By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
It’s ironic, really. The last few weeks as I make these picks, the less confident I feel. Two weeks ago, I said to BENCH Matthew Stafford. He’d been awful for four straight weeks, and the opposing QB, Drew Brees, was the one supposed to go off. Wrong. Burned. Then last week, I said to BENCH T.Y. Hilton. Well, not bench per se, but to temper expectations. Then Donte Moncrief pulls a hammy and Hilton goes off on a rather talented Texans secondary. Wrong again. Burned again.
What kind of abysmal advice could I possibly muster this week? I’m going with the reverse jinx philosophy from here on out. You see, it’s the semifinals in many people’s fantasy leagues and last week saw some utterly lifeless performances from some of fantasy top stars. This is my attempt to rectify their incompetence. If you had Le’Veon Bell or Aaron Rodgers, you were likely fine. Outside of that, you were fighting for your life. I, fortunately, had a bye and could only muster 62 fantasy points. In a PPR league. 62 points! I welcome Week 15 because things clearly cannot get any worse, can they?
Below are my Confidence Plays for Week 15. To refresh what this column is, these are my confidence plays in a Start/Play/Bench format. “Start” represents your studs and number twos that will overachieve. Get them in your lineup, stat! “Play” represents some bench or FLEX plays that should outperform their draft position based on matchup. “Bench” presents your studs that you should temper expectations for or FLEX plays you should swap out with a bench player. And really, it’s based off my rankings. Check them out and use them as a guide!
QB Kirk Cousins & TE Jordan Reed (WSH) – You don’t think Josh Norman will get his Redskins fired up to play against his old team? Washington is still fighting for a Wild Card spot so they will keep the pedal to the metal. The Panthers allow the 4th most fantasy points to opposing QBs and the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing TEs. Don’t let me down, numbers!
QB Russell Wilson & WR Doug Baldwin (SEA) – Clearly I’m a glutton for punishment. But I’m throwing these guys a mulligan in the shape of the snowstorm they played in last week. Still expected more from them, but as a reward, they face the spiraling Rams who just fired their coach — Jeff Fisher — and are starting a rookie at QB — Jared Goff — who has only mustered one game over 10 fantasy points in his four weeks as a starter. The Seahawks will have their way with the Rams on Thursday night, and Wilson to Baldwin will be a big reason why.
QB Marcus Mariota (TEN) – He’s been a top 5 QB for the better part of the season — currently 6th — so last week’s performance was a likely surprise until you look up and see he played the Broncos and their stout pass defense. This week, Mariota gets a Chiefs defense which has been great at creating turnovers — 25 through 13 games — and is middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to QBs this season. But they allow the 3rd most fantasy points to WRs so I’m guessing Mariota will get his yards, even if he gives up a turnover or two more than usual.
RBs Devonta Freeman & Tevin Coleman (ATL) – When you face the 49ers, you land on this list. They just allowed Bilal Powell to go for 36.9 fantasy points just last week. Against a high-powered offense like the Falcons? Both Freeman and Coleman should easily go over 100 and get at least 1 TD each.
RB Le’Veon Bell & WR Antonio Brown (PIT) – It’s hard to argue with Bell. You’re obviously starting him. Brown, though he struggled in their first matchup with Cincinnati this season, has eaten up the Bengals over their last 4 matchups. 24 catches for 292 yards and 1 TD. The Steelers may be the hottest offense in football right now and I wouldn’t want to be the one to face off with them.
QB Joe Flacco & WR Steve Smith Sr. (BAL) – Flacco has scored 23 or more in 3 of his last 5 weeks, and the Eagles defense has given up more then 22 fantasy points to opposing QBs for four straight weeks. And they allow the 5th most fantasy points to opposing WRs. Give me some Flacco and Smith Sr. this week.
RB Latavius Murray (OAK) – He’s hot. Not physically but like, on fire. He’s scored 4 TDs in his last 4 weeks, had over 100 yards last week vs. the Chiefs and this week gets a Chargers defense that allows the 5th most fantasy points to opposing RBs. Just to add more evidence to the pot: The Chargers have allowed at least one rushing TD in 7 of their last 8 games. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are no longer a threat to Murray’s workload.
