Week 15 of the NFL season is here, meaning one thing for fantasy football owners: Semi finals.
The semi finals of the fantasy season are here, and there is no room for error moving forward. Players that you would plug-in to your starting lineup in hopes that they would have a breakout performance can no longer be considered a viable option. The only players that should play this week or safe picks, who will guarantee you production.
But of course, this is fantasy football - and nothing is a sure thing. There are some big names returning from injury this week that should be considered a must-start while others should be demoted to the bench.
Here, we’ll take a look at this week’s “Boom or Bust” players who will either make or break your fantasy season.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
For the fantasy owners who stuck with Aaron Rodgers through his short stint on the IR, your patience has finally paid off.
Rodgers will return to play in Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers and, for the sake of his fantasy owners, he’ll be back to his usual self. Before going down with a collarbone injury, Rodgers was as good as it gets for fantasy quarterbacks.
He has scored at least 25.52 fantasy points in the four games he started and finished this season, including three consecutive 30-plus point performances in PPR leagues.
The Panthers aren’t a pushover by any means, surrendering the ninth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season, but Rodgers isn’t just any quarterback. Start him with confidence this week as he’s projected to score 19.72 points in standard leagues and 26.53 points in PPR formats.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz is out for the season with a torn ACL, but that doesn’t mean that the Philadelphia Eagles are stuck in the mud.
Despite his critics, Nick Foles is a very serviceable backup quarterback - one of the best second-string signal-callers a team could ask for. It’s a tough situation for Foles to step into, but this isn’t the first time he’s had to take over for an injured starting quarterback.
People forget... Nick Foles was a Pro Bowler who threw 27 TD & 2 INT with the Eagles in 2013. pic.twitter.com/bGxKUJWNph— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) December 11, 2017
Wentz won’t play this week, but the rest of his offense will. Foles will have the same weapons available to him that Wentz had, which is why he’s projected to score at least 15.44 points in standard leagues against the New York Giants.
The Giants surrender the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season, so it’s very possible that Foles and the rest of the Eagles offense have a field day against a secondary that just allowed Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to throw for 332 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions.
If you’re desperate for a quarterback to lead you into your league’s title game, Foles could be the answer you’ve been searching for.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Speaking of how bad the New York Giants are, let’s stick with playing as many Eagles offensive players as we can, shall we?
To be fair to Eagles running back Jay Ajayi, he is worthy of being a starter this week regardless of who he goes up against. The Giants surrender the fifth-most amount of fantasy points to opposing running backs, but Ajayi is a starter this week because he is slowly but surely becoming the bell-cow back in Philadelphia.
Jay Ajayi up to 49 yards on just four carries. 12.3 average. Really no need for the Eagles to be giving anyone else carries right now.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 10, 2017
Last week against the Los Angeles Rams, Ajayi rushed for 78 yards on 15 carries. He also had a reception on the day, bringing his total amount of touches to 16 - seven more touches than LeGarrette Blount.
Blount was outperformed by Ajayi all game-long and while it can be difficult to predict if Ajayi will continue to take the lion’s share of carries for the Eagles, he’ll certainly have an opportunity to pound the rock as the Eagles will look to move forward with a run-heavy attack to protect backup quarterback Nick Foles.
Ajayi is projected to score 8.51 points in standard leagues this weekend, so he’s worth giving a starting spot in your lineup as a No. 2 tailback.
Jermaine Kearse, WR, New York Jets
The New York Jets offense was tearing apart defenses over recent weeks, led by a lethal receiving duo of Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson.
But suddenly, that offensive spark disappeared when quarterback Josh McCown went down with a hand injury.
Jets WR Jermaine Kearse, on conf call, sounded resigned to not having McCown (hand). Expressed confidence in Bryce Petty. Praised his energy level, presence in the huddle, ability to extend plays. #Jets— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) December 11, 2017
The Jets now have to rely on the arm of Bryce Petty, who struggled mightily in Week 14 after he came in for McCown. It’s going to be hard to put faith in Kearse this week and moving forward because of Petty. And because of that, Kearse can’t be trusted at such a crucial time for fantasy owners.
There are other options available to plug-in over Kearse this week. Leave him on the bench.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Los Angeles Rams
The 2017 season has had a lot of ups and downs for Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
In the past three weeks, Watkins has been a solid fantasy contributor as he’s found the end zone in each game during that span. But Robert Woods is returning from injury this week and will likely take over as the team’s No. 1 wideout, leaving Watkins looking for scraps in the passing game.
What can you expect in Robert Woods' return? https://t.co/CZvKTy2aVl— ESPN Fantasy Sports (@ESPNFantasy) December 15, 2017
While Watkins has scored a touchdown in each of the past three games, that’s about all he’s done on the field. In the past two weeks, Watkins hauled in a combined 61 yards on six receptions. Those numbers aren’t very encouraging seeing as Woods didn’t play in either of those games.
Watkins is not worth playing this week now that Woods is back, it’s as simple as that. And going up against the Seattle Seahawks this weekend, Watkins should be nothing more than a FLEX play in your lineup if you’re desperate.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans
The former Heisman Trophy winner was projected to be a dark horse this year in fantasy coming off an impressive sophomore season in the NFL. Instead, Marcus Mariota has been a liability for fantasy owners who can’t rely on his arm -- or his legs -- to produce.
On the season, Mariota has thrown for 2,582 yards, 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. In Week 14, Mariota struggled with a knee injury but continue to play through it in a 12-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He scored 5.46 fantasy points after throwing for 159 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
Those numbers are abysmal, especially during the fantasy playoffs.
Mariota has a solid matchup against the San Francisco 49ers defense which allows the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, but is he worth the risk?
The answer is no. Give Mariota a seat on the bench in Week 15. It’s officially time to move on.
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