For most fantasy football leagues, Week 15 marks the second round of fantasy playoffs.
As you may have learned from last week, playoffs require a slightly different strategy. Now is not the time to gamble on a player that could develop—you need to pick the perfect players to overperform in Week 15, depending on their matchups, injury reports, and various other factors.
A win this week could lead to third, second or even a first place cash prize—or it could mean your frenemy claims your $100 entry fee and your dignity. If you want to cash in next week, here are some drops, pops and shops to make in the second round of fantasy playoffs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) runs the ball against the defense of Kansas City Chiefs free safety Juan Thornhill (22) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium.© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
When Antonio Brown became a fantasy factor in Week 9, fantasy managers who stashed him early thought their golden egg would hatch soon enough. While there's still a chance to cash in on this investment in Week 15 against the Falcons, the fact is that Brown has been closer to gooseggs than golden ones. In his five weeks of play, he's gotten 25 total receptions, but he hasn't been the number one overall pick he once was in 2017. He might be one of Brady's favorite targets, but so are Mike Evans, Gronk and apparently Scotty Miller.
Good stuff from @NFLSTROUD, which echoes some of the things I pointed out last week here: https://t.co/hlaNbGeBw2 https://t.co/1A1GjgmTcN— Luke Easterling (@Luke Easterling)1608135839.0
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) signs to Ohio State fans after the fourth quarter of the NFL Week 14 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Dallas Cowboys at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020.© Sam Greene via Imagn Content Services, LLC
In Week 8, I suggested dropping Ezekiel Elliott, which would have been a fantasy faux pas in any year before 2020. If you kept Elliott, you enjoyed his 18-point game against the Vikings, but every other start has been a disappointment for the former fantasy first-rounder. Recovering from a calf injury, Elliott split carries with Tony Pollard this week and converted 12 carries into a measly 48 yards. Hurt as he heads into a matchup against the fourth best NFL run defense, things look sour for Elliott in Week 15. Consider starting someone else if possible, like David Montgomery, D'Andre Swift, or Melvin Gordon.
A lot of people in the @FFToday facebook group are saying Ezekiel Elliott is the biggest bust of 2020, but he was a… https://t.co/PyZ8PjvPQz— Chris Paul Towers (@Chris Paul Towers)1608135875.0
Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery (32) during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.© Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
A skyrocketing fantasy star since the bye, David Montgomery is everything you wanted this Bears running back to be. In the last three games, Montgomery has notched nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns, and the trend will likely continue against the Vikings this week. Montgomery is in set-it-and-forget-it territory for the rest of playoffs, so keep him locked in your lineup as long as you last.
Good morning, David Montgomery is a top 10 RB🚨 https://t.co/T7pRNxUVtu— DaWindyCity Productions (@DaWindyCity Productions)1608136647.0
Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift (L) celebrates with wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (R) after scoring a rushing touchdown during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field.© Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
After a three-week absence, D'Andre Swift is back, and he's here to lead the Lions running back committee without question. Unlike other NFL RB committees (hello San Francisco), the Lions have their committee order in check, meaning Swift is a sure thing when he's healthy. Although he only managed seven carries for 24 yards, a touchdown saved Swift fantasy owners last week, redeeming his value as a playoff-level player. Facing a weak Titans run defense this week, Swift could get even more work if Stafford is injured in Week 15.
@MikeClayNFL Check down city! Man, D'Andre Swift is gonna feast this weekend!— Chris boughman (@Chris boughman)1608059597.0
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (17) prior to kickoff against the Atlanta Falcons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.© Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Drew Brees, or not Drew Brees—that is the question in Week 15.
Whether Drew breezes back for a surefire shootout against the Chiefs or not, it looks like veteran Emmanuel Sanders will get work no matter what. Disappointingly spotty all season, Sanders has produced decent numbers as a flex option, but Week 15 provides a great matchup for someone Taysom Hill has been targeting as well. Although a touchdown saved him last week, Sanders stands to get some catches this week—after all, he's gotten at least three in the past four games.
