Sleepers And Busts: Week 15 (Semi Finals Edition)
It is semi-finals week in fantasy football and now more than ever, you are going to tinker and play with your lineup to try and find the optimal combination of players to help you outscore another person trying to do the exact same thing. Seems easy enough right? Well, just in case you do not quite have it all figured out, the Sleepers And Bust: Week 15 (Semi-Finals Edition) is here to help you with making the best lineup decisions. There is always the risk that a sleeper will bust and a bust will produce but let us take a look at some matchups we might be able to exploit or avoid. As we have done since mid-season, let us look at the results from last week’s sleepers and busts.
What we got right:
Week 14 was very solid as we nailed five out of six of the main sleepers and busts discussed. Anthony Miller may not have come anywhere near his 11 target average from Weeks 11-13 but he was able to catch 3 of 4 targets for 42 yards and a TD in a game that Chicago led nearly all day and did not really need to pass but when they did (31 attempts passing, averaged 40.7 per game the previous three weeks), Trubisky was highly efficient. Devonta Freeman was able to total 94 yards and a TD on 21 touches (4 receptions) and the week could have been better but Freeman did not play much late with the game being a blowout in Atlanta’s favor. Brian Hill was able to score late as well.
Marlon Mack did not absolutely sink your team in standard leagues but in PPR, he might have sunk you. Mack had 38 yards rushing and 1 TD with 0 receptions as we expected with a cast on his broken hand. Mark Andrews caught 1 of 3 targets for just 14 yards and Josh Allen struggled. On 43 passing attempts, Allen completed just 17 (43.59%) for 146 yards and 1 TD. He also fumbled twice, losing 1 of them and rushing just twice for 9 yards.
What we got wrong:
The only player of the main sleepers and busts that we got wrong was Andy Dalton against the Cleveland Browns. This was a big miss as Dalton was only able to total 262 yards with 0 TDs and an INT. He ran for 11 yards on 3 attempts.
Be sure to check out the 2019 Fantasy Football Playoff Prime: Parts 1 & 2 for loads of fantasy nuggets for all three weeks of the playoffs (Weeks 14-16). Week 14 has past but they can still help you move forward. Let us get into the Week 15 plays to potentially avoid or attack at the RB and WR positions. This is a bit different than previous weeks but you can find loads of QB and TE discussion in parts 1 and 2 of the primer.
- Check out my 2019 Fantasy Football Playoff Primer: Part 1 that came out prior to Week 14 for QB streamers for each week of the playoffs as well as ones to avoid. We also look at getting your handcuffs and kicker and defense/special teams discussion. You will find names like Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Ryan Tannehill, Mitch Trubisky, and more. You may have missed some of the quality options available in Week 14 but there are plenty more ahead.
DeAndre Washington vs The Jacksonville Jaguars
Josh Jacobs was said to have taken a shot in the shoulder to try and be able to play in Week 14 and ended up in tears when the coaching staff told him they would not let him play. If you saw the RB Handcuff chart in Part 1 of the Playoff Primer, you would have noticed that DeAndre Washington was the running back listed as the Jacobs’ handcuff. You can see what the possible volume based on season averages could be and it is about exactly what the volume ended up being. Washington saw 14 attempts rushing and caught 6 of 7 targets for a total of 20 touches and 21 opportunities (20.16 vacated by Jacobs, 72.1% increase). Jalen Richard’s role did not change (9 touches, 10 opportunities).
Josh Jacobs has a legitimate shot to be shut down for the remainder of the 2019 season now that the Oakland Raiders have been forced out of the playoff race for good. If this is the case, or even just for another week, DeAndre Washington stands to take the lead role again when the Raiders take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at home. Washington totaled 96 yards and a TD on his 20 touches and similar volume should be in line against the Jaguars. Jacksonville has been one of the most susceptible defenses to the run game in 2019 and Washington should be able to take advantage if Jacobs is unable to go again.
Jacksonville is currently allowing 24.1 standard (second) and 30.6 PPR (third) points to the RB position. On just the 17 most attempts rushing, they have second-most yards rushing allowed (1549) and the third most TDs rushing (14). They just allowed the Los Angeles Chargers RBs, Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, and Derek Watt to total 185 yards rushing on 25 attempts with 2 TDs on the ground as well as 9 receptions on 10 targets for 141 yards and another score through the air. Below are the last 4 matchups against the Jaguars. Week 16 was not the first time they have allowed multiple starting-caliber performances in recent weeks. The Tampa Bay game, notwithstanding.
