Andre Ellington (AZ) - The shifty one suffered a hip pointer last week against Atlanta which knocked him out of the game. Reports all week indicated that the hip pointer was very severe so when he was declared out for tomorrow's game against Kansas City, it wasn't a big surprise. Ever since he was a rookie last year, head coach Bruce Arians always said he was worried about the slight Ellington getting a heavy load of carries week to week. Unfortunately, Arians was indirectly correct as the wear and tear of a busy season seems to have caught up to Ellington. He will be replaced by a committee led by Stepfan Taylor and Marion Grice.
Dwayne Allen (IND) - The venerable tight end was finally able to practice all week (ankle) and looks to be a full go against Cleveland tomorrow. In the 10 games Allen played in before getting hurt, he scored an eye-opening seven TDs. The Colts offense is a high-octane offense that spreads TDs around quite nicely. Allen is particularly dangerous in the red zone which would be very helpful to the Colts since red zone king Ahmad Bradshaw is not around anymore.
Kyle Rudolph (MIN) - The full of potential but injury riddled tight end finally looks to be healthy enough to be relied upon as a daily play. His price point is low enough in fantasy dailies that he could be a nice option so that you can load up elsewhere on your card. Rudolph caught a TD last week and will be facing a horrendous NY Jets pass defense tomorrow.
Rashad Jennings (NYG) - Jennings has proven to be a must play on all daily cards as long as he is healthy but therein lies the problem. The injury prone back was having a helluva game against Jacksonville last week but exited late with an ankle injury. He missed practice Wednesday and Thursday but did return Friday. With the Giants out of playoff contention and playing against sad sack Tennessee, caution may prevail here in regards to Jennings' availability.
For Whom the Injury Bell Tolls -
The following players could make or break many daily cards this Sunday and Monday so they must be considered closely which means up until game time!
Kendall Wright (TEN) - Wright has played well of late so his hand injury could not have come at a worse time. Wright missed practice on both Thursday and Friday which does not bode well for his chance to play Sunday against Washington. His is listed as questionable so there is a small chance he can play which would make him a great matchup considering what Indianapolis did to the Washington pass defense last week.
Isaiah Crowell (CLE) - Similar to Andre Ellington, Crowell has a hip issue but has not been ruled out for tomorrow's game against Indianapolis. The dynamic rookie believes he will be good to go but with Terrance West available, the Browns can afford to be cautious.
Julius Thomas (DEN) - Thomas may be the biggest enigma of all as his ankle has kept him out for a few weeks but he has practiced (albeit in limited fashion) this week and is listed as questionable. Thomas can score three TDs in a game when fully ingratiated in the playbook but Denver has been very cautious with him because they can ill afford a re-aggravation with the playoffs looming.
Greg Olsen (CAR) - The consistent Olsen has been dogged by a knee injury and is listed as questionable on the injury report for tomorrow's game against New Orleans. The Panthers don't have a prayer against the Saints without Olsen and it also must be noted that they are still somehow in contention for the NFC South title. Head Coach Ron Rivera said he believes Olsen will play and why wouldn't he when the stakes are so high?
DeSean Jackson (WAS) - The superbly fast Jackson was caught up last Sunday when he suffered a shin contusion against Indianapolis. He is listed as questionable against the St. Louis Rams and with the meaningless nature of the game, the odds are he will sit.
Quarterbacks - Featured Site: DraftKings
Fantistics Top 5 QB Rankings
1. Tony Romo
2. Drew Brees
3. Aaron Rodgers
4. Tom Brady
5. Matt Ryan
Matthew Stafford (DET) - Make no mistake about it, Stafford has been terrible for most of this year but he finally has a healthy Calvin Johnson and showed on Thanksgiving against Chicago how good this offense can be. He threw for a season best 34 of 45 for 390 yards, two TDs and zero INTs in a resounding Detroit victory. Next up is a horrendous Tampa Bay team that has had little go right for them all year. The Bucs yield 258.9 passing yards per game which ranks them 20th in the league, and they are ranked 22nd in TDs allowed with 22. Stafford always plays better at home in Ford Field so when the 2-10 Bucs come to town, he will have little trouble extending the strong play he exhibited in Week 13. With Detroit in prime position for a playoff spot with four games left, the Lions can ill afford to play lethargically so the team will have to hit the gas on offense.
