Playoff time is officially here in essentially every fantasy football league across the globe, and while some may be taking seemingly perfect teams into battle in Week 15, others will have to turn to some under-the-radar players in order to advance.
Whether it's due to injuries or just a general lack of depth, it's certainly possible that some playoff teams are scrambling to finalize their lineups. Not everyone is blessed with Peyton Manning, LeSean McCoy, Calvin Johnson, Jimmy Graham and a host of other studs, so it's important to get creative.
Here are three unheralded players who are staring ideal matchups in the face and will take advantage of them with big performances in Week 15.
During the Kansas City Chiefs' red-hot 9-0 start, quarterback Alex Smith wasn't asked to make a ton of plays. Smith was a fantastic caretaker for the offense, as he protected the ball and allowed running back Jamaal Charles to do much of the damage for him.
Head coach Andy Reid has loosened the reins in recent weeks, however, and it has led to some big performances on Smith's part.
Ironically, as pointed out by Ross Tucker of NBC Sports Network, Smith has been better statistically as KC has started to lose.
Alex Smith has played better in the last 3 losses than he did in the first 9 wins. Go figure.— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) December 2, 2013
Which player will have the best fantasy performance in Week 15?
As far as fantasy owners are concerned, though, a quarterback's record is of absolutely no importance.
Smith has thrown for at least two touchdowns in each of his past four games, and prior to Week 14, he had thrown for at least 230 yards in three straight contests.
In addition to all of that, Smith has been surprisingly good as a runner this season. With nine games of 25 or more rushing yards, Smith provides a nice bonus that most quarterbacks don't.
Although Smith only threw for 128 yards and failed to register a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders earlier in the season, his matchup against Oakland this week is actually quite good. The Raiders are allowing over 250 passing yards per game and have surrendered 23 passing touchdowns as well, so they haven't exactly been tough on opposing signal-callers.
Based on how much more aggressive the Chiefs offense has been lately, Smith should be in line for a big game.
Week 15 Fantasy Projection: 275 passing yards, 3 TDs and 31 rushing yards.
With so many injuries and so much uncertainty at the running back position in the NFL right now, it's entirely possible that some fantasy owners are looking high and low for an answer.
It's true that he hasn't inspired a ton of confidence this season, but Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas is definitely an option. Thomas is coming off his first 100-yard game of the season and there is reason to believe that another could be on the horizon.
Many believed that Thomas would miss the remainder of the season due to an ankle injury, and it was a fairly big surprise that he even played in Week 14 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he came up big to the tune of 105 yards and a touchdown.
Fellow Dolphins running back Lamar Miller is banged up as well, although James Walker of ESPN.com reports that he returned to practice despite a concussion.
Lamar Miller (concussion) back at practice http://t.co/87snr4TTnY— James Walker (@JamesWalkerNFL) December 10, 2013
Even if Miller plays on Sunday, though, Thomas seems to have assumed the role of top back in Miami's offense.
The Dolphins are facing the New England Patriots in a huge game on Sunday and New England happens to be one of the worst teams in the league against the run. The Pats are allowing nearly 136 rushing yards per game, which bodes well for Thomas.
Assuming the Dolphins commit to the run in order to slow down New England's offense, Thomas will have a surprisingly good day.
Week 15 Fantasy Projection: 123 rushing yards and 1 TD.
The Baltimore Ravens have done a nice job of keeping their heads above water this season despite not playing at their best and currently hold the final playoff spot in the AFC.
Luckily for the Ravens, help has arrived in the form of tight end Dennis Pitta. He missed the first 13 weeks of the season due to a hip injury, but made his triumphant return in Week 14. Not only did he put up good numbers in his season debut, Rotoworld Football indicates that he also saw quite a few snaps.
Dennis Pitta steps right back in w/ 36 snaps http://t.co/Td6VfhMh39— Rotoworld Football (@Rotoworld_FB) December 9, 2013
Pitta immediately made the Ravens offense more dangerous, as he caught six passes for 48 yards and a touchdown despite the fact that he played fewer than half of Baltimore's offensive snaps.
Assuming that he is now settled in to a certain extent, he should be in line for an even heavier workload on Monday night. Quarterback Joe Flacco has been hurting for offensive weapons all year long and Pitta should help significantly in that regard.
The Ravens need to continue winning, but will have a difficult game on their hands against the Detroit Lions on Monday. Detroit struggles against the pass, though, as evidenced by the fact that it allows 256 yards per game. Therefore, Pitta will have his chances to do some damage.
Pitta is especially important as a red-zone target, so if Baltimore gets down near the end zone on Monday, he will be the main beneficiary.
Week 15 Fantasy Projection: 7 receptions for 73 yards and 1 TD.
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