15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 15
It's not that Lehigh was actually a better basketball team than Duke in 2012, or that Middle Tennessee was better than Michigan State in 2016. Those smaller schools were just able to beat college basketball powerhouses in the NCAA Tournament because anything can happen in a single-elimination playoff.
Maybe you were the Duke or the Michigan State of your fantasy football league this year. That happens. It sucks, but variance happens. And it's what makes win-and-advance playoff systems so thrilling.
Hopefully you're still going strong, though. If so, here are 15 transactions you can make to set yourself up for a championship game in Week 16.
As a reminder, the "buy" and "sell" transactions are for confidence only, as most trade deadlines are over.
Add Mike Davis
After playing 73% of Seattle's snaps in Week 13, Mike Davis fell back to a 48% snap rate in Week 14. Nevertheless, from a volume standpoint, he only saw a dip in one attempt, moving from 16 rushes two weeks ago to 15 this past Sunday. Part of the reason he wasn't on the field was probably game script-related -- J.D. McKissic remains the come-from-behind, pass-catching back for Seattle, and the Seahawks trailed for much of their game against the Jaguars. But Davis also seemed to hurt his ribs late in the game, which is something to monitor for the rest of the week.
The good news is that the Seahawks could see strong game-flow situations over the next two games, the final two of the fantasy football season. Week 15 features a game against the Rams in Seattle, where the Seahawks are one-point favorites. At the very least, Davis will face a defense that's allowed the most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. Then, in Week 16, Davis gets an average run-stopping unit in the Cowboys in Dallas. As the lead back for a team that can put up points, you could do worse in your flex spot to close out the season.
Buy Jordan Howard
I talked about how Alex Collins was a strong "buy" candidate (yeah, I know, you can't actually trade for players right now) in last week's column, and after Sunday night's performance against Pittsburgh, I actually think there's a decent chance we see Collins on a lot of championship-winning rosters this year.
Aside from not writing about Jordan Howard last week, you could maybe say the same thing about him. He came through big for trusting fantasy owners in Week 14, and things are setting up well for him in Weeks 15 and 16, as he'll face the Lions and Browns. Detroit's now allowed 11 running back touchdowns over their last eight games, all while surrendering seven top-15 PPR performances to the position during this time. That coincides directly to Haloti Ngata's season-ending injury. And while the Cleveland rush defense hasn't been bad at all this year (heading into Week 14, they actually had the third-best rush defense, according to our schedule-adjusted numbers), game script (volume) has allowed running backs to score against them. Especially of late.
If you've got Howard, you should feel pretty confident in his rest-of-fantasy-football-season outlook.
Add Dede Westbrook
This is far from the first time I've mentioned Dede Westbrook in this column, but his ownership is still far too low across fantasy platforms. Westbrook's been active for four games now, and in those contests, he's averaged 8.75 targets, 5.00 receptions, 58.75 yards, and 0.25 touchdowns per game. He's grabbed hold of over 26% of Jacksonville's targets. With Houston and San Francisco upcoming over the next two weeks -- two bottom-half secondaries -- Westbrook should be a usable asset in most formats.
Add James Conner (Handcuffs)
Now, I'm not a fan of drafting running back handcuffs in August, but late in the season, I've got to remind fantasy owners to start grabbing running back backups. Handcuffing running backs you don't own works, too -- as in, if you don't have Le'Veon Bell, snag James Conner off the waiver wire. He's just as good -- no, he's better -- of a flier than most free agency adds. It's just that instead of needing some breakout performance, he needs an injury to Bell to be valuable. If you haven't secured handcuffs (to be fair, not many running backs have clear-cut handcuffs), do so this week.
Sell or Drop Robby Anderson
Over the last half decade, a wide receiver has scored a touchdown on approximately every 21 targets, 13 receptions, and 166 yards receiving. This year, Robby Anderson has scored on every 13.14 targets, 7.43 receptions, and 121.14 yards. He's been pretty fortunate, scoring every single one of his touchdowns from at least 18 yards out. Regression was -- is -- coming.
Now quarterback Josh McCown has a broken hand, which will lead to more inconsistent quarterback play for Anderson. And, on top of this, the Jets get the Saints and Chargers over the next two weeks, which will match up Anderson with strong secondaries and cornerbacks like Marshon Lattimore and Casey Hayward. Anderson is a legitimate drop candidate in shallow leagues.
Add Blake Bortles
Lots of fantasy owners are going to be looking for a quarterback after Carson Wentz's unfortunate season-ending ACL tear, and Blake Bortles could be that dude. He's now thrown multiple touchdown passes in each of his last two games and, really, he's provided somewhat of a floor throughout the season, tossing at least one touchdown in all but two contests. And like I mentioned with Westbrook above, Weeks 15 and 16 feature glorious matchups for the Jags' passing attack.
Bortles will face Houston this week, a team that, since Week 4, has seen only Kevin Hogan, Joe Flacco, and Jimmy Garoppolo rank outside the top-10 in weekly quarterback scoring against them. (And Jimmy G threw for well over 300 yards.) Then, in Week 16, the Jags face the 49ers, who've surrendered the second-most points to the quarterback position this year.
In short, Bortles gets two top matchups to close out the year. Let the games begin.
