The final Thursday night game between San Diego and Denver last week summed up what it's like to predict players. It went from rewarding to gut wrenching in a hurry.
The good part was seeing Keenan Allen score two touchdowns in the semifinal week of the Fantasy playoffs. I was reminded by several people on Twitter of my comments on our podcast after Week 5 when Allen emerged that he could win you a Fantasy championship this season, and here he was coming through at a crucial moment.
The bad part was watching the Broncos struggle on offense, which rendered Montee Ball as our Start of the Week useless. It's doubtful you'll find someone more upset about Ball's lack of production than me, and I hope those of you who started him still advanced to Week 16.
Our good calls for Week 15, including sleepers, were Nick Foles, Jay Cutler, Ryan Tannehill and Colin Kaepernick as Top 12 quarterbacks. We had five Top 20 running backs in Zac Stacy, Ryan Mathews, Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Ellington and Jordan Todman. Julian Edelman and Marques Colston were Top 10 receivers, and Delanie Walker and Zach Ertz were Top 10 tight ends.
Our bad calls included poor start suggestions for Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Riley Cooper, Roddy White, Anquan Boldin, Coby Fleener and Dennis Pitta. And we missed on sit suggestions for Alex Smith, Tom Brady, DeAngelo Williams, Chris Johnson, Pierre Garcon, Kendall Wright and Vincent Jackson.
For the second week in a row we gave you one player at each position who is usually a must-start option but has been struggling, and we had Steven Jackson as a Top 12 running back and Dez Bryant as a Top 3 wide receiver. Unfortunately, Matthew Stafford and Jordan Cameron let us down.
This is the championship week for many Fantasy owners, and we wish you good luck. Hopefully this journey from August to now comes with a nice reward when the scoring period is finally over.
|Player||Fantasy Pts. (proj.)||Fantasy Pts. (actual)||Start %||Pos. rank|
|Montee Ball, RB, Broncos||12||4||43||40|
|Jay Cutler, QB, Bears||23||25||17||8|
|Zac Stacy, RB, Rams||14||20||75||6|
|Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots||13||19||72||4|
|Ray Rice, RB, Ravens||8||5||63||39|
|Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers||7||2||71||30|
|Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals||17||15||22||23|
|Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons||21||10||56||28|
|Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots||15||1||85||62|
|Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers||13||4||67||51|
|Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs||17||40||28||1|
|DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers||6||22||14||5|
|Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins||9||18||85||5|
Start of the Week: Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers
At this point last season we were talking about Ryan Mathews in the same vein we view guys like C.J. Spiller and Trent Richardson this year. He was among the biggest busts in 2012, and Fantasy owners were done with him.
What a difference a year makes.
Mathews was drafted in Round 6 based on CBSSports.com Average Draft Position as the No. 26 running back. But he comes into the championship week in the majority of Fantasy leagues against Oakland as the No. 12 running back in standard formats. And he's been awesome of late.
|Frank Gore||vs. ATL|
|Reggie Bush||vs. NYG|
|Ray Rice||vs. NE|
|Chris Johnson||at JAC|
|Steven Jackson||at SF|
He has double digits in Fantasy points in five of his past six games, and he hasn't scored fewer than nine points over that stretch. He has 29 carries in each of his past two outings against the Giants and Broncos with over 100 rushing yards in each game and a touchdown.
Mathews suffered a concussion in the first meeting against the Raiders in Week 5, but he should be ready to dominate in the rematch. Oakland was just torched by Jamaal Charles for 51 Fantasy points, thanks in part to his receiving prowess, but the Raiders have allowed a running back to reach double digits in Fantasy points in 12 of their past 13 games. During that stretch, Oakland has allowed 18 touchdowns to opposing running backs, and we hope Mathews will find the end zone for the third game in a row.
Fantasy owners were reluctant to trust Mathews this season after how he played last year, but he has the chance to lead you to a Fantasy title this week. It's great to see him rebound in 2013, and we hope he has at least one more dominant performance against the Raiders in Week 16.
Colin Kaepernick (vs. ATL): Kaepernick has been a bust this season, but he has done well with favorable matchups, like last week at Tampa Bay when he scored 24 Fantasy points. That was just his fourth game with 20-plus Fantasy points this year, but we expect him to get his fifth one this week in the last game ever at Candlestick Park. This is a great matchup against the Falcons, who have allowed every quarterback except Matt Flynn in Week 14 to score multiple touchdowns, and 10 have reached at least 20 Fantasy points. We expect Kaepernick to end the Candlestick Park era with a huge outing on Monday night.
