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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!
Ask how, ask now, ask Kerwynn Williams.
The Arizona Cardinals running back who was recently snagged up off the practice squad rattled the cages a little bit in Week 14 against the Kansas City Chiefs. By end of the game, a new potential fantasy option for Week 15 had bloomed. Williams wound up with 19 carries for 100 yards in his first real NFL action, but a matchup against what has become one of the best defenses in the NFL in addition to the fact that Williams benefited from some situations the Cardinals don't usually find themselves in under quarterback Drew Stanton make Williams a risky option in Week 15.
How he succeeded against Kansas City
In his second NFL game, Williams got his first opportunity to carry the ball and didn't disappoint. He displayed good burst out of the backfield, showing the ability to get up into second gear a little bit quicker than his teammates Stepfan Taylor and Marion Grice. If you watched that game and noticed the wealth of carries being spread around the Cardinals' backfield between Taylor, Grice and Williams, you figured Williams would ultimately wind up unstartable due to the backfield being so crowded.
But Williams shifted that notion more into his favor during the second half. Granted, his fantasy stats benefited from some game flow luck as the Cardinals found themselves surprisingly ahead after quarterback Drew Stanton connected with Jaron Brown on a seam route for a 17-14 go-ahead touchdown. When the Chiefs failed to respond with a score of their own on the next series, it allowed the Cardinals to serve the Chiefs heavy doses of their run game with Williams as the focal point.
Which leads to a major concern you should acknowledge if you're starting Williams against St. Louis this week. The Cardinals haven't gotten out to early leads with Drew Stanton at quarterback. Since former starter Carson Palmer tore his ACL in Week 10, the Cardinals have failed to score the first touchdown in three out of four games with Stanton under center.
And that's the thing with game flow. The majority of Williams' carries came in that second half when the Cardinals were ahead and needed to run the clock down. His confidence grew as the game went along, and for Bruce Arians and the coaching staff to rely on him in a game where the Cardinals most surely had to win with the Seahawks breathing down their neck is a good sign for Williams' value going forward. But even though Williams played well, he still only played in 36 percent of the Cardinals' offensive snaps while Stepfan Taylor was on the field for 25 percent of snaps. It's promising, but not incredibly promising.
Williams was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. After spending some time on practice squads in Indy and later San Diego, Williams found himself without a team until the Cardinals signed him shortly after the 2014 season began.
Coming out of Utah State, Williams rushed for 1,512 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior (6.9 yards per carry). He also set the single season record for receiving yards in (697) by a running back in 2012.
At 5'8, 198 pounds, Williams is an undersized running back who uses his explosiveness to create positive yardage fast. As you watch him in this clip, he does possess the home run ability in the open field. He measured at 4.48 40 speed at the combine in 2013 to go along with a 35" vertical. He's got good lateral ability and can zig zag along the offensive line at a good pace until he finds a crease. His undersized nature benefits him as it makes him tough to tackle and thus slippery, but it does limit him when it comes to plowing through defenders.
The Rams defense
if you consider starting Williams against the Rams on Thursday, you're doing so at a big risk. The Rams defense arguably improved the most as the season went along. They've climbed to sixth best against fantasy running backs after struggling early on. They now allow just under 13 points per game from RBs. They're also coming off consecutive shutouts against Washington and Oakland.
They held Alfred Morris, a decent running back in his own right, to just six yards on eight carries last week. They allowed Raiders running back Darren McFadden (I know, it's McFadden) to just 27 yards on 11 carries a week before. The last time they allowed a 100 yard rusher was three games back against Chargers' Ryan Mathews.
The return of defensive end Chris Long has really given the Rams an extra pass rusher to go along with Robert Quinn. Both defensive ends have played well in recent games, with each accounting for a sack in the last two contests. Linebacker Alec Ogletree has played better against the run recently after struggling early and their two safeties in Rodney McLeod and Mark Barron have been arguably the best combination at their respective positions in the league since Barron came over from Tampa Bay in late October.
If you picked up Kerwynn Williams, you have no reason to start him in this matchup. Steer clear if possible.
Editor's note: Read Part I of this article here.
Torrey Smith: B-
Other than DeSean Jackson there is, in my opinion, no streakier receiver than Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. Early on this season Smith owners were probably ready to give up on him after failing to top 3 receptions or 60 yards in the fist four weeks of the season. Predictably, Smith has turned his season around and is one of the hottest receivers in football, hauling in seven touchdown receptions in the last seven weeks.