Drop Aaron Jones
The Green Bay Packers may have hit on both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, which bodes well for their futures in the league. For the short-term, though, it appears as though Williams will be the guy, as Jones was healthy for the first time in a while this past week but was still out-snapped by Williams 50 to 8. Williams is getting the goal-line looks, and while our numbers still peg Jones as the more effective back this year, it's marginal, as Williams has a 45.28% Success Rate (percentage of positive expected points runs according to our Net Expected Points metric) versus Jones' 50.00%.
The bottom line here: they could be a nice duo in future seasons, but in this one, Williams looks to be the only one you need to roster.
Add Peyton Barber
Dirk Koetter apparently doesn't believe that players should lose their starting gigs when an injury happens. That's why Doug Martin got the start in Sunday's game, despite being vastly outperformed by Peyton Barber this year -- on the season, Martin has a 29.46% Success Rate while Barber's is 46.15%.
Martin was benched on Sunday for fumbling, but he finished the day with 10 carries for just 26 yards. Barber, once again, was more effective in relief, running 12 times for 58 yards. It wouldn't be shocking to see Barber draw the start in Week 15.
Buy Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger kicked off the season with some dreadful fantasy performances, ranking higher than QB15 in a single week just once through his first six games. Since Week 7, though, Big Ben has averaged 22.19 fantasy points per game, and he's had a top-10 game in each of his last five. That includes three top-two outings.
With the Steelers' defense looking lost thanks to some injuries, you have to think Pittsburgh will be forced to air it out down the stretch. That's what they've been doing over their last four games, actually, coinciding with the loss of Joe Haden. During this stretch, Roethlisberger has 45, 45, 40, and 66 pass attempts, which averages out to 49 per game. For some perspective, in Big Ben's 198 regular season games played throughout his career, he's hit 49 attempts just 11 times.
In addition to the defense playing like hot garbage, the Steelers get the Patriots and Texans over the final two fantasy football-relevant games of the season. That means playing catch-up to Tom Brady, and then facing a Texans' secondary that has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to the quarterback position this year.
Add Jimmy Garoppolo
Admittedly, adding Jimmy Garoppolo this week is a strictly a one-week play. In Week 16, the 49ers face off against the Jaguars -- you don't want to throw him in your lineup with the championship on the line in that matchup.
This week is completely different. Though Blaine Gabbert couldn't put together a usable fantasy outing against Tennessee this week, the point still remains: they've got a bottom-five secondary, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics. Garoppolo himself has a little positive regression coming his way, too, as he's thrown a touchdown for every 322.50 passing yards with the 49ers when the NFL's average this year is a passing touchdown per 158.85 passing yards.
Add Wayne Gallman
Out of nowhere, Wayne Gallman ended up leading the Giants in snap rate in Week 14, hitting a season-high 46% of snaps played. That led to 12 carries and 9 targets through the air. Perhaps the Giants are trying to get a look at what they have in Gallman without McAdoo in the picture, and if that's the case, he's not a bad dart throw off the waiver wire this week. You probably won't feel confident starting him, but reports may surface later in the week that'll give us more detail around his situation in Week 15.
Buy Latavius Murray
Owners putting faith in Latavius Murray in Week 14 were rewarded with 9 carries for 14 yards. Congrats on the shower cry.
To be fair, it was a rough matchup for Murray. Carolina not only forced Minnesota into a negative game script, which gave Jerick McKinnon the snap advantage over Murray (53% to 46%), but the Panthers also entered the week with a top-10 rush defense, per our numbers. A touchdown was almost necessary for Murray to be worthy in fantasy football this past week.
On the plus side, the Vikings are finishing off the fantasy football season with matchups against the Bengals and Packers. They're double-digit point favorites against a Cincinnati team that just watched Jordan Howard run all over them for 147 yards, and the Pack have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to running backs this year. There should be a lot of scoring opportunities and potential positive game scripts for Murray in Weeks 15 and 16.
Add the New Orleans Saints' Defense
The Saints are owned in just 38% of Yahoo! leagues, which makes them a viable option off the waiver wire this week. And, whew, boy, could they go off. The Jets will be without Josh McCown, so Bryce Petty is drawing the start. Petty has 133 career attempts and has thrown 7 interceptions to just 3 touchdowns to go along with a 3.15 adjusted net yards per attempt rate.
Add the Chicago Bears Defense
There's a good chance the Bears defense is on your waiver wire, and I highly doubt many fantasy owners are going to prioritize them this week against the Lions. And they shouldn't -- this move is for Week 16. Next Sunday -- Christmas Eve -- Chicago's hosting the Browns. Cleveland's offense looks more competent with Josh Gordon in the mix, but it's hard to ignore the fact that they've allowed at least two sacks in each of their last eight games. DeShone Kizer's been careless with the football all season long (Cleveland's thrown almost two interceptions per game this year), and that could mean a strong outing from the Bears as a streaming defense.
Add the Arizona Cardinals Defense
Similar to Chicago, fantasy owners may not be very high on the Cardinals' defense playing on the road as 4.5-point favorites versus Washington this week. And they're objectively not an amazing play. But, in Week 16, they'll take on the Giants at home. Only one defense has been unable to score four fantasy points against New York this year, while each of their last seven opponents have ranked 16th or higher in weekly defensive scoring. And that's been against some mediocre defensive units like San Francisco, Kansas City, Oakland, and Dallas. Even with Eli Manning back under center, Arizona makes for a strong option during championship week.