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Week 16 – QB/DEF Key Points
Start of the Week:
QB –Matt Ryan at New Orleans- #7 in Weekly Rankings
Drew Brees is really the best start this week as I have him at #1 but Matt Ryan is the less obvious elite choice this week. You’re going to want to fire up all fantasy players in this matchup between these two teams who rank 30th and 31st against fantasy players at all positions combined. This matchup could very well decide the division and both teams will not want to go down fighting without using their player(s), their QBs and pass catchers. Julio Jones has not practiced but all signs point to him being on the field. Roddy White looks healthy with TDs in back to back weeks and Harry Douglas and Devin Hester are fine compliments to the elite Julio/Roddy duo. This game will not be a blowout and points will be fired back and forth between the two teams. Look for Ryan to have a tremendous week 16 against a struggling secondary ranked 28th against opposing fantasy QBs.
D/ST – Seattle Seahawks at Arizona - #1 in Weekly Rankings
Ryan Lindley yum yum yum. This is a tasty fantasy matchup on board for the best real life defense in the NFL. The game hasn’t even started, yet but there is blood in the water and there will be a feeding frenzy on the inexperienced 3rd stringer. Everyone will be anxious to get a taste of Lindley and a game where A game with Seattle taking the lead and Lindley (career 0 TD/7 INT) having to throw to have a chance in this game is very likely to happen. Many sacks and turnovers will be had. A TD even seems likely and it’s hard to peg a defense to do that. This is a scary game for Lindley and for anyone who has to face the Seattle defense in fantasy.
QB – Alex Smith at Pittsburgh - #11 in Weekly Rankings
For you QB streamers this could be the game winning start. Alex Smith is never a sexy option in the fantasy world but in this matchup he provides significant upside against a swiss cheese Pittsburgh defense. The Steelers rank 27th against opposing fantasy QBs and have allowed a 20+ fantasy point performance in 6 out of their last 7 games to QBs. This stretch includes big games by borderline to low end options Michael Vick and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ike Taylor is a shell of his former self and William Gay just plain and simple isn’t a good NFL CB. Smith comes into this game as a hot QB having thrown 7 TDs in his last 4 games. He has a high floor this week and could capitalize on this prime matchup in a big way in your Super Bowl week.
D/ST –Carolina v. Cleveland- #9 in Weekly Rankings
The long awaited Johnny Football debut took place last week and boy was it ugly. There was a lot of non-NFL things happening on the Cleveland side of the ball. The Browns only ran 38 plays TOTAL. Manziel should be better but that doesn’t mean he’ll be good. He can’t do worse than 80 yards and 2 INT right? Carolina had five turnovers the last two weeks playing inspired defense at New Orleans and against Tampa Bay and suddenly they have a chance to win their sorry division. The Panthers have seen the mobile QB every day in practice so Manziel’s legs will not surprise them in any way. Look for Manziel to struggle once again and for Carolina to have a big day. They’re only the 25th ranked fantasy defense on the season so they very well could be available in your league.
QB – Eli Manning at St. Louis - #19 in Weekly Rankings
This is just a heads up to those fantasy owners who think that just because ODB is a beast (and he certainly is) that Eli Manning’s floor is high enough to be inserted into your lineup. St. Louis comes into this week having allowed 12 total points in the last three weeks. They may just be sporting the best defense in the NFL right now including the Legoin Of Boom in Seattle. The Giants have replacement players on the offensive line, something that just won’t cut it against Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Manning could have a disaster much like he did against San Francisco earlier in the year. I’d stay away and choose another streaming option.
D/ST – San Francisco D/ST vs. San Diego- #18 in Weekly Rankings
The San Francisco 49ers do not really have much to play for anymore. Jim Harbaugh is as good as gone. We can and should question where their heads will be for this game against a desperate San Diego Chargers team. However, the emotions of the game are not why they are here. DE Ray McDonald had been playing good football the last few weeks. He was released with the allegations of domestic abuse hanging over him this week. In addition, LB Chris Borland had been playing at Pro Bowl levels even being compared to Zach Thomas. He’s out for the season. Combine the emotions and the loss of two key players and what we have is a defense we should not think is capable of a big game, even at home.
If you’re in the championship round then kudos to you my friend, you’ve had an incredible season regardless of the outcome of this week. You’ve worked your way into the fantasy football record books. Now it’s time to take home the hardware and to play our favorite Queen song on repeat until the 2015 season begins.
As exciting as this week is for you, it may be equally frustrating and confusing. After 15 weeks of winning because of your dominant roster, and because you’ve spent 15 weeks analyzing the tendencies of every team’s offense and defense, the NFL went and turned itself upside down in one crazy week. Quarterbacks like Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Lindley, Charlie Whitehurst, Case Keenum, and Johnny Manziel are going to play a huge role in the performance of so many of our regular starters. Add this QB mess to the inconsistency, or maybe all too consistently awful play that QBs such as Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, Geno Smith, and even Colin Kaepernick bring to the table. We find ourselves in a fantasy world this week where almost 30% of the NFL offenses in this championship round could very well be a complete disaster. Fantasy beasts and sure fire starters Matt Forte Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Arian Foster, DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Johnson, Josh Gordon, and Larry Fitzgerald all of a sudden range from severely diminished but startable (Forte), to non-startable (Fitzgerald), to flex plays or borderline startable (Gordon, Alshon, Bennett, Hopkins). None of them are sure things any longer but Arian Foster should be just fine so start him as you normally would.
