The status of Adrian Peterson and Aaron Rodgers, and how much playing time they might get even if they get the green light to play, has kept fantasy owners monitoring the updates since Monday. What's the best way to handle the situation, and how do you replace Rob Gronkowski at this late date? Our fantasy experts Michael Beller, Brian Flood and Alessandro Miglio discuss those topics and more in this week's fantasy roundtable.
BELLER: Early advice for Week 15 -- Even in adverse conditions, count on fantasy studs to shine
1. What's your advice regarding Adrian Peterson's and Rashad Jennings' situations? If both can play this week in the wake of their Week 14 injuries, should owners start them?
Beller: Somehow Peterson avoided any tears and a lisfranc injury on what looked like a gruesome play. Still, his status for Sunday's game is up in the air. With the Vikings out of playoff contention, it seems prudent for them to sit Peterson if he is anything less than 100 percent. His fantasy owners likely disagree, though. If he plays, you're starting him with confidence. If he doesn't, Toby Gerhart would be a high-end RB3 with the Vikings playing the Eagles.
As for the Jennings-Reece situation, the latter may have earned himself a few more touches, but with Jennings likely to return after missing one game because of a concussion, chances are Reece won't have a large enough role to be a viable option for fantasy owners. If it were a few weeks ago and there were a handful of teams on bye it would be one thing, but with your fantasy roster at full strength, you shouldn't have to turn to Reece. Jennings would be a low-end RB2 going up against the Chiefs.
Miglio: It was near-miraculous news for the Purple Jesus and his fantasy owners when tests apparently revealed no significant injury to his foot. Then the dream was shattered when an unnamed source said he is still unlikely to play this weekend. What is to believe?
If Peterson does play, Toby Gerhart will be relegated back to his role as occasional contributor. He probably wouldn't play all day, but Peterson wouldn't just go out there for a handful of snaps. It seems like a long shot at this point, but you can't bench Peterson. Gerhart would make for a great flex play should Peterson sit, so grab him if he's available in your league.
Marcel Reece's value is similarly impacted with Rashad Jennings' impending return. The difference is that Reece may have earned himself a bigger share of the backfield pie with that performance against the Jets. Still, expecting something like that out of him again is a dangerous line of thinking.
Flood: If Adrian Peterson plays, you obviously start him in fantasy; it's a no-brainer. I'd start Peterson at 70 percent over 100 percent of most running backs. That said, I would be shocked if the Vikings allow their franchise player to suit up. Although an MRI on his foot didn't reveal any structural damage, Peterson was in a walking boot as of Tuesday. The 3-9-1 Vikings aren't in contention, and it would be awfully risky to rush Peterson back for a meaningless game. If he doesn't play, Gerhart has proven, albeit in a small sample size, that he's a serviceable running back when called upon. He should be owned in all leagues, but starting him is strictly based on team needs. I think 80 yards and a touchdown is a realistic expectation for his Week 15 production. There's also the school of thought that if you have the waiver priority, you should grab him to keep a fellow owner from using him.
As for Jennings, he has been medically cleared to play and you should use him as you normally would. Backup Marcel Reece was great in his absence last week, but that train has come and gone. Oakland takes on the stout Chiefs defense, making Jennings a mediocre RB2 for Week 15. Make sure you monitor the news on Sunday morning in case Jennings suffers a setback.
SI STAFF: How does Adrian Peterson's absence shake up this week's expert player rankings?
2. It's the second round of playoffs in most leagues, and you've been streaming defenses every week. Which defense has the best matchup this week?
Beller: Unfortunately, there aren't a ton of attractive streaming options out there. Offenses you typically try to prey on, such as the Jets, Raiders and Giants, all play teams that are almost certainly owned in your league. The Jaguars have won four of their last five games, and are somehow playing too well on offense to think about using the Bills this week. That leaves the streamers among us looking at the Saints, who travel to St. Louis to take on the Rams. Kellen Clemens has struggled mightily against the Panthers, 49ers and Cardinals, all teams that can get pressure on the quarterback with consistency. Few teams have done that better than the Saints, who are tied for second in the league with 43 sacks. The likelihood that Drew Brees stakes them to a big lead only increases the chances of the Saints' D making Clemens' life miserable on Sunday.
Miglio: Depending on who is available, Atlanta might be your best bet. Washington is simply reeling at this point, with Mike Shanahan seemingly playing games with management in an attempt to get a contract buyout. Speculation aside, that team has gone into the tank, and we might see Kirk Cousins make a start on the road.
My other choice would be the Buccaneers, who have scored a decent amount this season. The 49ers are coming to town, but they haven't exactly been an offensive powerhouse for much of the season.
Flood: I started Oakland in most of my leagues because they were facing the Jets last week and it didn't work out so well. The obvious candidates this week include Carolina, Seattle and San Francisco, but my sleeper is Atlanta, which hosts Washington. The Redskins are an absolute mess right now. We don't know who their QB will be. We aren't even 100 percent sure who their coach will be. The Falcons could have a nice performance by default if the Redskins can't move the ball. Two others to consider would be Indianapolis vs. the Texans and the Eagles vs. Minnesota, especially if Peterson is out.
