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Week 15 Offensive Sleepers

A look at the best under the radar starts for Week 15.

Quarterback

Kirk Cousins (vs BUF) - We do like that, Kirk. Cousins had his second week accounting for a rushing score, passing score, and at least 300 passing yards in the last three games. He should have success against a Bills defense that has given up multiple passing scores to nine of the 13 quarterbacks they have faced this year. The Bills are also coming off of an emotional loss that basically ended their season, so they could be in for a letdown against the first place Washington team.

Marcus Mariota (at NE) - Mariota isn’t playing that well, and the Patriots defense is, but that might not stop him from putting up good numbers. The Titans have given up at least 30 points in each of the last two games, and Tom Brady shouldn’t have much trouble staking the Patriots to a big lead. Mariota was able to put up a solid fantasy day last week on garbage time numbers and one trick play. He is a dogged competitor even when the game is out of hand and should be among the top streaming options this week.

Matt Ryan (at JAX) - How much do we trust matchups to override how a player and unit are playing right now? Ryan faces a Jaguars defense that had given up 17 passing touchdowns in the previous seven games before they knocked around Matt Hasselbeck and kept him from tossing one last week. Ryan has Julio Jones and he also had at least one passing touchdown in 11 of 12 games before facing the fierce Panthers defense last week, so his floor is higher than you think.

Philip Rivers (vs MIA) - Rivers hasn’t been in our good graces for fantasy for a while, but he could bounce back in Week 15 against a Dolphins pass defense that has been prone to big lapses lately. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Eli Manning both threw four scores against Miami in the last three weeks, and that was on only 31 and 37 pass attempts. The Chargers running game can be suspect at times and give Rivers the opportunity to throw in the 40s or even 50s when it comes to pass attempts. If he can get Dontrelle Inman, or even better Stevie Johnson back, Rivers will look good as a streaming option for Week 15.

Running Back

Denard Robinson (vs ATL) - Don’t overthink this one. Robinson ran hot last week once TJ Yeldon went out, averaging over five yards per carry on 14 attempts and scoring once. He’s facing a Falcons defense this week that has allowed seven running back touchdowns in the last four games. Jacksonville is at home and has all of the momentum in this game, which should mean an opportunity for RB1 numbers for Robinson.

Jeremy Hill (at SF) - Hill could be helped by the installation of AJ McCarron at quarterback, because the Bengals are more likely to keep it simple to get a win at the very limited 49ers. San Francisco’s offense isn’t going to force the Bengals out of a shell if they go into one, and Hill can be the hammer to play ball control football. The 49ers haven’t been an easy run defense to budge at home, but that was before the Cleveland Browns of all teams gashed them for over 200 yards last week. They are suffering from the season-long grind of being a losing team.

Tim Hightower (vs DET) - Hightower is not exactly a high efficiency play, and he is unlikely to equal last week’s crazy volume of 28 carries, but he is in line to lead the Saints backfield again, and this time in the setting of a home prime time game against the Lions. The Saints are 2-0 in home prime time games this year, scoring at least 26 points in each win. They have averaged almost 40 points in the three home games since that prime time pair of wins, and Hightower should be poised to cash in any goal line carries that come his way from a high-scoring offense.

Fozzy Whittaker (at NYG) - Jonathan Stewart is all but out for the game against the Giants, and it looks like Whittaker will get the first crack at the starting job. He’ll share with Mike Tolbert and rookie Cameron Artis-Payne, but Whittaker is an accomplished receiver and he scored a rushing touchdown in the 38-0 romp over the Falcons last week. The Giants allowed over 100 yards and two scores on the ground last week, and it would have been a lot more if the Dolphins actually ran the ball more than 17 times.

James White (vs TEN) - LeGarrette Blount is on injured reserve and Brandon Bolden is in line to get more of the between the tackles work, but White is still the more valuable back this week against the Titans. In the last two weeks, the Titans have allowed 5-46-1 to Bilal Powell and 4-79 to T.J. Yeldon, so it’s safe to say that corralling running backs as receivers out of the backfield has been a problem for them. The Patriots should also choose to attack the Titans in more passing sets this week. They have faced the ninth most rush attempts in the league, but still only allowed three 100-yards rushers.

Melvin Gordon (vs MIA) - Will this be the week for Gordon to finally help his fantasy owners win? In four of the last five weeks, a running back has had at least 21 carries against the Dolphins because they can’t pull away from any opponent with a weakened defense and somewhat punchless offense. Gordon’s floor is plenty high, with at least 11 carries in each of the last six weeks and three or more catches in four of those games. This could be the week we see his ceiling.

