Welcome to Week 15 of the Daily Fantasy Football season. We are coming off another week where the chalk exploded in the line-makers’ faces. The Saints have been involved in the highest projected games over the last two weeks, according to the O/U and, in both cases, it was a disaster. In Week 14 the resurgent Saints defense held the Bucs to a paltry 16 points; it was a defensive slugfest that sunk plenty of DFS lineups on both sides of the ball. Cam Newton and Russel Wilson both continued to disappoint as well.
As the season winds down, these teams have pretty much found their identity. I talked about capitulation a few weeks back here in the column. At this point, you should already know that Osweiler is horrible and DeAndre Hopkins isn’t worth rostering. Devontae Booker and Todd Gurley aren’t turning things around.
Another phenomenon to pay attention to is how bad teams start to quit. Football is hard, and it’s particularly tough for defenses to get fired up when their teams have terrible records. The 49ers, Jets, Rams, Browns and others have basically thrown in the towel defensively. The phenomenon is worse when teams are on the road. As DFSers, we need to take note of the phenomenon and use it to our advantage. I’ll point out some situations where teams are a threat to quit in this week’s breakdowns. That situation favors opposing RBs, in particular.
DFS Army Membership
We are just a week or two away from launching support for NBA on our Domination Station optimization tool. The Domination Station is an optimizer I designed to give our members the same tools the pros use to dominate in both multi-entry as well as cash lineups. Aside from our best in the industry projections, the tool allows users to customize everything from uniqueness per lineup to setting exposure percentages for each player. You can build anywhere from one to 200 lineups in a matter of minutes. The Optimization Station is just a small part of what we do for our VIPs in the DFS Army. If you like what I do in NFL, you’ll love our NBA team. Our pros and coaches are fixtures in our slack forums updating our members on the latest news, inactive players, pivots and much more. Anyone that has tried out NBA DFS knows that timely pre-lock updates are often the difference between winning and losing. If this all sounds like a good fit. we’d love to have you on board. I’ve set up a code to lock in at 20% off our normal monthly rate of $20 for readers of this column – go to DFS Army VIP Membership and use code: GEEK to lock in the discount.
What Type of Player are You?
In the intro, I talked about teams finding their identity at this point of the season. The same can be applied to us as DFSers. At this point, we’ve had a decent enough sample size to begin to understand our own strengths and weaknesses as it pertains to DFS. RotoGrinders offers a free tool called the “DFS Analyzer”. I encourage you to give that tool a whirl and assess your season as a whole. Some players excel at cash or head-to-head lineups but lose in GPPs. Other people are the opposite, but we each have a style that works for us. It’s important to know yourself. Focus on the contest types that you have been the most successful at. Tone down the entries in contests that you haven’t. Last season when I analyzed my results, I had significant losses chasing live final qualifiers. I made the decision this season to stop chasing those Qs heavily. My best ROI came in head-to-head matchups so I stepped up my volume there. I’m a firm believer that people can be successful at DFS using varied methods. There is no exact formula. Know yourself, figure out what you are good at and focus on becoming great.
Something called a Polar Vortex is heading to the Midwest and northeast this weekend. That means wind, snow and freezing conditions. None of these things are good for fantasy production, particularly when it comes to passing games. It’s too early in the week to get accurate forecasts for all the games, but remember to check the weather before finalizing your lineups! If you are entering Thursday-Sunday contests on FanDuel or FantasyDraft you should stick to players from teams playing indoors or on the west coast. Snow and cold don’t necessarily effect running games negatively so target RBs from the cold weather spots.
Week 15 Game Breakdowns
Thursday Night Football
at Seattle -14 Los Angeles 38
The Thursday contest pits the struggling Seahawks’ offense against a Rams team that has all but mailed it in for the season. The Rams win the prize for the lowest projected total of the season in this game coming in at a paltry 12-point total projection. Obviously, we can’t touch any Rams offensive players here. One of the cardinal rules of Vegas lines is to roster defenses, kickers and RBs on heavily favored teams. Thomas Rawls is an elite play this week facing a Rams defense that has basically quit on the season. I’m not as excited about rolling out Russell Wilson and his pass catchers in this one. I don’t think the Seahawks are going to need them to win this game easily.
