches the easiest on-paper matchup. The 49ers have rotated in slot corners over the last month. The rookie is a WR4. San Francisco is 19th against the position overall. … As the fourth passing game option, Dalton Schultz maxes out as a TE2 in all matchups. His 7.9 expected PPR points per game with Dalton isn’t worth betting on against the 49ers who are first against fantasy receivers thanks to LB Fred Warner. … 

Ezekiel Elliott is the second worst running back in my PPR points over expected metric. He’s simply one of the worst starting running backs right now and isn’t getting much help from his injured offensive line. The 49ers’ No. 5 rushing EPA defense should swallow Zeke between the tackles, and Tony Pollard is mixing in enough on passing downs to worry about Elliott’s floor. Zeke is the RB26 per game over the last month with Dalton. 

Updated Friday: Ezekiel Elliott did not practice at all this week. Jerry Jones said he expects Zeke to play, but it's rare for a skill player to play after getting in zero reps. We'll see on Sunday. If active, Elliott is a high-risk RB3. He's been the RB26 per game over the last month while losing snaps to Tony Pollard. If inactive, Pollard would be on the RB2/3 radar.

 

 

25. Eagles (21.0, +6.5) @ ARI

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Jalen Hurts looked like the underrated prospect he entered the league as. His accuracy is serviceable and his dual-threat abilities make him a fantasy asset even while he goes through the growing pains of learning a new offense. This week’s matchup should be far easier especially if the Cardinals stay in their typical Cover 1 man defense, one that’s vulnerable to dual-threat quarterbacks on paper. With Arizona playing at league-high offensive pace, Hurts should have enough all-around volume to churn out a borderline QB1 finish. The Eagles’ 21.0-point team total feels slightly low. … Philly typically used two-receiver sets with Hurts last week, limiting the potential fantasy receivers to just Jalen Reagor (25-of-36 routes) and slot man Greg Ward (28). With the Eagles’ neutral pass rate likely to plummet and with the tight ends a priority, Reagor remains a low-volume asset. He’s the WR74 in fantasy usage over the last month and is barely on the WR5 radar. Ward’s 5.6 aDOT simply keeps him away from redraft lineups. … Dallas Goedert ran a route on 24-of-36 routes and had a team-high 20% target share last week. The TE7 overall in fantasy usage over the last month, Goedert has averaged 11.9 expected PPR points per game with the ghost of Zach Ertz this season as the Eagles’ best passing-game option. Hurts arguably is an upgrade for Goedert even if the overall passing volume takes a slight dip. Ertz turned 22 routes into eight yards last week. … 

After a concerning downward trend in usage, Miles Sanders shocked with a monster game in Week 14 alongside Hurts. His 19.0 expected PPR points were his most since Week 3, and he played on 56-of-69 offensive snaps while Boston Scott (15), Corey Clement (2), and Jordan Howard (0) watched on the sideline. After that backfield domination and with Hurts drawing defensive attention on read options, Sanders is back on the RB1/2 map. The Cardinals’ No. 16 rushing EPA defense isn’t one to fear.

 

 

26. Giants (20.75, +4) vs. CLE

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Despite dealing with hamstring and ankle injuries, Daniel Jones is expected to start, although at less than 100% health. When Jones isn’t running, he’s not a fantasy viable quarterback. The Giants are 27th in neutral pass rate (40%) over the last four weeks and only project for 20.75 points, the 26th most on the slate. … Usage is too split to use any Giants receiver in 12-team leagues. Here are their rankings in fantasy usage over the last month: Sterling Shepard (WR61), Golden Tate (WR73), and Darius Slayton (WR93). Shepard’s 23% target share is the best bet WR4/5 production against this No. 24 fantasy receiver defense, but it’s not a great bet. … Evan Engram’s calf injury is a concern even if he suits up. His borderline TE1/2 production and usage isn’t worth the gamble if his health is in question. The only positive is the Browns’ No. 28 fantasy tight end defense that's missing both of their starting safeties in Andrew Sendejo and Ronnie Harrison. … 

I’ll update the running backs after final injury reports. It’s unknown if Devonta Freeman will suit up.

