Week 15 Starts and Sits
Derek Carr (at Cincinnati)
In a strange twist of fate, Derek Carr has somehow become fantasy relevant the past few weeks. It has been 8 weeks since Carr has thrown an interception. He has thrown for multiple touchdowns in 3 of the last 4 weeks. And after a two-game stretch with less than 200 yards passing, Carr has thrown for 285 and 322 yards his past two games in easy matchups (Kansas City and Pittsburgh). In week 15, he faces the Bengals secondary that is getting torched this season to the tune of 21.8 fantasy points per week (31st in the NFL).
Philip Rivers (at Kansas City)
Philip Rivers was able to move the ball efficiently against the aforementioned Bengals, but the missing Melvin Gordon reared its ugly head in the red zone as Rivers had his first game of the season with a single touchdown pass. Odds are Rivers will be without Gordon (and possibly Austin Ekeler) in a Thursday night tilt against the Chiefs, but he is a must start as Kansas City is the 5th worst defense against the pass (20.8 points per game). In a week 1 matchup, Rivers threw for 424 yards and 3 touchdowns against this same defense.
Lamar Jackson (vs Tampa Bay), Cam Newton (vs New Orleans), Baker Mayfield (at Denver)
Lamar Jackson put together his best passing performance of his starting career against the Chiefs, throwing for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns in an overtime loss to Kansas City. However, Jackson missed the final two snaps of the game with an ankle injury, putting his week 15 in doubt. If Jackson does play he gets a fantastic matchup against the 4th worst defense against passers this season (20.9 points per week). If Jackson doesn’t play, insert Baltimore’s starting quarterback’s name this week in the space above. As a fantasy player rostering Cam Newton (in multiple leagues at that), I understand how difficult it has been playing him the last few weeks (4 interceptions against the Buccaneers followed up by a 0 touchdown performance against Cleveland). However, you have to ride the wave with Cam no matter how inhibited his abilities are by an injured shoulder. On top of decent yardage performances through the air, Newton is still showing a proclivity for running, carrying the ball at least 5 times per game the last three weeks and producing at least 20 rushing yards in each performance. He gets the benefit of an extra day of rest this week and faces the 3rd worst defense against quarterbacks in 2018 (21.2 points per week). Baker Mayfield performed admirably in a surprise win against the Panthers, completing 18 of 22 passes for 238 yards and an impressive 51-yard throw to a double covered Jarvis Landry in the 2nd quarter. While the matchup against the Broncos seems to be difficult on paper, he faces a defense that is missing Chris Harris and lost another corner (Issac Yiadom) during the first half against the 49ers. They have a shot of giving up more than their average (16.7 points per game) in an offense that has been clicking the last several weeks.
Doug Martin (at Cincinnati)
Doug Martin was able to produce a viable fantasy day in a seemingly poor matchup against the Steelers in week 14. Thanks to the Raiders offense being able to keep the game winnable, Martin was able to get 16 carries for the game, producing 32 yards and a touchdown on the ground. While the yardage totals aren’t great, Martin did score for the 3rd week in a row. He draws a much more favorable matchup in week 15. The Bengals are the worst team against running backs (32.2 points per game) and don’t have an offense that is capable of blowing teams out, which means Martin should be on the field for most of the afternoon.
Justin Jackson (at Kansas City)
Fantasy players flocked to the waiver wire to pick up Justin Jackson in week 14, and were undoubtedly disappointed with his 7 carries for 12 yards and 2 catches for 23 yards in a great matchup against the Bengals. Unfortunately for Jackson, Austin Ekeler got most of the work and was able to produce. However, Jackson may be worth keeping around (and starting!) week 15 given the running back injury landscape this week. For starters, the Chiefs are allowing 31.7 points to running backs this season (31st in the NFL). Secondly, as of this moment, it seems that Melvin Gordon will get a second week of rest and Austin Ekeler may be limited (or won’t even play) due to a stinger he suffered combined with a short week of rest. Even if Ekeler does go, it stands to reason that Jackson should be able to carve out a most significant role this week.