Cash Plays: Seattle D, Thomas Rawls
Saturday Night Football
Miami -2.5 at NY Jets 38
The NFL couldn’t have chosen a worse matchup for the prime-time Saturday Night spot. The Dolphins will likely be without Ryan Tannehill for this stinker and the Jets are a team simply playing out the season, hoping for its merciful conclusion. That said, there might still be some potentially viable plays here on both sides of the ball.
I’m not sure what to expect from Matt Moore in this spot. He is a veteran backup and should be a decent fill in and Jarvis Landry has some sleeper appeal going up against a virtually non-existent Jets’ secondary. Another interesting contrarian GPP play might be Jay Ajayi. He has gone cold after a nice little stretch mid-season but his salary has come down a smidge ($5800 on DK, $6900 on DK), and with the Jets perceived as a top-notch run defense I expect him to be extremely low owned.
For the Jets, it’s clear that Robby Anderson is the top target for Bryce Petty. I rode the Anderson train last week on DK and I’ll be jumping back on board this time around. Another interesting player for the Jets is Bilal Powell; last week he beasted in a prime matchup after Matt Forte went down with an injury. Assuming Forte remains out, why not take another stab at Powell for cheap?
Cash Plays: None
Tournament Plays: Robby Anderson, Bilal Powell
Sunday 1:00 Games
at NY Giants -4.5 Detroit 41.5
In the first game of the Sunday slate, the Lions travel to East Rutherford to take on the Giants as slight underdogs in a game that is expected to be close and low scoring. This game has the potential to be extremely cold and windy so stay tuned to the weather reports throughout the week.
Last week, Theo Riddick sat out with a leg injury but I expect him to be back for this one. That said, I’m not sure how much he can be trusted. This season has taken its toll on Riddick who seems more suited for a scat back role than the featured one he’s been forced into due to injury. Stafford dislocated a finger on his throwing hand last week, and it’s tough to figure out how a finger injury will affect a QB. It’s possible that Stafford will be fine since he played through the injury last week. Still, it adds an element of the unknown. The Giants have played fantastic defense all season, particularly at home, and this game has all the makings of a low-scoring affair.
The Giants offense has completely stagnated in recent weeks, so the only viable player is Odell Beckham Jr.
Elite Plays: Odell Beckham Jr
Tournament Plays: Golden Tate
at Baltimore -6 Philadelphia 41.5
The Eagles travel to Baltimore as heavy road underdogs in a game that is expected to be low-scoring. The Eagles defense has been deteriorating in recent weeks, they are no longer in the playoff hunt and are squarely in the quitting zone. Baltimore has played incredible defense this season and will need this win to have any chance to keep up with the Steelers.
Last week the Eagles had RBs Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles go down to injury leaving Ryan Matthews as the last man standing. Matthews should be in line for a heavy workload in a brutal matchup but, at $3900 on DK, we can do a lot worse. Zach Ertz has been the only bright spot on the Eagles in the second half of the season. Unfortunately, he will face a Baltimore defense that has been at the top of the league in terms of stopping opposing TEs.
Baltimore’s offense has been maddeningly frustrating this season. They are spreading out the ball between three or four WRs and two TEs and that makes it impossible to trust any of them. One player that is interesting is Kenneth Dixon, who appeared to take over the lead RB spot for the Ravens on Monday night. Luckily, that game took place after the DFS sites released their salaries for Week 15. Dixon ($3800 on DraftKings) is a prime RB punt play in line for a heavy workload at a discounted price. If you believe in the defense quitting narrative it bodes even better for a heavy dose of Dixon in the second half.
Elite Plays: Baltimore D, Kenneth Dixon
Green Bay -6.5 at Chicago 42.5
The Packers travel to Chicago for a divisional matchup as heavy road favorites in a game that is projected to be very low scoring.
For the Bears, Alshon Jeffrey returns from his PED suspension but I’m not sure what to expect out of him after a long layoff. Last week, Matt Barkley showed signs that he is at least a capable backup QB; I’m not buying into anything more than that out of him. The Packers will put pressure on Barkley and I expect him to fold.
