|Notes and Observations Week 15: Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13; Clinch AFC East||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Defense, Special Teams Carry Home Team||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 15||Right Idea? Red Sox Bring in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson|
Happy Holidays! Sure, that greeting could refer to Christmas, Chanukah, Boxing Day, Kwanza, Festivus, or whatever else you may be celebrating nowadays. But I’m thinking of a “football-ish” reason to celebrate…it’s Fantasy Football Championship weekend! Well, for most of us. If you’re in one of those loony leagues that use Week 17 as your championship week, I guess you have to wait a week. But otherwise, if you’ve made it this far, you’re playing for all the marbles this weekend, with huge hopes that your holiday bills will be paid a little easier by way of your newly acquired championship winnings.
So let’s see what we can do to help make your last minute lineup decisions a little easier. But first, let’s check in on how great a week I had for Week 15.
Matt Cassel, QB: 22 of 40 for 331 yds., 2 TDs, 0 INTs (Not a bad stat line for the former Pats QB…I’m sure Kansas City is hoping for more from him heading into next season.)
Laurence Maroney, RB: 23 carries for 81 yds., 1 TD (Maroney has really come on to have a solid year for New England. Do they re-sign him in the offseason?)
Fred Jackson, RB: 15 rushes for 80 yds., 4 catches for 32 yds., 0 TDs (More than 100 yds. of offense from the man who has made Marshawn Lynch an afterthought in Buffalo.)
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR: 7 catches for 73 yds., no TDs (Those 7 catches were a good sign, but really, I don’t see how you can trust starting any Seattle Seahawk players this time of year.)
Houston Texans, Def: 13 pts. against, just 237 yds. of offense allowed, 1 INT, 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovery (I had high hopes for the Texans this season, but it looks like they may be on their way to yet another 8-8 season.)
Brandon Jacobs, RB: 16 carries for 52 yds., no TDs (The Giants were clicking on all cylinders Monday night in their crushing defeat of the ‘Skins, but if you started Jacobs, you were sadly disappointed.)
Steve Smith, WR (Carolina): 9 catches for 157 yds., 1 TD (He’s quickly developed a nice rapport with new QB Matt Moore, so if you own him, he’s starter-worthy for your championship run.)
Michael Crabtree, WR: Just 4 grabs for 26 yds., 0 TDs (The rookie has had a nice year, but had a flop of a game last week.)
Tony Gonzalez, TE: 3 catches for 32 yds., 1 TD (That touchdown catch saved what was otherwise a very lackluster day for the future Hall of Famer.)
Nick Folk, K: 1 for 2 on field goal attempts, 3 for 3 on extra points (After yet another missed field goal, the Cowboys cut Folk, in favor of former Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham.)
Looking back, it’s hard to believe I haven’t highlighted the Green Bay signal caller at all this season. Meanwhile, in standard scoring fantasy leagues, who is atop the fantasy QB list? Not Brady. Not Brees. Neither Manning. It’s Rodgers. With 3 TDs in 3 of his last 4 games, and the listless Seattle Seahawks coming to town, look for Rodgers to continue his big stat lines on Sunday.
No team has given up more TDs to opposing running backs than the St. Louis Rams. Who gets to feast on the Rams defense this holiday weekend? Beanie Wells and the Arizona Cardinals! Wells is coming off his first career 100-yard game last week vs. Detroit, and now has 5 TDs in his last 6 games. Wells will continue to get the brunt of the workload over fellow Cardinal back Tim Hightower, so consider Wells a safe fantasy start for you this week.
Bradshaw has battled an ankle injury all season long, but week in and week out, he outperforms expectations, and outperforms Brandon Jacobs, his Giants running mate. With 3 TDs in his last 2 games, Bradshaw faces Carolina’s 26th ranked run defense this week. Run with Bradshaw with confidence this week.
Did I just put a Cleveland Brown in my High Five? Really? Well, isn’t that a Christmas miracle! But how could we ignore the historic performance that Harrison turned in last week against the Chiefs? 286 rushing yards, good for the third highest single-game total in NFL history, not to mention the 3 TDs he added to the mix. You obviously can’t expect that every week, but this week he faces a weak Oakland Raiders rush defense, meaning gaudy numbers are probable for Harrison this weekend.
Holmes has been a Ravens killer lately, with TDs in 5 straight games against Baltimore, including a 5-catch, 74-yard performance in Week 12 with Dennis Dixon under center for the Steelers. This week, Holmes will have his starter Ben Roethlisberger throwing to him, coming off a career-high 501 passing yards last week over Green Bay. With Baltimore’s secondary banged up, look for Holmes and the Steelers’ passing game to see significant success on Sunday.
Hasselbeck has been awful, but especially awful on the road. He’s got just 4 TD passes in 6 road games thus far, and without his top receiver Nate Burleson, sidelined with an ankle injury, coupled with facing a Green Bay defense that is hoping to rebound from a subpar performance against Pittsburgh, look for Hasselbeck and the ‘Hawks offense to struggle like they have all year long. Then again, if you’ve been relying on Matt Hasselbeck as your fantasy QB, I doubt you still have your heart set on fantasy glory.
Moreno has had a great rookie year for the Broncos, but he has hit a bit of a wall in the last two games, averaging just 2.5 yards per carry. He may be starting to show signs of fatigue having carried the ball 18 or more times in 5 of his last 6 games. Facing Philadelphia’s top 10 ranked run defense might be enough for you to consider starting other options for your fantasy team this weekend.
I know you’re going to start Reggie Wayne, whether I say to or not. He’s been a top 3 WR all season, and I can’t slam you for leaving him in your lineup this week. But with Indy likely to rest some of their starters in the coming weeks, Wayne’s production could greatly suffer. Beyond that, when Wayne is on the field, he’ll be matched up with New York’s Darrelle Revis, who already on his resume this year, has shut down the likes of Andre Johnson, Marques Colston, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Antonio Bryant, and last week, Atlanta’s Roddy White.
What happened to this guy? A very quiet year for the ‘Skins receiver, who has seen the end zone just once since Week 4 of the season. Moss has been losing touches to Antwaan Randle-El, Devin Thomas, and tight end Fred Davis more and more each week. Washington faces a Dallas Cowboys team that is coming off last week’s lock down of New Orleans’ pass attack, handing the Saints their first loss of the year. Look for Moss and the rest of the ‘Skins to struggle this week.
No team gives up less fantasy points to opposing tight ends than the Indianapolis Colts. Keller has been struggling to rack up points against lesser defenses lately as well, catching just 5 balls for 41 yds. in his last 3 games against Buffalo, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta. Keller hasn’t seen the end zone since Week 8, and expect Keller to continue his weak numbers this week vs. Indy.