Jaguars defense and special teams (31 percent)
Since allowing their highest passer rating in Week 9 to Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts (123.5), the Jaguars have not allowed a passer rating higher than 89.8, several points below the league average of 94.3. That’s pushed them up to No. 5 on Football Outsiders defensive ratings, which is adjusted to account for strength of schedule. Not only are they peaking at the right time for anyone bold enough to start them in the fantasy playoffs, next week the Washington Redskins will come to town, with newly-promoted starting quarterback Josh Johnson under center. Mark Sanchez was benched in the third against the New York Giants on Sunday.
Broncos defense and special teams (35 percent)
Heading into Week 14 the Broncos had the second-best defense, per Football Outsiders. The high ranking is largely due to the team’s ability to get to the passer: After adjusting their sack rate to account for the offensive line faced, they rank third overall (9.1 percent) with just a few ticks separating them from the top two teams in the NFL this year, which are Pittsburgh (9.1 percent) and Detroit (9.5 percent), respectively.
Their next opponent, the Cleveland Browns, has a strong pass blocking unit (second-best per Pro Football Focus), but their overall offense is weak, scoring 1.7 points per drive in 2018, the seventh-worst in the NFL.
Ian Thomas, TE, Carolina Panthers (75 percent)
The team’s injury replacement for starting tight end Greg Olsen is filling in admirably. Last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Thomas caught five passes for 46 yards, and on Sunday against the Browns, he caught nine of a team-high 11 targets for 77 yards. The rookie out of Indiana hasn’t caught a touchdown yet, but a steady diet of targets helps keep his floor high.
Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills (Available in 84 percent of fantasy leagues)
In Weeks 12 and 13, no quarterback produced more fantasy points than Allen, and it isn’t close: His 55 points over those two weeks are almost nine points more than Russel Wilson, who was second (46.7). Allen on Sunday tossed 206 yards and two interceptions and had 101 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Jets, breaking Michael Vick’s three-game rushing record.
Allen might not be able to run as well against Detroit in Week 15 — the Lions allow a league-low 1.8 yards per carry to quarterbacks in 2018 per data from TruMedia — but he could have solid production through the air: Detroit is allowing the second-highest passer rating (110.8) in 2018.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinatti Bengals (75 percent)
In Week 13, Bernard garnered a season-high eight targets against the Broncos, only to see him get three carries and two targets in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Chargers. The good news should come back in Week 15 when the team hosts the Oakland Raiders, the second-worst defense in the NFL this year, per Football Outsiders, and a squad that is allowing a 108.6 passer rating against when opposing quarterbacks targets running backs out of the backfield, per TruMedia.
Curtis Samuel, WR, Carolina Panthers (68 percent)
Samuel played 112 of the team’s 129 offensive snaps in Weeks 12 and 13, and in Week 14, he caught 4 of 8 targets for 80 yards. If the New Orleans Saints cover him with P.J. Williams and Eli Apple next week, he could be in for another solid game. Those two have combined to allow eight touchdowns in coverage this year.
Zay Jones, WR, Buffalo Bills (83 percent)
Jones didn’t have as solid of a game as you would expect against the Jets (three catches for 29 yards) but he did have nine targets. And, as Buffalo’s slot receiver, he will likely not face Darius Slay in coverage next week. Instead, expect him to matchup against Nevin Lawson, who has allowed a 116.7 passer rating when targeted in the slot this season. Only nine other cornerbacks have been worse than Lawson, per Pro Football Focus.
Elijah McGuire, RB, New York Jets (82 percent)
McGuire’s fantasy value is pegged to the health of starter Isaiah Crowell, who left with a shoulder injury in the second quarter. But in his stead McGuire carried the ball 17 times for 60 yards and a score, 47 of those yards coming after contact. He caught 3 of 4 targets, as well.
He isn’t the most bruising runner — he only had one missed tackle Sunday giving him four for the year — and isn’t a viable option next week against the Houston Texans. But if you get really desperate in Week 16, and McGuire appears to be “the guy” for the Jets during the game against the Green Bay Packers, he might be worth a flex play if you are an underdog — the Packers defense ranks 27th against the run with the fourth-worst performance against running backs catching passes out of the backfield, per Football Outsiders.