David Wilson's encore performance in Week 15 should be special.
If the spike in Bryce Brown’s fantasy football value was a flash in the pan, the spotlight in the skillet is now on David Wilson of the New York Giants. Both running backs have put together 100-yard, two-touchdown rushing performances in their rookie seasons. After a recent pair of flops by Brown, Wilson is the newest “surprise” rookie to make some noise in the NFL.
But he’s not a surprise.
Wilson’s breakout game against the New Orleans Saints showcased him as a multifaceted big-play threat. He didn’t catch a pass, but the Giants’ 2012 first-round pick rushed 13 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns and returned four kickoffs for 227 yards and a touchdown.
That’s 56.8 yards per return, if you’re scoring at home.
Wilson’s fantasy value stretches beyond leagues that reward return yardage. He’ll be the starting running back for New York in Week 15 against the Atlanta Falcons, according to Matt Ehalt of ESPNNewYork.com.
Atlanta has allowed either a rushing or receiving touchdown to opposing running backs in each of the last five games. Opposing backfields have gained 100-plus total yards in every game during that span except the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Their RBs scored two touchdowns, though.
Wilson has a fantastic matchup on tap for his first career start. He should also find his way into your fantasy lineups as the Start of the Week.
Josh Freeman has enjoyed a prolific 2012 season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When his run of phenomenal matchups stopped as he faced the Atlanta Falcons in Week 12, though, his numbers have tapered off.
Freeman has thrown for 687 yards, four touchdowns and a pick in his last three games against the Falcons, Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles. In Week 15, he’ll visit the New Orleans Saints—a division rival that allowed Freeman’s most productive passing day of his career earlier this season.
He threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers in Week 7.
Also Consider Starting
Brandon Weeden (Cleveland Browns), Carson Palmer (Oakland Raiders) and Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers).
Lost in the hoopla around the ineptitude of the Arizona Cardinals offense is the production of the Cardinals defense. In its last four games, Arizona has intercepted 10 passes—including five from MVP candidate Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons.
Matthew Stafford turns the ball over, having tossed five picks in his last five games. He has only thrown multiple TDs in four games this year. The Cardinals have to be inspired and fuming after getting boat-raced by the Seattle Seahawks last week. Scoring zero points as an offense is frustrating, but it happens. Giving up 58 points?
Arizona is better than that on defense; it’ll show us as much on Sunday.
On the other hand, the Cardinals offense is not accomplished enough that we should expect big things from it. Quite the opposite is the case, in fact, which also works against fantasy owners starting Stafford in the desert on Sunday: It will be hard for the Lions passer to rack up yards with short fields all the time.
If Trent Richardson doesn’t score a touchdown, chances are he—and his 3.52 yards per carry—is going to have a poor fantasy day.
You didn’t care because he scored three touchdowns, but in his last two games against the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, the Cleveland Browns rookie averaged 3.00 yards per rush. That’s concerning, because his last two matchups represent two of the top eight most favorable matchups for fantasy running backs to face (ESPN standard scoring).
KC is allowing 4.55 yards per attempt while Oakland is surrendering 4.60.
The Washington Redskins are allowing 4.36 yards per rush to running backs. Add to that problem the idea that Richardson’s attempts may be limited this week, and you have the recipe for a strong sit candidate in fantasy football.
Also Consider Sitting
Mikel Leshoure (Detroit Lions), Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens) and Stevan Ridley (New England Patriots).
More RB Start ‘Em Picks
Darren McFadden (Oakland Raiders) and Knowshon Moreno (Denver Broncos).
In his last five games, this wide receiver has totaled 30 receptions for 494 yards and five touchdowns. He hasn’t caught fewer than five passes in any of those contests and scored at least one touchdown in three of the five. One of the games in which he did not record a touchdown still saw him record six catches for 102 yards; the other stat line was five grabs for 74.
He has a quarterback that was on the fringe of “elite” discussions before prolonged bouts with turnovers derailed that line of thinking.
He is flat-out matchup-proof, with seven catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had allowed one total score to his position in its prior five games.
His name is Danario Alexander, and he is a must-start.
Also Consider Starting
Marques Colston and Lance Moore (New Orleans Saints), Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Andre Johnson (Houston Texans) and Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts).
You’ve got to admire Dez Bryant’s commitment to the Dallas Cowboys’ short-term future: He would rather play with a broken finger than sit out the rest of the season after surgery. Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com reported that the Cowboys’ playoff chances are keeping Dez on the field.
I’d rather wait and see how he plays hurt before entrusting my fantasy playoffs to him, though. It’s entirely possible that he can help the Cowboys without helping your fantasy team.
Also Consider Sitting
Steve Johnson (Buffalo Bills).
Vernon Davis has been downright disappointing over the last two months. In his last eight games, he’s only eclipsed 40 receiving yards once with one touchdown (in the same game) and two catch-less contests.
He’s totaled just 18 grabs for 222 yards and a touchdown since Week 6, but his matchup with the New England Patriots in Week 15 may prove to be a cure for his fantasy ills. The Pats are a top-five matchup for opposing tight ends. We know Davis has the skills—it’s just a matter of whether he gets the targets.
Since New England isn’t exactly shutting dudes down at the tight end position, he should get some looks in Week 15.
Also Consider Starting
Dallas Clark (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Owen Daniels (Houston Texans).
Heath Miller has had his ups and downs as a fantasy tight end this season. He’s at least been able to grab multiple passes in every appearance he’s made for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year and has one of the higher ceilings at the position.
He has a two-touchdown game to his credit (Week 3) as well as 97 yards and a touchdown in Week 14. The Dallas Cowboys are a bad matchup for Miller in Week 15, as they have allowed two total touchdowns to tight ends since the regular NFL officials have resumed their workload—and they were in the same game.
That contest (against the Cleveland Browns) was four weeks ago.
That Oakland Raiders-Kansas City Chiefs game could provide some nice fantasy value at the fringe positions. The Chiefs are a reliable matchup for opposing fantasy D/STs, with eight turnovers and four defensive touchdowns allowed in their last four road games.
Oakland has allowed double-digit fantasy days to kickers in eight of its 13 games, including seven of its last 10. Raiders opponents have attempted multiple field goals in 10 games, which gives Ryan Succop a statistical shot at a big-time fantasy day.
Kansas City can be trusted to move the ball against a Raiders defense that hasn’t resisted the run all season, but touchdowns are far from assured. Consider Succop a widely available potential difference-maker in Week 15.
Also Consider Starting the Detroit Lions D/ST.
Garrett Hartley is owned in 71.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues—and he’s a kicker that hasn’t scored double-digit fantasy points since Week 2. You don’t need two kickers, so if you’re going to sit Hartley this week against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense against which he did not attempt a field goal in Week 6, you may as well drop him.
The New Orleans Saints defense is too bad—and its offense is too good—for the offense to settle for threes often.
The San Francisco 49ers D/ST is the next fantasy unit to run into the New England Patriots’ offensive buzzsaw. Plan accordingly.
For more fantasy football advice, follow Jamal on Twitter: Follow @StatManJ.