Data via FFStatistics Defense App
Ronald Jones @ The Detroit Lions
There is no rhyme or reason for the usage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ RBs in 2019. At least as far as the fantasy community is concerned. Three backs get regular snaps each week and unless you have played both Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber each week, you have more than likely been burned by starting the wrong RB each time. You can see below by using the FFStatistics Snap Count App, that Week 14 was only the second time all season that one of the RBs led the team in snaps two straight weeks. The largest snap count any of the RBs had in any one game is 46 (55%) and only 4 times all year has a Tampa Bay back equaled or exceeded 40 in a game. No rhyme, no reason.
Tampa Bay will take on the Detroit Lions in Week 15 and if you just look at the season totals for RBs against the Lions, the matchup looks as good as it gets.
In recent weeks, however, Detroit has shown some improvement in defending the RB position. The Lions have not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 9 but this does not mean that there is no production to be had. They are one of four teams still allowing 30+ PPR points per game to the position. As you can see below, Detroit may not be allowing a ton of yardage via the run but they are still allowing the backs to score on a regular basis. 6 total TDs in the past four weeks demonstrate just this.
Data via FFStatistics Defenses App
Jones may not be the best in the hurry up and might not be the best in pass protection but he is the best mixture of the two combined with the ability to run the ball. This may be a game where just being able to run the ball is important depending on the status of TB quarterback, Jameis Winston’s broken thumb. The Buccaneers may need to rely heavily on the run game and with the Detroit Lions offense essentially being Kenny Golladay or bust at this point following the placing of Marvin Jones on the injured reserve list as well as all the other injuries Detroit has suffered this season. Tampa may be able to comfortably stick to their game plan and not have to throw the ball 45 times again this week.
An Uneasy Feeling
You may not want to risk a start of Jones in the semi-finals of the playoffs but some of you may not have an option. There is a risk, but there is also a pathway to success for Jones. He regularly sees a lot of people in the box when on the field. Jones sees an average of 7.1 defenders around the line of scrimmage. Even with Mike Evans out for the rest of the season, Tampa Bay has enough weapons to take some focus from the run game. Jones also sees just over 3 targets per game in the receiving game since the start of Week 5 with a single-game high of 8 targets.
Mike Williams vs The Minnesota Vikings (Standard Only)
We have been waiting all season for Mike Williams to do anything at all. One of the most efficient seasons by a WR ever in 2018 is being followed with the exact opposite. This is why TDs are not predictable on a large scale. You just never know. For a receiver of Williams’ skill set, a lower target total is not something to really stress about but he just had his fourth game with just 3 targets which makes him highly difficult to trust. Then throw in the ineffectiveness of the Chargers QB, Philip Rivers, and the excitement that led up to the 2019 season seems like a lifetime ago. Williams is the WR36 on the season but since Week 9, he is the WR30 and well inside a weekly WR3/FLEX range. In the last two weeks, the Chargers deep threat is the WR15 in standard. Right behind Michael Thomas.
The Minnesota Vikings have been consistently been torched by WRs all season. The once-vaunted defensive backfield has become a funnel and fantasy owners are no longer hesitant to start anyone against the Vikings. They are actually a team you can target with your WRs and Williams should be able to find some room to roam through the secondary in Week 15. Below are all the top-24 WR performances during the 2019 season allowed by the Vikings (standard). There are 13 top-24 performances in 13 games and 21 top-40 WR performances.
Data via FFStatistics Defense App
Minnesota is not the most difficult defense to run the ball against as they are ranked as the 10th most difficult standard scoring matchup. Their pass defense is very vulnerable (eighth-best matchup for WR in the standard). Teams, generally, do not need to run the ball all that much and Minnesota should be able to put points on the board to make the Chargers try to keep pace.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown vs The New York Jets (TNF)
“Hollywood” Brown stormed onto the scene in 2019. People questioned the pick post-draft constantly but after a few weeks of the season, Brown was making the Baltimore Ravens look very smart. Through the first four weeks of the season, Brown averaged 4.5 receptions on 8.5 targets for 76 yards receiving and 0.5 TDs. He was the WR18 in standard and 22 in PPR. Since that point, the Ravens rookie WR55 in standard and 60 in PPR and only startable in a few games. Brown is coming off the worst game of his young career in which he caught 3 of 3 targets for -2 yards. Now he will get to face a badly beaten up New York Jets secondary with a potentially limited running QB.
