Week 15 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em
Montee Ball has slowly but surely picked it up over the second half of his rookie season. Jamey Eisenberg likes his outlook tonight against the Chargers and explains why in his Start 'Em and Sit 'Em.
Week 14 got off to a great start on the second play of the game in Tampa Bay. That's when Bobby Rainey got the majority of his production and was a star as the Start of the Week.
He had an 80-yard touchdown run against the Bills to open the game, which propelled him to finish as a Top 10 running back for the week. He was one of several positive start suggestions for Week 14, including Josh McCown as the No. 1 quarterback, Shane Vereen as the No. 4 running back and the Cardinals DST as the No. 3 unit.
As usual, since it comes with the territory, we had some bad calls as well. Andrew Luck , Marques Colston and Charles Clay stand out since they were all in the Top 2 at their respective positions as sit suggestions. I also missed on other sit suggestions with Ben Roethlisberger , Ryan Tannehill , Danny Woodhead , Frank Gore and Jordan Cameron , who all played well despite poor matchups.
Some disappointing start suggestions included Russell Wilson , Robert Griffin III , Ben Tate , Mike Wallace , Michael Floyd and Jared Cook . But we also told you to sit Colin Kaepernick , Donald Brown , Pierre Thomas and T.Y. Hilton , which paid off.
Also, we added a new wrinkle with our "Stand By Your Man" category, which is essentially a confidence factor with struggling stars who continue to be active on your rosters. We got three of four correct with Tony Romo , Wes Welker and Tony Gonzalez all doing well, and only Alfred Morris was a letdown. And we hit on several sleepers in Philip Rivers , Montee Ball , Rashard Mendenhall , Chris Ivory , Dwayne Bowe , Brandon Myers and Garrett Graham .
This week, Ball goes from sleeper to must-start status, and hopefully weather and injuries won't be a significant factor like we saw in Week 14.
|Player||Fantasy Pts. (proj.)||Fantasy Pts. (actual)||Start %||Pos. rank|
|Bobby Rainey , RB, Bucs||13||18||58||7|
|Josh McCown , QB, Bears||23||46||52||1|
|Shane Vereen , RB, Patriots||10||21||65||4|
|Colin Kaepernick , QB, 49ers||17||14||40||23|
|Pierre Thomas , RB, Saints||8||2||44||58|
|T.Y. Hilton , WR, Colts||7||0||46||93|
|Russell Wilson , QB, Seahawks||21||11||59||26|
|Ben Tate , RB, Texans||13||5||66||40|
|Michael Floyd , WR, Cardinals||12||2||80||66|
|Andrew Luck , QB, Colts||16||40||43||2|
|Marques Colston , WR, Saints||7||24||41||2|
|Charles Clay , TE, Dolphins||7||21||39||1|
Start of the Week: Montee Ball , RB, Broncos
It might have taken longer than expected, but the Broncos stuck to their plan to bring rookie running back Montee Ball along slowly to make him a factor later in the season. We're seeing it happen before our eyes right now heading into Week 15 against the Chargers.
Ball has either a touchdown or 100 rushing yards in three of his past four games. He has at least 13 carries in consecutive games, and he's even catching the ball with three receptions in three of his past four outings. And he's averaging 6.9 yards per carry in the past two weeks against Kansas City and Tennessee.
|Frank Gore||at TB|
|Andre Brown||vs. SEA|
|Ray Rice||at DET|
|C.J. Spiller||at JAC|
|Chris Johnson||vs. ARI|
Knowshon Moreno remains the starter and should be started with confidence this week. But Ball has shown he can still produce as a complementary option, and the short week against San Diego at home should work in his favor with the game Thursday night.
The Broncos want to make sure Moreno is healthy for the playoffs, and they will limit his workload when possible, especially since he's battled a recent ankle injury. Ball could see plenty of action if Denver plays as expected and is killing the clock late in the game.
The Chargers have allowed a running back to score or gain 100 total yards in each of their past six games with six reaching double digits in Fantasy points, including Moreno in Week 10. Ball and Moreno should add to that list this week, and it's time for Fantasy owners to buy into Ball as a must-start Fantasy option for this scoring period.
Andrew Luck (vs. HOU): Luck did two important things in Week 14 at Cincinnati. He showed he could post a huge stat line outdoors with only the second game of his career with more than 20 Fantasy points outside. And, more importantly, he developed new targets in Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill , who should hopefully help moving forward, since Luck needed weapons to replace Reggie Wayne (knee) with Hilton struggling. We hope Rogers and Brazill will keep it going for another week, and this is a good matchup against the Texans, especially at home. Luck already scored 30 Fantasy points at Houston in Week 9, and the Texans have allowed multiple passing touchdowns in five of the past six games. It might be tough to buy back into Luck since he scored 18 Fantasy points or less in four of the past five games, but we'd give him the nod in this matchup.
