1:00PM ET Games
Denver @ Baltimore
It's no secret that the game had passed Cam Cameron by. Running an archaic brand of offense in Baltimore the last five seasons, Cameron only recently began using three-receiver sets beyond obvious passing downs. His game-day playcalling was almost fickle in nature, and Cameron never actively schemed to get players into space. Cameron was fired on Monday. "The receivers were not getting open," ESPN's Ron Jaworski explained this week. "When you look at the tape, when you watch Joe Flacco hold onto the football, it's because the receivers cannot beat press-man coverage. You need to be creative when you have only vertical receivers that give the quarterback very little separation. When I say creative, you've gotta use clusters, bunches, motion to help the receivers get open. I love Cam Cameron, but I think this is a move that will light a fire under the Ravens' offense." We'll see. Facing Denver's top-four defense in Week 15, new Ravens playcaller Jim Caldwell figures to get off to a slow start. ... The Broncos rank seventh against the pass, suffocating opposing aerial attacks with DPOY candidate Von Miller's relentless outside-edge rush and Champ Bailey's shutdown coverage in the back. Bailey is capable of essentially eliminating Torrey Smith from the Ravens' offense, leaving Flacco with no explosive downfield weapons in a theoretically vertical offense. This is a very tough matchup for Flacco and Smith.
Flacco's target distribution since Baltimore's Week 8 bye: Anquan Boldin 47, Smith 46, Ray Rice 27, Dennis Pitta 27, Jacoby Jones 20, Tandon Doss 8, and Ed Dickson 7. ... Boldin has been the Ravens' most reliable receiver for the past month and has a superior matchup to Smith. Boldin (6'1/225) projects to square off with 5-foot-10, 190-pound Broncos slot CB Chris Harris on the majority of pass plays. Harris is a nice inside-the-numbers cover man, but Boldin's physicality will be hard for him to handle. Boldin is a viable WR3. ... With Bailey likely to shut down one side of the field, Pitta is set up for increased opportunities in Week 15. The Broncos allow the third most fantasy points to tight ends, putting Pitta back on the low-end TE1 radar. ... Rice is on a tear with 291 yards on his last 50 carries (5.82 YPC), so the fact that Denver plays top-six run defense matters little in terms of his fantasy start-ability. Rice is the No. 4 overall fantasy running back, behind only Adrian Peterson (1), Arian Foster (2), and Doug Martin (3).
Knowshon Moreno has a lot of factors working in his favor. He's a workhorse in a high-octane offense. He plays in the passing game and will stay on the field in the unlikely event Denver falls behind. Masterful in the pre-snap phase, Peyton Manning consistently checks into favorable run plays -- or out of unfavorable ones -- based on his read of the defense. Sunday's matchup is attractive versus a Baltimore defense that gets MLB Ray Lewis back, but was average before losing him and ranks 25th against the run. Similar to Joseph Addai in Manning's old Colts offenses, Moreno is short on talent but rich on situation and volume. Addai was a top-11 fantasy back in three of his four prime years. Moreno isn't playing Oakland anymore -- so don't expect a final stat line like last week's -- but he's an appealing if relatively low-upside Week 15 flex. ... NFL Films guru Greg Cosell expects the Broncos to attack Baltimore with a quick-strike pass game down the seam. "I think that Manning with that short passing game, with the two-tight end pass game, is really gonna go after those linebackers," Cosell forecasted on Adam Caplan's Week 14 Preview Podcast. "Because (Ravens ILB) Josh Bynes ... is not very quick or fast as a pass defender. I think you'll see Manning go after those inside linebackers, work between the numbers."
Jacob Tamme's usage has picked up over the last month due to Brandon Stokley's injury-related ineffectiveness. Manning's target distribution during that span: Demaryius Thomas 34, Tamme 29, Eric Decker 24, Joel Dreessen 16, Moreno 14, Stokley 12. ... Cosell's suggestion that Denver's tight ends may be more involved is interesting, but Thomas remains the best bet for Week 15 production in the Broncos' pass-catching corps. He'll take on oft-burned Ravens RCB Cary Williams for most of Denver’s offensive snaps, and have little or no trouble winning on the outside. ... Decker also has a plus matchup versus LCB Chykie Brown, who's a special-teams gunner on a team with a healthy secondary. Decker is a strong WR3 play coming off an eight-catch, 88-yard game on a team-most nine targets in last Thursday night's victory. ... Connect the dots, and Baltimore's defense is very vulnerable all throughout the back seven. Aside from perhaps FS Ed Reed, who isn't having his best season, there is really no strength in the unit, and Manning can be reliably counted on to expose its weaknesses. The Ravens rank 23rd against the pass, but their personnel arguably suggests they're even worse than that. There are only two quarterbacks in Week 15 that I'd play confidently ahead of Peyton: Drew Brees and Cam Newton.