As a result of this chaos, this week’s sleepers and busts list is more important than ever before. This week, some obscure or lesser talented players really have a huge opportunity to shine and could be better plays then some of the players on the teams loaded with uncertainty. I beg you to please look at the NFL situation and not just the name of your player when making your start em/sit em choices. This week is for all the marbles. Good Luck!
Without further ado, your week 16 Sleepers and Busts:
DISCLAIMER: A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him.
· Robert Griffin III vs. Philadelphia. Hey you, Cutler/Newton/Rivers/Tannehill/Eli owners. Move your cursor to the save button, take a deep breath, a hard swallow and close your eyes to build up the nerve to click mouse button while inserting RG III into your lineup this week. Griffin is coming off an all too familiar week of producing quality fantasy numbers while folding when the game is on the line from an NFL standpoint. He threw for 236 yards and a TD, had his legs working for 46 yards and we all saw the controversial fumble right before the half that very well could have and maybe should have been called a TD. He scored 19+ fantasy points and was very close to a 25+ day. A matchup against an Eagles defense who can’t seem to stop allowing big QB games is on tap. The Eagles have allowed 6 out of the last 8 QBs they’ve faced to score over 20 fantasy points including two games allowing 33+ points. In week 3, Washington had Philadelphia’s number with then QB Kirk Cousins to the tune of 427 yards passing and 3 TD. Look for DeSean Jackson to have his second huge performance against his old team and Griffin, who is playing for his NFL life as a starting QB over the next two weeks, to continue the Redskins’ and NFL wide trend of high scoring QBs against this defense.
I’d Start Robert Griffin III over: Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning
· Russell Wilson at Arizona. Russell Wilson is a fine NFL QB both NFL and fantasy, but these divisional games against the 49ers and Cardinals are always slugfests and never provide too much upside. Seattle is locked in and is playing Super Bowl caliber defense. They’re up against Ryan Lindley so we can expect Seattle to jump out to a lead and grind out a victory much like they’ve done in the previous three NFC West matchups against San Francisco and Arizona. Seattle won 19-3 in 2 of the games and 17-7 last week against the 49ers. The Seahawks went 3-0 in these games and Wilson had sub-par outings in each one. These teams know each other too well and Seattle’s defense is playing too well to let Arizona hang around in the second half. Wilson will be able to coast to victory much like he did in the three previous NFC West slugfests. Wilson is a high QB2 this week with a low ceiling.
I’d Start the following players over Russell Wilson: Robert Griffin III, Mark Sanchez, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco
· Matt Asiata @ Miami. By no means is Matt Asiata a talented RB, but Minnesota insists on giving him 65% of the snaps and the majority of touches. Miami has been a complete disaster against RBs ever since the Jets embarrassed them by running on them 23 straight plays. Miami won the game, but that game revealed a flaw in the Dolphins defense and the Fins have been blown out in the two weeks since. While the Jets brought these problems to the forefront, this issue has been there for quite a while. In fact, the Dolphins have allowed over 20 fantasy points to RBs in .5 PPR leagues in 5 out of the last 6 games after allowing 3 such games in the first 9 weeks. As a human being who plays RB and receives touches against a team who can’t stop the RB, Asiata is a fine play this week. No other qualifications are necessary for him to be a sleeper and high upside play against this defense. If Mickey Mouse was getting RB touches against Miami I would've had him here. Asiata just happens to be the lucky guy this week.
I’d start Matt Asiata over: Matt Forte, LeGarrette Blount, Steven Jackson, Dan Herron, Alfred Morris
· Matt Forte v. Detroit. Well here is one of those controversial sits/busts I’m going to try to convince you about. Forte’s QB is Jimmy Clausen, who last started a game in 2010. He made 10 starts that year and had all of 3 TDs. In other words, he had a lot of opportunities against a plethora of good and bad defenses and only had 3 TD passes in 40 quarters. He’s not going to be moving the ball against one of the elite NFL defenses, the Detroit Lions. The Lions, even with Cutler at the helm limited Forte to FIVE yards rushing in their Thanksgiving matchup. He did chip in 6 catches for 52 yards. I really see a similar outcome here for Forte with the main similarity that I’m almost sure about being zero TDs. Forte could see some more dumpoffs and could approach 10 points but in no way would I allow my finals matchup to be dependent upon Jimmy Clausen moving the football against a top defense, who by the way is two wins away from locking up their division. He’s on the RB2 radar but it's possible that you can do better this week.
