Fantasy Football Predictions
The quarterfinals of most 2018 fantasy football leagues are in the history books, and the semifinals are upon us. In a standard 12-team league, there are 60 remaining total players rostered, and only 27 starters. This means that if you’re still in the championship hunt, you’ve likeky got cornerstone players that you’re not benching under any circumstance. Mahomes and Brees at quarterback. Gurley, Barkley, McCaffrey, and Kamara at running back. Adams, Thomas, Hopkins, and Allen at wide receiver. Kelce, Ertz, Ebron, and Kittle at tight end.
Aside from likely having a few of these cornerstone pieces, every remaining fantasy team has strengths and weaknesses on the rest of its roster, and it’s important not to get complacent in your roster decision-making. Decisions made based off of last week’s stats can torpedo your shot at a title, and looking a little deeper at the matchups in play is paramount. Sure, this roster brought you to the semi-finals, but you don’t owe anything to your occupied roster spots, especially not defenses and kickers with less-than-ideal matchups.
If your interests lie purely in DFS at this point in the season, it’s as good a time as any to identify candidates who should outperform (or underperform) consensus, especially with close to an entire season of narrative built into so many players. The good news: that’s what we’re here for. Below are nine bold predictions about what may come to pass in Week 15.
Check out my predictions from last week here
Week 14 Recap
- Goff outside top-12 QBs (finished QB33)
- JuJu Smith-Schuster will outscore AB (finished WR2 to Brown’s WR50)
- Dalvin Cook: Top-10 RB (finished RB10)
3 Good Calls (ahead of projections & worthy starts):
- Josh Allen Top-5 QB (QB14)
- Dante Pettis Top-5 WR (WR18)
- Patriots D/ST Top-10 D/ST (Tied for D/ST11)
- Blount an RB2 (RB4)
- James White leads Patriots RBs (3rd behind Develin & Michel)
- Vance McDonald TE1 (TE17)
Week 15 Predictions
1. Derek Carr is a top-5 QB for Week 15
I get it, it’s hard to wrap your head around the idea of starting Derek Carr in Week 14. He’s the fantasy QB16 for the season, and he threw one or zero touchdowns in five of his first nine games this season, and he threw eight interceptions in just his first five games for the 2018 Raiders. It’s that early-season casting of Carr as a non-viable starter that distracts from his recent output, as Carr hasn’t thrown a single interception since Week 6. Over his past two games, he’s finished as the QB4 and QB13, and over that timeframe, he’s PFF’s highest-graded quarterback at 90.5. Now Carr has the opportunity to face the Bengals defense, who are giving up 21.8 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, second-most. They’ve allowed 3,560 passing yards for the season, fourth-most, and 27 passing touchdowns, also fourth-most. Carr’s hot streak should continue against the best defensive matchup he’s seen this season.
2. Tom Brady is a top-3 QB this week
In fantasy football years past, this prediction would be decisively NOT bold. In 2018, Brady has finished as a top-3 quarterback only twice: Week 5 (QB3) and Week 14 (QB1). Through Week 14 of his 2017 MVP season, Brady had thrown for 3,865 yards, 27 touchdowns, and six interceptions. This season through Week 14: 3,700 yards, 23 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. His overall PFF grade so far this season of 90.7 is quite close to his 91.9 through the same number of games last year. Brady has a 115.1 passer rating against the Steelers, the highest rating of any starting quarterback against a single team since 1991. More tellingly, in seven regular-season games versus Pittsburgh, since Mike Tomlin was hired in 2007, Brady has thrown for 20 touchdowns and one interception. The Steelers defense is giving up the 11th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks on average at 18.8, while they’ve been quite effective against the opposing team’s running game, posting a 90.1 run defense grade per PFF that’s sixth-best in the league. Pittsburgh also brings an effective offense to the fray against a Patriots defense that’s allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, making an offensive shootout the most likely outcome, as evinced by the game’s implied point total of 52, the third-highest among this week’s games.
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3. Tarik Cohen finishes outside the top-24 RBs
Tarik Cohen has finished as a top-12 fantasy running back in PPR scoring in five of Chicago’s 13 games, and four of those were top-6 games. But because of the shared nature of the Bears’ backfield between Cohen and Howard, it’s been difficult to identify Cohen’s boom weeks and avoid the busts. Five of the six games in which he’s finished as a fantasy RB1 have been against a bottom-10 defense in terms of average fantasy points allowed to running backs, and a matchup with Green Bay isn’t enticing in that regard. The Packers rank 11th-best with 23.3 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing teams’ running backs. Furthermore, Cohen makes his hay primarily as a receiver out of the backfield, while the Packers have allowed only 54 receptions and two receiving touchdowns to running backs, both the third-fewest and 469 total receiving yards to the position, the eighth-fewest.
4. Jeff Wilson finishes the week as an RB1
Over the past two weeks, Jeff Wilson has amassed 38 rushing attempts, tied for second-most with Saquon Barkley and behind only Ezekiel Elliott’s 51. He’s caught nine passes, eighth-most among running backs, even though eight of those catches came in Week 13. Of course, that game was the 49ers’ previous matchup with the Seahawks, who now travel to San Francisco for the rematch. Should Matt Breida miss this week’s game as well, Wilson should continue to see an attractive snap share. While he hasn’t been terribly efficient or elusive, volume is king in this game of fantasy football. Plus, a forgiving defense against the run certainly doesn’t hurt. Seattle is allowed the 11th-most fantasy points per game to the running corps of opposing teams, and they’ve been particularly vulnerable to running back passing targets. They’ve allowed 775 receiving yards to running backs and five receiving touchdowns, both second-most. As an added bonus, they’ve allowed a yards-per-attempt average of 5.0, tied for second-most, and giving Wilson a wide-open window of opportunity as a runner and a receiver.