Updated Friday: Browns CB Denzel Ward (calf) is questionable after being limited in practice all week. He hasn't played since Week 11 but feels "great" and seems optimistic that he'll play. That's a big development for Cleveland as they'll be playing with backups at both safety spots and at No. 2 corner.

 

 

27. Lions (20.5, +10.5) @ TEN

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Matthew Stafford didn’t practice this week but is more likely to play than not as long as the Lions’ medical staff doesn’t botch his rib injection like the Chargers did with Tyrod Taylor. Stafford has QB2 appeal against this No. 26 passing EPA and No. 28 fantasy quarterback defense. The Lions’ 20.5-point team total feels slightly low given that the Titans have allowed the second most pass attempts per game (42.0) and most plays per game overall (66.9). … For this reason, Marvin Jones is an upside WR2/3 play. He’s the WR14 in fantasy usage over the last month, including the second most air yards per game (147). Volume and individual matchup will not be an issue. The Titans are still missing CB Adoree Jackson and rank 31st against fantasy receivers. Danny Amendola is the WR41 in fantasy usage over the last four weeks and is averaging 10.1 expected PPR points in games without Kenny Golladay, who is dealing with a bad case of contracticitis. I’ve heard of worse WR4/5 plays in PPR leagues. … T.J. Hockenson checks all boxes as a top-five TE1. He’s averaging 8.8 targets per game on TE4 overall fantasy usage over the last month, plus faces a banged up Titans Defense that’s 24th against fantasy tight ends. … 

Please ignore “touch totals” when we have better stats like expected PPR points. D’Andre Swift only had 11 touches in Week 14, but he had 16.1 expected PPR points while handling three inside the 10-yard line opportunities and six targets. Those golden opportunities have Swift as the RB13 in fantasy usage over the last month. With the Titans 25th against fantasy running backs, Swift belongs on the RB1/2 border at the very worst. Adrian Peterson (16 snaps) and Kerryon Johnson (14 snaps) will continue to get more and more phased out of the offense as Swift moves past his concussion.

 

 

28. Football Team (19.5, +5.5) vs. SEA

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Dwayne Haskins’ return to the lineup doesn’t move the needle in either direction. His 6.3 YPA and 2.5 TD% from this season are nearly identical to Alex Smith’s 6.5 YPA and 1.8 TD%. Like Smith, Haskins will be a QB3 more times than not even in pristine home matchups like this one. Washington’s 19.5-point team total is fifth lowest of the week. … The Seahawks have allowed the most pass attempts per game (44.4) and the most fantasy points to receivers. Terry McLaurin also projects for a higher target share with Smith sidelined, as Haskins is more likely to lock onto his go-to receiver compared to a veteran who’s experience allows him to go through progressions. In four games with Haskins, McLaurin averaged 16.1 expected PPR points compared to 12.1 with Smith. McLaurin has better odds of rebounding as a WR2. Behind him, Cam Sims is a two-receiver set starter while Steven Sims plays the slot in three-receiver sets. … Logan Thomas averaged 12.2 expected PPR points in four games with Haskins, although they were some of the worst box scores imaginable. Thomas’ TE8 fantasy usage over the last month and elite route share have him in the volume-based TE1/2 basket. His matchup over the middle is more difficult than McLaurin’s on the perimeter for whatever that’s worth. … 

No Antonio Gibson means J.D. McKissic on passing downs and Peyton Barber on early downs. Barber is the worst running back out of 65 qualifiers in PFF’s elusiveness rating and can’t be counted on as more than an RB4. McKissic is more interesting with game script likely to be on his side as 5.5-point dogs. His RB34 fantasy usage over the last month and the quarterback change do limit his overall appeal to the PPR RB3 range. Known to be a check-down artist, Smith targeted McKissic far more than Haskins and Kyle Allen has this season.

