Winning Fantasy Calls for Week 15
You've got tough lineup decisions ahead in critical Week 15. Our Dave Richard shares his take on every game and the players you are on the fence about.
Bears at Browns, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The creativity of Norv Turner and Rob Chudzinski will be tested in this one. There's no question whatsoever just how bad this Bears run defense is, but there's also no question just how bad the Browns rushing offense is. The Browns enter the week ranked 28th running the football with just two rushing touchdowns, by far the league worst! If Willis McGahee is out then we expect Chris Ogbonnaya to get the most looks, unless Fozzy Whittaker gets off to a hot start. If any Cleveland runner can get going it will give the Browns a chance to keep the game close.
No-brainers: Matt Forte , Alshon Jeffery , Brandon Marshall ; Josh Gordon
, QB, Bears: My Projection: 21 FPTS
Cutler is worth starting over any non-obvious quarterback -- if he's good enough for the Bears to start then he's good enough for me. Plus, it's not like he returning for a tough matchup, as the Browns have allowed multiple passing touchdowns in eight straight with 20-plus Fantasy points allowed in six of them.
I'd start him over: Ben Roethlisberger , Russell Wilson
, TE, Bears: My Projection: 5 FPTS
Bennett has posted under 50 yards in six of his last seven with two touchdowns in that span. The matchup isn't so bad, as the Browns have allowed four touchdowns to tight ends in their last four games -- three came in the red zone. Bennett had four red-zone targets in his last three games, including one in each of the last two weeks. He's so touchdown dependent and his targets just aren't there, so I'd hesitate to start him.
I'd rather start: Antonio Gates , Charles Clay
, RB, Browns: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Ogbonnaya is capable of taking advantage of this matchup -- Brandon Jacobs ran all over this defense, after all. Chicago has yielded 182.0 rush yards per game to backs in its last five. The only catch is that Ogbonnaya is not promised a lot of touches -- Fozzy Whittaker will also take some off his plate. But Ogbonnaya is the logical primary back and goal-line worker, so that should be enough to get him over 10 carries, which he hasn't had in a game yet this season. You have to believe the Browns coaches will give him a chance against this poor defense. His last game with 10-plus carries was in 2011 and was awesome.
Flow chart: Zac Stacy > Rashard Mendenhall > Chris Ogbonnaya > Rashad Jennings > Chris Johnson
, TE, Browns: My Projection: 9 FPTS
The Bears have allowed a tight end to score in two of their last three games and Cameron was rediscovered in the offense last week by Jason Campbell (can you be rediscovered if the quarterback never discovered you in the first place?). I suppose if you've gotten by on Cameron all this time there's no reason to make a change now. The Browns should continue to make it an emphasis to give Cameron the ball, especially if defenses continue to challenge Josh Gordon with double- and triple-teams.
I'd start him over: Coby Fleener , Delanie Walker
Bills at Jaguars, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The Bills had a tough run matchup on the road last week and came up way short. The same thing is happening again this week. Don't believe me? Over their last five games, the Jaguars have given up two rushing touchdowns and 59.8 rush yards per game (90.0 total yards) to running backs. While I doubt EJ Manuel will have as much trouble this week as he did last week, I do believe he'll have to pick up a lot of the slack for Buffalo to have a chance.
, RB, Bills: My Projection: 8 FPTS
C.J. Spiller , RB, Bills: My Projection: 7 FPTS
In five games since the bye, the Jags have afforded 10-plus Fantasy points to just one running back. It's also important to note that both the touchdowns the Jaguars have allowed to backs in their last five have come from inside 5 yards, another strike against Spiller. The Bills couldn't get their run game going last week and it led to a complete meltdown. I wouldn't call Spiller slow or hobbled -- he did have a very long touchdown catch-and-run called back by a penalty last week -- but I have a hard time trusting him to get that one big play. Spiller's pretty much had all of his really big games at home (or in Toronto) anyway.
Flow chart: Giovani Bernard > Fred Jackson > Chris Johnson > C.J. Spiller > Ray Rice
, WR, Bills: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Johnson really disappointed last week, missing six of 11 targets. But if the Bills are going to take advantage of a matchup against a Jaguars pass defense that's allowed six touchdowns and 210.4 yards per game to receivers over its last five, then Johnson should be a factor. Three of the last four No. 1 receivers to play the Jaguars had at least 150 yards, but Johnson has caught just 18 of the 36 targets he's had in his last four games for under 80 yards per game with no touchdowns. I think he's OK as a third receiver, but that's as good as it gets.
Flow chart: Anquan Boldin > Harry Douglas > Steve Johnson > Brian Hartline > Emmanuel Sanders
, RB, Jaguars: My Projection: 9 FPTS
We're going with the assumption Todman starts against the Bills. It's a really good matchup for him as the Bills have allowed six of the seven rushing touchdowns they've given up over the season in their last four games, yielding 146.8 total yards in that span. Todman isn't overly fast but he is versatile and would get a lot of work in a favorable matchup. That makes him a pretty decent replacement for those stuck at running back.
Flow chart: Chris Ogbonnaya > Frank Gore > Jordan Todman > Rashad Jennings > Bobby Rainey
, WR, Jaguars: My Projection: 7 FPTS
It looks like Shorts will be a game-time decision after not practicing until Friday and being limited then. Just two of the 17 touchdowns the Bills have allowed to receivers have come in their last five games, a sign they're improving against the pass. Granted, the last two No. 1 receivers they've taken on have posted at least 13 Fantasy points, one because he was force-fed the ball and the other because he caught a touchdown. I'd expect the Jaguars to try lining up Shorts across from Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks (the Bills cornerbacks typically stay to one side of the field so they can avoid Stephon Gilmore and he could make some decent headway there but I don't know just how quick he'll be given his groin injury.
I'd rather start: Brian Hartline , Da'Rick Rogers
Seahawks at Giants, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The Seahawks are within striking distance of the No. 1 seed of the NFC, so this isn't the time for them to let up. They especially need to buckle down vs. the run -- three of the four 100-yard rushing games they've allowed have come on the road. It'll most definitely be a focus for them this week after Frank Gore got them for 110 yards in Week 14, half of which came on a run that effectively locked up the game for the Niners.
No-brainers: Marshawn Lynch
, QB, Seahawks: My Projection: 20 FPTS
Forget about the four-week stretch where the Giants held quarterbacks to single-digit Fantasy totals -- those were weak passers who no one counted on for Fantasy. Over the last three weeks New York has allowed two quarterbacks to throw for multiple touchdowns and another to throw one touchdown and run for 88 yards in the same game. That's led to each of those guys posting 19-plus Fantasy points. Wilson fell short last week against a very good Niners defense but still has 22-plus Fantasy points in five of his last seven games. This is a good game for him to bounce back.
