Week 15. The Semi-Finals.
It’s the week you’ve worked for all season. You win one game this week, and you earn a chance to play for the championship. We don't like to get too cute come playoff time, but taking a chance on a high-ceiling player could help you win your league. There could be a player in free agency or that’s been on your bench all season that could be a league winner, so don't be afraid to take a chance.
And while this is the biggest game of your season, don't hesitate to look ahead to next week. This is fantasy football we’re talking about, not the NFL. Take a quick peak at the top defensive units (*cough* Cleveland *cough*) for next week, as well as a player who could return from injury in time for championship weekend (George Kittle *wink*). Remember, your goal is to win it all, so make a move or two that will help you do so.
As we hope to get to championship weekend, Week 15 is the biggest must-win game of the season. So, let’s go win it:
Ryan Tannehill vs Detroit
Despite Derrick Henry’s late season surge, Tannehill has still been extremely efficient and has thrown five touchdowns over his last two outings. While Henry again should feast against Detroit’s horrid run defense, Tannehill should have chances to score fantasy points — even if he attempts under 30 passes. The Lions have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points and 29 touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks.
Kirk Cousins vs Chicago
Cousins failed to throw for multiple touchdown for the first time since Week 9 last week in a tough matchup against Tampa Bay. While it appears he has another tough matchup against Chicago on tap, Cousins threw for nearly 300 yards and two scores against them back in Week 10. The Bears defense hasn't performed as well down the stretch, and Cousins will get the advantage of playing them at home — where he has averaged over 25 fantasy points per game this year.
More Starts: Phillip Rivers vs Houston, Jalen Hurts at Arizona
Tua Tagovailoa vs New England
Bill Belichick has dominated rookie quarterbacks throughout his career. He again proved the narrative true when the Patriots held Justin Herbert out of the end zone for the first time in his career two weeks ago. As for Tua, who is coming off a three touchdown performance, he’ll most likely be without top targets DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, Jakeem Grant and Myles Gaskin. Tua is best left sidelined against the New England defense which has allowed the third-fewest points to quarterbacks on the year.
Matt Ryan vs Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers defense has been bad the second half of the season against fantasy quarterbacks, but we’ll repeat something we’ve stated in past previews: Matt Ryan cannot be trusted when Julio Jones does not play. Ryan averages almost 11 fewer points per game when Jones, who was claimed as “week-to-week” Wednesday, is out. In Atlanta’s last four games, Ryan has also struggled, throwing six interceptions to just four touchdowns.
More Sits: Cam Newton at Miami, Baker Mayfield at New York Giants
Sleeper: Jared Goff vs Jets
Goff has been a tough trust of late. As the Rams running back committee have become a more vital part of LA’s offense, Goff has scored over 17 fantasy points in just two of his last eight games. If you are willing to gamble, Goff now has a date against a Jets defense that has been horrible against the pass this season. Opposing quarterbacks have thrown 28 touchdown passes and scored the second-most points against New York this year.
Jonathan Taylor vs Houston
Taylor’s rookie breakout is here, as he has now ran for over 90 yards and posted 68.4 total fantasy points over the last three weeks. Taylor should have no issue continuing his hot streak this week against the Texans. Houston’s run defense has allowed 17 touchdowns and the second-most fantasy points to the position this season.
Mike Davis at Green Bay
With Christian McCaffrey looking unlikely to play again, Davis should be back in lineups against Green Bay. Davis had a big game last week, as his 31.4 percent touch share translated into two scores. He also caught five passes, the most in a game since Week 9. This week, Davis should remain in his featured role against a Packers’ defense that has given up 18 total touchdowns and the fifth-most fantasy points to runners.
More Starts: Ravens Running Backs vs Jacksonville, Josh Jacobs vs Los Angeles Chargers
Ezekiel Elliot vs San Francisco
Dealing with a calf injury, Elliot ran for just 48 yards against the Bengals miserable run defense last week. He has a much tougher opponent on deck this week, as San Francisco has allowed the fifth-fewest points to enemy rushers. To make matters worse, Tony Pollard has continued to see more and more work on offense — so leave Zeke sidelined if possible.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire at New Orleans
Edwards-Helaire saved his fantasy day last week by hauling in five passes. The rookie ran 16 times for 32 yards, as he has now been held under 50 rushing yards in six of his last eight games. Edwards-Helaire continues to see a high touch share, but has struggled to produce. Continuing to struggle this week should be no surprise, as the New Orleans defense has allowed just one opposing running back to score against them at home. On the year, the Saints defense ranks in the top two in rushing yards per game allowed, yards per carry allowed, and rushing touchdowns allowed.