Nick Foles (at MIN): We're keeping Foles here to illustrate the guys you should be starting him over at this point because he's been that good and that consistent. It might backfire because these are great quarterbacks, but I'd start Foles over Matthew Stafford , Romo, Wilson and Tom Brady , among many others. He's scored at least 21 Fantasy points in five games in a row, and not even the snowstorm in Philadelphia last week slowed him down. And this matchup in a dome is amazing since the Vikings have allowed all but two opponents -- Roethlisberger in Week 4 and Eli Manning in Week 7 -- to score at least 22 Fantasy points, including Joe Flacco and McCown the past two games. And with standout cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) out, that should allow DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper to make plays, which only makes things better for Foles.
Matt Ryan (vs. WAS): Ryan has the chance for his best game since Week 7, which was his first game without Julio Jones (foot). He scored 28 Fantasy points against Tampa Bay that week, but he's been at 18 points or less for the seven games since. But he's playing better of late since Roddy White got healthy, and we expect a breakthrough performance at home against the Redskins. Washington is clearly in disarray, and five of the past seven opposing quarterbacks against the Redskins have scored at least 18 Fantasy points, with four scoring 21 or more. Ryan played at Washington last season and had 345 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He had Jones in that matchup, but we hope he can have similar success this time around at home.
Jay Cutler (at CLE): I would rather McCown start this week since he's been on fire of late, but the Bears will go back to Cutler against the Browns after he's been out the past four games with an ankle injury. The only concern with Cutler is him getting hurt again, but he was stellar before going down with at least 20 Fantasy points in five of his first six games. This offense is clearly suited for big production at quarterback because Cutler and McCown have combined for multiple scores in 10 games and 300 or more yards six times. The system is great, the receivers are awesome with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and the quarterbacks are thriving. The matchup this week against Cleveland is also enticing because the Browns have allowed six of the past eight opposing quarterbacks to score at least 20 Fantasy points with all eight throwing multiple touchdowns. Count on Cutler to come back in a big way.
Ben Roethlisberger (vs. CIN): Roethlisberger has proven to be matchup proof at this point. He's dismantled two of the Top 10 pass defenses the past two weeks in Baltimore and Miami with 23 Fantasy points in each outing, and he's now scored at least 20 points in five of his past six games. He hasn't thrown an interception since Week 10, and it's time to buy in if you haven't done so already. The Bengals kept Roethlisberger under control in Week 2 when he passed for 251 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but the Cincinnati defense is down two cornerbacks since then with Leon Hall (Achilles) and Terence Newman (knee) out. Luck just lit up Cincinnati for 40 Fantasy points, so hopefully Roethlisberger will stay hot this week.
Stand By Your Man: Matthew Stafford (vs. BAL): Stafford might have cost some owners with his performance in the snow at Philadelphia in Week 14 since he scored just five Fantasy points, but if you advanced you should continue to rely on him. Despite 10 interceptions since Week 8, Stafford still has 21 of more Fantasy points in seven of his past eight games. At home, Stafford has just one game with fewer than 20 Fantasy points, which was Week 4 against the Bears. The Ravens might be slipping a bit after they allowed at least 22 Fantasy points in each of the past two games against Roethlisberger and Matt Cassel , and Stafford has a higher ceiling than both with better weapons. We expect him to rebound in a big way, even in a potentially tough matchup, so don't pass on him for one bad game in horrendous weather.
|Ryan Tannehill||(vs. NE)||He has at least 19 Fantasy points in his past three, and NE pass defense is vulnerable.|
|Philip Rivers||(at DEN)||Three of the past four quarterbacks have scored at least 25 Fantasy points vs. DEN.|
|Colin Kaepernick||(at TB)||Eight of the past nine quarterbacks vs. TB have scored at least 18 Fantasy points.|
Carson Palmer (at TEN): The Titans were abused by Peyton Manning last week, which isn't much of a surprise since he can dismantle any secondary. But give credit where it's due, and the Titans have shut down most other passing attacks with Matt Schaub in Week 2 the only quarterback along with Manning to score 20 or more Fantasy points, including matchups with Roethlisberger, Rivers, Wilson, Kaepernick and Luck twice. Palmer did a nice job playing through his elbow injury last week against St. Louis, but he snapped a string of three games in a row with 24 or more Fantasy points and five games in a row with multiple touchdowns. With a tough matchup and a bad throwing elbow, we'd be cautious with him this week and consider other options.
