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Inside the Matchup
Week 15
12/15/16; Updated: 12/16/16

By: Steve Schwarz | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | Jake Gordon

LAR @ SEA | TEN @ KC | NO @ ARI | NE @ DEN




- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Rams @ Seahawks - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Head coach Jeff Fisher is gone, but don’t expect some sort of monumental turnaround for the woeful Rams in the final three weeks of the season, especially as the head on the road, in a short week, against one of the league’s best secondaries on Thursday night. Sure, the Seahawks allowed three touchdown passes this past week, but that was only their second time doing so this season and it came on the road against Aaron Rodgers. The only other time they’ve allowed three touchdown passes against them was back in Week 6 against Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Some might point to the Rams’ surprising Week 2 victory over the Seahawks as a reason to have hope for the Los Angeles passing game, but don’t forget that rookie QB Jared Goff was sitting on the sidelines in that game and the team, despite winning, scored zero touchdowns. The only player who should even be considered for fantasy purposes in this passing game is wide receiver Kenny Britt who is quietly creeping up on 1,000 yards for the season. Still, Britt is unlikely to have a huge game against the Legion of Boom, so do your best to find an alternative option if at all possible.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: Todd Gurley has not broken the 100-yard rushing mark in a single game this season. In fact, he has only broken the 80-yard mark once and that came all the way back in Week 3. Sure, he’s getting almost all of the touches out of the Los Angeles backfield, but with the offense performing as poorly as any in the league, there just aren’t enough opportunities for Gurley to produce RB1 numbers, especially in a matchup like the one he’ll face on the road against the Seahawks in Week 15. Seattle has conceded the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season and they haven’t allowed a running back to score a touchdown as a runner or receiver since Week 10. If you’re looking for a player to get you high single digit production or low double-digit production at best, Gurley is your guy. But if you need more than that, find another option who has a bit more upside.

Value Meter:
RB2: Todd Gurley (low-end)
Flex: Kenny Britt
Bench: Jared Goff, Tavon Austin, Brian Quick, Lance Kendricks

Passing Game Thoughts: Give all the excuses you want about lack of a running game, protection issues or wide receiver drops, but the reality is that Russell Wilson is not producing quality fantasy numbers right now and that has to be a huge concern as we dive deeper into the fantasy playoffs. Wilson has now failed to throw for multiple touchdowns in a game in four straight contests while throwing an uncharacteristic eight interceptions over that span. We can chalk up Week 14’s horrendous performance against the Packers to weather and a number of other problems, but it’s now become evident that Wilson is not the rock solid, every week fantasy starter that most of us believed he was heading into the season. In Week 15, Wilson will be up against a Rams defense that locked up he and the Seahawks back in Week 2, holding them to just a field goal offensively. The Rams passing defense numbers have looked bad recently, but they’ve been up against some ridiculously difficult competition including Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. With the Seattle offense struggling as much as it is, Wilson is a risky play even at home this week. Tight end Jimmy Graham had his second-worst game of the season this past week, but few tight ends have better upside than he does, so he should remain in lineups despite what on paper appears to be a tough matchup. Despite Wilson’s up and down numbers, Doug Baldwin has remained a solid PPR option as he has caught four or more passes in all but one game this season. He might not be having the monster season that he did in 2015, but he’s still a trustworthy high-end WR2 with WR1 upside.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: Averaging over 5.0 yards per carry since his return in Week 11, Thomas Rawls continues to play an important role in the Seattle offense as the team’s primary ball carrier. With the passing game struggling as much as it has been, look for Seattle to rely on him even more heavily this week, perhaps allowing him to approach 20 touches for the first time this season, especially if the game is in Seattle’s control as many expect that it will be. The Rams have been getting absolutely gashed on the ground as of late, having given up an average of over 123 rushing yards per game over their past five contests. One thing to keep an eye on in this game is the usage of rookie running back Alex Collins, who took over as Seattle’s backup running back this past week and carried the ball seven times. Look for Rawls to continue to get the majority of the work, but Collins could touch the ball between five and 10 times, including the possibility of a goal line vulture. Still, Rawls has to be considered a low-end RB1 this week with high-end RB1 upside against a Rams team that has nothing to play for and just fired their head coach.

Value Meter:
QB1: Russell Wilson (high risk)
RB1: Thomas Rawls
WR2: Doug Baldwin (high-end)
TE1: Jimmy Graham
Bench: Alex Collins, Tyler Lockett, Jermaine Kearse

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Rams 13 ^ Top

Titans @ Chiefs - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was among the monumentally awful quarterback performances in Week 14, but at least his struggles were understandable as he was up against the league’s most dominant pass defense, the Broncos. It might be hard to look beyond that horrible fantasy day, but prior to his struggles against the Broncos, Mariota had passed for at least 225 yards and two touchdowns in seven straight games while only throwing three interceptions over that stretch. Sure, his receiving options aren’t spectacular, but Mariota simply has been getting the job done all year as a fantasy option. This week he’ll be against a Chiefs defense that played well this past week against, but had previously given up an average of over 300 yards passing over their prior five games. Mariota has only thrown for 300 yards once this season, but he’s a good bet to get to 250 yards with a good possibility of a couple of scores in his game. Kansas City has quietly given up the most receiving yards to opposing wide receivers in the league this season, which should bode well for Rishard Matthews who has secured his place atop the Tennessee depth chart. Kendall Wright should have been a lock to be the WR2 in this offense but off-field issues have led to him falling out of favor with the coaching staff and he may have to battle for snaps against Tajae Sharpe and Harry Douglas, thus making all three receivers tough to trust even in what appears to be a good matchup. Tight end Delanie Walker is a must-start given his high share of the passing volume in Tennessee, but it’s worth noting that Kansas City has been excellent against opposing tight ends this season, so temper your expectations.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: The bounceback season for DeMarco Murray should continue this week as he matches up against a Kansas City defense that has given up over 100 rushing yards to running backs in three straight contests. The Chiefs have only given up six total rushing touchdowns to the position on the season, though, and with Derrick Henry starting to get more carries down the stretch, there is some concern that Murray might have a tough time getting into the end zone. Still, Murray has touched the ball at least 18 times in every game this season, so the usage alone should make Murray a solid RB1 once again. If you’re truly desperate, Henry does have the possibility of stealing a goal line carry or two and gameflow could cause the Titans to run the ball 30-plus times again, which would almost certainly mean that he touches the ball 10 or more times.

