Week 15 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Carr to drive owners into championship round

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For <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/27564/" data-ylk="slk:Derek Carr">Derek Carr</a> and the Raiders smiles have rarely cracked. Can the passed over QB bring similar happiness to fantasy owners in Week 15? (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
For Derek Carr and the Raiders smiles have rarely cracked. Can the passed over QB bring similar happiness to fantasy owners in Week 15? (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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.

Derek Carr, Oak, QB (5 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $25)

Matchup: at Cin
Vegas line/total: Cin -3, 46

Jeff Garcia. Billy Volek. Josh McCown (CHI edition). Over the years, fantasy owners have earned title berths with the strangest of bedfellows. Admittedly, in 1999, I blazed an improbable trail to a fantasy football title with Jon Kitna — the Seattle Seahawks version. As preached repeatedly in this space, fantasy Is a matchup-based game. An opponent’s current state is monumental in fostering fantasy production, which is why Carr is so alluring.

By any standard, the Bengals are irreparable. Giving away fantasy points with the frequency of mall Santa-candy canes, a staggering seven quarterbacks have scored 20 or more fantasy points against them in a single game. Baker Mayfield, who hurled 258 yards and four scores versus the Bungles in Week 12 being the most recent. Overall, Cincinnati has yielded 8.0 pass yards per attempt, 283.8 passing yards per game and 2.1 passing touchdowns per game to signal callers. Indicative by his 6.8 yards per attempt and QB27 air-yards per attempt rank, a flat-tired wheelbarrow is more efficient than Carr, but he’s performed suitably of late.

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In his past two contests, he’s averaged 303.5 passing yards per game with five total touchdowns, completing 75.0 percent of his attempts. Effective downfield and in the red zone, he’s regained the composure and accuracy displayed two Falls ago, even with a ragtag wide receiver group. Oakland’s overly generous defense only enhances the profile. Maximize the matchup. Reach the finals.

Fearless Forecast: 276 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 5 rushing yards, 19.5 fantasy points 

Spencer Ware, KC, RB (53 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $18)

Matchup: vs. LAC
Vegas line/total: KC -3, 56

Red is a color we all associate the holiday season with. Ornaments, lights, jolly old elf robes, a certain reindeer’s nose — the bright hue adorns just about everything. This week, it also represents excitement and energy; emotional reactions the color often communicates. In a contest with a heart-pumping 56 over/under, just about every red-clad option needs to be in your starting lineup, including Ware.

Exceeding my expectations last week against the unfriendliest matchup possible, Baltimore, the veteran back smashed and sprinted his way to 129 total yards on 20 touches. Damien Williams did wrest away a pair of scores, but Andy Reid’s RBBC threats were mostly unsubstantial. It’s abundantly clear Ware is his primary rusher. In another primetime clash for the ages, the RB should bring good little fantasy girls and boys boundless joy.

Full disclosure, the Chargers did bottle up Kareem Hunt in the first showdown (19-46-0), but that was an eternity ago (Week 1). Over the past five weeks, L.A. has conceded the 11th-most fantasy points, 4.00 yards per carry, 128.8 total yards per game and seven combined touchdowns to RBs. Ware’s analytics are rather undesirable, but additional signs flash the word “PLAY!”

Fearless Forecast: 14 carries, 56 rushing yards, 4 receptions 22 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 15.8 fantasy points

(UPDATE: With Ware officially listed as doubtful, 5-foot-11, 222-pound backup Damien Williams slides into KC’s lead role. For the same reasons discussed above, he’s a highly employable RB2 in 12-team formats. The same forecast applies.)

Dion Lewis, Ten, RB (45 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $14)

Matchup: at NYG
Vegas line/total: Ten -2.5, 42.5

For the near-infinitesimal number of people who were unlucky enough to encounter Derrick Henry in the opening round of your fantasy playoffs, you’re probably not reading this. The juggernaut, who underachieved terribly the entire year, impossibly resembled Groot — powerful, intimidating, uncontainable. He plowed through meek defenders with unmatched ferocity en route to a record-setting night. His 238-4 line conjured thoughts of Clinton Portis’ championship belt game versus Kansas City in 2002. Years from now, nostalgic owners will reflect fondly (or not) about the memorable performance.

Though many still in the hunt will dash madly to the waiver wire to acquire Henry, his tag-team partner, Lewis, might be the Titans rusher to employ in Week 15. Yes, he hasn’t scored since Week 9 and his per carry success has plummeted in recent weeks, but consistently receiving 13-15 touches per game, he’s at least FLEX-debatable in 12-team leagues. Keep in mind, he’s forced a missed tackle 26 percent of the time, despite a bland 2.56 yards after contact per attempt.

His matchup against New York is a friendly one. After dealing premier run defender Damon Harrison at the trade deadline, the Giants have come unraveled against the run. Over their past six contests they’ve surrendered the eighth-most fantasy points, 4.77 yards per carry, 5.7 receptions per game, 164.0 total yards per game and six total TDs to rushers. Shine bright, “Neon.”

Fearless Forecast: 10 carries, 42 rushing yards, 5 receptions, 35 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 16.2 fantasy points 

Curtis Samuel, Car, WR (14 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $19)

Matchup: vs. NO
Vegas line/total: NO -6.5, 53.5

For anyone who’s watched Cam Newton over the past few weeks, it’s apparent his dinged wing is a significant hinderance. Intermediate and long-distance throws have constantly sailed. It’s no wonder why his passer rating on tosses beyond 20 yards has crashed. His bum shoulder has necessitated a short-armed approach like shallow crosses, quick slants, designed screens. He’s leaned on Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Samuel to create in space and move the chains. Expect the trend to continue in Week 15.

Netting action on just over 87 percent of the snap share since Week 12, the former Buckeye has lured 21 targets, averaging 4.0 receptions and 59.0 yards per game with two scores. On another likely 8-10 targets, he’s a borderline WR2 option in Round 2. His opponent, New Orleans, has steadily improved defensively in recent weeks but remains exploitable. Samuel, who’s played in every receiving position at least 29 percent of the time, is versatile and slippery. Whether against Eli Apple (93.8 passer rating, 1.71 yards per snap), Marshon Lattimore (96.8, 1.35) or P.J. Williams (125.1, 1.73) he’s sure to be a Cam favorite.

Fearless Forecast: 6 receptions, 72 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 11 rushing yards, 17.3 fantasy points

Dede Westbrook, Jax, WR (12 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $12)

Matchup: vs. Was
Vegas line/total: Jax -6.5, 36

Listing any Jacksonville Jaguar in this space not named Leonard Fournette is akin to pushing a heavy-footed Rob Gronkowski into a defensive position, knowing full well the opposition is about to embark on a series of desperation laterals. However, compared to the Miami Miracle, this outcome could be very different. Earlier in the season, Keelan Cole and Donte Moncrief were the preferred vertical weapons in Jacksonville. Westbrook made the sporadic splash (see Week 4), but not a single time from Weeks 5-13 did the neglected target surpass 60 yards in a game.

Last Thursday, though, with Cody Kessler under center, he was a principal option for the newly promoted QB. Targeted 10 times, he snagged seven passes for 88 yards and a score. Excellent in traffic and after the catch, the former Heisman finalist will likely again be Kessler’s No. 1.

Washington, reeling since the Alex Smith injury, has fallen apart at the seams defensively. Westbrook’s assignment, slot corner Fabian Moreau, has allowed a 108.3 passer rating, 65.5 catch percentage and 1.19 yards per snap this season. In recent weeks, Keke Coutee, Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard registered useful fantasy performances against him. For the WR needy, you could do far worse.

Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 53 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13.8 fantasy points 

WEEK 15 SHOCKER SPECIAL (Under 10 percent started)

Zach Zenner, Det, RB (1 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $10)

Matchup: at Buf
Vegas line/total: Buf -2.5, 38

You can have your sappy Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. My go-to festive flick is stop-motion animation classic “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.” From Hermie the Dentist to the Island of Misfit Toys to the Bumble to an overly surly Santa (he’s a grumpy bastard), it never ceases to make me chuckle. Of all the show’s iconic characters, none match the exuberance of Yukon Cornelius. The self-proclaimed “Greatest Prospector of the North” is feisty, resourceful and gold thirsty. He, akin to any fantasy player, is fueled by a desire to acquire instant riches.

If you’re the adventurous Yukon type, Zenner is a potential buried treasure worth digging for. The future medical researcher who spends his free time testing lab rats in an attempt to better understand brain functionality and discover breakthroughs to cure rare juvenile diseases continues to extend his NFL career. Pulled off the scrap heap after Kerryon Johnson injured his knee three weeks ago, he’s seen his role steadily grow. Overtaking an inept LeGarrette Blount in the second half against Arizona, he totaled 12 carries for 54 yards (3.50 YAC/att) and a score.

