So you've gotten all the way here. You fought through the gauntlet that is the regular season of your fantasy football league and made it to the playoffs. Well, there's no time to lick your wounds and admire your battle scars just yet because the tough stuff is just getting started! And after another injury-ridden week just wrapped up, we're here to provide you with a few plays in Week 15 that might just help you get to the next round and to that all-important Fantasy Football Championship. Listen up!
1. T.J. Yates (QB, HOU)
Owned in only 1% of Yahoo fantasy leagues, Yates should be available in all but the deepest and darkest leagues out there and his game in Week 11 against the Jets was a little worrisome (due to his 47.1% completion average) but he has not had any issue connecting with the outstanding DeAndre Hopkins (5 receptions for 118 and 2 TDs in that same game). Up against the Colts in Week 15's match-up, Yates should have a little easier of a time against their 7th worst passing defense which is allowing an average of 18.5 fantasy points to opposing QBs. It's virtually a lock that Brian Hoyer is out at this point having sustained 2 concussions in the past month and I like this garbage time dice roll.
2. Bryce Brown (RB, SEA)
When do you pick up and immediately start a player with 0 fantasy points total in 2015 that is only 3% owned in Yahoo fantasy leagues? This week, that's when. It's completely true that Brown is susceptible to fumbles and is not the smartest player on the block by a long shot. In fact, he was long since waived from the Seahawks (twice) when they had thought their RB situation was in order. In a surprising move, Seattle just recently waived fill-in starter DuJuan Harris (who plodded along last week when Thomas Rawls was injured) and so it looks like Bryce Brown will be given the work in Week 15. He's an explosive player who has gone off before, and he has a tasty match-up this week against the Browns' 10th worst rushing defense in the league (averaging 17.4 points per game to opposing RBs).
3. Markus Wheaton (WR, PIT)
A lot of fantasy player have been dropping the 29% owned Wheaton, after he failed to follow up his 26+ point performance against Seattle in Week 12 with similarly large numbers going forward (11 in Week 13, 6.5 in Week 14). To me, this is just not how it works with Wheaton. We shouldn't expect big numbers from him on a regular basis, but he does tend to shine when the other, more targeted receivers on the Steelers (Antonio Brown & Martavis Bryant) are being shadowed in good coverage. The Broncos are easily the league's best passing defense in 2015, but it's not hard for me to see an uptick in Wheaton's fantasy production this week when Roethlisberger has some issues getting the ball out.
4. Will Tye (TE, NYG)
Tye is owned in just 9% of leagues and he has been consistently good since Larry Donnell sustained a neck injury. Now with Donnell officially out for the rest of the season on IR, Tye should be feeling even more confident in his role on the offense. Seems like every season there is some other Giants' tight end that excels in the last few weeks of the year. Looks like it's Tye's chance to shine! Yeah, the Panthers' defense is fantastic but I expect a serviceable game at least from Tye in Week 15 as Manning's dump-off target when he is being blitzed. And he will be blitzed. Good chance he slips into the top 10 TE's this week.
I also like: Albert Wilson (WR, KC), and Zach Miller (TE, CHI) as great pickups this week with the opportunity to score - Wilson in much deeper leagues.
That's right, in most fantasy football leagues Week 16 brings us to the championship game, and if you're lucky enough to be involved in your league's final match-up you'll likely need to do some fishing on the waiver wire. If the injuries we've seen in the past few weeks are any indication, a lot of squads are hobbling in to this final fantasy confrontation and it could be these last few waiver picks that determine who brings home the trophy. This week we'll look at two picks for each major offensive position (QB, WR, RB & TE) - one well-known guy (owned in 30% or less Yahoo leagues) and one under-the-radar guy (10% or less).
Kirk Cousins (QB, WAS) 25% Owned, @PHI - Cousins and the Washington Redskins' offense have really stepped it up in recent weeks and it shows in Cousins' fantasy production. He has steadily increased his passing yardage over the past 3 games (219, 200, 319) and just threw 4 TDs against the Bills last week. During that time he has only thrown 1 interception. Going up against an Eagles defense that gives up 18+ fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, Cousins is a great play if he's available.
SLEEPERBlaine Gabbert (QB, SF) 3% Owned, @DET - Gabbert is a tough start, but if you're scraping the bottom of the QB barrel, here's what you have to work with! Based on his starts this season, he has a floor of about 13 points, but there is some upside there when playing against defenses susceptible to the pass such as the Bears. The Lions defense is only slightly better on the year against QBs, which bodes well for Gabbert this week. I'm predicting 15 points here.
Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, TEN) 23% Owned, vs. HOU - Green-Beckham has improved this season, and is being rewarded with a steady increase of targets culminating in 9 just last week against New England's stingy secondary. Based on his heavy usage we're looking at a guy who will get enough opportunities to be fantasy relevant this week, but still has a floor of just 4 or 5 points. A risky start that could pay off big dividends.
