The Ravens' quest to be relevant come January gives us a December opportunity in DFS
The Week 15 daily fantasy football (DFS) picks were at one point to be preceded by picks for the special Saturday slate. However for personal NUNYA reasons, I will list some of those picks for the two Saturday games here at the top and then go into the usual rundown for the rest of the slate.
The safe chalky picks for the Saturday slate are going to be the Packers. Aaron Rodgers seems to be on a mission this year. Davante Adams was already one of the better wide receivers but has a great shot of finishing as the best fantasy WR this year. And I wouldn't count out Aaron Jones or Robert Tonyan, especially if you are looking at a potential Green Bay stack. I don't think I need to give you any further reasons why you might want to start your Packers.
On the flip side, for those looking for a likely low-owned option, I'd give serious consideration to Buffalo tight end Dawson Knox. Knox spent time on both the IR and reserve/COVID-19 lists this season, thus limiting his opportunities to shine. Yet he's been healthy the last three weeks and is coming on strong. He has four catches or a TD in each of his last three games, including one with both. Even more encouraging is that Josh Allen targeted him seven times last week.
Another GPP I like is Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater actually brings a nice floor to the table, as his worst game this year resulted in double-digit DraftKings fantasy points while Rodgers and Drew Lock both have had single-digit DFKP outings. Bridgewater's ceiling is a little lower, but I like the fact that he's playing the NFC's top seed. After all, his best game of the year was when he played the AFC's top seed, Kansas City, as he threw for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns. And he made his owners even happier when he ran one in as well. Furthermore, the Packers are not the stoutest defense either. They've given up some big passing totals to some of the weaker passing teams like 280 passing yards to the Colts or 282 to the 49ers. If you're looking to zag when others are zigging, there are far worse options than Bridgewater.
With the Saturday slate briefly discussed, here are my Week 15 DFS picks that might lead to a little extra holiday shopping funds.
Safe Quarterback Week 15 Pick
Lamar Jackson, Ravens vs. Jaguars (DraftKings $7500, FanDuel $8200)
Let's get this out of the way first. Neither you nor I know exactly what the situation was with Jackson on Monday night. Perhaps he needed to throw up. Who knows? But I definitely agree with Joe Bryant's sarcasm here, as I've walked liked that before too, and it wasn't because of cramps...
Because that’s how everyone runs with “cramps”. pic.twitter.com/GpUchE3LjE— Joe Bryant (@Football_Guys) December 15, 2020
But it's the (ahem) runs on the field lately that has Jackson owners happy. Since Week 13, Jackson has rushed for three touchdowns and nearly 220 yards on the ground. Those runs alone have enabled him to finish as the QB7 or better in three of the last four games. However, in addition to his lofty rushing totals, I think we see a spike in his passing totals this week as well.
Much of that can be attributed to the matchup as Jacksonville has allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks (21.66) despite opposing signal-callers attempting the 10th-fewest passes against them. Jacksonville is seeing the second-lowest percentage of pass plays in the league against them. However, success often follows when teams do attack the Jags through the air. They are being burned for a league-high 8.20 yards per attempt (no one else is over 8.04), an insanely high 69.8 completion rate (second), and the second-highest touchdown rate (6.3 percent). And it's not just big chunks of yards to simply get inside the red zone either. It should come as little surprise to learn the Jags have given up a league-worst 28 TD passes.
It's not a question of whether or not I'm playing LJax this week in DFS or even if I'll be overexposed to him. It's only a question of how much overexposure I will have to him in Week 15.
High Risk/Reward Quarterback Week 15 Pick
Mitchell Trubisky, Bears at Vikings (DK $5500, FD $7000)
This is more distasteful to me than it is to you. You want proof? I left Draftmas with Nick Foles as my QB2 in my primary 2-QB league. But I'm man enough to admit I was wrong. Very wrong. But it's hard to ignore what the Bears have done since switching back to Trubisky. Over the last three weeks, the Bears have scored 25, 30, and 36 points. Even more amazing is that Trubisky has not one, not two, but THREE touchdowns in half of his six games. Finally, Trubisky also is coming off a very strong game, notching 267 passing yards and three scores on 33 attempts.