I’d start the following players over Matt Forte: Matt Asiata, Fred Jackson, Lamar Miller, LeSean McCoy, Tre Mason, Alfred Morris
· Donte Moncrief at Dallas. TY Hilton is very questionable to face Dallas and there has been talk of reducing Reggie Wayne’s snaps whether idle to rest (or secretly and more likely, on field performance). Whether Hilton plays or not he will be limited, and Moncrief has the potential to be your Super Bowl hero. Dallas, who ranks 23rd in passing yards against, stepped up in a big way against Mark Sanchez last week but no disrespect to the job the Sanchize has done but…Luck ain't no Sanchez. Prior to last week, Dallas had allowed WRs to score 30+ fantasy points in 3 straight games against the Giants, Eagles and Bears. It’s almost a given that Andrew Luck WILL throw for 300+ yards and WILL throw 2+ TDs. If Hilton and Wayne are not receiving a big chunk of those yards this week then the sky of the limit for the young speed/size freak who has shown incredible ability against teams who give up big plays (Pittsburgh, Washington). The indoor surface of the Cowboys' stadium plays to Moncrief’s strength. Go for the glory and get him in there if you need a WR3/flex.
I’d Start Donte Moncrief over: Charles Johnson, Steve Smith Sr., Martavis Bryant, Sammy Watkins, Stedman Bailey
· Sammy Watkins at Oakland. Buffalo at 8-6 is fighting for their playoff lives on the road in Oakland. It’s always dangerous to assume anyone wins on the road, but with Buffalo having a lot of incentive to win and Oakland a lot of incentive to lose, let’s just assume the Bills win this game and control the game for the most part. Sammy Watkins could be in for a quiet performance if the recent past repeats itself. The Bills have won three of the last four games with a combined 85 points in those three wins. Sounds like it should be a lot of Watkins, the Bills number one wide out right? Wrong! In those three wins Watkins was held to a combined 7 catches for 74 yards and 0 TD. In the one loss to Denver, the Bills were in comeback mode and Watkins had a huge day with 127 yards. The issue here is that the Bills are a very good running football team who likes to get touches for all of their RBs, and they exclusively throw short passes when they’re controlling the game. Kyle Orton has no problem spreading targets to Watkins, Robert Woods, Scott Chandler and Fred Jackson on short, chain moving plays, so long as he avoids the turnover. Watkins surprisingly has gone six straight games without a TD as well. The matchup sounds better than it is as the Raiders rank 8th in the league in passing yards against. The Bills are playing fine football and will stick to the blueprint for success against Oakland, a stout defense a running game and short quick passes.
I’d start the following players over Sammy Watkins: Nate Washington, Charles Johnson, Stedman Bailey, Greg Jennings
· Zach Ertz v. Washington. Tight ends are tough to come by outside of the top seven or eight. I don’t have a sleeper I feel awesome about but Zach Ertz is a sneaky play if you are absolutely playing the matchups. I like 12-14 TEs more than him, but he’s up against a Washington team who ranks 30th against the TE and has given up huge days to Jared Cook and Coby Fleener recently. Ertz has the type of ability to burn a LB off play action and if the Eagles look at the film they’ll see an opportunity or two to look his way on a deep seam pattern. Once again, I don’t love it but if you’re desperate he has more upside than a Donnell or a Kyle Rudolph this week.
I’d start Zach Ertz over: Kyle Rudolph, Larry Donnell, Mychal Rivera, Owen Daniels
· Kyle Rudolph at Miami. Not a shocking bust but Rudolph is listed as high as the number 14 TE on some sites, a borderline matchup play. I wouldn't go near him. The Dolphins have not allowed even a mediocre game to a TE not named Gronkowski since week 4. The list of TEs they've shut down is not so impressive but it does include Martellus Bennett, Antonio Gates, and Owen Daniels. Rudolph is worse than all three and should be avoided. Look for a better matchup if you need it.
I’d Start the following players over Kyle Rudolph: Coby Fleener, Owen Daniels, Heath Miller, Zach Ertz, Scott Chandler
That’ll do it for week 16. I hope you've enjoyed the column this season. I’ll be putting a week 17 column out there next week, but I’m sure this is the last week of many of your seasons. Thank you for reading and good luck to all of those playing in the Super Bowl! Here’s to hoping you’re firing up that Queen song we all love to blast after we take down a title!
Week 16 is the championship week in fantasy football for nearly every league. Unfortunately, there are a lot of top running backs whose status is in flux on the biggest week of the fantasy football season. You may be one of those people facing the dillema of having one of those backs on your fantasy team and are still uncertain what your lineup should look like. We're here to hopefully make it a little easier to decide. Here are a bunch of running backs whose status is uncertain heading into Week 16, what their matchups are like, and whether or not we trust them to win you a fantasy championship.
Cleveland Browns Isaiah Crowell @ Carolina Panthers
Crowell's problem: Hip injury
What he did last game (vs. Cincinnati): 7 carries for 17 yards (2.9 yards per carry), 2 catches for 17 yards
What he's up against this week if he plays: Carolina ranks 12th worst against fantasy running backs (17.8 points per game)
What happened last week: Crowell has put together an impressive rookie season with 8 touchdowns and 546 rushing yards. Not bad for a guy who went undrafted. Crow's always been a bit of a touchdown dependent, boom or bust guy due largely to the Browns dual system with Terrance West. That, combined with the Browns suspect run blocking ever since Pro Bowl center Alex Mack went down for the season and you have a constant whirlwind of uncertainty going into each matchup if you have Crowell.