Matt Ryan (ATL) - Although the Falcons will be travelling to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field this coming Monday night, a solid Packers defense should not be able to prevent Ryan from putting up a lot of numbers in a game that has the potential to be very high scoring given the skill players on both offenses. Las Vegas agrees as the over/under in most spots is 55 which essentially means close to eight TDs are expected to be scored. Despite not having Roddy White last week, Ryan threw for 361 yards and two TDs against a stout Arizona Cardinals defense. Julio Jones looks to be peaking at the right time and with Atlanta in the driver's seat in the underachieving NFC South, the Falcons will be holding nothing back against a defense that, although solid, has given up 19 receiving TDs and a 248.9 yard per game average. Ryan has thrown at least one TD pass in every game this year and has thrown multiple TDs in six games.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (TEN) - Fitzpatrick was all but forgotten a few weeks ago when Ryan Mallett was named starting QB but due to Mallett's season-ending pectoral injury, Fitzpatrick has found himself back as the Texans triggerman. He reminded everyone of his gunslinging ways last week against division rival Tennessee as he threw 24 of 33 for 358 yards, six TDs and zero INTs in a one-sided massacre. Needless to say, Fitz will not be throwing six TD passes anytime soon, but he does face a Jacksonville defense that is ranked 24th against the pass - yielding 273.4 yards per game! Houston has a small chance to make the playoffs but due to this small glimmer of potentially qualifying, the offense will tailor itself to Fitzpatrick's strengths. Now remember, being that he is a gunslinger, he can just as easily throw three INTs to go along with two TD passes but his lively arm is worth the modest price tag in all fantasy dailies. The Jacksonville D has given up a not too impressive 20 passing TDs so far this year.
Kyle Orton (BUF) - Orton has been a very necessary and steady veteran hand for the Bills who he has directed to a 7-5 record. His numbers are never eye-popping but he has thrown at least one TD pass in every game he has started (since replacing EJ Manuel in Week 5) except for one against Miami in Week 11. When considering his consistent nature and the fact that he will be facing a Denver defense on the road, the potential is there for a typical Mile High shootout. The over/under in most sportsbooks is in the 48 range so popular thought does favor a high scoring affair. Denver's offense is so high octane, opposing offenses have no choice but to follow suit and open things up more than they normally would. To further illustrate this point consider the 24 receiving TDs the Broncos yield which ranks them 27th in the league despite ranking 11th in yardage allowed. Opposing offenses simply have to open things up! Also consider that Orton used to play for Denver so he will be very comfortable notwithstanding this being a road game.
Eli Manning (NYG) - Manning started off very strongly against Jacksonville last week as he had Big Blue up 21 to 0 in the first half. Unfortunately for him, he hit the stall button by fumbling twice and wasn't able to finish the game strongly. It was too bad because he was on fire against Dallas the week before so until the second half of the Jaguars game, Manning looked like he was about to turn his inconsistent season around. The Manning to Odell Beckham Jr connection has turned electric and is the basis of Manning being a favorable play against lowly Tennessee this week. The Titans just gave up six TD passes to Ryan Fitzpatrick so Manning has to be licking his chops. It should also be noted that Rashad Jennings is a question mark to play this week so that lends even more credence to the fact that Manning will have to take over with his arm. The Titans are ranked 21st against the pass and have given up 22 receiving TDs which ranks them at 22.
Cheap plays: Ryan Tannehill (MIA) - Tannehill did not look impressive against the lowly NY Jets this past Monday night but did lead his team to a victory with some key second half passing. Tannehill will next face a Baltimore Ravens defense that is superb against the run but not against the pass. The Ravens just gave up 34 points to Philip Rivers and the SD Chargers - pretty much due to the passing game - so the game plan to beat Baltimore was clearly laid out for Tannehill. Brian Hoyer (CLE) - Hoyer got a reprieve from head coach Mike Pettine as he was named starter against Indy this Sunday over Johnny Manziel who looked good in his brief playing time against Buffalo last Sunday. Hoyer will be playing for his starting life at home with Josh Gordon fully ingratiated into the offense, and against an Indy defense which was just lit up by Colt McCoy! Hoyer started off the season extremely consistent but has fallen off track. The over/under of this game is pegged at 49.5 in most spots so the popular belief is this game should see a lot of points being scored.
