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From a strategic perspective, it’s important to first decide which SuperStar player you’d like to build around. This slate features five SuperStars in total: Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Nick Chubb, Justin Jefferson and Tyreek Hill.
We can quickly cross Lamar Jackson off the list, as he is expected to miss Saturday’s contest with a knee injury.
That leaves Josh Allen as the only SuperStar quarterback on the slate, and he is very easy to build lineups around. Stefon Diggs and Jaylen Waddle are two of the better wide receivers that lack the SuperStar designation, and I’d expect Allen-Diggs-Waddle to be a common building block on Saturday. The slate also features two of the top non-SuperStar running backs, Dalvin Cook and Jonathan Taylor, making it very easy to fill in the rest of the lineup with elite options around Allen. This is my preferred way to build in a vacuum, but it will be difficult to differentiate around this core.
Nick Chubb may be the most difficult SuperStar to build around on this slate. Allocating your SuperStar spot to the running back position is prohibitive for building Tua-Tyreek, Allen-Diggs and Cousins-Jefferson stacks, as all of those combos include a SuperStar player. Looking around the industry, Chubb is projected to score fewer points than both Taylor and Cook this week, which hurts since the QB-WR stacks in Chubb lineups will also be weaker than those featured in Taylor-Cook lineups.
As for the wide receivers, I would expect an overwhelming majority of players to pair Justin Jefferson with Kirk Cousins, and Tyreek Hill with Tua Tagovailoa. That makes sense, but on a three-game slate, I’m going to consider mixing up those combos in order to differentiate. If Tyreek Hill has a big game, it’s likely that Tua does, too — but it’s not impossible for Cousins to outscore Tua even in those scenarios. We are only one week removed from a Tyreek fumble return touchdown, after all.
Before we get into the game-by-game breakdown, here are a couple of other contrarian angles I am considering on this slate:
1. Browns Onslaught. Most people don’t like to pair running backs in the same lineup as their quarterback/wide receiver teammates, but I think this is a unique case. Because Chubb is a SuperStar, I’d expect he will most frequently be paired with Tua-Waddle and Allen-Gabe Davis combos. Also, because Deshaun Watson and Amari Cooper are non-SuperStars, I’d expect they will be mostly paired together in lineups with Jefferson or Tyreek. I don’t expect that many will stack Watson-Chubb-Cooper all together in the same lineup, so I like starting this way in order to differentiate. The story you are telling when you build lineups this way is one where Watson keeps improving in his third game back after a lengthy absence, and the Browns beat up on a Ravens’ team that may be down to its third-string quarterback. It doesn’t seem too farfetched to me, and I think the upside is there in this tournament.
2. Do the opposite: Pair Tyler Huntley with J.K. Dobbins. This one is very risky and it obviously requires Huntley to be cleared from the concussion protocol by Saturday. But if that’s the case, Huntley has racked up 19 rushing attempts over the past two games, both partial efforts. If we get 60 minutes of Huntley on Saturday, I think it’s fair to expect 12-15 rushing attempts from him. And given Baltimore’s mounting injuries at QB and WR, I think we can forecast a run-heavy approach this week from the Ravens in general, with enough opportunity left over for J.K. Dobbins, who carried the ball 15 times in his first game back from a knee injury. These builds could be paired with either Jefferson or Hill as a SuperStar, and filled in with two of Cook, Taylor, Diggs, Waddle and Cooper. You’d probably need the Ravens to play from ahead for these lineups to have a chance, but the Browns have not looked particularly formidable even with Watson in the lineup.
Colts at Vikings, 1:00 P.M. ET
When we last saw the Colts before their Week 14 bye, they were blown out 54-19 by the Cowboys in Week 13. In that game, Alec Pierce was about the only bright spot for Indianapolis’ offense with a 4-86-1 receiving line, as the rookie led the team in targets for the second time in three weeks. As the Colts fall out of contention and shift into evaluation mode, it makes sense that they would want to get a longer look at their rookie receiver.
Pierce’s big game last week came at the expense of Michael Pittman Jr., who was held to 16 yards on a season-low 11% target share. With that being said, Pittman’s cards are dirt cheap early in the week and Minnesota has been a defense to attack all season.
Jonathan Taylor also feels relatively cheap given the matchup, as I write this early in the week. Taylor is currently priced as the RB10, and he’s probably one of my favorite RB options on the slate, especially since he is no longer a SuperStar in Reignmakers.