Jay Cutler (at PHI): Cutler returned in Week 15 at Cleveland after being out four games with an ankle injury, and he played well with 25 Fantasy points. He appeared to have some rust with two early interceptions, but he rebounded to finish with 265 passing yards and three touchdowns. He benefits from a great system and elite weapons in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and this is a great matchup against the Eagles, who have allowed three of their past four opposing quarterbacks to score at least 24 Fantasy points. The lone quarterback to struggle against Philadelphia was Stafford in the snow in Week 14. We expect Cutler and Foles to engage in a shootout, and Foles has become an obvious starting option in the majority of leagues.
Kirk Cousins (vs. DAL): Cousins has made two starts in his young NFL career, and in both of them he's passed for at least 325 yards and two touchdowns, with the latest coming in Week 15 at Atlanta, when he had 27 Fantasy points in place of the benched Robert Griffin III. He could make it 3 for 3 against the Cowboys, who have struggled with backup quarterbacks in Josh McCown and Flynn the past two games. That duo combined for 647 passing yards, nine total touchdowns and one interception for 79 Fantasy points. It sets up for Cousins to stay hot, and Dallas has also allowed eight quarterbacks to score at least 25 Fantasy points this season. It's obviously a risk to trust an unproven second-year quarterback like Cousins, but he's playing for his future and so far is doing a decent job.
Russell Wilson (vs. ARI): The Cardinals have been hit or miss in pass defense this season, and they were way off in Week 15 at Tennessee, which was the first game without rookie defensive back Tyrann Mathieu (knee). Ryan Fitzpatrick had 402 passing yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, and he is one of seven quarterbacks to score at least 21 Fantasy points against the Cardinals this season, including Wilson in Week 7. In seven road games this year, Arizona has allowed five quarterbacks to score multiple touchdowns, with the two who failed to do it being Mike Glennon in his first NFL start in Week 4 and Chad Henne in Week 11. Wilson has scored at least 22 Fantasy points in his past three home games, and he should bounce back after disappointing point totals the last two weeks at San Francisco and the Giants with just 28 combined Fantasy points.
Ben Roethlisberger (at GB): Roethlisberger's impressive four-game run of at least 20 Fantasy points without an interception came to an end in Week 15 against the Bengals when he scored just 11 points with a pick. He threw just 25 passes against Cincinnati, which was his second-lowest total of the season, but this game should be more competitive on the road. Roethlisberger has at least 20 Fantasy points in each of his past three road games at New England, Cleveland and Baltimore, and the Packers have allowed nine quarterbacks to throw multiple touchdowns and seven to score at least 22 Fantasy points. Tony Romo was the latest to accomplish that feat last week, and we expect Roethlisberger to get hot again to close the season.
Stand by your man: Drew Brees (at CAR): There are a lot of questions about Brees this week. He's struggled on the road, averaging 19 Fantasy points in seven games away from New Orleans compared to 33.6 points at home. But he's only had two games with fewer than 21 Fantasy points on the road, which was at Tampa Bay in Week 2 and at Seattle in Week 13. He just torched the Panthers for 36 Fantasy points in Week 14 at home, and he has a good history at Carolina with multiple touchdowns in each of his past three games there, including two in a row with at least 325 yards. I can understand starting Foles and Kaepernick over Brees this week, and I'd even buy the argument for Cutler. But I wouldn't get cute and start Cousins over Brees because if he thrives and Cousins falters, you'd be very upset losing your championship game with Brees on your bench.
|Andy Dalton||(vs. MIN)||Only two quarterbacks have failed to score 20-plus Fantasy points vs. MIN.|
|Philip Rivers||(vs. OAK)||He had 22 Fantasy points vs. OAK in Week 5 and could easily reach that total again.|
|Ryan Fitzpatrick||(at JAC)||He had 27 Fantasy points vs. JAC in Week 10 and is coming off solid outing vs. ARI.|
Carson Palmer (at SEA): Palmer now has a bad ankle on top of an injured elbow. Larry Fitzgerald is dealing with a concussion, and Glennon in Week 9 is the only quarterback to throw multiple touchdowns in Seattle this season. Matt Schaub and Andrew Luck are the only quarterbacks to reach 20 Fantasy points against the Seahawks this year, and in the past three games Brees, Kaepernick and Eli Manning have combined for 19 points on two touchdowns and six interceptions. Palmer was 30 of 45 passing for 258 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions against Seattle in Week 7 for 12 Fantasy points, and he could have a similar stat line in the rematch.
