Patrick Daugherty

Goal Line Stand

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Week 15 Rankings

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Updated 12/15/2013 at 3:15 PM ET. No. 51 WR Justin Hunter removed. Kenny Britt added. 

Updated 12/15/2013 at 12:15 PM ET. LaVon Brazill, Kenbrell Thompkins, Cecil Shorts, Tavon Austin and Garrett Graham all removed from ranks. Toby Gerhart removed, with Matt Asiata ticking upward.  

If you’re a Cowboys fan, chances are you’ve blamed Tony Romo for something. The Cowboys’ descent into mediocrity. Your failed marriage. The summer temperatures in Dallas. Romo has spent the better part of his well above-average career serving as a punching bag for any and all comers, fair or not.

That’s why it’s surprising that he’s taken so little heat for the Cowboys’ up-and-down 2013. Not that he really deserves it. Romo is supported by a defense that’s allowed 333 more yards than any other team in the league, and a coaching staff with as much creativity as your average Sporano. Romo is not the problem in Dallas. That is not to say he hasn’t been a part of it, however.

As the play around Romo has stagnated, he hasn’t done much to elevate his. Romo is averaging just 173 yards over his past four starts, and thrown for more than 234 only twice in eight games since he dropped 506 on the Broncos in Week 5. He’s averaging 215 yards since that fateful October day — which he punctuated with a game-sealing pick, not a blaze-of-glory touchdown — and is on pace for only 3,993, which would be his lowest total in a non-injury shortened season since 2008. Romo’s 7.05 yards per attempt is 16th in the NFL, and would be a new career low. It’s true that Romo owns a sparkling 27:7 TD:INT ratio, but 13 of those scores came in his first five games. He’s thrown for just 14 in the half a season since. Romo completed a combined 21 passes in Dallas’ blowout losses to the Saints and Bears.  

Why has Romo’s play been so uninspiring? It’s tough to say. Part of it is how much time opposing offenses have spent on the field, keeping Romo and the Cowboys off of it. The Cowboys’ offense has possessed the ball less than just five other teams, while Dallas’ defense has spent more time on the field that all but seven units. Romo simply isn’t getting much time to work with the offense. Perhaps he’s also grown leery of the gunslinger throws that stuff stat-sheets, but result in the picks that have unfairly sullied his name. Romo has proven curiously unwilling to force the ball to Dez Bryant. Finally, there’s the play of Romo’s other pass catchers. Miles Austin has fallen off the face of the earth, while rookie Terrance Williams has been maddeningly inconsistent. Jason Witten is on pace for his worst year since 2006.   

Whatever it is, Romo has hit a wall since carving up the Broncos, hurting his fantasy owners in the process. Despite matchups with a number of the league’s worst defenses — Washington, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Oakland, Chicago — Romo has cleared 20 fantasy points in only four of his past eight games, averaging 18.1. That would rank 27th on the year, tied with Jason Campbell, and behind the likes of Joe Flacco, Alex Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick, to name a few.

Now Romo has another excellent matchup in the Packers’ 21st ranked pass defense. Only 12 more teams are allowing more fantasy points to quarterbacks than Green Bay. Matt Flynn isn’t going to be able to possess the ball and keep it out of Romo’s hands the way Drew Brees and Josh McCown did. Romo will be throwing passes in the friendly confines of JerryWorld, and not some AFC North snowglobe. So should you trust him? With nearly all the players surrounding Romo in the ranks having serious questions of their own — Jay Cutler (layoff), Andrew Luck (inconsistency) and Matt Ryan (various) — most owners aren’t going to have a choice. Romo is the pick. But whereas a Romo breakout seemed like a certainty a month ago, it can no longer be taken for granted. Trusting Romo remains the percentage call, but don’t be surprised if you’ve joined the chorus of those blaming him for all the world’s problems by this time next week.

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 15. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the FanDuel link.

Week 15 Quarterbacks

Rank Player Name Opponent Notes
1 Peyton Manning vs. SD Probable (ankle)
2 Nick Foles at MIN -
3 Drew Brees at STL -
4 Cam Newton vs. NYJ -
5 Matthew Stafford vs. BAL -
6 Philip Rivers at DEN -
7 Russell Wilson at NYG -
8 Tom Brady at MIA Probable (shoulder)
9 Tony Romo vs. GB -
10 Andrew Luck vs. HOU -
11 Matt Ryan vs. WAS -
12 Jay Cutler at CLE Probable (ankle)
13 Alex Smith at OAK -
14 Ben Roethlisberger vs. CIN -
15 Ryan Tannehill vs. NE -
16 Colin Kaepernick at TB -
17 Jason Campbell vs. CHI -
18 Carson Palmer at TEN Questionable (elbow)
19 Andy Dalton at PIT -
20 Joe Flacco at DET -
21 Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. ARZ -
22 Matt Cassel vs. PHI -
23 E.J. Manuel at JAC -
24 Eli Manning vs. SEA -
25 Case Keenum at IND Probable (shoulder)
26 Matt Flynn at DAL -
27 Kirk Cousins at ATL -
28 Chad Henne vs. BUF -
29 Mike Glennon vs. SF -
30 Matt McGloin vs. KC -
31 Kellen Clemens vs. NO -
32 Geno Smith at CAR -
33 Terrelle Pryor vs. KC -

