For real, f*** COVID.
There have been a record number of COVID cases the last few days as we get set for Week 15. Some big names like Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Myles Gaskin, and Jaylen Waddle found themselves placed on the list this week.
The Washington Football Team has 21 players currently on the COVID list as of this writing.
I first want to start by saying congrats on making it to your fantasy football playoffs. I then want to say “I’m sorry” because skill may not be why you win or lose. Instead, it could just be luck and constructing a roster that avoids a slew of COVID cases.
You may end up seeing a few names throughout this column that will inevitably make you go, “who?!” But that’s the real test, isn’t it? It’s next man up when the star player suffers an injury or lands on the COVID list. A good place to start to learn some of these names is Ryan Weisse’s waiver wire column.
So with that, I’ll leave you with this final piece of advice before I recap last week and get into my Week 15 picks — “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Not sure that really has anything to do with fantasy football (unless you’re thinking about benching Jonathan Taylor — don’t). I’m just super hyped for Spider-Man: No Way Home. As I’m sure, many of you are as well.
Enjoy the movie, and for God’s sake, NO SPOILERS!
As for last week’s results, definitely, one of my better weeks! We had 17 wins this past week and tied for my best weekly percentage of the year (59.4%). Unfortunately, four late injury/COVID scratches kept me from my best week of the season (I’m going to assume the four ties would’ve gone my way; I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy), but we soldier on!
A quick reminder of what Play and Fade mean: Play simply means players that I love based on matchups and my expectation that they’ll finish with more points than projected. Fade indicates players that I think will underperform their projections/consensus weekly rankings. It doesn’t mean I’m outright benching them, but I’m likely not rushing to put them in any DFS lineups either. Onto the rest of Week 15.
Week 15 Confidence Plays
QB Tua Tagovailoa (MIA) vs NYJ
And here we begin with COVID cases. The Dolphins have recently placed three RBs on the COVID list — Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, and recently-signed Phillip Lindsay — and Tagovailoa’s favorite target, WR Jaylen Waddle. But, lucky for Tagovailoa and the Dolphins, they face the Jets this week. And the Jets are bad at football.
Tagovailoa’s also been a top 8 QB since Week 11. He still has Mike Gesicki and DeVante Parker (please, God, don’t take them away from us too), and without any experienced RBs behind, it makes sense that Tagovailoa will have to throw the ball to keep the Dolphins out in front. You can do worse if you’re streaming in the first round of the playoffs.
Other QBs with good matchups: Jimmy Garoppolo (SF) vs. ATL and Justin Fields (CHI) vs. MIN
RB Nick Chubb (CLE) vs. LV
I’m going to provide my best Cris Collinsworth impression. **clears throat** “Now here’s a guy who didn’t succumb to COVID as we head into Week 15 because he fell victim to COVID about a month ago and should be commended for his forward-thinking.” Yep, that’s the situation Nick Chubb finds himself in. And you know what? Fine by me!
If he wasn’t going to be a top 5 RB this week because he’s facing a Raiders defense that can’t stop a nose bleed on the ground or because his offense is without their QB1, QB2 RB2, WR1, and TE1, he certainly will be with COVID playing Whack-A-Mole on the NFL at the moment. Set it and forget it with Chubb this week.
RB Duke Johnson Jr. (MIA) vs. NYJ
Do I really just want to sing the praises of Duke Johnson one more time? Yes, yes, I do. There’s a slight chance that one, two, or three of Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, and/or Phillip Lindsay are activated off the COVID list for this game. Emphasis on small. There’s also a chance Malcolm Brown returns from IR ahead of this game. But as of now, it’s The Duke Johnson Show!
I have loved Johnson since his days at the University of Miami. I still hate the Cleveland Browns for keeping him in a bottle like a genie who wants to provide you with three wishes, but you’re too good to accept them. So now you’re telling me he’s back home, in Miami, against the team that yields the most fantasy points to RBs? It is officially time to FREE DUKE JOHNSON!
Other RBs with good matchups: Antonio Gibson (WAS) at PHI, Sony Michel (LAR) vs. SEA, and Eno Benjamin (ARI) at DET
WR Amari Cooper (DAL) at NYG
I know Dak Prescott has been struggling of late, and he didn’t have a great Week 14, but all three of his top WRs had 11 or more fantasy points. Last week, the Giants allowed three Chargers WRs to exceed 60 yards, and all three finished in the top 40 among fantasy WRs. So basically, the Giants suck.
Amari Cooper is the unquestioned WR1 on this team. So when Prescott finds himself in trouble, he looks to Cooper. That will bode well if he continues to struggle. And if he doesn’t, Cooper should have some easy layups against a defense that allows the 7th most fantasy points to WRs.
WR Brandon Aiyuk (SF) vs ATL
A struggling running game without Elijah Mitchell starting typically means the 49ers will employ Deebo Samuel at RB more than usual. When that happens, Aiyuk tends to have really good games. Over his last seven games, he’s had six or more targets in six of them and hit 10+ fantasy points in five of them. Atlanta allows the 5th most fantasy points to WRs on the season, and seven WRs have eclipsed 50 receiving yards against them since Week 10. So Aiyuk should have a solid floor as a WR3 this week, and his upside lies in Elijah Mitchell’s questionable tag.
