Congratulations! If you're reading this column, it means you made the playoffs. Welcome to the second season. If you somehow missed the playoffs and are still reading this column, I'm grateful for your continued patronage and wish you nothing but the best in your future.
But for those of you with matchups to consider this week, you don't need me to tell you the importance of getting your lineup decisions right. If you want to get one step closer to hoisting a trophy -- or a belt, or cup, or whatever your league plays for -- it's imperative to avoid any swings and misses. That also means moving away from underperforming big names in favor of players with better weekly upside.
In case you're new here … first of all, welcome. Second of all, we're trying to find guys who might exceed weekly expectations. So let's get to it, eh? Here are some names.
I’m under no illusions here. Ryan has been a tough watch all season. There’s no way to sugarcoat his standing as the QB23 entering Week 15. He’s looked every bit of his 37 years behind an offensive line that hasn’t been able to protect him. But with the Colts' current circumstances, he will be the quarterback of record for the remainder of the season. They tried the QB switch once. It didn’t take.
So how did Ryan make the list this week? Because the two notable fantasy performances he’s had this year came in the absolute best matchups -- Week 6 versus Jacksonville and Week 10 at Las Vegas. This week, Indy heads to Minnesota to take on a vulnerable Vikings defense. No team has allowed more passing yards, in part because they’re in the bottom 12 in quarterback pressure rates. On the flip side, the Vikes have made their opposing QB a top 12 fantasy signal-caller in eight of their last nine games. Ryan’s ceiling might not be much higher than 22 points, but it’s certainly elevated over most weeks.
Fantasy managers have been trying to get away from Akers for much of the season. In fairness, it feels like the Rams have been trying to do the same. The reason it hasn’t happened is because we’ve all acknowledged that Akers is L.A.’s best option in the backfield, no matter how much Fantasy Twitter tries to make Kyren Williams a thing.
Akers' floor remains frighteningly low simply because coach Sean McVay could change his mind at any time. But the past two weeks, Akers has led the Rams in snaps and touches. The specter of Malcolm Brown (30 percent snap share in Week 14) is disturbing but with just three opportunities, he feels like little more than window dressing. If Baker Mayfield can pick up where he left off in Week 14, it will give the Packers' defense something else to defend this week. Even if Mayfield reverts to the form that put him on the outs in Carolina, the Rams can try to exploit Green Bay’s Swiss-cheese run defense. Either way, Akers should see a decent amount of work this week.
Midway through the season, we shied away from Robinson because he was the picture of inefficiency. He had a stretch where he averaged 3.5 or fewer yards per carry in five of six games. Not a recipe for fantasy success on an offense that is far from being a juggernaut. That’s turned around in recent weeks. In Week 12, Robinson notched 105 yards on 18 attempts. The following week, he went for 96 yards on 21 carries against the Giants. The efficiency-o-meter is trending positive.
That’s always a good thing. It’s an especially good thing with the Commanders having a return date with Big Blue. The Giants are allowing a league-worst 5.4 yards per carry (tied with the Chargers). And while Robinson just missed rushing for 100 yards the first time versus New York, five other rushers have cracked the century mark against the Giants this season -- including Miles Sanders going for a career-high 144 yards in Week 14.
The Bills' backfield has been a fantasy unfriendly place for large chunks of the season. Devin Singletary has consistently led in snaps and touches, but it hasn’t led to a ton of fantasy production. Buffalo threw a wrench in the works when they upped Cook’s opportunities a couple of weeks ago. If the team is going to pivot, so shall we.
Cook has been the more explosive of the Bills’ backs and is starting to see more work in the passing game. That last part was something we anticipated from him all season long and is finally coming to fruition. It’s important in a week where weather could play a factor. Buffalo is expecting snow and wind for Sunday’s matchup against the Dolphins. If Josh Allen can’t push it downfield, there should be more short throws to the running backs. Look for Cook to see a number of chances against a defense that has allowed the seventh-most receiving yards to running backs this year.
We’ve reached the Rex Burkhead portion of the proceedings. It seems to happen a couple of times per season. We got one instance out of the way early when Burkhead made us wait on Dameon Pierce with 70 scrimmage yards in Week 1. It looks like #RexInTheFlex could be in play here in Week 15.
