Championship or bust
Well, the plans to start Cam Newton this week were derailed when someone T-Boned him outside of the Panthers stadium on Tuesday. One has to wonder if they were a Bucs fan! Either way, with Newton out and Derek Anderson in at QB, Kelvin Benjamin becomes a boom-or-bust fantasy WR to finish out the season.
On the Bengals front, OC Hue Jackson told Geoff Hobson that he'd like to lean more on one guy in the running game. Word around the campfire is that guy will be Jeremy Hill, leaving Giovani Bernard to play on passing downs. What this means is Hill keeps his RB2 value this week against a porous Browns run D, whereas Bernard drops down to a flex play who holds far more value in PPR leagues than standard scoring leagues. Don't cut Bernard as Jackson could go back to a committee approach, or decide to play the hot hand as the Bengals try and lock down the AFC North.
Remember, the fantasy playoffs kick off for most this week. That means it is time to stop trying to be cute with your line-ups and start your best players. I already had Chris 'da Bears fan text me and ask if he should sit Rashad Jennings in favor of Kerwynn Williams this weekend because the Rams give up more points to fantasy RBs than the Redskins do. After contemplating blocking him from any future calls or texts, I replied back with "Williams was on the practice squad two weeks ago, and Jennings was obviously less than 100 percent last week. Play your best players because lightning doesn't strike twice in the same spot. You're a week late on Williams."
Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers: This week the Steelers get a Falcons defense that gives up 20.9 PPG to fantasy QBs this season, the 12th most in the NFL. The Falcons are a passing team with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones (possibly out this week), and Roddy White, meaning this game could be closer than we think. I expect Big Ben to finish with top 5-7 QB numbers given the state of the Falcons defense.
Mark Sanchez – Eagles: The Cowboys come in right behind the Falcons at #13 for fantasy points allowed to QBs with 20.8 PPG. But what makes this game a little more appealing to fantasy owners is the fierce rivalry between the Eagles and Cowboys. Sanchez has the weapons with Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, and now Jordan Matthews, and the Cowboys defense isn't known for shutting offenses down. I am looking for QB1 numbers from Sanchez this week after throwing for just 96 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT last week.
Mark Ingram – Saints: A lot has been made in the past two or three days about the Bears problems on offense with Jay Cutler's contract and Brandon Marshall going down for the rest of the season. But what isn't being talked about as much is a Bears overly generous defense that allows 377.8 YPG of total offense. Granted, 265.5 of those yards are passing yards. But, a clever person will see that the Saints are tired of being embarrassed and will come out guns blazing in Week 15 to save face. When they get up on the Bears Swiss cheese secondary, Ingram will grind it out on the ground and put up solid RB2 stats with RB1 upside if he scores.
Dan Herron – Colts: Herron is one of those guys most people have stashed in their flex spot, which is perfect because that is about where his value lies given the Colts pass-heavy offense. With injuries piling up and rosters running thin on quality players, Herron is a legit RB2 play against the Texans this weekend. Whether the Texans keep it close or the Colts pull away, Herron should see his fair share of the workload.
Kelvin Benjamin – Panthers: Benjamin's pros and cons are well known at this point (freakish athletic ability coupled with hands of stone), and now he has to deal with Newton probably out for the season and a back-up QB in Anderson throwing him the ball. The reason I have faith in Benjamin this week is that of the four TDs Anderson has thrown this season, three of them have gone to Benjamin. Anderson obviously knows who butters his bread, and the Bucs tend to hand out butter packets and table knives at the ticket counters!
Jordan Matthews – Eagles: Just two weeks ago Matthews posted a 4-51-1 line against the Cowboys, numbers that ranked him 22nd for fantasy WRs. Over the past six games Matthews has hauled in 5 touchdowns and averaged 4.5 receptions and 72.7 yards. While he has seen a steady decline in yardage numbers since Week 10 when he put up 138 receiving yards, I think he ranks out as a WR3 with WR2 upside this week. If you need help at WR, Matthews is owned in just 46.2 percent of NFL.com leagues right now.
Larry Donnell – Giants: Here we go again with the Donnell dilemma. People have been chasing his 7-54-3 line since Week 4, and the best he's been able to muster since was a 3-54-1 line back in Week 11. This week the G-Men get a Redskins team that gives up the 2nd most fantasy points to TEs this season at 10.7 PPG. I wouldn't expect the world from Donnell, but TE is an all-or-nothing position in fantasy football to begin with.
