TE Notes: I debated where to place Antonio Gates for the better part of the week. He started out behind John Carlson and Zach Miller, and slowly wormed his way back up the list. Gates is not the same guy we are used to seeing, but there is reason to believe he'll bounce back this week. Philip Rivers knows that Gates' o-fer last week was embarrassing. He's going to get his star teammates involved early to keep him happy. The matchup against Kansas City is also ideal. The Chiefs remain one of the worst defenses in the league, and Gates remains a prime red zone target. Gates caught eight passes for 66 yards and a score against Kansas City the last time they played. It's not like Gates hasn't produced this season; he just hasn't produced lately. I'd keep him in most lineups. … With all that said, Carlson and Miller are still fantastic options this week. Miller gets to face a New England defense that is very slow at linebacker. Bill Belichick does a good job taking away the opponent's best option, but they will probably focus on their rush defense. Carlson will get a ton of targets from a revived Seneca Wallace in a great matchup in St. Louis. He's a better bet to score than Miller, so he gets the slight edge. Washington's offense is becoming a problem for Chris Cooley. There just aren't many scoring chances. He still remains a safe play against Cincinnati, but there isn't a big gap between him and Carlson/Miller. … Tony Scheffler is healthy again and safe to use. The Broncos went out of their way to get the ball to him in space last week on bubble screens, showing they believe he can make people miss in the open field again. He's a solid start against an overrated Panthers secondary. … The Bills have struggled against short passing attacks all season, which bodes well for Dustin Keller. … Jeremy Shockey has topped 50 yards for three straight weeks and remains a solid option, but he hasn't scored all season. Expect rough condition in Chicago Thursday night for him and Greg Olsen. … Herm Edwards said that Tyler Thigpen is looking for Tony Gonzalez too much, which we don't believe is possible. He continues to make very difficult catches look routine. …Truly desperate owners could do worse than Donald Lee, who has scored in three of his last four games. Week 15 Team Defense
If you made it this far, here is the Fantasy Fix matchup preview for Week 15
Football is the sport we understand least; that's one reason to love it. It is the sport with the biggest gap in knowledge between player/coach and fan. We don't know the assignments on each play, and it takes years to learn how to evaluate line play and other in-game minutia. Bill Belichick will freely admit he's learning every week; that's one reason why he loves it. The Sunday game setup doesn't help; we have a nation of talking heads that can't watch most games because they are on at the same time. The analyst that pretends to have all the answers is a phony. Each season is a learning process and trying to close the information gap is Rotoworld's mission. Like the game strategy and our churning news page, fantasy value doesn't stay still. It evolves. It's been a pleasure to track all of it for you as this 2008 season nears its end. Thanks, as always, for reading. Now let's try to use some of this season's lessons to set the rankings and answer questions as we head into fantasy's final four weekend.
