Week 15 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Turner not through yet
Week 15 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em (cont.)
After many important victories -- and some frustrating losses -- Week 15 of the fantasy football season has arrived. This is as important as it gets. Some draft their teams with solely this week in mind, with a trip to the championship game at stake. It's loser-goes-home week.
No matter how adept you've become at setting your lineup, gain an edge with the Week 15 Start 'em, Sit 'em:
• Bengals -- Andy Dalton, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham, Bengals D/ST: Because of the rise of the running game, Dalton hasn't had a 300-yard game since Week 6, but the Eagles have been a suspect defense since they changed coordinators. Dalton is a solid play, along with Gresham, for that reason. BGE is a bit of a risk against an Eagles defense that is top 10 in fantasy against running backs (only the Texans and 49ers have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns), but BGE is hot and this game is likely to wind up well in Cincy's favor. Finally, the Bengals' D/ST is a great play against the second-worst team in fantasy versus those units.
• Eagles -- Bryce Brown: After last week, this is the opposite of what many might expect, but the Eagles were pass-heavy against the best run defense in the NFL (Tampa Bay). It should be back to the running game on the short week here. Brown is at least sufficiently rested coming off his paltry 12-carry performance. The Bengals, while playing better, are still in the bottom half of fantasy against running backs.
• Bengals -- Brian Leonard, Cedric Peerman, Marvin Jones, Andrew Hawkins, Josh Brown, Mike Nugent: Most of these options should not be owned, but this isn't a good week to take a chance on Jones or Hawkins. Only the Chiefs have allowed fewer receptions to receivers, and the Bengals figure to stay run-heavy. If you take a shot on one of them, it should be Hawkins. He gets more targets.
• Eagles -- Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Clay Harbor, Alex Henery, Eagles D/ST: Foles is coming off a career day, but the Bengals' secondary (eighth versus quarterbacks, fifth versus wide receivers) is decidedly better than the Bucs'. It makes surprise performers like Harbor, Avant and Cooper risky options this week. You've made it this far without them, don't go messing up what you've built now.
• Giants -- Eli Manning, David Wilson, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Martellus Bennett, Lawrence Tynes, Giants D/ST: The question mark is Wilson versus Ahmad Bradshaw (knee). If Bradshaw plays, both running backs are viable fantasy starters. The Falcons are eighth-worst in fantasy versus opposing rushers and only the Saints (5.1) have allowed more yards per carry (4.9). The Falcons are eighth-worst versus tight ends, so the resurgent Bennett looks like a solid play, too, while few can afford to sit Cruz or Nicks -- even if the Falcons are sixth-best against wide receivers. Of all these possibilities, Manning may be the most marginal option. Only the Seahawks and Ravens (12) have allowed fewer passing touchdowns than the Falcons (13). Hope for a shootout in a critical game for the Giants, who could drop to third place in the division with a loss.
• Falcons -- Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Matt Bryant: The only question mark here against the Giants defense (eighth-worst versus quarterbacks, fourth-worst versus wide receivers) is Turner, who was limited to just 20 of 65 snaps last week. That was more a function of falling behind big early, which won't happen here. Regardless, Turner has scored in four consecutive weeks and five of six. Keep him active. Teams have run well on the Giants.
• Giants -- Domenik Hixon, Rueben Randle, Ramses Barden: The Giants figure to use their extra wide receivers in certain situations, but they all share too much to be viable in fantasy. If you want a shot in the dark at a touchdown, go with Randle or Hixon.
• Falcons -- Jacquizz Rodgers, Harry Douglas, Falcons D/ST: Rodgers played more than Turner last week and still didn't get enough touches to prove viable in fantasy. Avoid him. Despite giving up a pick-six last week, the Giants are still the fourth-best team in fantasy versus D/STs. Don't trust this defensive unit.
