Week 15 Starts and Sits
Baker Mayfield (vs Cincinnati)
While Baker Mayfield didn’t light the world on fire in week 15, he did enough to be effective and earn a victory in Denver. Mayfield only threw for 188 yards and completed only 58.1% of his passes, but he was able to account for 2 touchdowns in the passing game with only 1 interception (he also lost a fumble). While the slight uptick in turnovers the past week have been concerning, he has shown he is more than capable of producing in fantasy matchups this season. Mayfield gets one of the best matchups in the NFL this week against a Bengals defense allowing an average of 21.2 points per week to quarterbacks. The last time these two faced off, Mayfield had his best game in the NFL, throwing for 258 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions.
Mitchell Trubisky (at San Francisco)
Trubisky continued his steady, unspectacular play in a pivotal matchup against the Packers last week. Trubisky showed his efficiency (20 of 28) while throwing for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns while carrying the ball 3 times for 16 yards. While Trubisky has shown the ability to have high-value games, more likely than not fantasy owners understand he’s just going to provide a solid floor. He gets a chance to build upon his sophomore stats against the 49ers and their 27th ranked defense against quarterbacks (19.6 points per week).
Dak Prescott (vs Tampa Bay), Josh Allen (at New England), Russell Wilson (vs Kansas City)
If you somehow survived the disappointing game from Dak Prescott in week 15, consider yourself lucky. Prescott disappeared against the Colts, throwing for only 206 yards and accounting for 0 touchdowns to 1 interception. It was a rare disappointment for Cowboys offense since the Amari Cooper trade and certainly hurt fantasy players. Prescott is in a prime position to rebound in week 16 against the Buccaneers, a secondary allowing 20.6 points to quarterbacks this season and benefitted greatly from inclement weather in week 15. POP QUIZ: Who is the top fantasy quarterback the last 4 weeks of the NFL season? Answer: Josh Allen. While his numbers throwing haven’t been amazing, he has been doing a ton of damage on the ground. Allen has thrown for at least 1 touchdown in 3 of his last 4 games. He has added a rushing touchdown in 3 of his last 4 games. And he has compiled 465 yards rushing in that same time span. While Allen didn’t face the Patriots in their last matchup due to injury, he does figure to have an opportunity to be productive against a defense allowing 18.5 fantasy points per week. Russell Wilson played his usual solid game despite a surprising week 15 loss to the 49ers. Wilson completed 74.2% of his passes for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns and also carried the ball 5 times for 15 yards. Wilson should be able to have a strong showing against the Chiefs week 16, a team allowing the 3rd most points to fantasy QB’s (20.6 points per week).
Chris Carson (vs Kansas City)
Chris Carson exploded in week 15 to the tune of 22 carries for 119 yards and a touchdown while adding 6 catches for 29 yards against the 49ers. It was an excellent day where Carson truly separated himself from the rest of the backfield in the absence of first-round rookie Rashaad Penny. Carson should be poised to create a repeat performance in week 16 as he draws a matchup against the porous Chiefs run defense, a unit allowing 31.2 points per game (32nd) that just got carved up by 7th round rookie Justin Jackson in week 15.
Marlon Mack (vs NY Giants)
Throughout all of 2018, Marlon Mack has struggled against strong run defenses for fantasy football players. He was finally able to reverse that trend in week 15 against the Cowboys, a team that hadn’t allowed over 20 points to a running back since week 9. Mack carried the ball 27 times, compiling 139 yards and scored twice. He did lose a fumble, but that was the lone downside of his matchup. It stands to reason that Mack can be just as impactful against a Giants defense that is bottom 5 in the league in RB fantasy points (28.9) and has given up less than 20 fantasy points to running backs in a game only twice this season.
