Fantasy football Risers, Sliders: All attention now on Gerhart
In the wake of a snowy, fast-moving, record-breaking weekend, let's step back and survey the fantasy landscape. Teams fighting tooth-and-nail for playoff spots lent itself to some outstanding games and dramatic plays by fantasy stars. While some players thrived in the elements (LeSean McCoy, Marques Colston), others weren't quite as lucky (Adrian Peterson, Rob Gronkowski). For those owners who are still alive in the playoffs, here's a look at the stock of selected players this week.
• Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins -- Tannehill completed 20 of 33 attempts for 200 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, and tacked on 56 rushing yards in the Dolphins win over the Steelers. Tannehill is on track for 4,000 yards this season, and could join Dan Marino as the only other Dolphins' QB to reach the benchmark. The Dolphins play the Patriots at home next week, who just allowed Jason Campbell to throw for 391 yards and three touchdowns this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
• Tom Brady, New England Patriots -- Brady had an excellent day against the Browns, rallying New England from a 19-3 deficit to win and throwing for 418 yards, two late touchdowns and just one interception. But one of his favorite targets, Rob Gronkowski, is out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL. Brady owners remember well how he struggled without Gronk at the start of the season, and it's unclear if players like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola can pick up the slack. One bright spot: Brady managed to throw for more than 400 yards over Clevelands strong pass defense.
• Toby Gerhart, Minnesota Vikings -- Owners who smartly handcuffed Adrian Peterson's backup could finally benefit, as Peterson left early in the second quarter of the Vikings' 29-26 loss to the Ravens with an ankle injury. Filling in for Peterson, Gerhart rushed 15 times for 89 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown with 1:27 left in the game. Gerhart is a must-start if Peterson is out in Week 15.
• Shane Vereen, New England Patriots -- Vereen proved to be more effective in the passing game, as he caught 12 passes for 153 yards, in comparison to his three carries for nine yards and a touchdown, against the Browns. With Gronkowski out for the year, Vereen's targets will likely continue to increase -- in PPR leagues, he's a must-start.
• Marcel Reece, Oakland Raiders -- Reece broke down one of the toughest run defenses in football, rushing 19 times for 123 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown. If Darren McFadden (ankle) and Rashad Jennings (concussion) are again out next week, owners can start Reece confidently.
• Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins -- Thomas had his best game of the season by far, carrying 16 times for 105 yards and a touchdown in Miami's 34-28 win over the Steelers. A large chunk of it came on a 55-yard run, but his career game lessens concerns stemming from Lamar Miller's concussion.
• Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings -- An injury to one of the top fantasy players during the fantasy playoffs is always a huge blow, so Peterson owners can only hope that he's not immensely affected. Peterson says he expects to play again this season, but it's unknown if he'll play this week against the Eagles.
• Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers -- Boldin has turned in three straight 90-plus yard games. On Sunday he caught 6 passes for 93 yards on 8 targets against a great Seattle pass defense. Michael Crabtree will continue to draw the defense's attention, freeing up Boldin for more opportunities; in the last two weeks, Boldin has had 14 and 8 targets, his second- and third-highest number of looks this season. Only his 13-catch, 17-target performance in Week 1 had him getting more looks than in his last two weeks.
• Julian Edelman, New England Patriots -- With Gronkowski out for the season, Julian Edelman will surely see an increased number of targets from Brady, like he did earlier this season. He's racked up 32 targets the last three weeks, and he caught six balls for 64 yards and a touchdown on nine targets Sunday.
• Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans -- Hunter has more than 100 yards in two of the last three weeks; he caught four passes for 114 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos Sunday. The Titans play a tough Cardinals defense next week, but in Week 16 they face the Jaguars.
• T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts -- Indianapolis started throwing the ball after falling into a 21-0 hole, but Hilton came up short, catching only two passes for seven yards. Rookie free agent Da'Rick Rogers -- who was with Buffalo at the start of the season -- saved the day, catching seven passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns against a solid Cincinnati pass defense.
• Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins -- The Steelers actually guard the tight end quite well, and rank in the top third of the league in fantasy points allowed this season. But Clay, who's averaged eight targets a game the last five weeks, caught five passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns against Pittsburgh on Sunday.
• Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots -- Gronkowski is done for the season with a torn ACL. Since returning from a fractured forearm in Week 7, the New England tight end caught 37 passes for 562 yards and four touchdowns. Coming into Week 14, he had scored a touchdown in the four previous weeks. It's a tough break for Gronkowski, who is injured in a late-season game for the second consecutive year.
• Matt Prater, Denver Broncos -- Prater kicked three field goals -- including an NFL-record 64-yard field goal at the end of the first half -- and six extra points. The Broncos play at home (at altitude) again next week, then have a matchup that could produce a lot of points in Houston in Week 16.
• Phil Dawson, San Francisco 49ers -- He hit four field goals, including the game-winner, against the tough Seahawks defense. San Francisco plays two teams that give up a lot of points (Tampa Bay on the road and Atlanta at home) in the next two weeks.
• Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals -- Feely missed two field goals in the Cardinals' 30-10 win over the Rams. He was wide right on a 50-yarder, then wide right on a chip shot 25-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. He did kick four extra points.
• Kansas City Chiefs -- The Chiefs sacked Washington quarterbacks six times, forced two turnovers and returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns. Sure, Washington's special teams are awful, but it was good for fantasy owners to see a solid performance by the Kansas City defense again.
• Tennessee Titans -- Nobody looks good against the Broncos, but only a few (okay, three) teams have given up more than 50 points to Peyton Manning & Co. this season. The Titans had a 21-10 lead late in the first half then gave up 41 points in the next 32 minutes of game time.
MORE WEEK 15 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
EDHOLM, MIGLIO: Bold Strategies: Exercise caution if starting Dennis Pitta
SI STAFF: Roundtable -- Our advice on navigating the Adrian Peterson situation
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