Dec 14

NFL Start and Sit Week 15

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I like to think that our readers have a certain degree of fantasy acuity before they arrive, so my hope is that this start and sit week 15 list – which avoids the obvious – will be useful for all of you. I’ve made my opinions on start/sit implicitly known via my weekly rankings, so, you won’t see a lot of QBs inside my Top 6, etc. listed here. The idea of this post is to give you some deep names that will yield start worthy value and some entrenched starters that should be riding the virtual pine.

If you’ve made it to this stage of the game and your decision making is still relevant, then you don’t need to over think it. Very likely, you’ve got a nice roster built and have been making astute decisions all along. With that said, here are some players that we should be mindful of – good and bad – heading into this weekend’s action.

Week 15 QB Starts

Jay Cutler at Cleveland – If you were intrigued by the concept of Josh McCown this week, then you’ve got to believe in Cutler too (I reasoned as much in a Thursday post after the starter’s return was announced). I know McCown had been running hot, but Cutler is the better talent and the system is the same. The veteran QB is in a position where he knows there will be no excuses for any rust displayed, Cleveland has given up the 11th most passing TDs in the league and with both Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall clicking, he’ll have lots of options regardless of where CB Joe Haden lines up.

Matt Ryan vs. Washington – You’re going to see a lot of ATL player X against Washington in this piece and it starts with Ryan. He threw for just 206 yards last night, but posted two TDs and had thrown for 603 yards in the two previous games as the Atlanta offense has turned a slight corner. Washington, meanwhile continues to be mess. They are allowing the 6th most fantasy points to opposing QBs on the season and just saw 45 points (not all on offense, I realize) hung on them by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Ryan Tannehill vs. New England – With six TDs and 841 yards over the last three games, Tannehill is playing good Quarterback for the Dolphins. Earlier this season New England held him to under 200 yards passing, but the sophomore QB is in good position to change that this week. Coupled with his own strong play, the New England defense has been generous across the board in recent weeks, allowing three of the last five QBs to play them to post more than 25 fantasy points, including nearly 400 yards and three TDs to Jason Campbell in Week 14.

Week 15 QB Sits

Carson Palmer at Tennessee – Palmer has put together a few strong games in recent weeks, allowing Arizona to hang around the wild card picture and making Larry Fitzgerald relevant again. With that said, he draws a Titans defense that has given up just a dozen passing TDs this season, so assuming anything more than one score through the air, particularly on a week where Arizona will be travelling 1600 miles.

Tom Brady at Miami – I actually think Brady and Tannehill post similar lines this week, so it’s not that I think that Tom Terrific is benchable, it’s just that relative to expectations – particularly those that he has set over the last month – he may underperform this week. Here’s the deal: Miami has given up just 15 passing TDs this season (along with the 5th fewest fantasy points to QBs). Four of those have gone to WRs, and eight to TEs. While Matthew Mulligan has caught a couple of passes this season, no one is mistaken him for even half the contributor that Rob Gronkowski was so Brady will have to get it done through the air with Shane Vereen and a position group that Miami typically handles very well. I’m not expecting Top 8 numbers even though Brady leads the league with an impressive 1429 yards over the past four games.

Week 15 RB Starts

With touchdowns in consecutive games Steven Jackson is getting it together for Atlanta. He'll draw a beatable matchup in Week 14 (Photo: Kevin Hoffman / USA TODAY Sports).

With no fewer than 79 total yards and 17 touches in three straight, Steven Jackson has turned a corner. He draws Washington this week and the Falcons should roll (Photo: Kevin Hoffman / USA TODAY Sports).

Steven Jackson vs. Washington – 19.7, 27.0, 3.4, 17.8, 27.8. Those are the fantasy points posted by starting RBs against Washington since Week 10. Outside of their bottling up of Frank Gore, the Redskins have been beyond awful against the run in recent weeks, allowing an average of 24.5 points to the position over their last four games as part of the 2nd most on the season. Jackson looks healthy and has been productive for Atlanta, meanwhile. While he was quiet in his first few games back following a lengthy injury vacation, Jackson hasn’t had fewer than 79 total yards and 17 touches in any of the last three weeks with one TD over that span. He’s heating up, and gets a Washington defense at home, at the right time.

Toby Gerhart vs. Philadelphia – Expect Peterson-like volume and Peterson-light production if AP can’t go. The Vikings have been hanging around football games lately, and while I don’t expect them to offer much resistance to Philadelphia, I do think they’ll be able to run the ball for the most part of four quarters. Gerhart should produce on volume alone, despite the fact that the matchup is nowhere near as generous as most tend to think.

Rashard Mendenhall at Tennessee – We mentioned above that the Titans are tough to beat through the air, but that hasn’t been the case on the ground. Over the last four weeks, Tennessee has yielded six total touchdowns to RBs and 648 yards to the position. You know what you’re getting with Mendenhall, 35ish snaps, 14-17 touches and a chance to pop one in. This week against the Titans that chance is high enough to make him a back-end RB2.

No discussion start: Shane Vereen at Miami

Worth a look but only if you’re desperate: Chris Ogbonnaya, likely without McGahee vs. Dallas (read more)

Week 15 RB Sits

Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas vs. New England – With Miller practicing in full this week, he’ll be good to go provided he doesn’t suffer a setback in his recovery from a concussion. If either Thomas – who we expected to miss the rest of the season just eight days ago – or Miller missed this game, an argument could be made to start whoever was left standing. With them both in the lineup though, they cancel each other’s value. RBs need a lot of carries to produce against New England, according to our FPPT assessment and neither player will get them with both available for this outing.