I'd start him over: Colin Kaepernick , Tom Brady
, WR, Seahawks: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Doug Baldwin , WR, Seahawks: My Projection: 5 FPTS
The two touchdowns the Giants gave up last week were the first by a receiver since Week 6. In fact, they've allowed the main target in three of the last four games they've faced to land 10-plus Fantasy points. The problem this week is that the Seahawks tend to spread the ball around, making them all pretty unreliable. Golden Tate had the most targets last week and leads the team in targets, but isn't trustworthy because of his inconsistent nature (all of his touchdowns have come in dome games). The same can be said for Baldwin (all of his touchdowns have come in Seattle).
I'd rather start: Da'Rick Rogers , Cordarrelle Patterson
, RB, Giants: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Brown still has a streak going of 90 total yards and/or a touchdown in five straight games, so he's got some value to him even though he fumbled last week and lost a goal-line score to Peyton Hillis . The Seahawks have allowed just four rushing touchdowns to backs all year, two on the road and none in their last six games. But they have given up 130.3 total yards per game to running backs on the road thanks to the three of four 100-yard rushing efforts they've given up away from Seattle. The Giants won't be shy to use Brown -- he's averaged 22.6 touches per game since coming back.
I'd start him over: Le'Veon Bell , Rashard Mendenhall
, WR, Giants: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Victor Cruz , WR, Giants: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Rueben Randle , WR, Giants: My Projection: 4 FPTS
The only reason I can think of to start these guys is because Fantasy Football is so wacky that they'll perform at a high level in a tough matchup after botching so many favorable matchups this season. Seriously, this isn't the time to feel good about starting any of these guys. Seattle has allowed seven touchdowns to receivers on the year (four in its last eight games) and 100 yards to three wideouts (none in its last eight games). With the Seahawks defensive line putting pressure on Eli Manning and the Giants offensive line, I expect the passing game to play like it has for much of the year.
I'd rather start: T.Y. Hilton , Steve Johnson , Ted Ginn , Pierre Garcon
, TE, Giants: My Projection: 7 FPTS
It's worth noting that the Seahawks have allowed a touchdown to a tight end in two straight and four total in their last five games. It's worth noting that Myers has caught a score in three straight. But each tight end that has scored on the Seahawks has posted under 60 yards with the score, including guys like Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis , so it's not like they're running free. In fact, Davis and Graham's scores were quick, short yardage, over-the-middle type grabs that didn't involve any safety coverage. Only Myers' score last week was like that -- his other two involved a fluke play and busted Redskins coverage. I'd be nervous to give him the green light in Fantasy.
I'd rather start: Delanie Walker , Heath Miller
49ers at Buccaneers, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
For a team that loves to run the ball, the Niners have struggled of late. Since the injury to left guard Mike Iupati , the Niners running backs have averaged 3.5 yards per carry -- and that's as high as it is in major part because of Frank Gore 51-yard fourth-quarter run (take that away and the rushing average is under 2.8 yards per carry). The matchup is going to be tough for the Niners because of the Bucs' stiff run defense, but Iupati is expected back and he'll help the ground attack. It needs to be effective to give the Niners a chance at avoiding a close game.
No-brainers: Vernon Davis
, QB, 49ers: My projection: 20 FPTS
The Bucs had one of their best defensive games of the season last week against a Bills offense that was out of sync. There's no way the Niners will play like that. Kaepernick has specifically taken advantage of favorable matchups -- they don't come much more favorable than a pass defense that's allowed multiple passing scores in eight of its last nine. That's Tampa Bay, who also allowed anywhere from 29 to 70 rushing yards to EJ Manuel , Russell Wilson and Cam Newton twice. I think Kaepernick warrants some starting consideration, particularly since the run game might not work smoothly against the Bucs and the Niners will need him to throw.
Flow chart: Matt Ryan > Colin Kaepernick > Russell Wilson > Ryan Tannehill > Carson Palmer
, RB, 49ers: My projection: 9 FPTS
Gore's numbers have been relatively low lately, particularly compared to the expectations. This week he'll take on a Bucs defense that has allowed two rushing touchdowns all season and an average of 75.4 rush yards per game in its last five. Even with guard Mike Iupati back in action, I don't think Gore will have a great game.
I'd rather start: Zac Stacy , Giovani Bernard
, WR, 49ers: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Michael Crabtree , WR, 49ers: My Projection: 6 FPTS
The Niners have to win in their matchups against the Bucs defensive backs. Tampa Bay has given up 16 receiving touchdowns to 13 different receivers with seven scores allowed in its last five games. Crabtree is starting to round into form, Boldin's been putting up good numbers lately and both receivers should aim to make gains away from cornerback Darrelle Revis . Look for the Niners to exploit those single-coverage matchups against Leonard Johnson and Johnthan Banks .
I'd start Boldin over: Mike Wallace , Harry Douglas
Low-end WR Flow chart: Emmanuel Sanders > Nate Burleson > Michael Crabtree > Seahawks WRs > James Jones
, RB, Buccaneers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
For all the Niners' woes they still haven't allowed a running back to exceed 75 yards in their last eight games. Over that span they've afforded 4.2 yards per carry and 82.3 yards per game to backs. And seven running backs have tallied over 80 total yards on the Niners all season long. It paints the picture that Rainey, even with his commanding workload, will fight an uphill battle. He had an amazing 80-yard run against Buffalo last week but after that carry, he had 47 yards on his remaining 21 carries.
I'd rather start: Rashad Jennings , Fred Jackson
, WR, Buccaneers: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Over San Francisco's last seven games, only two receivers have posted 10 Fantasy points (not over 10 -- 10 exactly). And how's this for weird: Only five receivers have had even 80 yards against San Fran all season -- three from Week 2 on! Along the way, only six touchdowns have been scored and some pretty legit receivers have been held down by this crew. There's no question that this defense will try to keep Jackson grounded. It doesn't help that he has just 16 targets over his last three games with no more than 75 yards in any of them, but it doesn't hurt that the Buccaneers have to get him involved if they plan on scoring any points.
Flow chart: Julian Edelman > Michael Floyd > Vincent Jackson > Jordy Nelson > Anquan Boldin
Eagles at Vikings, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The Eagles might luck out and play the Vikings without their top offensive weapon and their top young defensive back. Obviously the Adrian Peterson issue is well documented but cornerback Xavier Rhodes had been coming on for the Vikes, holding opposing No. 1 receivers to mediocre numbers. It's already a daunting matchup for Minnesota but if they're thin on talent on both sides of the ball, they don't stand much of a chance.
No-brainers: LeSean McCoy , DeSean Jackson
, QB, Eagles: My Projection: 23 FPTS
This feels like a three-touchdown game for Foles, who even found a way to get over 20 Fantasy points while playing in a snowstorm last week. That makes five straight for him. Seven straight passers have not only delivered two-plus scores on the Vikings, but all have also had at least 22 Fantasy points. He's a Top 5 option.