Eli Manning (vs. SEA): Manning isn't worth starting in two-quarterback leagues at this point, as this is a lost season for him. He has three games with multiple touchdowns, one game with more than 20 Fantasy points and he's currently on pace to finish with more interceptions (20) than touchdowns (16) for the first time since his rookie year. It's a shame given the talent around him, but you have to wonder if Manning is the problem or the receivers in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are letting him down. Either way, there's no upside in starting Manning this week, which likely means he'll surprise us all with his best game since Week 1. We're kidding of course since Seattle hasn't allowed a quarterback to score 20 Fantasy points since Week 5, and it's doubtful Manning will end the streak at eight games and counting.
Andy Dalton (at PIT): Good Andy showed up in Week 14 against the Colts with 36 Fantasy points, which was his first game with more than 18 points since Week 8. We know when he gets hot he can really turn it on like he did from Weeks 6-8 with an average of 34 Fantasy points over those three games. But he has a bad history against the Steelers. In five career meetings, Dalton has completed 53 percent of his throws and averaged just 194 passing yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions. Dalton did play fairly well in Week 2 against Pittsburgh, throwing for 280 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 10 yards, but he scored only 18 Fantasy points. The Steelers just allowed Tannehill to score 29 Fantasy points, so consider that a good sign for Dalton, but we'll go with the historical data here that shows Dalton could struggle.
Joe Flacco (at DET): My colleague Dave Richard brought up an excellent point about Flacco this week when discussing his favorable matchup against the Lions. While Detroit has a weak secondary, the defensive line is ferocious and could be problematic for Baltimore's offensive line, leaving Flacco little time. I still like Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta this week, but don't be surprised if turnovers negate some of Flacco's positive production. Keep in mind he only has four games this season with more than 20 Fantasy points, and he's already set a career high with 17 interceptions. Surprisingly, two of his best games this season were on the road at Denver in Week 1 and at Cleveland in Week 9, but he's usually better at home. In his four other road games at Buffalo, Miami, Pittsburgh and Chicago, he's averaging just 12.4 Fantasy points in a standard league. I'd only consider Flacco in two-quarterback formats this week.
Alex Smith (at OAK): I'm not sitting Smith because of the matchup. The Raiders just allowed Geno Smith to score 23 Fantasy points, and six quarterbacks have scored at least 22 Fantasy points against them this year. Smith is also hot with multiple touchdowns in four consecutive games and at least 25 Fantasy points in three of his past four. But I expect the Chiefs to have a similar outing against Oakland like they did against the Redskins last week where the defense and running game carry the load, and Smith was limited to just 20 pass attempts. He had a similar game like that against Oakland in Week 6 when he attempted 31 passes -- his third-lowest total of the year -- and finished with just seven Fantasy points. You can gamble on Smith in two-quarterback leagues, but don't be surprised if he finishes with about 17 Fantasy points if this game goes as expected. It's doubtful the Chiefs will be chasing points, which is when we've seen Smith at his best from a Fantasy perspective.
Bust alert: Tom Brady (at MIA): Are you a believer in Brady or do you look at the matchup and go with what makes sense? That's what many Brady owners have to decide this week now that Rob Gronkowski (knee) is out for the season and with a tough matchup on hand. The Dolphins held Brady to eight Fantasy points in Week 8 at home with a healthy Gronkowski when New England attacked a weak run defense. That same game plan makes sense in the rematch since Miami has allowed just three quarterbacks to throw multiple touchdowns this season. Yes, Roethlisberger just shredded this defense last week for 349 yards and three touchdowns, so it's possible Brady does well. But Brady had one game this season with more than 20 Fantasy points without Gronkowski, and that was a great matchup at Atlanta in Week 4. It's tough to bench Brady in the Fantasy playoffs, especially since he's scored at least 24 points in three games in a row and four of his past five. But Gronkowski was a significant contributor for the majority of that production, and losing him is a tremendous blow to his offense, including someone as great as Brady.
Zac Stacy (vs. NO): Stacy has done a nice job with his consistency since he's scored at least seven Fantasy points in every game since Week 5. He has 100 rushing yards or a touchdown in his past three home games against Seattle, Tennessee and Chicago, and the Saints have struggled to contain running backs on the road. New Orleans has played road games at Tampa Bay, Chicago, New England, the Jets, Atlanta and Seattle, and Doug Martin , Matt Forte , Stevan Ridley , Ivory and Steven Jackson have each scored at least nine Fantasy points. Only Marshawn Lynch failed to have a productive game against this Saints defense when they were on the road, but we like Stacy's chances this week. Consider him a solid starting option in all leagues.
