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In The Spotlight – Week 15 In Review

Week 15 Fantasy Headlines:


Game Summaries & Fantasy Commentary:

Thursday Night Game:









Fantasy Focus – San Diego Chargers:
The tough running of Ryan Mathews (29-127-1 rushing and 1-1-0 receiving) was the key to San Diego’s scheme of playing “keep away” from Peyton Manning and the prolific Broncos offense. The ball-control plan worked: the Chargers held the ball for 38 minutes and 49 seconds. Danny Woodhead (9-29-0 rushing and 1-13-0 receiving) played second fiddle to the productive Mathews.

It shouldn’t surprise you to find out that Philip Rivers (12/20 for 166 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs; 3-9-0 rushing) amassed season lows in attempts and passing yards. Keenan Allen (2-29-2 on five targets) hauled in two scoring grabs for the second straight game, which made up for his second-worst receiving yardage total of 2013.

Antonio Gates (2-23-0 on three targets) and Eddie Royal (3-46-0 on a team-high six targets) both had quiet games. San Diego used Ladarius Green mainly as a blocker. Green wasn’t targeted.

Fantasy Focus – Denver Broncos:
The Broncos held the ball for just 21 minutes and 11 seconds, which explains why their passing attack looked out of sync most of the evening. Peyton Manning (27/41 for 289 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT) compiled his third-worst fantasy outing of the season. He clearly missed Wes Welker (concussion), who was inactive. The San Diego defense also deserves credit for forcing Manning to settle for short throws and check downs most of the evening.

Owners of Demaryius Thomas (4-45-0 on five targets), Eric Decker (2-42-0 on five targets) and Julius Thomas (4-49-0 on eight targets) were disappointed to see little-used Andre Caldwell (6-59-2 on 10 targets) benefit from Welker’s absence. Thomas’ outing was his worst of the season, and Decker’s performance was his second-worst of 2013.

Knowshon Moreno (8-19-0 rushing and 5-36-0 receiving) and Montee Ball (3-(-1)-0 rushing and 5-49-0 receiving) found very little running room against a scrappy Chargers’ front seven.

Key Injuries:

Fantasy Talk:
It’s strange to see the words “tough running” associated with Ryan Mathews, but he is coming off two straight games with 100-plus yards rushing and one rushing score. He toted the rock a season-high 29 times in both contests. Mathews looks like a solid fantasy RB2 play against the Raiders in Week 16. His success has resulted in a reduced role for Danny Woodhead. Since Week 14, Mathews has topped Woodhead in touches by a count of 62 to 21. Woodhead looks like a weak flex play in PPR leagues going forward.

Wes Welker (concussion) is tentatively expected to return for Week 16. If he sits, I don’t recommend Andre Caldwell as a plug-and-play option. He had caught just five passes before his fluky season-best outing against the Chargers.

If your disappointing Broncos didn’t sink your fantasy team, they should rebound in Week 16 against a Houston team that mailed it in during a loss to the Colts.

Waiver Wire Prospects:


Early Sunday Afternoon Games:








Fantasy Focus – Washington Redskins:
Kirk Cousins made his first start of 2013, because
Robert Griffin III is banged up and not playing well 3-11 Washington wants to showcase Cousins and jack up his trade value as much as possible. The performance of Cousins (29/45 for 381 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs) had more positives than negatives. The second-year pro racked up a huge chunk of his stats in the first half.

Both of Cousins’ picks came in the second half, and he lost a fumble. By the way, Cousins failed to hook up with Pierre Garcon on a two-point conversion pass in the closing seconds.

Garcon (7-129-1 on 10 targets) logged his first game with 100-plus yards and a scoring grab since Week 10. Santana Moss (8-64-1 on nine targets) amassed 2013 single-game highs in catches and receiving yards, and he hauled in just his second touchdown reception of the season. Fred Davis (1-23-1 on three targets) filled in for Jordan Reed (concussion), who is not expected to sit out the rest of 2013.

With Cousins effectively stretching the field, Alfred Morris (18-98-0 rushing and 1-8-0 receiving) rebounded with his most productive fantasy outing since Week 10.

Fantasy Focus – Atlanta Falcons:
The Washington defense put up more of a fight than expected. Matt Ryan (29/38 for 210 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT) was sacked three times and faced almost non-stop pressure all afternoon. Tony Gonzalez (6-62-1 on seven targets) and Ryan came up just one yard short of hooking up on a second scoring play. Gonzalez has caught a touchdown pass in three straight games. Roddy White (5-53-0 on seven targets) and Harry Douglas (5-37-0 on seven targets) had surprisingly quiet games.

Since Week 12, Steven Jackson (15-38-2 rushing and 4-5-0 receiving) has scored five times, but he topped 65 yards rushing in a game just once during that stretch. It’s no coincidence that Jackson hit pay dirt in all three games that he played indoors.

Key Injuries:

Fantasy Talk:
Two weeks ago, the Redskins looked dreadful during a home loss to the Chiefs, but Kirk Cousins seems to have sparked the team. In two career starts, Cousins has amassed 710 yards passing and five touchdown passes. He looks like a rock-solid play in Week 16 against a leaky Dallas secondary. Alfred Morris and Pierre Garcon also look like solid starts. Fred Davis looks like a hit-or-miss option to me.

Atlanta faces a tough Week 16 road matchup against the 49ers. Aside from Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons fantasy stars looks like weak plays in this contest.

Waiver Wire Prospects:
Kirk Cousins, Santana Moss (flier value), Fred Davis (flier value)









Fantasy Focus – Chicago Bears:
The Bears tallied 31 offensive points. Jay Cutler (22/31 for 265 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs; 3-11-0 rushing) spent most of the first half shaking off the rust (he was a bit erratic) following a four-game injury layoff, but his overall performance featured more good plays than bad. Cutler tossed three touchdowns in a game for just the second time this season. One of his interceptions was a pick-six.

