NFL

NFL Fantasy Picks: Under-the-radar players who can deliver playoff success

By Sports Desk December 14, 2022

Some leagues may have started playoffs last week, but with the arrival of Week 15 in the NFL, the fantasy postseason is now firmly in full swing.

The playoffs are a time when you need your star players to deliver, but that is not always possible.

Injuries or bad matchups can put stars in disadvantageous situations, and often fantasy managers are left needing to rely on lesser lights to help them secure glory.

Ahead of the start of a week in which several NFL teams will look to punch their postseason ticket, Stats Perform has picked out four somewhat under-the-radar players, and a defense, who are in a position to help fantasy managers enjoy playoff success.

Quarterback: Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings vs. Indianapolis Colts

The Vikings aren't exactly a sleeper team at 10-3, but as they lost to the Detroit Lions last week, you may have missed that their quarterback had an exceptional statistical game.

Cousins completed 75.6 per cent of his passes (31 of 41) for 425 yards and two touchdowns.

Indianapolis possess a stout defense, but the Colts will provide opposing offenses with opportunities. The Colts' opponents have had 148 drives, tied for the fifth-most in the league. Cousins might have to work harder this week, but the chances for him to have a decisive impact in the fantasy playoffs will certainly come. 

Running Back: Jordan Mason, San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

Yes, it's very much Christian McCaffrey's backfield in San Francisco, but on a short week having already lost Deebo Samuel for much of the stretch run due to a high-ankle sprain and an MCL sprain, the 49ers are likely to share the load a little more as they seek to clinch the NFC West title.

Mason will be the man to get the lion's share of carries that are not given to McCaffrey. He had 56 yards on 11 carries in San Francisco's dominant win over Tampa Bay in Week 14 and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry over the last three games, including five rushes of at least 10 yards.

If you are in the playoffs but in a bind at running back, Mason is an intriguing option against a Seahawks defense that has allowed 677 rushing yards over its last three games.

Wide Receiver: Zay Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Dallas Cowboys

The Jaguars remain in with a shot, albeit a small one, of reaching the postseason, with quarterback Trevor Lawrence showing continued signs of developing into the quarterback many have believed he could become since high school.

Eyebrows were raised in the offseason when the Jaguars handed a lucrative contract to Jones, but he has become a favourite target of Lawrence in recent weeks.

Over his last four games, Jones has 43 targets, tied for the sixth-most in the NFL since Week 10. In that span, he has two eight-catch games and an 11-reception performance. He went for 77 yards and a touchdown in last week's win over the Tennessee Titans, two weeks on from a 145-yard effort against the Baltimore Ravens. Against a Dallas defense that struggled to contain the Houston Texans last week, Jones is an extremely strong points per reception play.

Tight End: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Tennessee Titans @ Los Angeles Chargers

Finding a reliable fantasy tight end can be difficult at any point of the year, but it is key for fantasy managers hoping to prevail in the playoffs.

Okonkwo is enjoying an increasingly prominent role in the Titans' passing attack and has 10 receptions on 11 targets for 113 yards and a touchdown over his last two games.

The Chargers kept the Miami Dolphins in check last week, but they are still very susceptible to the pass, and Okonkwo is likely to be a weapon the Titans look to as they aim to exploit that vulnerability.

Defense/Special Teams: Washington Commanders vs. New York Giants

The Commanders have flown under most people's radars this season but are in position to sneak into the playoffs in part thanks to an impressive defense.

Washington's defense ranks tied third in the NFL by success rate allowed and, in a critical matchup with their NFC East rivals in primetime, faces a New York offense that over the last three weeks has averaged just 5.6 yards per pass play (sixth-worst) and 3.8 yards per rush (ninth-worst). If you have the Commanders' defense or are in a position to acquire it, do so.

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  • One dead and more than 20 injured in shooting near Kansas City Chiefs parade One dead and more than 20 injured in shooting near Kansas City Chiefs parade

    One person has died and more than 20 others have been injured after shots were fired near the scene of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade.

    A video on social media showed armed officers rush into Union Station on a day supporters gathered near the building at the end of the parade route to celebrate Sunday’s victory with the team’s players and staff.

    The Kansas City Police Department said at least 22 people suffered gunshot wounds, including the fatally injured victim, and confirmed three people had been taken into custody.

    Radio Station KKFI said on social media that one of their presenters, DJ Lisa Lopez, was killed in the shooting.

    KKFI said in a statement: “Our hearts and prayers are with her family. This senseless act has taken a beautiful person from her family and this KC Community.”

    Kansas City Police Department chief Stacey Graves said at a press conference: “At the conclusion of the Chiefs’ rally today, there were shots fired on the west side of Union Station.

    “Immediately, officers responded to the area, took two people into custody and also immediately rendered life-sustaining aid to those victims.”

    At a later briefing, she added: “We have confirmed there is one deceased person. Our gunshot total has went up to 22.

    “Right now, we’re still working on the total number of victims. This is still an active investigation.

    “We do have three persons detained and under investigation for today’s incident.

    “Our investigators are working with all of the surviving victims to connect them with loved ones. We are also working to identify our deceased victim so we can notify their family as soon as possible.”

    The Kansas City Chiefs confirmed their players, coaches and staff were all safe and accounted for.

