No one should be stunned to hear that Tennessee's Chris Johnson is the highest scoring fantasy running back over the past five weeks (and also over the past 14 weeks). But the guy who's No. 2 on the list is a bit of a surprise: Kansas City's Jamaal Charles(notes).
Despite playing in an outrageously low-yield offense – the Chiefs average just 15.8 points and 272.4 total yards per game – Charles has managed to score six touchdowns in five weeks while delivering 570 yards from scrimmage. He's been productive in worrisome matchups, too, crossing the goal line twice against the Steelers and gaining 147 total yards against the Chargers.
Rather quietly, Charles is sneaking into the first round in 2010 drafts. He's unquestionably a top-10 play for Week 15, facing a Cleveland defense that allows 148.1 rushing yards per game and 4.4 per carry. We've described him before as "Chris Johnson Lite" (which could also make him "Steve Slaton Stout"); he makes the un-benchable list for the remainder of the fantasy season.
Below you'll find a rough draft of the Week 15 rankings. Final submissions aren't due until Thursday around here. Please be gentle with them; they're the only ranks you've got. As always, they're subject to change without notice.
The Randy Moss(notes) shutdown isn't simply a problem for Moss owners. It's a big issue for anyone who's invested in Tom Brady(notes), too. The Pats are about to face a Buffalo defense that leads the NFL in interceptions (25) and that's allowed the second-fewest passing TDs (10). Brady will need all weapons operating at full capacity. Wes Welker(notes) is unrivaled as a chain-mover (60 first-downs in 11 games), but he's only broken the plane four times despite leading the league in receptions by a mile (105). … Jason Campbell(notes) has averaged 244.2 yards per game since Washington's Week 8 bye, and he's thrown seven TD passes in his last three games. Better late than never. Campbell will face a Giants defense that hasn't held an opponent to fewer than 21 points since Week 5. … If you like anything about Jay Cutler(notes) this week, then please share it with the class. He's thrown 17 of his league-leading 22 interceptions on the road. … Vince Young(notes) reportedly did not participate in practice for the Titans on Wednesday, but that wasn't unexpected. Don't fret. Here are some reassuring quotes via the Tennessean:
"I'm day to day," Young said after practice. "I want to play. … I feel pretty good, just taking it easy to be on the safe side."
Said running back Chris Johnson: "He told me he was going to play, so I expect him to be out there."
Just in case you're expecting a binge from Carson Palmer(notes) at some point, let him break the situation down for you: "We’re a team that throws the ball about 20 times and runs it about 30. That’s who we are, and that’s who we’re going to continue to be." … Alex Smith came out throwing against the Cards last week (13 pass plays in the first quarter), but game situation led to Frank Gore's(notes) huge workload. Don't be surprised if Smith puts the ball in the air 40-plus times against Philly, a team that just allowed 512 net yards to New York. Smith's setup has a 260-2-2 feel.
We can offer at least three pieces of good news for Laurence Maroney(notes) owners: 1) He dominated the rushing workload for New England last week, carrying 22 times for 94 yards; 2) Sammy Morris(notes) carried just six times and lost a fumble; 3) Buffalo awaits in Week 15. The Bills have a pick-happy pass defense, but they've allowed an NFL-worst 170.5 rushing yards per game and 5.0 per carry. ... Denver's Knowshon Moreno(notes) gets an ideal matchup versus the Raiders and he likely won't have to share carries with the injured Correll Buckhalter(notes) (ankle). The only worry is that Peyton Hillis(notes) may poach goal line work; Moreno has been somewhat less than dazzling in short-yardage. The citizens of Denver are demanding change, and their coach might be inclined to deliver. This from the Denver Post's Mike Klis:
What I like about covering the Broncos under McDaniels is you can always ask him why. Not once has he ever shown up a reporter by belittling a question. He gives honest, full answers.
And so he was asked, a few different ways, during his press conference Monday why he doesn't use Hillis more in short-yardage situations. McDaniels appeared slightly agitated by the questions, but he held his cool and delivered. He explained that he couldn't use Hillis as his short-yardage tailback because the opening-kickoff injury to Spencer Larsen(notes) meant Hillis had to play short-yardage fullback.
McDaniels added Larsen should be fit to go at fullback this week against the Raiders and, with Correll Buckhalter likely out with an injured right ankle, Hillis would get an increased role as a tailback this week.
If you're looking for details regarding Houston's Arian Foster(notes), we refer you to this week's Noise. He's really the add of the week. (Foster, not Noise. Do not spend FAAB dollars for Noise). ... Beanie Wells(notes) against the Lions is a must-start unless you have incredible alternatives. And we're not just saying that because last week's workload split with Tim Hightower(notes) went in Wells' favor (15 carries to two, one fumble each); whenever you expect a run-down-the-clock sort of day for Arizona, Wells is the play. ... Michael Turner(notes) did not practice on Wednesday and he's looking a lot like a game-time decision. Don't expect clarity until Sunday morning.
Larry Fitzgerald(notes) briefly checked out of the Monday night game with a knee injury, but he was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and he "insists he will play Sunday in Detroit." ... Roddy White(notes) gets hit with a severe Darrelle Revis(notes) tax in this week's ranks. Even if Matt Ryan(notes) (toe) were to play -- and that's hardly guaranteed -- White would be an unusually risky start. ... Dwayne Bowe(notes) returns from suspension this week and the matchup is friendly (CLE). He has a new rival for the team lead in drops (Chris Chambers(notes)), but Bowe should reclaim starting duties. Good seats still available. ... Nate Burleson(notes) suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 14, so his foot has been booted. Deion Branch(notes) and Deon Butler(notes) figure to benefit from Burleson's absence; they'll face a Tampa Bay defense that's allowed the third-most TD passes in the NFL (24). ... Percy Harvin(notes) (migraines) reportedly did not practice on Wednesday. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "the team is exhausting all avenues in trying to find out exactly what is wrong and why the standout rookie continues to suffer from debilitating headaches." In the final ranks, Harvin is likely to drop like a pass intended for Mario Manningham(notes).
Updated at 4:15 and 5:00 pm ET
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