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The NFL Fantasy Football Matchups: Week 15 Game Breakdowns with Adam Pfeifer (FREE)




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Week 15 is here so if you are reading this, it means one of three things. You are either in the semi-finals of your fantasy league, continuing to grind in the NFL DFS world or you just love the article, in which case, I thank you. Week 14 was pretty rough, as injuries were the main storyline, especially at the wide receiver position. We could see an insane amount of value this weekend, making it a week where you want to wait as long as possible before making lineups.

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Table of Contents

NFL DFS Early Slate

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers | New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals | Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions | Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers | Miami Dolphins at New York Giants | Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs | Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans | Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins

NFL DFS Late Slate

Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders | Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals | Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers | Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys | Atlanta Fallcons at San Francisco 49ers

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The Slant and Go

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Seattle Seahawks @ Carolina Panthers

Total: 48.5

Line: SEA -6

Seahawks passing game

Despite attempting 36 and 31 passes over the last two weeks (a significant amount for him), Russell Wilson has scored just 18 and 11.6 fantasy points. He also scored fewer than 12 fantasy points in Week 12 against Philadelphia, though he would have had two more touchdowns in that game if it weren’t for some drops. Still, Wilson is the QB24 in fantasy since Week 10, averaging a lackluster 14.9 fantasy points per contest during that span. Over the course of the season, Wilson has still been very efficient, averaging 0.57 fantasy points per dropback, the fourth-best mark among all signal-callers, so the NFL DFS upside is always there with him.

There’s nothing wrong with this matchup, as the Panthers are beginning to fall apart. Over the last three weeks, Carolina is coughing up 6.7 yards per play, the third-worst number in the league during that span. Wilson also leads the NFL with 14 passing touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line this season to zero interceptions, while the Panthers are allowing opposing offenses to score touchdowns on nearly 61 percent of red zone trips, the seventh-highest rate in the league. Wilson remains a borderline top-five play for me this weekend.

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Well, at least he was on the score sheet this week. After posting a goose egg in Week 13, Tyler Lockett caught four balls for 43 yards in Week 14. He was targeted six times. Lockett got the first look of the game but it was once again an unimpressive game, as the big-play receiver has now been under 45 receiving yards in four straight games, while failing to find the end zone during that span.

It has been super frustrating but it still seems like Lockett is due for a big game, as he’s seventh in the league with 23 deep targets, while 27 percent of his targets have come 20 yards or more down the field. The matchup is middle of the pack and his recent play makes Lockett more of a boom-or-bust WR2 option in the second round of the fantasy playoffs. And at sub-$7,000 on DraftKings, he remains an intriguing GPP play in NFL DFS.

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D.K. Metcalf has been way more of a consistent fantasy option than I would have imagined heading into his rookie season. He has seen at least six targets in every game since Week 9 and during that span, Metcalf is WR21 in fantasy. The rookie has also reached at least 70 yards in four of his last five games, catching 27 of 38 targets with a 14.4 yards per catch mark during that stretch. That consistent usage has bumped Metcalf up to the weekly WR3 range, while his high-leverage looks give him massive weekly upside in NFL DFS tournaments.

Metcalf is still tied for the league lead with 14 end zone targets, handling 17.3 percent of Seattle’s end zone looks, the fourth-highest rate in the league. He is also 13th in football with 21 deep targets, while Wilson remains one of the more accurate deep passers in the NFL, ranking sixth in adjusted deep completion rate. Metcalf will likely draw coverage from James Bradberry, who is one of the better corners in football. The Panthers as a team, however, are coughing up a league-leading 15.1 receptions per game to opposing receivers.

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Tight end Jacob Hollister hasn’t done much as of late but he’s still played 77 percent of the snaps over the last three weeks, while seeing a solid 18 targets. The Panthers have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends but Hollister is a near every-down player tied to one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He’s a borderline top-12 tight end the rest of the way.

Seahawks running game

After a late-season surge, a torn ACL has ended Rashaad Penny’s season prematurely. It is a big loss to this team, as Penny was starting to find his groove and was way more involved as of late. In Weeks 12 and 13, Penny logged 46 percent of the snaps, while averaging 16.5 touches per game. He was touching the football on 50.8 percent of his snaps during that span, too. With Penny done for the year, Chris Carson, who was still getting a ton of work, will return to the 25-touch range most weeks, and he has an outstanding Week 15 matchup.

Carolina continues to get torched on the ground, surrendering the most rushing touchdowns per game on the season (1.8). Meanwhile, 58.5 percent of the touchdowns scored against the Panthers this season have come via the run, easily the highest rate in football. And over the last three weeks, they have allowed six running back touchdowns, while no team has allowed multiple rushing touchdowns in more games this season (seven). Carson is a top-five running back option this week and a core NFL DFS play.