Matt Ryan (at SF): The 49ers pass defense has been underrated this season, but they deserve plenty of credit for their play all year. Aaron Rodgers in Week 1 and Jake Locker in Week 7 are the only quarterbacks to score 20-plus Fantasy points against the 49ers this season. And since Week 10, San Francisco has limited Cam Newton, Brees, Griffin and Wilson to 16 Fantasy points or less. Ryan hasn't scored more than 18 Fantasy points in his past eight games, and he was a huge letdown in a great matchup at home against Washington last week. We'd barely trust Ryan in two-quarterback leagues this week based on his recent play and the matchup at San Francisco.
Andrew Luck (at KC): Luck was a letdown in Week 15 against Houston with just 19 Fantasy points. He has now scored less than 20 Fantasy points in five of his past six games, with the lone exception at Cincinnati in Week 14. The irony is that game was outdoors, which is where Luck has typically struggled. He has scored more than 20 Fantasy points just twice outdoors in 11 career games, with the other one in Week 4 at Jacksonville. Luck played at Kansas City in Week 16 last season and passed for 205 yards and one touchdown with six carries for 21 yards. This is likely the first-round playoff matchup if Indianapolis finishes as the No. 4 seed and Kansas City is No. 5, so look for the Chiefs to make a statement. And only four quarterbacks have scored 20-plus Fantasy points against Kansas City this year.
Eli Manning (at DET): Manning isn't worth using even in two-quarterback leagues. His performance against Seattle at home in Week 15 was Hall of Shame worthy with 156 passing yards, no touchdowns and five interceptions. There's a good chance Victor Cruz (concussion) will be out, not that it matters, since Manning hasn't reached 20 Fantasy points since Week 1. And the Lions, despite having a weak secondary, should be able to pressure Manning all game with their menacing defensive line. We hope Manning can come back in 2014 and play at a higher level, but he's been among the biggest disappointments at quarterback this season.
Ryan Tannehill (at BUF): When the week started, I was excited about Tannehill for this matchup with the Bills. After all, he's been on fire of late with at least 25 Fantasy points in his past three games and 19 or more points in five of his past six outings. He also had 19 Fantasy points against Buffalo at home in Week 7 with three touchdowns in that game, and the Bills have allowed multiple touchdowns in their past two games against Glennon and Henne. But the last quarterback to reach 20 Fantasy points against this defense was Brees in Week 8, and Buffalo has limited hot quarterbacks like Alex Smith and Roethlisberger to fewer than 15 Fantasy points over that stretch. Weather can also play a role at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and the Bills would love to play spoiler to their AFC East division foe chasing a playoff spot. Use Tannehill in two-quarterback leagues, but he might be a risky option in standard formats as a No. 1 starter.
Bust alert: Tony Romo (at WAS): I hope Romo proves me wrong because I'm starting him in one championship game because my opponent grabbed Cousins off waivers first. Romo has been hit or miss against the Redskins lately. He struggled at home against Washington in Week 6 with 170 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception and has six touchdowns and six interceptions in his past three meetings with the Redskins overall. In his past five trips to Washington, Romo has just one game with more than 20 Fantasy points, which was 2011. The Cowboys have lost consecutive games against Chicago and Green Bay despite DeMarco Murray being a beast on the ground, and Dallas would be smart to rely on Murray this week. Also, for what it's worth, Washington has held the past three opposing quarterbacks -- Manning, Smith and Ryan -- to 17 Fantasy points or less, which could also impact Romo's performance.
Montee Ball (at HOU): I must be a glutton for punishment for going back to this well, but I'm expecting a bounce back performance in this matchup against the Texans. It's doubtful Houston will keep Denver's offense off the field like San Diego did in Week 15 when the Broncos had the ball for just over 21 minutes, and Ball and Knowshon Moreno combined for only 11 carries last week. The Texans have also allowed a backup running back to score in three consecutive games with LeGarrette Blount in Week 13, Jordan Todman in Week 14 and Trent Richardson last week. In total, running backs have scored 13 touchdowns against Houston with 11 reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Ball had scored in double digits in Fantasy points in three of five games prior to Week 15, and he and Moreno should do well in Week 16.
Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (vs. MIN): Since Week 9, either Bernard or Green-Ellis has reached double digits in Fantasy points in five of the past six games, with Bernard doing it three times and Green-Ellis twice. They both accomplished the feat in Week 14 against the Colts when Green-Ellis scored two touchdowns and Bernard had over 100 total yards. We like Bernard better in this matchup, but don't be surprised if Green-Ellis scores a late touchdown. I'd consider him more of a flex and Bernard a No. 2 Fantasy option, especially in PPR leagues. The Vikings have allowed 14 running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points, including three duos with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell in Week 1, Mike Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams in Week 6 and Eddie Lacy and James Starks in Week 8.