RB Isaiah Crowell (CLE) – The Bills defense has been atrocious lately, having allowed 477 yards and 6 TDs on the ground over their last 3 games. Crowell, on the other hand, has been the Browns most consistent weapon all season and he’s coming off a game vs. the Bengals in which he averaged 11.3 yards per carry. That’s not a typo. You’re starting him with confidence this week.
WR Tyreek Hill (KC) – In 3 of his last 5 games, Hill has scored over 20 fantasy points. And he did it last week with Jeremy Maclin back in the lineup. And he gets the Titans this week, who allow the most fantasy points to opposing WRs? I mean, how do you pass on that?
WR Dontrelle Inman (SD) – He’s scored a TD in 3 straight weeks, and has 2 more catches than fellow WR Tyrell Williams over the last 3 weeks. Has he become Rivers new favorite target? I think defenses are just shifting more attention to Williams, thus opening up more opportunity for Inman. The Raiders give up the 14th most fantasy points to opposing WRs, but with star RB Melvin Gordon likely to miss this game, the Chargers will be throwing in this one.
WR Robby Anderson (NYJ) – A funny thing happened when Bryce Petty became QB of the Jets. Brandon Marshall was brushed aside for the speedy Robby Anderson. He has 23 targets in the last two weeks and faces off against a Dolphins secondary that allows the 13th most fantasy points to opposing WRs. And let’s be honest. Byron Maxwell isn’t keeping up with Anderson. Solid FLEX play this week.
WR Taylor Gabriel (ATL) – HC Dan Quinn came out recently and said Julio Jones’ injury was not turf toe, but a sprain. That’s comforting, but if you’re trying to make the playoffs and you just manhandled the lowly 49ers without your best WR, what makes you think you can’t do the same against the lowly Rams? I’m not expecting Jones to play this week as a precaution, but if he does, I think he’s just a decoy. Get Gabriel in your lineup, as he’s been electric even with Jones playing.
TE Kyle Rudolph (MIN) – He is the Vikings most consistent weapon, and with Bradford completing a league-leading 71.2% of his passes for only 6.92 yards per attempt — 10th fewest in the league — he looks underneath for Rudolph often. Against Indy, who allows the 9th most points to TEs, look for plenty of Rudolph.
Seahawks D/ST (SEA) – Against a rookie QB, on a short week, with an interim head coach. I mean, it just feels too easy.
QB Drew Brees & WR Brandin Cooks (NO) – You think I was kidding with the reverse jinx philosophy? Brees is starting for me on two teams in the semis this week. He gets Arizona and their stingy pass defense — 4th fewest points to QBs — on the road no less. Of course, they did just allow Ryan Tannehill to throw for 3 TDs on them so I guess anything can happen. Look, as Commishie so pointedly stated on our podcast, “You don’t bench your studs.” I’m not expecting a 20 point effort, but he’s gotta do better than the 11.5 points he’s combined for over the past two weeks, right? Right?! And that means getting the ball to Cooks and not having him face off against Patrick Peterson. Seriously. Put Michael Thomas or Willie Snead opposite PP. The Cardinals are 2nd worst in DVOA to #2 WRs. The proof is there! Fantasy owners everywhere are begging you, Sean Payton! Help us!
RB Doug Martin (TB) – Since returning from injury in Week 10, he certainly hasn’t been awful. What he has been is consistent at keeping the ball away from the opposing team’s offense. Tampa wants to control the tempo of the game. The problem they face this week is a Cowboys team that does the same thing, only better. Martin has scored a TD in back to back weeks, but I’m not expecting a TD this week and maybe 50 yards or so at best. Temper expectations against a better-than-you-think Cowboys defense.
WR Amari Cooper (OAK) – Cooper is a fantastic WR. He is. Love him. But his biggest strength is stretching the field. And Derek Carr’s throwing hand clearly isn’t 100% after injuring his pinky a couple of weeks ago. The good news, Carr will have 10 days to get right before the Raiders take on San Diego. Still, I’m betting against Cooper this week (but I believe in the reverse jinx!).
WR DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) – A 1st round pick going into this season, Brock Osweiler has destroyed Hopkins’ reputation this season. Hopkins will likely draw assignment from Jalen Ramsey, and he has gotten better every game this year. Hopkins will be shut down against the Jaguars this week.
TE Martellus Bennett (NE) – You beat Denver by running the football. Plain and simple. Bennett will be blocking a lot this week and I’m not buying into last week’s outburst of fantasy production. He comes in at 15 for me this week.