Samuel has been trending upward over the last few weeks and the 49ers have a nice matchup on Sunday
Congratulations to fantasy owners that have made it to the fantasy playoffs. Whether your league started the playoffs in Week 14 or 15, this is a week where you need to win. Week 14 had a ton of injuries to both running backs and wide receivers, so fantasy owners need to be aware of players that may be limited or out this week. Also, be sure that the players next in line are grabbed off the waiver wire. These just may be the guys that win you a fantasy championship.
Please note 5 Up/5 Down is a guide on players that should exceed or fall below their rank this week. This is based on past performance, injury status, and matchup. This is not a start/sit column, but rather a guide.
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders
Week 15 has the potential to be an emotional one for Carr and the Raiders. This will be their last game in Oakland, and they face a Jacksonville team that is ready for January. Carr has the potential to put up a big game here. He’s ranked No. 23, but he should exceed that. He has the weapons to succeed, and the matchup favors him.
Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts
After missing two weeks with a hand injury, Mack returned in Week 14. He had 38 rushing yards and a touchdown. It is possible he was limited a bit in his first game back, but he looked good on his touchdown run. The Colts should feature him more this week against New Orleans. The Saints have a tough defense, but they were just run all over by Raheem Mostert in Week 14. The Colts are losing pass catchers as well, so the focus should be more on the running game. Mack is ranked No. 22 and is a solid RB2.
Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears
Miller has quietly had success over the past four weeks. He's averaged more than nine targets in those games. He found the end zone for the first time last week. One of those games he went for more than 100 yards, and his presence has given Allen Robinson the opportunity to get open as defenses need to account for Miller as well. He's stepped up to be a solid No. 2 for the Bears. He's ranked No. 38 for Week 15 against Green Bay, but he should exceed that.
Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Since Week 10, Samuel has had two 100-yard receiving games, two games with a touchdown, and one game with 100 total yards (as he added 33 rushing yards to his 76 receiving). He's emerging as a top target for the 49ers. San Francisco hosts Atlanta in Week 15, which is a decent matchup. Samuel is ranked No. 22, but he is a solid WR2.
Ian Thomas, TE, Carolina Panthers
Thomas is ranked No. 17, and that rank is assuming that Greg Olsen is out. Olsen is still in the concussion protocol, but that can change at any time. This is a situation to monitor, as Thomas has solid TE2 value if Olsen does miss Week 15. The Panthers face the Seahawks this week, who just allowed a monster game to Tyler Higbee. It's a great opportunity for whichever tight end from Carolina plays.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes had the worst schedule for a quarterback in the fantasy playoffs. While owners certainly didn't want to sit their QB1, after Week 14, they may be considering it. The game against the Patriots was a tough one and he had 283 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He also injured his hand in the game, which may have led to his sub-par performance. Mahomes is still dealing with the hand injury this week, although he should play through it. Between the injury and the matchup (Broncos are a tough defense), fantasy owners MAY consider benching him this week. He's ranked No. 7 but is barely a QB1.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Cook is healthy, so that's not the issue. Rather, the matchup is tough for him this week. He's ranked No. 9, but that seems a little high. The Vikings face the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 15. The Chargers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 8. Cook has touchdowns in every game he's played in except two, so it will be a good matchup. However, if Adam Thielen is back, the Vikings may focus more on the passing game than the running game.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs' backfield has been messy for weeks. McCoy was the "lead" back in Week 14 with Damien Williams out. However, with that opportunity, he had 39 yards on 11 carries. He added one reception for four yards. Williams has been putting in limited practices this week and may play in Week 15. If Williams is back, McCoy should be on fantasy benches. If Williams does not play, McCoy should still finish below his No. 32 ranking.
James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
While Washington has had success with Devlin Hodges, it seems like JuJu Smith-Schuster will return for Week 15. He's been dealing with a knee issue, but he should play this week, even if he is limited. The Steelers face the Bills this week, and it is a tough matchup for all pass catchers. Washington is ranked No. 36 but he should finish lower than that. None of the Steelers' wide receivers are recommended fantasy starts this week.
Jacob Hollister, TE, Seattle Seahawks
In the past three weeks, Hollister does not have more than 50 yards. He also has a total of 12 receptions over that span. He hasn't scored a touchdown since before the Seahawks bye. The Panthers' defense isn't great, but they actually have been decent at defending against tight ends. Hollister is ranked No. 15, but he shouldn't be started in the fantasy semifinals.
Full Disclosure from Week 14
5 Up (1/5 correct)
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins (Ranked: 26, Actual: 19)
Saquon Barkley, Giants (Ranked: 10, Actual: 34)
Miles Sanders, Eagles (Ranked: 19, Actual: 33)
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Browns (Ranked: 12, Actual: 58)
Vance McDonald, TE, Steelers (Ranked: 16, Actual: 57)
5 Down (3/4 correct)
Kyler Murray, Cardinals (Ranked: 7, Actual: 29)
Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders (Ranked: 8, Actual: DNP)
Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings (Ranked: 10, Actual: 30)
John Brown, WR, Bills (Ranked: 20, Actual: 79)
Noah Fant, TE, Broncos (Ranked: 11, Actual: 3)
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.