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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast - Week 15
Paul Sandy
December 9, 2008
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QUARTERBACKS

1. Matt Schaub, Texans
Rising ValueIn his first game action since suffering a knee injury five weeks ago, Schaub showed no signs of rust. He burned the Green Bay pass defense for 414 yards and two scores. With Houston’s offense clicking, Schaub is usable against almost any opponent . . . except maybe the Titans, who he’ll face this week. Tennessee ranks third in the NFL against the pass and they’ve only allowed eight passing scores in 2008. Schaub struggled against them earlier this season, throwing three interceptions and zero touchdowns. Still, Schaub is smart addition as the team will play the Raiders in Week 16—a team he should light up.

Availability: Owned in ~61% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Schaub should be owned in all leagues.

2. Seneca Wallace, Seahawks
SleeperWallace stepped in for the injured Matt Hasselbeck (back) and turned in an impressive stat line against the Patriots. He ended the day with 212 passing yards and three touchdowns. Plus Wallace added 47 yards rushing. If he gets the starting nod this week, he should again be a fantasy factor. Seattle will square off against the Rams, who rank 24th in the NFL against the pass. Use him if you’re desperate for a one week sparkplug at the QB position.  

Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider adding Wallace for a spot start this week against the Rams.

RUNNING BACKS

1. Tashard Choice, Cowboys
Injury ReplacementChoice amassed 166 all-purpose yards against the Steelers, who have arguably the best defense in the NFL. It’s unclear at this point whether Marion Barber III will be healthy enough to suit up this week against the Giants. The fact that he didn’t even make the trip to Pittsburgh would seem to indicate there’s a good chance he sits out. New York’s run defense ranks inside the top 10, but they struggled to slow down the multi-dimensional Brian Westbrook in Week 14. Though it’d be a reach to compare Choice to Westbrook, it’s clear he has the ability to contribute both as a receiver and a rusher. Start him if you need a boost at the RB position.

Availability: Owned in ~29% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Choice should be owned in all leagues.

2. Dominic Rhodes, Colts
SleeperRhodes, who is still available in about 30 percent of all leagues is a great spot start option this week against the Lions. Detroit has the worst rush defense in the league. Rhodes is coming off a game in which he scored a touchdown and outplayed starter Joseph Addai. The game versus the Lions has the potential to get out of hand early. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a heavy dose of Rhodes in the second half. If he’s available in your league, don’t be afraid to roll the dice and give him a situational start.

Availability: Owned in ~69% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Rhodes is a useful addition for any fantasy squad and can be used this week against the Lions.

3. Tatum Bell, Broncos
Injury ReplacementDenver’s cursed backfield suffered another blow on Sunday when Peyton Hillis sustained a major hamstring injury that will keep him out for the remainder of the season. The team will now turn to Tatum Bell, who is the team’s healthiest remaining RB. Selvin Young could also be a factor though his status is unclear, making him a riskier play. Bell has averaged a robust 4.2 yards per carry since returning to the Broncos. However, the knock on him throughout his career is that he doesn’t perform well in a featured role. Keep your expectations for Bell at a reasonable level and consider him at best a flex player.

Availability: Owned in ~15% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bell will likely get the start this week and should picked up in all leagues.

4. Maurice Morris, Seahawks
SleeperMorris got the start Sunday against the Patriots and was an utter disappointment. He carried the ball 14 times for just 39 yards and ended up being out-rushed by QB Seneca Wallace. Despite the letdown, consider getting Morris some action this week against the Rams if it looks like he’ll start again. St. Louis ranks 29th in the NFL against the run. They’ve allowed the second most rushing touchdowns this season (22). Morris should be good for a minimum of 75 all-purpose yards.

Availability: Owned in ~29% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Morris might be worth a shot if your RB corps is depleted.

5. Darren Sproles, Chargers
Rising ValueSproles looks like a waterbug every time he touches the ball—darting from one spot to the next with lightning speed. He recorded 64 total yards and two touchdowns last Thursday against the Raiders. With another favorable matchup on tap next, Sproles is worth a look as a spot starter. The Chargers will travel to Kansas City to face a Chiefs defensive unit that ranks second to last in the NFL in run defense. Look for Sproles to get another 10 touches and possibly more if the Chargers put the game away early.

Availability: Owned in ~37% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Sproles might get enough touches this week against the Chiefs to be worth a shot.

