The Minnesota Vikings have won four of their past six games, the same as their Week 15 opponent, the Detroit Lions, during the same span. The Vikings will look to bounce back from a 17-3 loss to Detroit at TGF Stadium in mid-October while also helping Fantasy owners to advance to their championship round in many leagues.
If the Vikings are to take it on the road and get a win against the Lions, they need QB Teddy Bridgewater to continue his maturation. Over the past four games Bridgewater has posted 61.9 Fantasy points on NFL.com, which is slightly better than his counterpart, Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford (61.52 points), in the same stretch. In fact, many Fantasy owners have been missing the boat on Bridgewater, who has outscored the likes of Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco (61.58 points), Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning (58.82 points) and New York Giants QB Eli Manning (51.00 points), guys who are started much more frequently.
Bridgewater has three consecutive multi-touchdown games, and he is coming off his first-career 300-yard passing day in an overtime win against the New York Jets last weekend. Even the most fervent Vikings fan would never have envisioned Bridgewater having a longer games streak with at least one touchdown pass than Peyton Manning or Stafford. Bridgewater has at least one touchdown in seven consecutive games.
There have been several reasons for Bridgewater's ascension. The top one is the emergence of WR Charles Johnson, who is turning heads with his 42.30 NFL.com Fantasy points over the past four games, posting 283 yards and two touchdowns during the span. That makes him the 16th highest scoring receiver in the NFL over the past month, which more than justifies his standing as a WR3 or 'flex' option heading into the Fantasy playoffs. Greg Jennings has managed 139 yards and a pair of scores during the same four-game span, too, while Jarius Wright has chipped in with 163 yards and a visit to the end zone.
With those three receivers up to speed, and TE Kyle Rudolph continuing to get healthier and more comfortable in the offense, it is an exciting time for the purple and gold.
Another underrated Fantasy option who is in line for a big week is PK Blair Walsh. Last season in Detroit he had a 52-yard field goal along with three extra points, and in 2013 he booted a pair of field goals (49, 27) at Ford Field with two extra points. Getting back under the roof in controlled conditions will be a change from the wintry mix and blustery conditions of Minneapolis last weekend, and that only helps Walsh's Fantasy outlook for Week 15. He is tied for 12th-most NFL.com Fantasy points over the past four weeks, and he is tied for 14th most Fantasy points among kickers for the 2014 season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings have several options who continue to delight Fantasy owners in formats which use individual defensive players. S Harrison Smith has rolled up 60 tackles while recording eight passes defensed, three interceptions and a fumble recovery while also visiting the end zone once. Meanwhile, Everson Griffen is the NFC leader in sacks with 12, and he has chipped in with 37 tackles, a forced fumble and two passes defensed. And we cannot forget LB Gerald Hodges, who stepped up with six tackles, two passes defensed and 27-yard interception return for touchdown last week against the Jets to open up the scoring.
For those in standard Fantasy formats the Vikings have emerged as a must-start from week to week, ranking seventh in NFL.com Fantasy scoring over the past four games, better than the Arizona Cardinals (39.0 points), San Francisco 49ers (33.0 points), Baltimore Ravens (27.0 points), Denver Broncos (26.0 points) and New England Patriots (25.0 points), just to name a few more heralded DSTs which have not come close to the production of the Vikings. In fact, Minnesota leads the league over the past month with three defensive touchdowns (DTDs).
Right now, it's the Matt Asiata show in the run game. He picked up a respectable 54 yards on 19 carries last week, while Ben Tate continues to get his feet wet and learn the playbook. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry on three totes, while Joe Banyard racked up two touches. Asiata is the best bet for Fantasy success down the stretch, especially since he has a nose for the end zone, as he is tied for fourth in the NFL with six rushing scores.
In other games, the Carolina Panthers turn to QB Derek Anderson under center. While those in weekly formats are unlikely to trust Anderson in Fantasy, those players who take part in Daily Fantasy could find Anderson very useful at a low salary, especially facing the NFL's 24th-ranked passing defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel has also been tabbed for his first career start, and he is a worthy weekly Fantasy option. The Browns face the Cincinnati Bengals, who rank 21st against the pass, giving up 247.5 yards per game, and the dual-threat QB could find plenty of running room (he already has one rush TD this season) against a Bengals run defense which has allowed an NFL-high 15 rushing scores and 130.3 yards per game.
Last weekend the Kansas City Chiefs saw Arizona Cardinals practice squad call-up Kerwynn Williams go for 100 yards, so Fantasy owners of Oakland Raiders RB Latavius Murray have to be excited about his big-play potential in Week 15. Expect 60-70 rushing yards and a visit to the end zone for Murray, who dented the Chiefs for 112 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the first meetings Nov. 20. In that game, Murray ripped off a 90-yard touchdown to open the eyes of Fantasy owners everywhere. New York Jets RB Chris Johnson is also an interesting player to watch this weekend. He returns to Nashville to face his former team, the Tennessee Titans. The Titans happen to rank 32nd in the NFL in rushing defense. Johnson has 158 rushing yards over the past two games, and 70-80 yards with a TD can be expected.
In the receiving game, owners of Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown have to be excited about his Week 15 playoff Fantasy matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, who are 32nd in the NFL against the pass while giving up 47 pass plays of 20 or more yards. He'll hit the century mark , and multiple touchdowns appear likely. The Chicago Bears secondary has been decimated, and that could open the door for New Orleans Saints WR Kenny Stills to make several big plays downfield. He is a big-time Fantasy sleeper. The same holds true for Indianapolis Colts WR Donte Moncrief, who has emerged as a viable WR4 or 'flex' play. The Colts face the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Texans have been dinged for 264 yards per game and 23 passing touchdowns through 13 games. Expect Luck to hook up not only once with Moncrief for a score, but we'll get another T.Y. Hilton touchdown celebration as well.
Daniel E. Dobish ofRotoExperts.com* is a 15-year veteran of the Fantasy industry and has won four Fantasy Sports Writer's Association awards. For more in-depth Fantasy Football analysis from the RotoExperts team, click here. Dan and the RotoExperts team will also answer your Fantasy Football questions right here*.