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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
Joe Flacco: Ravens don't need to draft wide receiver
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:35 am ET) When your Super Bowl quarterback doesn't believe his team needs to draft a wide receiver, then perhaps it doesn't.

Joe Flacco feels the Ravens are well-stocked in that area despite having lost Torrey Smith to free agency. They still boast Steve Smith, Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanero and Jeremy Butler, but are expected to seriously considering adding a wideout as early as the first round.

"Obviously, without Torrey now, the one thing we probably don't have as much of is that speed, is that one guy who can stretch the field," Flacco told ESPN. "But I'm not going to say we need it. I think we got really good guys and I think we're good with who we have."


Report: Cowboys out of running for Adrian Peterson; Cardinals still alive
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:28 am ET) The Cowboys, once considered the frontrunners to trade for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, are now out of the running, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, who added that only the Cardinals are serious contenders.

The claim is that a deal for Peterson must be made by Friday or Peterson will stay with Minnesota. That will be contingent on Arizona's ability or inability to identify its future featured back. Peterson could bring the Vikings a second-round pick.


Colts sign ILB Jerrell Freeman to qualifying offer
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:16 am ET) Linebacker Jerrell Freeman has signed his one-year qualifying offer for a reported $2.35 million and will remain with the Colts for a fourth season, the team website has reported. He had been a restricted free agent.

The three-year starter led Indianapolis in tackles in 2012 and 2013 before losing four games to a hamstring injury last year. He still finished with 95 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks.


Cardinals' Larry Foote '50-50' on playing in 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Though Larry Foote is on the Cardinals' coaching staff at the moment, he hasn't ruled out a potential return to the team

Speaking to the team's website, Foote said he's "50-50" about playing in 2015. He talked about the factors that could play into whether or not he returns to playing. 

“Draft, what happens with (suspended linebacker) Darryl Washington, stuff like that, how my knee feels (after offseason surgery),” Foote said. “I’ll sit down with (Bruce Arians) and the next couple of months are really going to be the deciding factor.”

If Foote doesn't play, he'll be the linebackers coach for Arizona's upcoming season. He's been adjusting to the role of being a coach this offseason. 

“I am starting to like coaching,” Foote said. “It’s a little tough in the office, eating M&Ms, snacking all day, drinking coffee. I started my diet a couple days ago.”


Panthers pick up option on Luke Kuechly contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) What was promised by general manager Dave Gettleman is now official - the Panthers have picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of standout linebacker Luke Kuechly, per the team website.

The two-time Pro Bowler has led the NFL in tackles in two of his three seasons and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He has racked up 473 tackles since 2012, the most in the NFL.


Ravens TE Dennis Pitta hopeful for 2015 return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta hopes to take the field in time for the 2015 season, but admits it's too early to determine if that goal can become a reality.

Pitta has undergone surgeries to repair a fractured and dislocated hip in each of the last two years.

"We still have some time to be able to assess where I'm at," Pitta told the Baltimore Sun. "I sure hope that I'll be on the field next year. That's my hope; that's my goal. We'll just see if I can get there."

Pitta has played in just seven games in the last two seasons combined.


Mark Sanchez: Eagles said Tim Tebow was just a camp arm
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez said he wasn't concerned that the team signed Tim Tebow, because the Eagles told him Tebow was just there to throw in camp.

"We needed another guy to throw while Sam's (Bradford) still recovering. So that's the reason (for the signing), at least as explained to me," Sanchez said, per CSN Philadelphia

The Eagles signed Tebow on Monday. He hasn't played in the NFL since getting cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp prior to the 2013 season. He spent last year as a television analyst for the SEC Network. 

Tebow and Sanchez were teammates on the Jets in 2012. Tebow's presence as a back-up created a quarterback controversy among fans and media that last ed throughout the season. 


Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


Chiefs pick up option on NT Dontari Poe
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Chiefs have exercised their fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, per NFL.com. He is set in Kansas City through 2016, when he will earn $6.146 million.

The 350-pound Poe has earned the money. He racked up six sacks and contributed to 46 tackles in 2014.


Lions GM Mayhew OK with James Ihedigbo skipping workouts
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Safety James Ihedigbo was the lone absence from voluntary workouts this week for the Lions. But general manager Martin Mayhew understands. After all, Ihedigbo's agent has stated that he would not work without a new contract.

"I look forward to talking with James," Mayhew told ESPN. "I understand what he's going through. I've been through that myself as a player, when I felt that a time in my career that I was underpaid and I had to deal with that.

"So I have empathy for him. I understand what he's going through and I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I've gotten to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels."

Mayhew declined to discuss whether the Liins will rework Ihedigbo's contract.

The 31-year-old Ihedigbo contributed 71 tackles and two sacks with a career-high four interceptions in 2014 despite missing three games at the start of the year with a nerve injury. He earned Pro Bowl alternate status.


 
 
 
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