QB Notes: At least for one week, Peyton Manning beat back the meme that he couldn’t drop dimes in the cold, shredding the Titans’ imposing pass defense for 397 yards, four touchdowns and a Broncos record 38 completions in temperatures that hovered in the mid-teens. His reward is an evening home date with the league’s worst secondary in surprisingly warm weather. Far and away the league MVP — both “real life” and fantasy — Manning remains on pace to set new NFL records with 5,566 yards passing and 55 touchdowns. … Nick Foles finally has an interception to his name, but out of the snow and into a dome where the Vikings have been getting shredded by opposing passers, he’s the No. 2 quarterback for Week 15. Foles is averaging 30 fantasy points per game since taking over as the Eagles’ starter in Week 9. Even if you eliminate his Week 9 thrashing of the Raiders, Foles has managed a weekly 25 points over his past four games, which would be tied for third on the season.

We go over Drew Brees’ home/road splits every week, so by now you know he’s otherworldly at home and “just” excellent on the road. This week he’s heading to St. Louis to do battle with a Rams team that’s allowing fewer than 20 fantasy points per game to opposing passers, and tied for seventh in sacks. The last time Brees was in the Gateway City, 2011, he had one of the worst starts of his career as the Saints suffered a shocking 31-21 loss to a team that was 0-6 and on its way to the No. 2 overall pick. That has no bearing on this year, of course, but is a reminder that expectations should always be dialed back a bit when Brees ventures outside the Superdome. … Coming off a humbling road loss, Cam Newton is returning home to face a Jets team allowing the 11th most points to enemy quarterbacks. Throw in that Gang Green could be missing No. 1 cornerback Antonio Cromartie and is unlikely to generate any offense whatsoever against Carolina’s elite defense, and you have the recipe for a monster bounce-back performance for fantasy’s No. 4 quarterback.

Coming off an unacceptably-poor performance in snowy Philadelphia, Matthew Stafford is returning home to the domed confines of Ford Field, but will be doing battle with one of the league’s stingier pass defenses. Stafford is still a cinch, high-end QB1, but will also be looking to get back on track in the fourth quarter after a rough month in the game’s final period. Stafford is growing as a quarterback, but there will continue to be pains. … Philip Rivers continues to be treated like a borderline QB1 by fantasy owners, but is on pace for a top-five finish with only three games to go. He didn’t light up the Broncos in the sides’ first meeting (218 yards, one touchdown), but this is a defense that very much can be thrown on. Expect Rivers to do so in what figures to be a high-scoring Thursday night affair. … Tom Brady’s 2013 has been a tale of two seasons. The line of delineation? Rob Gronkowski’s Week 7 return. Before, the Pats were averaging just 20.8 points per game. Since? 32. That can hardly be considered a fluke, so it bears asking: Will things be any different this time around? Gronk is irreplaceable, but it’s not just Gronk the Patriots have gotten back since Week 7. There’s also Shane Vereen, and a finally healthy Danny Amendola. Injuries to “X” receivers Aaron Dobson (foot) and Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) have further muddied the waters, but Brady is unlikely to slip to his pre-Gronk levels, even in a tough matchup with Miami.   

Strange but true: Josh McCown would be ranked higher than Jay Cutler’s No. 12 were he getting the start this week. Why would McCown be ranked higher? He’s averaging 352 yards over his past three starts, while Cutler has attempted all of 48 passes since October 10. The hot hand is being benched, and the cold one ridden. Either way, the Browns aren’t a terribly imposing matchup for a team with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery at its disposal. Whichever one of Cutler’s elite receivers isn’t doing battle with Joe Haden will be burning Buster Skrine. There’s obvious risk in trusting an increasingly injury-prone player who’s barely seen the field the past two months, but Cutler’s upside is just too high to be benched. … An up-and-down Andrew Luck is a QB1 diceroll for the second week of the fantasy playoffs, but last week’s emergence of Da’Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill has raised a floor that was starting to get scarily low. … Matt Ryan’s 2013 has had more valleys than one could have ever imagined, but is headed for a Week 15 peak. At home — where he boasts a 106.2 QB rating compared to 74.3 on the road — Ryan will square off with a Redskins defense allowing the most points in the NFL.

It looks like another week of “wait till next week” with Aaron Rodgers (collarbone). … Robert Griffin III’s benching is so inane that there’s really no reason to talk about it. More inane is expecting Kirk Cousins to come out gangbusters, even in a plus matchup. Cousins could very well prove to be an above-average NFL quarterback, but to say he’s not in a position to succeed for the embattled Redskins would be an understatement. He’s not a risk worth taking with everything on the line in the fantasy semifinals. … Another Sunday, another strong matchup for Alex Smith, who is fantasy’s No. 6 quarterback over the past five weeks. … Right behind Smith over the past five weeks? Ryan Tannehill, who gets a Patriots pass defense fresh off getting carved up by Jason Campbell. … Carson Palmer’s elbow isn’t a concern, but the Titans’ pass defense is, particularly with Michael Floyd (ankle) looking shaky. … In any given week, Jason Campbell is capable of throwing for 330 yards or bottoming out. He’s a boom-or-bust QB2. … The same is true of Andy Dalton. … Eli Manning has failed time and again to take advantage of plus matchups. Now he has a dreadful one in Richard Sherman and the Seahawks. … Pray for Geno Smith.      

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Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
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