Fantasy Football

Avoid Ballard, Turner in Week 15

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John Halpin

John Halpin has been a fantasy contributor for FOXSports.com since 2007. He has written and co-hosted webcasts about fantasy football for FOXNews.com, and managed websites for the NHL, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Network. Listen to his "Fantasy 15 Podcast" on FOXSportsRadio.com and follow him on Twitter.

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You’re in the heat of your fantasy playoffs, and our Position vs. Fantasy Defensive Points Allowed tool can help more than ever with tough matchup calls.

As always, please remember that the players listed are mostly meant to be borderline guys, who need reasons for you to play or bench them. You won’t see recommendations to start Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson and Drew Brees, because you should always start Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson and Drew Brees (even the Many Interception version of Brees). Make sense? Good.

Notes:

1. The fantasy points per game (FPPG) referenced below are from FOXSports.com standard leagues.

2. At tight end, the difference between the best and worst defenses is just 5.5 FPPG. The points-based recommendations for that position likely aren’t as helpful as they are for QB, RB and WR.

Thursday game: Bengals at Eagles

Quarterbacks

Stay away: Joe Flacco, Ravens (vs. Broncos)

The quarterback picks might seem obvious this week. Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning play against five of the top seven fantasy defenses, and you should start them all, anyway. That leaves us with guys like Flacco, who starts against the 13th-ranked fantasy defense (17.5 FPPG), and has thrown for 188 yards or fewer in five of his last seven games.

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Also:

Is Jay Cutler still startable? Not this week, against a 14th-ranked Packers’ fantasy defense (18.3 FPPG) that expects to get LB Clay Matthews back on the field. I told you this section wouldn’t tell you much that you don’t already know. Maybe that’s just a suggestion to not overthink.

Play, play, play: Josh Freeman, Bucs (at Saints)

Freeman threw for 420 yards and three scores against the Saints’ defense in Week 7, and the Saints still rank last (24.9 FPPG) against opposing fantasy quarterbacks. You know who’s going to be bored during Sunday’s Bucs-Saints? The punters.

Also:

Dalton hasn’t cracked the 300-yard plateau since Week 6, but tonight he’ll face an Eagles’ defense that ranks 31st against opposing fantasy quarterbacks (23 FPPG), and has been torched for 18 touchdown passes in seven games since switching defensive coordinators. It would be nice to see Dalton play well at this time of year, since he looks like the young, redheaded Kris Kringle in the animated holiday special Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.

Running Backs

Stay away: Vick Ballard, Colts (at Texans)

Donald Brown has been placed on injured reserve, meaning that Ballard is the unquestioned feature back for the Colts. We’re usually fans of guaranteed workload around here, but this week Ballard will run against a Texans’ defense that ranks second with 11.9 FPPG allowed to opposing runners. He doesn’t crack the RB2 tier, but can be flexed if you’re desperate.

Also:

The eighth-ranked Giants’ fantasy defense (15.8 FPPG to opposing RBs) tends to give up big gains to speedy backs … and that doesn’t describe Michael Turner, who has averaged 35 yards on 12 carries over the last five games. Sure, Turner has scored four times over that span, but touchdowns tend to even out for guys with Turner’s workload level. It’s tough to like him in this spot.

Alex Green is now apparently part of a three-man committee with Ryan Grant and someone named DuJuan Harris. You’ll want to avoid him against the Bears’ third-ranked fantasy defense (14.3 FPPG to opposing RBs) at Soldier Field.

Play, play, play: Reggie Bush, Dolphins (vs. Jaguars)

After a midseason timeshare with Daniel Thomas, Bush is back in the saddle as the Dolphins’ lead back, getting 19 touches for 103 yards in Week 14 against the 49ers. This week’s matchup with the 30th-ranked Jags’ fantasy defense (23.5 FPPG to opposing RBs) is a really good one for him.

Also:

Both Jets’ backs were busy against the Jaguars in Week 14, with Shonn Greene carrying 20 times for 77 yards and a TD, and Bilal Powell getting 78 yards and a score on 19 carries. Can this scenario repeat itself on Monday against the Titans’ 29th-ranked fantasy defense (23.2 FPPG)? Absolutely. It’s not like they want to put the game in Mark Sanchez’s hands, right?

I’m not sure where Darren McFadden’s owners stand, but if you’re on the fence after his 52-yard return last week, you should be optimistic about his looming matchup with the 24th-ranked Chiefs’ fantasy defense (19.1 FPPG to opposing RBs). Run, DMC, run!

