Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning throws against the Buffalo Bills during the first half in an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski
December 10, 2014

One of the top analysts in fantasy football started Week 15 with a thought you wouldn't even consider two months ago or even two weeks ago: Benching Peyton Manning in favor of less talented quarterbacks with better matchups.

But Sigmund Bloom, co-owner of Footballguys.com, mused on Twitter that after two bad weeks, he didn't envy fantasy owners who have to choose between Manning and Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger or Jay Cutler. Manning put up 2 fantasy points last week in standard leagues (that's not a typo, we double-checked) and 13 points the week before.

Bloom said in an interview Wednesday that he ended up ranking Manning fifth in part because he followed one of his personal rules about making tough fantasy decisions - especially ones that turn out to be wrong.

''What can you live with? Can you live with losing because Peyton has 400 yards on your bench?'' Bloom said. ''Everyone has to kind of answer this question for themselves.''

That fantasy owners would even consider benching Manning and other tough questions is a sign of Week 15's intensity. Every decision is heightened thanks to a must-win head-to-head matchup to sniff a championship game next week.

Ever hear fantasy players talk about the grind, the agony? This is it. Good luck.

While Bloom says the circumstances set players up to ''feel terrible no matter what,'' he makes peace by owning his choices, knowing there's always a nugget of information elsewhere that can swing things the other way.

''I can live with going home because of my own poor decisions,'' Bloom said.

Here are some other bold questions unique to the playoffs that Bloom and other fantasy experts have been considering:

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MACLIN NOT A GIMME?

It's likely the matchup of the week, the Eagles versus the Cowboys, both teams 9-4 and playing in a game that will likely determine the NFC East title.

And James ''Hatty'' Hatfield has Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin ranked 21st (http://bit.ly/1yRXopP ), below Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin and Jarvis Landry and well behind his fellow experts in rankings compiled by FantasyPros.com. Maclin has the sixth most fantasy points this year among wide receivers in standard scoring leagues.

Hatfield said he expects Maclin to have similar output to his game against Dallas two weeks ago, when he had 108 yards but no touchdowns, but that Dallas' defense has been inconsistent.

''You just gotta figure out what defense is going to show up for Dallas,'' Hatfield said. ''Maybe you gamble here if you've got someone like Mike Evans or someone who's putting up multi-TD weekends.''

Hatfield said each league's scoring settings also matter: He'd play Evans over Maclin in a TD-only league but Maclin in point-per-reception formats.

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COOK OVER JULIUS THOMAS?

It looks as if Broncos tight end Julius Thomas will play this week. But Salvatore Stefanile, a two-quarterback league whiz who manages content at Sportable.is, thinks St. Louis tight end Jared Cook is a slightly better play this week.

Stefanile said playing in two-quarterback leagues (where every starter has fantasy value) has trained him to consider anyone an option, especially at a position like tight end where you play only one player and the options beyond Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are a crapshoot.

Stefanile said Cook is averaging about 7 points more per fantasy game per year against Arizona than other opponents, with more targets and catches, while Arizona has been weak against tight ends.

All that's missing? The star power. But you don't need it, he said.

''You just strip it away and you look at the numbers, look at the stats and put your trust in the process that you've put into it,'' he said. ''You just forget about the brand name value of the player and look at the quality of the material.''

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LESEAN vs. LEGARRETTE?

Running back LeSean McCoy was a first-round draft pick, but will he end up with more fantasy points for Week 15 than New England running back LeGarrette Blount, who was dropped by Pittsburgh not long ago?

Good question, Bloom said.

''I have to really think on this one,'' he said. ''Blount's a better play. I think that New England's offense is going to play better. ... Philosophically, I won't be surprised if Blount carries the ball 20 times.''

He ranked the backs back-to-back, Nos. 8 and 9 - with McCoy ahead.

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Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia

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