We will get to see just how dialed in Smith and quarterback Joe Flacco are this week as they matchup with Brent Grimes and Dolphins. Grimes has been one of the best cornerbacks in football this year, allowing a passer rating of 62.9 on passes thrown his direction.
Steve Smith Sr.: C+
While Torrey Smith tries to get free from the grasp of Brent Grimes, Steve Smith could be the beneficiary of single-coverage for most of the afternoon. While Smith has tailed off from his torrid start to the season in which he broke the century mark four times in six games, that does not mean he cannot put together some quality fantasy numbers for the rest of the season.
Smith has failed to top 100 yards in a game since week 6, and has seen his effectiveness within the Ravens offense dip. Since week 6 Smith Sr. has a TOTAL of 19 catches over his last six games and has only scored once in that time frame.
Owen Daniels: Bench
Mike Wallace: B
The days of Mike Wallace taking the top off of defenses seems like a thing of the past ever since he signed with the Dolphins in free agency before the start of last season. Much of the blame can be placed on Ryan Tannehill’s inability to push the ball down the field, but where Wallace’s big-play ability may be limited, he has started to learn how to be a receiver in order to stay involved in the offense.
Jarvis Landry: B+
If you do not play in a PPR format fantasy league you may not be that familiar with Dolphins rookie wide receiver Jarvis Landry. The Dolphins fourth round pick in the most recent draft has come in and become Tannehill's safety blanket out of the slot. Despite not getting significant time at the start of the season Landry has become the Dolphins most reliable receiver.
Landry is out catching Fast Mike Wallace 57-54, and too make it more impressive Landry has made his impact with 130 less snaps than Wallace has this season. With Tannehill's inability to throw the ball down the field Landry is going to continue to make a major impact for fantasy owners.
Charles Clay: C
Indianapolis Colts v. Cleveland Browns
T.Y. Hilton: B
IIt is unclear how the Browns are going to match up their corner backs this weekend. If I had to guess, I would assume that Joe Haden would be matched up against T.Y. Hilton for most of the afternoon. If that is the case it could be a long afternoon for Hilton owners.
Haden has made a name for himself as one of the best up-and-coming defensive backs in the NFL, and could possibly throw his name in the consideration for best corner in the NFL. Haden had a dreadful start to the season allowing a passer rating of 110 or higher in four of the first five games of the season. That has quickly changed as Haden has not allowed a passer rating of greater than 67.5 in any game since, and has recorded an interception in three straight games. It is still possible that Hilton could have a successful day and deserves to be in lineups, but I am just warning you to temper your expectations.
Donte Moncrief: B- #32 Weekly Rankings
It is about time Moncrief's role grows within the Colts offense. The Colts 3rd round draft pick in the 2014 NFL draft has splashed a few times through out the season only to see himself slide right back into a complimentary role, but I have a feeling this is about to change.
Moncrief was burried behind veteran Hakeem Nicks for most of the season, but it appear that Moncrief has taken over Nicks' spot as the team's no. 3 receiver. Moncrief played 52% of the team's snaps in week 13, his highest since his breakout performance against the Steelers five weeks ago.
The rookie first splashed onto the scene while filling in for Reggie Wayne while he was out nursing an injury. Moncrief made a serious case to gain a larger role after gashing the Steelers secondary for seven receptions, 113 yards and a touchdown.
If Moncrief's snap count increased from 39.5% of the team's plays in week 12 to 52.5% in week 13. Going forward I would hope that Pep Hamilton finds ways to
Josh Gordon: A *Start of the Week #6 Weekly Rankings
While transitioning Josh Gordon back into the lineup has not been as seamless as people though it was going to be, the Browns receiver has still been able to produce at a very high level in his first two games back. Now a matchup against a Colts defense that will be without the services of cornerback Vonte Davis and Josh Gordon is officially my "Start of the Week".
With Davis out Gordon will have the fortune of matching up with reserve Greg Toler for most of the afternoon. Toler has been shaky at best this year, allowing a passer rating of 96.2 on passes thrown his way this season, and ranks in the top-10 for cornerbacks in terms of touchdown passes allowed (5).
Look for Hoyer to force-feed Gordon early and often this weekend. Get Gordon in your lineup.
Jordan Cameron: C
The concussion issues for Cameron really concern me. Now having missed time twice this season to deal with concussion symptoms Cameron is one blow to the head away from being out for a significant period of time. While few tight ends possess the athleticism that Cameron does, Cameron needs to prove that he is able to stay on the field for an extended period of time before I am willing to trust him as a starting caliber tight end during the playoff push.
