Fantasy Football Week 15: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystDecember 16, 2021

Fantasy Football Week 15: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    The fantasy football playoffs are here.

    For the fantasy managers fortunate enough to advance to the postseason, it's a time of great excitement. Peel off just a few more victories, and the ultimate goal of a championship will be accomplished.

    However, it's also a time of great stress. Lose again, and that's that. The season is over. Every team still alive is a good one replete with talent. You are going to need every fantasy point you can get.

    Every lineup decision can be the difference between advancing to the next round and packing it in for the season.

    The stress level is higher than at any point this season.

    The point of this piece is to help alleviate some of that stress.

    As is the case every week here at Bleacher Report, I have sifted through fantasy lineup questions on the B/R app and selected some that should assist both the fantasy managers who asked them and others in getting their Week 15 lineups together.

    Survive and advance, y'all. Survive and advance.

The Perils of Overthinking: Playoffs Edition

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    Taysom (Hill) and Dak (Prescott). Struggling to make the right choice here. -- @derekh147

    I have admonished more than once in this column this year about the perils of overthinking. It's a pitfall that can be that much easier to fall prey to in the playoffs. The pressure to make the right decision is that much higher when your next loss will be the last one.

    That's what this is: an overthink, and one that could be costly.

    Yes, Taysom Hill of the New Orleans Saints was a top-five fantasy quarterback last week, thanks to 73 rushing yards and two scores on the ground against the New York Jets. But 44 of those yards and one of the touchdowns came on one play in garbage time when Hill should have just slid and kept the clock running.

    Take out that one play that shouldn't have happened, and Hill's stats look much more pedestrian.

    The Saints also have a brutal matchup Sunday—at least for Hill's skill set. Tampa ranks third in the league against the run, allowing just 91.2 yards per game.

    There won't be any 45-yard scampers this week. Not against the Buccaneers.

    Yes, Dak Prescott's production in the past couple of weeks hasn't been great. But he's still 11th among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks for the season, has a loaded receiving corps at his disposal and faces a middle-of-the-pack New York Giants defense in Week 15.

    Don't get caught being cute with Hill.

    The Call: Dak Prescott

Sifting Through the Blah

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Playoff time good sir! Can't wait for the column. Full point PPR TE if (T.J.) Hockenson doesn't suit up again. (David) Njoku, (James) O'Shaughnessy, (Brevin) Jordan, (Nick) Vannett or (Albert) Okwuegbunam? -- @fsjetset23

    Um. Yikes.

    We'll operate here under the assumption that Hockenson's injured hand sidelines him Sunday—he wasn't at practice on Wednesday after missing Week 14. If the third-year pro plays against the Arizona Cardinals, he has to be the start, although a banged-up tight end on a bad offense in a terrible fantasy matchup for tight ends doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.

    The real problem is that the other tight ends here inspire even less. David Njoku of the Browns is out—even if he clears the league's COVID-19 protocols as expected (he announced on Instagram that it's "good to be back."), the outbreak sweeping through the team has wreaked so much havoc that Nick Chubb is the only Browns player I'd consider starting this week.

    Nick Vannett of the Saints is another pass—the veteran has seven-plus points-per-reception points in three straight games, but that's his ceiling. In the postseason, you need more upside than that to advance.

    James O'Shaughnessy of the Jacksonville Jaguars is a pass too. The 29-year-old may have even less upside than Vannett, and the Jags are such a mess offensively that trusting any pass-catcher on the team feels like asking for trouble.

    Brevin Jordan of the Houston Texans was targeted seven times and scored a touchdown last week, but that was the rookie's first game over four targets. No thanks.

    Albert Okwuegbunam carries more than a little risk in a must-win game—he has three games this season with just a single catch. But the 23-year-old also has two games with double-digit PPR points, including last week's five grabs for 41 yards and a score against the Lions. Had he not lost a fumble in the opener, he'd have three.

    He's the best of a less-than-optimal lot. 

    The Call: Albert Okwuegbunam

A Penny for Your Thoughts

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Which 2 RB to start? Najee (Harris) is a given, right? (Cordarrelle) Patterson, (Elijah) Mitchell, (Rashaad) Penny? -- @jenhancock94

    The main reason I included this question was that it affords me the opportunity to opine about the hottest prospect on this week's waiver wire—Rashaad Penny of the Seattle Seahawks.

    Penny played well for Seattle in their Week 14 win over the Houston Texans, carrying the ball 16 times for 137 yards and two scores. From all indications, Penny has earned the opportunity to again be Seattle's lead back this week against the Rams, and he should absolutely be picked up wherever possible.

