‘Tis the holiday season, which means it’s time to spread some love, warmth and cheer. It is also an opportunity for me to share one of my favorite holiday-themed jokes: What do you call 100 bras cut in half? 200 yarmulkes with chin straps! Get’s me every time. Similarly to a bra cut in half, fantasy assets are not always what they seem at first glance. You can’t judge today’s productivity of a particular item based off the usefulness of yesterday. Such is the story of a bra snipped in two, and such is the story of the players I’ll be discussing today. Some have had rather strong fantasy campaigns to date, while others have been quite underwhelming. But as we embark on Week 13, fantasy playoffs are drawing nearer and nearer, and managers need to begin plotting their strategy around which players will provide the most BOOM during that stretch of the season. For some leagues, the trade deadline may be in the rearview, but some owners may still have the ability to add stock in the names below as they eye up a deep playoff run. As I’ve said many times and will reiterate once again, I’m not here to help you build a playoff roster. I’m here to help you construct a championship team and bring home the hardware. Here is a short list of names that could help you do just that.
Nick Chubb & Kareem Hunt – The tandem of Chubb and Hunt come into Week 13 as RB13 and RB30 in half-PPR formats but have performed substantially better on a per-game basis as their 15.9 and 13.7 FPPG have them at RB7 and RB18, respectively. One of these backs, if not both, could be the spark that sends your squad from playoff relevant to a championship caliber. The Browns will face the Raiders, Packers and Steelers from Weeks 15-17, with two of those three opposing defenses ranking in the bottom 13 of the league in fantasy points allowed to the running back position. Unsurprisingly, the Las Vegas defense has been especially porous, surrendering the fourth-most fantasy points per game to running backs and allowing the ninth-most rushing yards in the NFL this season: 1,385 yards (125.9 YPG) and 11 rushing touchdowns. On the other hand, the Pittsburgh front seven has been underwhelming, as their 1,464 rushing yards allowed (133.1 YPG) is the fifth-highest in the NFL while ranking in the top half of the league in fantasy points allowed to the RB position. What really makes the playoff schedule for this Cleveland backfield enticing though, is that if you play in a league dumb enough to continue into Week 18 — you’re primed to cash in. The Browns will likely still have something to play for come the final week of the season, and will be doing so against the eighth-worst fantasy defense in the league against running backs in Cincinnati. Outside of Vegas, the matchups don’t necessarily jump out at you, but both backs figure to be plug and plays with high upside during fantasy playoffs.
Antonio Gibson – With the exception of a matchup against Dallas in Week 16, it doesn’t get much better than this. Gibson (and J.D. McKissic for that matter) will go against the Eagles D twice during fantasy playoffs – in Weeks 15 and 17 sandwiched around that date with the Cowboys. Philadelphia is allowing the ninth-most fantasy points per game to the running back position, having given up 1,173 yards on the ground this season on 275 carries. That includes nine rushing scores and another 522 yards and one touchdown through the air to opposing backs. Gibson has already been trending up, as he’s eclipsed 20+ half-PPR points per game in two of his last three contests and is averaging 27 touches per game during that span. That’s the kind of volume we need to see for Gibson to be elite in this Taylor Heinicke-run offense, and factor in the attractive matchups — he could be a league winner. Similarly to the blurb above on Chubb and Hunt, Washington will face off with the Giants in Week 18 if you’re still battling for a title. Big Blue is even worse against the run, as they’re allowing the third-most fantasy points to the position. GIB ME SOME!
Jaylen Waddle – This one is a no-brainer. The Dolphins’ schedule features the Jets, Saints and Titans during Weeks 15-17, with all three of those defenses ranking inside the top-14 most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. Tennessee has allowed the most in the league with 2,380 yards and 16 touchdowns, while New Orleans has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to the position: 2,005 receiving yards and 11 scores. On top of that, the Jets’ half-decent ranking (14th) is slightly inflated by the secondary’s early-season success, something which fans of Gang Green likely know all too well. Waddle is already positioned as the WR14 in half-PPR formats, so a schedule-related boost could easily thrust him into undisputed WR1 range for the fantasy postseason. His Week 18 vs. New England poses some problems, but you can cross that bridge when you come to it if your league manager was asleep behind the wheel when they set up the league.
