Fantasy Football Playoffs Start, Sit, and Sleeper Advice

Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs for a fourth quarter touchdown against the Washington Redskins at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

David Johnson finishes the fantasy football regular season as the top scorer, and capped of Week 13 with the top individual score to seal the deal.

When the Buccaneers defeated the San Diego Chargers on the road last week it was Cameron Brate who led all Bucs in fantasy football scoring as he racked up 20.6 points making him a Top-10 tight end.

This week the fantasy playoffs begin and some key names will be deciding who eventually gets the bragging rights – and the plethora of interesting booty which comes with winning – while others will ultimately be subjected to various punishments being handed out in their respective leagues.

For daily fantasy sports folks, it’s another week and another chance to win some real money while building to the various grand prize events coming up.

If you’re out, then it’s all about tweaking your methods for next year, if you’re still in it, let’s look at who to start, who to sit, and some sleepers who could have a big Week 14!

Dec 4, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) speaks to the media following the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Tampa Bay won 28-21. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports


START – Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints – Sunday, December 11th @ 4:25 PM EST

The New Orleans Saints didn’t pick off a rookie Jameis Winston last year once in two tries, and this version is much better than the ones they saw before.

In his one year taking on the NFC South Winston threw two touchdowns against Sean Payton’s squad, but was lacking in the yards department.

This season should be a different story in regards to the shortages as he and Mike Evans are connecting better than ever before, and the passing game has become a point of pride instead of a nervous outlet to give Doug Martin some rest.

The emergence of Cameron Brate as a consistent target in the Buccaneers’ offense has helped as well, and the second-year quarterback has made some very talented defenders look silly with his ability to improvise under pressure.

Winston has scored in every pro game he’s ever played, and this Saints defense isn’t equipped to stop him from doing it again, especially with the suspension of Kenny Vaccaro beginning this week.

Look for “Famous-Jameis” to fire at least two scores and protect the ball as he tries to stay clean against this division rival.

START – Eli Manning, New York Giants

New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys – Sunday, December 11th @ 8:30 PM EST

Eli Manning has thrown multiple touchdowns in his last four games each, and comes into Week 14

facing the team with the best record in the NFC as they host the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.

What better way to put his mark on Primetime than to keep Dallas from clinching and potentially shaking the confidence of the team taking on my beloved Buccaneers in Week 15.

In the Giants’ Week 1 victory against this very squad in “Jerry’s World” Manning threw for three touchdowns and had his second-highest passer rating of the year.

Look for more of the same as they try and knock the Cowboys off their pedestal.

SIT – Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams vs Atlanta Falcons – Sunday, December 11th @ 4:25 PM EST

The Atlanta Falcons possess a secondary allowing a league worst 20.6 points per game to opposing quarterbacks in fantasy.

However, this doesn’t make them the easy target some may think as a couple of big name quarterbacks failed to make large impacts when they faced this defense.

Both Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz failed to register a touchdown against the Falcons who have allowed 26 passing scores to this point. Paxton Lynch and Philip Rivers each found pay-dirt, but threw interceptions to bring their scores back down a tad in the same game.

The Rams offense simply isn’t put together yet, and don’t expect them to get it right before this season ends. Goff could be a viable option next season against the weaker defenses in the NFL, but this week he’s a false start against a soft secondary.

SIT – Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans vs Denver Broncos – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

The Denver Broncos are 8-4 and very close to being left out of the AFC Playoff picture altogether.

This isn’t because of the secondary though, and only one quarterback has found the ability to throw for 300-yards or more, and only two have thrown more than one touchdown pass.

Meanwhile, this team has picked off multiple passes from four of their opponents while giving their team a shot at winning every week.

Sure, the Saints almost got the best of them – and should have really – and the Chiefs were able to grab a victory in primetime against the defending Super Bowl Champs, but it’s not the secondary leaving the doors open this season.

