It’s time! The fantasy football semi-finals are here, and of course, you don’t need any help. After all, we didn’t have massive duds from erstwhile studs last week, and nobody has been hurt recently. You don’t need to find out about players available in at least 50% of Yahoo! leagues who can help you make it to the next round this week. And those of you in deep leagues? Don’t even look at the guys available in at least 90% of leagues as of writing. After all, you don’t need help. So go ahead and close this article.
Jake Browning at Pittsburgh (46% rostered)
Jake Browning is the talk of the NFL, as the 2019 undrafted free agent exacted revenge on the Minnesota Vikings, the team that cut him in 2021. His week fifteen performance marked the third-straight game for Browning with at least 19 fantasy points, and he did that against just one team inside the top ten in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. This week, he gets the Steelers, who are growing increasingly terrible on defense thanks to Damontae Kazee’s suspension, Minkah Fitzpatrick’s injury, and general suckitude. They’ve allowed 6 passing touchdowns and 455 passing yards in the last two games… to Bailey Zappe and Gardner Minshew.
Joe Flacco at Houston (32% rostered)
Flacco is currently questionable with a calf injury, but the old man is playing on Sunday against the Texans. He’s finished all three games of 2023 with at least 17 fantasy points while taking on the Rams, Jags, and Bears. While those three teams all rank in the top 12 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and his performances should be taken with a grain of salt… the Texans also rank inside the top 12 in fantasy points to the position, giving up the seventh-most points on the year. They tricked us into thinking that Zach Wilson was good just a couple of weeks ago, after all. The worst-case scenario is that Joe Flacco volumes himself into a good game: he has at least 44 pass attempts in each of his three starts this year.
Nick Mullens versus Detroit (9% rostered)
Is Nick Mullens good? Probably not. Is the Nick Mullens reclamation project going to end well? Probably as well as hero-turned-emergency-quarterback Joshua Dobbs’ reclamation project ended. But, as Nick Mullens and the Minnesota passing game are currently in berserker mode, we can ride that train a little while longer. Mullens threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Bengals’ pass defense. The Lions matchup this week is another juicy one, as they allow the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks on the year. They’ve given up at least 17 fantasy points to quarterbacks (if you include the Carr-Hill New Orleans Clown Show) in every game since their week 9 bye.
Tyler Boyd at Pittsburgh (50% rostered)
Boyd is squeaking in under the wire and with good reason. I outlined above how the Steelers have become a defeatable matchup in the Jake Browning piece, but Tyler Boyd should be able to take advantage of that soft matchup with Ja’Marr Chase on the shelf this weekend with a shoulder injury. The super backup to both Chase and Tee Higgins has been thrust into the WR2 role in four games this season due to injuries to Tee Higgins. He averaged a 21% target share in those games, notching 5 catches for 50 yards per contest, while finishing as WR36 in those weeks at 10 PPR points without any touchdowns.
Wan’Dale Robinson at Philadelphia (11% rostered)
Sometimes you have to get a little crazy with it, and given that most wide receivers under 50% rostered have bad matchups or haven’t been getting volume lately, I’ll take the guy who has both(?). While Darius Slayton had eight targets last week, and Wan’Dale had only four, Robinson has been the consistent medium-range threat for the Giants as of late. This is really about the matchup more than anything else: the Eagles are on an incredible skid and have bled fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season. There’s literally no better matchup than the Eagles, as they allow the most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this year.
Parker Washington at Tampa Bay (5% rostered)
While Washington will likely have C.J. Beathard throwing him the football this weekend, he will also likely serve as the Jaguars’ #2 wide receiver thanks to Christian Kirk’s IR trip and Zay Jones suffering a hamstring injury last week. He has six targets in two of the last three games and is averaging over 10 PPR points per game in the first three games with targets of his career. The Buccaneers are a joke of a defense right now, with Devin White just up and deciding he wasn’t going to play anymore, and the rest of the defense following suit but doing so on the field. The Buccos allow the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers, and at least 9 PPR points to eight wide receivers in their last five games. That includes decent games from Josh Downs, Dontayvion Wicks, and Jonathan Mingo.
Tyjae Spears versus Seattle (47% rostered)
Nobody on the Titans had a good week last week, but things should get a little better on the ground this week, even if (or especially because) it might be Ryan Tannehill under center. The Seahawks have had a dreadful run defense this season, allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, as well as the eighth-most receiving yards to running backs, as well as the eighth-most rushing yards. They are also third in touchdowns allowed to running backs on the season. Spears is well-positioned to take advantage of this matchup, as he is getting a lot more opportunities lately. Over the last three games, the rookie running back is averaging 11 rush attempts, as well as 5 targets per game. It’s a great volume to try to take advantage of this woeful Seattle running back defense.
Jerick McKinnon versus Las Vegas (42% rostered)
The Raiders are a terrible run defense that will give the Chiefs a Christmas present on Monday morning: a massive blowout. With Isiah Pacheco set to return for the Christmas Day game, Clyde Edwards-Helaire will return to working only on some downs. Unfortunately for the “correlation doesn’t equal causation” folks, it’s December, which means that it’s once again Jerick McKinnon time. McKinnon had two touchdowns last week* and now has 3 catches and at least one touchdown in each of the two December games this year. This comes after he averaged over 1.5 touchdowns per game last December, and the Chiefs deployed him to incredible effect during the playoffs in 2021. Once it turns to December, it’s McKinnon SZN.
Kevin Harris at Denver (0% rostered)
This isn’t just because Harris scored a touchdown last weekend. It’s because Harris scored a touchdown last weekend on four touches, and the Broncos are the worst running back defense in the NFL.
Look it’s hard down here under 10% rostered. I don’t often punt a position but if you’re scraping down here then maybe you should resign yourself to your fantasy season being over. You can focus on this, instead.
Cade Otton versus Jacksonville (32% rostered)
While Otton has just seven targets in the last three weeks, it’s not for a lack of trying on the Buccaneers’ part. Otton has run a route on 81.1% of Tampa Bay’s dropbacks over the last four weeks. To put that in perspective, he is ahead of Travis Kelce and Trey McBride, and behind just George Kittle, Dallas Goedert, and T.J. Hockenson at this rate. The Jags have given up over 45 PPR points to tight ends in the last two weeks, and given that route running volume, it’s likely that the Buccaneers’ offense and Jags’ defense conspire to give him something to work with this week.
Tyler Conklin versus Washington (16% rostered)
Ty Conkowski is getting beaucoup targets. Also, a side note, I was about 30 years old when I realized that word wasn’t spelled “bookoo.” It’s an inverse inventory/invent-ory situation. Anyway, Conklin has at least five targets in each of his last four games and is averaging a smidge under 4 catches per contest. While his yardage isn’t quite there, I am giving him the 4/40 streaming stamp of approval thanks to the consistent target volume lately. The Commanders are a good matchup for everything because they’ve given up. That team is completely disinterested in winning, or playing defense. They only have seen eight tight ends get at least five targets this season, and six of them had at least 8 PPR points. Five of them had at least 13.6 PPR points.
Tanner Hudson at Pittsburgh (5% rostered)
Hudson has back-to-back 9.9+ PPR fantasy point days, and the Bengals will be without Ja’Marr Chase in a primo matchup against the Steelers this weekend. I’ve already outlined twice in this article about how their pass defense sucks. Just read the Jake Browning part above for that part of it. As for the Hudson of it all, he has at least four targets in six of his last seven games and should find the end zone in this one.