In “Start or Sit,” we make a call on players who merit strong starting consideration — and players who might be best on the bench.
Here’s our Week 15 rundown:
Dolphins RB Reggie Bush (vs. Jacksonville) — Bush has put up decent numbers against strong run defenses (New England, San Francisco) in the past two weeks. Now he draws Jacksonville, and he needs to be in the vast bulk of fantasy lineups. The Jaguars have surrendered at least 110 rushing yards in all but two games in 2012. Moreover, they have allowed 18 rushing scores, with opponents scoring at least two TDs on the ground in 6-of-13 games.
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (vs. Detroit) — I would give him strong consideration in three-WR lineups. Yes, not the greatest vote of confidence, but it's something. Here's why I like Fitzgerald. One, the Cardinals return home after being embarassed on the road, and I expect a much better performance vs. Detroit. Two, the Lions' pass defense is the weakest the Cardinals have seen in several weeks. Three, while rookie QB Ryan Lindley has struggled, he now has three games under his belt, and improvement is possible. Four, Fitzgerald's résumé is filled with much, much, much more good than bad. With Chicago and San Francisco next on the schedule for Arizona, it might be now or never to take a chance on any of the Cardinals' skill-position players. And if you're going to take a chance on a Cardinal, Fitzgerald is still the one to prefer.
Chiefs WR Jon Baldwin (at Oakland) — He's not a viable option in most two-WR formats. I get that. Nor is he someone you necessarily start in three-WR lineups if you have outstanding WR depth. However, if you are in a big league that starts three wideouts or more, and if you need a receiver, Baldwin is intriguing. With Dwayne Bowe (ribs) out Sunday, Baldwin could see an uptick in targets. Also, Baldwin's matchup is very favorable, with Oakland weak vs. the pass. Call him a very deep sleeper, not for everyone but a logical play if you lack other, safer options.
Patriots RB Stevan Ridley (vs. San Francisco) — I'm not going to say I like Ridley's matchup. The 49ers are the 49ers, and everyone knows they are seriously strong on defense. Moreover, it's pretty well known that they just don't give up many rushing TDs (three in 13 games). You don't ever start a skill-position player against San Francisco without acknowledging you are taking the risk that Vic Fangio's defense shuts down the opposition. Nevertheless, I'd start Ridley in Week 15 and hope for the best. He has been remarkably consistent in recent weeks, scoring a TD in six consecutive games. What's more, the Patriots' offense is the best in the league. If I'm going to have faith in a running back facing San Francisco, give me one in a strong, versatile offense.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (at Chicago) — Yes, he has thrown only two total TD passes in the last three games, and I'm not enthused about the forecast of 10-15 mph winds in Chicago and perhaps a little rain on Sunday, but I still would have a very difficult time sitting Rodgers in Week 15 with the fantasy season on the line. Note that he has thrown multiple TD passes in 8-of-13 games in 2012. I would need a very compelling reason to not play him, and most fantasy owners just aren't going to have the QB depth needed to make this even a serious consideration.
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick (at New England) — Is he a reasonable play in big leagues? Very much so. However, I wouldn't want to rush him into the lineup in an all-in Week 15 playoff matchup. Don't get caught up in his 50-yard TD run late in Sunday's win vs. Miami; take that out of the mix and he was en route to a no-TD day and just 185 passing yards. The Patriots are solid vs. the run and figure to be wary of Kaepernick's mobility.
Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon (at Miami ) — Like Kaepernick, Blackmon's upside makes him a viable option in bigger leagues, but I don't have great confidence in him in Week 15. In the three games since his seven-catch, 236-yard performance at Houston, Blackmon has caught a combined 12-128-1. Even if Cecil Shorts (concussion) doesn't play, I still believe Blackmon is best started in bigger leagues, especially those that play three wideouts or more.
Jaguars QB Chad Henne (at Miami) — In some weeks, I'd be really interested in taking a flier with Henne against his former team. However, this just isn't an ideal week to do so. Henne's No. 21 ranking in colleague Pat Fitzmaurice's positional rankings is telling — there are just too many other solid options ahead of him. The Jaguars' offense is tough to trust in a make-or-break week for so many fantasy owners.
Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer (at Dallas) — The matchup is favorable, what with Dallas allowing at least 146 rushing yards in each of the past three games. However, I just can't recommend Dwyer this week. He has only one rushing TD in 122 carries, and he hasn't exceeded 56 rushing yards since late October.
One final note: it's OK to sit complementary players you are leery of for unique circumstantial reasons. Among the situations that I'm not crazy about in Week 15: the Ravens' offensive coordinator change; the out-of-contention Lions (losers of five in a row) being expected to beat an Arizona team coming off an embarassing loss at Seattle; the Colts facing the Texans in Houston after the Texans were throttled by New England.