Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 15: Last-Minute Advice for Fantasy Owners
If you are lucky enough to be among the final four teams alive in your fantasy football league, then you know that you'll need to have a few more breaks to make it to the Super Bowl next week.
Week 15 features some key game-time decisions, a few new boom/bust plays to consider and plenty of intrigue from games that will have major NFL playoff implications.
Every decision feels pivotal this week, and we have to avoid overthinking. What are some of the best decisions we can make for our teams this week? Read on to find out.
START: Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
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It's amazing what a little bit of rest can do for a quarterback and team.
The New York Giants limped into their Week 11 bye with their quarterback, Eli Manning, on a three-game streak with no touchdown passes. In the three games since, Manning has thrown eight touchdowns and no less than 249 yards in any of the three games.
The No. 1 fantasy quarterback score of Week 14 came against the Giants' Week 15 opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. Manning has been up and down this year, but like his team, late in the season, he is usually up.
He's a top-10 quarterback play this week.
SIT: Carson Palmer, QB, Oakland
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If you've been getting away with starting Carson Palmer, don't let that encourage you to rely on him in this crucial week.
Fifteen of his 22 passing touchdowns have come when the Oakland Raiders were playing against relaxed defenses because they were down by more than a touchdown. The Kansas City Chiefs game will be closer, and Palmer will likely be handing off more to a finally healthy Darren McFadden.
Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reports that head coach Dennis Allen may also want to see what Terrelle Pryor can do in a few special packages, so Palmer could lose snaps, perhaps even in the red zone.
Don't gamble on garbage-time points this week.
START: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis
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Andrew Luck let his owners down in what looked like an easy matchup last week, but it's in their interest to go back to him this week against an even better matchup. The last four quarterbacks that faced Houston have averaged over 350 yards and 2.75 passing touchdowns a game.
Luck and the Indianapolis Colts still have a chance to win the division, so he'll let it all hang out in this divisional battle on the road.
The rookie has shown the ability to put up points in furious comeback efforts when he starts slow, so just about any game script will give him the chance to put up big points this week.
SIT: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle
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It isn't that Russell Wilson is playing badly right now, it's that his teammates are playing so well that he won't be asked to do much for the second week in a row.
Wilson had a dud of a fantasy game last week, despite Seattle scoring 58 points in a win over Arizona. The flow of the game dictated that Wilson only threw 13 passes, and he didn't have to run or improvise to make plays because the team was clicking in all facets of the game.
Unless the Bills have a very inspired performance on offense, Wilson will only be asked to be a game manager, which is not a recipe for fantasy production.
START: David Wilson, RB New York Giants
It's easy to get cold feet about starting a rookie running back without knowing exactly what his workload will be after Ronnie Hillman had the rug yanked out from under him (and his fantasy owners) a few weeks ago.
Unlike Hillman, David Wilson has already been in and worked his way out of the doghouse. Maybe we shouldn't take any coach at his word, but Tom Coughlin said that he didn't think there was any reason Wilson couldn't be a 20-carry back, via Adam Caplan of The Sideline View.
Wilson's 100-plus-yard, two-touchdown (three if you count his kick return) performance last week showed us what he was capable. Don't wait around to see what he can do as the starter before trusting him unless you have a top-12 back to play ahead of him.
SIT: Montell Owens, RB, Jacksonville
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Montell Owens' final stat line last week makes it look like he's potentially worth an RB2 start this week as the starting running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Don't let the numbers fool you.
Most of Owens' production came in the fourth quarter when the Jags were down 14 points. Relying on a fantasy player to put up points when the game is out of hand is never a good strategy, especially against a top-10 run defense on the road.
There's a reason that he was a special teams ace before a rash of injuries in Jacksonville's backfield forced Owens into action.
START: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver
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It's hard to believe that Knowshon Moreno is really one of the most valuable running backs to own heading into the fantasy football semis, but his steady workload and production the last three weeks have made Moreno one of the safer plays outside of the top five fantasy running backs.
He faces a Baltimore Ravens defense in the bottom 10 in rush defense, and they'll be down to third-string inside linebackers as Ray Lewis was not ready to be activated from injured reserve this week.
The presence of Peyton Manning ensures that Moreno will be the second priority for the opposition, so getting him in your lineup should be priority No. 1 for you.
SIT: DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas
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DeMarco Murray isn't a "bench at all costs" player this week, but he's barely a top-20 running back despite being a starter who gets the full workload for his team.