Chris Ivory (vs. CLE): The magic number for Ivory is 15. If he gets 15 carries or more there's a good chance he'll be productive based on his workload this season. He's had 15 or more carries four times against New England, New Orleans, Buffalo and Oakland (with three coming at home), and he's either scored or had 100 rushing yards in all four games. The Browns have allowed a running back to reach double digits in Fantasy points in three games in a row, with two rushing touchdowns over that span. For the season, Cleveland has allowed nine rushing touchdowns and 11 running backs to score double digits in Fantasy points. We hope the Jets lean on Ivory this week, and if he hits 15 carries he should be successful.
Jordan Todman (vs. TEN): If Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) is out again then Todman should be considered a must-start Fantasy option in the majority of leagues. He was awesome last week against Buffalo with 25 carries for 109 yards and four catches for 44 yards. He has an even better matchup this week against the Titans, who have allowed a running back to reach double digits in Fantasy points in 11 consecutive games, with 14 total rushers hitting that mark over that span. During that stretch, Tennessee has allowed 17 touchdowns to opposing running backs, two to rush for 100 yards and eight to reach 100 total yards. Jones-Drew had 21 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown and four catches for 33 yards against the Titans in Week 10, and Todman is more explosive than Jones-Drew when both are healthy.
Rashad Jennings (at SD): Since Jennings took over for an injured Darren McFadden in Week 9, he has scored double digits in Fantasy points in five of six games with at least nine points in each outing, including six touchdowns. He missed Week 14 at the Jets with a concussion, but he rebounded last week against the Chiefs with 23 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns and three catches for 12 yards. There's the obvious risk that the Chargers dominate time of possession again like they did against the Broncos and limit Jennings' workload, but we still expect Jennings to be a factor and produce based on his body of work over the past six games. Even with McFadden expected back this week, Jennings has earned his spot as the No. 1 running back in Oakland and a solid starter in all Fantasy leagues.
Stand by your man: Shane Vereen (at BAL): The Dolphins made a concerted effort to take away Vereen in Week 15, and it worked as he was limited to two carries for 13 yards and three catches for 8 yards on seven targets. He should rebound this week against the Ravens, who have allowed a running back to reach double digits in Fantasy points in five of the past six games. Baltimore has also allowed four running backs to catch at least five passes in the past seven games, with Bernard and Matt Forte scoring through the air. Prior to last week's debacle, Vereen had scored at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league in three consecutive games, and we expect him to bounce back with a strong performance on the road.
|Dennis Johnson||(vs. DEN)||Ben Tate (ribs) is out, giving Johnson the chance to be a flex in a great matchup.|
|DeAngelo Williams||(vs. NO)||Williams and Mike Tolbert should exploit NO run defense, which struggles on road.|
|Bobby Rainey||(at STL)||He has flex potential but needs to show he can play on the road this week.|
|Ray Rice||(vs. NE)||He has scored in his past two games vs. NE, including the playoffs.|
|Lamar Miller||(at BUF)||If Daniel Thomas (ankle) is out then Miller is looking at a juicy matchup vs. BUF.|
Andre Brown (at DET): Brown has tailed off after a hot start in his return from a broken leg in Week 10. He started out with at least 15 Fantasy points in three of his first four games, but he's combined for eight points in his past two outings against San Diego and Seattle. This isn't a week for him to get back on track since the Lions have been ferocious in run defense in every game since Week 7 besides the snowstorm in Philadelphia, holding Bernard, Forte, Le'Veon Bell, Bobby Rainey, Eddie Lacy and Ray Rice to eight Fantasy points or less. Brown could benefit if Peyton Hillis (concussion) is out this week, but it's not enough of a benefit to consider him a starter in this matchup.
Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles (at CAR): Thomas and Sproles are risky starting options in this matchup on the road, especially in standard leagues. The Panthers just limited Thomas to seven carries for 14 yards and four catches for 14 yards in Week 14, and Sproles had one carry for 38 yards and three catches for 23 yards. Carolina has only allowed five running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points all season, with Stacy the only one to do it at Carolina in Week 7. Thomas and Sproles only have two games with touchdowns on the season and just three with double digits in Fantasy points, including none in the past three weeks. They are still decent flex options in PPR leagues since Sproles has 18 catches in his past three games and Thomas has 15 over that span, but the matchup against the Panthers should have you concerned in any format.
