Lineup calls: Ravens will disrupt Cutler

BY foxsports • December 18, 2009

The “Add/Drop” processors are revved up as the countdown to the games of Week 15 winds down. Fantasy owners are knee-deep in playoff considerations, trying to find and steal every point imaginable.

It’s safe to assume the primary positions of quarterback, running back and wide receiver are fairly well established on most playoff rosters.

However, unless you’re running with one of the few consistent options at the secondary positions, you may be grasping for straws and trying to find a diamond in the rough. Let’s lock and load the second edition of Lineup Calls for Week 15.

Top 5 Tight Ends

(Not named Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, Dallas Clark, Brent Celek, Vernon Davis or Tony Gonzalez)

Heath Miller vs. Green Bay

Following two quiet games, Miller found himself as a more prominent target in the wind-affected Week 14 contest in Cleveland, catching five passes for 59 yards. He’s caught three or more passes in all but the games against the Ravens and Raiders. I expect to see him active this week against the Packers.

Jermichael Finley at Pittsburgh

Finley’s been a strong fantasy contributor since returning from his knee injury. He’s averaged 5.5 receptions and 57 receiving yards over his past four games, including the two-touchdown effort against the Ravens. The Steelers will bring the heat on Aaron Rodgers, and I expect to see Finley running free in the secondary.

Kellen Winslow at Seattle

Winslow hasn’t been a dominant fantasy option this season, but he’s been consistent. He’s averaged 4.8 receptions and 50.7 receiving yards per game, although he hasn’t scored since Week 9. This is a decent spot against the Seahawks, a defense that’s been devastated by injuries and has played inconsistently this season. He should be able to find space down the seams.

Kevin Boss at Washington

Boss has grown into a sizable role (no pun intended) for Eli Manning. He’s obviously been a monster in the red zone, but he’s also caught multiple passes in six of his last seven games (all five of his touchdowns during this period). He opened the season against Washington with three catches for 62 yards. The Skins have been tremendous on the edges, but I expect to see the big tight end find space over the middle.

John Carlson vs. Tampa Bay

Carlson finally reappeared on the fantasy radar last week when he scored a short touchdown against the Texans. He’s a top-notch option this weekend against a Tampa Bay pass defense that’s surrendered 24 passing touchdowns. The Seahawks have performed well at home, and I anticipate Matt Hasselbeck and the offense producing a solid effort in Week 15.

Tight End Sleepers

Dustin Keller vs. Atlanta

Keller’s been a major disappointment in the past two weeks after assuming a large role for the Jets in the previous month. He’d run up 21 receptions during that prior four-game stretch. Still, I’m putting him on the radar as a potential contributor against the weak Atlanta secondary. Mark Sanchez may return to the lineup, and I’m not expecting many downfield pass attempts. The combination of Thomas Jones on the ground and the short passing game will be paramount to the Jets’ offensive production.

Evan Moore at Kansas City

Moore’s caught a total of eight passes for 114 yards in the past two weeks for the Browns. He was a surprise performer against the Chargers, but was brought back to Earth in Week 14 against the Steelers. However, this represents a solid spot against a weak Kansas City secondary. The Chiefs rank 24th against the pass and have surrendered 22 passing touchdowns.

Tight End Flops

Visanthe Shiancoe at Carolina

Shiancoe remains a red zone beast and a frequent target for Brett Favre over the middle. He’d scored in three consecutive games prior to getting shut down by the Bengals in Week 14. The Panthers rank sixth in the NFL against the pass (192.4 yards and one touchdown per game). It’s possible Shiancoe shakes free for a red zone look, but temper your expectations.

Jeremy Shockey vs. Dallas

Shockey’s a solid, albeit unspectacular, option for fantasy owners. He’s caught multiple passes in all but one game this season, but he last saw the end zone in Week 6. He’s also finished six straight games with 47 or fewer receiving yards.

Top 5 Kickers

Jay Feely vs. Atlanta

Feely’s been a fantasy hero the past two weeks, converting a total of eight field goals and three PATs. He’s hit at least one field goal in 12 of 13 games this season and will be a huge factor in this contest against a sinking Atlanta unit.

Rob Bironas vs. Miami

The Titans have obviously changed their season in the second half, and Bironas has certainly benefitted tremendously from this surge. He’s converted multiple field goals in six of his past seven games (one in the other contest) with a total of 23 PATs. The Dolphins have been stingy toward the goal-line, thereby putting Bironas on the radar for a big effort in the fantasy playoffs.

Billy Cundiff vs. Chicago

Cundiff’s been a solid find for the Ravens off the wire. He’s hit multiple field goals in three of four games since joining the Ravens and piled up 10 PATs in the past three weeks (six against Detroit). The Ravens should be able to run the ball with Ray Rice and Willis McGahee, thereby setting things up for Cundiff in the kicking game. I don’t expect huge numbers from Joe Flacco and the receiving corps, but Cundiff will get his opportunities.