David Johnson (at Atlanta), Phillip Lindsay (vs Cleveland), Ito Smith (vs Arizona)
If you’re still in the playoffs and drafted David Johnson in the first round, you deserve a hearty pat on the back. In what seemed to be a great matchup, Johnson underwhelmed, producing 49 yards on 15 carries and only 12 yards on 8(!!!) catches. The good news is if you survived to the semifinals Johnson is a must play as he gets an even better matchup in week 15 against a Falcons defense that hasn’t figured out how to stop running backs (30.6 points per week), allowing 15 total touchdowns (11 rushing/4 receiving) on the season. We’ve become so accustomed to great things from Phillip Lindsay that it seems absurd that he could find a way to let fantasy players down, but that’s exactly what happened against the 49ers. Lindsay carried the ball 14 times for 30 yards and a touchdown while also catching 4 passes and adding 21 yards receiving. While these numbers are far from encouraging, Lindsay benefits from a much better week 15 matchup against the Browns (27.9 points per week), a team that just allowed Christian McCaffrey to run wild in week 14. My dart throw of week 15, Ito Smith has been seeing his role grow larger and larger for a Falcons’ offense looking to generate a spark amid a lost season. Smith led the way against the Packers, carrying the ball 11 times for 60 yards and adding 3 catches for 14 yards. More importantly, Smith has now out-touched the disappointing Tevin Coleman for the 2nd consecutive week. If this trend holds true, Smith has some sneaky upside in week 15 against the 29th ranked defense (30.4 points per week) of the Arizona Cardinals.
Robert Woods (vs Philadelphia)
Robert Woods provided his usual consistency on Sunday Night against the Bears, producing 7 catches on 13 targets for 61 yards. He was inarguably the only Rams offensive player to have an impact in this defensive shootout. Woods continues to thrive in the high paced Rams offense, garnering at least 8 targets in 4 of the last 5 games and producing at least 61 yards in each game. Woods should have a chance to explode on Sunday as the Rams prepare to bounce back against the Eagles depleted secondary that is giving up 42.6 points per week to wideouts and is coming off a 61.8 point debacle against the Cowboys in week 14.
DaeSean Hamilton (vs Cleveland)
In his first game action replacing Emmanuel Sanders, DaeSean Hamilton shined, catching 7 of his 9 targets for 47 yards and finding the end zone against the 49ers. Hamilton showed an ability to operate sufficiently out of the slot, avoiding matchups against the stingy Richard Sherman in the process. Hamilton looks to have the ability to produce even greater results in week 15, drawing a matchup against the Browns secondary that is allowing at least 30 fantasy points to wideouts in their 3 weeks since the bye.
Dede Westbrook (vs Washington), Curtis Samuel (vs New Orleans), Demaryius Thomas (at NY Jets)
Dede Westbrook has discovered newfound production since Cody Kessler was thrust into the starting quarterback role for the flailing Jaguars offense. Against the Titans, Westbrook was targeted 10 times, catching 7 for 88 yards and a score in his most productive game in weeks. It was also Westbrook’s third consecutive game with a reception over 20 yards. Westbrook should have ample opportunities to shine in week 15 as he draws a matchup against the Redskins and their 6th worst secondary against fantasy receivers (39.4 points per week). It is seemingly a coin flip trying to determine which wide receiver will be more productive between Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore, but with Cam Newton limited by shoulder injuries, it would seem Samuel is the stronger play. Samuel has continued to flash his big-play ability for the Panthers, catching 4 of his 8 targets for 80 yards against the Browns. He also has the added ability in the run game even though he didn’t register any carries in week 14. Samuel should have room to operate on Monday this week, facing the Saints last-ranked pass defense (45.0 points per week) despite back to back strong performances against the Cowboys and Buccaneers. It would seem that Demaryius Thomas has finally carved out a consistent role since his trade to Houston. He was targeted 6 times against the Colts, catching 4 passes for 48 yards. It marks the third consecutive week he has received at least 5 targets and in that time he has 11 catches for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns. He gets a great chance to build upon those numbers in week 15 against the Jets, a secondary that is the 3rd worst against wide receivers allowing 40.8 points per week to the position.
David Njoku (at Denver)
The David Njoku carousel continues to turn, as Njoku commanded 4 targets, catching 3 of them for 35 yards. On the plus side, Njoku has been the recipient of a minimum of 4 targets in 4 of the last 5 games. Unfortunately, he has produced a low of 8 yards and a high of 63 yards with only 1 touchdown in that same timeframe. While the Panthers provided a fantastic matchup that didn’t come to fruition, he has a prime chance to rebound against a Broncos defense that allowed George Kittle to produce 7 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown in just one half of work on Sunday.
CJ Uzomah (vs Oakland)
Must like Njoku, CJ Uzomah has been a rollercoaster this season. On one hand, he is commanding targets (a low of 3 in week 14 and a high of 12 in week 11), but on the other, the yardage and touchdowns just haven’t been there for him. Against the Chargers, Uzomah caught all 3 of his targets for 37 yards in a losing effort. The Raiders provide a great chance to bounce back for Uzomah as they are tied for last in terms of tight end production allowed (16.5 points) and two weeks removed from absolute destruction at the hands of Travis Kelce.
Mark Andrews (vs Tampa Bay), Dan Arnold (at Carolina), Vance McDonald (vs New England)
It has been tough sledding for Mark Andrews since Lamar Jackson took over the offense, culminating in a 2 target, 0 catch performance in week 14 against the Chiefs. However, it looks like Jackson could miss some time (or at the very least split time) with Joe Flacco returning and due to his own ankle injury. Andrews should have room to flourish with a positive matchup in week 15, drawing a matchup against the Buccaneers defense that has been allowing 14.4 points to tight ends this season. Unfortunately for fantasy players, Dan Arnold missed a prime matchup against that same Buccaneers defense in week 14 due to injury. Assuming he returns to full health, he is poised for an even greater matchup in week 15 as he draws a matchup against the Carolina Panthers, a defense that is allowing tight ends to average 16.0 fantasy points per week. Vance McDonald was a popular play in week 14, and while he may have disappointed some fantasy players (4 catches for 37 yards), he still received the 3rd most targets behind Juju Smith-Schuster and Jaylen Samuels. This marked the 5th consecutive game McDonald received at least 4 targets and his 5th straight game with at least 3 catches. He will look to replicate this success against a Patriots defense allowing 13.7 points per week to tight ends.
Matt Stafford (at Buffalo)
If we are being honest, most teams that drafted Matt Stafford aren’t reading this article anyway unless they are trying to make some noise in their consolation bracket. However, in the off chance that you surrounded Stafford with all of the best players in fantasy this season and are in the semi-finals, I have to implore you to find another option in week 15. Against the Cardinals, Stafford struggled to produce, completing only 15 of his 23 targets for 101 yards and 0 touchdowns in a winning effort. The job doesn’t get any easier in week 15 as he graduates to the stingiest defense in the league against the pass, the Buffalo Bills, who are only allowing 12.5 points to opposing passers, a full 2 points less than the Cardinals defense that stifled Stafford a week ago.
Aaron Rodgers (at Chicago)
Sit down fantasy managers with Aaron Rodgers, because I’m calling my shot. You should bench Rodgers in week 14. I say this despite the fact Aaron Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception since week 4. I say this despite the fact he now owns the NFL record for most consecutive passes without an interception. I say this knowing that he has a sparkling 23:1 TD/INT ratio in 2018. And I say this full well knowing he threw for 286 yards and 3 touchdowns on one leg against the Bears the opening week of the season. Rodgers rolls into Soldier Field with the Bears poised to win the division and with the Monsters of the Midway on an absolute roll. The Bears haven’t allowed a quarterback to generate over 17 fantasy points since week 7 against Tom Brady. They also have allowed single-digit scores the last 3 weeks, culminating in an absolutely stunning effort Sunday Night against the Rams, forcing Jared Goff to produce -2.3 fantasy points. I may be wrong, but darn it, I’m all in this week on the Bears defense.
