The first round of the fantasy football playoffs was unpredictable, to say the least, and injuries to stars like Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and New England’s Rob Gronkowski have owners looking ahead to the Week 15 rankings.
Starting the right players this week could be the difference between making the championship in your league and losing in spectacular fashion.
Here are my top 10 rankings at every position to help you make the toughest game-day decisions in such a pivotal portion of the season.
*Based on standard-scoring leagues. Points against stats via ESPN.
|1||Peyton Manning||Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||28|
|2||Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints||St. Louis Rams||24|
|3||Tony Romo||Dallas Cowboys||Green Bay Packers||22|
|4||Philip Rivers||San Diego Chargers||Denver Broncos||21|
|5||Andrew Luck||Indianapolis Colts||Houston Texans||20|
|6||Matthew Stafford||Detroit Lions||Baltimore Ravens||18|
|7||Cam Newton||Carolina Panthers||New York Jets||18|
|8||Nick Foles||Philadelphia Eagles||Minnesota Vikings||17|
|9||Tom Brady||New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins||17|
|10||Robert Griffin III||Washington Redskins||Atlanta Falcons||17|
The cream always rises to the top, and in the second week of fantasy playoffs, the perennial powerhouses like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tony Romo will thrive once again and bring owners to the next round.
The top three quarterbacks all have favorable matchups, but they’re not alone. Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III all have a chance to make an impact on the sport this week against lackluster defenses.
While talented stars like Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady and Cam Newton are all worth a start this week despite tough games, the biggest sleeper of Week 15 could be Nick Foles. The Eagles square off against the lowly Minnesota Vikings defense that has given up a league-high 20.4 points per game against opposing QBs.
Foles could have a monster fantasy day.
|1||Jamaal Charles||Kansas City Chiefs||Oakland Raiders||22|
|2||LeSean McCoy||Philadelphia Eagles||Minnesota Vikings||20|
|3||DeMarco Murray||Dallas Cowboys||Green Bay Packers||19|
|4||Marshawn Lynch||Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants||19|
|5||Knowshon Moreno||Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||18|
|6||Matt Forte||Chicago Bears||Cleveland Browns||17|
|7||Maurice Jones-Drew||Jacksonville Jaguars||Buffalo Bills||15|
|8||Eddie Lacy||Green Bay Packers||Dallas Cowboys||15|
|9||Frank Gore||San Francisco 49ers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||14|
|10||Zac Stacy||St. Louis Rams||New Orleans Saints||12|
Running Back Notes
The biggest news of the week regarding running backs was the injury to Minnesota Vikings lead back Adrian Peterson and the reported mid-foot strain he suffered, according to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Peterson calls it a "mid-foot sprain" "My foot was extended & got rolled up. I just felt it pop a couple times. The pain was excruciating."— Brian Murphy (@murphPPress) December 8, 2013
Peterson would have been the No. 1-ranked back this week, but the uncertainty surrounding his injury should have owners finding other options. This couldn’t have come at a worse time in the fantasy season.
After big games from both Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy, the duo has moved up as the top two backs in Week 15. DeMarco Murray, Marshawn Lynch and Knowshon Moreno all are their respective team’s top back and will capitalize on the favorable matchups and the heavy workloads.
Other breakout candidates to watch will be Matt Forte, Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore and Zac Stacy, but this Sunday’s ultimate sleeper is Eddie Lacy. The Green Bay Packers are taking on a Dallas Cowboys team that gives up the most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (21.8).
No matter who is under center for Green Bay, fantasy owners should expect big numbers from Lacy.
|1||Calvin Johnson||Detroit Lions||Baltimore Ravens||25|
|2||Demaryius Thomas||Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||21|
|3||Josh Gordon||Cleveland Browns||Chicago Bears||20|
|4||A.J. Green||Cincinnati Bengals||Pittsburgh Steelers||18|
|5||Dez Bryant||Dallas Cowboys||Green Bay Packers||18|
|6||Brandon Marshall||Chicago Bears||Cleveland Browns||17|
|7||Antonio Brown||Pittsburgh Steelers||Cincinnati Bengals||15|
|8||Larry Fitzgerald||Arizona Cardinals||Tennessee Titans||14|
|9||Andre Johnson||Houston Texans||Indianapolis Colts||14|
|10||DeSean Jackson||Philadelphia Eagles||Minnesota Vikings||14|
Wide Receiver Notes
After watching Mother Nature make her presence felt by skewing the passing numbers in some of the snowiest games football fans will witness this season, order will be restored to the top 10 in Week 15.
Calvin Johnson has once again returned to the No. 1 spot despite only catching three passes for 49 yards last week. The Detroit Lions will face a tough matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, but Megatron will not be held down again.