If Cameron is able to suit this weekend he does have an owner friendly matchup against a Colts defense that is allowing the most points to tight ends on a weekly basis (10.3). Standing at 6'5" Cameron's size makes him a mismatch for safeties and linebackers who try to guard him, and with the Colts allowing five touchdowns to opposing tight ends in their last five games Cameron could be used in those kinds of situations if he is not able to play a full workload.
Cameron still needs to gain clearance from an independent neurologist on Sunday in hopes of receiving full medical clearance. Make sure you monitor Cameron's status before you make any decisions putting Cameron in your lineup.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v. Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
*Owners Beware* Tampa Bay Wide Receivers
Any owner that waited on Mike Evans to take the reigns as the no. 1 option in the Buccaneers passing offense was greatly rewarded when the rookie posted three straight games of 120+ receiving yards. However, the last two weeks the rookie has come back down to earth with just 7 catches and 96 yards combined over the last two weeks.
This could be a nerve-filled week for owners of any of the Tampa Bay wide receivers as they take on the 3rd best defense against opposing wide receivers in the Lions. The Lions have given up 6 touchdowns to wide receivers, ranking no. 2 in the NFL.
Even though the Lions have been tough against opposing wide receivers this year they have been vulnerable as of late, giving up five touchdowns in the last four weeks to wide receivers. It is no secret that the Lions team as a whole performs better in the friendly confines of Ford Field.
*Evans 21st Ranked WR this Week*
Calvin Johnson: A
Do I need to go further with this one? It's Calvin Johnson against one of the worst secondaries in all of football. Get ready for him to explode.
Golden Tate: B+
Tate has been a little bit tricker when evaluating him from a fantasy perspective. When Calvin Johnson was sidelined with an ankle injury Tate did a great job filling in topping the century mark four of the five games that Johnson was sidelined. Since Johnson has returned Tate has returned to playing second fiddle in the Detroit passing game, catching 14 total passes over the last three weeks for 227 total yards. While the yardage total is nothing to scoff at Tate has been a stranger to the end zone, failing to score in the last three weeks.
I would still have confidence rolling out Tate as, at worst, a mid-level WR2 with the potential to post WR1-type numbers in PPR formats.
Houston Texans v. Jacksonville Jaguars
DeAndre Hopkins: B+
Hopefully you guys got a chance to read my bullet points article last week when I said that DeAndre Hopkins was going to destroy the Titans secondary. Well after posting 9 catches for 238 yards and two touchdowns I think it is safe to say that Hopkins has cemented himself as the Texans top pass-catcher.
As long as Fitzpatrick is under center for the Texans, Hopkins is going to be at the very least a mid-level WR2 and will continue to be the big play threat, while Andre Johnson is relegated to a possession role with the team.
Andre Johnson: B
Despite getting at least 7 targets in every game that Ryan Fitzpatrick has started this season for some reason Andre Johnson and Fitzpatrick have been unable to find consistency from week-to-week.
If you are getting the workload that Johnson is on a weekly basis there is no reason that Johnson should be without a 100-yard game this season. It is not like the Texans offense has lacked big play potential as Johnson's counter-part DeAndre Hopkins has topped 100 yards four times, including a 238 yard performance in week 13 against the Titans.
Marquise Lee: C+
Trying to project the Jaguars leading receiver this year has been a big guessing game, but one of the rules that I try and follow is "the guy with talent will see the field". Taking that and applying it too the Jaguars wide receivers I Marquis Lee will be the Jaguars most fantasy relevant wide receiver for there rest of the season.
Lee has seen his snap count grow from 63.5% in week 12 to 71.8% in week 13, his highest snap total since week one (86.8%). With Cecil Shorts battling flu-like symptoms Lee has been given a larger role in the passing game, and with a team-leading 9 receptions over the last two week I think the superior talent (Lee) is going to start to overtake the veteran (Shorts). This is by no means a shot at Cecil Shorts. With his ability to stretch the field there is definitely a sport for him on an NFL roster, but with the Jaguars drafting two wide receivers in the most recent draft (Lee, Robinson) I think the writing is on the wall for a reduced role for Shorts going forward.
Buffalo Bills v. Denver Broncos
Sammy Watkins: C+
If you had to guess who the Bills leading receiver was over the last three weeks I am sure most of you, and for good reason, would choose Sammy Watkins. However, it is Robert Woods leading the team with 15 receptions for 204 yards and a touchdown since week 11.
Now i am not going to go on a limb and say that Woods is going to supplant Sammy Watkins as the primary read in the passing game, as Watkins is a special talent that can change a game whenever he gets his hands on the ball.