Ben Tate (at IND): Tate has shown a resiliency to bounce back from bad games before, and we expect him to do it again this week. He struggled in his first matchup with Jacksonville in Week 12 with two Fantasy points, and he rebounded the following week against New England with 28 Fantasy points. Well, he was limited against the Jaguars again last week with five Fantasy points, and we like his chances against the Colts, who have allowed a running back to reach double digits in Fantasy points in each of the past five games. Tate had eight Fantasy points against Indianapolis in Week 9 when he was thrust into action for the injured Arian Foster (back), but we're counting on a better performance in the rematch.
Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead (at DEN): Just like we're fond of Moreno and Ball, we also like Mathews and Woodhead this week. In the first game against Denver in Week 10, Mathews had 14 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown and one catch for 2 yards, and Woodhead had six carries for 27 yards and four catches for 17 yards and a touchdown. The Broncos have allowed 18 touchdowns to opposing running backs, including six through the air. Mathews is the safer of the two since he's scored at least nine Fantasy points in seven of his past eight games, with six games in double digits in points over that span. Woodhead's workload has been erratic lately with 11 touches or less in each of his past five games, but he does have at least 15 Fantasy points in a standard league in two of those outings. We expect the Chargers will need Woodhead this week, so look for both running backs to be Top 24 options in this scoring period.
Shane Vereen (at MIA): You can stop with a lot of the "should I start Vereen or" questions because the answer in most cases this week is him. He's been spectacular since his return from a broken wrist in Week 11, and his role will only increase with Gronkowski out. We saw firsthand in Week 14 against the Browns when Gronkowski went down and Vereen finished with 12 catches for 153 yards, and he also added a rushing touchdown. He has at least eight catches in three of his past four games and has scored at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league in three of those outings as well. The Patriots will likely use a similar game plan against the Dolphins like they used in Week 8 by leaning on the run, and Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden combined for 33 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns in that matchup. Ridley or Blount could end up with a touchdown here, but Vereen is the New England running back to trust as a must-start option.
Donald Brown (vs. HOU): Brown has done a nice job exploiting good matchups and struggling with tough ones, and this game definitely belongs on the positive side. The Texans have allowed a running back to score at least nine Fantasy points six times in the past four games with six touchdowns over that span. Brown has three games with double digits in Fantasy points in his past five outings. He thrived against weak opponents like St. Louis and Tennessee twice, but he failed against Arizona and Cincinnati. We'll follow the trend of him doing well when the matchup is in his favor, and he should be considered a No. 2 running back or flex option this week.
Stand By Your Man: Steven Jackson (vs. WAS): Jackson failed to take advantage of a great matchup in Week 14 at Green Bay, but really the only thing missing was a touchdown, since he had 15 carries for 71 yards. Prior to last week, Jackson had scored at least 13 Fantasy points in consecutive games, both on turf against New Orleans at home and against Buffalo in Toronto. The Redskins come into this game having allowed a running back to score double digits in Fantasy points in four of their past five games, with Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis combining for three touchdowns last week. Washington should struggle to stop this Falcons offense, and Jackson has the chance to reward Fantasy owners when it counts after a down season due to injuries and poor play.
|Rashard Mendenhall / Andre Ellington||(at TEN)||TEN has been miserable in run defense for 10 games in a row.|
|Pierre Thomas||(at STL)||He should rebound after tough matchups with SEA and CAR in consecutive weeks.|
|Jordan Todman||(vs. BUF)||If Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) is out he draws a favorable matchup vs. BUF.|
|Toby Gerhart||(vs. PHI)||If Adrian Peterson (foot) is out he would be a must-start option based on workload.|
|Chris Ogbonnaya||(vs. CHI)||He has a great matchup and could shine if Willis McGahee (concussion) is out.|
Ray Rice (at DET): Rice had one of his better games this season in Week 14 against Minnesota with 17 carries for 67 yards and five catches for 42 yards. The rushing total was his third-highest of the season, which illustrates how poor he's played this year. He now faces a Lions defense that was embarrassed in the snow at Philadelphia by LeSean McCoy and Co., but that's not an indication of Detroit's run defense this year. In the previous six games, the Lions held standout running backs like Giovani Bernard , Forte, Le'Veon Bell , Rainey and Eddie Lacy to an average of 4.6 Fantasy points. Rice will likely struggle as well, and we'd consider him just a flex option at best.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (at PIT): The Steelers haven't been the same stout run defense that we've come to expect in recent years, and eight running backs have reached double digits in Fantasy points with 14 touchdowns allowed. Green-Ellis is touchdown dependent to help your Fantasy team, and he's done well the past two games with three scores combined against the Chargers and Colts. It's the first time all season he's reached double digits in Fantasy points in consecutive games, but we doubt he'll make it three in a row. He did have 22 carries for 75 yards against the Steelers in Week 2, and he could again reach that total if the Bengals have a lead and are killing the clock. That's when Green-Ellis is at his best, but there's also a strong sample size of when he struggles with six games with six Fantasy points or less. That's the gamble you'd be taking by starting him at this point in the season.
