It’s playoff week, and it’s also time for Betting the Spread Week 15! Congratulations to everyone who made it. I’m still alive in a league and off to a good start thanks to George Kittle and Kenneth Walker III. Hopefully, we prevail. Hopefully, we end the year on a good note picking games too. We finished last week with a 7-5 record. Our record is still well below .500 at 85-101-5, but there’s still time to get above .500 with a few strong weeks. Let’s get it started this week.
Indianapolis Colts vs Minnesota Vikings (-3.5)
Pick ATS: Minnesota Vikings
I’ve mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating: the Vikings’ secondary is bad. They rank No. 27 in pass defense DVOA according to Football Outsiders. They allow the most receiving yards to their opposition this season. How have receivers fared recently against them? Jameson Williams caught his first-ever NFL pass on a busted coverage that ended up becoming a 41-yard touchdown last week. D.J. Chark went for 7-6-94-1 in that same game. Garrett Wilson went off for 162(!) yards two weeks ago. Corey Davis put together a solid 10-5-85 performance in that same game. DeVante Parker caught four balls for 80 yards on the Vikings on Thanksgiving. CeeDee Lamb‘s services weren’t required in the Cowboys’ demolition of the Vikings. Stefon Diggs caught 12 of 16 targets for 128 yards in Week 10. Gabe Davis hit them with a 10-6-93-1 game too.
The point is the Vikings’ secondary stinks especially at covering outside receivers. I can’t imagine there are many teams that drafted Michael Pittman Jr. that made their fantasy postseason, but if there are, he should smash. Alec Pierce makes for a nice flex start this week too. Pierce is rostered in only 32-percent of leagues on Sleeper. Yet, he is fresh off an 8-4-86-1 performance against the Cowboys and has at least ten PPR points in four of the ten games he’s played alongside Matt Ryan. Target either Pittman or Pierce in DFS too.
Baltimore Ravens (+3) vs Cleveland Browns
Pick ATS: Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson has already been ruled out for this game. Tyler Huntley suffered a concussion last week but has been cleared for this game. Regardless, I imagine the Ravens will rely more on J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards to take them home this week rather than emphasize Huntley after his injury last week. This is the game to do so because the Browns rank No. 30 in rush defense DVOA. Dobbins didn’t look like his normal explosive self last week against the Steelers. He himself said as such.
JK Dobbins: "I'm still not me all the way yet. I'm going to get better. Hopefully, those 100-yard games will turn into 200 games. Maybe. I'm just going to keep stacking them."
— Sarah Ellison (@sgellison) December 11, 2022
But, Dobbins still turned 15 carries into 120 yards and a touchdown. Regardless of where his explosiveness is, Dobbins looked decisive and is on an offense that is friendly to whoever is in that backfield. Gus Edwards added 13 carries for 66 yards last week as well. Both Dobbins and Edwards are solid starts with Dobbins looking like a staunch RB2 and Edwards a fine flex play.
Miami Dolphins vs Buffalo Bills (-7)
Pick ATS: Buffalo Bills
Remember when Buffalo was projected for and received *six feet* of snow when they were set to host the Cleveland Browns back in Week 11? Well, circumstances won’t be as dire this week, but the Bills and Dolphins match on Saturday should see some extreme weather.
Our guy @Pschrags will be working on the sidelines for Saturday night's @nflnetwork game in Buffalo between the Dolphins and Bills.
For all things weather and LAKE EFFECT talk, he turned to the authority: Chief Meteorologist at WGRZ in Buffalo, @PatHammer.
Bundle up. pic.twitter.com/AqMGSlAAHw
— Good Morning Football (@gmfb) December 14, 2022
Nine inches of snow is currently the projection for what’s on tap. For fantasy purposes, I’m not worried about Stefon Diggs. We know Josh Allen, even if his elbow is still bothering him, can still sling it no matter what the weather is looking like. The Dolphins rank No. 22 in pass defense DVOA and allow the No. 7 most receiving yards in the NFL. Davis and Isaiah McKenzie are fine to fade but never ever bench Stefon Diggs.
