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Flex Heroes and Zeroes - Week 15 Fantasy Football Picks


I'll keep it short and sweet here - you need to win and I want you to win. That's where the ol' gut comes in. See, there are many reasons to think Cousins won't throw the ball very often this week, Edwards will see a reduced workload, McKenzie has too low a ceiling to start in even 16-team leagues and... who the hell is this Firkser guy?

Don't worry, these are all gut-approved picks based loosely on a combination of statistics, Vegas odds, fan Tweets, daytime hallucinations, and Magic 8 Ball results. Trust me, I do this every week.

Now, here are my fantasy flex and streamer "heroes" and "zeroes" at each position for Week 15 of the NFL season. These players are borderline start considerations for your flex and superflex spots that I believe will perform unexpectedly well or that might fare poorly relative to expectations in this week's matchups. To see how our staff feels about every fantasy-relevant player in the known universe, look no further than our very own RotoBaller consensus weekly rankings. Good luck Ballers!

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!

 

Week 15 Lineup Heroes

QUARTERBACK

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
A no-win situation is a possibility any commander may face. The words of James Tiberius Kirk ring true on any given Sunday and while they have absolutely nothing to do with this week's matchup between Minnesota and Miami, let's assume it does. The Vikings' Captain Kirk faces a tough situation in Week 17 against the Bears defense but fortunately gets two easier tests during the fantasy playoffs, not counting you heathens who still play meaningful fantasy games in the last week of the season. Cousins' solution to the Dolphins defense is pretty far removed from the Kobayashi Maru test. The Fins are probably going to be without top corner Xavien Howard again, which means there is nobody on the other side who can realistically slow down Adam Thielen or Stefon Diggs. The firing of OC John DeFilippo may imply that the Vikings will slant toward a more balanced offense that includes actual handoffs to running backs more than once in a blue moon. Even if that's true, Cousins should be able to co-exist with an effective running game. It might even help! I can't quite squeeze Cousins into my top 10 quarterbacks list this week but he does seem more reliable than divisional rival QBs Aaron Rodgers and Mitch Trubisky.

RUNNING BACK

Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens
Many owners are starting to hop off Gus the Bus because of Kenneth Dixon's return. (Remember when the Ravens used to have Alex Collins and Buck Allen as their RBBC? Fun times.) In the two games since Dixon came back, Edwards hasn't seen less usage though, carrying 21 and 16 times compared to 17 and 23 the previous two games. OK, you caught me, that's three fewer touches, a difference of 8%. Drop Edwards while you can!!! The only concern here is that Dixon will be used in the passing game, keeping him on the field more but that's not a legit concern either. Edwards has exactly one reception on one target this season. He caught a total of 16 passes in four years of college ball, 13 of which came for Rutgers and therefore do not count. If anything, Dixon might push Ty Montgomery out of the mix, but let's not waste valuable type on that issue. Edwards faces a Bucs defense that has tightened up considerably on pass D recently in order to spite its run D. It's quite remarkable really. In the first five games of 2018, the Bucs allowed 355 passing yards and just 84 rushing yards per game. Since then, they have allowed at least 100 rushing yards to eight straight opponents, an average of 141 rushing yards per game while yielding just 214 passing yards per game. In other words, they told teams "no need to air it out against us, we'll just roll out this nice red carpet on the ground so you can find your way to the end zone easier." They've actually allowed fewer points in that time but nobody cares about that Mark Duffner! The point is that Edwards should be just fine and you should start him no matter what.

WIDE RECEIVER

Isaiah McKenzie, Buffalo Bills
Zay Jones' name shall not be invoked here further and Robert Foster is a little too trendy for my taste. Instead, we'll pivot to the guy who kicked him out of the coveted slot role. McKenzie hasn't put up big games like Jones or Foster but he could build on last week’s seven targets as a steady producer for Josh Allen. He gets a better WR/CB matchup than the other two, so while Jones is shadowed by Darius “Big Play” Slay and Foster gets a handful of Quandre "Do the Dugs" Diggs, McKenzie gets the benefit of facing Nevin "No Nickname" Lawson. I know you're thinking, "But doesn't Josh Allen spend half the game clock running around and vulturing valuable yards from his skill players?" Yes, but not this week. The Lions have allowed just 62 rushing yards to quarterbacks all year! And before you hit me with the whole, "Who have they played???" thing, I'll quickly retort: that includes Mitch Trubisky, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Dak Prescott, all top-10 in rushing yards by QBs. So Allen may be forced to pass more (gasp!), especially if LeSean McCoy doesn't play. McKenzie won't win you this week but he could be a nice source of points in deep PPR leagues where a sleeper is needed.

