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Ryan, Romo earn starts in Week 15
The games of Week 15 began with, mercifully, the last of the Thursday night games. The Bengals were sluggish and downright pathetic for a good portion of the first half, but a turnover-fest ensued for the hapless Eagles, leading to a blowout victory for the playoff-hopeful Bengals.
You didn’t get the fireworks you anticipated from Andy Dalton in the Thursday night game, but you’ll take the two touchdowns (one rushing) and move forward. Dalton owners were overjoyed when Dalton took to the air on a fourth-down play late. Alas, Jermaine Gresham was unable to get his second foot down in the end zone.
Let’s set the table for the rest of the slate. It’s time for a playoff edition of “Lineup Calls.”
Cam Newton at SD
Following a slow start to the season, Newton has come through beautifully for fantasy owners down the stretch. He’s been the highest-scoring quarterback in the past month, producing 13 of his 23 touchdowns (10 passing) in the past five weeks.
The second-year quarterback rates a huge play this week on the road in San Diego. The Chargers have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, including 24 passing touchdowns (three to Ben Roethlisberger in Week 14). Steve Smith and Greg Olsen are rock-solid options for Newton downfield, and Louis Murphy acquitted himself nicely in place of the injured Brandon LaFell in Week 14. If you are in southern California and want to cheer on your fantasy quarterback in person, plenty of tickets remain available.
Josh Freeman at NO
Freeman has produced multiple touchdown passes in eight of his past nine games. One of the first games during this stretch was his 420-yard, three-touchdown performance against these Saints. New Orleans has allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks, including 27 passing touchdowns. Freeman is a veritable lock for a huge day in what promises to be a wide-open affair.
Robert Griffin III at CLE
Griffin III participated in both Wednesday and Thursday practices. I’m shocked and amazed, and utterly astounded by the resilience of the human body. As a result, Griffin III remains on the board as a mid-QB1 option this week. I understand the reticence to trust him coming off of this injury. The Browns also rank 18th against opposing quarterbacks, and have played quite well with Joe Haden available in the secondary. If the weather turns badly (rain is expected), then we may see a game-day call by Shanahan on his quarterback. Stay tuned.
Eli Manning at ATL
It’s a huge spot in December. It’s Manning’s time to rise to the occasion and put points on the board. Manning has obliterated the Packers and Saints in two of his past three games, producing 508 passing yards with seven touchdowns against two interceptions.
The Falcons have allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season (13 passing touchdowns against 16 interceptions). However, the New York passing attack is as healthy as it’s been in a long while, and I suspect that Manning attacks downfield early. Manning is ranked ninth on my fantasy board.
Matt Ryan vs. NYG
Ryan produced his first multi-touchdown game since Week 10 in the Falcons’ 30-20 loss to Carolina (342 passing yards with two touchdowns). He’s been shut out twice this season (Dallas and Arizona) and I admit to being nervous about Ryan’s prospects here. Roddy White didn’t practice on Friday, so that clouds things as well. The Giants shut down both Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees in the past three weeks, so the potential for a dud is here. Take some solace in the fact that Ryan has passed for at least 300 yards in five of the past six weeks. Ryan retains a back-end QB1 position this week.
Tony Romo vs. PIT
As expected, Romo didn’t light the scoreboard on fire against the Bengals, but he did pass for 268 yards with a touchdown and an interception while leading the Cowboys to victory. He’s been shut out only once this season and will have Dez Bryant available, as the powerhouse receiver eschews surgery to play during the stretch run. It’s not a huge spot for Romo in the yardage department (the Steelers rank first in that category), but Pittsburgh does not generate turnovers. As such, Romo will get extra chances to push downfield against a secondary that forges ahead without Ike Taylor. Remember, Philip Rivers passed for 200 yards with three touchdowns last week.
Carson Palmer vs. KC
The Raiders have been terrible, but Palmer has been a sure and steady fantasy option. He’s produced multiple touchdown passes in six of his past seven games and has averaged 292.7 passing yards per game. Sure, Palmer will toss an interception or two along the way (at least one in nine consecutive games). It doesn’t deter him. It shouldn’t deter you.
Palmer completed 50% of his pass attempts against the Chiefs in Week 8. He passed for 209 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in that win. I’m looking squarely at Darren McFadden adding receiving yards out of the backfield and for Darrius Heyward-Bey to make big plays downfield.
Ben Roethlisberger at DAL
Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense didn’t look sharp in his return to the field against the Chargers. Fantasy owners only worry about the bottom line, and it looked good (285 passing yards with three touchdowns and two turnovers).
Russell Wilson at BUF
Wilson’s arm is certainly rested following the Seahawks’ absolute burial of the Cardinals in Week 14. He attempted only 13 passes (seven completions) with 148 yards and a touchdown in the 58-0 victory. Prior to that game, Wilson had produced multiple touchdowns in five consecutive games.
He’s in a great spot in Week 15 against the Buffalo secondary. The Bills have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, including 22 passing touchdowns (three rushing).
Brandon Weeden vs. WAS
I’m reaching deep for the final “Ninja” of Week 15. Weeden was shut out in the Week 14 blowout win over the Chiefs, though he completed 17-of-30 attempts for 217 yards. I’m putting him on the board to post a big play connection or two with emerging star Josh Gordon. It’s certainly a good spot against the porous Washington pass defense (fourth-most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks) and that the likelihood of Robert Griffin III playing forces Cleveland to ramp up the offense downfield.
Andrew Luck at HOU
Luck failed to generate big numbers in a great spot against the Titans in Week 14, leaving owners wanting with 196 passing yards, a single touchdown and two interceptions. And, while the rookie has erratic on the field in terms of his turnover rate and efficiency rating, he’s still posted solid weekly fantasy numbers (multiple touchdowns in five of his past seven games).
I fear this road tilt against the Texans. I know that this Houston defense has performed terribly of late, but Wade Phillips scheming for a rookie quarterback when coming off a humiliating loss scares me. Luck still rates a back-end QB1 play, as the Colts will need to be chucking downfield to keep pace. If your league crushes you for turnovers, your gains may be negligible.
Matthew Stafford at ARI
Do you trust Stafford in the fantasy playoffs? He’s produced five multi-touchdown games in his past seven starts, including his rushing touchdown to salvage a solid fantasy night in Week 14 against the Packers. He’s averaged 308 passing yards this season, so he’s certainly worthy of a QB1 nod this week. Still, I can’t ignore the fact that the Cardinals have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. Evaluate your choices carefully as the Lions visit Arizona.
Joe Flacco vs. DEN
Flacco delivered his second multi-touchdown game in his past 10 starts in the Week 14 loss to Washington, yet he passed for fewer than 200 yards for the fifth time in seven weeks. The Broncos have allowed the 10th-fewest points to fantasy quarterbacks. I understand that Flacco generally performs well at home. I suspect that we see a ton of production from Ray Rice with Jim Caldwell taking the reins, and Torrey Smith will be erased from the box score by Champ Bailey.