It’s fantasy playoff crunch time and here are some players that you’ll want to start and some you’ll want to avoid in Week 15:
IN: Carson Palmer, Raiders
Interceptions have been a major concern for Palmer lately (he threw four last week against Green Bay) but he’s still worth a play this week. Detroit’s secondary isn’t what it used to be (the unit is giving up an average of almost 25 fantasy points to quarterbacks over the last month) and with the likely return of Denarius Moore, Palmer will have his deep threat back in the lineup. The duo can definitely do some damage and fans should expect a shootout in the Bay Area on Sunday.
OUT: Philip Rivers, Chargers
It might be hard to keep Rivers on the bench in Week 15 — especially since he’s put up over 500 yards passing and six touchdowns in the last two weeks. But the Chargers will face the Ravens on Sunday, a team that has given up the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. In fact, the Baltimore D hasn’t allowed a QB to throw for more than 200 yards in a game. Rivers will be under pressure all afternoon, so don’t be surprised if his numbers aren’t that impressive.
IN: Cedric Benson, Bengals
Benson hasn’t been the most reliable and productive back this season, but he should be in your lineup this week. Why? The St. Louis Rams. Enough said. The Rams are ranked dead last in the league against the run (giving up almost 157 rush yards per game) and Benson, along with a lot of other Bengals, should put up some big numbers in Week 15.
OUT: Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
This late in the season and the message remains the same: do not play your running backs against the 49ers. San Francisco still hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown and is tops in the league against the run. Mendenhall has been less than impressive (he’s rushed for more than 80 yards just once, back in Week 6) although he has been a frequent visitor to the end zone recently (five touchdowns in his last five games). Yards on the ground will be hard to come by this week, so don’t be surprised if the Steelers employ the aerial attack instead.
IN: Nate Washington, Titans
This pick is all about the matchup. The Titans are off to Indy to face the still winless Colts on Sunday, a team that is allowing the seventh most fantasy points to wide receivers this year. Tennessee might have rookie Jake Locker under center, but that’s not a major factor because Locker has performed well in limited action. Despite leaving last week’s game with a back injury (as well as struggling with an ankle issue), Washington will play Sunday and should put up some nice numbers against a weak secondary.
OUT: DeSean Jackson, Eagles
While the matchup definitely favors Nate Washington in Week 15, you can’t say the same for Jackson. The Eagles are taking on the Jets and their shutdown secondary on Sunday so Jackson will have to fight off the likes of Darrelle Revis and/or Antonio Cromartie for yardage. Good luck. Jackson did find the end zone last week for the first time since Week 5, but the wideout is averaging just six fantasy points in his last seven games. Those numbers won’t get you into your fantasy league’s championship.
IN: Owen Daniels, Texans
Rookie T.J. Yates is starting to build a rapport with the tight end — Daniels was targeted 10 times last week, finishing with seven catches for over 100 yards. Expect that kind of production to continue this week when Houston takes on Carolina (it’s unlikely that the injured Andre Johnson will be fit enough to play). Daniels will continue to be the young QB’s security blanket against a Panthers D (allowing around eight fantasy points to tight ends) that doesn’t put a scare into anyone.
OUT: Vernon Davis, 49ers
The stats are definitely stacked against Davis in Week 15. It’s been a disappointing season for the Niners tight end — he has just 102 yards combined (and no touchdowns) in the last three weeks and doesn’t rank in the top 10 in terms of fantasy points for his position. In fact, Davis had just one measly catch last week against the Cardinals. The Steelers are ranked second in the league against the pass, so you might want to look for another tight end option this week.
IN: Lawrence Tynes, Giants
The Giants offense has been on fire, with 96 points combined over the last three weeks. The good times should continue in Week 15 against the Redskins, which will benefit New York’s kicker. While his numbers haven’t been out of this world lately, Tynes has put up nine-point efforts in back-to-back games, and this week’s NFC East matchup could easily turn into a shootout.
OUT: Robbie Gould, Bears
Poor Robbie Gould. The Bears kicker has been the definition of accuracy this season (89.3% success rate) but he’s seen his opportunities dwindle now that Caleb Hanie is the quarterback and Matt Forte is injured. Gould hasn’t hit double-digit fantasy points since Week 10, and he has just seven points over the last two games. Seattle’s D has been on a roll lately, so Chicago might have major issues moving the football.
Miami’s defense has been solid recently, and last week they put up some good numbers (two turnovers, four sacks and just 239 yards allowed) in a losing effort to the Eagles. This week the Dolphins are taking on a Bills team that is having all kinds of problems scoring, especially with Fred Jackson out for the season. Miami can force turnovers and is always a threat to take one to the house.
Last week the Jets D was stifling, holding the Chiefs to just 10 points and recording a season-high five sacks. But that was Kansas City, not Philadelphia. The Eagles have a ton of weapons at their disposal, and with Michael Vick back the offense takes on a whole new look. Only one defense has hit double digit fantasy points against Philly in the last month, and New York’s rushing defense will be put to the test while trying to contain Vick and LeSean McCoy.