Value Meter:
QB1: Marcus Mariota
RB1: DeMarco Murray
WR2: Rishard Matthews
Flex: Derrick Henry
Bench: Kendall Wright, Tajae Sharpe, Harry Douglas

Passing Game Thoughts: The explosive playmaking ability of wide receiver / return man Tyreek Hill has been the topic of much fantasy discussion this week as he and the Chiefs host the Titans and their 32nd-ranked fantasy defense against opposing wide receivers. Hill is still a very raw talent who needs to work on consistency, but the upside is very much there in this matchup. The Titans have given up an absurd 49 receptions to opposing wide receivers over the past two weeks and while Alex Smith and the Chiefs will almost certainly come nowhere near approaching those numbers, there’s plenty of reason to think that Smith could break his streak of six straight starts without throwing for multiple touchdowns. Tight end Travis Kelce is the other exciting option in this passing game. Kelce, who is currently the top-scoring tight end in most formats so far this season, has now gone over 100 receiving yards in four straight contests. The Titans have only given up two 100-yard games to opposing tight ends this season, but they haven’t been tested by any of the truly elite tight ends either. Don’t bet on another 100-yard day, but Kelce should be in line for a nice day against the Titans.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: Few running backs have been more disappointing over the past few weeks than Kansas City’s Spencer Ware. The Chiefs have gone 4-1 in their past five contests, but Ware didn’t go over 70 rushing yards in any of those games and he scored just one touchdown over that stretch. His usage in the passing game has also been rather weak, leading to some truly lackluster fantasy numbers. If the appealing fantasy matchups that he’s had recently didn’t yield great results, it’d be surprising to see some huge shift toward big fantasy numbers this week as Ware matches up against the Titans who have given up the fewest rushing yards in the AFC this season.

Value Meter:
RB2: Spencer Ware
WR2: Tyreek Hill
TE1: Travis Kelce
Bench: Alex Smith, Charcandrick West, Jeremy Maclin, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson

Prediction: Chiefs 23, Titans 20 ^ Top

Saints @ Cardinals - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Drew Brees has been one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks throughout his time in New Orleans, but it’s safe to say that his past two weeks are among the worst stretches he has had since joining the Saints. Brees holds records for the NFL’s longest games with a touchdown pass streak, but he has now failed to throw a single touchdown pass in back-to-back weeks while tossing an uncharacteristic six interceptions. Part of his struggles certainly have to do with the health of rookie wide receiver Michael Thomas who has arguably been the team’s best receiver this season. Thomas missed Week 14 and is currently questionable to play in Week 15 against the Cardinals. Brees and the Saints will need him as they head on the road to face one of the league’s best secondaries in Arizona. The Cardinals have only allowed three multiple-touchdown passing performances and with Brees struggling as much as he has been, there’s a real chance that they do it again, especially if Thomas sits. Brandin Cooks has failed to go over 100 yards in any game since Week 6 and while he continues to produce a handful of catches most weeks, his upside simply hasn’t been there as he has also been held out of the end zone in five of his past six games. One player who needs to be called out specifically for the terrible matchup he has this week is tight end Coby Fleener. Fleener has been up and down throughout the year, as most tight ends are, but this looks like a definite “down” week as he’ll be up against an Arizona defense that has given up just one touchdown on the season to opposing tight ends and hasn’t allowed more than 60 yards to the position in any game.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: The Saints have always been a pass-first offense under Sean Payton, but the health problems and general lack of performance from Mark Ingram has forced their hand even more as of late. Ingram has played in every game this season, but he’s seen fewer than 10 carries in five of his 13 contests. That type of inconsistency makes him a wildly unpredictable fantasy producer even in what would be considered good matchups. Playing against an Arizona defense that has given up the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs, and with Tim Hightower splitting carries with him almost evenly, Ingram does not look like a great fantasy option this weekend. Pay close attention to the inactives on Sunday as Ingram is not certain to play. If he is out, Hightower could move up to be a decent RB2 option given the lack of other options that the Saints have. If both play, however, their shared workload means that they are not much more than Flex options.

Value Meter:
QB1: Drew Brees (low-end)
WR2: Brandin Cooks
Flex: Mark Ingram, Tim Hightower, Michael Thomas, Willie Snead (if Thomas is inactive)
Bench: Coby Fleener

Passing Game Thoughts: The surprise release of veteran wide receiver Michael Floyd does hurt the Arizona passing game overall, but the positive is that it provides a lot more clarity for fantasy owners. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will remain the team’s top option, but J.J. Nelson – the team’s most explosive playmaker this season at the wide receiver position – should now be in line to play almost every snap. Nelson has been limited in practice throughout the week due to a knee injury, but he is expected to play and that should make him a viable fantasy option as he battles against the Saints middle-of-the-road pass defense. Fitzgerald was held to a season-low three receptions for 12 yards this past week, but with Floyd out of the lineup and other players nicked up, look for him to see a hefty share of targets in this contest, which should give him a nice floor with a mid-level WR1 upside. Unfortunately, quarterback Carson Palmer continues to struggle with consistency and while this matchup is one that he would’ve exploited with ease in the past, it’s become difficult to trust him as anything more than a mid-level QB2 in two-QB formats.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: Consistency is key in fantasy football and there simply hasn’t been a more consistent player in all of fantasy football this season than Arizona’s David Johnson. The second-year tailback is putting up great numbers as a runner including being third in rushing yardage and fourth in rushing touchdowns, but his 69 receptions on the year lead all running backs and make him a powerhouse fantasy performer in PPR formats. Simply put, there isn’t a matchup that would keep Johnson outside of an RB1 ranking, but playing against a low-level run defense like the Saints makes him perhaps the top play in fantasy football this week. The Saints have given up 17 touchdowns and well over 1,700 total yards to opposing running backs this season –– numbers which should give David Johnson owners plenty to be excited about in the fantasy playoffs.

Value Meter:
QB2: Carson Palmer
RB1: David Johnson
WR1: Larry Fitzgerald
Flex: J.J. Nelson
Bench: John Brown, Jermaine Gresham

Prediction: Cardinals 27, Saints 24 ^ Top

Patriots @ Broncos - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: With 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions on the season, Tom Brady is having yet another MVP-caliber season – and this time he’s doing it without superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski. Brady has made use of his most consistent target, Julian Edelman, who has seen at least 10 targets in four straight contests, but he’s also spreading the ball around the field to a plethora of new talent. In fact, the biggest splash in the fantasy community this week came when the Cardinals unexpectedly released wide receiver Michael Floyd following a DUI charge earlier in the week. This led the way for the Patriots to sign Floyd, further bolstering their wide receiver group. While Floyd is a talented player, he’s unlikely to see significant playing time this week if he plays at all, so don’t trust him for fantasy purposes right now. Instead, look for Malcolm Mitchell to continue to play his role as the de-facto “WR1” with Chris Hogan primarily playing the role as a big play threat with tight end Martellus Bennett fits in as a low-end TE1 with high-end TE1 upside. Unfortunately, this dynamic passing game has the toughest matchup in fantasy this week as they play against a Denver secondary that has made even the best quarterbacks look weak at times. Brady is still a QB1 simply due to other top QB’s also having tough matchups, but make no mistake about it – this is as difficult of a matchup as he’ll face all season.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: While the Broncos are the league’s best pass defense, the same cannot be said about their run defense. In fact, if they weren’t wearing the same jerseys, you might not even think this was the same defense at all. Denver has allowed a shocking 1,375 rushing yards this season – third only behind the lowly 49ers and Browns. It hasn’t all come in one game, either. The Broncos have conceded 100-plus yard rushing days to running backs in seven contests so far this season and it would’ve been eight if the Chargers’ backs had mustered just one more yard on the ground. With LeGarrette Blount having surpassed career highs in attempts, yards and touchdowns already this season, this has all the makings of another heavy workload day for the bruising tailback. Dion Lewis and James White continue to share the passing down duties which has made both players difficult to rely on even in PPR formats and that remains true in this game.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady
RB1: LeGarrette Blount
WR2: Julian Edelman
TE1: Martellus Bennett
Flex: Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan
Bench: James White, Dion Lewis, Michael Floyd, Danny Amendola