Who do you rank as Week 15's top WR?
The majority of the top 10 rankings are comprised of the most reliable stars that fantasy owners have counted on all season. With consistent starters like Demaryius Thomas, Josh Gordon, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson all playing well, the focus has shifted to which underrated players have the best chance to shine.
There is no bigger risk/reward start in Week 15 than DeSean Jackson.
Minnesota’s defense gives up an average of 25 points per game to opposing wide receivers. The great matchup will ease the fantasy owners who have panicked over the last three weeks, as Jackson has seen his catches, yards and touchdown numbers decline.
With the elements not making an impact inside the Vikings’ dome, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles should look to his speedy wide receiver early and often Sunday.
|1||Jimmy Graham||New Orleans Saints||St. Louis Rams||20|
|2||Jason Witten||Dallas Cowboys||Green Bay Packers||17|
|3||Julius Thomas||Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||17|
|4||Vernon Davis||San Francisco 49ers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16|
|5||Tony Gonzalez||Atlanta Falcons||Washington Redskins||14|
|6||Greg Olsen||Carolina Panthers||New York Jets||12|
|7||Martellus Bennett||Chicago Bears||Cleveland Browns||12|
|8||Jordan Cameron||Cleveland Browns||Chicago Bears||12|
|9||Heath Miller||Pittsburgh Steelers||Cincinnati Bengals||12|
|10||Antonio Gates||San Diego Chargers||Denver Broncos||11|
Tight End Notes
I owned Rob Gronkowski in four leagues. I drafted him in the middle rounds and stashed him on the bench to start the season while he recovered from injuries. As he returned to the Patriots’ lineup, he once again emerged as the top tight end in football, even surpassing Jimmy Graham.
After an injury suffered Sunday that sources fear is a torn ACL and MCL, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, the risk of drafting the New England Patriots star will go down as a bust. Not only does that make Graham the unquestioned No. 1 tight end in the game, but it also creates a frenzy to find a viable replacement.
The majority of the top players at the position will succeed this week, including Jason Witten, Julius Thomas, Vernon Davis and Tony Gonzalez, but there are a few names that could be readily available depending on how your league handles waivers.
While Greg Olsen and Martellus Bennett are likely owned (both should have solid fantasy outputs Sunday), Jordan Cameron, Heath Miller and Antonio Gates could have been dropped along the way and there for owners to pick up.
The tight end position has been unpredictable all year, and Week 15 will be no exception.
|1||Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants||20|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||18|
|3||Kansas City Chiefs||Oakland Raiders||18|
|4||Arizona Cardinals||Tennessee Titans||16|
|5||Cincinnati Bengals||Pittsburgh Steelers||15|
|6||Baltimore Ravens||Detroit Lions||14|
|7||Carolina Panthers||New York Jets||14|
|8||Pittsburgh Steelers||Cincinnati Bengals||14|
|9||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||San Francisco 49ers||12|
|10||New Orleans Saints||St. Louis Rams||12|
Defense/Special Teams Notes
There will be no surprises here. If you made it this far in the postseason, you likely have one of the top 10 defense/special teams units in the league and have started them with consistency.
The biggest change, though, comes in the form of the Kansas City Chiefs proving once again that it’s not just the vaunted defense that gets major points. With two return touchdowns, Kansas City helped many fantasy teams upset their first-round opponents.
Owners understand that Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona, Cincinnati and Carolina are all must-starts each week. The highlighted team in this week’s top 10 for defense is the the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints play a St. Louis team failing to find its rhythm. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has New Orleans playing hard-nosed football, and the Rams will be the latest victim that fails to put up big points on the much-improved defense.
|1||Matt Prater||Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||15|
|2||Steven Hauschka||Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants||14|
|3||Stephen Gostkowski||New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins||13|
|4||Justin Tucker||Baltimore Ravens||Detroit Lions||12|
|5||Blair Walsh||Minnesota Vikings||Philadelphia Eagles||12|
|6||Mason Crosby||Green Bay Packers||Dallas Cowboys||12|
|7||Adam Vinatieri||Indianapolis Colts||Houston Texans||11|
|8||Phil Dawson||San Francisco 49ers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||10|
|9||Robbie Gould||Chicago Bears||Cleveland Browns||10|
|10||Ryan Succop||Kansas City Chiefs||Oakland Raiders||10|
Matt Prater set the all-time NFL record with his 64-yard field goal Sunday. With his power and accuracy on full display, coupled with the high-powered offense of the Denver Broncos, Prater has made his way to the top of the Week 15 rankings.
Just like your team defense, fantasy owners that have made it this far likely have one of the top kickers in the league. If you don’t and one of the players ranked above is available on waivers, make the move now and enjoy another victory.