Rodgers' status for Sunday night's game at New England remains up in the air. The fact that it's the Sunday night game complicates matters, because you can't just wait around until game-time to see if he plays. You obviously can't pick up Tom Brady on the fly, and the Monday night game features one quarterback you definitely don't want staring for you (Tavaris Jackson) and another (Jay Cutler) who might not be available and who you probably don't want to start even if you can grab him. Which available quarterbacks make the best Rodgers insurance? Let's take a look.
Kerry Collins, Titans -- Collins is coming off a huge performance against the Colts in which he threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns. He did some of that damage on a drive that came at the end of the game and didn't mean much to Indianapolis, but he still played a good game. Now he gets the Texans and their historically bad pass defense. Tom Brady looks like a lock for the MVP, but the stats of Whichever Quarterback Plays the Texans (66.5 completion percentage, 3,639 yards, 29 touchdowns, 8.1 YPA) are nearly identical to Brady's (66.8 completion percentage, 3,398 yards, 29 touchdowns, 8.0 YPA). Collins also has a healthy Kenny Britt at his disposal. If you're a Rodgers owner, you should be all over Collins.
Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks -- We're digging deep with Hasselbeck, and I'll be the first to admit that I've dogged him in this column more than once. I compared his arm to that of Juan Pierre. A few weeks ago, I gave a one-word description of what I thought of his play. The word was "awful." But I believe in Hasselbeck this week. First, Atlanta's pass defense is no better than average, despite its 17 interceptions. The Falcons allow 7.2 YPA, ninth highest in the league. They've surrendered 21 passing touchdowns, also the ninth most. Hasselbeck likely will get Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu back from injury, and it's easy to envision the Seahawks trailing in this game, necessitating them to throw to stay in it.
David Garrard, Jaguars -- There's a much better than average chance that Garrard isn't available, but he could be available in shallower leagues, and he has a solid matchup this week against that same Colts' defense that Collins shredded a week ago. Garrard had 163 passing yards and two scores through the air to go along with 44 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown in their previous meeting this season.
Josh Freeman, Buccaneers -- Freeman, too, is likely owned, but if he isn't, he makes a great add for an owner in need of a quarterback. The Buccaneers host the Lions and their porous pass defense, which has allowed 7.6 YPA and 21 touchdowns on the year. With Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Quincy Black joining cornerback Aqib Talib and safety Cody Grimm on the shelf, these teams could end up lighting up the scoreboard.
One quick note: I prefer Garrard and Freeman to Hasselbeck, but listed the Seahawks quarterback first because of his far-greater likelihood of being available.
Having a good Plan B is as important as ever this time of year. The NFL has one for the Bears-Vikings game this week, and Kerry Collins isn't the only fantasy Plan B either. Matt Cassel's appendectomy has a major affect on Dwayne Bowe's value, Antonio Gates could be inactive again, and Chris Ivory is also in jeopardy of missing this week's game. So who else makes for a great fantasy Plan B?
Tim Hightower and Pierre Thomas could both end up paying huge dividends for owners willing to take a chance, or those forced into starting one of them. Hightower gets a Carolina defense that has decent numbers on yards per carry allowed (4.1) but has surrendered 17 scores on the ground, second most in the NFL. If Ivory is a no-go, Thomas, who got 12 carries and four targets last week, would stand to get at least a plurality of carries for the Saints.
Right there in lockstep with Collins is wide receiver Kenny Britt. I like him for the same reasons I like his quarterback. The Texans allow more air traffic than George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
A sleeper tight end is a little harder to come by, but I like Ben Watson this week. There's a good chance Colt McCoy returns from his ankle injury for the Browns, which would be a boon for Watson.
One guy who is certainly rostered in all leagues but once again failed to meet expectations this year is Felix Jones. However, he's starting to look like the guy who comes on just when fantasy owners need him most, and that could spike in Week 15. Nik Bonaddio of numberFire explains:
"In a recent poll on numberFire, an overwhelming 68 percent of respondents listed the Cowboys as their most disappointing team of the year. I'm not saying they're wrong, but 68 percent? Either I have a userbase that is unbelievably Metroplex-heavy, or people had some seriously out-of-whack expectations of the Cowboys. I never bought them; they stayed the same while everyone else in their conference got better, all while retaining Wade Philips, the living personification of a lame duck. So why did everyone imagine them to be such a heavy contender? Part of it -- at least in this writer's humble opinion -- is the pervasive and continued overrating of Felix Jones and Marion Barber, a two-headed monster of mediocrity, disappointment, and fumbles. Let's go to the numbers: Felix Jones' closest statistical comparables are Tim Biakabutuka and Darick Holmes. Marion Barber's closest ones are Terry Allen and Jonathan Linton. Does that sound elite to you?