Nick Chubb (vs Cincinnati), Joe Mixon (at Cleveland), Kalen Ballage (vs Jacksonville)
Nick Chubb was a solid fantasy option in a down week despite his inability to find the end zone. Chubb carried the ball 20 times for 100 yards but didn’t factor into the passing game (Duke Johnson reemerged for some random reason and had 4 catches). Based on volume alone, Chubb is a must play since you never know when he is going to bust a big, game changing run. Beyond that, he has a phenomenal matchup against the Bengals in week 16, a defense allowing 31.0 points per game to runners (31st in the league) and allowed the Browns to score 32.7 points in their last matchup. On the flip side of things, Joe Mixon has emerged as a player that has to be in fantasy lineups for the rest of the season. The 2nd year RB for the Bengals has really exploded last week as Cincinnati has decided to use the run to help Jeff Driskel. In the past two games, Mixon has carried the ball 53 times for 240 yards (4.5 per carry) and scored 3 times. He’s also added 7 catches for 28 yards. The Browns have been doing better against running backs, but still, allow 26.9 points per week to the position and can give up big runs. Unless you’re a fan of PAC-12 football, you’ve probably never heard of rookie running back Kalen Ballage prior to this week. However, Ballage exploded for 123 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in a matchup against the Vikings strong run defense. Given Miami’s insistence on not utilizing Kenyan Drake (only 1 rushing attempt and 3 receptions in the game) and the potentially season ending injury for Frank Gore, Ballage seems like a big-time candidate to win some teams a fantasy championship. While Jacksonville is strong against opposing runners (20.5 points per week- 5th best this season), they were recently gashed by a large back with downhill speed, something that Ballage possesses.
Ju-Ju Smith Schuster (at New Orleans)
The Steelers got a much-needed win against the Patriots in week 15, but it was done with minimal contributions from JuJu Smith-Schuster. Despite being targeted 10 times by Big Ben, Smith-Schuster was able to only accrue 4 catches for 40 yards. However, you have to have faith in the constant production he’s been seeing. Smith-Schuster has been targeted at least 10 times in 4 of his last 5 games. In that time he has gone over 100 receiving yards 3 times and caught 3 touchdowns. The Saints have been better than their season total (42.6 points per week) indicates the past 3 weeks, but JuJu must be started due to his high volume in this passing offense.
Demaryius Thomas (at Philadelphia)
Demaryius Thomas continues to see his role expand in the Houston offense. He registered his highest target total (8), most receptions (6), and 2nd highest yardage mark (59) against the Jets in week 15. While DeAndre Hopkins is rightfully the top target in Houston, Thomas can be counted on to provide solid statistics complimenting him. The Eagles provide high upside for Thomas considering their rank against wideouts (42.3 points per week) even coming off a surprising effort shutting down the Rams offense on Sunday Night Football.
Robbie Anderson (at Green Bay), Kenny Golladay (at Minnesota), Taylor Gabriel (at San Francisco)
Robbie Anderson has slowly but surely seen his workload increase as the weeks have gone on for the Jets. Anderson has had at least 7 targets in 5 of the last 6 games (with a season-high 11 last week). He had his most efficient game of the season on Saturday against the Texans, catching 7 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. Anderson makes his living as a big play threat, but it is encouraging to see him getting consistent work with Sam Darnold in the fold. He has an excellent opportunity to build upon these encouraging performances with a matchup against the Packers 4th worst defense against wide receivers (38.6) in week 16. I was highly skeptical of Kenny Golladay in week 15 (it cost me a chance at the finals in one of my leagues), but the Lions surprised me by utilizing him as a slot receiver frequently to escape the shadow coverage of Tre’Davious White. In a better matchup, Golladay was able to break out with 7 catches on 8 targets for 146 yards, totals that exceeded his previous 3 games combined. While the Vikings boast a top corner in the form of Xavier Rhodes, it’s very possible the Lions try to utilize Golladay in the slot more to neutralize that matchup and free him up once again, making him a much safer play. Taylor Gabriel has been disappointing the past few weeks, culminating with his 3 catch (3 targets) 33-yard performance on Sunday against the Packers. It is important to note that it is the first time in 5 weeks that Gabriel didn’t garner at least 7 targets, but it is his 3rd consecutive game with only 3 catches. Gabriel is in a prime position to break out for the Bears this week, with Allen Robinson figuring to draw a lot of work against Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon either out or nursing a sprained knee. Given the high level that Sherman has been playing at this season, it’s very likely the Bears gameplan is to avoid him, giving Gabriel an excellent opportunity to get back on track.
Nick Vannett (at Kansas City)
For the 3rd straight week, Nick Vannett was targeted only once by Russell Wilson. He didn’t catch that target and finished with a whopping 0 fantasy points. Despite that disappointing performance, he might be worth giving a shot if you’re desperate in your championship (or semi-final) round given the Chiefs inability to stop opposing tight ends. The Chiefs are the worst team against tight ends in the NFL (16.2 points per week) and just gave up a 6 catch 63 yard performance to the Chargers tight ends (most of that work being done by the ancient Antonio Gates).