To complicate matters further, the Browns trotted out rookie Johnny Manziel for the first time last week and it was a strug. The rookie quarterback forced the issue at times, made some classic rookie mistakes like throwing the ball just a half second too late on an out route which lead to an interception and overall created more doubt regarding whether the Browns will move the ball effectively this week. Of course, you can't place the blame solely on Manziel. The Browns receivers failed to reel in a few of his throws, but his mistakes were enough to severely limit the Browns offense and allowed the Bengals to bring the blitz more which limited Crowell's upside.
What could happen this week: The Panthers are a far cry from the dominant defense they were just a year ago where they ranked second best team in the league against running backs. Injuries on the defensive line sprinkled with lackluster depth at the receiver position have resulted in several low scoring outputs for the Panthers, but they have established a bit of a running identity in the last few weeks. The Panthers have shown life in the running game with Jonathan Stewart averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The Panthers will also likely get Cam Newton back and he's averaging 5.0 yards per carry.
Even though Crowell is banged up, he played through it last week which could indicate he's not completely against playing through pain. Still, the Browns are a complete liability on offense as long as Manziel is under center as a rookie. If you watched the Bengals/Browns game last week, you saw how the Bengals completely dominated the Browns in the run game which ate up clock and limited the offenses time on the field. That could very well be the case again this week against Carolina with Stewart.
Do we trust Crowell?: No
Who would we start over him?: Giovani Benard, Carlos Hyde, Dan Herron, Lamar Miller, Tre Mason
Dallas Cowboys' DeMarco Murray vs. Indianapolis Colts
Murray's problem: Broken metacarpal in his left hand (same injury as Apollo Creed's opponent in Rocky I which forced the champ to find himself another ranked contender)
What he did last game (@ Philadelphia): 31 carries for 81 yards, 2 touchdowns (2.6 yards per carry)
What he's up against this week if he plays: Indianapolis ranks 6th worst against fantasy running backs (19.1 points per game)
What happened last week: While many consider Murray's injury huge in terms of affecting his value, the status of offensive linemen Zach Martin and Doug Free may actually make a bigger difference. Martin and Free suffered ankle injuries last week against Philadelphia, but luckily both avoided the dreaded high ankle sprain which could've been a sweet kiss of death for Week 16. Their status is uncertain but if either or them can't go, it could really impact the effectiveness of the Cowboys run game.
As for what happened in the game itself, the Philadelphia Eagles front four picked up from where they left off last week after handling the run quite well a week earlier against the Seattle Seahawks and running back Marshawn Lynch. Fletcher Cox has been a force up the middle all year long and is a perfect fit for the 3-4 scheme. They kept Lynch under the 100-yard mark and held him to just 3.7 yards per carry.
Against Murray, it was more of the same. They held the league's leading rusher to a season low 2.9 yards per carry average. Even when defensive end Trent Cole went out with an injury in the second half, Brandon Graham stepped right in and the defense didn't miss a beat as far as containing Murray went. Still, the Cowboys committed to the run and Murray went on to have a productive fantasy day despite being limited. It shows you just how valuable he is to the offense even when he's not performing at his peak.
What could happen this week: Murray is currently a game time decision for Week 16. If you weren't lucky enough to grab his handcuff Joesph Randle (who's available in 87% of Yahoo! Leagues) then you may have a crisis on your hands. The matchup against Indy is tasty like a Dallas steak medium rare cooked on a cast iron grill. The Colts are allowing 110 rushing yards per game and rarely hold opponents to low scores. They've been involved in several shootouts with their No. 1 ranked passing attack and teams haven't exactly struggled when it comes to keeping up with their scoring. Two weeks ago, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West combined for over 100 rushing yards against them. They allowed 99 yards from Arian Foster last week and over 130 total rushing yards to the Texans overall. This is a team that can be run on, but you can't put Murray's status at anything better than 50/50 at this point so you'll have to monitor him throughout the week. But remember to monitor the status of the linemen as well. If Martin and Free can't go but Murray can, expect Murray to maybe be a little less effective but still startable. If Murray can't go and neither can Marin and Free, then go with Randle if you have him but temper expectations severely.
Do we trust Murray?: If Martin and Free can't go, then no. But you have to start him anyway because of the all important fantasy commandment of 'start thy studs.'
Kansas City Chiefs' Jamaal Charles @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles' problem: Ankle and knee injuries
What he's up against this week: Pittsburgh ranks 12th best against fantasy running backs (14.6 points per game)
What happened last week: Charles rushed for a respectable 52 yards on 15 carries (4.3 yards per carry) and looked like his usual self until a big hit sidelined him for virtually the remainder of the game. Originally thought to be concussed, it turned out Charles' head is just fine and he shouldn't have any more obstacles keeping him from playing against Pittsburgh this week. Backup running back Knile Davis continues to be among the top handcuff RBs in the league and is a worthy flex option regardless if Charles starts or not.