• Vikings -- Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph, Vikings D/ST: The sleepers here are Rudolph, because he's the leading target in the passing game, and the Vikings D/ST, which rates among the top-12 options to start because the Rams' offense is so mediocre. Blair Walsh is also a viable low-end starter at kicker because Peterson is so productive in the running game.
• Rams -- Steven Jackson: The Vikings are mostly a neutral matchup in fantasy, leaving Jackson as the only Ram to trust in crunch time. Sam Bradford is too inconsistent and Danny Amendola (foot) is not healthy. If you need a kicker, though, Greg Zuerlein isn't a bad low-end option.
• Vikings -- Christian Ponder, Jarius Wright, Jerome Simpson, Michael Jenkins: The Vikings have the worst passing game in the NFL, mostly because Percy Harvin (ankle) is out for the year. Ignore everyone here, especially since the Rams are ninth-best in fantasy versus wide receivers.
• Rams -- Sam Bradford, Daryl Richardson, Danny Amendola, Chris Givens, Brandon Gibson, Lance Kendricks, Rams D/ST: The only consideration here is Amendola, but he's not going to be playing at 100 percent, if he's active at all. Look elsewhere for sleepers.
• Buccaneers -- Josh Freeman, Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Connor Barth: There are a lot of easy starts here given that the Saints are the worst in fantasy versus quarterbacks and running backs and second-worst versus wide receivers. The Saints are also ninth-worst versus tight ends, if you need to take a shot on Dallas Clark. The only way this game doesn't wind up a shootout is if Martin rushes 30 times for 150 yards and the Bucs control the clock the entire game.
• Saints -- Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Jimmy Graham, Garrett Hartley: Perhaps the only defense more forgiving than the Saints is that of the Bucs, which has been the worst team in fantasy against wide receivers and second-worst against quarterbacks. It should be a great week for Brees and company. Hopefully, you're not facing these guys. Sproles is also a must-start because of his involvement in the passing game. He sure looked spry against the Giants last week.
• Buccaneers -- LeGarrette Blount, Tiquan Underwood, Buccaneers D/ST: The dangerous Saints offense is the only reason this isn't a start game for the Bucs' defense. Blount and Underwood shouldn't be owned any longer.
• Saints -- Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, Joseph Morgan, Devery Henderson, Saints D/ST: The Bucs have the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL. Don't mess with the underutilized Saints running game.
• Jaguars -- Cecil Shorts: He has been cleared to play, so consider him among the top options to use in three-receiver formats. The Dolphins have ranked in the top half against wide receivers in fantasy, but Shorts has just been too darn consistent this season to sit.
• Dolphins -- Reggie Bush, Dan Carpenter, Dolphins D/ST: This is one of the most favorable matchups the Dolphins have faced all year. Bush, and perhaps even Daniel Thomas, are solid plays against the third-worst team in fantasy versus running backs. The expected production of the running should mean ample field-goal chances for Carpenter, a solid sleeper this week. The Dolphins' D/ST has been fairly consistent, and the Jags -- 11th-worst in fantasy versus D/STs -- won't be able to run the ball against their front.
• Jaguars -- Chad Henne, Montell Owens, Rashad Jennings, Maurice-Jones Drew, Justin Blackmon, Marcedes Lewis, Josh Scobee, Jaguars D/ST: The Dolphins aren't necessarily a defense to take advantage of, seeing as how they have been able to stick in games against elite teams like the Pats and 49ers. It shouldn't be a great week for the lowly Jags, especially for the running backs against the eighth-best team in fantasy versus the position. Blackmon, meanwhile, figures to lose some targets to the return of Shorts. Consider Blackmon a marginal option this week.
• Dolphins -- Ryan Tannehill, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano: Tannehill's regression has made Miami's receivers marginal fantasy options post-bye weeks. Also, the running game might be able to carry this one even if the Dolphins need to open it up against a beatable opponent to see if Tannehill is the answer. But it's impossible to predict that and help these guys prove fantasy-worthy in a crucial week.
