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Quick Fantasy Hits for Week 15

Senior Fantasy Writer
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As we wade into a 15th week of action, there are some nuggets that are too in-depth for the podcast, too long for Twitter and a little too short for the full column. Enjoy these Week 15 Quick Hits.

Thursday nights are hell on quarterbacks. We took a look at the Thursday Night Effect earlier in the season, but with the games wining down -- and owners throwing Andy Dalton's name around as a possible starter for Week 15, it might be prudent to update the numbers.

So far this season quarterbacks have thrown 36 touchdowns and 35 interceptions in Thursday games. The average line: 19/32, for 235 yards, two sacks, and one touchdown and interception. Just eight quarterbacks have thrown multiple touchdowns (and four of those performances were from feel-good Thanksgiving Day games), while nine quarterbacks (with 20 or more attempts, in order to weed out backups) have thrown zero touchdowns in a Thursday night game. In fact, the list of Thursday night quarterbacks who have thrown one or fewer touchdowns in a game includes:

Cam Newton
Russell Wilson
Andrew Luck
Ryan Fitzpatrick
Drew Brees
Jay Cutler
Aaron Rodgers
Eli Manning
Joe Flacco
Ben Roethlisberger
Matt Ryan
Peyton Manning
Matt Schaub

It's a list of names of which Andy Dalton could easily find himself in the middle. Thursday games have a strange effect on quarterbacks, and it's not an especially good thing.

Joique Bell is getting more touches If you're one of the many owners stressing over what to do with Mikel Leshoure, here's some more stress to pile on, just in time for the holidays: In Week 14, Joique Bell had five receptions and 12 carries, for a total of 17 touches. This was a new season-high for Bell (his previous high of 16 came in Week 9, during a 31-14 win against the Jaguars).

Neither the receptions nor carries alone were highs for Bell, but it was his most impressive total to date, suggesting that his involvement in the offense may be on the rise. In the past three weeks, Bell has averaged 9.3 Fantasy points per game -- a number which is elevated in PPR formats. Leshoure, meanwhile, had just 14 carries and no receptions in Week 14, meaning that Bell outpaced him in touches.

It would be too much to ask, as a Fantasy player, to be able to look at the numbers and simply say, "Well, it looks like Bell is outpacing Leshoure; I suppose Bell is the better option!" Things are rarely that easy. Leshoure has managed a touchdown in three of his last four games. Bell has three touchdowns for the entire season. So while playing Bell ahead of Leshoure in some leagues -- and this is a very real scenario, as Bell was added as Leshoure's handcuff in plenty of formats -- seems like an option, it really ends up coming down to individual scoring. In PPR, Bell may, indeed, be the better choice, as he catches more passes than Leshoure. But Leshoure's tendency to score touchdowns -- he has six in the last five games, thanks mostly to that three-TD performance in Week 9 -- still makes him the better option in standard leagues, even with a chunk of his touches going to Bell.

Fun Fact for Week 15! The Arizona Cardinals rank 28th in passing yards and 32nd in rushing yards ... but are seventh in the NFL in passing attempts.

Interpretation of Fun Fact for Week 15 It means the Cardinals are at least trying. And while it has become fashionable to dump on the offense and give up on Larry Fitzgerald, he is still the sixth-most targeted wide receiver in the league. In the four weeks since the bye, Fitzgerald has just six total receptions, but has averaged 9.3 targets per week.

Detroit, Fitzgerald's Week 15 opponent, has given up the 12th-fewest receiving yards this season but 14th-most receiving touchdowns. And the Lions are just two weeks removed from giving up three touchdowns to Colts receivers. From Weeks 6 to 11, the Lions gave up at least one touchdown to an opposing wide receiver per week.

Additionally, in five career games against the Lions, Fitzgerald has scored four touchdowns. And December is traditionally one of his strongest months -- in 35 career December games, Fitzgerald averages 70.3 yards, with 23 total touchdowns (the best rate of any month).

So while it may look rather grim right now for Fitzgerald, there are some signs here pointing to at least a little bit of hope as the season winds down.

The running backs with the most receiving yards over the past three weeks are:

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Darren Sproles, 140 yards
Shane Vereen, 91 yards
Knowshon Moreno, 88 yards
Ray Rice, 87 yards
Steven Jackson, 78 yards

Not on the list, but meriting a mention for his involvement in the passing game is Bryce Brown, who has been targeted 15 times in the last three games. He's caught 10 of those passes for 31 yards.

The biggers tory here, though, may be Moreno, who has value in the 72 carries over those three games -- enough to lead the league -- but who has been virtually ignored for his involvement in the passing game. Moreno may not have the best yards-per-carry average, but he's caught four passes in each of his last three games, and is turning those receptions into significant gains. Of the top 10 targeted receivers, Moreno is second to only Arian Foster in terms of converting targets to receptions. So not only is he carrying the ball a good amount, he's also catching passes that might have otherwise been pegged for Ronnie Hillman, and isn't missing many of the balls thrown his way.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyFB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasyfootball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Bills awarded waiver claim for QB Matt Simms
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(8:28 pm ET) The quarterback situation in Buffalo has gotten a little more complicated on Friday. The Bills were awarded their waiver claim on QB Matt Simms, who was released by the Jets on Thursday, according to the team's official website. 

Simms has played just four games and has completed 19 of 39 passes for 195 yards, with a touchdown and an interception in his career.


Falcons waive LB Prince Shembo due to animal cruelty charges
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5:55 pm ET) The Falcons have decided to waive linebacker Prince Shembo on Friday after he was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, per nfl.com.

"We are aware of the charges that have been filed against Prince Shembo," the team said in a statement. "We are extremely disappointed that one of our players is involved in something like this. Accordingly, we have decided to waive Prince Shembo."

Shembo recorded 59 tackles in 16 games for the Falcons last season.


Rams RB Trey Watts suspended four games
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:08 pm ET) Rams running back Trey Watts has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, according to profootballtalk.com.

Watts, who made the team in 2014 as an undrafted free agent, played in 14 games last season and rushed for 30 yards on seven carries.

Watts is eligible to return for Week 5 against the Packers.


Falcons LB Prince Shembo charged with cruelty to animals
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(3:57 pm ET) Falcons linebacker Prince Shembo is being accused of killing his ex-girlfriend's dog and has been charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Police said Denicia Williams, Shembo's ex-girlfriend, reported on April 19 that Shembo had killed her Yorkie.

Williams took the dog to Shembo's residence and left them unattended at some point. When she returned, the dog was unresponsive.

Shembo recorded 59 tackles in 16 games for the Falcons last season.


Seahawks' Kam Chancellor: 'This is the strongest offseason I've had'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(2:56 pm ET) Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor feels good. He should, he's finally healthy.

Chancellor, who has become accustomed to rehabbing nagging injuries during the offseason, is practicing with the team during organized team activities for the first time in a while, per The News Tribune.

“I feel great. Back to football form. Feel fast. Feel strong. I just feel good out there," Chancellor said. "I think this is the strongest offseason I’ve had since I’ve been in the league. I’ve been actually able to train in the offseason instead of having surgeries.”

Chancellor recorded 78 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in 14 games last season.


Cardinals RB coach: David Johnson 'reminds me a lot of Matt Forte'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(2:44 pm ET) Cardinals rookie runningback David Johnson received a huge compliment from his position coach, per nfl.com.

Running backs coach Stump Mitchell said the third-round pick reminds him of a Pro Bowl running back.

"He reminds me a lot of Matt Forte," Mitchell said. "You can put him outside and use him as a receiver and he's a good runner."

Mitchell sees the comparison between the two when it comes to Johnson's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, something Forte has excelled at throughout his career.

"He has excellent hands and he's a bigger target to throw the ball to," Mitchell said. "He's going to be a big piece of the puzzle before this season is said and done."

Johnson rushed for 1,553 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior at Northern Iowa last year.


Patriots Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler absent at OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:30 pm ET) Patriots cornerback and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler was noticeably absent from organized team activities on Friday, per nesn.com. It's unclear why Butler was not at practice.

Butler recorded 15 tackles in 11 games last season, but most noticeably came up with a game-clinching interception in the waning moments of Super Bowl XLIX.


Cowboys excited and cautious with return of LB Sean Lee
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:22 pm ET) Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee tore his ACL during organized team activities last year. This year, he has been limited to individual drills during non-padded parctices, per The Dallas Morning News.

Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said the team is happy to have Lee back but that they will pace him along slowly.

"He's a ball of energy and excitement and that represents who we are," Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "He's moving well. We're just being smart as we get him ready to go. But he's got a lot of good quality work in."


Chiefs' Jeremy Maclin getting work in as a punt returner
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:59 pm ET) Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was the Chiefs' prized free-agent pickup this offseason, which makes it that much more intriguing that he lined up to return punts during practice on Thursday, per ESPN.com.

Maclin, who signed a five-year, $55 million deal with the Chiefs, was a premier punt returner in college and played the role sparingly -- with little success -- with the Eagles.

Coach Andy Reid said the team is preparing Maclin just in case he's needed to return punts or kicks because of injuries.

We just want to make sure he is ready,’’ Reid said. “You have limited numbers that you can dress on game day, so you don’t know what rotation you are going to have there with the receivers and returners. So it gives you an opportunity to keep him fresh. We don’t work him every day like the other guys. It’s kind of an every other day deal, so just to make sure that he’s okay and can still do that, but he’s not going to be the primary guy doing it right now.”


Eagles CB Byron Maxwell guarantees trip to Super Bowl 50
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:40 pm ET) Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell knows what it takes to make a Super Bowl run, he's appeared in two straight as a key member of the vaunted Seahawks defense.

Now, Maxwell is confident the Eagles will make a run to the big game and he will make his third consecutive appearance, per NFL.com.

"Because I've been there before," Maxwell said. "Knowing what it's like if we go that far. Because we're gonna go that far this year, meaning the playoffs and the Super Bowl. We're gonna go that far. Hopefully that experience I already had, I can help them."

The Eagles haven't made a Super Bowl since their 24-21 loss to the Patriots in 2004, but Maxwell didn't backtrack with his comments.

"You can take that as a guarantee," he said. "That's just me believing in my team and the product we're going to put out there on the field. I really do believe that. I have no choice but to think that way."

Maxwell, who signed a six-year, $60 million deal with the Eagles this offseason, recorded 39 tackles and two interceptions in 13 games last season.


 
 
 
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