Ah, Week 15.
For most fantasy football players in season-long leagues, this is known as Semifinals Week. For others who insist on playing through Week 17, it’s the second (and more crucial) week of a first-round matchup. And for everyone who has already been eliminated from the playoffs, well, it’s one of three full-season weeks left in DFS.
With injuries galore riddling the league at this point in the year, fantasy playoff-contending squads could have vacancies at crucial positions. STATS has outlined a few plug-and-play guys that we’re high on in the analysis below, along with a handful of the usual studs and their prospects for this week.
We took a position-by-position look at some of the names making waves around the NFL, then compared our projections to the 117 experts that make up the Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) on FantasyPros.com. We did this to see where our models differed from the mainstream thinking, beginning with this week’s quarterback change in Baltimore.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore
- After four weeks of getting the snaps under center, Baltimore finally came out and named Jackson its full-time starter over Joe Flacco.
- The dual-threat quarterback has impressed with his legs, rushing for 332 yards and two touchdowns on 68 carries as a starter.
- Hosting a soft Tampa Bay secondary at home has its benefits, too. Jackson will face a unit that’s averaging 24.7 opponent pass completions per game and has yielded 301.8 opponent passing yards per game when on the road.
Jackson’s legs give him a safe floor and because of the matchup we like him as our QB No. 11 this week (ECR QB No. 14).
Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams
- Fresh off his worst performance of the season, Goff gets to rebound nicely at home with a matchup against the Eagles and their miserable secondary.
- Philadelphia is averaging a league-high 26.2 opposing completions per game and that number has gone up to 28.3 per game over its last three.
- Our model likes Goff’s chances at a 300-plus yard performance, giving him a 57 percent chance to reach or exceed that plateau. The Eagles are yielding a league-worst 341 opponent passing yards per game on the road this season.
- Goff is our QB No. 2 this week, trailing only Patrick Mahomes, though his ECR expectation has risen to QB No. 3 since the start of the week.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
- Brees has taken a few steps back as an MVP candidate over the past three weeks, throwing for just 499 combined yards in that time.
- Carolina has held opposing passers to just 20.0 completions per game over its last three contests.
- Just 11 of Brees’ 31 touchdowns and three of his four interceptions have come on the road this season despite the Saints being 6-1 outside of New Orleans. He’ll face Carolina in Charlotte on Monday night.
- Brees has thrown for more than 300 yards just twice in his past eight games, and our model gives him only a 45 percent chance to meet or exceed that mark this week. He’s our QB No. 9, down significantly from ECR QB No. 4.
David Johnson, RB, Arizona
- After briefly returning to form under new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, Johnson has underperformed in each of the past three weeks. Enter the Atlanta Falcons defense, the gift that keeps on giving.
- The Falcons have yielded an average of 165 yards per game against opposing rushing attacks over the past three weeks, fourth-worst in the NFL. They’re also averaging 1.2 opponent rushing touchdowns per game over the course of the season, which is tied for fourth-worst. Over 13 games, they’ve given up 15 touchdowns to opposing running backs.
- Atlanta’s secondary has also had its share of concerns this year, particularly at home, where it’s given up a league-high 304 passing yards per game. Their Cover 3 scheme allows for a lot of soft coverage underneath, and teams target RBs almost 5 percent more than league average when facing them. STATS projects a 19 percent target share for Johnson this week.
- Given the potential volume and the matchup, our model likes Johnson to bounce back this week as our RB No. 5 (ECR RB No. 10).
Lamar Miller, RB, Houston
- Coming off two games of more than 100 yards rushing, Miller laid a dud in a 14-carry, 33-yard performance last week that was only salvaged by his fourth rushing touchdown of the year.
- He’ll face a Jets defense that has given up 173.7 yards to opposing rushing attacks over its last three games.
- Those numbers are inflated, however, thanks to Bills quarterback Josh Allen running for 101 yards against them last week. Deshaun Watson has scrambled for more than 41 yards just once in 2018.
- Miller is our RB No. 21 (ECR RB No. 12) and could still be a low-end RB2 in season-long, but we’re fading him in DFS this week with better (and cheaper) options available elsewhere.
Jalen Richard, RB, Oakland
- The Bengals have been the best team to run the ball against this season, giving Richard a prime matchup against a team that’s given up a league-worst 148.1 yards to opposing rushing attacks in 2018.
- The dual-threat back has 57 catches for 483 yards this season. We’re projecting him to get 14.5 percent of his team’s total target share against Cincy this week.
- Richard’s 68 targets this season are tied for sixth-most in the league among all running backs. That’s the same number James Conner and Todd Gurley have seen.
