Week 15 is upon us, and as always, there’s a ton of appealing matchups on paper for fantasy purposes. Some of them stand head and shoulders above the rest, and the narrative quickly forms to present us with the chalk players of the week. Sometimes it makes sense to go along with the crowd and include these players on our rosters, while other times there may be equally appealing options that will be owned at a lesser percentage. That’s what this column aims to help you sort through on a weekly basis. Before we dig into the week’s top chalk selections and how to approach them, let’s take a look at the games that everyone will have on their radar this week.
Chalk Games Of The Week
New Orleans Saints @ Arizona Cardinals
There’s not too many projected high-scoring matchups on the docket this week, and this is one of the two that cracks the 50-point threshold. As such, we can expect interest to be pretty high for this one. Both quarterbacks check in at reasonable prices, so we can expect to see plenty of stacks featuring either Drew Brees or Carson Palmer. However, neither one of them is setting the world on fire at the moment.
That being the case, neither one of them stands out as a must play this week, but you can certainly make a case for either one. Brees and the Saints offense has been stagnating for the past two weeks, but perhaps this is the week they unleash some pent-up frustration. Palmer and the Cardinals have been a disappointment overall in 2016, but the talent level remains high, and they can easily put it together for a single affair.
On the pass catcher front, Larry Fitzgerald ruined many rosters last week, so he may attract a lower than normal level of interest. It’s not too hard to see him bouncing back in this one, so we’ll definitely keep him in mind while constructing our rosters. Jermaine Gresham offers some serious salary relief at the tight end position, but his ceiling is pretty limited. J.J. Nelson could see some more targets this week due to the departure of Michael Floyd, but he’s far from a reliable option.
For the Saints, Brandin Cooks remains a top target, and Michael Thomas appears in line to return this week. They’re similarly priced and offer equally similar upside, but Cooks may be the preferred choice this week while Thomas shakes a little bit of rust off. Mark Ingram has been ineffective during the Saints recent offensive swoon, and we can safely bypass him this week as well. That brings us to the astronomically-priced David Johnson.
He broke 100 scrimmage yards once again last week, but he was kept out of the end zone. Nonetheless, the salary makers at DraftKings have raised his price to $10,100, and it’s getting to the point where you have to think long and hard about whether or not to include him on your rosters. That’s a ton of salary cap to tie up in one player, and in a worst case scenario in which he fails to produce, rosters that include Johnson would likely be dead in the water.
On the other hand, he has a tremendous ceiling and a potentially fruitful matchup on his plate. The verdict? For my money, I’m saving some coin at running back this week, but I can certainly see the case for going with the safety of Johnson. If you’re going with multiple lineups, you can definitely do a few sans-Johnson, while single-lineup folks can let the remainder of their roster be the guide. If you like the value on the table this week, you can easily build a competitive roster that fits Johnson’s lofty price.
San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons
The second of our potentially high-scoring games takes place in Atlanta, and you can expect some heavy interest in Falcons players this week. The 49ers nearly won a game last week against the Jets, and it’s hard to envision enthusiasm being high as they make the trek out east. That fact, plus the team’s overall lackluster defense, points to a potential fantasy bonanza for the Falcons.
We expect interest to be high this week in Matt Ryan, and rightfully so. He’s having an MVP-caliber season, and this week’s opponent has allowed plenty of big outings to opposing quarterbacks this season. Julio Jones may sit this one out, so we’ll have to take a wait and see approach as to who to pair him up with. In his absence, Taylor Gabriel is a potentially fine choice. His price has crept up substantially, but he’s capable of explosive plays - especially against a porous defense.
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman both make for viable GPP options this week. It’s tough to say which one is going to break out on a weekly basis, but both players have huge upside in this tilt. For the 49ers, we can make a case for Colin Kaepernick putting together a nice day against a beatable secondary on a fast track, but he’s delivered a pair of lackluster outings in a row. That makes 49ers pass catchers a risky proposition as well, but we can certainly make a case for including Carlos Hyde on our short lists. He’s broken 20 points on DraftKings in two of his past three games, and it’s not out of the question for him to do it again this week.
Let’s take a look at this week’s top chalk plays and how we can approach them for our lineups, starting with the quarterback position.
QB Matt Ryan, $7,300. We touched on the appeal of Ryan’s matchup earlier, and that should lead plenty of users to select him as their signal caller this week. He makes for a fine choice, but he’s also the most expensive quarterback of the week. That being said, $7,300 isn’t going to break the bank on anyone’s salary cap, as there’s more than enough value out there to help you squeeze in Ryan’s salary. It becomes a little trickier if you’re also looking to include one of the week’s astronomically-priced running backs - David Johnson at $10,100 of LeVeon Bell at $9,800 - but it can still be done.
