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Dan's Sack (Fantasy Football Mailbag): Week 15

Dan Ciarrocchi of Hogs Haven and Pro Football Focus answers all of your Week 15 Fantasy Football questions.


Hey, remember that time last week when I said the Cardinals vs. Seahawks game had the makings of a low-scoring matchup? That was pretty cool. I guess the end result being 58-0 makes me half-correct, right? It's good to know you all have such a reliable prognosticator in me for your fantasy football needs going forward. And now, with an elimination game coming up for every fantasy football player out there, you have me to turn to. Feeling good? Cool. Now that I've undermined your confidence, let's get to some questions:

@mt_noble writes via Twitter:

Do I start RGIII this weekend?

I received about 50 or so questions this week, and I think 20 of them included the name Robert Griffin III. Now, before I go on, I'll say that I have no clue what the Redskins intend to do with him come Sunday, whether it's bench him, start him and minimize his running, or make him go balls-to-the-wall like he would without any ailments. I'm also not a doctor, but from everything I've read so far, if he goes on Sunday, he will be dealing with a fair amount of pain should he play.

That said, you have to start him if he takes the field. The Redskins/Browns game is at 1 p.m., EST, and if he can't go, you will have backup options because of the time the game is played. Every Hogs Haven reader knows how important these last few games are for the Redskins, and if he can give it a go, he will. This is like a playoff game for them, and Griffin is at his best on big stages.

The Browns will be a tough matchup, but Griffin III has done plenty of damage to better defenses. It's worth noting that after allowing 15 passing touchdowns in their first six games, the Browns have given up just four in the past seven. But don't let that scare you. Griffin III hasn't milked his fantasy value in this manner as much as he has on the ground, which will depend on whether he can play through pain. Call me crazy, but I think Griffin III's the type of athlete that would be up for the task.

@tjniebs writes via Twitter:

Need 2 of 3 Joique Bell, Stevie Johnson, C. Shorts All decent matchups #playoffs #advice Thanks for the help all year! #favffbguy

You're welcome, thanks for writing in. Now, I really like (Gruden voice) what Joique Bell has done for the fantasy downtrodden this year. He's been a great contingency plan for teams in PPR leagues who had to deal with LeSean McCoy and Willis McGahee injuries, or Ryan Mathews being Ryan Mathews. But I'd be all-in on Stevie Johnson and Cecil Shorts this week if those are my options. Shorts returned to practice as a full participant and should be back to his usual self this week against the Dolphins. His style of play makes him a low-floor-high-ceiling kind of player, but it's worth the risk. Because playoffs, right?

@tjniebs also writes via Twitter:

Don't answer @oldstylebeerman #eliminated #nothingtoplayfor #notevenpride #haha #smack

Haha, I love it. #ButStill #ImGonnaAnswerHimAnyway #Lol #Hashtag #Butts

@oldstylebeerman writes via Twitter:

Need 2 wrs out of e. decker, m. Williams, b. Lloyd, d. Alexander, j. Blackmon. #ffb

If you've been starting Eric Decker regularly, then I guess I know why you're eliminated. And if this is the league you're eliminated in, then I'd say screw it and start James Thrash.

(I'm going to start an interest group that lobbies for write-in candidates in fantasy leagues. Who's with me??)

But for the purposes of this "column," let's pretend you're not eliminated. Danario Alexander is a must-start. In PPR leagues, only four wide receivers (Megatron, Dez, Andre Johnson, Marshall) have gotten more fantasy points than Alexander over the past five weeks. This week, the 6-foot-5 receiver will be contested by the 5-foot-8 Captain Munnerlyn or the 5-foot-10 Josh Thomas. I wouldn't be shocked if DX brings down a jump ball or two downfield.

Eric Decker, as much as he's burned his owners, could be a fantastic start. Peyton Manning seems to decide who his favorite receiver will be on a weekly basis, and Decker could be the beneficiary once again. The Ravens defense is in shambles right now, and will have to stick what's left of their secondary against Decker while Cary Williams is busy with Demariyus Thomas. Decker shouldn't have much issue getting off the line against Chris Johnson, Corey Graham or Chykie Brown, and if any quarterback is aware of potential mismatches it's Peyton Manning. I would feel pretty comfortable with Decker in my lineup this week.

