Fantasy Football: 4 Bold Predictions for Week 15
Week 14 was almost a fantastic one for our bold predictions. Almost.
Things didn't start off well, with Le'Veon Bell being ruled out just in advance of his game. But the running backs who filled in for him racked up 145 yards from scrimmage, so at least the process that got us to that conclusion felt solid. And Baker Mayfield had one of his worst performances of the year against one of the worst defenses he'd faced to date -- barely finishing inside the top 25 quarterbacks for fantasy.
But on brighter notes, A.J. Brown finished not just as a top-12 wide receiver but as the highest-scoring receiver of the week. And Mecole Hardman came quite close to finishing as a top-24 wideout -- he broke loose for a 44-yard touchdown but was unable to stay involved outside of that play. Lastly, Washington gave it their best shot against Green Bay, ultimately falling short. But still, it was closer than people thought it would be, right?
We're heading into Week 15, and that means the fantasy football season is coming a close. If your season is already over, my condolences. But just because your season is over doesn't mean you can't still have some fun watching the games or playing DFS. Making bold predictions is a fun way to stay engaged while keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of the NFL. I'd recommend you all make some bold predictions yourselves just for the fun of it, and while you're on numberFire.com, here are four bold predictions for Week 15.
Baltimore Will Have the Top D/ST
It's always hard projecting the top scorer at any position each week, but the Baltimore D/ST has a great chance op topping the D/ST charts in Week 15. In fact, not only will they finish as the top D/ST in fantasy -- they'll also shut out the New York Jets.
Baltimore's defense lines up perfectly against the Jets. The Ravens blitz at the highest rate in the league -- a whopping 53.9% of the time. To put this in perspective, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who blitz at the second-highest rate in the league, do so just 43.2% of the time. So the Ravens are blitzing like crazy in 2019.
But they haven't quite seen the on-field results from those blitzes you might expect. While they boast the second-highest quarterback knockdown rate in the league, they're just middle of the pack in sacks with 33. This means that they are getting close to the quarterback, but that the quarterback is getting the ball out just in time to avoid taking a sack.
They should have no problem getting to Sam Darnold this week, who saw ghosts earlier this year when the New England Patriots defense took a blitz-heavy approach against him. The Jets' offensive line -- and their quarterbacks -- have allowed the second-highest sack rate in the league. It's fair to assume that Darnold will be under constant pressure in this game, and quarterbacks under pressure tend to make mistakes.
Darnold has been pretty mistake-prone this year -- his interception rate of 3.2% is tied for fifth-worst in the league, and he has fumbled six times in 10 games -- and he will be given plenty of opportunity to make mistakes against the Ravens. The Ravens' offense has scored on 52.6% of its drives this year, the highest rate in the league, meaning the Jets will have to throw a lot if they want to keep up in this game. A high volume of drop backs for Gang Green should increase the likelihood of turnovers, which means there's a chance for the Ravens to score lots of fantasy points here.
The Jets aren't a good team by any stretch, and the Ravens are the best one in the league right now. The Ravens' offense has been stealing the show for most of 2019, but in Week 15, their defense will make a splash, shutting out the Jets and finishing as the week's top D/ST in fantasy.
Anthony Miller and Allen Robinson Will Be Top-24 Wideouts
It's easy to feel like the Chicago Bears' receivers are fades this week -- numberFire's rankings have Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller ranked as the WR22 and WR53, respectively. The Packers have been pretty stingy to opposing wideouts, and it's hard to truly trust Mitchell Trubisky regardless of the matchup. But the Bears' receivers have been playing out of their minds recently, and I think they'll keep doing it against Green Bay.
Robinson (15.88) and Miller (12.33) each rank in the top 22 in average fantasy points per game over the past four weeks -- surprisingly, the Buffalo Bills are the only other team with two wide receivers in that cohort. Miller's 37 targets in that span rank sixth among all receivers, and Robinson has drawn just one fewer with 36. While Miller has been racking up yards -- his 313 rank 12th in that span -- Robinson has been a touchdown machine, leading all receivers with four scores. These guys have been balling out, regardless of Trubisky's inconsistent quarterbacking.
