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RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT: Week 15

Welcome back to this week’s edition of “Red Light, Green Light”, which is a matchup guide for all of this weekend’s (and Monday’s) NFL contests. While this piece is not intended to be solely a start/bench list, it can be used for some of those decisions as well.

In each of the NFL Week 15 game profiles below, players mentioned in the green light sections have a great matchup, and can be counted on as rock solid options for the week. Players mentioned in the yellow light sections have just an okay matchup and/or usage concerns, meaning they are passable fantasy options but don’t expect them to set the world on fire. Players in the red light sections have serious concerns, and need to have expectations lowered for the week, and/or should be avoided if possible. Remember, seeing your stud listed in the yellow or red light section isn’t necessarily grounds to bench them, but more of an indication they may not be the guy(s) carrying your team to victory this week.

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Bears Lions
Quarterback 26th 16th
Running Back 22nd 3rd
Wide Receiver 15th 19th
Tight End 28th 7th
Defense/Special Teams 18h 11th
Vegas Line: Lions -4.5
Vegas Over/Under: 44
Jordan Howard rose from the ashes last Sunday to rush for 147 yards and two scores against the Bengals, and should have his way with a Lions defense that has allowed the 5th-most rushing yards to opposing RBs over their last four contests (which includes the 125 yards and a score Howard posted against them back in Week 11). Marvin Jones‘ 64 receiving yards last Sunday were his lowest since Week 10, while the Bears have allowed the 6th-most receiving yards to opposing wideouts over their last four contests (which includes 4-85-1 to Jones back in Week 11).
Matthew Stafford has passed for 673 yards over his past two games, though complements those numbers with a mediocre a 2:4 touchdown to turnover ratio over that span. Golden Tate has caught 8 balls in back-to-back contests, but has clearly given way to teammate Marvin Jones as the big play option in the Lions’ offense (48.3 receiving yards per game for Tate over the Lions past four contests, compared to 87 for Jones).  With 155 total yards and three scores on 30 touches over the past two weeks, Theo Riddick appears to be in the drivers seat as the Lions lead RB. Keep in mind that Riddick’s yards-per-carry is atrocious over that span (2.5), and there’s a chance he’s phased  out of the game plan if the Lions build an early lead.
Despite Mitchell Trubisky showing signs of progress by having the best game of his career last week, the Bears’ blueprint for success is to run the ball with Jordan Howard and limit what their rookie QB has to do. Kendall Wright put up 10-107 receiving last Sunday, and more likely to follow that up with another 2-25 performance than a repeat.  For all we know Dontrelle Inman (zero catches last Sunday) does a turn as the Bears’ featured receiver. Eric Ebron also had an uncharacteristically huge game last Sunday (10-94), though likely won’t be a focal point for the Lions offense as the Bears play stingy tight end defense. Tarik Cohen‘s 85 total yards last Sunday comes in as slightly lower than his combined output over the last three games prior (100 total yards between Week 11 and 13). With 155 total yards and three scores on 30 touches over the past two weeks, Theo Riddick appears to be in the drivers seat as the Lions lead RB, though Ameer Abdullah‘s (neck) pending return turns the Lions backfield into a complete quagmire.