SLEEPER – Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

San Diego Chargers @ Carolina Panthers – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

Philip Rivers didn’t get to where he is in the NFL by calling it quits and coasting to the off-season when his team is out of contention. Instead, he finds a way to motivate himself and his teammates all year long.

The team shouldn’t need much more motivation than continuing the seemingly NFL-wide mission this year to knock Cam Newton off his dabbing pedestal.

Beating a team who was just fighting for the Super Bowl a year ago is always a rallying cry no matter what the team may be doing this season.

With Luke Kuechly still in concussion protocol and the rest of the Panthers defense looking much more cat-like than predator, Rivers should be able to come into Charlotte and do as he pleases.

He may still throw one of his patented late game interceptions, but his other numbers should make up for it here.

Dec 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) against the Detroit Lions during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Lions defeated the Saints 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

SLEEPER – Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sunday, December 11th @ 4:25 PM EST

During their four-game winning streak the Buccaneers secondary hasn’t allowed a quarterback to throw for 300-yards once. Previous to this streak, about half of the passers they’d faced reached the milestone with one even hitting the 500-yard mark.

Those days may seem like distant history, but they are just a city block away in the memory of the 2016 NFL season for the Tampa defense, and nobody causes ineptitude flashbacks like Drew Brees does.

News his standout rookie receiver Michael Thomas has been returning to practice this week only thickens the plot as this defense was going to have its hands full with the disgruntled Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead alone.

Brees didn’t throw a single touchdown last week against a pretty passer-friendly Detroit Lions defense.

Last time Brees got goose-egged in the touchdown department he came back the next week and laid 280+ yards and three touchdowns on the then undefeated Carolina Panthers.

The Saints lost the game, and hopefully they lose this one too, but don’t expect Brees to sit quietly while it happens.

Dec 5, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Matt Forte (22) runs with the ball during the first half of their game against the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports


START – Matt Forte, New York Jets

New York Jets @ San Francisco 49ers – Sunday, December 11th @ 4:05 PM EST

The only running back to face the San Francisco 49ers defense in 2016 and not have a relevant fantasy day was Todd Gurley in Week 1.

Who knows, maybe they can stop a running back again when they face the Rams in Week 16.

Until then, pretty much every running back to face this team is a must-start and Forte is no different.

Forte is my fourth favorite Jets player – behind Nick Mangold, Jalin Marshall, and Darron Lee – but he’s my favorite running back in fantasy this weekend.

START – Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

The forecast in Cleveland is snow and more snow when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13.

This means less throwing and more running, and with Giovani Bernard on IR and A.J. Green injured as well, Jeremy Hill is going to be the man for the Bengals this week if they hope to come out with a win.

Sure Andy Dalton and a combination of Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd and Tyler Eifert could still find room to operate against one of the worst defenses in the entire league.

Even if they do, Hill is going to get his shot to make fantasy owners very happy this weekend, and remember this is the same defense he assaulted with 168-yards and a touchdown in Week 7.

SIT – LeGarrette Blount and James White, New England Patriots

New England Patriots vs Baltimore Ravens – Sunday, December 12th @ 8:30 PM EST

The Ravens have allowed just two 100-yard rushers in 2016, and it took Matt Forte 30 carries when he did it.

True Isaiah Crowell torched Baltimore for 133-yards rushing on just 18 carries, but this isn’t the trend we see with the Ravens this year.

Instead, we see 25 carries for 97-yards by rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott and 14 carries for 32-yards by Le’Veon Bell.

Oh, and did I mention Crowell’s nine carries for 23-yards in Week 10? Like I was saying.

This defense isn’t one to be trifled with, and the Patriots never seem to know just which running back is going to get the lion’s share of touches every week, making this about as unattractive a match-up as you’re going to find.

SIT – Christine Michael, Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers vs Seattle Seahawks – Sunday, December 11th @ 4:25 PM

It’s the things movies are made of: running back Christine Michael steps in after the retirement of Skittles fanboy Marshawn Lynch and the injury to undrafted stud Thomas Rawls to show big skills and help carry the load.

