Week 15 lineup calls: Quarterbacks
Congratulations on your playoff berths and welcome to the second season.
Injuries are all over the board this weekend, and many fantasy owners will be forced to monitor the latest news. Two of the biggest injuries to impact this playoff week are Aaron Rodgers’ concussion and Matt Cassel’s recovery from his appendectomy.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Cassel appears to be the more likely to hit the field this weekend (Dwayne Bowe owners may breathe a mini-sigh of relief). He did some work during Wednesday’s session, but word came out of Green Bay that Rodgers won’t be on the field until Friday, if at all.
You didn’t think that the last stretch of road to a title would be easily traversed, did you?
(Other than Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers)
Matt Schaub at Tennessee
Fantasy owners who sat and watched that second half against the Ravens wondered where this Schaub has been all season. I would like to assert that it was a combination of a more well-rounded effort from the receiving corps (Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones laid out for balls), Owen Daniels returned, and he had all day to throw against a three-man rush in the second half.
Matt Ryan at Seattle
Ryan and the Falcons look to continue their run to the playoffs this week against a terrible Seattle defense. He’s thrown 22 touchdown passes against 11 turnovers this season while averaging 242 yards per game. In fact, Ryan has been shut out only once this season, all the way back in the season opener against the Steelers.
He shan’t be shut out this week. The Seattle pass defense ranks 30th in the NFL at 266 yards and 1.7 touchdowns allowed per game. Enjoy the steady production and minimal turnover risk in this playoff opener.
Jon Kitna vs. Washington
Kitna nearly engineered a dramatic comeback against the Eagles this past week and snapped a mini-funk by connecting early and often with tight end Jason Witten. His yardage total has gone back and forth like a teeter-totter, but I remain optimistic that he’ll be able to follow up his strong close in Week 14 against the Redskins. Washington ranks 29th against the pass at 260.5 yards and 1.5 touchdowns allowed per game. Kitna has averaged 253.6 yards with one touchdown and one turnover in five home games.
David Garrard at Indianapolis
Garrard didn’t dominate the yardage column, but he picked his spots beautifully against the Raiders in a huge Week 14 win. He tossed three touchdown passes in the victory, his seventh multi-touchdown game of the season.
He’s on the radar here against the Colts, a team that he’s played quite well during his career. Garrard has averaged nearly 200 total yards (179.7 passing) with 12 touchdowns against eight turnovers in 10 career games against Indianapolis. He accounted for three of those touchdowns (two passing) in the Jaguars’ Week 4 win over the Colts. Garrard completed 17-of-22 attempts for 163 yards, adding 44 rushing yards to boot. He’ll capitalize on the dominance exhibited by Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings on the ground.
Jason Campbell vs. Denver
Campbell appeared in the “sleeper” list in back-to-back weeks and delivered for gutsy fantasy owners in both games. He’s accounted for four touchdowns and zero turnovers in the past two weeks with 117-yard and 324-yard performances (37 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground in Week 13).
Campbell definitely warrants a look-see this week at home against a Denver team that is limping to the finish line. The Broncos have allowed a total of 24 passing touchdowns this year while generating only six interceptions. Look to the check-downs to Darren McFadden and work over the middle to Zach Miller.
Josh Freeman vs. Detroit
Freeman isn’t posting big yardage totals, but he continues to yield consistent results. The second-year quarterback has been shut out only once this season while averaging 208 passing yards and 23 rushing yards per game (17 touchdowns and eight turnovers). Freeman’s mobility will serve him well against Ndamukong Suh and that Detroit pass rush. Kellen Winslow’s recent surge (three touchdowns in his past five games) should open up opportunities for Mike Williams and emerging option Arrelious Benn. I like this spot for the playoff-hungry Buccaneers.
Carson Palmer vs. Cleveland
The turnover total from Palmer is maddening, and many Cincinnati fans are still pulling their jaws up from the two interceptions returned for touchdowns by Pittsburgh last week. I’m looking at this on a larger scale. Palmer has not been shut out since Week 2 and has averaged 38 pass attempts per game overall. I don’t suspect that much changes this week at home against Cleveland. He passed for 371 yards with two touchdowns and two lost fumbles in the first meeting between these teams.
Eli Manning vs. Philadelphia
Manning leaves you shaking your head at times. Other times, you just watch him quietly put up solid numbers while the defense and running game receive the accolades. On Monday, Manning tried to thread the needle in the back of the end zone and was intercepted, leaving owners of the running game (and those who started Manning) wanting.
