Fantasy Football Playoffs, Week 15: Rankings and Matchups


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David Johnson has excelled as the Cardinals starting running back the last two weeks.

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Matt Kartozian/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Fantasy football analysis for N.F.L. Week 15 games. You can also follow the Sablich brothers on Twitter at @5thDownFantasy and see their complete Week 15 player rankings.

Texans (6-7) at Colts (6-7)

Sunday

1 p.m. Line: Colts by 1

Running Back

Frank Gore (IND) — He had one of his better fantasy performances of the season against the Texans in Week 5 (98/1; 15.8 fantasy points). But that’s not enough to trust him as a midrange RB2, given his overall inconsistency.

Wide Receiver

DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) — His highest receiving yardage total of the season came against the Colts in Week 5 (169, 11 catches). Things are a little less certain with T.J. Yates starting at quarterback for the injured Brian Hoyer, but he is still a pretty safe WR1 play as always.

T.Y. Hilton/Donte Moncrief (IND) — Moncrief has missed practice this week and could miss Sunday’s game. We like Hilton, who caught five catches for 86 yards against the Texans in Week 5, as a solid WR2 this weekend.

Bears (5-8) at Vikings (8-5)

1 p.m. Line: Vikings by 5.5

Quarterback

Jay Cutler (CHI) — The Vikings held Cutler to 211 passing yards and one passing touchdown in Week 8, but his fantasy day was salvaged with an additional rushing touchdown. We don’t like Cutler more than a low-end QB2 in Week 15.

Running Back

Matt Forte/Jeremy Langford (CHI) — After Forte’s 26 touches in Week 13, Langford ended up out-touching him, 14 to 11, last weekend. Forte still had his second touchdown in two games, and the Vikings have been beatable on the ground over the last four games, allowing a back to top 100 yards in three of them and to top 10 fantasy points in each of them.

Adrian Peterson (MIN) — He had 103 yards on 20 carries against the Bears in Week 8. Since then, he has exceeded 20 fantasy points three times and fallen under 10 points once (Week 13, Seahawks).

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Alshon Jeffery (CHI) — He hauled in 10 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown in Week 8, and is coming off his best performance in several weeks (16.7 fantasy points). The Vikings have allowed five touchdowns to receivers over the past three games.

Zach Miller (CHI) — He had 85 yards on five catches last weekend, and scored his fifth touchdown of the season. Expect Cutler to keep looking his way and treat him as a low-end TE1 play against the Vikings.

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The Patriots Rob Gronkowski is expected to be healthier in Week 15.

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George Bridges/Associated Press

Titans (3-10) at Patriots (11-2)

1 p.m. Line: Patriots by 15.5

Quarterback

Tom Brady (NE) — The Titans have yielded the fifth most points to the position (19.9 F.P.P.G.), including a total of eight touchdown passes in the last two games. With Rob Gronkowski looking good at practice this week, Brady should help many a fantasy team advance to the title game.

Marcus Mariota (TEN) — A rare touchdown reception by Mariota was fun, but it could not save his fantasy day. He was held without a touchdown pass against the Jets last weekend. Against a tough Patriots defense that has let opposing quarterbacks score just three touchdown passes in the past four weeks, Mariota is a low-end QB2 with little upside.

Running Back

Brandon Bolden (NE) — He is expected to take over early-down carries now that LeGarrette Blount is out for the season. But given that you can never trust how Coach Bill Belichick will use his backs and that the matchup is not good (15.7 F.P.P.G.; sixth fewest), he is nothing more than a potential flex play.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Julian Edelman/Brandon LaFell/Danny Amendola (NE) — Edelman is practicing and appears to be on track to return, but nothing is certain until game time. We like Amendola as a solid WR2 should Edelman not play.

Delanie Walker (TEN) — Walker saw a season-high 13 targets last weekend, a week after his previous season high of 12. With Kendall Wright expected to miss another game, Walker should continue to be heavily targeted.

Rob Gronkowski (NE) — After a good week of practice, he is expected to resume his regular role as the best tight end in the game.

Panthers (13-0) at Giants (6-7)

1 p.m. Line: Panthers by 5

Quarterback

Eli Manning (NYG) — The wildly unpredictable Manning came up big against the Dolphins (29.3 fantasy points), but will face a much tougher test against the Panthers (13.5 F.P.P.G., second fewest). With an undefeated record on the line, do not expect the Panthers to lay off the gas.

