What are the odds that if you entered the playoffs with Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers at quarterback that you would likely lose in either the first or second round of the fantasy football playoffs? Slim to none, you’d say.
Well, the odds were indeed "slim" in that all that three took dumps the last few weeks and ruined many a season. But if you're playing for something this week, we're here to help.
On that note, here we go for week 15:
Mark Ingram, New Orleans running back vs. Atlanta
This game means the season to both franchises, and the Saints have the decided advantage at home – despite their recent struggles – and Ingram has perhaps the best fantasy matchup of the week going against Atlanta’s terrible run defense. Way back in week 1, Ingram ran for 60 yards and two scores against the Falcons. Since then, Atlanta has given up 16 more rushing touchdowns and Ingram has become more of a focal point in the Saints offense as Drew Brees has begun to decline. Of course Brees and head coach Sean Payton will want to throw the ball, but they also want to win, so expect Ingram to get a heavy workload – and see big success – this week.
Joique Bell, Detroit running back at Chicago
This is a new one – picking a Lions running back, on the road, in December, to put up big numbers in fantasy football. But this is a solid play for a few reasons. Reggie Bush is largely ineffective outdoors (and largely ineffective in general) and Bell is the better player of the two. The Bears are dysfunctional, and bad on defense – and Bell torched them for 91 yards and 2 TDs on the ground on Thanksgiving. Early in the year, the Bears were OK against the run, but they’re giving up. Dallas rushed for nearly 200 yards and two scores in Chicago two weeks ago and the Saints ran for a score as well. Bell’s an especially a good play in PPR leagues, as the Bears give up a ton of catches and yards to dual-threat backs.
Last week: St. Louis defense (12 points allowed, 1 sack); Jonathan Stewart (73 rush yards, 1 catch, 6 yards).
Note: I'm approaching this category as though you have a better option to choose from. These players could be starts if you do not.
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati running back vs. Denver
If you’ve rolled with Hill and Gio Bernard this year, there’s a strong chance you’re playing for something this weekend – especially since Hill put together a great game against Cleveland. But, now the Bengals roll up againstDenver and a hot Broncos run D that is a top 10 unit against the run in fantasy. The Broncos have only allowed one, 100-yard rusher, but if you look before and after Tre Mason’s 113-yard effort in week 11, the Broncos haven’t allowed a back to top 60 yards on the ground since Marshawn Lynch way back in week 3. And, this includes teams with quarterbacks like Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer and Colin Kaepernick. Andy Dalton isn’t exactly better than those guys right now, is he? Hill may see a lot of carries, but he’s not a good play this week even at home on Monday night.
Mike Wallace, Miami wide receiver vs. Minnesota
Since leaving Pittsburgh, Wallace has been one of the most frustrating fantasy players, and frankly, a weekly disappointment if you rely on him. And no doubt he was on most benches against New England last week when he caught five passes for 104 yards and a score. But, don’t look at it as a sign he’s about to put up big points again. The Patriots like to move Darrelle Revis around, and Wallace did most of his damage against an underrated rookie. That won’t be the case against Minnesota. The Vikings have a sneaky good secondary and they’re excellent at taking away No. 1 wide receivers – even Calvin Johnson was limited last week to just four catches on six targets. Wallace is not a good play this week.
Last week: Josh Gordon (4 targets, 3 catches, 48 yards); Andre Williams (44 rush yards).
Alfred Morris, Washington running back vs. Philadelphia
If you drafted Morris in the first round or two, he has been one of the biggest fantasy busts of 2014. Everyone on Washington’s offense has been, actually. But if you got into the finals by playing the matchup and catching lightning in a bottle, you may get it here. The Eagles are in the bottom ten against running backs fantasy-wise, and Morris did rush for 77 yards when the teams met back in week 3. Now, playing Morris is dependent on him scoring because he’s all but been ignored by the rotation of Washington quarterbacks in the passing game, but the Eagles have allowed a rushing touchdown in six of the last seven week, and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch caught a touchdown in the week he didn’t run for one.
Last week: Martellus Bennett (6 targets, 4 catches, 36 yards, 2-point conversion).
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.