Javonte Williams & Melvin Gordon – We’re working our way up the mountain now, and it just keeps getting better and better. In Weeks 15, 16 and 17, the Broncos are set to go head-to-head with the Bengals, Raiders and Chargers. That’s three of the eight-worst fantasy defenses against running backs in the NFL: LV (fourth-worst), LAC (sixth-worst) and CIN (eighth worst). Combined, these teams have allowed 45 total touchdowns to the running position this season, which is more than four scores per game. Now that I’m breaking down the math, I’m actually wondering if Kevin from ESPN’s Stats & Data Department inadvertently carried the wrong number into a particular column, but we’ll take it nonetheless. This backfield’s split can be maddening, but this is the type of schedule that should allow both players to be highly relevant come fantasy playoffs regardless. Even if you have to run one of these guys out there in Week 18, the Kansas City run defense is near the middle of the back. Fire them up.
Deebo Samuel – Home against Atlanta. Road matchup at Tennessee. Home against Houston. Check, check and check. As I mentioned previously in this post, the Titans are allowing the most fantasy points to wide receivers, while the Falcons are allowing the sixth most. Throw in the middle-of-the-pack Texans (13th-most), who will be playing for virtually nothing come Week 17, and you can see why Deebo is one of the more attractive names on this list. We’ve already seen the upside and his ability to exploit poor secondaries, so the only question that remains is whether he will be fully healthy. As of this moment, we have to assume so, as his 1-2 week timeline puts him at a Week 15 return. The 49ers draw the Rams in Week 18 if you’re forced to roll out a squad that week, but LAR has actually allowed the 11th-most fantasy positions to wideouts this year. I suppose you could include Brandon Aiyuk in this blurb as well, but I don’t like your chances of bringing home a fantasy championship if he’s in your lineup.
DeVonta Smith – To the surprise of many, Washington has really struggled on the defensive side of the football this year — especially against the pass. WFT is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers to the tune of 152 catches for 1,968 yards and 14 touchdowns. Smith and the Eagles will have the luxury of facing Washington twice — in Weeks 15 & 17 — with the Giants sandwiched in between. New York is smack-dab in the middle of the pack in terms of fantasy points allowed to receivers, but with Smith’s talent blossoming at the right time, he still makes for an excellent play across all-three weeks of the fantasy postseason. A Week 18 home matchup against Dallas (seventh-most points allowed to RBs) makes Smith an even better stretch-run play.
Noah Fant – It’s been a terribly slow four-game stretch for Fant, who hasn’t eclipsed double-digit fantasy points since Week 6 vs. the Raiders and has averaged just 4.75 FPPG since that time. However, things could be about to turn, as Fant doesn’t have a difficult matchup left on the schedule and his playoff slate looks even more enticing. The Broncos draw the Bengals, Raiders and Chargers in Weeks 15-17, each of which rank in the top-half of the league in terms of fantasy points allowed to the tight end position. Las Vegas and LAC are particularly bad, allowing the second-most and fourth-most points to the position for a combined 123 receptions for 1,366 yards and 17 touchdowns. While Cincinnati doesn’t deliver a must-play matchup, they’re still surrendering the 15th-most points to the position, which allows this entire postseason picture to come out with a rather attractive outlook. The Broncos also have the Chiefs in Weeks 13 and 18, who are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to tight ends this season. Fant is far from safe at this point, but owners will be hard-pressed not to be excited about these matchups. He’ll be a surefire top-12 tight ends in each of those weeks if healthy.
Logan Thomas – This hasn’t been the season owners hoped for when they used valuable draft stock on Thomas this year, but there’s still hope he earns some brownie points for those who held on. After being back on the field in Week 12 for the first time since Week 3, Thomas saw six targets and connected with Heinicke three times for 31 yards. There was some bad luck caked into that output as well, as Thomas had a touchdown called back that would have significantly improved his fantasy line. By default, Thomas is trending in the right direction: he’s back on the field, getting up to speed with where this Heinicke-led offense is at and getting healthier each week. By Weeks 15-17, he should be hitting full stride, right on time for matchups with the Eagles (twice) and Cowboys. Philadelphia is allowing the most fantasy points in the league to tight ends, whereas Dallas is giving up the 11th most. That makes Thomas a starting fantasy tight end throughout playoff season, an outlook further bolstered when you consider WFT draws the Raiders and Cowboys in Weeks 13-14 as well. Don’t judge Thomas’ 2021 fantasy campaign just yet.
That’s all for this week, Razzball fam! As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.