Kris Brown at St. Louis

It’s been an adventuresome season for Brown, but the Texans have stuck with him. He’s converted at least one field goal in seven consecutive games and has knocked home multiple PATs in 11 of 13 games. Look for the Texans to post another huge offensive effort in St. Louis.

Matt Prater vs. Oakland

Prater represents a steady, solid play for fantasy owners against the Raiders. He’s hit at least one field and one PAT in 10 of his 13 games. He also converted three field goals and two PATs in the first meeting with Oakland, and I expect the balanced Denver offense to create scoring opportunities for him.

Kicker Sleepers

Olindo Mare vs. Tampa Bay

Mare’s been a hit-or-miss proposition this year for the Seahawks, right along with the rest of the offense. He’s attempted 15 field goals in his six home games, and I’m expecting him to be active this weekend against the struggling Buccaneers. He’d hit at least one field goal in 11 straight games prior to getting shut out in that category by the Texans.

Neil Rackers at Detroit

Rackers hasn’t been the monster option of fantasy years past, but I’m expecting this Arizona offense to bounce back from last week’s debacle with a big effort against Detroit. He’s registered multiple PATs in 10 of 13 games this season and has converted at least one field goal in 10 games. Interestingly, he’s yet to attempt a field goal from beyond 50 yards this season. Perhaps it’ll come this weekend in the dome.

Kicker Flops

Stephen Gostkowski at Buffalo

The bevy of PATs haven’t been there for Gostkowski in recent weeks, and I certainly don’t anticipate a barrage of points from the Patriots against the Bills. The Buffalo defense has been opportunistic and generated a ton of turnovers. It’s possible Gostkowski offers additional field goal tries in this contest, but I’m not optimistic he produces a huge game.

David Akers vs. San Francisco

Akers has been one of the top kicking options in the game, with the high-flying Philadelphia offense making big play after big play. He’s converted 37 PATs with at least one field goal in every game this season. I don’t expect him to get shut out this weekend, but he’s a difficult play against the surging San Francisco defense.

Top 5 Team Defenses

Denver vs. Oakland

Did you even think we’d come to the point where a Bruce Gradkowski injury would doom a squad? The Raider will turn to Charlie Frye this week, bypassing the downward spiraling JaMarcus Russell. So, while the Raiders won’t necessarily surrender as many sacks as they would with Russell under center, I still anticipate multiple turnovers in this one.

New York Jets vs. Atlanta

The Jets have surged to the top slot in terms of total defense (16.2 points per game). The pass defense has been its strength, with Darrelle Revis shutting down opposing top receivers ( Roddy White’s obviously a difficult start this week). Matt Ryan and Michael Turner aren’t likely to return this weekend, and that spells disaster for the Falcons.

Tennessee vs. Miami

The Titans’ defensive statistics are misleading. Obviously, it’s been a tale of two halves, and this unit’s been much stronger as it got healthy. The Dolphins are still fighting for a playoff spot, and I believe Chad Henne and Ricky Williams will team together with success. However, Henne will feel some heat and potentially get forced into errant throws.

Philadelphia vs. San Francisco

The Eagles rank in the middle of the pack in total defense, but this has been an opportunistic defense. Philadelphia’s generated 30 turnovers and 36 sacks this season, and the 10th-ranked run defense should put Alex Smith in difficult passing situations. Smith’s been stellar in recent weeks, but it won’t come easy against the Eagles.

Baltimore vs. Chicago

This isn’t the same Baltimore defense that terrorized opponents in the past. However, it’s still a pretty formidable unit and can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Bears have several intriguing deep ball options, but the decided lack of a running game puts Jay Cutler in tough spots.

Team Defense Sleepers

Houston at St. Louis

I have no choice but to put Houston in this slot. The Rams have produced just 11.2 points per game and their only weapon, Steven Jackson, is banged up. The quarterback position has been a disaster, and I expect to see the Texans produce multiple sacks and turnovers.

Seattle vs. Tampa Bay

Josh Freeman showed signs of growth several weeks back, and it looked like the Tampa Bay offense might have been finding its stride. Instead, things have come to a halt, and Freeman’s been a turnover machine in the red zone. Seattle’s been hit by injuries on the defense, but has rallied to post several big efforts this year.

Team Defense Flops

New York Giants at Washington

Perhaps the Giants don’t qualify as a flop candidate given the recent struggles in the secondary. However, fantasy owners have been fairly loyal to the front seven. I’ve enjoyed watching the evolution of the Washington offense in recent weeks. Jason Campbell’s been playing well of late, despite the myriad of injuries on the offensive line and in the backfield.

Green Bay at Pittsburgh

The Packers have been playing strong defense in recent weeks. The linebacking corps has rediscovered its teeth, and rookie Clay Matthews has been an absolute stud. However, this unit’s also allowed 24 passing touchdowns. I’m curious to see if Pittsburgh can rally from its current funk in front of the home crowd.

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