Week 15 Fantasy Football Projections: Predicting Numbers for Top WRs
The playoff chase is on in the 2012 NFL regular season, but Week 15 is right in the thick of the fantasy football postseason.
In that regard, there are several of the game's top wide receivers facing more favorable matchups than other superstars, and they are essentially a mortal lock to do some serious damage with monster numbers.
You know, if there is such a thing as a "lock" in the luck-oriented nature of fantasy sports.
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
Speaking of luck, a certain No. 1 overall pick in Andrew Luck has made his mark on an astounding 9-4 Colts team in his first year succeeding Peyton Manning as the franchise quarterback. Reggie Wayne's steadiness has a lot to do with that.
Despite the notion that Indy was going to be rebuilding for at least this season, Wayne stuck around and remained faithful to the organization he's played for during his prolific 13-year career.
With 94 catches, 1,220 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, it's clear that the 34-year-old veteran's best football isn't behind him.
Although the Houston Texans don't necessarily seem like a great matchup, it should still translate to a big fantasy day for Wayne in Week 15. No receiver in the NFL has been targeted more than the 162 times Luck has looked for Wayne, and only Lions QB Matthew Stafford has thrown more passes than Luck.
Considering the Texans' stout run defense that ranks second in the league and the obvious penchant Indianapolis has for throwing the ball, Wayne is sure to get targets in the double digits in the key AFC South showdown.
Top Houston CB Jonathan Joseph has been nagged by a hamstring injury, and ever since LB Brian Cushing was placed on IR, the Wade Phillips-coached defense hasn't quite been the same.
No one throws the ball downfield more than the Colts do. Luck averages over 10 yards per attempt through the air, according to SI's Peter King.
The Texans will be challenged vertically all game long. The Colts have played like a team with nothing to lose all year, and Luck has been extremely aggressive with the ball.
With only one 100-yard game in his past nine outings, I expect an explosion from Wayne in the most important game of the year.
Projected numbers: 12 catches, 165 yards, 2 TDs
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
Someone who may put up even bigger numbers in the AFC South showdown with Indianapolis is Andre Johnson. Clearly one of the best receivers in the game when healthy, Johnson has managed to stay be on the field for every game this year.
Highlighted by a 14-catch, 273-yard performance against Jacksonville, Johnson has enjoyed a redemptive 2012 campaign for the 11-2 Texans.
The Colts have a seriously suspect secondary, with starters Vontae Davis and Darius Butler likely to draw the majority of matchups with Johnson. The big, physical receiver will be able to win any one-on-one scenario.
The fact that Indy can't stop the run either should open up play-action opportunities for QB Matt Schaub, who is willing to deliver the ball deep even if Johnson is double-covered. Those plays will have time to develop, too, because the Colts are tied for 25th in the league with 24 team sacks. That hasn't helped the thin defensive backfield, stabilized only by the presence of FS Antoine Bethea.
This is a game where Houston should dominate time of possession, too. The combination of a pass-happy Indianapolis offense and a defense that can't force turnovers should allow the Texans to hold the ball for the majority of the game.
More plays obviously equals more opportunities for Johnson, who had eight catches for 95 yards in the 42-14 blowout loss to the Patriots on Monday Night Football. Expect him to step his game up to an even higher level, and to produce a big day along with superstar counterpart Wayne.
Projected stats: 10 receptions, 150 yards, 2 TDs
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vincent Jackson's versatility allows him to line up both on the outside and in the slot of the Bucs offense. A resurgent season from QB Josh Freeman has resulted in one of the league's best emerging combos in the passing game.
Jackson is tops among the league's elite receivers in averaging 20.4 yards per catch and is tied for seventh in the NFL with eight receiving TDs.
Although inconsistent at times this year, there should be no excuse for Jackson not to be extremely productive against the New Orleans Saints' atrocious defense.
The team looked to be showing improvement after digging itself an 0-4 hole. However, that has been laid to rest after three consecutive losses and a lack of any competence under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Here's what makes Jackson's matchup with the Saints even more intriguing despite the fact that it's on the road: Tampa has the last-ranked pass defense and will have to deal with QB Drew Brees.
That should lend itself to an NFC South shootout in the Superdome, and Jackson figures to be prominently involved if that's the case. Look for the Saints' shoddy safety play to be even further exposed by one of the premier deep threats in the game.
There's really no argument to be made against Jackson absolutely going off in this game. Remember that in a Week 6 loss to New Orleans, he snagged seven passes for 216 yards and a touchdown. It's unlikely Jackson will be quite that spectacular, but he will nevertheless scorch the Saints.
Projected stats: 9 catches, 130 yards, 1 TD
Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
Sunday's loss at Carolina was just the second of the year for Mike Smith's team. However, that didn't stop Roddy White from bouncing back for his first 100-yard game after two frustrating weeks.
Typically known for his knack for winning home games, the numbers (h/t ESPN) indicate that QB Matt Ryan has actually played much better on the road this year. Week 13 was an anomaly in that regard, and does more to add to the narrative that the Falcons aren't really that good despite an outstanding record.
I suspect that the team will be tired of hearing all the talk of being overrated, and Ryan will bounce back with a great performance in the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome.
Fantasy owners will be appeased at that if they have White in their lineup, particularly with a matchup against the New York Giants, who quietly have the 27th-ranked pass defense in the league despite a slew of formidable pass rushers on the defensive line.
Kenny Phillips' absence at safety has really hurt, as the G-Men have given up explosive plays consistently throughout the season. Atlanta already has the NFC South title sewn up, but it has to make sure it takes care of business to maintain home-field advantage as the conference's No. 1 seed.
White has been nothing if not steady in the midst of his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard campaign, and he will build on his strong outing against the Panthers to key the Falcons to a victory.
Projected stats: 7 catches, 120 yards, 1 TD
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