I was 7 years old when the original Star Wars movie was released and, as often is the case, what was important to me at age 7 became really important to me -- beloved, even -- now that I'm ... older. I've made all my kids watch "A New Hope," and while there are varying degrees of appreciation from them (it can move a bit slow for the Snapchat generation) they all enjoyed it much more than you'd think they would for a movie that came out in 1977. I can't tell you how much joy I felt the other night when I came home and my wife and 6-year-old twins were watching the last 20 minutes of "The Empire Strikes Back," which was on cable somewhere.
"Daddy, I love R2-D2!" one of the girls screamed.
It's an interesting phenomenon. We discussed this on the podcast earlier this year and it was discovered that "Thirsty" Kyle Soppe, our show's mid-20s researcher, had never seen Star Wars. We assigned him a written report on it right then and there (which he aced with flying colors.)
There are more people who haven't seen any of the Star Wars movies. I know of at least one, my friend DJ, who is a writer and producer on The Fantasy Show. He is oddly and hilariously proud of it. So for those people like DJ -- or Kyle three months ago -- hopefully you will enjoy this column and it will encourage you to watch them all. And if, like me, you've seen them all way too many times to count and you're super-hyped for "The Last Jedi," hopefully you will enjoy an ode to a galaxy far, far away with some of my favorite Star Wars quotes and what they can teach us (well, loosely; let's not get crazy here) about prospering in a fantasy football playoffs universe fraught with danger.
"Get in there, you big furry oaf! I don't care what you smell!" -- Han Solo
That's right. Dive into this column. I don't care that, after a quick Google search of "Star Wars quotes" I discovered a ton of other people who have written about their favorite Star Wars quotes. I don't care that the "take a bunch of quotes from something in popular culture and relate them to something else" premise has also been done to death. I don't care that these aren't all the "best" quotes from the movies but rather just moments I really liked, browsed from StarWars.com and ShortList.com, so if any of the words are wrong, send your complaints there. I don't care that I wrote a baseball column with this exact same premise and some of the same quotes (including this one) five years ago. I also don't care that they are somewhat out of order; save your nerd fight for someone who does. In short, this is my column, there's a brand new Star Wars movie out, Luke is in it, I'm geeked up, so I don't care what you smell, you big furry oaf. Get in there.
"Great, kid! Don't get cocky!" -- Han Solo
It's the fantasy playoffs. But every week is a new battle. Your team might be full of rock stars, but ask anyone who had Tom Brady, Alvin Kamara, Mike Evans and Jimmy Graham how they did last week. If you're still alive this week, that's awesome. But nothing is guaranteed. Scour that wire, even if it's done defensively, to take someone away from your opponent. Do the research. Grind the numbers. You're not done yet, kid. Don't get cocky.
"When 900 years old, you reach ... Look as good, you will not." -- Yoda
It has been a tough two weeks, I get it. And yes, the past few years have seen a slight dip for Tom Brady's numbers in the fantasy playoffs compared to what he was doing in the regular season. But he gets Gronk back this week, a second week of Chris Hogan and a matchup with the Steelers with playoff seeding implications coming off a loss in which his Patriots were embarrassed. Maybe you don't put any stock in the old "chip on the shoulder" game, but in the past three seasons, Brady has averaged almost four points more per game coming off a loss (24.52 PPG) than a win (20.55 PPG), eclipsing 28 PPG 60 percent of the time. You're starting ticked-off 40-year-old Tom Brady.
"You can't win, Darth. Strike me down, and I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine." Obi-Wan Kenobi
Damien Williams. Ty Montgomery. Terrance West. Ezekiel Elliott. Rob Kelley. All of them, for one reason or another, were struck down and in their places have come players who are more powerful than some of the guys you drafted. Yeah, it's a stretch to use this quote for this, but whatever. It's a Week 15 column and two lines ago, I quoted a 900-year-old puppet. Just go with it. Kenyan Drake, Jamaal Williams and Alex Collins are legit must-start studs, and, in a flex sort of way, Alfred Morris and Samaje Perine will be helpful to you.
"It's a trap!" -- Admiral Ackbar
You knew this one was coming. But worrying about DeAndre Hopkins because he is facing Jacksonville is silly. Yes, a very tough matchup and Houston's down to its third-string QB, but remember that he went 7 for 55 and a score in Week 1 versus those Jags, he's an elite talent and gets such a huge target share that I can't imagine getting cute and benching him.
