Fantasy Football Intelligence: Stayin’ Alive

Congratulations – if you are reading this, you probably won this week or are otherwise still in the hunt for a championship. You probably feel like this guy.

If you are still reading, you are probably not Matthew Berry, me, or 45% of fantasy owners who faded Drew Brees because of the matchup with the 49ers. 349 yards and 6 TDs, boy is it painful to see 40+ points on the bench.

The other side of the coin was MVP candidate Russell Wilson throwing up 245 yards, no TDs and an INT. I’m sure his owners were throwing up too.

UPDATE: Monday Night Football gave us a fantasy football playoff moment that will go down with Todd Gurley’s 4 TDs and 180 yards against Seattle in week 15 in 2017. At the two minute warning last night, the Eagles trailed the Giants 17-10 and games looked all but decided. From that point on, Eagles QB Carson Wentz and TE Zach Ertz scored a TD to tie the game and another to win it in overtime. The late reversal of fortune changed the outcome of many playoff contests, causing equal parts joy and heartbreak across the country.

There were plenty of other ups and downs, and while FFI was wrong on Brees, we were right on Beckham, but this is the time of year to look foward, so without any further adieu, the week 15 recommendations:

Thursday

NYJ @ Baltimore – The Jets actually defend the run fairly well, but don’t have the offense or the consistency to stay with the Ravens. The Ravens dodged a bullet when Mark Andrews’ knee injury was not deemed serious. Expect a comfortable Baltimore win. I’m avoiding all Jets.

Trust: Jackson, Ingram, Andrews, Ravens Defense

Start: Hollywood Brown as an upside WR3. Ravens will throw a bit to loosen up the run.

Options: Darnold, Bell, Anderson, but I would not feel good about any of them.

Sunday

Seattle @ Carolina – Looks like a bounce-back game for Seattle, Carolina has been listless for weeks.

Trust: Wilson (he won’t lay two eggs in a row), Carson (Penny’s injury sets him up for a lot of carries against a bad run defense), McCaffrey (he hasn’t scored in two weeks and is due, and will roll up 100+ yards in his sleep regardless)

Start: Lockett, D.J. Moore

Options: Metcalf, Hollister, Seahawks defense

New England @ Cincinnati – The Pats are on to Cincinnati which is a good thing, but the offense remains troubled. Still, they have more than enough to get a win here and the defense is through it’s toughest stretch.

Trust: Patriots Defense

Start: Edelman, Mixon (brutal matchup, but he has been playing well and volume is there)

Options: Boyd (good chance he sees Gilmore, risky), Brady, White (PPR more than standard)

Tampa Bay @ Detroit – If Winston’s hand allows him to play, which is likely, this will be an entertaining, if not well played game. Mike Evans is unlikely to play with a hamstring injury.

Trust: Golladay, Godwin

Start: Winston, M. Jones

Options: R. Jones, Howard, Perriman (targets available with Evans out)

Chicago @ Green Bay – if you are a Rodgers owner who survived last week, this could be another nail-biter. Green Bay should win at home, but I’d worry about lower than expected scoring.

Trust: Nobody

Start: Rodgers, A. Jones, Adams, A. Robinson

Options: Montgomery, A. MIller, Packers Defense, Trubisky (if you feel lucky)

Denver @ Kansas City – Credit to Denver for playing hard through a rebuilding year. Drew Lock looked great against the Texans and he should have some bright spots here, though KC gets it done at home.

Trust: Kelce

Start: Mahomes (he has underachieved, but if you own him, you start him), Hill, Lindsay, Sutton

Options: Williams (if healthy)/McCoy (if Williams is out), Fant (though it looks like he is injured), Hardman (as good a TD dart throw as any), Lock (if you feel really lucky)

Miami @ NYG – Draft picks and fantasy seasons are at stake here. Flores seems to be making progress with the Dolphins while Shurmur may be coaching out the string. In the Giants favor, it could be Eli Manning’s final home game.

Trust: Barkley

Start: Parker (if cleared from concussion), Shepard, Engram (if healthy)

Options: Fitzpatrick, Slayton, Laird, Gesicki, Tate

Buffalo @ Pittsburgh – Unlikely to produce reliable offensive production, both defenses are solid fantasy options in what will be a hard-fought if not super exciting game. Early word is that Smith-Schuster hopes to get back in the Steeler lineup, further splintering the target total which is unlikely to exceed 25.