    But the Rams are a below-average fantasy matchup, and the Seahawks sit 22nd in the league in rushing. He's the low man here—assuming that Elijah Mitchell of the San Francisco 49ers returns to action.

    Mitchell is nursing a knee injury and in the league's concussion protocol, so there's no guarantee that's the case. If he does play, he's a tempting option—the Falcons have given up the seventh-most PPR points per game to running backs, and Mitchell is a top-20 back in terms of fantasy points per game. But there's no need here to rely on an injured running back in a must-win game here.

    It's been quite the season for Cordarrelle Patterson of the Atlanta Falcons—the 30-year-old has gone from kick returner and gadget player to the Falcons No. 1 running back and a top-10 fantasy option (who has positional eligibility as a wide receiver with some providers). He's an every-week must-start.

    So is Najee Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Pittsburgh offense has struggled at times, but that offense runs through Harris. He's fourth in fantasy points at the position after 14 weeks. 

    The Calls: Najee Harris, Cordarrelle Patterson

Mission Kimpossible

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Hey thanks for your articles. I look forward to reading them every Friday. Here's the sitch…need two in non-PPR. (David) Montgomery, (Aaron) Jones, (Nick) Chubb or (DeAndre) Hopkins? -- @cjhi

    "Here's the sitch?" What are we in, a rerun of Kim Possible?

    We'll kick this one off with the easiest "yes" of the lot. The Cleveland Browns are something of a hot mess at the moment. COVID-19 has sidelined more players than you can count on both hands, including wide receiver Jarvis Landry and quarterback Baker Mayfield.

    But for now at least, Nick Chubb is not among those sidelined. And with Kareem Hunt (ankle) likely out and the team's passing game in shambles, Chubb should see a heavy workload against a Las Vegas Raiders defense allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to running backs.

    DeAndre Hopkins of the Arizona Cardinals is a no-go. In fact, after injuring his knee against the Los Angeles Rams, Hopkins is reportedly out for the rest of the regular season.

    That's a brutal break for both the Redbirds and fantasy managers.

    That leaves two running backs for one spot—David Montgomery of the Chicago Bears and Aaron Jones of the Green Bay Packers. There was a time when the call here would have been Jones, and it wouldn't have been all that close.

    But Jones had all of eight touches in Week 14, left the game early and faces Baltimore's No. 1 ranked run defense this week. Meanwhile, Montgomery is a clear lead back going up against a Minnesota Vikings defense that just gave up a fat stat line to Najee Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Montgomery has at least as much upside as Jones and a much higher floor.

    The Calls: Nick Chubb, David Montgomery

Keeping Up with the Joneses

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Pick 3: D.J. Moore, Michael Pittman, Brandon Aiyuk, Julio Jones, DK Metcalf, Marvin Jones? -- @booley5

    This is a decent set of options, albeit one that lacks a no-doubt anchor.

    The easiest "yes" of this group isn't the most obvious. Even with Deebo Samuel back on the field last week, Brandon Aiyuk still managed 11 targets, six catches and a touchdown. The 23-year-old has worked his way out of Kyle Shanahan's doghouse and has a dozen or more PPR fantasy points in three of the past four contests.

    To say it has been a disappointing season for DK Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks is an understatement. Since scoring twice in Week 8, Metcalf has topped 10 PPR points all of once. There's always a chance that Metcalf could hit a long score, but in a must-win week, counting on fluke touchdowns isn't the best strategy.

    Marvin Jones Jr. of the Jacksonville Jaguars finally showed half a fantasy pulse last week, but the entire Jags offense is best left alone if at all possible.

    DJ Moore of the Carolina Panthers draws a Buffalo Bills team in Week 15 that has given up the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers in 2021. However, the Buffalo secondary has taken a step back since Tre'Davious White went down, Moore is Carolina's No. 1 wideout and the Panthers are likely to be playing catch-up. He's in.

    That leaves us with two receivers for the final spot—Michael Pittman Jr. of the Indianapolis Colts and Julio Jones of the Titans. Pittman has cooled way off after a hot streak in mid-season, and this week's matchup with the Patriots is a bad one. Jones was relatively quiet in his return last week, but with A.J. Brown out, he's the No. 1 wide receiver for the Titans.

    The last spot is his. 