Panthers passing game

Kyle Allen tossed seven touchdowns and zero interceptions during his first four starts of the season. However, over his last seven games, he’s fallen off a cliff, averaging 6.5 yards per attempt, while throwing nine touchdowns, 12 interceptions and losing three fumbles. He’s played poorly over the last two games too, though garbage time and rushing touchdowns have salvaged his day for fantasy purposes. Allen gets another decent matchup, as the Seahawks are sporting the fifth-lowest pressure rate in the NFL (20.2 percent), while allowing the fourth-most passing yards in the league. Still, it is hard to want to get to Allen in Week 15.

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D.J. Moore is coming off his worst outing since Week 8, yet he still gave you four catches for 81 yards. He is still averaging just under 100 receiving yards per game since Week 9 and leads all receivers in targets during that span, being targeted on over 15 percent of his snaps. Moore is now fourth in all of football with 121 targets, averaging 9.3 per game, while also ranking sixth in receptions (78) and fourth in yards (1,061). The Seahawks are 15th in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers this season so the matchup is middling but Moore has established himself as a must-start, weekly top-10 play.

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It was another quiet game for Curtis Samuel last week but for whatever reason, I can’t get away from him in tournaments. This is still a guy with a 31.3 percent target share from inside the 10-yard line this season, which is the 11th-highest rate in the NFL. Samuel is also 10th in the league with 22 deep targets, while sporting 33 percent of the air yards, the 16th-highest rate among all receivers. And Samuel is still seeing plenty of opportunities, averaging a solid seven targets per game, while ranking third among all wideouts in routes run with 529. Moore, by the way, is second with 532.

With Greg Olsen out with a concussion last week, the Panthers stated that they would use a committee approach at the tight end position. That was not the case, as Ian Thomas ended up playing 86 percent of the snaps, while no tight end ran more routes on Sunday than Thomas (42). He was targeted 10 times, catching five of them for 57 yards and a touchdown. If Olsen can’t play again this week, you have to feel good about Thomas, especially against a Seattle defense that is surrendering the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends on the season (13.0), as well as the second-most yards per game to the position (70.6).

Panthers running game

It was another “down” game from Christian McCaffrey last week, who failed to find the end zone for the second straight week. However, he still caught 11 passes for 82 yards and has now been targeted a whopping 33 times over the last three weeks. With the playoffs no longer a destination, the Panthers might just try to get McCaffrey that 1,000/1,000 season. He has 1,220 rushing yards and 726 receiving yards with three games to go. McCaffrey still leads all running backs in opportunity share (91.7 percent) and targets (108) so keep viewing him as the clear top running back in all of fantasy football.

New England Patriots @ Cincinnati Bengals

Total: 40.5

Line: NE -9.5

Patriots passing game

Tom Brady threw just one touchdown last week, making it his seventh game of the year with either one or zero touchdown passes. The Patriots offense has been legitimately bad this season, averaging the eighth-fewest yards per play in the NFL to this point (5.1). Brady is currently 20th among all quarterbacks in fantasy points per dropback (0.39) and 15th in fantasy points per game (16.8). Despite currently leading the NFL in pass attempts with 522, averaging 40.2 per game, I just don’t know where the upside is with Brady, even in a solid matchup.

The Bengals aren’t great, allowing the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (20.4) and pressuring opposing passers at the seventh-lowest rate (20.5%), but this New England passing game just has no explosiveness right now. Brady isn’t an awful NFL DFS play but it is very tough to get excited about him.

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After 12 targets last Sunday, Julian Edelman has now seen double-digit targets in eight consecutive games, averaging an awesome 11.7 targets per game during that span. He is now second in the league with 136 targets and third with 90 receptions. Edelman also remains heavily involved in the red zone, as he leads the NFL in red zone targets (20) and red zone receptions (15), while seeing 27 percent of New England’s looks from inside the 10-yard line on the season.

Since Week 6, his 95 targets lead the league, while Edelman has been targeted on 17 percent of his snaps during that stretch, the sixth-highest rate among wideouts with at least 20 targets. He draws an awesome matchup with the Bengals, who are allowing 21.6 fantasy points per game to the slot this year, the sixth-most in football. That obviously bodes well for Edelman, who leads the league with 59 slot receptions and 86 slot targets this season.

As for the rest of the New England receivers, well, good luck. In Week 14, Mohamed Sanu played 39-of-67 snaps, catching just one target for 13 yards. Phillip Dorsett played 33 snaps and Jakobi Meyers played 38 snaps. Sanu is probably the only one worth taking a shot on in NFL DFS, as he’s facing his former team that is allowing 12.6 yards per completion this year, the second-worst mark in the league.