Then things kind of even out and Michael plateaus leading to his team releasing him unceremoniously causing the entire league to take pause and question the potential they saw in the young man in the first place.

Finally, a team takes a chance and the Green Bay Packers bring in the Pacific Northwest castaway and get him up to speed just in time for his exes to come visit his frigidly frozen new home.

Here’s where the movie fails, in this version Michael doesn’t get revenge, but more likely produces closer to the nine carries for 19-yards he got against the Houston Texans last week.

It’s going to be cold and the footing is going to be nasty on the tundra, and contrary to popular belief, it effects the Packers too.

SLEEPER – Lamar Miller, Houston Texans

Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

I took a little flack for calling Lamar Miller a dud in the beginning of the season, but after totaling just three 100-yard performances and four touchdowns to go with them, I feel like some people may agree with me now.

Dec 4, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller (26) wears special cleats promoting awareness to domestic violence during game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

However, this week he has a good shot at adding his fourth 100-yard game and another touchdown or even two!

The Indianapolis Colts have given up 1,315 rushing yards this year which ranks them 13th in the NFL, and is also not very exciting. Until you realize they’re fifth worst in the league for yards per carry allowing 4.5 per touch.

This is good news for Miller and his fantasy owners if the Texans lean on him, which they should considering the ineptitude of their passing attack.

Everyone knows the Colts have a poor secondary, but I’d look for Houston to get rolling with Miller and let him take it from there.

SLEEPER – Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers

San Diego Chargers @ Carolina Panthers – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

The Carolina Panthers seem to be getting away from running Cam Newton as much, and this directly benefits Jonathan Stewart and his fantasy owners tremendously.

Newton had no fewer than five rushing attempts in any game he played in this season except for Week 6 against the New Orleans Saints through Week 11.

In the past two weeks, Newton ran just three times in each.

This new found opening in the ground game has led to Jonathan Stewart scoring three touchdowns in the last three games, a significant upward turn considering he had just four in the previous nine games (granted he missed three of those).

I’m not saying to plug Stewart in and print your ticket to the semi-final round of your fantasy playoffs, but if you have to use him, it may not be as bad as you think it might be. That’s encouraging.

Nov 27, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Tyrell Williams (16) breaks the tackle of Houston Texans inside linebacker Max Bullough (53) in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports


START – Tyrell Williams, San Diego Chargers

San Diego Chargers @ Carolina Panthers – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

Remember how I predicted Philip Rivers would have a pretty good day against the Carolina Panthers? Well, he really only has one receiver to throw to, and it’s Tyrell Williams.

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit as Travis Benjamin and Dontrelle Inman both have more than 40 catches this year, but considering Williams is only 163-yards from a 1,000-yard season and has six touchdowns this year; he’s the main guy.

The Panthers defense has shown it’s pass defense to be a significant weakness, and missing the presence of Luke Kuechly is only going to make things worse the longer he’s out.

Look for Williams to have at least five catches in this game and his seventh touchdown of the year.

START – Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints – Sunday, December 11th @ 4:25 PM EST

Mike Evans has been on a tear lately and proved once and for all he’s one of the best young receivers in the NFL today.

He was relatively contained in San Diego, but every time he’s been held to average numbers he’s come back the next week to have a big day when it counted.

The Saints defense already had their hands full with this towering target for Jameis Winston, but with the suspension of Kenny Vaccaro this week, it just got worse.

Missing Adam Humphries this week is going to hurt the Buccaneers’ passing attack, but it shouldn’t stop Evans from getting involved early and often as he tries to help his team pull away in the NFC South.

SIT – Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars vs Minnesota Vikings – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

The Minnesota Vikings have fallen off a bit, and their defense has even been vulnerable to collapse as of late.

While it may be disappointing to see, it’s not so bad you can expect Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson to go out and look like 2015 them.

