Anthony Maggio, John Tuvey and Bo Mitchell will be here all season delivering the edge you need to dominate your fantasy football league. Visit 1500espn.com each Wednesday for a new column and each Thursday for a new episode of the Fantasy Football Party podcast.
If you’ve made it to Week 15 of the fantasy football season – the semifinals in leagues that do playoffs the right way – you have likely combined a star-studded roster with a healthy dose of good luck. Most importantly, you’ve won the war of attrition that is the NFL season and haven’t lost more than one impact fantasy player. By now, every team has lost at least one big knocker to injury (or suspension) but the loss of Carson Wentz to a torn ACL in Week 14 could be a dagger.
Wentz threw for 291 yards and four touchdowns before injuring his knee on Sunday so he likely led you to a playoff win in the quarterfinals. His absence will make a significant difference this week because at this stage of the season anything resembling a great fantasy quarterback isn’t readily available on the waiver wire.
Josh McCown was still a free agent in more than half of ESPN.com fantasy leagues as of last week despite posting top-eight quarterback stats for two months (he did — look it up!). He would have been a solid option, but alas he broke his left hand against the Broncos and is done for the season. Cross him off the list. Your best hope is that Aaron Rodgers (remember him?) is still available; however, he’s already been picked back up in any league worth its sausage and beer. Discount double-check just in case.
Beyond that, you are left to stream quarterbacks the final two weeks. In Week 15, that means you are probably rolling the dice on Wentz’s replacement, Nick Foles, who now holds the keys to the Eagles’ high-powered offense and goes against a Giants defense that’s allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks in standard scoring systems. Not a bad matchup on paper.
Other options include:
In order to go the distance and take home the league hardware, your luck, preparation and replacement players will also require some good ol’ attention to detail. Looking at weather reports at this time of year is imperative, especially day-of conditions. Deep snow and/or strong winds can wreak havoc with kickers and, to a lesser extent, quarterbacks (see Colts vs. Bills in Week 14).
Also pay special attention to offensive line and key defensive injuries. That’s part of the detail that separates champions from runners-up. A few crucial injuries along the O-line can neutralize a running game or jeopardize a quarterback (see Vikings in Week 14). Conversely, a missing edge rusher or cornerback can open up the opposition’s passing game. Every starting spot in your lineup needs to be vetted.
Best of luck in your playoffs this week from the entire Fantasy Football Party crew!
Now then, for those of you who already bowed out of the playoffs or merely continue to seek side-action from DFS, let’s look at a dozen of the top values for this week. As our holiday gift to you, this will be our meatiest DFS breakdown of the season.
For DFS players, we provide the best values at QB/RB/WR/TE on a weekly basis, including pricing from Fanball, DraftKings and FanDuel. Good luck!
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (vs. New England)
In Week 14 we witnessed Roethlisberger become the first quarterback to ever top 500 yards passing in a game three times. We also witnessed a beat-up Patriots defense turn back the calendar to the first three weeks of the season and get scorched by an opposing quarterback. Takeaway: Big Ben is feeling it right now and the Patriots are scrambling for answers on defense. If you need any further convincing to pay this fairly paltry price for Roethlisberger, take a look at his numbers at home in December in recent years. He’s money this week.
Kenyan Drake, Miami (at Buffalo)
The cool thing about a relatively unknown player going off on Monday night is that DFS sites don’t have ample time to react and jack up his price. Simply put, Drake is getting all of the fantasy running backs points in Miami right now. He has 334 yards from scrimmage, a touchdown and eight receptions in just the last two games. This Sunday, he faces a Buffalo defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season. If Drake isn’t in your DFS lineup this week, you are probably doing it wrong.
Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville (vs. Houston)
Volume leads to production. One of the most recent examples of this fantasy theorem is Westbrook’s performance in the month of games he has played. The Jags eased the speedy rookie back into action from his offseason core muscle surgery slowly, “only” targeting him six times in his Week 11 debut. Then they targeted him 27 times in three games since. That escalated quickly! He had a career-high 81 yards and scored his first career touchdown last week and this week faces the Texans, who rank 26th against the pass. Best of all, he’s practically free in DFS.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota (vs. Cincinnati)
Disclaimer: Rudolph reportedly was seen in walking boot Wednesday. Assuming that he plays Sunday…
I would expect to pay more in DFS for a tight end that’s been on the kind of roll that Rudolph has. You can find nine other tight ends that cost the same or more this week on Fanball. Considering Rudy has four touchdowns over his last three games, this is a bargain. Cincinnati has only permitted three tight end touchdowns this season, but the best one they’ve faced is Jack Doyle… and he caught 12 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown against them. Don’t expect those kind of receiving and yardage numbers from Rudolph but a touchdown feels like a foregone conclusion with him right now.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville (vs. Houston)
Don’t laugh! I know, I know. Bortles doesn’t feel like the most trustworthy fantasy quarterback based in large part on little things like facts and track record. However, I recommended him above as a potential replacement for Wentz in Week 15 and he’s even more palatable as a DFS play at these prices. The Texans’ defense he’ll face doesn’t look like the one he struggled against back in Week 1. Since then, they have allowed six quarterbacks to pass for more than 300 yards and six to throw multiple touchdowns against them. Moreover, in the last three games Bortles has run for two touchdowns once, passed for two touchdowns twice and he even surpassed 300 yards two weeks ago. He’s worth a look. Stranger things have happened.