    “We are truly saddened by the senseless act of violence that occurred outside of Union Station at the conclusion of today’s parade and rally,” the team said in a statement.

    “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and all of Kansas City.

    “We are in close communication with the Mayor’s office as well as the Kansas City Police Department.

    “At this time, we have confirmed that all of our players, coaches, staff and their families are safe and accounted for.

    “We thank the local law enforcement officers and first responders who were on-scene to assist.”

    Kansas City players and staff were celebrating beating the San Francisco 49ers in Las Vegas on Sunday to become the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions in 19 years.

    Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes took to social media, saying: “Praying for Kansas City.”

    Travis Kelce wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying: “I am heartbroken over the tragedy that took place today. My heart is with all who came out to celebrate with us and have been affected. KC, you mean the world to me.”

    Linebacker Drue Tranquill posted: “Please join me in prayer for all the victims in this heinous act. Pray that doctors & first responders would have steady hands & that all would experience full healing.”

    Offensive lineman Trey Smith thanked first responders, adding: “You’re the ones who should be celebrated today.”

    A statement from the NFL read: “We are deeply saddened by the senseless shooting that occurred today near the end of the rally in Kansas City for the Chiefs. Our thoughts are with the victims and everyone affected.

    “We are grateful for the quick and thorough response of law enforcement and emergency personnel.”

    Earlier, the city had been in party mode as Super Bowl MVP Mahomes and team-mate Travis Kelce took centre stage on a platform near Union Station.

    Mahomes had told a cheering crowd the Chiefs were going for a “three-peat” next season while Kelce led the supporters in some chanting.

  • One person dead and over 20 injured in shooting near Kansas City Chiefs parade One person dead and over 20 injured in shooting near Kansas City Chiefs parade

    One person has died and more than 20 others have been injured after shots were fired near the scene of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade.

    A video on social media showed armed officers rush into Union Station on a day supporters gathered near the building at the end of the parade route to celebrate Sunday’s victory with the team’s players and staff.

    The Kansas City Police Department said at least 22 people suffered gunshot wounds, including the fatally injured victim, and confirmed three people had been taken into custody.

    Kansas City Police Department chief Stacey Graves said at a press conference: “At the conclusion of the Chiefs’ rally today, there were shots fired on the west side of Union Station.

    “Immediately, officers responded to the area, took two people into custody and also immediately rendered life-sustaining aid to those victims.”

    At a later briefing, she added: “We have confirmed there is one deceased person. Our gunshot total has went up to 22.

    “Right now, we’re still working on the total number of victims. This is still an active investigation.

    “We do have three persons detained and under investigation for today’s incident.

    “Our investigators are working with all of the surviving victims to connect them with loved ones. We are also working to identify our deceased victim so we can notify their family as soon as possible.”

    The Kansas City Chiefs confirmed their players, coaches and staff were all safe and accounted for.

    “We are truly saddened by the senseless act of violence that occurred outside of Union Station at the conclusion of today’s parade and rally,” the team said in a statement.

    “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and all of Kansas City.

    “We are in close communication with the Mayor’s office as well as the Kansas City Police Department.

    “At this time, we have confirmed that all of our players, coaches, staff and their families are safe and accounted for.

    “We thank the local law enforcement officers and first responders who were on-scene to assist.”

    Kansas City players and staff were celebrating beating the San Francisco 49ers in Las Vegas on Sunday to become the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions in 19 years.

    Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes took to social media, saying: “Praying for Kansas City.”

    Linebacker Drue Tranquill posted: “Please join me in prayer for all the victims in this heinous act. Pray that doctors & first responders would have steady hands & that all would experience full healing.”

    Offensive lineman Trey Smith thanked first responders, adding: “You’re the ones who should be celebrated today.”

    A statement from the NFL read: “We are deeply saddened by the senseless shooting that occurred today near the end of the rally in Kansas City for the Chiefs. Our thoughts are with the victims and everyone affected.

    “We are grateful for the quick and thorough response of law enforcement and emergency personnel.”

    Earlier, the city had been in party mode as Super Bowl MVP Mahomes and team-mate Travis Kelce took centre stage on a platform near Union Station.

    Mahomes had told a cheering crowd the Chiefs were going for a “three-peat” next season while Kelce led the supporters in some chanting.

  • One person dead and multiple injured in shooting near Kansas City Chiefs parade One person dead and multiple injured in shooting near Kansas City Chiefs parade

    One person has died and there are multiple injuries after shots were fired near the scene of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade.

    A video on social media showed armed officers rush into Union Station on a day supporters gathered near the building at the end of the NFL side’s parade route.

    The Kansas City Police Department confirmed that one person had died and two armed people had been taken into custody following the incident.

    Kansas City Police Department chief Stacey Graves said at a press conference: “At the conclusion of the Chiefs’ rally today, there were shots fired on the west side of Union Station.

    “Immediately, officers responded to the area, took two people into custody and also immediately rendered life-sustaining aid to those victims.

    “We’re still gathering information on the number and the status of victims. We know that one of the victims is deceased.

    “Right now, we have up to 10 to 15 injured. We do not have an exact number of people who were victims of a gunshot wound.

    During the press conference, it was announced that the Kansas City Chiefs had confirmed all their players, coaches and staff were safe and accounted for.

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