I know that he’s thrown only one touchdown pass in the past two weeks, but his seven-game streak of multi-touchdown games isn’t that far in the rearview mirror. Manning threw multiple touchdowns (with four turnovers) in the loss against Philadelphia several weeks ago, including the utterly confusing left-handed pass. He’ll go into this game without Steve Smith (out for the year) and with Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks ailing. I still believe Manning will have his spots behind that dominant running game.
Kerry Collins vs. Houston
He started slowly in Week 14, but Collins finished with a huge effort last Thursday in a near-comeback against the Colts. He passed for 244 yards with three touchdowns, effectively utilizing his tight ends and running back Chris Johnson.
This week, Collins faces the Houston pass defense that has surrendered 29 passing touchdowns and 279.9 yards per game. The Texans will also play without Mario Williams, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday because of his sports hernia injury. The lack of a pass rush may allow Collins to get Kenny Britt back into a flow for the final three games.
Jay Cutler at Minnesota
It can’t be any worse than last week, right? Cutler seeks to rebound from a dismal effort in that snowy debacle against the Patriots. He passed for 152 yards with and turned the ball over three times, his second shutout of the past four weeks. Still, Cutler and the Bears offense had been clicking overall in recent weeks (Cutler had thrown multiple touchdown passes in three of the past six games), so I’ll cast that disaster to the side.
The Vikings are a team in disarray. The Giants ran over them in the Monday night game, and the quarterback position is an utter disaster. The Chicago defense bounces back in grand fashion and affords Cutler multiple short fields.
Chad Henne vs. Buffalo
Henne completed a head-scratching total of five passes in the low-scoring win over the Jets. Still, I’ll put him on the board against a Buffalo pass defense that has surrendered 22 passing touchdowns this season. The key is obviously getting the running game on track against this bottom-ranked run defense. I know that the Bills are a top-five defense in terms of passing yardage, but red zone defense has been an issue.
Matt Flynn at New England
Why do I include Flynn in this spot? Aaron Rodgers’ return to the field is still in question for Week 15 after sustaining a concussion in Week 14. Flynn passed for 177 yards and threw a red zone interception in relief of Rodgers against Detroit.
He’s certainly not a world-beating option this week, but he’s going to be forced to throw and play catch-up with Tom Brady. Forget about the fact that the Packers are the top-ranked team in terms of total defense. Brady is going to get his points, and that portends to throw after throw from Flynn to this talented receiving corps.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. New York Jets
The Steelers are set to return to the playoffs, and it’s the defense that’s setting the pace. Roethlisberger has averaged 252.3 passing yards during the past three weeks, but has produced only one touchdown with one interception.
I recognize that the Jets are flopping of late. However, much of that can be laid at the feet of an offensive regression. No, I’m not excusing the epic failure against the Patriots and Tom Brady’s four-touchdown effort. I am just not anticipating a huge breakthrough performance. The Jets rank ninth in pass defense at 203.9 yards allowed per game and did shut down Rodgers early in the season.
Kyle Orton at Oakland
Orton and the Broncos are limping to the end of a terrible season. He’s been shut out in back-to-back weeks with five turnovers (three interceptions) while averaging 141.5 passing yards. It’s a final.
The Raiders have allowed 25 passing touchdowns this season, including two to Orton late in the Week 7 blowout win, but I want no part of this offense right now. The chants for Tim Tebow, even in Oakland, are deafening right now. To take a global football view, I would be remiss if I failed to note that the Raiders are still in contention for a wild-card slot.
Joe Flacco vs. New Orleans
Flacco made some big throws early against Houston on Monday night, but the defense couldn’t get him back on the field down the stretch. He has thrown multiple touchdown passes in six of his past eight games. However, I’m not anticipating a big effort here against the surging Saints, even in a home game. The Saints rank fifth in pass defense at 198.6 yards per game and have surrendered only eight touchdowns all season. Flacco is a difficult start this year.
Mark Sanchez at Pittsburgh
It has been a maddening up-and-down season for Sanchez in his sophomore campaign. Sanchez has averaged a miserable 182 passing yards in his past three starts with one touchdown and six turnovers (one fumble). To be fair, Sanchez did throw a beautiful pass to Santonio Holmes in the end zone that was dropped against the Dolphins. Still, I’m not putting him anywhere this defense right now.