Our weekly look at the Redskins' matchup from a fantasy football perspective.
Normally we start these previews looking at the receivers and runners, but obviously this is no ordinary week. Kirk Cousins will be under center versus the Falcons. The reasons, real or imagined, have been discussed plenty elsewhere so we'll just focus on the games. The matchup versus Atlanta, juicy. The Falcons defense ranks 29th versus fantasy quarterbacks this season, allowing at least two touchdown passes in 10 of 13 games. Cousins has limited in-game experience, but made his NFL debut against the Falcons in Week 5 last season, completing 5 of 9 passes for 111 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Anything to boost the comfort level is a good thing.
Now, let's note that Atlanta has surrendered only two TDP over the last two games while facing E.J. Manuel and Matt Flynn. Let's also note the Falcons rank 29th in sacks this season.
For Week 15, I slotted Cousins 23rd in my Week 15 QB rankings. That's just behind Jason Campbell and Eli Manning, but ahead of the Matt's, Flynn, McGloin and Cassel. For me, using Cousins really comes down to trust. Am I cool with waking up loss on Monday because I started a QB who essentially hadn't played all season and is part of a team dealing with crazy drama.
In Week 15 or more to the point, in the fantasy playoffs, that's hardly ideal.
Rule No. 1 of the fantasy playoffs is play your studs. For the most part, Pierre Garcon has been that, especially in PPR, though his weekly rank takes a little hit this week.
For starters, there is the QB switch. Actually, considering Robert Griffin III's recent struggles and the reality that Cousins is the better pocket passer, perhaps the change will be helpful. Garcon hasn't scored or reached 70 yards in four straight games. Still, the fear is more of the unknown and playing on the road.
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Fantasy quarterbacks dominate the Falcons defense. Wide receivers are middle of the road. After allowing at least one TD reception to a WR in nine of its opening 10 games, Atlanta has surrendered none over the last three contests. Put it altogether and Garcon is more of a true WR2 than his usual borderline WR1. Still, he's chirped enough over recent weeks to make me wonder whether Garcon is excited to show what he can do with more pro-style sets.
As for Jordan Reed (concussion), there apparently will not be an active Jordan Reed this week. Bummer for the Redskins, but at least fantasy owners have advanced warning this time. Logan Paulsen steps in, though that matters for the NFL side of things. For those truly in a pinch, Paulsen does have a shot against an Atlanta defense that ranks 21st versus fantasy TEs. In Week 14, Green Bay's tight ends went 10-101-1 versus the Falcons, the second time in three weeks Atlanta has allowed over 100 yards and at least one score to the position.
As for the other receivers, they remain unadvisable per usual, though this could be a week for Aldrick Robinson to make noise as he and Cousins worked together lots in practice.
Over the last three games, Alfred Morris has 109 rushing yards and one touchdown while averaging 2.9 yards per carry. Ouch indeed. Still, don't run from Alf this week. Morris faces an Atlanta run defense which ranks 26th versus fantasy backs and has allowed over 100 rushing yards in six of its last seven games. The expected return of FB Darell Young to the lineup will help as well. Only the circus distraction keeps Morris from being an RB1 lock, but otherwise he's a must start.
The defense and kicker
The Redskins defense hasn't scored more than five fantasy points in standard formats in six straight games. A playmaking bunch earlier in the season has zero touchdowns and one fumble recovery since Week 8. Look elsewhere this week for a fantasy defense. ...Kicking in a dome is always a bonus, especially after a week in the snow. However, Kai Forbath has only attempted four field goals over the last three games. Considering the Redskins are out of the playoff hunt and the QB change, something tells me the Shanahan's could go extra aggressive offensively, meaning less kicks of any kind. Owners can do better than Forbath this week.
[RELATED: Fantasy Fix Week 10: Dueling rush QBs]
On the other side...
Let me just say that this season I've hammered Matt Ryan and Roddy White as much as any passing game duo this side of Giants Stadium. That changes in Week 15. Ryan ranks QB6 on my board and White moves into the top 20 among WRs, though monitor his physical status on Sunday.
For more thoughts on Ryan, we turn to Rotoworld's Evan Silva: " Playing passably enough to warrant serious QB1 consideration in such a picturesque matchup, Matt Ryan has completed 81 of his last 127 throws (63.4%) for 905 yards (7.13 YPA) and a 5:2 TD-to-INT ratio. At home in the Georgia Dome where weather isn't a concern, I'd start Ryan over Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck, and Ben Roethlisberger this week. The Redskins rank 27th against the pass and have allowed the third most touchdown passes (25) in football."
In addition to CSNwashington duties covering the Wizards, Hoyas and the college basketball scene, Ben writes about and ranks fantasy football players for FFToolbox.com, rated the most accurate site for the 2012 season.