Week 15 NFL Picks: Fantasy Football Playoff Edition

It’s become an unwritten rule of social etiquette that no one wants to hear about your fantasy team. As a self-professed huge sports nerd, I will say that I mind hearing about people’s fantasy team less than most, but it still tracks. Fortunately for you, as an homage to the start of the fantasy football playoffs, I’ve dedicated this week’s tiers to the five kinds of fantasy football teams so I’ll talk about your team (indirectly at least) so you don’t have to. Good luck to everyone in the fantasy football playoffs. For those in the consolation bracket, we’ve all been there and better luck next year.

Photo Courtesy of Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

Tier 1: The First Round Bye (Season Record: 18-20-1)

Bengals -3.5 over Bucs

Cowboys -4.5 over Jaguars

Raiders -1 over Patriots

Congratulations to all of you who get to sit on your hands and dispassionately watch the NFL this weekend! You probably had a stellar draft and at least put in some work to managing your team throughout the season, either that or you play with a bunch of incompetent bozos. I do need to pour some cold water on your parade though. You should be fully aware that you will have your best week of the season this week, immediately followed by your worst week of the season next week. This is the law of fantasy football playoff bye as old and as true as the sky.

Cincinnati survived a slow start to comfortably cover against the Browns this week and Tampa Bay’s free fall continues. The only hesitation here is that it might feel too much like a no-brainer. On the other hand, Jacksonville has the hot hand coming off of a thrashing of division rival Tennessee, while Dallas needed a late drive to squeak out a win over the worst team in the NFL. Seems like a prime time to roll with the Jaguars right? Don’t be fooled. The five seed in the NFC is significantly more appealing than the six and Dallas will be trying to snatch every win they can to hold onto that five spot. I hate betting on this Raiders team, but the Patriots just seem lost and with Rhamondre Stevenson hurt they can’t even run the ball anymore. This will probably be a complete eyesore, but maybe an opportunity to make some money.

Tier 2: The Team No One Wants to Play (Season Record: 14-27)

49ers -3 over Seahawks

Dolphins +7 over Bills

Lions -1 over Jets

At face value, this might seem like it should be the first tier, but stratifying based on regular season finish this team lands here. If you’re in any semi-competitive fantasy league you know exactly who I’m talking about. This team is probably the four- or five-seed in the playoffs, but are entering the playoffs on a four-game winning streak and picked up Jamaal Williams or Kenneth Walker (or both) off waivers earlier in the season. This is probably the guy or girl who is always in the playoffs and always finds ways to win or pick-up Evan Engram as a plug and play tight end for a week that he scores three touchdowns. This is the ultimate reminder that it’s not how you finish the regular season, but it’s what you do in the playoffs that gets remembered.

San Francisco is the real life version of the TNOWTP. They traded for Christian McCaffrey midway through the season (probably gets vetoed in a fantasy league) and have weathered injuries to two quarterbacks and Trent Williams, but the defense and offensive skill players are so good that it doesn’t seem like it really matters. It just feels really difficult to consider betting against them at the moment. Also, Seattle’s defense is terrible, so if you want a special bet then sprinkle some money on Christian McCaffrey 100+ scrimmage yards, 1+ rushing touchdown and 1+ receiving touchdown at a nice 10/1 odds. The Bills were supposed to be this year’s TNOWTP, but they just haven’t been able to reach the height of last year’s playoff spectacular with the Chiefs and the lingering injury to Josh Allen has really hindered the offense. Miami hasn’t looked great either recently, but they should keep this within a touchdown. Detroit is the classic fantasy team that looks like crap early in the season and then it just starts clicking after some minor tweaks. They have been rolling and are a last-second Tyler Bass field goal away from being undefeated since the beginning of October. The Jets quarterback situation also seems like a disaster, especially if Mike White is limited as expected. Tennessee laid a huge egg last week, but Derrick Henry looked like himself in the first half and I will trust the Chargers to have two consecutive good weeks when I see it.

