In most leagues, Week 15 is win-or-out time. Whether you had a two-week playoff, a first-round bye, your league’s playoffs are just starting this week or you survived Week 14, you need to win this week. If you’re like me, you’re already looking at your lineup, wondering what tweaks should be made. You’re scouring the waiver wire, looking for a golden ticket that will take you into the Fantasy Super Bowl. Odds are there isn’t much out there by this point.
When you’re putting together your roster remember how you got this far. Sure, you likely had a good draft. Perhaps your third-round pick of Adrian Peterson is paying off. Maybe you got lucky with a late-round pick of Alfred Morris. No matter what, you had a team of studs and a bit of luck that got you this far. You made good trades, good waiver moves and you started a lineup each week that led you to victory. So what is your concern now? Start your studs. Start the guys that got you this far. Yes, that may be risky, but the reality is if Aaron Rodgers was your first round pick and starting quarterback for most of the season, why are you going to sit him now? I understand that there is some risk involved with some of the so-called studs, but let’s examine if we should take that risk or play it safe.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB
He hasn’t put up the numbers he did last year, that’s true. But who else would you want leading your team into the Fantasy playoffs? In the past six games, Rodgers has been – dare I say it – disappointing to Fantasy owners. With only one game with more than 250 yards, Rodgers has thrown for 10 touchdowns in that span. However, one of those games had four touchdowns. So in five games, Rodgers only threw for six touchdowns and he threw for zero in Week 14. What’s even more concerning is the number of attempted passes: 35, 30, 27, 25, 35 and 24 in the last six games. Apparently Green Bay has decided to try to develop the run game… despite having a superstar quarterback. That said, it’s hard to bench Rodgers at this point of the season. He may not give you 40 Fantasy points, but he’s also not likely to put up a two-point stinker. Chicago’s D/ST was formidable, but since the injury bug has hit the Bears, you can start your QB against them, especially if your quarterback is Rodgers.
Matt Ryan, QB, ATL
Speaking of two-point stinkers… Ryan started the season on fire. Then he had that terrible game against Arizona where he thought the Cardinals were Falcons and he threw five interceptions. Since that game, he’s been okay, but not great. Against New Orleans, which has one of the worst defenses in the league, he only threw for 165 yards and a touchdown. You can look at the matchup this week with the New York Giants and say that he should be fine. And he should be – the Giants certainly can be thrown on and they do let big-play guys (hi, Julio Jones) succeed. While the news that Roddy White may be out or at least banged up, Ryan owners should worry a bit, but not enough to sit him on Sunday. He will check down to Jacquizz Rodgers, he will find Tony Gonzalez and he’ll throw deep to Jones. Just hope that the Giants don’t wear their red jerseys and confuse Ryan like the Cardinals did.
Chris Johnson, RB, TEN
If you’re a Johnson owner and you made it to the playoffs, congrats. It certainly wasn’t because of Johnson, although, unlike last year it wasn’t in spite of him either. He has only scored four touchdowns this year, and he hasn’t been a large part of the receiving game. Johnson is certainly capable of breaking off for a big run. However, he hasn’t averaged more than four yards per carry in the past three games. With the New York Jets on the slate this week, Johnson likely isn’t going to do better than that again. It’s hard to bench someone you took in the early rounds of the draft, but in this case, you likely have better options than Johnson. He’s still a RB2 for this week, but it is possible you have two better options. I’d rather start: Matt Forte, Bryce Brown, Knowshon Moreno.
Ryan Mathews, RB, SD
Speaking of early round disappointments, Mathews was a preseason sleeper for many. He was the lead back for an offense that was willing to give him a chance. His goal-line vulture, Mike Tolbert, was gone, and the job was Mathews’ to lose. Concerns were that he couldn’t stay healthy for the season. However, the concern should have been that Mathews just isn’t that good behind an offensive line that really isn’t good either. He’s found the end zone once this year, and his yards per carry has been trending downward. In the last five games, he hasn’t averaged more than four yards per carry, and in the last two games, he hasn’t averaged more than three yards per carry. He’s still serviceable as a RB2, but don’t expect much. I’d rather start: Chris Johnson, Mikel Leshoure, Michael Turner
Hakeem Nicks, WR, NYG
In an offense that likes to throw the ball, with a capable quarterback, Nicks should succeed – if he can stay healthy. He entered the season banged up and hasn’t seemed truly healthy yet. He likely won’t be healthy all year. That, however, doesn’t mean you should give up on him. You just need to lower your expectations. Nicks is still a top receiver and a favorite of Eli Manning. He’s found the end zone three times this season, including twice in the past three weeks. There have only been two games with a ton of receptions (nine in Week 10, 10 in Week 2), but he’s still been fairly production. You just need to expect a five reception, 50 yard day, with a touchdown as a bonus.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI
It’s pretty much a wasted season for Fitzgerald. There were times when Fitzgerald could succeed despite a bad quarterback, but this season takes the cake. It’s hard for Fitzgerald to catch the ball when it’s not even within a ten-yard radius around him. The targets he’s received are a meaningless number, as they shouldn’t be counted as targets just because they were in the same stadium as Fitzgerald. In the past four games, Fitzgerald has six receptions for 67 yards. A 6/67/1 stat line isn’t bad for one game, but as a combined total for four? Ouch. If Fantasy owners started him in Week 14, they were sorely disappointed with the one reception for two yards. You have to be pretty desperate to start him again this week. Arizona has said that Ryan Lindley will be the quarterback again this week, so good luck to Fitzgerald. Don’t risk him this week.
Vernon Davis, TE, SF
With Colin Kaepernick as the starting quarterback, Davis has three receptions for 19 yards (including a donut for Fantasy owners in Week 12). Well, it appears Kaepernick is still going to be leading the team for another week, and it’s a very risky start. However, the New England Patriots are very generous to tight ends. If there is a week to turn things around for Davis, this might be it. Also, the tight end pool is shallow, and is getting shallower by the week. In leagues where you start two tight ends, definitely keep Davis in your lineup. However, in leagues with just one tight end, it’s a risk. It’s likely, however, that there aren’t better options on the waiver wire and you’re just going to have to roll with Davis. Hopefully he will help you this week, but I wouldn’t count on it. I’d rather start: Kyle Rudolph, Jermaine Gresham, Dennis Pitta
Antonio Gates, TE, SD
Remember when Gates was a Top Five tight end? Remember when he came off the draft board before guys like Owen Daniels, Heath Miller and Greg Olsen? Yeah, I’d rather start any of those guys over Gates now. Whether it’s the Chargers game plan that he’s been left out of or Philip Rivers struggling, it’s been a tough season for Gates. He’s topped 60 receiving yards in a game once, so far this year. He has just four touchdowns and he hasn’t had more than six receptions yet. While he’s a safer start than Davis, you just can’t expect the numbers that you were used to from Gates.