Fantasy Football Start/Sit Week 15: Start Kirk Cousins, Isiah Pacheco; Sit Tua Tagovailoa, Travis Etienne Jr.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Kirk Cousins
A number of shocking things have happened over the first 14 weeks of the season, and setting fantasy lineups might be a serious chore with the sheer number of injuries and befuddling situations.
Below are some players at each position you should start in Week 15, as well as some players you should consider sitting based on matchups, injuries and trends.
Week 15 Start ‘Em
Quarterback to Start
Kirk Cousins, Vikings (vs. Colts)
Cousins is coming off of his biggest fantasy game of the season. He completed 31-of-41 attempts for 425 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Lions and was the QB5 for the week.
Cousins has been a bit feast-or-famine. Over the last four weeks, his fantasy finishes have been as follows: QB29, QB9, QB25, QB5. He will face a tougher adversary this week in the Colts, who are middle-of-the-pack in the pass DVOA metric.
Cousins is a risk/reward QB1 play in Week 15 with major boom-or-bust potential.
Wide Receivers to Start
Chris Olave, Saints (vs. Falcons)
Overall, Olave has looked great in his rookie campaign and is the WR21 in half-PPR scoring through 14 weeks. He has cooled off after a four-game hot streak in the first half of the season, however, finishing as the WR42 and WR41 in Weeks 12 and 13.
The good news is that he will be well-rested coming off of the Saints’ Week 14 bye to face the Falcons, who could be just what the doctor ordered for a get-right game. The Falcons rank 29th in pass DVOA and have allowed the sixth-most passing yards per game and sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year.
Olave is due for a bounce back in Week 15 and should be considered a low-end WR2 in this matchup.
Christian Watson, Packers (vs. Rams)
The last time we saw Watson, he was making minced meat of the Chicago defense and popped off for two touchdowns, finishing as the WR6 in half-PPR scoring. The talented rookie had finished top-8 or better in four consecutive games and has a whopping eight touchdowns in that span.
He has quickly become a very trusted target for four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, who has struggled to replicate the magic he had with Davante Adams.
Watson will be well-rested coming off of the Packers’ Week 14 bye to face the Rams, whose defense ranks 23rd in pass DVOA and has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year.
He should be regarded as a WR2 with sky-high upside.
Jerry Jeudy, Broncos (vs. Cardinals)
Jeudy had an absolute monster game in Week 14 against the Chiefs. He caught 8-of-9 targets for 73 yards and three touchdowns, finishing as the WR1 in half-PPR for the week. Overall, Jeudy is the WR29 and has been up-and-down all year, due in large part to Russell Wilson’s struggles.
With Courtland Sutton out, however, Jeudy should continue to be the alpha receiver. I am hardly expecting three touchdowns (even over the next four games), but he should have a good chance to finish as a WR2 or better against Arizona’s defense, which ranks 24th in pass DVOA.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Browns (vs. Ravens)
Peoples-Jones could be a fantasy league winner. He was Cleveland’s best offensive player in Week 14 and reeled in 8-of-12 targets for 114 yards. Peoples-Jones was the WR14 in half-PPR — his seventh finish as a top-36 fantasy wideout in 10 games. He has double-digit fantasy points in four of the last five and needs to be taken seriously as a high-end WR3/flex option.
The Browns face the Ravens this week, whose defense has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year. Peoples-Jones was effective the first time these two teams met in Week 7 and caught all six of his targets for 71 yards.
The home matchup and upgrade at quarterback since then should give him even higher upside this time around.
Running Backs to Start
Isiah Pacheco, Chiefs (at Texans)
Pacheco handled a tougher matchup quite well in Week 14 in Denver. He logged 13 carries for 70 yards and caught three passes for 23 yards, finishing as the RB19 in half PPR. He was overshadowed by Jerick McKinnon, however, who had a huge game and finished as the RB1 for the week.
Both Pacheco and McKinnon are good starts this week against the Texans, whose defense ranks 27th in rush DVOA and has allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this year.
Pacheco is a high-end RB2 in this mouthwatering matchup, while McKinnon is more of a PPR flex option.
Brian Robinson Jr., Commanders (vs. Giants)
Robinson logged his second strong game in a row in Week 13 against the Giants. He rushed 21 times for 96 yards, caught two passes for 15 yards and was the RB17 in half PPR scoring. Antonio Gibson was also involved, though he saw fewer touches and was out-gained by the rookie in spite of seeing more snaps.
