Fantasy Football

2017 Fantasy Football Week 15 Preview: Furtherance

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If you still have a preoccupation with fantasy football this close to Christmas, then it must be going well. This is the time of year where real football starts taking over my interest because a playoff aroma is in the air.

Then there are the college bowl games – always a source of sports drama. I would suggest watching some of them; even if you aren’t an NCAA junkie. You might find some names in those bowl games who are in the NFL next season. Always have your scouting hat on even if you get just a small sample. It’s better than nothing.

One of the best parts about the holidays is that football gets a pass as a part of the festive season. It’s probably one of the reasons football fans start from an early age. The playoff importance of the games at this time of year doesn’t hurt either.

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2017 Fantasy Football Week 15 Preview

Several clinching scenarios may affect your team for Week 16 should you get through to your final. It is not all that rare for a team to clinch a playoff spot, and of which no matter what happens in the final two weeks, they cannot go lower or higher in the seedings.

I tend to be of the position that teams like a winning momentum going into the post-season. They will rest certain starters earlier than usual if the score is out of reach perhaps, but keeping a winning mentality works better than resting main starters.

Of course, teams that rest lightly questionable tagged players in the post-clinch games makes total sense and you often see that. So beware of your clinched studs after this week for your final.

I should also remind readers of the two Saturday games. Make sure your lineups are ready for those.

Feature Game: Patriots (10-3) at Steelers (11-2)

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Both teams were taken to the wall last week. The Steelers survived their division rival onslaught; the Patriots did not.

The Steelers clinch top seed with a win and a Jaguars loss to the Texans. With just a win and nothing else, they can do no worse than the number two seed.

The Patriots can only clinch at least the 3rd seed this week with a win or tie. If the Bills lose and Chiefs lose, they also clinch the 3rd seed no matter the result of their own game.

As you can see, the importance of this game has major implications for the top seedings in the AFC.

The Steelers have a habit of playing to the level of their competition. In their last five wins, only once have they had a victory beyond a field goal margin. Tom Brady and the Patriots, as flat a fourth quarter as you’ll ever see of them against the Dolphins, still maintained the look of a team which could pull out a victory.

An encore passing frenzy?

The Patriots will exploit the secondary of Steelers through the pass as the Ravens did. Look for Brandin Cooks to rival the targets and receptions of his counterpart Antonio Brown. It should be a big game for both.

The Steelers, in recent weeks, have slid badly in stopping the run. This is the key aspect. If the Patriots can hold off the blitzing for Brady, the Steelers are in real trouble. The blitz of the Steelers is the only real ferocity they have at the moment.

However, the Patriots have more than their share of defensive problems to deal with too. If Ben Roethlisberger needs to throw 50+ passes in a game, he’ll do it. Last week he made 66 pass attempts. That’s the most for him since 2014 (58) and only four short of the record held by Drew Bledsoe in 1994.

Naturally, all those attempts need to end up in a catch to be of any value. That’s why Antonio Brown and crew are there. Ben completed 66% of those 66 passes – a percentage that ranks 3rd all-time for attempts over 60.

This game could have serious fireworks if Ben is up to it again.

Sleeper: Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots

High OU Game: Rams (9-4) at Seahawks (8-5)

I follow a rule in this column for selecting a game for the feature and high over/under categories. The feature game is always the most important game for playoff consideration regardless of anything – unless it falls on Sunday night or Monday night; then the next important is the feature. It can also be the highest over/under game.

The next highest o/u goes here, unless it also falls on Sunday night or Monday night. So that’s why the Rams are here again. No favoritism or anything. It just works out that way and this game has a current line of 47.5 according to the Vegas list I use.

Phew, okay. The game.

The Rams clinch at least a playoff spot with a win and losses by four other teams combined. However, should they lose this game and the Vikings defeat the Bengals, then they are eliminated from contention for a first round bye.

The Seahawks cannot clinch anything. However, like the Rams, they are out of contention for a bye week if they lose. The Cardinals are officially eliminated from the post-season if the Seahawks win.

The Seahawks have won 11 of the last 12 at home versus the Rams. The O/U has went under in five straight games.

It’s a much more formidable Rams team the Seahawks will face in Week 15 than they did back in early October. The McVay system is working and the Rams I believe can beat any team in the league. Todd Gurley should have a better game this time as the Seahawks aren’t picking up the run as well in recent weeks. Robert Woods returns and there’s no Richard Sherman guarding the lanes. Slight downgrade, maybe, for Cooper Kupp – it’s hard to say with him. Sammy Watkins certainly goes back to more bust than boom.

The Seahawks will give the rock to Mike Davis, but this is still the Russell Wilson show. Look for Jimmy Graham to answer a goose egg last week with a good helping of fantasy points this time. Running backs of the Seahawks usually get one chance, at best, to punch it in or else Wilson will pass or run it in himself. That’s why their backfield has among the fewest touchdowns in the league.

Sleeper: Paul Richardson, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Sunday Night Football: Cowboys (7-6) at Raiders (6-7)

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This is the final week of Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension. Who actually won? The lawyers, as usual.

The league and Goodell pursued this case with vigor and in a way I’m glad because no one wanted this to carry over into 2018. In the end, it benefits Elliott too. Next season is completely clear of all this stuff and fantasy football can have a breather.

Despite a better record than Oakland, the Cowboys have more vulnerabilities should they lose this game. If the Cowboys lose and the Panthers, Falcons, Saints and Bears all win; the Cowboys are eliminated.

