Evan Silva


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Matchups: Plug In Pitta

Saturday, December 14, 2013

1:00PM ET Games

Philadelphia @ Minnesota

Eagles-Vikes is one of Sunday's most fantasy-friendly games. The over-under is above 50 points, and the environment is indoors. A far cry from last week's Philadelphia snowstorm, this game provides Nick Foles with an ideal setup for monster stats. Not only does Minnesota rank 30th against the pass, Leslie Frazier's defense has hemorrhaged an NFL-high 29 passing touchdowns, and lost emerging shutdown rookie CB Xavier Rhodes to a high ankle sprain in Week 14. Among Sunday and Monday’s games, the only quarterback I’d start over Foles this week is Drew Brees. ... Foles' target distribution since returning from a concussion five games ago: Riley Cooper 33; DeSean Jackson 27; Zach Ertz and LeSean McCoy 16; Jason Avant 12; Brent Celek 9; James Casey and Bryce Brown 3. ... With at least 60 yards and/or a touchdown in 10-of-13 games this season, Jackson has been among fantasy's most consistent WR1s despite a somewhat boom-or-bust skill set. He has blowup-game potential on turf against an undermanned opponent. ... Cooper has cooled off considerably over the past three weeks, but his target numbers and matchup suggest this is a good week to play him. There aren't many dice-roll WR3s out there with a higher Week 15 ceiling.

Although each has flashed sporadically throughout the year, neither Ertz nor Celek has a stable enough role in Chip Kelly's passing attack to be trusted in fantasy semifinals week. Ertz followed up his 5-68-2 Week 13 game by going catch-less in last Sunday's win over Detroit. Celek hasn't cleared 50 yards since September. ... Despite facing a Lions run defense that was as stingy as any in football the previous two months, McCoy broke the Eagles' single-game rushing record with 217 yards in Week 14, besting Steve Van Buren's 64-year-old mark of 205. Not only is No. 2 overall fantasy back McCoy matchup proof, he doesn't even have to worry about his Week 15 matchup. The Vikings rank 22nd against the run and have coughed up 13 rushing touchdowns, ninth most in the league. With Adrian Peterson nursing a foot injury and Jamaal Charles taking on an above-average Raiders run defense, McCoy is fantasy's No. 1 running back play this week.

Despite Christian Ponder's (concussion) full clearance, the Vikings will continue to start Matt Cassel at quarterback after he earned the job with back-to-back average performances that included a Week 13 overtime win over Chicago and Week 14 last-minute loss to Baltimore. Cassel is just barely in the two-quarterback-league hunt against Philly's overachieving defense, which blitzes at the third highest frequency in football and has improved every week. Working against Cassel in Week 15 will be a banged-up Vikings run game expected to be minus Adrian Peterson (foot), and potentially even backup Toby Gerhart (hamstring). Unfailingly, Cassel has been a quarterback who in his career needs a foundation rushing attack to succeed. He's very unlikely to have that Sunday, making the Eagles' defense a sneaky fantasy streamer. ... Cassel's 2013 target distribution: Jerome Simpson 34; Greg Jennings 31; Cordarrelle Patterson and John Carlson 19; injured Kyle Rudolph 13; A.P. 11; Jarius Wright 9; Gerhart 6; Joe Webb 4. ... Although his stats have been slightly better with Cassel than Ponder, Jennings has hit the 60-yard mark once since Week 4. He's always a low-upside, ultimately undesirable WR3 option.

Averaging eight targets and five touches over the last month, explosive Patterson has parlayed the manufactured usage into 65 total yards per game and two touchdowns. While Patterson's consistency is going to remain a concern as a raw rookie in a largely inept passing attack, it's entirely possible playcaller Bill Musgrave formulates his Week 15 game plan around getting Patterson the rock, with Peterson not expected to play. I wouldn't be surprised if Patterson handled 3-5 carries and caught 4-6 passes against the Eagles. He's a boom-or-bust WR3 with a high ceiling. Still cheap on FanDuel ($5,600), Patterson is an enticing daily league play. He's a big play waiting to happen. ... Wildly inconsistent Simpson scored his first touchdown all year in Week 14 and has topped 60 yards in one of his last nine games. He isn't a legitimate WR3 this week. ... Peterson is always a must-start when active, but looks unlikely to be against the Eagles due to a mid-foot sprain. That leaves banged-up Gerhart (hamstring), who couldn't practice on Wednesday or Thursday, and fullback-tailback hybrid Matt Asiata in Minnesota's backfield. Deep in the fantasy playoffs, I'd view this as a situation to avoid with so little workload and health clarity. It doesn't help that the Eagles play formidable run defense. Philly ranks 15th versus the run and submits 3.95 YPC, the 11th stingiest clip in the league.

