Articles By Mark Ross

Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-vs-carolina-panthers-preview-and-prediction
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NFC South supremacy and playoff positioning are both squarely on the line today when the New Orleans Saints pay a visit to the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. ET on FOX. The Saints (10-4) can secure both the division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs with their second win over the Panthers (10-4) in three weeks.

The Saints are coming off of a discouraging 27-16 loss to the Rams on the road, which only brought more attention to Sean Payton’s team’s struggles away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Meanwhile Ron Rivera’s Panthers rebounded from their loss two weeks ago in New Orleans by beating the Jets 30-20 at home, running their record at Bank of America Stadium to 6-1 this season.

3 Things to Watch

Two Weeks Ago…
The Week 14 Sunday primetime showdown between Carolina and New Orleans didn’t exactly materialize, as the Saints took control in the second quarter and never looked back, winning 31-13. Tied atop the NFC South entering this game at 9-3, the Saints did what they usually do – play really well at home – and the Panthers weren’t able to put up a lot of offense or stop Drew Brees and the passing game. Brees threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns against the sixth-ranked passing defense at the time, as the Saints scored touchdowns on four of five trips into the red zone. The Panthers converted on just one of two possessions inside the Saints’ 20-yard line, as Cam Newton threw for just 160 yards on 22 completions (4.7 ypc) and was sacked five times. Carolina led 6-0 after the first quarter, but New Orleans scored 31 unanswered points, including three touchdowns in the second quarter alone. The Panthers outgained the Saints 128-69 on the ground and won the time of possession battle, but the duo of Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham, who combined for 15 catches, 183 yards and all four touchdowns, were too much to overcome. New Orleans finished the night 7-0 at home and fully in the driver’s seat in the division.

Can the Saints Rebound Again?
New Orleans finds itself in familiar territory as all four losses have come on the road. The Saints are 7-0 at home, but just 3-4 on the road and have been beaten soundly in their last two games away from the friendly (and loud) confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Sean Payton’s team got off to a strong start on the road, winning their first two away dates in Tampa Bay (Week 2) and Chicago (Week 4). However, the Saints have won just one since, a 17-13 victory over lowly Atlanta in Week 12. The four road losses have been to the Patriots, Jets, Seahawks and last week to the Rams, with the last two being blowouts. Seattle and St. Louis beat New Orleans by a combined score of 61-23, as the Saints averaged 310 yards of offense in those two games, or nearly 90 fewer than they have been gaining on the season. The common factor in both of these games is defense, as the Seahawks held the Saints to 188 total yards of offense, the fewest in the Sean Payton era, and the Rams battered and bruised Brees to the tune of four sacks and three turnovers (2 INTs, fumble). Carolina’s defense is just as capable of doing what Seattle and St. Louis did, especially at home, as the Panthers are second in the NFL in both total (296.3 ypg) and scoring (14.9 ppg) defense. Entering this week, every time New Orleans has lost, it has gotten off the mat and won its next game. That was the case two weeks ago when the Saints returned from their Monday night beating in Seattle to defeat the Panthers. The difference here is that the previous three games following losses were played at home. This one is on the road, where the Saints have clearly had their issues, especially against teams that have solid defenses and can put pressure on the quarterback. So if the Saints want to continue their rebound trend today, seal up the division crown and guarantee themselves at least one home playoff game in the process, they will need to reverse another trend and prove that they are more than just a dome team.

Role Reversal
Two weeks ago, Carolina got a taste of some New Orleans home cooking, as the Saints dominated the Panthers on both sides of the ball, winning 31-13. This is nothing new for New Orleans, who has won 15 games in a row in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with Sean Payton (suspended for the 2012 season) on the sideline. Today, however, Carolina is the home team, and just like the Saints, the Panthers have been at their best at Bank of America Stadium. They are 6-1 at home, with their only loss being to Seattle, 12-7, in the season-opener. The NFL’s No. 2 defense, the Panthers are allowing less than 12 points and 290 yards per game at home. They also have a plus-eight turnover differential at home compared to plus-three on the road. The team’s offensive numbers are better at home too, with one of the most glaring statistics coming in the pass protection department. Cam Newton has been sacked 28 times on the road, the most of any quarterback. He’s gone down just 10 times in seven home games. Carolina also has seen an increase in the production of its ground game recently, which could be a big factor against New Orleans. The Panthers are averaging 139.5 yards rushing per game over their last four, which includes 131 against the Jets, the NFL’s No. 1 rushing defense at the time. On the other side, the Saints have struggled against the run on the road, giving up an average of 136.4 yards per contest. Two weeks ago, New Orleans capitalized fully on its home-field advantage. Carolina would love to return the favor today by adding to the Saints’ road woes.

New Orleans Key Players: Offensive Line
The Saints will have a new starting left tackle today as rookie Terron Armstead will replace Charles Brown. Brown was benched prior to the end of last week’s loss in St. Louis after committing a penalty that nullified a touchdown and partly due to the Rams sacking Drew Brees four times. Armstead and the rest of the offensive line will have its work cut out for it today, as Carolina’s defense is second in the NFL in sacks with 45. The Panthers got to Brees just twice in their first meeting two weeks ago; a big reason why he threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns and the Saints won 31-13. However, New Orleans is not the same team on the road as they are at home, and likewise Brees’ numbers also take a hit in games not played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. If the Saints want to have any success against the NFL’s No. 2 defense today, the offensive line must not only protect Brees, it also needs to find a way to help jumpstart a running game that’s averaging 58 yards rushing per game over the last three contests. With the playoffs approaching, Sean Payton knows his team has to start playing better on the road. Fixing an offensive line that has shown some cracks in recent weeks is as good a place to start as any.

Carolina Key Players: Secondary
The Panthers are fifth in the NFL in passing defense (211.4 ypg) and have more interceptions (17) than touchdown passes (14) allowed. Opponents have completed better than 66 percent of their passes, but the Panthers have been able to limit the damage. Not surprisingly, the defense’s worst performance against the pass this season came on the road against New Orleans. Two weeks ago, Drew Brees completed 30-of-42 passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns. The Saints finished with just 69 yards rushing, but still managed to post 373 total yards of offense against the NFL’s No. 2 defense. New Orleans hasn’t been anywhere near as productive on the road as it has been at home. The Saints average 32.9 points per game at home compared to just 18.4 on the road. A win today and Carolina replaces New Orleans as the frontrunner for not only the NFC South title, but also the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. For that to happen, however, the secondary will have to play much better this time against Brees and company.

Final Analysis

The NFC South title, No. 2 seed in the playoffs and a first-round bye are pretty much all on the line today. New Orleans can clinch all three with a win, while Carolina can put itself in the driver’s seat by holding serve at home. The Saints have not played nearly as well on the road as they have at home, an attribute the Panthers would no doubt love to continue to exploit.

Drew Brees carved up the Panthers two weeks ago, but the Saints have done some reshuffling along their offensive line and have gotten next-to-nothing from their running game in recent weeks. On the other side, Cam Newton has been at his best at home and the Panthers’ defense wants to redeem itself for what happened in the first meeting.

In the end, New Orleans puts up a good fight, but can’t muster enough offense against a stingy Carolina defense. The Panthers flip the script on the Saints and take control of the division, No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs in process, setting things up for an intriguing finish next week.

Carolina 23, New Orleans 20

Teaser:
New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 22, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/chicago-bears-vs-philadelphia-eagles-preview-and-prediction
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NFC division leaders share the spotlight tonight when the Chicago Bears take on the Philadelphia Eagles at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Both the Bears and Eagles enter this game at 8-6 and atop the NFC North and East, respectively, and one of them can punch their playoff ticket with a win and a little help.

If Philadelphia wins and Dallas loses to Washington, the Eagles will win the NFC East in Chip Kelly’s first season as an NFL head coach. If Chicago wins and Green Bay and Detroit both lose, then the Bears will win the NFC North in Marc Trestman’s first season as an NFL head coach. And the similarities don’t end there either, as both the Bears and the Eagles are among the NFL’s top offenses and the worst defenses. Put it all together and it should result in an entertaining game with plenty at stake.

3 Things to Watch

Offensive Similarities
Both the Bears and the Eagles are among the top seven offensive teams in the NFL, as each have productive running games and explosive passing attacks. The Eagles lead the league in rushing (152.9 ypg) and Philadelphia is the only team averaging five yards per carry. The Bears are averaging 4.6 yards per carry and have rushed for at least 135 yards in each of their last three games. Running backs LeSean McCoy and Matt Forté are first and third, respectively, in the NFL in rushing with at least 1,200 yards and both are dangerous receivers out of the backfield. Both teams have used multiple starting quarterbacks this season, but that hasn’t slowed down their passing games. Chicago has had both Jay Cutler and Josh McCown under center, and the Bears are fifth in the league in passing at 275.8 yards per game. They also are sixth in terms of completion percentage at 65.1 percent. Because of the success of their running game, the Eagles haven’t had to throw as many passes, yet they are still 10th in passing offense (261.1 ypg). Both offenses have done a good job of protecting the ball, as they have combined for 57 touchdown passes and just 20 interceptions. In fact, Nick Foles, who took over the starting job for the Eagles after Michael Vick got hurt, has posted an impressive 23:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 11 games, eight of those starts. Put it all together and you have two teams that are averaging a collective 55 points per game. Combine that with their defensive issues (see below) and you have the makings of a high-scoring affair at Lincoln Financial Field tonight.

Defensive Differences
As well as the offenses have produced for these two teams, the defenses have had their struggles. Both rank near the bottom of the NFL in yards allowed, with Chicago coming in at 27th (380.4 ypg) and Philadelphia 30th (402.4 ypg). The difference has been in how opposing teams have attacked each defense. The Bears are dead last in the league in stopping the run, as they are giving up 152.4 yards per game on the ground. Prior to holding the Browns to just 98 yards rushing last week, the Bears had been coughing up 204.1 per game over their last seven contests. Chicago also was able to snap its streak of allowing a 100-yard rusher in six straight games, which tied an NFL record. The Bears’ inability to stop the run does not bode well for tonight’s matchup with the league’s No. 1 rushing offense. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ problems on defense revolve around the pass. Philadelphia is second to last in passing defense (291.6 ypg), as Dallas (297.4 ypg) is the only team giving up more yards through the air per game. The defense actually had been playing better recently, but that was until the Eagles gave up 382 yards passing to Minnesota’s Matt Cassel last week. While the Bears have surrendered fewer passing yards per game (228.0) than the Eagles, both defenses have yielded around the same number of touchdown passes (22 for Chicago, 21 for Philadelphia) and are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete better than 60 percent of those passes. Philadelphia has done a better job of minimizing the damage, giving up three points fewer per game (24.9 to 27.9) than Chicago, but both defenses look to have their hands full tonight trying to slow down two of most productive and explosive offenses in the NFL.