QB Notes: Tyler Thigpen can't hit the long ball very well, but the matchup is right for another solid effort. A big reason the Chiefs haven't lit it up the last two weeks is a ridiculous time of possession deficiency. The Chiefs went four wide against Denver, the worst rush defense possible, so you know they won't go with a run heavy approach against San Diego. Thigpen can put the ball into tight spots on the run. He's more talented than you think. He may not have the high ceiling of some of the quarterbacks in front of him, but he's a safe 200 yards and a touchdown. That feels weird to write. … I received a lot of emails from Jay Cutler owners this week, concerned about the Carolina matchup. Anyone watch Monday night Football? The Panthers have given up over 600 yards and five touchdowns the last two weeks through the air. I wouldn't be scared of this matchup at all. Denver won't even bother to run. My only concern is that the Panthers hold on to the ball for 38 minutes because the Denver defense can't get off the field. … It looks like the Williams wall will be able to play against Arizona. You can't bench Kurt Warner, but that's too bad. I don't think Arizona will have that much trouble throwing against Minnesota anyway. The weather was just as big a factor in Tony Romo's meltdown as the Pittsburgh defense. This is a tough matchup, but the conditions are right. The New York secondary can be vulnerable if Romo can just buy some time in the pocket. He should be in almost all lineups. … The Steelers have trouble protecting Ben Roethlisberger against average defenses. Baltimore is a nightmare matchup for Pittsburgh; stay away. … Was it the Patriots defense that made Seneca Wallace look competent? The return of his running ability and a choice matchup make him a decent option for two-QB leagues, but don't go crazy. … Matt Cassel's father sadly passed away this week. Keep an eye on his status. Cassel is coming off a great comeback performance where he through the ball well under blitz pressure. I couldn't believe when I saw that he's already over 3,000 yards on the season. He's come a long way quickly and is a safe option if he starts. … Shaun Hill has a similar matchup this week to last. The 49ers moved the ball at will on the Jets. The Dolphins are not great when you spread them out and the 49ers figure to go with a pass-heavy approach yet again if Frank Gore is at less than 100%.I'm hedging my bets with Matt Ryan this week. He's improved leaps and bounds since his Week 2 disaster in Tampa. He improvises and uses his legs better every week. Atlanta also uses the hurry-up offense very well at any point in the game. With that said, it's still a tough matchup. After Monday night's performance, Atlanta will try to control the game on the ground. Look for a mediocre line from Ryan, even if he plays well. … Drew Brees throws for a lot of yards on the road, but the Saints don't score nearly as much. Cold weather won't help him Thursday night, but he's still too good to bench. … Throw out Eli Manning's weather-induced disaster last week. Dallas is much easier to attack through the air than on the ground. He's a borderline QB1. … Donovan McNabb is a very safe play Monday night. The only slight worry is that Philly gets up early and takes the air out of the ball, although that isn't really Andy Reid's style. … Matt Schaub has earned the right to be a QB1 in many lineups, even against Tennessee. Houston is the number three offense in the league and can move the ball on anyone.Brett Favre didn't play well last time at the Meadowlands, but the Bills are a dead team. They have struggled defending the short passing game all year, Favre's new bread and butter. … The fall of Jason Campbell has been sad to watch. He's not much of an option, even against the Bengals. Washington figures to focus on the running game. Week 15 Running Backs
RB Notes: The J.P. Losman effect trickles down to Marshawn Lynch. Opposing defenses feel comfortable stacking the box against Buffalo when Losman is behind center. The Bills also appear to go to shotgun more often. It was a good sign for Lynch that Fred Jackson didn't touch the ball last week, but his poor game continued a season-long trend against AFC East foes. Lynch is averaging 38.5 rushing yards-per-game in the division. Buffalo can't seem to solve a 3-4 defense. There isn't much reason to believe Lynch will overcome the odds against Kris Jenkins and company. … Larry Johnson was not featured heavily against Denver, often watching Jamaal Charles on passing downs. That's a scary sight for LJ owners because the Chiefs didn't even try to run. … Tatum Bell had decent yardage last week because of a big run, but he looked slow to me. Don't expect him to be a difference-maker. … Brandon Jacobs hasn't practiced Wednesday and Thursday. It would be surprising at this point if he played against Dallas. Derrick Ward is a solid RB2 if Jacobs is out. There's a good chance Jacobs