I'd start him over: Everyone except Peyton Manning and Drew Brees
, WR, Eagles: My Projection: 11 FPTS
The deep target Cooper had last week made for his sixth such pass attempt over his last three games. The two end zone targets he had last week made for five in his last three games (add another if you count the two-point conversion he had last week). Now he'll take on a Vikings defense that's struggled in many facets of pass defense. Minnesota has allowed 15 touchdowns to receivers on the season, including seven in its last six games. They've also allowed seven 100-yard games and another five with 75 to 99 yards. Non-No. 1 receivers had already been posting nice games on the Vikings, but the expected loss of cornerback Xavier Rhodes made the matchup that much better. Call me stubborn -- I'm sticking with Cooper as a No. 2 Fantasy option.
I'd start him over: Julian Edelman , Vincent Jackson
, RB, Vikings: My Projection: 10 FPTS
As of Friday both Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart are questionable and both practiced Friday on a limited basis. Knowing Peterson, he'll be ready to roll and if that's the case then you're starting him. If he's out and Gerhart is in then there's some potential for a nice game. He'll take on an Eagles defense that has allowed two rushing touchdowns and a receiving score and 161.8 total yards per game to running backs over the last five. If Gerhart hogs the snaps, he could have a realistic chance at landing over 100 total yards. If both of them are out then we'll see Matt Asiata , a physical runner with some nimble feet but not a lot of speed or quickness. He'd be a desperation choice -- I'd like Chris Ogbonnaya or Jordan Todman better.
Flow chart (assuming Peterson is out): Zac Stacy > Rashard Mendenhall > Toby Gerhart > Fred Jackson > Daniel Thomas
, WR, Vikings: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Greg Jennings , WR, Vikings: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Patterson is a boom-or-bust Fantasy receiver while Jennings is a middle-of-the-road "safe" option without a lot of upside. Philadelphia's pass defense remains pretty solid statistically, giving up three touchdowns to receivers in its last six with an average of 178.0 yards per game allowed to the position. Naturally, it's been speedier receivers doing a number on the Eagles, another factor that favors Patterson.
I'd rather start: Danny Amendola , Brian Hartline
Redskins at Falcons, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The Twilight Zone season that's taken place in Washington is headed for a serious makeover come January. But until then they have a veteran defense unlikely to get amped up for a meaningless game with a coach who's halfway out the door. I just don't see the Redskins stepping up, and that's perfect for the Falcons who, in a lost season, probably want to beat up on some teams. This home game should be one of the best performances for Falcons this season.
, QB, Redskins: My Projection: 15 FPTS
It's tough to confidently call Cousins a waiver wire-to-starter type of quarterback, but I have a funny feeling about him. When he got the call last year at Cleveland (not a strong defense), he connected for a pair of touchdowns and 329 yards for the win. Cousins is smart, has a nice arm and can stand in the pocket and not let pressure fluster him. Maybe his decision-making isn't always perfect and his accuracy can be shaky, but he's a decent West Coast quarterback. I'd like him better if the Redskins receiving corps were at full strength, but as it stands he has some sleeper appeal. It definitely helps that he'll take on a Falcons defense that before last week had allowed multiple touchdowns to every quarterback they had faced.
I'd rather start: Alex Smith , Jason Campbell
, RB, Redskins: My Projection: 11 FPTS
It's gross but true: Alf has under 110 rushing yards in his last three games combined. One big reason is 37 carries in those three games, easily a career-low over a trio of contests. As the Redskins move to a more traditional offense we could see Morris pick up the kind of carry totals we've been accustomed to. Plus the more work he gets, the less pressure on Cousins' shoulders. It would benefit the Redskins greatly to lean on Alf as the Falcons have allowed 151.0 rush yards per game and eight total touchdowns to running backs in their last five.
I'd start him over: Ben Tate , Andre Brown
, WR, Redskins: My Projection: 8 FPTS
I want to like Garcon this week. The move from Robert Griffin III to Cousins doesn't bother me too much -- it's the way the Redskins have been using him. Over 12 attempts last week, only three involved passes over 10 yards. That's actually an improvement over his previous two games when he had one target of 20-plus yards. Eventually the Redskins should realize Garcon is their best playmaker and all-around receiving threat. The problem is that defenses realize it too and coverage tends to be shifted toward him. Against the Saints, Bills and Packers, the Falcons have allowed zero touchdowns and zero receivers over 85 yards.
Flow chart: Mike Wallace > T.Y. Hilton > Pierre Garcon > Hakeem Nicks > Brian Hartline
, QB, Falcons: My Projection: 21 FPTS
Five of the last seven quarterbacks to play the Redskins have thrown multiple touchdowns. Of those seven, five have 19 or more Fantasy points (four with 20-plus). I get the sense that the Falcons will try and party against the slumping Redskins, taking advantage of a unit that's struggling against the pass. Coming off of a two-touchdown game at Green Bay, this has the makings of a get-right game for Ryan.
Flow chart: Jay Cutler > Ben Roethlisberger > Matt Ryan > Russell Wilson > Colin Kaepernick
, RB, Falcons: My Projection: 13 FPTS
I'd expect a monster game from Jackson, who has delivered double-digit Fantasy games in three of the five indoor games he's finished. Not only have the Redskins allowed 19 total touchdowns to running backs this season, but they've given up nine in their last five games and three last week to the Chiefs. Their yardage averages aren't all that soft -- holding backs to only 128.6 total yards per game to running backs in their last five -- but I get the feeling Jackson will try to steamroll Washington.
I'd start him over: Shane Vereen , Alfred Morris , Ben Tate
, WR, Falcons: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Harry Douglas , WR, Falcons: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Based on targets, White has been commanding more attention from Ryan than Douglas has. White has also seen his consistent targets while Douglas has seen a lot of second-half action. There might not be a lot of second-half action this week considering the matchup. Douglas also has seen his production dip over the last four weeks while White has improved from where he was earlier this season. Douglas also has scored in two games, both meetings against Tampa Bay. Washington has allowed four touchdowns in its last five games along with an average of 125.0 total yards per game in that span.
Flow chart: Julian Edelman > Roddy White > Mike Wallace > Harry Douglas > T.Y. Hilton
, TE, Falcons: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Gonzalez is a must this week. The Redskins have allowed a touchdown to a tight end in three of their last five with each of those tight ends getting at least four receptions. With the way he's been finding the end zone lately, it's hard to sit Gonzalez unless you're loaded at tight end.
