Playoff Stock Watch
Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins: Henne returned to the starting lineup in Week 12 and promptly lit up the Oakland secondary for 307 yards and two touchdowns. The former Michigan signal-caller has been inconsistent in 2010, but keep in mind that Henne has two upcoming showdowns (Detroit, New England) against defenses that rank in the top-eight in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Henne’s other three remaining games come against Cleveland, New York (Jets) and Buffalo, who all have struggled at times this season slowing down the pass.
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Prior to Week 12, the second-year quarterback out of Kansas State had thrown two touchdown passes in three straight games. In addition, Freeman hasn’t thrown an interception in six of his last seven starts. Look for the guy who currently ranks 15th in scoring among fantasy signal-callers to keep making progress down the stretch of his sophomore season as Freeman will play his next four games (Atlanta, Washington, Detroit, Seattle) against defenses that rank in the top-nine in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: After coming out of the gates slowly to open 2010, MJD has rushed for 100 or more yards in each of his last four games and now ranks sixth in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (1,263). At 6-5, Jacksonville is very much in the hunt for a postseason berth and will no doubt lean heavily upon their most dangerous offensive weapon over the final month of the season. Expect big-time performances in Weeks 14 and 15 when Jones-Drew and the Jags take on the Raiders and Colts in back to back weeks. Keep in mind that both of those defenses rank in the top-eight in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs.
Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons are currently 9-2 and Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner ranks fifth in the league in rushing (974 yards). So how come very few people are talking about this team? Even if the Dirty Birds from Hotlanta aren’t making headlines, fantasy owners will be happy to know that over the final five weeks of the season Turner won’t face a single team that ranks in the bottom-half of the league in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. Two games with the Panthers and one with the Seahawks highlight the schedule.
Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints: We mentioned a couple weeks back that Colston was set to go streaking over the final two months of the season. Since that time, quarterback Drew Brees’ favorite target has hauled in 14 receptions for 218 yards and two touchdowns on 20 targets over his last two games. Not bad. Look for Colston to keep streaking down the stretch with upcoming showdowns against the Bengals, Rams and Falcons, who all rank in the top-half of the league in fantasy points surrendered to opposing wide receivers.
DeSean Jackson & Jeremy Maclin, WRs, Philadelphia Eagles: Jackson has scored just seven fantasy points over his last two outings and Maclin has only topped 100 yards receiving in a game two times in 2010. But owners should be optimistic about the upside these two Philly wideouts possess entering December. Over the final five weeks, the Birds will play three games (Houston, Dallas twice) against defenses that rank in the top-four in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers. For Philadelphia to secure a playoff berth, Jackson and Maclin will have to play integral roles in the offense.
Jacob Tamme, TE, Indianapolis Colts: Despite starting just five games this season, Tamme has already cracked the top-20 in scoring at the tight end position. Dallas Clark’s backup has caught six or more passes in each of his five starts this year and has found the end zone three times over the last five weeks. Expect Tamme to continue running hot into the playoffs as the final five weeks of the season feature three games (Jacksonville, Tennessee twice) against defenses that rank in the top-eight in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends.
Joel Dreessen/Owen Daniels, TEs, Houston Texans: Daniels has been nursing a hamstring injury that has kept him out of action since the beginning of November. In his place, Dreessen has stepped up and found the end zone in each of his last two games. The upside here is that owners should expect to see plenty of production out of Houston’s starting tight end over the coming weeks, as four of the next five games come against defenses (Philadelphia, Tennessee, Denver, Jacksonville) that rank in the top-eight in fantasy points allowed to opposing TEs.
SELL, SELL, SELL!
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons: The third-year quarterback out of Boston College has been having an outstanding season and currently ranks in the top-nine in scoring among fantasy signal-callers. However, owners need to be advised that Matty Ice will hit the road three times over the next five weeks (road QB rating: 87.5). In addition, those five games feature four showdowns (Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Carolina twice) with defenses that rank in the bottom-ten in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Also, keep in mind that the Falcons currently rank 11th in the NFL in run to pass ratio (44.8%).
Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals: Palmer’s 19 touchdown passes have helped him move up to 12th in scoring among fantasy quarterbacks through 12 weeks. Not bad, but owners who have been backing the Cincinnati signal-caller this season need to reevaluate their position heading into the final five games of the year. Over the next month, Palmer will play three of his final five contests (New Orleans, San Diego, Baltimore) against defenses that rank in the bottom-four in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. The other two games aren’t very friendly either, as the Bengals still have showdowns left with the Steelers and Browns.
Jahvid Best & Maurice Morris, RBs, Detroit Lions: Best has only rushed for 258 yards since suffering turf toe injuries to both of his feet back in Week 3, so it’s safe to say that this guy isn’t getting any healthier. As for Morris, despite the fact that he should handle the bulk of the backfield carries moving forward, be advised that the Lions will play four of their final five games (Chicago, Green Bay, Miami, Minnesota) against defenses that rank in the bottom-11 in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. There is very little upside here.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: The fact that McCoy is playing with an injured shoulder is one thing, but owners need to check out Philadelphia’s upcoming schedule and determine whether or not the second-year running back is best suited in the starting lineup. After the Texans game on Thursday night, McCoy will play his final four contests (Dallas twice, NY Giants, Minnesota) against defenses that rank in the bottom-13 in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. The Dallas matchups shouldn’t be fantasy killers, but the New York and Minnesota games could spell trouble.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: First, the bad news: Three of Megatron’s final five games (Chicago, Green Bay, Miami) come against defenses that rank in the bottom-nine in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers. Now, the worse news: It looks like backup quarterback Shaun Hill could be done for the season after suffering a finger injury on Thanksgiving against the New England Patriots. That leaves Detroit with the unreliable Drew Stanton and inexperienced Zac Robinson to man the quarterback position.
Santonio Holmes & Braylon Edwards, WRs, New York Jets: Holmes has been a beast as of late, but after the Jets play th e Patriots on Monday night, three of New York’s final four games (Miami, Pittsburgh, Chicago) come against defenses that rank in the bottom-ten in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers. Holmes and Edwards aren’t terrible options moving forward, but their fantasy success will hinge on the right arm of second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez, who has thrown at least one interception in each of his last six games and is completing only 55.2% of his passes on the year.
Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Minnesota Vikings: Shiancoe went from being a touchdown machine (career-high 11 in 2009) to a guy who has found the end zone only two times in 11 games this season. In addition, the veteran tight end has caught more than four passes in a game just one time (Week 2) in 2010. Expect the mediocre numbers to continue as Shiancoe still has games remaining with the Giants, Bears and Lions, who all rank in the bottom-eight in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends.
Kellen Winslow, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The former Miami Hurricane has found the end zone in two of his last three games, which for him is considered to be a big-time hot streak. Unfortunately, owners are advised to taper their expectations heading down the stretch as three of Winslow’s next four games (Washington, Detroit, Seattle) come against defenses that rank in the bottom-12 in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends.