In our Week 15 fantasy football start ’em and sit ’em, we let the data give you perspectives on select players that vary from the expert consensus.
If last week was a frustrating week for your fantasy football team as most leagues enter the fantasy playoffs, you aren’t alone.
What if your team was fighting for a playoff spot and your lineup included Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and veteran Tampa Bay Buccaneers stalwart Mike Evans? Meanwhile, your opponent, who had no chance of making the playoffs, decided to start a team that included a New York Jets quarterback in Zach Wilson who wasn’t sure he wanted to play another game for his franchise, Ezekiel Elliott and Jayden Reed.
You enter your matchup feeling great about your team’s chances, and instead the QB2 (Hurts), WR8 (St. Brown), and WR9 (Evans) combine for 15.8 PPR points, while that unheralded trio of players on the other team, with ranks of QB26, RB32 and WR31 on the season combine for 66.7 PPR points. Ouch.
Surely that happened to fantasy managers all over the world. It was a wacky week. There was a 3-0 game between the Minnesota Vikings and Las Vegas Raiders, the all-time coolest Travis Kelce play was called back (with Taylor Swift in attendance!) because a wide receiver – the one who ended up catching the star tight end’s lateral – lined up offsides, and the Miami Dolphins had a 14-point lead with less than three minutes remaining and ended up losing to Will Levis and the Tennessee Titans.
And if you need any more proof, how about this list of the top 10 quarterbacks in Week 14.
Some observations from that list:
- No complaints about Lamar at the top, a sense of normalcy!
- How many times has Desmond Ridder been benched this season? Over his last three starts for the Atlanta Falcons, Ridder had combined for 360 passing yards. In Week 14, he threw for 347. And his team lost.
- Jake Browning has taken over for Joe Burrow and… scored the second-most fantasy points by any quarterback over the last two weeks, leading the Cincinnati Bengals to two straight wins.
- It seems as though Chicago Bears fans can’t get Caleb Williams into the building soon enough. Meanwhile, the Bears have won two games in a row, Justin Fields is playing as well as he ever has, and if you take out the game that he got injured, Fields is the QB4 in points per game this season, after finishing fifth in fantasy points per game last season.
- Matthew Stafford is averaging 5.67 rushing yards per game. He ended last year with a spinal injury and hurt the thumb on his throwing hand in Week 8 which caused him to miss a game. And oh yeah, he was playing against an elite Baltimore Ravens defense that had only allowed 10 passing touchdowns all season. All he did was scorch the Ravens to the tune of 294 passing yards and three touchdowns.
- Have you ever stopped to consider how ridiculous it is that 2022’s Mr. Irrelevant is not only a good (great, terrible?) quarterback, but is quietly becoming a fantasy must-start every week? Brock Purdy has now thrown for more than 295 passing yards in five of his last six games with 14 touchdowns in that span as the San Francisco 49ers now have the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
- Bailey Zappe was so bad entering last Thursday night’s game that not only was he by far our model’s lowest-projected quarterback, but we also had 15 kickers projected for more points than Zappe. And before you start to question how that’s possible, Zappe had 7.2 fantasy points in Week 13, and 1.2 fantasy points in Week 12, despite playing the entire second half against the New York Giants. And if you think that means we should fix our model, well, we finished first in QB accuracy last week among 183 different projections on Fantasy Pros.
- Zappe’s counterpart on Thursday night was Mitch Trubisky, a quarterback who has now played the majority (or all) of three games this season. All three of those games have ended in losses for the Pittsburgh Steelers, including the last two games against the absolutely dreadful New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.
- Josh Allen played in the game with the biggest uproar, but in the end, Allen scored more than 20 fantasy points, leading his Buffalo Bills to a much-needed win. After he was prestigiously awarded as our QB1 last week, he rewarded our faith.
- Joe Flacco was on the couch like we were three weeks ago. He is fifth in passing yards and third in passing touchdowns since taking over the starting job for the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago. After beating the Jacksonville Jaguars this week, the Browns are suddenly fifth in the AFC.
Conspicuously absent from that list are 13 of the top 16 fantasy quarterbacks this season. Seriously, read that list again! Missing quarterbacks include: Jordan Love, Jalen Hurts, C.J. Stroud and Justin Herbert, four top-10 quarterbacks who all failed to score more than 10 fantasy points whether due to poor play (Love Hurts, haha) or injury (Stroud, Herbert).
And no, you don’t see Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott or Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on that list either.
Entering playoff time, the waiver wire and general bench depth have never been more important.
The Yays: Week 15 Fantasy Plays Projected Higher Than Expert Consensus
Note: We’re comparing our rankings to the expert consensus rankings (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week (we pulled these numbers from Thursday). Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Tommy DeVito, QB (NYG) vs. NO (ECR: 23, Our Rank: 17, Projected Points: 14.74)
His family was handing out Italian food before the game.
Who doesn’t love some good Italian food? Better yet, who doesn’t love some history-making performances?
DeVito led all quarterbacks in rushing yards in Week 14 and has five passing touchdowns and no interceptions over the last three weeks. Since taking over in Week 10, DeVito is averaging 16.2 fantasy points per game and our model expects DeVito to continue his solid play.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB (NE) vs. KC (ECR: 18, Our Rank: 1, PP: 22.04)
Elliott was one of our Yays last week, when the model projected him to finish inside the top 10, mostly thanks to heavy volume.