Rashard Mendenhall (at SEA): Mendenhall has been great of late with double digits in Fantasy points in three of his past four games and a touchdown in four of his past five. He is coming off his best game of the season in Week 15 at Tennessee with 18 Fantasy points, and he even scored against the Seahawks in Week 7 with 13 carries for 22 yards. I'd be surprised if he got eight Fantasy points again in the rematch since Seattle has only allowed Jones-Drew and Mike James to reach double digits in Fantasy points at home, including matchups with Frank Gore, Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson. Mendenhall continues to lose touches to Ellington, who is also a risky Fantasy option this week, and we'd avoid Mendenhall in all formats this week if you can.
Trent Richardson (at KC): There was some optimism for Richardson when the week started since Donald Brown (stinger) left last week's game against Houston, which allowed Richardson the chance for his best outing of the season with 15 Fantasy points. But Brown returned to practice Wednesday and should be able to play, sending Richardson back to a reserve role. Give him some credit for his play of late since the Colts are using him as a receiver out of the backfield, and he's responded with nine catches for 106 yards and a touchdown in his past two games against Cincinnati and Houston. But Brown will limit his touches, and the Chiefs likely will hold him to single digits in Fantasy points, which happened in all but two games this season, including nine in a row prior to last week.
C.J. Spiller (vs. MIA): If you made it to your Fantasy championship game in spite of Spiller do you really feel comfortable enough to start him now? While the matchup looks good against Miami, you have to give the Dolphins credit for improving their run defense over the past four games against Carolina, the Jets, Pittsburgh and New England. The notable running backs in those games -- Ivory, Bell and Vereen -- combined for just 15 Fantasy points, and Spiller was held to six carries for 11 yards and three catches for minus-4 yards against the Dolphins in Week 7. He was dealing with a bum ankle then, but he's only reached double digits in Fantasy points twice since then in six games. Fred Jackson has the chance to be a No. 2 running back this week, but we'd only use Spiller as a flex option at best.
Bust alert: Steven Jackson (at SF): Jackson was great for Fantasy owners last week with two touchdowns against the Redskins despite just 15 carries for 38 yards and four catches for 5 yards. But he will likely be a letdown in this matchup. We've seen Jackson in three games outdoors this season at Carolina, Tampa Bay and Green Bay, and he combined for 19 Fantasy points with no touchdowns. The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season, which isn't relevant for Jackson since the last time he did that was in Week 10 last year -- ironically at San Francisco -- when he had 29 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 26 yards as a member of the Rams. The 49ers have only allowed one touchdown to a running back in the past four games, and we don't expect Jackson to score in this matchup. He's a low-end flex option in what could be a tough game for the Falcons on the road.
Pierre Garcon (vs. DAL): The quarterback change from Griffin to Cousins did wonders for Garcon in Week 15 at Atlanta, and he reached double digits in Fantasy points for the first time since Week 10. Garcon had seven catches for 129 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons, and we expect him to have a strong encore performance against the Cowboys. Dallas' secondary is a mess with injuries, and in the past three games five receivers have reached double digits in Fantasy points with four touchdowns. Garcon had just six catches for 69 yards against Dallas in Week 6, but we expect Cousins to help Garcon reach double digits in Fantasy points this week.
Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola (at BAL): Edelman has been excellent of late with either 100 receiving yards or a touchdown in his past four games, but he got help from Amendola last week at Miami in the first game without Rob Gronkowski (knee). The two receivers combined for 23 catches, 270 yards and a touchdown on 33 targets, and you can again expect plenty of passes in their direction against the Ravens even if Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) and Aaron Dobson (foot) are able to return this week. Tom Brady has attempted at least 50 passes in three of the past four games, and Baltimore has allowed four receivers to score in the past three games. Edelman should be considered a must-start Fantasy option in all leagues, and Amendola is a No. 3 receiver in standard formats and a quality starter in PPR.
Michael Crabtree (vs. ATL): Crabtree scored at Tampa Bay in Week 15 with five catches for 45 yards. He's averaging six targets a game in three games since coming back from the offseason Achilles injury. This week, he could have a breakout performance against the Falcons, who have struggled with No. 1 receivers all season. There have been nine of 14 No. 1 receivers to score touchdowns against Atlanta this year, including Garcon last week. Boldin could also benefit this week, and he should be started in most formats as well. But if you were waiting to start Crabtree after holding onto him all season then this is the week to buy in as either a starting receiver or flex option. I'm buying into all the main 49ers this week against a bad Falcons defense in the final game at Candlestick Park.
