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Week 15 Starts/Sits: Romo on the rebound


QB Tony Romo, Dal at Phi While the aggregate Yahoo rankings have Romo slotted as the No. 10 fantasy QB for this week, I'm much more bullish than that, awarding him top 5 placement among signal callers. It's true that Romo had his worst fantasy effort of the season against Philly (199/0/2) in Week 13. But that was a rare slip up in what has been an excellent fantasy run for Romo over the past month, throwing for at least three touchdowns in three of the past four games (all road games). The Eagles allow the second-most fantasy points to the QB position, so the odds favor Romo rebounding in a big way in his second go-round with his division rivals, especially considering he's had 10 days to prepare.

RB Latavius Murray, Oak at KC Murray is currently being started in less than a quarter of Yahoo leagues, which is crazy when you consider he rushed for more than 100 yards and scored two touchdowns (on just four carries) against the Chiefs a few weeks back. Murray suffered a concussion in that game, or he probably would have posted a fantasy line for the ages. And last week, he answered questions about his health with 23 carries in an upset victory over San Francisco. Facing a Chiefs defense allowing more than 5.0 yards per carry to the RB position, Murray has a can't-miss opportunity ahead. Catch this train if you still can.

RB Steven Jackson, Atl vs. Pit While it hasn't always been pretty, Jackson has been one of the most productive backs in fantasy since Week 8, ranking No. 16 at the RB position in fantasy points scored in that span. In five of those six contests, he's reached a double-digit fantasy tally. And with his standard 16-18 touch workload, he should be able to eclipse the 10-point mark once again against a Pittsburgh defense that has allowed 11 running backs to score in the double digits.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, Hou at Ind Trying to clear concussion protocol, Andre Johnson is shaping up to be a game--time decision. As he hasn't practiced all week, I'm guessing that he won't play on Sunday. And that would make teammate Hopkins the clear and present go-to guy for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Johnson finished with 99 yards and a TD in the last meeting with Indy. And while the Colts have been one of the better units at limiting WR production, I think Hopkins (if Johnson is out) can also push 100 yards and a TD on the strength of a high volume of targets in a game where the Colts are likely to push the pace and force Houston to throw.

[Week 15 rankings: Quarterback Running Back Receiver Tight End Kicker DST]

WR Donte Moncrief, Ind vs. Hou Reggie Wayne is dealing with a torn triceps and Hakeem Nicks is dealing with the cold hard reality of a rapidly diminishing skill set, which makes it no surprise that Moncrief played a season-high 50 snaps last week. Wayne and Nicks have combined for just nine catches and 62 yards over the past three games (with Nicks contributing one catch and 16 yards). If ever it was time for Moncrief to step up, it's now. Houston has allowed the second-most fantasy PPG to the WR position and has historically been eaten alive by Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton, who caught all nine of his targets for 223 yards and a TD when these teams squared off in Week 6. Assuming Hilton draws extra attention this time around, don't be surprised if Moncrief delivers 100-plus yards and a TD for what would be the third time in his past seven games.

TE - Larry Donnell, NYG vs Was Donnell has a rematch this week against the team that helped put him on the fantasy map, as he rolled the 'Skins for a hat trick of touchdowns in Week 4. And Washington has shown little in the way of improvement at defending the tight end, as the team has allowed has allowed the top-scoring tight end in each of the past two weeks (Coby Fleener and Jared Cook).


QB Mark Sanchez, Phi vs. Sea I'm doubling down on Sanchez as a "Sit" nominee after he filled this space (for good reason) last week against Seattle. The Cowboys don't offer nearly the resistance against the pass that Seattle does, but they did a good job of shutting Sanchez down through the air in the Week 9 matchup (217 yards, 1 TD pass, 0 INT). Sanchez was able to salvage a respectable fantasy line thanks to a TD run, something that you can't really bank on a repeat. Sanchez's yards per pass attempt is in a freefall as the opposition sees more and more game film of him directing this Eagles attack. I have a feeling he's going to deliver a mediocre fantasy line that will have the team hoping that Nick Foles can return in time to face Washington in Week 16.

RB Gio Bernard, Cin @ Cle Since his return from a hip injury, Bernard ranks outside the top 35 among running backs in fantasy PPG (5.2 average in three contests). This week, rookie backfield mate Jeremy Hill is getting the start and an expected elevated role, presumably coming at the expense of Gio's workload. Given his recent lack of production and the matchup (on the road against a Cleveland defense the fifth-fewest fantasy PPG to the RB position since Week 8), Bernard is not a player that should be counted upon in such an important week for fantasy owners.

RB Rashad Jennings, NYG vs Was Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said that Jennings should be ready to take on a larger role after handling just two carries last week while dealing with an ankle injury. Considering that rookie Andre Williams stepped up with 27 touches for 148 yards and a TD, it's hard to believe that he'd return to a strict backup role behind Jennings this week. There's a good chance that Jennings and Williams split the workload in half this week, and the matchup is likely going to require healthy volume to deliver fruitful fantasy returns as Washington is among the best in the league at defending the run (fourth-fewest fantasy points allowed to the RB position).