SLEEPERDontrelle Inman (WR, SD) 8% Owned, @OAK - Inman has shown sporadic bursts of production this year, but it's definitely tough to trust an inconsistent 2nd year receiver on a wounded team that has already given up on the season. Thankfully, the Chargers pulled together a win last week over the Dolphins, and Inman will have another good match-up against the Raiders who are allowing almost 20 points to opposing WRs. At this point, Inman, Gates and Woodhead are the only healthy options on the offense, expect them all to have at least serviceable outings.
Bilal Powell (RB, NYJ) 21% Owned, vs. NE - Powell has been impressive over the past few weeks, doing well on the limited carries that he is given but capitalizing on his utilization as a passing down back. Especially against an opponent like the Patriots, Powell should be called upon often as a checkdown target and should have ample opportunities to get in for a touchdown. A better play in PPR leagues, but still very relevant down the stretch in standard scoring leagues.
SLEEPER Steven Jackson (RB, NE) 2% Owned, @NYJ - I know, I know.. he was just signed by the Patriots - could Jackson possibly be a viable fantasy option at this most crucial of times during the fantasy season? Well, short answer is yes. Bolden was not running the football well last week and it's more than likely that Jackson's signing was an indication that there needed to be a veteran presence at the position, and one that could see immediate time on the field. So, are you feeling lucky?
Will Tye (TE, NYG) 10% Owned, @MIN - For some reason, no one seems interested in picking up Tye and playing them on a weekly basis. Not sure why, because he really has performed well over the past few weeks including 2 TDs in the last 2 match-ups. He averages about 6 targets per game since Larry Donnell was injured! I'm considering him a borderline TE1 yet again against the Vikings in Week 16 and would have absolutely no hesitation starting him if I didn't have one of the top weekly options already.
SLEEPER Vance McDonald (TE, SF) 6% Owned, @DET-McDonald had two big weeks earlier this season, but a concussion forced him off the field in Week 13 against the Bears. His first game back was just last week against the Bengals, which proved to be a disappointing effort, but it was also a bad week for the 49ers offense in general. Talk about under the radar, nobody is expecting a big performance from McDonald this week but I think he'll have a few receptions and a TD which makes him a great play! (Interesting tidbit: The Lions defense has given up a league-leading 11 TDs to tight ends so far in 2015).
Alright, fantasy football fans - it's that time again; time to dig through the waiver wire to unearth some guys that were borderline draftable earlier this Summer but are quickly clawing to the top of their respective position, and some that could even be every-week starters down the road. Just remember, though, for every Victor Cruz or Devonta Freeman there are countless other players that will inevitably fade back into fantasy obscurity. My advice to you is not to be timid, but be brave with your waiver picks each week and always keep a few guys on the bench with the upside to help get you to that all-important league championship this year.
Note: all waiver picks listed here will have only been owned in 40% or less of Yahoo leagues at the time of publication.
Quarterback Week 1 Waiver Wire Pickups
Joe Flacco (BAL) - 18% owned
Flacco only put up 258 yards and 1 touchdown last week against the Bills, but he looked fully recovered from his ACL injury and connected several times to Mike Wallace including a 66-yard touchdown. He'll be heading up the Ravens' pass-happy offense in Week 2 against a Cleveland Browns team that gave up 278 yards and 2 touchdowns to the Eagles' rookie QB, Carson Wentz. A good streaming, or 2 QB option to consider.
Running Back Week 1 Waiver Wire Pickups
Theo Riddick (DET) - 36% owned
Riddick was on fire Sunday against the Colts, scoring 2 touchdowns and racking up 108 all-purpose yards (most of which came on his 5 receptions). We've been hearing good things about Riddick and his role (along with Abdullah) on this Lions' offense this season, but it pays to temper expectations and to realize that the Colts' defense looked terrible out there. This kind of production cannot be expected on a week-to-week basis, therefore, but Riddick will get enough touches to maintain his value for the immediate future.
Wide Receiver Week 1 Waiver Wire Pickups
Eli Rogers (PIT) - 8% owned
Rogers caught 6 of 7 targets on Monday night for 59 yards and 1 touchdown. Very much a slot player, we can't expect Rogers to be lining up on the outside or getting many red zone targets. His touchdown, in fact, was actually the result of a throw to Sammie Coates that bounced into Rogers' waiting arms. Incumbent receiver Markus Wheaton also looks to get back on the field soon, limiting Rogers' targets further. There is a lot of potential for Rogers in Pittsburgh, however, as he builds good chemistry with Roethlisberger and OC Todd Haley is already enamored with his play.
Nelson Agholor (PHI) - 5% owned
Agholor had a bad start in the NFL last year, having been drafted as a first-rounder but only ending up scoring 1 touchdown all season. It's possible that some combination of rookie jitters and unstable management and play-calling contributed to a disappointing 2015. Rookie QB Carson Wentz looked to Agholor 5 times on Sunday which resulted in 4 receptions for 57 yards and 1 touchdown. Many experts were down on the Eagles' offense this year, but they are just humming along regardless of popular opinion. Granted they played the Browns in week 1, but going up against Chicago and then Pittsburgh in weeks 2 and 3 should still offer plenty of opportunities to exploit the secondary.
