By Ted Rossman
In this section, we examine five strong but unheralded performances from the previous week and determine whether these players are likely to remain hot.
- Marcus Trufant (CB, SEA): Trufant intercepted Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner three times on Sunday, including an 84-yard touchdown return. He also chipped in six tackles (four solo). Trufant ranks second in the league with seven interceptions and is averaging more than five tackles per game. Keep him in your lineup down the stretch.
- Gary Brackett (LB, IND): He made two interceptions and nine tackles (six solo) in the Colts' 44-20 romp at Baltimore on Sunday night. Brackett was questionable with a hip injury that has bothered him since early November, but don't let that scare you. He has seven or more tackles in nine of his 13 games and also has four picks.
- Elvis Dumervil (DE, DEN): Dumervil sacked Chiefs quarterback Brodie Croyle three times in Week 14 and also forced a fumble. His 11 sacks have come in bunches, spanning only six games. Making matters worse, Dumervil has an unfavorable schedule down the stretch, especially in the next two weeks against Houston and San Diego (both tied for the eighth-fewest sacks allowed in the NFL). It's hard to start him with confidence given those tendencies.
- Chad Greenway (LB, MIN): He amassed a season-high 13 stops (eight solo) in Week 14 at San Francisco. Greenway has shown flashes of brilliance this year after missing all of 2006 with a knee injury. He has eight or more tackles in five contests, but he's a risky play in Week 15 because he has four or fewer tackles in four games. On the plus side, Greenway will be 25 next year and another year removed from the knee injury, so he's an early sleeper candidate for 2008.
- Daven Holly (CB, CLE): Holly led the Browns with 11 tackles (10 solo) in Sunday's victory at the Meadowlands. However, he accumulated only six tackles (five solo) in his last two starts and isn't someone to rely on in Week 15.
Here, we look at trends and matchups savvy owners can exploit in the upcoming week.
- The 49ers (vs. Cincinnati), Bears (at Minnesota), Chiefs (vs. Tennessee), Dolphins (vs. Baltimore), Falcons (at Tampa Bay), Panthers (vs. Seattle), Raiders (vs. Indianapolis), Rams (vs. Green Bay) and Redskins (at N.Y. Giants) all harbor uncertain or undesirable quarterback situations in Week 15 because of injuries, ineffectiveness or both. All those opposing defenses warrant an upgrade.
- The league's worst offenses (in terms of points per game) are San Francisco, Kansas City and Atlanta. Those teams, respectively, play host to Cincinnati, play host to Tennessee and visit Tampa Bay in Week 15.
- Earlier this season, we told you that teams often fare better following a bye week. Now that bye weeks have concluded for the season and Thursday games have begun, it's time to point out the teams that have unusually short weeks. This week, those teams are Denver and Houston.
- Looking for sacks in Week 15? Try the Chargers (vs. Detroit, which allows a league-high 4.0 sacks per game), Titans (at Kansas City, which allows 3.7 sacks per game) and Bengals (at San Francisco, which allows 3.5 sacks per contest). Teams to avoid are Arizona (at New Orleans, the toughest team to sack), the N.Y. Jets (at New England, tied for the second-toughest team to sack) and Buffalo (at Cleveland, tied for the second-toughest team to sack).
- Wondering who is toughest to intercept? Tampa Bay (vs. Atlanta) has only been intercepted five times, while New England (vs. the N.Y. Jets) and Jacksonville (at Pittsburgh) have thrown six picks apiece. The easiest teams to pick off? Arizona (at New Orleans), St. Louis (vs. Green Bay) and Chicago (at Minnesota).
- Slippery fingers, anyone? The Ravens (at Miami) lead the league with 22 fumbles lost. Houston (17, vs. Denver), San Francisco (16, vs. Cincinnati) and Washington (16, at the N.Y. Giants) also have trouble holding onto the football. The Colts (at Oakland) have lost three fumbles, the fewest in the NFL. The Patriots (four lost, vs. the N.Y. Jets) have also been stingy in this category.
WHITHER THE WEATHER
Because bad weather usually means fewer points and more turnovers, you need to know where IDPs could benefit from the elements. Here are some sites where the weather could be a significant factor. Keep in mind that the forecasts can change leading up to game day.
It appears Week 15 will feature the season's worst weather by a wide margin. A coastal storm is brewing that could bring snow, ice and wind to four games: Jacksonville at Pittsburgh, Buffalo at Cleveland, the N.Y. Jets at New England and Washington at the N.Y. Giants. The Seattle at Carolina game should include wind, but not precipitation. The Baltimore at Miami contest could be plagued by wind and rain. None of this sounds pretty; the wind could wreak the most havoc, because of its often detrimental effect on the passing game. Four Week 15 games will be played in climate-controlled venues: Denver at Houston, Green Bay at St. Louis, Arizona at New Orleans and Chicago at Minnesota.