Week 15 Bounce Back Candidates -by Ben Barton

My fantasy football season is over. It’s something of a melodramatic statement, but in this case, it’s completely true. I’m part of six leagues. In three of those leagues, I missed out on the playoffs. In two of those, I missed out by a significant margin. That’s bound to happen, just part of the variance of fantasy football, and of football in general.

In the other, the team I co-own was edged out of the playoffs with a 10-4 record because of head-to-head tiebreaker rules.

That means I made the playoffs in three of the six leagues I took part in this year. I ended up losing in the first playoff round in all three. Not even George Kittle’s fantasy divinity could rescue the train wreck that was Week 14.

That makes this article difficult to write with any zeal. But write it I will, because some of you reading this are in with a shot at a championship, and that is more important than my demise.

Quarterback 

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Fantasy football doesn’t need to be hard. The 49ers are an injury-riddled team sleepwalking through the death throes of another lost season. The Seahawks are a dark horse playoff team, resurgent in every phase of the game, unrecognizable from the team that turned up in September.

Just two weeks ago, Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes on 17 pass attempts. That touchdown rate is otherworldly and impossible to count on again. But it does highlight two important things. One – the 49ers defense is very bad at stopping quarterbacks. Two – Russell Wilson is a very good quarterback at the forefront of a team that has now won four games in a row.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson / USA TODAY Sports

Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams

In Week 14 against the Bears, Jared Goff had probably the worst game of his NFL career. He fell victim to Chicago’s apocalyptic combination of Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Jackson and the brain of Vic Fangio. It happens.

It won’t happen again. The Eagles are not the Bears – not even close. Fletcher Cox is excellent at creating pressure, but he can only do so much when paired with a secondary that might as well not even be on the field. Goff is too good a quarterback and supported by too many good players, to get stuck in a rut off the back of one terrible performance.

 

Running Back

Doug Martin – Oakland Raiders

Having two 1400 rushing yard seasons on your resume is no mean feat, but the truth is that Doug Martin is not a good running back. He’s also stuck on a team that is not good. Those facts are unavoidable.

Another unavoidable fact is that he is about to line up against a team in the Bengals is not good at stopping the run – in fact, in fantasy, nobody has given up more points per game to running backs than the Bengals have.

Matchups aren’t always predictable, but this year, starting your running backs against the Bengals has been a recipe for success.

 

Gus Edwards – Baltimore Ravens

Injuries often derail teams – this year, an injury has saved the Ravens. Joe Flacco’s hip injury has allowed Baltimore to unleash Lamar Jackson, which has benefited Gus ‘The Bus’ Edwards more than anyone else.

With opposing defenses forced to commit defenders to the threat of Jackson’s legs, Edwards has been eaten up every inch of space given to him, and he has been given workhorse status in a run-heavy offense.

This week, he faces a Tampa Bay defense that has, yet again, flattered to deceive. They have allowed either 100 rushing yards or a rushing touchdown in 10 of their 13 games this season. Edwards has tallied 17, 23, 21 and 16 rushing attempts in his four starts this year. The mathematics is easy to understand.

 

Wide Receiver

Stefon Diggs – Minnesota Vikings

If you were tasked with drawing up the successor to Antonio Brown, you would draw Stefon Diggs. His skill set is remarkable, and the stats this year back it up. Take a look:

  • 125 targets – #6 in the league among WRs
  • 25.5% target share – #10 in the league among WRs
  • 396 yards after the catch – #5 in the league among WRs
  • 8 redzone receptions – #13 in the league among WRs
diggs
Photo Credit: Craig Lassig/European Pressphoto Agency

The Vikings offense has been difficult to predict this year, rising and falling with the form of Kirk Cousins. But they have been gifted with, arguably, the best wide receiver duo in the league and Diggs is an integral, consistent part of the duo.

 

Robert Woods – Los Angeles Rams

Freak games happen. The Bears-Rams game in Week 14 was one of those games. Chicago boasts an elite defense, creating pressure and forcing turnovers at a remarkable rate. Fortunately for Robert Woods, the Eagles do not boast that same defense.

Philadelphia has found themselves signing defensive backs off the street, such has been the extent of their injury crisis. For the majority of this season, the Rams offense has been unstoppable, and despite the recent stumble, you should expect Sean McVay and the players he coaches to take full advantage of an Eagles team that has faded from Super Bowl Champions to NFC-East also-rans.

 

Tight End

David Njoku – Cleveland Browns

In fantasy, I hate the tight end position. I haven’t made any secret of that fact. But I love David Njoku. The ceiling for him at his position is unimaginable, especially now that he is allied with Baker Mayfield and free from the black hole that was Hue Jackson’s tenure as head coach.

Denver has built a stout defense over the years, but the secret to picking them apart has always been funneling targets to tight ends. Denver just gave up 210 yards to George Kittle, catching passes from Nick Mullens. Who knows what Njoku will do catching passes from Mayfield?

by Ben Barton – @Baron_Barton

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