Patriots running game

The Bengals are one of the worst run defenses in the NFL and I still don’t know if you should start Sony Michel this week. He carried the ball five times for eight yards against an awful Kansas City run defense last week and since Week 9, Michel is playing just 27 percent of the offensive snaps for the Patriots. He’s shown zero burst or explosiveness, ranking 54th among all running backs in yards per touch (3.7), while his 2.6 percent breakaway run rate is 40th in the league. Michel is also averaging just 1.3 yards after contact per attempt, which is dead last among all qualified rushers this season.

He still has eight goal line carries on the year (11th-most and 11 carries from inside the five-yard line (seventh-most), giving him touchdown potential, especially with the Patriots expected to score a healthy amount of points in this game. And with the Bengals allowing 1.2 rushing touchdowns per game this year (third-most), Michel is a standard league flex option.

With Michel and the running game struggling, the Patriots have used James White as a receiver as an extension of the ground game. New England is calling run just 38.9 percent of the time this season, a number that was just over 45 percent of the time in 2018. White has been targeted 18 times over the last two weeks, while carrying the ball a solid 20 times. White is fourth among all running backs with 6.4 yards per touch, while his 83 targets and 61 receptions are both top-five at his position. He remains the best back to play out of New England, especially with Brady currently fifth in the league in passes attempted behind the line of scrimmage this season (77).

Bengals passing game

Since we have second thoughts about using some of the best quarterbacks against this New England defense, I think it is pretty safe to eliminate Andy Dalton from our NFL DFS player pool this week. Sure, he is a quarterback under $5,000 on DraftKings, which is always something to at least think about. But this Bengals offensive line will have a hard time dealing with the Patriots, who are pressuring opposing quarterbacks at the ninth-highest rate in the league (25.9%) and sacking them at the sixth-highest rate (8.6 percent). They are also allowing the lowest passing touchdown rate at 2.1 percent, while opposing offenses are averaging just 0.87 points per drive against New England, the fewest in football.

After a bit of a rough spell, Tyler Boyd has been very productive over the last three weeks, either scoring or reaching 75 yards in all three contests. He is now sixth in the NFL with a healthy 118 targets, averaging just over nine per game. Of course, this is a brutal spot for him, facing a Patriots defense that is allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts. They are also allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to the slot and while Boyd likely avoids Stephon Gilmore, he’ll still see coverage from Jonathan Jones, who is allowing just 0.23 fantasy points per route this year. Boyd is more of a WR3 play this week.

Bengals running game

The beginning of the season was vastly upsetting but Joe Mixon has been awesome as of late. Over his last five games, Mixon is averaging 93.8 rushing yards per game, while only Christian McCaffrey has more touches than Mixon (115) during that span. He’s averaging 23 touches per game while touching the ball on 50 percent of his snaps and Mixon has now found the end zone in three of his last four games. The Bengals are going to try and establish the run early and get Mixon going, but if/when they get behind in this game, it is possible things could go badly for him, though it is worth noting that he’s seen four targets in both games since Dalton has been back for Cincinnati. The recent usage has vaulted him back into the RB2 status, though I am tempering expectations a bit here.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Detroit Lions

Total: 47.5

Line: TB -3.5

Buccaneers passing game

As long as his hand is okay, this is a really good spot for Jameis Winston, even without his top receiver. He is coming off the most Winston game ever, throwing for 456 yards and four touchdowns, but also tossing three more interceptions. He is now first in the NFL in interceptions (23) and second in touchdown passes (26), as he continues to be an aggressive passer. Winston’s 86 deep ball attempts lead the league, averaging nearly seven per game.

Meanwhile, Winston is also second in completed air yards per completion (8.3) and intended air yards per pass attempt (10.1). That sets up very well for this matchup against the Lions, who are surrendering 12.0 yards per completion, the fourth-worst mark in the league. Detroit is also allowing the highest average depth of target in football (10.0), as well as the most completed air yards (2,385). They are also coughing up the most passing plays of 20 yards or more (56), as well as the sixth-most fantasy points per pass attempt (0.51). Even without his number one wideout, Winston, who will be playing this game with a broken thumb, is a QB1.

For the first time this season, we don’t have to decipher whether it is a Mike Evans or Chris Godwin week. Evans suffered a season-ending hamstring injury last week, making Godwin the unquestioned top wideout in Tampa Bay. Godwin was already second among all receivers in fantasy points per game (19.8) and fourth in fantasy points per target (2.29) and is now in line for 10-12 targets on a consistent basis. I’d imagine the Buccaneers move Godwin to the perimeter more with Evans gone, as he lined up in the slot over 60 percent of the time through the first 14 weeks of the season.

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That should lead to a higher depth of target for Godwin, though he does already rank seventh in the league in yards per target (10.8). But if they leave him in the slot, the matchup is better for him, facing Justin Coleman, who has allowed a league-worst five touchdowns in slot coverage this season. He is also allowing 0.55 fantasy points per coverage snap. Either way, Godwin is now the top option in a high-powered, high-upside passing attack. He’s a top-five receiver this week.