The New York Jets have seen their hopes for the 2019 season vanish right before their eyes. They lost their quarterback for a few weeks as well as many other injuries to their talented players. Players like strong safety Jamaal Adams who could help in the pass defense tremendously. Not to say that Adams is going to chase Brown around but his ability to cover a large part of the field allowing other defenders to assist in coverage when needed. Below you can see that even with Adams, the Jets have not been good against the pass and WRs have eaten them up.
Data via FFStatistics Defense App
(Quadricep): Jackson is projected to suit up against the Jets on Thursday despite a quadriceps injury. (Updated December 09, 2019)
Lamar Jackson came away from Week 14 with a minor quad injury and with a quarterback of his skill-set, even when minor, an injured leg is a big deal. Keep an eye on all practice reports. If Jackson is not able to be as nimble as we have seen him this year, there could be an increase in passing attempts. It would stand to reason that against the New York Jets that Baltimore would run a lot but likely with Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards and avoid putting Jackson is situations to hurt himself further. When the defense starts to come up to attempt to stop your run of the run, Jackson can hit Brown streaking behind the defensive backs.
- Check out Part 2 of the 2019 Fantasy Football Playoff Primer for all the TE streaming options throughout the playoffs. Also, who has the potential to be an under the radar league winner at each position and who have you been starting that could lose it all for you? As with Part 1, some of the quality options may have been played or scooped up in Week 14 but Week 15 and 16 will provide some other nice plays. If you do not have time to check out the TE streaming options in the Playoff Primer, David Njoku plays the Arizona Cardinals.
Other Potential Sleepers
Nyheim Hines @ The New Orleans Saints (PPR only)
David Montgomery @ The Green Bay Packers
Darius Slayton vs The Miami Dolphins
Terry McLaurin vs The Philadelphia Eagles
Joe Mixon vs The New England Patriots
Joe Mixon has finally started to show that talent and production that made him an attractive option in the second round of your fantasy drafts. The season started out as slow as can be with injury after injury to basically to every part of the offense. Through the first six games of the season, the Bengals RB struggled to 12.3 attempts rushing for 42.0 yards rushing without a rushing TD. Mixon added in 2.3 receptions on 3.2 targets for 16.2 yards receiving and he scored once. He was the RB30 in PPR and 32 in standard.
Since then (Weeks 7-14), the offensive line has blocked better and the offense’s health as a whole is improving week by week and it has shown. Mixon has averaged 18.9 attempts rushing for 76.7 yards and 0.4 TDs on the ground with 2.1 receptions out 2.9 targets for 19 yards and 0.3 TDs receiving. He has been the RB8 in PPR, 7 in standard. It does not make up for the lack of production early but to see him overcome the situation and be the guy we thought is encouraging.
Unfortunately, Cincinnati is going to play an angry New England Patriots team off a loss. New England may not have an offense but the Bengals do not have a defense at the same time. But let us talk Mixon against the Patriots defense. New England may have just lost a game but it was really not due to their defense and in particular, the rush defense. The Kansas City Chiefs totaled 20 attempts for 57 yards while catching 6 of 10 targets for 31 yards. The trio (LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson, Spencer Ware) is not exactly “scary” but they were still held completely in check as a part of the Andy Reid system.
The system in Cincinnati is not quite as effective as the one in KC and the New England defense knows that they need to hold their opponents to next t0 nothing for the team to have a chance to win. Until the offense gets things figured out, it is all on the defense’s shoulders. New England is still the toughest defense to face for running backs allowing 0.4 points in standard/ 0.9 in PPR than the next closest team. The Patriots will allow some yards on the ground but they do not let you in the endzone. They have allowed one TD through the air as well as one on the ground. Below are the past few weeks of matchups.
Data via FFStatistics Defense App.
Devonta Freeman @ The San Francisco 49ers
A week after we had Devontta Freeman as a sleeper against the best matchup in Carolina (Freeman was able to total 94 yards and a TD on 21 touches with 4 receptions), the Falcons RB gets the San Francisco 49ers and their defense that allows the second-fewest PPR and third-fewest standard points per game to the running back position. Atlanta has struggled to run the ball all season and Freeman in large part has been a tremendous bust. Since Week 5 though, Freeman is the RB24 (PPR) but in terms of points per game (missed Weeks 11 and 12), Freeman is the RB13 and his floor has been solid catching 4.1 of 4.6 targets per game while totaling nearly 75 yards per game and half a TD.