Who’s Feeling the Pressure?
Chicago and Philadelphia are each among the top five offenses in the NFL in touchdown passes and in the bottom half of the rankings in interceptions thrown. One of the easiest ways to disrupt a productive passing game is with pressure. Unfortunately, that has not come easy for either defense this season. The Eagles are tied for 23rd in the league in sacks with 32 and the Bears are dead last with just 26. Chicago has done a better job when it comes to protecting the quarterback, especially compared to last season. After giving up 44 sacks in 2012, the Bears addressed the offensive line in both free agency and the draft and the results are clearly visible. Through 14 games, Jay Cutler and Josh McCown have been sacked a total of 24 times, only Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford (16 each) have gone down fewer times. The Eagles have been a little more generous in the sack department, as Nick Foles (21), Michael Vick (15) and Matt Barkley (3) have been brought to the turf a total of 39 times, which is tied for the tenth-most. If Chicago’s defense were able to take advantage of this apparent weakness tonight that could help take the pressure off of a secondary that’s without All-Pro cornerback Charles Tillman and let the unit focus its efforts more on stopping the run. The Bears could get a boost in that department with the potential return of All-Pro linebacker Lance Briggs, who has missed the past seven games with a shoulder injury. Whether it’s Chicago or Philadelphia, if neither defense can find a way to make the quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket, it could end up being a long and frustrating night at the office.

Chicago Key Player: Jay Cutler, QB
In the final year of his contract, Cutler has been limited to nine games this season due to a groin and ankle injury. He’s posted the best numbers of his Bears tenure in first-year head coach Marc Trestman’s offense, including a career-high 63.9 completion rate, but he’s still prone to turnovers (16 TDs, 13 TOs) and also has been largely out-performed by backup Josh McCown. A 10-year veteran, McCown got his first start since 2011 when Cutler went down with a groin injury in Week 7. McCown started the next week against Green Bay and then took over again after Cutler hurt his ankle in Week 10 against Detroit. In five starts and seven games total, McCown has completed nearly 67 percent of his passes for 1,809 yards (258.4 per game) and 13 touchdowns with just one interception. Cutler is averaging 241.4 yards per game with a 16:10 TD:INT ratio in his nine games. McCown was doing so well that there were reports of locker room discord when Trestman made the decision last week to start Cutler against the Browns. After starting out slowly, including two first-half interceptions one of which was returned for a touchdown, Cutler picked things up. He finished the game 22-of-31 with 265 yards passing, three touchdowns and those two picks, as the Bears won 38-31 on the road to put them in first place in the NFC North. Cutler’s strong second half silenced some, but certainly not all, of the critics. Tonight he gets a shot at the 31st-ranked passing defense in the NFL and an opportunity to put his team one step closer to a division title. Trestman said all along that Cutler was his starting quarterback, now’s the time for the player to show everyone why.

Philadelphia Key Players: Secondary
Chicago’s offense is fifth in the NFL in passing thanks to the production of wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett, as well as running back Matt Forté. These are the Bears’ leading receivers, who have combined for 295 catches, 3,631 yards and 24 touchdowns. Besides being productive, they also are big targets. All four are at least six feet tall, with Jeffery (6-3), Marshall (6-4) and Bennett (6-6) looking like they belong on a basketball court and not the gridiron. This trio has used its size to its advantage this season and it also could be a problem tonight for the Eagles’ secondary. None of the defensive backs on Philadelphia’s roster are taller than 6-1 and of the 10 total cornerbacks and safeties, only four are at least 6-0. Philadelphia has struggled in pass defense to begin with, ranking second to last in the league in that category, and it could be another tough night against these lanky, rangy and athletic Bear receivers. Despite the clear height disparity, the Eagles’ defensive backfield needs to find a way to stand tall tonight.

Final Analysis

Chicago and Philadelphia both enter tonight’s game leading their respective divisions, but still in must-win mode. The Bears lezad the Packers by less than a game in the NFC North, but need to win out because of Green Bay’s earlier tie and the fact that Chicago would lose the division tiebreaker with Detroit should they end up tied. The Eagles are in a similar situation, leading the Cowboys by one game, but trailing Dallas in divisional play.

Ironically enough, both teams finish up with divisional games against their closest pursuer, which makes a win tonight even more meaningful and possibly season-defining. The Bears are just 3-4 on the road this season, but are coming off of a big 38-31 win in Cleveland last week that saw the return of starting quarterback Jay Cutler. The Eagles had their five-game winning streak snapped by Minnesota, a disappointing stumble for a team that seemed to have grabbed full control of the NFC East.

Marc Trestman and Chip Kelly are both rookie NFL head coaches, who could make huge statements by leading their team not only to the playoffs, but a division title in their first seasons. Both are offensive-minded, which shows in the production of their respective systems. The defenses have had their issues, however, so don’t be surprised if this game features plenty of offensive fireworks.

Kelly has used three different starting quarterbacks with Nick Foles emerging as the best of the bunch. But again, offense hasn’t been the problem for Philadelphia and while I think the Eagles will fare just fine against Chicago’s defense, the same can be said for the Bears offense against Kelly’s defense. In the end, I think Chicago’s size at wide receiver and tight end will be too much for Philadelphia’s secondary to handle and the Bears leave The City of Brotherly Love victorious following an exciting, back-and-forth affair.

Chicago 31, Philadelphia 27

Teaser:
Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 22, 2013 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-16-injury-updates-joe-flacco-tony-gonzalez-carson-palmer-jordan-cameron
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Several quarterbacks and tight ends are either dealing with injuries or have already been ruled out for Week 16. Athlon Sports has the latest information on the names you need to know.

Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots
Flacco sustained a slight knee injury in the Monday night win over Detroit, as he took a hit from a helmet to his left knee. He was limited in practice and is officially listed as Questionable, but barring a setback he will be out there for this critical game against the Patriots. Flacco will wear a knee brace, but he has yet to miss a game in his six-year career. His numbers haven’t been what people were hoping or expecting for, but the Patriots’ defense hasn’t exactly been shutting opposing offenses down either. It’s really going to come down to if you trust Flacco enough to start him or have a better option you are more comfortable employing.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers (Mon.)
Gonzalez is listed as Questionable yet again, but he’s also caught a touchdown pass in three straight games, so I fully expect him to play. Since this is a rather important week, however, just be sure you are confident he will play before deciding to stick with them. Otherwise you may not be in the holiday spirit come Monday night should something happen that causes Gonzalez to be inactive.

Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
First it was an elbow, now it’s his ankle. But the end result is the same. Palmer is listed as Questionable and will be a game-time decision, yet he is still expected to start. What is different this week, however, is the matchup against the NFL’s No. 1 defense on the road. Palmer is not the most mobile quarterback in the first place and the fact that he may be playing on a gimpy ankle against the Seahawks in their building? No thank you. Or did you forget what the Seahawks did to Drew Brees and the Saints a few weeks ago or the Giants on the road just last week.

Garrett Graham, TE, Houston Texans vs. Denver Broncos
Graham missed last week’s game because of a hamstring injury and he didn’t practice at all this week. He’s listed as Questionable, but even that appears to be optimistic. Chances are the final call on Graham’s availability will be made around game time, so at least the 1 p.m. ET kickoff helps there. If Graham can’t go Ryan Griffin would get the start. He’s definitely of the deep sleeper variety, but he did catch six passes for 62 yards last week.

QBs and TEs Already Ruled Out:

Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns – Cameron has already been ruled Out for today’s game because of a concussion. Be sure to take him out of your starting lineup and look elsewhere for a TE.

John Carlson, TE, Minnesota Vikings Carlson has been placed on injured reserve due to lingering concussion symptoms. He joins teammate Kyle Rudolph (foot) as Viking tight ends who saw their season come to an early end.

Case Keenum, QB, Houston Texans – Keenum has already been ruled Out due to a thumb injury. Matt Schaub will take over at quarterback. As poorly as Schaub has performed this season, don’t forget he is a two-time Pro Bowler who’s thrown for more than 4,000 yards in a season three times. I’m not saying I would rely on Schaub to win me a fantasy championship, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t fare well enough against Denver’s 31st-ranked passing defense to maintain Andre Johnson’s WR1 status.

EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills – Even though he finished last week’s game, Manuel sustained some sort of injury to his left knee. That’s good news since it means it’s not the same knee he hurt earlier in the season, which caused him to miss four games. However, that’s now three knee injuries the rookie has sustained in his first season, including one in the preseason, which is why the team has already ruled him Out for today’s game. Thad Lewis, who started three of the games Manuel missed, will get the call. With so much on the line today, you really aren’t going to take your chances with Lewis are you?

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions – Pettigrew injured his ankle last week and has already been ruled Out. This will mean increased opportunities for Joseph Fauria, who has certainly made the most out of the ones has gotten so far. Fauria has just 12 catches on the season, but seven of those have gone for touchdowns. He’s clearly a viable red zone target for Matthew Stafford, but that also makes Fauria the perfect boom-or-bust candidate.

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins – Reed is Out for a fifth straight game because of a lingering concussion. There is no reason to not think the rookie’s season is over.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers – The long wait continues in Green Bay as Rodgers was ruled Out on Friday. For whatever reason, he just hasn’t been cleared to return to action, and it’s now looking like the Packers’ playoff hopes are in the hands of Matt Flynn. He answered the bell last week against Dallas (299 yards, 4 TD passes in the second half), but Pittsburgh’s defense should be a little tougher challenge and the elements also could be a factor. Flynn has gotten results, but he still carries plenty of risk from a fantasy perspective.

Teaser:
Week 16 Injury Updates: Joe Flacco, Tony Gonzalez, Carson Palmer, Jordan Cameron
Post date: Sunday, December 22, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
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Denver will be missing one of its key weapons for its Week 16 meeting with Houston, but the Texans should have their main horse in their lineup. Here is the latest information on some other injured wide receivers to get you ready for championship week.

Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos at Houston Texans
Welker missed last week’s loss to San Diego because of a concussion and he will miss at least two more games. The Broncos have already ruled Welker Out for today’s game in Houston and the regular-season finale, with the hope he will be ready to return for the playoffs. The Texans are second in the NFL in passing defense, but have still given up 25 touchdown passes. With Welker out, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker both should see plenty of targets, along with tight end Julius Thomas. All three are must-starts regardless of matchup.

