Austin’s Fantasy Train: Week 15


Austin West, Staff

Now, it is the consensus start of the playoffs for practically everyone who plays. If you’re like me you’ve been the top team looking in on the playoffs as the other top teams are having a blast. Unfortunately, this is practically my outlook in three of my five leagues while in the other two I sit comfortably as the one seed in the playoffs. That means all my dedication turns to those teams to bring home the proverbial trophies. Hopefully, I was able to help many of you clinch playoffs with last week’s predictions but that Monday Night Football game may have been the nail in the coffin for many of you with Kyler Murray, James Connor, Devante Parker, and Rhamondre Stevenson all getting injured and leaving the game at some point. Let’s recap the picks that may have helped you miss or make the playoffs.

Oh, boy did Trevor Lawrence and Devonta Smith smash their projections. Trevor Lawrence throws for three touchdowns and over 300 yards, while also knocking a rushing touchdown on the day for an extra 17 points over his projection. Devonta Smith has taken much of Dallas Goedert’s workload and had almost an exact stat line for the second straight week, only difference was his 40 fewer yards, but still breaks his 14-point projection. While Hunter Henry never found the endzone as we hoped, he still is able to just barely beat his projection. Unfortunately, Isaiah Pacheco became an afterthought in this game to Jerrick McKinnon as he beats his projection by .1 so basically didn’t beat it. As for the under-projected folks, Greg Dulcich and DJ Moore underperform by a decent margin while Dameon Pierce meets his projection almost exactly and Daniel Jones exceeds his projection by three points. Now, that this is behind us, whether you have a first-round bye, are fighting your way to the next round, or are playing the low-stakes game of the consolation bracket, let’s help you pick up some wins. 

Tickets to Ride

Quarterback, Justin Herbert: Social media quarterback no more, Justin Herbert is finally getting all his offensive weapons healthy for a late playoff push. The next team standing in his way is the Tennesee Titans, who stand atop the AFC South. These Titans will be no match for our Perseus of Herbert as they give up the second-most passing yards per game in the NFL and the second-most fantasy points per game to the quarterback position. Herbert has thrown for over 330 yards and a touchdown in the past two games and has finished as a top-10 fantasy quarterback for three straight weeks. With so much on the line for the Chargers and a fully healthy offense, Herbert has been elevated to a higher tier of fantasy quarterback.

Running Back, Saquon Barkley: We love division matchups with playoff spots on the line. Currently, all of the NFC East will make the playoffs but that will be subject to change as the New York Giants take on the Washington Commanders, with Saquon Barkley likely to take a major role. In the previous matchup of these two teams, just two weeks ago, Barkley was able to earn 63 yards on the ground with a touchdown and five receptions for 18 yards for a cool 19.1 fantasy points. He’s been the only running back to turn the tide against the Washington run defense in the last five weeks. Now, there is an asterisk next to this because NFL schedulers need to reevaluate some things. The Commanders tied the Giants two weeks ago, got a BYE week, and now face the Giants again. 

Wide Receiver, AJ Brown: It’s been a great stretch for the Philadelphia Eagles and AJ Brown over the past three games. Brown has scored a receiving touchdown in three straight games on at least four targets. He’s also averaged just under 80 receiving yards across that stretch. There’s a reason that he is the fifth-highest fantasy-scoring wide receiver on the season and tied for second in receiving touchdowns among wide receivers. This week he faces the Chicago Bears who have allowed an average of 77 total yards and over a touchdown per game to a team’s wide receiver one. When Jalen Hurts and the Eagles want to succeed, they look to Mr. Always Open. Expect them to do it often this week. 

Tight End, Dawson Knox: The only receiving touchdown for the Buffalo Bills against the Jets came from Dawson Knox alongside four receptions for 41 yards for the tight end. He now faces the division rival of the Miami Dolphins, who allow an average of 12 fantasy points per game. The last time these two teams faced off way back in Week 3, Knox hauled in four receptions for 25 yards. In the last four weeks, tight ends that have at least three receptions are averaging 34 yards and .6 touchdowns per game against the Dolphins. Expect Knox to be heavily involved in a must-win divisional matchup. 

Missed the Train

Quarterback, Geno Smith: More division matchups as Geno Smith looks to hold off the San Francisco 49ers from claiming another NFC West title. Smith has been averaging two passing touchdowns per game this season but was held to zero the last time he faced the 49ers. Unfortunately for Geno, the 49ers’ defense has been a tear lately only allowing two of six starting quarterbacks they have faced following their loss to Kansas City in Week 7 to score two touchdowns in a game even if they do average over 10 fantasy points a game. With a lot on the line and a stout defense, expect Geno Smith to be in a world of trouble all game long. 

Running Back, Zonovan Knight: An absolute star for the New York Jets since taking over the backfield, Zonovan Knight may seem prepped for a nice matchup against the Detroit Lions but think again. The Detroit Lions’ run defense has stepped in the last half of the season, holding all running backs to under 100 rushing yards per game and only three touchdowns since Week 8. Currently, Mike White is trending towards playing this game on Sunday so expect Knight to keep a similar workload now that Michael Carter has reentered the backfield rotation. If White does not play, expect an increased workload for the running backs. 

Wide Receiver, Marquise Brown: Just a horrible turn of events for the Arizona Cardinals. Currently, 4-9 on a three-game losing skid and Kyler Murray now declared out for the season with a torn ACL after a non-contact injury on the third play of the game against the Patriots. That means Colt McCoy is in at quarterback for the rest of the way including this week against the Denver Broncos. This will be the third week back from a foot injury for Marquise Brown and the second game with McCoy at the helm. McCoy likes to look in DeAndre Hopkins’ direction first plus a defense that has only given up two touchdowns in the last three games could dock Brown’s usage in the passing game as over the same stretch the number two receiver averages three receptions and 60 yards per game. Without a touchdown, expect disappointment from Marquise Brown and the Cardinals’ offense. 

Tight End, Cole Kmet: While Cole Kmet has been one of the main targets of Justin Fields this season, expect a low offensive affair from the Chicago Bears against the stout defense of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have only allowed 7.9 fantasy points per game to the position and only three touchdowns all season. Kmet is averaging only 44 yards per game and no touchdowns through three games, blending perfectly with how the Eagles want to contain the tight end position. Justin Fields will be forced to scramble early and often, cutting off Cole Kmet’s targets and limiting his fantasy potential.