Alex Collins, Baltimore (at Cleveland)
Collins is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and should crack 1,000 rushing yards this week or next week (he needs 175 more). He just got done totaling a season-high 120 yards against Pittsburgh on Sunday night and has a softer matchup this week. For the first half of the season, the Browns were a tough play against the run. That didn’t last. They have allowed 100-yard rushers in two of their last four games. What’s really cool is that there are 21 running backs that will cost you more than Collins will on DK this weekend. You know what to do.
Devin Funchess, Carolina (vs. Green Bay)
Only four teams have allowed more yards to wide receivers this season than the Packers. Only two teams have allowed more touchdowns to wide receivers (15) than the Packers. Only one wideout is fortunate enough to be a realistic fantasy option against them this week and that’s Funchess, the Panthers leader in receiving yards and touchdowns by a fair margin. No, that price is not a misprint.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay (at Carolina)
This is your friendly reminder that no player was impacted more by the injury to Rodgers than Nelson. His targets, receptions and yards almost disappeared. His touchdowns vanished. Nelson went from a top-10 fantasy wide receiver to fantasy benches. Therefore, with Rodgers returning don’t forget about Jordy, whose price has sagged considerably and should fit easily within any roster you construct.
Cam Newton, Carolina (vs. Green Bay)
Many of you saw Newton struggle to post good passing numbers against one of the poorest performances of the season by the Vikings defense last week. Yeah, he killed them with a 62-yard run, but his overall numbers were lackluster, which has left his DFS price nice and low. That coincides nicely with the Panthers’ home game against the Packers this week. Rodgers will be the headline story but Newton is a sneaky fantasy play against a defense that has allowed nine touchdown passes in its last three games, including three to rookie DeShone Kizer last Sunday.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee (at San Francisco)
Both Henry and backfield mate DeMarco Murray are good plays and solid values this week, but I would pay the extra $200 it would take to use Henry against one of the worst run defenses in the league. The timeshare in the Titans backfield was extremely unbalanced in favor of Murray a season ago but has become nearly a 50-50 split in 2017. Over the past five games, Murray has 54 carries and is averaging 2.98 yards while Henry has 50 carries and is averaging 5.84 yards. Henry has also scored touchdowns in two straight.
Mike Davis, Seattle (vs. Los Angeles Rams)
Absolutely nobody – not even Davis – would have believed you in August that he would be their best running back by December. That’s clearly the case, however, and though it wasn’t exactly a huge hurdle for Davis to clear it is meaningful for fantasy purposes. What’s also meaningful: Davis left last week’s game with an injury in the third quarter. However, there is some hope he will play this week, especially in DFS circles, because his price remains very low and the Rams have ceded the second-most fantasy points to running backs this season. Be sure to track his situation.
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams (at Seattle)
It took a tad longer than I suspected it might, but Kupp is emerging as a bona fide fantasy WR2 in his rookie season. He is averaging 7.6 targets and 5.2 receptions over his past seven games. Over his last three, he has topped 100 yards twice, and he scored against Philly last week. The Seahawks’ defense is still pretty stout but they are banged up. The likely return of Robert Woods should draw coverage away from Kupp, who runs primarily out of the slot. As for the price, you’ll have to scroll down past 31 wide receivers (!) on FanDuel to land this bargain.
Anthony Maggio, John Tuvey and Bo Mitchell co-host the 1500ESPN Fantasy Football Party podcast. Bookmark the podcast page for upcoming episodes and subscribe to the podcast now! Don’t act like you’re not impressed.
Maggio hosted Fantasy Football Sunday on 1500ESPN from 2012-2013 and is the Fantasy Football Editor at Zoneblitz.com. Mitchell is Vice President of Content for Sportradar. And Tuvey is Senior NFL Analyst and Director of Content for Fanball, a SportsHub Technologies company. All three men are kind of big deals, enjoy leather-bound books and have homes that smell of rich mahogany.
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