• Colts -- Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne: The Texans' defense has been far more suspect against the pass of late, getting absolutely ripped by the likes of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and ... Chad Henne. Given that, it should be a great day for Luck and company. Consider Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton sleepers if you need a third wide receiver, especially since the backs are banged up, the Texans are No. 1 against running backs and the Colts figure to be playing catch-up late.
• Texans -- Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Shayne Graham, Texans D/ST: This stands to be a monster week for Foster. Think: 25 carries for 150 yards and three touchdowns. The Texans laid off him late Monday night in the blowout in New England to feed him here to clinch the division title. Daniels should also be productive off the play-action pass, while the defense just rates inside the top-12 starts against a Colts team that has been ninth-most-forgiving against D/STs.
• Colts -- Vick Ballard, Delone Carter, LaVon Brazill, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Adam Vinatieri, Colts D/ST: Ballard is the feature back with Donald Brown (knee) out for the season and Carter banged up, but Texans are No. 1 versus running backs, so keep him reserved. Allen and Fleener would be sleepers against the seventh-worst team in fantasy versus tight ends, but they share targets too much. It is difficult project either as starter-worthy at this point. Vinatieri and the defense face the seventh-best (versus kickers) and third-best team (versus D/STs) in fantasy, so avoid them as well.
• Texans -- Matt Schaub, Kevin Walter, LeStar Jean, Keyshawn Martin, Garrett Graham: Schaub has a decent matchup, but he blew his chance in an even more favorable matchup a week ago. He's difficult to trust, especially with Foster projected to be relied on so heavily here. Ignore these other fringe options, as well.
• Redskins -- Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon: RGIII (sprained LCL) has been mostly inhuman this season, so we should expect him to play and play well as always. It makes Garcon a must-start along with Morris, too.
• Browns -- Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon: The Browns are playing better of late, but rookies Richardson and Gordon are the only ones worthy of your trust. Gordon is a sleeper starter even in two-receiver formats against the third-worst team in fantasy versus quarterbacks and wide receivers.
• Redskins -- Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, Aldrick Robinson, Leonard Hankerson, Logan Paulsen, Kai Forbath, Redskins D/ST: A healthy Garcon has made his receiving corps partners closer to cutting than starting. Forbath faces the No. 2 team versus kickers, while the D/ST faces a top-10 opponent in fantasy.
• Browns -- Brandon Weeden, Greg Little, Ben Watson, Jordan Cameron, Phil Dawson, Browns D/ST: Weeden is too far down the quarterback list to trust, while the rest of these options are marginal. The defense might have been a consideration, but the conservative Redskins are the second-best team in fantasy versus D/STs.
• Packers -- Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Packers D/ST: A road game, the Packers' new run-heavy approach, the questionable health and snaps of the receivers and the general strength of the Bears defense offer a lot of reasons to be wary of the Packers this week. Jordy Nelson (ankle) could return, which would make Greg Jennings more of a questionable starter outside of deeper three-WR leagues. Cobb, because he runs the underneath routes, is the safest starter among the receivers, while Rodgers is too good to sit in any matchup. He'll be productive, even if no single receiver is, by spreading the ball around. Lastly, the Packers' defense has been playing like a consistent top-12 unit, which could make for some points against a Bears offense that isn't all that scary.
• Bears -- Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Bears D/ST: The Packers are mostly a neutral matchup, so don't dare sit these potential stars in a pivotal division game.
• Packers -- Alex Green, Ryan Grant, DuJuan Harris, John Kuhn, James Jones, Jermichael Finley, Mason Crosby: Despite some poor performances of late, the Bears are still fourth (versus quarterbacks), fifth (versus running backs), seventh (versus wide receivers), fifth (versus tight ends) and third (versus kickers) defensively in fantasy. The Packers might be committed more to the run, but all of the backs are low-end options (Green will get the bulk of the chances, but Harris might wind up emerging). Jones figures to be a risk with both Nelson and Jennings likely to be slotted ahead of him in an important division matchup. And do we really have to detail why no owner should play Finley or Crosby?
• Bears -- Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Kellen Davis, Olindo Mare: Marshall is so dominant, he marginalizes all of his fellow receivers. Jeffery can emerge but he's still a risky play, along with the shaky health of Cutler.
• Broncos -- Peyton Manning, Knowshon Moreno, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Matt Prater, Broncos D/ST: The only question marks are Decker or the defense (facing the seventh-best team in fantasy versus D/STs). Trust Decker to be involved in the red zone and the defense to be among the top-12 starts. Moreno is hot and draws a Ravens defense that was ripped on the ground last week and is bottom-10 against running backs in fantasy.
• Ravens -- Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Justin Tucker, Ravens D/ST: This is an interesting week for the Ravens, who will be playing under a new offensive coordinator -- Jim Caldwell -- who has never called plays. It makes everyone but Rice a risk. Smith, Tucker and the defense still rate among the starter-quality options at their positions, though. Prater is an especially strong kicker play against a team that has given up the most field goals in the NFL to date.
• Broncos -- Ronnie Hillman, Lance Ball, Brandon Stokley, Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme: The only considerations here are the tight ends. The problem is that it's impossible to know which will be more involved against a Ravens defense that is seventh-best team in fantasy against the position.
• Ravens -- Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin, Jacoby Jones, Dennis Pitta: The Broncos are top-10 in fantasy against everything except tight ends. This makes Pitta a sleeper for those desperate at the position. His inconsistency leaves him just out of the top-12 tight ends this week, though.
• Panthers -- Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Greg Olsen: Newton is scorching, so keep him and his primary targets active. Conditions should be good to throw the ball, particularly with the quality of the Chargers' run defense (No. 4 in the NFL).
• Chargers -- Ryan Mathews, Danario Alexander, Nick Novak: Mathews (versus sixth-worst team against running backs) and Novak (versus third-worst team against kickers) face favorable matchups and are among the better options this week in all leagues. Alexander is probably too hot to sit, even if the Panthers are eighth-best in fantasy versus wide receivers.
• Panthers -- DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Brandon LaFell, Justin Medlock, Panthers D/ST: Williams has been productive, but he is a sub-par option against the Chargers' fourth-ranked run defense. The rest of these guys aren't worth owning, much less starting, right now.
• Chargers -- Philip Rivers, Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates, Chargers D/ST: Despite a disappointing season, the Panthers are still top 10 against quarterbacks and wide receivers. Also, Gates has been too unproductive to trust in such a crucial week. Avoid these options, if possible.
• Seahawks -- Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks D/ST: After an awful start, the Bills' defense has proven to be more of a neutral matchup in fantasy than one to take advantage of. The Seahawks are more of a team of sleepers than must-starts, save for the red-hot Lynch and D/ST. Use Russell Wilson, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate as needed, but only if other options are not available.
• Bills -- C.J. Spiller: The Seahawks' run defense is not to be messed with, but Spiller is going to be ridden hard down the stretch with Fred Jackson (knee) out for the season. Spiller will also be a frequent target in the passing game. Keep him, and only him, active here.
• Seahawks -- Robert Turbin, Doug Baldwin, Zach Miller, Steven Hauschka: Turbin is worth a look, but he just hasn't gotten enough touches, and there's no way Seattle scores another 58-0 blowout, especially on the road.
• Bills -- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tashard Choice, Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, T.J. Graham, Scott Chandler, Rian Lindell, Bills D/ST: The Seahawks are second-best in fantasy versus quarterbacks and wide receivers, and No. 1 against tight ends. Seattle is a tough pass defense (fourth in the NFL) and Johnson is dealing with a sore hammy. Find someone to replace him this week. The rest of these guys shouldn't be owned.
