Fantasy Football Week 15: Top Skill-Position Players for Playoffs

R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IDecember 13, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Jimmy Graham #80 celebrates with  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints after scoring a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 30, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The fantasy football season is drawing to a close, and with just three weeks left in the NFL season, the pressure is mounting for owners who are in the playoffs. No matter what round of the playoffs, the stress of putting together the best lineup means the difference between taking home the trophy or second-guessing decisions until the next NFL season rolls around.

While there are several matchups that make sense for each position, it's easy to forget that some players or even defenses are simply matchup-proof. But going into this list, remember that the status of Adrian Peterson looks bleak, Aaron Rodgers might not be passing to Jordy Nelson, and Jay Cutler looks like the starter for the Bears this week.

With all of this and more in mind, here are the top 10 players at each position for the fantasy playoffs.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 8:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints jogs onto the field during a game against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 8, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Saints defeated the Panthers 31-13.  (Pho
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images



Top Week 15 Fantasy Quarterbacks
1Peyton ManningDenver BroncosSan Diego Chargers
2Drew BreesNew Orleans SaintsSt. Louis Rams
3Cam NewtonCarolina PanthersN.Y. Jets
4Matthew StaffordDetroit LionsBaltimore Ravens
5Russell WilsonSeattle SeahawksN.Y. Giants
6Philip RiversSan Diego ChargersDenver Broncos
7Nick FolesPhiladelphia EaglesMinnesota Vikings
8Tony RomoDallas CowboysGreen Bay Packers
9Tom BradyNew England PatriotsMiami Dolphins
10Andrew LuckIndianapolis ColtsHouston Texans

Top Players Breakdown

  • Look for Drew Brees to also continue his domination of pass defenses this weekend when the New Orleans Saints travel to St. Louis to take on the Rams. After facing two top-five passing defenses with the Seahawks and Panthers, Brees will take on the 22nd-ranked pass defense that give up 19 touchdowns on the season.
  • Cam Newton will have a bounce-back game in Week 15 against the New York Jets after struggling against the Saints. As well as the Jets stop the rush, they simply can't stop the pass. The Jets have given up 24 passing touchdowns on the season—just two less than the horrifically bad Cowboys secondary—and are surrendering an average of 255 yards per game. Still, look for Newton to run the ball a healthy amount despite the matchup as well.

Other Notables

  • Joe Flacco has a good matchup against the Detroit Lions and could have a good night on the other side of Matthew Stafford. The Lions are giving up 256 passing yards per game but have forced 27 sacks on the season. If Flacco can stand upright, look for him to put up good fantasy points.
  • Andy Dalton, at times, has the potential to look like a top-10 fantasy quarterback. But without knowing which Dalton will show up, it's tough to put him on the list yet. How he performs against a top-10 passing defense might dictate whether fantasy owners have confidence in him moving forward.

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 08: Running back Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after rushing for a first quarter touchdown against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 8, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty
Rob Carr/Getty Images


Running Back

Top Week 15 Fantasy Running Backs
1Jamaal CharlesKansas City ChiefsOakland Raiders
2LeSean McCoyPhiladelphia EaglesMinnesota Vikings
3DeMarco MurrayDallas CowboysGreen Bay Packers
4Matt ForteChicago BearsCleveland Browns
5Marshawn LynchSeattle SeahawksN.Y. Giants
6Eddie LacyGreen Bay PackersDallas Cowboys
7Alfred MorrisWashington RedskinsAtlanta Falcons
8Knowshon MorenoDenver BroncosSan Diego Chargers
9Shane VereenNew England PatriotsMiami Dolphins
10Ben TateHouston TexansIndianapolis Colts

Top Players Breakdown

  • Jamaal Charles has been matchup-proof all year. And this week, he faces an Oakland defense that, while ranking 12th in the NFL in rush defense, is simply not very good. If Charles doesn't get a lot of yards in the passing or running game, expect him to get a healthy dose of carries late if the Chiefs start running away—literally—with this game.
  • LeSean McCoy proved this past weekend that he is yet another matchup-proof back who can light up any team. Going against a stingy Detroit Lions rush defense in the snow, McCoy shattered the Eagles' rushing record with 217 yards on the ground. While that's not a reasonable expectation this week, McCoy faces a Vikings defense that has allowed 118 rushing yards per game and a total of 13 touchdowns on the season.
  • DeMarco Murray had a good performance against the bottom-ranked Bears rush defense, but it wasn't great because he didn't touch paydirt. Expect Murray to reach the end zone in Week 15 against another putrid Packers rush defense that has gives up 111 rushing yards per game and has allowed 11 touchdowns on the season.

