Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s return last week for the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t produce an expected win over the San Diego Chargers, but it did lead to fantasy relevance again for his receivers.
Mike Wallace had seven catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns in Week 14, following a run of three games in which he produced just 10 catches for 77 yards and no touchdowns with Roethlisberger out. Antonio Brown also scored a touchdown – his first since Week Three – and was targeted nine times by Roethlisberger, providing hope for this week at Dallas.
Here’s a look at a few more players who are on the right track with the fantasy semifinals this weekend.
• Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans: He got his first carries since Week Eight in last Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants, rushing five times for 56 yards and a touchdown and scoring again in the receiving game (four catches for 28 yards). Sproles, who has six touchdowns this season, should thrive this week against Tampa Bay, which struggles to defend the pass.
• Roddy White, WR, Atlanta: A nine-catch, 117-yard, one-touchdown performance in Week 14 came at the perfect time for White owners, who had watched him combine for just 77 yards on six catches the previous two weeks. In six home games, White has 604 yards and four touchdowns. He’s in the Georgia Dome on Sunday against the Giants, who have given up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing receivers in standard-scoring ESPN leagues.
• Steve Smith, WR, Carolina: The revitalization of Cam Newton has also meant good things for his favorite receiver. Smith has 12 catches for 229 yards and a touchdown in the past two weeks, and the Chargers’ pass defense is coming off a game in which it allowed three touchdowns to opposing receivers.
• Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver: A fantasy afterthought midway through the season, Moreno’s exactly the type of player who can help you win your league. He’s had at least 20 carries in his past three games, and got 36 touches in Week 14 against Oakland. That number won’t be as high Sunday against Baltimore, but Moreno should still get plenty of work. You don’t have to be as scared of the Ravens’ defense as you used to be, either. Baltimore has allowed at least 130 yards rushing in five of its past nine games.
• Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England: A nagging ankle injury ruined Hernandez’s fantasy usefulness early this season, but he’s healthy now and taking advantage of the fact Rob Gronkowski is out for the Patriots. Hernandez has 16 catches in the past two games, and in Week 14 had a pair of touchdowns against Houston. He’s got a tough matchup against San Francisco on Sunday night, but on such a high-powered offense, Hernandez is a great start.
Start the Detroit ‘D’
The Arizona Cardinals’ offense is in absolute disarray. The Cards turned the ball over eight times – eight! – last week in a 58-0 shutout loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
That type of futility makes it OK to start Detroit, a defense that hasn’t scored a TD all season and has allowed an average of 31 points over its last five games.
Analyzing the Bills
C.J. Spiller no longer has to worry about splitting carries with Fred Jackson, which makes him a No. 1 running back the rest of the season.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has little fantasy value, while receiver Stevie Johnson could have a difficult matchup depending on the verdict of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s appeal hearing today regarding a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. If Sherman plays, sit Stevie.
Tight end Scott Chandler had a season high in yardage last week (71) and remains a solid red zone threat, so he’s a good sleeper play at his position.
The Bills’ defense has held each of its past four opponents to under 21 points, but isn’t getting much fantasy respect. It’s ranked 22nd by ESPN for Week 15. I say that’s too low. I’d consider starting the Bills in deeper leagues.
On the Seattle side, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson managed just eight fantasy points in last week’s 58-0 victory, one of the stranger fantasy stat lines all season. The Seahawks run the ball more than any team in the league, which makes Wilson a risky fantasy start today. I wouldn’t do it.
Running back Marshawn Lynch, meanwhile, is a fantasy stud who should start every week. Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice did not practice Wednesday because of a bruised foot. Monitor his status come Sunday morning, as Rice is a decent flex option if he can play.
As referenced above, the Seahawks’ defense feasted on the Cardinals last week, putting up two touchdowns and an unheard of 39 fantasy points. Seattle won’t approach those numbers Sunday, but is still a solid play against a struggling Buffalo offense.