Week 15: five things to know
1. Don't Overreact on Bryce Brown
While the zero fantasy points he posted in standard scoring against Tampa Bay on Sunday was potentially crippling for many of his owners - especially those in the playoffs - those who own Bryce Brown will in most cases want to keep him active as the Eagles take on Cincinnati on Thursday.
It's probably safe to say that Brown isn't quite as great as the 347 yards (8.1 YPC) and four touchdowns he posted in Weeks 12 and 13 made him look, but he's also far better than the seven rushing yards he totaled against the Buccaneers would lead anyone to believe. It's quite possible that Brown's game Sunday could go down as the worst 12-carry stretch of his career. It will be difficult to total minus-5 yards on 11 carries again, which for the exception of a 12-yard long, Brown managed to do against the Buccaneers.
It's also unlikely that Brown will suffer from the same lack of opportunity against the Bengals on Thursday that he did against Tampa Bay last week. The Buccaneers crashed hard against the run, leaving their already weak passing defense especially vulnerable to Nick Foles and the Philadelphia air attack. That decision compelled Philadelphia to throw the ball 51 times - 54 times if you include Foles' three scrambles - after throwing an average of 33.7 passes in the three games prior. When that number swings back to the mean against the Bengals, Brown will push for 20 carries Thursday since LeSean McCoy (concussion) is still out. Considering the Bengals allow 4.2 yards per carry rather than Tampa Bay's league-best 3.3, Brown's bigger workload should collide with a much more favorable matchup, with a bounce-back game being the result.
2. Rob Housler Looks Like a Legitimate PPR Target
The shocking ineptitude of the Arizona offense has understandably left most uninterested with the Cardinals' offensive personnel as a whole, but one player who has quietly played above the level of his teammates is tight end Rob Housler.
Even if his zero touchdowns on the year limit his utility in standard scoring, Housler looks like at least a strong TE2 in most PPR scenarios thanks to his high target volume. Since Week 5, only seven tight ends have seen more targets than Housler's 57, and that includes 37 targets over the last three games alone, a span in which he's caught 19 passes for 133 yards.
The Cardinals are bad at running the ball and good at falling behind these days, giving two reasons for the team to throw a fair amount despite its frighteningly bad tandem of John Skelton and Ryan Lindley at quarterback, who have thrown 283 passes in the last seven games despite combining for just two touchdowns and 14 interceptions. That kind of persistent failure unsurprisingly leaves a quarterback unconfident about the prospects of throwing downfield, so Housler should remain an attractive checkdown option with a healthy target count as a result.
None of this is to say that Housler has no merit in terms of talent, because that isn't necessarily true. While his 9.4 yards per catch is quite bad, the fact that he's caught 68.3 percent of his targets this year is fairly promising when you factor in the inaccuracy of his quarterbacks. Housler has a big wingspan and 4.55 speed at 6-foot-5, 250, so there is some upside to be had with him.
3. Kris Durham is Worth Consideration as DET's No. 2 WR
The fact that he was called up from the practice squad just five days before starting in Sunday's game against the division rival Packers illustrates how thin is own job security probably is - it presumably wouldn't be difficult for the Lions to find a similar or superior player among practice-squad or free-agent players - but as long as Kris Durham is serving as Detroit's second receiver he's capable of making an impact in leagues with more than 10 teams.
Even with the team already lacking Ryan Broyles (knee), Nate Burleson (leg) and Titus Young (knee/discipline), as well as tight end Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) with an in-game injury, the Lions still attempted 45 passes against the Packers on Sunday. Calvin Johnson earned 13 of those targets, but there's obviously quite a bit of attention to go around after that. Durham secured nine of the remaining targets, and while he caught only four of those passes for 54 yards, it's really not such a bad showing for a player making his first appearance - let alone start - since Week 8 of 2011. Durham also played 78 snaps Sunday, second only to Johnson's 81 and well ahead of the next closest receiver (Mike Thomas, 17).
Considering the Lions are well out of the playoffs with a 4-9 record, the team has little reason to shuffle their practice squad investment out of the lineup when they could instead get a closer look at him in these upcoming meaningless games, giving them better insight as to whether he'll be worth a third or fourth wideout role behind Johnson, Broyles and Burleson next year. Unless news breaks of a lineup change in Detroit, Durham is worth gambling on as a WR investment for those who have the room.
4. Streater and Avant Should be Benched in Most Leagues
Two receivers who might generate a lot of waiver wire investments due to recent production surges are Oakland's Rod Streater and Philadelphia's Jason Avant, who respectively have caught seven passes for 196 yards and a touchdown and 11 passes for 212 yards the last two weeks, but they're ideally left on benches in leagues that are smaller than 14 teams. Both players appear locked into third wideout roles for their teams, and even in starting roles both players would struggle to sustain their recent numbers.
Streater's numbers especially are likely to fall off. His average of 28 yards per catch the last two weeks is much higher than his season average of 15.3, and he's hauled in just 48.3 percent (28-of-58) of the targets he's seen this year. With a nearly certain YPC decline compounded by the improbability of any significant increase in per-target efficiency, Streater would at the very least need a big role increase to hopefully offset those two variables. But with Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore locked ahead of him in the Oakland receiver rotation, even this third variable isn't in Streater's favor. Going back to Oakland's Week 5 bye, Streater averages just 48 percent of the Raiders' offensive snaps each game.
Avant has a little bit more going for him than Streater, most notably regarding the size of his role in the Philadelphia offense. Despite missing nearly three games with a hamstring issue, Avant has just three fewer targets (55) on the year than Streater (58), and Avant caught nearly 70 percent of those passes (38), so the efficiency is much better, too. But Avant doesn't have any explosiveness to his game, and as a result he has just two touchdowns on his last 141 catches, including none this year. Also, his 11 catches the last two weeks occurred while playing 81 and 93 percent of Philadelphia's snaps, respectively, in Weeks 13 and 14, but those numbers are likely outliers since after averaging 64.25 percent of the snaps in his eight healthy games. Only in PPR leagues should Avant approach WR3 consideration outside of 14-team leagues.
5. Dwayne Harris is Better than Ogletree
If the potential absence of Dez Bryant (finger) is making you consider the possibility of adding what you hope to be Bryant's replacement in the Dallas passing game, your target should be Dwayne Harris rather than Kevin Ogletree.
Ogletree stumbled upon some brief fame with his Week 1 performance against the Giants - an eight-catch, 114-yard outing in which he scored twice - but any hope of him being another Miles Austin for Dallas were extinguished as he totaled 276 yards over the next 11 games. If Bryant leaves the lineup, though, it would be tempting to conclude that Ogletree would be the logical replacement since he was the team's third receiver to open the year. Unfortunately, that's no longer the case.
Ogletree has always lacked reliability, so it's not surprising that he's seen his snaps and targets stolen by both Harris and Cole Beasley in recent weeks. Ogletree played just 13 snaps against the Bengals on Sunday, while the more steady and elusive Harris played 35.
Although he caught only three of them, Harris' eight targets in last week's game seem to indicate that his role was on the rise regardless of Bryant's status. He's, therefore, worth a gamble as fourth or fifth wide receiver in 12-team PPR leagues if Bryant sits out, because that eight-target workload should translate into four or five catches for Harris on most days.
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