Passing Game Thoughts: Either we drastically underrated Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian’s fantasy potential or he’s having one of the luckiest streaks in the league. Either way, he’s producing numbers that have made him a viable QB1 in four straight starts. Siemian has surprisingly thrown for over 700 total yards in his past two starts, adding four touchdowns with no interceptions. This week, he’ll get a New England defense that ranks in the bottom half of the league against opposing quarterbacks on the season and has given up multiple passing touchdowns in four of their past five contests, including a 324-yard, two touchdown game to Joe Flacco this past week. What’s best about Siemian, from a fantasy standpoint, is that he continues to practically exclusively target his top two receivers, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who caught 10 and 11 passes respectively this past week. One thing to note in this matchup is that the Broncos and Patriots played twice in 2015 and the Patriots opted to shadow Sanders with their top corner, Malcolm Butler, while heavily shading other coverages toward Thomas. Sanders was able to produce decent numbers despite seeing Butler, but Thomas was held to just three total catches in those two contests against the Patriots. Still, both receivers are seeing enough targets that they have to be considered WR2’s even in this difficult matchup.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: Part of the reason that the Broncos have leaned so heavily on Trevor Siemian and the passing game in recent weeks is that their running game has been nothing short of awful as of late. With the signing of Justin Forsett, Devontae Booker appears to have finally fallen out of favor with the Denver coaching staff. This came despite the fact that Forsett fumbled on his first carry as a Bronco. Forsett had his best season as a pro as a member of the Ravens under offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak who now coaches the Broncos, so this shouldn’t be an entirely unexpected shift, but the speed in which it happened was a bit surprising. Forsett was still fairly ineffective with his touches, but he did out-touch Booker by a total of nine to five. Booker will still likely be a part of the offense, but Forsett is the player to own right now if you’re hoping for production out of the Denver backfield as they face New England here in Week 15. The Patriots have been excellent against opposing running backs as of late, however, so trusting anyone to provide fantasy-worthy numbers out of this backfield might lead to disappointment. New England hasn’t given up 100 rushing yards to an opposing team in a game since Week 6 and they have allowed just two total rushing touchdowns over their past 11 games combined.

Value Meter:
QB2: Trevor Siemian
WR2: Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas
Flex: Justin Forsett
Bench: Devontae Booker, A.J. Derby

Prediction: Patriots 24, Broncos 17 ^ Top

Raiders @ Chargers - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: After a huge letdown game against the Chiefs this past week, fantasy owners might be hesitant to start Derek Carr in another divisional game on the road. It’s worth noting, though, that Carr has struggled to get the ball down the field against the Chiefs while he hasn’t had nearly as difficult of a time doing so against the Chargers throughout his young career. Carr averages over 250 passing yards per game and has a 10-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio throughout his career against San Diego – and he’s playing better this season than he ever has in the past. Earlier this season he threw for 317 yards and a pair of touchdowns with one interception against the Chargers. Both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree got into the end zone in that contest with Cooper having one of his biggest days of the season, catching six passes for 138 yards and that aforementioned score. Casey Heyward has been having a nice season for the Chargers, but most of the rest of the secondary has struggled since the injury to Jason Verrett. Look for Carr and his talented duo of receivers to put up nice fantasy numbers once again.

SD FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
SD FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
SD FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
SD FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: He may not have the sexy name that some others do, but few backs have been performing as well as Oakland’s Latavius Murray as of late. Murray should now enter the conversation as a weekly RB1 practically no matter the matchup, as he was able to take 22 carries for 103 yards and a touchdown on the road against the Chiefs this past week despite the Raiders trailing most of the game. Murray should be in line for another heavy workload this week as he faces a San Diego defense that ranks 24th against opposing running backs this season and has given up a total of 17 touchdowns to the position on the season – tied for second most in the league. San Diego is no longer in real contention for a playoff spot so there’s a real chance that Oakland could roll all over them, leading to a big day from Murray and the running game.

Value Meter:
QB1: Derek Carr
RB1: Latavius Murray
WR1: Amari Cooper
WR2: Michael Crabtree (high-end)
Bench: Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Seth Roberts, Clive Walford

Passing Game Thoughts: While it’s been partially masked by decent yardage and touchdown numbers, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is simply not playing well as of late. He’s thrown a shocking 13 interceptions over his past six games, adding two fumbles this past week as well in what, at least on paper, appeared to be a good matchup for he and the Chargers passing game. Wide receiver Dontrelle Inman has been able to produce fairly consistently as of late despite Rivers’ struggles, having caught a touchdown pass in three straight contests while fellow wide receiver Tyrell Williams continues to flash big play ability but also has been shut down in quite a few games. Antonio Gates continues to see more targets come his way than rookie Hunter Henry, but with Henry scoring three times over his past four games, neither player is doing enough to really be trusted as a TE1. Still, both will likely find their way into some fantasy lineups given the tremendous lack of depth at the position this season and both players have shown to be favorites of Rivers’ near the goal line.

OAK FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
OAK FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
OAK FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
OAK FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: Fantasy owners of Melvin Gordon groaned in agony this past week as their breakout superstar running back went down early in the game, costing many owners a chance at their fantasy championship. The injury appeared to be very serious as Gordon was taken off on a cart, but it turns out that there is still an outside possibility that he plays this weekend. In the likely scenario that he sits, however, the team will likely again turn to backup Kenneth Farrow who actually performed fairly well filling in for Gordon this past week. Farrow ran the ball 16 times for 55 yards, but more importantly was an active member of the passing game, catching six passes for an additional 23 yards. He did, however, miss a block which led to a huge hit on Rivers – something which could force the Chargers’ hand in giving veteran Ronnie Hillman some additional playing time this week. Either way, Farrow is an interesting option this week against an Oakland defense that has been terrible against the run this season. The Raiders have given up an average of 114 yards on the ground and a total of six rushing touchdowns over their past four games. While Farrow isn’t a superstar talent by any means, the situation dictates that he is a viable RB2, especially in PPR formats, as long as Gordon doesn’t play.