Zach Zenner has emerged once again, and as long as Kerryon Johnson remains out, Zenner will hold value. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Zach Zenner has emerged once again, and as long as Kerryon Johnson remains out, Zenner will hold value. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

Zenner is your industry standard straight-line power rusher, similar to a Gus Edwards. Earning praise from teammates and Matt Patricia for his efforts in Glendale, he’s in line to again record double-digit touches, barring Johnson’s return. His foe, the Bills, have allowed the eight-most fantasy points and 14 rushing TDs to RBs. Duplicating last week’s line is well within reach.

Fearless Forecast: 14 carries, 63 rushing yards, 1 reception, 4 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13.2 fantasy points 

BONUS WEEK 15 FLAMES (Under 50 percent started)

RB: Doug Martin, Oak ($16; at Cin) – Muscle Hamster. Swole Mongoose. Brawny Beaver. Whatever you want to call the Raiders’ rodent, he’s prepared to burrow through the competition this Sunday. As discussed above with Carr, the Bengals are dreadful in every facet defensively. Against the run, they’ve allowed the most fantasy points, 4.99 yards per carry, 122.5 rush yards per game and 14 rushing TDs to RBs. Martin, who’s scored in three straight and ranks appreciably in yards created per carry (RB21), is every bit an RB2 in 12-team leagues this week. Yes, the world’s end is near. (FF: 17 atts, 69 yds, 1 rec, 6 yds, td, 14.0 fpts)

RB: Jeffrey Wilson Jr., SF ($14; vs. Sea) – A prototype Shanahan RB, Wilson has ascended from the darkest depths of the waiver wire to earn RB2 status in PPR formats. His precise cuts, clear vision and versatility have guided him to 230 combined yards the past two weeks. With Matt Breida again questionable at best to face Seattle, Wilson shouldn’t lose his luster in Week 15. Abysmal versus the run in recent outings, the Seahawks have surrendered the ninth-most fantasy points, 5.18 yards per carry, 156.1 total yards per game and seven touchdowns to RBs since Week 8. Again, if the UDFA draws another start, he’s a borderline top-20 play by the Bay. (FF: 18 atts, 79 yds, 3 recs, 14 yds, td, 16.8 fpts)

WR: Antonio Callaway, Cle ($10; at Den) — When interviewed after his team, San Francisco, derailed Denver’s playoff aspirations, QB Nick Mullens smiled and spoke with astonishment, “I couldn’t believe how wide open guys were.” To say Denver’s decimated secondary was horrendous last week would be a gross understatement. With surging Cleveland coming to town, Baker Mayfield is sure to take advantage of soft spots. Callaway, who didn’t register a catch last week, is off most owner radars, but working the edge against Bradley Roby and Isaac Yiadom should have him on the rebound. (FF: 4 recs, 68 yds, td, 14.8 fpts)

TE: C.J. Uzomah, Cin ($13; vs. Oak) – In the wasteland that is tight end, Uzomah has done little with a lot. Targeted more times than Gronk over the past three weeks (23 times), he’s fallen short of the 40-yard mark in each contest. Still, any highly involved option at the position must be weighed. Against the best matchup imaginable, maybe, just maybe, he’ll cross the chalk for the first time since Week 7. On the year, the Raiders have yielded the most fantasy points, 5.2 receptions per game, 73.9 receiving yards per game and nine touchdowns to TEs. (FF: 5 recs, 42 yds, td, 13.7 fpts)

DST: Atlanta Falcons ($12; vs. Ari) – Arizona has taken on the taste and appearance of a poorly blended fruitcake. Josh Rosen probably couldn’t complete 50 percent of his attempts tossing the rock to peak Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and David Boston. Unequivocally dreadful over the past three weeks, the rookie has averaged just 5.7 pass yards per attempt, 169.3 total yards per game and tossed one touchdown. Placed under pressure on 46 percent of his dropbacks during that span, he’s melted under the intense heat. Falcons sack leaders Jack Crawford and Takarrist McKinley are licking their chops. (FF: 10 PA, 309 YDSA, 5 SCKs, 2 TO, 12.0 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: 37-64

Brad record: 63-90 (WK14: 3-7; W – Josh Allen, Dalvin Cook, Arizona; L – Mitchell Trubisky, Justin Jackson, Jeffery Wilson, Tre’Quan Smith, Michael Gallup, MVS, David Njoku)

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, and his award-nominated podcast, “The Fantasy Record.”

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