Wide Receivers

Stay away: Torrey Smith, Ravens (vs. Broncos)

Smith’s stats have been good overall, but he’s been maddeningly inconsistent for his fantasy owners. Over the past eight games, Smith has had a 144-yard day, a 67-yard performance, and six games of 46 yards or fewer. He’s got a tougher-than-average matchup against Champ Bailey and the 10th-ranked Broncos’ fantasy defense (19.3 FPPG to opposing WRs). Yes, there’s a chance that Smith could have one of his big games, but I’ve still got him in the middle of the WR3 tier.

Also:

Richard Sherman’s appeal of his drug suspension has been delayed, so he’ll be in uniform when the second-ranked Seahawks’ fantasy defense (16.6 FPPG to opposing WRs) visits Buffalo on Sunday. That’s not good for Stevie Johnson, who’s already burdened with a shaky quarterback. Johnson isn’t an avoid-at-all-costs guy, but you probably have two better options on your roster.

Kenny Britt had his long-awaited breakout in Week 14, catching eight passes for 143 yards. Can he do it again on Monday against the fifth-ranked Jets’ fantasy defense (17.8 FPPG to opposing WRs)? Antonio Cromartie will make things tough, as will the subpar accuracy of Jake Locker. I’m a Britt fan, but he can’t be trusted yet.

Brandon Lloyd FINALLY did something, catching seven passes for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Texans, and recovering a fumble in the end zone. That’s great, except that most of his owners had already benched him. Since Lloyd is about to play against the toughest fantasy defense around (16.4 FPPG to opposing WRs), staying away from him again is probably a good idea.

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Play, play, play: Mike Williams, Buccaneers (at Saints)

The Saints (26.9 FPPG to opposing WRs) are very fantasy-friendly, whether you own their players or their opponents. Vincent Jackson is a must-start, and Mike Williams – who has been held below 30 yards in three of his last four games – is a solid option as well.

Also:

Do you still need reasons to start Cleveland’s Josh Gordon, who has caught 23 passes for 315 yards and a touchdown in his last four games, and has been among the top 20 in targets over the last three weeks? How about his matchup against the Redskins, who rank 30th with 26.5 FPPG allowed to opposing wide receivers? Yep, that’s enough.

Michael Crabtree has become a favorite of new quarterback Colin Kaepernick, catching 16 passes for 194 yards in his last two games. Crabtree is a solid start against the Patriots’ 26th-ranked – but improving – fantasy defense (24.2 FPPG to opposing WRs).

Tight Ends

Stay away: Jacob Tamme, Broncos (at Ravens)

Everyone – including yours truly – loved Tamme in Week 14. Then he went out and put up a two-catch, 24-yard letdown of a game against the Raiders. With slot receiver Brandon Stokley apparently back to full strength (Tamme played the slot in Stokley’s absence) and a matchup against the eighth-ranked Ravens’ fantasy defense (6.8 FPPG to opposing TEs) on tap, Tamme goes back to the bench if you’ve been starting him.

Also:

Just when we thought Jermichael Finley might be perking up, he caught two passes for 16 yards against the Lions. Now he has to play against a Bears’ defense that ranks sevent against opposing tight ends (6.5 FPPG). This guy is such a disappointment.

Play, play, play: Dennis Pitta, Broncos (at Ravens)

Remember the beginning of the season, when Pitta caught 18 passes and a couple of touchdowns in his first three games, and everyone thought he was going to be an elite fantasy tight end? Like most of his counterparts at the position, Pitta settled in for a season of mediocrity – he’s averaged 33 yards in the nine games since his brief September streak. However, Pitta has perked up lately, with 12 receptions in his last three games, and gets a matchup with the 31st-ranked Broncos’ fantasy defense (9.9 FPPG allowed to opposing TEs). In fantasy terms, there’s basically one thing the Bronco D doesn’t do well, and that’s good if you own Pitta.

Also:

Martellus Bennett is rolling, with 10 catches, 114 yards and a pair of scores in his last two games. Consider him a low-end starter against the Falcons’ 22nd-ranked fantasy defense (8.0 FPPG to opposing TEs).

Good luck in Week 15!

Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Bears, Broncos, Lions, Packers, Titans, Colts, Dolphins, Patriots, Saints, Jets, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Redskins, Ravens, Texans, Drew Brees, Brandon Stokley, Brandon Lloyd, Michael Turner, Calvin Johnson, Stevie Johnson, Jacob Tamme, Michael Crabtree, Josh Freeman, Arian Foster, Dennis Pitta, Mike Williams, Torrey Smith, Vick Ballard

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