Value Meter:
QB1: Philip Rivers (low-end)
RB2: Kenneth Farrow
WR2: Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman
TE1: Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry (low-end)
Bench: Melvin Gordon, Ronnie Hillman

Prediction: Raiders 27, Chargers 23 ^ Top

Dolphins @ Jets - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s not often you are tasked with discussing a potential playoff team’s passing game in week 15 and have to pretty much ignore the preceding 14 weeks. But that’s the situation we find ourselves in with the Dolphins as Ryan Tannehill sprained his ACL in last week’s win against Arizona. Matt Moore will make his first start since 2011, a season where he had a respectable 16 touchdowns against nine interceptions in thirteen games. Moore is currently in his tenth season and has never truly been asked to start on purpose. The thing is – I’m not so sure this is all that bad. I am a firm believer than Tannehill is terrible. Moore is no savior, but he’s competent and one of the better backups in the league. Jarvis Landry is coming off back to back quality performances, including his first 100-yard receiving game since Week 3 and while I don’t view Moore as much of a downgrade, if at all, the Jets are an absolute mess and apparently can be gashed on the ground now. Adam Gase is undoubtedly going to dial up a heavy dose of Jay Ajayi, leaving as little for the passing game to do as possible. If you’ve made it this far with Dolphins receivers, congrats, but you should find better options this week.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: Remember that three game stretch where Jay Ajayi was the greatest running back in NFL history? It seems so long ago. Probably because it was. Ajayi posted back to back 200-yard rushing games and then went over 100 on the third, but hasn’t topped 79 yards since. It’s been five weeks and counting. With that being said, the volume is going to be there as he’s touched the ball at least 18 times in every game since Week 6 and the Jets just let Carlos Hyde run for 193 yards just 17 carries. The Jets once great run defense is essentially getting “little big horn’ed” by opponents as it is falling apart due to everything else collapsing around it. With the Jets offense in absolute shambles and the Dolphins needing this game for the playoff push, Ajayi looks like a player with both a high floor and a high ceiling for your fantasy semi-final.

Value Meter:
RB2: Jay Ajayi (high end)
Flex: Jarvis Landry
Bench: DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Matt Moore

Passing Game Thoughts: Bryce Petty deserves to start for the remainder of the season. The Jets have nothing to lose…well…except football games, but that’s a good thing that they managed to screw up last week anyway. Petty threw for 257 yards, completing 65.7 percent of his passes, but failed to throw a touchdown and threw one interception. It wasn’t a horrendous performance, but given the opponent, you expect better from a quarterback. The Dolphins were all over Carson Palmer last week as their front four consistently penetrated the backfield. That does not bode well for Petty. But you’re more concerned about Petty’s receivers. For the second week in a row, Petty only had eyes for Robby Anderson. The second team buddies seem to have a rapport, even it involves a lot of haphazard heaves in Anderson’s general direction. Meanwhile, why haven’t you dropped Brandon Marshall yet? Seriously guys. I told you to do it weeks ago! His 6-67-1 game against the Patriots was a fluke. It would be mighty impressive if you drafted Marshall in the first or second round and made it to your fantasy semi-final. It’s even more impressive if you did so starting Marshall any time within the past two months. The Dolphins have allowed 23 passing touchdowns this season, but you are not trusting any Jets this week. If you have to roll out someone, it’s Anderson.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: Well at least someone on the Jets came to play. I’m looking at you, Bilal Powell. With the backfield all to himself following Matt Forte’s early exit with a knee injury, Powell touched the ball a whopping 34 times and was the catalyst behind the Jets’ second half comeback win against the 49ers. Powell rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries and added 34 yards through the air by catching all five of his targets. With Forte reporting “cracking and popping” in his knee and the Jets’ season well over, it’s highly unlikely we see Forte again this season, despite his desire to play through his torn meniscus. It just doesn’t make sense. Hopefully we haven’t see the last of Forte as it would be an unfitting ending to a great career for a guy who has hall of fame numbers but probably won’t get in. I hope we see Forte again, but it won’t be this year. The Dolphins are still terrible against the run, allowing 4.8 yards per carry, good for second worst in the league. The Jets will give Powell all he can handle these last three weeks and he is looking like a potential championship winning player. Roll him out with confidence.

Value Meter:
RB2: Bilal Powell (mid-range)
Flex: Robby Anderson
Bench: Brandon Marshall, Quincy Enunwa, Bryce Petty

Prediction: Dolphins 20, Jets 16 ^ Top

Browns @ Bills - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Oh Cleveland. In their infinite wisdom, the Browns decide the time to turn back to Robert Griffin is during a snowstorm. It predictably went horrible. Griffin completed just 12 of 28 passes for 104 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. He did rush for a score on one of his seven carries. Griffin peppered Corey Coleman with targets (11), but only connected three times. He managed to make Terrelle Pryor invisible (1-3). Someone named Randall Telfer had a better game than Pryor. The Bills defense is not as good as it once was and this is now a team playing for nothing, but the Browns make opposing defenses good. I don’t know how you can trust Pryor this week against a team that’s only allowed 15 passing touchdowns on the season.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: Despite only handling ten carries, Isaiah Crowell had his best game since Week 4 with 113 yards. It’s hard to know if this is a fluke or not, but I doubt many of you have made it this far starting Crowell. It’s probably enticing to insert him into your lineup after seeing Le’Veon Bell eviscerate the Bills last week, but I would exercise caution on starting any Browns. They are going to struggle to score, as always. The Bills have surrendered 18 rushing scores on the season so perhaps Crowell can cross the plane, but you know what you are getting into if you trust a Brown.

Value Meter:
RB2: Isaiah Crowell (low end)
Flex: Terrelle Pryor
Bench: Corey Coleman, Robert Griffin, Duke Johnson (he barely plays now)

Passing Game Thoughts: Am I missing something? Tyrod Taylor is getting blasted by reports every week and while he’s no franchise savior, why are we treating him like he’s Brock Osweiler? Taylor has 19 scores on the season against 8 turnovers. This is not bad at all. Last week was his worst game as a runner with only two yards, but we can attribute that to the weather. Taylor threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns. He was fine if you started him, especially on a week where QB play was exceptionally poor. Sammy Watkins scored his first touchdown of the season and if the Bills don’t shut him down, he could be a difference maker for you these next two weeks. The Browns are horrendous against the pass. They’ve allowed a league high thirty touchdown passes. There are admittedly concerns about motivation, but I am trusting Tyrod Taylor in a semi final matchup and so can you.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: The only thing that can stop Tyrod Taylor from having a strong fantasy day this week is LeSean McCoy stealing all the touchdowns. The Browns just let Jeremy Hill rush for 111 yards. They are allowing 146.2 rushing yards per game and have allowed 14 rushing touchdowns. The situation could hardly be better for McCoy. Coming off an ugly game where he rushed for only 27 yards, but salvaged his day with a touchdown as well as 6-81 through the air, Shady is poised to do what he’s done all season – carry his fantasy owners to the promised land. The Browns are so bad that Mike Gillislee could sneak his way into flex value as well, but make no mistake – this is McCoy’s backfield and he will get first and second bite.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tyrod Taylor (trust him this week)
RB1: LeSean McCoy (high end)
WR2: Sammy Watkins (Iím a believer)
Bench: Robert Woods, Mike Gillislee, Charles Clay