So who benefits from Evans’ absence? Last week, Breshad Perriman ended up playing 83 percent of the snaps and seeing five targets, hauling in three of them for 70 yards and a touchdown. He will serve as Tampa Bay’s number-two receiver the rest of the way and has some legitimate upside in this offense. Already averaging 15.6 yards per reception and 5.3 air yards per target, Perriman will now be an every-down player and is tied to the most aggressive passer in the NFL. He is an extremely viable GPP option this NFL DFS weekend.

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Meanwhile, Justin Watson played 55 percent of the snaps and was targeted eight times. He caught five passes for 59 yards and a touchdown of his own and could be the number-three receiver for the Buccaneers if Scotty Miller (hamstring) can’t return this week. Watson would be covered by Darius Slay if he doesn’t shadow Godwin, which certainly wouldn’t be the most incredible matchup, but Watson is just $3,700 on DraftKings and faces a bad Lions secondary that is allowing the ninth-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. He could be one of the better value plays of the slate.

That’s now three straight weeks where O.J. Howard has dominated the snaps at the tight end position. Over the last three weeks, he’s logged 77, 83 and 87 percent of the snaps and has now been over 60 receiving yards in each of his last two games. With Evans out, perhaps the Buccaneers call Howard’s number more, especially in the red zone. Evans and his league-leading 14 end zone targets need replacing, which could lead to more looks from Howard, who only has four end zone targets all season long. For the first time in a while, I will have some exposure to Howard.

Buccaneers running game

You want a split backfield? Look no further than Tampa Bay. On Sunday, Ronald Jones played 35 percent of the snaps and carried the ball 11 times while Peyton Barber played 38 percent of the snaps and also saw 11 carries. Yuck. Jones is clearly the most talented back but his inconsistencies in the passing game and in pass protection have limited his playing time over the course of the season, making him a risky NFL DFS play each week, even in a favorable matchup against the Lions, who are stuffing just 12 percent of all carries at the line of scrimmage, tied for the lowest rate in football.

Lions passing game

So how bad is the Buccaneers pass defense? Is it bad enough to warrant using someone like David Blough this week? I mean, maybe in a large-field NFL DFS tournament. Blough unsurprisingly struggled last weekend in Minnesota, completing 24 of 40 passes for 205 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Tampa Bay is coughing up the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing signal callers on the year (21.9), as well as the seventh-highest passing touchdown rate (5.4 percent), so there is a shot for Blough to have a good game here. He has a favorable matchup and allows you to spend up elsewhere. That’s about all I got.

Out of nowhere, Marvin Jones was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury, making Kenny Golladay the clear cut WR1 in this Lions offense. It has been nice to see Golladay produce with whoever has been under center for the Lions lately, as he’s found the end zone in consecutive games with Blough at quarterback. With tight end T.J. Hockenson also sidelined, Golladay should be the obvious top target when the Lions get into the red zone. He is already tied for the league-lead with 14 end zone targets but now Jones and his nine end zone looks (eighth-most) need replacing, on top of his 20 percent target share.

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Opposing defenses could double Golladay more often going forward but that truly rarely happens in the NFL, so Blough should be chucking the ball his way early and often. This is an elite matchup for Golladay, facing a Buccaneers defense that has allowed the most fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts, as well as the second-most touchdowns per game (1.6). Golladay leads the NFL in end zone targets and deep targets, presenting him with an insane NFL DFS ceiling, especially with Jones not taking looks away from him.

Danny Amendola has already seen eight targets in back-to-back games and now Jones is gone. His role won’t change in a huge way but if the Lions continue to play from behind, 8-10 targets is very much in the cards, especially in a suddenly concentrated passing attack in Detroit. The Bucs are allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to the slot on the season, according to Pro Football Focus (23.4), where Amendola lines up just over 80 percent of the time.

Lions running game

Bo Scarbrough continues to serve as the clear lead back in Detroit. Over the last four weeks, he is ninth in the NFL in touches (73), averaging an awesome 18.3 per contest. He is also touching the ball on 52.1 percent of his snaps during that span, the 10th-highest rate among qualified backs. Scarbrough offers very little in the passing game, catching one pass over the last four games, and this matchup is bad for someone who strictly gets carries up the gut.

Tampa Bay is stuffing 30 percent of carries at or behind the line of scrimmage this season, the second-highest rate in football. The Bucs are also allowing just 3.4 yards per carry on the year, also the second-best mark in the league. Scarbrough suffered a rib injury last week but it doesn’t appear to be serious. Assuming he suits up, Scarbrough is nothing more than a standard league FLEX play.

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