 

 

29. Patriots (19.5, +2.5) @ MIA

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Cam Newton was benched in the fourth quarter after a miserable passing performance against the NFL’s No. 1 passing EPA defense. Things won’t be easier on the road against the No. 3 passing EPA defense. The Dolphins’ blitz-heavy approach is bad news for Newton, who is 38th out of 40 qualifying QBs in passer rating under pressure. The Patriots’ 19.5-point team total keeps Newton outside of top-20 fantasy rankings. He’s the QB19 per game. … Jakobi Meyers is averaging 8.9 expected PPR points and a forgettable 20% target share since N’Keal Harry returned. He’s down to WR67 fantasy usage and is now unplayable, particularly in this matchup. Outside receivers Damiere Byrd and N’Keal Harry will have their hands full against CBs Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Neither is startable with the Patriots sitting at 29th in neutral pass rate over the last four weeks. Both the Patriots and Dolphins are bottom-12 in neutral offensive pace, too. … 

Damien Harris continues to lose passing-down snaps to James White, who ran 18-of-33 routes last week. Harris’ RB32 fantasy usage over the last month is a nice over/under line for this week’s finish with the Patriots opening as 2.5-point road dogs. Harris will need to find the end zone to pay off as a RB3. All 13 of his touches came on early downs and 11 of them were runs. The only positive, if any, is that the Dolphins rank 26th in rushing EPA defense. 

 

 

30. Jaguars (16.25, +14) @ BAL

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Gardner Minshew has taken over after a few failed weeks of Jake Luton and Mike Glennon. Minshew’s QB13 per game ranking is impressive for his situation, but he’s stuck in QB3 territory with all teams off bye and the Jaguars projected for just 16.25 points, the third fewest of the week. This game features offenses that rank 25th and 31st in neutral pace. … D.J. Chark has been the most unproductive receiver on deep targets this season, mostly for no fault of his own. Minshew’s accuracy is a step above Luton’s and Glennon’s, but Chark’s week to week volatility keeps him outside of top-30 rankings in tough on-paper matchups like this one. The Ravens are top 10 in passing EPA defense (9th) and against fantasy receivers (10th). Keelan Cole had a season-high 22.6 expected PPR points last week in what likely turns out to be a total outlier. The slow-paced nature of this contest and a date with stud slot CB Marlon Humphrey are enough to bet against Cole as a sneaky fantasy play. Laviska Shenault also had a season-high day in Week 14 but finds himself in a similar situation to both Chark and Cole in terms of matchup. … Tyler Eifert has 0 games above 13.0 PPR points all season. Road games in Baltimore aren’t the spot to take chances on Jaguars tight ends. … 

James Robinson has at least 10.0 expected PPR points and 10.2 PPR points in all games this season. His receiving plus goal-line role is elite and gives him a reasonable floor even in impossible individual matchups like this one. Robinson will have to overcome slow pace, a tough front seven, and Jacksonville’s 16.25-point team total to put up another RB1 performance. He’s on the RB1/2 border. 

Updated Friday: This game features the most injured corners of any game this season with the Jaguars their top four and the Ravens missing Jimmy Smith and possibly Marcus Peters. That's good for D.J. Chark's chances.

 

 

31. Jets (13.5, +17) @ LAR

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A laughably low 13.5-point team total and the Jets 31st neutral pass rate (33%) have all Jets players outside of 10-team fantasy starting lineups. Sam Darnold has almost no chance at moving the ball on the road against the NFL’s No. 1 passing EPA defense. … Slot machine Jamison Crowder was a near full-time player while playing through a soft-tissue injury in Week 14 and is the best bet for flex value among New York receivers. He’s averaging 13.5 expected PPR points in healthy games with Darnold. It will be lights out for Crowder if CB Jalen Ramsey kicks into the slot, however, something the Rams have done when facing offenses without a true top receiver. Neither Breshad Perriman nor rookie Denzel Mims, who returned to facilities on Monday, qualify as a “true top receiver”. Both are coming up empty on their air yards, most of which come near the sideline during garbage time. It’s a situation to avoid outside of 14-team leagues. The Rams are first against fantasy receivers. … 

There isn’t a running back on the Jets worth starting in fantasy. Frank Gore is coming off 5.0 expected PPR points and lost snaps (17) to both Ty Johnson (20) and Josh Adams (12). The Rams’ No. 4 rushing EPA defense isn’t one to mess with. 

