Figuring out which Patriots running back is going to see the largest role in any given week has become something only soothsayers and fortune tellers should be attempting right now. Heading into Week 15 against the Dolphins, any one of Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and LeGarrette Blount could receive 10-plus touches on any given Sunday.
While Vereen's role remains relatively constant given him rare pass-catching abilities, Ridley and Blount are left to fight it out on the ground. Assuming Fantasy owners could know exactly how each player's workload might work out, this looks like a very attractive matchup, against a Dolphins defense that ranks 25th in the league in points per game to opposing running backs.
Ridley carved up the Dolphins for 79 yards and a touchdown in a Week 8 matchup, but he has also seen his role decrease significantly since then due to issues hanging on to the ball. That has opened up a larger role for Blount, who rushed for 46 yards on 11 carries against Miami.
Given the questions about each player's role, it is awfully difficult to start either with confidence. Among our trio of Fantasy experts' rankings for Week 15, Ridley lands inside the top-30 once, and Blount not at all. Both players should be considered risky options even with a solid matchup.
The Patriots backfield situation has been nearly impossible for Fantasy owners to sort out, but there has been one recent constant. Since his return from a wrist injury, Shane Vereen has touched the ball at least 15 times in three of four games. That is a trend that should continue in Week 15, with the Dolphins on the schedule Sunday.
Given his pass-catching skills and the fact that he was the lone back to find the end zone last week, Shane Vereen is looking like the best Fantasy option of the trio. Vereen has appeared in just five games this season, but has already racked up 373 yards on 40 receptions, to go along with 186 yards on the ground on 38 carries.
Despite a recent upward turn, the Dolphins have struggled against running backs this season. Opposing backs up are putting up 19.2 Fantasy points per game against Miami's defense, including 42.0 yards per game through the air, the 12th-highest average in the league.
Vereen could be in position to take advantage of Miami's linebackers, so Fantasy owners will want to keep him in the lineup in all leagues for this pivotal week. He looks like a solid starting matchup for Week 15.
The Dolphins have been one of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's favorite opponents throughout his career, but that wasn't the case earlier this season. Brady struggled mightily while eking out a win in Week 8, and will have to face Miami's solid pass defense yet again in Week 15.
Brady managed to throw for just one touchdown and 116 yards earlier against the Dolphins, managing just 8 Fantasy points in the game. And that was with Rob Gronkowski in the lineup, a target Brady will not have this Sunday. Brady averaged just 16.0 Fantasy points per game without Gronkowski this season, as opposed to 21.7 in seven games since Gronkowski's season debut.
The Dolphins have allowed just three quarterbacks to top 20 Fantasy points this season, and Brady's track record without Gronkowski makes him becoming the fourth a tall task. Brady's aggregate ranking among our trio of Fantasy football experts this week has him just 14th, with only one putting him among the top-10 for quarterbacks in Week 15. He should be considered a low-end starting option this week.
Jets running back Chris Ivory will be looking to get in the end zone in back-to-back games for the second time this season heading into Week 15 against the Panthers in Carolina.
Ivory had 18 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown in Week 14 against the Raiders. It was his first rushing touchdown since Week 11 and only his third of the year. He'll face a stingy Carolina defense that has allowed only 79.4 yards per game on the ground, the fewest among any team in the league. Opposing running backs have only scored 12.08 Fantasy points per game this season.
Ivory has shown some flashes of productivity over his last five games, averaging 5.7 yards per carry over that span. Still, he may not get a chance to stay productive against the best run defense in the league. Consider Ivory a low-end starting option in the majority of formats for Week 15.
Ryan Tannehill looking for first win over Patriots
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is riding arguably the best stretch of his career, having won four of his last six games, while completing 65.0 percent of his passes and amassing 10 turnovers in that span. He will need to be solid yet again in Week 15, with a big game coming against the Patriots Sunday.