Prediction: Bills 30, Browns 10 ^ Top

Lions @ Giants - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: The first thing I’m going to do is swallow my pride and give credit where credit is due: the Giants defense is legit. Janoris Jenkins has reemerged as a shut down corner, but that actually may not matter against the Lions as who exactly does he need to shut down? I’d argue the Lions best receiver has been Anquan Boldin. He’s certainly been the most sure handed and is the guy Matt Stafford trusts most when he needs a big catch. Golden Tate is still too inconsistent. Marvin Jones is just a guy. And Eric Ebron is ::insert average tight end here::. Adding injury to insult, Stafford did some ugly things to his right middle finger. While he is at no risk of missing this game, I find it hard to believe this won’t affect his play at all. Combine that with a Giants defense that has a nice and even 1:1:1 touchdowns allowed:interceptions forced:games played ratio and it may behoove fantasy owners to look elsewhere at QB this week.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: Dwayne Washington is the best running back on the Lions. He ran well last week and had his best game as a pro with 64 yards on 16 carries. He and Zach Zenner formed a nice one-two punch. Washington could be useful again this week if Theo Riddick sits. The problem is the Lions don’t like to tell us things about player injury. Riddick was a surprise inactive last week so regardless of his practice status this week, it’s going to be impossible to know for sure if he will suit up. If Riddick is out, I like Washington. If Riddick plays, I don’t really like anyone. Jim Caldwell had been pushing Washington more as of late even when Riddick was playing. So what we’ll have is a situation where Washington is on the field enough to sap Riddick’s value, but not enough to have standalone value. Riddick has not practiced as of Thursday and Zenner is limited while going through the concussion protocol. I really only care about Riddick’s status, but Zenner missing would make Washington’s outlook even brighter.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matthew Stafford (the QB situation in the NFL is dire and you may not have another option, but the ceiling is low here)
RB2: Dwayne Washington (if Riddick sits)
TE1: Eric Ebron
Flex: Golden Tate
Bench: Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin, Dwayne Washington (if Riddick plays), Theo Riddick (regardless of whether he plays), Zach Zenner

Passing Game Thoughts: Ben McAdoo is so clever running all those designed plays for Jerrell Adams and Will Tye! The Giants even ran a designed screen for Sterling Shepard. Do you know how many “let’s get the ball in the hands of our playmaker quickly” type plays they ran for Odell Beckham? You guessed it – zero. Credit again to the Giants defense for winning this game in spite of their offense’s continued aversion to scoring points. Eli Manning had another dreadful performance. He lost two fumbles, threw a pick and had three more picks dropped. He did throw a 61-yard touchdown because apparently when you throw the ball to your best player, occasionally he makes magic happen. Somehow, the Giants have found themselves on the cusp of greatness. If they had an offensive coordinator with a modicum of a clue about how to run an offense, things could be much different. With that being said, Beckham remains the only relevant member of this passing attack and the Lions have allowed 23 passing touchdowns this season. It’s probably best if you just look at the box score to see what Beckham did rather than watch the Giants ignore him for bunches at a time, but he will get his numbers in the end. It’s a testament to his talent that he is able to do what he’s doing while not being treated the way Antonio Brown or Julio Jones get treated by their offenses.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: Well. I got my wish. Shane Vereen came back in time to be relevant…and then promptly left on his first touch with a concussion. It speaks to the decrepit state of the Giants running game that I opened this section discussing Shane Vereen. Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings each received exactly 15 carries and each totaled exactly 45 yards. That’s incredible. Continue to ignore Giants running backs as usual.

Value Meter:
WR1: Odell Beckham Jr. (high end)
Bench: All other Giants

Prediction: Giants 23, Lions 19 ^ Top

Bucs @ Cowboys - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Bucs have been the Mike Evans show for the majority of this season. But recently, Evans has tailed off a bit. He has a total of seven receptions for just 80 yards in his last two games combined and both of those were in very favorable matchups. The Cowboys present another favorable matchup, having allowed 21 passing touchdowns on the season, but the problem when facing the Cowboys remains – time of possession. The Cowboys continue to limit opponents’ time with the ball, which naturally decreases volume of production. Jameis Winston is not an option as he won’t have the volume needed to perform. Winston somehow only threw for 184 yards against the Saints last week. On the season, Winston has scored 24 times, but also turned it over 16 times. Cameron Brate has been quite useful over the last three weeks and will remain so in Dallas. He’s had at least four catches or a touchdown in six of his last seven games.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: Remember when Dirk Koetter said that Jacquizz Rodgers would be more involved? Yeah about that. Quizz saw a whopping two carries last week while Doug Martin handled 23. Martin looks fine and will continue to be the feature back. Charles Sims returned from IR last week, but only saw four carries. He was actually being used more like a wide receiver and could hold flex value if that role continues. No team sees fewer rushes per game than the Cowboys so volume could be an issue, especially if the Cowboys jump out to an early lead, but Martin is locked into goal line touches and although his ceiling may not be where we expected, his floor is relatively safe.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jameis Winston
RB2: Doug Martin
WR1: Mike Evans (high end)
TE1: Cameron Brate
Flex: Charles Sims
Bench: Jacquizz Rodgers

Passing Game Thoughts: Back to back duds for Dak Prescott and the rumor mill has once again begun swirling for Tony Romo. It’s not happening – at least not this week. If Prescott flops again and the Cowboys lose, I wouldn’t put anything past ole Jer. After three consecutive weeks under 200 yards passing, Prescott played his worst game of his career against the Giants, rushing for just one yard and throwing two interceptions. With that being said, this is a great spot for him to bounce back even in the face of the Bucs systematic destruction of Drew Brees last week. I can’t imagine Dez Bryant scores negative fantasy points again this week, but I also can’t imagine many people remaining who own Dez Bryant. One catch for ten yards and a fumble is bad enough, but when you consider that Bryant saw a team high nine targets and only caught one, it’s downright unacceptable. The Bucs’ fourteen interceptions forced are only two behind the league lead, but last week’s game notwithstanding, Prescott doesn’t throw many interceptions. The Cowboys need to respond after last week’s debacle and I think they will.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: Ezekiel Elliott had yet another 100-yard rushing day last week, his sixth of the season. He had a mediocre fantasy day, however, because he didn’t catch a pass. The no catch-no touchdown game is an anomaly. Zeke will be back to his usual prolific ways against a Bucs defense allowing 4.3 yards per carry. The Cowboys activated Darren McFadden this week and he will play on Sunday, but even with Alfred Morris and Lance Dunbar in the mix, no one is threatening Elliott’s workload.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott (low end)
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott (high end)
WR2: Dez Bryant (low end)
Bench: Jason Witten, Terrance Williams