Austin Hooper (at Carolina)
Unlike Nick Vannett, Austin Hooper had been highly targeted in the Falcons’ passing offense (at least 5 targets the previous 5 games). Like Nick Vannett, Hooper missed his one target on Sunday. Unfortunately for fantasy players, Hooper is dealing with knee and ankle injuries which limited his effectiveness in a blowout win over the Cardinals. While it’s possible he needs more time to heal, a looming matchup with the Carolina Panthers’ defense provides too good of an opportunity to ignore considering their 15.5 points per week surrendered to tight ends along with their NFL-worst 9 touchdowns given up to the position.
CJ Uzomah (at Cleveland), David Njoku (vs Cincinnati), Jared Cook (vs Denver)
The Uzomah coaster continued to rock in week 15 as Uzomah collected just 1 catch on 5 targets for 27 yards in a much needed Bengal win against the Raiders. Uzomah has been pretty frequently targeted by Jeff Driskel (at least 3 targets in every game he has started), but the yardage totals and touchdowns just haven’t been there. Still, at this point in the season if you’re desperate for tight end help you could hope to catch lightening in a bottle against the Browns 29th ranked defense (15.0) against tight ends this season. Another disappointment, David Njoku, has continued to struggle to find consistency in the new Browns offense with Baker Mayfield. Njoku accounted for only 30 yards on 3 catches (5 targets) on Saturday against the Broncos. Like Uzomah, his matchup his hard to ignore considering the Bengals allow 14.7 points to tight ends this season. After two highly productive weeks (14 catches on 18 targets for 216 yards and a touchdown), Jared Cook came flying back to earth in a plus matchup against the Bengals. He caught only 2 of his 5 targets for 23 yards, a disappointing no-show in what could have been a great game. He looks to rebound in week 16 against a Broncos secondary allowing 14.5 points per game. Last time these teams faced Cook fared well, catching all 4 of his targets for 49 yards in a close Raiders loss.
Cam Newton (vs Atlanta)
Odds are if you’re relying on Cam Newton, your fantasy season is over. In case you found a way to support Cam after another clunker on Monday Night (131 yards and an interception with only 15 rushing yards), now may be time to look for other options. Despite having an extremely favorable matchup (the Falcons are allowing 21.2 fantasy points to quarterbacks per week this season), Cam just doesn’t look healthy and hasn’t been able to show consistency for a couple weeks now. It’s going to be difficult to ignore this awesome matchup, but if your goal is winning your league, it might be time to.
Ben Roethlisberger (at New Orleans)
Big Ben did just enough to get the win against the Patriots on Sunday, throwing for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns with 2 interceptions against the Patriots. On paper a matchup against the Saints seems like a great one, but it’s wise to always be wary of Roethlisberger on the road. Also, the Saints have been much stronger against quarterbacks despite what the numbers say (giving up 20.0 points per week on the season, but only 11.92 since week 11). Make no mistake, this matchup may be one worth avoiding.
Nick Mullens (vs Chicago), Matt Stafford (vs Minnesota), Jared Goff (at Arizona)
In case you get a prize for winning your consolation bracket (or you’re in a 2QB league), I’m here to warn you about using Nick Mullens to win in week 16. Mullens put together a solid game at home vs Seattle in week 15, throwing for 275 yards and a touchdown in the 49ers overtime win. While Mullens has been more than serviceable in his stint as a starter, he should be avoided completely this week against the Bears. Not only do the Bears boast the 2nd best pass defense in the NFL (13.5 points per week), they’ve been on fire lately, allowing only 3 quarterbacks to surpass 13 fantasy points since week 8 and holding Jared Goff and Aaron Rodgers to a combined 13.2 fantasy points the last two weeks. Mullens isn’t either of those guys, which could be a big problem for him on Sunday. It seems like yesterday that Matt Stafford was lighting up the NFL. Injuries and lack of talent have hurt the Lions offense this season as Stafford compiled another subpar performance this past weekend. Stafford only threw for 208 yards (146 to Kenny Golladay) and 1 touchdown. While it was nice to see Stafford post a second consecutive game without a turnover, he just can’t be trusted to be any more than an emergency option at this point. He will face a staunch challenge this upcoming week against a Vikings defense that is allowing only 14.6 weekly points to quarterbacks and have force opposing quarterbacks to have single digit fantasy points the past two weeks. Admittedly, Jared Goff is the quarterback that I could be the most wrong on this week, but it’s just hard to deny that the Rams offense looks completely out of sorts. Despite attempting 54 passes on Sunday against the Eagles, Goff was only able to generate 339 yards with no touchdowns and 2 interceptions against a secondary that still isn’t healthy. Goff has a 1:7 TD:INT ratio the past three weeks against the Lions, Bears, and Eagles. While the Cardinals did get blown out by Atlanta in week 15, they only allowed 231 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air and still boast the 6th best fantasy secondary this season (15.3 points per week).
