Fantasy news & notes: Tom Brady, QBs in tough spots

Here's the good thing: you're in your fantasy playoffs and likely in your league's final four. Bad news: if you're like me, you have no idea who the hell to play at quarterback.

This is a week where brand-name signal callers have huge red flags and unheralded arms have spectacular matchups. It's a week where many of you may legit play Colin Kaepernick (versus ATL) over Andrew Luck (versus MIN).

Let's start with the Tom Brady conundrum. The Uggs model is taking on Denver and doing it without Rob Gronkowski.

Bad: Denver has been death on fantasy quarterbacks, allowing just 12.1 fantasy points per game (fppg), fewest in the NFL.

Good: Brady has been terrific versus Denver in the regular season, averaging nearly 320 pass yards and tossing 10 touchdowns and just one interception in his past three regular-season showdowns.

Bad: Gronk collected 283 yards and three touchdowns in those three games.

Badder: Brady in 17 games without his star tight end has struggled. His completion percentage is down nearly 10 percent and his quarterback rating goes down nearly 20 points ... But fire him up because of those others trends, amirite?!?

Brady isn't the only stud signal caller with major question marks though.

Cam Newton out of nowhere had a MRI on his throwing shoulder this week. Coach Ron Rivera said the scan came back "clean" but Newton hasn't thrown at all in practice this week.

The team is still expecting Cam to play Monday versus Washington, a defense that has given up the most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks over the last four weeks. Unfortunately, from a statistical standpoint, Cam has been utterly mediocre in that same time frame, averaging just 14.2 fppg over his last four games, barely registering as a top-20 fantasy quarterback let alone a top-10 play.

Aaron Rodgers missed practice this week with both calf and hamstring injuries. Like Newton, there isn't much worry that Rodgers will miss Sunday's game against the Bears but given the injuries and the weather (game-time temperatures forecast around zero degrees) don't be surprised if Rodgers has a somewhat muted fantasy day.

Andrew Luck takes on Minnesota and if the matchup wasn't bad enough (MIN allows the third-fewest fppg to QBs) Luck is going to try and break through minus the services of Donte Moncrief (probably). The explosive wideout is dealing with a hamstring injury and is unlikely to play. A horrible scenario but Luck has been so good in fantasy, tossing two or more touchdowns in five of his previous six games played and dipping below 16 fantasy points just once in that span as well. What I'm saying is that he's had a really high floor and a 30-plus point ceiling, making him damn-near impossible to bench.

Just to make sure we cover all our NFC North bases, in Detroit, Matthew Stafford has a badly dislocated middle finger on his throwing hand and will attempt to play through the injury with a glove. Did I mention he's playing against a Giants defense that has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks? Just 12.81 points per game on the season, if you were curious. GULP.

Meanwhile, Tyrod Taylor takes on Cleveland's horrendous defense and is getting Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods healthier. The only problem? Here are Tyrod's fantasy points per game in standard-scoring leagues (rounded) over the last four weeks: eight, 20, 12, 15 points. His floor is frighteningly low because all the touchdowns could easily go to LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee, but the Browns defense is so soft, Taylor's numbers could go crazy.

Colin Kaepernick is also in a fantastic spot taking on Atlanta. The Dirty Bird's defense is literally the worst in the league at defending opposing quarterbacks. They give up nearly 20 fantasy points per game to the position (more than Cleveland!). Again, great matchup ... too bad Kaepernick is just two weeks removed from a 2-point performance in Week 13 where he got benched. You want to trust in him to carry you to the championship game? Yeah, me neither. But I might ...

Here are my top-10 quarterback plays for the week:

  1. Matt Ryan vs. SF
  2. Aaron Rodgers at CHI
  3. Kirk Cousins vs. CAR
  4. Derek Carr at SD
  5. Andrew Luck at MIN
  6. Tom Brady at DEN
  7. Cam Newton at WAS
  8. Tyrod Taylor vs. CLE
  9. Philip Rivers vs. OAK
  10. Dak Prescott vs. TB

More news and notes ...

NEWS: Julio Jones (toe) missed practice Wednesday and Thursday and was declared out on Friday.

- Fantasy spin: The Falcons are 8-5 and need a win but do they need Julio to get it done? Probably not. With Jones out it opens the door, yet again, for Taylor Gabriel who has six touchdowns in his previous six games and has scored double-digit fantasy points in five of his last six games.

- Bottom line: As crazy as it is, trust in Taylor Gabriel as a flex play.

