Week 15 Fantasy Flames: Gardner Minshew among those ready to be surprise playoff heroes

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Each week the Noise highlights under-started names who he believes are destined to torch the competition. To qualify, each player must be started in fewer than 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Speaking as an accountability advocate, I will post results, whether genius or moronic, the following week (Scoring thresholds – QB: 18 fpts, RB: 12 fpts, WR: 11 fpts: TE: 10 fpts; .5 PPR). If you’re a member of TEAM HUEVOS, reveal your Week 15 Flames in the comments section below.

Minshow takes centerstage in Oakland

Gardner Minshew, Jax, QB (3 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $25)
Matchup: at Oak
Vegas Line/Total: Oak -4, 44.5

The mismanagement of Minshew by the Jags coaching staff and front office is hilariously misguided. His benching after a troubled performance Week 9 in London was a bit premature. Up until that point, the quarterback and his signature Selleck was not only a marketing dream, he was a budding franchise cornerstone. From Weeks 1-8, he averaged a respectable 0.44 fantasy points per dropback, tallied an 8.3 average depth of target and ranked top-three in deep-ball passer rating (120.8). The numbers matched his lovable personality. 

Hindsight is beneficial, but Nick Foles’ reinsertion into the starting lineup imploded. He was woefully ineffective in a pair of games prompting head coach Doug Marrone to accept his error, much to the chagrin of a certain boisterous fantasy voice who gleefully streamed the oversized Q-tip Week 12 versus Tampa. Back at the controls, Minshew displayed only semi-competency, tossing one touchdown while tallying 162 yards in a massacre at the hands of the L.A. Chargers. 

This week, the spectacularly coiffed QB aims to record his sixth multi-TD contest in 11 games, a very achievable feat. His opponent, Oakland, continues to trot out a sickly secondary. On the year, the Raiders have given up a 9.2 aDOT, the 10th-most total air yards, 284.5 yards per game, 33 total touchdowns and the second-most fantasy points to signal-callers. Staying clean is always a concern for Minshew (39.0 under pressure%) and losing D.J. Chark stings, but against a defense in the bottom third in total sacks, he stands tall and unloads often downfield. Stream merrily. 

Fearless Forecast: 262 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 0 turnovers, 28 rushing yards, 21.3 fantasy points

Gardner Minshew is set to rebound coming off a poor performance against the Chargers. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images)
Gardner Minshew is set to rebound coming off a poor performance against the Chargers. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images)

Different outcome in store for Monty in Packers rematch

David Montgomery, Chi, RB (55 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $21)
Matchup: at GB
Vegas Line/Total: GB -5, 41

During my 14-year run with the Purple Palace, countless running backs were victimized by my devilish hex. Ryan Mathews, Montee Ball, Felix Jones and Royce Freeman make up the greatest mishits. Monty, at a minimum, is a dishonorable mention on that list. Seduced by his prototype workhorse size, record-setting break-tackle total as an Iowa State Cyclone and convincing game tape, he, at first blush, owned the necessary skills to satisfy my easy-to-quench thirst. But, of course, a raging case of cotton mouth set in. Glowing only in spurts, he’s fallen victim to often irrational coaching, Chicago’s deteriorated offensive line (No. 24 in run-blocking efficiency) and his own shortcomings (2.33 YAC/att, RB52). Still, grinding his way through the morass, he’s the 19th-most valuable RB in the virtual game.

The last time Monty was graced with Green Bay’s presence it was opening night of the regular season. Every fantasy manager housed unshakeable optimism. Bears fans did, too. Of course, in a game that set pro football back to the days of Red Grange, negativity kicked down the door and quickly changed perspectives. Everyone played with the energy and enthusiasm of a road-flattened possum. Montgomery finished with 45 combined yards on an inexcusable seven touches.

In what should be a livelier rematch, Montgomery, who’s gripped the rock at least 15 times in seven straight, is a firm RB2. The Packers have allowed 4.9 yards per carry, 153.4 total yards per game, 15 total touchdowns and the fifth-most fantasy points to RBs. Against a defense dead last in adjusted line yards surrendered and second-to-last in run-stuff percentage, the often smothered back should find breathing room between the tackles.

Fearless Forecast: 17 attempts, 68 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 15 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 15.3 fantasy points

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Ring the Snell bell versus Buffalo

Benny Snell, Pit, RB (37 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $16)
Matchup: vs. Buf
Vegas Line/Total: PK, 37

The Snell wafting from Pittsburgh reeks of sweat, grit and jock odor. And it’s rather wonderful when it hits the nostrils. When it comes to the rookie’s recent production no deodorant, cologne or other masking agents need apply. Busting through initial arm tackles with the ferocity witnessed for years during his collegiate days in Lexington, the rusher has rolled up 70.3 combined yards per game, 3.43 yards after contact per attempt and one score in his past three games with at least double-digit carries. A classic north-south runner, he’s comparable to another Keystone State RB, though healthier, Jordan Howard.

With James Conner ceaselessly in the shop and again highly questionable to suit up, Snell is worth heavy consideration this Sunday. The Bills, in win-loss terms, have trampled the opposition, but it’s not a wart-free team. This season, RBs have averaged 4.6 yards per carry, 90.2 rush yards per game, 10 total touchdowns and the 19th-most fantasy points per game to the position.

If you’re racking your brain over Alvin Kamara (vs. Ind), Devonta Freeman (at SF) or Devin Singletary (at Pit) given their unpalatable matchups, confidently breathe the Snell in.

Fearless Forecast: 17 attempts, 74 rushing yards, 1 reception, 3 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 14.2 fantasy points

(NOTE: If James Conner returns from his weeks-long hiatus, ignore the musings above and tack on 30-35 receiving yards to the forecast above.)

Does the Williams TD streak begin?

Mike Williams, LAC, WR (25 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $15)
Matchup: vs. Min
Vegas Line/Total: Min -3, 46

David Johnson falling off the continental shelf into a deep, dark statistical abyss. Minshew outpacing Philip Rivers, Baker Mayfield and Jared Goff in points per game. And Odell Beckham, who just revealed his sports hernia hinderance, landing outside the wide receiver top-24. There are plentiful unforeseen anomalies that impact fantasy football every season. But in 2019, none was more dumbfounding than Williams’ 12-game TD drought. For a big-play receiver (18.0 aDOT, WR1 in ‘19) who carved out a meaningful red-zone role off an 11-TD campaign, his inability to splash the invisible pool was just ... strange.

(GIF by Michael Wagstaffe/Yahoo Sports)
(GIF by Michael Wagstaffe/Yahoo Sports)

At some point we all believed the Law of Averages would kick in. Last week in Jacksonville, mercifully, he connected with Rivers on a 44-yard TD conversion. Going out on a limb stretching further than anyone could’ve anticipated back in August the positive regression continues. Spin the wheel. Stack the chips on No. 81. And treat yourself to a title-round berth.

The reason is simple: Minnesota is a shell of what it used to be in pass coverage. Xavier Rhodes (130.5 passer rating allowed) looks sluggish, Trae Waynes (111.7) has served up explosive pass plays and its hard-hitting safeties have softened. On the year, the Vikes have given up an 8.3 average depth of target and the ninth-most fantasy points to WRs.

Electrocute your competition.

Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 86 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 16.6 fantasy points

Brown to score haul against Houston

A.J. Brown, Ten, WR (6 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $15)
Matchup: vs. Hou
Vegas Line/Total: Ten -3, 50

After thumbing through the NFL annals in search of a comparable example, it struck me. Ryan Tannehill, a once revered premium draft pick who was mostly a heaping bowl of sugar-free yogurt in Miami, is this generation’s Jake Plummer. During his day, “The Snake” was a highly touted passer who was expected to anchor the Arizona Cardinals for years to come. He had his moments in the desert, but his best seasons came as a member of the Denver Broncos under the direction of Mike Shanahan. It was a different era, a different offense, but the similarities are stark. Sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs to reach his full potential.