Kendall Wright (at JAC): Wright was a star in Week 15 against Arizona with season highs in catches (12), yards (150) and targets (20), and we hope he keeps it up this week. He's a must-start receiver in PPR leagues with at least six catches in nine games and at least 70 receiving yards in eight games. He's only scored two touchdowns, but you can pencil him in for seven Fantasy points in a standard league with the chance for much more as we saw against the Cardinals. He had seven catches for 78 yards against the Jaguars in Week 10, and seven receivers have scored touchdowns against them in five games since that meeting. Fitzpatrick has helped Wright score at least eight Fantasy points in three of his past five games, and we like him in all formats this week.
Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson (at CIN): Since Matt Cassel took over for an injured Christian Ponder in Week 13 against Chicago, we've seen Jennings and Patterson look like legitimate Fantasy options. Jennings has 23 catches for 294 yards and two touchdowns in his past three games with 32 targets over that span, and Patterson has a touchdown in all three outings with one rushing and two receiving. The Bengals are a tough matchup when their defense is healthy, but they are banged up and have allowed five touchdowns to opposing receivers in the past two games against the Colts and Steelers. It's worth the gamble to trust Jennings and Patterson as No. 3 receivers in the majority of leagues, and we hope they stay hot with Cassel continuing to get them the ball.
Stand by your man: Torrey Smith (vs. NE): Smith is due for a big game after two down performances against Minnesota and Detroit. This is a good matchup for him to break his mini-slump. The Patriots have been abused by receivers over the past six games with seven reaching double digits in Fantasy points and nine touchdowns. The past four No. 1 receivers against New England -- Demaryius Thomas, Andre Johnson, Josh Gordon and Mike Wallace -- have all scored touchdowns or gone over 120 receiving yards, which bodes well for Smith and his big-play ability. He played New England at home in Week 3 last season and had six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns, so hopefully he can replicate that performance this week.
|Doug Baldwin||(vs. ARI)||He has scored in three consecutive home games and in four of his past six overall.|
|Andre Caldwell||(at HOU)||If Wes Welker (concussion) remains out then Caldwell is a must-start Fantasy option.|
|Marvin Jones||(vs. MIN)||He has the chance for his second three-game scoring streak this season.|
|Dwayne Bowe||(vs. IND)||There have been nine No. 1 receivers to score a touchdown vs. IND.|
|Emmanuel Sanders||(at GB)||GB has allowed five touchdowns to receivers in the past three games.|
Roddy White (at SF): We had high expectations for White last week, and he let us down with just five catches for 53 yards against Washington at home. He now has just one game with double digits in Fantasy points this season and one touchdown, and he's not worth the risk against the 49ers outdoors on the road, where he's typically struggled. He has just three touchdowns in his past 13 games outdoors, and San Francisco is a tough opponent since only seven receivers have reached double digits in Fantasy points against this defense. White is a risky No. 3 Fantasy receiver this week, and I wouldn't trust him in a Fantasy championship.
T.Y. Hilton (at KC): Hilton had his first productive game in a while against the Texans in Week 15 with eight catches for 78 yards on 12 targets, but he's now gone six games in a row without a touchdown. He's also scored in only two games this season and has reached double digits in Fantasy points just four times. And, as we've illustrated numerous times, he's been terrible outdoors in his career. He's appeared in 10 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 18 catches for 152 yards and no touchdowns outdoors. The Chiefs have struggled with receivers of late with five reaching double digits in Fantasy points in the past five games with six touchdowns allowed, but I can't trust Hilton now, especially outdoors.
Michael Floyd (at SEA): Floyd had a great three-game stretch from Weeks 11-13 with 50 Fantasy points, but he's plummeted the past two weeks against St. Louis and Tennessee while battling an ankle problem. He has four catches for 59 yards on 10 targets the past two games, and the Cardinals offense could be falling apart with Palmer and Fitzgerald banged up. It's also a brutal matchup against the Seahawks, who have allowed the fewest Fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season. Floyd faced the Seahawks in Week 7 and finished with five catches for 58 yards, and we could see a similar stat line in the rematch. He's a risky No. 3 Fantasy receiver in this matchup.
Hakeem Nicks (at DET): My colleague Michael Hurcomb noted in watching the Giants game against Seattle in Week 15 that four of Manning's five interceptions came on passes intended for Nicks. If Cruz is out with a concussion, that means Detroit can also focus on taking away Nicks or baiting Manning into more mistakes. Nicks had one catch for 5 yards against the Seahawks, and he's now gone a full season -- 16 games -- without scoring a touchdown. The Lions have allowed just DeSean Jackson in Week 14 to score against them in their past three games, including matchups with Green Bay and Baltimore, and none of the Giants warrant consideration in Fantasy leagues at this time of year.