Wide Receiver

Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett (vs CLE) - Russell Wilson is spreading touchdown joy around the Seahawks offense at a rapid pace, including feeding Doug Baldwin eight touchdowns over the last three weeks. Wilson has sixteen touchdown passes over the last four weeks, and twice Tyler Lockett has caught two of them, while Kearse caught two of them once. So, in addition to Baldwin being a top 10 lock in the rankings this week, unless Cleveland suddenly develops a pass defense, it looks like there is around a 75% chance that another Seahawks receiver will catch more than one score. Lockett is a strong WR2 start this week despite possibly being on your waiver wire, and Kearse probably has the highest ceiling this week of any receiver that is still on your waiver wire while you are reading this.

Robert Woods (vs WAS) - Woods sleeper status depends on Charles Clay, who left early last week with a strained muscle in his back and has already missed one practice this week. Woods came on later after Sammy Watkins started hot, and finished with five catches for 106 yards. He’s facing a Washington pass defense that has surrendered seven receiver scores in the last five weeks, with only the hapless Matt Cassel-led Cowboys passing game failing to notch one over that span. Woods has at least three catches every time Tyrod Taylor has attempted 29 or more passes, so unless Washington has no success on offense, the Bills should be forced to pass enough to give Woods an acceptable floor this week.

Markus Wheaton (vs DEN) - It was just three weeks ago that Markus Wheaton set career highs with nine catches and 201 yards against a Seattle pass defense that was supposed to be almost impossible to crack at home. This week the Steelers face an even more impossible Broncos pass defense that has allowed only one touchdown to a receiver this year, but you can rest assured that Wheaton will be a key chess piece for offensive coordinator Todd Haley once again. Antonio Brown’s hall of fame level play and Martavis Bryant’s hall of fame level tools will keep the Broncos occupied and Wheaton should draw one of the best matchups on the field on many passing downs. If this game follows the pattern of the Seattle game, it should be high-scoring and it should feature Wheaton.

Brandon LaFell (vs TEN) - It is in the Patriots interest to get LaFell’s confidence up heading into the playoffs, and what better team to do that against than the Titans. The pass defense in Tennessee is optional, with wide receivers scoring nine times in the last three weeks, including a three-score game by Allen Robinson and Seth Roberts scoring twice as the #3 receiver. LaFell is the best outside receiver on the Patriots roster and most likely to take advantage of this matchup, although you should watch Julian Edelman’s status, because his return could lower LaFell’s ceiling and floor this week.

Pierre Garcon (vs BUF) - Garcon has quiet all season, but this week everything could be coming together for him against Buffalo. Their top corner, Stephon Gilmore, is out for the season, and Garcon’s running mate, DeSean Jackson, is banged up with a knee issue. Garcon has come on with five catches in each of the last two games, and the Bills have given up a receiver touchdown in each of the last three weeks, including three receiver games over 80 yards in that span. Garcon has a modest ceiling, but he also appears to have a high floor.

Tight End

Vernon Davis (at PIT) - Davis should have had well over 100 yards and a score last week if it wasn’t a key drop, but he was a still a very good play in PPR leagues, and he should be one again this week in a game where the Broncos are going to have to put some touchdowns on the board to keep up with the Steelers offense. Owen Daniels’ knee is causing him to miss practices and fall behind Davis in the pecking order, and Davis should be the top target outside of Demaryius Thomas in this game. The Steelers can be very soft in the middle of the field, giving up three scores to Rob Gronkowski and two to Antonio Gates earlier this year.

Heath Miller (vs DEN) - Miller is Ben Roethlisberger’s easy outlet, sitting down in short zones while the wide receiver corps clears out with downfield routes. Roethlisberger is playing smart football and availing himself of Miller’s reliable skills often, and against the Denver pass rush and corners, Miller should be a top option again this week. The Denver defense that has given up only two touchdowns to wide receivers this year has allowed six to tight ends - and that’s all since Week 6. Miller could make it seven (or more) while catching a ton of balls this week.

Eric Ebron (vs NO) - Ebron is far from dependable, but the combination of Brandon Pettigrew going on injured reserve and the matchup with the Saints is enough to make TE streamers take a second look at Ebron this week. New Orleans has allowed ten touchdowns to tight ends this year, including a whopping six since Week 9. Three tight ends have put up multiple scores against them, so if this one turns into a shootout in the Superdome, Ebron could be in the middle of it.

Will Tye (vs CAR) - Don’t look now, but this undrafted rookie has turned into one of the most trusted targets for Eli Manning as we head into the peak of the fantasy playoffs. Tye has at least 10 PPR points in each of the last four games, and he finally got in the end zone last week against the Dolphins. The Panthers will try to take away Odell Beckham with Josh Norman, and that leaves Tye on shorter routes as a target for Manning to release some pressure from the pass rush if Beckham doesn’t flash open. The Panthers gave up 8-140 to Jimmy Graham and scores to the likes of Richard Rodgers, Garrett Graham, Coby Fleener, and Ben Watson, so Tye should find some success against them.