Chris Ivory (at CAR): Ivory took advantage of a great matchup in Week 14 against Oakland with 18 carries for 76 yards and a bullish 15-yard touchdown run. His matchup this week isn't as favorable since the Panthers have only allowed five running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points with only three rushing touchdowns. C.J. Spiller in Week 2 is the only running back to gain 100 rushing yards, and Ivory has proven he can be good when the matchup is right and awful when the matchup is tough. He also has just one game with double digits in Fantasy points on the road this season, which was at Buffalo in Week 11.
Darren Sproles (at STL): Fantasy owners in PPR leagues can continue to start Sproles if needed since he does have seven catches in two of his past four games, but owners in standard formats should move on if you haven't done so already. He has three games with double digits in Fantasy points, all at home, and he's only scored touchdowns in two games this year. He's combined for 11 Fantasy points in a standard format in his past three games, and he hasn't rushed for more than 40 yards all season. The carries haven't been there for him with five or less in every game since Week 2. With Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram handling most of the rushing downs, Sproles is relegated to just passing situations, and his production there has been a letdown. We'd bench him even with a favorable matchup against the Rams this week and go with Thomas as a starter instead.
DeAngelo Williams (vs. NYJ): I wouldn't get overly excited that Williams is back as the featured rusher with Jonathan Stewart (knee) out for the season. I also wouldn't use Marcel Reece 21 Fantasy points against the Jets last week as a benchmark of what the Panthers can do in this matchup. While Williams did open the season with at least seven Fantasy points in six of his first nine games, he still loses goal-line work to Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton . And the Jets have only allowed five running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points this season with seven rushing touchdowns. You can consider Williams a flex option in a desperate situation this week because Stewart's absence clearly opens the door for more work. But in a tough matchup and based on his lack of scoring this season with just two touchdowns, we'd lean toward benching Williams unless you don't have any other options.
Bust alert: Chris Johnson (vs. ARI): It's tough to bench Johnson in any format because he's been finding a way to produce as either a runner or receiver for the most part over the past six games. He has four games with at least nine Fantasy points over that span and six total touchdowns. He does have two outings with seven points or less, and the Cardinals could also hold him to single digits this week. Arizona has allowed the fewest Fantasy points to opposing running backs all season with only McCoy, Gore and Lynch reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Gore is the lone 100-yard rusher against the Cardinals, and only four running backs have scored touchdowns. Johnson is still worth consideration as a flex option, but he's not a slam-dunk starting running back as he has been for most of the season, especially the past six games.
Riley Cooper (at MIN): Cooper posted a decent stat line for playing in the snow last week against Detroit with three catches for 74 yards and a two-point conversion. He had 10 targets, which is a season high, and he's facing a vulnerable Vikings secondary this week. Minnesota has allowed 15 touchdowns to opposing receivers, with No. 2 receivers doing most of the damage thanks to Rhodes. Since he's out this week that should help Cooper and Jackson, but seven secondary receivers have scored touchdowns against the Vikings this season, including Marlon Brown last week. Give Cooper another chance even though he hasn't scored in three straight, but this is a great rebound matchup.
Julian Edelman (at MIA): Like Vereen, Edelman will benefit with Gronkowski out, and he's been Brady's best receiver the past three weeks, especially with Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) and Aaron Dobson (foot) hurt. Edelman comes into this game with 47 Fantasy points in a standard league in his past three outings with 32 targets over that span. He has six catches in each game, two 100-yard performances and three touchdowns, and he should still be considered a starting option even with the tough matchup against the Dolphins. The Steelers had three receivers score touchdowns against Miami in Week 14, and Brady will rely on Edelman when he needs to make a play in the passing game. Even though Brady should struggle this week, Edelman has been too hot to bench in all formats.
Roddy White (vs. WAS): White has shown enough the past two weeks that he's worth starting in a favorable matchup against the Redskins. He has 24 targets the past two games against Buffalo and Green Bay with 18 catches for 217 yards. He only has one touchdown on the season, but the Redskins have allowed 14 touchdowns to opposing receivers, including nine to opposing No. 1 options. White is typically better at home than on the road, and we hope he can finish the season strong after being a disappointment due to injuries most of the year.
Anquan Boldin (at TB): We expect Darrelle Revis to line up mostly against Michael Crabtree since Boldin will spend time in the slot. That bodes well for Boldin. Since Revis was allowed to shadow receivers beginning in Week 8 against Carolina, the secondary receivers for those seven games have scored eight touchdowns. And Boldin is hot right now with at least nine Fantasy points in each of his past four games. He's closing 2013 like he did 2012, and he's had at least 93 receiving yards in each of the past three weeks. He scored three touchdowns in his past two road games at New Orleans and Washington, and as long as he can avoid Revis we can see him posting another quality stat line in this matchup.