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans vs. Denver Broncos
Johnson is dealing with a wrist injury that limited his practice participation. However, he’s listed as Probable and should be just fine for today’s game. One thing that will be slightly different is the return of Matt Schaub under center due to an injury to Case Keenum. Schaub has had his issues this season, but he and Johnson also have been productive during their time together. Denver’s defense is 28th in the league against the pass and it’s not like you’re sitting Johnson in the first place.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at St. Louis Rams
Good news for Jackson and his owners. He practiced fully on both Thursday and Friday and is listed as Probable. It appears that he has just about put his hamstring issue in the rear-view mirror and he’s locked in as a WR1.

Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneeers
Austin’s ankle is still an issue, as he was absent from practice both Thursday and Friday. He’s listed as Questionable on the injury report, but I have a hard time believing the Rams would risk putting their first-round pick out there. It looks like Austin’s rookie season, from both a fantasy perspective and for the Rams, has come to an end.

Not Playing Today…

Stevie Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills – Johnson will miss today’s game following the recent passing of his mother. Robert Woods will assume Johnson’s No. 1 role against the Dolphins, but Miami has been solid against the pass and Thad Lewis, not EJ Manuel, is starting at quarterback. Be sure to temper your expectations for Woods.

Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars – Shorts was placed on injured reserve last week and underwent surgery to repair his groin. With Shorts sidelined, there’s not much to like regarding the Jaguars’ passing game.

Teaser:
Injury Updates Week 16: Wes Welker, Andre Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Tavon Austin
Post date: Sunday, December 22, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
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One Giant wide receiver has already been sidelined for the rest of the season. Are there any other key wideouts in danger of not playing in Week 16?

Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants at Detroit Lions
Cruz suffered a concussion and a knee injury last week. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on Thursday and is Out for the rest of the season. Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle will serve as the Giants’ starting wide receivers. This presents a big opportunity for Randle to prove he can be a reliable starter, especially with Nicks a free agent after the season. Fantasy-wise, Nicks has been a disappointment, while Randle has been productive with his targets (37 rec., 6 TDs). Even with a somewhat appealing matchup in Detroit, I would consider both nothing more than a WR3 this week.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions vs. New York Giants
Johnson’s knee injury is nothing new, but what is new is that it severely limited his ability to practice this week. While he has logged minimal practice time and been good to go for much of this season, the fact that he is listed as Questionable on the injury report is more than enough reason to pay a little more attention. There have been no reports out of Detroit indicating Johnson won’t play, but it would be advisable to follow up on his status later this morning, especially given the later (4:05 p.m. ET) kickoff time.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
Fitzgerald suffered a concussion when he was part of the Cardinals’ “hands team” on an onside kick in last week’s game. He practiced on a limited basis on Thursday and Friday, but was still going through the league-mandated concussion protocols as of late Friday. He is considered Questionable, and has been as durable as they come, having played in 98 straight games going back to Week 13 in 2007. However, between his health, the fact his quarterback is a game-time decision himself and the matchup with the NFL’s No. 1 defense on their home turf, I’m just not sure Fitzgerald can offer that much assistance this week.

Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints
Smith dislocated his middle finger in practice this week, but he’s Probable and there’s no way he’s missing this huge NFC South game against the Saints. The problem with Smith is that he just hasn’t been putting up the numbers we are accustomed to, as his season-high in yards is 69 and he has one touchdown catch in his last eight games. Smith’s days as a WR1 are long gone, as he’s no more than a WR3/flex at this point.

Teaser:
Week 16 Injury Updates: Victor Cruz, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith
Post date: Sunday, December 22, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
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If your fantasy team is still alive, Week 16 is what you have been working towards all season. With no margin for error when it comes to setting your lineup here are some running back injuries you need to know about.

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots
Rice sat out Wednesday’s session and was a limited participant on both Thursday and Friday. He’s officially listed as Questionable with a thigh injury, but he’s been nursing several injuries during the season and there doesn’t appear to be any real concern regarding his availability for this afternoon. There is quite a bit at stake in this game, but Rice has struggled with his production all season. The Patriots have been susceptible to the run, but Rice is on pace for less than 700 yards rushing. I’m not saying don’t start Rice, but at this point you should be well aware of the potential for disappointing results.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
For the second straight week, Lacy’s practice participation was limited to a brief appearance on Friday, but he is still listed as Probable to face the Steelers. Then again he did rush for 141 yards against Dallas last week despite practicing very little, so perhaps this was the team’s plan all along. Either way, Lacy needs to be in your lineup as the weather forecast could result in a more run-centric offense for the Packers.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers
Just when it looked like McFadden’s season was over, he was back at practice this week and is considered Probable to return against the Chargers this afternoon. If anything, McFadden’s presence could impact Rashad Jennings’ productivity, even though Jennings will remain the starting running back. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Jennings, but it would probably be wise to downgrade him slightly with McFadden now added to a backfield mix that already included Marcel Reece.

In Case You Missed It…

Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans – Tate was placed on injured reserve this week after breaking another rib (his fifth) in last week’s loss to Indianapolis. Dennis Johnson and Deji Karim will handle the carries, and even against Denver’s suspect defense neither inspires a lot of confidence, especially with so much on the line.

Teaser:
Injury Updates Week 16: Ray Rice, Eddie Lacy, Darren McFadden
Post date: Sunday, December 22, 2013 - 06:30
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It’s Week 16, which means championship week for most fantasy leagues. Will the reigning NFL MVP be available to help your team try and win a title? Here’s the latest update on Adrian Peterson and some other key running backs.

Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, RBs, Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals
Neither Peterson nor Gerhart suited up last week, leaving Matt Asiata left to carry the load. Asiata did just that, rushing for 51 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries in the win over Philadelphia. Peterson practiced some on Wednesday and Thursday, but was still getting treatment for his sprained foot. He’s listed as Questionable, but Peterson pronounced himself “ready to roll.” Peterson is as tough as they come, but there’s nothing wrong with making sure he’s in the lineup before starting him, especially this week. Meanwhile, Gerhart is Probable after missing last week because of a hamstring injury. His value is tied soley to Peterson’s availability and workload, if he plays. As for Asiata, it looks like he’s a one-week wonder, as he’s Questionable with an ankle injury and pretty much an afterthought as long as Peterson and Gerhart are active.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans
Jones-Drew missed last week’s game because of his hamstring injury and he only logged a limited practice on Friday. He is listed as Questionable and could end up being a game-time decision. Watch his status very carefully, especially since backup Jordan Todman rushed for 109 yards against Buffalo. If MJD does play, I would consider throwing him out there given the matchup with a Titans defense that’s giving up the second-most fantasy points to RBs.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins
Jackson was limited in practice earlier this week because of a rib injury, but he was a full go on Friday and is considered Probable. Jackson and C.J. Spiller have been splitting the carries for the most part, but both could see more touches than usual today considering the Bills will be without quarterback EJ Manuel (knee injury) and wide receiver Stevie Johnson (personal). The Dolphins are giving up the tenth-most fantasy points to running backs, so Jackson and Spiller are both probably in the RB2 conversation this week. Spiller is the more explosive runner, but Jackson leads the team in carries, has seven rushing touchdowns (to Spiller’s two) and has been more active in the passing game. From a rankings standpoint, Jackson is ahead of Spiller, but not by a lot.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
After making a near-miraculous return from an injured ankle ligament, Thomas apparently re-injured the same ankle last week. He practiced on a limited basis on Friday and is listed as Questionable for today’s game in Buffalo. Last week against the Patriots, Lamar Miller got 15 carries, while Thomas had five. Should Thomas play, I would expect a similar workload split, which makes Miller the more appealing option. If Thomas is out, Miller’s outlook gets even better based on the assumed increase he would see in carries.

Already Ruled Out

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers – Stewart will miss a second straight game because of the torn MCL in his right knee that he sustained a few weeks ago. DeAngelo Williams should see the majority of the touches today against New Orleans, and he's coming off one of his best games of the season (168 total yards, TD) against the Jets. The Saints have really struggled against the run, so this week Williams could finally break out.

Teaser:
Week 16 Injury Updates: Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Jackson, Lamar Miller
Post date: Sunday, December 22, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/famous-idaho-potato-bowl-preview-and-prediction-buffalo-vs-san-diego-state
Body:

Schools that are separated by 2,600 miles on opposite coasts will meet for the first time ever on the gridiron when Buffalo and San Diego State face off in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho.

Buffalo went 8-4 and finished second (6-2) in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference (MAC). In his fourth season with the school, head coach Jeff Quinn led the Bulls to just their second bowl appearance in program history and only their third winning season in the last 20 years. Buffalo lost to Connecticut 38-20 in the International Bowl following the 2008 season in its only other postseason appearance.

On the other side, San Diego State is making its fourth straight bowl appearance. Under the direction of head coach Rocky Long, the Aztecs won seven games in the regular season (7-5) and finished second (6-2) in the West Division of the Mountain West Conference (MWC). San Diego State has lost its last two bowl games, the most recent a 23-6 defeat to BYU in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl.

For what it’s worth, the Bulls and the Aztecs did have one common opponent during the regular season. Both teams played Ohio State on the road and the games took place on back-to-back Saturdays. Buffalo opened its season with a 40-20 loss at The Horseshoe on Aug. 31, with the Aztecs coming in right behind them and likewise tasting defeat, 42-7, at the hands of the Buckeyes.

San Diego State also may a slight home-field edge in this game, which is being played at Boise State’s Bronco Stadium. As a member of the MWC, the Aztecs have played the Broncos in each of the past three seasons. This season’s contest was in San Diego State, but the Aztecs played in Boise in 2012, and won 21-19. Will their success on the well-known blue-colored artificial surface known as “Smurf Turf” carry over against the Bulls?

Buffalo vs. San Diego State

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Buffalo -3.5

Buffalo’s Key to Victory: Establish the run
The Bulls enters this game 67th in the nation in rushing at 171.9 yards per game. While that may not seem like a lot at first, a closer look at the numbers shows how important the ground game is to this offense. In eight wins, the offense averages 223.5 yards rushing per game. In four losses, that number plummets to just 68.6. The Bulls are powered by senior running back Branden Oliver, a two-time, first-team All-MAC selection who has rushed for nearly 4,000 yards in his career. Prior to his last game, Oliver had recorded seven straight 100-yard rushing performances, including two over 200 yards. He is averaging five yards per carry and has 1,421 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns in just 11 games. San Diego State has been very good against the run this season, coming in tied for 22nd in the nation in rushing defense (132.9 ypg). If Oliver can get going early, it should only help open up a Buffalo passing game led by sophomore quarterback Joe Licata that produced nearly 2,800 yards and 22 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.

