The fantasy football playoffs are here. We hope you’ve survived the grind of the regular season. If you didn’t, we at least hope you kept your composure better than Patrick Mahomes did on Sunday.
We have passed through the opening two stages of the NFL season. The first being one filled with unbound possibility, where everyone is a potential contender and we are surprised by the week, if not by the quarter, as to a player’s usage or lack thereof.
The second stage is when reality hits home. The hopes we had for certain players have crashed upon the shores of reality and we have to accept it. The third phase, however, is something different. Some teams are eliminated from the playoffs and that brings with it a certain freedom. Rookies can be trialed, expectations are geared more towards next year than what might happen this year. Players are playing for contract extensions and there are others who have already checked out.
That is to say: there are opportunities.
Think Tyjae Spears of the Tennessee Titans (he had his best game of the season against the Dolphins in Week 14), Jonathan Mingo of the Carolina Panthers (25% target share and 35.7% air yard share against the New Orleans Saints) and Roschon Johnson of the Chicago Bears. Wait, Roschon Johnson? Yes, this is where it gets tricky. The same players who can see huge amounts of volume during this experimental phase can also simply disappear the following week.
So, we have to pick our spots. And also expect to be disappointed some.
Injuries can help to guide us, of course, and are probably the best way to navigate the uncertain waters that are the waiver wire around this time of the year. C.J. Stroud and the Houston Texans might struggle in weeks to come now that Tank Dell is gone and Nico Collins was ruled out with a calf injury in Week 14. The Vikings pulled the plug on the Joshua Dobbs experiment and will go with Nick Mullens, but he might not have either of Justin Jefferson or Alexander Mattison for Week 15. There are, as always, other injuries to monitor but these are the most significant ones. What can we do with this info? We’ll see if we can come up with some waiver wire Week 15 advice.
Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Week 15 Pickups
- Rostered: 22% on Yahoo
- Week 14 PPR fantasy points: 7.2 (RB39)
- Upcoming schedule: @ Bengals, vs. Lions, vs. Packers
Alexander Mattison left Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders with an ankle injury and could miss a number of weeks. Ty Chandler has filled in for his injured teammate in recent weeks, foreshadowing what might be coming down the line.
While Mattison has missed time recently, he is yet to miss an entire game meaning the Vikings have never planned for Chandler as their lead back. That could be about to change. Chandler has accumulated 41 of his 49 carries in the last four games with Mattison suffering from various issues. When Mattison exited the game on Sunday, Chandler played all but three of the Vikings’ snaps with Kene Nwangwu stepping in on those three occasions.
Chandler’s yards before contact (4.41) and yards per carry (2.27) are both higher than Mattison’s. Chandler’s number suggest he is the more elusive back, but can he hold down a lead back role? We’re about to find out.
- Rostered: 7% on Yahoo
- Week 14 PPR fantasy points: 19.5 (RB10)
- Upcoming schedule: vs. Vikings, @ Steelers, @ Chiefs
The Cincinnati Bengals are still alive and kicking at 7-6 and they have unearthed a player with the potential to lead this team into the playoffs (no, there’s no quarterback controversy here). Jake Browning has carried the Bengals to two big wins in two weeks with the offense scoring 34 points in each of them.
Chase Brown has featured in both games, touching the ball nine times against the Jacksonville Jaguars and 12 times against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. The rookie has missed five games in his first year as a pro but seems healthy now and is contributing to the Bengals’ resurgence. He has seen 17 carries to Joe Mixon’s 40 in the last two weeks. He has a 5.06 yards per carry averaged compared to Mixon’s 3.68, too.
The Bengals are fourth in the AFC North. One loss could see them enter the experimental phase of their season, which could mean Brown getting more work. Until then, he’s a good stash and excellent handcuff if anything were to happen to Mixon.
- Rostered: 10% on Yahoo
- Week 14 PPR fantasy points: 12.2 (RB23)
- Upcoming schedule: @ Bills, @ Dolphins, vs. Lions
The Dallas Cowboys are the hottest ticket in the NFL over the last few weeks. They just cooked the Philadelphia Eagles and Dak Prescott is building a legitimate case for MVP. They have a 13.7% chance of winning the Super Bowl according to our model, which is second behind the San Francisco 49ers juggernaut.
Rico Dowdle has slowly worked his way into the rotation and has scored three touchdowns in five weeks while carrying the ball 17 times to Tony Pollard’s 36. The Cowboys are 5-0 in that time. Next up for Dak and the ‘Boys are the Buffalo Bills, the Miami Dolphins and the Detroit Lions. The Bills are forcing 20.9% of the targets against them to players lined up in the backfield. Only the Jets are forcing more. Dowdle has value as a pass-catcher aside from the carries he is likely to see.
The Cowboys have scored 421 points so far, which leads the league. They can score big against anyone so whether it’s a blowout or an old-fashioned shootout, Dowdle has the chance to see touches and the end zone.