Marques Colston (vs. STL): We were planning to start Colston this week prior to last week's game, and it actually might hurt him that he exploded for nine catches, 125 yards and two touchdowns against Carolina since he hasn't posted back-to-back quality stat lines all season. Still, it was great to see him get 13 targets, which were a season high, and this is a fantastic matchup for him to exploit. There have been 15 receivers to score at least eight Fantasy points against St. Louis, and 10 of 13 No. 1 options have either scored a touchdown or had 100 receiving yards. Of the three who failed to hit those marks, Boldin had nine catches for 98 yards in Week 13, and Andre Johnson had seven catches for 88 yards in Week 6. We think Colston can score at least eight points this week with a much higher ceiling, and we hope Drew Brees will continue to find him like he did against the Panthers in Week 14.
Stand by your man: Dez Bryant (vs. GB): Fantasy owners are frustrated with Bryant, and rightfully so. He has one game with double digits in Fantasy points in his past five outings, which isn't supposed to happen for an elite receiver with a solid quarterback like Romo. Bryant has just two touchdowns over that stretch, and he has just one game with double digits in targets in his past four outings. He also hasn't had 100 receiving yards since Week 7. But this matchup screams for Bryant to have a big game since the Packers have allowed 17 touchdowns to opposing receivers and 11 to reach double digits in Fantasy points, including seven No. 1 options. Bryant last faced Green Bay as a rookie in 2010 and had nine catches for 86 yards and a touchdown, and we hope history repeats itself this week.
|Brian Hartline||(vs. NE)||He has five or more catches in five straight with a TD in consecutive games.|
|T.Y. Hilton||(vs. HOU)||Hilton and Da'Rick Rogers have a chance to shine as high-upside No. 3 receivers.|
|Rod Streater||(vs. KC)||He's been the go-to guy for Matt McGloin and is a solid No. 3 receiver this week.|
|Dwayne Bowe||(vs. OAK)||There have been 11 No. 1 receivers to score at least eight Fantasy points vs. OAK.|
|Panthers trio||(vs. NYJ)||Steve Smith , Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn all have the chance to excel this week.|
Kendall Wright (vs. ARI): Wright has been a solid option in PPR leagues for most of the season with five catches or more in 10 games and at least 65 receiving yards in nine outings. But in standard leagues he's only reached double digits in Fantasy points twice, and you should probably consider other options this week unless you're hoping for seven or eight points. The Cardinals have allowed just five receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points all season with eight touchdowns allowed, and four of those were scored by Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson . Wright has only scored twice, and none at home, so his upside could be limited this week in standard formats.
Michael Crabtree (at TB): Crabtree continues to work his way back from the offseason Achilles injury, and he has six catches for 108 yards on 12 targets in two games since being activated in Week 13. The production will start to come as the targets increase, but this isn't the week to trust him. He will likely draw coverage from Revis since Boldin spends more time in the slot, so you might want to avoid him until Week 16 when he plays the Falcons at home. Since Revis started covering No. 1 receivers instead of playing zone in Week 8, he's held Steve Smith twice, Golden Tate , White, Mike Wallace and Steve Johnson to seven Fantasy points or less. I wouldn't even consider Crabtree in three-receiver formats this week.
Victor Cruz (vs. SEA): I'd love to see the salsa dance because it's been missing for most of the season. Cruz hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 4 and has just two games with touchdowns on the year, which is nuts. He's also gone over 100 receiving yards just once since Week 4, and he's scored four Fantasy points or less three times in his past five games. I'd love for him to snap out of his funk in a big way this week, but he should be viewed as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver at best in this matchup with the Seahawks, who have allowed just eight touchdowns to receivers and five to reach double digits in Fantasy points. If you made it to the Fantasy playoffs in spite of Cruz -- and add Nicks in this conversation -- then kudos to you, but start other options if you can to give yourself the best chance to win.
Nate Burleson (vs. BAL): It's too risky to trust Burleson even in PPR leagues in the Fantasy playoffs, but hopefully he gets back on the radar this week. He struggled in the snow in Week 14 at Philadelphia with two catches for 18 yards, but at least he was targeted. The week before against Green Bay he didn't have one pass thrown in his direction. The matchup against the Ravens at home isn't horrible since six secondary receivers have scored against Baltimore this year. But Burleson's lack of targets and subsequent production since coming back from a broken arm in Week 12 -- one good game, two awful ones -- should have you leery of starting him. We hope he proves us wrong, but use caution if you consider him in three-receiver leagues.