Houston Texans wide receiver Chad Hansen (17) makes a catch against the Chicago Bears during the fourth quarter at Soldier Field.© Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Another benefactor of a decimated roster, Chad Hansen has swooped in to catch Deshaun Watson's bombs just in time for playoffs. Promoted from the practice squad in Week 13, Hansen has scored 12 catches for 157 yards over the past two weeks. While he's been relegated back to the practice squad as of Monday, it's likely that he could return in Week 15. Upgraded or not, he's worth stashing for the next two weeks just in case. If you're not confident in Hansen, Keke Coutee is the only other Houston receiving option unless Brandin Cooks returns.
For those needing to dig deep, the Texans' Chad Hansen could be a viable flex option based on his recent target sha… https://t.co/YJzOYhRK8p— Athlon Sports (@Athlon Sports)1608136800.0
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage (83) is unable to catch a pass against Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Trayvon Mullen (27) during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.© Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Julio is out, Calvin and Russell are in.
While Calvin Ridley is a definite play as the seventh overall fantasy receiver, fellow Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage is available in 85 percent of ESPN leagues. Gage's week went particularly well because he threw a 39-yard touchdown to Calvin Ridley, but he still has a prime matchup against a Tampa Bay defense that's given up the ninth most yards all season. Although the Buccaneers have talented safeties, Gage's position as WR2 positions him to get solid volume in Week 15.
🚨RECOMENDACIONES WAIVERS WIDE RECEIVERS: • Russell Gage – Falcons (92.4% disponibilidad) • Nelson Agholor – Raide… https://t.co/bzNjxo2thF— The Holy Roller (@The Holy Roller)1608079857.0
Denver Broncos wide receicver Tim Patrick (81) on the sidelines in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium.© Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy is always a gamble, but there are still sure bets on waivers that deliver on their promise. That was Tim Patrick this season: I suggested picking him up in Week 7, and here he is in the playoffs, averagng 10.2 points per game at the 35th overall receiver. Miraculously, Patrick is still available in 77 percent of ESPN leagues, which is surprising for Denver's most consistent red zone target. Sure, they actually played an NFL game without a quarterback, but Patrick and Melvin Gordon might be the most stable aspects of this shaky offense. Ignore the noise and pick up Patrick if he's still available in your league for Week 15.
@BrandonKobe_ It’s between Nelson, Cole Beasley or Tim Patrick. Tim been eating on my bench all year but I’m just too scared to play em lol— W O R T H ¥ (@W O R T H ¥)1608137759.0
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins (82) and Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (85) celebrate after a touchdown during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium.© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
We've all been waiting for Rashard Higgins to live up to his fantasy potential: I've been waiting since Week 8, and Yahoo Sports' Matt Harmon has been waiting for forever, apparently.
Logging on for the 10th season in a row to fulfill my annual duty of declaring Rashard Higgins a must-add in fantasy https://t.co/xesz8AMwjB— Matt Harmon (@Matt Harmon)1603820284.0
Higgins may have finally arrived in time for playoffs this year: he's gotten six catches and a touchdown in each of his past two games. On a playoff-bound Browns team, Higgins is likely to get some work against the New York Giants in Week 15.
It's another eventful week in the NFL.
Four teams -- the Jets, Falcons, Saints, and 49ers -- are the first teams to get a bye week. After Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers narrowly escaped Thursday Night Football with a 28-22 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the reigning Super Bowl champs are the first team with five wins in the league. Who will join them on Sunday? We know that we'll get at least a second five-win team since the 4-1 Ravens are hosting the 4-1 Chargers. That is going to be an epic battle, so let's start with that clash of AFC contenders. Welcome to our Week 6 NFL Best Bets.
Playing on the road is a difficult task for any team, but if any team can escape with a victory, it's Justin Herbert and the Chargers. This isn't the Chargers of the last decade. This team is winning the close battles. Herbert is playing at an MVP level this season and already has led this team to big-time wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns -- two of the top teams in the AFC. This L.A. team is deep at the skill positions, can rush the passer, has an improved offensive line and a great young coach. What's not to like?