5. Curtis Samuel is a WR2 in Week 15
Through the first 10 weeks of the 2018 season, Curtis Samuel was barely a blip on the radar among starting fantasy wide receivers. Things have changed over the Panthers’ past four games, as Samuel has posted twelve or more fantasy points in each of those games. His percentage of total snaps at wide receiver has skyrocketed over the past three games. After failing to surpass 40% of teams snaps among Chiefs wide receivers from Weeks 1-11, Samuel has weekly team snap shares of 92%, 83%, and 93% over the past three games. In that same span, he’s run the majority of his routes as the outside right wide receiver, which means he’ll most often draw the coverage of Eli Apple, who’s earned an overall PFF grade of 57.7 that’s 103rd out of 126 qualified cornerbacks. Overall, the Saints are allowing 45 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers, the most in the NFL. Samuel should be started with confidence as a WR2 in Week 15.
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6. Jarvis Landry is a Week 15 WR1
Jarvis Landry is a bit of a forgotten man for fantasy football purposes, after having played four games between Week 8 and Week 12 and failing to finish higher than WR29 during that stretch. His 177.4 PPR fantasy points rank 20th among wide receivers for the season, but his recent performance indicates a return to relevance. Over the past two games, Baker Mayfield has a 144.4 passer rating when targeting Landry, seventh-best among all wide receivers in that span. What makes Landry most compelling is his matchup with the injury-depleted Broncos secondary. Denver is allowing the 14th-most fantasy per-game points to opposing wide receivers on the season, and Landry’s matchup is the most inviting among Browns wide receivers. Landry’s most frequent alignment is in the slot, which means he’ll regularly be covered by defensive back Justin Simmons. Simmons has allowed a reception for every 6.2 snaps he’s lined up defensively, which is the third-worst mark among 41 safeties with at least 50 snaps in coverage.
7. Antonio Brown is not a WR1 this week
Antonio Brown is the WR5 through 13 games in 2018, having played only three games in which he didn’t score a touchdown. If he’s on your fantasy team, you’re starting him, and I can’t blame you for it. I don’t expect that he’ll be shut down entirely in Week 15. That being said, the expectation is that he’ll be shadowed by Stefon Gilmore this week, and that hasn’t been a good thing for opposing wide receivers. Gilmore currently ranks as PFF’s sixth-ranked cornerback at 90.1, and he’s followed an assigned receiver around the formation regularly this season. Despite his impressive play, he’s being targeted for every 7.8 snaps he’s been in coverage, tied for 24th among qualified cornerbacks. Despite being regularly challenged, he’s allowed a reception only once every 16.5 snaps, which is the seventh-best mark among 109 qualified cornerbacks.
8. David Njoku is a TE1 for Week 15
If I traveled back from the future to arrive at your doorstep in August of 2018 to tell you that David Njoku would have 474 yards and three touchdowns through Week 14, you’d relegate him to do-not-draft status for underperformance. Either that, or you’d call local law enforcement to have an unhinged stranger forcibly removed from your doorstep. Either way, you’d probably be surprised to learn that those stats would make him the TE12 for the season. While his TE23 performance in Week 14 was disappointing, there’s reason to believe he will bounce back this week. Njoku ran 22 routes last week, which led all receivers for the Browns and tied for the team lead in targets. This week, he faces the Broncos, who are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends. Just last week, they allowed 210 yards and a touchdown to 49ers tight end George Kittle, and while I don’t think Njoku has reached Kittle’s echelon at the position, it’s an inviting matchup that he should be able to take advantage of.
9. Saints D/ST is a top-3 option
Choosing a fantasy defense this week is likely to be the most difficult decision you face. Aside from the Texans, Jaguars, and Vikings D/STs, there are no easy no-doubt choices among the top-scoring fantasy defenses for the season. If you’ve got a good D/ST facing a strong offense – I’m talking to you, owners of the Bears, Ravens, Rams, and Steelers D/STs – there’s a Week 15 option that’s likely sitting in the free agency pool waiting to be picked up. The Saints defense mostly struggled through the first nine weeks of the season, posting it’s only double-digit fantasy point total during that timeframe in Week 8. Since then, the New Orleans D/ST has scored 11, 15, 14, 14, and 11 fantasy points in Weeks 10 through 14. They face a Panthers offense that recently allowed an objectively terrible Buccaneers defense to finish the week with 10 fantasy points, with Cam Newton clearly struggling through injury. The Saints D/ST is sneakily the D/ST9 for the season, and a top option to get your team to Week 16 fantasy glory.
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Good Luck this week!
I’m just a guy who was born in Massachusetts and went to college in Minnesota (Macalester College) and moved to New York and then went to grad school in San Francisco (The American Conservatory Theater) before moving back to New York and finally to Los Angeles. I began playing fantasy football in a single league in 2001, which quickly grew into multiple leagues, and has continued into just about every form that fantasy football takes today (no developmental leagues yet). My strong opinions are loosely held, always trying to get better.