As usual, Cutler leaned on favorite target Brandon Marshall (6-95-1 on 13 targets), who found the end zone for the first time since Week 12. Although Alshon Jeffery (5-72-1 on five targets) didn’t see many passes come his way, the second-year pro hauled in a 45-yard rainbow to rack up his fourth touchdown grab in the last three weeks.

Earl Bennett (4-23-1) caught Cutler’s third scoring strike of the game. Martellus Bennett (6-71-0 on six targets) caught six passes in a contest for the first time since Week 6, but he lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

Matt Forte (24-127-0 rushing and 1-4-0 receiving) ran surprising well against a solid Browns front seven, notching his third straight 100-yard game. Michael Bush (3-44-1 rushing and 0-0-0 receiving) scored on a 40-yard run when he was playing in fourth-quarter clock-killing time.

Zach Bowman scored on a 43-yard pick-six.

Fantasy Focus – Cleveland Browns:
The sloppy Browns scored just 17 offensive points. Perhaps the team had a letdown following an emotional Week 14 loss to the Patriots. Jason Campbell (23/39 for 273 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs) played poorly, frequently missing open receivers. His lone touchdown pass went to Josh Gordon (3-67-1 on 10 targets) in garbage time, which salvaged otherwise dismal fantasy outings for both players. Although Gordon hit pay dirt in his fifth straight game, the second-year pro didn’t look sharp. Jordan Cameron (3-23-0 on eight targets) was coming off a monster Week 14 game, so his dismal showing was disappointing.

Willis McGahee was inactive, but Cleveland used Edwin Baker (8-38-1 rushing and 4-46-0 receiving) as a featured runner in his place instead of Chris Ogbonnaya (5-7-0 rushing and 5-39-0 receiving). Surprisingly, neither Baker nor Ogbonnaya could get on track against a Chicago defense that has been gashed on the ground all season.

Tashaun Gipson scored on a 44-yard pick-six.

T.J. Ward scored on a 51-yard fumble-six.

Key Injuries:

Fantasy Talk:
Unfortunately for owners of Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte, Chicago’s pass distribution changes when Jay Cutler is under center. Cutler leans heavily on Marshall and doesn’t target Jeffery as many times as backup Josh McCown would. In addition, Cutler, who has a gunslinger mentality, would rather try to force the ball into a double- or triple-covered Marshall than settle for dump-offs to Forte.

Downgrade Jeffery to fantasy WR2 status, but Forte should remain locked in as a fantasy RB1. All the Chicago fantasy stars look like good plays in a must-win Week 16 contest against the Eagles.

Edwin Baker was signed off Houston’s practice squad close to five days ago, so it was a surprise to see him receive a notable workload. However, I wouldn’t recommend him as a plug-and-play option against a solid Jets’ run defense in Week 16. I also don’t expect Jordan Cameron to bounce back against a New York defense that has been stingy to opposing tight ends in recent weeks.

Waiver Wire Prospects:








Fantasy Focus – Houston Texans:
How bad was it? Houston’s only points came on a 49-yard Randy Bullock field goal late in the first quarter. Case Keenum (18/34 for 168 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs; 1-2-0 rushing) played what was arguably his worst game of the season. Looking hopelessly inept at times, Keenum tossed two ugly picks, missed open receivers and took four sacks. Granted, his receivers dropped some passes and played lackadaisically.

Andre Johnson (4-18-0 on 10 targets) looked like he was going through the motions on the way to compiling one of his worst fantasy outings of the season. DeAndre Hopkins (3-52-0 on five targets) remained an afterthought in the offense. Backup tight end Ryan Griffin (6-62-0 on six targets) filled in for Garrett Graham (hamstring), who was inactive.

Although Ben Tate (16-72-0 rushing and 3-20-0 receiving) didn’t have an effective passing attack backing him up, the third-year pro ground out some tough yards. Tate lost two fumbles, but the Texans recovered both.

Fantasy Focus – Indianapolis Colts:
Since the Texans never mounted a serious threat, Andrew Luck (19/32 for 180 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT; 5-29-0 rushing) didn’t have to light it up. He attempted just one pass in the fourth quarter. Luck has tossed multiple scoring strikes in two straight games.

T.Y. Hilton (8-78-0 on 12 targets) racked up his best fantasy outing in more than a month, but, unfortunately, he hasn’t scored since Week 9. Rookie Da’Rick Rogers (2-23-0 on six targets) disappointed anybody who rolled with him as a flex or fantasy WR3. He just missed hooking up with Luck on what would have been a 27-yard touchdown grab. With LaVon Brazill (foot) inactive, rookie Griff Whalen (4-45-1 on five targets) filled in.

What happened to Coby Fleener? He was targeted just once. The Colts used him mainly as a blocker.

We had a Trent Richardson sighting! After Donald Brown (5-38-0 rushing and 0-0-0 receiving) departed in the first quarter with a stinger, Richardson took over as the featured runner. He carried 19 times for 64 yards and caught four balls for 38 yards and one touchdown, which was Richardson’s most productive fantasy outing in a Colts’ uniform.

Cory Redding tackled Duane Brown in the end zone for a safety.

Key Injury:
Donald Brown (neck/stinger)

Fantasy Talk:
How hard will the Texans play for interim head coach Wade Phillips? We have our answer. Although Houston will face a suddenly beatable Broncos defense at home in Week 16, the Texans are clearly going through the motions. Don’t trust any Houston players in the starting lineup of your fantasy bowl team.

Don’t chase Trent Richardson’s numbers. He still isn’t running well. Richardson amassed a good chunk of his rushing yardage in garbage time.

Waiver Wire Prospects:

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