I know Week 15 is not the fantasy playoffs in every league, but I'd wager to guess it is for the majority of leagues, making my start/sit suggestions for quarterbacks, tight ends, and defense/special teams (DSTs) valuable.
But you know what else I wish I could have wagered? I would have certainly bet on COVID-19 making a comeback just in time for the fantasy playoffs. Sigh. And I don't like to bet on things I hope don't happen.
Yet it might have been a way to hedge against what feels like a new player every hour being added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list. As my father used to say, you buy insurance hoping you never have to use it.
Because I felt like every time there was a start/sit suggestion I liked, I'd get an update that made me reconsider my recommendation. As a reminder, I will not be recommending any starts for options that are generally in the top dozen for QB, TE, or DST. Nor will I be recommending any "sits" for those beyond the top two dozen.
Whether you are in the playoff or not, here are a few potential start/sit options for Week 15.
START This QB
Justin Fields, Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings (MNF)
Yes, this sounds crazy to me too. Yet, I start by reminding you that I adhered to my rule about not choosing any QB options in the top 12. Furthermore, as I started researching, the better and better Fields looks.
Fields is coming off his first two-touchdown (passing) game and best week yet. And recall that this was against Green Bay in Lambeau. But I also watched that game and Fields' decision-making seems to have risen a level. He's still not at that elite level. But I couldn't shake the feeling that against a weaker defense, he might have a field day. Yes, weak pun intended.
Well, look who is blowing into Chicago this week! It's the Minnesota Vikings, an unquestionably weaker defense. They have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to QBs and I don't see that ranking jumping after this weekend. Fields should throw for a pair of TDs again and I think he easily surpasses the 224 passing yards he had last week. Minnesota also has allowed the ninth-most rushing yards to quarterbacks this season, so I expect Fields to rush for even more yards than the 74 he did last week.
Players are entering COVID-19 protocols this week at an alarming rate. Fields makes for an amazing fill-in if you suddenly find yourself without a better starting option this weekend.
SIT This QB
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos
I know someone out there is banking on Burrow to help them advance to the next round of the playoffs (or get them in) and have no other options. I hate to break it to that person, but I don't like your chances of winning with Burrow this week.
I know, Burrow is coming off his first multi-TD pass outing since Week 8 and the 348 passing yards were his second-highest output of the season. And everyone thinks of the 49ers as this amazing defense. They're good. But when you look at DVOA, they are not even in the top 10. So let's not get too excited yet.
The 49ers are still ahead of the Broncos in DVOA-adjusted overall rankings, but when you look at fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, things look quite different. The 49ers are in the top 10 when it comes to most fantasy points given up to the position while the Broncos are on the opposite end of this spectrum, surrendering the third-fewest. Not a good matchup for Burrow.
There is something else with Burrow I can't seem to ignore. He seems to be "wearing down" as we head to the final quarter stretch of the season. I don't blame him for that. I blame the Cincinnati offensive line. Once again, Burrow is the most sacked QB this season. I don't care who you are, those sacks eventually take a toll.
It might explain why the Bengals are trying to transition to a running team. Or maybe it is because Burrow is tied for the league "lead" in interceptions with Trevor Lawrence with 14. Those are two more reasons I don't like Burrow this week. My gut says to stay away from the Bengal this week, and the brain is providing plenty of support for this opinion.
START This TE
Hunter Henry, New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts (Sat.)
Full disclosure: I have Henry on half of my fantasy teams this year. And one of those is a team that is absolutely crushing the league this year (thank you, Jonathan Taylor and Josh Allen!). But he is behind Travis Kelce on that team. However, that doesn't diminish what Henry has done this season.
He is averaging nine PPR fantasy points per game, which is one of the higher averages of all TEs in the league. And remember, that includes the "wind game" against Buffalo when New England attempted all of three passes. Henry also is tied for the second-most TD catches among his peers.
Throw in the fact that the Colts are allowing the third-most fantasy points to tight ends and Henry makes for an easy start.
SIT This TE
Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Many of the Schultz owners out there probably still have this in their mind:
But you know what Schultz has done since? He has a whopping six catches for 47 yards. That is not going to get it done in the fantasy playoffs. And that was over two games, not just one.
Amazing what happens when a quarterback has at least two of his three top WRs healthy, isn't it? Schultz was a nice stand-in when the WRs were all out, but now that they've returned, Schultz is back to being the fourth receiving option... at best. The volume simply isn't there. Start someone else.
START This Defense/Special Teams (DST)
Los Angeles Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks
Yes, the Rams gave up 447 yards and 23 points in their last game. I'm not worried. A healthy Arizona Cardinals offense will make a lot of defenses look not so great. But Los Angeles also picked off Kyler Murray twice in that game and sacked him four times, and did this without All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Rams also are just one of four teams that are holding opponents to fewer than four yards per carry. Think that stat be important against Pete Carroll, who we know loves to run the football?
And LA is no slouch against the pass either. The Rams have 36 sacks (fourth in the NFL) and they are tied for sixth overall with 14 interceptions. Let's just say the reports of their defensive demise have been greatly exaggerated. I've seen them ranked outside the top dozen for this week here and there, but they are a top-10 DST play (assuming they won't be down too many starters) this week in my humble opinion. (One caveat is the Rams' COVID-19 concerns, although it's already being reported that this game has been moved from Sunday to Tuesday. So these concerns may be mitigated by the scheduling change.)
SIT This Defense/Special Teams (DST)
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Maybe this is too obvious of a sit. But I've seen the Texans ranked just inside the top 12 and I just don't get it. They've allowed the third-most points per game (27.4) this season. And that's not improving either as Houston has coughed up more than 28 per over their last three contests. Sometimes teams that give up a lot of points do so because they blitz a lot. But the Texans aren't sacking the quarterback either. Houston has the ninth-fewest sacks.
I'm sure many locked in the Texans because they were playing the Jaguars. And under Urban Meyer, the Jacksonville offense has left a lot to be desired. But with Meyer gone, I think we see a much better Jacksonville team under the direction of interim Darrell Bevell, who also is the offensive coordinator. I'd keep any and all Houston plays out of your lineup this week, and that includes the DST. Oh and coach Bevell, will you please free James Robinson?
— 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.