This running back committee is here to stay, though I suspect Robinson is solidifying his role as the alpha with each passing game. He should be considered a RB2 as the Commanders face the Giants once again in Week 15, this time at home.
The G-Men rank 31st in rush DVOA and have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs this year, which should help Robinson replicate his Week 13 success.
J.K. Dobbins, Ravens (at Browns)
Dobbins stormed back onto the scene in Week 14 against the Steelers after being surprisingly activated the day before the game. He saw 15 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown and had a 43% snap participation rate. Gus Edwards was also involved, though to a lesser extent, and saw 13 carries for 66 yards. Thankfully, Kenyan Drake was mostly a non-factor.
This backfield has been a headache for fantasy managers all season long (up there with the Rams, Dolphins, etc.), but I am cautiously optimistic that Dobbins could easily emerge as the alpha among this underwhelming cast of characters. This could happen as soon as this week against the Browns, whose defense ranks 30th in rush DVOA and has allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs this year.
Dobbins is a RB2 with limitless upside in Week 15.
Cam Akers, Rams (at Packers)
Akers’ fantasy value of late can be summed up with the Undertaker gif. After weeks of drama, he is apparently back in the saddle as the Rams’ No. 1 running back. In Week 14 against the Raiders, Akers rushed 12 times for 42 yards and a touchdown and was the RB23 in half PPR. Kyren Williams was barely involved and saw three carries for 19 yards.
While I am not keen on trusting any of the Rams’ running backs after being scorned by this backfield in the past, Akers could be productive against the Packers’ No. 32-ranked run defense, per rush DVOA.
Green Bay has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs this year, which should elevate Akers into the RB3/flex tier in spite of Sean McVay’s shenanigans.
Tight Ends to Start
Evan Engram, Jaguars (vs. Cowboys)
Engram is coming off of a career game in Week 14 against the Titans. He reeled in 11-of-15 targets for 162 yards and two touchdowns and finished as the TE1 in half PPR. This was his second top-five finish in a row and fifth top-9 finish in the last nine games, which is quite impressive at a position known for volatility.
I do not know how many 368-yard games we expect Trevor Lawrence to have moving forward, but Engram should continue to garner a significant target share down the stretch. He was my top tight end waiver add this week who offers more than just flash-in-the-pan upside.
Even in a tougher matchup against Dallas’ No. 1-ranked pass defense per DVOA, I have faith (as much as one can have in a tight end not named Travis Kelce) that he can finish inside the top-12 for Week 15.
Chigoziem Okonkwo, Titans (at Chargers)
Okonkwo caught all six of his targets for 45 yards and a touchdown and was the TE2 in half-PPR scoring in Week 14 against the Jaguars. Fellow tight end Austin Hooper edged out Okonkwo in snaps by a count of 36 to 33, but I am still more intrigued by Okonkwo rest of season. This was the rookie’s second straight top-10 finish and second game in a row with at least five targets.
The Titans face the Chargers in Week 15 and L.A.’s defense is middle-of-the-road against the pass and against fantasy tight ends. Okonkwo should flirt with fringe-TE1 numbers this week if you are in a pinch.
Defense to Start
Chiefs D/ST (at Texans)
The Chiefs’ defense is hardly anything to write home about, though they have managed to be fantasy relevant in select weeks. They are the overall DST11 and were the DST2 last week in Denver, recording two interceptions, one touchdown and six sacks against the hapless Broncos.
Kansas City should have a good chance to replicate that success in Week 15 against the Texans, who have amassed the third-fewest points, the second-fewest yards per game, the second-most total giveaways and the most interceptions this year.
Week 15 Sit ‘Em
Quarterbacks to Sit
Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins (at Bills)
Tagovailoa struggled in Week 14 against the Chargers, which I thought would be a bounce-back game after facing the 49ers in the week prior. He completed just 10-of-28 attempts for 145 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions and rushed three times for 28 yards. He finished as the QB17 for the second week in a row and fell outside the top-12 threshold for the third straight week.
Tagovailoa has a number of things working against him in Week 15. For one, the Bills are a nightmarish matchup for opposing offenses. They rank seventh in pass DVOA and have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this year.