The Vikings secondary still hasn’t allowed any single receiver more than one score in any game, and they also haven’t allowed a 100-yard receiver to this point either.

SIT – Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins vs Arizona Cardinals – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

Two of Jarvis Landry’s first three games this year saw him produce more than 100-yards of offense and score a touchdown.

Nine games later, he has just the two 100-yard games and only one more touchdown to add to the first.

You can blame Ryan Tannehill or you can put it on the new found run game the Dolphins fabricated, but either way, Landry has had a down year – which is saying something for a Dolphins receiver.

The Cardinals will likely be stacking the box looking to stop Ajayi and pressure Tannehill into mistakes. Now this may sound like a good opportunity for the quick and elusive Landry to make his mark.

However, the Cardinals have given up a league low ten touchdown receptions this season, so don’t pin your playoff hopes on this being the week Landry gets his groove back.

Dec 4, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) rushes for a touchdown after catching a pass during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 21-13. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

SLEEPER – DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

You have to feel for DeAndre Hopkins. The young star is entering his prime and plays on an offense which is literally set up to make him fail.

He has 58 catches which has him on pace to have his lowest catch total since his rookie season, but he may have fewer yards than he did in his first year anyway.

His four touchdowns is pathetically low, and he has just six plays of 20-yards or more this season.

He’s a sleeper here for two reasons:

  1. I really want it for him, I mean really.
  2. In Week 6 he had nine catches for 71-yards against the Colts defense making it his second-best game of the year to this point. Replicate those numbers and add a touchdown, and we’ve got us a performance any fantasy owner could be happy with.

SLEEPER – Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

Just so you’re all aware, any time I put a Redskins player on here, they do the opposite of what I say they’ll do. You’ve been warned.

Jamison Crowder is going to have a great day this weekend!

Ok, I wasn’t a true believer in Crowder as a viable fantasy option until recently, but with four games of fewer than four catches in his first six this year – can you really blame me?

Now, since Week 6 it’s been a different story. Even when he falls below the five-catch threshold you really want from your starters each week, he’s finding the endzone to make up for it or getting big yards, or both.

Add his potential in the return game, and you have a guy who is probably going to be a Top-10 receiver pick in fantasy drafts next season.

Nov 27, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (88) catches a pass against Oakland Raiders strong safety T.J. Carrie (38) during the second half at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


START – Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers vs San Diego Chargers  – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

Greg Olsen has been fairly quiet during the latest spiral being suffered by the Carolina Panthers as he hasn’t scored in four games and hasn’t had more than four catches in three.

Still, he’s a great asset for Cam Newton and the Panthers offense, and the Buccaneers showed last week the Chargers are vulnerable to talented tight ends as they were able to get Cameron Brate involved to the tune of six catches, 86-yards and one score.

Receiving tight ends like Delanie Walker and Travis Kelce have also found success against this defense, so Olsen should have no issue producing in his Week 13 fantasy match-up.

SIT – Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts vs Houston Texans – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

If you took a flier on Dwayne Allen then kudos to you and the three touchdowns he got you last week.

However, if you think this is the beginning of Allen becoming the next big thing in receiving tight ends, you may want to slow your roll just a bit.

Drawing Houston’s defense as his encore performance means drawing a defense which has only given up three touchdowns to tight ends all season.

November 6, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end Vance McDonald (89) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Levi

Seven weeks is a long time in NFL time, but in Week 6 Allen brought in just one catch for nine yards in a three-point loss.

It’s a gamble some will take, and for your sake, I hope I’m wrong.

SLEEPER – Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers vs New York Jets – Sunday, December 11th @ 4:05 PM EST

If you’re Vance McDonald how do you go out and celebrate a new five-year extension with the 49ers?

Hopefully for fantasy owners, the answer is: by tearing up a New York Jets defense which just gave up three touchdowns to Dwayne Allen.

Aside from Allen, the Jets have allowed big games by Travis Kelce, Jimmy Graham and Jesse James before him.

