The Bears dropped a bombshell on the fantasy championships when they benched Jay Cutler on Wednesday in favor of Jimmy Clausen. Despite being a total disaster on the football field, Cutler is ranked #9 for fantasy QBs this season, and even finished Week 15 as NFL.com's #13-ranked QB. That's right, even with his 3 interceptions, the 194 passing yards and 2 TDs were still enough to put him just outside the QB1 rankings in fantasy football.
What this proves is there are few true constants when it comes to fantasy football and real NFL football. A player can be a valuable member of an NFL team and truly contribute on the field, but be waiver wire material in fantasyland. And vice versa, a QB like Cutler can walk around throwing lit matches all over the football field, and yet still finish as a decent fantasy option that week.
Here is another little interesting fact for all you fantasy players to think about: Peyton Manning has been outperformed by Teddy Bridgewater, Alex Smith, and the Bears' newly minted benchwarmer, [Jay] Cutler over the past month of the NFL season. His 842 yards rank him 20th over the past month, his 7 TDs tie him for 7th, and his 56.38 fantasy points on NFL.com rank him 17th.
What does this mean? There just might be better options out there than the future Hall Of Fame QB!
Mark Sanchez – Eagles: Even though Sanchez has been just as brutal with the Eagles as he was with the Jets, there are two reasons for hope for those QB-needy teams out there. 1) The Eagles take on the Redskins with their playoff hopes resting in the balance; and 2) The Redskins give up a healthy 23.6 PPG to QBs this season. Sanchez has to know his NFL future is in question with him being a free agent at season's end, and his performance in New York and now Philadelphia are doing more harm than good. He needs a strong bounce-back performance in Week 16 more than just about any player in the NFL.
Matt Ryan – Falcons: Over the past month only one QB has been hotter than Matty Ice, and that QB is Drew Brees. This week those two field generals face off in a divisional matchup between two sub-.500 teams that could still win the NFC South title. This game has shootout written all over it with neither defense doing much to stop opposing offenses this year. I'd play Ryan as a top 5-7 type of QB this week, with or without Julio Jones.
Toby Gerhart– Jaguars:I have a feeling that Gerhart is going to finish this week with RB2 stats. Why, you ask? Well, the Titans give up the 3rd-most fantasy points to RBs at 23.4 PPG. Not only the points, but they have also allowed 15 rushing touchdowns to them this season, the 2nd-most in the NFL behind the Falcons. Gerhart isn't going to be a yardage monster, but the Titans are soft against the run and Gerhart looked good last week averaging 4.2 YPC against the #2 fantasy ranked Ravens run defense. Gerhart is a sleeper.
Mark Ingram – Saints: Ingram rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown in his Week 1 meeting with the Falcons, and their defense has only gotten worse since then thanks to various injuries. Ingram has been one of the most difficult RBs to predict the past few weeks, but I think he is due for another 100-yard game with a possible touchdown. I'd play Ingram as a solid RB1 this week.
Fred Jackson – Bills: The Bills are built around their running game and their defense, and Jackson is the most consistent RB they have. His fantasy value is enhanced by a Raiders defense that gives up 24.2 PPG to RBs this season, a number that ties them for the most in the NFL with the Falcons. Jackson is a top-tier RB2 this week with real chances of finishing in the RB1 ranks if he gets enough touches.
Julian Edelman – Patriots: Whenever I get emails asking about a Patriots WR, it is almost always Brandon LaFell. One might think that people are just starting Edelman and LaFell is a fringe player right? Wrong. Edelman is owned in 92.8 percent of NFL.com leagues, but started in just 32.9 percent of them. That is a MASSIVE gap! Edelman's 92 receptions and 134 targets are both ranked 4th in the NFL, and his 972 receiving yards tie him with Odell Beckham Jr. for 13th. While he holds more value in PPR leagues than in standard ones, his value is undeniable either way. Edelman is a sneaky WR2 play with WR1 upside if he scores against an abysmal Jets secondary.
DeSean Jackson – Redskins: As much as I hate to recommend anyone the Redskins are throwing the ball to these days, D-Jax is a sexy option this week against his former team. In Week 3 he lit up the Eagles for 117 yards and a touchdown on 5 receptions. And while I am not a fan of the QB that Robert Griffin III is, I will say that he knows he is fighting for his job as a starting QB and will do anything and everything in his power to make believers out of the coaching staff to finish out the season. I am looking for WR2 stats from Jackson with WR1 upside if he gets into the endzone.
Martellus Bennett – Bears: The Bears are a mess from top to bottom, and that actually bodes well for Bennett. Let me explain. Clausen will make his first start since the 2010 season, but should follow the offensive gameplan to a tee to insure the Bears don't turn back to Cutler again this season. Bennett should be a safe option for Clausen for short passes, making him a great option at TE since it is an all-or-nothing position to start with.
