Why do we reccommend benching the Titans' defense in perhaps the biggest fantasy game of the year? How do we rank the many running back handcuffs who have emerged given injuries to key starters? Read on for answers to these questions and other recommendations as we head into Week 15 of the NFL season.
Shaun Hill, QB, 49ers. Are we the only ones who get the feeling that fantasy teams would have been a lot better off if the 49ers would have started Shaun Hill over J.T. O'Sullivan to begin the season? We're not in love with Hill or anything, but there are at least 10-12 quarterbacks who are worse than him this week, and weather won't be a factor for him against a mediocre Dolphins defense.
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans. Schaub does not have a good matchup against the Titans this week, but the Texans could be throwing a lot (on the thinking that they won't be able to run much and will probably be playing from behind). If your league does not penalize turnovers, this could be a case of quantity over quality. At worst, Schaub's a better option than a lot of quarterbacks (Marc Bulger, Tarvaris Jackson, whoever the Bills and Raiders start, David Garrard, Kerry Collins, Ken Dorsey, etc).
Derrick Ward, RB, and Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants.. Lots of starting running backs were hurt last week, but Brandon Jacobs' injury leaves Derrick Ward as the top handcuff to own (certainly out of all of the backs on this list). Ahmad Bradshaw is also worth rostering on the chance that Jacobs sits out this week.
Dominic Rhodes, RB, Colts. Joseph Addai's most recent ailment is an injured shoulder. In a way, though, it doesn't matter -- Rhodes has been outplaying Addai for a couple of weeks now. Even if Addai plays, Rhodes makes for a nice start against the Lions (who have allowed three scores to the opposing team's backup running backs the past two weeks). And if Addai is out, Rhodes is a top-10 running back (for this week, anyway). If you just lost Peyton Hillis for the year, and Ward is already owned, Rhodes is who you should claim off waivers (unless you're in one of those eight-team leagues and somebody like Pierre Thomas is available).
Maurice Morris, RB, Seahawks. Morris might be our favorite sleeper of the week. Julius Jones didn't get any touches last week, so Morris seems to have the job. This week, he faces an awful Rams team. Don't go overboard here, but we think Morris will have a good game, in an 80 yards and a touchdown sort of way.
Ladell Betts, RB, Redskins. Clinton Portis was not happy that the Redskins gave him the second half off last week to rest his injuries, but in many ways, that was overdue. Portis is great, and possesses incredible heart and competitive spirit, but he hasn't been performing up to his standards. If Portis sits this week, then Betts has a nice matchup against a bad Bengals team. If Addai starts for the Colts, and Portis sits for the Redskins, play Betts this week over Rhodes.
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Tatum Bell, RB, and Selvin Young, RB, Broncos. With Peyton Hillis out for the year, somebody is going to start at running back for Denver. But if they keep calling those short swing passes to Brandon Marshall, it might not matter who. Remember, Bell played well last week, but the Chiefs make everyone look better than they are, and the Lions cut Bell earlier this year.
Darren Sproles, RB, Chargers. Watching last week's game, did you get the feeling that the Chargers might be better if they traded LaDainian Tomlinson, gave Sproles the starting job, and got a big back to handle the short-yardage duties? Couldn't Sproles be Brian Westbrook-lite if given the chance? Anyway, that's an argument for another column and another time. For this week, Sproles has another good matchup against the Chiefs run defense. You'd have to be hurting at running back to start Sproles, but those of you who have read this column all year know how we favor backs against the Chiefs.
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Greg Olsen, TE, Bears. Kyle Orton played better last week, so it was no coincidence that Olsen's stats looked better than they've looked in a while. If you play in a 10-team league, you won't find 10 better tight ends this week than Olsen, who should find himself in the middle of a shootout on Thursday night against the Saints.
Colts D/ST. We recommended the Colts last week based on a good matchup and a good performance the previous week, and they came through with five sacks, three interceptions and three points allowed at home against the Bengals. With another home matchup against the Lions, the Colts are a better play than the Titans (at Houston).