Cam Newton (CAR) — Against the sixth best fantasy matchup for quarterbacks (19.6 F.P.P.G.), fantasy’s second best quarterback has no good reason not to put up elite numbers this weekend.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG) — His impressive late-season run continued in Week 14 with 166 yards and two touchdowns against the Dolphins. Things won’t be as easy against the Panthers (18.9 F.P.P.G., seventh fewest), but we are confident he will find a way to produce WR1 numbers.

Ted Ginn Jr. (CAR) — He has cracked the top 20 in fantasy receiving with five touchdown receptions in the last three games. The chances are good for another against the Giants’ last-ranked pass defense.

Greg Olsen (CAR) — Olsen is practicing in a limited fashion this week. The Panthers could take it easy on him as they look ahead to the postseason, so there is some risk here, but the matchup is great (10.7 F.P.P.G., third most) and there is an undefeated season on the line.

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LeSean McCoy been one of the most reliable fantasy backs this season.

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Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Bills (6-7) at Redskins (6-7)

1 p.m. Line: Even

Quarterback

Tyrod Taylor (BUF) — The Redskins kept Matt Cassel in check two weekends ago, but that doesn’t count for much. In the other three of the last four weeks, they have allowed a total of nine touchdown passes. Talyor is a low-end QB1 in this matchup.

Running Back

Alfred Morris/Matt Jones (WAS) — Jones is a low-end RB2 play against the Bills, who have allowed a back to exceed 10 fantasy points in all but two games this season.

LeSean McCoy (BUF) — He has been one of the most reliable fantasy backs this season, topping 10 points in every game since Week 6. He is a top five RB play against the Redskins’ 24th ranked run defense (121.3 Y.P.G.).

Wide Receiver/Tight End

DeSean Jackson (WAS) — He came back to earth after three straight games with at least 12 fantasy points and a touchdown. He is a WR3 play this weekend against the Bills.

Sammy Watkins (BUF) — He added another touchdown last weekend against the Eagles, his fourth in three games. Consider him a low-end WR1 in a favorable matchup with the Redskins (26.2 F.P.P.G., eighth most).

Jordan Reed (WAS) — After nine catches for 120 yards and a touchdown last weekend, Reed remains a high-end TE play and Kirk Cousins’s favorite red-zone target.

Falcons (6-7) at Jaguars (5-8)

1 p.m. Line: Jaguars by 3

Quarterback

Matt Ryan (ATL) — The Jaguars are surrendering 20.6 F.P.P.G. to opposing quarterbacks, which is the second most. This is a tough spot in which to start the underwhelming Ryan, especially on the road, in season-long leagues, but daily league players may want to consider him.

Blake Bortles (JAC) — He has been as steady as they come, averaging 300 passing yards and an 11-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio over his last three starts. He is a high-end QB1 option against an Atlanta unit that has allowed an average of 20 F.P.P.G. over the last two weeks.

Running Back

Devonta Freeman (ATL) — The Jaguars rank 13th best against the run, and Freeman has not been lighting up the stat sheets of late, but his role in the passing game keeps him in the RB1 conversation.

T.J. Yeldon/Denard Robinson (JAC) Yeldon has not formally been ruled out, but it would be a surprise start as ligament injuries are typically multiweek issues. Robinson finds himself in a great matchup with a Falcons defense that has allowed the third most fantasy points to his position, as well as the most rushing scores.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Julio Jones (ATL) — Jacksonville has been burned through the air of late, having permitted an average of 23 fantasy points to opposing receivers over the last three contests. Jones is set up to bust out in a big way this weekend.

Allen Robinson/Allen Hurns (JAC) — The Jaguars’ duo face the second worst matchup for their position, but Robinson should avoid cornerback Desmond Trufant for most of this one.

Julius Thomas (JAC) Thomas has reached the end zone in four straight games and can be considered a high-end TE1 play against an Atlanta secondary giving up the seventh most points to opposing ends.

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Chiefs receiver Jeremy Maclin faces a Ravens team that has allowed the most fantasy points to the position.

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Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Chiefs (8-5) at Ravens (4-9)

1 p.m. Line: Chiefs by 7.5

Quarterback

Alex Smith (KC) — Smith will not have a better chance of turning in QB1 production than this week, as he takes on the Ravens, who have allowed the third most F.P.P.G. to the position.

Running Back

Charcandrick West/Spencer Ware (KC) — Ware is banged up, and his absence would make West a more usable RB2 against a solid Ravens front that has held opposing backs to under 10 fantasy points in four of their last six games.

