The Hot List: Starts and Sits for the Fantasy Football Playoffs
For some of you, the second round of the playoffs kicked off on Thursday night. For others, your run to a fantasy championship begins this weekend.
Let's get after it.
GET ‘EM IN YOUR LINEUP
Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals: After running back Tim Hightower put the ball on the ground yet again—this time against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14—Wells stepped in and put up some solid numbers, rushing for 79 yards on 15 carries (5.3 YPC) and one touchdown. Week 15 is an excellent matchup for the rookie out of Ohio State as the Detroit Lions are giving up an average of 24.4 fantasy points per week to opposing running backs (28th).
Another outstanding option from Arizona in Week 15 is quarterback Kurt Warner, who plays out of his mind coming off a loss. Following three Arizona defeats this season, Warner has come back the next week to throw a total of nine touchdowns with zero interceptions while leading the Cardinals to a 3-0 record.
Antonio Bryant, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Consider Bryant a solid WR2/WR3 option in Week 15. Over his past three games, the Bucs’ pass catcher has hauled in 10 receptions for 229 yards and one touchdown. He was locked down by Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis last Sunday (two receptions for 22 yards) but faces a much easier challenge in the Seahawks this Sunday. Seattle is giving up an average of 26.4 fantasy points per week to opposing wide receivers, which ranks 31st in the NFL.
From the same game, you should also start Seahawks wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The former Cincinnati Bengal has had a somewhat slow year (65-721-3) but should produce some respectable numbers for two reasons—first, wide receiver Nate Burleson is likely out with a high ankle sprain, one that could force him to the sidelines for the remainder of the season. Second, Tampa Bay ranks 28th in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to opposing wideouts (22.4 pts/gm).
Fred Davis, TE, Washington Redskins: Davis has been a beast over the past few weeks, as the second-year tight end out of USC has caught 12 passes for 146 yards and four touchdowns in his past three games. The Redskins host the New York Giants on Monday night, which is excellent news for Davis owners, as no defense in the NFL is giving up more fantasy points per week to opposing tight ends than the Giants (10.6 pts/gm).
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos: The rookie out of Georgia has become an excellent flex option during the second half of the season, averaging 11.8 fantasy points per week over his past five games. In addition, he’s slowly becoming a more integral part of the Broncos’ offense. Moreno is averaging 19.8 touches over his last five contests and has carried the ball 44 times in his last two games, his highest two-game total of the season. He looks even more appealing in Week 15 once you find out that his opponent—the Raiders—rank 30th in points allowed to opposing running backs (25.5 pts./gm).
This week’s schedule winner is…New England Patriots' running back Laurence Maroney, who gets a crack at the NFL’s worst run defense this Sunday in the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have been a dream for opposing fantasy running backs this season as they rank 32nd in run defense (170.0 yds/gm), 30th in rushing touchdowns allowed (17), and 32nd in fantasy points given up per week (27.6).
Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans: If you’re in desperate need of some help at the quarterback position in Week 15, look no further than Vince Young. In his last five games, Young is averaging 217.2 passing yards per game with six touchdowns and only two interceptions. In addition, the mobile signal-caller has rushed for 170 yards during that same five game span. The best part? Young and the Titans host the Miami Dolphins this weekend and a defense that’s giving up an average of 19.5 fantasy points per week to opposing quarterbacks, good for 28th in the NFL.
Three fantasy defenses to start…
1. Houston Texans (at St. Louis)
2. Arizona Cardinals (at Detroit)
3. New England Patriots (at Buffalo)
Note: Why are these three defenses good Week 15 options? Because their respective opponents rank 32nd, 31st and 30th in points allowed to opposing defenses in 2009. Enjoy.
KEEP ‘EM ON YOUR BENCH
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers’ recent troubles have not been lost on Mendenhall, who has scored just two total touchdowns and posted two 100-plus yard rushing efforts in his last seven games. Expect his fantasy woes to continue Sunday when the Packers come to the Steel City. Green Bay is giving up an average of just 13.3 fantasy points per week to opposing running backs, which ranks third in the NFL.
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons: White ranks third in the league in targets (133), but even the excessive number of passes thrown his way each week won’t be enough to combat the fact that he’s going up against the best lock-down cornerback in the league in Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets. Revis has shut down Randy Moss (twice), Terrell Owens (twice), Steve Smith, Andre Johnson and Marques Colston, just to name a few. Expect Week 15 to be slim pickings for White.
As reliable as he’s been, you should also consider sitting Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. The Jets are giving up an average of just 4.7 fantasy points per week to opposing tight ends, which ranks second in the league.
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears: Forte is becoming a regular in the sit column and for good reason. Projected by many experts (including us) as a first-round draft pick last August, Forte is currently ranked 17th in fantasy points among NFL rushers. He’s scored just one rushing touchdown in his past six games, is averaging 3.4 yards per carry, and has topped 100 yards rushing in a game just once this year. To make matters worse, Forte and the Bears hit the road this weekend to face the Baltimore Ravens, who are allowing an average of 14.9 fantasy points per week to opposing running backs, ranking them fourth in the NFL.
Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota Vikings: It’s been an outstanding year for the ageless wonder, as Favre has managed to climb into the top six in scoring among fantasy quarterbacks. But be careful how much faith you’re willing to put into the 40-year old signal caller this Sunday as the Vikings head to Carolina to take on a Panthers defense that has limited opposing quarterbacks to an average of only 14.3 fantasy points per week, fourth best in the NFL. Cornerbacks Richard Marshall and Chris Gamble have done an excellent job slowing down opposing wide receivers. Be advised.
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: He’s found the end zone in each of the last two weeks, but Ochocinco has caught for more than 67 yards only one time in his last six games. The motivating factor will be the death of teammate and fellow wide receiver Chris Henry, who fell from the back of a moving pickup truck. But don’t let emotion get in the way of a fantasy championship. The Chargers have won their last 16 games in the month of December and are allowing an average of 18.4 fantasy points per week to opposing wide receivers, good for ninth in the NFL.
Kevin Boss, TE, New York Giants: Boss has been a situational start this season, as owners should get him in the lineup when he’s facing a favorable matchup and yank him when the stats suggest it. Week 15 is one of those games when Boss is better left on the bench. The Giants tight end runs into a Washington defense Monday night that has limited opposing tight ends to an average of 5.1 fantasy points per week, which ranks fifth in the league. There are better options out there.
Three defenses to sit…
1. Cincinnati Bengals (at San Diego)
2. Dallas Cowboys (at New Orleans)
3. Miami Dolphins (at Tennessee)
Note: These three units are going up against offenses that are allowing an average of fewer than 7.0 fantasy points per week to their opponents. Keep them all on the bench. The opposition speaks for itself.
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