Week 14 provided one of the wildest weeks in NFL history between the on-field action and the impact Mother Nature had on the games. As ESPN on Twitter shared, Sunday was an unlikely historic day in the scoring department despite adverse playing conditions across the country.
There were 90 touchdowns scored yesterday, the most on a single day in NFL history. We are officially in the Video Game Era.— ESPN (@espn) December 9, 2013
While it was certainly an exciting slate of action, it’s now time to shift the focus to the Week 15 fantasy football projections as owners prepare for the second round of the playoffs.
Major injuries to fantasy juggernauts Adrian Peterson and Rob Gronkowski have crushed their owners, who find themselves scrambling to find out which of the other players in the league will transform into the top performers this week.
Here are top-five performance projections for each position heading into the pivotal Week 15 games.
*Based on standard-scoring leagues. Points against stats via ESPN.
|1||Peyton Manning||Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||28|
|2||Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints||St. Louis Rams||24|
|3||Tony Romo||Dallas Cowboys||Green Bay Packers||22|
|4||Philip Rivers||San Diego Chargers||Denver Broncos||21|
|5||Andrew Luck||Indianapolis Colts||Houston Texans||20|
Breaking Down Drew Brees
New Orleans Saints star quarterback Drew Brees was shut down in Week 13 against the stingy defense of the Seattle Seahawks, and some fantasy owners likely feared the same would happen against the vaunted defense of the Carolina Panthers.
But the Saints were at home. In prime time.
After racking up 313 yards passing, four touchdowns and 28 fantasy points, it is clear that Brees’ performance against Seattle was an anomaly. ESPN's Adam Schefter has the proof:
Definition of prime-time player: in the last 4 years, Drew Brees is 10-0 in home prime-time games with 33 TD passes and 4 interceptions.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 5, 2013
He will have a chance to prove how good he is once again when the Saints square off against the St. Louis Rams in a favorable matchup.
St. Louis has been solid against the pass this season, allowing just 14.8 fantasy points per game to opposing QBs, but Brees and the entire New Orleans roster are pumping on all cylinders. With tight end Jimmy Graham causing a matchup nightmare and wide receiver Marques Colston rounding into form, Brees has targets to exploit.
As if the weapons on the outside weren’t enough, Darren Sproles is still one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league and will help add to the already gaudy numbers for Brees.
Fantasy owners who took the Saints QB early are enjoying a dominant season.
|1||Jamaal Charles||Kansas City Chiefs||Oakland Raiders||22|
|2||LeSean McCoy||Philadelphia Eagles||Minnesota Vikings||20|
|3||DeMarco Murray||Dallas Cowboys||Green Bay Packers||19|
|4||Marshawn Lynch||Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants||19|
|5||Knowshon Moreno||Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||18|
Breaking Down LeSean McCoy
The best player of Week 14 was Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. After accumulating 29 carries for 217 yards and two touchdowns, his position as one of the top fantasy stars this week is unquestioned.
He broke a franchise record with his performance, and he did it while overcoming some ridiculous conditions on the field:
Now McCoy goes on to play the lowly Minnesota Vikings in the comfy confines of Minnesota's dome.
Minnesota has the fourth-worst fantasy RB points-against average in the NFL (20), and McCoy has to be salivating at the matchup. Philadelphia’s offensive line is also playing inspired football with playoff aspirations, and the group’s confidence has to be brimming after a performance like Sunday’s.
The combination of McCoy’s recent success and the offensive line’s dominance should be enough for fantasy owners to get a healthy dosage of points with another strong performance from the elusive back.
|1||Calvin Johnson||Detroit Lions||Baltimore Ravens||25|
|2||Demaryius Thomas||Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||21|
|3||Josh Gordon||Cleveland Browns||Chicago Bears||20|
|4||A.J. Green||Cincinnati Bengals||Pittsburgh Steelers||18|
|5||Dez Bryant||Dallas Cowboys||Green Bay Packers||18|
Breaking Down Josh Gordon
There is no hotter wide receiver in the league right now than Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns. Over the last four games, he has amassed an incredible 774 receiving yards, a new NFL record.
Fantasy owners who took the educated risk of drafting the then-suspended receiver in the late rounds of their draft are benefiting from his emergence as one of the most dangerous players on the field each week.
No matter which quarterback is under center, Gordon is finding his stride, grabbing 71 receptions for 1,400 yards and eight touchdowns in just 11 games. This week the Browns play the Chicago Bears.
Chicago has not been impressive this season against wide receivers, allowing 21.1 fantasy points per game. Gordon beat a very tough matchup against New England’s Aqib Talib for seven catches, 151 yards and a touchdown, and he should have no problem repeating the feat again in Week 15.
|1||Jimmy Graham||New Orleans Saints||St. Louis Rams||20|
|2||Jason Witten||Dallas Cowboys||Green Bay Packers||17|
|3||Julius Thomas||Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||17|
|4||Vernon Davis||San Francisco 49ers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16|
|5||Tony Gonzalez||Atlanta Falcons||Washington Redskins||14|
Breaking Down Jimmy Graham
This is where the conversation about Rob Gronkowski being the top tight end in the NFL would have gone if the New England Patriots' key offensive weapon hadn’t torn his ACL and MCL, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Despite dealing with a nagging foot injury earlier in the season, Graham has returned to elite form, amassing six catches on 11 targets for 58 yards and two touchdowns against Carolina. With a sniper under center like Brees and emerging weapons around him to take the defensive pressure off in key moments, fantasy owners should expect Graham’s numbers to climb.
The St. Louis Rams have been stingy against the position, allowing just 5.7 points per game. That would be a concern for any other tight end, but Graham isn't an ordinary tight end. He has the talent around him and the confidence from his coaching staff to make an impact this week all over the field.
|1||Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants||20|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||18|
|3||Kansas City Chiefs||Oakland Raiders||18|
|4||Arizona Cardinals||Tennessee Titans||16|
|5||Cincinnati Bengals||Pittsburgh Steelers||15|
Which defense is the best in the NFL?
The Seattle Seahawks lost a tough game against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14, but the 19-17 score indicates what fantasy owners have known all season: The Seahawks defense is the best in the NFL.
Since allowing 34 points to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5, Seattle has only allowed two teams to score more than 20 points, and no team has scored more than 24 points on the unit. Add in the fact that the team is in the top 10 in terms of fewest points allowed to opposing players at every major position, and the domination has been a dream come true for owners.
In Week 15 the Seahawks play the New York Giants, who have turned the ball over a league-worst 34 times this season. With New York faltering offensively once again, fantasy owners should expect several turnovers and another lopsided performance from the league’s most dangerous defense.
|1||Matt Prater||Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers||15|
|2||Steven Hauschka||Seattle Seahawks||New York Giants||14|
|3||Stephen Gostkowski||New England Patriots||Miami Dolphins||13|
|4||Justin Tucker||Baltimore Ravens||Detroit Lions||12|
|5||Blair Walsh||Minnesota Vikings||Philadelphia Eagles||12|
Breaking Down Matt Prater
After Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater set the NFL record for the longest successful field goal with his 64-yard strike against the Titans, fantasy owners have fallen back in love with the inconsistent kicker.
Prater has been one of the most reliable kickers in the league for his team, going 18-of-19 this season on field goals and 65-of-65 on extra points. But Denver’s ability to get the ball in the end zone has limited Prater’s field-goal attempts.
A Week 15 matchup with the lowly defense of the San Diego Chargers will give the Broncos ample opportunities to get the ball into the red zone, and that will spawn several key chances for Prater to make a difference for Denver and your fantasy team.