Tannehill hasn't enjoyed much success against the Patriots in his nearly two-year NFL career. He failed to throw a touchdown in either game against them as a rookie, and matched his two-touchdown performance in a Week 8 game against the Patriots earlier this season with a pair of costly interceptions.
Since that game against Tannehill, the Patriots defense hasn't been particularly great against quarterbacks, however. Opposing passers have racked up 30-plus points in three of five games since, and are averaging 26.2 Fantasy points per game with 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions in that span.
Tannehill's track record against New England doesn't bode well, but there are reasons to think he might be able to turn it around against them. Given his recent play, as well as New England's poor recent track record against the pass, has some upside as a low-end starting option for Week 15.
With Jonathan Stewart sidelined with an injury, Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams will look to shoulder the load heading into Week 15 at home against the Jets.
Williams rushed for 52 yards on 13 carries in Week 14 against the Saints. He has been held out of the end zone over his last three games and has been held under 55 yards in each of his last seven games.
Williams may not have any luck this week, especially since he'll face a New York defense that has allowed only 82.6 yards per game on the ground, which is the second fewest allowed this season. Consider him a low-end starting option for Week 15.
Rashad Jennings could be tough to trust vs. Chiefs
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
Raiders running back Rashad Jennings is on track to return from a one-game absence in Week 15 against the Chiefs.
Jennings scored two touchdowns before getting hurt on Thanksgiving against the Cowboys in Dallas. He'll face a Kansas City defense that has allowed 113.2 yards per game on the ground this season, which ranks 16th in the league. Opposing running backs have scored 15.00 Fantasy points per game this season.
Jennings may be eased back into things, so it may be hard to trust him this week. Consider him a low-end starting option in the majority of Fantasy formats for Week 15.
High hopes for Jamaal Charles heading into Week 15
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles will look to keep his recent success going on the road against the Raiders in Week 15.
Charles rushed for a season-high 151 on 19 carries on a snowy FedEx Field in Week 14 against the Redskins. He has rushed for at least 90 yards in four of his last five games, totaling 528 yards and four touchdowns on the ground over that span. He rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and caught five passes for 50 yards in his previous meeting against the Raiders in Week 6.
Charles will face an Oakland defense that has allowed 105.9 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 12th this season. Opposing running backs have scored 17.08 Fantasy points per game this season against the Raiders.
Charles has arguably been the best Fantasy back this season, so it would be foolish to keep him on your bench. All of our Fantasy experts have him ranked either first or second this week against the Raiders.
Cam Newton ready to bounce back against lowly Jets
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will be seeking a bounce-back performance in Week 15 against the Jets.
For the third time in five games, Newton was held under 200 passing yards in Week 14 against the Saints. He was limited to 160 yards and one touchdown in a 31-13 loss to New Orleans. He has averaged 195 passing yards over that five-game stretch.
Newton will face a New York defense that has permitted 254.9 yards through the air this season, which is the ninth most allowed in the league this season. Opposing quarterbacks have scored 20.85 Fantasy points per game this season against the Jets.
This is the perfect matchup to get Newton back on track. All our Fantasy experts have him ranked in the Top 5 this week. Consider him a must-start Fantasy option for Week 15.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has thrown for multiple touchdowns in each of his last four games. He'll look to keep that trend going heading into Sunday's contest against the Raiders in Week 15.
Smith completed 14 of 20 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns on a snowy FedEx Field field against the Redskins in Week 14. His 20 pass attempts were a season-low, so we expect Smith's numbers to look better in Week 15. The Raiders have allowed 250.5 passing yards per game, which ranks 23rd this season. Opposing quarterbacks have scored 21.15 Fantasy points per game this season against the Raiders, which is the fifth most allowed this season.
Smith was held out of the end zone in his previous meeting this season against the Raiders, but we expect him do better this time around. Still, the 29-year-old has yet to throw for 300 yards in a game this season, so we're not expecting a breakout game either. Consider him a low-end starting option for Week 15.