Updated Friday: Jamison Crowder (calf) went from DNP to limited to limited in practice this week. He'll likely play through his questionable tag at less than 100%. His floor is lowered by this injury.

 

 

32. Bengals (13.5, +13) vs. PIT

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With the Bengals projected for 13.5 points, there’s not a fantasy starter on the Bengals. Tyler Boyd has expected PPR point totals of 8.9, 6.7, and 18.1 in games without Joe Burrow. Tee Higgins is at 10.3, 10.2, and 10.8. Both are obviously struggling to meet those expectations given the quarterback situation. It won’t get better against the Steelers’ No. 2 passing EPA defense. Boyd and Higgins max out as WR4s. … Drew Sample’s 5.0 targets per game over the last month are enough for TE3 consideration but nothing more in this tanking offense. … 

The Bengals deployed a three-back rotation in Week 14. Giovani Bernard, who is 64th out of 65 RBs in PFF’s elusiveness rating, finished with just 17 snaps. Samaje Perine (28 snaps) and Trayveon Williams (27) had more run. All are off the redraft radar as 13-point dogs. 

 


Best Bets of Week 15

Visit our live odds page. My all-time record: 85-65-3 (57.2%). 

1. Jaguars vs. Ravens OVER 48.0 - Upwards of 5-7 CBs could be out.

2. Texans vs. Colts OVER 51.0 - HOU missing DBs, Buckner questionable.

3. Bucs (-6) vs. Falcons - Ryan looks washed without Julio.

4. 49ers vs. Cowboys UNDER 45.0 - DAL coaching can't stop SF's slow, run game.

5. Browns vs. Giants OVER 44.0 - NYG missing 2 CBs, CLE missing both Ss.

 

 


Charts of the Week

Week15

This late into the regular season, the good tend to really separate from the bad. This week, there are 10 or so teams in really good offensive spots headlined by the Titans, Rams, Bucs, Bills, Colts, Cardinals, Ravens, and Packers. The Steelers, Chiefs, Raiders, and Chargers are in the next tier. The Bengals and Jets have no must-start fantasy options given their 13.5-point team totals.

 

 

Week15PaATT

Projected volume based on matchup goes overlooked. This chart shows which passing offenses are expected to pass more than normal based on their matchup. The Browns and other teams at the top are expected to pass more than normal this week, while the Cowboys and Steelers are projected to pass less. 

 

 

Week15Passing

The Packers, Titans, Colts, and Chiefs are the best bets for elite passing-game efficiency. All rank inside the top eight in passing EPA, and only the Chiefs face a formidable opponent. On the flip side, the Jets, Patriots, and Bengals offer close to zero hope through the air. 

 

 

Week15RuATT

The Texans and Bills can't run the ball, but they should see more opportunity this week based on their matchups. I'm still not overly hopeful that their running backs separate. This is a week to temper sky-high expectations for the Browns' running backs, although it's not a bad enough spot to lower them much from their season-long baselines. 

 

 

Week15Rushing

There's a clear-cut top five in terms of projected rushing efficiency this week with the Ravens, Patriots, Titans, Saints, and Cardinals leading the way. Derrick Henry is in another smash spot as he looks towards a 2,000-yard season. This could be another get-right spot for Arizona, too.

 

 

Week15Neutral

Eight of the top nine offenses in neutral pass rate over the last month are current playoff teams with the lone exception being the depressing Chargers. After weeks of elite passing rates, it seems that the Seahawks have settled in as a neutral pass rate offense with Chris Carson healthy. 

 

 

Week15Defenses

The top two defenses of Week 15 are the Rams and Steelers. The next tier is a big one with a nice mixture of defenses expected to limit points on the scoreboard and get to the quarterback. I'd sit the Saints and Broncos in favor of one of these teams in season-long formats.