Photo Courtesy of Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports

Tier 3: The Playoff Backdoor aka “The Fading Star” (Season Record: 21-23)

Titans +3 over Chargers

Vikings -4.5 over Colts

Chiefs -14 over Texans

If your fantasy team fits into this category, then I empathize with you. This is most commonly where my own fantasy teams fall by this time of year. You probably had a great draft! Things looked hopeful! But then Cooper Kupp or Javonte Williams went down and you realized that your bench wasn’t quite as deep as it looked before bye weeks and week-to-week injuries started taking effect. You limped to .500 and snagged a playoff spot out of sheer pride, but now you are just ready to be put out of your misery…unless…unless you’ve conjured up some late season waiver magic and hope springs anew. Don’t go getting your heart ripped out though, there’s always next year.

Tennessee laid a huge egg last week, but Derrick Henry looked like himself in the first half and I will trust the Chargers to have two consecutive good weeks when I see it. Minnesota has finally started to show some cracks in the armor with a loss to the Lions, who are admittedly red hot, last week, but this Colts team is abysmal and Minnesota will be really trying to hold off San Francisco for the two seed. Go ahead and put a few units down on Justin Jefferson 200+ receiving yards too at 32/1. Kansas City could beat Houston by as many points as they wanted to, but they have this bad habit of playing with their food before they eat it. I will still probably bet on them but it will be infuriating when they show no urgency with 12:47 left in a 10-point game.

Tier 4: Just a Bit Outside (Season Record: 23-14-4)

Giants +4.5 over Commanders

Ravens +2.5 over Browns

Bears +9 over Eagles

Shout out to Harry Doyle for the iconic line that aptly names this tier. This is for all of you who just missed your fantasy playoffs. You probably suffered a gut-wrenching loss last week and then realized your Week 4 loss to that guy in your office who thinks his star quarterback is Adam Rodgers and drafted two kickers just cost you the tiebreaker. We’ll pour one out for you, but also let me give you some advice. Don’t track the point totals through the playoffs. Don’t do it. Because there is a 79% chance that you are about to go on a tear that would have won you the title if you had only scraped out one more regular season win.

The Giants roster is depleted, but no less so than two weeks ago when they managed to tie the Commanders. Why can’t they keep this close again? Baltimore always has a lot of pride on the line against the Browns, but they can also feel the Bengals breathing down their neck for the AFC North. Saying Deshaun Watson has looked rusty is an understatement. Saying you aren’t sure he’s a better bet than Tyler Huntley is probably closer to the mark. Philadelphia doesn’t want to get complacent, but they only need to win games at this point. They will look to win comfortably and keep people healthy at the same time and with Justin Fields back running around expect Chicago to at least make the final look respectable. Also, what’s the record for combined quarterback rushing yards in a game? There just might be a new one after this game. Can I tempt you with a “Jalen Hurts 50+ rushing yards and Miles Sanders 100+ rushing yards” at 8/1? 

Photo Courtesy of Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

Tier 5: What Week Did You Stop Checking Your Lineup? (Season Record: 26-15-1)

Broncos -2.5 over Cardinals

Panthers -2.5 over Steelers

Falcons +4.5 over Saints

Rams +6.5 over Packers

No shame or judgment here. We have all had seasons that weren’t ours. Hopefully you had enough pride and thought for the integrity of the league to stick it out and field a playable roster, but if you decided to just hang it up and try again next year then no judgment from me. Some years it’s just not in the cards.

The fact that I’m picking the Broncos and Panthers as favorites this week makes me want to vomit, but quarterback uncertainty with Arizona and Pittsburgh makes it impossible for me to pick either of them. Denver’s defense is still good enough to stifle a bad Cardinals offense and we saw how bad Pittsburgh’s offense can be last week. Perhaps if I had seen Desmond Ridder throw an NFL pass I’d feel the same, but since he hasn’t I’m intrigued. I also think Atlanta can run the ball reasonably and they seem to always find ways to play New Orleans well. Baker Mayfield conjured up a miracle win last Thursday without knowing the Rams playbook and I don’t necessarily expect that to happen again, but did a week off make us all forget that Green Bay is bad too? This pick might make me look stupid, and I initially had Green Bay but then I thought about the last few times I saw the Packers and I just can’t rely on them to win a game by a touchdown or more.

Last Week: 6-7

Season Record: 102-100-6

Prop Record: 4-9

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