Salary cap constraints aside, Ryan’s upside in this tilt is huge. However, last week was the first time he cracked the 20-point plateau since Week 9. That shouldn’t be too tall of a task against a porous defense such as the 49ers, and we won’t be hesitating to pull the trigger on Ryan in Week 15.
There’s always ways to mix it up at quarterback, and you can find signal callers with appealing matchups up and down the salary chart. Aaron Rodgers is a little cheaper at $7,100, but we’d be more enthusiastic about him if it wasn’t expected to be freezing for his matchup against the Bears. A little further down the scale we can find Drew Brees at $6,600 and Derek Carr at $6,300, and we can even find appealing matchups at the sub-$6k level, including Joe Flacco at $5,700.
In short, Ryan makes for an excellent choice in Week 15, and there’s no viable reason to fade him - but there’s plenty of other directions you can go if you prefer to mix things up at quarterback.
RB LeSean McCoy, $8,900. We touched on the astronomical prices of Johnson and Bell, and it’ll be interesting to see how their ownership percentages shake out for the week. They’ll still find plenty of support, but we can expect it to be slightly tempered in comparison to a week in which they are a little more affordable. Users could be prompted to look for a lower-priced back with a high-upside matchup, and they don’t have to look too far down the list to find one.
McCoy and the Bills will welcome the Cleveland Browns to town on Sunday, and that’s recipe for fantasy goodness. Teams have had a field day on the ground against the Browns, and that bodes well for the fantasy prospects of a back in a run-heavy offense such as McCoy. He’s coming in off of three impressive outings in a row, and there’s little reason to believe he won’t make it four in a row.
For a pivot from McCoy, you can look one slot down at Ezekiel Elliott. He disappointed last week against the Giants, and a full bounceback may not be a sure thing against an improving Buccaneers squad. Once you get past Elliott on the salary chart, a whole range of lower-priced options open up, including Devonta Freeman at $6,700 and Spencer Ware at $5,700.
WR Mike Evans, $8,300. Evans has been bottled up pretty well over his past two games, but that shouldn’t dampen the enthusiasm too much. He still offers multiple-touchdown upside, and he has a matchup with a Cowboys squad that can be vulnerable in the secondary. That being said, the Cowboys could follow the same script of the last two clubs that faced off with Evans and focus on containing him.
The problem for Evans is that there’s not much else to contend with in the Buccaneers passing game once he’s contained. Cameron Brate is a serviceable tight end, but the team lacks a clear number two option in the passing game. We’ll keep Evans on the short list for Week 15, but he’s not a player we’ll consider as a must start.
There’s plenty of lower-cost receivers with good matchups this week, and some salary relief that comes with similar upside is always a welcome sight. Jordy Nelson, T.Y. Hilton and Amari Cooper will all save you $1,000 or more, and the upside for multiple scores is on the table for them as well. Larry Fitzgerald checks in at $7,000 and offers the same, but the struggles of the Cardinals and the dud he put up last week will lead many to pass him by.
TE Travis Kelce, $5,900. Kelce has been playing like a man possessed of late. He’s delivered four consecutive outings with 100+ receiving yards, and he’s receiving a high volume of targets on a weekly basis. Amazingly, he has not found the end zone once during his recent surge, but perhaps that comes to an end this week.
Despite his hefty price tag, we can expect interest to be high in Kelce this week. The only reason for fading Kelce comes down to the weather in Kansas City. It’s expected to be on the frigid side, and that could hamper the passing attack. We can pivot over to Tyler Eifert, but interest will be high in him as well due to his four touchdowns over the past three weeks.
Outside of those two, we have several cheaper options on the Sunday-only slate that may make a ton of sense, including Kyle Rudolph and Ladarius Green. Rudolph has been good for double-digit fantasy points three weeks in a row, and Green is carving out a decent role in the Steelers passing attack.
D Buffalo Bills, $3,700. Rex Ryan is on a very hot seat in Buffalo, and we can rest assured that his defense will come to play aggressively on Sunday. That points to sacks, turnovers and a potentially long day for the Browns. It also points to a healthy ownership percentage for the Bills in Week 15, and there’s not a valid reason to look at passing them by outside of shooting for differentiation.
If you’re looking to go that route, there’s actually several lower-cost options that make a ton of sense this week. The Packers, Ravens and Giants all check in with lower prices, and they all have matchups that point to the potential for turnovers. In short, the Bills should deliver a solid return this week, but there are other high-upside matchups on the table that will check in at a lower ownership percentage.
Thanks for reading The Chalk for Week 15. Enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck with your lineups. Feel free to hit me up anytime on Twitter - @cm_feery - or email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.