Baltimore Ravens defense: As you will see in the sit 'em section, I can't stress enough how little faith I have in the Texans offense, given the state of their QB situation right now. Either Thad Lewis or Case Keenum will start this week, meaning the Ravens can really just focus on stopping the run and not double-teaming WRs DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson. I am expecting Def1 stats from the Ravens and am playing them in a few leagues of mine.
Jacksonville Jaguars defense: I didn't put Gerhart on here as a homer pick, just as I am not putting the Jags defense on here as a way to butter the bread. The Titans are down to Charlie Whitehurst at QB, an ineffective RB in Bishop Sankey who is averaging 2.75 YPC over his last two games, an extremely average WR in Kendall Wright who is banged up with a wrist injury, and another average WR in Nate Washington who looked good last week because the Jets are terrible against the pass. Their only real weapon is TE Delanie Walker, but the Jags have been solid against TEs and have allowed just 8.5 PPG to them this year. I could honestly see the Jaguars finishing Week 16 as a top 7-ish fantasy defense, with SS Johnathan Cyprien a real option for IDP leagues that have a DB spot.
Philip Rivers – Chargers: The Chargers have lost WR Keenan Allen for the rest of the regular season with a broken right collarbone and an ankle injury that knocked him out of Week 15 in the 3rd quarter. That puts Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal in the starting lineup, with Seyi Ajirotutu as the No. 3 WR. Floyd and Royal are about as average as it gets at the NFL level, and Antonio Gates isn't the TE monster he once was. If you own Rivers, I'd go grab Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning, or even Robert Griffin III and send up a prayer to the fantasy Gods.
Johnny Manziel – Browns: Now that we've all seen the unveiling of Tim Tebow 2.0 and were thoroughly unimpressed, we should lower our expectations for Johnny Football and drop him in every league outside of dynasty (keeper) leagues. His 5.9 grade at the NFL combine should have been a red flag for fans, and his 5'11 ¾" height should have been another. In fact, he has yet to throw for 100 yards in a game this season! Manziel doesn't have enough weapons around him to be a true fantasy asset in the biggest game of the season, and his unorthodox playing style is better suited for the NCAA, not the NFL. Leave him to be someone else's problem.
DeMarco Murray – Cowboys: I know… I know, how do you sit Murray if he is active? The truth is I am in the same dilemma in a few leagues myself. While I fully expect Murray to give it a go this weekend and be active, I also see the Colts doing everything they can to make it as uncomfortable as possible for him in the game. The Cowboys are in a close race in the NFC East, so they will do everything possible to have Murray ready for this weekend. But, no matter the score, I expect to see plenty of Joseph Randle too. And if the game gets out of hand on either side, Murray will sit to preserve his health for the playoffs.
Arian Foster – Texans: With the Texans down to practice squad-quality QBs in Lewis and Keenum, I see no reason why the Ravens wouldn't just stack eight men in the box and dare those QBs to beat them with their arms. I have a bad feeling about Foster this week and would really give some thought into finding other options if you can.
Josh Gordon – Browns: Gordon hit the ground running in Week 12 when he hauled in 8 passes for 120 yards. Since then though he has seen his receptions go from 7 to 2, then to 3 last week. Even if Manziel improved by leaps and bounds this week, he has never been categorized as a passing QB. He is more of an ad-lib kind of QB that makes plays with his legs. Gordon's QB, or lack thereof, is what makes him an undesirable fantasy play to finish out this season.
DeAndre Hopkins – Texans: As I said with Foster above, the Texans are down to practice squad QBs that no NFL team wanted on their active roster this season. And with Andre Johnson due back this week, Hopkins will have to split whatever targets his QB is able to get out there with him. If the Texans win this week I have a feeling it will be more on the defense than on the offense, with J.J. Watt more likely to score than Hopkins!
Julius Thomas – Broncos: With the Broncos already clinching the AFC West, Thomas is being eased back into his role at a snail's pace. Last week he played in just 29-of-66 offensive snaps (or 43.9 percent of them) and finished with 1 reception (on 2 targets) for 30 yards. You simply can't trust Thomas' playing time at this point, and I would rather see Travis Kelce or Bennett in my TE spot this week.
Arizona Cardinals defense: The Cardinals are owned in 84.3 percent of NFL.com leagues, but they face a Seahawks offense that has two dangerous weapons in Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. While the rest of the Seahawks offense is pretty much stitched together with serviceable players, Wilson and Lynch can score plenty of points all on their own. Not to mention the fact that the Cardinals offensive problems are every bit as real as the Texans!