Running Backs - Featured Site: FanDuel
Fantistics Top 5 Running Back Rankings
1. Matt Forte
2. Arian Foster
3. Le'Veon Bell
4. LeSean McCoy
5. Eddie Lacy
Mark Ingram (NO) - Ingram has a very favorable matchup against a woeful Carolina team that seems to be just playing out the string this year. The Panthers have yielded 116.8 rushing yards per game which ranks them 19th and have also given up an NFL second worst 13 rushing TDs this season. Two of those TDs were given up to Ingram himself who torched the Panthers for 100 yards and two TDs back in Week 9 on the road. Ingram will now get to run over the Panthers at home in the Superdome as the former Alabama star is averaging 101.3 rushing yards over his last six games! He is dealing with some ankle and toe issues but will play under no limitations this Sunday.
CJ Anderson (DEN) - Anderson has continued to set the fantasy world on fire with his play the last several weeks. He is coming off two straight 160-yard rushing performances against good defenses in Miami and KC. He faces another good defense in Buffalo this Sunday, but the Broncos have pretty much been unstoppable save the meltdown against St. Louis in Week 11. The Bills are giving up a solid 96.3 rushing yards per game but no one expects them to handle the Denver running game, especially in Denver. With Montee Ball and Richard Hillman still looking like question marks to play because of their injuries, Anderson will assume the lion's share of carries like he has been doing to great success. Anderson doesn't look particularly imposing at 5'8" but is a handful at 224 lbs. and has shown an innate ability to cut laterally which was on full display against KC last Sunday night. The Denver-Buffalo game will have a lot of scoring which will allow Anderson plenty of chances to gain yardage and score, even if Buffalo's front seven can be a load to handle at times.
Tre Mason (STL) - If there were any doubts about the rookie Mason, he has put them aside based on his performance over the last three weeks. During this stretch of time, he has averaged 97.3 rushing yards, rushed for two 100 yard games, scored two rushing TDs and also one receiving TD. Head Coach Jeff Fisher has backed a running back by committee approach all year but has come around the last few weeks after seeing Mason's star quality first hand. You could say Mason may end up just like Zac Stacy who dazzled his first year but stunk in his second, but the fact is Mason will end the season strongly just like Stacy did last year. He faces a Washington defense this Sunday that statistically isn't as bad as most people think, particularly against the run which they are ranked 9th (allowing 102.8 yards per game). Regardless of where the Washington defense stands, Mason's price point is low enough that he is worth the gamble based on his big play potential (i.e. think his 89 yard TD run last week as well as the fact that he has at least one 20+ yard run in six of his last eight games).
Joique Bell (DET) - Bell has a good chance to be the main back this coming Sunday against Tampa Bay as Reggie Bush may not be ready because of his lingering injury issues (ankle/back). Even if Bush is able to return, he will most likely play a complementary role to the bowling ball known as Bell. Tampa Bay has a poor run defense which is ranked 18th (yielding 116 yards per game) and 22nd in rushing TDs allowed (11), so the Detroit running game should get a healthy workout. With Matthew Stafford also playing well as of late, the overall Detroit offense should have a healthy outing against lowly TB who can't get out of its own way on both offense and defense. Bell has averaged 74.7 rushing yards the last three games and has scored two rushing TDs.
Additional RB notes: Boom Herron (IND) - Since the season-ending injury to Ahmad Bradshaw, Herron has split carries with Trent Richardson and looked a million times better (than TRich) despite his fumbling issues. In two games, he has 20 carries for 153 yards and one TD. He faces a vulnerable Cleveland run defense this Sunday that has been giving up 132.5 yards per game - ranking them a poor 29th in the league. Latavius Murray (OAK) - Murray looked like a prime fantasy play following his fantastic game against Kansas City a few weeks ago as he rushed for 112 yards and two TDs on just four carries, but left in the middle because of a concussion. He wasn't cleared to play in last Sunday's disaster against St. Louis but has been cleared to play this Sunday against San Francisco. The Niners are very tough against the run as they are ranked 8th (giving up 98.3 yards per game) but the Raiders really have no weapons with the game breaking ability that Murray appears to possess so he will get a heavy workout.
Wide Receivers - Featured Site: DraftKings
Fantistics Top 5 WR Rankings
1. AJ Green
2. Julio Jones
3. Calvin Johnson
4. Josh Gordon
5. Dez Bryant
AJ Green (CIN) - After Cincinnati's worst game of the year against Cleveland, the offense and Green have bounced back to respectable levels the last three weeks. He has caught 22 passes for 305 yards and two TDs during this three week stretch (on 32 targets). He will now face a Pittsburgh team this Sunday that allowed Drew Brees to throw five TD passes against it last week. The Steelers allow a middle of the road 253.8 passing yards per game but also have yielded 24 passing TDs which ranks them a poor 27th! By no means is Andy Dalton playing good, consistent ball this season but the Steelers are what they are and the Bengals will be able to exploit them in a divisional matchup that the Bengals have to play with no limitations. Green didn't score in his previous two outings against Pitt last year but was targeted a ridiculous 33 times!
