Matt Asiata saw the end zone three times in Week 15 -- is that enough to land him on starting rosters for the fantasy football championships? And can owners expect even more out of Kirk Cousins, who filled in nicely for Robert Griffin III last week? Our fantasy experts Michael Beller, Brian Flood and Alessandro Miglio discuss those topics and more in this week's fantasy roundtable.
BELLER: Time to start prepping for fantasy championships, if Jamaal Charles didn't run you out
1. After scoring three touchdowns in his first career start, can Matt Asiata be relied upon in Week 16 if Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart remain out?
Beller: Anyone who played Asiata last week should simply be thankful that he contributed a 20-plus point effort in the thick of the fantasy playoffs. Even if he does get another start in Week 16, I would not consider playing him. The Vikings travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals, who have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this year. Only five backs have managed to put up double-digit points on them, and they've surrendered just five rushing touchdowns on the year. Asiata benefited from a quirky game situation in Minnesota last week. I wouldn't bet on the same set of circumstances in Cincy.
Miglio: Not one bit. For starters, Asiata averaged 1.7 yards per carry. He managed to get into the end zone three times because the Vikings happened to get stopped just short of the goal line on three occasions.
Of course, that analysis is moot if Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart return this week. Nothing has been made official yet, but both are expected to come back against the Bengals. Asiata was a one-week wonder.
Flood: Asiata had, arguably, the worst three-touchdown performance in NFL history last week. The 26-year-old ran for 51 yards on 30 carries for a meager 1.7 yards per carry. All three of Asiata's touchdowns came from within the five-yard line. He's a fantasy legend for owners who started him in Week 15, most likely as a last-minute decision when Gerhart was deemed inactive.
Asiata is a worthy fantasy starter if Peterson and Gerhart both miss Week 16 against the Bengals. Asiata is only relevant because he's a red-zone option and received a tremendous workload, but owners should not expect him to have a repeat performance. He didn't show much burst, and the Cincinnati run defense will be much more difficult than the Eagles' defense. Remember when Bobby Rainey scored 30-plus fantasy points in Week 11? He followed up that performance with just three points in Week 12. Fantasy owners will be lucky to get one touchdown out of Asiata in Week 16, and he shouldn't be counted on if AP or Gerhart suit up.
McQUADE: Risers, Sliders: Asiata saved the day for his fantasy owners
2. Kirk Cousins threw for 381 yards, three touchdowns and two picks in his first start in place of Robert Griffin III. What can fantasy owners expect out of him this week?
Beller: More of the same. Have you watched the Cowboys play defense recently? Did you at least see last week's debacle against the Packers? Matt Flynn completed two-thirds of his passes for 299 yards and four scores while rallying Green Bay to an improbable victory that kept its season alive. The Cowboys have allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks this year, and have been an equal-opportunity defense since Week 1. It isn't just the Peyton Mannings and Matthew Staffords of the world who have burned Dallas. Eli Manning threw for 450 yards and four scores against them. Josh McCown had 348 yards, four passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown two weeks ago. Everyone owns this passing defense. Cousins won't be any different. He's a QB1 in my estimation.
Miglio: This is the year of the backup quarterback, apparently. How else can you explain the likes of Matt McGloin, Case Keenum and Kirk Cousins going off in their first starts?
The former two have fallen off quite a bit since their big debuts, but that's not to say Cousins will follow suit. After all, the second-year quarterback was pretty good when Robert Griffin III was forced out last season. Washington will be playing spoiler at home against hated Dallas, and Cousins could be in for another huge game against a reeling defense.
Flood: I absolutely love Cousins against the Cowboys this week. These same Cowboys made Matt Flynn look like vintage Aaron Rodgers in Week 15. The Cowboys are completely demoralized and Cousins has to know a big performance could lead to a starting gig with another club in 2014. With a nice matchup and Mike Shanahan's offensive scheme, fantasy owners can expect Cousins to throw a few touchdowns and approach 300 yards passing.
3. Let's look for some championship game stars on the fringes. Pick one player who is not a weekly lock to start and make an argument for him in Week 16.
Beller: It was a rocky beginning for Jay Cutler in his first game in a month, as he threw interceptions on two of the Bears' first four possessions last week. He ended up shaking off that inauspicious start to throw for 265 yards and three touchdowns in the Bears' 38-31 win over the Browns. Chicago travels to Philadelphia to play the Eagles on Sunday Night Football this week. As you'll recall, the Eagles just made Matt Cassel look like a superstar, allowing him to throw for 382 yards, 10.9 yards per attempt and two touchdowns. The Eagles have also surrendered the most fantasy points to receivers this year, meaning Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery should help Cutler to a big day.
Miglio: Venture a guess at the No. 5 fantasy quarterback over the last few weeks (no peeking!)