The primary concerns for the Packers are the calf/hammy injuries that linger with Rodgers; it’s unfortunate because he’s at his best when he has mobility. That and the weather conditions in Chicago will both loom large in this game. Last week we saw the Packers go back to Ty Montgomery as their primary RB. Even in a blowout, there wasn’t enough volume there to inspire confidence. Randall Cobb and Jared Cook both went down to injury which, assuming they are both out, should lead to an increase in targets for Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams.
Elite Plays: Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson
at Minnesota -4 Indianapolis 44.5
The Colts travel to Minneapolis as road dogs to take on the Vikings in a game that is expected to be relatively low scoring. The Vikings and Colts each still have something to play for, which should keep this as a hard-fought game.
Last week Donte Moncrief went down to a concussion leaving TY Hilton as the only viable WR for the Colts. Hilton will be shadowed by elite CB Xavier Rhodes in this one, and that’s not an ideal situation at all. Phillip Dorsett and Chester Rodgers round out an unimpressive WR unit for the Colts. The Vikings are solid vs the run, ranking in the top 10 and that does not bode well for Frank Gore. At TE the Colts run a TEBC with Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle. Two weeks ago, Allen beasted with three TDs on four targets. Last week Doyle was featured with five targets and four receptions. It’s impossible to know which of the two TEs for the Colts will get the action but I’m guessing that with the depleted WR corps, one of them will do well.
The Vikings are in a good spot at home in a must-win game. They play in a dome so there are no weather concerns and there is nothing to be nervous about with the Colts’ defense, outside of a hobbled Vontae Davis. The past few weeks we’ve seen a more prominent role in the passing game for Adam Thielen; that’s cool because Thielen is much cheaper than Stefon Diggs across the DFS landscape. The Colts are one of the worst teams in the league at stopping the run, so that bodes well for Jerrick McKinnon. He is still in a timeshare with Matt Asiata and will relinquish goal line touches, but I think he has a shot to break one against the porous Colts run defense. As a bonus, McKinnon was targeted a ton in the passing game last week and managed a respectable 13 fantasy points on DraftKings in a tougher matchup vs an underrated Jaguars team. The Colts also happen to be ranked dead last vs the TE position which elevates Kyle Rudolph as a top play in this one.
Elite Plays: Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen
Tournament Plays: Jerrick Mckinnon
at Buffalo -10 Cleveland 43
RG3 and the Browns bring their shit show to Buffalo to accept an ass-whooping at the hands of the Bills. We have seen nothing to indicate that RG3 is an NFL-caliber QB in recent years. To make matters worse, the Browns are an all-time terrible defense that will absolutely quit when the chips are down.
Avoid all Browns players here. For the Bills, it’s a pick your poison type of situation. The Bills defense will be one of the top plays of the slate. Similarly, LeSean McCoy has a spectacular matchup to exploit at home. The Browns defense is bad enough that we can expect Mike Gillislee to do some damage in the backup RB role. Gilly is way too expensive to take that risk with but it wouldn’t shock me to see him vulture a TD or two in this one. In the passing game, I’m not convinced that the Bills will need to do much passing. They are a team that is generally content on going to the run when it’s working for them. That said, they are likely to throw it a few times and Sammy Watkins is the man to target in the Bills passing attack.
Elite Plays: Buffalo D, LeSean McCoy
Tournament: Sammy Watkins
at Kansas City -5.5 Tennessee 43
The Titans take on the Chiefs as heavy road dogs in a game that is projected to be fairly low scoring. According to DVOA, KC is slightly above average at defending the pass and have been fairly opportunistic at home creating turnovers.
This is an all-hands-on-deck situation for both teams. The past few weeks we have seen the breakout of Tyreek “The Freak” Hill. He is a speedster and the Chiefs gameplan for ways to get him involved on regular pass plays or gadget runs. He’s also returned two punts for TDs in recent weeks. That said, DraftKings has jacked up his salary to an absurd $5700 this week rendering him as overpriced there. Travis Kelce has quietly become one of the most consistent scorers at TE this season; he’s surpassed 18 fantasy points in each of the past four weeks and has averaged 10 targets per game since Week 8. At RB, Spencer Ware has been a disappointment machine this season, and outside of a couple of quality games he hasn’t impressed me at all. I’ll take a pass.