Javorius Allen (BAL) — Kansas City’s seventh ranked run defense has permitted the fifth fewest fantasy points to opposing backs this season. Allen is a mid-to-low-range RB2 play this weekend.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Jeremy Maclin (KC) — The Ravens just served up 82 yards and three touchdowns to Seattle’s Doug Baldwin, and 104 yards and two scores to Tyler Lockett. No team allows more fantasy points to the position.

Kamar Aiken (BAL) — Aiken has managed to produce worthwhile WR3 numbers despite his shaky quarterback situation. Use him where needed against a Kansas City defense that has yielded the fourth most points to receivers.

Travis Kelce (KC) — The Ravens are the second worst matchup a tight end can have and Kelce hasn’t cracked the top five in scoring since Week 3. If you have made it this far with him, you are most likely stuck with him, considering the TE1 options available.

Packers (9-4) at Raiders (6-7)

4:05 p.m. Line: Packers by 3

Quarterback

Aaron Rodgers (GB) — The Raiders rank 28th against the pass and have permitted 18 or more standard league points to opposing quarterbacks eight times this year. There is nothing here for Rodgers owners to fear.

Derek Carr (OAK) — Carr has beaten up on weak secondaries this year while performing poorly against the good ones. This defense is considered more of the latter, ranking 10th against the pass and having limited the position to an 11-point fantasy average over the last three weeks. He is tough to trust in a crucial playoff week.

Running Back

Latavius Murray (OAK) — He is not exactly a shoo-in RB2 play this week, but Green Bay has allowed double-digit fantasy points to the position in three of its last four games.

Eddie Lacy/James Starks (GB) — Both Packers backs can be started as needed against a middle-of-the-road Raiders run defense allowing 101.1 Y.P.G.

Wide Receiver

Amari Cooper/Michael Crabtree (OAK) — A tough matchup for the Raiders’ wideouts, as the Packers have held opposing receivers to just one double-digit fantasy performance over their last five starts (eighth worst matchup).

Randall Cobb (GB) — Cobb is coming off his most receptions since Week 2, and is the Packers receiver to trust the most against a weak Raiders secondary that is giving up 271.5 passing yards per game.

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Russell Wilson has been producing at a very high level in recent weeks.

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Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Browns (3-10) at Seahawks (8-5)

4:05 p.m. Line: Seahawks by 16

Quarterback

Russell Wilson (SEA) — The hottest quarterback in football should continue to roll against a deplorable Browns defense that is serving the eighth most fantasy points to quarterbacks this year.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Travis Benjamin (CLE) — It’s not a good week to deploy Benjamin, as he faces Richard Sherman & Co., who have yielded double-digit fantasy points to an opposing receiver just three times all year.

Doug Baldwin/Tyler Lockett (SEA) — At some point it will stop raining touchdowns, but Baldwin remains a WR1 option against a soft Cleveland secondary that has permitted double-digit fantasy points to a receiver in six of its last eight games. Lockett carries WR3 value, having cracked the top 24 three times over the last month.

Gary Barnidge (CLE) — The Seahawks are suspect against the position, as they surrender an average of 9.3 fantasy points to tight ends. Barnidge is the only Browns player worth starting consideration this week.

Broncos (10-3) at Steelers (8-5)

4:25 p.m. Line: Steelers by 7

Quarterback

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) — This is a tough spot for Roethlisberger owners as he faces the league’s toughest pass defense. He’s a low-end QB1 option this weekend.

Running Back

DeAngelo Williams (PIT) — The matchup isn’t ideal against Denver’s third ranked run defense, but Williams has been one of the better matchup-proof options and is impossible to sit.

Wide Receiver

Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders (DEN) — The Steelers have yielded 17 or more fantasy points to a receiver in five of their last eight games. Thomas is a strong start here, while caution needs to be used with the fading Sanders.

Antonio Brown (PIT) — Brown is up against fantasy’s toughest receiving matchup in the business this weekend, but is always a must-start regardless.

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Ryan Tannehill has not been productive in recent weeks and will be difficult to trust on fantasy teams this week.

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Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Dolphins (5-8) at Chargers (3-10)

4:25 p.m. Line: Chargers by 1

Quarterback

Ryan Tannehill (MIA) — He has choked now in two straight favorable matchups, and will be hard to trust as anything more than a midrange QB2 against San Diego’s 13th ranked pass defense.

Philip Rivers (SD) — Rivers is in a boat similar to the Falcons’ Matt Ryan’s this week. Both have been fantasy ghosts of late, but both have cupcake matchups. The Dolphins’ 25th ranked pass defense has surrendered the ninth most points to the position, and 29-point fantasy days to Eli Manning and Ryan Fitzpatrick over the last three games.