Score Prediction: Eagles 27, Vikings 13

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.

Chicago @ Cleveland

The Browns' backfield is a source of Week 15 intrigue, understandably because in eight years writing about this stuff I don't recall a run defense as pathetic as Chicago's. Not even those old walkover Raiders defenses were as bad. The Bears are last in rushing yards per game allowed (157.0), first-down runs (115), 20-plus-yard runs (16), and YPC (5.15). They've been creamed by backups Roy Helu, Benny Cunningham, Brandon Jacobs, and James Starks. If Willis McGahee (concussion) is formally declared inactive Sunday morning, Chris Ogbonnaya will be a worthwhile flex start, particularly in PPR leagues. Matchup-based Hail Marys don't always pay off, but this is a tough one to resist if you're in any kind of bind. ... Look for Fozzy Whittaker in Cleveland's change-of-pace back role, sharing passing-game work with Ogbonnaya. Doubling as the Browns' kickoff returner, Whittaker is a role player unworthy of re-draft league discussion. ... As Tony Romo now knows all too well, the Bears' defense has been far stingier in the air than on the ground. Chicago plays top-ten pass defense and is tied for seventh in interceptions (15). This would not be a good week to invest in Jason Campbell as a fantasy start. He'll be a bottom-barrel two-QB-league play.

Campbell's target distribution on the year: Josh Gordon 50; Jordan Cameron 30; Ogbonnaya 28; Davone Bess 27; Greg Little 25; Whittaker 20; McGahee 5. ... Despite missing the first two games and enduring musical chairs at quarterback, Gordon leads the NFL in receiving yards and ranks second to only Calvin Johnson in fantasy receiver scoring. Particularly with Charles Tillman (triceps) on I.R., the Bears don't have a defensive back capable of containing Gordon. ... These are Cameron's stat lines in Campbell's five 2013 starts: 4-81; 1-4; 6-29; 3-32; 9-121-1. Only time can tell whether Cameron's sudden Week 14 blowup is a sign of things to come, but I do know he has an attractive Week 15 matchup. Chicago allows the fourth most receptions and third most yards in the league to tight ends. At least for now, I'd lock Cameron back in as a mid-range TE1. ... Bess has been waiver-wire fodder for months. He hasn't cleared 70 yards in a game all year, hitting pay dirt in 1-of-13 appearances. ... Same goes for Little, who ranks 35th among receivers in targets but 74th in fantasy scoring. It's no secret by now that Little just isn't a very good player.

In a controversial maneuver, Bears coach Marc Trestman is turning back to Jay Cutler (ankle) in spite of Josh McCown's highly efficient relief play. On the road against Cleveland's top-seven pass defense, Trestman isn't exactly setting up Cutler for insta-success. The Browns are a top-ten team in sacks, yards-per-pass-attempt allowed, and passing-yards-per-game against. In Jabaal Sheard, Barkevious Mingo, and Paul Kruger, Cleveland has three dangerous edge rushers in front of a talented secondary headlined by CB Joe Haden and SS T.J. Ward. Cutler will reemerge onto the top-12 fantasy quarterback radar in Week 16 against the Eagles if he plays well Sunday, but he's too risky to trust beyond two-QB-leagues in the fantasy semifinals. ... Here is Cutler's target distribution on the year: Brandon Marshall 71; Alshon Jeffery 67; Martellus Bennett 50; Matt Forte 45; Earl Bennett 17; Michael Bush 4. ... The near-equal targeting of Marshall and Jeffery is a product of scheme, because McCown did it, too. One of Trestman's primary emphases in his first season coaching Cutler has been to avoid locking onto Marshall as Cutler had done so often previously in his career. I prefer Jeffery over Marshall in this particular game. Haden will most likely travel with Marshall, leaving 6-foot-3, 216-pound Jeffery in the coverage of Buster Skrine (5'9/186) and rookie Leon McFadden (5'10/193), both of whom Tom Brady shredded relentlessly last week.

