The Fantasy playoffs are here in the majority of leagues, and for those of you still fighting for something -- money, pride or bragging rights over friends and family -- we wish you good luck. Hopefully we'll help you get what you want.
In our weekly review of the previous scoring period, one line stands out in something I wrote in Week 13 about Eric Decker, who we had as a bust alert. After highlighting his recent struggles, I wrote "he's due," but no one could have predicted his explosion against the Chiefs for 41 Fantasy points. He had 42 points combined in his previous six games.
Decker was one of several big misses from Week 13, including other bust alerts in Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Tony Gonzalez all playing well, and saying to sit Robert Griffin III, Cecil Shorts and Mike Wallace. I also failed on start calls in Philip Rivers, Giovani Bernard, Danny Woodhead, Jarrett Boykin, Jordan Cameron and Timothy Wright.
But enough about the negatives. Let's focus on the positives. It's the playoffs after all. Our Start of the Week was Josh McCown, who was one of four Top 12 quarterbacks we said to start along with Nick Foles, Carson Palmer and Alex Smith. We also had seven start running backs, including sleepers, rank in the Top 24 (C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Shane Vereen, Montee Ball and Donald Brown). And four of our start receivers, including sleepers, were in the Top 24 (Michael Floyd, Anquan Boldin, Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman).
We also told you to sit Andrew Luck, Bobby Rainey, Pierre Thomas, T.Y. Hilton, Marques Colston and Antonio Gates, and they all struggled. You'll see below, however, that we like Rainey to rebound in a big way.
My goal in the home stretch of the Fantasy season is to help you win a championship, so hopefully we'll get more predictions right than wrong. And we've added a new wrinkle to the column for those of you concerned about some typical must-start options who have been struggling heading into this week. If the matchup is right, we're telling you not to give up on them just yet.
|Player||Fantasy Pts. (proj.)||Fantasy Pts. (actual)||Start %||Pos. rank|
|Josh McCown, QB, Bears||21||26||39||5|
|Nick Foles, QB, Eagles||21||29||55||4|
|C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills||10||20||56||5|
|Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals||11||15||68||6|
|Andrew Luck, QB, Colts||18||10||59||27|
|Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers||7||2||66||28|
|Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints||9||2||55||62|
|Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers||20||14||54||21|
|Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals||10||5||75||38|
|Jarrett Boykin, WR, Packers||13||0||74||96|
|Eric Decker, WR, Broncos||8||41||63||1|
|Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers||8||19||59||8|
|Mike Wallace, WR, Dolphins||7||14||53||10|
Start of the Week: Bobby Rainey, RB, Buccaneers
When the season started, most of you didn't know who Rainey was. Now you're going to start him in the Fantasy playoffs -- or at least you should.
Rainey, who spent 2012 on the practice squad in Baltimore, is with his third team this season after going to training camp with the Ravens, then signing in Cleveland before ending up with the Buccaneers. He's now the third starting running back in Tampa Bay after Doug Martin (shoulder) and Mike James (ankle) were lost for the year.
|Frank Gore||vs. SEA|
|Zac Stacy||at ARI|
|Ray Rice||vs. MIN|
|Ryan Mathews||vs. NYG|
|Donald Brown||at CIN|
Rainey took over in Week 10 against Miami when James went down, and he had two solid performances against the Dolphins and Falcons with 45 Fantasy points. But we expected him to struggle at Detroit in Week 12 and at Carolina in Week 13, and he managed just nine Fantasy points combined in those tough matchups.
The good thing is the Bucs were committed to Rainey with at least 17 carries in each of those games, and we expect him to return to glory against Buffalo this week if that workload continues as expected. The Bills have allowed a running back to score and reach double digits in Fantasy points in each of the past three games with Bell, Chris Ivory and Steven Jackson. And seven running backs have reached double digits in Fantasy points against Buffalo this year.
We like Rainey to get back on the positive side of things this week, and he should be considered a No. 2 running back or flex in this matchup. We never expected in Week 14 that Rainey would be a prominent Fantasy option, but here we are -- and we're buying in to a third-string running back, who should be great for you at a crucial time.
Russell Wilson (at SF): The 49ers have done a great job against some superior quarterbacks of late, holding Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Griffin to 16 Fantasy points or less. Only Aaron Rodgers, Palmer and Jake Locker have scored more than 19 Fantasy points against San Francisco, and those are the only three quarterbacks with multiple touchdowns against this defense. But Wilson is playing at an MVP level right now even without Percy Harvin (hip), and he's scored at least 22 Fantasy points in four consecutive games and five of his past six. He's faced the 49ers three times in his career, and only once has he done well with 30 Fantasy points against them at home last year. But with the way he's rolling right now you should keep him active unless you have a slam-dunk alternative with someone like Foles, Matthew Stafford or Tom Brady.
