In Week 15, the NFL shifts a couple of games to Saturday, leaving us 11 games on the main slate for Sunday afternoon. With just three weeks left in the regular season, many of the matchups have playoff implications while others are just teams playing out the rest of their lost season. Those teams are still worth checking out, though, since some will be trying to take a look at potential future contributors.
As is always the case in the last few weeks of the season, there are lots of potential value plays. Here is a look at the players with affordable salaries that I think are set up for a workload and matchup that I think will lead to production.
QUARTERBACK($6,000 and under)
Josh Allen, BUF vs. DET, $5,800 – The Bills’ rookie has been impressive since returning from an elbow injury and has run for at least 99 yards in three straight games. He actually had 100 in Week 12 as well before a kneel down dropped him back to 99. In those three games, he produced 26.3 DKFP against Jacksonville, 33.75 DKFP in Miami and 24.34 DKFP last week against the Jets. He hasn’t thrown for 250 yards in any of his nine games this season, but his running ability has kept him as a very reliable option. This week, he’ll take on the Lions’ defense in a matchup of two non-playoff teams in Buffalo.
Nick Mullens, SF vs. SEA, $4,800 – The 49ers knocked off the Broncos last week to improve to 2-3 with Mullens at QB. The undrafted free agent from Southern Miss has more than 22 DKFP in three of those five starts, including last week, when he threw for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He had an even better statistical week in Week 13, throwing for 414 yards and finishing with 26.66 DKFP. That big game came on the road against the Seahawks, who he’ll face again this week at home at Levi’s Stadium. Mullens probably won’t light up the Seahawks for another 400-plus yard day, but he has shown he can be productive in this system and in this matchup. I love him at this salary under $5K, which should allow you to spend up to get stars at other spots.
RUNNING BACK($5,000 and under)
Ito Smith, ATL vs. ARI, $3,700 – Smith has gotten more touches in the Falcons’ backfield than Tevin Colman ($4,200) in each of the past two weeks. Smith had 60 yards on 11 carries and added 14 yards on three catches for 10.4 DKFP last week in Green Bay. He has looked like the stronger of the two backs and comes nice and cheap going into a matchup with the Cardinals. Smith still will be in a timeshare but has nice upside since his is the side of the timeshare on the rise.
Kenneth Dixon, BAL vs. TB, $3,500 – The Ravens have had a very fluid backfield situation all season, but Dixon has brought some explosive potential since returning from IR in Week 13. He ran eight times for 37 carries and had 5.3 DKFP in his first game back but looked even better last week against the Chiefs. He ran eight times for 59 yards and a touchdown and added a 21-yard reception for a total of 15 DKFP in that contest. Coach John Harbaugh said he sees an expanding role for Dixon, who always has had intriguing potential but battled injury. He will split time with Gus Edwards ($4,400), forming a potent rushing attack in conjunction with Lamar Jackson ($5,900) in a very favorable matchup against the Buccaneers.
WIDE RECEIVER($5,000 and under)
Dante Pettis, SF vs. SEA, $4,400 – Even with Marquise Goodwin ($4,500) back from a personal absence, Pettis remained involved and in the starting lineup. With Pierre Garcon (knee) on IR, Pettis should stay that way the rest of the season. He has found the end zone four times in his past three games, catching 12-of-21 targets for 255 yards. His best game during that stretch resulted in 32.7 DKFP in Week 13 as he racked up 129 yards and two touchdowns on five catches. That big game came against the Seahawks, who the 49ers host this weekend in a rematch. Pettis has a high ceiling based on his big-play ability and now seems to have a locked in role in the San Francisco offense.
Randall Cobb, GB at CHI, $4,400 – After battling injury much of the season, Cobb returned in Week 13 against the Cardinals and had just 5.5 DKFP. With a new coach in place, Cobb had a better Week 14 catching 5-of-6 targets for 43 yards, a touchdown and 15.3 DKFP. It was his highest total since Week 1, when he torched the Bears for 142 yards, a touchdown and 32.2 DKFP. He’ll hope to find similar success in the rematch this week. Some of the Packers’ young receivers emerged earlier this season, but they have struggled recently, opening the door for Cobb to re-assert himself as the second receiver option behind Davante Adams ($7,900), who the Bears will focus their defense on this week.
Jordy Nelson, OAK at CIN, $4,200 – After the Raiders traded Amari Cooper ($7,500) to the Cowboys, Nelson appeared poised to become the No. 1 receiver. That wasn’t how things immediately played out, though, as Nelson battled a knee injury and even reportedly considered retiring. The past two weeks, though, he has looked fully healthy and been a huge part of the resurgence of Derek Carr ($5,400). Nelson caught 10-of-11 passes for 97 yards and 19.7 DKFP against the Chiefs and followed that with 10.8 DKFP on six catches for 48 yards against the Steelers. He hasn’t drawn much red zone work and hasn’t found the end zone since Week 5, but he has been getting heavy enough volume to be worth a look at this salary this week. He still has a high ceiling and gets a good matchup against the Bengals, who have given up nine WR touchdowns in their past eight games.
Trent Sherfield, ARI at ATL, $3,400 – With promising rookie Christian Kirk (foot) out for the season, Sherfield has become the Cardinals’ second WR, which sets him up for a great matchup against the Falcons this week. Sherfield was already acting as Arizona’s third receiver but saw his snap percentage increase to 93 percent against the Lions last week. He made the most of his extra chances, catching 5-of-7 targets for 77 yards and 12.7 DKFP. The 22-year-old undrafted free agent from Vanderbilt led Arizona in receiving yards in the loss, and he should get more chances to prove himself due to the Cardinals’ lack of depth. He has a very high ceiling as a boom-or-bust play at this very affordable salary.
TIGHT END($4,000 and under)
Vernon Davis, WAS at JAX, $3,200 – Jordan Reed’s annual injury waited longer than usual this year, but now it looks like his sprained big toe could keep him out the rest of the season. Even if he does return later this year, for this week, Davis should get increased workload for the Redskins as they visit the Jaguars. Jacksonville’s defense has been inconsistent all season and vulnerable to opposing TEs. Davis caught all four passes thrown his way for 31 yards and 9.1 DKFP against the Giants in Week 14, and he’ll be a great value if he’s the every-down TE for Josh Johnson ($4,300) in his first Washington start.
Anthony Firkser, TEN at NYG, $2,900 – The Titans lost Jonnu Smith (knee) for the rest of the season last Thursday after losing Delanie Walker (ankle) back in Week 1. Firkser is the next man up and already has been gaming an impact in the passing game. He has at least three catches in each of the past four weeks and is averaging 41.3 yards and 8.9 DKFP per game over that stretch. The Titans could use more options int he passing game, so Firkser is definitely a cheap TE to watch this week against the Giants.
DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS($2,800 and under)
ATL vs. ARI, $2,700 – The Falcons’ defense has been a big disappointment overall this season, but coach Dan Quinn will try to get his unit up for a visit from the Cardinals, in what is a great home matchup for the Falcons’ D. The Cardinals have turned the ball over 10 times in their past six games while allowing 22 sacks. Atlanta’s defense looked solid in its most recent home game, posting a season-high 11 DKFP against the Ravens. They’re a relatively safe play with upside based on matchup.
IND vs. DAL, $2,600 – The Colts’ defense didn’t force a turnover against the Texans, but it did get five sacks and a big divisional win on the road. The Colts have multiple sacks in three of their past four games and have allowed fewer than 30 points in six straight. They have averaged 8.7 DKFP in their six home games, and they’ll take on a Cowboys team that has five turnovers and 10 sacks allowed in its past two games.
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