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Start 'Em & Sit 'Em: Week 15

Note: Sleeper alert focuses on players who aren't considered regular starters but have favorable matchups and could produce at a high level. Owners beware focuses on prominent players with unfavorable matchups who could fail to meet statistical expectations.

START OF THE WEEK

 

Ryan Grant, Green Bay: Grant has been on absolute fire for fantasy football owners, as he's scored the second most points on NFL.com at the running back position (behind LaDainian Tomlinson) over the past three weeks. His success should continue in St. Louis, where Grant will face a Rams defense that ranks 21st against the run and has allowed 13 rushing touchdowns (tied for fifth-most in the NFL) on the season. The Packers will no doubt ride their newfound stud runner in their quest for the top seed in the NFC postseason, so look for Grant to record another solid stat line.


QUARTERBACKS: START 'EM

 

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle: Hasselbeck has been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league, as he's recorded six touchdown passes with one interception in his past two starts. He has also thrown for multiple scores in seven of his past eight starts, and he should make it eight of nine this weekend in Carolina. The Panthers do rank 12th against the pass, but their defensive backfield has also surrendered 18 passing touchdowns. That includes a combined 10 passing scores through the air in the past four weeks. That stat alone makes Hasselbeck an attractive starter.

Kurt Warner, Arizona: Warner has been a tremendous waiver-wire treasure, as he ranks 13th in points on NFL.com for the season despite the fact that he has started just eight times. He's also fifth in points at the position in the past three weeks, and he should post another solid performance in New Orleans. The Saints rank a dreadful 29th in the league against the pass and have surrendered 23 passing touchdowns (fourth-most in the NFL). This contest has a chance to be an absolute barnburner at the Superdome, so look for the Warner Machine to run on all cylinders.

More quarterbacks with favorable matchups: Derek Anderson vs. Buffalo, Tom Brady vs. N.Y. Jets, Drew Brees vs. Arizona, Brett Favre at St. Louis, Carson Palmer at San Francisco.

Sleeper alert: Jeff Garcia vs. Atlanta.

QUARTERBACKS: SIT 'EM

 

Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia: McNabb returned to work last week against the New York Giants, but he mustered 179 passing yards and one touchdown. He has thrown for multiple touchdowns twice all season, and 57 percent of his touchdown passes came in those two contests. What's more, he threw for one touchdown and two interceptions in his last start against this week's opponent, the Dallas Cowboys. McNabb is more of an option in leagues with 12-plus teams, but overall he's a risk-reward choice across the board in the fantasy football postseason.

Vince Young, Tennessee: It has become close to impossible to trust Young, who has alternated between poor and solid stat lines in recent weeks. He threw for 121 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in last week's loss to San Diego, and now he'll face a Kansas City defense that ranks ninth against the pass and is hard to puncture at Arrowhead Stadium. In fact, the past three quarterbacks to face the Chiefs at home have averaged 173 yards with two total touchdowns. Unless you're desperate, it makes sense to keep the Madden cover man on the bench.

More quarterbacks with unfavorable matchups: Marc Bulger vs. Green Bay, Kellen Clemens at New England, Tarvaris Jackson vs Chicago, Eli Manning vs. Washington, Ben Roethlisberger vs. Jacksonville.

Owners beware: David Garrard at Pittsburgh.


RUNNING BACKS: START 'EM

 

Joseph Addai, RB, Indianapolis: Addai led countless fantasy footballers to a win in the first round of the postseason last week with a three-touchdown performance in a win over Baltimore, and he'll no doubt make more noise this weekend in Oakland. The Raiders have the 31st-ranked run defense in the NFL, and no team has surrendered more scores on the ground (21) than the silver and black. Addai should be the focal point of his team's offensive attack, so don't be shocked if he rushed for 125-plus yards and finds the end zone at least twice in this AFC competition.

More running backs with favorable matchups: Earnest Graham vs. Atlanta, Marshawn Lynch at Cleveland, Jamal Lewis vs. Buffalo, Willis McGahee at Miami, Adrian Peterson vs. Chicago.

Sleeper alert: Laurence Maroney vs. N.Y. Jets.

RUNNING BACKS: SIT 'EM

 

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville: Jones-Drew has taken a backseat in the box scores to Fred Taylor over the past three weeks, but neither back has a great matchup this week in Pittsburgh. The Steelers rank second in the NFL against the run, and no team has allowed fewer rushing touchdowns (3) on the season. The smallish back has been an end-zone magnet with four touchdowns in his past five weeks, so he is a viable flex option in most formats. However, don't be shocked if neither he nor Taylor finds success against the Steelers in what could be bad weather conditions.

Travis Henry, Denver: It's true that Henry has found the end zone three times in his past two contests, but it's been Selvin Young, not Henry, that has been the started and seen the lion's share of the carries. Reports out of Denver indicate Young will continued to be more featured in the offense than Henry, who remains at less than 100 percent due to a problematic knee. The veteran out of Tennessee is a viable flex starter in leagues with 12-plus teams against Houston on Thursday night (8pm EST, NFL Network), but he's a real risk at this crucial point in the season.