Julio Jones (ATL) - After not scoring since Week 3, Jones has scored a TD in each of his last two games and has a great shot to extend his scoring ways against Green Bay this coming Monday in what should be a high scoring affair. Jones really had a special game last week as he completely dominated Arizona CB Patrick Peterson in embarrassing fashion, catching 10 passes for 189 yards and one TD. What was more impressive was the fact that Roddy White didn't play because of injury so Arizona really had Jones in a vulnerable position (theoretically anyway). Jones has been targeted an average 10.8 times every time out this year, so the guy is one of the most consistent monsters in the fantasy daily world. Green Bay's pass defense has given up 19 receiving TDs this year so whether White plays or not, between his targets and Matt Ryan playing well as of late, Jones is a strong bet to score again.
DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) - Ever hear the term - the passing of the torch? Well, that appeared to be what happened last week when Hopkins caught nine passes for a team record 238 yards and two TDs against Tennessee. Andre Johnson has had a miserable year but Hopkins has been on fire. AJohn has a lot of mileage on his tires so the shift to Hopkins in the offense was inevitable but the manner in which it has happened has been eye opening. Hopkins has registered four 100-yard games this year compared to Johnson's zero! Hopkins had as many TDs in his game last week as Johnson has all year. He will now face a horrendous Jacksonville pass defense that is ranked 24th - giving up 273.4 yards per game. With just one more target, Hopkins will have as many targets (91) as he had all last year.
Brandon LaFell (NE) - LaFell is coming off a strong game against Green Bay that saw him catch two TDs from Tom Brady. LaFell has been the designated deep threat of the NE offense this year but in recent weeks has shown much improved route running in regards to intermediate routes. Perhaps his route running has always been there but when stuck in Carolina, no one really noticed. LaFell already has seven TDs - a career high even with four games remaining to play. LaFell will now play San Diego in what has the potential to be a high scoring game with two high power QBs in play and the fact that NE always seems to play well against SD. In his last five games, he has caught 34 passes for 375 yards and four TDs!
Kenny Stills (NO) - The speedster has had a great three weeks - catching a total of 17 passes for 292 yards and two TDs. Because of his diminutive size, he does have the tendency to get nicked but when he is healthy, he is very underrated. When Brandin Cooks went down with a season-ending injury, it was imperative for Stills to step up if NO wanted to make a playoff push. Because the Saints are in the pathetic NFC South, they have a solid shot to win the division and qualify for the playoffs despite a poor win-loss record. Stills will face a reeling Carolina team in the Superdome this Sunday and should be good for a few big plays to validate his affordable price point. Robert Woods (BUF) - Since he was a rookie last year, I have felt Woods is one of the more underrated receivers in the league. It hasn't always looked that way because of the underwhelming play at the QB position in Buffalo, but he has shown more and more flashes as veteran Kyle Orton has steadied the entire team. Over the last two weeks, Woods has caught 13 passes for 189 yards and one TD which included some eye-popping grabs that showed off his athletic ability. Woods is a nice idea for a low price option this Sunday in what should be a high scoring game against Denver.
Tight Ends - Featured Site: FanThrowDown
Fantistics Top 5 TE Rankings
1. Jimmy Graham
2. Rob Gronkowski
3. Antonio Gates
4. Julius Thomas
5. Delanie Walker
Jimmy Graham (NO) - It is hard to name a player a top play after he was held catchless the week prior against Pittsburgh, but that's what we are going to do. Pittsburgh focused its defense on stopping the athletic tight end which forced Drew Brees to look other places. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, he did look other places to great success and ended up with five TD passes. In the latter stages of the game with a double digit lead, NO decided to run Mark Ingram into the ground which was a smart idea. It wasn't a good idea for those who had Graham on their fantasy cards but it was a sound strategic decision. Earlier this year against Detroit, he was held catchless as well but bounced back for a TD in his next game. Expect similar results this Sunday against the Panthers - the same team he caught seven passes for 83 yards and one TD against earlier this year.
