Sneaky Starts: Week 15

Dec 16, 2020
Sneaky Starts: Week 15


All but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.

A good way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.

As of Week 4, the aFPA Hot Spots reports that you see on the site are now using 2020 data, so we can now pay serious attention to positional strength of schedule. A defense’s ranking against a particular position is listed in parenthesis next to each player.

As always, when faced with lineup decisions, it’s best to look at the custom projections for your league.

Let’s take a look at the top Sneaky Starts for Week 15...

Quarterbacks

Jalen Hurts, Eagles (@ ARI, 19)

Hurts surprisingly had a QB1-type week against the Saints, throwing for 167/1 and adding 106 yards rushing. Arizona has yielded the sixth-most rushing yards to quarterbacks this season. They shut down Daniel Jones last week, but yielded 351/1 to Jared Goff, 197/2 to Russell Wilson and 284/2 to Josh Allen in recent weeks.

Philip Rivers, Colts (vs. HOU, 30)

Rivers has been extremely consistent of late, throwing for 301/1 and 295/2 against Tennessee, 288/3 against Green Bay, 285/2 against Houston and 244/2 against Las Vegas in the last five games. His ceiling isn’t super-high because he never runs, but the matchup doesn’t get much better than the Texans, who just gave up 267/3 to Mitch Trubisky. Prior to their Week 13 game against Rivers (285/2), they gave up 365/1 to Cam Newton and 295/1 to Matthew Stafford.

Derek Carr, Raiders (vs. LAC, 25)

Carr burned me back in Week 12 in a prime matchup with the Falcons, turning in a measly 215 yards and failing to throw a touchdown. But since then, he has delivered on his frequent Sneaky Start status, posting 381/3 against the Jets and a surprising 316/2 against a good Colts defense last week. The Chargers are 25th in QB aFPA, but have been decent against pocket quarterbacks recently, allowing just 224/1 to Matt Ryan and 205/2 to Joe Flacco. This game has the highest total on the board (53.5).

Kirk Cousins, Vikings (vs. CHI, 11)

Cousins’ passing numbers against the Bucs were disappointing, but he added 41 yards rushing to finish with 17.1 fantasy points. Prior to that, he had three touchdown passes in three straight games. The Bears’ pass defense has been slipping a bit. They did pretty well against a shorthanded Deshaun Watson (219/1), but Matthew Stafford (402/3) and Aaron Rodgers (211/4) both produced against Chicago in recent weeks. Cousins had 292/2 against the Bears back in Week 10, has better weapons than Watson or Stafford, and will enjoy perfect conditions in the dome.

Mitch Trubisky, Bears (@ MIN, 13)

Trubisky threw for 267/3 against the Texans last week. He had three touchdowns against the Packers in Week 12 and went for 267/1 against the Lions in Week 13. The Vikings’ pass defense seems to be improving, but they gave up two touchdowns (and 8.52 yards per attempt) to Tom Brady last week, 280/1 to Mike Glennon, 267/1 to Teddy Bridgewater and three touchdowns to Andy Dalton in recent weeks.

Nick Mullens, 49ers (@ DAL, 21)

Mullens is always a dicey start, but given a favorable matchup against the Cowboys, he should deliver this week. He had 316/3 against the Bills in Week 13 and 260/1 against Washington last week. Meanwhile, Dallas has given up big numbers to anyone with a pulse, including 314/3 to Kirk Cousins and 306/3 to Ben Roethlisberger (both pocket passers) in recent weeks.

Running Backs

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