Trust: Nobody

Start: Allen (consistent with a high floor), Bills defense, Steelers defense

Options: Singletary (he’s getting touches, but is 4th option at best in red zone), Conner (if healthy)/Snell (if not). All receivers (Brown, Beasley, Smith-Schuster, Washington, Johnson) are risky due to lack of volume.

Houston @ Tennessee – Houston can lock down the division with a win, but Tennessee has played better and more consistently of late. Houston is not great against the run and Tennessee will try to batter them with Derrick Henry. A.J. Brown is only 25% and has 12 catches, 300+ yards and 3 TDs over the last three weeks. If you are missing DaVante Parker, he’s a reasonable fill-in as an upside WR3.

Trust: Watson, Henry, Hopkins

Start: Tannehill (top 5 QB for the last month, 6-1 since taking over as starter), Brown

Options: Fells, Fuller (if healthy)

Philadelphia @ Washington – This game was closer than expected in week 1 and in hindsight was a harbinger of the Eagles season to come. They remain in contention despite themselves and will probably win, though the Skins have battled the last few weeks.

Trust: Nobody

Start: Jeffrey (if healthy – he left MNF game), Eagles defense, Ertz

Options: Wentz, Sanders, )/Peterson (due to Guice injury)

Cleveland @ Arizona – More meaningful for fantasy than the NFL, there will be scoring opportunities here.

Trust: Chubb

Start: Murray, Landry, Njoku (AZ is historically bad at defending TEs and he’s fresh)

Options: Beckham, Kirk, Hunt, Fitzgerald, Drake (though AZ backfield is too crowded to recommend anyone)

Jacksonville @ Oakland – The Jags are heading for a rebuild and the Raiders need to make their last stand at home. Josh Jacobs (shoulder) and D.J. Chark (ankle) are both hurt and their health will have a large bearing on this game so watch the news this week before committing to any of these players.

Trust: Nobody

Start: Jacobs (if healthy), Fournette, Chark (if healthy), Waller

Options: Westbrook (especially Chark is out), Washington (if Jacobs is out), T. Williams is a dart throw.

L.A. Rams @ Dallas – This is an interesting one too. Dallas is skidding and needs to make a stand at home against the rallying Rams. This is one of the few games Dallas will play against a team with as much talent as they have. The Rams are also more creatively coached. This could be a fantasy decider with lots of players having the potential to go off in a game where we should see 50+ points.

Trust: Prescott

Start: Cooper (will he get Ramsey?), Gallup, Elliott, Gurley, Woods, Kupp

Options: Higbee, Goff

Atlanta @ San Francisco – Atlanta is playing like professionals despite a disappointing season, but the 49ers are in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed and they won’t let up at home. The running game is too disbursed to have a reliable fantasy performer, but this is a good matchup for Jimmy G. Ridley is done for the year, so the Niners will be able to focus more attention on Jones and Hooper, though Richard Sherman will not be playing.

Trust: Kittle

Start: 49ers Defense, Sanders, Jones, Hooper

Options: Garoppolo, Ryan, Freeman, Mostert (limited touches), Samuel

Minnesota @ L.A. Chargers – This will be closer than the records indicate – the Chargers have played close games all year before blowing out Jax last week. They are getting healthy probably too late to get to the dance, but on time to ruin some dreams and hopefully save Anthony Lynn’s job. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset here. Cousins could disappoint.

Trust: Cook

Start: Diggs, Allen, Henry, Gordon, Ekeler

Options: Cousins, Rudolph, Thielen (if healthy)

Monday

Indianapolis @ New Orleans – The Saints look to rebound against a defense that was shredded by Jameis Winston so get Brees in there and hope he doesn’t regress to the mean this week. Indy’s playoff hopes hang by a thread so we should get a good game. Hilton remains out.

Trust: Thomas

Start: Brees, Kamara, Cook (if healthy)

Options: Mack, Pascal, L. Murray, Doyle, Saints defense, Brissett