Second, there is extreme weather predicted for the Buffalo area this weekend which could impede both offenses significantly (though the impact could be felt more by the team accustomed to playing in balmy south Florida).
Tagovailoa is a risky, low-end QB1 with a fairly limited ceiling in these circumstances.
Derek Carr, Raiders (vs. Patriots)
Carr had his second-worst fantasy outing in Week 14 on the road against the Rams. He completed 11-of-20 attempts for 137 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions and finished as the QB28 with six teams on bye (yikes). This broke a five-game streak with multiple touchdowns and finishing as a top-15 QB or better.
I do not expect any drastic improvement in a much tougher matchup this week against the Patriots, whose defense ranks fourth in pass DVOA and has allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this year. Carr is a QB2 in Week 15.
Wide Receivers to Sit
Mike Evans, Buccaneers (vs. Bengals)
Evans has been wildly disappointing this year, save perhaps one game in Week 4 against the Chiefs. He was drafted as a top-7 wide receiver in half-PPR according to FantasyPros’ ADP and has only finished as a WR1 or better once all year. He disappointed once again in Week 14 against the 49ers and caught 4-of-9 targets for 44 yards, finishing as the WR49.
The Buccaneers have another more difficult matchup on deck in Week 15 against the Bengals, whose defense ranks top-9 in pass DVOA and has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this year. Evans is a WR3 with downside this week.
Marquise Brown, Cardinals (at Broncos)
Brown has been lackluster ever since he returned from a five-week injury hiatus. In Week 12, he caught 6-of-8 targets for 46 yards and was the WR52. In Week 14 after the Cardinals’ bye, he caught 4-of-8 targets for 34 yards and was the WR56.
It is hard to envision a scenario in which Brown finishes much higher than that this week in Denver. The Broncos have been remarkably stingy against the pass, thanks in no small part to shutdown cornerback Pat Surtain II, who ranks fifth in PFF’s cornerback rankings. The Broncos rank No. 3 in pass DVOA and have allowed the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this year.
Brown is a boom-or-bust WR3/flex in this positively brutal Week 15 matchup.
Joshua Palmer, Chargers (vs. Titans)
Palmer capitalized on injuries to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams earlier in the year and finished with double-digit fantasy points in half-PPR scoring in six of 12 games this year. However, with both back on the field and relatively healthy, Palmer’s role has dropped. He saw just six targets (his lowest count since Week 5) and caught four passes for 53 yards, finishing as the WR43.
Ordinarily, the Titans are a matchup you would be targeting, as their defense ranks bottom-5 in pass DVOA and have allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers this year. However, with Palmer’s role dwindling, his target share and subsequent opportunities are no longer a sure thing.
Even in this mouthwatering contest, Palmer deserves to ride your bench, at least until either Williams or Allen inevitably gets injured.
Drake London, Falcons (at Saints)
London looked strong the last time we saw him in Week 13 against the Steelers. He caught 6-of-12 targets for 95 yards and finished as the WR22 in half PPR — his second-best fantasy finish this year.
The Saints are a fairly middle-of-the-road matchup, but I have deeper concerns about London’s fantasy outlook moving forward. For one, we have little evidence of rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder’s abilities aside from his collegiate body of work and the fact that the Falcons feel comfortable starting him with Marcus Mariota on injured reserve.
On one hand, Ridder cannot be much worse for this anemic passing game than Mariota. On the other, he may have minimal chemistry with his pass catchers and could definitely stumble in his first rodeo opposite an NFL secondary.
As such, London is a wild-card WR3/flex this week with a huge range of outcomes.
Running Backs to Sit
Travis Etienne Jr., Jaguars (vs. Cowboys)
I recently spoke on Green Dot Daily about Etienne being on my “fantasy hot seat” amid his late-season slump. He bageled in Week 12 against the Ravens, failed to capitalize on a soft matchup in Week 13 against the Lions and struggled — as predicted — against the Titans’ stout run defense in Week 14. He logged 17 carries for 32 yards (1.9 yards per carry) and finished as the RB44 in half PPR.
Etienne is no longer a locked-in starter in my book and could have yet another tough time against Dallas’ top-notch defense this week. The overall unit ranks No. 1 in defensive DVOA, No. 1 in pass DVOA and No. 6 in rush DVOA — all of which are relevant for a pass-catching back like Etienne.