His name is Ryan Tannehill, and he goes up against the mediocre Bills this week. The game is on the road in the cold, but he did just fine in New York and Pittsburgh just a few weeks ago.
Flood: I would have picked Kirk Cousins but question No. 2 stole my thunder. What about a receiver who has been targeted 23 times over his last two games? Would you start a receiver with 216 yards on 16 catches since Week 14? For some reason, fantasy owners don't realize that Greg Jennings is a stud when Matt Cassel is the Vikings QB. Jennings racked up 163 yards on 11 catches with a touchdown on Sunday.
All four of his touchdowns this season have been thrown by Cassel, and I expect another monster week against the Bengals in Week 16. In one of my leagues, an owner kept Jennings on the bench this week. That owner will be playing in the consolation game in Week 16. His team would be in the championship if he had started Jennings. Don't be that guy.
4. On the other side, name a guy that fantasy owners might be considering this week whom they should avoid.
Beller: On paper, Ben Tate has a great matchup in Week 16. The Broncos have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs this season, and the Texans have a strong enough pass defense to keep the game close and Peyton Manning relatively in check. Houston, however, has been a different unit since its Week 8 bye. In their last six games, the Texans have allowed 1,345 yards and 11 touchdowns against three interceptions to Carson Palmer, Matt McGloin, Chad Henne (twice), Tom Brady and Andrew Luck. I'm betting this game gets out of hand early and Case Keenum ends up throwing the ball more than 50 times. Through no fault of his own, Tate will be an afterthought.
Miglio: Aside from the aforementioned Asiata? How about DeAngelo Williams? The Panthers running back had an unexpectedly huge game against the Jets last week, which might make him a tantalizing prospect. He has just three touchdowns on the season, and had just 61 total yards in his last outing against the Saints, who have been pretty good against the run.
Flood: Fantasy owners need to stop wasting their time with C.J. Spiller. The Bills running back is remarkably inconsistent and he duped fantasy owners with a big game in Week 13. Sadly, Spiller's big game in Week 13 prompted owners to start him in the fantasy playoffs. He's rushed for 89 yards over two games and it is doubtful that fantasy owners relying on Spiller are still alive and playing for a title. Spiller is simply too inconsistent to trust when you're playing for the championship.
5. Drew Brees has been a different quarterback outside New Orleans this season. What's in store for him when the Saints visit Carolina this week?
Beller: Brees eviscerated the Panthers two weeks ago, completing more than 70 percent of his passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns in a dominant Saints win. That game, of course, was in New Orleans, where Brees has a completion percentage of 73.2 percent, 2,454 yards, 23 touchdowns and three interceptions. When the Saints go on the road, Brees' completion percentage falls by 10 points, and he has 2,046 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven picks. In other words, he has been an elite quarterback at home and average on the road this year.
This is still Drew Brees, so you're starting him with confidence this week. A lot will depend on how his line holds up. The St. Louis pass rush sacked Brees four times last week and disrupted him all game. If he gets enough time in the pocket, he can take advantage of a subpar Carolina secondary. If he doesn't, it could be a nightmare repeat of Week 15. That outcome could very well determine whether Brees' owners hoist a fantasy trophy when this week's action has concluded.
Miglio: Brees hasn't been great on the road, but his troubles away from home are a bit overblown. He hasn't scored as well, but Seattle was his only truly awful fantasy outing on the road. Even in his relatively poor showing against the Rams last week, the stud quarterback was one of the top fantasy scorers.
I wouldn't expect a four-touchdown performance like Brees had at home against the Panthers, but there is no way you can bench him this week. Don't get cute in championship week -- chances are he will hit at least 275 yards and two touchdowns.
Flood: Regardless of your opinion, if you own Brees, do yourself a favor and continue to start him. Benching your best player in the fantasy championship is just silly. Brees owners should win or lose with their MVP. Think about how depressing it would be to watch Brees explode on your bench while you lose the fantasy title. At least you can blame the fantasy gods if you start Brees and he disappoints. Benching him in Week 16 would become a point of ridicule in your league, for years, if Brees plays well.
I expect a relatively rough week for Brees, but he's still a Top 10 fantasy QB and therefore easily "startable" in standard leagues. Last week he managed to rack up 393 yards at St. Louis. Yes, on the road. Brees has set such high expectations that 300-plus yards and a touchdown is now considered a disappointment. The Saint hosted the Panthers in Week 14 and Brees tossed four touchdown passes. Brees is obviously a better player at home, but has only really hurt fantasy owners once this year, and that was at Seattle. Go ahead and roll with Brees despite the Panthers intimidating defense. At this point, you have more to lose than gain. I'll guess he throws for 250-plus yards with a few touchdowns