Adrian Peterson (at Tennessee)
While Adrian Peterson got back on track with his touches against the Jaguars, the results were still underwhelming. Despite 19 carries, Peterson complied only 51 yards (2.7 per carry) and failed to find the endzone. He also caught 2 passes for 20 yards. The Jaguars clearly stacked the box to force Josh Johnson to beat them, and while the strategy didn’t work as intended (given the loss), it did make Peterson’s life difficult. Unfortunately for Peterson, the Titans will most likely employ the same strategy and have had even better success (league best 18.3 points per week to RB’s).
Matt Breida (vs Chicago)
Matt Breida had an underwhelming week (by his standards) carrying the ball 17 times for 50 yards and adding 5 catches for 46 yards in the 49ers overtime game against the Seahawks. Unfortunately, he also aggravated the ankle injury that kept him out of the game in week 14 towards the end of this contest. While Breida has played injured numerous times this season, there is a built in risk trusting a player who just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. It also doesn’t help that this weeks opponent, the Bears, are allowing the 3rd lowest amount of points to running backs (19.1) this season.
Mark Ingram (vs Pittsburgh), Tevin Coleman (at Carolina), Peyton Barber (vs Dallas)
Mark Ingram continued his 2018 trend of putting up solid but uninspiring numbers Monday Night against the Panthers tough run defense. Ingram was able to produce only 63 yards on 12 carries and 11 yards on 2 catches in a slow, plodding Saints victory. As good as the Panthers have been against running backs, the Steelers have actually been better (20.6 points per week compared to 20.9 points per week), meaning fantasy players can expect another low ceiling performance from Ingram. Tevin Coleman showed up to the 2018 season just a few (15) weeks late, but man did he show up with a purpose. Coleman rushed for 145 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. Odds are a majority of fantasy teams missed out on that massive production as there wasn’t much reason to believe Coleman should be doing anything besides riding the bench. It’s very possible Coleman struggles to come close to that performance in week 16 considering the fact that his opponent, the Panthers, are allowing only 20.9 points per week to running backs. From a sheer volume standpoint, Peyton Barber is a tough player to sit on the bench. Barber has logged double digit carries in every week since week 4 against the Bears. However, he has only gone over 100 yards once in that span. His value has recently been boosted by a proclivity to finding the endzone with Barber registering a touchdown in 4 of his last 5 games. Against the 2nd best run defense in the NFL in Baltimore, Barber carried the ball 19 times for 85 yards and a score in a close loss for the Buccaneers. Barber is going to have difficulties finding rushing lanes again this week against the Cowboys, a defense that just gave up a huge game to Marlon Mack, but still has an average of 22.0 points given up to running backs this season. Be wary.
DeVante Parker (vs Jacksonville)
We are a several weeks removed from DeVante Parker emerging as a viable pass catcher in Miami. Against Minnesota, Parker registered 0 targets during the course of the game, even with the Dolphins down big for most of the day. Even if this was an aberration, teams that employ Parker should be wary of his status in week 16 as the Dolphins prepare to take on the Jaguars. Despite their terrible win/loss record, the Jags are the top defense in the NFL against wide outs, allowing only 27.3 points per week to the position while giving up a league low 7 receiving touchdowns on the year.
