This space will be filled a little differently the rest of the season. Gamers are in the playoffs and inching closer to their championship battles every passing minute.
Instead of the usual format, the focus will be on upcoming statistical matchups for Week 15 and several unheralded players who could be of use and a few notable names with lowered odds of success.
Bravery tends to be rewarded in fantasy, particularly the playoffs. Don’t be afraid to take a big chance — as long as it is an educated one.
22.9 fantasy points: The Philadelphia Eagles have lost Carson Wentz for the season, and his replacement, Nick Foles, needs to be on the short list of fantasy replacements. This week, Philly faces the New York Giants, a defense surrendering 22.9 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks on the year and over the past five weeks.
Takeaway: The likely MVP was carrying fake teams with his league-leading 33 touchdown throws. Owners may feel panic when trying to fill the void, but Foles is a wonderful replacement. He knows this system, has a host of weaponry, and has played at a high level in the past. He won’t be an MVP for fantasy gamers, but Foles can balance a roster and keep a team afloat. This matchup is 13 percent better than average, and guys like C.J. Beathard and Trevor Siemian have eclipsed this points mark vs. the Giants. Don’t fret with Foles in your lineup.
The Detroit Lions present a matchup for tight ends that is 80.8 percent better than average over the past three weeks. This defense has given up five touchdowns to the position in the past four games.
Takeaway: Adam Shaheen, Chicago’s rookie tight end, has taken on a greater role with the loss of Zach Miller earlier in the year. Against the Lions in Week 11, the 6-foot-5, 270-pounder posted a 4-41-1 line against this defense to kick start the flood of scoring over the ensuing month.
Also see: Week 14 fantasy recap
53.8 percent: Through 13 games played, the Tennessee Titans have given up seven fantasy passing efforts of at least 21 points.
Takeaway: Basically every competent passer it has faced has enjoyed success against this secondary in 2017. The guys who couldn’t exploit this unit: Jacoby Brissett (twice), Blaine Gabbert, Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler and Jay Cutler. Jimmy Garoppolo is better than all of these guys, and there is no reason he cannot go for north of the 20.6 league average. He has shown improvement and is only gaining comfort in Kyle Shanahan’s system. Garoppolo has thrown for nearly 630 yards in two starts, and his 49ers host the Titans. While it is tough to make it this far without a capable QB, fantasy owners who lost Carson Wentz should feel comfortable going with Jimmy G.
96 fantasy points: The Buffalo Bills coughed up 130 rushing yards to a 300-year-old Frank Gore in Week 14, which was the second-highest figure surrendered in 2017. However, the uglier reality is the Bills have permitted 16 offensive touchdowns in 13 games to the running back position.
Takeaway: Despite yielding just two 100-yard days over the course of the season, Buffalo easily is the worst defense of the position for limiting fantasy production. This group has given up nearly two rushing scores per game in the last six outings, including matchups with three shaky rushing offenses (NYJ, KC, IND). Fantasy gamers should have no reservations about starting Miami Dolphins back Kenyan Drake. Don’t be shocked if he posts one of the biggest all-around games of the week, but there is a caveat: Look at the forecast first!
The Indianapolis Colts gave up 21.6 fantasy points to LeSean McCoy in Sunday’s snowmageddon game. All season long, Indy has done a respectable job of holding RBs in check, and the only other back with more than 20 fantasy points against them is Derrick Henry after a walk-off TD in Week 6 put him into triple figures.
Takeaway: Denver’s backfield really doesn’t offer much for gamers, but hopeful owners of C.J. Anderson may get the wrong idea and flex him into the lineup in Week 15 based on McCoy’s strong showing. Bear in mind, when a field is covered in snow, the advantage ALWAYS goes to the ball carrier. The guy with the rock knows where he is going, whereas the defender has to react — and rapidly reacting in snow is what leads to slipping and sliding. Anderson ran about 700 times last week for like six yards, and there is always the worry about losing touches in this backfield.
Entering Week 14, the Oakland Raiders had allowed 15.4 fantasy points a game to running backs in the five previous weeks (16.1 percent stronger than average). Kareem Hunt reemerged with 19.8 standard points Sunday, a performance that could compel gamers to start Dallas Cowboys running back Rod Smith this week.
Takeaway: The change-of-pacer has scored in three straight and is coming off a masterful fantasy day. He broke an 81-yard reception for a score, adding a 15-yard rushing TD — both in the fourth quarter against a well-worn Giants defense. He was doubled up in touches by Alfred Morris, and Smith’s yardage total was nearly 100 more than his previous best. Oakland has been statistically sound against running backs most of the year, with a few exceptions vs. Shady McCoy, Hunt, Chris Thompson and Melvin Gordon … two of those guys are probably headed to the Pro Bowl. The point is, Smith might seem awfully tempting on the surface, but wise gamers will at least think twice before blindly starting him.
Cat Scratch Fever: This is merely a feeling, but if gamers have made it this far with Aaron Rodgers in reserve, you have to start him in Week 15 — assuming he indeed returns. The hosting Panthers have been respectable at slowing quarterbacks, but this group also has given up several big fantasy days. There is no way of finding out if Rodgers will be rusty other than the hard way, which makes it so nerve-racking for gamers.
Also see: Week 14 Tunnel Vision
Week 15 wonders: Low-end flex plays who could make a difference include TE Benjamin Watson, RB Austin Ekeler, RB Jerick McKinnon, TE Austin Hooper, WR Danny Amendola and RB Corey Clement.