The Dallas Cowboys haven't been able to establish the run without center Phil Costa, who is out for the season, and Murray hasn't looked like himself since returning from a foot injury two weeks ago.
He doesn't have the same burst and lateral agility, and it shows in his yards-per-carry average of 3.1 in his two latest games.
Even if Murray was 100 percent, he's facing a top-five run defense. Don't expect much from him against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
START: Miles Austin, WR, Dallas
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Whether or not Dez Bryant plays, a healthy Miles Austin will be trouble for a depleted Steelers secondary.
Shutdown corner Ike Taylor is out, and his replacement Cortez Allen is also likely to miss the game. One-time all-world safety Troy Polamalu is not at full speed and might have to be rotated in and out of the game because of his nagging calf injury.
Austin should have plenty of opportunities to make big plays downfield, and if Bryant is merely used as a decoy, as he has been in the past when he has played hurt, Austin might be one of the very best fantasy wide receivers to start this week.
SIT: Stevie Johnson, WR, Buffalo
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Delays in the appeal of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's suspension have kept him active for yet another week, and that's bad news for Stevie Johnson.
Yes, he has conquered Revis Island in the past, but General Sherman just blotted out Larry Fitzgerald, and Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn't exactly inspire confidence when you're looking for a quarterback that can overcome a quality defense.
Johnson is more of a possession receiver who will have a big, aggressive corner in his back pocket all day. That's not what you want in your lineup with the finals on the line.
START: Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore
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It might just be that Anquan Boldin is a better receiver than Torrey Smith right now, but the veteran always seems to get more accurate downfield passes than Smith from Joe Flacco.
This week, Smith is likely to draw future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey, while Boldin will see a smaller, less experienced corner like Chris Harris or Tony Carter all day.
Boldin has three scores in the last two weeks, and he has 35 targets over the last four games, which is a sign that he has a high floor to go along with the high ceiling he established in his two-touchdown game last week.
SIT: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona
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If you haven't yet abandoned Larry Fitzgerald, here's some food for thought: The list of receivers that have more catches and yards than Fitzgerald over the last four weeks includes Austin Pettis, Jordan Shipley and Terrance Copper.
With Kevin Kolb on injured reserve, the hopes for a quarterback that can actually get the ball to Fitzgerald enough to revive his fantasy stock in 2012 died. Ryan Lindley has been ineffective at moving the offense, but at least he's not as self-destructive as John Skelton.
Either way, he's not the man to get Fitzgerald back into your lineup this week.
START: Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland
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After his three-game touchdown streak got the attention of the fantasy world earlier this season, Josh Gordon had the reputation of a boom/bust raw rookie receiver.
Over the last four games, he has actually been a very safe play, averaging over six catches and 75 yards a game, with no fewer than four catches or 53 yards in any of the games.
This week, he gets the Washington Redskins pass defense that has surrendered more touchdowns through the air than any other team in the league and the second-most passing yards of any defense.
Gordon is a top-20 wide receiver for the semis.
SIT: Brandon Lloyd, WR, New England
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Brandon Lloyd's long-awaited big game in Week 14 was probably missed by most of his owners, so of course they will be wanting to start him this week to avoid missing another outburst.
The problem is, Lloyd is still unlikely to help your fantasy team against physical coverage and a pressure defense provided by the 49ers.
His one big play last week came on a play-action pass that suckered the whole Houston Texans pass defense. The No. 2-ranked pass defense of San Francisco won't fall for that.
Lloyd is a short/intermediate route possession receiver who does nothing after the catch.
START: Martellus Bennett, TE, New York Giants
What more does the Black Unicorn need to do to turn his mythological self into a reality for your fantasy team?
He has touchdowns in each of the last two weeks and has returned to the form he had earlier in the season before his knee injury. He started off the year with scores in three straight games.
The Falcons will be focused on Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, so Martellus Bennett should have plenty of room to roam in the middle of the field against a defense that has given up at least 50 receiving yards to five of the last six starting tight ends they've faced.
SIT: Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota
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For three weeks, Kyle Rudolph looked like a safe play again as the No. 1 receiver for a team that was missing Percy Harvin.
Last week, after the Minnesota Vikings opened up a 14-0 lead, Rudolph was absent from the box score. He only got two targets as Minnesota made no effort to feature him in the passing game.
The Vikings might not open up that kind of lead on St. Louis this week, but they certainly won't go away from Adrian Peterson until they are down at least two scores.
If you are still thinking about starting Rudolph, that means you'll be relying on Christian Ponder to get your fantasy team over the hump.