Sneaky Starts: Week 15
Given what happened in Newton, Connecticut today, it's with a heavy heart that I sit down to write this week's Sneaky Starts. Our thoughts go out to those families that lost loved ones in today's shooting. Fantasy football seems trivial at this point, but maybe it's a worthwhile distraction to think about something else for a few minutes.
Colin Kaepernick is once again a sneaky start this week given his matchup (@ NE, #25 in QB aFPA) and his recent production (217 yards, 1.3 total touchdowns and 44 rushing yards in the last four games). One note of concern: The Patriots haven't given up a single touchdown pass in the last two games. Russell Wilson also figures to have a pretty nice day against the Bills. Wilson doesn't throw for a lot of yardage, but he's averaging 1.5 TDs on the season, and has been running the ball more lately (36 rushing yards per game in his last five games).
Desperate owners could look at Ryan Tannehill (vs. JAX, #21 in aFPA), Brandon Weeden (vs. WAS, #26), Sam Bradford (vs. MIN, #29) and Chad Henne (@ MIA, #17). These are by no means dependable options, but each player has performed well in spots this season and they all have pretty nice matchups this week.
With Ahmad Bradshaw ruled out, David Wilson will get the start and should see a heavy workload against the Falcons, who are #23 in RB aFPA on the year. Atlanta has struggled against Pierre Thomas (14 carries, 84 yards), Doug Martin (two TDs) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (22 carries, 127 yards, TD) in the last month. Knowshon Moreno also figures to be a good start against a Ravens defense that is #25 in aFPA. Moreno saw 36 touches in Week 14, and is averaging 28 touches per game in his last three starts.
With Bilal Powell iffy with a sore toe (he missed practice again on Friday), Shonn Greene could see a bigger workload than usual against the Titans, who are last in the league in RB aFPA. Vick Ballard should also see a major workload for the Colts with Delone Carter and Donald Brown both out against the Texans, but please note that the matchup is not good. (Houston is #1 in aFPA.)
Montell Owens (15 touches for 102 yards and a TD in Week 14) continues to start for the Jaguars, but the Dolphins (#7 in aFPA) are not a good matchup. Joique Bell saw an increased workload against the Packers, turning 17 touches into 96 yards, and has a nice matchup with the Cardinals (#26 in aFPA). But it's always risky starting a backup running back.
Cecil Shorts is probable for Week 15, and while it's always a little dicey to start players coming off of an injury, Shorts is 10th among WRs in fantasy points per game, so owners should probably get him in their lineups. Michael Crabtree (@ NE, #28 aFPA) and Josh Gordon (vs. WAS, #21 aFPA) are two other real-world WR1s that are flying under the radar this week.
Chris Givens had a quiet Week 14 (3-25), but he did lead the Rams' WRs in targets (10), so the intent was there to get him involved. Prior to last week, Givens had gained 50+ yards in seven of his last eight games and had caught three touchdowns during that span. He should be a solid start even if Danny Amendola makes his return. Another rookie, T.Y. Hilton, should have a nice game against the Texans, who are #32 in WR aFPA over the last 10 weeks. Hilton has gained 50+ yards and/or scored a touchdown in six of his last seven games. Donnie Avery is also a decent desperation start, though he hasn't been as consistent as Hilton has.
Brian Hartline could see a jump in targets with Davone Bess out with a back injury. The matchup is good (vs. JAX, #22 aFPA), so Hartline figures to have a solid game. Another player who may be able to capitalize on a teammate's injury is Golden Tate, who has four touchdowns in his last five games but was very quiet against the Cardinals in Week 14. Sidney Rice is iffy with a sore foot, so Tate should be heavily involved against the Bills (#17 in aFPA).
Brandon LaFell is very questionable for Week 15, so Greg Olsen should benefit from a few extra targets even though his matchup with the Chargers is a bad one (#2 in TE aFPA). Martellus Bennett has 10 catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns in the last two weeks, and it seems like he's on the same page as Eli Manning once again.
Kyle Rudolph should bounce back from his goose egg in Week 14 against the Bears since he has a much better matchup with the Rams, who are #24 in aFPA. Percy Harvin is still out so there are plenty of targets to go around. Dennis Pitta has been having a good game every other week, so while he may be due for bad game in Week 15, the Broncos have struggled (#28 aFPA) against tight ends the season and he may see extra targets if Joe Flacco shies away from throwing at CB Champ Bailey.
Dallas Clark had a very quiet game (1-19) against the Eagles in Week 14, but prior to that he had gained 65+ yards and/or scored a touchdown in four straight games. His matchup with the Saints is a good one (#31 in aFPA), and the Buccaneers may have to throw quite a bit to stay in the game.
Desperate owners could roll the dice with Tony Scheffler (with Brandon Pettigrew likely limited or out), Ben Watson (4.0-49-0.5 in his last four games and a nice matchup with the Redskins) or Tony Moeaki (3.5-49-0.2 in his last five games and Dwayne Bowe sidelined in a nice matchup with the Raiders). They're risky, but that's usually the case with Sneaky Starts.