Nick Foles (vs. DET): Don't get caught up in the Lions completely overwhelming the Packers and Matt Flynn on Thanksgiving Day and think Detroit is all of the sudden an elite defense. That performance spoke volumes about Flynn and Green Bay's problems without Rodgers, and the Lions pass defense should struggle again this week. Prior to Week 13, Detroit had allowed the previous six opposing quarterbacks to score at least 20 Fantasy points. Foles is as hot as any player in the NFL right now with at least 21 Fantasy points in four games in a row and five of his past six. He has a 19:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio on 196 attempts, and this game should be high scoring. We'll continue to ride Foles until he fails, which doesn't seem like it will happen any time soon.
Alex Smith (at WAS): Smith, like Foles and Wilson, is riding a hot streak heading into Week 14 at the Redskins with at least 25 Fantasy points in three games in a row and four of his past five. Andy Reid is allowing him to make plays, and he's attempted at least 38 passes in each of his past three outings with seven touchdowns and two interceptions over that span. The Redskins just held Eli Manning to 13 Fantasy points, but he's hardly the benchmark for standout quarterbacks. Prior to facing the Giants, the previous five quarterbacks all scored at least 19 Fantasy points against Washington. Keep an eye on tight end Anthony Fasano (concussion) heading into this game because Fasano has scored in three in a row and has been a key cog in Smith's recent success.
Josh McCown (vs. DAL): The starting quarterback for Chicago has been stellar this season, thanks in large part to an amazing receiving corps with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte, and a quality system run by coach Marc Trestman. The Bears have passed for multiple scores in nine games and 300 or more yards five times. Dallas comes into this game having allowed a quarterback to score at least 18 Fantasy points eight times, and we're confident Chicago will have success moving the ball through the air. Consider McCown a quality Fantasy option on Monday night, especially since he's scored at least 22 Fantasy points in three of his four starts this year.
Robert Griffin III (vs. KC): Griffin did a solid job in Week 13 against the Giants playing the way we hoped he would all season. He completed 75 percent of his passes, didn't turn the ball over and did well running with 12 carries for 88 yards. We hope this is the quarterback we'll see to finish the season, and his production has actually been positive of late. He has at least 22 Fantasy points in three of his past four games, and this matchup isn't as daunting as you might expect. While the Chiefs have only allowed four quarterbacks to score 20-plus Fantasy points, three of them have come in the past five games, including two in a row with Rivers and Peyton Manning. Griffin also gets tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) back this week, and the more weapons the better. We like Griffin as a low-end starting option, and hopefully he'll at least play like he did against the Giants.
Stand by your man: Tony Romo (at CHI): Starting this week, with the Fantasy playoffs upon us, we're giving you a player at each position who is typically a must-start option but has struggled of late. Romo qualifies at quarterback since he hasn't reached 20 Fantasy points since Week 9, but we still like him against the Bears. Chicago has allowed just five quarterbacks to score at least 19 Fantasy points, but those are really the only five legit quarterbacks the Bears faced in Andy Dalton, Roethlisberger, Stafford, Brees and Griffin. DeMarco Murray will certainly have success running on Chicago's defense, but Romo should also have the chance to make plays. The only non-obvious quarterbacks we'd start over Romo this week are Foles and McCown. But don't give up on Romo if he's led you this far because he's due to break out of his recent funk.
|Philip Rivers||(vs. NYG)||He's scored at least 22 Fantasy points vs. every other NFC East opponent.|
|Matt Ryan||(at GB)||Roddy White back in form makes Ryan credible in a favorable matchup.|
|EJ Manuel||(at TB)||The past eight QBs vs. TB have scored at least 18 Fantasy points.|
Ben Roethlisberger (vs. MIA): Roethlisberger could prove to be matchup proof after his performance at Baltimore in Week 13 when he scored 23 Fantasy points. He has now scored 20 or more points in three games in a row and four of his past five outings. But to keep the streak alive this week he'll have to top a Dolphins defense that has allowed just Brees and Newton to score 20-plus Fantasy points, including matchups with Luck (when he still had Reggie Wayne), Matt Ryan (when he still had Julio Jones), Brady and Philip Rivers. Ryan and Brees are the only quarterbacks to throw multiple touchdowns against Miami, which last happened in Week 4, and the Steelers can definitely lean on Bell this week. We consider Roethlisberger more of a "bust alert" then a must-sit candidate, but lower your expectations if you start him this week.
Eli Manning (at SD): Stop me if you've heard this before, but Manning has a great matchup on his hands this week. The Chargers have allowed seven quarterbacks to score at least 22 Fantasy points, and Manning could finally reach 20-plus Fantasy points for the first time since Week 1. But he's had plus matchups for basically the past eight games against Philadelphia twice, Chicago, Minnesota, Oakland, Green Bay, Dallas and Washington and has little to show for it. He only has three games with multiple touchdowns, and he hasn't passed for more than 300 yards since Week 5. We hope Manning can snap out of this funk against the Chargers, but let it happen on your bench or the waiver wire. He's not worth the risk during the Fantasy playoffs based on his overall body of work.
