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Fantasy Football: Week 15 Thursday Night Preview

Fantasy Football: Week 15 Thursday Night Preview

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Fantasy Football: Week 15 Thursday Night Preview

San Diego Chargers (6-7) at Denver Broncos (11-2) 8:25 PM 

After many mediocre matchups on Thursday night, loyal league followers finally get a matchup that should be both high scoring and have plenty of fantasy implications. Although the Chargers are sitting one game under .500, they are still mathematically alive for one of the final playoff spots, and are coming off of a blowout victory over the ailing New York Giants. The Broncos will play host to the Chargers after clinching a playoff birth following a very impressive 51-28 victory over the Titans. Although the Broncos are in the driver's seat to clinch the AFC West, the Chiefs only trail by one game, so there will be no room for error from both teams. 

Both the Chargers and Broncos have plenty of fantasy stars in 2013, and none being more prominent than both signal callers. Peyton Manning is statistically having one of the best seasons of his career, and Philip Rivers is not too far behind, so if you own either player there is a good chance you were either in the cusp of making the playoffs in your league or have moved on. So if you are reading this, odds are you are still in the case for the championship, so let's get into the matchups in what will be the first Thursday night game that could that could make or break many fantasy teams, before the rest of the league takes the field. 

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Peyton Manning (DEN)--Right when you think he can't get any better, Manning throws for 800 yards and nine touchdowns over his last two games as he continues to dominate just about every defense he faces this season. In his previous matchup with the Chargers in Week 10, Manning threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns, totaling 27 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues. Although the Chargers have statistically gotten better defending the pass, they still rank 26th in the league in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks. The Broncos will be without Wes Welker in tonight's AFC West showdown, but that should not be too much of a concern for Manning owners, considering there are still plenty of options to target in the passing game. While it is hard to project another four-touchdown game, I could see Manning easily throwing for over 350 yards and three scores in what will likely be a very high scoring affair. 

Philip Rivers (SD)--He is no Peyton Manning, but Rivers has surely been one of the biggest surprises in 2013, and is now ranked sixth in scoring among quarterbacks in standard leagues. Having scored double-digit fantasy points in every game this season, Rivers has proven worthy of being a starter in all formats, and is likely the main reason for making the playoffs for most owners. However, in the first meeting with Manning and the Broncos, Rivers threw for only 218 yards and one touchdown, finishing with his second-lowest point total of the season. Although the numbers don't lie, I don't think Rivers will be contained again this week, considering the Broncos have given up two or more touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks in three of their last four games. If the Broncos jump out to an early lead, that will really increase Rivers' chances of a big fantasy day, but fantasy owners should expect 300 passing yards and two touchdowns at the very least tonight. 


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Running Backs 

Knowshon Moreno (DEN)--Now only 80 yards from surpassing 1,000 on the season, Moreno continues to establish himself as one of the top running backs in the league. Having scored double-digit fantasy points in all but three games this season, Moreno is behind only Jamaal, LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte in fantasy scoring in standard leagues. Over the last few weeks, the Broncos have started to use Montee Ball more in the running game in an effort to keep Moreno fresh for the playoffs, but it hasn't seemed to effect his fantasy production just yet. Although he did not score a touchdown in the first meeting with the Chargers, he still totaled over 100 yards of offense, finishing with 10 fantasy points. While I don't think Ball's increased workload will chance Moreno's fantasy value significantly, his touches are going to be limited, especially with only four days between games. 

Ryan Mathews (SD)--Sitting just outside of the top 15 among fantasy running backs, Mathews continues to prove to all of his haters that he can still be productive in both real football and fantasy football. Having scored double-digit fantasy points in four of his last five games (nine points in the other), he is pretty much a must-start at this point, especially in this matchup. The Broncos have allowed at least one rushing touchdown in all but two games this season, which has resulted in 15 or more fantasy points in nine games. In the first matchup between these two teams Mathews had a respectable game, finishing with 60 yards of total offense and a touchdown. With Danny Woodhead used in the passing game, Mathews' fantasy value will always be limited, but even if only used in the run game, he is still a solid option tonight and the rest of the season. 

Danny Woodhead (SD)--Despite averaging less than 10 carries per game, Woodhead continues to be a fantasy stud, sitting atop the leader board in both receptions and receiving yards among running backs. Now with eight total touchdowns on the season (six receiving touchdowns), Woodhead needs to be considered as a viable fantasy option in both standard and PPR formats. As mentioned in the Ryan Mathews write-up, the Broncos have given up a lot of production to opposing running backs, including the second-most receiving touchdowns to players coming out of the backfield. Although Woodhead was limited to only 44 yards of total offense in their first meeting, I don't see that repeating this time around.