TIGHT END

Anthony Firkser, Tennessee Titans
Apologies to my podmate @ChrisMangano for stealing his Baller Move at TE this week, but sometimes deadlines are pressing, you need to get valuable information out on time and the work is already done, just there for you to copy draw inspiration from! You may know that Jonnu Smith is on I.R., so Firkser, whose name will test the maturity and restraint of every play-by-play commentator covering the Titans this weekend, takes over as the starting tight end. He's been on the field a fair amount already, having hauled in all 16 of his targets for 210 yards and one touchdown. The matchup itself is simply OK, as the Giants allow the 11th-most receptions, 12th-most yards and just three TD to tight ends this season. It's not as if there's a great chance Firkser scores or breaks off huge gains as Smith had done, but his three red zone targets combined with Smith's five would tie for third on the team and they don't have a wealth of other receiving options. If the Derrick Henry Smash playbook isn't as effective as last week then Firkser could sneak into relevance. Plus, if you missed out on Ian Thomas and are still searching for a tight end, you're just throwing darts anyway so you may as well take my word as gospel.

 

Week 15 Lineup Zeroes

QUARTERBACK

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Starting a quarterback against the Jets this time of year seems like a perfectly sound fantasy strategy. It didn't work out too great with Josh Allen last week and probably won't be much better with Watson. The Real Gotham City football club has proven to be perfectly average on pass defense, ranking 16th in fantasy points allowed to QBs. They've also remained relatively healthy on defense this year. The bigger issue is Watson himself. He just doesn't play the part of fantasy starter anymore. Believe it or not, last week's 267 passing yards was his highest total since Week 5. He's not pulling a Russell Wilson and making it rain touchdowns with minimal yardage either - he's only got one game with more than two TD. Plus, the weather. Have you seen the weather outside in New York lately? Forget about it. Bench Watson and go find a QB somewhere else.

RUNNING BACK

Sony Michel, New England Patriots
It appears I'm not the only one avoiding Michel this week. If my pal Frankie says don't play Michel in Week 15, that's good enough for me. Still, some numbers... The last two weeks, Michel has come away with 63 and 57 rushing yards respectively, without a score in either. Game flow will determine if Michel gets involved more or less than usual and it doesn't seem favorable as the Pats travel to Pittsburgh for a rematch of last year's thriller. When Michel gets fed the ball consistently, he's shown he can be very effective. This seems like a James White kind of game though. The two have been splitting snaps fairly evenly but if the Steelers have their way on offense, the Pats may not have the luxury of handing the ball to Michel 20+ times like they did against the Dolphins or Jets. If this game turns out to be similar to the Week 6 shootout with Kansas City, I may be eating crow here. Michel isn't a guy I'd sit in favor of someone like Doug Martin or Adrian Peterson, mind you, just not a must-start in shallow leagues and is a player to temper expectations for in Week 15. So if you bench him and he goes off for 25 fantasy points, don't say I told you for sure not to play him!

WIDE RECEIVER

Golden Tate, Philadelphia Eagles
The loss of Carson Wentz may not spell doom for Philly. I mean, they're totally getting blown out of the water this week in L.A. and probably can't beat Houston these days but they've got a solid chance in Week 17 against Washington! The offense seems out of sync and losing Wentz won't help. Tate wouldn't seem to miss his new QB too much since they never really clicked other than one fine day in Week 13. Last week, he caught just one pass for seven yards and only saw three targets on the day. I'd say the fact he's never worked with Nick Foles before could makes things worse but that's not possible. His matchup with Nickell Robey-Coleman doesn't help either. You've got to wonder if Tate is the first person to ever think, "Things were so much better when I was in Detroit..."

TIGHT END

Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons
The tight end situation is so bad these days, it's hard to even find enough decent players to justifiably hate on! It's not as if telling you Ricky Seals-Jones might not be worth starting is going to help much. Hooper might not help much this week either. His knee was a problem last weekend and has caused him to miss two days of practice. He could still suit up even though the Falcons have nothing to play for at this point, leaving many of their so-called "skill" players as dead weight on our benches. Thanks for nothing, Tevin Coleman and Mohamed Sanu! If Hooper does play, he gets a Cardinals defense that allows the sixth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends and recently held Travis Kelce to 46 yards and Jared Cook to 31 yards. Do us a favor won't you and leave Hooper for dead on your bench.

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