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3. As great as fantasy football is, it is clear that the standard playoff format could use some work. Give us one idea to make the playoffs better.
Beller: I'm going to tackle a subject along these lines later this week, so I don't want to overplay my hand too much. Here is one fix, though. We all know that playoff teams are frequently over- or under-seeded because of their regular season records. That frequently results in someone who has earned a top seed playing an unjustly challenging opponent in the first round. I propose that instead of determining playoff matchups based on seed, the top teams should be allowed to choose their opponents. For example, in a league where six teams make the playoffs and the top two seeds get first-round byes, the 3-seed would pick which of the three remaining teams he or she wanted to play. That process would repeat itself in the next round, with the 1-seed picking his or her opponent of the two teams that advanced the previous week. Not only is this more equitable, but also it would create some great trashtalking opportunities.
Miglio: The fantasy playoffs should always include the league's top scoring teams, but most leagues invariably have a hard luck squad. There are options on some sites that allow commissioners to customize who can get into the playoffs, but mainstream sites should make it so that the top-scoring teams that aren't already in the playoffs get in as wild cards. Too many fantasy owners have been snake-bitten all year long, left out in the cold because of a losing record due to bad luck.
Flood: I'm a firm believer that only four teams should make the playoffs in 12-team leagues. The sixth-best team does not deserve a chance to win the championship. Reducing the number of playoff team also serves two other purposes: It puts more emphasis on the regular season and it opens up the schedule for multi-week playoff matchups.
Playoff matchups should last two weeks, with owners being allowed to reset their lineup before the second week of action. The total score from the two weeks is what determines the winner. This ensures the better-constructed team wins and reduces injuries or fluky performances determining the winner. Ideally, the first round of the playoffs would occur Weeks 13-14, and the finals would take place Weeks 15-16. Hopefully by now most leagues don't still use Week 17 for fantasy purposes.
4. Help out the Rob Gronkowski owners who survived the first round of the playoffs. Who should they be targeting on the waiver wire?
Beller: Dennis Pitta made his season debut last week, catching six passes for 48 yards and a score. Joe Flacco loves him in the red zone, and the Ravens' efficiency inside the 20 has suffered without the big tight end. Of course, you may not be the only person putting in a claim for Pitta. If you miss out on him, consider Delanie Walker. He's a good bet to return from a concussion in Week 15, and the Titans play the Cardinals and Jaguars the next two weeks. They're 1-2 in terms of most fantasy points allowed to tight ends this season.
Miglio: If, for some reason, Dennis Pitta is still available in your league, sprint to get him. Use up the rest of your FAAB. Pray to the fantasy gods that those ahead of you on the wire don't snap him up. Pitta quickly got back up to speed with the Ravens as Joe Flacco threw his way 11 times.
Failing that, your next-best bet might be Logan Paulson or Ladarius Green, when everybody drops him after that goose egg.
Flood: If you dropped whoever was filling in for Gronkowski before he returned this year, I also advise that you check out Dennis Pitta. The Ravens tight end missed the first 13 weeks of the season with a hip injury but returned with those six grabs for 48 yards and a touchdown last Sunday. Plus, the Ravens travel to Detroit on Monday night and it's always nice to have someone playing on Monday Night Football during the fantasy playoffs.
EDHOLM, MIGLIO: Bold Strategies: Exercise caution if starting Dennis Pitta
5. We know what an Aaron Rodgers return would do for Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy. What are your feelings on Jarrett Boykin and James Jones should Rodgers come back this week?
Beller: The Packers trail the Lions by just a half-game in the NFC North, and I think that means they'll do whatever they can to get Rodgers back on the field this week. If he is cleared to play, he could produce some serious fireworks going up against a Dallas team that has allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks this year. Yes, Nelson and Lacy would immediately revert to their respective WR1 and RB1 statuses, but given the matchup, Boykin and Jones would also be desirable fantasy options. I feel comfortable saying one of them would produce WR2 numbers, and I'd give a slight edge to Jones being that guy. Still, I'd have trouble sitting either should Rodgers make his return this week.
Miglio: The receiver situation in Green Bay is not too different from the one in Denver -- you never know who is going to have a huge game. Having Rodgers back would do one important thing for that group, though -- raise the floor. The chance that any one of these guys gets a goose egg goes down dramatically when Rodgers is in. Therefore, Boykin and Jones would be serviceable flex starters without fear of a huge letdown if Rodgers returns.
Flood: My initial thought is that the Packers are crazy if they rush back their franchise quarterback. If for some reason they do bring Rodgers back this week, it obviously increases the value of Boykin and Jones. Does it increase their value enough to warrant a starting spot in fantasy lineups? That depends on your roster. Fantasy teams playing in Week 15 are typically pretty good and these guys are mediocre starters for good teams. If Rodgers looks healthy on Sunday, go ahead and elevate Boykin and Jones to WR3 status in Week 16.
MORE WEEK 15 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Toby Gerhart burning up waivers after Adrian Peterson's injury
BELLER: Week 15 Early Advice -- Even in adverse conditions, count on fantasy studs