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Chargers Chiefs
Quarterback 30th 7th
Running Back 16th (tied) 18th
Wide Receiver 27th 2nd
Tight End 27th 21st
Defense/Special Teams 28th 27th
Vegas Line: Chargers -1
Vegas Over/Under:
 46.5
Keenan Allen is on a four game streak of at least 105 receiving yards, and is well on his way to blowing past his career season high of 1,046 from 2013. After about a month of sub-par fantasy production, Kareem Hunt is back in our good graces after putting up 138 total yards and a score on 28 touches against Oakland last Sunday. Fingers crossed the Chiefs coaching staff will continue to feed Hunt against the Chargers 6th-worst rushing defense in terms of yards allowed on the ground to opposing backfields.
Philip Rivers is as hot as they come over the past three weeks,  averaging 365.7 passing yards per game and tossing 6 touchdown passes over that span. It’s worth noting that Rivers’ history against the Chiefs is not good, as the veteran QB has averaged just 238 passing yards per game over the last 5 times he’s played Kansas City, and has tossed just three touchdowns in those contests as compared to 7 interceptions. Melvin Gordon has put up between 65 and 80 rushing yards in each of his last four games, and faces a Chiefs defense that has allowed the 7th-most rushing yards to opposing backfields this season. Hunter Henry is averaging 69 receiving yards per contest over his last three, as the Chargers seem to have realized their offense works better when the talented second-year tight end is consistently part of it. The NFL’s current leader in TE receiving yards this season, Travis Kelce, faces the same Chargers defense that held him to a single catch for one yard when these two teams met back in Week 4. Tyreek Hill‘s monster performances this season (Weeks 1, 7, and 13) tend to mask many of his mediocre ones, and expectations need to be tempered this week as the Chargers secondary allows the third fewest receiving yards per game to opposing wideouts. Hot-and-cold is a term that is also fair to apply towards Alex Smith, who had a blowup game against the Jets in Week 13, but threw just one touchdown pass vs. four interceptions over his other three games over the span of his last four contests.
It’s tempting to chase Tyrell Williams 4-132-1 from last Sunday, as he’s facing one of the leakiest pass defenses in the NFL. However, Tyrell has only eclipsed 50 receiving yards one other time since Week 4, should see his target totals decline a bit as teammate Mike Williams gets healthier.

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Eagles Giants
Quarterback 23rd 1st
Running Back 32nd 4th
Wide Receiver 20th 12th
Tight End 18th 1st
Defense/Special Teams 22nd 13th
Vegas Line: Eagles -7.5
Vegas Over/Under:
 40
Zach Ertz (concussion) ultimately sat out last Sunday, and was finally cleared this past Tuesday. Even with a massive downgrade at QB in the form of Nick Foles,  Ertz’ matchup against the worst tight end defense in foot ball is ripe. While the Eagles did allow a season-high 35 points last week, that came against the second-highest scoring team in the NFL. The Giants on the other hand, score the second-fewest points per game (15.3), so fire up the Eagles D/ST in a contest that sees them favored by more than a touchdown.
I wish I had a better idea of what Nick Foles will bring to the table as the Eagles starting QB (his career has been nothing but a downward spiral since his legendary 2013 season under Chip Kelly). With arguably the best supporting case he’s ever had though, it makes sense to put him on the streaming radar against the checked-out Giants. Alshon Jeffery has scored six touchdowns over his past six games, but is averaging just 63 receiving yards per contest over that span. Evan Engram remains the healthiest and most productive of all the Giants’ pass-catchers, making him the horse to bet on if you have to pick a guy from this team. While it was encouraging to see Jay Ajayi‘s 15 carries (his most as an Eagle) for 78 yards last Sunday, it would take a leap of faith to assume Philadelphia will ask the ex-Dolphin to shoulder a larger rushing load going forward. There could be a lucrative payoff if the aforementioned comes to fruition starting this week against a Giants defense allowing the third-most rushing yards per game to opposing backfields.
Playing through a hamstring injury last Sunday, Sterling Shepard was held to just 2-16 against the Cowboys. Battling various afflictions throughout the season, Shepard is a dicey proposition against a the Eagles’ bend-but-don’t-break defense.  After a productive three weeks that saw Nelson Agholor post 18 catches for 269 yards and two scores, his fantasy prospects take a massive hit without his QB Carson Wentz, as it’s unclear how many viable pass-catchers the Eagles can sustain going forward. If last week was any indication, Corey Clement and LeGarrette Blount are trending toward reserve roles after they each saw just 7 and 9 touches respectively against the Rams. The Giants’ backfield appears trending toward a timeshare, with Orleans Darkwa‘s playing time dwindling at the expense of rookie Wayne Gallman. Both backs are hands off against the best rush defense in the NFL. Eli Manning probably cannot wait of the 2017 season to end, as it’s been an unmitigated disaster in every way possible for him and his team.

 

About Will Weiler

An NFL Red Zone addict and all-around data nerd, I've been obsessed with the NFL and stats ever since I started playing the virtual pigskin game in 2005.