    The Calls: Brandon Aiyuk, DJ Moore, Julio Jones

Pick a Pair of Pass-Catchers

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    Matt Durisko/Associated Press

    Pick 2: Tee Higgins, Darnell Mooney, Jerry Jeudy, Diontae Johnson or Hunter Renfrow. -- @paytonrobertson

    This is a question where it would help to know whether the scoring was standard or PPR. I'm going to assume the latter.

    We can rule two of these wide receivers out quickly—Darnell Mooney of the Chicago Bears and Jerry Jeudy of the Denver Broncos. It's not a slight against those players. It's simply a matter of pedestrian passing offenses in Denver and Chicago that limit the fantasy upside of those players.

    We can also slot one starter pretty quickly, although this is where scoring becomes important. For the season, the second-highest-scoring receiver of this entire group is Hunter Renfrow of the Raiders, who has gone from afterthought in drafts to top-15 fantasy option. Renfrow's value takes a hit in leagues that don't award a point for catches, but the 25-year-old has earned the right to be called an every-week starter.

    Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals has been on quite the run of late, as he's 11th in PPR points per game since Week 10. But during that same time frame, Diontae Johnson of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been that much better. Johnson is fourth in points per game since Week 10 and seventh in fantasy points per game for the season. It's been lost amid a moribund season in Pittsburgh, but Johnson has emerged as a legitimate fantasy WR1.

    Add in that Johnson faces a Titans team that leads the AFC in fantasy points per game allowed to wide receivers while Higgins gets a Broncos team giving up the eighth-fewest, and that's all she wrote.

    Renfrow and Johnson are the plays.

    The Calls: Hunter Renfrow, Diontae Johnson

The Anti-Playoffs

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    I always appreciate this column since truth be told, I think I'm bad at fantasy football. Desperately need help here with a 2-part question to avoid last place. Pick 1 QB: (Aaron) Rodgers, (Taysom) Hill or (Jalen) Hurts? Pick 2 WR: (Brandon) Aiyuk, Devante Parker, K.J. Osborn. -- @mroberts5

    The focus of this week's column is on helping teams in the fantasy playoffs. However, this user's candid assessment of their skill level impressed me. Besides, in a way, one game to avoid last place is a sort of playoff.

    For what it's worth @mroberts5, most folks are bad at fantasy football to start. We all have bad weeks. Bad years, even, You just have to keep grinding. Keep trying. It will get better.

    At quarterback, this is a fairly easy call. I have already mentioned my reservations about starting Taysom Hill this week. Aaron Rodgers of the Packers vs. Jalen Hurts of the Eagles is a very close call. The two have scored a nearly identical number of fantasy points per game this season. But in his return from the bye (and injury), Hurts draws a Washington Football Team that was allowing the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks before COVID-19 ravaged the defense.

    Hurts gets the edge.

    At wide receiver, Brandon Aiyuk is an easy "yes" against an Atlanta Falcons team allowing the seventh-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers this year after posting a 6/62/1 line on 11 targets against the Bengals in Week 14.

    DeVante Parker of the Dolphins vs. K.J. Osborn of the Vikings is another close one. Both have upside, but an uncertain target share for both receivers creates more than a little risk, too.

    Osborn hauled in a long touchdown last week and has the better matchup against a Bears team surrendering the 10th most PPR points per game to receivers in 2021. But he also plays on Monday night and would be relegated to an afterthought if Adam Thielen (ankle) returns.

    There's also the matter of Jaylen Waddle of the Dolphins landing on the COVID-19 list. It's a development that elevates Parker to Miami's No. 1 receiver, and should boost that target share.

    That gives Parker the edge here.

    The Calls: Jalen Hurts, Brandon Aiyuk, DeVante Parker

DraftKings DFS Question of the Week

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    With so many big names at running back unavailable, what are the best options in the backfield for the DraftKings Week 15 Fantasy Football Millionaire Contest? -- @RodTidwell

    There are indeed several elite running back options who won't be available in Week 15. No Nick Chubb of the Browns. Or Austin Ekeler of the Chargers. Or Jonathan Taylor of the Colts. Or Dalvin Cook of the Vikings. Or Alvin Kamara of the Saints.

    That's quite the list of MIA backs.

    Trying to select the "best" option at the position can be something of a loaded question, but there are some running backs who stand out in Week 15, and they aren't the highest-priced players on the list.

    The thing is, most carry a caveat of some sort.

    Elijah Mitchell of the San Francisco 49ers [DK DFS VALUE $6,200didn't practice on Wednesday and missed last week's wild win over the Bengals. But if he can get back on the field Sunday in a top-10 matchup for the position, the 23-year-old could provide a major bang for your DraftKings buck.

