Hits and Misses – Week 15: Time for an encore

In most of my leagues, week 15 means we’re two games away from a 2008 fantasy football championship, so the hits and misses this week are magnified dramatically. In some twist of fate, neither of my best fantasy teams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs this year, meaning I’m right there with you in using my own advice to get to the next round.

In terms of the action this weekend, it’s not usually my style to piggy back on a player (or players) who had a great game last week, but this weekend when Carolina hosts the Broncos, it’s too good to pass up. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart had a game for the ages in week 14 and while I don’t expect an exact repeat performance, something close would be nice! Anyways, let’s jump into the hits and misses for the week, starting with the Panthers two-headed monster…

Hits

  • DeAngelo Williams / Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers (vs DEN): The new heirs to the Smash & Dash nickname played out of this world last week, with both Williams and Stewart breaking the century mark and scoring two touchdowns each against a Tampa Bay defense that had only allowed one rushing touchdown all season! While I don’t expect a repeat of those touchdown numbers this weekend, even against a worse defense, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them run for 100 yards and a score each against a Broncos team that is giving up nearly five yards per carry and almost 140 rushing yards per game (and that includes some teams that are MUCH worse at running the ball than the Panthers.) I also need to mention that I recommended to a couple people that they start Jonathan Stewart over Pierre Thomas this week…so let’s hope steps it up and makes me look smart!
  • Chad Pennington, QB, Dolphins (vs SF): Although the 49er’s may have put up a good fight against the Jets last week, I don’t expect it to carry over completely to this weeks game in Miami. Pennington is one of the more accurate quarterbacks in the league and while he won’t bomb it for 70 yards regularly, he’ll rack up the numbers when given enough chances. San Francisco has allowed an average of 231 yards per game to opposing signal callers, so this could be one of those days that Pennington puts up some decent numbers for your fantasy team.
  • Deion Branch, WR, Seahawks (@ STL): Maybe it was the fact that he was playing his old team last week, but Branch certainly didn’t play like someone who had been plagued by injuries over the past season or so. This weekend you can expect another solid performance from Deion as he takes on a Rams defense that is giving up 225 yards per game via the pass and has given up 17 touchdowns this season to opposing quarterbacks.
  • Dominic Rhodes, RB, Colts (vs DET): With Joseph Addai not expected to play this Sunday, Rhodes becomes a very appealing start against a very weak Lions defense that is giving up an atrocious 173.5 yards per game and has surrendered 23 touchdowns to opposing running backs. This SHOULD be an easy win for the Colts, so I don’t think they would force a hurt Addai out there when they’ll want him healthier for the playoffs, meaning more carries for Dominic even if he didn’t get to “start” the game.
  • Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals (vs MIN): Let’s just say that I don’t expect the Cardinals to be running the ball all that much because A) the Vikings are great against the run, and B) the Arizona running game is pretty much non-existent. Expect loads of passing in this one, with big numbers from Boldin and Fitzgerald as well.
  • Lee Evans, WR, Bills (@ NYJ): While I’m not going to go crazy and predict a big game from quarterback J.P. Losman, I’m going to assume that his favorite target can get a few deep catches against a bad Jets secondary. New York is giving up 251 yards per game through the air, so you can expect a big portion of that number to go Lee Evans’ way.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars (vs GB): With Fred Taylor out for the season, we don’t have to worry about a time share in the backfield for Jacksonville. MJD will get the rock…and he will get it plenty against a Green Bay defense that has been pretty shaky this season against the run.
  • Steve Smith, WR, Panthers (vs DEN): Although some “experts” are high on Jake Delhomme this week, I still don’t have faith in the guy after he’s gone five weeks with less than two passing touchdowns and only really has one target to throw to. I will recommend you start that target, Steve Smith, as I expect him to have a big game against a Broncos defense that has allowed 232 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks and only has five interceptions all season.
  • Tyler Thigpen, QB, Chiefs (vs SD): 249/21/10 – This seems to be the year of the quiet, but solid, fantasy quarterbacks, with Thigpen, Shaun Hill, Chad Pennington and Joe Flacco leading the way. Playing at home should be enough to amp up Thigpen against one of the worst defenses in the league. San Diego is giving up just under 250 passing yards per game and has given up 21 touchdowns to quarterbacks this season. Expect a solid start from Tyler this week, as he does his best to push your team into the championship game next week.
  • Others: Seneca Wallace, QB, Seahawks (@ STL); Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins (vs SF), Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers (@ KC) LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers (@ KC); Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles (vs CLE)