This week Watkins drew the misfortune of matching up against arguably the best overall cornerback in football, Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris. Pro Football Focus ranks Harris as the no. 1 CB in football (20.1), and ranks third in the NFL with a 48.4 passer rating on passes thrown in his direction.
There is no doubt that Watkins is a special talent, and that talent will eventually evolve into complete receiver. However, I feel that Buffalo relying on manufactured touches for Watkins i.e. bubble screens, jet screens a tactic that has hindered his development as a complete receiver. Out of Watkins 92 targets this season, 52 of them have come within 9 yards of the line of scrimmage, meaning either Watkins is struggling to get separation down field or the quarterback play will not allow the coaching staff to game plan those types of schemes into the offense.
Demariyus Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders: A
This is really a no-brainer so I am not going to delve in too much to Thomas and Sanders' matchup this weekend. Any offense that is led by Peyton Manning is going to to produce high-end fantasy talent, and with Julius Thomas battling an ankle injury, and Wes Welker virtually phased out of the offense I expect both Sanders and Thomas to be heavily involved in the passing offense this weekend.
Juilius Thomas: B
Thomas owners have to be growing frustrated with the tight end over the few weeks as he has been dealing with a sprained ankle. Thomas has missed the last two weeks, but early reports have said the Broncos expect Thomas to play this weekend. While I expect it to be in a limited capacity, even a Julius Thomas at 50% is better than most tight ends at 100%. If he is playing, he is in your lineup folks unless you have a top-flight option like Gronkowski or Graham on your bench.
Kansas City Chiefs v. Arizona Cardinals
Kansas City Chiefs
Seeing as Alex Smith does not throw the ball to wide receivers I am not going to waste any ones time trying to convince everyone of something that should be obvious, stay far away from the Chiefs pass catchers.
I am staying as far away as possible from every one on the Cardinals offense this weekend. Stanton has done nothing to show that he can run the offense with any effectiveness.
Seattle Seahawks v. Philadelphia Eagles
Seahawk Wide Receivers: Bench
This team is not going to feature their passing game. If you are depending on these guys
*Owners Beware* Philadelphia Eagles Wide Receivers
Is this the week that Mark Sanchez returns to his old turnover-prone self against Richard Sherman and the Legion and of Boom? While I doubt it is too the extreme like his days with the Jets, I have a feeling that the Seattle defense is hitting their stride at just the right time.
From a fantasy perspective nether Jeremy Maclin nor Jordan Matthews have a strong matchup as they go up against the no. 1 unit in the NFL against, allowing a meager 14.0 fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.
Even though people continue to throw out blasphemy that Richard Sherman is overrated the metrics speak for themselves that he is one of the premier defensive backs in the game today. On passes thrown his direction this year quarterbacks are completing just 45% of their passes, and have a passer rating just over 48.
Normally I would say that when a team has a shutdown corner on one side of the field to pick on the guy opposite him, however in Byron Maxwell's case you are going after damn good cornerback in his own right.
Now I am not telling anyone that they should bench Jeremy Maclin, but I am saying to temper your expectations for this week. While he very well could see a large amount of targets I do not think that the efficiency will be there for Maclin to produce high-end WR1 numbers like he has been this season.
San Francisco 49ers v. Oakland Raiders
San Francisco 49ers
I would rather not depend on a receiver that has Colin Kaepernick throwing him the ball on my fantasy team, but if I had to choose one of the 49ers receivers give me Anquan Boldin. Boldin has never been the best athlete, but what he lack in athleticism he makes up for it with a pair of sure hands and unmatched toughness.
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has regressed as a passer yet agin this year, but regardless of his deficiencies there is no doubt that Boldin is his favorite target. Vernon Davis is a producing absolutely nothing for the 49ers offense this year, and Michael Crabtree has failed to live up to the expectations that were placed on him when the 49ers selected Crabtree with the 10th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Where Crabtree and Davis has been failing, Boldin has been there to pick up the slack to one of the quietest 900 yard seasons I have every heard of. Despite lacking the big play ability of a Calvin Johnson, Boldin has found niche for himself in the slot patrolling the middle of the field.
Over the last seven weeks Boldin has been a model of consistency, having at least five catches or 90 receiving yards in all but one game in that time span. Like I said I have a tough time depending on Kaepernick to get the ball to his receivers on a consistent basis, but if I have to go with one of them give me wily veteran.
52-0 last week. Need I say more about the Raiders?
New England Patriots v. San Diego Chargers
New England Patriots
*Start Em* New England Receiving Options
I have a couple of theories about how this week 14 matchup where the Chargers host the Patriots will end up going. My first one, and for the sake of my own fantasy team I hope so, is that this game has the potential to be a shootout. The second, is that San Diego lays an egg while the Patriots control the game from the get go.