Riley Cooper (vs. CHI): Cooper is obviously due for a big game after four straight clunkers, so keep that in mind if you decide to bench him. He started the Foles era with at least eight Fantasy points in four of the first five games, but he's tailed off lately with a combined 20 Fantasy points in his past four outings. He's gone over 50 receiving yards just once over that span with no touchdowns, and we hope he and Foles can start to connect again. But this slump could easily continue for another week, especially since the Bears have struggled with No. 1 receivers and not secondary options. Rueben Randle in Week 6 and Aldrick Robinson in Week 7 are the only non-No. 1 receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points against Chicago, which shows teams are taking advantage of standout cornerback Charles Tillman (triceps) being out. Based on that information we expect Jackson to have another big game, and Cooper could struggle for the fifth game in a row.
Bust alert: Marques Colston (at CAR): You would think Colston would be a great starting option this week. He's hot with 39 Fantasy points in his past two games, and he just torched the Panthers at home in Week 14 with nine catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. But Colston has not fared well outdoors of late. He has combined for 10 Fantasy points in four games outside this season, and he has just two touchdowns outdoors in his past 10 games going back to last year. If that's bad, this is worse. The Panthers have allowed just one receiver to score at home this season, which was Jermaine Kearse in Week 1. That includes games against the Giants, Rams, Falcons, Patriots, Buccaneers and Jets, which isn't a standout list, but the stat line is still impressive for a seven-game sample size. Also, in his past four trips to Carolina, Colston has 17 catches for 186 yards and no touchdowns and hasn't topped six Fantasy points in any game. His hot streak is about to end this week.
Delanie Walker (at JAC): It was good to see Walker return in Week 15 against Arizona and pick up where he left off prior to missing Week 14 with a concussion. He had eight catches for 53 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets, and he now has a touchdown and double digits in Fantasy points in three of his last four full games. One of those outings was against Jacksonville in Week 10, when he had four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown on eight targets, and the Jaguars have given up nine touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season with five reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Look for Walker to stay hot for the rest of the year since Fitzpatrick continues to rely on him as a viable weapon.
Charles Clay (at BUF): Clay let a lot of Fantasy owners down in Week 15 against New England with just one catch for 6 yards on two targets. It was his first game of the season without scoring a Fantasy point and ended a nice two-game run where he had 14 catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns on 20 targets at the Jets and Steelers. We're counting on a rebound game this week, and Clay has been good on the road with at least eight Fantasy points in four of seven games away from home. He scored against Buffalo at home in Week 7, and the Bills have allowed a tight end to score in each of the past four games. Don't give up on Clay this week despite last week's disaster against the Patriots.
Zach Miller (vs. ARI): This is more of a sleeper pick so use caution when comparing him to someone else on your roster, but I like Miller's chances this week against the Cardinals, who have allowed the most Fantasy points to opposing tight ends this year. There have been eight tight ends to reach double digits in Fantasy points against Arizona with 15 touchdowns allowed, including Walker scoring last week. Miller also was a part of that in Week 7 when he had five catches for 40 yards and a touchdown on seven targets. He's only scored once since then, but it was his last home game against the Saints in Week 13. Remember, it's risky to start Miller at this point in the season, but it's a gamble that could pay off based on the matchup.
Stand by your man: Dennis Pitta (vs. NE): The Patriots are coming off a strong performance against Clay, but they have struggled with tight ends of late with Greg Olsen, Jacob Tamme, Jordan Cameron and Gary Barnidge all scoring touchdowns in the past five games. Pitta struggled in Week 15 at Detroit with two catches for 24 yards on four targets, and his playing time was limited to mostly third-down work. But this game could be high scoring, which should keep Pitta more involved, and he did well against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game last season with five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. Also, in his past four home games going back to last season, Pitta has three games with at least eight Fantasy points and four touchdowns over that span.
|Zach Ertz||(vs. CHI)||The last three times he's had six or more targets he's scored.|
|Marcedes Lewis||(vs. TEN)||He's scored in three games in a row and is needed with Cecil Shorts out.|
|Andrew Quarless||(vs. PIT)||PIT has allowed three touchdowns to tight ends in the past two games.|
Martellus Bennett (at PHI): Bennett continues to post quality stat lines that help the Bears and Cutler, but he's giving you just modest Fantasy production. He's scored five Fantasy points or less in six of his past seven games with just one touchdown over that span. Now he faces an Eagles defense that has allowed just two tight ends to reach double digits in Fantasy points with only two touchdowns on the season. We'd like to see Bennett close the season strong, but he's not a recommended starting option in the majority of leagues this week.