Delanie Walker (TEN) - Walker has been one of the few bright spots on Tennessee's offense this year but yucked it up last week in an embarrassing loss against Houston. Just two weeks ago against Philadelphia, he caught 10 passes for 155 yards. Walker did put up his best numbers when Jake Locker was QB'ing at the beginning of the year and now with the AC joint injury to Zach Mettenberger, there is a chance Locker will start against an injury riddled NY Giants defense, but either way, Walker is a good play. The Giants have been susceptible to the big pass all year as it ranks dead last in allowing 13.4 receiving yards per completion and have also given up 20 receiving TDs.
Jordan Reed (WAS) - What an enigma. Reed has all the ability in the world but his health remains a constant problem and prevents fantasy daily players from completely trusting him. Reed has not scored all year but is coming off his most productive game (against Indy), catching a season-high nine passes for 123 yards. To be fair, RG3 has been an unmitigated disaster this year and a lot of Reed's non-production can be attributed to the poor QB play, on top of his penchant for getting hurt. With a steadier hand at QB in Colt McCoy, Reed is now an intriguing option against St. Louis this Sunday. St. Louis is coming off a shutout victory, but it was against a terrible Oakland Raiders squad. This game should be very competitive but a 22nd ranked Rams pass defense has plenty of holes for Reed to exploit.
Defenses - Featured Site: DraftKings
San Francisco - When the St. Louis Rams brought the hammer down on the Oakland Raiders last week and won 52-0, many daily players thought aloud, "What defense is going to play Oakland next?" Well, the answer is the 49ers fresh off their own embarrassing loss against Seattle on Thanksgiving. SF's D wasn't the reason that the Niners lost, it was the pathetic offensive showing that did the red and gold in. The Niners D has carried the team all year and come this Sunday, they have a chance to save SF's slim playoff hopes against an Oakland offense that has underperformed all year. The Niners are ranked eighth against the run, fourth against the pass and are second in INTs. What also must be considered is the fact that Oakland is ranked dead last in offensive production at 279.9 yards per game and 14.7 points per game. Oakland's defense has kept them in a few games because of their hustle and physical nature, but the offense for the most part hasn't done its part. The Niners will look to beat up an already battered Oakland offense and hopes its offensive counterparts won't yuck it up again. It should be noted that the weather could be a major factor in the Battle of the Bay as it will be raining all week which theoretically helps both defenses as the track at O.Co Coliseum will be slow.
Best Value Play
Minnesota - What defense isn't a value play when matched up against the rundown NY Jets? The Jets tried to take the NFL back 50 years with its run-heavy attack against the Dolphins this past Monday and still ended up losing despite being up most of the game. Whenever Geno Smith went back for a pass it wasn't pretty and that won't change this Sunday against a Minnesota defense which terrorized Cam Newton all last Sunday. Minnesota is ranked fourth in sacks (35) and should have a field day against Smith, especially if it can manage an early lead so NYJ doesn't have the opportunity to hide behind its running game. Against the mobile Newton, Minnesota sacked him four times, intercepted him once and blocked two punts - returning both for TDs! If the Vikings remain energized and opportunistic, daily players could benefit greatly.
Other option: Houston - A lot of fantasy players will find this surprising as the Texans are ranked fourth in INTs with 15 and are ranked first in fumble recoveries with 13. They also have four defensive TDs off INTs and fumbles. Imagine if Jadaveon Clowney was healthy! Houston will face the sad sack Jacksonville Jags who are coming off a miracle come from behind win over the struggling NY Giants. The Texans should get to Blake Bortles consistently which could mean a long day for the rookie.
Kickers - Featured Site: DraftDay
Top 5 Fantistics Projected K's: 1) Phil Dawson 2) Mason Crosby 3) Shaun Suisham 4) Nick Novak 5) Stephen Gostkowski
Connor Barth (DEN) made a big splash in his first game with Denver after the Broncos cut underperforming Brandon McManus as he converted five out of five FGs and two extra points against KC in a convincing Denver road win. A kicker for an explosive offense will always be a good fantasy daily play, especially when considering he will play in the high altitude of Denver and had a good career in Tampa Bay before getting hurt. Blair Walsh (MIN) is a great kicker who plays for a lousy offense. Minnesota's offense has looked slightly better in recent weeks and will now play a NY Jets defense which has been horrendous all year. Walsh will have the chance to make a strong impact this Sunday. Shayne Graham (NO) will be kicking in the friendly confines of the Superdome this Sunday against lowly Carolina. Graham has never been a good long distance kicker but from 40 and under, he is almost perfect, particularly in an element-controlled environment. NO should put up a lot of points this Sunday so Graham will be one of the many beneficiaries.