Week 15 has almost arrived, and with it come agonizing lineup decisions for fantasy owners on which stars to count on for big numbers and which ones to avoid plugging in for the playoffs.
Several offensive studs creating the biggest dilemmas are attempting to find form ahead of the real NFL postseason, while another playmaker is undergoing a quarterback change and is coming off a lackluster game, making him a shakier proposition than usual.
Read on for advice on what to do with regard to the conundrums the following players present.
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
The 2012 No. 1 overall pick has lived up to the hype by many accounts in carrying an Indianapolis Colts team to what will now be two consecutive playoff appearances after they clinched the AFC South in Week 14.
However, even though he is facing the NFL's doormat in the Houston Texans—losers of 11 straight games—on Sunday, Andrew Luck is a dicier fantasy start than might be expected.
Indianapolis got some good production from Donald Brown for a stretch this season, but the former first-round draft choice has totaled just 66 yards on 20 carries in the past three games.
Trent Richardson isn't producing a whole lot either, making the Colts a rather one-dimensional offense, with Luck bearing the burden. The Texans also have J.J. Watt rushing off the edge, and the league's No. 2 pass defense.
All indications are that Luck will struggle. He did lead a sweet comeback over Houston the last time these two teams met, but he was just 18-of-40 passing. If owners have another QB option facing a better matchup, they should look there this week.
Start/Sit Verdict: Sit
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Make no mistake, the Philadelphia Eagles are a run-first type of team, which bodes well for their playoff outlook now that they're atop the NFC East. As for Nick Foles, though, he finally cooled off in Week 14 after beginning the season with 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Foles was playing in a steady snow against the Detroit Lions, but he still managed only 179 yards, one touchdown and one interception and completed 50 percent of his passes in the win.
This week serves up a far softer defense in the Minnesota Vikings—and it takes place in the dome environment of Mall of America Field.
Whether the Lions really figured out something or not is difficult to tell, especially since the Eagles piled up just under 300 yards on the ground. That prolific rushing attack has set up Foles for big plays down the field all year, and the Vikings are 30th in the NFL against the pass.
Minnesota did pick off Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco three times last week. However, that was also amid a snowstorm.
Foles' ESPN.com profile highlights how the Vikings have yielded the second-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks, so the second-year signal-caller should bounce back with a big performance in Week 15.
Start/Sit Verdict: Start
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
The versatile back has thrived in his first experience under offensive guru Marc Trestman. That continued in Week 14, when Matt Forte ran for 102 yards and caught seven passes for 75 yards and a TD in the win over Dallas.
Week 15's opponent is the Cleveland Browns, who have lost seven of eight games but have a better defense than their 4-9 record indicates.
Forte's ESPN.com profile notes that the Browns have given up just one touchdown to opposing running backs in their past six games, which makes plugging him more of a risk.
Having said that, there are few running backs that offer the upside in production that Forte does—especially in point-per-reception leagues, since he's amassed 65 receptions in 2013 to go with 1,073 yards rushing.
The Bears can control time of possession with Forte and force Cleveland QB Jason Campbell to take to the air often, since no one in the Browns backfield has stepped up to provide a viable complement to their inconsistent offense.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune alludes to a key statistic with regard to what happens late in games for Forte's opponent:
Look for Cleveland's underrated defense to be worn down by the end, and for Forte and his fantasy owners to reap the benefits of that.
Start/Sit Verdict: Start
Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins
The focus of Washington's game plan should be playing to its strength—running the rock with second-year star Alfred Morris. He is quietly putting forth a strong individual campaign amid a lost season for the defending NFC East champions.
Since the Atlanta Falcons yield 133.6 rushing yards per contest, it only makes sense to stick with Morris, especially since Kirk Cousins is being inserted as the starting quarterback:
Cousins has played well in his limited opportunities behind Robert Griffin III, but there's no guarantee Pierre Garcon will be able to get on the same page with a new QB under center.
It's not as though the Falcons are the most difficult defense Garcon could have drawn, as their secondary is suspect along with their defense on the ground.
Garcon has received double-digit targets in all but two games this year, but he is coming off of a season-low 37 yards in last week's loss to Kansas City. Be wary of him, given the dire state of Washington's team and the lack of reps with Cousins.
Start/Sit Verdict: Sit
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