In Tennessee’s balanced offense, Tannehill is rolling. Second to Lamar Jackson in fantasy points per game since gaining the starting gig in Week 7, he’s notched the sixth-best adjusted completion percentage and tallied a respectable 91.8 passer rating on passes beyond 20 yards. He also levied one of the finest form tackles by a QB in the game’s history. As a result of his ascension, Brown has flourished. Inside the top-three in every useful efficiency category (e.g. YAC/rec, missed tackles/rec, yards per target, etc.), he’s resembled a young Andre Johnson or Anquan Boldin. Deadly across the middle or outside the numbers, he’s become everything we thought Corey Davis would be.

Off his second 100-yard performance in three weeks, the rookie demands your attention. This week matched against a Texans defense infested with fleas, he’s in a prime position to infect your Round 2 opponent. On the year, the Texans have conceded the 10th-highest average depth of target (8.4), eighth-most air yards and 13 total double-digit fantasy lines to WRs. Whether matching wits with Gareon Conley (115.2 passer rating allowed) or Jonathan Joseph (1.51 yds/snap allowed), Brown should again elevate.

Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 83 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 16.3 fantasy points

SHOCKER SPECIAL (Under 10% started in Yahoo leagues)

David Blough, Det, QB (1 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $26)
Matchup: vs. TB
Vegas Line/Total: TB -3.5, 47.5

Art is in the eye of the beholder. It never ceases to astound what people are willing to pay for what they feel is valuable creative expression. Definitely not from the Monet or Picasso archives, a banana duct-taped to a wall commanded $120,000 at Miami’s Art Basel. Damn, I picked the wrong profession.

Blough, even at $26 in Yahoo DFS this week, is a similar purchase that would leave unartistic folks, like this unimaginative nincompoop, muddleheaded. But the youngster could turn a tidy profit. Impressive in spurts over his first two starts, the passer posted a 72.2 adjusted completion percentage, 8.5 aDOT, 242.5 pass yards per game and three touchdowns. Tall in the pocket and comfortable in his field scans, he’s played better than your run-of-the-mill elevated third-string QBs.

This Sunday, the Lions bear their fangs against Tampa and its disheveled secondary. On the year, the Bucs have allowed the second-most total air yards, an 8.6 average depth of target, 296.2 pass yards per attempt, 7.2 pass yards per game and 2.2 passing touchdowns to QBs. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones should consume DBs Carlton Davis (93.0 passer rating allowed) and Sean Murphy-Bunting (94.6) whole.

Fearless Forecast: 273 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 0 turnovers, 18.9 fantasy points

Due to Josh Jacobs' broken wing, DeAndre Washington could become a key off-the-waivers pillar on Super Bowl bound rosters. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Due to Josh Jacobs' broken wing, DeAndre Washington could become a key off-the-waivers pillar on Super Bowl bound rosters. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

BONUS FLAMES (Under 60% started)

RB: DeAndre Washington, Oak (Oak -4; $16) – When injuries mount, the unexpected occurs. Take Oakland, for example. Up until a fractured shoulder derailed his season, hotshot rookie Josh Jacobs had delivered on his enormous promise. With a top-10 ranking in overall production and a praiseworthy underlying profile, he was an unmistakable Clydesdale. However, likely to be shelved for the second straight week, Washington stands to benefit from another cupcake matchup. The antithesis of “frisky,” the Jaguars haven’t earned their Fancy Feast when defending the run. On the year, they’ve given up a league-worst 5.5 yards per carry, 164.2 total yards per game, 17 total touchdowns and the third-most fantasy points to RBs. Washington, who played on 63.5 percent of Oakland’s snaps and registered 20 touches last week against Tennessee, is set to punch your Super Bowl ticket. (FF: 16-74-3-17-1, 16.6 fpts)