The Titans are coming off a brutal matchup vs the Broncos where none of their fantasy weapons excelled. I’m expecting somewhat of a bounce-back here in a slightly better matchup vs KC. The Chiefs are perceived to be a better defense than they actually are and I expect that perception to keep ownership numbers down for the Titans playmakers. Delanie Walker is one of my go-to TEs week in and week out. For the first time this season we can get him for under $4000 on DraftKings. However, the Chiefs have done a nice job of limiting fantasy points to the TE position this season…Walker is in play regardless. Rishard Matthews is the primary WR for Mariota & Co. and he is likely to go overlooked after a rough outing vs the Denver secondary last week. Finally, we have Demarco Murray, who split touches with Derrick Henry last week and appears to be locked into a 70-30 type split. He still wound up with 20+ touches and has shown an incredibly high floor this season.
Elite Plays: Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, DeMarco Murray, Delanie Walker
at Houston -5.5 Jacksonville 38.5
The Jaguars travel to Houston as heavy underdogs in the lowest projected game of the week. Ouch! Vegas is telling us to avoid both offenses in this potential stinker. Each of these teams plays reasonably tough defense, while both offenses are completely terrible. The Houston defense is in play at home. Allen Robinson is cheap enough that he could be considered as a punt play with upside at this point. Outside of that, it’s a complete fade.
Sunday 4:00 Games
at Arizona -2.5 New Orleans 50
The New Orleans lineup busters travel west to the desert and take on the Cardinals as slight underdogs in a game Vegas claims to be high scoring. I’m getting back on board the “target the Saints defense” express this week. I must have a death wish.
This is not an ideal spot for the struggling Saints offense. The Cardinals has been tough defensively this season holding opposing QBs to just under 14 fantasy points per game, and they are #2 overall against RBs as well. This is a situation to fade.
For the Cardinals, David Johnson is set up for a monster game since the Saints have allowed an average of 20 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs; they aren’t the worst team in the league defensively vs the run, but they might as well be. After their loss last weekend, the Saints are pretty much out of playoff contention so there is the potential quitting factor at play. Last week, the Cardinals played in a monsoon so it’s difficult to take very much away from that game. Jermaine Gresham kept up his expanded usage level securing five of seven targets; that’s three weeks in a row with five receptions for Gresham. I still don’t trust his involvement in this offense but at $2500 on DK, Gresham is worth a look. Larry Fitzgerald is always viable, particularly in cash games. He is a volume-dependent possession receiver at this point in his career, very similar to Julian Edelman. The most interesting pass catcher for Arizona this week in JJ Nelson since Michael Floyd was released because of his drunk driving arrest on Monday; he had been dreadful all season and perhaps this was the final straw. Nelson, a speedster and classic boom or bust GPP play, stands to benefit with some extra targets.
Elite Plays: Carson Palmer, David Johnson
Tournament: JJ Nelson
at Atlanta -13.5 San Francisco
The awful 49ers bring the Colin Krapernick shit show to Atlanta to take on the Falcons, who are heavily favored.
This is an absolute quit spot for the 49ers defense. I’m not sure that quitting would actually make them worse than what they have been all season. The Falcons would be wise to sit out Julio again this week in a game where he won’t be needed at all. Anytime the 49ers come to town the first place we look is the RB position. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are back to an even split timeshare in the Falcons backfield. I will continue to favor Coleman simply because he’s much cheaper than Freeman on the DFS sites. The other consideration in this game is big play threat, Taylor Gabriel. He was one of my all-in plays last week and came through nicely. Gabriel doesn’t get many targets and has been heavily dependent on the big play so he’s definitely not safe for cash. In addition, DraftKings jacked up his salary to a ridiculous $5600 rendering him unusable there.
The only guy on the 49ers that I would consider here is Carlos Hyde. He beasted last week with over 200 all-purpose yards. Atlanta’s run defense is mediocre at best, but I don’t expect a repeat performance in a game where the 49ers are sure to be playing from behind for most of it.