• Lions -- Matthew Stafford, Mikel Leshoure, Calvin Johnson, Jason Hanson, Lions D/ST: Ignore the blowout in Seattle; the Cardinals still have a solid defense and should show it again this week. Still, Stafford, Johnson and Hanson are must-starts. The problem with Leshoure is the presence of Joique Bell. The two have split carries more as the season has wore on. Start Bell out of necessity. Anyone streaming defenses should consider the Lions, who face the worst team in fantasy versus D/STs and an awful situation at quarterback for the Cardinals.
• Cardinals -- None: If the past nine losses haven't convinced you, last week must have. The Cardinals are not to be trusted, particularly against a Lions defense that has held up well against the likes of Aaron Rodgers twice.
• Lions -- Kris Durham, Mike Thomas, Brandon Pettigrew: Pettigrew's ankle issue makes him an iffy play, but start Tony Scheffler in deeper leagues if Pettigrew does not play. Ignore the rest of the Lions receivers against a Cardinals defense that has been top 10 in fantasy against quarterbacks and receivers.
• Cardinals -- John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Michael Floyd, Rob Housler, Jay Feely, Cardinals D/ST: Kevin Kolb (shoulder) is officially done for the season and the rest of the signal-callers have ruined everything, even Fitzgerald. Consider him only if you're a glutton for punishment, or Roberts if you subscribe to the backup quarterbacks favor backup wide receivers philosophy. There should at least be plenty of chances to pick up garbage-time numbers.
• Chiefs -- Jamaal Charles: This sets up brilliantly for Charles to have a huge week against the second-worst team in fantasy versus running backs. If there was any other redeeming fantasy option on the Chiefs, you might use him, too, against this woeful Raiders team, but Dwayne Bowe (ribs) is out. Only Peyton Hillis might pique interest for the potential to vulture a touchdown away from Charles.
• Raiders -- Darren McFadden, Brandon Myers: McFadden says he's healthy, which owners have to trust against the ninth-worst team in fantasy versus running backs. Myers should also bounce back. Carson Palmer would be a viable option, too, if Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Rod Streater or Juron Criner would be something better than streaky. As it is, they are low-end risks better avoided. Start Sebastian Janikowski, too, if you still own him.
• Chiefs -- Brady Quinn, Dwayne Bowe, Jon Baldwin, Dexter McCluster, Steve Breaston, Tony Moeaki, Ryan Succop, Chiefs D/ST: If Quinn wasn't so ineffective, you might consider someone in the passing game a sleeper, like Moeaki. Charles can make this a run-heavy game with a proper performance, though.
• Raiders -- Marcel Reece, Mike Goodson, Raiders D/ST: These options aren't worth owning any longer in any formats.
• Steelers -- Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, Heath Miller, Steelers D/ST: This is virtually a "start-all" game for the Steelers, particularly with the importance on the playoff race. Big Ben showed healthy and effective enough to start again, even if the Cowboys are the seventh-best team in fantasy versus quarterbacks. Wallace is also alive again. The defense faces the sixth-worst team in fantasy versus D/STs, so expect some sacks and turnovers. Jonathan Dwyer, Antonio Brown and Shaun Suisham are also relatively decent starts at their positions.
• Cowboys -- DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten: The Steelers are coming off an awful performance against the Chargers and are strong across the board -- No. 1 versus quarterbacks, No. 3 versus running backs and wide receivers and No. 2 versus tight ends -- but Murray and Witten are must-starts in any matchup at their positions right now. Keep them active. The ones to worry about are Tony Romo, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant (finger). Still, we think they still perform among the fantasy-worthy starters in an important home game for their playoff hopes.
• Steelers -- Isaac Redman, Emmanuel Sanders: With Dwyer the lead back and Wallace out of the doghouse, these fringe guys are too risky to play in crunch time.