All that said, Lamar Jackson seems to be playing as he did during his 2019 MVP campaign. Not to mention, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown is actually catching passes. He eclipsed 100 yards last week and scored two touchdowns (including the game-winning catch in overtime). Simply put, this is a tough team to bet against. It did take last-second heroics for the Ravens to beat the winless Lions and a pretty pedestrian Colts team. Overall, Baltimore hasn't faced a test like this yet this season. Take the points and the better overall squad. Chargers may win this game, but if they don't, they are not going to lose by more than a field goal.
PICK: Chargers +3.5
It's been a tough start to the season for the Chiefs. They had great odds to return to the Super Bowl and are now last in the AFC West heading into Week 16 with a 2-3 record. They desperately need this game. This is a great opportunity for the Chiefs to prove they are still elite by defeating a team that made the postseason last year on the road. The Chiefs are going to turn it around against a Washington defense that is allowing the sixth-most passing yards and second-most passing touchdowns this season. Patrick Mahomes is going to blow up. Tyreek Hill is going to dominate. Travis Kelce is going to continue to provide a steady source of receptions down the middle of the field. As long as the Chiefs' offensive line holds against Chase Young, it's going to be a long day for Washington's defense. Betting on Mahomes to right the ship isn't a really difficult choice.
PICK: Chiefs -6.5
Yes, the Texans are one of the worst teams in the league. Betting on them on the road against a divisional rival might seem crazy at first. However, the Texans are 7-3 against the spread as underdogs in their last 10 games. Plus, the Colts are emotional after completely giving away the game against the Ravens in which they blew a 22-3 lead late in the game. This is going to cause a bit of a hangover in that locker room. When New England suffered a terrible loss against Tom Brady and the Bucs, the Texans managed to cover the spread the following week. Look for history to repeat itself. Texans coach David Culley has Houston playing hard in spite of its lack of talent and quarterback Davis Mills appeared to take a step forward last week against the Pats. Houston has played pretty good pass defense, too. The Texans have allowed only seven passing TDs this season.
PICK: Texans +9
Sunday night will be an interesting matchup to watch as Geno Smith will make his first start in four years as the Seahawks travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. I hate betting on Ben Roethlisberger, but it's hard to envision the Seahawks covering the spread without the services of Russell Wilson. And as much as I think Big Ben should hang up his cleats, you have to give him credit for the way he dominated a solid Broncos defense last week. Roethlisberger looked better than he did earlier in the season and was able to get the ball to his playmakers -- Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and running back Najee Harris. Seattle's defense is one of the worst in the league and their secondary is even worse than their front seven. Look for the Steelers to light up Seattle in the passing game.
PICK: Steelers -5
Both of these offenses can put up a lot of points, though they go about it very differently. The Browns are a run-heavy team, and even though they will be without the services of Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt is more than capable of getting the job done. Meanwhile, Arizona's offense runs through electric quarterback Kyler Murray. Murray is able to move the chains with his legs but he isn't afraid to toss the ball either. He loves getting his guys involved and his weapons are elite in DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, and Christian Kirk.
The Browns are coming off an 89-point slugest with the Chargers and hit the OVER in their other game against a high-end offense in a 33-29 loss to the Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have scored 30-plus points in four of five games this year. Smash the OVER.
PICK: OVER 49.5
Week 2 of the NFL was full of breakout performances, thrilling finishes and potentially the start of the Justin Fields era in the NFC North as the Bears' win over the Bengals finds them in first place in the division.
We cap off the week with a Monday Night Football showdown between the Packers and the Lions with the winner finding themselves tied for first in the North. The Packers put up an absolute dud of a performance last week against the Saints in Week 1 while the Lions looked surprisingly effective while playing catch-up against the West-leading 49ers. The expectations for these two teams couldn't have been further apart coming into the season but with matching 0-1 starts on the books, I think there are a couple of interesting props and roster construction angles to exploit.