won't make the trip if he's out, which would solve the game-time decision problem. … I wouldn't play DeShaun Foster even if Frank Gore were out. The 49ers will air it out against a good rush defense. … Maurice Jones-Drew was already going to be a top-12 play against a weak Packers rush defense. With Fred Taylor out, he can fulfill his RB1 upside. … Clinton Portis should go back to a 20-25-carry workload in a great matchup this week. Don't let the Washington in-fighting cloud your mind. … After hot and cold efforts early in the year, Michael Turner has improved his play against better competition. With this game at home on turf, he's almost impossible to sit in standard leagues. … It looks like Joseph Addai won't play. Dominic Rhodes would be a solid RB2 if he starts. Rhodes has often looked better than Addai this season, so there should be no hesitation playing him. We'll take Addai out of the rankings on the Friday evening update if he doesn't practice.Steve Slaton, ranked in the top-ten in all scoring formats, deserves to play regardless of the matchup at this point. … Carolina's awesome offensive line should have their way with Denver. I don't see a letdown from the rushing attack, making Jonathan Stewart a solid RB2 for this week. He's getting the goal-line carries once again. … Kevin Smith has run well in tougher matchups, so he's a sneaky play against the Colts. … The Patriots should try to control the clock against the Raiders on the ground, so this could be a good Sammy Morris week. Kevin Faulk should take a back seat. … Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore are hands off in a matchup like this. … Pierre Thomas is a better standard league play than Reggie Bush. I'd take Bush in a PPR league, although this could be a trap matchup for both players. The Bears are still a good rush defense. … Maurice Morris will start for the Seahawks, but Julius Jones is expected to get back in the mix. … Ken Dorsey and the schedule have rendered Jamal Lewis irrelevant. … Ronnie Brown has 54 more carries than Ricky Williams on the season. That sounds like a lot, but only averages out to four-per-game. That trend hasn't really changed. Brown is talented enough that he's a RB2 in a neutral matchup, but the yardage is rarely big.Week 15 Wide Receivers
WR Notes: J.P. Losman was overthrowing his deep targets by 10-20 yards last week. Now Lee Evans has to hope Losman can be on-target in the swirling winds of the Meadowlands. Sigh. … Ted Ginn doesn't like catching passes over the middle and still drops a lot of passes. He is too inconsistent to count on. Davone Bess is getting more targets and makes for a better WR3 play, especially in PPR leagues. Bess could finish with the second-best undrafted rookie wideout season ever, behind Wayne Chrebet. Pennington trusts him and Bess does a good job of making the first defender miss. Bess could have Chrebet's career. … Brandon Marshall isn't a natural hands-catcher, but the Broncos continue to try to get him the ball with room to run. Carolina's secondary is no longer than scary of a matchup. Deion Branch's game against the Patriots was a touch fluky, but he is finally healthy again. With Bobby Engram not the same, Branch is clearly the best wideout on the team and will get his share of targets. He's a boom-or-bust WR3, but you could do a lot worse. … Roddy White is making more fantastic individual plays than any wideout in the league. It should go without saying he's matchup-proof. … Reggie Wayne is beyond due. His slump is extremely frustrating, but home against the Lions is no time to bail. In fact, Marvin Harrison isn't a bad option. Anthony Gonzalez's snaps remain inconsistent and Harrison still gets plenty of red zone targets. … Calvin Johnson is likely to play with Dan Orlovsky. The Colts are great at preventing big plays, but I stopped doubting Megatron a month back. … Vincent Jackson continues to be a boom or bust option, but it all adds up to WR2 production. Expect a high scoring game in Kansas City, which helps Jackson's chances for a big game.Tarvaris Jackson struggles completing deep balls, which is bad news for Bernard Berrian owners. I'd stay away if possible. … Torry Holt has improved in recent weeks, but even the improvement only makes him a weak WR3 pick. … Santana Moss has been very matchup-dependent all season. He gets a good one this week. … I like Santonio Holmes a little better than Hines Ward this week, although both are at season-low ranks. The reason: Baltimore is vulnerable to big plays occasionally because of their aggressive defense. Holmes is more likely than Ward to pull one off. … T.J. Housmandzadeh has really produced a remarkably season considering the circumstances. In the fantasy playoffs, the tiebreaker at wideout should go to the talent. He remains a solid WR3 in a tough matchup. Chad Ocho Cinco – not so much. … Isaac Bruce is on a great run and the 49ers should have plenty of pass attempts. Week 15 Tight Ends