Running Back

Lamar Miller (MIA)Miller is a locked in RB1 play this week against a suspect San Diego front that has permitted the fifth most fantasy points to the running opposition.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Jarvis Landry (MIA) — Landry missed practice again on Thursday and is no lock to suit up at this point. He would be a strong WR2 start against a soft San Diego secondary that has allowed double-digit points to a receiver in three straight contests.

Antonio Gates (SD) — Someone has to catch passes in this offense, and it’s good matchup as the Chargers are handing out the eighth most points to tight ends this season.

Bengals (10-3) at 49ers (4-9)

4:25 p.m. Line: Bengals by 4.5

Running Back

Shaun Draughn (SF) — The Bengals rank ninth against the run, and last week marked the first time a back has topped 10 fantasy points against them (DeAngelo Williams, 21) since Williams first did it in Week 8.

Jeremy Hill/Giovani Bernard (CIN) — The 49ers have been a doormat for the position all season, clocking as the second worst run defense in the league, as well as the best running back matchup in all of fantasy. Fire up your Bengals backs where needed.

Wide Receiver

A.J. Green (CIN) — The ceiling is lowered a bit without Andy Dalton playing, but he remains a must-start in a cakewalk matchup against the 49ers’ 27th ranked secondary.

Anquan Boldin (SF) — Cincinnati (12th worst matchup) has held Antonio Brown and Travis Benjamin to under 9 fantasy points over the last two weeks. Toss in a lackluster quarterback in Blaine Gabbert and you have a WR4 ceiling in Week 15.

Cardinals (11-2) at Eagles (6-7)

8:30 p.m. Line: Cardinals by 3.5

Quarterback

Carson Palmer (ARI) — He has topped 20 fantasy points in four of his last five games, three of which were unfavorable matchups. The Eagles are the fourth best matchup for quarterbacks at 20.2 F.P.P.G.

Running Back

DeMarco Murray/Darren Sproles/Ryan Mathews (PHI) — Long story short, Murray has “played” his way (2.7 Y.P.C. last three games) into a time share with Mathews and Sproles. All three are risky flex plays this weekend.

David Johnson (ARI) — He has not disappointed as the Cardinals’ lead back, with 30.3 fantasy points in the last two games. The Eagles have been one of the most favorable matchups for backs since Week 7, allowing a back to top 10 fantasy points in each game. Johnson is an elite RB play.

Wide Receiver

Larry Fitzgerald/Michael Floyd/John Brown (ARI) — Somebody should be catching touchdown passes from Palmer this week, but it’s not easy to predict whom. We do know Fitzgerald hasn’t had one since Week 8 and hasn’t seen a red zone target in the last two games. All three are WR2s in this very favorable matchup (28.7 F.P.P.G, second most).

Lions (4-9) at Saints (5-8)

8:30 p.m. Monday. Line: Saints by 3

Quarterback

Matthew Stafford (DET) — The Saints rank 30th against the pass and are considered the best matchup a quarterback can have. An opposing quarterback has produced 20 or more fantasy points nine times against them this year. Stafford is a high-end QB1 play in this possible shootout.

Drew Brees (NO) — Quality QB1 options in a similar tier have averaged 20.3 fantasy points against the Lions, who have permitted the 12th most fantasy points to the passing opposition as a whole. Brees is a no-brainer QB1 start at home.

Running Back

Tim Hightower (NO) – An expected high volume of use and touchdown opportunities are enough to justify a high-end RB2 start against a beatable Detroit run defense that has yielded the 11th most F.P.P.G. to the position.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Willie Snead/Brandin Cooks (NO) — Detroit has permitted just one double-digit fantasy performance to an opposing wideout over the last five weeks. Cooks is more of a back-end WR2 play after last week’s five-target outing. Snead could be seeing a lot of cornerback Darius Slay if the Lions don’t opt to shadow Cooks with him, but he remains a solid WR3 start with a promising ceiling.

Calvin Johnson/Golden Tate (DET) — Johnson is a top five WR play against the Saints’ 30th ranked pass defense. Tate’s abundance of targets in recent weeks makes him a quality WR2 option as well.

Eric Ebron (DET) — The matchup does not get any better for the position, and he should see an uptick in targets with Brandon Pettigrew sitting out. He is one of the better TE2 dart throws for those who like to live dangerously.

Ben Watson (NO) — A plus matchup (fifth best) and a steady stream of targets firmly plant Watson in the low-end TE1 tier Monday night.



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