Tight End Week 1 Waiver Wire Pickups
Kyle Rudolph (MIN) - 18% owned
Rudolph caught 4 of his 8 targets for 65 yards on Sunday. Rudolph has always been a talented tight end, and the main problem here is trying to predict the continued volume of targets going his way as the season progresses. The Vikings usually have a conservative approach to the passing game and that shouldn't change when Sam Bradford takes over under center (possibly week 2), so conventional wisdom tells us that Rudolph should continue to receive opportunities in this offense.
Defense Week 1 Waiver Wire Pickups
New York Jets (@BUF) - 37% owned
The Jets played well last week and look to continue in week 2 against an anemic Buffalo offense that now has #1 WR Sammy Watkins questionable from week-to-week with lingering foot pain. Shaping up to be a good play once again, the Jets should score 8-10 points in a standard scoring league.
Deeper League / Sleeper Picks
Jeremy Kerley (SF, WR), Jack Doyle (IND, TE)
Kerley looks locked into being the go-to target in a quick offense and should continue to pile up passes and opportunities. Doyle scored 2 touchdowns on Sunday, but he will likely prove to be an inconsistent value in fantasy due to the presence of Dwayne Allen and all of the other mouths to feed in Indianapolis.
Two weeks of football are now behind us in this young season and injuries impacting the fantasy playing field are already starting to pile up. I know this first hand after getting burned by early game injuries to Jonathan Stewart and Arian Foster just to name a few! Regardless of if you've been unfortunate to lose key players on your fantasy team to injury or not, this advice is geared to help better position yourselves with waiver picks for both the short and long term.
Note: all waiver picks listed here will have only been owned in 50% or less of Yahoo leagues at the time of publication.
Ryan Tannehill (MIA) - 29% owned - Tannehill was involved heavily last week against the Patriots, netting 389 yards and 2 TDs on 45 pass attempts while also adding another 35 yards on the ground from 6 carries. With Foster's status up in the air for week 3 you should expect similar results from Tannehill against a beatable Cleveland defense.
Honorable mention: Joe Flacco (BAL) - 29% owned
Jerick McKinnon (MIN) - 24% owned - It's been announced that Adrian Peterson suffered a torn meniscus in week 2 which should leave him sidelined this coming week if not longer. This makes McKinnon a must add as the favorite for early down work in the Vikings backfield. The only downside is history has shown McKinnon will lose goal-line touches to Matt Asiata which limits his touchdown potential.
Fozzy Whittaker (CAR) - 5% owned - After Jonathan Stewart injured his hamstring last week Whittaker entered the game and put up 100 yards rushing on 16 carries while adding another 31 yards on 3 receptions. Stewart is expected to miss either one or two games with his injury which makes Whittaker a good bet to start while he is sidelined. The matchup isn't ideal against a tough Vikings defense, but if you are in a bind and need a starting running back for the week Whittaker is available.
Honorable mention: Matt Asiata (MIN) - 2% owned
Tyrell Williams (SD) - 48% owned - Williams looks to be the number two passing option in San Diego after the season ending injuries keep piling up to the Chargers skill players; Danny Woodhead was the latest victim after they already lost Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson. As long as he can avoid the injury curse going around he is a good bet for week to week fantasy production on a pass happy team with a terrible defense.
Victor Cruz (NYG) - 37% owned - Cruz has been showing signs of life after missing the last season and a half from a patellar tendon tear, putting up 8 catches on 12 targets for 125 yards and a touchdown. I still think he needs to show a little more before I would trust him in my line up, but I also think this is the week to invest and put a waiver claim since it could pay off big if he can return to his old form.
Dennis Pitta (BAL) - 11% owned - Pitta has had an extremely injury-riddled career but he is healthy (for the moment) and looks to have a big role in the Ravens offense after grabbing 9 receptions for 102 yards on 12 targets. This type of volume would put him in the weekly TE1 conversation if it were to continue so he's worth a grab.
Honorable mention: Jacob Tamme (ATL) - 6% owned
Miami Dolphins (MIA) - 7% owned - The Dolphins defense are an interesting streaming play this week since Cleveland is forced to start their rookie 3rd string quarterback Cody Kessler. History shows Kessler is likely to make mistakes in his first start which means Miami is a good bet to rack up fantasy points
We're joined by fantasy football veteran and former drinkfive.com contributor Vince Foss as we discuss the very best plays moving forward into championship week. We'll analyze the matchups and go over recent NFL news and updates that can impact the production of your players.
For Fantasy Football team managers, playing in week 15 is all about making the right starts to get to the championship. Whether you fought hard to get into the playoffs from the bottom of the league or coasted into a bye spot early on, everyone is on an even playing field and (in most cases) only has one shot.
We'll be paying special attention to the players that you should and shouldn't start in week 15 and what matchups to keep in mind should you make the championship game in Week 16. We're joined by regular guest and drinkfive.com contributor Mike Mocerino.
Welcome back! We're joined this week by fantasy football veteran Matt Ellis to discuss the best starts moving forward into Week 13. This is the last week of the regular season of most fantasy football leagues, so put your best foot forward!