Andrew Luck (at CIN): If you can survive this week with Luck on your bench then he could reward you in Week 15 against Houston. But this should be another tough matchup for him and continue his four-game slide with 18 Fantasy points or less. He has just two passing touchdowns and five interceptions over that span, and this week he's playing outdoors, where he typically struggles. He has just one game with more than 20 Fantasy points outdoors in 10 starts, which was at Jacksonville this season in Week 4. The Bengals have allowed four quarterbacks to score at least 20 Fantasy points this season but none since Week 7, and we'd be surprised if Luck tops that mark this week. Save Luck for next week against the Texans, and hopefully he can reward you one last time during the Fantasy season.
Mike Glennon (vs. BUF): The Bills have done a nice job defensively against the pass the past four games, including being the lone team to slow down Roethlisberger and Smith during their recent hot streaks. Buffalo held Smith to four Fantasy points and Roethlisberger to just 12, and we can see the Bills keeping Glennon in check while Rainey does all the heavy lifting. The Bucs have also done a good job of keeping Glennon on a pitch count with no more than 23 pass attempts in each of the past five games. It didn't really hurt him until last week when he finished with just three Fantasy points at Carolina, but a repeat performance is a possibility if Rainey does his job. We'd only start Glennon this week in two-quarterback leagues.
Ryan Tannehill (at PIT): Tannehill has been on fire of late with 641 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in his past two games. He's scored at least 19 Fantasy points in three of his past four, and he's doing a great job connecting with Wallace, who has scored in consecutive games. But the Steelers should be able to keep Tannehill in check since just three quarterbacks have thrown multiple touchdowns against this defense or scored 20-plus Fantasy points. Pittsburgh also should be able to pressure Tannehill this week, and he's been sacked 45 times this season. The Steelers have at least three sacks in three of their past five games, and Tannehill could get hit a lot this week. He's only worth starting as a No. 2 option in deep two-quarterback leagues.
Bust alert: Colin Kaepernick (vs. SEA): There are a few major concerns with Kaepernick this week even though he's scored at least 19 Fantasy points in consecutive games against Washington and St. Louis. He might not have two starting offensive linemen with Joe Staley (knee) and Mike Iupati (knee) banged up. The Seahawks have allowed just two quarterbacks to score 20-plus Fantasy points and none since Week 5, and last week they shut down Brees, who had only nine points. Granted, that was in Seattle where the Seahawks are flawless, but Kaepernick has been miserable against this defense in his young career. In two career starts, Kaepernick has passed for 371 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions and has 17 carries for 117 yards and a fumble. Those games were also in Seattle, but we're expecting the Seahawks defense to travel well for this matchup. Kaepernick should only be started in two-quarterback leagues.
Le'Veon Bell (vs. MIA): All signs point toward Bell playing against the Dolphins after he suffered a concussion at the end of last week's game at Baltimore on Thanksgiving Day. Keep an eye on his status, but if Bell is active as expected then start him without hesitation. The Dolphins have been miserable against running backs all season with 10 touchdowns allowed and nine scoring double digits in Fantasy points. Bell has scored at least eight Fantasy points in seven games in a row, and he's reached double digits in four of his past six outings. Bell also has been great for PPR leagues with at least four catches in five of the nine games he's appeared in this season.
Ben Tate (at JAC): Tate was amazing last week against the Patriots with 22 carries for 102 yards and three touchdowns, and he now has double digits in Fantasy points in two of his past three games. The one game where he struggled was Week 12 against the Jaguars, when he was held to seven carries for 1 yard and five catches for 26 yards, and he was outplayed by backup Dennis Johnson (13 carries for 74 yards). Jacksonville's run defense has improved of late with only one running back reaching double digits in Fantasy points since Week 8, but there are two things worth noting here. The first being that running backs have been great on Thursday with eight reaching double digits in Fantasy points in the past five games. And Tate has been excellent when given a heavy workload. There have been seven times in his career where he has at least 20 touches in a game, and he's finished with at least eight Fantasy points in every outing. We hope he gets the work this week because the production should follow.
Steven Jackson (at GB): Jackson has shown some life the past two games with double digits in Fantasy points against New Orleans and Buffalo. He's still not averaging 4.0 yards per carry, but he does have three touchdowns in those two outings. This week's matchup against the Packers is favorable because Green Bay has been run over of late with nine running backs scoring at least nine Fantasy points in the past six games with seven touchdowns over that span. And, for what it's worth, Jackson also has either 100 total yards or a touchdown in his past five meetings with the Packers, although all of those appearances were when he was in Atlanta.