The Cowboys have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this year (just one spot ahead of the Titans) and could easily back the Jaguars into a corner early.
Etienne is a low-end RB2 with downside in Week 15.
Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers (vs. Bengals)
Fournette is trending in the wrong direction. He was the RB10 in half-PPR scoring through the first 10 weeks of the season, logging more top-24 finishes than not. Unfortunately, he was banged up in Week 10 against the Seahawks and did not return until Week 13 against the Saints. He has struggled in his two games back and has finished as the RB26 and RB32.
It certainly does not help that rookie Rachaad White is (metaphorically of course) nipping at Fournette’s heels with each passing game. White was the RB17 and RB28 in those games and actually out-snapped the veteran last week by a count of 40 to 36.
This week, the Buccaneers face the Bengals, who are a below-average fantasy matchup. This, combined with the direction in which this backfield is trending, could be enough to boot Fournette out of the top-36 this week.
He is a risky RB3/flex in Week 15.
Jeff Wilson Jr., Dolphins (at Bills)
Wilson has been underwhelming of late after a brief hot streak that occurred when he first joined the Dolphins. He was brought to a screeching halt in his revenge matchup in Week 13 against the 49ers and logged one carry for three yards.
In Week 14 in a primo matchup against the Chargers, he rushed four times for 26 yards. In fairness, Wilson was banged up in the game and suffered a hip injury which will threaten his status for Week 15.
To add insult to injury (quite literally), the matchup is brutal against the Bills, who rank third in rush DVOA and have allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this year. And as mentioned previously, the weather could seriously hinder any offensive attack in this game.
Even if Wilson is active come Saturday night, he is not a trustworthy starter in light of these numerous variables.
Dare Ogunbowale, Texans (vs. Chiefs)
The injury to rookie running back Dameon Pierce is the only reason Ogunbowale is even on this list at all. Pierce could miss a couple weeks with an ankle injury he sustained in Week 14 against the Cowboys, leaving the Texans to field quite the skeleton crew until his return.
It is very difficult for me to get behind Ogunbowale for a myriad of reasons. For one, the perennial backup saw just one carry all game last week and logged an uninspiring -3 yards with said attempt. As mentioned in my waiver wire article, he would be my preferred add over Rex Burkhead just based on last week’s snap count that favored Ogunbowale by a count of 18 to 5.
On the other hand, I am struggling to envision a scenario in which the Texans find themselves in any run-friendly game scripts against the Chiefs, who are two-touchdown road favorites in veritable Week 15 David and Goliath showdown.
I predict Ogunbowale will end up sharing the minimal running back touches with Burkhead, rendering both unusable for fantasy.
Tight Ends to Sit
Tyler Higbee, Rams (at Packers)
Higbee has been a victim of the Rams’ unstable quarterback situation this year. He started the season strong, averaging 9.6 targets per game through the first five weeks of the year and was the TE7 in that span. Since then, he has logged double-digit fantasy points just once (versus the Cardinals, who are absolutely terrible against the position).
Over the last two weeks, Higbee has finished with 2.4 and 2.1 fantasy points in half-PPR scoring in two easy matchups against the Seahawks and Raiders, respectively.
While Baker Mayfield admittedly looked good in his debut for the Rams, I am not expecting Higbee to turn it around this week based on his recent numbers and up against the Packers, who have allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this year.
Foster Moreau, Raiders (vs. Patriots)
Moreau had been a frequent fixture on this weekly start-sit column — mainly on the start side. My confidence in him has dwindled, however, after two very disappointing weeks for fantasy. In Week 13, he caught just 1-of-3 targets for 32 yards and was the TE24. In Week 14, he was catch-less and was targeted just once all game.
It appears that Carr and Moreau have not been on the same page for weeks. I do not expect him to right the ship this week against the Patriots’ defense, which ranks top-4 in pass DVOA.
Moreau is a TE2 with a nonexistent floor in Week 15.
Defense to Sit
Buccaneers D/ST (vs. Bengals)
The Buccaneers’ defense was drafted relatively high after finishing as the DST7 in back-to-back years. Through 14 weeks, however, they are the DST16 and have only finished as a top-12 unit in four games this year.
I do not expect huge fantasy production this week against the Bengals, who have Joe Mixon back at full strength and rank top-5 in total yards and top-6 in total points.
Look elsewhere to fill your DST slot in Week 15.