NEWS: James Starks suffered a concussion after getting into a minor car accident Monday. His status is unclear for Sunday against the Bears. Christine Michael (illness) missed practice Thursday.

- Fantasy spin: Meanwhile Mike McCarthy told reporters Ty Montgomery is officially a running back and that the former Stanford Cardinal could handle 20 or more carries if asked to. Considering temperatures could dip to around zero degrees in Chicago Sunday, the offensive game plan could easily feature a run-heavy approach.

- Bottom line: You would have to have an extremely deep team not to play Montgomery this week. He is an easy RB2/Flex play.

NEWS: Same game, Alshon Jeffery is set to return after serving his four-game suspension.

- Fantasy spin: Green Bay's defense has been burned repeatedly by wide receivers, giving up the fourth-most fantasy points per game to the position this year. Matt Barkley hasn't been the train wreck most were expecting. If anything, his wide receivers have totally let him down the last few weeks with bad to horrendous drops. There were reports that Barkley and Alshon were putting in extra reps to build chemistry and that can only mean good things.

- Bottom line: Do a courtesy check of your waiver wire to see if Alshon was dropped. Play him as a WR2 and be cautiously optimistic.

NEWS: Mark Ingram (toe) returned to practice in a limited capacity Thursday. He is expected to suit up Sunday against Arizona.

- Fantasy spin: The news goes from bad to worse when you LATN (look at the numbers). The Cardinals have given up the second-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. Ingram meanwhile played just 30 percent of the team's offensive snaps last week, splitting time not only with Tim Hightower but with Travaris Cadet as well. Going back even further, Ingram has played on more than 33 percent of the team's offensive snaps just once in the team's previous four games.

- Bottom line: Ingram might be the biggest name, but make no mistake he's playing a committee down there in the French Quarter. A committee back in a terrible matchup? Play with extreme caution.

NEWS: Michael Floyd was arrested Monday on DUI charges and subsequently cut by the Arizona Cardinals. Thursday, the Patriots claimed Floyd off waivers.

- Fantasy spin: It's been a crazy, wild ride for Floyd this season. He came in with a TON of preseason hype, did nothing, got benched, got arrested, got cut and is now again playing for a title contender. From a fantasy POV, it means nothing for this week as Floyd has all of 48 hours to learn a complicated playbook.

- Bottom line: Check back with me next week to see if Floyd is A) still with the team or B) fantasy relevant.

NEWS: Adrian Peterson surprisingly returned to practice this week and said he hopes to play Week 16 against Green Bay. The coaching staff wouldn't commit either way.

- Fantasy spin: Stop. Just stop. No he's not worth a pickup in fantasy and no, you're not playing him during your fantasy championship under almost any circumstance. The other guys weigh in here.

- Bottom line: Given his age and injuries, there is almost no chance Peterson is back with Minnesota next year given the price tag. If anything, the team could potentially give him a handful of snaps just as a kind of audition for other teams. If he looks anywhere near normal, it would help drum up some trade partners.

Other news and notes:Melvin Gordon (hip, knee) missed practice this week after he was carted off last week. He is extremely unlikely to play in Week 15 against Oakland. Kenneth Farrow is expected to shoulder a heavy load with Ronnie Hillman mixing in.

Matt Forte is a game-time decision for the Jets' Saturday home game against the Dolphins. Forte told reporters he has a torn meniscus and added that he likely had been playing with the injury "all year." He very well may try to give it a go, but it seems highly unlikely on a short week. Expect Bilal Powell to have a huge role.

A.J. Green (hamstring) got in limited practices Wednesday and Thursday. He's expected to be a game-time decision but considering the Bengals are all but eliminated from playoff contention, I'm not sure why A.J. would risk re-injury.

Sammy Watkins sat out of practice Wednesday but was back Thursday. He is expected to be active Sunday at home versus the Browns.

Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (knee, foot, back) told reporters he expects to be on a "pitch count" Saturday against the Dolphins. I don't think he's playable in 10- or 12-team leagues.

Darren Sproles is still in the league's concussion protocol after getting blasted illegally on a punt return by Deshazor Everett and was officially ruled OUT on Friday. Wendell Smallwood was placed on injured reserve meaning Ryan Mathews could see a massive workload. There is also Kenjon Barner for those of you looking for a Danger-Zone deep sleeper play.

Theo Riddick (wrist) missed practice Wednesday and Thursday.

Want more fantasy news and notes? Follow James Koh on Twitter: @JamesDKoh

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