    After a stint on injured reserve, Chase Edmonds of the Arizona Cardinals [DK DFS VALUE: $5,100] is fully expected to return this week against a Detroit Lions team giving up the fourth-most DK points to running backs in 2021. If James Conner (ankle) sits this one out, Edmonds will likely be one of the most-rostered running backs on DraftKings.

    Somewhere between those two price points, we find Antonio Gibson of the Washington Football Team [DK DFS VALUE: $6,000], who faces a Philadelphia Eagles team that has surrendered the 10th-most DK points to running backs this year. With Taylor Heinicke (knee) and Terry McLaurin (concussion) banged up, Washington will likely lean on Gibson even more than usual this week.

    The Calls: Elijah Mitchell, Chase Edmonds, Antonio Gibson

Rapid Fire

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    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    Just as we do every week, we'll conclude this week's Start/Sit column by banging out some answers to app user questions in rapid-fire style.

    Try to help as many folks as possible. At least that's what I tell myself

    Have more Start/Sit questions? Leave them in the comments. I try to spend a few hours there on Friday and/or Saturday, answering as many as possible.


    Need to start one flex. .5 PPR. (Chuba) Hubbard, Van Jefferson -- @jzj305

    Usually, I lean toward running backs in flex situations. But this is the exception to the rule. With Odell Beckham Jr. (COVID-19) likely out this week, Van Jefferson could see a bump in targets, while Chuba Hubbard could cede snaps to Ameer Abdullah if/when the Panthers fall behind the Bills in Buffalo.


    Tyreek (Hill), (Stefon) Diggs, (CeeDee) Lamb, (Mike) Evans. Need 2 for non-PPR. -- @frankfinkle

    Someone is just showing off. Mike Evans of the Buccaneers is out thanks to his historically smaller (relatively speaking) stat lines against Marshon Lattimore of the Saints. CeeDee Lamb of the Cowboys is a go, thanks to a top-10 fantasy matchup with the New York Giants. That leaves Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs and Stefon Diggs of the Bills, two of fantasy's very best receivers. Hill has the worse matchup, but I just cannot bring myself to sit Tyreek Hill—ever. Odd though it sounds, Diggs sits.


    Rapid Fire! (Tom) Brady or Kyler Murray? -- @cactusjim26

    Someone who gets in on the theme! All right! Frankly, the smart play would have been to trade one of these quarterbacks weeks ago. Both Tom Brady and Kyler Murray are excellent fantasy options, but Brady averages more fantasy points per game and a slightly better fantasy matchup against a Saints team that is much easier to pass on than to run on this season.


    D.J. Moore or Miles Sanders at flex? .5 PPR. -- @knal208

    As I've said about 38 times this season, in situations like this, I generally lean toward the running back. That lean is much harder here, provided that Miles Sanders (ankle) plays. Washington's front seven has been besieged by COVID-19, while DJ Moore and the Panthers draw fantasy football's toughest matchup for wide receivers with the Bills.


    Standard scoring. A.J. Dillon, Rashaad Penny, DeVonta Smith, Brandon Aiyuk? -- @stephegger

    At the risk of being redundant again (see what I did there?), this is one of those flex situations where the running backs have a decided edge—more touches equal more opportunity. Of the two backs in this question, Rashaad Penny of Seattle is the back more likely to see 15 or more carries this week against the Rams. Unless Aaron Jones doesn't play (which is unlikely), Penny is the play.


    Need to play 2. (Rashaad) Penny, Javonte (Williams), (Antonio) Gibson, A.J. Dillon

    Washington's Antonio Gibson has already been talked up in this column. He should see a heavy workload Sunday against an Eagles defense giving up the 12th-most PPR points per game to running backs. AJ Dillon is in a timeshare with Aaron Jones, and while Penny has upside, the second spot here goes to Denver's Javonte Williams. Williams is also in a timeshare with Melvin Gordon, but he has 100 rushing yards or a touchdown in three straight games.


    Jarvis Landry, Russell Gage or DeVante Parker? -- @SamWow123

    Landry landed on the COVID-19 list, so the Browns wideout is likely out, given that Cleveland plays on Saturday. Miami's DeVante Parker isn't without upside, but Russell Gage of Atlanta has become the Falcons No. 1 receiver ahead of a matchup with a 49ers defense that ranks just outside the top-10 in PPR points per game given up to wideouts. Gage is the move.


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    Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @IDPSharks.