San Diego State’s Key to Victory: Balance on offense
The Aztecs are 58th in the nation in total offense at 422 yards per game. For the season, the offense has skewed more to the pass (262.3), with more than 62 percent of their yards coming through the air. However, the recipe for much of the Aztecs’ success this season has come when both aspects of their offense is working. In San Diego State’s seven wins, the offense is averaging 255.1 yards passing per game compared to 272.1 in losses. That’s a difference of less than 20 yards. When it comes to running the ball, however, the gap is considerably bigger – try 199.9 yards rushing per game in wins versus 103.6 in losses. That’s a difference of nearly 100 yards. Junior running back Adam Muema (above, right) has gone over 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons and is averaging 19 carries a game. He needs to lead the Aztecs’ own charge on the ground against a Buffalo defense that gave up less than 160 yards rushing per game. Similar to Buffalo’s offensive game plan, Muema’s success on the ground will help open up things for quarterback Quinn Kaehler without putting too much of the burden on the junior who struggled some (239-1-2) in his last game, a 45-19 blowout loss at UNLV.

Key Player: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
The 6-3, 248-pound senior is the heart and soul of the Bulls defense and one of the best defenders in all of college football. He’s a three-time, first-team All-MAC honoree and was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year this season. Mack established a new NCAA record for career forced fumbles with 16 and he is tied for the all-time mark with 75 tackles for a loss. He has led the team in tackles three straight years, registering 94 of them so far, along with 19 tackles for a loss, a team-high 10.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and three interceptions. He is a big reason why the Bulls were tied for 11th in the nation in sacks (36) and is definitely someone the Aztecs will need to account for on every single play. Mack is expected to be a first-round pick in May’s NFL Draft and no doubt he would love to end his collegiate career on a high note with a big game on national TV.

Final Analysis

There’s no denying the level of competition is considerably stiffer in the MWC compared to the MAC, but that doesn’t mean you should sell this Buffalo team short. With Branden Oliver running the ball and Khalil Mack anchoring the defense, the Bulls have some NFL-caliber talent on their roster. San Diego State can put up some offense of its own, but the Aztecs have had their problems on defense and seem to lack instant impact-type of players. With Oliver and Mack playing their final collegiate games, I think their teammates will rally together and help these two standouts cap off a memorable season with the program’s first-ever bowl victory.

Prediction: Buffalo 31, San Diego State 27

Teaser:
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Preview and Prediction: Buffalo vs. San Diego State
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 12:10
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/40-best-christmas-related-names-sports
Body:

Have you ever wondered which athlete or sports figure is tailor-made for the Christmas season? Well, we’ve made our list and checked it twice, although we’re still working on the naughty or nice part.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
Dionte Christmas (SG, Phoenix Suns)
Rakeem Christmas (F, Syracuse basketball)
Matt Holliday (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)
Doug Jolley (former NFL tight end 2002-06)
Nerlens Noel (C, Philadelphia 76ers)

Plenty of sports figures have color-coordinated names for the season…
A.J. Green (WR, Cincinnati Bengals)
Shawn Green (former MLB OF/1B 1993-2007)
"Mean Joe" Greene (NFL Hall of Famer)
Red Auerbach (legendary NBA coach)
Red Grange (NFL Hall of Famer)
Michael Redd (former NBA guard 2000-12)

Who’s ready to deck the halls?
Todd Berry (Louisiana-Monroe football head coach)
Jamey Carroll (MLB IF, free agent)
Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks head coach)
Jon Garland (MLB pitcher 2000-11)
Royal Ivey (former NBA guard, 2004-13)
Holly Rowe (ESPN reporter)
Mike Tannenbaum (former New York Jets general manager)

Walking in a winter wonderland…
David Frost (PGA Champions Tour)
Scott Frost (Oregon offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach)
Frostee Rucker (DE, Arizona Cardinals)
Ron Slay (Tennessee basketball 1999-2003, now plays overseas)
Garth Snow (NHL goalie 1993-2006, current New York Islanders general manager)
J.T. Snow (MLB first baseman 1992-2006, '08)

Jay Cutler may hail from Santa Claus, Ind., but all these guys are missing is a white beard and a red suit…
Zac Claus (Nevada basketball assistant coach)
Casey Clausen (Tennessee quarterback 2000-03)
Jimmy Clausen (former NFL quarterback 2010-12)
Ed Kringle (played on the PGA Tour in the 1950s)

Sure they can play football, but can they fly?
Dwight Dasher (Middle Tennessee quarterback 2007-10)
Kyle Rudolph (TE, Minnesota Vikings)

Casting call for the nativity scene…
David DeJesus (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
Curtis Joseph (NHL goalie 1988-2009)
Angel Pagan (OF, San Francisco Giants)
Russell Shepard (WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Mark Weisman (RB, Iowa football)

Now we feast…
Mia Hamm (women's soccer legend)
Felix Pie (MLB OF, free agent)
Antrel Rolle (DB, New York Giants)

And who better to wrap up our list...
Metta World Peace (F, New York Knicks)

Teaser:
The 40 Best Christmas-Related Names in Sports
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-positional-rankings-week-16
Body:

It’s Week 16, which means, for most fantasy leagues, it’s championship week! If you are one of the last teams standing, congratulations. However, your work is not completely done, not if you want to take home the title, trophy, bragging rights and whatever other spoils of victory that may come with finishing in first place.

If you are still vying for a championship, I am guessing there’s a pretty good chance that you have Jamaal Charles on your team. After all, when your running back catches four touchdown passes and scores you 55.5 fantasy points (Athlon scoring), your chances of winning have to be pretty good.

However, that’s not to say it’s not out of the realm of possibility that you lose. A colleague of mine had Jamaal Charles (as well as Kirk Cousins, Julian Edelman and Ryan Mathews) on his team and yet he still lost. His opponent had Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns, but it was Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker who destroyed his championship dreams.

In fact, between Tucker’s SIX field goals on Monday night, including the game-winner from 61 yards away, and Matthew Stafford’s last-second interception (his third of the game, which also meant a third INT for the Baltimore DST), my guess is that quite a few people went from enjoying the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat. If it’s any consolation for the former group, the latter will have to endure that roller coaster one more time, with even more on the line.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Positional Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-quarterback-rankings-week-16
Body:

Peyton Manning is on the verge of reaching some significant milestones, so no one should be surprised to see him leading off Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 quarterback rankings. But while Manning no doubt carried many a fantasy team to the championship game, he's not the only quarterback who could end up helping an owner bring home the title this week.

As far as Manning goes, he needs just 189 yards passing to reach 5,000 in a season for the first time in his career. He's also three touchdown passes shy of tying Tom Brady's single-season record of 50. Unless the Broncos decide to rest Manning next week there's a pretty good chance that record will be his before Week 17 is complete. Manning does have to face Houston's second-ranked passing defense this week, but this is a Texans team that has lost 12 games in a row and has allowed 25 touchdown passes compared to six interceptions. There was no debate when it came to the No. 1 quarterback this week.

That doesn't mean that Manning's the only quarterback whose outlook we don't like though. The Sunday night Chicago vs. Philadelphia game not only is a critical matchup as it pits the NFC North and East division leaders against each other, it features two of the NFL's more generous defenses. Nick Foles and Jay Cutler both have the weapons and the ability to post big numbers in any given week, and this head-to-head matchup has all the makings of a high-scoring affair.

Foles has been more consistent (21.4 or more fantasy points in six straight games), but that's because Cutler has missed time because of a groin and ankle injury. He returned last week against Cleveland and after a shaky start that saw him toss two interceptions, Cutler finished with 265 yards passing and three touchdowns. There's certainly some risk in starting a "rusty" Cutler with so much at stake, but you also can't ignore the prospect of him throwing to the likes of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte against an Eagles defense that gave up 382 yards passing to Minnesota's Matt Cassel last week.

For those who have an appetite for risk-taking, what about rolling the dice with Kirk Cousins? In his first game replacing Robert Griffin III, Cousins threw for 381 yards and three touchdowns against Atlanta. This week Cousins gets a reeling Dallas defense that has given up the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Cousins did turn the ball over three times (2 INTs, fumble) and will be making just his second career NFL start. However, unless you already have Manning, Foles, Cutler or a better option on your roster, you could certainly do worse than taking a chance on the Redskins' backup quarterback.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

RkPlayerTeamOPP
1Peyton ManningDENat HOU
2Nick FolesPHIvs. CHI
3Drew BreesNOat CAR
4Cam NewtonCARvs. NO
5Matthew StaffordDETvs. NYG
6Philip RiversSDvs. OAK
7Russell WilsonSEAvs. ARI
8Jay CutlerCHIat PHI
9Colin KaepernickSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
10Tony RomoDALat WAS
11Andy DaltonCINvs. MIN
12Tom BradyNEat BAL
13Ben RoethlisbergerPITat GB
14Kirk CousinsWASvs. DAL
15Alex SmithKCvs. IND
16Andrew LuckINDat KC
17Ryan FitzpatrickTENat JAC
18Joe FlaccoBALvs. NE
19Ryan TannehillMIAat BUF
20Jason CampbellCLEat NYJ
21Matt RyanATLat SF (Mon.)
22Matt FlynnGBvs. PIT
23Matt CasselMINat CIN
24Carson PalmerARIat SEA
25Eli ManningNYGat DET

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Quarterback Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-running-back-rankings-week-16
Body:

Even though he had just 20 yards rushing, is there any question who sits atop Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 running back rankings? Jamaal Charles probably single-handedly won many a fantasy game last week after scoring five total touchdowns, four of those coming through the air, and producing a grand total of 55.5 fantasy points (Athlon scoring).

Besides not only posting one of the biggest fantasy performances ever, Charles became just the fifth player in the past 50 seasons in NFL history to produce more than 200 yards from scrimmage and score five touchdowns. His 195 yards receiving also were the most by a running back since 1999. While it's pretty much unfathomable to think that Charles can top what he did last week, that doesn't mean he can't potentially help carry a team to a fantasy championship by putting up decent numbers against Indianapolis and the 27th-ranked rushing defense.

Those who aren't as fortunate to have Charles on their roster could still enjoy plenty of success, thanks to matchups such as Chicago vs. Philadelphia and Dallas vs. Washington, which set up nicely for the likes of LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray and Alfred Morris. Murray in particular has been hot lately, leading all running backs with 429 yards rushing over the past four weeks. He also has averaged more than 19 fantasy points per game during this stretch and gets a Redskins defense that is giving up the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Fret not Morris owners, because it's the the Cowboys who are allowing the most, especially after getting run over by Eddie Lacy (141 yards rushing, TD) and Forte (175 total yards, TD) the last two games.

