Congratulations to all who are reading this sentence, as that means you’ve either qualified for the fantasy postseason or have already advanced to the second round. This week’s live chat will commence at 10:30am eastern and will run for one full hour, where we’ll be discussing starts and sits, injury updates, weather reports, point spread movements and more. To access the chat, simply hit up the homepage of the National Football Post on Sunday morning and look to the “Hot News & Rumors” section of the site. Hangovers welcome.
MISFIRE OF THE WEEK
Last week: New Orleans Saints (-3) vs. Carolina Panthers (won)
PICK: MIAMI DOLPHINS (+2) over New England Patriots
Analysis: Miami returns home after a successful two-game road trip north to attempt another stab at grabbing the AFC’s sixth seed, so you know the motivation will be there. Quietly, the Dolphins have covered the number in four straight contests and find themselves in a revenge spot Sunday against a New England Patriots offense that will be without Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski. In the Pats’ previous six games without Gronk on the field, the offense averaged just 20.8 points and 348.8 total yards per game. In the seven contests in which Brady and co. had a healthy Gronk to fall back on, the offense averaged 32.0 points and 417.7 total yards per game.
LVH SUPERCONTEST SELECTIONS
Last week: 3-2
*Note: The Big Puma and I won’t have our card finalized until Saturday morning, but here are the games we’re monitoring closely. I’ll be sure to tweet our final selections sometime this weekend.
Miami Dolphins (+2.5) over New England Patriots
Jacksonville Jaguars (+2) over Buffalo Bills
Seattle Seahawks (-7) over New York Giants
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+5.5) over San Francisco 49ers
Indianapolis Colts (-5.5) over Houston Texans
New Orleans Saints (-6) over St. Louis Rams
Pittsburgh Steelers (+3) over Cincinnati Bengals
START ‘EM UP
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (at Minnesota): Let’s try this one again, shall we? Foles’ improbable season took a slight detour in Week 14 (179 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) thanks to a freak blizzard that dumped close to eight inches of snow onto Lincoln Financial Field. But owners should expect a bounce-back performance Sunday in Minnesota, where the Philly signal-caller takes on a Vikings defense that currently ranks 30th in the league against the pass (282.5 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 24.9 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (second-most in NFL).
Steven Jackson, RB, Atlanta Falcons (vs. Washington): Jackson’s last three outings have resulted in a combined 54 carries for 218 yards and three scores, so the upside here is that owners are finally getting a bit of productivity from the aging running back. Look for the semi-hot streak to continue Sunday against a porous Redskins defense that currently ranks 19th in the NFL against the run (115.2 yds/gm) while permitting an average of 23.0 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (second-most in NFL). Take note that no team in the league has surrendered more rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs this season than Washington (17).
ICONLook for Smith to get back on track Sunday against the Jets.
Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Buffalo): Has found the end zone in each of his last two starts for the suddenly surging Jaguars, who have won and covered the point spread in four of their last five games. The Bills have been miserable on the road this season, with a 1-5 record and 14 touchdown passes allowed. In addition, note that only two teams (Philadelphia and Detroit) have permitted more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers in 2013 than Buffalo (27.0 pts/gm, third-most in NFL).
Eddie Lacy OR James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers (at Dallas): Lacy exited last Sunday’s win over Atlanta with an ankle injury and didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday, but is still expected to start Sunday at Dallas. If Lacy goes, make sure he’s in your starting lineup. If he doesn’t, get backup ball-carrier James Starks in there immediately. No team in the league is giving up more fantasy points to opposing running backs this season than Dallas (24.5 pts/gm), who also happens to rank 28th in the league against the run (128.4 yds/gm).
Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers (vs. NY Jets): Is currently riding a touchdown drought that measures seven games, but Smith should find some success Sunday against a Jets defense that ranks 24th in the league against the pass (254.9 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of 26.3 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (fifth-most in NFL). Remember, New York does a relatively impressive job of defending the run, so look for Carolina to take to the skies this weekend in their attempts to march up and down the field.
Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans (vs. Arizona): Week 15 is Walker’s turn to take a crack at the defense that is giving up more fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season than any other in the business (14.9 pts/gm). Take note that through 13 games, the Cardinals have already given up 14 scores to the tight end position (most in NFL).
Miami Dolphins, D/ST (vs. New England): With Rob Gronkowski in the lineup, the Patriots are averaging 32.0 points and 417.7 total yards per game this season. But without the Pro Bowl tight end on the field—which is the position New England will find itself in on Sunday—the Pats are averaging just 20.8 points and 348.8 total yards per game this weekend. Miami is fighting for the AFC’s sixth seed and returns home after a two-game road trip, so expect a big effort from this unit in Week 15.
SIT ‘EM DOWN
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots (at Miami): See our recommendation to start Miami’s D/ST this weekend above if you want to know why we aren’t expecting all that much from Brady on Sunday.
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans (vs. Arizona): Is averaging just 60.8 rushing yards per game over his last five outings, 3.8 yards per carry on the season and is expected to be dropped by the team that drafted him sometime after the conclusion of the season. To make matters worse for Johnson owners, the Tennessee running back takes on an Arizona defense this Sunday that currently ranks third in the NFL against the run (84.5 yds/gm) while surrendering fewer fantasy points to opposing ball-carriers than any other team in the league this season (11.9 pts/gm).
ICONWith no Rob Gronkowski to lean on, Brady should struggle Sunday at Miami.
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants (vs. Seattle): It’s been a disastrous season for the Big Blue offense, to say the least, and we expect the futility to continue Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks come to town fresh off a loss with a defense that ranks first in the league against the pass (175.6 yds/gm) while surrendering an average of just 15.0 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (second-fewest in NFL).
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Cincinnati): Has failed to top 80 rushing yards in each of his last seven starts with just one rushing touchdown over his previous four outings. Look for another RB option Sunday when Bell and the Steelers play host to a Cincinnati defense that currently ranks fifth in the NFL against the run (98.2 yds/gm) while permitting an average of just 13.7 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (fifth-fewest in NFL).
Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. San Francisco): Has topped 80 receiving yards just once over his last seven starts and should find trouble aplenty once again in Week 15, when Jackson goes up against a San Fran defense that currently ranks fourth in the NFL against the pass (204.0 yds/gm) while permitting an average of only 17.9 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (seventh-fewest in NFL).
Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore Ravens (at Detroit): Pitta was one of the most popular waiver wire acquisitions this past week, but owners need to exercise caution with the Baltimore tight end in Week 15. For starters, the Lions are surrendering an average of just 5.9 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season (second-fewest in NFL). In addition, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has a history of tanking on the road, where he owns a career QB rating of just 78.9, which includes a 68.8 mark through six road contests this season.
Houston Texans, D/ST (at Indianapolis): The Texans have lost 11 straight games, just fired their head coach and hit the road to challenge an Indianapolis offense on Sunday that is surrendering an average of just 7.4 fantasy points per game to opposing D/STs this season (fifth-fewest in NFL). There are better and more reliable options out there for Sunday.
Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh