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FANTASY FOOTBALL: Week 15 starters and benchwarmers

PhiladelphiEagles' Riley Cooper left cannot catch pass end zone as Detroit Lions' Rashean Mathis defends during first half an NFL

Philadelphia Eagles' Riley Cooper, left, cannot catch a pass in the end zone as Detroit Lions' Rashean Mathis defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

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Updated: December 21, 2013 6:22PM



Wondering whether or not to start Drew Brees and LeSean McCoy, or to bench Kellen Clemens and Kenny Britt? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 15 of the 2013 season.

WATCH ’EM ROLL

Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots at Dolphins. Rob Gronkowski’s absence is bad news for Tom Brady’s owners, but Vereen’s stock gets another boost. Especially in PPR leagues, his versatility will be integral to the Patriots’ game plan moving forward. With the vulnerable Dolphins defense up next, Vereen should pile up the yards both rushing and receiving.

Ben Tate, RB, Texans at Colts. He’s coming off a surprisingly mediocre outing against the surging Jaguars, but the Texans’ workhorse has an excellent chance to rebound against the dismal Colts run defense. Tate may not visit the end zone thrice as he did against the Pats two weeks ago, but at least one TD seems assured. More good news: Backup Dennis Johnson has received just three carries apiece over the last two games.

Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles at Vikings. Cooper is fantasy relevant for the first time in his four-year career, thanks to the emergence of Nick Foles. Under the dome, the Eagles’ up-tempo offense should shred the Vikings’ generous pass defense. In 13 games, Minnesota has coughed up 29 passing TDs. Start your Eagles!

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers at Buccaneers. This is the game you’ve been waiting for. With Anquan Boldin likely stranded on Revis Island, Crabtree should draw soft coverage from the rest of the Bucs’ secondary that has surrendered 24 TDs through the air this season. Crabtree’s first end zone celebration of 2013 awaits.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings vs. Eagles. With a TD rushing and receiving over the last two games, the rookie playmaker has worked his way into the fantasy discussion. In spite of the mediocre quarterbacking in Minnesota, Patterson is a legitimate threat every time he gets the ball in his hands – including as a return man. When he’s facing a defense that has given up the most fantasy points to opposing wideouts, Patterson is almost a lock.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, Josh McCown, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Tony Romo; RBs Gio Bernard, DeMarco Murray, Andre Ellington, Steven Jackson, CJ Spiller, Reggie Bush, Alfred Morris, Darren Sproles; WRs Julian Edelman, Stevie Johnson, Alshon Jeffery, Jordy Nelson, Marques Colston, Torrey Smith, Dwayne Bowe, Andre Johnson, Antonio Brown, Roddy White, Golden Tate.

ROLL ’EM BACK

Eli Manning, QB, Giants vs. Seahawks. It’s not just Eli you need to worry about in this highly unfavorable matchup. Seattle’s Legion of Boom secondary will be clamping down on his talented receiving corps as well, in an outdoor game that has the potential to get messy. Bench Manning for sure, and watch the weather reports before trusting Victor Cruz or his fellow wideouts.

Ray Rice, RB, Ravens at Lions. Most teams that invested a first-round pick in Rice have probably stopped paying attention; but in case you’re considering him, don’t. Forget what Shady McCoy did to the Lions’ run defense during the Snowmageddon game. Detroit is back home playing comfortably indoors, where it has stifled some of the best backs in the league. Sadly, Rice isn’t one of the best backs in the league anymore.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans vs. Cardinals. He has scored in consecutive weeks, but still has just one 100-yard rushing game all season. More worrisome is that Shonn Greene is poaching a large share of the workload, including two of last week’s three rushing scores. Factor in the stout Arizona run defense, and CJ1K is best left on your bench.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins at Falcons. With all the turmoil in the Redskins organization, including a controversial change at the QB position, it’s hard to trust anyone in this passing attack. Garcon hasn’t reached the end zone since Week 10, and now he’ll face an Atlanta secondary that has allowed just one receiving TD in that same time span.

Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals at Titans. Until his 2-for-26-yard performance against the Rams last week, I considered the surging Floyd an every-week starter. Now facing an even tougher test against Tennessee’s top-notch secondary (we’ll overlook last week’s implosion at the hands of Peyton Manning), Floyd is suddenly a very risky starter. You likely have safer options.

More thumbs down: QBs Carson Palmer, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Fitzpatrick; RBs Andre Brown, Stevan Ridley, Chris Ivory, Rashad Jennings, Pierre Thomas, Maurice Jones-Drew; WRs Tavon Austin, Santonio Holmes, Hakeem Nicks, Kendall Wright, Anquan Boldin, DeAndre Hopkins.

TAKING A FLIER

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts vs. Texans. Hilton has been one of the most disappointing receivers in Fantasyland over the last four weeks, so it’s hard to trust him again. But on a more optimistic note, Andrew Luck has awoken from his slumber, and the duo will be facing the same Texans secondary that surrendered 121 yards and 3 TDs to Hilton in Week 9. The veteran is certainly a safer bet than the two shooting stars that Luck made famous last week.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO… fails to learn from last weekend’s weather issues. In addition to the obvious challenges that wind and snow present to the passing games, severe weather can take kickers completely out of the picture. And, as we saw with Reggie Bush, poor field conditions can even cause last-minute tweaks that could land an active player on the sidelines. In short, pay attention!



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