Marshall remains a fantasy WR1. Although Haden has generally been outstanding this season, he's sprung leaks of late. Enemy No. 1 receiver stats against the Browns over their last three games: Antonio Brown 6-92-1, Cecil Shorts 6-64-1; Julian Edelman 6-64-1. Pro Football Focus has charged Haden with a touchdown allowed in all three weeks. With at least 75 yards and/or a TD in 10-of-13 games on the year, this isn't the week to give up on Chicago's best receiver. ... Martellus has been more involved in the Bears' passing offense with Cutler under center, but his recent production combined with Cleveland's stingy tight end coverage makes Bennett more of a high-end TE2 this week than TE1. Bennett has cleared 50 yards once over his last seven games. The Browns are 21st in receptions allowed to tight ends, and 23rd in yards. Ultimately, Martellus likely won't pay off as a fantasy start unless he scores a red-zone touchdown. ... Cleveland is playing top-four run defense, but Forte has been truly matchup proof in Trestman's offense due to consistent volume and heavy pass-game involvement. Trestman does a terrific job of scheming Forte into space. In four matchups with top-eight run defenses this year, Forte has averaged 26 touches for 96 total yards per game, with three touchdowns. Forte is an elite, every-week RB1.

Score Prediction: Bears 23, Browns 17

Buffalo @ Jacksonville

The Bills' offense reached new depths in last Sunday's 27-6 loss at Tampa, as E.J. Manuel took seven sacks and threw four picks in a performance that made Geno Smith look like a Pro Bowler. Simply not getting better as his rookie year progresses, Manuel has been streaky, maddeningly erratic with ball placement and decision making, and ultimately a boom-or-bust down-to-down and week-to-week quarterback. His play has been reminiscent of 2012 Jake Locker. Even against the Jaguars' bottom-seven pass defense, Manuel is toward the low end of two-quarterback-league discussion. ... E.J.'s target distribution over the last month: Stevie Johnson 29; Marquise Goodwin and Fred Jackson 17; Scott Chandler 15; T.J. Graham 12; C.J. Spiller 10; Robert Woods 8; Chris Gragg and Chris Hogan 6. ... Johnson is the lone stable producer in Buffalo's pass-catcher corps, and his upside is always capped by a run-dominated offense and limited big-play ability as a slot receiver dependent upon a struggling rookie passer for completions. Johnson has hit 75 yards in just two games this season, and none since September. He's a ho-hum fantasy WR3. ... The Bills have started Woods in each game since his return from a high ankle sprain two weeks ago, but he's managed to secure 5-of-8 targets for 59 scoreless yards during that timeframe. He's a WR5.

Coach Doug Marrone expressed desire this week to get Goodwin more stretch-run snaps, which makes sense because the rookie is a critical piece of Buffalo's future. He's still a situational deep threat in a low-volume, low-percentage passing offense. Roster Goodwin in Dynasty leagues, not as a Weeks 15-16 re-draft sleeper. ... Chandler has an attractive matchup against a Jacksonville defense giving up the second most fantasy points to tight ends. I'd still prefer to stream Dennis Pitta, Delanie Walker, Garrett Graham, and Coby Fleener over Chandler this week. ... F-Jax is never a bad bet for a touchdown and/or 80-plus total yards, and Spiller's week-winning, game-breaking running ability is always there. This isn't quite the cakewalk matchup it seems at first glance, however. The Jaguars rank 27th in run defense, but have been legitimately stout since their Week 9 bye. Over the past five weeks, the Jags have held Tennessee, Arizona, Cleveland, and Houston (twice) to a combined 364 yards on 111 carries (3.23 YPC). Spiller remains a boom-or-bust RB2/flex option. Jackson is a solid, if unspectacular flex play in the fantasy semifinals.

Jacksonville's offense was already short on fantasy-viable players before Maurice Jones-Drew's hamstring strain and Cecil Shorts' groin pull. Neither practiced on Wednesday or Thursday, and they're both shaping up as game-time decisions. Jordan Todman will be worth flex consideration if MJD is deactivated Sunday morning, but has managed a 3.21 yards-per-carry average off the bench this season. He'd certainly be a high-risk option in fantasy's semifinals week, even against Buffalo's No. 26 run defense. On the year, Pro Football Focus has graded the Jaguars' run blocking dead last in the league. ... Chad Henne's target distribution since Justin Blackmon's year-ending suspension five weeks ago: Shorts 31; Ace Sanders 27; MJD 22; Marcedes Lewis 17; Clay Harbor 10; Mike Brown 9; Kerry Taylor and Todman 4. ... Lewis cleared 40 receiving yards for the first time all season in Week 14, finishing the Jaguars' win over Houston with a 2-42-1 line on four targets. Buffalo is 26th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, so chasing last week's one-yard touchdown catch is not advised. ... Brown is playing Blackmon's old Z receiver position with Sanders in the slot. Operating in Jacksonville's 25th-ranked passing offense, both would be severe stretches as WR3s, even if Shorts is inactive. In the end, I'd rather invest in the Bills' fantasy defense than Jaguars skill-position players in this game, which projects as low scoring.

Score Prediction: Bills 20, Jaguars 17

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
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