FantasyTalk with John Gonzalez and Kay Adams: Week 15
News and notes to help you make those all-important lineup decisions for Week 15 …
• It was an ugly Sunday. Forget the snow. Several injuries to several key players occurred in Week 14. We’ll start with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who suffered a season-ending injury for the second straight year. This time, Gronk went down with a torn ACL and MCL. He finished with two catches for 32 yards. Potential replacements include Houston’s Garrett Graham and Baltimore’s Dennis Pitta. Graham was targeted 14 times last week, catching eight passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. Pitta -- who made his season debut after recovering from a hip injury -- had six catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. Not bad as fill-ins go, but you obviously can’t expect Gronk-level production from either of them.
• Gronkowski’s absence will also likely hurt Tom Brady, who struggled early in the season with his favorite target on the mend. In the first six weeks, with Gronk out, Brady had just one outing with 20 or more fantasy points. With Gronkowski back, Brady posted 20 or more fantasy points in four of his last five games. You’re probably still starting Brady at this point, but considering him a matchup play wouldn’t be unthinkable.
• Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was carted off the field against the Ravens with a foot injury. That makes Toby Gerhart the obvious replacement -- provided Gerhart can play. He tweaked his hamstring late in the game against Baltimore. Gerhart finished 89 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown in Week 14. In Week 15, the Vikings face the Eagles, who allow 17.1 fantasy points per game against running backs (18th most). It’s not a great situation, but if you owned Peterson, Gerhart is probably your best option.
• The injury dominoes also fell in Miami. Running back Lamar Miller went down with a concussion, which makes Daniel Thomas a solid option in Week 15 if Miller can’t go. Thomas had 17 touches for 109 yards and a touchdown against Pittsburgh. The Dolphins play New England this weekend. That’s a terrific matchup. The Patriots allow 19.2 fppg to opposing running backs (12th most).
• Ben Roethlisberger is quietly (not so quietly?) having a solid fantasy year. Before Week 14, Drew Brees was the only quarterback to throw for multiple touchdowns against the Dolphins defense. And that was back in Week 4. Roethlisberger added his name to that list this past weekend, throwing for 297 yard and three touchdowns. Roethlisberger has posted 20 or more fantasy points in standard leagues in five of his last six games. He can be safely started in Week 15 against the Bengals, who give up 19.8 fppg.
• So about safely starting certain quarterbacks: The Aaron Rodgers saga is ongoing. Green Bay is 6-6-1, which puts the Packers a game behind Detroit and Chicago in the NFC North. That means the Packers are still in playoff contention. That’s good news if you own Rodgers, because it gives the quarterback -- who is recovering from a collarbone injury -- and the team incentive to put him out there this weekend against the Cowboys. Rodgers was evaluated this week, and he was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice, but his status for the Dallas game remains questionable. If he goes, you have to start him. Aside from being a quality quarterback, Dallas gives up 27.2 fppg to opposing quarterbacks -- the most in the league.
• The Packers are basically a M*A*S*H unit. Running back Eddie Lacy suffered an ankle sprain in Week 14. He went to the locker room for a while before returning and playing through the pain. Lacy finished with 65 rushing yards and 25 receiving yards. He’s a must-start if he plays, but that’s also up in the air. He was in a walking boot on Thursday and he’s listed as questionable for Sunday. James Starks becomes a viable replacement option against the Cowboys, who allow 24.7 fppg to opposing running backs -- the most in the league. (Basically, start all your healthy Packers against the Cowboys. The Cowboys are not good at defense. At all.)
• This probably won’t shock you, but after having a good game in Week 13, C.J. Spiller had another bad outing in Week 14. The Bills running back had just 12 touches for 48 yards against Tampa Bay. He had what would have been an 83-yard touchdown called back in the fourth quarter, which is slightly encouraging. Maybe. The Bucs (seventh fewest fppg to RBs) were a bad matchup for Spiller. Week 15 against Jacksonville should be much better. The Jags allow 19.3 fppg to RBs, 11th most. But if you’re still reading fantasy football columns, that ostensibly means you’re in your league’s semifinal round. At the least, you’re in the playoffs. At this point, can you start Spiller with any confidence? You’ve gotten this far without him. It’s a lot safer to keep going with him on the bench, regardless of matchups.