Other WRs with good matchups: Darnell Mooney (CHI) vs. MIN, Braxton Berrios (NYJ) at MIA, and Nico Collins (HOU) at JAX
TE Hunter Henry (NE) at IND
Hunter Henry is tied for 2nd among TEs with seven TDs on the season. The Colts have allowed six TDs to TEs, tied for 10th in the league. They’ve also allowed the 3rd most fantasy points to TEs on the season. Mac Jones has shown he will take what the defense gives him to avoid making costly mistakes. Well, if the defense doesn’t cover TEs well, where do you think Jones will go with the football? I think Henry is in for a big game this week and punctuates it with at least one score.
Other TEs with good matchups: David Njoku (CLE) vs. LV and Ricky Seals-Jones (WAS) at PHI
QB Carson Wentz (IND) vs. NE
Carson Wentz has played well this season. And for as well as he has played, playing a role in the Colts surge towards the playoffs, he’s been mediocre from a fantasy standpoint the last five games. He’s thrown only five INTs on the season, and four have come since Week 8.
The Patriots have one of the best pass defenses in the league, allowing less than 200 passing yards per game. Their run defense is middle of the road, though, and the Colts have arguably the best RB in the league in Jonathan Taylor behind Wentz. So what kind of game plan do we think Frank Reich and the Colts dial up? I’m not expecting much from Wentz this week.
Other QBs with bad matchups: Cam Newton (CAR) at BUF and Jared Goff (DET) vs. ARI
RB Saquon Barkley (NYG) vs. DAL
Did you know that Saquon Barkley hasn’t scored a touchdown against the Cowboys since December of 2018? The Giants’ offense is straight-up broken. Firing Jason Garrett hasn’t exactly helped. The Cowboys’ defense has looked good, especially against bad offenses. The Giants are precisely that — a bad offense. Barkley will likely see enough touches to warrant a start (he’s playing, so you’re starting him), but without a touchdown, I think he’s barely an RB2 on the week.
RB A.J. Dillon (GB) at BAL
Good luck picking between Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon in a given week. Dillon’s usage has been trending up, but Jones found the end zone twice last week, leaving Dillon with a disappointing week. Will the same happen again? BAL has played solid run defense of late and allows the 6th fewest fantasy points to RBs on the season.
If the Packers still prefer Jones in higher leverage situations, even if they’re limiting him due to his ongoing knee issue, it’s going to diminish Dillon’s ceiling. I doubt better options are available, but I’m not expecting a 10+ point week.
Other RBs with bad matchups: Devin Singletary (BUF) vs. CAR, Rhamondre Stevenson (NE) at IND**, and Rashaad Penny (SEA) at LAR
**Editor’s note: With Damien Harris now out for Saturday night’s game, Stevenson becomes a much more attractive Play with his projected workload. DO NOT FADE STEVENSON. That is all.**
WR Ja’Marr Chase (CHI) at DEN
My co-host, Joe Zollo, likes to stress how young QBs in their first career game in Denver tend to struggle. So, if the Bengals QB1 struggles, it’s a good bet one or all of his WRs will do the same, yes? Tee Higgins tends to be Burrow’s go-to in the red zone and the 5-10 yard range on the outside. He looks to take deep shots when targeting Ja’Marr Chase. The ball will sail differently in the high altitude, and communication could be an issue. Add to the equation stud CB Patrick Surtain II, and Chase could likely be in for a long day on Sunday.
WR Michael Pittman Jr. (IND) vs NE
J.C. Jackson has been arguably the league’s best corner this season. One thing he does exceptionally well is cover big-bodied WRs. He also has the speed many of them don’t possess, allowing him to anticipate routes better. Michael Pittman Jr. has been Carson Wentz’s favorite target this year, and it won’t shock me if Jackson gets a lot of one-on-one with Pittman while Bill Belichick tries to scheme to shut down Jonathon Taylor. Pittman will be in for a challenging game, and I don’t think he has that high of a ceiling this week.
Other WRs with bad matchups: Terry McLaurin (WAS) at PHI, Chase Claypool (PIT) vs. TEN, and Donovan Peoples-Jones (CLE) vs. LV)
TE Pat Freiermuth (PIT) vs TEN
The Titans have allowed 10+ fantasy points to a TE only three times this season. They’ve also allowed only three TDs to TEs on the season. None of the TEs who scored against them topped 10+ fantasy points. Pat Freiermuth has become quite the weapon for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense, but neutralizing TEs has been something Tennessee does pretty well this season. Freiermuth does most of his fantasy damage by scoring TDs, as he has hit 40 receiving yards only once in his last five games. He’s a risky play this week.
Other TEs with bad matchups: Kyle Pitts (ATL) at SF and Tyler Conklin (MIN) at CHI
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