Mike Williams (vs Baltimore)
Mike Williams was able to show off his explosive potential on Thursday Night Football with the absence of Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen. Williams caught 7 of his 9 targets for 76 yards and 2 touchdowns while also carrying the ball once for 19 yards a touchdown and caught a 2 point conversion. Williams has shown these flashes before, albeit inconsistently. There are plenty of reasons to be cautious before forcing Williams into your week 16 lineup though. For one, early indications are that Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen may return in week 16 with the Chargers having a shot at a divisional title. If this happens, Williams will certainly see his targets go down. Combine this with a matchup against the Ravens 4th ranked defense against wide receivers in fantasy (28.8 points per week), and it’s very possible Williams is a week 16 bust.
Sterling Shepard (at Indianapolis), Josh Gordon (vs Buffalo), Michael Crabtree (vs LA Chargers)
Sterling Shepard has been a very difficult fantasy commodity to figure out in 2018. Without Odell Beckham Jr. in week 15, Shepard commanded 9 targets against the Titans, but only caught 2 of them for 37 yards. It marked another game where everything should have aligned for Shepard to have a big week, but he ultimately disappointed. Shepard is a high-risk play entering week 16 given the fact that Beckham Jr. could return, and the fact that the Colts just held the Cowboys receivers to post a high yardage mark of 45 yards in week 15. Despite a positive matchup, Josh Gordon failed to make an impact in week 15 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Gordon was targeted twice, reeling one in for an insignificant 19 yards. Despite seeing inconsistent targets throughout this season, Gordon had at least been able to post good receiving yardage, but that just wasn’t in the cards this week. Gordon’s job gets even more difficult in week 16 against a stingy Bills secondary that surrenders a 6th best mark of 29.3 points per week to wide outs. Despite showing improved chemistry, Michael Crabtree put up a big goose egg in a fantastic matchup against the Buccaneers in week 15. Granted, the weather situation hindered the passing situations, it was still disappointing to see Crabtree fail to register a statistic in an afternoon of work. The Chargers pose a threat to Crabtree’s productivity as well, averaging 31.7 points per week to wide receivers while holding the Bengals and Chiefs to lower totals the last 2 weeks.
Vernon Davis (at Tennessee)
Despite an opportunity (both in terms of playing time and opponent), Vernon Davis struggled to make a meaningful week 15 impact. Davis corralled 2 of his 3 targets for 16 yards, and worse, lost a touchdown to fellow tight end Jeremey Sprinkle. Davis is a rough week 16 play given the fact that Jordan Reed gets another week to get back to full strength and the Titans are allowing a league best 8.0 points per week to tight ends.
Rob Gronkowski (vs Buffalo)
The stars were aligned for Gronk to finally pay off that draft position for fantasy players who patiently held on to him all season. And then, Gronk fell flat on his face. Against the awful Steelers defense (against tight ends at least), Gronk was on the receiving end of 5 passes, catching 2 of them for 21 yards. If you somehow survived that showing in week 15, Gronk’s matchup doesn’t really get any better considering he faces the 2nd best defense against tight ends this season (8.4 points per week). The Bills also held Gronk to 3 catches for 43 yards in their first matchup.
Jimmy Graham (at NY Jets), Vance McDonald (at New Orleans), Trey Burton (at San Francisco)
Since Aaron Rodgers… I mean Joe Philbin… took over as the Packers head coach, Jimmy Graham has seen 5 targets per game. Unfortunately for teams that count on Jimmy Graham being productive, he has caught only 5 of those 10 attempts for an insignificant 45 yards. Graham just hasn’t been able to disprove the belief that tight ends cannot thrive with Aaron Rodgers. His fantasy floor is low in week 16 with a pending matchup against a New York Jets defense allowing a sparse 8.6 points per week to the tight end position. Who would have thought Vance McDonald would be more “productive” with less targets! McDonald was only targeted three times against the Patriots, collecting 2 of them for 13 yards and a touchdown. It marks his lowest target count since week 8, but also his first touchdown since week 11. It’s been hard to trust McDonald the past few weeks, but it is even more challenging in week 16 with a matchup against the Saints and their 5th best defense against tight ends (9.2) hosting. Much to the enjoyment of the 3 fantasy teams that still utilize Trey Burton, he found the end zone in week 15 against the Packers. Aside from the touchdown, Burton also registered a 4-catch day (on 7 targets) for 36 yards. It was the first time Burton scored since week 9 and his first time with 4 catches since week 12. For all the hype he had preseason, Burton has surely been a disappointment for most fantasy teams and has a chance to continue that troubling trend in week 16 against the 49ers, a defense that’s holding tight ends to just 9.3 points per week this season.