Whether you’re just entering your fantasy football playoffs this week or they already started, now is not the time to get cute with your final lineup decisions. Johnny Manziel against the Seahawks isn’t a high upside play. A.J. McCarron on the road against the 49ers isn’t getting crafty. Benching Devonta Freeman because he had a down week would just be silly.
You have to play your studs and make the smart plays, instead of taking unnecessary risks that might doom you. At the same time, you need to acknowledge some brutal matchups when they’re staring you in the face. Ben Roethlisberger against a stingy Broncos defense, for one, is a situation where (if you can afford it) you may want to look elsewhere at quarterback. That’s one spot where I think sitting your usual starter isn’t getting too cute. Denver has been super stingy all year and the only time they saw a minor dip was when DeMarcus Ware was banged up. They’ve been back to their dominant selves lately, though, so I can see Roethlisberger being contained a little more than usual this week. That doesn’t mean you bench Big Ben for Alex Smith or Ryan Tannehill, but if you have a guy like Derek Carr or Ryan Fitzpatrick this week, I like their upside a little more.
I’m somewhat afraid of the 49ers in San Francisco, as that defense has been a monster at home for the majority if the year. However, they got completely dismantled by the freaking Browns last week. With Andy Dalton going down, the Bengals could lean on Jeremy Hill and the ground game more than ever. That could lead to quality fantasy results and Hill could deliver a huge performance just in time to push you to the next round of the fantasy playoffs.
I think someone like Julio Jones is a little undervalued going into week 15 and that’s more specific to daily fantasy football. He’s my top wide receiver this week, but the expert consensus at FantasyPros is closer to 4th and many have him ranked far lower. I know Atlanta has been trash but teams usually don’t get shutout in consecutive games and a date with the Jaguars beatable pass defense has to help the Falcons offense at least a little.
Tight end is a mess beyond Rob Gronkowski this week, but I think the safest play after him might be Antonio Gates. Miami is a very beatable matchup and the last time the Chargers had a reasonably favorable matchup (vs. Jags) Philip Rivers tossed 4 touchdowns (2 to Gates). I think San Diego kills it this week and even if Gates doesn’t score, he should once again see 6-7 balls.
The top kickers are pretty obvious and maybe this is beyond obvious by now, but I love Chris Boswell. I know I’m shying away from Big Ben and the Steelers this week, but it’s not like the Broncos don’t allow offenses to move the ball at all. Pittsburgh is good enough to get in scoring position quite a bit, but I think Boswell will be quite busy this week.
Seattle is the obvious play in DFS this week at team defense. Even if Johnny Manziel comes out and shocks the world with a strong performance, that still isn’t likely to mean more than 20 points for a weak Browns offense. He’s prone to turnovers and taking sacks, too, so I can’t see the Seahawks being a failure. If you need more of a sleeper unit for daily fantasy football or your regular fantasy playoffs, consider the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s defense has been pretty solid on the year and they face a Rams defense that really only can run the ball. Stopping the run is the Bucs’ strength, so that could make for an interesting matchup. I still like Todd Gurley because he’s Todd Gurley, but the Bucs are an available defense that could be a helpful streaming option.
For more notes, filter through my week 15 fantasy football player rankings: