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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
Colts' Andrew Luck considered skipping Pro Bowl
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) After losing 45-7 to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck admitted he thought about not playing in the Pro Bowl, reports The Indianapolis Star.

Luck felt embarrassed after the championship game and had to think about turning around and playing a week later.

"I mean, it is a privilege, but I am hurting in a sense," Luck said. "But I realize it's an honor to be voted in and the fans really enjoy it. So, I did it."

While Luck was proud of his team for advancing to the championship game, he said this season’s playoff loss was worse than the previous two.

"I think every loss in the playoffs leaves a really, really terrible taste in your mouth," Luck said. "But this one has been worse than the other two because we did get so close. And the way we lost, it was just embarrassing."


NFL warns Marshawn Lynch with 15-yard penalty for obscene gesture
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) The NFL has issued a warning to Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch if he decides to make his obscene gesture in the Super Bowl, vice president of officiating Dean Blandino told ESPN Saturday. If Lynch performs his gesture, Seattle will be assessed a 15-yard penalty.

Meaning if Lynch makes his gesture after scoring a touchdown, the kickoff will be from the 20 yard line. Lynch was fined $20,000 for making his gesture after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game last week.


Matthew Slater: NFLPA 'instructed' Pats not to address Deflategate
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Patriots special teamer Matthew Slater told reporters that the NFL Players Association has "instructed" New England players to not publicly address Deflategate, according to the team's official website. The 29-year-old Slater is a team representative for the union.

"I'd love to get into that with you, but we have been instructed by our union as players to reserve comment on this situation," Slater said. "It's an ongoing investigation, so in order to protect our players, we’re going to go ahead and not talk about that."

The NFL found 11 of 12 game balls the Patriots used in the first half in Sunday's AFC Championship against the Colts were significantly underinflated after being deemed legal before the game. The investigation is being led by NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash and Ted Wells. The league has yet to release its findings.

Coach Bill Belichick also addressed the media in an impromptu press conference to reveal that his team conducted an "internal study," which revealed that the Patriots "followed every rule to the letter."

Like Slater, Belichick vowed not to speak on Deflategate again. New England will square off against Seattle in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.


Report: Colts LB Andrew Jackson arrested for DUI, careless driving
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Colts linebacker Andrew Jackson was arrested in Kentucky early Friday morning for careless driving and DUI, per the Indianapolis Star. He was booked just before 5 a.m. and released from jail at 12:30 p.m. the same day.

Jackson, a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft out of Western Kentucky, was a marginal contributor for Indianapolis last season, contributing only on special teams and short-yardage scenarios. He registered 10 tackles and one sack in 13 games his rookie season.


Justin Forsett: The Ravens 'expressed that they want me back'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Justin Forsett told reporters following Friday's Pro Bowl practice that the Ravens have expressed interest in bringing him back next season, according to NFL.com. Forsett, who replaced Arian Foster's spot in the exhibition game, noted that he has not engaged in any contract discussions with the team, but remains optimistic of a possible deal in the offseason.

"That is the plan, they gave me my shot, they trusted me and believed in me enough to give me that shot so I'd like to stay," Forsett said. "They expressed that they want me back. I want to be back, so we'll see what happens."

Forsett, 29 is seeking his first multiyear contract of his career after playing for five teams in seven seasons. He broke out for 1,266 rushing yards this season, fifth-most in the NFL, and led all running backs with 5.4 yards per carry.


WR Emmanuel Sanders says Peyton Manning will return to Broncos
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Although Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders' only communication with Peyton Manning was through a postseason text message, he believes that the veteran quarterback will return for another season, he told NFL.com on Friday.

Sanders and the Broncos were eliminated by the Colts in the AFC divisional round. Since that loss, the Broncos' coaching staff has been overhauled, with coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase heading to Chicago.

"Well, Gase is definitely in Chicago right now," Sanders said. "And Peyton says he's going to come back, but I'm not really worried about it, I really just want to win a Super Bowl. So that is all that is on my mind."

Gary Kubiak was hired to take Fox's place in Denver, and Sanders said that if Manning doesn't return, backup Brock Osweiler would fit "really well" in the team's new offensive scheme.

"Yeah, I think Brock is a quarterback that is on the rise, he's going to continuously get better and I feel like Kubiak's offense fits him really well," Sanders said.

Sanders signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Broncos last March. He earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl after totaling 101 catches for 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns -- all career highs.


Seahawks GM on Lynch: 'I kind of love his act'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) Seahawks general manager John Schneider said little Friday about Marshawn Lynch's future with the franchise.

"I mean, he's under contract next year," Schneider said in an interview with The Seattle Times. "He's a warrior. Goes out there every weekend and lays it on the line. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better running back in the National Football League."

Lynch has been rumored to be cut after this season to save money. He is set to make $5 million in base salary in 2015. Schneider also said he has no problem with the way Lynch behaves both on and off the field.

"I kind of love his act," Schneider said.


Colts' Robert Mathis may not be ready for training camp
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is still recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon and could miss an extended period of time, including training camp, general manager Ryan Grigson said.

"No, he’s still in recovery," Grigson said when asked if he’s confident Mathis will be ready for training camp. "He’s a freak and you hope that he has an athletic genetic freak type of recovery so that he’s ready day one of training camp. But that information is not clear yet or a timeline is not there because it’s a tough injury. Hopefully in a couple months from now, we’ll be able to have some information on that."

Mathis torn the tendon in early September and missed the entire season. Without Mathis, the Colts were led by rookie Johnathan Newsome with 6 1/2 sacks in 2014.

"Obviously having [Mathis] out was a big hole," Grigson said. "But we don’t make excuses. That stuff gets forgotten and it should because a lot of teams win without key players. The next man up is for real. We found a way to still get pressure and play without his presence, but it makes it a heck of a lot harder, I promise you that. Just having him out on the field, even if he didn’t get out of his stance, it’s still going to command two blockers or more. That completely changes the complexion of a game just having him physically out there."


Seahawks' Carroll: Sherman, Thomas will be fine for Super Bowl
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow) and free safety Earl Thomas (shoulder), who both sustained injuries in the NFC title game vs. Green Bay, will be fine to play in the Super Bowl.

As of Friday, the Patriots were 1-point favorites for the Super Bowl.


Steelers re-sign punter Brad Wing to one-year deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/23/2015) The Steelers have re-signed punter Brad Wing to a one-year deal, the team announced Friday.

Wing had 61 punts for Pittsburgh in 2014 for 2,668, avergaing 43.7 yards per attempt. He ranked 26th in the league with a 39.5 net yards average on the season.


 
 
 
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