Shane Vereen and LeGarrette Blount (vs. CLE): We'll start with Vereen, who has established himself as a must-start running back in PPR leagues and a quality option in standard formats. His point total has increased each of the past three weeks (six, nine and 12), and he finally reached double digits in Fantasy points with a touchdown at Houston in Week 13. He could have had three touchdowns since he was pushed out at the 1-yard line on one play and dropped a touchdown on another, but he now has 21 catches the past three games and 20 carries in the past two. Based on his consistent workload, the production should continue to be there. Blount should have the chance to be a flex option this week as long as Stevan Ridley remains on the bench with his fumble problems. With Ridley inactive against the Texans, Blount had 12 carries for 44 yards and a touchdown, and he outplayed Brandon Bolden (three carries for 2 yards and one catch for 18 yards). You never know what the Patriots might do with Blount, Ridley and Bolden, but we'd gamble on Blount as a flex option in standard leagues. As for Vereen, he's the best New England running back now and possibly the rest of the year.
Maurice Jones-Drew (vs. HOU): Like we said with Tate, you want running backs playing on Thursday night, especially ones who have the chance to be productive. And that's what Jones-Drew has been of late. He has a touchdown in four consecutive games -- three rushing and one passing -- and he continues to be heavily involved. He has at least 18 total touches in his past five outings, and we've seen him improve since he's been used as a receiver with at least four catches in four of his past five games. Included in that stretch was Week 12 at Houston when Jones-Drew had 14 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown and six catches for 60 yards, and we're counting on another quality outing. The Texans have allowed four running backs to score double digits in Fantasy points in their past three games, and Jones-Drew should hopefully keep his touchdown streak alive.
Stand by your man: Alfred Morris (vs. KC): Morris, like Romo, has hit a rough patch over the past three games, but we still trust him as a starting option in the Fantasy playoffs. He scored last week against the Giants but had just 11 carries for 26 yards. He did compensate with a career-high three catches for 27 yards, but he's averaging just eight Fantasy points in his past three outings. He also has just 25 carries the past two games, including just two in the second half against the Giants. Coach Mike Shanahan said the game plan was the reason for the lack of carries in Week 13, but we expect Morris to be more involved against the Chiefs. Kansas City has allowed seven running backs to score at least nine Fantasy points in the past four games with six touchdowns over that span. Morris should rebound in a big way this week, and we still have the utmost faith in him, even over other quality starters like Tate, Vereen and Spiller.
|Rashard Mendenhall||(vs. STL)||STL has allowed a running back to score in four consecutive games.|
|Montee Ball||(vs. TEN)||He has double digits in Fantasy points in two of his past three games.|
|Lamar Miller||(at PIT)||He's scored eight Fantasy points or more in five games with 11-plus carries.|
|Mike Tolbert||(at NO)||He scored four TDs in two games vs. NO in 2012.|
|Chris Ivory||(vs. OAK)||Nine of the past 10 rushers vs. OAK have double digits in Fantasy points.|
Frank Gore (vs. SEA): Like we said with Kaepernick, the 49ers could be without Staley and Iupati, which would hamper their offensive line in a tough matchup. Gore already struggled against the Seahawks once this year in Week 2 in Seattle with nine carries for 16 yards and one catch for 14 yards. And Gore has been struggling of late with a combined 15 Fantasy points the past three games, which includes a touchdown in Week 13 against the Rams. He's been at 18 touches or less in the past four games, and the Seahawks have been great in run defense all season. Seattle has allowed four running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points, including two on the road against Arian Foster and Zac Stacy, but the Seahawks have also limited Gore, Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson and Adrian Peterson to six points or less. It's tough to bench Gore in the Fantasy playoffs, but it's likely the smart move to make given the matchup and his recent performances.
Danny Woodhead (vs. NYG): Woodhead might bust out with a two-touchdown game like he did against the Chiefs in Week 12, but we're not willing to trust him this week. His playing time is down with 10 touches or less in each of his past four games, and he's averaging fewer than 30 snaps over that span. He also had less catches than Ryan Mathews in Week 13 against the Bengals with five to two, and we like Mathews as a starter in this matchup instead of Woodhead. The Giants have been susceptible to running backs out of the backfield with six catching at least four passes against them this year, but that could benefit Mathews as much as Woodhead at this point. We don't know why the workload has decreased for Woodhead, but it makes him just a starting option in PPR leagues only. We would avoid him in standard leagues based on the risk factor.
Donald Brown (at CIN): Brown has been great with at least 12 Fantasy points in three of his past four games, and he's earned the starting job over Trent Richardson. But you should plan to use Brown in favorable matchups like he had in Week 13 against Tennessee and bench him in tough matchups like this week. Only four running backs have scored double digits in Fantasy points against the Bengals with two touchdowns allowed, and only Lamar Miller and Johnathan Franklin have run for more than 70 yards. They are obviously missing key interior defensive lineman Geno Atkins (knee), but in the last three games against Baltimore, Cleveland and San Diego, the Bengals have allowed just 84 rushing yards per game. Brown can still be considered a flex option, but lower your expectations if you start him based on the matchup.
