Most fantasy leagues are now officially down to the final four teams, and league champions will be crowned over the next two weeks. If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you can sympathize more with Ohio State than with TCU or Baylor.
In the fantasy playoffs, you have to be wary of overthinking your matchups and undoing all that you’ve done up to this point. If you lose, you lose, but you don’t want to be mad at yourself for the entire offseason because you played a lesser player with a good matchup instead of one of your stars with a below-average matchup.
Check Michael Beller’s Week 15 stat projections later this week, and if you have two players close in value for one lineup spot, go with who you consider to be the better player in general -- even if he’s ranked two spots lower than the other player. Let your opponent beat you -- don’t let overanalysis end your season early.
Each week, we’ll share 8-12 players we think are worth a look in standard fantasy football leagues based on performance and upcoming matchups. Each of these players listed are owned in fewer than 30 percent of leagues on CBS Sports, ESPN and Yahoo! leagues.
Since they are barely owned in more than 30 percent of CBS leagues, you won’t see these rising players on this list: Robert Griffin III, Alex Smith, Jonathan Stewart, Matt Asiata, Donte Moncrief, Jared Cook, Connor Barth and the Panthers defense.
Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings (Owned in 22 percent of CBSSports leagues, 7.7 percent of ESPN leagues and nine percent of Yahoo! leagues) -- We suggested picking Bridgewater up last week against the Jets, and he didn’t disappoint, passing for 300 yards for the second time this season. Bridgewater has two touchdown passes in each of his past three games, but he faces a Lions defense in Week 15 that ranks fourth against quarterbacks in fantasy points.
Kyle Orton, Buffalo Bills (28 percent, 9.3 percent and 13 percent) -- Orton has hovered around the 30-percent ownership line for most of the season, and he’s now coming off a season-high 355 passing yards against the Broncos. He threw and rushed for a touchdown in that game, and Green Bay awaits in Week 15. The Packers are coming off a Monday night game in which they allowed 374 passing yards to Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns (16 percent, 10.3 percent and 23 percent) -- The former Heisman winner will be taking over under center for the Browns, pushing Brian Hoyer to the bench. Manziel’s first start comes against a Bengals defense that gave up 350 passing yards and three touchdowns to Ben Roethlisberger in Week 14. Before that, however, the Bengals defense had held their previous four opponents to just one passing touchdown. Manziel’s a better start in Week 16 when the Browns travel to Carolina.
Keeping an eye on: Oakland’s Derek Carr and Tennessee’s Jake Locker.
Kerwynn Williams, Arizona Cardinals (zero percent, 0.2 percent and three percent) -- There’s nothing like a guy coming out of nowhere to ruin the best laid fantasy plans. Williams ended up being the primary tailback to replace Andre Ellington (sports hernia), who has now gone on season-ending injured reserve. The second-year player out of Utah State got his first NFL carries on Sunday and turned in his first 100-yard rushing game. Head coach Bruce Arians came out Monday to name Stepfan Taylor as the starting tailback going forward, but Williams was the one averaging 5.3 yards per carry and will be hard to ignore. The Cardinals play at St. Louis on Thursday night, so Williams is not a great fantasy alternative this week anyway. The Rams defense has allowed a total of just 88 rushing yards over the past two weeks in shutting out both the Raiders and Redskins. Williams is definitely worth picking up, but if you start him and he disappoints, you’ll also have three days of stress until the Sunday games come around.
Donald Brown, San Diego Chargers (13 percent, 3.1 percent and four percent) -- A little bit of a long shot here, but the matchup seems to work for Week 15. Brown led the Chargers with five catches and 49 receiving yards against the Patriots in Week 14. Ryan Mathews’ touches have decreased each week since Week 11, and the Broncos defense is allowing more targets per game (8.46) to running backs than any other defense.
Keeping an eye on: Oakland’s Marcel Reece and Denver’s Juwan Thompson.
Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars (13 percent, 2.0 percent and four percent) -- Over the past couple months, we have suggested Lee as a waiver-wire pickup, and he’s still under the 30-percent threshold. He’s the Jaguars’ best receiver at this point, and he’s about to face a Ravens team that is allowing the most receptions (15.23), receiving yards (204.77) and fantasy points per game (27.62) to wide receivers in the league.
Charles Johnson, Minnesota Vikings (23 percent, 9.7 percent and 20 percent) -- After a quiet game against the Panthers in Week 13, Johnson may have scared off many owners. He rewarded those that stuck with him (whether out of faith or necessity) with his best game of the season Sunday, catching four passes for 103 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. The Lions defense is very good against wide receivers, but the Vikings will likely have to pass a lot in the second half.
Marquess Wilson, Chicago Bears (one percent, 0.1 percent and two percent) -- Brandon Marshall’s broken ribs and lung injury opens up a starting opportunity for Wilson, who is a second-year receiver out of Washington State. At 6-foot-4, he still offers Jay Cutler a big target against New Orleans in Week 15 and possibly beyond, and the Saints have given up the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Wilson weighs just 184 pounds, however, so don’t expect a lot of yards after the catch.
Chris Hogan, Buffalo Bills (three percent, 0.6 percent and one percent) -- Hogan scored his fourth touchdown of the season Sunday, and over the past five games, he has 23 catches (32 targets) for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Only 20 wide receivers have more catches than him since Week 10, and he faces a Packers defense this week that allowed 317 yards and four touchdowns to Falcons wide receivers in Week 14.
Keeping an eye on: Tennessee’s Nate Washington and Jacksonville’s Allen Hurns.
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals (24 percent, 7.8 percent and nine percent) -- With three touchdowns in his past four games, Gresham is the co-leader among tight ends in that span, along with Tim Wright, who has a similar feast-or-famine fantasy outlook each week. The Bengals threw to their tight ends eight times (four catches, 33 yards) the last time they played the Browns, their Week 15 opponent.
Nick Folk, New York Jets (14 percent, 6.8 percent and 19 percent) -- Many times, these suggestions are players coming off a big game or a player with a great upcoming matchup. With seven field goals in his past two games and a great matchup against the Titans in Week 15, Folk falls into both categories. Tennessee allows an NFL-high 2.31 field goals per game and the third-most extra points (3.08) per game. Over the past three weeks, the Titans defense has allowed an average of 4.33 field goal attempts.
New York Giants, DST (28 percent, 37.7 percent and 30 percent) -- A few weeks ago, I suggested grabbing this defense/special teams for the fantasy playoffs because this unit plays such a great schedule in Weeks 13-16. The Redskins come to town in Week 15, and that offense allows the second-most fantasy points to defense/special teams this season. Washington’s offensive line has given up 6.0 sacks per game over its past four contests, and the Giants defense has put up 15 sacks in its past two games.