More Sits: Falcons Running Backs vs Tampa Bay, Damien Harris at Dolphins
Sleeper: Jeff Wilson Jr. at Dallas
Jeff Wilson has the potential to be a league winner these next two weeks. With Raheem Mostert (ankle) banged up and not practicing, Wilson would be in line to lead the San Fran back field. This week, Wilson and the Niners will face a Cowboys defense allowing 133 rushing yards per game to opposing running backs. On the season, runners have averaged nearly 25 fantasy points per game against Dallas, so fire up Wilson with confidence if Mostert is ruled out.
T.Y. Hilton vs Houston
After a brutal first 11 weeks of the season, Hilton has been one of the best receivers in the league the past three games. Since Week 12, T.Y. has eclipsed the 80-yard mark in every game, while scoring four touchdowns and ranking third in fantasy points among receivers (22.9 PPG). Hilton will now matchup against Houston, who’s allowed 18 touchdowns and the ninth-most points to wideouts. Against the Texans two weeks ago, Hilton posted a 8/110/1 line — his best outing of the season — so keep him in your lineups.
Cole Beasley at Denver
Beasley was not able to replicate his career Week 13 outing last week, but still saw double digit targets for the third time in four games. With John Brown likely to remain out, Beasley should again play a pivotal role in the Bills passing offense. He should have plenty of targets available to him against the Broncos’ average pass defense.
More Starts: Marvin Jones Jr. at Tennessee, Nelson Agholor vs Los Angeles Chargers
Tyler Lockett at Washington
As we stated, we don't like to get too fancy come playoff time, but sometimes you do have to take chances. Lockett has been up-and-down all season as he has not recorded more than 70 receiving yards since his 200-yard explosion in Week 7. He’ll now face the Washington Football Team’s defense that has been dominate of late, allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts. Lockett will always have a high ceiling, but his floor is lower than usual this week. Proceed with caution.
Jamison Crowder at Los Angeles Rams
Crowder’s target total has drastically dropped of late, and after three straight 100-yard games to open the year, Crowder has been held under triple digit yardage for six straight games. He’ll now face the red-hot Rams defense that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this year.
More Sits: Bengals Wide Receivers vs Pittsburgh
Sleeper: Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs Carolina
After allowing Drew Lock to toss four touchdowns last week, Aaron Rodgers should have similar success against the Panthers defense. That should mean plenty of opportunities for the Packers’ wideouts, including Valdes-Scantling. MVS’ production has been spotty all year, but he did find the end zone on six targets last week. Despite the shaky production, he continues to see a fair share of targets from Rodgers on the year, which could lead to a strong performance in a plus-matchup.
Robert Tonyan vs Carolina
As we just stated, Rodgers and his weapons should have plenty of success against the Panthers this week. That is good news for Tonyan, who has now scored four touchdowns in his last four games. Finding the end zone again this week should be no surprise, as the Panthers have allowed six scores to tight ends this year (and an average of nearly 15 points per game).
Jared Cook vs Kansas City
After taking a firm stand against Jared Cook with Taysom Hill under center, Cook has rebounded nicely the past two weeks. After hauling in three passes in four weeks, Cook has posted back-to-back three catch games with a score in each. He’ll now face Kansas City in a potential shootout, who has struggled against tight ends of late. Over the last four weeks, the Chiefs have allowed four scores and a 100-yard outing to the position. Cook should have a chance to continue his success.
More Starts: Evan Engram vs Cleveland, Logan Thomas vs Seattle
Dallas Goedert at Arizona
Goedert’s play time has slightly decreased since Zach Ertz returned from the injured reserve. Goedert also had his worse statistical game since Week 9 with Jalen Hurts under center last week, catching just four passes for 43 yards. A similar stat line could be in the cards this week against the Cardinals, who have not allowed a tight end to pass the 53-yard mark this season.
Dalton Schultz vs San Francisco
Schultz fell below his steady floor last week, catching all three of his targets for 34 yards. His steady target total has not lead too much production, as Schultz has been held to under 60 receiving yards in nine straight games. The last three games, the tight end hasn't recorded more than 45 yards or 8.5 fantasy points. Another low output for Schultz would be no surprise this week, as San Fran has allowed the least amount of points to the position.
More Sits: Austin Hooper at New York Giants, Jonnu Smith vs Detroit
Sleeper: Irv Smith Jr. vs Chicago
After missing two games with a back injury, Smith returned last week to catch all four of his targets for 63 yards and a score. He’ll now face a Bears’ defense that has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to the position over the last four games. If Kyle Rudolph (foot) is too miss another week, Smith would be a viable streamer option.
Patriots Play of the Week
WR Jakobi Meyers
Realistically, avoid all Patriot offensive players if possible. But, if you are desperate or enjoy rooting for a Patriot during your games, Meyers should be the best bet. Despite the Patriots’ poor passing game performances of late, Meyers has continued to see a steady dose of targets. To provide some more optimism, Miami’s biggest fantasy weakness on the year has been to the wide receiver position.
That is all for this week’s preview. If you have any additional questions regarding your lineup, specific players, or strategies going forward, leave a comment below or reach out on Twitter @iambrianhines. As always, I’m rooting for you!