Of course one of the reasons I can't believe I'm recommending a Bears stack is that Trubisky's history against the Vikings is more disgusting than Mike Ditka's underarms. But this Minnesota defense is one of the weaker squads Vikings fans have seen lately. The Vikings have given up the seventh-most passing yards and only five teams have given up more TD passes than Minnesota (and the Chargers have already played in Week 15). Trubisky is priced outside out of QB1 territory on both sites but I think he can creep into low-end QB1 territory on this slate.
Safe Running Back Week 15 Pick
Derrick Henry, Titans vs. Lions (DK $9500, FD $10,200)
After playing the Jags last week, King Henry now gets to play Detroit, who is somehow even worse than Jacksonville. All I can think of is this...
All Henry wanted for Christmas was to play Jacksonville and Detroit in back-to-back weeks. I guess The King gets what The King wants, as Henry is set to face the hapless Lions fresh off an absolute demolition of the Jags. The Titans' workhorse rumbled for 215 yards and two TDs on 26 carries last week, and we can assume it will be more of the same this week against a Lions defense that — somehow — grades out even worse against the run than Jacksonville. Detroit has allowed the most fantasy points to the RB position and has already surrendered 21 rushing touchdowns. This is the perfect storm, as Tennessee should be leading throughout and will be very content to feed Henry the ball 25-plus times.
The Titans are running the ball on more than 48 percent of their plays, the fourth-highest rate in the league. We also know that Henry often picks up steam in December. He should easily burn the Lions, who have given up big games to the likes of David Montgomery and Antonio Gibson in recent weeks. The ceiling is sky-high but even the floor is far higher than terra firma.
High Risk/Reward Running Back Week 15 Pick
J.K. Dobbins, Ravens vs. Jaguars (DK $5900, FD $5900)
Any Raven RB has been a gamble this year. They have had a strong running game, but you never know whether it will be Gus Edwards, Dobbins, or Mark Ingram. However, it lately seems as if the Ravens are slowly phasing out Ingram, who saw just one carry last week. It's also worth noting that Edwards' snap counts have declined over the last three games. So I definitely like Dobbins to get a majority of the touches. But even if Edwards and Dobbins split everything 50/50 this week, there will be plenty of points to go around.
Only the Jets are giving up more total fantasy points than Jacksonville, who is seeing their opponents score 104.3 PPR points per game. Only four other teams have allowed 28 or more PPR points per game to RBs as the Jaguars have. Some of that is volume-based as they are seeing the second-most running back carries per game at 25.8. Opposing RBs are collecting 160.6 total yards per game when facing Jacksonville. And as you might know, nobody runs more than Baltimore (53.7 percent of offensive plays). Finally, the Jaguars have permitted five different running backs to top 115 yards on the ground, including two 150-plus yard performances.
Safe Wide Receiver Week 15 Pick
Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers at Cowboys (DK $6300, FD $6900)
Based upon his last five games, Aiyuk is now a must-play. In those five games, he has racked up 56 targets, 36 receptions, 495 yards, and three touchdowns. Even in a tough matchup last week against Washington, he was targeted 16 times, hauling in 10 of them for 119 yards. The absence of Deebo Samuel helped and he is out once again this week. And unlike last week, Aiyuk has a super matchup on Sunday.
Dallas ranks 25th in the NFL in PPR fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. They are giving up a whopping 8.78 yards per target to opposing receivers and 2.02 PPR fantasy points per target as well. Even if Aiyuk only sees his seasonal average of eight targets this game, that's more than 16 points. Consider that the floor. And given that no one in the NFC has allowed more receiving TDs than the Cowboys, Aiyuk has the potential for a ceiling game complete with multiple TDs as well.