Misses

  • Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens (vs PIT): Who knows, this game (Ravens vs Steelers) could be one of those games everyone expects to be a defensive struggle, but turns into a real barn burner. However, that’s not what I’m predicting. The Steelers are the best in the NFL in terms of passing yards per game with 169 allowed per game, plus they’ve only given up 11 touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks. Something tells me that Flacco could struggle a bit in this one.
  • Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers (@ BAL): While the Steelers defense might be the best in the league, the Ravens are pretty close. Big Ben is going to have his hands full this weekend against a team that only allows 176 yards per game to quarterbacks and has 22 interceptions this year.
  • Matt Schaub, QB, Texans (vs TEN): Schaub may have come out swinging last week when he threw for over 400 yards, but this week could be a different story. The Titans are only allowing 181 yards per game through the air and have only allowed eight touchdowns via the pass (while accumulating 18 interceptions.)
  • Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions (@ IND): Johnson doesn’t catch a whole lot of balls (compared to the top WR in the league at least), but he does make the most out of what he gets. This week though he plays a Colts defense that is great at keeping receivers out of the endzone, having only surrendered four touchdowns all season through the air, which could mean that it’s one of those games where he doesn’t catch a 70 yard touchdown. If this is the case, his value to your fantasy team could be minimal, so you may want to look to a receiver that gets more receptions to guarantee you get some points. (Note: I know he’s been great all year, so you’re probably playing him anyways, but it’s just something to consider!)
  • Baltimore running backs (vs PIT): Not that I would recommend you start any of the Ravens running backs anyways, since it’s such a mystery as to which one will get fantasy points each week, but this week could be particularly bad when they play the Steelers. Pittsburgh is allowing a meager 3.2 yards per carry for a whopping total of 73 yards per game, while giving up just five touchdowns so far this year on the ground. Keep your Baltimore tailbacks on the bench this week if possible!
  • Willie Parker, RB, Steelers (@ BAL): 3.4/77/3 Even though he called out his head coach and recommended that the team get back to old “Steelers football”, I don’t think it’s going to matter much this week as the team plays the Ravens. Baltimore is giving up just 77 yards per game to running backs and has only allowed three touchdowns on the season on the ground! This, coupled with the fact that Mewelde Moore is going to steal some carries, makes it a week you should think about swapping in a tailback with more upside than Fast Willie Parker.
  • Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills (@ NYJ): Best Mode hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations of fantasy team managers who picked him with one of their top picks in the draft and this weekend could be another reason for them to be disappointed. The Bills head to New Jersey to take on the Jets, who are giving up less than 84 yards per game to opposing running backs. I expect a lot of J.P. Losman winging the ball down-field to Lee Evans in this one…and not so much Marshawn Lynch running the ball.
  • Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys (vs NYG): First of all, Marion the Barbarian is banged up with a toe injury that could keep him out of this weekend’s game altogether. Also, the game is the night game, so if they decide to bench him, you could be completely screwed with no alternative to plug in. Even if he were to play (or even his backup, Tashard Choice), he’s going against a solid Giants defense that is giving up under 90 yards per game to running backs. Keep him on your bench and hope one of your alternates can push you through to the next round of the playoffs.
  • Others: Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals (vs MIN)