Antonio Gates (vs. OAK): It's tough to say, but you just can't trust Gates at this point in the season even with a good matchup. He's been too disappointing of late. In his past five games with Oakland, Gates has one game with more than seven Fantasy points, which was the end of the 2011 season. In the three meetings since then, Gates has averaged six Fantasy points a game, which includes scoring a touchdown against Oakland last year at home. He had seven catches for 74 yards against the Raiders in Week 5, but he's combined for six catches for 73 yards in his past two games against the Giants and Broncos and is trending in the wrong direction.
Heath Miller (at GB): Like Bennett and Gates, Miller is still a good tight end, but he's not producing enough quality stats to help Fantasy owners. He only has one touchdown on the season and has yet to reach double digits in Fantasy points. He also has just eight targets combined in his past two games. The Packers have allowed a tight end to score in consecutive weeks with Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten, but those tight ends have a bigger role for their respective teams. Miller loses red-zone targets to Jerricho Cotchery, and all three Steelers receivers have made big plays to negate Miller's worth. He's just a No. 2 Fantasy tight end for now, and you might have to wait until next year before starting him with confidence depending on what happens over the final two games.
Bust alert: Timothy Wright (at STL): Wright is rolling coming into Week 16 with touchdowns in consecutive outings against Buffalo and San Francisco, and he's scored at least seven Fantasy points in three of his past four games. He could easily keep it going because we've seen when he's involved he tends to do well, having scored at least seven Fantasy points in five of the six games when he's had at least five targets. But the Rams have done well against tight ends all season. Only Bennett and Vernon Davis have reached double digits in Fantasy points against St. Louis, including matchups with Gonzalez, Witten, Olsen, Walker, Fleener and Jimmy Graham, who was limited to two catches for 25 yards last week. I'm nervous with Wright in this matchup, and I don't trust him as a starter in a potential championship game.
Lions (vs. NYG): The Lions DST is a mediocre unit at best. They are No. 21 for the season in standard leagues, and they have just one signature game, which was Week 13 against Green Bay, scoring 29 Fantasy points. But if there was a week to buy into the Lions DST it's now, and they should be available on waivers at just 40 percent ownership on CBSSports.com as of Tuesday. The Giants were just blasted by the Seahawks in a shutout in Week 15 with five interceptions and four sacks. Cruz could be out, and the Lions' calling card on defense is stopping the run, which negates what the Giants do best. Detroit's season is on the line, and the Giants have checked out the past two games. Manning also has eight interceptions in his past six games, and the Lions should be able to push the Giants around at home.
Cardinals (at SEA): The Cardinals DST scored seven Fantasy points against the Seahawks at home in Week 7 despite three sacks and two fumble recoveries. Seattle still scored 34 points that week, and the Cardinals DST could again struggle. Only six teams have scored double digits in Fantasy points against Seattle this season and just one since Week 9. The Cardinals are a Top 5 unit in standard leagues, so benching them is tough at this point in the year. But Wilson has no interceptions in his past two home games, and Seattle is averaging 32 points a game in six home contests this year.
|Nick Novak||vs. OAK|
|Alex Henery||vs. CHI|
|Shaun Suisham||at GB|
Phil Dawson (vs. ATL): It took a while, but Dawson is finally playing like the elite Fantasy option many owners were expecting on Draft Day. He has at least nine Fantasy points in each of his past six games with double digits in points in five of those outings. He has scored 30 points in his past two games against Seattle and Tampa Bay, and he hasn't missed a field goal since Week 4. He also has 15 field goals in his past five home games, and the Falcons come into this matchup having allowed the most Fantasy points to opposing kickers all season.
Matt Bryant (at SF): While the Falcons are the best matchup for an opposing kicker, the 49ers are the worst. San Francisco allows the fewest Fantasy points to opposing kickers this season, and only Garrett Hartley in Week 11 has reached double digits in points against the 49ers this year. Bryant had a solid game against the Redskins in Week 15 with 11 Fantasy points, but he's scored double digits in points in just two of his past 10 games overall. And Bryant has just one game with double digits in Fantasy points outdoors this season, which was Week 3 at Miami. In his last game outdoors at Green Bay in Week 14 he had just three extra points and no field goals.
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 Peyton Manning, Jamaal Charles, Calvin Johnson or any other top-tier players. We're here to help you with the tough decisions.