Rashad Jennings (at NYJ): Jennings is expected to play despite suffering a concussion at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, and he's been stellar of late with double digits in Fantasy points in three of his past four games and no less than nine points over that span. He could also benefit if Darren McFadden (ankle) is out for this game, but the matchup is tough. The Jets have only allowed four running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points and none since Week 5 with seven touchdowns allowed. Jennings did score twice against the Cowboys, but he managed just 17 carries for 35 yards before getting hurt. Keep an eye on Jennings' status prior to Sunday, but you should plan to bench him regardless even though he's been great. The Jets haven't done much right this season, especially of late, but stopping the run has been their calling card all year. We expect they will limit Jennings this week, especially at home.
Pierre Thomas (vs. CAR): Thomas was shut down at Seattle last week with four carries for no yards and four catches for 21 yards. It was his worst game of the season with two Fantasy points, and he could have another tough outing against the Panthers. Carolina has been tough against the run all season with just four touchdowns allowed to running backs and five reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Spiller and Gore are the only running backs with more than 65 rushing yards against the Panthers, including matchups with Marshawn Lynch, Peterson, Stacy, Steven Jackson, Miller and Rainey. Thomas will again share passing downs with Darren Sproles, who had seven catches against the Seahawks, and his stats could be limited, even at home. I'd be hesitant to start Thomas and Sproles in standard leagues this week, but both are options at flex in PPR leagues given the matchup.
Bust alert: Zac Stacy (at ARI): It's nearly impossible to bench someone like Stacy given his workload and performance this season. He has at least 20 touches in six of his past seven games, and the one time he failed to hit that mark was when he suffered a concussion against Chicago in Week 12. He also has scored at least seven Fantasy points in every game since Week 5. But this might be one of those games where he's held to single digits in Fantasy points based on Arizona's defense. The Cardinals have only allowed three running backs to score double digits in Fantasy points (Lynch, Gore and LeSean McCoy) with only three rushing touchdowns. At home, only Lynch has rushed for more than 60 yards against the Cardinals, including matchups with Reggie Bush, Steven Jackson and Tate. I have Stacy projected for nine Fantasy points in a standard league, but I would start Rainey, Rashard Mendenhall and Vereen ahead of him, for example, based on the matchup.
Riley Cooper (vs. DET): The Lions have had trouble this season with No. 2 receivers, and Cooper could snap out of his two-game scoring slump. Detroit has allowed 14 receivers to score double digits in Fantasy points, including No. 2 options like Jerome Simpson, Alshon Jeffery twice, James Jones, Marvin Jones, Terrance Williams, Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood. Cooper has just seven Fantasy points in his past two games against Washington and Arizona, but this matchup should allow him the chance to shine. And Foles continues to look his way with at least six targets in three of his past four games. Look for them to connect this week, and have confidence with Cooper in your lineup for the start of the playoffs.
Julian Edelman (vs. CLE): We'll find out if the Browns plan to use Joe Haden to shadow Edelman, which might not be a bad thing since Haden has allowed touchdowns in consecutive games to Antonio Brown and Cecil Shorts -- both receivers who line up in the slot, where Haden is less comfortable. The Patriots will move Edelman around, and it's clear Brady is relying on him with 18 catches for 211 yards and two touchdowns the past two games against Denver and Houston on 23 targets. He's a must-start receiver in PPR leagues, and he's at least a No. 3 option in standard formats. I also wouldn't be surprised if Danny Amendola plays well this week, but he's only worth using as a sleeper in deeper formats. It helps both guys that Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) and Aaron Dobson (foot) are battling injuries.
Harry Douglas and Roddy White (at GB): Douglas and White are probably better served as No. 3 receivers than must-start options, but this is a good matchup for the Falcons' duo. Douglas has been consistent of late with seven or more Fantasy points in six of his past seven games. He had a touchdown called back at Buffalo last week, and Matt Ryan is throwing to him a lot with 36 targets in the past three games. White, meanwhile, finally played well against the Bills with 10 catches for 143 yards on 14 targets, which were all season highs. He's still battling the ankle injury that has plagued him all year, but it's obviously more manageable now based on his production last week. The Packers have allowed 17 receivers to score at least eight Fantasy points in a standard league, including three last week for the Lions. We hope the Falcons won't let us down, but if you need a receiver with upside then gamble on Douglas and White this week.
