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Fantasy Football: Setting Your Playoff Lineup

Scott Engel at previews Week 15 around the NFL from a fantasy football perspective.

The Seahawks can wrap up the NFC West title this week. At the same time, many Fantasy players can punch their ticket to the next round of their playoffs, and in a heavy percentage of leagues, that means getting to the Super Bowl. There's a tremendous amount of internal pressure that comes with a chance to play for it all. You may obsess more than ever and second-guess yourself too much when faced with close lineup decisions. But if you have gotten this far, you have likely done so without overthinking things, so don't start doing so now.

Some Fantasy QBs have difficult matchups that may make you think twice about starting them. Andrew Luck faces Minnesota, which allows 13.45 Fantasy Points Per Game to opposing quarterbacks, third-best in the league. Drew Brees travels to Arizona, and the Cardinals allow 14.31 FFPG to the position, fourth-best among all teams. In most cases you are still going with your stars at QB. But if you have or can acquire Joe Flacco, who faces an Eagles defense that has yielded 31.08 FFPG over the past four weeks, fourth-highest during that span, you can actually reserve Brees, Luck or even possibly Ben Roethlisberger (at Cincinnati), who like Brees, has played better at home this season. Flacco has two 300-yard games and six TD passes in his past two games. Tyrod Taylor faces the Browns, who have surrendered 19.58 FFPG to the position this year, most among AFC teams. He is a Top 12 Fantasy start this week, although with the Bills employing a fine ground game, he will have less statistical upside than a Luck or Brees regardless of matchup. You should be able to comfortably use QBs like Philip Rivers or Kirk Cousins over Brees or Luck.

This should be a rebound week for Russell Wilson at home against the Rams. You can expect at least adequate Fantasy production from him and a good running game should set him up for play action success downfield. The Seahawks have not lost a home game and Wilson should be back in form in what seems like a good matchup. The Rams have allowed 20.91 FFPG to opposing QBs over the past four weeks, third highest in the league during that span. Los Angeles does have a formidable defensive front, but Wilson should be able to escape frequently and make enough plays as both a passer and runner.

Thomas Rawls is healthy again and you can look for him be a featured prominently, as a strong running attack, especially early in the game, can establish more optimum offensive balance and allow the defense to spend less time on the field. The Rams allow 18.78 FFPG to opposing running backs, the fifth-most in the NFC. The Rams are physical, but Rawls is a tough runner who welcomes contact and a healthy workload will get him into a good rhythm. The Seahawks can also work him often later in the game to protect a lead, and he could see a lot of carries this week, so start him as a RB1.

Tevin Coleman has upside again this week against the 49ers defense, which allows a league-high 27.83 FFPG to running backs. The Falcons allow 21.21 FFPG to the position, though, second-worst in the NFC, so Carlos Hyde could deliver another terrific outing in the same game. The Steelers allow 20.88 FFPG to running backs, second most in the AFC, and Jeremy Hill is a top starter who has taken advantage of an increased workload recently. Kenneth Farrow may start for San Diego against a very vulnerable Oakland run defense, and he is worth RB2 consideration. The Colts are another team that canbe exploited by RBs, and if you are digging deep for help in a larger league, turn to Jerick McKinnon in PPR formats and Matt Asiata in standard leagues.

At wide receiver, Tyreek Hill has established himself as a standout playmaker, and has earned the right to be locked into your playoff lineup. The Titans allow a league-high 26.60 FFPG to opposing WRs, and you should expect more highlights from Hill this week. The 49ers allow an NFC-high 26.58 FFPG to the position, and Taylor Gabriel has emerged as another thrill artist this season who has helped Fantasy teams reach and advance in their playoffs. Employ him as a certain starter this week. The Packers allow 25.95 FFPG to WRs, and Alshon Jeffery is back for Chicago this week. Matt Barkley has not hesitated to sling the ball frequently in two of his three starts, so pop Jeffery back into your lineup. The underrated Pierre Garcon should be a quality WR3 again this week as he takes on Carolina. Marquise Lee is a solid WR3 start vs. Houston in PPR as well. Don't hesitate to start any of these aforementioned wideouts in your Fantasy playoffs, as they have definitely earned their recommended starting status. These may not be familiar superstar names, but the production and matchups justify using them.

Over the past four weeks, the Rams have allowed 31.35 FFPG to opposing wide receivers, the third-highest total in the league during that span. So expect Doug Baldwin to play a key role in your Fantasy playoff outlooks this week. As Wilson bounces back, he will naturally get Baldwin in the mix. Tyler Lockett will be a big play threat as Wilson breaks the pocket and makes his customary creative plays downfield. He is certainly worth consideration as a WR3 starter in larger leagues.

Look for the Seahawks to make a strong effort to get Jimmy Graham back into the flow this week, and he should find the end zone at least once. Graham has all five of his TD catches at home this season. Over the past four weeks, no NFC team has allowed more points from Fantasy defenses than the Rams (55). They have 10 turnovers during that span and have also yielded 11 sacks. Bobby Wagner and Kam Chancellor should lead the way on run defense vs. Todd Gurley, and look for the secondary to be opportunistic against rookie QB Jared Goff. The Seahawks defense is a top start at the position this week.

Ladarius Green is an upside play at TE against the Bengals. Greg Olsen should have another good week vs. Washington. Top defensive stream plays include Miami vs, the Jets, the Packers vs. the Bears and Houston against Jacksonville.

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