6. DeShaun Foster, 49ers
Injury ReplacementSan Francisco starting RB Frank Gore sprained his ankle in Sunday’s upset win over the Jets. His status is up in the air for next week. If Gore’s ankle doesn’t heal in time, backup DeShaun Foster will get the start. The former Carolina starter carried the ball 16 times for only 35 yards against a tough New York Jets run defense. He might not have much more luck this week against the Dolphins, who allow just 96 rushing yards per game. About the only thing Foster has going for him is opportunity. He should touch the ball 20 times if Gore sits. That makes him useful in deeper leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider adding Foster if you own Gore.

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Davone Bess, Dolphins
Rising ValueBess has steadily ascended the Forecast’s receiver rankings for the last few weeks. After another decent contribution, he’s in the pole position. Bess grabbed nine passes for 74 yards against the Bills. He’s QB Chad Pennington’s most reliable possession target, which gives him huge value in fantasy leagues that reward points per reception. Bess should figure prominently in the box score this week against the 49ers. San Francisco allows the sixth most pass completions per game. If you need a receiver who can net seven receptions for about 80 yards, Bess is your man.

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bess is starter material in most leagues and is a must-grab in PPR leagues.

2. Deion Branch, Seahawks
Rising ValueLast week, the Forecast touted Branch as a quality sleeper play. He ended the week as one of the highest scoring fantasy wideouts, posting 88 yards and two touchdowns. After spending much of the first half of the season recovering from a knee injury, Branch is finally full speed and is starting to pay off for fantasy owners. The Seahawks have a favorable matchup this week against the Rams, so if you need help at the receiver position, Branch is certainly worth consideration.

Availability: Owned in ~27% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: It’s not a bad idea to add Branch if you’re thin at the WR position.

3. Devin Hester, Bears
Rising ValueHester has exceeded 80 total yards or scored a touchdown in three straight weeks. With the 26th-ranked pass defense of the Saints coming to town, you could do worse than Hester. New Orleans has allowed at least one touchdown to a wide receiver in seven straight games. Bears QB Kyle Orton threw Hester’s way 10 times last week. Look for Orton to hook up with his homerun threat on at least one deep ball against the vulnerable Saints secondary.

Availability: Owned in ~49% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hester has a good chance to score a long TD this week against the Saints.

TIGHT ENDS

1. John Carlson, Seahawks
SleeperCarlson has turned in three quality fantasy performances in a row. He led all Seattle players in Week 14 with eight receptions—one of them went for a touchdown. Carlson is a strong buy this week in advance of a favorable matchup against the Rams. St. Louis ranks 24th in the NFL against the pass. If your TE position could use a shot of adrenaline for the postseason, give the rookie a look.

Availability: Owned in ~57% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Carlson is worth a look in all leagues.

2. Donald Lee, Packers
Rising ValueLee has been getting plenty of attention in the red zone lately. The Green Bay TE has scored a touchdown in three of the last four weeks. Consider picking him up and playing him this week against a Jaguars team that looks like it’s going through the motions. Jacksonville allowed two TE touchdowns last week to the Bears. The Jaguars are one of five teams that have allowed 21 or more touchdowns, so Lee has a decent chance of crossing the stripe again this week.

Availability: Owned in ~37% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Lee’s prowess in the redzone makes him worthy of a start against the Jags.

KICKER

1. Garrett Hartley, Saints
Rising ValueHartley hasn’t missed a field goal kick since joining the Saints five weeks ago. He’s scored eight or more points in every outing. New Orleans has no shortage of offense, which means Hartley should continue to get plenty of kicking opportunities. The Saints travel to Chicago for a Thursday night tilt against the Bears. The weather would be the only reservation about playing Hartley for this game. Continue to monitor the forecast but right now it looks like it’ll be cold but with little wind and no precipitation.

Availability: Owned in ~18% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Hartley is worth a shot this week against the Bears.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Indianapolis Colts
SleeperThe Forecast advised readers to snatch up the Colts defense last week in advance of their game against the Bengals. If you listened, you were richly rewarded with five sacks, four turnovers, a defensive touchdown and three points allowed. If you missed the boat on the Colts last week, don’t fret. They should fare well again this week against the woeful Lions. If the Colts aren’t available, consider rolling the dice with the Redskins, who will go up against that Cincinnati team that Indianapolis dismantled.

Availability: Owned in ~72% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The Colts defense is riding high; start them this week against the Lions.

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