Elite Plays: Tevin Coleman
Tournament: Taylor Gabriel (On FanDuel only, if Julio Jones is out)
New England -3 at Denver 44
The Patriots hit the road to take on the Broncos as road favorites in a game that is projected with a middling score. The Broncos sport the top defense in the NFL at stopping opposing QBs and pass catchers, so this should be Tom Brady’s toughest test of the season so far. This game should be hard fought and I expect it will also be somewhat low scoring. The Broncos have had the Patriots’ number these past few seasons, so this feels like a situation to fade completely.
The Patriots have quietly been a top run-stopping unit while showing some vulnerability to the pass. Trevor Siemian is coming off a solid 300+ yard, 20-point performance and I could see a potential repeat this week, assuming the weather is OK in Denver. The Patriots will find a way to score in this game and that will force the Broncos to throw in order to keep up. Emmanuel Sanders has been Siemian’s favorite target all season and that should continue this week. The great thing about the Denver offense is that they usually only target Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, so that puts both WRs in play. The Denver running game is a disaster right now and best to be avoided.
Elite Plays: Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas
Oakland -3 at San Diego 50
If this wasn’t a divisional matchup, I’d label the game as this week’s chalk alert. There are several red flags in this game on both sides that have me concerned.
Derek Carr is coming off his worst game of the season and the entire Raiders offense was a mess, dropping passes and generally looking like shit. Carr is dealing with a finger injury and it’s possible that it’s affecting his accuracy. In addition, Michael Crabtree suffered a finger injury and is questionable for this week’s contest. Amari Cooper beasted against the Chargers earlier this season but he’s been off recently and he’s difficult to trust outside of tournaments. Latavius Murray has consistently seen around 20 touches per game in recent weeks and he brings a 14-point floor with 25-point upside to the table.
The Chargers are dealing with their own set of issues. Last week, Phillip Rivers was sacked five times by a Panthers defense not known for getting to the QB this season. Rivers’ top pass catcher, Tyrell Williams, is playing through a labrum tear and hasn’t been producing. Dontrelle Inman has actually been the most reliable WR this past couple of weeks and is probably the safer play. At RB, Melvin Gordon got knocked out of last week’s game early with a knee injury. Kenneth Farrow stepped in and handled 16 carries and six targets. Farrow may have been responsible for some of the aforementioned sacks last week, as he was a liability in pass protection. Farrow and Ronnie Hillman will likely split RB duties if Gordon is out this week. At TE, Gates and Henry continue to split snaps almost equally. If Gordon is out I would expect the Chargers to throw more around the end zone which will probably lead to one of the TEs hitting pay dirt.
Elite Plays: Dontrelle Inman, Latavius Murray
Tournament: Amari Cooper, Kenneth Farrow, Antonio Gates, Tyrell Williams
Pittsburgh -3.5 at Cincinnati 44.5
The Steelers head to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals as road favorites in a game that should be close and low scoring. This is another game with the potential to be affected by weather so we will need to keep a close eye on conditions leading up to the game.
One of the fundamental stats we know is that divisional opponents facing each another, particularly the second time in a season, often produces diminished fantasy totals. The Steelers and Bengals often play each other tough and defensive-minded, so that adds an element of risk in this game.
The Steelers face a Bengals defense that hasn’t been good at all this season. Ranked below average in virtually every category, this defense has taken a step back from what it has been the past few years. Last week, Le’Veon Bell put on a show and he did it in the snowy conditions of Buffalo. There’s a good chance we will see very similar conditions this week in Cincinnati. Let’s not overthink this one- get Bell in your cash and GPP lineups! Antonio Brown and Ladarius Green round out the relevant pass catchers for the Steelers. The Bengals have allowed a whopping 8.8 passes and 71 yards per game to the TE position so that puts Green back on the fantasy radar.
The Bengals feasted on the hapless Browns defense last week. I was all-in on Jeremy Hill against the Browns and he paid off handsomely to the tune of 111 yards on 25 carries. With Gio Bernard out of the way, Hill has stepped into a workhorse role for the Bengals. They are using him in the passing game as well as the run rendering him somewhat matchup proof. The salary has shot up in recent weeks but he is still a reasonable $5600 on DraftKings. The Steelers have been respectable on the defensive end in recent weeks and they rank 10th overall vs the run; that’s not enough to scare me off Hill in a cold weather game in which his team is likely to lean on him. AJ Green is supposedly going to return to practice this week, but I have a policy of not using players in their first game back from a multi-week injury. Tyler Eifert is the most interesting pass catcher for the Bengals; he has been solid since coming back from his injury. He has been active in the red zone and has a three-game TD streak going.
