Key players who could disappoint in the first round of the playoffs

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Editor’s note: The players listed below are NFL stars who were drafted in virtually every Yahoo Fantasy league. That said, this column is not an endorsement to bench them in Week 15. You’re in control of your roster; every league size and shape is different. What we are trying to explain is that expectations should be lowered this week compared to usual for some of the NFL’s biggest stars. Aside from examining this week’s matchups, this can also serve as a reminder not to overreact if one of your high draft picks disappoints in Week 15.

After posting top-five quarterback numbers in three straight weeks, Tagovailoa hasn’t been a top-15 QB in any of his three games since the team’s bye. He’s struggled mightily with accuracy recently and gets a tough matchup in which to try to bounce back. Miami will travel for the third straight week to play Saturday night in Buffalo where up to seven inches of snow is possible. The Bills have allowed one touchdown pass over the last two games with a healthy Tre’Davious White and Jordan Poyer in the secondary. Tagovailoa was just the QB25 when these teams met in Miami in Week 3, and Saturday night’s conditions will be far worse (when he also may not have a fully healthy Tyreek Hill at his disposal).

The Dolphins have the second-lowest implied team total this week (tied with the Texans!), so Tagovailoa is a shaky start to open the fantasy playoffs.

St. Brown has emerged as a legit star, but it’s worth noting he’s averaged 7.8 catches and 86.9 yards with six touchdowns at home this season compared to 5.6-58.0-0 on the road. Jared Goff has a 20:3 TD:TO ratio in Detroit versus 2:7 on the road. While the Lions offense is improving — and Goff’s YPA drops a modest 0.2 away from home — St. Brown will be dealing with additional issues to the cold weather this week as well.

The Jets have allowed the third-fewest YPA and fantasy points to wide receivers this season (including shutting down the slot). And while the Sun God still saw nine targets last week, he has far more competition for looks with Jameson Williams, D’Andre Swift and DJ Chark all healthy together for the first time. Don’t bench St. Brown in fantasy leagues but keep expectations tempered — and definitely look elsewhere in DFS this week.

Since getting 35 rushing attempts in Week 10, Barkley has 53 carries for 152 yards (2.9 YPC) over four games while playing through injuries. The Giants are hopeful Barkley’s neck issue improves this week, but that and a lopsided score limited him to a season-low 32 percent snap share against the Eagles.

A lot of factors worked against Saquon Barkley’s fantasy favor in Week 14. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

A rough schedule has also contributed to Barkley’s slump, and he gets another tough matchup this week against a Washington defense ceding the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season. Only the 49ers have been a worse opponent for fantasy backs when schedule is adjusted. The Giants have the fifth-lowest implied team total this week, so a banged-up Barkley should be considered more of an RB2 during the first week of the fantasy playoffs.

After allowing 11 rushing scores by RBs over the first seven games, the Lions have yielded just two over six games since (with no back reaching 75 rushing yards over that span). When adjusted for opponent, the Lions have been one of the league’s stingiest defenses against fantasy backs since the team’s Week 6 bye. No running back has reached 10 fantasy points (0.5 PPR) against Detroit since Week 7. The Lions have held both Saquon Barkley and Dalvin Cook to fewer than 25 rushing yards on 15 carries over the last month.

Knight has no doubt impressed while coming out of nowhere, but he ceded most passing-down work during Michael Carter’s return last week and gets a sneaky tough matchup Sunday.

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