I don’t think you can bench Tyreek Hill either, but I have less confidence that Tua Tagovailoa, who the Chargers and 49ers have started to expose the last two weeks, can deliver reliable fantasy outputs to Hill and Jaylen Waddle in these circumstances. I’m starting Allen, Diggs, and Hill. The running back outputs in this game don’t change much for me. If anything Devin Singletary, James Cook, Jeff Wilson (if he plays), and Raheem Mostert get upgrades. I’d still probably start Waddle, but pivoting off him for a lesser option (we’ll get to a few later) should not be out of the question.
Philadelphia Eagles (-9) vs Chicago Bears
Pick ATS: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are really good against the pass. They rank No. 2 in pass defense DVOA. The Bears… don’t pass! Their 279 pass attempts rank the fewest in the NFL. The Eagles aren’t great against the run though. They’re No. 24 in rush defense DVOA. The Bears run the most in the NFL (No. 2: Eagles) and boast the No. 9-most efficient rush offense in the NFL according to Football Outsiders’ rush offense DVOA. I think this game is an offensive bonanza with everybody eating in Philadelphia. Justin Fields and David Montgomery will keep it close on the ground and hang around until the Eagles pull away. Hit the over and smash those Eagles and Justin Fields again!
Atlanta Falcons (+4) vs New Orleans Saints
Pick ATS: Atlanta Falcons
Desmond Ridder is making his first career NFL start and will start down the stretch for the remainder of this Falcons season. I hope this is good news for Drake London. London’s underlying numbers have been sneaky great all year. He ranks No. 8 among wide receivers in target rate (30.1-percent), No. 10 in target share (28.1-percent), and No. 13 in unrealized air yards (540).
The problem is that Atlanta didn’t throw at all with Marcus Mariota under center (only the Bears have thrown it less often than the Falcons). When they do throw, it hasn’t always found London. London’s target quality rating ranks No. 35 among receivers. The QB rating per target thrown in London’s direction ranks No. 85. Let’s hope Ridder unlocks London because London hasn’t been the problem for his lack of production. If Marshon Lattimore sits again, even better.
Detroit Lions (+1) vs New York Jets
Pick ATS: Detroit Lions
I’ve waited all year to say this: it’s Elijah Moore week. I’ll let Josh Larky explain:
Elijah Moore is my WR24 this week 🌶️
78% of his snaps were from the slot in Week 14
He now faces the Lions, giving up an NFL-high 24.9 fantasy points per game to slot WRs (!!!)
— Josh Larky (@jlarkytweets) December 15, 2022
I highlighted last week that the Lions give up a lot of points to the slot while hyping up K.J. Osborn. Guess who scored last week: Osborn! Elijah Moore has played his two-highest snap percentages (68, 82) since his trade request earlier in the last two weeks. He had 16 targets in that span. The odds of Moore providing a true boom took a big hit when the Jets ruled out Mike White due to a rib injury and have elected to go back to Zach Wilson as their starting quarterback this week. But we know Elijah Moore is a very good player in a great matchup. It’s time to finally start him.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Carolina Panthers (-3)
Pick ATS: Carolina Panthers
We just hyped one Moore. I’m going to do it again. Moore hurt his ankle last week, but he’s practiced in full during the week. He will play. Moore also played nearly the entirety of last week’s game and didn’t record a target. Oof. Things should go better this week. Tariq Woolen is a star and fellow Seahawks rookie corner Coby Bryant is no slouch either. The sledding should be much more smooth against Cameron Sutton, James Pierre, and Levi Wallace. The Steelers rank in the middle of the pack in pass defense DVOA but are No. 11 in receiving yards allowed this season. This should be an ugly, low-scoring game. Kenny Pickett is in concussion protocol for the Steelers, and the Panthers have thrown it 40 times in Sam Darnold‘s two starts. Moore isn’t a must-play, but I’m not avoiding him this week.
Dallas Cowboys vs Jacksonville Jaguars (+4)
Pick ATS: Jacksonville Jaguars
Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott are having the 2017 Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram season. In 2017, Kamara averaged 6.07 yards per carry, 8.26 yards per target, and 10.2 yards per reception. Pollard this year? He has averaged 5.66 yards per carry, 6.8 yards per target, and 9.62 yards per reception. Elliott’s efficiency lags behind Ingram’s, but Ingram still had 12 touchdowns that year despite Kamara scoring 13 of his own.