Las Vegas Raiders
- Rostered: 2% on Yahoo
- Week 14 PPR fantasy points: 0.8 (RB71)
- Upcoming schedule: vs. Chargers, @ Chiefs, @ Colts
This is a speculative waiver wire pickup but one that could pay dividends as we await news of Josh Jacobs’ status for Thursday night’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Jacobs limped off the field in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Minnesota Vikings with what turned out to be a quad injury. Whoever takes the lead for the Raiders in Jacobs’ absence will walk into a high volume of touches.
Ameer Abdullah will be in the mix, but he is more a change-of-pace back for the Raiders. White is the workhorse who will likely replace Jacobs. The Chargers look like they will be without Justin Herbert and the Raiders are favorites. If they take an early lead, expect them to rush the ball until it becomes imperative that they don’t. Jacobs didn’t practice Monday and the game is on Thursday so it looks like White, or maybe Abdullah is gearing up for a big day and sudden fantasy football relevance.
- Rostered: 29% on Yahoo
- Week 14 PPR fantasy points: 7.9 (WR43)
- Upcoming schedule: vs. Ravens, @ Buccaneers, vs. Panthers
Christian Kirk is on injured reserve and Zay Jones is in line to continue to benefit from his absence. Jones has seen 22 targets in his last two games including 14 against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. He only hauled in five of them for 29 yards but that volume can’t be ignored. He had 214 air yards, which led the league in Week 14 and he ran 51 routes (third in the league heading into Monday).
They play the Baltimore Ravens, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers in the next three weeks. That first game is daunting, but the Ravens just got torched for over 300 yards and three touchdowns by the mediocre Los Angeles Rams and Matthew Stafford. The Buccaneers are giving up 31.5 fantasy points per game to wide receivers.
- Rostered: 51% on Yahoo
- Week 14 PPR fantasy points: 7.2 (WR47)
- Upcoming schedule: vs. Bears, @ Texans, vs. Jets
Kevin Stefanski says Joe Flacco will remain the starter for the rest of the season. Flacco has thrown the ball 99 times in two weeks. The Browns are 8-5 and very much in contention for an AFC North title. They play the Jacksonville Jaguars next and while Moore hasn’t been overly productive, he has 16 targets to Amari Cooper’s 19 in the last two weeks and he has run more routes than the team’s top receiver. Moore’s average depth of target (17.3) also eclipses Cooper’s (10.1).
The target share is consolidated around David Njoku, Cooper and Moore with some Jerome Ford sprinkled in. We’re betting on the high passing volume and the big-play potential here. The Chicago Bears defense has improved in recent weeks, keeping Joshua Dobbs and Jared Goff under 200 passing yards in consecutive weeks. But neither have covered themselves in glory recently. Let’s see if Flacco still has any juice left in his right arm to get Moore the ball.
New York Giants
- Rostered: 9% on Yahoo
- Week 14 PPR fantasy points: 17.5 (WR13)
- Upcoming schedule: @ Saints, @ Eagles, vs. Rams
Tommy DeVito and the Giants beat the Packers on Monday night and Wan’Dale Robinson was his primary receiver. It wasn’t a huge performance by DeVito. He completed 17 of his 21 passes for 158 yards and a score. Six of those completions went to Robinson for 79.
That’s the second-most yards he has had during his two-year career. Robinson has WR2 potential even on an offense as sterile as the Giants, maybe because of how sterile the offense is. Since Robinson made his season debut, he has 52 targets, which leads the team in that time. His average depth of target (5.2) pales in comparison to Darius Slayton’s (11.3) but DeVito isn’t looking too far down the field anyway. Robinson will see targets and catch passes, and you can live off the hope that he breaks one for a big play or a score to really juice the numbers we saw on Monday night.
- Rostered: 51% on Yahoo
- Week 14 PPR fantasy points: 19.3 (TE3)
- Upcoming schedule: @ Jaguars, @ 49ers, vs. Dolphins
Likely is still only rostered in 51% of Yahoo leagues. Maybe fantasy football managers needed a bigger sample size before making room on their rosters for an unproven tight end. His five catches for 83 yards and a score should be enough to have people scrambling to the waiver wire to pick up a tight end with a very high ceiling.
Lamar Jackson is playing like a MVP, the Ravens are a very serious team and Likely should see anything from six to 10 targets a game provided he stays healthy. He has essentially walked into the Mark Andrews role, and that means the sky’s the limit for Likely.
Green Bay Packers
- Rostered: 10% on Yahoo
- Week 14 PPR fantasy points: 10.4 (TE12)
- Upcoming schedule: vs. Buccaneers, @ Panthers, @ Vikings
There are few certainties in the Packers’ offense this season. Christian Watson’s hamstring just won’t let him get a proper run of games, Aaron Jones has missed the last three games with AJ Dillon filling in unspectacularly. Luke Musgrave is on injured reserve. Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed have been bright spots, but Tucker Kraft has also carved out a nice role for himself.
He caught all four of his targets for 64 yards during the loss to the Giants on Monday Night Football. They play the Buccaneers next week and they are giving up the 10th-most fantasy points to tight ends this season. Jordan Love has thrown 73 red-zone attempts this season, second behind only Dak Prescott. If you’re streaming tight ends, Cade Otton might be a better option but Kraft will see targets and there’s a chance a couple of those might be in the end zone.