"With all of that said, Felix is finally starting to take the reins a little bit, staking his claim to the RB1 spot after a few years in committee purgatory. His YPC average still sucks, but with 20-ish carries and four-ish receptions per game, he's doing a reasonably passable LeSean McCoy impression, despite the notable handicaps of being on a worse team and being considerably less talented. As far as the matchup, the Redskins have to be more than a little demoralized after their Week 14 comedy of errors, stealing defeat from the grips of victory in exciting ways not seen since the glory days of Dave Wannstedt. That demoralization coupled with a rejuvenated Cowboys fanbase, the distractions of the Haynesworth saga, and a defense that is second-worst against the run means you've got a recipe for southern-fried RB2 goodness.
"The Redskins surrender a staggering 4.9 yards per carry. Jones looks like a top-20 back this week, hands down."
Check me out on Twitter, @MBeller, for updated rankings on Friday.
1. Peyton Manning vs. Jaguars2. Philip Rivers vs. 49ers3. Michael Vick @ Giants4. Drew Brees @ Ravens5. Matt Ryan @ Seahawks6. Matt Schaub @ Titans7. Tom Brady vs. Packers8. Kerry Collins vs. Texans9. Eli Manning vs. Eagles10. David Garrard @ Colts11. Joe Flacco vs. Saints12. Kyle Orton @ Raiders13. Matt Hasselbeck vs. Falcons14. Josh Freeman vs. Lions15. Ben Roethlisberger vs. Jets16. Aaron Rodgers @ Patriots -- Check stauts later in the week
1. Maurice Jones-Drew @ Colts2. Michael Turner @ Seahawks3. Darren McFadden vs. Broncos4. Arian Foster @ Titans5. Chris Johnson vs. Texans6. Adrian Peterson vs. Bears7. Peyton Hillis @ Bengals8. Jamaal Charles @ Rams9. Steven Jackson vs. Chiefs10. LeSean McCoy @ Giants11. Rashard Mendenhall vs. Jets12. Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Eagles13. Knowshon Moreno @ Raiders14. LeGarrette Blount vs. Lions15. Ray Rice vs. Saints16. Jonathan Stewart vs. Cardinals17. Felix Jones vs. Redskins18. Matt Forte @ Vikings19. Fred Jackson @ Dolphins20. Brandon Jacobs vs. Eagles21. Mike Tolbert vs. 49ers22. Tim Hightower @ Panthers23. Ryan Torain @ Cowboys24. BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Packers25. Ryan Mathews vs. 49ers26. Brian Westbrook @ Chargers27. Shonn Greene @ Steelers28. Ronnie Brown vs. Bills29. Thomas Jones @ Rams30. Cedric Benson vs. Browns
1. Reggie Wayne vs. Jaguars2. Roddy White @ Seahawks3. Andre Johnson @ Titans4. DeSean Jackson @ Giants5. Hakeem Nicks vs. Eagles6. Calvin Johnson @ Buccaneers7. Marques Colston @ Ravens8. Malcom Floyd vs. 49ers9. Anquan Boldin vs. Saints10. Brandon Lloyd @ Raiders11. Kenny Britt vs. Texans12. Terrell Owens vs. Browns13. Jeremy Maclin @ Giants14. Miles Austin vs. Redskins15. Steve Smith (NYG) vs. Eagles16. Mike Wallace vs. Jets17. Brandon Marshall vs. Bills18. Mike Williams (SEA) vs. Falcons19. Wes Welker vs. Packers20. Greg Jennings @ Patriots -- Depends on Rodgers21. Sidney Rice vs. Bears22. Santonio Holmes @ Steelers23. Johnny Knox @ Vikings24. Steve Johnson @ Dolphins25. Mike Williams (TB) vs. Lions26. Deion Branch vs. Packers27. Dwayne Bowe @ Rams28. Larry Fitzgerald @ Panthers29. Mike Thomas @ Colts30. Chad Ochocinco vs. Browns
1. Jacob Tamme vs. Jaguars2. Marcedes Lewis @ Colts3. Tony Gonzalez @ Seahawks4. Vernon Davis @ Chargers5. Antonio Gates vs. 49ers -- This ranking assumes he plays6. Jason Witten vs. Redskins7. Aaron Hernandez vs. Packers8. Ben Watson @ Bengals9. Kellen Winslow vs. Lions10. Chris Cooley @ Cowboys11. Bo Scaife vs. Texans12. Rob Gronkowski vs. Packers13. Brandon Pettigrew @ Buccaneers14. Greg Olsen @ Vikings15. Jermaine Gresham vs. Browns
We're going to do things a little differently this week. It seems a folly to give you my top-three survivor picks with it being so late in the season. Even offering up a pair of teams likely to be available doesn't make sense anymore, as five teams probably won't suffice for everyone. I'm going to pick the winners of each game in descending order of confidence. If you're still alive in survivor, and you've used the team at the top, just move on down the line until you find a team you haven't already picked.
San Diego over San FranciscoIndianapolis over JacksonvilleNew England over Green BayAtlanta over SeattleDallas over WashingtonChicago over MinnesotaTampa Bay over DetroitSt. Louis over Kansas CityMiami over BuffaloOakland over DenverBaltimore over New OrleansHouston over TennesseeCincinnati over ClevelandNew York Giants over PhiladelphiaCarolina over ArizonaNew York Jets over Pittsburgh