Pierre Garcon (at ATL): The matchup at Atlanta is great. But the recent production from Garcon and the quarterback change from Griffin to Kirk Cousins should have you concerned, and Garcon is more of a bust alert this week in standard leagues. In PPR formats, Garcon has been at six catches or more 11 times this season with at least 60 receiving yards in eight games. But he's scored just three touchdowns and none since Week 10, and in his past four games he's scored 17 combined Fantasy points. He's obviously due for a big game, and it could easily come against the Falcons, who have allowed 13 receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points with 14 touchdowns. But Atlanta hasn't allowed a receiver to score in the past three games, which could leave Garcon limited for another week. It's hard to bench someone of his talent, and maybe Cousins gets him going since Griffin has struggled. But he might not be worth the risk at this point based on what we've seen over the past four games with his lack of production.
Bust alert: Vincent Jackson (vs. SF): It's almost impossible to bench Jackson in the Fantasy playoffs based on his potential. He scored last week against Buffalo and always has the chance for 20-plus Fantasy points in a standard league, which he's done three times this season, including twice at home. But there's also the chance the 49ers scheme to take him away, and since the Buccaneers have become more run heavy, Jackson has suffered. He only has eight catches in the past three games on 16 targets, and he's only scored two touchdowns in his past seven outings. The 49ers also have allowed just six receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points this season with only Brian Quick doing it in the past five games. We hope Mike Glennon goes back to throwing at will to Jackson, who had 11 or more targets in Glennon's first three starts. But Tampa Bay has become a running team, and with a tough matchup on the docket against San Francisco, we'd start Jackson with caution and lower expectations if he is in your lineup.
Delanie Walker (vs. ARI): Walker is expected to return after missing Week 14 at Denver with a concussion, and this a great opportunity for a rebound performance. The Cardinals allow the most Fantasy points to opposing tight ends, and Walker was playing well before going down in Week 13. He has two games with double digits in Fantasy points since Week 10, and in the three games before he got hurt he had 27 targets. The Cardinals have allowed 14 touchdowns to opposing tight ends this year with eight scoring at least eight Fantasy points. We expect Walker to hit that mark as well, and he's a great replacement option for Gronkowski.
Coby Fleener (vs. HOU): The Texans have struggled with tight ends of late, which bodes well for Fleener having a rebound game. Houston has allowed double digits in Fantasy points to the past two opposing tight ends in Gronkowski and Marcedes Lewis , and five tight ends since Week 9 have reached at least eight Fantasy points, including Fleener when he had three catches for 64 yards and a two-point conversion. He's been struggling in the past two games with just eight Fantasy points, but he's been involved with at least eight targets in four of the past five games. And he also scored against Houston at home last year on a 1-yard touchdown for his only catch of the game, but he has a much higher ceiling this time around.
Dennis Pitta (at DET): The matchup is tough against the Lions this week, but you've been waiting all season for Pitta to come back, so he's definitely worth the gamble, especially if you lost Gronkowski. Pitta played well in his debut in Week 14 against Minnesota with six catches for 48 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets. We hope he gets a similar workload this week, and it's clear Flacco trusts him based on their rapport going back to last season. Now, the Lions have allowed just one touchdown to an opposing tight end, but three have scored at least seven Fantasy points and three have eight catches. If you expect Pitta to get around seven Fantasy points this week in a standard league, which is definitely realistic, then start him with confidence on Monday night.
Stand by your man: Jordan Cameron (vs. CHI): Cameron snapped out of his recent funk in a big way in Week 14 at New England with nine catches for 121 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. He finally connected with Jason Campbell , and now Fantasy owners want to know if he can do it again. We think it will happen, especially against the Bears, so Cameron is worth buying back into if you benched him last week. Even though he failed to reach five Fantasy points in a standard league in the four games prior to facing the Patriots, the targets were still there with at least seven in the previous three outings. And the Bears have allowed a tight end to score or reach 60 receiving yards in four of the past five games, which bodes well for Cameron having another solid performance this week.
|Jacob Tamme||(vs. SD)||Will benefit with increased playing time with Wes Welker (concussion) out.|
|Brent Celek / Zach Ertz||(at MIN)||The matchup is great and one of these two could score vs. MIN.|
|Garrett Graham||(at IND)||He has 46 targets in his past four and was great vs. JAC last week.|
Martellus Bennett (at CLE): There's always the chance for Bennett to surprise us with a big game like he did in Week 12 when he scored 12 Fantasy points. But that's his only time reaching double digits in points since Week 2. He's combined for five Fantasy points in the past two games at Minnesota and Dallas, and the Bears are obviously getting by with their receivers leading the way. Cleveland also has allowed just two tight ends to reach double digits in Fantasy points, despite giving up eight touchdowns to tight ends this season. There's just more risk than reward in starting Bennett at this point in the season.
