Week 15: Player Upgrades
Player Upgrades is intended for fantasy football diehards. Each week when setting a lineup, a closer analysis is necessary to find out which players are destined for a great performance. Sometimes it is a favorable matchup or it can be as simple as an increased role due to an injury. Very few players are matchup-proof in this game. For every Aaron Rodgers or Ray Rice, there are a dozen players who could potentially be interchangable depending upon a number of factors.
This weekly article isolates your best options for a statistical breakout from Week 1 to Week 17. Let FFToolbox do the homework for you! Instead of scouring the waiver wire and opening up 20 tabs to compare and contrast players, let Player Upgrades be your guide. Each week, we will identify seven players (typically two QBs, two RBs, two WRs and one TE) that you should consider starting and we'll break each player down with some analysis.
Josh Freeman should be considered a must-start in Week 15. In his last game against the struggling New Orleans Saints, Freeman passed for 420 yards and three TDs. The resulting game may have been a Bucs loss, but that kind of production would be a blessing here in the fantasy postseason. Since Tampa's Week 5 bye, Freeman has thrown at least two TDs in all but one contest. Don't forget about a Doug Martin led dynamic running game that prevents defenses from keying in on Freeman and his passing attack. The Saints are not equipped to stop this kind of offense and just last week allowed Eli Manning to pass for 259 yards and four TDs. Freeman should be locked-in as a QB1 across all formats.
Over his last three games, Cam Newton has been playing lights-out football. He has accounted for seven passing TDs and three rushing TDs. We're talking about a red-hot Newton playing like it is his rookie year all over again. The Chargers are below average at best against the pass and most recently allowed Ben Roethlisberger to pass for 285 yards and three scores. Given Newton's well-documented ability to accumulate points both as a passer and runner, he should be elevated to must-start, QB1 status right now. The Panthers are playing very well as a whole too, winning two of their last three games. A stark improvement for a team that only won a single game in the first half of the season.
Fantasy owners are likely tired of an underwhelming Ryan Mathews at this point in the season. He hasn't found the end zone since Week 5. Two weeks ago, he gained a measly 26 yards on only nine carries. Admittedly, relying on him involves a certain amount of risk and this is a guy who was arguably a first-round fantasy pick before being injured in the preseason. The most important factor here is the matchup. San Diego hosts the Carolina Panthers in Week 15 and they have allowed running backs to score four TDs in the last three games. Mathews is still a flex play at best, but you should be starting high upside backs with favorable matchups as your flex on a weekly basis and that's precisely what this third-year back is in Week 15.Injury Status: Injured Reserve
A player with as much speed as David Wilson should have never been dismissed so easily by a coaching staff. The New York Giants finally gave the rookie out of Virginia Tech a legitimate opportunity to contribute and he broke the team-record for all-purpose yards in a game (327). If your league also counts return yards, Wilson is the no-brainer waiver wire addition of the season, hands-down. Since Ahmad Bradshaw is such an injury liability, even if he returns fully healthy in Week 15 the Giants figure to carve out a niche of their offense for Wilson. Starting a relative unknown at such a critical time of the sesason carries some risk, but Wilson did already prove he can produce when given the ball. Wilson faces at Atlanta team that struggles against the run and is reeling from their most recent loss against the Carolina Panthers.
The San Diego Chargers have been a disappointment on offense, but in recent weeks, wide receiver Danario Alexander has stood out and played the best football of his career. He caught seven passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns this week and since earning serious playing time with the Bolts, he has caught at least five passes for 74 yards in each of the last five weeks. San Diego hosts the Carolina Panthers in Week 15, and they have allowed WRs to catch 24 passes for 323 yards and three TDs in their last two games. The Panthers are playing well right now though and if Cam Newton jumps out to an early lead, the Chargers will be forced to get more aggressive, take more chances downfield, and therefore get the ball in Alexander's hands as often as possible.