• Cowboys -- Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, Kevin Ogletree, Dan Bailey, Cowboys D/ST: You should expect Bryant to play, at least try to, so avoid the backup receivers. Bailey and the defense just miss the cut among viable fantasy starting options this week. Look elsewhere.
• 49ers -- Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis: No one is playing as well as the Patriots right now, particularly at home. With that said, the 49ers will be playing for more than the Texans were Monday night, so don't expect them to fold up if they get down early. Consider Crabtree, Davis, Colin Kaepernick and David Akers as needed for that reason. The Pats are fourth-worst against quarterbacks and tight ends and 11th-worst against wide receivers.
• Patriots -- Tom Brady, Stevan Ridley, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots D/ST: It wouldn't matter the opponent; these guys are must-starts. Few options behind them could be intriguing enough, and the Patriots showed Monday night they can blow anyone out at home.
• 49ers -- LaMichael James, Anthony Dixon, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, 49ers D/ST: Brandon Jacobs (suspension) and Kendall Hunter (Achilles') are out for the season, but James and Dixon don't project to produce enough against a top-10 run defense. Manningham is banged up, Moss is hardly used and the defense has been mediocre for most of the year (fantasy-wise) and faces the No. 1 team in fantasy versus opposing D/STs. The defense is tough sit this week, but the Pats' offense is humming.
• Patriots -- Shane Vereen, Brandon Boldin, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Lloyd, Michael Hoomanawanui: Lloyd is the only legitimate consideration here coming off his big week, but the 49ers are No. 1 versus wide receivers in fantasy. They also happen to be No. 3 versus quarterbacks, No. 2 versus running backs, No. 4 versus tight ends and No. 1 versus kickers. They are not an opponent to consider a marginal option against.
• Jets -- Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell, Jets D/ST: There is no doubt running the ball and playing defense are the only thing the Jets can do well as they cling to faint playoff hopes. The good news is the Titans are the fourth-worst team in fantasy versus running backs, so consider Greene and Powell both good for 60 yards and a touchdown apiece. The defense is also a solid streaming play again versus the fifth-worst team in fantasy against D/STs.
• Titans -- Chris Johnson: It is a rare week the Titans can stay with their running game, but the Jets' methodically conservative pace should allow C.J. to get a season-high in carries (25), attacking the seventh-most forgiving team in fantasy versus running backs.
• Jets -- Mark Sanchez, Jeremy Kerley, Braylon Edwards, Chaz Schilens, Clyde Gates, Dustin Keller, Jeff Cumberland, Nick Folk: The Jets don't have wide receivers to do anything but run, especially with Keller banged up. And new addition Edwards just won't be ready to make a fantasy impact here.
• Titans -- Jake Locker, Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, Craig Stevens, Rob Bironas, Titans D/ST: This game figures to be played at the Jets' pace, slow and low-scoring. Avoid the Titans against a Jets defense that is sixth versus quarterbacks and fourth versus receivers. If the Titans' defense wasn't just so weak, you might consider that unit as a streaming option against the weak Jets offense.
For those of you that play in those weekly salary-cap leagues, here are some of the best players by position relative to their expected cost:
QB -- Drew Brees and Andrew Luck
RB -- Ryan Mathews and Reggie Bush/Daniel Thomas
RB -- David Wilson and Shonn Greene/Bilal Powell
WR -- Reggie Wayne and Michael Crabtree
WR -- Mike Williams and Cecil Shorts
FLEX -- Any of those above
TE -- Brandon Myers and Tony Scheffler
K -- Connor Barth, Matt Prater and Garrett Hartley
D/ST -- Lions D/ST, Bengals D/ST and Seahawks D/ST
You have a winning lineup? Put it up against me on Twitter @EricMackFantasy!
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. Track his weekly starts and sits every Thursday, his last-minute Cheat Sheet on Sunday mornings and his Fantasy Fast Forward on Sunday nights. You find also him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice or challenging him to a head-to-head fantasy game @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really.