Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 15
One of the things that makes fantasy football so captivating is the variance. Even throughout Cooper Kupp's historic, unflappable season, he was the top wideout for the week just three times in 2021. That means, on individual weeks, some very strange players may pop in terms of fantasy points at their positions.
That opens the door for some room to be "spicy" and make some fun predictions. In a landscape increasingly set ablaze by "hot takes," it can be difficult to understand the difference between a bold prediction -- based on a particularly strong spot for a team or player -- and a senseless take with the prayer of becoming correct based on variance.
Let's shoot for the former with five interesting spots to target during this weekend's NFL games.
Note: All predictions are for half-PPR formats (and FanDuel scoring for quarterbacks).
1. Dak Breaker: Prescott Posts Over 250 Yards Passing in Jacksonville
For some reason, Dak Prescott has been maligned this season, and I get it from a fantasy perspective at least.
Even when going on a points-per-game basis due to his injury, Dak is still the QB16 this season at 17.0 fantasy points per game. It hasn't been a performance issue, though. He's just been used so little since Dallas has bludgeoned teams with the league's seventh-highest rush rate over expectation.
When asked to throw, Dak is eighth in the NFL in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back (0.20) among those with at least 150 attempts. He's played well, and they'll likely now -- finally -- need him in this particular matchup.
Jacksonville is the heaviest pass funnel in the NFL at present. They're numberFire's 10th-best rushing offense but the 3rd-worst pass defense. With that in mind, the Cowboys will probably need him far more than they have recently.
The Jags have allowed 250-plus passing yards in six straight. This should be light work for Dak despite just a 239.5-yard projection from our model.
2. Ek-ell and Hide: The Chargers' RB Duds With Fewer than 12 Fantasy Points
Fantasy football isn't fair.
Everything has gone perfectly for the drafters of Austin Ekeler this season. Touchdown regression be damned, Ekeler has followed his 20-touchdown effort last year with 13 in 2022, and he's the RB5 on the year as a result.
The problem is that most fantasy football playoffs start this week, and this is Ekeler's worst outlook in weeks. Not only did he post his lowest snap rate since Week 4 last week (59.0%) as the Chargers continue to work in Joshua Kelley, but this matchup with Tennessee is a bear.
The Titans are allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs, and they're numberFire's seventh-best rushing defense overall. To make matters worse, Tennessee is also our sixth-worst passing defense, so the red-hot Justin Herbert and his full complement of weapons -- admittedly including Ekeler out of the backfield -- should have an easier time.
I still don't think his receiving work will be enough. You're obviously starting him in every league, but I wouldn't expect Ekeler's best outing on this business trip to Nashville.
3. Amon-Ra-tten: St. Brown Fails to Eclipse 50 Receiving Yards in New York
Ekeler is one fantasy darling in a precarious situation entering the opening week of the playoffs, and here's another.
Amon-Ra St. Brown hasn't slowed down from his league-winning pace a season ago. The Detroit wideout is the WR8 at present from his mid-round draft slot. St. Brown isn't only great because of his production, but he's also fairly predictable. That's the problem here.
St. Brown has largely feasted this year on an easier-than-expected schedule. He's faced five of a possible nine bottom-10 defenses -- per our model -- already this season, including the Vikings twice. His Lions are also in the bottom 10. Against them, he's chowed for 90.0 receiving yards and 15.7 fantasy points.
Against four top-10 defenses (per our same ranks), it's been a wildly different story. Amon-Ra has been held to 52.0 receiving yards and 11.1 fantasy points -- largely carried by a pair of scores. They'll face a fifth top defense this weekend versus the New York Jets, who are fifth in our model.
In short, some combination of St. Brown and Detroit's passing game is matchup sensitive. This is one of the toughest in the sport at present, so I'm not sure the Sun God has his best effort Sunday, either.
4. Tyler's Time: Conklin Posts Double-Digit Fantasy Points
While T.J. Hockenson didn't quite deliver on my top-three prediction, he still delivered 6 catches for 77 yards. The key takeaway there was the Lions still can't guard tight ends.
As a result, I find Tyler Conklin to be an intriguing sleeper as we enter the playoffs. Of course, he's got the Lions this week, which is an automatic bid for fantasy relevance. They're allowing the second-most adjusted fantasy points per target to the position.
However, Conklin's usage is that of a top-tier tight end right now, too. He's seen at least seven targets in each of the past two weeks with Mike White at the helm, which has been good for a 15.2% target share. It's not ideal, but neither is this position.
Conklin is due for a bit of a regression in terms of converting his looks into fantasy points. Among tight ends with at least 100 fantasy points scored, he trails only Mark Andrews and Dalton Schultz in terms of fantasy points behind expectation, per Pro Football Focus. Perhaps, this sublime matchup will point him in the right direction.
5. Cardinal Sin: Arizona's D/ST Posts a Top-8 Week
With your fantasy season on the line, it's probably hard to trust the Arizona D/ST, but you should.
They haven't eclipsed four fantasy points in three straight weeks following Monday's clunker, but the matchup is everything here. They're taking on a Denver Broncos team whose season is over. Denver is 3-10, and Russell Wilson is in concussion protocol. In a lost year, I can't see him rushed back following Sunday's nasty hit.
As a result, the Cardinals will get an offense that has struggled all year led by Brett Rypien. Rypien's -0.21 Passing NEP per drop back this year is the fourth-worst among quarterbacks with at least 20 attempts. Yikes.
Plus, Denver's offensive line has been leaky for weeks. They've ceded at least three sacks in 10 of their 13 games, and the Broncos have allowed the second-highest pressure rate (30%) in the NFL. Arizona's 32% pressure rate is tied for 12th in the NFL, so they can get after the quarterback.
Now isn't the time to roll the dice. If you're streaming defenses, snag Arizona's defense off of the wire.