Another thing to keep an eye on this week is injuries. Adrian Peterson (sprained foot/groin) and Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) both did not play last week because of their ailments. Peterson is expected back against Cincinnati and we have him ranked in the top five. MJD's outlook is much cloudier, which is he is not ranked, but his backup Jordan Todman (24th) is. Why is that you ask? Because Tennessee is yielding the second-most fantasy points to running backs.

The other big piece of injury new is that Houston's Ben Tate has been placed on injured reserve after breaking his fifth rib in last week's loss to Indianapolis. Dennis Johnson and Deji Karim will share the load out of the backfield, but unlike Todman, we are not too encouraged by either backup's potential this week against Denver.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Back
 

RkPlayerTeamOPP
1Jamaal CharlesKCvs. IND
2LeSean McCoyPHIvs. CHI
3Matt ForteCHIat PHI
4Eddie LacyGBvs. PIT
5Adrian PetersonMINat CIN
6Marshawn LynchSEAvs. ARI
7DeMarco MurrayDALat WAS
8Knowshon MorenoDENat HOU
9Alfred MorrisWASvs. DAL
10Reggie BushDETvs. NYG
11Le'Veon BellPITat GB
12Frank GoreSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
13Zac StacySTLvs. TB
14Ryan MathewsSDvs. OAK
15Chris JohnsonTENat JAC
16Rashad JenningsOAKat SD
17Giovani BernardCINvs. MIN
18C.J. SpillerBUFvs. MIA
19Shane VereenNEat BAL
20Bobby RaineyTBat STL
21Andre BrownNYGat DET
22Ray RiceBALvs. NE
23Fred JacksonBUFvs. MIA
24Jordan TodmanJACvs. TEN
25DeAngelo WilliamsCARvs. NO
26Chris IvoryNYJvs. CLE
27Danny WoodheadSDvs. OAK
28Steven JacksonATLat SF (Mon.)
29Lamar MillerMIAat BUF
30BenJarvus Green-EllisCINvs. MIN
31Rashard MendenhallARIat SEA
32Pierre ThomasNOat CAR
33Andre EllingtonARIat SEA
34Darren SprolesNOat CAR
35Chris OgbonnayaCLEat NYJ
36Montee BallDENat HOU
37Joique BellDETvs. NYG
38Dennis JohnsonHOUvs. DEN
39Daniel ThomasMIAat BUF
40Stevan RidleyNEat BAL

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Running Back Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-wide-receiver-rankings-week-16
Body:

Calvin Johnson hasn't scored a touchdown or gone over 100 yards in two straight games, but he's still No. 1 on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 wide receiver rankings. For one, Johnson still leads his peers in fantasy points, despite the best efforts of Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown, Brandon Marshall, Demaryius Thomas and others, but also because he's home this week against a pretty beat-down Giants defense. Megatron is one of the few players who can make a lot of noise even if he catches a few passes.

As for the rest of this week's field, Gordon, Marshall, Brown and Thomas are all must-start options, along with A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson and Marshall's teammate, Alshon Jeffery. In particular, we really like the Chicago vs. Philadelphia matchup, as the Eagles are giving up the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. The Vikings aren't too far behind, which bodes well for Green and we wouldn't be at all surprised if the Dallas-Washington pairing is a high-scoring affair. That's good news for Bryant owners as well as Pierre Garcon, who caught seven passes for 129 yards and a touchdown with Kirk Cousins as his quarterback last week.

That's not to say that Denver won't be up to its usual tricks against Houston, so by no means are you sitting either Thomas or Eric Decker. And likewise, Andre Johnson should add to his league-leading receptions total (99) against the 28th-ranked passing defense in the league. What remains to be seen for that game, however, is will Wes Welker return after missing last week because of a concussion? Larry Fitzgerald and Victor Cruz are also going through the required concussion tests and are questionable for Sunday. Although Fitzgerald's road matchup in Seattle and the Giants' offensive struggles may be enough reason alone to leave both on the bench this week.

As far as some less-heralded options go, what about New England's Julian Edelman? He's picked up the slack and then some since Rob Gronkowski tore his ACL and MCL, racking up 39 receptions over his last four games, including 13 for 139 yards and a touchdown against Miami. It's pretty clear that he has become Tom Brady's favorite target, as Edelman has quietly put together a top-15 fantasy season. And then there's San Diego rookie Keenan Allen. He caught just two passes in last week's surprise win in Denver, but both of them went for touchdowns. He's emerged as not only Philip Rivers' No. 1 target, Allen is a leading contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He has seven touchdown grabs on the season and needs just 69 yards receiving against Oakland to reach 1,000. All Allen did in his first game against the Raiders was haul in six passes for 115 yards and a score.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers
 

RkPlayerTeamOPP
1Calvin JohnsonDETvs. NYG
2Josh GordonCLEat NYJ
3A.J. GreenCINvs. MIN
4Brandon MarshallCHIat PHI
5Alshon JefferyCHIat PHI
6Dez BryantDALat WAS
7Demaryius ThomasDENat HOU
8Antonio BrownPITat GB
9DeSean JacksonPHIvs. CHI
10Andre JohnsonHOUvs. DEN
11Pierre GarconWASvs. DAL
12Vincent JacksonTBat STL
13Keenan AllenSDvs. OAK
14Jordy NelsonGBvs. PIT
15Eric DeckerDENat HOU
16Julian EdelmanNEat BAL
17Torrey SmithBALvs. NE
18Mike WallaceMIAat BUF
19Marques ColstonNOat CAR
20Michael CrabtreeSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
21Anquan BoldinSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
22Kendall WrightTENat JAC
23Dwayne BoweKCvs. IND
24Larry FitzgeraldARIat SEA
25Wes WelkerDENat HOU
26Roddy WhiteATLat SF (Mon.)
27Danny AmendolaNEat BAL
28T.Y. HiltonINDat KC
29James JonesGBvs. PIT
30Greg JenningsMINat CIN
31Brian HartlineMIAat BUF
32Riley CooperPHIvs. CHI
33Steve SmithCARvs. NO
34Doug BaldwinSEAvs. ARI
35Rod StreaterOAKat SD
36Golden TateSEAvs. ARI
37Cordarrelle PattersonMINat CIN
38Harry DouglasATLat SF (Mon.)
39Hakeem NicksNYGat DET
40Rueben RandleNYGat DET
41Jarrett BoykinGBvs. PIT
42Stevie JohnsonBUFvs. MIA
43Michael FloydARIat SEA
44Emmanuel SandersPITat GB
45Robert WoodsBUFvs. MIA
46Denarius MooreOAKat SD
47Marlon BrownBALvs. NE
48Andre HolmesOAKat SD
49DeAndre HopkinsHOUvs. DEN
50Ace SandersJACvs. TEN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-tight-end-rankings-week-16
Body:

It was a rough day at the office last week for Jimmy Graham, but he's firmly entrenched in the top spot on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 tight end rankings. Graham still leads all tight ends in fantasy points by nearly 60, leads the NFL in touchdown receptions (12), and is facing a Carolina defense against which he recorded two scores just two weeks ago. Graham brought you this far, you may as well let him finish the job.

As impressive a season as Graham has had, Vernon Davis is putting up some nice numbers of his own. His 12 touchdown catches are second only to Graham and he's on pace to record nearly 60 catches and more than 900 yards even though he missed a game earlier because of injury. San Francisco hosts Atlanta on Monday night and the Falcons have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to tight ends.

Even though the 49ers' defense has been tough, that doesn't mean that Tony Gonzalez won't have success against it. The future Hall of Famer has recorded a touchdown catch in three straight games and has once again produced a top-five fantasy season. Cleveland's Jordan Cameron is currently third behind Graham and Davis in fantasy points, but he sustained a concussion last week and will have to pass the required tests before he's cleared to play against the Jets. The matchup is definitely appealing (Jets allowing seventh-most fantasy points to TEs), but you need to make sure that Cameron is playing before leaving him in your lineup. Especially in a week with so much at stake.

If Cameron can't go, some potential replacement options for him could include Delanie Walker, Dennis Pitta, Tyler Eifert, Timothy Wright or even Zach Miller or Andrew Quarless. In Miller's case the Cardinals have surrendered 92 catches and 15 touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season, while Quarless has caught exactly six passes for 66 yards and a score in each of the past two games.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

RkPlayerTeamOPP
1Jimmy GrahamNOat CAR
2Vernon DavisSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
3Julius ThomasDENat HOU
4Jason WittenDALat WAS
5Greg OlsenCARvs. NO
6Tony GonzalezATLat SF (Mon.)
7Jordan CameronCLEat NYJ
8Delanie WalkerTENat JAC
9Charles ClayMIAat BUF
10Antonio GatesSDvs. OAK
11Martellus BennettCHIat PHI
12Dennis PittaBALvs. NE
13Tyler EifertCINvs. MIN
14Coby FleenerINDat KC
15Heath MillerPITat GB
16Timothy WrightTBat STL
17Zach MillerSEAvs. ARI
18Garrett GrahamHOUvs. DEN
19Jared CookSTLvs. TB
20Andrew QuarlessGBvs. PIT

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Tight End Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-defspecial-teams-rankings-week-16
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After flexing its muscles on the road last week, Seattle increased its grip on the No. 1 spot on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 defense/special teams rankings. The Seahawks picked off Eli Manning five times and recorded four sacks in the dominating 23-0 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium, the site of Super Bowl XLVIII in February.

This week the Seahawks are back home, where they are virtually unbeatable, facing an Arizona team against which they collected seven sacks and two picks (22 PA) in their first meeting back in Week 7. The Cardinals' DST meanwhile has been fantasy's most productive DST over the past four weeks, scoring 58 points (Athlon scoring) thanks to 13 sacks and three defensive touchdowns.

Another repeat matchup has New Orleans visiting Carolina with the NFC South division title potentially on the line. The Saints had their way with the Panthers' defense two weeks ago, winning 31-13 behind 313 yards passing and four touchdowns from Drew Brees, but Carolina hasn't lost at home since the season-opener against the aforementioned Seahawks. New Orleans also has struggled on the road this season, losing 27-16 in St. Louis last week and 34-7 in Seattle three games ago. The Saints' defense has been solid in its own right, so don't be surprised if there aren't a bunch of points scored in this game.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

RkTeamOPP
1Seattle Seahawksvs. ARI
2San Francisco 49ersvs. ATL (Mon.)
3Kansas City Chiefsvs. IND
4Cincinnati Bengalsvs. MIN
5St. Louis Ramsvs. TB
6Carolina Panthersvs. NO
7Detroit Lionsvs. NYG
8Cleveland Brownsat NYJ
9Denver Broncosat HOU
10Arizona Cardinalsat SEA
11Tampa Bay Buccaneersat STL
12Buffalo Billsvs. MIA
13Miami Dolphinsat BUF
14San Diego Chargersvs. OAK
15Pittsburgh Steelersat GB
16New Orleans Saintsat CAR

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-kicker-rankings-week-16
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Matt Prater is still No. 1 on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 kicker rankings, but there's no doubt who the most polarizing kicker is. After booting six field goals on Monday night, including the eventual game-winner from 61 yards out, Baltimore's Justin Tucker is either the most loved kicker right now or the most despised, depending on whether his exploits were the difference between a thrilling victory or a shocking defeat for your team.