"Fear is the path to the dark side" -- Yoda
Playoffs baby. Not the time for the timid. Winners are decisive. You've gotten this far, baby, you got this. Own it.
"I find your lack of faith disturbing" -- Darth Vader
Look, I get it. Totally. But for the QB desperate among you, Blake Bortles -- you heard me, Blake Bortles -- now has three straight games with 18 fantasy points. He's the fifth-highest scoring QB in that span. He has at least 16 fantasy points in six of his past seven games (No. 12 in that span). He's averaging 18.2 points at home this year and now he gets a Texans defense that gives up the fourth-most points to opposing quarterbacks this season. Bortles is a legit high-end QB2 streamer this week.
"Charming to the last. You don't know how hard I found it, signing the order to terminate your life." -- Governor Tarkin
I wanted it to work out, Marcus Mariota. I really did.
"Do. Or do not. There is no try." -- Yoda
Forget Star Wars. That's just one of my favorite quotes of all time, period.
"Obi-Wan Kenobi. Obi-Wan. Now that's a name I have not heard in a long time. A long time." -- Obi-Wan Kenobi
It has been a long eight weeks, Aaron Rodgers. A long eight weeks. But man is it good to see you.
"I suggest a new strategy, R2: Let the Wookiee win." -- C-3P0
Hey, they don't all have to be about fantasy football. That's just good life advice.
Let's get to it. As always, the Force is strong with Kyle Soppe and Jacob Nitzberg, who helped at various parts of this column. Reminder, please check my rankings Sunday morning for the latest as news and value changes throughout this week. Here we go.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 15
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Yes, no doubt, the Patriots' defense is legit these days but so is #HomeBen, who, since that disaster against the Jags in Week 5, has now completed 67 percent of his passes at Heinz Field, averaged 345 yards a game and has 12 touchdowns against just two interceptions in those games. He's averaging more than 26 fantasy points a game in that home stretch, and it's no surprise Vegas has this as the highest over/under on the board this week. Gimme #HomeBen as a top-five play this week in a potential shootout with the Patriots.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Think a lot of people see Carolina and go, hmm, that's a tough matchup. I humbly submit: not so much. The Panthers have allowed multiple passing touchdowns in four of the past five games (and eight of the past 11) and given up the fourth-most passing yards per game the past four weeks. Do I really need to give you "Aaron Rodgers is good" stats? I get it, he's rusty, but I don't care. I'd have to have a pretty good option to leave A-Rod on the bench. When things are desperate, A-Rod delivers, as he was the best QB in terms of fantasy points in the final six weeks of 2016. He's a top-five play for me.
Others receiving votes: Case Keenum is averaging 276 passing yards a game since Week 8, and should deliver low-end QB1 numbers against a Bengals squad that has coughed up more than 250 passing yards in six straight games, including against the likes of Brock Osweiler, Mitchell Trubisky and the currently awful Marcus Mariota. ... Don't look now but Blake Bortles has bortled his way to at least 16 points in six of his past seven games (QB11 in that span) and has three straight games with at least 18 points. He's the fifth-best QB in fantasy the past three weeks and faces a Texans team that allows the fourth-most points to opposing QBs. ... Speaking of good matchups, the Giants have allowed six QBs to reach 20 fantasy points in a game, tied for most in the league. They are 28th vs. the pass the past four weeks, giving Nick Foles some streamer appeal for the desperate.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 15
Kirk Cousins, Redskins: Look, you know I love Kirk long term. Please, Washington, pay this man. I believe he is a true franchise QB worthy of being paid as one of the top QBs in the NFL. But behind that beat-up offensive line (the entire offense is so beat-up), I have a hard time trusting him this week in 10-team leagues. Since Week 13 he's merely QB24, averaging just 10.7 points a game in that span. Facing an Arizona squad that is top 10 in fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs since Week 10 and the third-best passing defense during the past four weeks, I have Cousins outside my top 12.
Alex Smith, Chiefs: Back home at Arrowhead (ding!) where, oddly, Smith has been merely QB17 among qualifiers in points per game, it's hard to get excited about Smith this week as he now has less than 14 points in three of his past four weeks. Yes, some brutal luck with drops and overturned calls last week (I see you, Kelce), but still. Hard to see that turning around against a Chargers team that allows the third-fewest points per game to opposing QBs (including the fewest the past four weeks) and has allowed just 15.1 points or less to QBs in 10 of 13 games this year (tied for the most such games). He had just 15.1 points against the Bolts in Week 3 (you know, when he was the hottest QB in football), so I don't see a huge game from Smith here.