Antonio Gates (at DEN): Gates, as expected, was better than Ladarius Green last week against the Giants, but both struggled with a combined five Fantasy points -- all from Gates. Green should play better this week, especially with the Chargers chasing points against the Broncos, and he will cut into Gates' production, which has been down for the most part all season. He has one game with double digits in Fantasy points since Week 4, and he had four catches for 62 yards against the Broncos in Week 10. Gates has a bad history at Denver with one game with double digits in Fantasy points in his past five trips there and four games with fewer than 65 receiving yards. The Broncos have also allowed just two tight ends to reach double digits in Fantasy points this year.
Jared Cook (vs. NO): We gave Cook the chance to take advantage of a great matchup against the Cardinals in Week 14, and he failed us -- for the last time. He had just three catches for 49 yards on six targets, and he now has one game with double digits in Fantasy points since Week 1. The Saints have only allowed four touchdowns to opposing tight ends and just two to reach double digits in Fantasy points. Even if Cook does have a big game, let it happen on your bench, because he's been more disappointing than not for the majority of the year.
Bust alert: Heath Miller (vs. CIN): Miller, like Cook, was another letdown in Week 14 with three catches for 56 yards on four targets against the Dolphins, which was a favorable matchup. He should now go back to your bench since he's scored just one touchdown on the season and has yet to reach double digits in Fantasy points. He missed the first matchup with the Bengals in Week 2, but he has just one touchdown in his past five meetings with Cincinnati and no games over 55 receiving yards. We're hesitant to trust Miller in the majority of leagues when guys like Pitta, Jacob Tamme and Garrett Graham could be on your waiver wire and have the chance for a better outing this week.
Saints (at STL): The Saints have played indoors in eight games this season -- seven at home and one at Atlanta in Week 12. In all of those games the Saints DST has scored at least 11 Fantasy points in a standard league. They have at least three sacks in each outing, and they have held their opponents to 20 points or less in every game. The Rams just allowed the Cardinals DST to score 24 Fantasy points with a touchdown, four sacks, two interceptions and a safety. St. Louis has scored 23 points the past two weeks, and the Rams could be without rookie receiver Tavon Austin (ankle). There have been eight times this season where an opposing DST has scored at least 10 Fantasy points against the Rams, and we expect the Saints to add to that list.
Ravens (at DET): You can mark the Ravens DST down for one turnover at least. Stafford has 10 interceptions in his past six games, so he'll likely force at least one pass where it shouldn't belong. But the Ravens defense has struggled the past two weeks against the Steelers and Vikings. If not for a Jacoby Jones touchdown against the Vikings -- you can argue he should have had two thanks to Mike Tomlin -- the Ravens DST would have scored just 10 Fantasy points combined the past two weeks. They have no sacks over that span and just one fumble recovery. The Ravens DST has also been inconsistent of late with three games with single digits in Fantasy points in their past six outings, including two on the road at Cleveland and Chicago. We're expecting the Lions to bounce back after a poor performance on the road at the Eagles in the snow, and the Ravens DST is not a quality starting option this week.
|Matt Bryant||vs. WAS|
|Adam Vinatieri||vs. HOU|
|Phil Dawson||at TB|
Graham Gano (vs. NYJ): Gano has been quiet of late with just one game with double digits in Fantasy points in his past five outings. He does have multiple field goals in his past three games, but he's been missing a dominant performance where he's had a slew of field goals and extra points in the same week. That could happen now against the Jets, who have allowed the second-most Fantasy points to opposing kickers this season behind only the Falcons. The last five kickers against the Jets -- Garrett Hartley , Dan Carpenter , Justin Tucker , Caleb Sturgis and Sebastian Janikowski -- have all scored at least nine points with four reaching double digits. That group has 14 field goals and 12 extra points, and we hope Gano keeps the momentum going in this matchup. He's worth starting at home for the Fantasy playoffs.
Josh Brown (vs. SEA): The Seahawks just gave up a huge game to Phil Dawson in Week 14 when he had four field goals and one extra point, but that was just the second time all season where a kicker reached double digits in Fantasy points against Seattle. Brown had 26 Fantasy points in the Giants' two games preceding their bye in Week 9, but since then he's averaged just six points in his past five outings. He only has two games with multiple field goals over that stretch, and we'd be hesitant to trust him, even at home.
Disclaimer ... Please understand that we are not in the business of stating the obvious and wasting your time (or ours), so you won't be reading here why you need to start Drew Brees, LeSean McCoy, Calvin Johnson or any other top-tier players. We're here to help you with the tough decisions.