I'd start him over: Dennis Pitta , Greg Olsen
Patriots at Dolphins, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The team that can stick with the run game the longest should end up winning. Both teams are ranked in the bottom half of the league in Fantasy points allowed, but the Dolphins have started to make an impression against opposing ground games. Over its last four games, Miami has not allowed a rushing touchdown and just one back has over 100 total yards. For a team that just lost Rob Gronkowski , this might be a bad week to get back to the run.
, QB, Patriots: My Projection: 19 FPTS
By losing Gronkowski, Brady is without a target that averaged roughly six catches and 91.1 yards per game along with four touchdowns in six and a half games. That's a pretty decent chunk of work that needs to be made up among the likes of Shane Vereen , Julian Edelman , Danny Amendola and an otherwise underwhelming receiving corps. The Dolphins allowed three passing touchdowns last week, with all three of them involving a defender slipping or otherwise making a poor effort at a tackle. That's the exception rather than the norm for this defense and I might suggest the wet, snowy field in Pittsburgh last week played a role in that performance. Last week was just the third time all year a quarterback threw multiple touchdowns on the Dolphins. Brady didn't do it back in Week 8 -- and he had Gronkowski for that matchup.
I'd rather start: Matt Ryan , Russell Wilson , Joe Flacco
, RB, Patriots: My Projection: 12 FPTS
I know the matchup looks good from a high level and it might make you consider starting LeGarrette Blount or Stevan Ridley , but it's tough to call them reliable running backs considering they'll take reps away from each other and nothing is promised in terms of production. Vereen, on the other hand, morphed quickly into a go-to target for Brady last week, coming up with a career-high 153 yards in the come-from-behind win. Vereen specifically had nine targets and seven catches in the fourth quarter when Gronkowski was out. The Dolphins haven't allowed a running back to tally more than 28 receiving yards since Week 8, but Vereen's speed and versatility gives him a chance to be solid.
I'd start him over: Pierre Thomas , Ben Tate
, WR, Patriots: My Projection: 11 FPTS
Danny Amendola , WR, Patriots: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Expect Edelman to keep seeing a slew of targets and for Amendola to pick up more. They have to if the Patriots are going to try and keep their passing game going strong without Gronkowski on the field. They'll also try to pick on the Dolphins slot corner. We have reasonable expectations for Edelman to stay hot but it's tough to count on Amendola, even though you get the feeling his targets are on the rise with Gronk out.
Flow chart: Riley Cooper > Julian Edelman > Anquan Boldin > Danny Amendola > Steve Smith
, QB, Dolphins: My Projection: 19 FPTS
You have to like how Tannehill has been playing: Multiple touchdowns in each of his last two games, a good completion percentage over his last six and at least 20 rush yards in each of his last four. Five of the last six quarterbacks to play the Patriots have thrown multiple touchdowns, including three by Jason Campbell last week. Campbell was also the fifth quarterback this year to post 20-plus rush yards on the Patriots. With a playoff spot possible for Miami down the stretch, Tannehill is playing well and has a favorable matchup. I might chance it with him if you're in a tough situation this week.
Flow chart: Matt Ryan > Colin Kaepernick > Ryan Tannehill > Carson Palmer > Alex Smith
, RB, Dolphins: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Daniel Thomas , RB, Dolphins: My Projection: 8 FPTS
The matchup is great, the splitting of work is not. Over the last three weeks, the Patriots have allowed four rushing touchdowns and an average of 173.0 total yards per game to running backs. Keep in mind, one of those three games was against the Browns, who struggle to run the ball, so other opponents with capable run games have devastated the Patriots. I expect the Dolphins to run the ball quite a bit, but it's tough to predict just how many carries Miller and Thomas will get.
I'd rather start: Chris Ogbonnaya , Rashad Jennings
, WR, Dolphins: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Brian Hartline , WR, Dolphins: My Projection: 8 FPTS
The Patriots have allowed at least one receiver to get 10-plus Fantasy points in each of their last five games. No. 1 receivers have accounted for four of those outings, giving the nod to Wallace as the best Miami threat. But Hartline has posted some consistent stats of late -- at least five catches in each of his last five games, at least 7 Fantasy points in each of his last three and a touchdown in each of his last two. I think he's a better PPR bargain because he doesn't have the big-play ability that many receivers have used against the Patriots of late.
Flow chart: Anquan Boldin > Mike Wallace > Steve Johnson > Brian Hartline > Emmanuel Sanders
, TE, Dolphins: My Projection: 10 FPTS
I would expect a big game from Clay. The Patriots have allowed four touchdowns to tight ends over their last four games and Clay clearly has the attention of Tannehill, garnering 10 targets in each of the last two weeks, seven-plus targets in each of the last five and at least 80 yards in three of the Dolphins last four. Jordan Cameron left a lot on tape regarding how to knock around the Patriots defense and Clay is every bit as athletic. I like Clay a lot.
I'd start him over: Jason Witten , Jordan Cameron
Texans at Colts, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The Colts already have the division locked up but still have something to play for -- namely a shot at a higher seed. They also started to see the makings of their reborn passing game last week at Cincinnati with Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill stepping up. I suspect the Colts will use this game to try and tune-up the offense for the postseason, especially since Rogers and Brazill don't have a lot of pro experience.
No-brainers: Andre Johnson
, RB, Texans: My Projection: 11 FPTS
Tate had a brutal game last week, but this matchup should be far more favorable. Over the last five games the Colts have allowed seven total touchdowns (six rushing) and 151.0 total yards per game to running backs. That does not include Tate's 22-carry, 81-yard game vs. the Colts back in Week 9. I would expect Tate to fare at least that well if not better -- the last time he played against a soft run defense he torched them.
I'd start him over: Zac Stacy , Rashard Mendenhall
, TE, Texans: My Projection: 7 FPTS
The targets have certainly been there for Graham -- he has 11 or more in three and 46 in his last four. But targets haven't always meant big numbers for him -- he actually has under 40 yards without a touchdown in two of those four games. I know Graham had a big game last week and the Texans should eventually find themselves behind, meaning they'll throw more. The Colts allowed a touchdown catch to a tight end last week, but it was just the third such score they've allowed this year. Only four tight ends have posted 10-plus Fantasy points on the Colts in 2013. If he is inactive then Ryan Griffin would start for him -- he'd be a desperation option.
I'd rather start: Coby Fleener , Delanie Walker
, QB, Colts: My Projection: 22 FPTS
Luck's numbers went through a cold spell, not necessarily because of where he played or who he played, but rather who he played with. The Colts had a hard time finding capable receivers following the injury to Reggie Wayne , but he found a couple last week Rogers and Brazill. Part of their success was because of the Bengals' sloppy tackling, but part of it absolutely had to do with their own skill sets and the quarterback throwing to them. Rogers stands out as the potential playmaker -- a big, physical receiver with nice speed. I'd expect the Colts to try and feature him some more -- and the better he does the more coverage he'll dictate, which means more opportunities for other Colts. The Texans pass defense has been the strength of their unit, but Luck hit Hilton for three touchdowns against them earlier this season. He was one of five quarterbacks to throw multiple scores on Houston in its last six games.
I'd start him over: Matt Ryan , Russell Wilson
, RB, Colts: My Projection: 12 FPTS
Brown has done poorly in tough matchups and awesome in favorable matchups. See if you can guess which one the Texans are: Over their last five they've allowed five total touchdowns and 157.4 total yards per game to running backs. Brown didn't have a good game back in Week 9 because he had only six carries as the Colts played from behind, but he averaged more than eight yards per carry. I like him a lot this week in what should be a big win for Indy.
I'd start him over: Alfred Morris , Bills RBs
, WR, Colts: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Da'Rick Rogers , WR, Colts: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Since his three-score game at Houston, Hilton has been miserable. A big reason why is because defenses have figured out how to keep him from beating them deep. But that element could change as Luck establishes his other receivers, namely Rogers. In the five games since Hilton's trifecta, the Texans have allowed four touchdowns to receivers with an average of 123.6 yards per game in that span. Both Colts receivers are gambles, but I might give the nod to Hilton considering the homecoming along with the likelihood that the Texans won't be able to afford tilting coverage his way all game long.
Flow chart: Anquan Boldin > T.Y. Hilton > Pierre Garcon > Da'Rick Rogers > Hakeem Nicks
, TE, Colts: My Projection: 9 FPTS
The Texans have allowed as many touchdowns to tight ends over their last five games as they have to receivers -- four. Combine that with the re-established receiving corps in Indianapolis, and there should be ample opportunities for Fleener to pick up chunks of yardage as an underneath option. Fleener has eight-plus targets in four of his last five.
I'd start him over: Heath Miller , Brandon Myers , Antonio Gates
Jets at Panthers, Sun., 4:05 p.m. ET
Remember how last week's game at New Orleans was a bounce-back game for the Saints at the expense of the Panthers? Well, now it's time for the Panthers to do the same thing in their home game against the Jets. It's not quite a fair tune-up for the big NFC South rematch in Week 16, but I would expect a strong defensive effort from Carolina to keep all facets of the Jets offense grounded.
, RB, Jets: My Projection: 6 FPTS
The favorable matchup Ivory had last week is replaced by one of the toughest. The Panthers have allowed three rushing touchdowns all season (one in their last nine games) and have given up an average of -- no joke -- 70.6 rush yards per game on the season. Ivory shouldn't be trusted.
I'd rather start: Chris Johnson , Bobby Rainey
, QB, Panthers: My Projection: 22 FPTS
Newton should bounce back in a matchup that especially speaks to him being able to throw the football. Five of the last six quarterbacks to take on Gang Green have posted multiple passing touchdowns along with 21-plus Fantasy points. This is a defense that has struggled against the deep pass of late, and that should definitely continue here as the Panthers have never been afraid to chuck it. Newton has had 20-plus Fantasy points in three of his last four.
I'd start him over: Tony Romo , Jay Cutler
, RB, Panthers: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Mike Tolbert , RB, Panthers: My Projection: 4 FPTS
The matchup is tough for both Panthers backs as the Jets have held opposing running backs this season to 70.1 rush yards per game (lower than the Panthers!). They've allowed seven rushing touchdowns -- including a long one from Marcel Reece last week -- but just two in their last six. I like Tolbert to pick up the slack left by Jonathan Stewart absence, but I don't know if he should be counted on for big points in Fantasy.
I'd rather start: C.J. Spiller , Lamar Miller
, WR, Panthers: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Steve Smith , WR, Panthers: My Projection: 7 FPTS
One of the shots I'm calling this week is that the Panthers will try several deep passes on the Jets, just like everyone has done against them lately. The Jets have allowed six scores to receivers in their last four games and all of them have been for 25-plus yards. The Jets have allowed 11 plays of 20-plus pass yards to receivers in that four-game span. It's a problem for them and Ginn is the kind of deep threat to make defenses like that pay. He already has a career-best eight plays for 20-plus yards and another two for 40-plus yards. Smith hasn't made plays like that all year (just three such plays) and pretty much needs a touchdown in order to get more than 6 or 7 Fantasy points.
Flow chart: Rod Streater > Ted Ginn > Da'Rick Rogers > Steve Smith > James Jones / Jarrett Boykin
, TE, Panthers: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Olsen has eight or more Fantasy points in three of his last four and five of his last seven. The Jets have allowed a tight end to eight Fantasy points in each of their last two games and seven-plus Fantasy points in five of their last seven. I would ditch Olsen for Dennis Pitta or Charles Clay if they're on the waiver wire but otherwise Olsen's fine to start over non-obvious tight ends.
I'd start him over: Jordan Cameron , Delanie Walker
Chiefs at Raiders, Sun., 4:05 p.m. ET
Bad news, Oakland -- Justin Houston might come back this week. That will put the Chiefs defense at just about full strength, putting a pass rush on the field that shouldn't have much trouble getting to quarterback Matt McGloin . The Raiders have emphasized longer passes with McGloin -- those could be harder to connect on if Houston and Tamba Hali are in his face.
No-brainers: Jamaal Charles
, QB, Chiefs: My Projection: 18 FPTS
Smith threw two touchdowns last week but it wasn't like he had to throw against the Redskins, a factor we considered even when we ranked him last week. That figures to be the case again this week as the Raiders aren't likely to push Kansas City into throwing a ton. Six quarterbacks have totaled multiple touchdowns against the Raiders and they all had 20-plus Fantasy points. Smith wasn't one of them when he completed 14 of 31 passes for no touchdowns vs. the Raiders in a Week 6 Chiefs victory.
I'd rather start: Carson Palmer , Tom Brady
, WR, Chiefs: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Bowe is Kansas City's best bet. He's scored in three of his last four and had a touchdown called back in the game he didn't record one, so it's safe to say he's a regular target for Smith. A No. 1 receiver has scored on the Raiders in three straight and the team has allowed 168.7 total yards per game to receivers in that timeframe.
I'd start him over: Mike Wallace , Harry Douglas
, RB, Raiders: My Projection: 8 FPTS
The Raiders run game did OK without Jennings last week, thanks to a pretty wild run by Marcel Reece , but he'll be relegated to fewer touches with Jennings back. Jennings has delivered at least nine points in each of his last five games and 15-plus points in three of those five. It's hard to lose sight over the amount of work Jennings has received (at least 18 touches per game), and the Raiders have said they expect Jennings to regain his full workload. But Kansas City has taken on 10 running backs who have had 15-plus touches against them, and only four have had nine-plus Fantasy points. A big workload doesn't mean a big game. Since their bye (four games) the Chiefs have allowed six touchdowns (two receiving) but 132.3 total yards per game to running backs. Jennings isn't an exciting option but he'll be serviceable.
