As we mentioned last week, if you’re reading this column, you’re still alive in the hunt for fantasy riches and bragging rights as we move one step closer to the championship round. Congratulations on the savvy decision-making this season.
After a 2-0 performance two weeks ago, our picks went 1-1 in Week 14 to put us at 8-8 on the season. Not great, but not terrible, either. Let’s see if we can up that win percentage in time for the holiday season. (Last Week: 1-1, Overall: 8-8):
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-6.5) at Minnesota Vikings: The Vikes have been awful lately (as evidenced in our write up of the Saints D/ST below) and are turning the ball over at an alarming rate. New Orleans has been shaky at times on the road this season, but is 4-0 against the spread in their last four games as a favorite.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (-6.5) at St. Louis Rams: The Rams are averaging a league-worst 11.8 points per game this season and can’t get any production out of the quarterback position. On the other side of the rock sits a Cincinnati team that is in a must-win situation if they want any chance at earning a spot in the postseason. The Bengals are 6-1-1 against the spread in their last eight road games.
10 Players To Start
Rex Grossman, QB, Washington Redskins (at New York Giants): Yes, I’m aware that starting Sexy Rexy inspires very little confidence from fantasy nation. But for those of you who haven’t been following his progress over the last few weeks, be advised that Grossman has tossed two touchdown passes in three of his last four games and is averaging 269.8 passing yards per outing over his last four starts. We expect more of the same Sunday in New York against a Giants defense that currently ranks 29th in the NFL against the pass (263.7 yds/gm) and is surrendering an average of 22.5 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2011 (3rd-most in NFL).
Felix Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys (at Tampa Bay): DeMarco Murray’s season-ending ankle injury in Week 14 has opened the door for Jones to reemerge as the Cowboys’ workhorse running back. In less than four quarters of action last Sunday night against the G-Men, the former Arkansas standout ripped off 137 total yards on 22 touches. This Saturday night he takes on a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that is giving up more fantasy points to opposing running backs than any other team in the league (25.7 pts/gm). Get him in there.
Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints (at Minnesota): Predicting wide receiver production in New Orleans is never an easy task, as quarterback Drew Brees loves to spread the rock around to his extremely deep arsenal of pass-catching targets. But we like Colston this week for a few reasons, beginning with the fact that he’s posted two 100+-yard efforts over his last four games and is coming off a two-touchdown outing at Tennessee. Not only that, but the Vikings currently rank 26th in the NFL in pass defense (248.8 yds/gm) and are giving up an average of 25.2 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers (4th-most in NFL). Start Colston with confidence on Sunday.
Jake Ballard, TE, New York Giants (vs. Washington): Ballard has been targeted six or more times in three of his last four starts and is coming off a solid 52-yard, one touchdown performance in Week 14 at Dallas. Combine that with the fact that Washington is surrendering an average of 9.6 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends (3rd-most in NFL) and was utterly gashed by New England TE Rob Gronkowski last weekend and we like Ballard’s chances for another productive outing.
New Orleans Saints, D/ST (at Minnesota): The Vikings have committed 14 turnovers and given up 16 sacks over their last four games, so defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ high-pressure defense should find plenty of fantasy success Sunday in Minnesota. The Vikings have surrendered an average of 11.2 fantasy points per week to opposing defenses (3rd-most in NFL), so we feel this is a smart spot to start the Saints.
Tim Tebow, QB, Denver Broncos (vs. New England): The second-year signal-caller out of Florida has accounted for seven total touchdowns over his last five games. That’s not all that impressive, but you have to keep in mind that Sunday against the Patriots offers up a big opportunity for Tebow to take it to the bank. No team in the league is surrendering more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season than New England (22.8 pts/gm). In addition, it’s likely that Denver will need to take to the skies a bit more than usual this week to keep pace with Tom Brady and the Patriots’ high-flying offense. Tebow has a chance to roll up some serious numbers on Sunday.
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans (at Indianapolis): Entering last Sunday’s showdown with the Saints, Johnson had posted 100+ rushing yards in three of his last four starts. While Week 14 offered up a dud (23 yards, 0 touchdowns), look for CJ2K to rebound Sunday in Indianapolis against a Colts defense that ranks 30th in the NFL against the run (144.3 yds/gm) and is giving up an average of 23.6 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (3rd-most in NFL).
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (at St. Louis): Green has found the end zone in five of his last eight starts and is always good to be on the receiving end of at least two or three deep shots from quarterback Andy Dalton. That equation should translate into fantasy gold Sunday in St. Louis against a Rams defense that has been awful in 2011. Steve Spagnuolo’s team is giving up an average of 25.1 points per game (25th in NFL) and is surrendering an average of 25.0 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers (5th-most in NFL). The Bengals are in a must-win situation if they want to advance to the postseason, so expect a big effort from this offense.
Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals (vs. Cleveland): Wells had found the end zone in two straight outings before running into the brick wall that is the San Francisco run defense in Week 14. But don’t let that underachieving performance discourage you, as this weekend offers up a much more favorable showdown against a Cleveland Browns defense that ranks 31st in the NFL against the run (150.9 yds/gm) and is giving up an average of 20.9 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (8th-most in NFL). Arizona has surprisingly won five of their last six games, so don’t be shocked if these guys fire up the engines once again this Sunday.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos (vs. New England): If we’re backing Tebow this weekend, how could we not recommend his big-play target Demaryius Thomas? The former Georgia Tech product has been red hot as of late, racking up 11 receptions for 222 yards and three scores on 20 targets over the last two weeks. As we mentioned early, we’re expecting a solid outing from the Denver offense on Sunday against a Patriots defense that that is giving up more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than any other team in the league (30.5 pts/gm). Look for Thomas to make it three solid starts in a row in Week 15.