Elliott has nine touchdowns in 11 games including five in his last four games. Jacksonville’s run defense ranks in the middle of the pack in rush defense DVOA, but their defensive DVOA in total ranks No. 28 in the NFL. The Cowboys should have no problem putting points up, and if Trevor Lawrence continues the sensational groove he’s been on since Week 9, points should not be a problem in this game. Keep playing Pollard, as the RB1 he’s proven to be, and Elliott as a touchdown-dependent RB2. Pollard is the RB7 in PPR leagues this season. The world is just.
Kansas City Chiefs (-14) vs Houston Texans
Pick ATS: Kansas City Chiefs
I’ll be brief here: the Texans rank No. 27 in rush defense DVOA. The Chiefs are favored by two touchdowns. Isiah Pacheco is averaging 4.7 true yards per carry (No. 18 among running backs) and five yards per touch (No. 22). It’s Isiah Pacheco week!
Also, keep an eye on those practice reports regarding Texans receivers. Brandin Cooks returned to practice on Thursday on a limited basis while Nico Collins did not. Cooks and Collins have missed two games this season against the Cowboys and Eagles, the two best pass defenses in pass defense DVOA. Chris Moore went for 5-4-43-1 against Philly and 11-20-124 against Dallas. He’d be a solid flex play if those two can’t go again.
Arizona Cardinals vs Denver Broncos (-3)
Pick ATS: Denver Broncos
First of all, I’d like to apologize to anybody who willingly is going to watch the Colt McCoy – Brett Rypien bowl. Second of all, I want you all examined for your sanity. Third of all, who do you play in this game? Denver’s defense ranks No. 5 in defensive DVOA and should have Patrick Surtain shadow one of DeAndre Hopkins or Marquise Brown. The Broncos can’t move the ball at all though Jerry Jeudy finally delivered a breakout game.
Jeudy has scored in two of the three appearances Rypien has made in his career, and Jeudy dropped an 11-7-96 line in the one game he didn’t score with Rypien under center. James Conner has seen at least 19 opportunities in all of his last four games. Jeudy, Hopkins, and Conner are the only players I’d want to start in this game. Brown could be started too. Stash Keaontay Ingram. Otherwise, stay away.
New England Patriots (+1) vs Las Vegas Raiders
Pick ATS: New England Patriots
Rhamondre Stevenson sprained his ankle on Monday Night. Damien Harris has yet to return from a thigh injury. Stevenson has yet to practice this week. Harris has been limited. It’s time to get familiar with Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris. Strong, a fourth-round rookie from South Dakota State and Harris, a 6th-round rookie from South Carolina, both got relief work, and both scored a touchdown filling in for Stevenson and Harris. Strong is a smaller, shiftier, more explosive back whose best comparable on playerprofiler.com is Elijah Mitchell. Harris is a bigger back who still has ample juice. He would’ve been drafted much higher had he either declared after his junior season where he ran 1,138 yards on over six yards per carry in the SEC and dealt with back issues as a senior. Both are really good players.
If Stevenson and Harris are out, I’d guess that Strong gets more of Stevenson’s role as a receiver and Harris gets Harris’ role. Kevin Harris can catch. He had 34 receptions in his last two collegiate seasons. But Strong had 44 and snagged two targets while Kevin Harris had none. Kevin Harris ran 14 routes to Strong’s nine and did play almost double the snaps that Strong did, but the Patriots were also leading in a game the Cardinals never threatened to win.
I’d prefer Strong over Kevin Harris if both are out, but both are worth starting if you need help at running back. I think Damien Harris would be used as a workhorse if he returns (I’m not expecting Stevenson to return this week) though. It’s a mess. The Patriots’ backfield always is. But there’s almost always gold waiting at the end of this particular rainbow. Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris need to be added in all leagues at the very least.