Mike Wallace (at PIT): We'll buy into Wallace now that he's played well the past two games, and we hope he makes it three in a row. I'm a big fan when players face their former teams, and I expect Wallace to come out with something to prove. It helps that the Steelers have struggled of late with No. 1 receivers. Over the past five games, Pittsburgh has allowed five receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points, including Torrey Smith, Calvin Johnson and Josh Gordon. Wallace has looked like a No. 1 receiver the past two weeks against Carolina and the Jets with 12 catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns on 20 targets, and he's finally connecting with Tannehill down the field. He might let you down -- he does have six games this season with four Fantasy points or less -- but he could also keep rolling now that he and Tannehill are on the same page.
Michael Floyd (vs. STL): Larry Fitzgerald and Floyd have the chance for a big game this week based on how receivers have done against the Rams, assuming that Palmer's elbow is OK. There have been 14 receivers to score at least eight Fantasy points against St. Louis, including Floyd and Fitzgerald in Week 1. Twice this season receivers have scored at least eight Fantasy points against the Rams from the same team, including the Cardinals and Jaguars (Justin Blackmon and Shorts). Floyd is on an impressive run the past three games with 50 Fantasy points against Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Philadelphia with 18 catches for 396 yards and two touchdowns on 28 targets. We don't expect Floyd to slow down this week, so consider him a must-start option in all leagues as long as Palmer is able to play as expected.
Stand by your man: Wes Welker (vs. TEN): I also like Pierre Garcon (vs. KC) in this category, but Welker could have the Decker game this week. Prior to last week, Decker had four games in a row without scoring or going over 75 receiving yards, but he dominated the Chiefs with eight catches for 174 yards and four touchdowns as Peyton Manning fed him ad nauseam with 12 targets. Well, here's Welker now, and he's gone four games in a row without scoring or going over 75 receiving yards. The matchup against the Titans is tough since Tennessee has allowed just two touchdowns to opposing receivers and only one to reach double digits in Fantasy points. But that could impact Demaryius Thomas and Decker on the outside -- no one is saying to sit those guys -- while Manning attacks the middle of the field with Welker. Don't get cute and bench Welker for Edelman, Douglas or Wallace, because the feeling is this will be the week he bounces back with a big game.
|Nate Burleson||(at PHI)||He should rebound vs. PHI since No. 2 receivers shine in this matchup.|
|Kendall Wright||(at DEN)||He should see plenty of targets with TEN chasing points at DEN.|
|Doug Baldwin||(at SF)||Former Stanford standout has three TDs in his past four games.|
|Dwayne Bowe||(at WAS)||A penalty last week cost Bowe from scoring in three straight games.|
|Andre Holmes||(at NYJ)||NYJ have allowed nine TDs to receivers in the past five games.|
T.Y. Hilton (at CIN): Hilton has been more bust than boom this season. He has just four games with double digits in Fantasy points and only two games with touchdowns. In his past three games against the Titans twice and Cardinals, he has combined for 11 Fantasy points, and he hasn't had more than 50 receiving yards. He's also been terrible outdoors in his career. He's appeared in nine games outdoors the past two seasons and has just one game with more than four Fantasy points, which was at New England in 2012. This season, Hilton has combined for 16 catches for 145 yards and no touchdowns outdoors. The Bengals have allowed just five receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points, and we don't expect Hilton to reach that mark this week.
Steve Johnson (at TB): It looks like Darrelle Revis (chest) will play against the Bills this week, which means these two can renew their rivalry. Johnson has actually done an amazing job against Revis with seven or more Fantasy points in all five meetings since 2010 when Revis was with the Jets, including three touchdowns. But I'm buying into the way Revis has played of late, as well as Johnson, and he should only be considered a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in this matchup. Since Revis started covering No. 1 receivers instead of playing zone in Week 8, he's held Steve Smith twice, Golden Tate, White and Wallace to seven Fantasy points or less. Johnson also has gone three games in a row with four Fantasy points or less, and he has just one touchdown since Week 2. Now, No. 2 receivers have done well against Tampa Bay, so put Robert Woods on your radar. But consider other options instead of Johnson in this matchup.
Rueben Randle and Hakeem Nicks (at SD): Maybe this is the week Nicks breaks his 14-game scoring slump. Or maybe this is the week Randle finds the end zone again after going two games without a touchdown. Either way, it's hard to trust any of the Giants receivers, although we'll stick with Victor Cruz as at least a No. 3 receiver based on potential. Randle has done a nice job scoring touchdowns with six in his past eight games, but he's had more than three targets just three times over that span and never more than seven. Nicks not only isn't scoring touchdowns, he hasn't had more than 55 receiving yards in his past five games. This is a favorable matchup against the Chargers, who have allowed 12 receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points, but if Nicks and Randle are going to perform well it's going to be on my bench because I can't risk their continued minimal production during the Fantasy playoffs.
