They say the stars shine brightest in huge moments. Fantasy owners will find out the hard way that isn't always the case, as some top-tier stars will have disappointing performances in Week 15 and almost single-handedly cost their owners a championship.
That is, of course, unless those owners are smart enough to get those players out of the lineup. By taking a look at the matchups and taking into account the underlying statistics, it's not hard to point out a few guys who stand out as guaranteed disappointments.
With that in mind, here is a look at a few stars that won't live up to their massive expectations.
Tony Romo (QB, Dallas Cowboys—vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)
Though Romo's early-season play took him out of an every-week start for some owners, those who stuck by the Cowboys signal-caller have reaped the rewards of late. Since Dallas' Week 5 bye, Romo has been among the NFL's most reliable fantasy quarterbacks, scoring no fewer than 12 points in any contest and fewer than 15 only twice.
Expect that latter number to hit three after Week 15. The Cowboys play the Steelers on Sunday, a team that gives up only 169.2 passing yards per game (tops in the NFL) and has allowed just 16 touchdown throws thus far (ninth in the NFL).
Even worse yet for Romo owners is the fact that Pittsburgh is just now getting healthy. Troy Polamalu will be back roaming the middle of the secondary for his third straight game this week, giving Pittsburgh yet another weapon defensively.
With low yardage and touchdown totals likely, Romo should be on the bench if you can help it. Guys like Colin Kaepernick and Carson Palmer are similarly ranked guys who should be in line for far better games this weekend.
Projected Stats: 200 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT
Ray Rice (RB, Baltimore Ravens—vs. Denver Broncos)
The firing of Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was undoubtedly good news for fantasy owners who thought Rice was underutilized by the Ravens. However, don't expect an ascent atop fantasy rankings this week against the Broncos.
Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil get most of the credit for the team's voracious defense, but Denver actually has one of the most well-balanced units in the NFL. According to Football Outsiders' DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) metric, the Broncos rank third against the run, holding opposing running backs to 19.1 percent less production than they would have versus a replacement-level defense.
Still, a lack of yardage is all well and good if Rice gets into the end zone. I wouldn't expect that to happen, either. Denver has given up just five rushing touchdowns all season, which is tied for third best in the league.
By virtue of his sheer brilliance and workload, Rice should settle in as a latter-tier RB2 or high-end flex play in Week 15. However, owners are going to get a rude awakening this week if they expect Rice to cash in his first-round value in the fantasy playoffs.
Projected Stats: 80 Total YDS, 0 TDs
Brandon Lloyd (WR, New England Patriots—vs. San Francisco 49ers)
After grabbing seven passes for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Texans last week, one may be tempted to think Lloyd is a relevant fantasy receiver again. Do yourself a favor and avoid that temptation with the Patriots taking on the 49ers on Sunday.
San Francisco heads into Week 15 with one of the best pass defenses in the league. The team gives up 184.7 yards per game through the air, allow opposing receivers to average just 9.9 yards per reception. The 49ers defense has also only given up 13 touchdown passes—all stats that rank inside the top three in the NFL.
To put it bluntly, don't expect another 42-14 victory for New England.
Tom Brady has proved time and again that he's matchup-proof, so it's not unreasonable to expect a strong game from him. However, though Lloyd's performance brings a bunch of adjectives to mind, consistent is certainly not one of them.
It's wholly possible that Brady connects with Lloyd for a score and winds up as a productive WR2. However, all of the statistics point toward the Patriots having a middling game through the air, and Lloyd's intermittent involvement makes him untrustworthy.
Remember, fantasy is all about limiting risks—especially in the playoffs. For Lloyd, the potential reward isn't worth the huge risk.
Projected Stats: 4 REC, 45 YDS, 0 TDs