@MatthewTLego writes via Twitter:

Need some playoff advice- should I start Brandon Gibson or Antonio Brown this week?

What a maddening scenario. It seems like there's a new flavor each week for the Rams at wide receiver, and Antonio Brown just flat-out despises his fantasy owners. At this point, if you're adamant about wanting a Rams receiver in your lineup not named Danny Amendola, then use this method to decide who it's going to be:

Antonio Brown looks like a safer bet to regress toward the mean now that Roethlisberger is one more week removed from the scariest injury ever, and he also has the luxury of facing Dallas' secondary. He's still going to get his targets, which isn't something you can necessarily guarantee for Gibson. Both have similar upside, but with Roethlisberger at the helm, Brown won't have as much potential variance in his performance. Go with your (former) stud.

Liger99 from the Hogs Haven community writes:

Who do I sit in non-ppr. Marshall, Julio, VJax, or Bryce Brown?

I would start Brandon Marshall even if he was on a bye week. With the sheer volume of targets that's come his way so far, he's essentially a top-10 option each week by default. And if the Packers dictate the pace of the game, the Bears will have no choice but to air it out and keep up, which only helps his cause. Vincent Jackson continues to light it up in Tampa, and the most shocking thing about that is how consistent he has been over the past few weeks. I expect that trend to continue versus a battered Saints secondary.

That leaves you with the up-and-down Julio Jones and Bryce Brown, who just turned in a six-yard performance last week. Brown did face the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL last week, and though his job gets easier versus a Bengals defense that has struggled containing the ground game, I think you have better options at hand.

I'm going to go with Jones, who is averaging close to 10 targets per game over the last three weeks and will have Roddy White lined up opposite him. White returned to practice on Thursday and will have a hand in deterring the Giants from keying in on Jones. This game could once again have the makings of a high-scoring contest, which of course means it will end with a final score of 9-3.

VA_Skin from the Hogs Haven community writes:

Defense question. In a league that doesn't reward defenses with return TDs: Cincinnati against Philly, or Houston against Indy?

I can't really fault the Texans too much for getting torched by Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers this year. They turned-in a sorry prime-time effort this past week, but elite quarterbacks can always make even top-tier defensive units look silly. Still, Andrew Luck presents a difficult task for the Texans this Sunday as well, so I can understand the hesitation in starting them. But as long as your league doesn't kill defenses for allowing points, they should make up for it in terms of sacks and interceptions.

I'd still stick with Cincinnati this week, even though the Eagles' offense looked competent for the first time in two months last Sunday. But remember that they did so against the NFL's worst pass defense, and their job will be much tougher against Cincinnati's elite pass rush.

Bgsmith4 from the Hogs Haven Community writes:

Still working on replacing McCoy . Who do you like between Montell Owens, Jonathan Dwyer and DeAngelo Williams? Also what would you say between Kaepernick and Phillip Rivers? My gut tells me I may need someone with a higher upside since I am losing points with McCoy being out and that guy is Kaepernick?

That's pretty much the route you want to go if you're getting goose-egged regardless. If your score is going to suffer, it may as well be for someone who could potentially blow the lid off in terms of fantasy points. For that reason, go with Kaepernick not just because he will put up a decent amount of points each week, but because Philip Rivers is fantasy poison. He has the 20th most points this year among quarterbacks in standard scoring leagues, which pretty much makes him useless, unless, of course, you're in a 40-league team. If so, I can't imagine that you don't hate your existence.

As for your running back problem, well, it certainly is one. There aren't any particularly good matchups for Owens, Dwyer or Williams, and there isn't one out of that group I trust. But of those three, the one I don't trust the least is Owens, but most of that is because he hasn't had an opportunity to screw me yet. But don't worry, I'm sure he'd love to if given the chance.

With that, I'd roll the dice with Jonathan Dwyer. He's the top backfield option despite the Steelers struggles running the ball, but he faces a Dallas defense that just hasn't really stopped anyone this season. Plus, rookie guard David DeCastro will make his NFL debut that game, and if he even shows a glimpse of his full potential, it could be a long day for the Cowboys' interior front.

That's all for this week, everyone. I had a TON of questions to go through this week and I know I didn't get to most of them, so go ahead and post them in the comments or reach me at @PFF_Dan.