The San Francisco 49ers allow the second-fewest receiving yards per game to RBs and have not allowed a receiving TD to the position. Freeman has had trouble finding room to run and if he can not supplement the production with receiving work, we could see early season Devonta Freeman again. The 49ers have Given up one top-five RB week and just three total top-10 performances. Two of the names on the list are ones you might expect and the third was Kenyan Drake in his first Arizona Cardinals game action. We should not expect anything near an RB1 performance and should feel fortunate if Freeman can produce an RB3 performance. The loss of Calvin Ridley could give him some extra passing work but that is not something to count on.
John Brown @ The Pittsburgh Steelers
John Brown had a stretch of 4 reception, 50 yards receiving games to start the season (10 games) that was only exceeded by New Orleans Saints stud WR, Michael Thomas (11). Since that point, Brown has lost some of that consistency averaging just 2.7 receptions on 5.3 targets for 30.3 yards and he has scored once. Brown also threw a TD pass but that is not something to count on in the least. Brown was the WR13 in all formats over the first 10 games of the season but has been just the WR44 in PPR and 41 in standard in the last three weeks. He will face the Pittsburgh Steelers who have completely flipped their season and it all started with that defense that is currently the number two fantasy defense.
Over the first two weeks of the season, The Steelers defense allowed 102 points. Then they traded for Minkah Fitzpatrick and it took the defense six full games to allow that many points (108 points from Week 3-9) again and in the 11 games that he has been a Steeler, they have not allowed more than 26 points in any game. When it comes to receivers since Week 3, there have been just three WRs to exceed 10 standard points (Brown’s best format).
As you can see, four of the five top performers play primarily in the slot and the fifth, Zach Pascal, plays in the slot over 20% of the time. Brown is an outside speed receiver and actually does go in the slot over 13% of the time but Cole Beasley could be the best WR option in Buffalo in Week 15 if trends hold. Brown always has the chance to go BOOM but he can go bust just as easy.
Robby Anderson @ The Baltimore Ravens (TNF)
Robby Anderson has finally shown a little of the consistency that we all hoped he could develop with Sam Darnold. We all knew Anderson could go deep but we wanted him to be Darnold’s number one target and to do that, he needed to show that he could garner volume. Through the first 11 weeks of the season, Anderson averaged 2.5 receptions on 5.3 targets for 35.9 yards, scored 2 TDs and was the WR68 in standard scoring. In the last three weeks, Anderson has turned it around and started to get that volume, started to turn said volume into great fantasy production and since Week 12, the Jets’ top deep threat is the WR7 and taken back the “number one option” role in New York.
This Thursday, the Baltimore Ravens and their great defense will welcome in the Jets to their building. Road teams on Thursday night are always a nerve-wracking play. If they flop, you are already at a disadvantage and so many fantasy owners start to tinker at this point to try and find more points. This more often than not backfires. Play the team you think will score the most. Not the “fingers crossed” type of plays. Back to the Ravens’ defense. Baltimore has given up 8 TDs to WRs in 2019. Only two teams have given up fewer (NE – 3, and BUF – 5).
Baltimore also has one of the best free safeties in the game in Earl Thomas and this is key to stopping a player like Anderson. Thomas is the last line of defense and who better than a future Hall of Famer who still has a lot of game left and practices against a young speedy deep threat in Marquise Brown every week.
Next, do we think Darnold will even have the time to stand in the pocket long enough for Anderson to get deep? Baltimore blitzes the quarterback on 53.9% of the defensive snaps which ranks number one in the league. They have knocked the QB down 47 times which ranks third-most in the league. Baltimore’s defense is middle of the pack in terms of sacks (33) but they are going to come after you and make the ball get out early which does not help Robby Anderson go deep.
Other Potential Busts
Mark Ingram vs The New York Jets
Adrian Peterson vs The Philadelphia Eagles
Courtland Sutton @ The Kansas City Chiefs
Pittsburgh Steelers WRs vs The Buffalo Bills
Wrapping It Up
The fantasy season is almost over. Just one more week, unless you play into Week 17. Do not do that. There have been so many injuries in 2019 including a multitude of them in Week 14 that can really affect some matchups. Every week is the most important one now. Do your research and also check out the FFStatistics Waiver Wire, Start/ Sit, Mailbag, and DFS articles right here following the sleeper and bust options. It is some of the best insight you can get to help you get the ‘ship. Good Luck!