- Richard is our RB No. 19 this week, compared to ECR RB No. 36.
Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas
- Cooper is coming off a banner day in Week 14, where he posted career highs in receiving yards (217) and receiving touchdowns (3) and caught the winning score in Dallas’ walk-off win over Philadelphia.
- The 24-year-old wideout played 90 snaps in that thriller, more than any wide receiver in any week of the 2018 NFL season. However, that number was inflated by an overtime period in which Dallas kept the ball the entire time. Cooper hadn’t seen more than 56 snaps on offense with the Cowboys in his prior five games.
- The Colts funnel everything inside, and teams throw to WRs almost 10% less than league average against them. He’ll get his share of targets, but probably not at the same rate as the past few weeks.
- We’re a little bit mum on Cooper this week. He’s our WR No. 12, down a little from ECR WR No. 11.
Kenny Stills, WR, Miami
- With Ryan Tannehill back at quarterback, Stills is riding a hot streak, totaling 12 receptions for 172 yards and two touchdowns off 15 targets in the past two weeks.
- Facing the Vikings in Minnesota has been a tall order for opposing wideouts this season, but Stills has been getting more time in the slot lately, which could have some upside in this matchup.
- We’re projecting Stills to get 20 percent of his team’s total target share.
- As Miami’s best option and Tannehill’s clear chemistry match, Stills is our WR No. 23 this week (ECR WR No. 39).
Tim Patrick, WR, Denver
- If you haven’t heard of Patrick, we don’t blame you, but we recommend he be on your fantasy radar this week.
- Patrick exploded onto the scene with seven catches off 10 targets for 85 yards in Week 14 and seemingly has built a rapport with QB Case Keenum.
- Facing a Cleveland secondary that’s averaging nearly 26 opposing completions per game, we’re projecting Patrick to have a 19.5 percent share of his team’s total targets in a Saturday night game at home.
- Patrick is our WR No. 25 this week (ECR WR No. 72) and could be a viable option for owners who need to pick up a receiver in season-long leagues, as well as a sneaky low-cost play in DFS.
Ian Thomas, TE, Carolina
- Tight end has largely been a barren wasteland this year in season-long leagues, but Thomas has posted strong numbers in two weeks without Greg Olsen for Carolina.
- Thomas has 14 receptions off 16 targets for 123 yards over that span.
- He’ll face a Saints defense that had allowed just one touchdown to TEs on the season before giving up two to Cameron Brate of the Buccaneers last week.
- Our projections are giving Thomas 18 percent of his team’s total target share this week, helping him become our TE No. 6 (ECR TE No. 15).
Anthony Firkser, TE, Tennessee
- In the wake of Jonnu Smith’s injury, Firkser became the next man up for the Titans, catching all three of his targets for 27 yards in a Thursday night win over Jacksonville during Week 14.
- The Titans offense uses about 1.34 TEs per passing play, third-highest in the NFL, so Firkser should see a heavy load of playing time.
- Our projections like Firkser as the third option in Tennessee’s passing game, behind Corey Davis and Dion Lewis. Our model likes him to receive 14 percent of his team’s total target share.
- Firkser is a relative unknown in season-long leagues and is likely available if you’re desperate at the position, while his cheap price point makes him an intriguing play in DFS. We have him at TE No. 11 this week (ECR TE No. 31), putting him ahead of more household names like Kyle Rudolph, Jimmy Graham, Brate and Tre Burton.
Matt Bryant, K, Atlanta Falcons
- Bryant had an off day in Week 14 against the Packers in the chilly conditions at Lambeau Field. The Arizona Cardinals at home in a dome this week? Different story.
- Arizona is giving up 27.8 points per game as the away team this season, eighth-worst in the league.
- The Cardinals are yielding just 1.3 opposing passing touchdowns per game, tied for third-lowest in the league.
- Bryant is tied for the highest percent chance at kicking a 50-plus yard field goal (40 percent) among all kickers in our projections. We have him at K No. 5, compared to his ECR at K No. 8.
Detroit Lions Defense
- For most of this season, this unit was one opposing offenses could feast on, but the Lions have rounded into form over the past month, holding three of their last four opponents to 19 points or fewer.
- Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay returned a 67-yard interception to the house for a touchdown last week. The Lions have three interceptions over their past four games and our projections like them picking off rookie quarterback Josh Allen twice.
- This defense has averaged three sacks per week over its last four games and we project them to get four against Buffalo, even without Ziggy Ansah.
- Our model suggests that this defense is being severely undervalued this week. They’re our No. 2 defense (ECR No. 14) and worth a flier if you’ve been streaming defense in season-long.