What could happen this week: The Steelers have a lot on the line in this game. They control their own destiny heading into the playoffs. Still, they remain completely inept against the pass (252 passing yards allowed per game) and allow 23.8 fantasy points to wide receivers per game which could help Charles be very effective catching the ball out of the backfield. Charles hasn't been the dominant receiver in 2014 that we've seen in the past but he still has 5 receiving touchdowns on the year to go with 235 receiving yards. Davis could be in line for some catches as well.
Do we trust Charles?: Yes, go with him as an RB1, start Davis as a flex
San Francisco 49ers' Frank Gore vs. San Diego Chargers
Gore's problem: Concussion
What he did last game: 11 carries for 29 yards, 1 touchdown
What he's up against this week if he plays: San Diego ranks 13th best against fantasy running backs (14.5 points per game)
What happened last week: Gore got off to a hot start before he took a vicious hit after trying to block down field which left him with a concussion. Fellow running back Carlos Hyde, who replaced Gore, also suffered injuries to his ankle and back. Both running backs missed practice on Tuesday and they have a short week as they're scheduled to play San Diego on Saturday.
What could happen this week: Even before his injury, Gore had been struggling. His YPC average hovered around 2.7 over the last four games and he hasn't crossed the century mark since Week 5 against Kansas City. Hyde has been waiting in the wings and looks like the fresher option at this point. He's been limited in touches, but when he's gotten the carries he runs hard and is a touchdown threat around the goal line.
Do we trust Gore?: No
What should you do: if Gore can't go, then start Hyde as a flex. If Gore can go, bench both him and Hyde or keep Gore in the flex if you're desperate. Hyde simply doesn't get enough carries if Gore is on the field to be effective.
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Start of the Week
Odell Beckham Jr. v. Washington Redskins #4 Weekly Rankings
You are going to have a tough time finding a hotter receiver in fantasy football than Giants first round draft selection Odell Beckham Jr. Since making his professional debut in week 5, Beckham ranks in the top-10 in the NFL in receptions and receiving yards, cementing himself as the odds-on favorite to win the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year.
In week 15 Beckham has another owner-friendly matchup when the Washington Redskins travel to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Giants. Since week 6 of the regular season the Redskins secondary have played their best impression of swiss cheese defense, allowing double-digit receptions in 7 of their last 8 games.
Over the last month and a half Beckham Jr. has not only been one of the best rookie wideouts, but also one of the best wide receivers in all of football. Since week 9 Beckham Jr. is leading the NFL in targets (66), receptions (49), and receiving yards (723), out producing elite receiving talents like Julio Jones and Antonio Brown during that time span.
Beckham has established himself as the clear no. 1 option in the Giants passing game since making his debut. I do not see his hot streak coming to an end this week folks. Start Beckham with full confidence this week.
Donte Moncrief v. Houston Texans #27 Weekly Rankings
Since exploding onto the scene in week 8 against the Steelers, Moncrief has been unable to use the momentum from that game, and turn it into valuable playing time. However, with veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne battling numerous injuries, I have a feeling the Moncrief is about to make select-few fantasy owners very happy this weekend.
Like I mentioned a moment ago Moncrief is due to see an increased amount of playing time this weekend. Veteran Reggie Wayne has looked like a completely different receiver this season after trying to come back from ACL reconstruction surgery this offseason. Pair a gimpy knee with a torn tricep and the no. 2 receiver on the Colts all-time receiving leader has become a glorified decoy within the Colts offense.
Despite being relegated to the no. 4 spot on the depth chart for most of the season, Moncrief has started to carve out a bigger role within the Colts offense. Over the last month Moncrief ranks second on the team in yards (205) and touchdown receptions (2), despite playing 116 fewer snaps than starting receiver Reggie Wayne.
Moncrief also has the benefit of playing one of the worst secondaries in all of football. The Texans secondary has allowed the most fantasy points on a weekly basis to opposing wide receivers (26.5), and have given up over 100 combined receiving yards in every game this season. Giving up a touchdown reception has become as close to a guarantee as there is in fantasy football, as they have given up at least one touchdown reception to a wide receiver in twelve of thirteen games this season.
Normally I do not like to get cute when I am in the fantasy playoffs, but in this instance I think that Moncrief has the potential to post mid-level WR2 numbers this weekend. Some more food for thought, the last time the Colts matched up with the Texans allowed 15 receptions for 276 yards (season-high) and one touchdown. Look for Luck to feast on the Texans porus secondary early-and-often this weekend.
Keenan Allen v. Denver Broncos #26 Weekly Rankings
Hopefully search crews have kept an eye out for SOS signals in the San Diego area. These search crews are not due to the mudslides that are affecting many Californians, but too keep an eye out for Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen as he was held captive on Revis Island last week against the Patriots.
Allen was held to just two receptions on three targets against Darrelle Revis last weekend. What does the second year wide receiver get now, just a matchup with arguably the most underrated cornerback in the NFL in Chris Harris Jr. Harris is currently the number one rated cornerback in football according to Pro Football Focus (22.3), and has a passer rating of 46.9 on passes thrown his direction this season. The Broncos recently rewarded Harris for his efforts with a new 5 year/$42.5 million contract, paying him in the top-12 in terms of average annual salary for cornerbacks.