Running backs I love in Week 15
Jordan Howard, Bears: The next time the Lions hold Howard under 110 total yards will be the first time (6.31 yards per carry, three career games). Since Week 6, the Lions are allowing the third-most RB PPG and a league-high 2.11 yards per carry AFTER first contact, while the Bears are gaining the fifth-most yards per carry BEFORE first contact in that span. Detroit is 30th against the run the past four weeks, making Howard a top-10 play for me.
Devonta Freeman, Falcons: Loved the workload he got last week and now on extra rest, he faces a Tampa Bay team that has allowed multiple RB rushing touchdowns in three straight games. The Falcons played the Bucs in Week 12 (Freeman missed that game) and ran all over them -- their running backs rushed 26 times for 132 yards and 2 TDs in that one -- so I would expect more of the same on Monday night as they have gone conservative lately. Since Week 7, Matt Ryan is dropping back to pass at the fourth-lowest rate in the NFL. Freeman a top-10 play against the 23rd-ranked run defense the past four weeks.
Alex Collins, Ravens: This is a great matchup for Collins, as the Cleveland Browns have allowed the seventh-most RB points per game since Week 8 and surrendered the 11th-most yards after first contact per carry in that span. Since the Ravens' bye in Week 10, it has been all Collins (128-77 snap advantage over Danny Woodhead) and he has been the fifth-best RB in fantasy in total points. I have Collins as a top-10 play this week.
Others receiving votes: Off his big Monday night, Kenyan Drake faces a Bills defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to running backs in the league this season. ... Since Week 8, teams are averaging 28 running back carries a game against Washington, third most in the NFL. That volume should play out this week for Kerwynn Williams, as Arizona's lead back has gotten 89 percent of the RB carries since Week 6. Williams is one of just three RBs with at least 16 carries and 70 yards in each of the past two weeks (Melvin Gordon and Drake being the other two). Williams is a solid flex play for me. ... Mike Davis is banged up, so check the injury reports all week, but the Rams are giving up the fourth-most yards per carry before first contact this season (20.3 percent above league average) and are 27th against the run the past four weeks. You could do worse than Davis. ... Jonathan Stewart was started in less than 10 percent of leagues last week in his huge game, but he's back on the flex radar this week. He's had at least 15 carries in three of the past four games, and only Todd Gurley and Carlos Hyde have more goal-to-go rushes than Stewart this season. He's touchdown dependent, but against the Packers' bottom-10 run defense the past four weeks, he's got a decent shot.
Running backs I hate in Week 15
Lamar Miller, Texans: I get it, with third-string QB T.J. Yates under center this Sunday, maybe the Texans try to lean on the run on the road at Jacksonville, but I'm not sure how successful that will be. Since the Jags' Week 8 bye, they have allowed opposing RBs to average 3.6 yards per carry (seventh fewest in the league in that span) and just one rushing score. In his past four games, Miller is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry with just one TD. Miller is a very low-end RB2 this week.
DeMarco Murray, Titans: I know, it feels like Murray is a weekly staple here, but since the Titans' Week 8 bye, he's averaging 2.77 yards per carry, 49th among 50 qualified players. Derrick Henry is averaging 5.48 yards per carry in that span. However, he's also on the hate list this week because of a matchup with San Francisco that, believe it or not, isn't as appealing as it was earlier in the season. Since Week 8, the 49ers have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs, are top 10 in fewest yards allowed per carry, fewest rushing touchdowns allowed and number of 20-yard runs against. They haven't allowed a rushing score to a running back since Week 8 and Murray is going to need a TD here to pay off, as he is averaging just 10.8 carries per game in his past six.
"Bengals RB": As of this writing, we don't know if it will be Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard or a combo, but either way, expect tough sledding against a Vikings team that leads the league in terms of fewest yards gained per carry AFTER first contact. Why is that an issue? The Bengals are 29th in yards per carry BEFORE first contact. Yes, Jonathan Stewart had three touchdowns against the Vikes last week, anything can happen, but even with that, they still are allowing the fewest running back fantasy points per game.
Wide receivers I love in Week 15
Jordy Nelson, Packers: I know it has looked ugly at times lately, but with Aaron Rodgers back, so too is Jordy Nelson in fantasy lineups. At the time Rodgers got hurt this season, Nelson was WR6. And it's not a fluke. Over the past five years, on a per-game basis, Nelson has averaged 19.8 FPPG with Rodgers under center. That's a 41-game sample size, which would make him WR3 this season, behind only Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins. Facing a Panthers team that is 29th against the pass the past four weeks, Nelson is a top-15 play for me this week.