Other Notables

  • Zac Stacy will improve this week, facing the No. 17 rushing defense in the NFL against the Saints. The only reason he's outside of the top 10 is simply because of his underwhelming performances as of late. Expect a huge turnaround for Stacy this weekend.
  • How in the world could Frank Gore be left off the list? Well, because he's playing a top-10 rushing defense at Tampa Bay that has given up just six touchdowns all season. While Gore is capable of putting up good numbers, this week presents a tougher matchup than even last week against Seattle.

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 1: Quarterback Brandon Weeden #3 and wide receiver Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns celebrate after Gordon scored a touchdown on a pass from Weeden during the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at FirstEnergy Stad
Jason Miller/Getty Images


Wide Receiver

Top Week 15 Fantasy Wide Receivers
1Josh GordonCleveland BrownsChicago Bears
2Calvin JohnsonDetroit LionsBaltimore Ravens
3Demaryius ThomasDenver BroncosSan Diego Chargers
4Andre JohnsonHouston TexansIndianapolis Colts
5A.J. GreenCincinnati BengalsPittsburgh Steelers
6DeSean JacksonPhiladelphia EaglesMinnesota Vikings
7Alshon JefferyChicago BearsCleveland Browns
8Antonio BrownPittsburgh SteelersCincinnati Bengals
9Roddy WhiteAtlanta FalconsWashington Redskins
10Vincent JacksonTampa Bay BuccaneersSan Francisco 49ers

Top Players Breakdown

  • Josh Gordon has simply been the best statistical wide receiver in the league since his return in Week 3. Gordon hasn't put up less than 18 points since Week 9 and is by far the best weapon the Browns have. Going against a good Chicago defense could reduce his numbers, but there's no way Gordon can't be ranked at the top of this list.
  • Calvin Johnson, like Gordon, has become matchup-proof. Widely considered the best wide receiver in all of football, Johnson will be looking to bounce back after an awful Week 14 in which a snowstorm and terrible performance by Matthew Stafford grounded his numbers. Look for Johnson to put up huge numbers on Monday Night Football against the Ravens.

Other Notables

  • Torrey Smith looks like a fantasy star one week and a fantasy dud the next. With a good matchup against the Detroit Lions, Smith could have another erratic breakout game. But it's tough to put a guy who's been reliant on touchdowns to get points this high on the list. Since Week 6, Smith has cracked 75 yards or more just twice.
  • The return of Jay Cutler means Brandon Marshall could be seeing more targets this week, but with a tough matchup against the Cleveland Browns, Marshall didn't quite crack the top 10. He and Alshon Jeffery should put up points, but the Browns are a top-10 passing defense.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 08:  Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints has a pass broken up by  Mike Mitchell #21 of the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 8, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Chris Graythen/Getty Images


Tight End

Top Week 15 Fantasy Tight Ends
1Jimmy GrahamNew Orleans SaintsSt. Louis Rams
2Vernon DavisSan Francisco 49ersTampa Bay Buccaneers
3Julius ThomasDenver BroncosSan Diego Chargers
4Jordan CameronCleveland BrownsChicago Bears
5Jason WittenDallas CowboysGreen Bay Packers
6Greg OlsenCarolina PanthersN.Y. Jets
7Tony GonzalezAtlanta FalconsWashington Redskins
8Charles ClayMiami DolphinsNew England Patriots
9Martellus BennettChicago BearsCleveland Browns
10Antonio GatesSan Diego ChargersDenver Broncos

Top Players Breakdown

  • Jimmy Graham is the top fantasy tight end this week for many of the same reasons that Drew Brees is a top-three fantasy quarterback. The two have a huge connection, especially in the red zone, and are facing a bottom-tier Rams defense that will likely get burned by this tandem.
  • Vernon Davis is typically the beneficiary of Colin Kaepernick's red-zone targets, and owners shouldn't expect that to change this week. Against a Tampa Bay defense that has allowed 24 touchdowns this season through the air, expect Davis to put up double-digit points for the third time in the last four weeks.

Other Notables

  • Dennis Pitta returned last week and finished with 48 yards and snagged a touchdown. Against a Detroit Lions team that gives up a lot of passing yards and touchdowns, expect Pitta to be the safety valve for Joe Flacco on Monday Night.
  • Coby Fleener is a guy who has underperformed as of late but has a good matchup this week in the red zone. While Houston ranks second in the league in pass defense, it has given up 20 touchdowns through the air.