Score Prediction: Broncos 27, Ravens 20
Minnesota @ St. Louis
Hitting a late-year wall in his age-29 season, active NFL career carries leader Steven Jackson has been held to 112 yards on his last 41 rushing attempts (2.73 YPC). He'll square off Sunday with a Vikings defense that ranks 14th against the run and holds opponents under 4.0 yards per carry. S-Jax has received at least 20 touches in four of his last five games, and the workhorse role keeps him in the low-end RB2/flex discussion, but the recent slowdown and daunting matchup would appear to leave Jackson with limited Week 15 upside. ... Brandon Gibson has spent four seasons in the NFL, making 36 starts. His first 100-yard game occurred in start No. 36, during last week's 15-12 win over Buffalo. Gibson deserves credit for capitalizing on a favorable matchup with Bills fourth-round pick CB Ron Brooks and beating impressive rookie Stephon Gilmore for a couple of big catches, but St. Louis' separation-challenged third receiver isn't suddenly a fantasy option. Gibson had all of nine yards in his previous three games entering Week 14. Chalk it up as a fluke.
20th in fantasy quarterback scoring with one 300-yard game over his last 11, Sam Bradford is a low-end two-QB league option versus the Vikings' No. 18 pass defense. While the matchup isn't imposing, Bradford has simply lacked the production to warrant serious fantasy consideration. "There's just a lack of consistency in his game, which of course translates to erratic performances," NFL Films guru Greg Cosell said of Bradford this week. "... I think that's what the Rams are looking for, is when will he become someone you can count on week to week for a certain level of performance. ... There's just too many throws that he misses, or that he shouldn't make." ... Danny Amendola (heel) has played all of seven snaps since mid-November and needs to show he's capable of lasting four quarters before reentering fantasy-start discussions. If active, he'll match up with Vikings top CB Antoine Winfield for most of Sunday's game, making Amendola a poor fantasy roll of the dice regardless of availability. ... Beyond S-Jax, Chris Givens will be St. Louis' only viable Week 15 fantasy option. And he's coming off a miserable game. The speedster was targeted ten times against the Bills, dropping two and securing only three for 25 yards. It's a reminder that, despite his impressive tools, Givens is an inconsistent, raw rookie. It doesn't help that Minnesota's Cover 2-style defense is designed precisely to bottle up deep threats like Givens.
Friday Update: Amendola returned to a full practice Friday and is listed as probable for Week 15. Per NFL policy, the probable designation means a player is considered by his team "virtually certain" to be available for normal game-day duties. Because Amendola has endured setbacks with the heel and barely played over the past month, however, I think he's a high-risk WR3 option in the fantasy playoffs. Amendola's return also makes Gibson and Givens less attractive fantasy plays.
Okay, forget 2,000 yards. Adrian Peterson needs to average 168.3 in Weeks 15-17 to topple Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105. "I think so," said Peterson this week, when asked if Dickerson should be nervous. "I do. ... I feel it's possible." St. Louis ranks 13th in run defense, but matchups don't matter for the greatest running back -- easily -- of our generation. ... Unfortunately, there are no other Vikings skill-position players worth investment during fantasy semifinals week, due in large part to Christian Ponder's ongoing regression. Targets leader Kyle Rudolph has produced a goose egg in three of his last seven games. Percy Harvin fill-in Jarius Wright is a part-time player coming off back-to-back sub-30-yard games and set to square off with feisty Rams CB Cortland Finnegan in the slot. Jerome Simpson is a slouch. Molasses Michael Jenkins can't run a lick.
