As an Eagles fan, this week's Thursday Night Football outing between the Bengals and the birds does mean a little bit more to me. And I relish the chance to talk about them as much as I can, while staying relevant with fantasy football. Last week's win against the Buccaneers may have been exciting to many fans, but it was more of a "Hey we won" situation for myself. Outside of Nick Foles looking like an NFL starter, the win didn't excite me that much. With the team not making the playoffs, these wins are pretty meaningless. At the very least, it causes the team to slide down the draft order, which seems to be the case every playoff-less year. Too Little, Too Late Mr. Reid.
On the flipside, Bengals fans have plenty to be excited about, despite the close loss to the Cowboys last week. Andy Dalton has proven last year's rookie season wasn't a fluke. And A.J. Green? Well, the guy is simply a beast. There is no disputing he is the second best receiver behind Calvin Johnson, but I guess someone will make the argument. And BenJarvus Green-Ellis has made fans forget Cedric Benson. With a 7-6 record, there is still a very outside chance this team makes the playoffs like they did last year. But even if they don't, the Bengals are shaping up to be a contender fairly soon.
With that said, lets take a look at several players who I think are MUST STARTS, OKAY STARTS and GUYS I'D AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
Andy Dalton - In the forum, there has been a big discussion regarding our friend and customer Jad's quarterback situation. Play Aaron Rodgers against the Bears? Or play Dalton against the Eagles? One would automatically think Rodgers, but Dalton facing an inept Philly secondary puts him up there as a QB1. Phil has Dalton locked in as a top-5 option in his Week 15 QB Fantasy Football Rankings. If you look at Dalton's stats from last week, they weren't great. But one penalty on a Marvin Jones touchdown muffed Dalton's outing. Unless you have a Brady, or are teetering like Jad is, I believe Dalton will come through for you.
A.J. Green - I won't go into a long discussion on Green, who is a must start every week regardless of the matchup. Put his 3-catch game against the Cowboys out of your mind. He will be a big factor in tonight's game.
Bryce Brown - I wrote a long piece on Brown in my Week 15 RB Fantasy Football Rankings. I know his 6 yards was a hard pill to swallow last week, but it was against the Bucs' top rushing defense. Not to mention Andy Reid has a knack for giving up on the run early, even if someone like LeSean McCoy is averaging more than 4 yards a carry early in the game. The Eagles adjusted, which gave Nick Foles an advantage against the leagues' worst passing defense. The Bengals don't rank at the bottom of the barrel against fantasy running backs, but they also aren't in the top 5 either. Brown should easily bounce back in this one, especially if Foles can keep the Bengals Defense from stacking the box.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis - The Law Firm isn't anything special. He doesn't have the talents like an Adrian Peterson or am Arian Foster, but he does get the job done when needed. And it helps that he isn't in a timeshare like many other running backs have fallen into this year. The Eagles Defense gives up around 16 points a game to fantasy running backs, but I would still start BGE if he was in my league. He always has the chance to punch in a score when the team is near the goal line.
Jeremy Maclin - Maclin is one of the top busts this year after being hyped up in the preseason as a breakout candidate. But problems at quarterback and various injuries throughout the year have slowed him down. Hell, the guy injured his groin celebrating after the game-winning touchdown last week. However, he should be fine and faces journeyman Terrence Newman. If Foles can feed off of his game from last week, Maclin should continue to be a solid WR3.
Jermaine Gresham - Gresham has all the talent in the world to be a top-5 fantasy tight end, but he just isn't used enough in the offense. Having to rely heavily on touchdowns, his value is just so-so. Still, I have him ranked in the top 10 in my Week 15 TE Fantasy Football Rankings for the sheer fact that most of the players below him all have more question marks than he does. So while you likely HAVE to play him, I wouldn't get that excited about it. He was close to going into my players to avoid list.
GUYS I'D AVOID AT ALL COSTS
Nick Foles - Foles had a nice game last week. No doubt about that. But don't go using him thinking he will do it again. Foles should have a decent outing against the Cincy secondary, but I can't see him doing enough to make him worthy of a QB1. I think he will put up moderately successful numbers, but don't play him at the expense of someone like Carson Palmer or Philip Rivers.
Receivers not named A.J. Green or Jeremy Maclin - Jason Avant had a big game last week, racking up 133 receiving yards. But he has a tendency to do this and then come crashing down. He is still third in the corps behind Maclin and Cooper, who I also don't like as a fantasy option. And on the Bengals side, it's hard to rely on Marvin Jones. 5 catches in 7 games does not a fantasy option make.
SLEEPER OF THE GAME
Andrew Hawkins - This is a first that I think a sleeper will come out of a night game. Hawkins was starting to come into his own as a low-end flex until a knee injury knocked him out for a bit. Coming back against the Cowboys, he came up big with 6 catches, 44 yards and a score. But as a part time player who doesn't see the field outside of a hand full of snaps, Hawkins is a fairly desperate WR3, but an option nonetheless if you are that desperate for help at your receiver position.