St. Louis Rams defense: The Rams are the 3rd best fantasy defense according to NFL.com this season. Zoom in and you see that the Rams have been the best fantasy defense to own over the past four weeks. This week they get a Cardinals offense that is down to Drew Stanton at QB and Stephan Taylor/Kerwynn Williams at RB. When it comes to possible defenses to play in the first round of the playoffs, there are few better options than the Rams.
Ryan Tannehill – Dolphins: Tannehill has been a guy I have been riding the last two weeks because he was flying under the radar with his top-12 fantasy QB ranking. He hasn't been flashy with his numbers, and his lack of chemistry with Mike Wallace is well documented, but he has been consistent this season by averaging 16.99 PPG on NFL.com. This week however he gets a Patriots defense that is giving up the 11th fewest fantasy points to QBs this season. Tannehill is a mid-range QB2 this week.
Colin Kaepernick – 49ers: When you really look at Kaepernick's game logs from this season you see that he has only had one "good" game by statistical standards. In Week 6 he aired it out against the Rams, completing 22-of-35 passes for 343 yards passing and 3 TDs. He also added 37 yards on the ground for good measure. Outside of that game, he has throw 2 TDs just twice this season, and just 1 TD every other week except the Seahawks game in Week 13 where he was shut out. Kaepernick has really regressed this season, and his 92.7 percent ownership on NFL.com is absurd when you look at his numbers. Keep Kaepernick as far away from your fantasy roster this weekend as humanly possible.
Ryan Mathews – Chargers: The 2nd best defense in the NFL against the run this season is the Broncos. While their D-Line and LBs are good, that ranking has more to do with the offense jumping out ahead and forcing teams to abandon the run early. Mathews isn't a dual-threat RB that will beat you either with the run, or with the pass. Then you have to factor in the demise of Philip Rivers over the past five games, averaging just 238.8 yards with a 1:1 TD:INT ratio (6 each). Mathews is more hype than production this season, and the cards are stacked against him for Week 15.
Shane Vereen – Patriots: Vereen is one of the worst fantasy RBs you can own these days because the return of LeGarrette Blount has all but erased the fantasy value of a guy owned in 92.4 percent of NFL.com leagues. And, because the Patriots are well known for doing the unexpected, it makes it hard to sit a guy who is owned in 92.4 percent of NFL.com leagues. See the paradox? However, because I have the special ability to see into the future, I will tell you to just sit Vereen this weekend because Tom Brady is going to show Tannehill what a QB is supposed to look like at home in Foxborough, MA.
Keenan Allen – Chargers: Much like Kaepernick, Keenan Allen is one of the most overrated players at his position this season. Defenses have been shutting the Chargers No. 1 WR down this year by sliding help to his side via the safety, and fantasy owners are frustrated beyond belief because of it. Consider this, 2 of his 3 100-yard game, and 3 of his 4 TDs came in Weeks 12 & 13. Then in Week 14 the Patriots held him to an intolerable 3 yards on 2 receptions! The simple trust is you can't count on Allen with defenses sliding help to his side or singling him out with DBs like Darrelle Revis, or Chris Harris this weekend.
Mike Wallace – Dolphins: As I said earlier, the chemistry problems between Wallace and Tannehill have been well documented this season. While Wallace does have 7 TDs on the season, he has just two in the last 7 games compared to six in his first 6 games. Add to that the fact that his season-high for receptions and yards came back in Week 1 when he posted 81 yards and 7 receptions, and you have the recipe for a WR bust in the fantasy playoffs.
Vernon Davis – 49ers: I can only assume that there are either 78.1 percent of inactive NFL.com fantasy owners out there, or that 78.1 percent of the NFL.com fantasy players are 49ers fans. I'm sure the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but that is the number of people who own Vernon Davis as of Week 15. Of the 32 "starting" TEs in the NFL (I say starting because each team technically starts one), Davis ranks 30th this season on NFL.com for fantasy TEs. Factor in Jordan Cameron likely passing him this weekend and Clay Harbor needing just 1.1 fantasy points to pass him, and Davis is literally the last guy you want to play at TE in fantasy football. PLEASE STOP THE MADNESS OF STARTING HIM!
San Francisco 49ers defense: The 49ers defense is the 3rd most owned defense on NFL.com, yet they are ranked 15th among fantasy defenses this season. Look, the 49ers are sitting at 7-6 on the season with no real playoff hopes, their QB is regressing, their TE can't get out of his own way, and their 31-year-old RB looks like he running on two flat tires. Also remember that just two weeks ago the Seahawks offense held the 49ers defense to just 5.00 fantasy points, the 15th fewest points in Week 13.