Score Prediction: Rams 20, Vikings 17
Jacksonville @ Miami
Jaguars-Dolphins has the second lowest over-under of Week 15 with a total scoring projection of 37.5. (Redskins-Browns is lowest at 37 points.) Both Jacksonville and Miami have bottom-four offenses and are incapable of forcing their opponent to increase its aggressiveness by racking up points. Use the low-scoring forecast to break ties in fantasy lineup decisions, avoiding this game where possible. ... Chad Henne has returned to Earth after a 2 1/2-game hot run that ended two weeks back. Henne has completed just 41 of his last 87 passes (47.1 percent) for 387 yards (4.45 YPA), a touchdown, and three picks. Henne is no longer playing remotely well enough for standard league fantasy use and he's crashed to the basement of QB2s. ... Teams have assigned their top corners to shadow Justin Blackmon the past two weeks, and he's been unable to get open versus Stephon Gilmore and Antonio Cromartie. In Week 15, Blackmon can expect to draw Dolphins No. 1 CB Sean Smith. Although Smith's coverage has been up and down this year, he matches up well with Blackmon at a physical 6-foot-3, 214 with freakishly long arms. Avoid Blackmon in WR3 decisions this week.
Cecil Shorts is more likely to deal with Dolphins No. 2 CB Nolan Carroll out wide. His matchup is superior to Blackmon's, and Shorts is a better receiver, too. He's a better natural athlete, gets off the line with more quickness, and runs crisper routes. Shorts will be a recommended WR2/3 against Miami's 25th-ranked pass defense. ... Henne's insertion in place of Blaine Gabbert initially sparked Marcedes Lewis, but the Jaguars' tight end is back in the midst of a three-game scoreless stretch and the Dolphins have allowed the 12th fewest fantasy points to tight ends. Lewis is only a TE2. ... Montell Owens paid fantasy dividends for owners desperate enough to start him in last week's loss, ripping off a 32-yard touchdown run and averaging 6.50 yards per carry. Unfortunately, Owens will go from facing the Jets' bottom-four run defense to the Dolphins' top-nine unit. Fantasy owners should try to aim higher than Owens in flex positions. Miami fields a heavyweight, immovable front seven and Owens lacks burst to threaten the edge.
The Dolphins have been a fantasy wasteland for much of the season, lacking big-play ability in the pass game and fielding a value-sapping timeshare in the backfield. But Reggie Bush's Week 15 matchup and signs of separation from ineffective pace-change back Daniel Thomas make Bush an appealing fantasy bet versus a Jacksonville defense that ranks 31st versus the run and has allowed a league-high 18 rushing touchdowns. A week after fumbling for the third time this year, Thomas was limited to season lows in snaps (13) and carries (2) in last Sunday's loss to the 49ers. Meanwhile, Bush played his most snaps (44) since Week 6 and has racked up 228 yards on his last 45 rushing attempts (5.07 YPC). Bush offers intriguing upside as a flex play versus the Jags. Thomas can safely be dropped in fantasy leagues. ... Jacksonville is leaky in the back end, ranking 24th in pass defense and generating no pass rush in the front four. With eight touchdown passes through 13 starts, however, Ryan Tannehill remains a low-end option in two-QB leagues.
Tannehill's target distribution over the past month: Davone Bess 34, Brian Hartline 30, Bush 14, Charles Clay 13, Anthony Fasano 10, Rishard Matthews 6. ... Although Bess is targeted heavily, he has one touchdown over his last 14 games and has cleared 70 yards in 3-of-13 appearances this season. After missing the practice week with a back injury, Bess is low-upside fantasy option who doesn't offer enough scoring potential to be worth any risk. ... Hartline is slightly attractive this week in a game where Tannehill should have ample time to throw, allowing his top perimeter threat's routes to develop. Hartline has a plus matchup versus Jaguars LCB Aaron Ross on early downs and 32-year-old nickel back Rashean Mathis in obvious passing situations. ... With Clay's role increasing, Fasano has become a complete non-factor in fantasy football.
Friday Update: The Dolphins announced that Bess (back) has been ruled out for Week 15, leaving Marlon Moore as the likely starter opposite Hartline. Moore has four catches on the season. Perhaps Bess' absence will result in a target or two more for Hartline.
Score Prediction: Dolphins 20, Jaguars 14