This isn’t exactly a defense built to stop tight ends, and if Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert or whomever is throwing the ball to him this weekend can do so often enough, McDonald could turn in a huge performance.

Nov 20, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes (29) celebrates his interception during the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Cardinals 30-24. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports


START – Minnesota Vikings D/ST

Minnesota Vikings @ Jacksonville Jaguars – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

How often does the top scoring defensive / special teams unit in fantasy football take on the quarterback with the most interceptions?

I’m not sure, but it’s happening this week. Can you really allow yourself not to get this defense on your side if possible?

SIT – Miami Dolphins D/ST

Miami Dolphins vs Arizona Cardinals – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

The Miami Dolphins have crawled into the Top-12 of D/ST units in fantasy, and as such have been making themselves a fairly attractive target for streaming options.

Oct 30, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (54) celebrates with defensive end Joey Bosa (99) after recovering a fumble in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 27-19. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This week though, they take on David Johnson and the Arizona Cardinals, and I know Carson Palmer isn’t the quarterback we though he’d be, but they have a running back who is more than we imagined he could be in his second season.

SLEEPER – San Diego Chargers D/ST

San Diego Chargers @ Carolina Panthers – Sunday, December 11th @ 1:00 PM EST

This all comes down to Cam Newton. One of the things that makes him so entertaining to watch also makes him vulnerable to a defense like the Chargers’.

This secondary has picked off all but two of the quarterbacks they’ve faced and is fairly good at pressuring the quarterback

despite being 27th in the NFL in sacks.

Joey Bosa is deceptively good dropping off in coverage, and if he can get into a passing lane he could find himself with the ball in his hands.

A pick-six of fumble return for a touchdown is always a possibility with a quarterback who takes so many risks, and this defense will be looking to take advantage.

Dec 4, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) looks to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports


Let’s Recap our selections for this weekends’ match-ups…


Dec 4, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) runs with the ball during the second half against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Tampa Bay won 28-21. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

QB, Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB, Eli Manning, New York Giants

RB, Matt Forte, New York Jets

RB, Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals

WR, Tyrell Williams, San Diego Chargers

WR, Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TE, Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

D/ST, Minnesota Vikings


Dec 4, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) throws the ball during the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots won 26-10. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

QB, Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

QB, Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

RB, LeGarrette Blount and James White, New England Patriots

RB, Christine Michael, Green Bay Packers

WR, Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

WR, Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins

TE, Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts

D/ST, Miami Dolphins


Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder (80) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

QB, Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

QB, Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

RB, Lamar Miller, Houston Texans

RB, Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers

WR, DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

WR, Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins

TE, Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers

D/ST, San Diego Chargers


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The Pewter Projection

Dec 4, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) reacts after scoring a first quarter touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Your weekly lineup provided by the analysis and projections The Pewter Plank brings you every week.

QB – Jameis Winston vs New Orleans Saints

RB – Matt Forte @ San Francisco 49ers

RB – Jeremy Hill @ Cleveland Browns

WR – Tyrell Williams @ Carolina Panthers

WR – Mike Evans vs New Orleans Saints

WR – DeAndre Hopkins @ Indianapolis Colts

TE – Vance McDonald vs New York Jets

K – Kai Forbath @ Jacksonville Jaguars

D/ST – Minnesota Vikings D/ST @ Jacksonville Jaguars

So, there we have it. Week 14 NFL action has already begun with the Chiefs defeating Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders on Thursday Night Football.

Send your questions, comments and individual analysis to our official Twitter feed, to any of our contributors or experts. We can’t get to them all of course, but we’ll get to as many as we can each week.

Which of our starters will hit pay-dirt for your fantasy football team, which of our sits will bust through the doubt and put up top numbers anyway, and which of our sleepers will give a burst to your daily fantasy lineups? Come back next week to get your Week 15 insight and advice. Good luck to all those in the playoffs!

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