Flow chart: Giovani Bernard > Frank Gore > Rashad Jennings > Chris Johnson > Bobby Rainey
, WR, Raiders: My Projection: 11 FPTS
It's been four games now with McGloin as the Raiders quarterback. Streater has at least nine Fantasy points and at least eight targets in three of those four games and a touchdown in two of those games. With 31 targets in those four it's clear he's the most trusted target, something that shouldn't change even if Denarius Moore plays. While the Chiefs have allowed five touchdowns in their last four games, four went to Eric Decker . Only five true No. 1 receivers have found the end zone on the Chiefs all year. But in that same four-game span just referenced, the Chiefs have allowed nearly 250 yards per game to wideouts. I wouldn't bank on the Raiders putting up that many yards on them, but I would expect them to throw a lot of short- and mid-range passes, which Streater should see a ton of.
Flow chart: Julian Edelman > Rod Streater > Marques Colston > Dwayne Bowe
Saints at Rams, Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
I realized something late this week that I should have noted much, much earlier: The Saints defense is coached up by Rob Ryan, who spent a year as the Rams defensive coordinator. You'd think the Rams would be fluent with a lot of what Ryan does defensively -- in fact, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called the Saints scheme "a typical Ryan defense" this week. The problem is that a number of starters on the Rams didn't have the advantage of going up against that defense in practice. But the coaches did. We'll see if it makes any difference but it might not matter if the Rams offensive line can't hold up. Also, Ryan knows plenty about Schottenheimer's scheme, too.
No-brainers: Drew Brees , Jimmy Graham
, RB, Saints: My Projection: 11 FPTS
For the last two weeks, Thomas has been running into human brick walls -- the Seahawks and Panthers are among the league's best against the run. You could tell the Saints didn't bother to try and run the ball a lot against them -- their backs totaled 29 carries in the two games. This week should be different as the Rams run defense isn't quite as tough. Over their last four games, the Rams have given up five total touchdowns and 136.0 total yards per game. Interestingly enough, it's been rushers catching the ball out of the backfield making an impact -- 78.0 of those 136.0 total yards have come through the air. Thomas catches the ball a bunch and should be involved in that aspect as well as on the ground. Expect a nice bounce-back game.
I'd start him over: Le'Veon Bell , Zac Stacy
, WR, Saints: My Projection: 10 FPTS
I was way off on Colston last week and hope to be more in tune this week. Certainly the matchup is better as the Rams have allowed a No. 1 receiver to accumulate at least nine Fantasy points in four straight. And of the 13 touchdowns they've given up on the year, 11 have gone to No. 1 options. It helps his case that he's playing indoors -- all but two of his dome games this season have resulted in seven-plus Fantasy points, some way more than seven.
I'd start him over: Jordy Nelson , Mike Wallace
, RB, Rams: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Don't look now, but the once-vulnerable Saints run defense has allowed just one rushing touchdown in its last four games. Three of their opponents in that span are run-heavy teams like the Niners, Seahawks and Panthers. Amazingly, all three of those teams failed to tally over 130 total yards from their running backs, much less score. Stacy has posted a touchdown in four of his last five games and while the Rams are more than willing to give him a heavy dose of work, the reality is that they can't afford to do so if he gets off to a slow start or if they fall behind, both of which are possible. I don't mind calling Stacy a No. 2 Fantasy running back but wouldn't expect a monster game from him, particularly if the Rams are without Tavon Austin or any other threats to keep the Saints safeties back. Their focus will be on slowing him down first and foremost.
Flow chart: Andre Brown > Le'Veon Bell > Zac Stacy > Rashard Mendenhall > Frank Gore
Cardinals at Titans, Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
The Cardinals are 3-0 against the AFC South and go for the sweep in Nashville. Bruce Arians' knowledge of the division has helped them wrap up wins, and I would imagine he'll be instrumental in how to take down the Titans. He also has the benefit of playing the Titans a week after Peyton Manning attacked their acclaimed pass defense and should be able to apply some elements to their game plan this week.
, QB, Cardinals: My Projection: 19 FPTS
Palmer had an excellent game against the Rams, he just didn't deliver in the red zone. The Cardinals had five drives end inside the opponent's 20, but only one ended with a touchdown pass. Doing the same against the Titans will be tough since they've allowed only two quarterbacks to eclipse the 20-point Fantasy mark this season -- none at home. The two keys to Palmer's success have been Michael Floyd contributing and the offensive line protecting him. The Titans are toward the bottom of the league with 31 sacks on the year and aren't a fierce threat to get in Palmer's face, but Floyd is dealing with an ankle injury that could keep him at less than 100 percent. All things being equal it's tough to love Palmer, even with his coach's familiarity with the division.
Flow chart: Matt Ryan > Ryan Tannehill > Carson Palmer > Alex Smith > Eli Manning
, RB, Cardinals: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Mendenhall isn't exactly the poster boy for great rushing performances, but you can't deny the matchup he has this week. The Titans have allowed 14 touchdowns to running backs in their last nine and multiple touchdowns to rushers in six of their last eight. They have started to tighten it up but are still affording 147.0 total yards per game to the position in their last five. It's been 10 games since the Titans didn't allow a running back to post 10-plus Fantasy points, something Mendenhall has done in two of his last three games.
I'd start him over: Frank Gore , C.J. Spiller
, WR, Cardinals: My Projection: 13 FPTS
Michael Floyd , WR, Cardinals: My Projection: 11 FPTS
Last week was the first time the Titans were beaten up by more than one receiver in the same game, allowing three touchdowns after giving up two in their previous 12 games. Lo and behold, the Cardinals offer another tough matchup with a couple of towering receivers. Floyd might not be 100 percent, and that hurts, but both wideouts are going to be tough for the Titans corners to contain.
I'd start them both over: Vincent Jackson , Jordy Nelson , Roddy White
, RB, Titans: My Projection: 8 FPTS
The Cardinals run defense gives up fewer Fantasy points than anyone in the league, bad news for a running back who had been so up and down. Arizona has allowed two 100-total-yard rushers and four rushing touchdowns on the season to backs, giving up an average of 100 total yards per game to the position. Johnson will get his chances, but the matchup suggests a tough game for him.
I'd rather start: Pierre Thomas , Donald Brown
, WR, Titans: My Projection: 7 FPTS
The return of Delanie Walker should help open up some things for Wright -- he was blanketed last week and it showed in his stat line. What doesn't help Wright is a matchup against a Cardinals pass defense that has allowed two touchdowns to receivers in its last five games (none in its last four) with 108.0 yards per game to receivers in that five-game stretch.