Jarrett Boykin (vs. ATL): This posting will change if Rodgers (collarbone) is cleared to play, but the Packers appear to be going back to Flynn despite last week's disaster at Detroit. Boykin suffered the most with no catches on three targets, but even Jordy Nelson and James Jones could be at risk with Flynn. We'd even like it if Scott Tolzien was the starter. The Falcons have struggled more with outside receivers then slot guys, which is typically where Boykin lines up, and last week he played just 31 snaps, which was a season-low since he took over for Randall Cobb (leg) in Week 6. Keep an eye on the quarterback spot in Green Bay, and that could determine how Boykin and his teammates do in this matchup.
Marques Colston (vs. CAR): Colston is better at home, so take that into consideration this week. He's had seven or more Fantasy points in five of six games in New Orleans this season, including his only two touchdowns. But he's struggled in tough matchups, and this game certainly qualifies as difficult. The Panthers have only allowed three receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points and score touchdowns this year, and they have limited guys like Cruz, Fitzgerald and Vincent Jackson twice to seven Fantasy points or less. Don't be surprised if Colston gets to seven points this week, but that would make him a No. 3 Fantasy receiver at best. He's a risky starting option heading into the Fantasy playoffs even though the Saints are playing at home.
Bust alert: Anquan Boldin (vs. SEA): The last time Boldin faced the Seahawks in Week 2 he was held to one catch for 7 yards on four targets. Richard Sherman followed him around the field, and he made things tough on Boldin. We'll find out if Sherman does the same thing this week, especially with Michael Crabtree now healthy, but Boldin could again struggle. He's been on fire of late with 41 Fantasy points in his past three games. He has 20 catches for 248 yards and three touchdowns over that span against New Orleans, Washington and St. Louis with 29 targets, but Seattle will make things difficult on this passing game even without Brandon Browner (groin) and Walter Thurmond (suspension). There have been five receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points against the Seahawks with eight touchdowns allowed, but Steve Smith, Shorts and Andre Johnson are the only No. 1 guys to play well, including matchups with Wayne, Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson, White and Colston. We still consider Boldin the No. 1 receiver ahead of Crabtree, but where Sherman lines up -- if he shadows anyone -- will determine how Seattle views Boldin. In any event, we'd bench Boldin if possible based on the tough matchup.
Heath Miller (vs. MIA): Miller has done a nice job of late with eight catches in two of his past three games, including a solid performance at Baltimore with eight catches for 86 yards on nine targets in Week 13. He now has a great matchup against the Dolphins, who have allowed eight touchdowns to opposing tight ends, including two of the past three games with Antonio Gates and Greg Olsen. Miller hasn't scored since Week 7, which is his lone touchdown this year, but this could be the week he finds the end zone again based on Miami's defense.
Jared Cook (at ARI): Here we go again. The last time Cook faced the Cardinals was Week 1, when he had seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns on 10 targets for 24 Fantasy points in a standard league. It looked like Cook was on his way toward a breakout season, but he broke down after that with a combined 21 Fantasy points in his next seven games. He's rebounded of late with a touchdown in two of his past four games, and we hope the rematch with the Cardinals works out like Week 1. It helps that Arizona has remained miserable against tight ends all season and just allowed Zach Ertz and Brent Celek to combine for three touchdowns last week, which makes 14 touchdowns allowed to tight ends this year.
Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green (vs. NYG): This might be the first time we've ever recommended a tight end duo, or at least since the early tenure of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But Gates and Green can both be started this week, and I like Gates slightly better in this matchup with the Giants. Even though he has just one game with double digits in Fantasy points since Week 4, the targets have been there with eight or more in four of his past five games, so he's due. Green, meanwhile, is hot right now with at least eight Fantasy points in each of his past three games with 32 points over that span. He's scored in consecutive games and is playing like a De facto receiver, especially with slot guy Eddie Royal (toe, chest) banged up. The Giants have allowed a tight end to score in each of the past two games, and Gates and Green could make it three in a row if both play up to expectations.
Stand by your man: Tony Gonzalez (at GB): Gonzalez scored in Week 13 at Buffalo, but he's been disappointing of late with only eight or more Fantasy points in three of his past seven games. He only has four more games left in his soon-to-be Hall of Fame career, and we hope he goes out with a bang. This is a decent matchup against the Packers, who have allowed six touchdowns to tight ends this season, including one to Rhett Ellison of the Vikings in Week 12. Green Bay has faced four quality tight ends this season in Vernon Davis, Jordan Reed, Jordan Cameron and Martellus Bennett and all but Bennett scored a touchdown. We hope Gonzalez is on the positive side of that list, and we like him as a starting option despite his recent woes.
|Martellus Bennett||(vs. DAL)||DAL has allowed a tight end to score in two of the past three.|
|Brandon Myers||(at SD)||Hopefully he'll score for the third game in a row.|
|Garrett Graham||(at JAC)||Let's hope he takes advantage of the matchup this time around.|
Jordan Cameron (at NE): Cameron has let me down for the final time. I don't care if he plays well this week because he's doing it on my bench or waiver wire. He has combined for nine Fantasy points the past three games despite 24 targets, and the poor quarterback play in Cleveland is hurting his production. The switch to Caleb Hanie this week with Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell dealing with concussions should further raise red flags, and the Patriots have only allowed three tight ends to score all season. I'd rather go with Green or Cook at tight end this week over the struggling Cameron.