While I have my concerns about the Chargers offense we will discuss that in a little bit. When I try and project how a player will perform I try and examine who exactly they will matchup with during the game. I would imagine that Brandon Flowers is going to spend most of the afternoon lining up against Brandon LaFell (#24 Weekly Rankings), while Shareece Wright and Richard Marshall matchup with Julian Edelman (#28 Weekly Rankings) and Rob Gronkowski (#1 TE Rank).
Looking at the matchup just on paper, I would expect Gronkowski to be to focal point of Tom Brady's passing attack this weekend. The Chargers rank 4th fewest points to opposing tight ends, but when I look at it a little bit closer, aside from playing Julius Thomas they have not exactly played any tight ends that will keep defensive coordinators up at night trying to scheme against them.
I still expect Edelman to get his typical workload between 7-10 targets and 60-70 yards making him especially valuable in PPR leagues. If any of the Patriots receivers are going to "take one for the team" so to speak my candidate would be Brandon LaFell. If LaFell does not get in the end zone his upside is limited due to his inconsistent role within the offense. If you need someone in standard leagues LaFell would be the guy I would roll with.
San Diego Chargers
Keenan Allen B- and Antonio Gates A-
Well I have a feeling that Keenan Allen is going to spend a lot of time in the ice bath after this week as i expect him to see a heavy dose of Brandon Browner lining up directly across from him. If that is the case and the Patriots scheme like I expect them too with Revis shadowing Gates, and Browner on Allen it could be a long big day for Eddie Royal patrolling the underneath routes.
If I know Belichick like I think I do I have a feeling he is going to surprise people tomorrow and have Darrelle Revis take Antonio Gates as another hostage to Revis Island. However, like I have found out in the past no one knows what the Hoodie is going to do, not even the Hoodie himself.
If the Patriots stick to their previous gameplan Gates could be in for a busy afternoon. The Patriots defense has allowed the 9th most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season, including 6 double-digit scoring days in all but one of the previous 7 games, including three touchdowns in the same time frame.
Atlanta Falcons v. Green Bay Packers
Julio Jones: A
Even though every ounce of me wants to say that Julio Jones is going to rip the Packers to shreds, there is no doubt that when the Falcons get away from the friendly confines of the Georgia dome they are a completely different team.
In the Falcons five away games not in a dome this year Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has a td:int of 5:4, failing to throw for multiple touchdowns in any road game this season. There is one thing that Julio Jones has going for him. Well two things actually. The first thing is that the Packers starting cornerback Sam Shields, the man who most likely would draw the duty of trying to contain the animal that is Julio Jones, is still going through the leagues concussion protocol and is currently listed as questionable for this weeks game.
Roddy White: C+
I gotta hand it too Roddy, he has been very helpful to the fantasy football community over the years. I mean he told us himself that if he is limited during the week to not start him in your fantasy lineups. At least the guy is honest, right?
Well White was limited once again this week, but he did get in a limited practice on Saturday. One thing White has going for him is an extra day of rest as the Falcons and Packers do not play until Monday night. If White is able to go it is hard to imagine that he would have a massive role in the gameplan.
Harry Douglas: C+ w/potential
This ranking is all dependent on the health of Roddy White and whether or not he is going to be available for this weekend against the Packers. If White is forced to miss week 14 Harry Douglas would immediately gain the value of a high-end WR3, with the potential to post WR2 numbers.
Green Bay Packers
Jordy Nelson: A
Randall Cobb: A
Has anyone taken a look at what Aaron Rodgers has been able to do to opposing defenses while playing at Lambeau this year? Well if not the guys is just averaging 280 yards passing, and almost 3.5 touchdowns per game this season. Rodgers has also not thrown an interception at home this season, displaying a lighting quick release and an absurd understanding of what opposing defenses are throwing at him.
Well when someone is on a roll the way that Rodgers is that normally means good things for fantasy owners if they happen to own one of his top two targets; Randall Cobb or Jordy Nelson. Even though Nelson draws a semi-tough matchup against Desmond Truant, there is no way a second year cornerback (aside from Xavier Rhodes) is going to completely take away Jordy Nelson from the game plan.
Randall Cobb on the other hand is going to have a field day with the other members of the Falcons secondary whether it be Robert McClain or whoever else the Falcons throw at him I doubt it has little impact as the Packers offense is beginning to hit their stride right in time for the playoff run.
One more little note for Nelson owners; Jordy has caught a touchdown pass in every home game this season. Just keep that in mind.