The Vikings suffered a bad loss to the Lions in Week 14, but it was no fault of the passing game, which racked up 425 yards on the back of the Kirk Cousins-Justin Jefferson connection. Jefferson posted a ridiculous 11-223-0 receiving line, quieting the skeptics who wondered whether he could beat Lions CB Jeff Okudah, who helped limit Jefferson to a 3-14-0 line when the teams met in Week 3. T.J. Hockenson was again active in the passing game, parlaying eight targets into a 6-77-0 line. Hockenson has now reached a 20% target share in four of his six games as a Viking.
Despite the aerial success, Minnesota could get nothing going on the ground this past Sunday, as Dalvin Cook was limited to 23 yards on 15 carries (he did score a touchdown). Despite the poor performance, Cook ranks sixth in the NFL in rushing heading into Week 15 and I see no reason for long-term concern.
Ravens at Browns, 4:30 P.M. ET
The Ravens are having their depth at QB tested. Tyler Huntley left last week’s game with a head injury after throwing for 88 yards on 12 attempts against the Steelers. The team is already without Lamar Jackson (knee), who was injured the previous week against Denver, leaving Anthony Brown as the only healthy QB on the active roster. Looking ahead to Week 15, head coach John Harbaugh said that Huntley “seems good to me” after the game on Sunday. With that being said, it’s unclear whether Huntley will clear the concussion protocol at this point, and I am considering him questionable to play for the time being. Jackson was given a one-to-three week return timeline when he suffered his knee injury, which implies he also has a chance to return this week. But Lamar started off the week with another DNP in Tuesday’s practice and I am considering him doubtful for the time being.
In the backfield, J.K. Dobbins is coming off a successful return to action after he was sidelined for multiple weeks with a knee injury. In his first game since Week 6, Dobbins led the Ravens’ backfield in carries, yardage and touchdowns en route to a 15-120-1 rushing line on a 50% rushing share, his highest mark of the season.
Deshaun Watson was better in his second start with the Browns in Week 14, but he still wasn’t great, as the offense mustered only one touchdown, losing 23-10 against the Bengals. Cleveland dialed up the pass in that game, throwing 42 times while racking up 276 yards with a touchdown and an INT.
Donovan Peoples-Jones was Watson’s favorite target last week, and DPJ has now led the team in targets four times this year. Amari Cooper was limited by a hip injury leading up to last week’s game and it will be interesting to see whether this usage for Peoples-Jones was a one-week blip or the beginning of a new trend. For what it’s worth, Cooper kicked off this week with a DNP in Tuesday’s practice.
Dolphins at Bills, 8:15 P.M. ET
Josh Allen has now quietly failed to reach 250 passing yards in three of his last four games, but he had a reasonable fantasy performance in Week 14 thanks to a rushing line of 10-47-1. Allen’s lack of passing production has kept Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis’ fantasy stats in check, but I’d expect greener pastures ahead, starting as soon as this week against Miami.
While we didn’t get the James Cook backfield takeover that some of us were hoping for, Cook’s snap share in Week 14 was only slightly lower than the 43% snap share he saw in his breakout Week 13 performance. Devin Singletary out-carried Cook 8-to-4 last week, but I’m still holding out hope for a late-season emergence from Cook.
For Miami, Jeff Wilson Jr. exited last week’s game with a hip injury, and he started off this week with a DNP in Tuesday’s practice. Wilson’s injury opens the door for Raheem Mostert to potentially reclaim the RB1 role in Miami, as Mostert has now posted rushing shares of 88% and 58% over the past two weeks after being held under 40% in each of Wilson’s first two games as a Dolphin. Behind Mostert and Wilson on the depth chart is Salvon Ahmed, who logged his first snaps last week since Week 10. Ahmed would enter “dart throw” territory on the three-game Saturday slate in the event Wilson is unable to go.
Jaylen Waddle has struggled the past two weeks, recording only 40 total receiving yards over that timeframe. Waddle was listed on last week’s injury report as a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice with a leg injury, but he was upgraded to full status on Thursday and Friday and did not carry an injury designation into the weekend. Moreover, Waddle’s 84% snap share in Week 14 was his highest mark since Week 4. While it is still possible an injury is limiting Waddle, the team may have just favored Tyreek Hill’s matchup in those games. Hill has now exceeded a ridiculous 40% target share in back-to-back contests. For what it’s worth, when Miami faced Buffalo in Week 3, Waddle led the team in receiving with 102 yards, while Tyreek posted a relative dud with only 33 receiving yards.
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