More running backs with unfavorable matchups: Brandon Jacobs vs. Washington, Edgerrin James at New Orleans, Julius Jones vs. Philadelphia, Adrian Peterson at Minnesota, Clinton Portis at N.Y. Giants.

Owners beware: Willie Parker vs. Jacksonville.


WIDE RECEIVERS: START 'EM

 

Marques Colston, New Orleans: Countless "experts" saw Colston as a prime bust candidate this season, but he's been an absolute statistical beast in New Orleans. He is on pace for a career-best 97 receptions, 1,203 yards and 10 touchdowns, and this week's contest against Arizona should help him reach those totals. The Cardinals rank an unimpressive 24th in the NFL against the pass, and their defensive backfield has allowed 21 receiving touchdowns (tied for sixth in the NFL). The Cards have also allowed 10 receiving scores in their past four games, so Colston should rock the house.

Joey Galloway, Tampa Bay: Galloway might be on the latter side of his 30's, but he still has the skills and speed of a wide receiver 10 years his junior. The veteran is on pace to record his third consecutive 1,000-yard season, and this week's matchup against Atlanta is a favorable one. The Falcons are an absolute mess after the Michael Vick situation and this week's resignation Bobby Petrino, so there isn't much motivation to perform between the white lines. Galloway has also burned Atlanta for 269 yards and a score in their last three meetings.

More wide receivers with favorable matchups: Deion Branch at Carolina, Braylon Edwards vs. Buffalo, Lee Evans at Cleveland, Larry Fitzgerald at New Orleans, Brandon Marshall at Houston.

Sleeper alert: Arnaz Battle vs. Cincinnati.

WIDE RECEIVERS: SIT 'EM

 

Steve Smith, Carolina: Smith recorded six catches for 44 yards (7.3 YPC) and no touchdowns in last week's 37-6 blowout loss to Jacksonville, and he failed to find the end zone for the sixth consecutive week. The absence of quarterback Jake Delhomme has turned Smith, who is one of the league's most talented athletes, into no more than a No. 3 fantasy wideout. It's hard to sit someone of his skills and abilities, but Carolina's porous quarterback situation has killed his overall value. Smith also faces a formidable Seattle pass defense, so use Smith with extreme caution.

Laveranues Coles, N.Y. Jets: Coles returned from a high ankle sprain and posted seven receptions last week, but he is far less than 100 percent. In fact, Coles was in so much discomfort after the contest that he needed help getting down from the interview podium. Aside from his health issues, Coles must also face a New England defense that ranks sixth against the pass. This game could be played in the middle of a major snow storm, which is another reason it could be hard for Coles to produce. Unless you need a No. 3 wideout, Coles should be sidelined.

More wide receivers with unfavorable matchups: Dwayne Bowe vs. Tennessee, Derrick Mason at Miami, Santonio Holmes vs. Jacksonville, Santana Moss at N.Y. Giants, Jerry Porter vs. Indianapolis.

Owners beware: Roddy White at Tampa Bay.


TIGHT ENDS: START 'EM

 

Jason Witten, Dallas: Witten, who will forever be remember for his run after the catch without a helmet earlier this season, posted a monster stat line last week with 15 catches for 138 yards and one touchdown in a win over Detroit. His success should continue against Philadelphia, which has failed to stop Witten throughout his career. In fact, he has recorded 38 receptions for 484 yards and three scores in his last seven starts against the Eagles. Now one of the elite tight ends in all of fantasy football, Witten should be a lock starter in all formats throughout the postseason.

Chris Cooley, Washington: Cooley has continued his status as one of the better tight ends in the leagues this season, as he's on pace to record career bests in catches, yards and touchdowns. While the loss of Jason Campbell does eliminate what was one of the NFL's better quarterback-tight end rapport, Cooley will continue to be a prominent pick in the pass attack for new starter Todd Collins. This weekend's opponent, the New York Giants, have been a bit vulnerable to tight ends this season, so look for the former Utah State Aggie to be productive in this important NFC East clash.

More tight ends with favorable matchups: Owen Daniels vs. Denver, Vernon Davis vs. Cincinnati, Donald Lee at St. Louis, Benjamin Watson vs. N.Y. Jets.

Sleeper alert: Robert Royal at Cleveland.

TIGHT ENDS: SIT 'EM

 

Heath Miller, Pittsburgh: Miller had developed into a viable low-end No. 1 fantasy tight end earlier in the season, but he's seen his numbers fall in recent weeks. In fact, Miller has recorded 10 receptions for 74 yards and no touchdowns in his past three contests. His fortunes won't turn this weekend in Pittsburgh, where he'll face a hardened Jacksonville defense that has allowed a respectable 15 receiving touchdowns. The forecast in the area calls for snow (and a lot of it) as well, which makes Miller even more of a risk for fantasy footballers in their quest for a title.