Prediction: Cowboys 24, Bucs 20 ^ Top

Panthers @ Redskins - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Another week, another dud for Cam Newton. The Panthers’ season is over and has been for a couple weeks now and we’re starting to see Newton play like it. He has posted back to back games with under 200 yards passing. His rushing numbers are at a career low, averaging over ten yards fewer per game. He’s on pace for career lows in passing yards per game and total touchdowns (if you extrapolate the two missed games in 2014). With Newton goes Greg Olsen and his status as an elite TE1. Olsen hasn’t scored since November 6 and before last week’s 4-87 performance, Olsen’s best game since that date was 4-45. You would think that means Kelvin Benjamin is hogging all the targets, but you’d be mistaken. Benjamin hasn’t had a single double digit reception game all season. He hasn’t topped 100 yards in a game since Week 2. And he has one touchdown over his last nine games. Over his last four games, he’s caught a grand total of eight passes. The matchup doesn’t matter. The situation doesn’t matter. The Carolina Panthers have checked out on the 2016 season. Given the state of TEs, you can’t bench Olsen, but no one else can be trusted.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: Jonathan Stewart has seen his goal line opportunities increase, which has salvaged many a fantasy week for him because his rushing numbers are nothing short of putrid. He has the same number of 100 yard rushing games as you and me. He’s caught five more passes on the year than you and me. He has exactly two games with more than twenty touches. His 3.6 yards per carry are a career low. If not for his eight scores in ten games, he’d appear droppable. That makes him very hard to trust in a semi-final matchup as you’re really hoping he scores. The good news is the Redskins have allowed 17 rushing touchdowns this season and only four teams allow more than the Redskins’ 4.5 yards per carry. JStew is probably the safest of the Panthers, but his ceiling is not all that high.

Value Meter:
QB2: Cam Newton
TE1: Greg Olsen
Flex: Jonathan Stewart
Bench: Kelvin Benjamin, Ted Ginn Jr.

Passing Game Thoughts: I present to you Kirk Cousins, elite QB1. When did this happen? Even in a game where Cousins threw a measly 21 passes, he still managed 234 yards and two touchdowns last week. October 9th at Baltimore’s top three defense was the last time Cousins failed to score multiple times. Pierre Garcon has been mighty reliable over the past few weeks. His worst game since Week 8 was his 4-43 dud against Dallas. Otherwise, he’s had 6-67 or better in every game since then. He’s filled the void left by Jordan Reed. Speaking of Reed, he is a complete gamble this week. He’s going to play, but what that actually means, I couldn’t tell you. Last week, it meant ten snaps. If Reed is playing ten snaps, you don’t want him anywhere near your lineup. At the same time, if Reed plays even half the snaps, he’s a top five option. I think the most prudent course of action is to sit him if you have a viable alternative. If you’re going to have to scourge the waiver wire for someone like Will Tye or Dennis Pitta, then you’re better off chancing it with Reed. For what it’s worth, when I did see Reed on the field last week, he looked very tentative – going out of his way to avoid contact and protect his shoulder. Jamison Crowder flopped last week, but he’s still been a WR 2 over the past two months. He can be started with confidence. DeSean Jackson is a boom or bust WR4 every week.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: This is a terrible spot for Rob Kelley. The Panthers are awful against the pass, but very strong against the run, allowing 3.7 yards per carry and only nine touchdowns on the season. This is a game where the Redskins should throw because it’s what works. Kelley does not catch passes so he will likely need to score to reach RB2 numbers. He’s rushed for exactly 63 yards in each of his last two games. Without a touchdown, that’s simply not going to get it done. His volume raises his floor to the point where he should be good for at least 6-7 points, but that’s probably not good enough. Look elsewhere if you can.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins (No.1 for me this week)
WR2: Jamison Crowder
WR3: Pierre Garcon
TE1: Jordan Reed (boom or bust option based on availability)
Flex: Rob Kelley
Bench: DeSean Jackson, Vernon Davis (canít start him without knowing Reedís status), Chris Thompson

Prediction: Redskins 30, Panthers 20 ^ Top

Jaguars at Texans - (Gordon)

Passing Game Thoughts: With most fantasy leagues in payoff mode it’s hard to rationalize using anyone from the Jags’ passing attack considering this offense has produced 232.8 passing yards per game in 2016 (tied for 21st in the NFL). Then again, that also means anyone still alive probably avoided Jacksonville’s players in the first place. Those of you who place a lot of weight on match ups while making lineup choices will feel better about starting Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee in Week 15. Lee in particular has become a sturdy fixture in passing game. He has seen 25 percent of Jacksonville’s passes come his way over the past three weeks. That mark is tops on the team and about 6.5 percent more than Allen Robinson during that span. He may not be the best receiver on the team but the numbers say he is being used like a WR1 and he is coming off his second 100-yard game of the year (one more than Allen Robinson) so he should be the first choice off the bench if you are thinking about starting someone from the Jags in Week 15.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: Chris Ivory was limited on Thursday as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury. There is still a chance he could play this weekend but a running back coming off a hamstring injury that isn’t practicing at 100 percent makes me nervous this time of year. The Jags have no reason to rush him onto the field and I’d advise a similar approach with him in regards to fantasy lineups this week. T.J. Yeldon will be the only viable option from a fantasy perspective. Without Ivory or Denard Robinson out of the lineup last week, Yeldon racked up 90 total yards from scrimmage, including seven receptions of the backfield. That’s pretty much the type of line everyone has been expected of Yeldon over the past two seasons. Unless the news becomes more positive on the Chris Ivory front, Yeldon should be in line for another 20-plus touches in Week 15 placing him squarely in the RB2 range for fantasy rushers this week.

Value Meter:
QB2: Blake Bortles
RB2: T.J. Yeldon
Flex: Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson
Bench: Allen Hurns, Chris Ivory, Neal Sterling

Passing Game Thoughts: Houston’s record says they are a first place team but fantasy owners who invested in the Texans are probably not sitting in first place. Brock Osweiler has been bad for business and Jacksonville enters the weekend having allowed the second fewest passing yards per game (213.5) in the NFL. The yards aren’t there. The touchdowns aren’t there. With Osweiler reeling under center, Houston has averaged only 19 points per game. Forget DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, Nick Novak is the only one coming up with worthy fantasy results lately. If you haven’t been burned at least once this year by Osweiler and company consider yourself lucky and continue to bypass the receiving corps. For those that choose to gamble, please refrain from choosing Braxton Miller (shoulder) who was placed on IR this week.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: Lamar Miller atoned for his brutal Week 13 showing by rushing the ball 21 times for 107 yards and a touchdown last week against the Colts. Fantasy owners can rely on enough touches to make him a RB2 most weeks but his ceiling remains lower than others due to his inconsistent use in the passing game and ability to find pay dirt on a regular basis. He’s got a lot miles on him at this point in the year but Houston will need to lean on him this weekend to stay atop the division standings. He hasn’t scored in back-to-back games since scoring in four consecutive games in the middle of the 2015 season so I wouldn’t get too optimistic about him being your savior this week. Nonetheless, it’s tough to find an alternative to a guy likely to approach twenty carries going up against a defense that is giving up 113.2 rushing yards per game.