No matter how your league assigns points for field goals, Tucker's six makes against the Lions produced quite a few. And his stat line looked even better in those leagues that give bonus points for distance. Besides the 61-yarder, Tucker also connected on one from 53. However, Tucker wasn't even the most productive kicker in Week 15, at least not by Athlon's scoring standards.

That distinction belongs to Dallas' Dan Bailey, who made five field goals, including two longer than 50 yards, and three PATs in the Cowboys' stunning loss to the Packers. Even though Tucker made one more field goal, the three PATs by Bailey were enough to edge him in fantasy points, 24 to 23. Again, this is based on Athlon's scoring and it does nothing to ease the pain of those who lost their game, as well as a potential title shot, because of the foot of Tucker, or Bailey for that matter. 

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

RkPlayerTeamOPPONENT
1Matt PraterDENat HOU
2Phil DawsonSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
3Justin TuckerBALvs. NE
4Stephen GostkowskiNEat BAL
5Steven HauschkaSEAvs. ARI
6Mason CrosbyGBvs. PIT
7Dan BaileyDALat WAS
8Nick NovakSDvs. OAK
9Robbie GouldCHIat PHI
10Ryan SuccopKCvs. IND
11Adam VinatieriINDat KC
12Blair WalshMINat CIN
13Graham GanoCARvs. NO
14Shaun SuishamPITat GB
15Nick FolkNYJvs. CLE
16Caleb SturgisMIAat BUF

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Kicker Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /nfl/cincinnati-bengals-vs-pittsburgh-steelers-preview-and-prediction-2013
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Division rivals that find themselves in unusual positions are on tap tonight when the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field at 8:30 pm. ET on NBC. Marvin Lewis’ Bengals (9-4) could clinch a playoff spot with a win and some help, while Mike Tomlin’s Steelers (5-8) have to be content with playing the roll of spoiler.

Cincinnati leads Baltimore by two games in the AFC North with three to play. A win over Pittsburgh along with a loss or tie by either Baltimore or Miami would put the Bengals into the playoffs for the third straight season, which would be a first for the franchise. If the Bengals win and the Ravens lose or tie, then Cincinnati would claim its eighth division crown and first since 2009.

Pittsburgh meanwhile isn’t worried about the postseason, as the Steelers are all but guaranteed of missing the playoffs for the second straight season. The last time that happened was 1998-2000. The Steelers also are faced with the task of winning out or else they will finish below .500 for the first time since 1999 (6-10).

Three Things to Watch

When Last We Met…
Cincinnati defeated Pittsburgh 20-10 in Week 2. Both teams were coming off of season-opening losses, but the Bengals got into the win column at home behind a balanced offensive attack and some stingy defense. The Bengals outgained the Steelers 407-278 on offense, including a commanding 127-44 edge on the ground. Rookie running back Giovani Bernard scored both Bengal touchdowns (one rush, one receiving) and quarterback Andy Dalton completed 25 passes to eight different receivers. The Bengals didn’t turn the ball over, while the Steelers committed two miscues – a Ben Roethlisgerger interception and Dennis Paulson fumble. The Steelers averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and were 3-of-12 on third down conversions. The win was the second in a row for Cincinnati over Pittsburgh, the first time that had happened since the Bengals swept the series in 2009.

Will the Bengals Stick to the Script?
Since losing back-to-back overtime games on the road to Miami and Baltimore, Cincinnati has won three in a row. The recipe for the Bengals’ success this season has pretty much been let the defense do its job while not putting too much pressure on the offense. Cincinnati is eighth in the NFL in total defense (320.5 ypg) and sixth in scoring defense (18.8 ppg). The Bengals have given up more than 400 yards in a game once and have held every opponent to 30 points or fewer. The offense has had its moments, in particular a four-game stretch in October, but inconsistency and turnovers have both been issues. The Bengals have produced less than 300 total yards of offense on three different occasions this season and half of their turnovers have come in their four losses. The fact that Cincinnati is 3-3 when scoring 20 points or fewer is a testament to its defense. The Bengals are tied for third in the AFC with 23 total takeaways (13 INTs, 10 fumbles) yet have a minus-1 differential because of the offense’s 24 miscues. As long as the offense can stay out of its own way, Cincinnati’s defense should be able to take care of business tonight.

Can the Steelers Finish Strong?
It has largely been a season to forget for Mike Tomlin and company. After losing their first four games to start the season, the Steelers battled back to 5-6 entering Week 13, but have lost their past two games. Once again, the lack of a running game has stymied an offense that’s been devastated by injuries along the offensive line. Only Jacksonville has rushed for fewer yards than Pittsburgh (77.4 ypg), as the Steelers have mustered a total of five touchdowns on the ground. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 39 times and he’s also responsible for 16 (10 INTs, 6 fumbles) of the team’s 19 turnovers. On the other hand the defense has struggled to produce takeaways and has given up some big numbers to the opposition on more than one occasion. The Steel Curtain didn’t produce a single takeaway in its first four games combined and has just 15 (8 INTs, 7 fumbles) on the season. The 407 yards allowed to Cincinnati in Week 2 are one of three such 400-yard games, including the franchise-record 610 surrendered to New England in Week 9. The 55 points the Patriots scored also represent an all-time low for this defense, which has had trouble consistently stopping the run. Pittsburgh is 24th in the NFL in rushing defense (120.2 ypg) and gave up 181 on the ground in last week’s home loss to Miami. The Steelers’ issues are well documented, but the real question for tonight is does this team have any fight left in it?

Cincinnati Key Player: Andy Dalton, QB
The Bengals’ second-round draft pick (35th overall) in 2011, Dalton is on the verge of doing something that has never been done in franchise history – earn a third straight postseason berth. He is on pace for his first 4,000-yard, 30-touchdown season and also is enjoying a career year in terms of quarterback rating. The problem, however, is that Dalton’s career-best rating at this point is still just 87.7 and while he’s on pace for 31 touchdown passes, he’s also on track for 20 interceptions. Dalton has had his moments of brilliance, such as the three-game stretch in October in which he averaged 345 yards passing per game and posted an 11:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. However, he followed that up with just six touchdowns and nine picks in his next four outings. Dalton is 0-2 in playoff games in his career and he knows that he needs to play better in the games that count the most. It may not be a postseason game, but tonight on the road against a division rival in a tough environment would be a good place for Dalton to start.

Pittsburgh Key Player: Le’Veon Bell, RB
The Steelers’ second-round pick (48th overall) in April, Bell’s debut was delayed by a preseason foot injury that sidelined him for the first three games. His first season has been a bit of a mixed bag, as he’s rushed for 93 yards on 19 carries in a win over Baltimore, but is averaging 3.4 yards per carry on the season and has scored a total of five touchdowns. Bell missed the first game against Cincinnati and the Steelers’ offense managed just 44 yards on the ground without him. The Bengals are fifth in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 98.2 yards per game and running the ball has been a problem for Pittsburgh all season. A strong finish by Bell, starting tonight, would not only increase the Steelers’ chances of beating the Bengals, but also would serve as a positive sign for both the team and fans alike as the focus shifts to turning things around in 2014.

Final Analysis

Barring a pretty big collapse, Cincinnati will be in the playoffs for the third straight season, a first for the franchise. The Bengals also are in the driver’s seat for the AFC North title and have a shot at earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Pittsburgh meanwhile is headed in the opposite direction, pretty much guaranteed of missing the playoffs for the second straight season. The Steelers need to win out if they don’t want to finish below .500 for the first time in nearly 15 years.

The Bengals have done it all season with good defense and some timely contributions from the offense. There’s no reason to expect this team to stray from what has worked for it. The Steelers have had trouble with the running game on both sides of the ball and have had their depth tested by a rash of injuries.

Cincinnati has struggled in the Steel City, having lost four of the past six games at Heinz Field, but this is neither your typical Bengals team nor your typical Steelers squad. In the end, Cincinnati sticks to the script – tough defense, balanced offense, take care of the football – that has worked so well. The Bengals get one step closer to a franchise first by doing something they haven’t done since 1990 – win three in a row against the Steelers.

Cincinnati 23, Pittsburgh 20

Teaser:
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-15-injury-updates-adrian-peterson-maurice-jones-drew-frank-gore-lamar-miller
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Which running backs can you count on in Week 15 and which should you be concerned about today? Athlon Sports has the information you need to keep your backfield in motion.

Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, RBs, Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Peterson left last week’s game on a cart, but fortunately escaped serious injury. He did sprain his right foot, however, which has him listed as Questionable for today’s game. Complicating matters is the fact that Gerhart, Peterson’s backup, also is Questionable with a hamstring injury. With so much at stake this week, I would be very careful with Peterson and make sure he ends up being active before leaving him in the lineup. At least the early kickoff (1 p.m. ET) should help with this decision. If Peterson can’t go, I would think twice before replacing him with Gerhart, since it’s apparent he won’t be at 100 percent himself even if he plays.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills
Jones-Drew came up lame late last week against Houston, injuring his hamstring. He underwent an MRI and wasn’t able to practice at all this week. He is listed as Doubtful to play today, which means you should not count on having MJD in your lineup. It’s a shame too since he rushed for 102 yards against the Texans before getting hurt and he has been playing better recently. Jordan Todman is expected to start in Jones-Drew’s place, but he’s not 100 percent himself (shoulder) and shouldn’t be mistaken for an obvious replacement.

Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Gore was limited in practice this week because of an ankle injury, but he is considered Probable to face the Buccaneers. The veteran has been averaging around 17 carries per game this season, it’s just a matter of what he’s able to do with them. His 110-yard effort last week against Seattle certainly is reason for optimism, but Tampa Bay has been better against the run than the Seahawks. Regardless of matchup, you are likely sticking with Gore and just hope he’s still got some juice left in his legs.

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots
Miller suffered a concussion last week against Pittsburgh, limiting him to just six carries (20 yards) and two catches (13 yards). He was back at practice by Tuesday and was a full go the rest of the week. He is considered Probable for today’s game and barring a setback Miller will play. However, thanks to a near-miraculous recovery from an ankle injury by Daniel Thomas it appears that Miller will be a part of some sort of time-share in the Dolphins’ backfield. This alone limits Miller’s value to a lower-end RB2 at best and probably more of a flex option.