Pierce is out of the mix for multiple weeks after suffering an ankle injury last week. Then the Texans released Eno Benjamin. That leaves Burkhead and Dare Ogunbowale as the two options in Houston’s backfield. Ogunbowale should see a number of carries. But if the game script turns negative as expected, Burkhead is in line for a number of targets. Neither should be started outside of the deepest of redraft leagues. However, there should be some intrigue in DFS formats.
Previously on Moore, the Jets receiver was celebrating his return to football relevance with the insertion of Mike White to New York’s starting lineup. This came after he followed in the footsteps of his wide receiving ancestors and demonstrated his unhappiness with a lack of playing time and targets. Moore hasn’t exactly been prosperous in the past few weeks, but his totals have been far less impoverished than they were earlier in the year.
The arrow continues to point up for Moore. His targets have gone up notably in the past two weeks, culminating in a season-high 10 opportunities last week against Buffalo. That number is in play again this week versus a Lions defense that has been manna for fantasy players at all positions in 2022. Combine that with the Jets likely missing Corey Davis (concussion) this week and Moore offers plenty of upside in Week 15.
Our feelings toward Campbell have shifted like sands in the hourglass. We weren’t sure about him early in the season. Then we started to get on board. Then were off. Then we were back on again. Finally, we threw up our hands in confusion and looked elsewhere for help. But we couldn’t live with our own fantasy failure. Where did that bring us? Right back to Campbell.
There is a lot to like about Campbell. His snap rate and route participation are high. It would be comforting if he had a higher target rate. But it’s Week 15. We find the positives where we can and work with them. One positive is a matchup with the Vikings. Twelve different receivers have logged at least 80 yards versus Minnesota this year. A good chunk of that production has come from the slot. Only the Chiefs have allowed more completions to slot receivers. With Campbell playing nearly three-quarters of his snaps from inside, he should get a lot of looks this week.
Dulcich has been the Broncos’ top tight end since joining the active roster in Week 6. And it hasn’t been close. He’s dominating the snap share. He also leads the team in target share and, surprisingly, air yards share. Dulcich is being targeted on nearly 20 percent of his routes, which is a big number for a tight end. Until this past weekend, he was tied for the team lead in touchdown catches since Week 6. It took a hat trick from Jerry Jeudy to break the deadlock.
We love any tight ends that get lots of opportunities. While the possibility of Russell Wilson missing time doesn’t excite us, Brett Rypien is competent enough to get the ball to his playmakers. Dulcich has cemented himself as one of those guys. If that wasn’t enough to get you interested in the Broncos rookie, may I remind you that he faces the Cardinals? That alone should put him in the Week 15 starting conversation.
I’d be lying if I said I had supreme confidence in Tonyan as a streamer this week. He has one game all season long with more than 40 receiving yards. He’s had 10 or fewer yards in two of his last four games and just one touchdown in 2022. Add to it that Christian Watson is dominating the Packers' aerial attack and Tonyan feels like a dart throw, at best.
Here’s why that dart could land. The Rams’ secondary hasn’t been the stoutest this year. It’s been especially forgiving to tight ends recently. Over the last four weeks, Los Angeles has allowed the second-most points to the position. That’s despite holding Travis Kelce under 16 points. Sean McVay’s defense has surrendered three scores to TEs in the last month. If Tonyan can catch one in the painted area, he’s well on his way to a weekly TE1 finish.
I had the Chiefs in this space last week. They scored 15 points. It would have been more were it not for a lapse in the midst of the game that allowed the Broncos to close the gap. But if you’re complaining that starting last week’s DST2 wasn’t good enough for you, you won’t find much sympathy from me.
Since fantasy defenses have less to do with the actual defense and more to do with their opponents, let’s run it back for Kansas City this week against the Houston Texans. Scroll up if you need to be reminded about Houston’s undesirable running back situation. They’re also likely to use some combination of Davis Mills and Jeff Driskel at quarterback. Who will they throw to? Neither Brandin Cooks nor Nico Collins look likely to play. Chris Moore might be the top target this week. That should be enough to get you interested in the Chiefs defense.