High Risk/Reward Receiver Week 15 Pick
Devin Duvernay, Ravens vs. Jaguars (DK $3200, FD $5100)
So nearly all the Ravens WRs were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list due to contact tracing. Somehow Duvernay dodged that bullet while Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, and James Proche did not. Be aware that Brown might still play and will miss the game only if he tests positive. Now with the medical information out of the way, I still like Duvernay this week even if Brown does play. He's a pure punt play, but with intriguing upside, especially given the matchup.
Even if Duvernary is not the Ravens' top WR this weekend, Jacksonville has seen 21 from the position notch top-40 fantasy performances. That's particularly noteworthy given that opposing WRs have seen a paltry 18 red-zone targets, the fewest in the NFL. There have been plenty of chances as we know, so that seems like an outlier than should see some regression to the mean. Regardless, the Jaguars' defense is being bombed for an extraordinary 9.24 yards per target (second in the league) and 1.96 PPR points per target (fourth).
Safe Tight End Week 15 Pick
T.J. Hockenson, Lions at Titans (DK $5200, FD $6200)
Hockenson has finished as the TE14 or better in nine of his last 10 games. It helps explain why he has the third-most fantasy points of all TEs this year. Or it could be the nearly seven targets per game Hockenson is seeing. The Titans meanwhile have allowed a whopping 2.07 PPR points per target to TEs. There are seven tight ends who've seen half a dozen or more targets against them, and every single one of them finished with 11-plus PPR points. You could spend more, but why not take the relatively cheap and easy pick?
High Risk/Reward Tight End Week 15 Pick
Irv Smith Jr., Vikings vs. Bears (DK $3600, FD $5400)
Frequent readers of this column know that this is not the first time I've picked Smith to go off. And the results have been quite mixed, but that won't stop me from picking him here. I've picked him at least twice already and I can promise you this won't be the last. Had Smith been healthier this season, I have might have picked himh even more often. In the three games he has played since Week 9, he has two double-digit fantasy point games and at least a score in each. In addition to catching all four of his targets last week, he has seen an increase in opportunities. Kirk Cousins is treating Smith to a 12 percent target share in his last three games and an even more enticing 30 percent red-zone target share.
Furthermore, Smith will be taking on the Bears who over the last four games are the fifth-best matchup for tight ends. TEs are mauling the Bears for more than 15 fantasy points per game. Throw in the fact that Kyle Rudolph is questionable and we are looking at a potential high-end game out of Smith.
Safe Defense/Special Teams (DST) Week 15 Pick
Rams vs. Jets (DK $4500, FD $5000)
I'm not being a bully and picking on the Jets again, I swear. I'll admit it doesn't hurt, but I'd be picking the Rams this week even if they were playing about 25 other teams. That's how good the Rams have been and especially lately. The Rams had six sacks last week and currently are third in the NFL in that category. That alone brings us a very solid floor. Yet the Rams also are tied for the fourth-most turnovers, which provides us some high-upside potential, even if they don't score a defensive TD. Finally, the Rams are also the third-stingiest defense in the NFL, allowing less than 19 points a game. I don't see the Jets scoring much more than that. Take the Rams and look for savings elsewhere.
High Risk/Reward Defense/Special Teams (DST) Week 15 Pick
Washington vs. Seahawks (DK $2600, FD $4200)
The Seahawks' offense has 48 TDs so far this year, good for third in the league. Obviously grabbing Washington this week carries some risk. However, the sites have baked that into the price this week, making Washington a potentially great value if this defense continues to do what it has done all season. Washington is not quite as good as the Rams but is pretty close and costs about 40 percent less. Only eight teams have more interceptions than Washington. Washington also is allowing the sixth-fewest points per game. They also are fourth in sacks. It's a tough matchup, but if the Washington offense plays smart (looking at you Dwayne Haskins), this could be a very sneaky play.
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.