Last time Allen faced off against the Broncos secondary he was able to avoid Harris’ coverage for most of the night, totaling 9 receptions for 73 yards and one touchdown. However, the touchdown reception was credited against Broncos rookie Bradley Roby, not Harris. While matched up against Harris, Allen was held in check for most of the night totaling just two catches for 15 yards.
Jordan Cameron v. Cincinnati Bengals #12 Weekly Rankings
It has been a tough year to be a skill-position player on the Browns offense this season. With Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon sidelined for most of the first-half of the season the Browns offense has failed to establish an offensive identity.
Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahann has tried to create a run-first mentality within the Browns offense, centered around rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. With Brian Hoyer officially benched in favor of the eccentric rookie Johnny Manziel I expect the Browns offense to be run-heavy once again this weekend.
At the start of the season the Bengals defense was one of the most vulnerable units in the league to the opposing tight ends, allowing double-digit fantasy points in four of the first six weeks of the season. However, as of late the Bengals defense has put the vice grip on opposing tight ends. Since week 8 the Bengals defense has allowed an average of two receptions for 15 yards per game to opposing tight ends, and has only allowed one touchdown in that time span.
With the tight end position being as thin as it is, it may be difficult for you too keep Cameron on your bench unless you have a serviceable backup. With that being said, with as good as the Bengals have been against tight ends, and the infusion of a rookie quarterback to the starting lineup, I see another frustrating week for fantasy owners.
Kyle Rudolph v. Detroit Lions #18 Weekly Rankings
When Norv Turner joined Mike Zimmer’s staff in Minnesota, a lot of fantasy owners (myself included) expected Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph to establish himself as one of the premier tight ends in all of football. However, Rudolph has once again struggled to stay on the field, this time due to a sports hernia injury that kept him sidelined until week 11 against the Bears.
Since Rudolph has returned to the Vikings lineup it is clear he is not 100% recovered from surgery. Due to the lack of explosiveness that Rudolph has shown since his return there has been intimations from Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner that the team could look to get Chase Ford more involved in the team’s offense
Editor's note: Our bullet point articles are written to better explain our weekly rankings, which you can find here.
The playoffs, we know they're here. We know what you need. So here are our bullet points for RBs this week.
Starts of this week
Jamaal Charles vs. Oakland, Matt Forte vs. New Orleans, Le'Veon Bell at Atlanta — #1, #2, and #3 in weekly rankings
It was really difficult to pick any of these guys for the top start, so we figured just go with all three. If you're lucky enough to have snagged two of them in your draft, you're sitting on a gold mine in Week 15. The only thing you have to worry about is Charles, who is a bit banged up with an ankle injury he suffered last week. Still, Andy Reid expects Charles to be a full go for Week 15.
When it comes to Forte, the New Orleans Saints have allowed 15 rushing touchdowns this season, which is tied for second worst in the league behind Atlanta. They allow a third-worst 21.5 points to fantasy running backs and are also in the bottom 10 against receivers, which is good for Forte as well considering he's a PPR dreamboat. Sorry....got a little carried away there.
Forte has dropped off a bit over the last two games so you may be a little concerned heading into Week 15. He averaged just 2.0 yards per carry against a suspect Dallas defense and understandably struggled against the best run defense in Detroit on Thanksgiving. Still, when he isn't feeding you the steak in the run game, he's supplementing it with some mean potatoes in the passing game. With 25 receptions over his last four games, you can count on Forte to continue to catch at least five passes per game and add 40-80 receiving yards on top of it. Even better, a 10-12 catch games is the ceiling for this guy, which is a skill sket you just can't get out of any fantasy running back.
As for Bell, you already know he's morphed into a superstar this season. He's coming off his best fantasy performance of the year against Cincinnati, where he totaled over 230 yards and three touchdowns combined rushing and receiving. His soft schedule has helped him out there's no question, not unlike LeSean McCoy's schedule down the stretch helped him win the rushing title last season. Bell will be going against an Atlanta defense that gives up the most fantasy points in the league to running backs (22.3 per game). The Falcons also allow the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL (17) and also allow 122 yards per game.
Mark Ingram at Chicago — #11 in weekly rankings
Da......Bears da Bears da Bears da Bears...have struggled on defense this season. They allowed Lions running back Joique Bell to rattle off a season-high 91 yards on Thanksgiving. They also allowed 196 yards and two touchdowns to Dallas over a week before. Ingram is coming off a dud game against Carolina and the Saints offense has been inconsistent throughout the year, but the trend with Ingram has consisted of one bad game followed by one good game. There's no reason he can't produce well in the flex spot this week. Roll with him.
Isaiah Crowell at Cincinnati — #17 in weekly rankings
Crowell is among our favorite waiver pickups and also among are favorite most frustrating start or sit options for 2014 (aside from maybe Kenny Stills). Crowell rewarded those who started him with 11 fantasy points last week and while Terrance West may see more carries than he did a week before, Crowell remains the most talented of the bunch with his 4.4 yards per carry average to go along with eight touchdowns. The Bengals are fourth worst against running backs, allowing 21.2 points per game.
