Fantasy semifinals in Week 15 give greater consequence to unexpected breakouts and duds from stars. Win, and you’re playing for a title. Lose, and it’s on to 2019.
Playing games in mid-December also assures that weather will be a factor for some players in a week with matchups that favor quarterbacks. Bad weather brings the potential of heavy workloads for several running backs.
START: Jared Goff, QB, Rams
Expect a major reversal of fortunes for Goff, who gets an Eagles defense that ranks 30th in passing yards allowed. After throwing four interceptions last week against the Bears, Goff will carry many fantasy teams into Week 16 at the expense of Philly’s secondary, which allowed 455 yards to Dak Prescott last week in an overtime loss to the Cowboys.
SIT: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Held to under 200 passing yards in three of his last five games, Rodgers must contend with a stifling Bears defense that is third in the league in fewest points allowed per game to quarterbacks. Rodgers has one interception this season, but that easily could change against the Bears, who lead the league with 25 interceptions. Owners who desire to play a meaningful game next week will help their chances by keeping Rodgers benched.
START: Doug Martin, RB, Raiders
While his overall numbers are underwhelming, Martin has scored in each of his last three games and is being fed into the buffet that is the Bengals, who are last in points allowed per game to running backs. Martin has averaged 18 touches in the last two weeks, and with the temperature expected to be in the upper-30s, he should be able to get a steady dose of carries. He’s a good RB2/flex option whose value will be stronger in non-PPR formats.
SIT: Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos
A huge flop in Week 14, Sutton caught two passes for 14 yards against a weak 49ers pass defense. With Emmanuel Sanders out for the rest of the season, the opportunity for Sutton to assert himself as the featured receiver is still there, but he also has failed to record more than six targets in all but one game since the Broncos traded Demaryius Thomas last month. The Browns are 30th in receiving yards allowed, but plugging Sutton into the lineup is a risk not worth taking.
START: Josh Reynolds, WR, Rams
Only the Saints have allowed more points per game to receivers than the Eagles, and that makes Reynolds a great play despite his recent skid. Reynolds has just 55 receiving yards in his last two games but is a must-start against the Eagles, who also are 31st in receiving yards allowed. Robert Woods will get the bulk of the targets from Goff, but there will be more than enough opportunities for Reynolds to justify his solid WR2 status.
SIT: Marlon Mack, RB, Colts
Although he scored last week, Mack managed just 33 yards on 14 carries against the Texans and faces stiffer competition against a Cowboys defense that has allowed one rushing touchdown in the last five games while not conceding more than 70 yards to a running back in the same span. Mack is far removed from the midseason spurt that vaulted him into RB2 territory and is now more of a last-ditch option whose value declines considerably in PPR formats.
START: Baker Mayfield, QB, Browns
While the Broncos’ pass rush can make life miserable for quarterbacks (40 sacks, tied for fourth), it also ranks 26th in passing yards allowed. Those numbers play well for Mayfield, who has completed better than 70 percent of his passes in three of his last four games. The Broncos have allowed an average of 324.5 passing yards in their last six. With Mayfield making a concerted effort to get Jarvis Landry involved, the formula is there for Mayfield to be a sneaky-good fantasy option for a team whose normal starter might have an unappealing matchup.
SIT: Cameron Brate, TE, Buccaneers
Despite three touchdowns in the last three games, Brate is too red-zone dependent to roll the dice on at this late juncture. The Ravens are third in fewest receiving yards allowed, and with Brate a non-factor between the 20s, owners are best off looking for better streamers at the position.