The stakes are high as the Baltimore Ravens travel to Detroit for Monday Night Football. The Lions are looking to take the NFC North title as they try to recover from a recent 1-3 slump. The reigning Super Bowl champion Ravens are still in the hunt for their sixth straight postseason berth.
While the Ravens and Lions focus on progressing through the remaining few games of the regular season, fantasy owners are likely in the thick of their fantasy postseason. For many owners, Monday night is a last chance. A final hope. As usual, we're here to discuss what fantasy owners can expect from the final game of the week.
Joe Flacco: He was impressive against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14. Then again, a lot of quarterbacks have been impressive against the Vikings. Detroit is likely to be more of a challenge than Minnesota. The good news for Flacco owners is that his pass protection has been improving and the return of tight end Dennis Pitta adds another dimension to the passing game. It's also very possible that the Lions will demand that Flacco throw the ball more in a potentially high-scoring affair. Still, Flacco has just one passing touchdown in three of his last four games. He's more of a QB2 than a QB1, but the upside is certainly there.
Running backs: Ray Rice has been putting up underwhelming numbers for the majority of 2013. Week 14 marked the third time that Rice surpassed 50 rushing yards all season. At this point, Rice owners are likely aware of the struggles Rice has experienced this year. When you consider the fact that Detroit is giving up the eighth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season, it's probably best that owners keep Rice and Bernard Pierce benched on Monday. PPR owners may find some value with Rice as a low-end flex, assuming he is involved in the passing game.
Wide receivers: Torrey Smith was widely considered a must-start option in Week 14 against the Vikings, but several inches of snow created a challenge in the passing game. He has a chance to redeem himself against a pedestrian Lions secondary on Monday night. Smith is a strong WR2 play that could break off for a big one at any moment. While Smith struggled in Week 14, Marlon Brown excelled with seven catches for 92 yards and a touchdown. Brown just hasn't performed consistently enough to warrant a confident start in most fantasy leagues. He's a risky WR3 play for owners hoping to take advantage of a potential offensive showcase. If Brown comes up short on targets, Jacoby Jones might be the beneficiary, but he's an even riskier option that owners are better off avoiding during their fantasy playoffs.
Tight ends: Dennis Pitta returned to action in Week 14. He caught six passes for 48 yards and a touchdown. He's coming out the gate hot and should be owned in all leagues. He's worth starting as a low-end TE1 that should provide plenty of upside for owners looking for TE production. Find a way to get him into your lineup, especially in PPR leagues.
Defense/ Special teams: The Lions have done a good job of protecting their quarterback this season. Baltimore has been an average fantasy defense and is facing a tough offense. The Ravens aren't necessarily a terrible start, but there just isn't enough upside to justify starting them against Detroit's high-octane offense. Hopefully owners found a better option before Monday.
Matthew Stafford: Stafford finished Week 14 with just ten completions for 151 yards. Fantasy owners need to put that performance behind them, along with the eight inches of snow that created a very unique set of circumstances for every player involved. Stafford is now comfortably indoors at home. He's still a QB1 against a Baltimore defense that's middle of the road against fantasy quarterbacks.
Running backs: Reggie Bush is set to play on Monday night. Fantasy owners who survived his last-minute inactive status in Week 14 get another chance at plugging him into their lineups. He practiced on Friday and Saturday. Owners should pay extra attention to Bush before kickoff to avoid another roster vacancy. If Bush unexpectedly suffers from a setback on Monday, find a way to get Joique Bell into your lineup.
Wide receivers: Calvin Johnson is likely a big part of the reason fantasy owners are in their playoffs in Week 15. Continue to start him as an elite WR1. Nate Burleson has been practically invisible since posting a 7/77/1 stat line in Week 12. He's nothing more than a desperate PPR option at this point.
Tight ends: Brandon Pettigrew is always a shaky option. He's a TE2 that doesn't regularly get involved in offense enough to warrant much fantasy consideration. Both Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria will continue to cannibalize one another's production. Pettigrew may get more targets and catches while Fauria is touchdown-dependent. Avoid both if possible.
Defense/ Special teams: It's difficult to envision Detroit shutting down the Ravens on Monday. There will be plenty of opportunities to generate sacks and possibly an interception or two as the Lions pressure Flacco. Detroit has picked up steam lately, but overall it has been a poor fantasy defense that shouldn't be started outside of deeper leagues.