NFL DFS Showdown Picks
*Prices are from DraftKings
Captain: TE T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions ($9,600) ($14,400)
I'm normally not a fan of playing a tight end in the captain spot, but T.J. Hockenson is not your average tight end. He finished 2020 with an elite 18% target share in the Lions' offense and picked up right where he left off in Week 1, finishing with an 18.2% share on 50 routes run last week. Hockenson has always carried premium TD upside as a red-zone target but what was most encouraging about last week was that he ran nearly 55% of his routes out of the slot, leaving him a matchup against Chandon Sullivan, who's allowing a 67% catch rate in his coverage. In a game where the Lions are projected to be down early, expect Hockenson to get fed once again. His red-zone utilization gives him enough juice to take the captain's chair in my builds.
Core Consideration: QB Jared Goff, Detroit Lions ($10,000)
Two principles I take into Showdown slates apply to this play. Generally speaking, if I have a pass-catcher as my captain, I'm finding a way to get their QB into a flex spot. The second is that your build needs to tell a story. Mine is that the Packers come out with something to prove after getting embarrassed in Week 1 and that we'll likely see upwards of 50 pass attempts from Jared Goff as he attempts to mount a comeback. Goff is a surprisingly effective passer when getting good protection and this unit gave him a clean pocket on 86.7% of snaps last week. Expect that to continue tonight as Goff will continue to feast in garbage time.
Contrarian Play: WR Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers ($2,000)
I still chuckle at the thought of the return of Randall Cobb being on the short-list of demands from Aaron Rodgers in the midst of his holdout. I do, however, think there is something to be said about the importance of chemistry between a quarterback and his receiver and I expect that in a typical game (which Week 1 was not), Aaron Rodgers is going to find his spots to get Cobb involved. In a game script that figures to have the Packers up by a healthy margin, not many are going to look at the tertiary passing options for Green Bay and I think a $2,000 Randall Cobb could sneak in a handful of receptions at single-digit ownership..
Salary Relief: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions ($2,400)
This one fits perfectly into my narrative for the game as well. In a game where the Lions are likely to flirt with 50+ pass attempts and coming off a week where St. Brown ran routes on 75% of the team's passing plays, I will be overweight on Amon-Ra tonight. Lining up in the slot on 74.5% of plays means St. Brown will primarily see coverage from Chandon Sullivan, the most favorable of the options GB lines up in their defensive secondary. Expect St. Brown to see his target volume increase tonight. If Detroit can be more effective in getting to the red zone, he carries decent scoring upside with the way he's utilized in this offense. Plus, who doesn't love the extra motivation of playing against their big bro?
Monday Night Football Best Bets
Taking a look at the wagering side of this game; before we determine anything else we must ask ourselves what we think of these Green Bay Packers. I tend to look at last week's performance as the exception and not the rule. With that being the case, I am laying the 11.5 points and taking GB tonight. Over the past six seasons, oddsmakers have been fairly sharp when it comes to these larger spreads and NFL teams cover double-digit spreads more than 55% of the time. The total for tonight is sitting at 48.5 and given the somewhat surprising ability of the Lions to make up ground last week, I am confidently on the "over" side of that line.
Picks: Packers -11.5, OVER 48.5 points
Taking a look at the prop market, I am again mainly investing in the "GB Blowout" narrative:
D'Andre Swift: OVER 28.5 Receiving Yard
Coming off a 65-yard performance in a very similar game script, this one feels like a no-brainer. Swift averages nearly 8 yards per reception so this really boils down to whether you think he catches more than 3 passes. I certainly do and I'm confidently on the OVER for this prop. FanDuel is currently carrying the best odds at -110.
T.J. Hockenson: Anytime TD
I'm not the biggest fan of these "to score" props, but I'll break from the norm with this one. I am projecting the Lions to at least have a go at it in this game and there simply isn't a scenario where that doesn't involve a score for Hockenson. +220 odds at FanDuel sort of feels like stealing given that I see this game going over the 48.5 total.
