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Fantasy football Bold Strategies: Bench Brady, careful with Pitta

Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Tom Brady has been playing well, but could regress this week without Rob Gronkowski on the field.

Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
But the football is so delightful.

Or abominable, depending on your point of view. It was certainly interesting -- and sometimes fun -- to watch players frolicking in the snow, but some atrocious performances might have ruined your mood last weekend. Or, your holiday spirit may have been doused by the small matter of injuries to the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Adrian Peterson, among others.

Fantasy owners have much to ponder this week in the event they made it through the treacherous conditions (hopefully that includes you). Here are some strategies that might be of service as the fantasy playoffs truck along.

BELLER: Player Stat Projections -- Which players could lead your team to the fantasy football championships?

Grab Dennis Pitta, but beware

One of the top waiver wire additions this week will be Baltimore's Dennis Pitta, particularly for teams who might have lost Rob Gronkowski. Pitta reconnected with Joe Flacco right away, catching six of 11 targets for 48 yards and a touchdown. It's like he never left.

Be that as it may, this week could prove treacherous if you simply plug him into your lineups with blind anticipation. For all their defensive faults, the Lions have given up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season. That is no small feat considering they have given up just one touchdown all season to the likes of Jermichael Finley, Jason Witten, Jordan Cameron, Jordan Reed and Kyle Rudolph, among others. Scale that up to the last five weeks and you will note they are giving up the fewest to the position over that span.

Consider benching Tom Brady

The second half of the season has been kind to Tom Brady and his fantasy owners.

Brady had just 116 passing yards and one touchdown with one interception last time out against the Dolphins. He didn't have Shane Vereen then, but he did have Rob Gronkowski. The following week, when Brady really got things going, he threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns against the Steelers. Sure, the future Hall of Famer has posted three incredible comeback victories in a row, but that does not guarantee future success.

Of course, benching Brady means you should have a viable alternative -- you don't want to swap E.J. Manuel or Matt Cassel in there for him. We don't expect a repeat of that woeful fantasy performance, but Brady could be in for another downturn with Gronkowski shelved and a pretty good pass defense looming.

GONOS: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em -- Survive last week's injuries? Here are Week 15's best starting options

Pick up the Falcons D/ST and avoid Washington players

Atlanta has been a sieve on defense this season, particularly against opposing running backs. So why risk them in the fantasy semifinals? Because Washington is next up on the docket, of course.

It seems the typical gridlock on Capitol Hill might have spilled into the capital's team. Washington has simply been atrocious lately, unable to get things going on either side of the ball. On top of that, Mike Shanahan has decided to bench Robert Griffin III in favor of Kirk Cousins.

If streaming defenses is the name of the game, Atlanta could be your huckleberry this week. In that same vein, avoid Washington's players accordingly.

That offense has simply been abysmal this season. Many of the fantasy points scored by that offense have come in garbage time this season, and even those have dried up in recent weeks.

Atlanta's defense has been a tonic for opposing offenses this season, but Washington is in full meltdown mode.

FARRAR: Kirk Cousins starting for Washington; RGIII deactivated for remainder of the season

Start Matt Flynn

Starting any Packers quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers takes some guts. Fortune favors the bold, however, and this would certainly qualify as a bold stroke.

Of course, this is contingent on Aaron Rodgers sitting out. The stud quarterback has a chance to play this week, six weeks after breaking his clavicle. But early indications aren't good for the former MVP -- he still has pain at the site of the injury.

The Cowboys just gave up 37-plus fantasy points to Josh McCown, depending on scoring format. Monte Kiffin's defense is ripe for the picking, and Flynn is bringing his bushel basket. We seem to be bringing the terrible metaphors.

Pick up James Starks or Mike Gillislee

Like the Eye of Sauron on the West, the fantasy realm is trained on the Adrian Peterson and -- to a lesser extend -- Maurice Jones-Drew injury situations, ready to pounce on backups Toby Gerhart and Jordan Todman, respectively.

Those two will undoubtedly be top waiver wire priorities this week, but there are other viable options should you find yourself out of luck. The best ones come in the form of Green Bay's James Starks and Miami's Mike Gillislee.

SI STAFF: Weekly Roundtable -- What to do in light of the Adrian Peterson injury situation

While all the talk has been about Peterson, little has been made of Eddie Lacy's ankle injury. He might play in Week 15, but there's a decent chance he will sit. The Packers play the Cowboys, sporting one of the worst run defenses in the league.

Gillislee is more of a long shot to produce this weekend, but he has gotten some work in with Daniel Thomas or Lamar Miller injured in recent weeks. Miller is recovering from a concussion and could start this weekend, but Gillislee could see a decent workload should Miller sit.

MORE WEEK 15 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:

FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Toby Gerhart burning up waivers after Adrian Peterson's injury
McQUADE: Risers, Sliders -- Ryan Tannehill steps up and thrives in the snow
BELLER: Week 15 Early Advice -- Even in adverse conditions, count on fantasy studs

Photo: TBM/Icon SMI

Da'Rick Rogers exploded for a career game vs. Cincinnati, racking up 106 receiving yards and two TDs.

Survivor Draft

Week 14 results:

Team Edholm -- 126.7
Team Miglio -- 76.2

Week 15EdholmMiglio
QBColin KaepernickDrew Brees
RBToby GerhartJordan Todman
RBJames StarksC.J. Spiller
WRRod StreaterBrandon LaFell
WRDa'Rick RogersMichael Crabtree
WRCordarrelle PattersonAce Sanders
TEDelanie WalkerDennis Pitta
FlexRoddy WhiteBrent Celek
KPhil DawsonRyan Succop
DNew OrleansCarolina

Team Edholm

Like risky picks? Then mimic my team. Really, in standard leagues, where it's well into playoff time currently, you'd want a nice mix of risk-taking and safe picks -- sort of like when your financial advisor tells you to "diversify your account." (At least that's what I think he means when he says that.)

So I have given you a smattering of wild-speculation wide receivers to choose from: Cordarrelle Patterson maybe the most interesting; Rod Streater the safest of these guys; and Da'Rick Rogers perhaps the most likely to go from breakout to one-week wonder in seven days' time.

Gerhart would have been a no-brainer first pick this week, but the hamstring issue worries me, as does the Eddie Lacy situation, which makes my Starks pick -- guess what -- another dice roll.

I am leading the season series, though, (Alex: Uh, no you don't, we're tied!) so I feel pretty good about these picks, even if Alex's team is the clear winner on paper heading into Week 15.

Team Miglio

Pride comes before the fall.

The fantasy gods glowered at my braggadocious comments over the past few weeks and sent a thunderbolt to smite my team this week. Even before checking the scores, Matt Prater's 64-yard field goal for Team Edholm was harbinger enough. I have set last week's lineup card on fire.

But what makes for better theater here than this tie heading into Week 15? That's it! I did it on purpose. For the fans.

Looking ahead, now -- it's time to pull out the big guns at quarterback. Drew Brees, you're up. Of course, Aaron Rodgers was the other big name I was saving up, so hopefully he can come back from that collarbone injury before it's too late.

C.J. Spiller crashed back to earth last week after a predictably huge game against the Falcons, but he should hopefully bounce back. The Jaguars might seem like a nice matchup, but they have been rather tough on opposing running backs during this winning streak of theirs. I am running out of bullets here, though, and Spiller was the next one in the chamber.

Like Eric, I am also throwing a bit of a hail Mary with Jordan Todman, who might get more playing time with Maurice Jones-Drew ailing. Let's also hope my skepticism on Pitta this week isn't too accurate.

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