Fantasy Football Week 15: Start/Sit, and Waiver-Wire Advice

Rob Gronkowski's injury carries huge Fantasy Football implications - Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Week 15 of the NFL season is crunch time for fantasy owners. If you've made it this far you are most likely in your semifinals and need to make sure you set your best possible lineup. You may even need to block some moves from your rivals.

Well that was an interesting week of football. A snow-bowl in Philadelphia, a game that had five lead changes in the last two minutes (Minnesota and Baltimore), and another Tom Brady miracle comeback. Huge injuries to big stars. (Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Rob Gronkowski.) Players like Cordarrelle Patterson, Da'Rick Rogers, and Justin Hunter had huge performances when they were supposed to be stashes for next year.

Instead of looking back this week, I am only going to look forward to this week's games and who should be in your lineups.

Quarterbacks

Let's start with the latest news about Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is still feeling pain in his shoulder and isn't medically cleared to play. The fact that the Packers play the Dallas Cowboys this week makes it even harder to swallow. Rodgers presence in the Packers' lineup would elevate every single offensive player's fantasy outlook. Jordy Nelson might be the only receiver that would seem safe to keep in your lineups if Rodgers doesn't play.

Josh McCown has been so red-hot lately that fantasy owners are hoping Jay Cutler's ankle problems can linger just long enough to help them win a title. McCown has especially been important to Alshon Jeffrey owners, as Jeffrey has flourished with McCown under center. His grasp and control of the offense was on full display on Monday night against a depleted Cowboys defense as he racked up five total touchdowns. This week he faces a tough Cleveland defense that is a little under-manned as well.

Drew Brees bounced back from a miserable game against Seattle with a vintage performance against a tough Carolina defense, once again cementing his place as an almost unbenchable fantasy commodity. His connection with Jimmy Graham has been amazing to watch over the last few years and should keep right on rolling this week against the St. Louis Rams.

Nick Foles showed a great bit of guts last week against the Detroit Lions. Playing in nearly six inches of fresh snow powder, Foles led the Eagles to a victory with a great second-half performance. While his numbers on the day would pale in comparison to Manning, Brees and McCown, they outdid his rival on the field Matthew Stafford by a great deal. Foles is a quarterback one in the fantasy playoffs, but I wouldn't play him over Brees or Manning. When we start talking about Brady without Gronkowski and Cam Newton then I can get on board.

Speaking of Cam Newton, he didn't play up to his recent standards last week against the Saints and gets a Jets defense that can stop the run. This may be a game where we see Newton have to throw the ball downfield to Greg Olsen and Brandon Lafell. Ted Ginn may get some looks as well as the Jets have been torched the last few weeks in the deep passing game.

Phillip Rivers is going to be high on everyone's lists because he will need to throw the ball to keep up with the Denver Broncos offense on Thursday night. I'm not as excited as everyone else. The short week coupled with an opponent that is familiar with the quarterback and the offense he is running doesn't scream must start to me. The shoulder injury to Keenan Allen and the goose egg put up last week by Ladarius Green have me even more on the fence. I have Rivers as my 11th best quarterback for Week 15.

What do we do with Tom Brady after the Gronkowski injury? You definitely need to bump him down a few spots in your rankings. You simply can't make up for the loss of Gronkowski with lesser players. Look at the numbers Brady put up early in the year and add 60 yards and half a touchdown for the emergence of Edelman and the return of Vereen and Amendola, but you can't add much more. I have Brady below Rivers this week and you know Rivers is right on the edge for me as a must start.

Running Backs

Eddie Lacy suffered an ankle sprain this past Sunday and it could mean that he misses this week or is at least limited against the Cowboys.James Starks becomes a must handcuff for the Lacy owner.

Adrian Peterson's mid-foot sprain is a bit more worrisome for for fantasy owners. He is currently wearing a walking boot and ESPN believes he is out this week. His direct backup, Toby Gerhart, suffered a hamstring injury, but it doesn't seem like it's a major issue. He should be owned in all leagues.

Reggie Bush once again was injured just when you needed him the most. I'm not even sure that's an accurate statement, but it feels that way. Bush aggravated a calf injury in warmups before the Lions faced the Eagles and Joique Bell was forced into snow-plow duty. Bell had a nice fantasy day even though he fumbled twice. Bush gets the maximum number of hours to rest his injured calf as the Lions don't play until Monday night and you should start him if he's a go.

Maurice Jones-Drew injured his hamstring on Thursday night after he manged to finally break the 100-yard rushing mark in a game this season. While the Jones-Drew injury doesn't look like a big deal on the surface it will be a major concern for managers in very deep leagues. Even in leagues where you are forced to play three running backs his absence can be major. Jordan Todman is MJD's direct backup and he is a talented running back in his own right. He could be the spot starter this week against Buffalo.