Jameis Winston (at Baltimore), Sam Darnold (vs Houston), Ryan Tannehill (at Minnesota)
Despite the 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio (his first pick in 3 weeks), Jameis Winston struggled on Sunday in a loss to the Saints. Winston completed under 66% of his passes for the first time since he regained the starting role on Sunday. He also failed to eclipse 230 yards for the first time in 3 weeks in what should have been a strong matchup. Unfortunately for Winston and the Buccaneers, he faces a whole different animal on the defensive side of the ball this week considering the Ravens are allowing a minuscule 15.8 points to quarterbacks this season, which rests just outside the top 5 marks in 2018. Sam Darnold stepped up quite a bit in his first game in a month, throwing for 170 yards and a touchdown with 1 interception in a win against the Bills on Sunday. Things don’t improve much for Darnold in week 15 as he follows up with a daunting task, facing off against a Texans defense that is allowing 16.4 fantasy points on the season to QB’s and haven’t allowed over 24 fantasy points to a quarterback since week 4 against the Colts. Ryan Tannehill continues to surprise since returning from his midseason injury, completing 14 of 19 passes for 265 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Patriots in what may be the best finish to a game in 2018. Tannehill has done pretty well the past three games, with an 8:1 TD:INT ratio against the Colts, Bills, and Patriots. Be cautious heading into this week as the Dolphins prepare to face the ravenous Vikings defense that is allowing the 5th least points to quarterbacks (15.4) this season.
Peyton Barber (at Baltimore)
After a healthy three-game touchdown streak, Peyton Barber returned to Earth in week 14 against the Saints. Despite getting 14 carries, Barber was able to produce only 42 yards in a losing effort. The Saints are currently the 4th best defense in the NFL against running backs, and this week Barber gets the best in the Baltimore Ravens, who are allowing a ridiculously low 18.7 points to runners this season. Needless to say, Barber may struggle to find running lanes again in week 15.
Adrian Peterson (at Jacksonville)
One week after ripping off an impressive 9 carry, 98 yard, 1 touchdown performance against the Eagles, Adrian Peterson disappeared. In what was poised to be a strong matchup for the veteran running back, Peterson disappeared, registering only 10 carries for 16 yards and 1 catch for 3 yards. To be fair, the Giants came out firing on all cylinders and forced the Redskins to utilize their pass-catching backs as they raced to a 40-point lead. A greater issue lies in the fact that the Redskins don’t really have a passing game to lean on in any scenario, choosing between Josh Johnson and Mark Sanchez as their signal caller for week 15. Further complicating matters is a looming matchup against a Jaguars defense that still ranks in the top 10 against running backs (21.0 points per week) despite the Derek Henry led Titan rushing attack generating 251 yards and 4 touchdowns in week 14 (which is more points that Jaguars allowed to running backs in the previous 4 weeks combined).
Aaron Jones (at Chicago), Mark Ingram (at Carolina), Marlon Mack (vs Dallas)
Aaron Jones continues to assert himself as the most complete running back in Green Bay, even if the coaches don’t utilize him in that manner. Despite starting week 14 against the Falcons on the bench, Jones was able to put together 17 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown while adding 3 catches for 28 yards in a dominating week 14 win. He gets a terrifying matchup in week 15 against the previously mentioned Bears defense that stifled MVP candidate Todd Gurley on Sunday night, allowing him to generate a paltry 58 yards (28 rushing/30 receiving) on 14 total touches. On the season, the Bears are allowing only 19.0 yards per game to opposing runners. Mark Ingram used the wet field conditions in Tampa Bay to get back on track in week 14, carrying the ball 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown while adding just 1 catch for 1 yard. It was Ingram’s 17-yard touchdown that finally put the game out of reach in that affair. Ingram goes from one of the better fantasy matchups to one of the worst as the Panthers have allowed running backs to average 19.9 points per week. Marlon Mack was able to salvage a lackluster fantasy day (14 carries for 33 yards) with a touchdown against the Texans. While the touches were encouraging, Mack struggled to get on track against a stout Texans run defense. Running lanes will be just as sparse in week 15 as Mack prepares to face a Cowboys defense that ranks 7th against fantasy running backs, allowing a meager 20.8 points per week to the position.
TY Hilton (vs Dallas)
Speaking of Colts players against the Cowboys, be wary about utilizing TY Hilton in week 15. Hilton has been on a tear lately, registering at least 10 targets and 7 catches his last 3 games. In that time he has gone over 100 yards twice and nearly had 200 yards receiving last week, more than offsetting his recent inability to find the end zone. Hilton may struggle to find room to operate in week 15 against a Cowboys defense that is allowing only 28.6 points to wide receivers and is two weeks removed from absolutely shutting down the Saints high powered offense on Thursday night football.