I'd rather start: Da'Rick Rogers , Ted Ginn , Cordarrelle Patterson
, TE, Titans: My Projection: 9 FPTS
If you play the matchups and follow the targets then you'll like Walker. Cleared after suffering a concussion two weeks ago, Walker will play against a Cardinals defense that's allowed a league-worst 13 touchdowns to tight ends this year, including five in its last five games. Walker had three straight games with at least eight targets before getting hurt in Week 13. If you're streaming tight ends, he's worth buying into this week and next week at Jacksonville.
I'd start him over: Heath Miller , Antonio Gates
Packers at Cowboys, Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
The Cowboys defense has been overpowered of late, but if they can hold their own against Eddie Lacy then they should be able to corral Matt Flynn and the Packers passing game. But that's a big if, particularly because Lacy has been so effective when he's played and the Packers will have no problem giving him and teammate James Starks a lot of work against a Dallas defense that has been run over by most everyone its played of late. No Sean Lee will hurt the Cowboys run defense.
No-brainers: Eddie Lacy ; DeMarco Murray , Dez Bryant
, WR, Packers: My Projection: 9 FPTS
James Jones , WR, Packers: My Projection: 5 FPTS
Jarrett Boykin , WR, Packers: My Projection: 3 FPTS
Are these guys talented? Yes. Is the matchup favorable? Sure. Is Aaron Rodgers throwing the football? No. Is Matt Flynn throwing the football? Unfortunately, yes. Does that limit the upside these guys have? You better believe it. Dallas has allowed five touchdowns and 149.2 yards per game to receivers in its last five. Nelson still has the most upside of the group even though Jones has the most targets (10) over the last two games.
Flow chart: Marques Colston > Roddy White > Jordy Nelson > T.Y. Hilton > Pierre Garcon
I'd start over Boykin and Jones: Da'Rick Rogers , Ted Ginn , Cordarrelle Patterson
, QB, Cowboys: My Projection: 22 FPTS
The Packers took on two teams armed with talented quarterbacks and good receivers and were ripped for five touchdowns in those two games. The numbers should continue to come easy against the Pack and that's good for Romo. In fact, the Packers have only been able to contain lesser passing attacks this season and only twice on the road. Even though they've allowed just one quarterback to post over 20 Fantasy points in their last four against them I like Romo's chances.
I'd start him over: Ben Roethlisberger , Jay Cutler , Russell Wilson
, TE, Cowboys: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Tony Gonzalez scored on the Packers last week and tight ends have picked up a score in two of the Packers last three. That should be enough to make Witten at least appealing for the Cowboys. He's scored in three of his last five games (four scores total). I think he should be productive.
I'd start him over: Jordan Cameron , Coby Fleener
Bengals at Steelers, Sun., 8:30 p.m. ET
Recent history between these teams suggests a moderately low scoring game, but that trend might change this time around. Both defenses are banged up and in the case of the Steelers, woefully underperforming. Andy Dalton has never had the Steelers number in Pittsburgh and while he might be able to push his team to a win, it seems unlikely he'll have another monster offensive output like he had last week.
No-brainers: A.J. Green
, QB, Bengals: My Projection: 16 FPTS
I think the Steelers have a good understanding of Dalton's strengths and weaknesses and it will help them contain him. Remember, Dalton has never posted 20 points against the Steelers and had 18 points against them at home back in Week 2. Last week, Ryan Tannehill became just the fourth quarterback to exceed 20 Fantasy points against the Steelers this year.
I'd rather start: Ryan Tannehill , Jason Campbell , Joe Flacco
, RB, Bengals: My Projection: 9 FPTS
BenJarvus Green-Ellis , RB, Bengals: My Projection: 5 FPTS
I don't think the Bengals will be the least bit afraid to run the ball here. The Steelers' rushing metrics look good over their last five games (two touchdowns, 80.8 rush yards per game to running backs), but they've taken on some stinker runners over that span. Bernard came through for two touchdowns vs. the Steelers in Week 2 even though he had just nine touches and 65 total yards; Green-Ellis had 75 yards and the team ran the ball 30 times.
Flow chart: Ben Tate > Giovani Bernard > Bills RBs > Bobby Rainey > BenJarvus Green-Ellis
, QB, Steelers: My Projection: 21 FPTS
The timing is good for Roethlisberger -- not only has he been playing great, but he's also catching the Bengals without their top two cornerbacks. Cincy has survived without Leon Hall for several weeks, but now they'll play this one without Terence Newman . Replacing him will be Dre Kirkpatrick , who the Steelers are sure to go after. The biggest key for Big Ben is to not get beaten up in the pocket, as the Bengals pass rush is sure to try and overcompensate for the defensive backfield shortcomings. But the Bengals allowed four passing touchdowns last week and can't be considered a lock to rebound without a healthy secondary.
I'd start him over: Matt Ryan , Colin Kaepernick , Tom Brady
, RB, Steelers: My Projection: 10 FPTS
This will be a tough matchup for Bell, as the Bengals run defense has remained tough even without defensive tackle Geno Atkins . On the year, the unit has given up just three total scores to backs -- none since Week 5 -- and only two have had over 100 total yards (another four have had over 90 total yards). It'll take Bell's receiving prowess for him to get close to the century mark of yards, which would qualify him as a good Fantasy option this week. Cincinnati has allowed 6.7 yards per catch to running backs all season.
I'd start him over: Zac Stacy , Giovani Bernard
, WR, Steelers: My Projection: 13 FPTS
Emmanuel Sanders , WR, Steelers: My Projection: 7 FPTS
You can focus on the Bengals' tough pass defense numbers if you want, but I think the Steelers will aim at the Bengals secondary knowing they're depleted. Plus, I'm not sure they'll be able to run effectively. This shouldn't be a problem for Pittsburgh given its recent success through the air. The Bengals allowed four touchdowns to receivers last week and six in their last four.
I'd start Brown over: Vincent Jackson , Mike Wallace
I'd rather start over Sanders: T.Y. Hilton , Marques Colston
, TE, Steelers: My Projection: 7 FPTS
The Bengals have been solid against tight ends, allowing just two scores to the position in their last six games. More importantly, they've held tight ends to under 50 yards receiving in nine straight games. It seems like Roethlisberger's focus has shifted more toward his receivers.
I'd rather start: Jordan Cameron , Coby Fleener
Ravens at Lions, Mon., 8:40 p.m. ET
This game has some serious playoff implications: The Ravens can't afford to lose in their chase for a playoff berth and the Lions can't afford to lose with the Bears breathing down their necks in the NFC North. But the matchup is made for the Lions, as they'll be able to run a diverse offense with a lot of their playmakers while the Ravens will have to live or die on the arm of Joe Flacco .
