'The NFL Beat': Week 15

Fantasy football semifinals

'The NFL Beat': Week 15

The NFL Beat is for people who are tall. And for people who are not tall, but still fairly good looking. It is for the rich and the poor. It is the common community asset that the Occupy Austin campaign has been (camping?) for. This is NFL Week 15. These are the fantasy football semifinals.

Cowboys (7-6) @ Bucs (4-9)
Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray has been lost for the season during their recent two-game skid as WR Miles Austin has made his return to a fully healthy receiving corps. RB Felix Jones will face the league’s absolute best run matchup this Saturday in the Bucs, and I expect a big game.

Titans (7-6) @ Colts (0-13)
The Colts continue their “Suck for Luck” campaign this week as the Titans come to town with their own set of issues. The Titans, now out of contention in the AFC South, are trying to avoid putting out what Marla Singer would call a “death rattle” in Fight Club. (“Do you think it will live up to it’s name … or would it just be a death hairball?”) I expect back-up QB Jake Locker and the Titans to avoid the death hairball for one more week on the feet of RB Chris Johnson as they face 2011’s third-best run opponent.

Panthers (4-9) @ Texans (10-3)
Carolina is the second-best matchup for opposing runners this season, but have stiffened up in the last three weeks, over the course of which they have been the eighth worst. It does not matter. Texans RB Arian Foster is the best pure runner in the league and no 2011 RB has averaged more 20-plus yard runs or yards-after-contact than Texans change-of-pace back Ben Tate. They will both go big at home, and make it easy for impressive rookie QB T.J. Yates to continue steering the ship.

Bengals (7-6) @ Rams (2-11)
This matchup of the week has the world buzzing. The stage is set for the Bengals to come to St. Louis and play in front of all the poor office slobs that scored passed-off season tickets from their bosses once the Rams’ season officially tanked. In this international sporting spectacle I like Bengals RB Cedric Benson and WR A.J. Green as well as Rams WR Brandon Lloyd.

Seahawks (6-7) @ Bears (7-6)
Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch has been feasting on celebratory touchdown Skittles recently, while Bears fans have been forced to eat what I would describe as a giant crap sandwich. Bears QB Caleb Hanie is as effective an offensive weapon as Bears GM Jerry Angelo is a communicator and leader. (That’s not good.) RB Marion Barber managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with not one, but two bonehead plays against Denver in week 14. After getting “Tebowed” in overtime, Bears LB/sinner Brian Urlacher used the QB’s name in vain, referring to Tim Tebow as a “good running back." The Golden Boy seemed genuinely humbled by the “praise” and talked about what a great compliment that was coming from such an outstanding player. The Bears just can’t win right now.

Saints (10-3) @ Vikings (2-11)
For the Vikings, the season is lost. Vikings HC Leslie Frazier has been parading around like an immunity challenge winner with a fake tribal necklace on Survivor after being told by the Vikings organization that he will not be getting canned. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson is participating in drills at the time of print, and looks poised to return to the Vikings lineup for their final three meaningless games after suffering a high-ankle sprain three weeks ago. My question is, “Why?" On the Saints side, I love QB Drew Brees and RB Darren Sproles. As for the Vikings, you have to love AP (if they are dumb enough to play him) as well as sick, sick WR Percy Harvin.

Redskins (4-9) @ Giants (7-6)
The Giants are facing a must-win situation but present great matchups across the board for the Redskins offense. I like Giants QB Eli Manning and WR Hakeem Nicks to have a nice day picking on Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall. I also like Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw to retake the predominant running load after easing back into the lineup week 14 on his busted foot. As for the Redskins, I love RB Roy Helu, QB Rex Grossman, and WRs Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney.

Dolphins (4-9) @ Bills (5-8)
Dolphins HC Tony Sparano has been fired, and will be taking his talents somewhere other than South Beach. Dolphins RB Reggie Bush has been on an unbelievable tear and I expect that to continue against the Bills; the league’s second-best run matchup over the last five weeks. I also see a big game from Bills WR Steve Johnson and serviceable production from secondary WR options Brad Smith and David Nelson as the Bills will struggle to run against a physical Miami D-Line with RB C.J. Spiller.

Packers (13-0) @ Chiefs (5-8)
Chiefs HC Todd Haley also went the way of the dodo bird this week, and will be taking his tattered clothing, crap attitude, and bum appearance elsewhere. Packers RB Ryan Grant exploded back on to the scene last week, and with rookie RB Brandon Saine suffering from lingering concussion symptoms, I like his run to continue vs. a Top 7 run matchup for 2011 in KC this week. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will unfortunately be without No. 1 WR Greg Jennings, but should find plenty of production in TE Jermichael Finley and WRs Jordy Nelson and James Jones.

Lions (8-5) @ Raiders (7-6)
The Oakland Raiders have seen their core of skill players absolutely decimated since the loss of RB Darren McFadden midseason. QB Carson Palmer has done his best to keep the wheels on, and the Raiders are still alive in the AFC West race. Lions who I expect to produce well are QB Matt Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson, RB Kevin Smith and TE Brandon Pettigrew. Raiders WR Denarius Moore appears ready to return to the Raiders lineup, and he is always a threat to put up a monster game.

Browns (4-9) @ Cardinals (6-7)
Browns QB Colt McCoy is still wondering where he is and what his name is after getting rocked by Steelers LB James Harrison on an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit last week. The good news is, he probably doesn’t want to remember that game, anyway. In this game I love Cardinals RB Beanie Wells and the Arizona defense, who I think could be a sneaky D/ST play that could finish No. 1 overall in week 15.

Jets (8-5) @ Eagles (5-8)
I don’t care how hard the Jets are against the run (and they are tough) - Eagles RB LeSean McCoy is on pace to score 22 TDs this season and is a must-start. The Eagles must win out and have both the Cowboys and the Giants lose two of their last three to get into a tie for the NFC East title, which they would win based on the common opponents tiebreaker. “So you’re tellin me there’s a chance.” – Lloyd Christmas

Patriots (10-3) @ Broncos (8-5)
If Patriots HC Bill Belichick manages to somehow get “Tebowed,” his head will literally explode inside his nasty gray hoodie. I like the Pats to end the miracle run, but I love Broncos QB Tim Tebow this week as well as WR Eric Decker, who seems to swap big games with fellow WR Demaryius Thomas. Pats TE Rob Gronkowski is making a case to be the first TE in years to be a legitimate first round fantasy pick next year, and will have another big game Sunday.

Ravens (10-3) @ Chargers (6-7)
The Ravens are an absolute nightmare matchup across the board with the exception of one trend. In the last three weeks they have given up the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing TEs. I have low expectations for the usual Chargers suspects: RB Ryan Mathews, QB Phillip Rivers, and WR Vincent Jackson, but think TE Antonio Gates will turn in a Top 3 TE performance for week 15.

Steelers (10-3) @ 49ers (10-3)
Steelers QB Big Ben mangled the crap out of his ankle last week, but returned to play on it. He has shown he is capable of playing hurt throughout his career - and I actually like him better as a fantasy QB when his mobility is impaired. The 49ers kill opposing runners and Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall would be on my bench this week if I had any other reasonable options. If Ben can go, look for him to target his old standbys in WR Hines Ward and TE Heath Miller more than usual as he will be going with quicker hot reads to extend a non-existent run game and keep him upright. On the 49ers side I am intrigued by WR Kyle Williams who I think is due for a coming-out party on a big stage. Monday could be the night.

[Alex Dunlap is the host of RosterWatch on 104.9FM ESPN Radio Austin, founder of Rosterwatch.com, and a featured expert contributor to the FantasyPros.com network.]

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