Chris Hogan, Patriots: The box score wasn't pretty, but you can say that for most of the Patriots last week. However, in his first game back since Week 8, Hogan played 89.1 percent of the snaps. Despite missing significant time, he remains the only player to have a streak longer than three straight games (he did it in four straight) with 60 receiving yards AND a receiving TD this season. In fact, no one had a streak longer than three last season, either). He almost had a score last week, and you have to like the matchup here against a Steelers team that is bottom 10 in pass defense the past four weeks, and since Week 9 ranks as a bottom-seven defense against deep passes (completions, yards, completion percentage and touchdowns). I have Hogan inside my top 20.
Marquise Goodwin, 49ers: Since Week 10, he has quietly been the 15th-best wide receiver in fantasy on a per-game basis. He has gone four straight games now with at least 11 points and has 20 targets in Jimmy Garoppolo's two starts. Facing a Titans team that has allowed more than 38 WR points in the majority of games this season (seven of 13), I like Goodwin as a top-25 play with upside this week.
Others receiving votes: Tampa Bay has allowed the most receptions, second-most receiving yards, highest completion percentage and most receiving scores to wideouts lined up in the slot. So yeah, gimme some Mohamed Sanu, who has more than 11 points in six of his past eight games. ... Dede Westbrook now has at least five receptions and eight targets in three straight games. He has at least 75 yards in back-to-back games, and since making his NFL debut in Week 11 he leads the Jaguars in receptions, receiving yards and targets. It's a great matchup this week, as the Texans allow the eighth-most fantasy points to WRs. ... As Mike Clay notes in his always excellent WR/CB matchup column, New England gives up the most fantasy points by players lined up in the slot this season, so JuJu Smith-Schuster is worth a flier if you're in a deeper league.
Wide receivers I hate in Week 15
Tyreek Hill, Chiefs: You already know I think Alex Smith struggles here, and part of the reason why is Hill. The Chargers lead the NFL in fewest deep yards allowed (54.5 per game), deep completion rate (27.9 percent) and deep completions (1.9 per game). We know how much Hill relies on yards after the catch, right? Well, the Chargers are also better than league average in terms of limiting yards after the catch (both per game and per reception). He's a low-end WR2 for me this week.
DeSean Jackson, Buccaneers: The Falcons are rarely beat deep. They allow just 54.7 deep yards per game (second fewest) and frankly, you don't know what you're getting out of Jackson targetwise. Here are his targets over his past seven games: 8-4-10-3-11-3-7. With just one touchdown and no catches gaining 25-plus yards during his past eight games, he's way too boom or bust for me in a crucial playoff week.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts: I don't even have him as a top-40 WR this week. In his past eight games, Hilton has 19 receptions for 345 yards and 3 TDs. More than half the yards (175) and two of the three TDs came in one of those games (Week 9 vs. Texans). Otherwise, he has had two or fewer catches and fewer than 30 yards in six of his past eight games. Combine that with a short-week matchup against a Broncos defense that has yet to allow a 100-yard game to a wide receiver this season and I just can't see using him.
Tight ends I love in Week 15
Jack Doyle, Colts: Great matchup for Doyle, as the Broncos have allowed a tight end touchdown in five of the past seven games, and overall, Denver gives up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Since Week 6, Doyle has struggled in three games against the Jags and Steelers (both top 11 in terms of fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends), but is averaging 17 points a game against all other opponents in that span.
Others receiving votes: Tight ends have accounted for nine of Jameis Winston's 14 touchdowns this season, putting Cameron Brate on the TE2 radar. ... For the desperate/touchdown chasers at tight end, of the guys who have very favorable matchups, Benjamin Watson, Ricky Seals-Jones and Charles Clay would be my suggestions.
Tight ends I hate in Week 15
Vernon Davis, Redskins: Yes, he got into the end zone last week, but that was his first touchdown since Week 3. He also had scored single-digit fantasy points in the three games prior to last week. Week 6 was the last time a TE had more than 42 receiving yards against Arizona. He's outside my top 10.
Greg Olsen, Panthers: It's Week 15. Even if he's fully healthy (no guarantee), there's literally nothing he has done this season to suggest faith in starting him against a Packers team that allows the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, wants you to know the Force is with you. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, the founder of the Fantasy Life app and a paid spokesperson for DRAFT.