Value Meter:
RB2: Lamar Miller
Bench: Everyone else

Prediction: Jaguars 21, Texans 13 ^ Top

49ers at Falcons - (Gordon)

Passing Game Thoughts: A favorable match up and team fighting for the post season should allow Matt Ryan to help fantasy owners get a win this week. Julio Jones’ leg injury is now being classified as a sprained toe rather than turf toe but the only thing that really matters now is whether he will be able to play in Week 15. The Falcons’ star receiver missed practice Wednesday and Thursday. Even if he does play, it’s hard to imagine that Atlanta would want to risk further injury by making him the focal point of the passing attack so I’d be extremely hesitant on starting him unless he gets glowing remarks during pre-game warm-ups. Matt Ryan has thrown for over 300 yards in his three previous games against San Francisco but his outlook takes a slight hit if Jones is kept on the sidelines. Mohamed Sanu will have another week behind him since returning from a groin injury. I’d expect his role to expand a little more this week but enough to merit serious fantasy consideration. Taylor Gabriel has been the steady secondary contributor to this offense and is a solid bet to pick up the slack in the passing game. He has received at least five targets in the Falcons’ past five outings and has scored four times during that stretch. Outside of Ryan and Gabriel I’d be hesitant to take a chance on anyone because the running game should be tabbed to do most of the heavy lifting on Sunday.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

Running Game Thoughts: Regardless of whether the Falcons play this game with Julio Jones, the Falcons will attack the defense on the ground with their dynamic duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. San Fran has given up 19 rushing touchdowns in 13 games and the Falcons rank third in the NFL with 15 ground scores. The touchdowns could be split in any number of ways but there should be multiple and both runners have high fantasy ceilings this week to get you through to the next round of your fantasy playoffs. There is a little more risk involved with using Coleman due to the lesser workload but he’s been pretty good at getting the ball into the end zone enough to salvage days where his yardage numbers have been down. Meanwhile, Devonta Freeman has been a top 10 running back for his fantasy owners in two of the past three weeks. The ideal match gives Freeman top five upside this week and up couldn’t have come at a better time for anyone looking to secure a championship. Start both running backs with confidence.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matt Ryan (low end)
RB1: Devonta Freeman
RB2: Tevin Coleman
WR2: Taylor Gabriel
Flex: Julio Jones (if he plays)
Bench: Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper

Passing Game Thoughts: 177.1 passing yards per game and ongoing quarterback drama is about what you can expect from the 49ers passing game these days. If you are absolutely forced to look to San Fran’s talent pool to round out your starting roster you might want to sit down and examine your lineup choices harder. Your options begin with tight end Vance McDonald, who recently signed an extension to be a part of the rebuild in the 49ers. He will have to wait until next season to make a contribution towards the future after being placed on IR this week (shoulder). Next up is Jeremy Kerley (8 receptions over past four games and no touchdowns), Quinton Patton (10 receptions over past four games and no touchdowns), Torrey Smith (3 receptions over past three games and one touchdown), or Rod Streator (5 receptions over past four games and no touchdowns). It’s sad but for fantasy purposes, it really comes down to whether you think Colin Kaepernick will run enough to give you passable quarterback this week or pass on everyone. Kerley has marginal upside considering somebody will need to make up for the loss of McDonald’s modest donations to the offense.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: Carlos Hyde is on pace to pass’s preseason predictions and land within the top 15 running backs on the year (despite missing a couple of games). That’s quite an achievement for a team that hasn’t had a whole lot of success in 2016. Yet it’s hard to really trust a running back that has scored nearly 47 percent of his entire fantasy total in three great games. Nonetheless, he’s averaging between 16-20 touches per game and is the best thing going in this offense so he’ll remain a low end starter the rest of the way. Shaun Draughn and DuJuan Harris have been getting mix but neither running back poses a threat to Hyde.

Value Meter:
QB1: Colin Kaepernick (low end)
RB2: Carlos Hyde
Flex: Jeremy Kerley
Bench: Everyone else

Prediction: Falcons 34, 49ers 17 ^ Top

Philadelphia at Baltimore - (Schwarz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Simply based on the number of times Wentz has been throwing the ball makes him a viable fantasy option. He’s averaging 53 passing attempts per game over the last two games. Facing the Ravens’ defense, which ranks as the toughest for opposing running backs, the Eagles quarterback figures to continue to be a majority of the Philly offense. Wideout Jordan Matthews and tight end Zach Ertz are his two most reliable targets. The tight end has seen double-digit targets in three of the last four games after none in his first seven contests. If Darren Sproles (concussion) is inactive, TE Trey Burton (19 targets in last two games) becomes and interesting play as well.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: The Eagles running game is in shambles with Wendell Smallwood just placed on IR and Darren Sproles in concussion protocol and unlikely to be ready for this game. That leaves oft-injured Ryan Mathews and Kenjon Barner (healthy scratch in Week 14) as the only choices and facing the Ravens’ formidable run defense. Neither figures to be any more than an RB3, at best.

Value Meter:
QB2: Carson Wentz
RB3: Ryan Mathews
WR2: Jordan Matthews
TE1: Zach Ertz
Bench: Kenjon Barner, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham

Passing Game Thoughts: The Eagles cornerbacks are below par giving up seven touchdown passes of 20-yards or more in the last five games and Joe Flacco should be able to take advantage of the situation. The Ravens’ quarterback hasn’t gotten much press, but over the past five weeks, he’s posted the third-best fantasy numbers (24.4 FPts/G), behind only Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins. While Flacco is a solid starter, he’s been spreading his targets among four receivers and one tight end making it difficult to predict from week to week. Steve Smith and Mike Wallace are seeing the most targets with Breshad Perriman’s value being almost totally touchdown reliant. Philadelphia is No. 2 against opposing tight ends yielding just 4.5 FPts/G.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: The Ravens fell way behind the Patriots early Monday night and the result was more volume for Kenneth Dixon than for Terrance West. That isn’t likely to be the case against the slumping Eagles. Expect both backs to see double-digit rushing attempts with West as the goal line option and Dixon seeing the bulk of the receiving work. They will be borderline RB3/RB2.