Green Bay has been a menacing matchup for receivers in 2019, allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points to the position. But I think their apparent strength at defending the pass is a little fraudulent. They haven't given up a lot of fantasy points to wideouts because they just haven't allowed many touchdowns -- the 16 they've surrendered through the air rank as the sixth-fewest in the league. They've actually been pretty bad against the pass this year, allowing 6.9 yards per attempt, the eighth-most in the league -- they've just been getting rocked so hard on the ground that teams haven't needed to pass on them.
The Bears don't have much of a ground attack this year, but that's OK. They should find success attacking the Packers through the air in this one -- especially with Trubisky's improved recent play. Both Miller and Robinson will finish as top-24 receivers in Week 15.
Kenyan Drake Will Be a Top-6 Running Back
Predicting the Arizona Cardinals' backfield has been difficult, at best, over the past few weeks, but things have finally settled down -- Kenyan Drake has emerged as the team's lead back over David Johnson and Chase Edmonds. Johnson is still somewhat involved, but Drake has out-touched the former fantasy darling 29-11 since the Cards' bye in Week 12. Drake's workload -- in both the passing game and the ground game -- should solidify him as a solid RB2 most weeks, but in Week 15, he'll finish as a top-six running back for fantasy.
Let's be clear -- the Cardinals have one of the best rushing games in the league. Things have looked rough the last few weeks -- they've been held to 75 or fewer rushing yards in four of their last six games -- but this dry spell has much more to do with the strength of the Cardinals' opponents than with the Cards' inability to rush the ball. According to SharpFootballStats.com, the Cardinals have faced the second-toughest slate of rushing defenses since Week 8, including two matchups with the San Francisco 49ers and games against the Saints, Bucs, Steelers and Rams. Considering that murderer's row of opponents, it's easy to see why Drake's fantasy points haven't exactly wowed since taking over this backfield.
The Cleveland Browns present a much softer front to run against. They've allowed the sixth-highest yards per carry to opposing backs and rank fifth-worst in the league against the run, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics. It's a cake matchup for running backs who may have slipped under your radar in fantasy due to the lack of touchdowns allowed, but look no further than Joe Mixon's big game last week as proof that any team can get their ground game going against the Browns.
The Cardinals haven't been in positive game scripts for a while, so their Week 15 matchup with the Browns could be a refreshing change of pace. Drake will leverage his hard-won lead role in their backfield into a top-six fantasy performance against the Browns' soft run defense.
A.J. Brown Will be the WR1 -- Again
No receiver has been the overall WR1 in back-to-back weeks in 2019 -- in fact, only Chris Godwin and Mike Evans have appeared at the top spot more than once this season. But there's a chance that A.J. Brown is really special, and he'll be the first receiver to be the weekly WR1 in successive weeks this year.
I wrote about what makes Brown so exciting in last week's bold predictions. To quickly recap -- he's way too fast for someone his size and is almost unparalleled after the catch. He put all of his enviable skills on display in Week 14 -- scoring two touchdowns and catching five of his seven targets for 153 yards -- and he'll do it again this week.
The Tennessee Titans had a pushover matchup last week against the Oakland Raiders, but the Houston Texans might be an even better matchup. This game is projected to be a shootout -- it's over/under of 50 points is the highest on the slate, and for good reason. Per Pat Thorman, the Texans have the sixth-highest average combined points in their games this year (49.9). Their defense has been bad, but Deshaun Watson has been good enough to keep games close.
The Texans' defense really has been bad, too. They've hurried opposing quarterbacks on just 7.3% of their dropbacks this season -- the third-lowest rate in the league -- and have the second-worst total pressure rate (18.3%). They just can't get to opposing quarterbacks without J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, and opposing quarterbacks have capitalized on the extra time in the pocket as the Texans have given up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing passers in 2019.
Tannehill -- who has been well-protected since taking over the starting role -- should have plenty of time to find Brown down the field in this one. They'll link up again in Week 15 and put Brown at the top spot on the receiver leaderboards for the second straight week.