Elite Plays: Jeremy Hill, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Tyler Eifert
Sunday Night Football
8:30 ET at Dallas -7 Tampa Bay 46
In the main slate finale, the Bucs travel to Dallas as heavy underdogs in a game that Vegas sees as high scoring. Here’s some crazy shit: Over the past five weeks the Bucs have completely shut down Chicago, KC, Seattle and New Orleans; they also beat San Diego and held them to 21 points at home. This Bucs defense seems legit, and looking at their DVOA numbers, they are a solid 7th vs the pass and a weaker 23rd vs the run. Regardless of those numbers, their five-week run of shutting down quality offenses is not an anomaly.
After all of that about the Bucs defense, I still think this is a decent bounce-back spot for the Cowboys. The Bucs remain vulnerable to quality running games and the Cowboys happen to have an exceptional RB in Ezekiel Elliott, and I expect him to put on a show at home in prime time. It’s tough to trust the Cowboys pass catchers in this spot; the Bucs have been stopping everyone in recent weeks and I could see them limiting the Cowboys passing attack. Dez has been hit-or-miss since returning from injury and is more of a tournament play then someone I’d consider for cash in this spot. The Bucs have been solid vs the WR1 position allowing under 70 yards per game.
The Bucs are a one-trick pony on offense right now, as it’s g Mike Evans or bust with them. That’s fine because the Cowboys aren’t great at stopping the opposing WR1. At RB, it’s a mess right now for the Bucs- Doug Martin, Charles Simms and Jacquizz Rodgers all share touches and it’s not a situation I want any part of. At TE, Cameron Brate brings a reliable five-reception, 50-yard type projection to the table. If he gets the TD, he makes solid value…If not, he probably won’t sink your lineups because he’s a cheap option.
Elite Plays: Zeke Elliott, Mike Evans
Tournament: Dez Bryant
Monday Night Football Line
at Washington -4.5 Carolina 51
It’s one of the few occasions this season where we have an exciting matchup on Monday night. The Panthers travel to Washington to take on the Redskins as slight road underdogs in a game that is projected as the highest total of the week.
The Panthers are coming off a strong defensive performance where they sacked Phillip Rivers five times. Hitting the road to face Cousins & Co. is a tougher test. Since this is the highest projected total on the slate, we are going to want a piece of the Redskins’ offense. The toughest challenge with the Redskins is trying to figure out where the points are going to come from. They spread the targets out almost evenly between DeSean Jackson, Jae Crowder and Pierre Garcon. At RB, Fat Rob has been pretty good, and even though this isn’t an ideal matchup on paper, I like him in this spot. Rob has been getting workhorse touches in recent weeks and he’s even seen a few targets in the passing game; all that for punt level salary is fine by me. Jordan Reed returned last week for the Redskins and wasn’t majorly involved in the gameplan, but that’s because the matchup was tough- the Eagles who stop the TE position like no one else. Carolina is not as good in that regard and Reed in his second game back from injury is a viable option but based on his lack of involvement last week it’s difficult to trust him outside of tournaments.
Looking at the Panthers, their offense has been slumping for weeks. In a winning effort last week, Cam Newton could only muster 10 completions on 27 attempts. I’m not sure what is going on there, but it’s not good. Kelvin Benjamin has been awful since Week 2 with multiple single-digit performances. If I need to use a Carolina WR I’m probably going with Ted Ginn. I’m assuming Redskins CB Josh Norman will see a lot of Benjamin which could push some extra targets to Ginn. The most interesting pass catcher for Carolina in this game is Greg Olsen. The Redskins are giving up almost eight targets and 85+ yards to opposing TEs, and that makes Olsen my top TE play for the week.
Elite Plays: Kirk Cousins, Greg Olsen
Tournament: Desean Jackson, Jae Crowder, Pierre Garcon, Ted Ginn, Jordan Reed
That’s it for Week 15. Good luck this week and I’ll see you all in the lobby.