Chris Godwin (at Baltimore)
Godwin generated 10 targets on Sunday against the Saints. Unfortunately, he caught only 1 of those attempts for a disappointing 13 yards. If you started Godwin and survived to tell the tale in week 14, you might want to beware using him in week 15. Baltimore is the 4th best defense against wideouts in the NFL this season, allowing only 29.3 fantasy points per week and keeping opposing pass catchers out of the end zone for 3 consecutive weeks (including games against Atlanta and Kansas City). Godwin gets excellent work in the passing game but may find his upside severely limited in this matchup.
Kenny Golladay (at Buffalo), Josh Doctson (at Jacksonville), Devin Funchess (vs New Orleans)
There are a variety of reasons Kenny Golladay has failed to maintain his torrid fantasy pace at the beginning of the season. While the trade of Golden Tate theoretically opened up targets for Golladay, the season-ending injury to Marvin Jones Jr. left him as the only viable receiving option in the run-heavy Lions offense. Add in the fact that Matt Stafford is battling injuries and Golladay becomes a volatile play against good defenses. This came to pass against the Cardinals, who were able to utilize Patrick Peterson to limit Golladay to 2 catches on 4 targets for only 5 yards. Things don’t figure to get easier in week 15 as Golladay will undoubtedly draw the focus of Tre’Davious White and a Bills secondary allowing 28.8 fantasy points to wideouts this year. Josh Doctson made lemonade out of the lemons that are Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson on Sunday against the Giants. Doctson was able to generate 4 catches for 84 yards (5 targets) in a losing fashion. Unfortunately, Doctson finished the game in the concussion protocol and his status for week 15 is up in the air. Even if he does play, Doctson will struggle to find room to operate against a Jaguars defense that is allowing a league-best 28.3 points per week and have allowed 0 passing touchdowns the past 2 weeks. December 11, 2018: The Day we officially declare Devin Funchess’s fantasy relevance as dead. As Curtis Samuel, DJ Moore, Christian McCaffrey, and Ian Thomas have emerged, Funchess has lost all relevance outside of the red zone in the Panthers offense. Funchess caught 0 of 3 targets against the Browns, his 2nd consecutive week with 3 targets. As a matter of fact, Funchess hasn’t caught more than 3 passes in 4 weeks and has failed to register more than 50 yards since week 7 against Philadelphia. While the matchup against New Orleans is promising for Funchess, his lack of work in the passing game makes him un-startable.
Evan Engram (vs Tennessee)
In the unexpected absence of Odell Beckham Jr., Evan Engram was able to salvage a solid fantasy day by catching 3 of his 5 targets for 77 yards against the Redskins. With Beckham slated to return in week 15, Engram will suffer in the target department, which is problematic against a Titans defense that allows the least amount of points (7.4) to tight ends this fantasy season. The Titans also remain the only team in the NFL to shut tight ends out of the end zone this season.
Austin Hooper (vs Arizona)
Austin Hooper had a solid, unspectacular day against the Packers in week 14 before exiting with a knee injury late in the contest. Hooper caught 4 of his 6 targets for 37 yards in a losing effort. All signs point to Hooper being available this week, but that doesn’t mean fantasy players are in the clear. On deck is the Cardinals defense, a unit that is allowing tight ends to average only 9.5 points per game this season.
Jordan Thomas (at NY Jets), Trey Burton (vs Green Bay), Gerald Everett (vs Philadelphia)
Jordan Thomas continued to emerge as a viable threat in the passing game for Houston in week 14, catching all 4 of his targets for 31 yards in a loss to the Colts. While that production is encouraging, his matchup this week provides a challenge in the form of the 5th best defense against tight ends this season (9.1 points per week). Despite the preseason hopes and dreams of fantasy owners, Trey Burton has continued to be a relative non-factor in the Bears offense. In a promising matchup against the Rams on Sunday Night, Burton brought in only 2 of his 5 targets for 22 yards, failing to register a significant stat line once again. Burton is gearing up to face the Green Bay Packers in week 15, a defense that has shut down tight ends this year to the tune of 8.7 fantasy points per week and only 1 touchdown this season. Despite Gerald Everett’s growing role in the Rams offense, his upside is still unfortunately limited. Everett was arguably the 2nd most productive Ram against the Bears’ defense, catching 4 of his 7 targets for 29 yards in the surprising loss. Everett suffers from inconsistent roles in the passing game and is poised to continue that trend against an Eagles secondary that boasts a 9.6 points per game mark against tight ends this season.