Alge Crumpler, Atlanta: One of the biggest disappointments in fantasy football at the tight end position, Crumpler is on pace to record his worst numbers since 2003. He has been much more inconsistent without Michael Vick under center, and now the departure of head coach Bobby Petrino leaves the offense with question marks. Crumpler must now face a formidable Tampa Bay pass defense that has held him to a combined seven receptions for 80 yards and no touchdowns in their past three contests, so owners should avoid the North Carolina product if at all possible in Week 15.

More tight end with unfavorable matchups: Todd Heap at Miami, Eric Johnson vs. Arizona, Marcedes Lewis at Pittsburgh, L.J. Smith at Dallas.

Owners beware: Jeremy Shockey vs. Washington.


KICKERS: START 'EM

 

Mason Crosby, Green Bay: Crosby has come out of nowhere to be the most productive kicker in fantasy football in most formats. He has converted on 25 of 33 field goals, including a 53-yarder, and his statistical success should continue this weekend in St. Louis. The Rams have allowed 26 field-goal conversions (third-most in the NFL) and 30 extra points, so it's obvious their defense is vulnerable to offenses that can put points on the scoreboard. That definition mirrors the Packers, who should be able to move the football and allow Crosby countless opportunities to produce.

Shayne Graham, Cincinnati: Graham has been inconsistent in recent weeks, but he broke out of a two-week slide that came in some bad weather conditions to record 14 fantasy points in a win over St. Louis. His success shouldn't be short lived, as Graham faces a San Francisco defense on Saturday night (8pm EST, NFL Network) that has allowed 25 field-goal conversions (tied for fourth-most in the NFL). The Bengals should be able to move the football on what is an inconsistent Niners defense, so expect Graham to record another productive stat line.

More kickers with favorable matchups: Rob Bironas at Kansas City, Jason Elam at Houston, Nicholas Folk vs. Philadelphia, Stephen Gostkowski vs. N.Y. Jets.

Sleeper alert: Jay Feely vs. Baltimore.

KICKERS: SIT 'EM

 

Nate Kaeding, San Diego: Kaeding was ranked as the top kicker in fantasy football on most preseason lists, but he's failed to meet statistical expectations. The Iowa product is ranked an unimpressive 25th in points among kickers on NFL.com with a mere 15 field-goal conversions on 18 attempts, and his opportunities could be limited this weekend against Detroit. The Lions defense has allowed a mere 12 field-goal conversions (tied for third-least in the NFL) on the season (most teams find the end zone against them), so Kaeding could see more extra points after offensive touchdowns.

Matt Stover, Baltimore: Stover started the season like a stud but has seen his numbers fall across the board in recent weeks. In fact, Stover has failed to produce double-digit fantasy points in six of his past seven starts and has averaged a mere 3.3 points over the past three weeks. Now he'll have to face Miami, which has allowed 24 field goals on the season -- that's tied for eight-fewest in the NFL. Unless you're desperate or in a much larger league, it would be wise to sit (or even release) Stover in favor of a consistent kicker with a more favorable matchup.

More kickers with unfavorable matchups: Jason Hanson at San Diego, Mike Nugent at New England, Josh Scobee at Pittsburgh, Jeff Wilkins vs. Green Bay.

Owners beware: Sebastian Janikowski vs. Indianapolis.


DEFENSES: START 'EM

 

Minnesota defense: There hasn't been a hotter defense in fantasy football than the Vikings, who have the most points (46) on NFL.com over the past three weeks. The success of this unit should continue against Chicago, which turns to Kyle Orton to run an offense that has lost Cedric Benson for the season.

Green Bay defense: The Packers posted a monster stat line in last week's win over Oakland, and their chances for another strong performance are tremendous in St. Louis. The Rams have a patchwork offensive line and questions at quarterback, so look for the Packers to produce in what could be a blowout.

More defenses with favorable matchups: Baltimore defense at Miami, New England defense vs. N.Y. Jets, Seattle defense at Carolina, Tampa Bay defense vs. Atlanta.

Sleeper alert: Cincinnati defense at San Francisco.

DEFENSES: SIT 'EM

 

Philadelphia defense: The Eagles could be in for a long afternoon in Dallas, where Tony Romo and the Cowboys await. The Polks have averaged over 32 points per game overall, and their offense put up an 38 points and 434 total yards on the Eagles earlier in the season at Lincoln Financial Field.

Carolina defense: The Panthers have been a serious disappointment in fantasy circles, and this week's matchup against Seattle is not favorable. Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks have averaged over 30 points in their past seven games, so the Panthers could find themselves on the short end of a blowout.

More defenses with unfavorable matchups: Arizona defense at New Orleans, Buffalo defense at Cleveland, Detroit defense at San Diego, Oakland defense vs. Indianapolis.

Owners beware: Jacksonville defense at Pittsburgh.

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