Last week, the model projected Elliott to have 26.6 touches. He ended with 29 touches, and even if we took away his touchdown, Elliott still would have finished the week as a top-10 running back.
This week, it’s 26.5 (20.8 rushes, 5.7 receptions) touches. No running back is projected to have more carries or more receptions than Elliott, and this week he faces a Chiefs defense that is coming off a game in which it allowed Bills running back James Cook to finish as his team’s leading receiver. With Rhamondre Stevenson out once again, Zeke is our model’s top running back, right ahead of Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler. It feels necessary to remind you here that you’re not reading an article from 2019.
Rashee Rice, WR (KC) vs. NE (ECR: 22, Our Rank: 7, PP: 17.03)
Before Week 12, Rice had never had more than seven targets in a single game in what is turning out to be a fine rookie season. Since Week 12, Mahomes has thrown Rice’s way 29 times, which has resulted in three straight games for Rice with at least seven receptions.
Better than that? Rice is now up to 17 targets in the red zone, which not only is three more than Travis Kelce, but is the seventh best mark in the NFL. Even better than that? His 13 red-zone receptions are the second most, behind only Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.
So, if you’re wondering why our model has Rice so high, it’s that lethal combination of volume and points per opportunity. He’s led the Chiefs in receptions in each of the last three weeks, and he’s among the most productive receivers in the red zone. Rice is a top-10 play this week, right behind Tyreek Hill and Amon-Ra St. Brown, who faces a red-hot Denver Broncos team suddenly nipping at the heels of Rice’s Chiefs in the AFC West.
Wan’Dale Robinson, WR (NYG) vs. NO (ECR: 52, Our Rank: 24, PP: 13.59)
We couldn’t have imagined a few weeks ago that we’d be having a New York Giants’ double on our Yay list, but DeVito has sparked that offense into life.
Robinson is coming off a season-high in receiving yards after accounting for 79 of DeVito’s 158 passing yards in their win over the Green Bay Packers. He only has two touchdowns in his NFL career, so he’s not likely to find the end zone this week, but he has a solid floor because he’s almost always open, literally. His 94.1% open rate not only leads all wide receivers, but also leads all players with more than 200 routes run.
If you are a team that has relied on Los Angeles Chargers star Keenan Allen all season and you need a replacement for this week, Robinson is a worthy alternative as he and the Giants face off against the New Orleans Saints.
The Nays: Week 15 Fantasy Plays Projected Lower Than Expert Consensus
Sam Howell, QB (WSH) vs. LAR (ECR: 10, Our Rank: 19, PP: 14.01)
Howell has been a Nay a few times over the course of the season, and almost always the message has been the same. He’s a solid play because he has enormous passing volume, but he gets sacked more than any QB in NFL history and sacks are hard to overcome when it comes to sustaining drives.
Let’s instead focus on the Los Angeles Rams side of things. You may be thinking after last week’s shootout against the Ravens that it’s odd to suggest the Rams aren’t an easily exploitable defense. But they aren’t… at home. In six home games, the Rams have only allowed four touchdown passes (while also picking off opposing quarterbacks four times) and held quarterbacks to a 78.8 quarterback rating, which is nearly identical to Zach Wilson’s season-long 78.2 rating.
Howell, therefore, slots in merely as a low-end QB2 for the week. If you do end up playing him, you’re hoping that the Washington Commanders allow 45 points for the third straight week (ouch), and Howell ends with 50+ passing attempts.
Jaylen Warren, RB (PIT) vs. IND (ECR: 22, Our Rank: 34, PP: 10.45)
Among the many frustrating things about this Steelers team, both for their fans and fantasy managers alike, maybe there is no greater source of frustration than their usage of Warren.
There are 40 running backs with at least 100 carries this season. Warren’s 3.1 yards before contact per rush is second behind only Jahmyr Gibbs (3.2). Warren’s 2.5 yards after contact per rush is second behind only Raheem Mostert (2.6). And his 0.28 forced missed broken tackles per touch is first, ahead of Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner.
Over the last six weeks, Najee Harris has 87 carries. Warren has 64. Harris has 377 rushing yards. Warren has 437. For those of you who have held onto Warren all season in the hopes that the Steelers would recognize he is the best back on his team, he is best left on your bench once again, despite a favorable matchup.
DJ Moore, WR (CHI) vs. CLE (ECR: 14, Our Rank: 25, PP: 13.50)
This Bears trade with the Carolina Panthers may go down as one of the greatest (or worst, depending on your perspective) trades in NFL history. The Bears are in line to get the top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft after trading down in last year’s draft. Don’t forget that Moore came over to Chicago in the deal as well.
And he has been nothing short of spectacular. Moore is seventh in receiving yards, tied for sixth in receiving touchdowns and is now all the way up to WR7 on the season. So why is a Nay? Well, put simply, he’s just the next receiver having to play the Cleveland Browns. Cooper Kupp is the only wide receiver to have more than five receptions in a game against the Browns since the start of November. As such, our model isn’t projecting Moore to receive enough volume to produce anything close to his ECR.
Don’t forget to check out our weekly waiver wire takes, complete fantasy football rankings and start/sit comparison tool, as well as our NFL predictions and statistical leaderboard. Happy exploring. And follow along on Instagram and X.