Montee Ball (DEN)--As the season progresses, Ball's role in the Broncos offense continues to grow, giving him moderate value in fantasy leagues. Over the last two games, Ball has recorded double-digit fantasy points, rushing for 117 yards and 77 yards while the Broncos continue to limit Knowshon Moreno's carries to keep him healthy for the playoffs. Taking into consideration the short week, the Broncos may be even more inclined to use Ball in the run game, so there is a good chance he could recorded his third straight quality start, making him a decent RB2 this week.


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Wide Receivers 

Keenan Allen (SD)--The Chargers top receiving option is now only 98 yards away from recording 1,000 receiving yards for the season, which would more than likely seal up his case to become the Offensive Rookie of the Year. In the first meeting with the Broncos, Allen was enduring his first slump of the season, in which he only recorded four catches for 41 yards in the Chargers Week 10 loss, but that didn't last long. Since Week 12, Allen has recorded two 100-yard games and a two-touchdown game, bringing him back up to an elite level. Considering the way Philip Rivers has been playing lately there is a good chance Allen has a very productive game tonight. The Broncos have allowed five touchdowns to opposing wide receivers in their last four games, and since he is the only legitimate wideout remaining, he should get plenty of targets against this vulnerable defense. 

Demaryius Thomas (DEN)--Having now scored double-digit fantasy points in six straight games, Thomas continues to be a staple in starting lineups despite the uncertainty of who Peyton Manning will favor on a week-to-week basis. This week the Broncos will be without Wes Welker, meaning more targets to be distributed between the rest of the team's wideouts. In the first meeting with the Chargers, Thomas tied his season-high with 28 fantasy points in standard leagues, on seven catches for 108 yards and three touchdowns. He has the potential of having another monster game this time around, but the Chargers have tightened up their pass defense of late, allowing only three touchdowns to opposing wide receivers since Thomas' three-touchdown performance. However, at this point in the season there is no reason to second-guess yourself, so expect a nice game from Thomas tonight, which should feature at least one trip to the end zone.

Eric Decker (DEN)--Decker followed up his four-touchdown performance in Week 13 with eight catches for 117 yards and a touchdown last Sunday and should be inline for his third straight game with double-digit fantasy production. With Wes Welker sidelined, both Decker and Demaryius Thomas should receive more targets in the passing game, making Decker a must-start in Week 15, as if he wasn't already before that news. Although Decker's season has been very inconsistent as a whole, his current production is definitely enough to warrant a start tonight, especially going up against the Chargers, who allow the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. 

Injured--Wes Welker (OUT-Concussion)

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Tight Ends

Antonio Gates (SD)--Following the emergence of Ladarius Green  a few weeks back, it was expected that Green would soon be pushed aside for the flashy youngster. That was clearly not the case a week ago, after Gates finished with four catches for 50 yards, while Green failed to record a catch. While I don't think that will happen again this week, I still think Gates is the better option to start this week in a very favorable matchup. The Broncos currently give up the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, having allowed a touchdown to the group in three of their last four games. Although Gates is lacking the big play ability as he continues his decline, there is no reason to think he shouldn't be a low-end TE1 in what should be a high scoring affair. 

Julius Thomas (DEN)--After missing two games with a knee injury, Thomas got right back on track with five catches and a touchdown in the Broncos blowout win over the Titans last week. With Wes Welker unavailable, Thomas should see a bump in targets, now that Peyton Manning is missing his short-yardage receiver. The Chargers gave up 96 yards and a touchdown to Thomas back in Week 10, and have now allowed four touchdowns to opposing tight ends over their last five games. Now that he appears to be fully healed from his knee injury, it is safe to get him back in starting lineups in all league formats at a TE1, especially in a matchup like this. 

Ladarius Green (SD)--After failing to record a reception in Week 14, there are clearly many questions that still need to be answered in regards to Green and his role in the Chargers offense. As mentioned in the Antonio Gates write-up, the Broncos have been beat up by opposing tight ends, so there is some upside here, that is, if you want to roll the dice. Consider Green a high-risk, high-reward option for Week 15, just don't be surprised if he comes up empty. 

Jacob Tamme (DEN)--Although Tamme has yet to make a big splash in fantasy this season, there is reason to think that if he was to do that, it would be this week. Following the departure of Wes Welker in Week 14, Tamme was used in the slot for the Broncos, finishing with four catches for 47 yards, as both Peyton Manning and Tamme relived their connection while with the Colts. Unless you either lost Rob Gronkowski or are in a deep league, Tamme should not be an option with fantasy championship hopes on the line, but it should not come as too much of a surprise if he has a solid game. 

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