Le'Veon Bell just gashed them for nearly 200 yards rushing and you have to figure with rookie Johnny Manziel starting today, the Browns may go run heavy if he struggles. Expect Crowell to see anywhere between 15-17 carries and come close to 100 yards and a touchdown today. Start him with confidence.
Well, if you’re still alive then I say congratulations and I I’d also like to say…. I’m jealous! My first round exit will be just another blip on the radar that nobody will remember. Admittedly, my team happened to not be very good, but in addition to my team, the regular season’s points leader and consensus best team in my league by far was eliminated. Unfortunately for that team, they will also be another team in the 2014 season that nobody will recall long term. This week those of you who are one game from the championship, are not only playing for a spot in the Super Bowl, or in many cases money….you’re playing for a permanent place in your league’s history books, a fond memory that you and your league members will have forever the bragging rights that come along with this glorious memory. Let me show you what I mean.
I’m a Giants fan in my early 30s and I’ve been a diehard football fan as long as I could remember. Anything Giants related is entrenched in my mind, but playoff games between other teams before they reached the Super Bowl…not as much. For example, everyone around my age or older remembers the Titans v. Rams Super Bowl XXXIV where Kevin Dyson, instead of scoring the game tying TD, was tackled at the one yard line to end the game. The game was now 15 years ago this January and even if you don’t remember the details of the game you know exactly what game I’m referring to and there is a clear picture of it in your mind. However, do you remember how those teams got there? A small percentage of you might, but I’m almost positive that the very large majority does not. I had to look it up and I discovered that the Rams beat the Tampa Bay Bucs 11-6. Weird score and I know I watched that game, but I can’t tell you anything about it off the top of my head. The Titans dominated the Jaguars 33-14. I can’t tell you anything about that game either. In the long run nobody will remember or care that the Bucs made the NFC Title game that year. I’m sure the Bucs don’t brag about losing that heart breaker. Super Bowls will live in all of our hearts and minds forever. Don’t be a blip on the radar! Whether you’re the best team in your league on paper or whether you’re a team that got hot at the right time, take it home this week and you’ll be in fantasy football lure for the rest of your days.
Your lineup should be set with the exception of maybe a flex spot and the always matchup dependent TE spot. However, there are players at every position that I believe can help you accomplish your goal of winning a Super Bowl ring.
Without further ado, your week 15 Sleepers and Busts:
DISCLAIMER:A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for.These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him.
· Mark Sanchez v. Dallas. Ok so maybe last week didn’t work out at home against Seattle, but that was the Super Bowl Champs playing at their best in a huge game and this is Dallas, a team that's known as the biggest group of December choke artists in the last 15 years. Their defense has given up 7 TDs through the air in the last three weeks to Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, and Mark Sanchez himself. The Eagles dominated the Cowboys in Dallas 33-10 on Thanksgiving day and there is no reason to think they won’t do the same on Sunday.
Quick stat: According to Football Outsiders, teams losing by more than 20 points at home are just 17-36 (.321) in road rematches. The Eagles and Sanchez are looking better already.
Sanchez has shown consistent QB1 ability other than his misstep last week and despite only throwing for 96 yards, he still threw for 2 TDs. He’s otherwise been consistently over 300 yards and has had multiple TDs in 5 of 6 starts. His matchup is ideal for the playoffs and has unlimited upside. Take a tip from me. Just because you were rejected by the girl/guy who doesn’t ever give it up (Seattle), does not mean you won’t score with the girl/guy who has the reputation for giving it up (Dallas)! As far as Mark Sanchez goes, we know he’ll score on Sunday….as soon as he’s done throwing a few TDs in the football game.
I’d Start Mark Sanchez over: Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, JohnnyManziel
· Matthew Stafford v. Minnesota. Oh how a couple of big performances against awful defenses make us forget. In the last two weeks against the 23rd and 31st ranked teams (Chicago, Tampa Bay) against fantasy QBs, Stafford has averaged approximately 350 yards and 2.5 TDs per game. Stafford’s previous two games were against elite defenses in New England and Arizona, games in which he combined for 0 TD and 2 INT. Minnesota, the 10th ranked fantasy defense against QBs and 6th in passing yards against, is up next on the schedule. They’re not nearly as good as New England or Arizona defensively but they’re not nearly as bad as Chicago and Tampa Bay. The Vikings can be run on easily, ranking 23rd in yards per game and I anticipate the Lions going that route. Some sites have Stafford ranked as high as #4 this week after his success the last two weeks but I’d expect him to finish with about 250 yards and 1-2 TDs, a borderline QB1.
I’d Start the following players over Matthew Stafford: Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan
· Fred Jackson v. Green Bay. They say experience wins in the playoffs right? Well why not take a shot with the oldest RB in the NFL. This matchup has big upside for the Bills best receiving threat out of the backfield. Jackson, a versatile threat looks as healthy as ever with 18 and 21 touches the last two weeks. He has not hit pay dirt in those games but he did score big in PPR leagues with his 10 receptions last week against Denver. Denver got off to a 24-3 lead and the Bills had to air it out leading to many dump offs to Jackson. I see this game against Green Bay being extremely similar with a similar outcome for Jackson. Start the old reliable Freddy Jackson as a RB2 in PPR leagues and as a flex in .5 PPR and standard leagues.