Tennessee Titans vs Los Angeles Chargers (-3)
Pick ATS: Los Angeles Chargers
Both of these offenses are perfectly constructed to expose each of these defenses. The Chargers rank No. 25 in rush defense DVOA but No. 13 in pass defense DVOA. No worries, the Titans have no problem handing off to Derrick Henry 30 times a game. The Titans, on the other hand, rank No. 1 in rush defense DVOA, but No. 28 in pass defense DVOA. Well, you don’t need to tell Brandon Staley and Justin Herbert to throw the ball twice. They’re No. 2 in the NFL in pass attempts on the season (563; 43 attempts per game) and No. 3 in pass rate over expectation the past five weeks according to Establish the Run’s, Adam Levitan.
#Chargers currently 2nd in plays per game and leaning hard into the pass lately.
Justin Herbert finally has Keenan Allen, Big Mike, Josh Palmer, Austin Ekeler, Gerald Everett all healthy at same time. pic.twitter.com/mJESCk3TDm
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) December 14, 2022
The over looks like a smash in this game, and it’s hard not to forecast big fantasy games for everyone involved. Derrick Henry should maul this Chargers front. Justin Herbert finally has Mike Williams and Keenan Allen healthy together. He’s averaging just under 20 fantasy points per game in the four games Williams and Allen have entered healthy. The Titans allow the No. 2 most receiving yards to opposing wide receivers and the most fantasy points to wide receivers. Oh, and Austin Ekeler is awesome. Get ready for a lot of points in this one.
Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick ATS: Cincinnati Bengals
Thinking about the Tampa Bay offense depresses me, so I’m not going to talk about them. Let’s have fun instead. Isn’t what this is all about? Here’s some fun for ya. You want to know what Ja’Marr Chase averages in the five games Tee Higgins (who has been limited all week with a hamstring injury and may not play this week) either misses, leaves early due to injury, or just randomly doesn’t play because he’s injured and we didn’t know it (excluding Week 18 of last season)? 11.4 targets, 7.2 receptions, 88 yards, 0.8 touchdowns, and 17.42 half-PPR points per game. Do you see? That was fun. I think I really delivered the fun quotient of this article with this blurb.
New York Giants (+4.5) vs Washington Commanders
Pick ATS: New York Giants
If you’re in a deep league or are desperate for a receiver to play, you should get familiar with the name Isaiah Hodgins. We first mentioned him as a bye-week stash back in Week 9. But he’s scored in back-to-back weeks, and it should’ve been three weeks in a row had a penalty not wiped a touchdown off the board in Week 12 against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. He’s played at least 70-percent of the Giants’ snaps in that span.
He has a 17-percent target share in that span. His 8.3 yards per target on the season is solid, and Hodgins has averaged 28.25 routes run over the last four weeks. The matchup isn’t the best (Washington ranks No. 14 in pass defense DVOA), but he’s on the field and he’s pretty good. He’s only owned in four-percent of Sleeper leagues. Heck, he’s probably available in some dynasty leagues out there. If you’re in a pinch, you can do a lot worse than Isaiah Hodgins this week. Or, if you’ve got a bye, Hodgins is an outside receiver who gets Minnesota next week. Pick him up.
Los Angeles Rams vs Green Bay Packers (-7)
Pick ATS: Green Bay Packers
Allen Lazard, it was nice knowing ya. You’re still a guy fantasy gamers can start every week, but the torch of Aaron Rodgers‘ number-one receiver has been passed to Christian Watson. Sure, Christian Watson has been in over his head in the touchdown department. Eight touchdowns in four weeks isn’t sustainable for anybody. But he’s also getting a steady dose of high-value targets to tilt his odds at a touchdown higher than others.
Over the last four games, since Watson has turned into baby Randy Moss in Week 10, he is averaging 119.25 air yards per game. He also has five red zone targets in those four games. Sure, he also took a carry 46 yards to the house, but he also took a jet sweep for 15 yards and a score in Week 4. He has the speed to make any play a big play. Watson’s not going to get a touchdown every week, but he’s also not going to stop scoring either. This will be true at least as long as Aaron Rodgers is his quarterback. Buy him in dynasty and keep riding the hot hand especially when he’s going against the No. 23-ranked pass defense in pass defense DVOA.
Good luck to all in Week 15 and your fantasy playoffs! I also wish you all an early Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!