AJ Dillon | UNDER 8.5 Rushing Attempts
I know that the betting public is forecasting a fairly comfortable win for the Packers, but let's not get carried away. AJ Dillon would have to nearly double his career average for carries to get to this number. Plus, it's a bit unlikely that this game gets so far out of reach that Green Bay brings in their backups. Even last week when they did bring in the second-stringers, Dillon only saw 4 carries. I'm expecting Aaron Jones to have a monster day on the ground, as evidenced by my Saturday article.
Week 1 is in the books and it's time to move on to the best bets in Week 2.
If you listened to my article earlier this week, you would have started 1-0 for taking the Giants with the points against Washington in that thriller of a matchup Thursday night. Now, let's dive into Week 2's best NFL bets.
Tennessee Titans/Seattle Seahawks Over 54
The Seahawks' offense was high-flying in the first half last week. Because the Colts never really threatened the outcome of the game, the Seahawks were able to take the air out of the ball and finish the game with an easy win while only scoring seven in the second half. While both the Titans' defense and offense looked atrocious, expect Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry to have big bounce-back weeks and make this an epic high-scoring game. This has all the makings for a shootout in which both teams put up 30-plus points.
Cincinnati Bengals +2.5 @ Chicago Bears
Until that Monday night game, the Bengals had the honor of winning the craziest Week 1 game over the Vikings in overtime. The Bears' defense, which is supposed to be their strength, looked awful against the Rams, including one of the most blown coverages you'll ever see on Cooper Kupp's long touchdown. It was simply an awful week for the Bears. I don't think it gets any better until they remove Dalton and promote Justin Fields. If they don't do that prior to game time, the Bengals will run away with this one.
Los Angeles Rams -3.5 @ Indianapolis Colts
Coming out of Week 1 the Rams looked great on both sides of the ball. Matthew Stafford had a great first game, going 20 for 26 with three touchdowns. The Colts... They didn't look that great on either side of the ball. While Carson Wentz's overall numbers didn't look bad, most of the yardage and one of his two TDs came in the fourth quarter as they were chasing from two or more scores back, never actually threatening to win the game. I'm leaning towards the Rams winning this in a blowout and would consider alternate spreads.
Arizona Cardinals -3.5 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Kyler Murray appears to be a man on a mission to avenge last season's bitter ending after absolutely torching the Tennesee Titans in Nashville. The Vikings' defense, who hasn't been as formidable as years past, is going to have their hands full with Kyler. Last week they allowed Joe Burrow to complete nearly 80% of his passes, and Burrow isn't a threat to run nor has a receiver as talented as DeAndre Hopkins. If the Vikings offense doesn't step up and make this a shootout, things could get ugly in Phoenix.
Dallas Cowboys + 3.5 @ Los Angeles Chargers
Dak Prescott looked great in Week 1 and if there were any issues with his shoulder after throwing 58 times, he had 10 days to get healed up again and ready for the Chargers. I can almost guarantee, whenever the Cowboys go to play either Los Angeles team in their stadium, that there will be more Cowboys fans than LA fans. So while they aren't playing in Jerry World, they'll have more fan support. My concern for Justin Herbert and the Chargers is their efficiency in the red zone. His most potent weapons in Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler become less effective as they get closer to the goal line. That leaves Jared Cook and Mike Williams as your bigger bodies in the red zone, which isn't ideal. The Cowboys have a decent chance to win this one outright, but you can take the points for some cushion.
- Cowboys ML (+160)
- Titans +6.5 (-105)
- Steelers ML (-225)
- Rams -3.5 (-110)
Five Props To Consider
- Calvin Ridley OVER 6.5 receptions (+115)
- Tyrod Taylor OVER 34.5 Pass Attempts (-105)
- Aaron Jones OVER 88.5 combined yards (-115)
- Nick Chubb OVER 17.5 carries (-120)
- James Robinson OVER 9.5 carries (-125)
All five of these props have an excellent chance at hitting. I like the idea of wagering a three-leg prop parlay with the last three props listed (Jones, Chubb and J-Rob). Thanks me on Monday.