No-brainers: Matthew Stafford , Reggie Bush (assuming he plays), Calvin Johnson
, QB, Ravens: My Projection: 19 FPTS
Flacco will throw a lot this week and should put up decent numbers as the Lions have struggled against the pass for much of the year. Seven of the last eight quarterbacks to face the Lions have posted 20-plus Fantasy points. There are legit concerns about Baltimore's offensive line holding up against the Lions monstrous D-line, but Flacco should still have a ton of opportunities to throw downfield. I especially like him better now that Dennis Pitta is back.
Flow chart: Ryan Tannehill > Carson Palmer > Joe Flacco > Tom Brady > Alex Smith
, RB, Ravens: My Projection: 7 FPTS
It's about as bleak of a matchup as you could ask for: The Lions were clobbered by the Eagles in the snow last week but otherwise held backs to five rushing touchdowns on the season. The Ravens offensive line has struggled with mediocre run defenses this year -- the Lions' big boys up front should really makes things hard on them, and that means Rice will have a hard time making gains.
I'd rather start: Rashard Mendenhall , Chris Ogbonnaya , C.J. Spiller
, WR, Ravens: My Projection: 11 FPTS
The Lions have allowed 178.6 yards per game and eight touchdowns to receivers over their last five games, numbers that won't be lost on the Ravens. Smith was bottled up nicely last week by the Vikings, who have done well against No. 1 receivers. I'd expect Smith to see much easier coverage.
I'd start him over: Michael Floyd , Marques Colston
, TE, Ravens: My Projection: 10 FPTS
There is no doubt that Pitta is Flacco's favorite target after last week. He played 36 snaps, was targeted on 11 passes including seven on third and fourth downs (clutch plays). Flacco only attempted six red-zone passes last week and two went to Pitta, including one for a touchdown. True, the Lions have been solid against the tight ends they've played this year, but owners should expect Pitta to get back into the groove as basically the No. 2 receiver for the Ravens, and they're going to pass a lot in this game.
I'd start him over: Jason Witten , Jordan Cameron
, WR, Lions: My Projection: 7 FPTS
The last two weeks have been terrible for Burleson: A Thanksgiving donut was followed up by an 18-yard game in heavy snow. But there's some sleeper appeal here, as the Ravens have allowed two different receivers to score on them in consecutive weeks, allowing an average of 175.0 yards per game in those matchups.
Low-end Flow chart: Danny Amendola > Nate Burleson > Jeremy Kerley > Michael Crabtree
Chargers at Broncos, Thu., 8:25 p.m. ET
Teams haven't had trouble running the football against the Broncos, it's just that when push comes to shove and the scoreboard says they're down big with the clock ticking, the running game dissolves. That's been the case for many Denver opponents including the Chargers in Week 10. It takes a lot of defense to hang with the Broncos and the Chargers don't have much of it despite their Week 14 shellacking of the Giants.
No-brainers: Peyton Manning , Knowshon Moreno , Demaryius Thomas , Julius Thomas
, QB, Chargers: My Projection: 21 FPTS
Denver's pass defense has better numbers at home, where they've allowed only two quarterbacks to throw multiple touchdowns this year. I'm confident Rivers will get the chance at multiple scores as he's likely to play from behind. Of the six games Rivers has attempted 35-plus passes this year he's cleared 20 Fantasy points five times. Nine of the 13 quarterbacks to play the Broncos have attempted 35 passes. Rivers had just 29 pass attempts back in Week 10, contributing to his low output in that game. Keenan Allen was banged up in that game and didn't have a serious role, not even getting a target in the fourth quarter.
Flow chart: Jay Cutler > Ben Roethlisberger > Philip Rivers > Russell Wilson > Carson Palmer
, RB, Chargers: My Projection: 11 FPTS
Danny Woodhead , RB, Chargers: My Projection: 10 FPTS
It's a matter of how many opportunities these guys will get as the matchup is great. Over their last five games the Broncos have allowed 107.0 rush yards per game, 36.6 receiving yards per game and seven total touchdowns to running backs. In fact a back has scored against Denver in all but one of its games. I'd count on Mathews over Woodhead because his playing time is more stable.
Flow chart: Alfred Morris > Ryan Mathews > Ben Tate > Danny Woodhead > Frank Gore
, WR, Chargers: My Projection: 14 FPTS
A receiver has scored on Denver in six of its last seven games. The team that didn't come through with a wideout touchdown? The Chargers in Week 10. Allen had a fortunate outing last week catching two touchdowns over three passes and has 10-plus Fantasy points in three straight and six of his last nine games. He's the best bet to extend the Broncos' skid of allowing a double-digit Fantasy point receiver to five games (they're allowing 154.6 yards per game to receivers in their last five).
I'd start him over: Riley Cooper , Julian Edelman
, TE, Chargers: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Ladarius Green , TE, Chargers: My Projection: 5 FPTS
Green left a lot of Fantasy owners in a lurch last week, losing a lot of playing time to Eddie Royal and not running a lot of routes when he did play. The Chargers built a lead and had no reason to throw against the Giants. I don't think that will happen this week against the Broncos but there's no telling just how much work Green will get. In theory both he and Gates should get some numbers based on the matchup and the likelihood that Rivers will throw a good amount. They also have a decent shot to score as the Broncos have allowed three touchdowns to tight ends in their last four games (two of them to Anthony Fasano . I don't love either guy but would feel more comfortable with Gates.
I'd rather start: Dennis Pitta , Delanie Walker
, RB, Broncos: My Projection: 11 FPTS
The once-mighty Chargers run defense has fallen apart. San Diego's run defense has allowed five rushing touchdowns and 133.2 total yards per game to running backs in the last five weeks. The Broncos have clearly made Ball part of their run game, giving him at least 10 touches each of the last four weeks with 11-plus Fantasy points in three of those four. I'd take a chance on Ball as a No. 2 rusher this week.
I'd start him over: Andre Brown , Le'Veon Bell , Zac Stacy
, WR, Broncos: My Projection: 13 FPTS
Decker had a monster game again last week in part because of the injury to Wes Welker , sending more targets his way. But after two games with robust numbers and no Welker expected to play on Thursday, Decker looks like a good bet to be effective. The Chargers have allowed 186.6 yards per game and six scores to receivers in their last five. Decker had a dud game against them in Week 5 but he had only five targets. More is expected.
I'd start him over: Larry Fitzgerald , Riley Cooper
, TE, Broncos: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Tamme looks like the replacement for Welker -- he played in the slot and missed one snap following Welker's injury last week. It's going to be real interesting to see how the Chargers line up against him -- if they go with a smaller defensive back or a slower linebacker then Manning will pick on that matchup over and over. There's some real potential for Tamme to get you to that seven-point threshold for a tight end (which isn't bad) -- and perhaps much more.
I'd start him over: Brandon Myers , Antonio Gates
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