Ray Rice at Detroit – Just don’t do it. Don’t over think last week’s big outing by McCoy against Detroit and attribute any of that ability to Rice‘s 2013 season. While Rice topped 100 total yards against Minnesota, he didn’t run particularly well despite a highly user-friendly matchup. Detroit is anything but that. They’ll play indoors, so the front seven won’t be dealing with cut-backs in the snow, and outside of McCoy last week the Lions haven’t allowed more than 8.8 points to a rusher since Week 6. Rice has run for less than three yards per carry seven times this season, this week will make it eight.

Week 15 WR Starts

A.J. Green at Pittsburgh – We talked about Pittsburgh’s struggles against WR1s two weeks ago, and I’m using AJ Green (you were starting him anyway, but he’s my 4th ranked WR this week) to underscore the point. Last week the team rotated Ike Taylor‘s coverage and it served them well, but I’m expecting Taylor to see a lot of Green and Green to abuse him.

Roddy White vs. Washington – He’s back. At least, he’s healthy and productive to close the season like fellow veteran Steven Jackson. White has seen 23 targets and made 18 catches over the last two weeks nearly half his season total in catches and has posted more than half of his 426 yards during that span. White has languished on your bench all season, but he’s finally ready to go. Washington gives up top 10 points to fantasy WRs.

Brandon LaFell vs. New York Jets – Speaking of trends that we have pointed out that didn’t really pay off in Week 14 – the Jets have been giving up a ton of points to WR2s in recent weeks. (Check Mike Omelan’s article Andre Holmes-ward bound: trust in the Raiders receiver to contribute down the stretch” href=”http://lockerroomfantasysports.com/andre-holmes-ward-bound/”>sharing the statistical trend here; and our explanation of why it didn’t work last week at the 23 minute mark in the video below). This week, Antonio Cromartie will most certainly line up opposite Steve Smith leaving the rest of New York’s struggling secondary to deal with LaFell and Ted Ginn. LaFell saw just four targets as the Panthers struggled to get anything going against New Orleans last week, but he is their clear second option and should see opportunities this week.

Week 15 WR Sits

Marques Colston at St. Louis – I’ve answered a number of questions about Colston this week with the same statement: he had just two TDs all season coming into last week’s two TD outing against Carolina, so we probably shouldn’t expect a repeat. This week, with the Saints remaining indoors but taking their show on the road against a Rams D in the second half of the league in terms of fantasy points allowed to WRs. Colston has scored none of his four TDs away from the Superdome and is averaging just 31 yards per game on the road.

Hakeem Nicks vs. Seattle – Don’t be swayed by last week’s (albeit surprising) strong outing from Nicks. His seven targets, five catches and 135 yards were all post-bye totals, but he still didn’t manage to find the endzone and hasn’t scored now in over a calendar year. With Seattle on tap, the numbers will all come down this week – the Seahawks give up 11.3 points per game fewer to WRs than San Diego.

Week 15 TE Starts

Charles Clay vs. New England – “Dice” as a quick google search reveals no one likes to call him except for myself and our Mike Omelan has been frequently targeted for the Miami Dolphins over a current five game stretch. With 42 looks during that span (an average of more than eight per game) he ranks well in terms of TE volume. The production isn’t always there (two games under 2.5 fantasy points during that span) but the volume has been, and it should be this week against New England. Clay had eight looks against them in their earlier meeting and at 8.87 points per game the Patriots give up the 12th most points to Tight Ends and the fourth most targets (112) to the position this year. There should be plenty of passes coming his way and more often than not Clay has turned that into solid production.

Delanie Walker vs. Arizona – Speaking of both TE rankings and targets, Arizona remains at the top of each, with 126 Tight End passes attempted against them this year and 78 completions, 14 of them for touchdowns. They kept Jared Cook quiet last week, but only in relative terms. He was still the most targeted and prolific pass catcher on the Rams. Expect Walker to be the same this week, and count on greater production.

Week 15 TE Sits

Tim Wright vs. San Francisco – I’m just not that interested in the Tampa Bay offense in tough matchups. Mike Glennon came a little unglued last week and while Vincent Jackson still rates high (he had a great fantasy game last week, despite Glennon somehow going 9/25/90 in a blowout win) but the rest of the offense could struggle. While Tampa should have to throw a fair bit against the 49ers, their secondary will be up to the task of shutting down the rookie. Quarterback play aside, they give up the 2nd fewest points to TEs on the season, so this isn’t the week to expect much from Wright.

Week 15 DST to Stream

Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville – 46% owned – The Jaguars are coming in hot, and have done a reasonable job of keeping opposing defenses off the fantasy scoreboard in the second half of the season, including an average of just 4.75 points per game to the position over the last four weeks. During that span, Chad Henne has taken just nine sacks and thrown three interceptions. Still, Buffalo does a great job of getting after the QB (43 sacks, tied for the most in the league) and their secondary has been improving as well. They could cause some problems for Henne, just like they did for Mike Glennon last week. If MJD is limited, the team loses a major motor on offense, too.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Washington – 9% owned – Atlanta put up an impressive 15 fantasy points against Green Bay last week (attributable largely to a DTD but two turnovers and five sacks are solid numbers) and they still rank as the 32nd unit in the league in terms of DST scoring. Still, matchups are everything and a contest against Kirk Cousins – who has five interceptions in 73 career pass attempts – and a Washington team that has done very little offensively during their current five game slide looks great on paper. This line gave up six sacks last week and I don’t expect that to change with Cousins behind center.

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