Congratulations. If you are reading a fantasy football article in week 15 (especially one this specific) this season has been kind to you. Behind you lay the corpses of those who underestimated your might. Ahead - another foe set on bringing your season to an end. This is going to be a fun weekend of football.
There is a good chance you made it this far with some Patriots and 49ers on your roster. Sunday night will feature an elite fantasy QB, 2 running backs that have had outstanding years, 2 wide receivers that are PPR studs and perhaps 3 of the top drafted tight ends. There is a lot to cover so let's jump into the preview.
Do you dare start the San Francisco's Defense?
It's hard to tell you to sit one of the best defenses in the league. However, defenses are averaging -1 fantasy point against the Patriots. As one of the poor fools who started Houston's defense last week I can strongly suggest finding an alternative. This matchup has the makings of a shoot out, not a shutout. So what defense has a better chance to help you? The Detroit Lions D has a great matchup against the Cardinals, or for a long shot, try San Diego who takes on Carolina traveling across the country.
Who has the better fantasy performance/revenge story: Brandon Lloyd or Randy Moss?
Lloyd is probably the most talented journeyman in recent memory, but he has been one of the biggest fantasy disappointments this year and boy did I invest in him heavily (somehow I'm still alive in both leagues) He was actually demoted prior to Julian Edelman's injury. It hasn't been the best season for Lloyd. However, the former Niner was targeted heavily last week and that trend will continue especially if Gronkowski sits.
Brandon Lloyd (Better Fantasy Performance)
Final Line: 6 receptions 70 yards 1TD
Talk about your revenge story. Moss returns to the stadium where he cemented his legacy as one of the greatest playmakers the game has ever seen. We all know how that ended. This could easily be Moss' best game of the season as the Pats do get burned deep pass plays.
Randy Moss (Better Revenge Story)
Final Line: 4 receptions 80 yards, 1 TD
Will Wes Welker make up for last week?
Yes. Welker might end the night with the most fantasy points in this game. Remember what Amendola did to this defense? Well Welker is better and is catching passes from one of the best QBs of all-time. A double digit reception game isn't out of the question. Hell, it's almost expected.
Final Line: 12 receptions 110 yards
Steven Ridley or Frank Gore?
Gore is having a nice rebound season while the youngster Ridley can often be found in the top 12 on most rankings. The 49ers would be wise not to go toe-to-toe with Brady, so they will run to keep him off the field. LaMichael James is the only real threat to Gore's workload, while Ridley has Bolden, Woodhead and the ghost of Kevin Faulk to deal with. Gore is a borderline RB1 Sunday in PPR leagues, while Ridley is more RB2/Flex material with upside.
Final Line: 50 yards rushing, 1 reception for 7 yards
Final Line: 80 yards rushing, 3 receptions 30 yards, 1TD
How many TDs for Tom Brady?
The Niner fan in me wants to say "0", but my more rational side says at least 2 with high likelihood of 3. The Texans defense has waned in recent weeks, but Jonathan Joseph and JJ Watt were both on the field and they couldn't slow down Brady. The Niner secondary has done a good job at limiting big plays and I don't think they allow 4 TDs on Sunday. Bottom line, Brady gets at least 2 TDs and 300 yards.
Final Line: 330 yards passing, 2 TDs
Is Michael Crabtree a must start in week 15?
Crabs is looking to string together 3 straight solid fantasy performances. I'll actually be starting him as a WR2 in a PPR league this week and I love the matchup. New England's secondary is beatable, great for Crabtree, but they are particularly bad against the deep pass, not that great for Crabtree. Kaepernick has targeted him heavily over the last few weeks, so Belichick may try to focus on stopping the Kaep/Crab connection. He should have plenty of opportunities if this does turn out to be a high scoring game. I would consider Crabtree a must start WR3 in 12 team leagues and much more in deeper formats
Final Line: 7 receptions for 100 yards, 1TD
Rank the 3 Tight Ends:
1. Aaron Hernandez
Starting to warm up with Gronk and Edelman on the bench. The Niners are solid against tight ends, but he seems to be Brady's favorite target in the red zone.
Final Line: 7 receptions 80 yards 1 TD
2. Vernon Davis
I'm calling it. The Vernon we know and love come back for a big game. The Pats secondary is suspect to big plays and tight ends. That makes this a game where Vernon has to get the ball.
Final Line: 6 receptions 100 yards 1 TD
3. Rob Gronkowski
As of writing this he hasn't practiced this week, but Twitter is a buzz with reports that he may give it a go. When healthy, Gronk would top this list, but if he does play this week you have to imagine it is in a limited fashion.
Final Line (if he plays): 5 receptions for 40 yards
Is Colin Kaepernick a top 10 QB this week?
Kaep saved his fantasy day last week with that late touchdown run, but that is what he brings to the table. If he doesn't get the yards through the air and can certainly go Bo Jackson Tecmo Bowl on a team. Colin shows up big this week and is certainly likely to finish in the top 10. This isn't going to be a case of Tebow in the 2011 playoffs. Kaep will keep this game close with both his arm and his legs.
Final Line: 275 yards passing, 60 yards rushing, combined 3 TDS
So Niner fans, who do you need to have a big game this week to stay in the playoffs?