Value Meter:
QB1: Joe Flacco
RB3: Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon
WR2: Steve Smith, Mike Wallace
TE3: Dennis Pitta
Bench: Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman

Prediction: Ravens 27, Eagles 13 ^ Top

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati - (Schwarz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t thrown more than 36 passes in any of the last four games and it’s not a coincidence that Le’Veon Bell has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of those games. Roethlisberger has only one reliable target, Antonio Brown, though even he hasn’t earned a 100-yard receiving bonus since Week 10. The loss of reliable second options like Martavis Bryant (SUSP) and Markus Wheaton (IR) seems to be catching up to this offense as Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers have shown only intermittent flashes. Ladarius Green has taken over as the receiving tight end with 17 targets over the past two weeks.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: Bell’s record-setting day (38-236-3, 4-62-0) likely carried fantasy owners to victory last weekend. Though you shouldn’t expect another 42 touches this Sunday, it should be noted he was averaging almost 33 touches per game in the previous three contests. He’s rushed for at least 118 yards in four straight games while still catching 22 passes and is the hottest running back in the league. That won’t change even if DeAngelo Williams (knee) is active.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ben Roethlisberger
RB1: LeíVeon Bell
WR1: Antonio Brown
TE2: Ladarius Green
Bench: Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers

Passing Game Thoughts: Andy Dalton has been remarkably consistent this throwing for 200 or more yards in 12-of-13 games this season and at least one touchdown in the past ten straight games. He should continue the trend against Pittsburgh, though it would be much easier to reach those goals if A.J. Green returns from his hamstring injury. Green will have to be healthy for Dalton to be more than a QB2 and that’s likely to be a question mark right up until game-time. Tyler Eifert has become the team’s touchdown maker in Green’s absence with four over the past three games leading all tight-ends by averaging 12.7 FPts/G. His success should continue even against an above average Steelers pass defense. Rookie Tyler Boyd and veteran Brandon LaFell can get yards, but have trouble finding the end zone, so both have minimal value.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: Jeremy Hill has been a workhorse since Giovani Bernard went down with a season-ending injury and averaged 24 rushing attempts over the past two games. There is more good news in that the Steelers have been vulnerable to the run, yielding 21.2 FPts/G this season. On the down side, Hill averaged 2.0 yards per carry (11-22) against the Steelers back in Week 2.

Value Meter:
QB3: Andy Dalton
RB2: Jeremy Hill
WR2: A.J. Green (if healthy)
TE1: Tyler Eifert
Bench: Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd

Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 21 ^ Top

Indianapolis at Minnesota - (Schwarz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Facing the sack-happy Vikings defense (13 over the last four games) isn’t a good situation for Andrew Luck and his porous offensive line. Colts quarterbacks have been sacked 40 times in 13 games this season. Despite his line’s play, Luck is averaging 25.5 FPts/G which is fifth-best at his position, but when faced with a top-five sacking team on the road earlier this season (Denver) Luck produced a season-low 16.1 FPts in Week 2. For that reason, despite his overall performance, Luck is only a QB2 in Week 15. T.Y. Hilton is as hot as he’s been all season with 18 catches on 23 targets for 261 yards and a score the past two games. Donte Moncreif (hamstring) is questionable, but a touchdown maker when on the field. Both Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle have the talent to be a solid TE2 or better, if they weren’t sharing the position. But they are and it’s impossible to predict which one, if any, might go off.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: Given the veracity of the Vikings pass rush (35 sacks), the Colts must run the ball to slow them down. That means a full dose of Frank Gore. He’s averaged 16.4 rushing attempts over the past five weeks. He’s also a decent receiving option and that’s another way to slow the pass rush. If the Colts are to win this one, Gore must see 20 or more touches. That makes him a viable RB2.

Value Meter:
QB2: Andrew Luck
RB2: Frank Gore
WR1: T.Y. Hilton,
Flex: Donte Moncrief (if active)
Bench: Phillip Dorsett, Dwayne Allen, Jack Doyle

Passing Game Thoughts: When Sam Bradford throws 40 or more times, the Vikings lose. That’s not good for those who need Bradford to produce. Neither is the drastic improvement of the Colts pass defense. Indianapolis has been much better over the last five games against opposing quarterbacks (17.7 FPts/G) than they were at the start of the season. Stefon Diggs has been the team’s best wideout, but since incurring a knee injury three weeks ago, he’s been much less of a factor. Many of his targets have shifted to Adam Thielen and tight end Kyle Rudolph making them viable options.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: Starter Jerick McKinnon simply doesn’t run well enough (3.0 ypc) to help fantasy owners running and catching between the 20-yard lines. Matt Asiata is the team’s goal line runner, but six touchdowns in 13 games isn’t quite enough to make him a viable fantasy option even against a Colts run defense that’s allowed the 9th most fantasy points to running backs.

Value Meter:
QB2: Sam Bradford
WR2: Adam Thielen
TE2: Kyle Rudolph
Flex: Stefon Diggs
Bench: Jerick McKinnon, Charles Johnson, Matt Asiata

Prediction: Minnesota 20, Indianapolis 16 ^ Top

Green Bay at Chicago - (Schwarz)

Passing Game Thoughts: It would be laughable for any fantasy owner to think about not starting Aaron Rodgers, so we won’t waste much time on the All-Pro quarterback. Suffice it to say he’s gone four games without throwing an interception while tossing 10 touchdowns and averaging 279 ypg. Jordy Nelson has been a steady a producer all season, but has raised his game of late averaging 14.1 FPts/G over the last five. The difference in the Packers receiving corps is the improvement of Davante Adams’ game at the detriment of Randall Cobb’s fantasy value. Adams has become a WR1, while Cobb has become almost an afterthought not having posted double-digits since October. Neither tight end has fantasy value against a Bears defense who defends that position well.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: The Packers have a running game? What little they have, comes from Christine Michael and fullback Aaron Ripkowski pounding the ball and Ty Montgomery for explosiveness. None of the three is a great play against a stout Bears run defense, but Montgomery, with his receiving ability can be an RB3 with upside.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers
RB3: Ty Montgomery,
WR1: Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams
Flex: Randall Cobb
Bench: James Starks, Richard Rodgers, Jared Cook

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s been a surprising three games with Matt Barkley at the helm. After failing in limited opportunity with Philadelphia, he’s played solidly in three starts. He’ll get an opportunity to put up viable fantasy points against a Packers defense that has struggled against the pass ranking 29th against opposing quarterbacks over the past five games. Barkley will have another weapon at receiver, Alshon Jeffery returns from a four-game suspension. Jeffery and Cameron Meredith make a solid pair against a subpar Green Bay secondary.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: The best part of the Bears offense is rookie running back Jordan Howard. With almost 1,000 yards on the ground, he’ll need to be at the top of his game if the Bears hope to stay with the high-powered Packers. Howard has to keep Rodgers off the field, by consistently grinding out first downs, so should see more than 20 touches in this one. He also has decent receiving skills and should rack up at least 120 yards from scrimmage.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matt Barkley
RB1: Jordan Howard
WR2: Alshon Jeffery, Cameron Meredith
Bench: Josh Bellamy, Eddie Royal, Logan Paulsen

Prediction: Green Bay 28, Chicago 20 ^ Top