Teaser:
Week 15 Injury Updates: Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore, Lamar Miller
Post date: Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-15-reggie-bush-eddie-lacy-jonathan-stewart-rashad-jennings
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With the fantasy playoffs upon us, lineup decisions are even more critical as it’s win or go home in Week 15. Here’s the latest information on some injured running backs playing in the late games that you need to consult before deciding on your starting backfield.

Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions vs. Baltimore Ravens (Mon.)
Bush did not play in the snow in Philadelphia last week after re-aggravating his calf injury in warm ups. His practice participation this week was limited to appearances on just Friday and Saturday, and he is officially Questionable for the Monday night tilt with Baltimore. The fact that he did practice some is a positive development, but that’s not to say something can’t happen to him in warm ups again either. Unless you are content to assume the risk, a decision will have to be made on Bush well before Monday night so as not to limit your replacement options.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
Even though he didn’t practice at all until Friday, Lacy is considered Probable and expected to play this afternoon. Lacy sprained his ankle in the second quarter last week, but returned and finished the game. He’s not at 100 percent, so don’t be surprised to see Lacy’s workload limited with James Starks getting a few more carries. Still against Dallas’ woeful defense, Lacy should get enough opportunities to produce along the lines of a RB2 this week.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers vs. New York Jets
Stewart suffered a torn MCL in his right knee in last week’s loss in New Orleans. While he has not yet been ruled out for the rest of the season, he will miss today’s game. Usually this means that DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert both get a significant bump in their respective outlooks, but the Jets are No. 2 in the NFL in rushing defense. Williams remains ahead of Tolbert in the pecking order, but Williams is still nothing more than a flex option this week.

Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden, RBs, Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs
McFadden is Out once again because of ankle injury and injured reserve is very much a possibility for the fragile, soon-to-be free agent. Jennings is expected to return after missing last week because of a concussion. He was able to practice fully on Thursday and Friday and is listed as Probable. Even with today’s matchup against Kansas City, Jennings should be in your starting lineup based on his recent production. Marcel Reece should be a factor as well, as he rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown last week against the Jets with Jennings and McFadden sidelined.

Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans
After missing one game because of a knee injury, Ellington returned last week and rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown. The knee is still an issue, but Ellington is considered Probable and should share the load with Rashard Mendenhall. While Mendenhall’s presence limits Ellington’s potential, the Titans have been susceptible to the run this season, surrendering 18 rushing touchdowns. Ellington should see enough touches to merit flex consideration with the potential for even better numbers, depending on how the touches are distributed between him and Mendenhall.

Teaser:
Injury Updates Week 15: Reggie Bush, Eddie Lacy, Jonathan Stewart, Rashad Jennings
Post date: Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-15-injury-updates-cecil-shorts-vincent-jackson-roddy-white-michael-crabtree
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Several teams’ passing games may be missing some of their top targets in Week 15. Here are some wide receivers whose playing statuses you may want to check before kickoff.

Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills
Shorts’ groin is so bad that he said this week he will likely need surgery after the season to repair the damage. As far as today goes, he is listed as Questionable with head coach Gus Bradley adding “very” to that designation. Shorts has said he wants to play through the injury, but it’s clear that there is reason for concern. At best, Shorts is a game-time decision to face the Bills, but I would strongly consider another option this week.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. San Francisco 49ers
Just like last week, Jackson missed practice time due to his hamstring injury and is listed as Questionable to play. A game-time decision last week, Jackson not only played, but he caught three passes for 70 yards and a touchdown against the Bills. This afternoon’s matchup with the 49ers figures to be a little tougher, but Jackson is the Bucs’ No. 1 target and as long as he plays, he needs to be in your lineup.

Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons vs. Washington Redskins
Having already dealt with an ankle and hamstring injury, White bruised his knee last week against Green Bay and was limited in practice this week because of it. He is listed as Questionable but he himself has said he will be fine for today’s game. It has been a disappointing season for White, but he’s playing his best right now with 18 catches for 217 yards in his last two games. If you have held on to him this long, today’s matchup with Washington could bring a smile to your face.

Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Crabtree is dealing with an ankle injury in addition to getting himself back to full speed following his return from a torn Achilles. He is listed as Probable and should be out there today, but considering his limited impact thus far (6 receptions for 108 yards in two games) and a potential matchup with All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, it’s probably safest to keep Crabtree on the bench and revisit his status next week.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
Hopkins is dealing with an ankle injury, which limited him during practice this week. He is listed as Questionable and just like his teammate tight end Garrett Graham, he will be a game-time decision. Hopkins has had his moments this season, but the rookie also has gone through extended stretches of inconsistency, which has made him hard to trust recently. He does have at least 76 yards receiving in his last two games, but his last touchdown came back in Week 7. It’s up to you if you want to wait (1 p.m. ET kickoff) to see if Hopkins will play. I just hope he’s no more than a WR3/flex in your lineup.

Percy Harvin, WR, Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants
Harvin has already been ruled Out for today’s game and head coach Pete Carroll said it would likely be a while before the wide receiver’s surgically repaired hip was “right.” Unless you just can’t let go, there’s no need to keep Harvin in non-keeper leagues.

Teaser:
Week 15 Injury Updates: Cecil Shorts, Vincent Jackson, Roddy White, Michael Crabtree
Post date: Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 06:30
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Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-15-tavon-austin-michael-floyd-denarius-moore-emmanuel-sanders
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These wide receivers are playing in Week 15’s late games and may not be at 100 percent or on the field at all. Keep these players in mind when setting your starting lineup.

Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams vs. New Orleans Saints
Austin injured his left ankle on a 56-yard run against the Cardinals last week. He didn’t practice at all this week and is considered Questionable for this afternoon’s game. Outside of one big game against Indianapolis a few weeks ago, Austin hasn’t had the impact as a rookie that many expected. The Rams are out of playoff contention, so there’s no reason for the team to risk the long-term health of their first-round draft pick. Leave Austin on your bench and look elsewhere to help fill our your lineup.

Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans
Floyd’s ankle doesn’t appear to be getting any better, as he’s listed as Questionable this week. He was able to practice, but was limited both Thursday and Friday and is coming off of a game in which he caught just two passes for 26 yards. With Floyd apparently not at 100 percent and a matchup with a Titans defense that has been pretty good against the pass, Floyd is probably relegated to WR3 status this week at best.

Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Moore was back at practice in a limited capacity this week after missing the past three games because of a shoulder injury. He is listed as Questionable but is expected to be out there against the Chiefs in some fashion. How involved Moore will be remains to be seen, as Rod Streater and Andre Holmes have both been effective, and at times impressive, in Moore’s absence. If I were to handicap the field, I would go with Streater first followed by Holmes and then Moore, mainly because it’s possible his snaps will be limited and/or he could come off of the bench. Of the three, Streater is the safest, but he’s probably limited to WR3 status this week.

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Sanders was a late addition to the injury report as he was limited on Thursday and Friday with some sort of foot issue. He’s still considered Probable to play and will be looking to extend his touchdown streak to four games. Antonio Brown is the Steelers’ top target with Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery sharing the leftovers. Even with Sanders’ hot streak, he should be viewed as nothing more than a WR3/flex option.

Teaser:
Injury Updates Week 15: Tavon Austin, Michael Floyd, Denarius Moore, Emmanuel Sanders
Post date: Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 06:30
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Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-15-greg-olsen-tony-gonzalez-delanie-walker-garrett-graham
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Tight ends litter the Week 15 injury report. Which ones can you count on this week? Athlon Sports breaks down the latest information.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers vs. New York Jets
Olsen didn’t get in a full week’s worth of practice, but he was a full go on Friday and is considered Probable to face the Jets. His foot injury appears to be a non-issue at this point, an observation that’s reinforced by the 36 targets he has seen over his last four games. The Jets have had some problems defending tight ends this season, so maybe the pipeline between Olsen and Cam Newton will continue this afternoon.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons vs. Washington Redskins
Gonzalez is listed as Questionable, but he practiced in some capacity all week and there’s no reason to not expect him to play. The toe injury is still limiting him in practice, which appears to be the reasoning behind the Questionable designation. He’s caught a touchdown in each of his past two games, so maybe the future Hall of Famer is peaking at just the right time for his owners.

Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans vs. Arizona Cardinals
Walker missed last week’s game due to a concussion but he was back at practice in full this week and is considered Probable to play today. Arizona is giving up the most fantasy points to tight ends this season, including 14 touchdown catches, so if there’s a week to start Walker, this is it.

Garrett Graham, TE, Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
Graham didn’t practice on Friday because of a hamstring injury. He is considered Questionable for today’s game against the Colts and will be a game-time decision. Graham has been productive during Owen Daniels’ extended absence, as he’s averaged nearly 12 targets over the last four games and has two touchdown receptions during that span. This game kicks off at 1 p.m. ET, so you should have time to check on Graham’s status before making a decision, as long as you have a backup plan in place.

John Carlson, TE, Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Carlson has already been ruled Out for today’s game because of a concussion. Kyle Rudolph, who Carlson replaced after Rudolph fractured his foot, went on injured reserve this week, which means the Vikings are digging deep into their depth chart for a tight end this week.

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons
Reed hasn’t played since Week 11 because of a concussion. And he won’t play today either, as he has been ruled Out for a fourth straight game. It was reported this week he was still experiencing headaches and going through the league-mandated testing, it’s possible that we have seen the last of Reed this season.

In Case You Missed It…

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots – Gronkowski’s injury-saddled season took one final turn last week when he tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee on a low tackle against the Browns. Gronk’s 2013 season is over and his 2014 campaign also is up in the air with him facing another lengthy period of recovery and rehabilitation. Gronk’s loss likewise impacts Tom Brady, as well as running back Shane Vereen and wide receivers Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and others, but exactly how and to what extent remains to be seen. As it relates to the Patriots’ remaining tight ends, however, it’s pretty simple – nothing to see here.

Teaser:
Injury Updates Week 15: Greg Olsen, Tony Gonzalez, Delanie Walker, Garrett Graham
Post date: Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-15-injury-updates-jay-cutler-carson-palmer-aaron-rodgers
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Jay Cutler will be back under center in Week 15, while another NFC North quarterback remains sidelined. And will a bum elbow keep the Cardinals’ quarterback from taking flight against the Titans in Music City this afternoon?

Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns
As promised, Cutler will resume the starting job now that he’s been cleared to return from his ankle injury. Cutler is listed as Probable for today’s game and it’s already been announced that he will replace Josh McCown under center. This is certainly a blow for those who took a chance on McCown, as he fared very well in the starting role. Cutler is just as capable of putting up similar numbers with the weapons he has, but the rust factor and a Browns defense that’s tied for seventh in the NFL against the pass certainly have to be taken into consideration. Whether or not you decide to roll with Cutler with so much on the line this week will likely come down to your appetite for risk-taking at this point of the season. I would carefully consider all of my options before settling on someone who hasn’t played in more than a month.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
Rodgers returned to practice this week on a limited basis, but he will miss a sixth game as he continues his recovery from a broken collarbone. Depending on the outcome against the Cowboys, it’s not out of the question that the Packers decide to keep Rodgers out the rest of the season as a precaution. For now, Matt Flynn will get the call once again and he was able to rebound (258-1-1) last week from his horrific showing on Thanksgiving Day. Dallas’ defense is the worst in the league, but there’s still a fair amount of risk in trusting Flynn with so much at stake this week.

Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans
Palmer was Questionable last week with an elbow injury and he proceeded to throw for 269 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Rams. The elbow is still bothering him enough that he was limited in practice and is listed as Questionable to face the Titans. However, he is expected to be under center for the Cardinals. If there’s any reason for concern with starting Palmer this week it’s because he’s facing a Tennessee defense that has done a good job against the pass and can get to the quarterback. Put it all together and Palmer is a risky fantasy play this week, even in 2-QB leagues.

Teaser:
Week 15 Injury Updates: Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer, Aaron Rodgers
Post date: Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /nfl/san-diego-chargers-vs-denver-broncos-preview-and-prediction
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AFC West rivals will renew acquaintances as the NFL’s Week 15 action gets started tonight with the San Diego Chargers taking on the Denver Broncos at 8:25 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. The Chargers (6-7) need a win if they want to have any shot at the final Wild Card berth in the AFC while the Broncos (11-2) aim to stay ahead of the Chiefs for the divisional lead and the Patriots (10-3) for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Denver has won its past four meetings with San Diego, including a 28-20 road victory back in Week 10. Peyton Manning and the Broncos are a perfect 7-0 at home and are coming off of last week’s 51-28 dismantling of Tennessee. Philip Rivers and the Chargers are just 3-4 on the road, but their biggest victory of the season came as the visiting team. In Week 12, San Diego scored with less than 30 seconds left in the game to defeat Kansas City 41-38, handing the Chiefs their first home loss of the season.

3 Things to Watch

Denver’s Home Dominance
The Broncos have the best record in the AFC and have basically been unstoppable at home. The No. 1 offense in the NFL in both yards (465.6 ypg) and points (39.6 ppg) by wide margins, the numbers are even more staggering when they play at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Denver is 7-0 at home this season and is averaging 478.4 yards and 42.3 points per game played at altitude. The Broncos have outscored opponents 296-153 with an average margin of victory of 20.4 points per home game. Peyton Manning has put up MVP-worthy numbers all season and last week against Tennessee, he pretty much put any doubts about him being able to play in cold weather to bed by torching the Titans for 397 yards passing and four touchdowns. Denver’s offense can beat you with the pass or the run and its quick-strike capability and efficiency combine for one massive headache for opposing defenses. In 28 quarters of play at home, the Broncos have scored in all but three periods. On top of that, Denver has scored double-digit points in more than half (16) of those 28 quarters. San Diego’s offense is no slouch, averaging 400 yards and 24 points per game, and the Chargers’ defense is the only one to hold the Broncos to under 400 yards this season. But Denver still won that game 28-20, and it was in San Diego. At home, no team has been able to corral this offense all season, so it goes without saying that the Chargers’ defense really has its work cut out for it tonight.

San Diego’s Counter Punch
The Chargers know full well what Manning and company are capable of doing, having had a front-row seat just a few weeks ago. The key to beating the Broncos, as the Colts and Patriots demonstrated, is finding a way to trade punches with them when you have the ball. Dallas (48 points), Indianapolis (39) and New England (34) are the only teams to put up more than 30 points against Denver this season. San Diego is fourth in the NFL in total offense at 400.5 yards per game, but tied for 11th in points with 24.3 per contest. The Chargers have scored more than 30 points four times this season, including 37 in last week’s home win against the Giants. Contrast that to Denver, who has been held to fewer than 30 points just twice, one of those games coming against San Diego. The Chargers know they will need to score plenty of points if they have any hope of beating the Broncos. In the first meeting, San Diego was effective running the ball, gaining 131 yards on 35 carries, but Philip Rivers couldn’t get much going through the air. He completed 19 of 29 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t turn the ball over, but he was sacked four times and the Chargers were just 6-of-17 on third down conversions. Denver’s defense has certainly stiffened since the return of All-Pro linebacker Von Miller from suspension, but the unit isn’t completely shutting down offenses either. Statistically, San Diego has been a much more productive offensive team on the road (409.1 ypg, 24.6 ppg) compared to at home (365.7 ypg, 24.0 ppg), especially in the yardage department. Going against Denver’s prolific offense on its home turf, the Chargers’ offense is going to need to be able to trade punches with the Broncos if they want to have any chance of winning tonight.

Staying Healthy
Wes Welker suffered a concussion in last week’s win against Tennessee. For Welker it was his second concussion over the past four games, and he has already been ruled out from playing tonight. Denver has already clinched a playoff spot, but has its sights set on the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout. The Broncos must continue to win games to achieve these goals, but John Fox and his coaching staff must weigh that against making sure his team is as healthy as possible for the postseason. Welker’s situation underscores the importance of this, although the Broncos don’t lack for offensive weapons. However, Welker wasn’t the only Bronco to get banged up last week either, as fellow wide receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas took some hard hits of their own that caused them to either miss some snaps or get up slowly following a tackle. Don’t forget that tight end Julius Thomas returned last week after missing the previous two games because of an ankle injury, while running back Knowshon Moreno left the Week 12 loss to New England on crutches after suffering a bone bruise to his right ankle. With the bumps and bruises adding up, it’s even more important for reserves like running back Montee Ball, wide receiver Andre Caldwell and tight end Jacob Tamme to step up and get the job done when called upon, as it takes some of load off of the starters who have already logged a ton of snaps. In the end, the ultimate goal isn’t home-field advantage; it’s playing in New York City in February in the Super Bowl. To that end, Denver should be a tough out in January, especially if Peyton Manning has all of his weapons at his disposal.

San Diego Key Players: Antonio Gates and LaDarius Green, TEs
Gates (right) has been one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets during their time together as teammates and the three-time All-Pro has bounced back nicely from a disappointing 2012 campaign. Gates leads the team in both targets (105) and receptions (68) and is second to rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen in yards (776). Green meanwhile has emerged somewhat in his second season. He has just 16 receptions, but two of those have gone for touchdowns and he’s been more involved in the offense recently. Prior to last week, Green had recorded nine catches for 206 yards (22.9 ypr) in the previous three games combined. Some of this was due to the Chargers utilizing more two-tight end sets and finding ways to get the athletic Green in space after the catch. Whatever San Diego’s offensive game plan is tonight, the Chargers know they have to find a way to produce points. Sticking with the two-TE look may be a good place to start, as the Broncos have struggled against them this season. Denver has given up the second-most receiving yards (953) to tight ends, along with five touchdown catches. In the first meeting with the Broncos, Gates led the Chargers with four catches for 62 yards while Green had one grab for 25 yards. Right after this game was when Green got more involved in the offense, so it’s possible he and Gates could both be factors tonight.

Denver Key Players: Offensive Line
Although Wes Welker is getting over his second concussion in a span of four games and several other of the Broncos’ weapons are dealing with various bumps and bruises, the key to Denver’s offense is keeping Peyton Manning upright and healthy. And while Manning is a master of getting rid of the ball quickly, his offensive line deserves a fair amount of credit too. Despite missing All-Pro tackle Ryan Clady for most of the season and dealing with other injuries that have some guys playing out of position, the Broncos’ line has given up just 15 sacks this season, tied for the fewest (with Detroit) in the NFL. Manning has gone down just twice over the last four games, and both of those came in the overtime loss in New England. San Diego got to Manning twice in its first meeting with Denver, but No. 18 still threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns in the 28-20 win. If there is room for any improvement for the offensive line this time around against the Chargers it is in run blocking. The Broncos were outgained by the Chargers on the ground 131 to 84, as Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball combined to average 4.3 yards per carry on 20 attempts. After all, another way to keep pressure off of Manning is to run the ball effectively, as that helps set up the play-action pass and gives him even more options to attack a defense with.

Final Analysis

San Diego needs to win to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. Denver is already in the postseason, but wants to keep winning to ensure that the road to the Super Bowl goes through Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Chargers held their own against the Broncos in their first meeting, “limiting” the NFL’s most productive offense to 397 yards and just 28 points.

However, Denver still won that game 28-20, as the Broncos’ defense held Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ offense in check for the most part. The Broncos have been basically unstoppable at home and while I expect San Diego to have some success, the Chargers just don’t have enough firepower to keep up with Denver for four quarters.

Denver 38, San Diego 27

Teaser:
San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-positional-rankings-week-15
Body:

Fantasy playoffs are in full effect as we enter Week 15 of the NFL regular season. From here out, it’s pretty much win or go home and now is the time when owners are hoping that their top players will come through in a major way.

Last week saw some of the usual suspects answer the call, as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forté, Josh Gordon, Andre Johnson, Antonio Brown, Jordan Cameron, Jimmy Graham and the Kansas City DST were among the leading scorers at their respective positions. However, there also were plenty of surprises, including Josh McCown leading all scorers following his monster Monday night performance (348 yards passing, 5 total touchdowns) against Dallas.

As impressive as McCown was against the Cowboys and as well as he has played (14 total TDs, 2 turnovers), it’s possible that he may not even get the start on Sunday in Cleveland. Jay Cutler appears to be getting closer to returning from his ankle injury, and Chicago head coach Marc Trestman has already said that he will be the starter once he’s cleared to play. So those who have been riding McCown lately may have the rug pulled out from under them this week.

And that’s not the only impact player who could be missing in Week 15. Adrian Peterson could be sidelined because of a sprained foot, Wes Welker is out because of a concussion, Rob Gronkowski is done after tearing his ACL and MCL last week, and Robert Griffin III has been benched for the rest of the season and replaced by Kirk Cousins.

By this point, however, injuries and depth chart shuffling shouldn’t surprise anyone, not with how this season has played out. Now it’s just a matter of getting the most out of the healthy bodies you have left on your roster and hoping you can put together the right lineup to be the last team standing when all is said and done.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Positional Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30

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