I’d start Fred Jackson over: Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, Jeremy Hill, Latavius Murray
· Chris Johnson at Tennessee. Last week I believed in the awful RB (Trent Richardson) having a big game in a revenge game and it backfired on me. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Chris Johnson is a slightly better Trent Richardson. I don’t mean speed wise, Richardson runs in slow motion, but Johnson has zero power at this stage of his career and doesn’t provide much in terms of broken tackles. It takes Moses parting the waters for him to hit the hole. Johnson did have over 100 yards two games ago, in the run runrunrunrunrun game against the Dolphins, but has otherwise not topped 69 yards rushing yards this season when normal game plans were in place. A decent performance could very well happen against Tennessee but I would not dare to put my fantasy prospects on a guy who has not scored a TD in the last nine games. Experts are ranking him as a mid RB2 but I think he’s a at best a desperate flex option. If you’re still alive at this stage of the game, you probably can do better.
I’d start the following players over Chris Johnson: Isaiah Crowell, Jeremy Hill, Fred Jackson, Chris Ivory, Dan Herron
· Marqise Lee at Baltimore. For one week Baltimore, the league’s worst team against fantasy WRs, did not get dismantled in the passing game. With the Jaguars coming to town, a blowout is likely in favor of Baltimore and a lot of throwing should be in store for the Jaguars come the 2nd half of the game. A lot of throwing against the worst fantasy team against WRs? sounds like fantasy gold to me. Advantage Marqise Lee, the shiny new toy in Jacksonville. Lee has 16 targets over the last two weeks and is building some chemistry with number one pick Blake Bortles. He’s been consistent with 52-75 yards over the last 3 weeks including a TD, but should be on the higher end of the spectrum against one of the league’s poorest defensive backfields. Consider Lee as a 3rd WR.
· Steve Smith Sr vs. Jacksonville. Steve Smith is in the midst of a fine bounce back season in his first year in Baltimore. He comes into this week 15 matchup against the Jaguars with two TDs in his last three games and with Torrey Smith battling an injury common sense says he’ll receive more targets and continue to put up big weeks. People see Jacksonville and think it’s a tasty matchup but much like I’ve warned the past few weeks, they’re actually a BAD matchup. Since week 4 this team has been playing stellar defense against the pass. Just this week they opposed Ryan Fitzpatrick who was coming off a 6 TD performance and held him to 135 yds and 0 TD! IN addition, the previous two weeks they held Eli Manning to 1 TD and broke Andrew Luck’s streak of 300 yard performances while holding him to 1 TD. The point of mentioning all these QBs is that the Ravens could very easily win this game handily, but it could be with a steady dose of Justin Forsett and some big plays against Blake Bortles. The Ravens will not have to air it out too often, limiting Smith’s opportunities against and already very good pass defense. All year Smith has been a boom or bust type of guy and I’m smelling bust for this week.
I’d start the following players over Steve Smith: Marqise Lee, Julian Edelman, Vincent Jackson, Golden Tate, Malcolm Floyd
· Larry Donnell v. Washington. It’s been a rough go for Larry Donnell and those fantasy players who started him for the past three weeks but week 15’s matchup with Washington is the cure for the tight end blues. The Redskins have gotten torched in back to back weeks by Coby Fleener and Jared Cook. They rank 29th overall against the TE. The Giants have shown that when they have an advantage in the passing game that they’ll keep picking on the matchup as evidenced by Donnell’s tendency to either put up a huge game or a tremendous dud. Look for the Giants to look for Donnell on fade patterns and/or jump balls in the endzone. In addition, look for them to throw a few deep seam passes to Donnell, a play that Washington has not shown the ability to cover in the last couple of weeks.
I’d start Larry Donnell over: Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Jordan Reed, Zach Ertz
· Julius Thomas at San Diego. If your other options are borderline options then you must start Julius Thomas, however I am concerned with his week 15 matchup. I’m mostly concerned with his injury. If he is not 100% then he is not the same player that can beat LBs and safeties 1 on 1 in the blink of an eye. In addition, I am concerned with Denver’s proficiency in the run game. In the beginning of the season, Denver was struggling to punch the ball into the endzone and Julius Thomas was their best option inside the 10 yardline. Nowadays CJ Anderson is one of the hottest RBs in the game of football, and he does convert inside the 10. The Broncos have no problem letting Anderson doing the dirty work while letting Julius Thomas get his legs back under him in his first game back from injury. If that wasn’t bad enough, San Diego is the 3rd ranked team against TEs and held a healthy Julius Thomas to only 2 catches for 23 yards in week 8. Once again, start him if you have to but if you have any other high end options like Delanie Walker, Martellus Bennett or this week even Larry Donnell, I would go ahead and bench him and save him for my Super Bowl week.
I’d Start the Following Players over Julius Thomas: Delanie Walker, Martellus Bennett, Larry Donnell, Antonio Gates
That’ll do it for week 15.It’s win or go home my friends. Don’t be a blip on the radar! Get it done this week and you’ll have bragging rights for a lifetime. Good Luck!