Timothy Wright (vs. BUF): Like Cameron, I'm done with Wright. I had high expectations for him in Week 13 at Carolina, and he finished with two catches for 17 yards on three targets. When the targets are there he's been able to produce, but he has three targets or less in three of his past four games. The Bucs should be able to run the ball this week, and Buffalo has been good against tight ends for the majority of the season with only three reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Maybe Wright will turn things on again, but he'll do it on my bench or waiver wire. I'm not trusting his inconsistent production during the Fantasy playoffs.
Brent Celek and Zach Ertz (vs. DET): Since we gave you a pair of Chargers' tight ends to start this week, we might as well return the favor by sitting the Eagles' duo. Celek and Ertz were great in Week 13 against the Cardinals with nine catches for 97 yards and three touchdowns on 12 targets, but Arizona has been an amazing matchup for tight ends this season. The Lions have been at the opposite end of the spectrum, having allowed the third-fewest Fantasy points to tight ends. Detroit has allowed just one touchdown to a tight end, and if the Eagles do get a tight end touchdown, it's no guarantee who it will come from. Celek has four touchdowns on the season, while Ertz has three. Based on the matchup, we'd stay away from Philadelphia's tight ends this week despite their performance in Week 13.
Bust alert: Charles Clay (at PIT): Clay had another big game in Week 13 at the Jets with seven catches for 80 yards on 10 targets. It's the second time in his past three games where he's scored at least eight Fantasy points, and it's the fifth time this season where he's reached that mark. But he's also had six games with five points or less, and he should find it tough to post quality stats in this matchup. The Steelers have only allowed one tight end to reach double digits in Fantasy points, and only two have scored touchdowns. The targets have been consistent for Clay with at least seven in each of his past four games, but the Steelers could make things tough on him. We'd only start him in deeper leagues this week because of Pittsburgh's defense of tight ends this season.
Cardinals (vs. STL): The Cardinals DST has been impressive at home this season, and they should continue to be tough on the Rams this week. The Cardinals DST has scored at least 17 Fantasy points in standard leagues in four of six home games this season, including matchups with Carolina, Atlanta, Houston and Indianapolis. They have nine interceptions at home, 19 sacks and allow just 18 points per game. The Rams haven't been an easy opponent for DSTs of late with only the 49ers and Seahawks reaching double digits in Fantasy points, but the Cardinals DST should be a tough opponent on the road. We expect the Cardinals DST to be a Top 5 Fantasy option this week.
Lions (at PHI): The Lions DST had their best game of the season in Week 13 against Green Bay with 29 Fantasy points in a standard league. They had seven sacks, one interception, a safety and two fumble recoveries, but this will be a tougher matchup against the Eagles. Foles has yet to throw an interception this year, and prior to the Packers game, the Lions DST had one game with double digits in Fantasy points in their past five outings. Detroit should make it difficult for McCoy to find running room, but the Lions secondary will again be exposed by Foles. And the Eagles have not allowed an opposing DST to reach double digits in Fantasy points in their past four outings. You can find a better DST option this week, including the Raiders at the Jets.
|Alex Henery||vs. DET|
|Sebastian Janikowski||at NYJ|
|Ryan Succop||at WAS|
Justin Tucker (vs. MIN): Tucker got off to a slow start this season with double digits in Fantasy points in just one of his first four games, but he's been on fire of late with 41 points in his past three outings. He's made 11 field goals and four extra points over that span, and he has multiple field goals in four of six home games, including three in a row. The Vikings have allowed the opposing kicker to score at least eight points in seven games in a row, with three kickers reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Tucker has been the second-most valuable Fantasy option for the Ravens behind Torrey Smith and ahead of Ray Rice.
Nick Folk (vs. OAK): Folk's Fantasy value has trended severely downward after he got off to a hot start. He opened the season with at least nine Fantasy points in six of his first nine games, including three in a row heading into the bye in Week 10. But over the past three games at Buffalo, at Baltimore and against Miami he has combined for eight Fantasy points with no games with multiple field goals. The Raiders have also allowed just three kickers to reach double digits in Fantasy points this season, but they've also held seven kickers to six points or less. I don't know if any Jets could be considered must-start Fantasy options right now, including Folk based on his recent level of play.
Disclaimer ... Please understand that we are not in the business of stating the obvious and wasting your time (or ours), so you won't be reading here why you need to start Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson or any other top-tier players. We're here to help you with the tough decisions.