For the Raiders, a loss eliminates them from gaining the 3rd seed and if the Chargers beat the Chiefs, the 4th seed is out of reach as well. There are several scenarios where they could also lose the 5th seed with a loss, but none that completely eliminates them from a playoff spot.

For Dak Prescott, things were getting very unnerving during the first three weeks of Elliott’s suspension. After career lows against the Eagles and Chargers, Prescott started turning things around. His first 300+ passing game of the season came against the Giants last week. The matchup versus the Raiders may provide similar on Sunday Night.

Dez Bryant should be a focal point, but he’s never been a yards guy. Bryant’s value comes via the big play and we saw that even in the days of Tony Romo. Sunday night always has surprises. If Bryant has a quiet first half, which is frustratingly often, owners uaually breath a sigh of relief when he comes to life in the second. Look for that this time too.

Both sides will attempt to establish the run in respect of the passing offenses. Look for Beast Mode to get as many carries he can handle. In part because Derek Carr has only Michael Crabtree and Jared Cook as his best pass catchers. Cordarrelle Patterson may see solid utility duty in all areas, but especially look out for this sneaky guy…

Sleeper: Seth Roberts, WR, Raiders

Monday Night Football: Falcons (8-5) at Buccaneers (4-9)

What a time for Matt Ryan fantasy owners to get a great matchup. Oh the suffering!

Yeah, a rough ride. Even the wins seem like losses sometimes with Matt Ryan. Certainly the case versus the Saints on the previous Thursday night. The Falcons took the win anyway.

The Falcons, despite everything, actually hold upper hand tie-breaking advantages in the playoff stretch. They cannot clinch anything this week, but several teams depend on them losing games to stay alive in wider scenarios. The Falcons can still achieve a first round bye as long as they continue winning; combining losses of teams ahead of them for the seedings.

The Bucs are out of the playoffs. But more importantly, they are in some team trouble at the moment. Locker rooms have a code when it comes to airing disagreements publicly. You just don’t. However, a report came out this week of a coach-quarterback rift that may be going on behind the scenes.

It’s just smoke, but even without a raging fire behind it, it’s still smoke and you can’t ignore it. The Buccaneers are the grand underachievers of the NFL once again. When they patch up one problem, another comes up. Like repairing holes in a bucket with scotch tape. On paper, this should be a team on the rise, but they remain mired in the battle for last place.

The Bucs need a jolt and the Falcons are beatable on the ground. That’s the kind of game they need from Doug Martin and friends. Mike Evans is hard to trust in your fantasy playoff. I expect some all-or-nothing plays from Winston to get him going again, but again they must have that running game.

For the Falcons, Julio Jones can make up for poor quarterbacking, but it is Devonta Freeman who is the key to this offense. Look for a heavy workload for him against this low-ranked run defense.

Sleeper: O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers

Players to Watch

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Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers (at Panthers)

Relaxed? I am. It’s a great feeling to see Rodgers back. If you own Rodgers, I would trust him for your playoff matchup. Rodgers is one of the most reliable and practiced quarterbacks in the league. He loves practice as much as the games. If any columnist uses the word “rust”, they are coloring book fantasy pundits. Start Rodgers. You can wake up Jordy Nelson from your bench too.

Nick Foles, QB, Eagles (at Giants)

Nothing hurts your reputation more than being a Rams quarterback in the Fisher era. Just ask Case Keenum or Sam Bradford. Foles is a bit of an enigma. In 2013, he had a long streak of games without an interception and I think became over confident in his abilities. The picks started piling up in 2014 and before you know it, he went to the Rams to only get worse. Now he’s back with the Eagles with a good matchup against the Giants. He owes it to Carson Wentz to nuture the team he farmed so well this season.

Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints (vs Jets)

It might be too late for some of you if Kamara checks in with a monster performance, but for others who might have survived – you want it right this time. The question is how the Saints will use him with a playoff spot almost in clinching reach. It’s one of the “softer” matchups the Saints have this year, so how much of him will they preserve if the game is well in hand by the half?

Bryce Petty, QB, Jets (at Saints)

The Jets are down to their last life. They need a tie-breaker scenario primarily involving the Titans at 8-8 to get a 5th or 6th seed. Bryce Petty too is down to his last life. Although he has good repute for working hard, he’ll need every bit of character he has to be in the mix when the Jets select a starting quarterback and backups for next year. Opportunities like this are a once in a lifetime shot.

In the Booth on Saturday and Sunday

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Jay Feely

Saturday NFLN

Bears at Lions (4:30 ET): Mike Tirico, Kurt Warner
Chargers at Chiefs (8:25 ET): Greg Gumbel, Trent Green

Sunday

CBS Early

Bengals at Vikings: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Jets at Saints: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Dolphins at Bills: Beth Mowins, Jay Feely
Ravens at Browns: Tom McCarthy, Steve Beuerlein

CBS Late

Patriots at Steelers: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
Titans at 49ers: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton

Fox Early

Packers at Panthers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
Eagles at Giants: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman
Cardinals at Redskins: Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber
Texans at Jaguars: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston

Fox Late

Rams at Seahawks: Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis


Check out the rest of our 2017 Fantasy Football content from our great team of writers.

About Richard Savill

Richard is an NFL Fantasy Football Writer and Editor of Fantasy Six Pack. Host of The Fantasy Edge Podcast. FantasyPros Contributor. Member of the FSWA. Richard is known for his "outside the box" insight into NFL fantasy football. Winner of the 16-Team 2015 FSWA challenge.

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