WEEK 15 PREPARATION
8 fantasy thoughts that could propel you to the championship game
8. Things could get ugly in New England against the Titans. Tennessee is one of six teams who have averaged 300+ yards passing allowed over the last three games (PHI, MIA, PIT, NYG, NYJ are the others). Opposing quarterbacks have thrown 11 touchdown passes against Tennessee in that span totalling the 2nd most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. New England has regained the number one seed in the AFC and I expect them to take care of business this week, similar to how Carolina returned home to throttle Atlanta. LeGarrette Blount (hip) is out of the picture, which opens the door for James White and Brandon Bolden to seize the opportunity. White had 10 catches in the last home game and has taken over as Tom Brady's short-ranged receiving threat. Julian Edelman (foot) is still a few games away from returning, which puts the emphasis on White even more. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski could hook up early and often against the Titans struggling secondary. Danny Amendola also figures to have a nice stat line. This has the makings of a 30-7 type of game. I see a Patriots romp here.
7. Opportunity knocks for Denard Robinson, Tim Hightower and Bryce Brown - Every year we see at least a few running backs go from the bench to the penthouse in a late-season fantasy rise to stardom. This year is no different. Injuries have opened the door for these players to not only fill the void, but provide a fantasy boost to those who stocked the shelf with "what if" players. Jacksonville hosts the broken Falcons who have given up 5 rushing touchdowns in the last three games. Atlanta has allowed the second most fantasy points to opposing backs in that span. Tim Hightower showed how valuable of an asset he is, while at the same time dropping C.J. Spiller another rung down the fantasy ladder. The Saints return home where they nearly dethroned the Panthers two weeks ago. They will face a Lions defense playing their second road game in a row. Todd Gurley recently gashed Detroit for 140 yards. By no stretch is Hightower in the same league as Gurley, but he is expected to see a high number of touches in this game and could produce Top 10-15 numbers. Bryce Brown will see action for Seattle due to the loss of Thomas Rawls (ankle). I'm not as high on Brown as I am the others, because I don't think he's fully prepared to handle the role playing in his first game with Seattle. Other than Fred Jackson, Seattle doesn't have many options. The Seahawks say Jackson will see only third down duites, but I'm not necessarily buying that. Jackson is arguably a much more experienced back than anyone in the league, which of course includes Brown. Unless Jackson isn't 100% healthy, I don't see how he won't see more touches than we are led to believe.
6. Don't forget about David Johnson - The Cardinals rookie back may wind up leading all running backs in fantasy points this week playing an Eagles team that has been rather generous against the run lately, especially pass-catching backs. The Eagles have allowed at least one receiving touchdown to a running back in five of the last seven games. They also were the team that gave up 10 receptions to James White two weeks ago. All told, they are averaging 8 receptions for 96 yards to opposing backs over the last three games. David Johnson looks like a gem this week and that's just looking at his receiving prowess.
5. I was wrong about Russell Wilson last week. He should stay hot this week against Cleveland. I went on a limb last week thinking the Ravens could hang with Seattle, but it appears the comepetitve ship has sailed for the Ravens. Jimmy Clausen under center, plus the myriad of injuries on both sides of the ball sealed that deal. Russell Wilson has 28, 37, 36 and 35 fantasy points over the last four games. Two at home and two on the road. This week he returns home to host the Browns. How will this game script go? Ever since Week 11 and the subsequent loss of Marshawn Lynch (And shortly after Jimmy Graham), Wilson has been throwing the ball more frequently, targeting two main receivers, Doug Baldwin (30 targets) and Tyler Lockett (22 targets). With questions at running back, I expect to see Wilson continue doing what he has done best, throw the ball. Wilson had 10 touchdown passes and 7 interceptions in the first nine games. In the last four games he has 16 touchdown passes and 0 interceptions. One sliver of concern that I'm not too worried about, but it merits bringing up - Wilson has been sacked 38 times this year (3rd most). Cleveland is coming off 9 sacks in the win against San Francisco, however that only represents one third of their sack total (26). Wilson has always been a leader on the field, however the absence of Lynch in a pseudo-leader role may be a blessing in disguise for the Seahawks. This is Wilson's team and he's leading them.
4. You may want to resist the urge to start any 49ers this week - Cincinnati may have some questions to be answered at quarterback, now that Andy Dalton (thumb) is going to be out a few weeks, however their defense has been strong. The Bengals have not allowed a touchdown pass since Carson Palmer dropped four on them four weeks ago. Aside from Palmer's game, you have to go back to Week 3 when the last time a quarterback had mutiple touchdown passes against Cincinnati. Beware of Blaine Gabbert and Anquan Boldin. They aren't high on the rankings to begin with, but if you sipped the Gabbert or Boldin Kool-Aid recently, you may want to look elsewhere this week.
3. Theo Riddick is like an every week WR3 with rushing tendencies. If I told you Theo Riddick has more fantasy points (PPR) than Sammy Watkins, would you believe me? It's true. Watkins has 157.3 fantasy points with 39 receptions for 716 yards and 7 touchdowns. Riddick has 153.4 fantasy points with 67 receptions for 578 yards and 3 touchdowns, with 106 rushing yards to boot. The Lions have a favorable match up this week at New Orleans. Riddick has at least five receptions in each of the last four games, turning the trick nine times in 13 games. Consider him as a RB2 this week. He has double-digit PPR fantasy points in 8 of the 13 games this year. If one of those catches goes for a touchdown, he gives your lineup a much needed boost.
2. Matthew Stafford and Drew Brees should be quarterbacks you want to target this week - At home this year opposing quaterbacks have passed for 255, 359, 312, 505, 387 and 282 yards totaling 17 touchdown passes (2.8 per game). Quarterbacks average a 114.2 QB rating against the Saints this year throwing 36 touchdowns with only 6 interceptions. Matthew Stafford has 9 touchdown passes and 1 interception in the last three games. Stafford is hot and the Saints, especially at home, tend to create back and forth battles which favors the quarterback.
1. Jeremy Hill could save your season - Last week I mentioned that one of Isaiah Crowell or Duke Johnson would have a fantasy worthy game against the 49ers. Crowell followed suit with 145 yards and 2 touchdowns. San Francisco returns home where they play better, but they still are painfully weak against opposing running backs regardless of where they play. The 49ers have allowed an opposing back to toal 20+ PPR fantasy points in 8 of 13 games this year including five of the last six. The Bengals will be playing this game without Andy Dalton under center, which means A.J. McCarron will likely not have a heavy game plan of down field passing. This benefits Hill, especially if the running game thrives like it has all season against the 49ers. San Franciso has allowed the second most rushing yards this year behind only New Orleans. They have allowed 16 rushing touchdowns which is third most behind Detroit and Atlanta. What if I told Jeremy Hill could save your season? Start him.
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