Friday the 13th: Unlucky Fantasy Plays for Week 15
Friday the 13th is considered by many to be the unluckiest of calendar days, so what better time to discuss Week 15 plays that might curse your team during the fantasy playoffs. Whether you suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia – the fear of Friday the 13th – or would simply prefer to extend your fantasy season a little longer, here are some potential busts that you might try to avoid.
New England Patriots
During the seven games that Rob Gronkowski played this season, Tom Brady averaged 315 yards passing and threw 13 touchdowns. In six games without Gronk, Brady averaged 247 yards and totaled eight touchdowns. In case you somehow missed the news, Gronkowski is out for the rest of the season with an ACL tear, leaving serious questions about the New England passing game. The Patriots travel to Miami this week to face a better-than-average Dolphins pass defense that has allowed fewer touchdowns through the air than all but four teams in 2013. It might be tough to bench Brady in the fantasy playoffs, but he had a season-low 116 yards against Miami in Week 8.
The Bears announced on Thursday that Jay Cutler will be back under center in Week 15, but fantasy owners shouldn’t be so quick to get him back in their lineups. Just because Josh McCown averaged 350 yards and almost three passing touchdowns per game over the last three weeks doesn’t mean Cutler will experience the same kind of production this Sunday. Cutler’s averages before he started missing time in late October pale in comparison to McCown’s recent success and the Bears travel to Cleveland this week to face a Browns defense that ranks in the top 7 against the pass. Additionally, there is the risk that Cutler could suffer a setback during the game, as he did during his last attempt at getting back on the field. I would have been willing to ride the hot hand of McCown this week, but I’m not taking a chance on Cutler while he’s still trying to knock rust off.
C.J. Spiller’s fantasy season has been about as much of a roller coaster ride as you could have. With 149 yards and a score one week and then 22 yards the next. Although a match-up with the Jaguars might sound like another high point for Spiller, Jacksonville has actually played well defensively since their bye in Week 9. In five games since the break, the Jaguars defense is allowing fewer than 60 yards rushing per week and has conceded a total of just two rushing touchdowns over that period. Throw in the fact that Fred Jackson continues to take carries away from Spiller and C.J. is a risky play for fantasy owners trying to advance in the playoffs.
San Francisco 49ers
After a strong first half of the season, Frank Gore’s numbers have been rather lackluster over the last five weeks. He’s scored just one touchdown over that stretch and last week’s 100-yard performance marked only the third time he’s breached the century mark in 2013. While fantasy owners will take points however they come, it’s noteworthy that Gore’s 110 yards against Seattle in Week 14 were inflated by a 51-yard run late in the game. This week’s 49ers opponent, Tampa Bay, actually allows fewer rushing yards per game than the Seahawks vaunted defense and the Bucs have given up just six rushing scores all year. Gore also has to contend with Colin Kaepernick and Kendall Hunter in San Francisco’s running attack and he hasn’t topped 20 carries since Week 7. Additionally, Gore continues to battle an ankle injury that seemed to be bothering him at the end of last week’s game.
New York Giants
A disappointing season for Victor Cruz has continued to spiral downward in recent weeks, as the Giants’ top pass-catcher has topped 100 yards receiving just once in the last nine games. He also hasn’t found the end zone since Week 4 and a match-up against Seattle’s top-rated pass defense isn’t likely to jump-start Cruz for your playoff run. The Seahawks have allowed just 14 receiving touchdowns in 13 games and held opposing wide receivers out of the end zone in each of the last two games, versus New Orleans and San Francisco. Even when the match-ups have been favorable, Cruz and the Giants passing game have struggled, so it’s hard to get too excited about his prospects this week.
New Orleans Saints
Marques Colston is coming off his best game of the year, as he recorded season highs for catches (9), receiving yards (125) and scored two touchdowns. However, the Saints are back on the road this week and Colston’s home/away splits don’t bode well. In seven games at the Super Dome this season, Colston has 41 catches, 565 yards and all four of his touchdowns. Meanwhile, Colston has just 15 receptions for 156 yards in five road games. In terms of yardage, the Rams are below average in defending the pass, but only seven teams have given up fewer touchdowns through the air. With far more disappointing fantasy performances than productive outings in 2013, now is not the time to count on Colston.
I’ve already outlined my concerns about Jay Cutler, but even with Josh McCown at the helm of the offense, Martellus Bennett was going to be a shaky play in Week 15. Bennett has topped 50 yards receiving only once in the Bears’ last seven games and he has just one touchdown since Chicago’s bye in Week 8. The Bears’ last two games have presented very favorable match-ups against Minnesota and Dallas, but Bennett totaled just 7 catches and 57 yards in those games. While the Browns have given up four touchdowns to tight ends over the last four weeks, their defense is a major step up from recent competition. Bennett is still comfortably behind Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey and Matt Forte in Chicago’s receiving pecking order.
Coby Fleener has had all the opportunity in the world to succeed this year, but it’s just not coming together for the second-year tight end. Despite injuries to the primary competition at his position and to Indianapolis’ top receiver, Fleener has only managed a few nice games. Opposing tight ends have had success against the Texans in recent weeks, but Fleener has found the end zone only once since the Colts’ bye in Week 8 and he has eclipsed 60 yards receiving just four times all year. The emergence of Da’Rick Rogers and La’Von Brazil for Indianapolis last week only further dampen Fleener’s outlook for Week 15.