Week 15 offers us close matchups with huge playoff implications: The Falcons host the Giants, Denver travels to Baltimore, Green Bay and Chicago square off with the division on the line, Indianapolis faces Houston with their division still up for grabs, the Steelers play at Dallas and San Francisco closes the Sunday games at New England. Key players of all these teams will shine for sure, as well as some individual stars that will play in other games.
Peyton Manning, Broncos $3m: Surprisingly, the Ravens are not only in the bottom 10 of the league defensively against the run, but also against the pass. Manning will find a way of taking advantage of it. Having thrown for 270 yards or more in 10 of his last 11 games and being only 118 yards shy of another 4,000-season, he will find ways of exploiting the weak Baltimore aerial defense. Robert Griffin III, Redskins, $2m: Keep following all injury reports to see the development on his injured knee. If he is announced to start, RG3 would be once again an excellent fantasy pick. Andrew Luck, Colts, $2m: The Texans defense is having huge problems on the passing game, having allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns in the last four weeks. If you believe Luck can pull the upset and get Indianapolis within one game of Houston in the fight for the division, do not hesitate to start him in your fantasy league this week. D
Aaron Rodgers, Packers, $4m: There are better $4m-quarterbacks to start this week (for example Brees). Rodgers is in a fantasy slump having failed to reach 15 points in four consecutive weeks. Despite the big win obtained by Green Bay over Chicago in Week 2, he was limited to 219 yards and a single touchdown pass by the Bears defense. The Windy City does not look like the right place for Rodgers’ negative fantasy streak to come to an end. Jake Locker, Titans, $2m: Although having costly mistakes in the making, he has averaged more than 270 passing yards in his last three games. Anyhow, things do not look very optimistic for Locker for the Monday night contest against the Jets as New York’s defense has not allowed a touchdown pass in the last two weeks.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals $2m: He is only 26 rushing yards short of his second career 1,000-yard season and 35 away of establishing a personal record. The Eagles have given up more than 450 yards and four touchdowns on the ground in the last four weeks, so going with Green-Ellis, key for the Bengals to establish a rushing attack tonight, would be a good fantasy choice. David Wilson, Giants $1m: Amongst the 10 teams with the worst rushing defenses in the NFL only two have winning records and one of them belongs to the Falcons. Ahmad Bradshaw is listed as questionable and his knee is not heeling, so we can expect the rookie to see a lot of action again at the Giants backfield. Last week Wilson rushed for two touchdowns, gained 100 yards and also scored on a 97-yard kickoff return. Do not expect him to collect 28 fantasy points again, but do expect another big performance from Wilson at Atlanta.
Alex Green, Packers, $1m, has rushed for more than 50 yards in his last two games, showing some signs of life at Green Bay’s ground attack. But Green has not scored a touchdown this season and the Bears defense will be committed to stop the run on Sunday to stop the club’s losing skid. Montell Owens, Jaguars, $1m: With Jacksonville’s backfield decimated by injuries, Owens, who scored a touchdown last week against the Jets, should get the start. Anyhow, do not even think about including him on your fantasy roster, facing a tough Miami run defense that has allowed only one back to rush for more than 100 yards this whole season.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos, $3m, ranks fifth in the NFL with 1,197 receiving yards. He has also caught eight touchdown passes in the season, including four in his last four outings. Do not be surprised if he reaches double digits by 9:00 p.m. on Sunday. Randall Cobb, Packers, $1m: With Jordy Nelson out, Cobb has been more and more involved in Green Bay’s passing game lately. Besides leading the Packers in receiving in the last two games, he has already caught seven touchdown passes this year. Brandon Marshall, Bears, $3m: Well he was limited to only two catches the first time these two teams met and QB Jay Cutler will not be 100% after the huge hit he took at Minnesota, but Marshall should be an automatic pick every week.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys, $3m: He is definitely playing great lately, but his broken finger and facing a Pittsburgh defense that ranks number 1 in the NFL against the pass and has not allowed a receiver to go over 100 aerial yards since Week 1 tells us that it would be wise to keep Bryant on your fantasy bench this Sunday. Kenny Britt, Titans, $1m, had a huge performance at Indianapolis last Sunday with eight catches and 143 yards. Things will not be easy for him on Monday night against a Jets secondary that keeps shutting down opposing wide outs every week.
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons, $3m: The Falcons will face one of the most aggressive secondary’s in the NFL. To be effective against the Giants, QB Matt Ryan will need to look for Tony Gonzalez underneath and there is no better TE in the game to do it. Jimmy Graham, Saints, $4m, has had three quiet games, not scoring and failing to reach 70 yards receiving, but he should wake up against Tampa Bay as he is one of the top players at the position in the league. Before the slump, Graham had caught at least a touchdown pass in four consecutive games, so he will start another positive streak on Sunday.
Scott Chandler, Bills, $1m, has six touchdown receptions this season, but will face a Seattle defense that ranks fourth in the league against the pass and has not allowed an opposing tight end to score in the last six weeks.
Matt Bryant (Falcons) and Lawrence Tynes (Giants) $1m: The big contest at Atlanta could be decided by the kicking game and two of the most effective kickers will face each other. They are both excellent fantasy choices in our competition because they are both worth $1m. Tynes still paces the league with 137 points, while Bryant is third with 121 (second comes New England’s K Gostkowski, but his value in our game is $2m). Greg Zuerlein, Rams, $1m, only attempted an extra point last week at Buffalo, but the rookie should see a lot of action on Sunday as the Rams, still dreaming of the playoffs after three wins in a row, host the Vikings.
Mason Crosby, Packers, $2m: Chicago is not the best place to kick and Crosby has not converted all the field goals attempted in a game since Week 3.
Miami ($1m): Led by defensive end Cameron Wake, who ranks fourth in the NFL with 14 sacks, the Dolphins are fourth in the league with 37 quarterback take-downs on the season. Miami could really take advantage on Sunday of Jacksonville’s troubled offense and come up with a big fantasy defensive production. St. Louis ($1m): If the Rams can stop or at least slow down Adrian Peterson, their defense could score huge numbers against a passing offense that is performing very poorly with second-year quarterback Christian Ponder under centre.
San Francisco ($2m): The 49ers own the second best overall defense in the league, but remember our fantasy game is about turnovers and sacks. No team has given the ball away less than the Patriots (10 times) and no starting quarterback who has played in every game has been less intercepted than Tom Brady (5), so it will be hard for San Francisco to score big on fantasy terms at Foxboro.