In Fantasy Football Trust or Bust, we will focus on who we deem as trustworthy starts and pepper in a few sits for your Points Per Reception (PPR) leagues.
Stevie Johnson @ JAC
It’s been a largely disappointing season for Johnson and his owners in 2013. After three consecutive seasons of at least 75 receptions, 1,000 yards, and six touchdowns, Johnson will likely fall short of those totals this season (currently at 51/593/3). He hasn’t had more than five receptions in a game since week eight, and has topped 70 receiving yards only once since week three.
One piece of silver lining is that he’s still seeing a healthy portion of targets (8.9 per game) and draws a Jaguars defense that has allowed ten weekly top 20 receivers on the season. It’s not just those ten that matter, but who they are. Kendall Wright, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne, Eddie Royal, and Larry Fitzgerald have all had starting weeks against the Jags, mainly because of their ability to do damage inside from the slot.
Per Pro Football Focus, the Jaguars have allowed five passing touchdowns to come from the slot this season. Whether it’s Mike Harris (109.5 QBR allowed in slot coverage) or Will Blackmon (158.3 QBR allowed), Stevie should have his way working inside, where he’s no stranger. Per PFF, Johnson is running 71.8 percent of his routes from the slot (11th highest), where he’s caught 39 passes for 447 yards and all three of his scores (78.6 percent of his fantasy output).
Ryan Tannehill vs NE
After failing to record a top 12 weekly performance through his first eight games, Tannehill is sizzling with four in his past five. Over those five weeks, he has multiple touchdowns in three, 225 plus passing yards in four, and has run for at least 20 yards in four. He’s a weekly lock for passing volume, throwing over 30 passes in every game this season except one. Miami passes the ball 64.6 percent of their offensive plays, fourth most in the league.
Week 15 doesn’t appear to be a week where his hot streak will slow down at all. The Patriots are middle of the road all season long in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, but have had tons of trouble recently. They’ve allowed 275 passing yards or more in three of their past five games and two or more touchdown passes in five of their past six games. For good measure, five signal callers have also added at least 20 yards rushing in a game.
Ben Tate @ IND
After years of owners clamoring for the freedom of Tate, he’s finally been given the leading the role. Unfortunately, that leading role is attached to a burning house of cards as Houston melts away the end of this season. In the six weeks since Arian Foster went down for the season, Tate has just two top 24 weeks and topped 100 total yards only twice.
The Colts fair pretty well against fantasy backs, but they are still getting gouged by the run as a team. Indy is allowing 140 yards rushing per game over their past six, but hasn’t allowed a solo 100 yard rusher since week six. In four of their past five games, a set of teammates have eclipsed 48 rushing yards each, disguising some of that production. Tate doesn’t have to worry about splitting too much of the load. In his six starts, he’s carried 99 time, opposed to 33 for Dennis Johnson, with Johnson reaching five carries in only two contests. Look for the Texans to lean on Tate to protect themselves from Case Keenum this Sunday.
Jordan Cameron vs CHI
It’s been a roller coaster ride for Cameron owners this season. He started the season as a bonafide top five tight end, catching 30 passes for 360 yards and five scores over his first four games. Those numbers account for 48.8 percent of his season’s worth of scoring. He still ranks as the number two highest scoring tight end overall, despite having only one top 12 finish over his past five games.
He finally got into a groove with Jason Campbell last week, catching all nine of his targets for 121 yards and a touchdown, and he’ll look to build off of that this weekend against the Bears. By now, everyone and their grandparents are aware that Chicago is an absolute disaster defending the run this year, but it’s unlikely the Browns are a team that will exploit that.
Cleveland has squandered prime rushing matchups all season, rushing for over 100 team yards in only four games this year. In three of those games, a wide receiver rushed for 20 or more yards. The Browns attempt to run the ball on only 32.4 percent of their plays, second lowest in the league (Atlanta at 31.5 percent).
Back to the Bears. Since they’ve been on this recent decline to losing defensive pieces, their linebacking corps isn’t just one of the worst defending the run, but also in covering tight ends. In seven of their past ten games, a starting tight end has gone over 50 yards receiving or scored a touchdown.
Victor Cruz vs SEA
After opening the season with three games of 100 plus receiving yards in the first month, Cruz has been an after thought. Cruz hasn’t scored a touchdown since week four and in those nine games since he’s bested 70 yards only three times and has had more than five receptions in only three. Over the past three weeks, Cruz has just 17 targets total. As the Giants become more conservative (rushing 42.9 percent of the time the past three weeks, up from 38.7 percent on the season), he’s hardly a viable option this weekend.
Seattle has allowed only two receivers to reach 70 yards in a game since week five and only two to finish a week as a top 24 option over the same stretch. The Seahawks rank sixth best in completion percentage allowed (58.3 percent), first in passing yardage allowed (175.6 yards) per game and have allowed the fourth fewest passing scores (14) on the season.
Ben Roethlisberger vs CIN
Nearly no quarterback has been as hot as Big Ben over the past six weeks. Over the past month and a half, Ben has thrown 16 touchdowns to only three interceptions (11/0 over the past four), multiple touchdowns in five and has all five of his top 12 weekly finishes. In that same run, Roethlisberger is averaging 40 pass attempts per game.
He’ll need that volume and then some against the Bengals this weekend. Cincinnati allowed Andrew Luck to post a 30 point game last weekend, but that was largely due to the game being a blowout in the second half. Cincy led 21-0 at the break when Luck had only 95 passing yards. Hard to imagine game flow getting that whacked out this Sunday (the past four CIN/PIT meetings have all been decided by 10 points or fewer), but those Luck points still count. That game was only the fourth top 12 QB that a Mike Zimmer led defense has allowed this season, and only the 11th over the past 44 games.
In his career as a Steeler facing a Zimmer led Bengals defense (11 games), Roethlisberger has never had a 20 point fantasy game. In those 11 meetings, he’s passed for over 250 yards only four times, zero times reaching 300 yards, and throwing two touchdowns in only two meetings.
Martellus Bennett @ CLE
The Unicorn is already having the best season ever for a tight end under Marc Trestman. His 53 receptions rank eighth overall and his 588 yards rank 12th out of all tight ends this season. The transition to Josh McCown hasn’t been crippling either, catching 17 passes for 203 yards and a score in those five games that McCown has started.
At first appearance, his matchup in Cleveland looks promising. The Browns are in the upper half of total fantasy points allowed to tight ends overall this season, but that’s where bulk number can lead to trouble. Most of those points are weighted by backup tight end scores and the infamous Joseph Fauria three touchdown game. Cleveland has allowed only two top 12 weekly tight ends on the season and none since week seven. Week seven was also the last time that a tight end reached 45 receiving yards in a game against them (Jermichael Finley).
Fred Jackson @ JAC
Jackson is one of the players in the running for fantasy MVP based on where he went in drafts this summer. After coming out of the blocks on fire though, he’s regressed big time. He’s averaged over four yards per carry in only two of his past nine games and scored in only one of his past five.
The Jaguars have won four of their past five games, and a big part of that has been due to the play of their rush defense. Their offense has also helped out their defense as a lot of the rushing numbers against the Jags were mounting up due to teams just grinding clock with late leads. Over the past five games, no team has rushed for over 100 yards against Jacksonville (70.8 yards per game) and both of their rushing scores allowed were of the one yard variety.
Full Disclosure from Week 14