WR: Justin Watson, WR, TB (TB -4; $12) — With my more athletic cousin, Mike Evans, done for the remainder of the season due to a hamstring injury, Watson, a fifth-round pick from Penn, is set to throw the book at the competition. Stepping in for Evans in the second quarter last week versus Indy, he enticed eight targets, catching five passes for 59 yards and a score. His size/speed combo and versatility will be showcased against Detroit. The Lions have allowed the highest aDOT (10.0) and most air yards of any defense. If you’re willing to roll the dice, he could a soothing points source in these high-anxiety times. (FF: 5-66-1, 15.1 fpts)

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WR: Deebo Samuel, SF (SF -11; $18) – Earlier this season, the theme was The Year of the Rookie WR. Hollywood Brown, Terry McLaurin and Mecole Hardman all made noise. Samuel, too, was far from silent, registering a 5-86-1 line Week 2 at Cincinnati, but since then, it’s the San Francisco wideout who’s steadily and consistently left the volume up. Deployed in multiple clever packages as a receiver and, sporadically, a rusher by crafty Kyle Shanahan, the former Gamecock has developed into one of the most feared open-field chunk gainers around. His 7.66 YAC per reception ranks No. 2 among wide receivers. This week, the rookie should achieve “Flame” status for the sixth-straight week. The deep-fried Falcons, a perfect pairing with waffles, have surrendered 8.0 pass yards per attempt and the 10th-most fantasy points to WRs. Regardless if he draws Isaiah Oliver, Desmond Trufant or Kendall Sheffield in coverage, Samuel finishes WR2 or higher in Week 15. (FF: 5-75-1-19, 17.9 fpts)

TE: David Njoku, Cle (Cle -3; $13) – When it comes to fantasy tight ends, the Arizona Cardinals are the ultimate Secret Santa. Gifting touchdowns to virtually all jolly targets who cross their path, they’re sure to send their best holiday wishes to patient little fantasy girls and boys who’ve sat on Njoku for weeks. Returning to action versus Cincinnati last Sunday, the TD-stomping tight end logged action on 37.5 percent of the Browns snaps, catching one pass (on three targets) for four yards. With the cobwebs shaken off, he’s nearly must-start material in the desert. Just how exceptionally bad are the Cards versus TEs? The 16.6 fantasy points per game surrendered would rank WR3. Nutty. At least one Njoku end-zone celebration is bankable. (FF: 4-47-1, 12.7 fpts)

DST: Kansas City Chiefs (KC -13; $17) – The Drew Lock experience wasn’t supposed to a head-banging, guitar-thrashing rock show. His sketchy tape and often horrid performances against mighty competition while at Missouri prompted questions about his NFL viability. Was his detonation last week against a weak Houston secondary a parallel to his college efforts? KC, which owned a Joe Flacco-led Broncos team in Week 7 totaling nine sacks and forcing a turnover, will answer that question. Arrowhead is an intimidating environment for anyone, let alone a green QB, no matter how brilliant he played in Houston. If Denver’s pass pro breaks down again, a multi-turnover event is on tap for the rookie. The Chiefs’ under-publicized secondary — it’s yielded zero 17.0-plus fantasy point QB performances since Week 10 — only boosts the likelihood. (FF: 20 PA, 358 YDSA, 4 SCK, 3 TO, 11.0 fpts)

Each week one fortunate guest prognosticator will have a chance to silence the Noise. Following the rules stated above, participants are asked to submit their “Flames” (1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 D/ST) by midnight PT Tuesdays via Twitter @YahooNoise. How large are your stones?

Reader record: 44-51

Brad’s record: 69-95

Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise. Also check out his TV show, “The Fantasy Football Hour,” now available in 91 million households on various regional sports networks, along with his work on the “Yahoo Sports Fantasy Podcast” and his award-nominated podcast, “The Fantasy Record.

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