Rashad Jennings should play this week after missing last week with a concussion. He does get a tough matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs defense. The question marks at quarterback for the Raiders also put a damper on any hopes for a big game.

Shane Vereen has been a PPR monster since he came back off of short-term injured reserve. He has 40 receptions in just five games. He has been everything that I hoped he would be when I targeted him in drafts this preseason. I just hope everyone reading this had the patience to keep him on their roster when he was on IR. With Gronkowski on injured reserve Vereen could become even more involved in the passing game.


Wide Receivers

Last week I talked up Michael Floyd without really knowing how bad his ankle injury was. Floyd says he played this past week at about 90 percent, but when I watched the film he looked about 75 percent of himself. With two tough matchups coming up the next two weeks he should be considered a wide receiver three. Larry Fitzgerald might continue to benefit, as he did this past week.

Julian Edelman continued his strong play against the Browns and could see a bigger role in the offense with Gronkowski injured. I really like him in PPR leagues as a WR3 where I was counting on some under-performing wide receivers.

Wes Welker has suffered another concussion and it looks like he should miss this week's game against the San Diego Chargers. When Welker went out it wasn't a wide receiver who filled in the slot, it was tight end Jacob Tamme.

The Minnesota Vikings look like they are in evaluation mode with Cordarrelle Patterson at the wide receiver position. He has been getting more and more snaps and looks like the offensive weapon everyone envisioned when they saw him at the University of Tennessee. He could be that magic add that wins you a title as flex play where you lost a player to injury.

The Colts seem to have finally figured out what every football fan who has ever watched Darius Heyward-Bey already knew -- Heyward-Bey is a terrible wide receiver. Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill erased any images of Heyward-Bey as they combined for over 150 yards and three touchdowns. Rogers is the more interesting prospect for me and is  is my number three wide receiver pickup for this week.

The last rookie wide receiver that seems to be coming into his own is Justin Hunter. Kendall Wright has an ankle injury and Kenny Britt doesn't even dress for games anymore. Hunter had eight targets this past week, topped 100 yards and scored for the second time in three weeks. He is a bit boom or bust, but I would pick him up if you are in a desperate situation.

Michael Crabtree played more than 88 percent of San Francisco's offensive snaps last weekend and had eight targets from Colin Kaepernick. I am still scared to rely on him this week, but I could see using him with his uptick in usage.

Tight Ends

Let's talk about the Rob Gronkowski injury and the lingering Jordan Reed concussion.

With both of these top 10 tight ends out or questionable going forward I will give you my replacements from the waiver wire.

Before the preseason even started I was drafting teams and Dennis Pitta was my go to tight end in the middle rounds. Before he injured his hip in the first live practice of the preseason Pitta was being drafted as the seventh tight end off the board in the seventh round of twelve team drafts. Pitta showed that he is still Joe Flacco's go-to guy in his first game back. Pitta played 36 snaps with the Ravens throwing the ball 33 times. They targeted Pitta 10 times in those 33 plays.

It's a long shot that this guy is still on your waiver wire, but if he is you should go to Charles Clay next. Clay is currently the fifth-ranked fantasy tight end in PPR leagues yet he isn't owned in a ton of 10-team leagues. After his big performance last week against Pittsburgh I am a little scared that I would be chasing last week's points by targeting him first.

Delanie Walker was being scooped up all over the place a few weeks back, but a concussion has seen him dropped in a lot of leagues. He should be back this week and gets to face a Cardinals team that will be without stand out slot corner Tyrann Mathieu. With the chemistry he showed with Ryan Fitzpatrick I would be more than happy to have him in my lineups where I lost Gronkowski.

Garrett Graham is the next tight end that could be a nice fill in for Gronkowski. He has all the factors you look for.in a tight end. He's in an offense that features a tight end. He is the second option in an offense that can move the ball. The only thing I don't like is the way Andre Johnson can dominate a game. If Johnson gets going it can be tough to notice if there are any other receivers on the field.

Last but not least is Jacob Tamme. Tamme could be the short term fill-in you are looking for if you are low on Faab Budget money in your leagues or know that you have low waiver priority. Tamme took over in the slot with Welker out and could have a very nice PPR game against San Diego on Thursday night. The only issue is he is truly a one week fill in and then you are back to the drawing board next week.

I want to wish you all luck in your semifinal matchups. (except if you are facing me!)  Make sure you listen to Trick Plays this week because last week we nailed Rod Streater and Marcel Reese as sleepers that could help your teams in Week 14.

Feel free to ask me any start/sit or trade questions on Twitter @Coachesseror by messaging me on Facebook by liking Coachesser’s Playbook. You can also read my articles at www.coachesser.com and listen to the definitive fantasy football podcast on Itunes or Stitcher Radio by subscribing to the Trick Plays podcast hosted by Micah James (@FFMagicMan) and myself.

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