WR Mike Wallace, Mia at NE When Miami faced New England in Week 1, Wallace posted his best fantasy line of the season (7/81/1). Unfortunately, he hasn't reached that catch total or yardage number in any of the 12 games since then. And he definitely benefited from the Pats' decision to not have cornerback Darrelle Revis shadow him, something that could happen this time around. Even if it doesn't, I wouldn't bank on the No. 50 fantasy WR (fantasy PPG) since Week 8 coming close to a repeat of his Week 1 performance against a secondary that has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy PPG to the WR position.
WR Golden Tate, Det vs. Min I have slotted Tate outside of WR2 range this week as he faces a Minnesota defense that doesn't get enough credit for its pass defense this season. When Tate faced the Vikings in Week 6, he managed just seven catches for 44 yards. And while he might not be as much of a focus for the Vikings this time around considering that Calvin Johnson will be active, Tate can't be counted upon to find the end zone (he's scoreless in the five games since Megatron returned from injury). In PPR leagues, Tate still has some upside, but in standard 12-team leagues, I'd look for a better option.

TE - Jason Witten, Dal at Phi Witten has only one double-digit fantasy performance this season, and he is just two weeks removed from his worst fantasy effort of the year, a 1-catch, eight-yard clunker against an Eagles defense that he faces again this Sunday. Last week, he could manage just two catches for 26 yards against a Chicago defense allowing the most fantasy PPG to the TE position. Given the terrible recent history against Philly, and the fact that the Eagles have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends, you can't start Witten with any level of confidence this week. I like Romo this week, but he's going to need Witten to stay in-line to block for him against an attacking Philly pass rush.

CFN Preview 2013 - UCLA Bruins

UCLA made impressive strides for NFL Betting Lines first-year head coach Jim Mora. Absolutely no one in Westwood is about to rest on his laurels.

The Bruins were a vastly different team in 2012 than the ones that had been dragged into the abyss by the incapable trio of Rick Neuheisel, Karl Dorrell and Bob Toledo on the sidelines. UCLA practiced differently, displayed more confidence and posted far better results on Saturdays. The Bruins won at least nine games for the first time since 2005 and took the Pac-12 South, sans the asterisk this time. Oh, and the divide with rival USC has evaporated, thanks to a 38-28 win last Nov. 17 and another banner effort on Signing Day. But everyone on campus realizes that the turnaround has only just begun.

UCLA finished last year with three consecutive losses, providing a tangible reminder of the work that still needs to be done. It played very well against Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but was thoroughly outclassed in the Holiday Bowl by a Baylor team that was visibly bigger, stronger and faster. That 49-26 loss in San Diego provided the program with a checklist of what needs to be done in 2013 and beyond.

The Bruins have attacked the offseason the only way Mora knows how. Theyve worked diligently on the practice field, in the film room and in the classroom to become a better team in all phases. Anything less is grounds for a demotion by this staff. The team will begin the new season with promiseand holes that must be filled.

The offense has an emerging star at quarterback, Brett Hundley, and an exciting set of young receivers, yet it also must replace prolific RB Johnathan Franklin and shore up a middling line. The D is going to dominate from the front seven with DE Cassius Marsh and linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, but the secondary is as green as the Rose Bowl sod.

UCLA went in an unconventional route last year when it hired a longtime NFL coach to lead it to higher ground. So far, the decision has clicked beyond even the most optimistic expectations. The Bruins are stronger than at any point in the last decade, carrying a head of steam and a wave of blue-chip recruits into the 2013 season. Theres still a long way to go, but with Mora in charge, theres a quiet confidence, unfamiliar on this campus, that UCLA is going to get where its going.

What to watch for on offense: The competition at running back. Without Johnathan Franklin spearheading the ground game in 2012, Brett Hundley doesnt deliver his auspicious debut behind center. Now that Franklin is a Green Bay Packer, the Bruins must find a replacement from a bunch of contenders that cant possibly replace their predecessor on their own. Jordon James and Damien Thigpen may be closest to the top of the depth chart. But Malcolm Jones is coming off a surprisingly good offseason, and Paul Perkins and Steven Manfro have shown flashes of potential.

What to watch for on defense: The maturation of the defensive backs. The Bruins were going to be rebuilding in the secondary, and that was before star S Tevin McDonald was booted prior to spring. Now, this looks like a rudderless unit, with no lockdown performer in sight. CB Anthony Jefferson has looked good now that hes finally healthy, and the return from injury of S Dietrich Riley has been inspirational. But the defensive backfield will be open for competition this summer. The best thing this group has going for it is a pass rush thatll limit the time opposing quarterbacks have to find open receivers.

The team will be far better if it protects the pocket. This is now Brett Hundleys team, and he needs to be protected accordingly. Last season, Bruins quarterbacks were sacked 52 times, yet they still accounted for 38 touchdowns. Imagine what this offense might do if Hundley is given the time he needs to set his feet and check down his receivers. Hell be the catalyst for all of UCLAs offensive success in 2013, but his production will be stunted if hes constantly ducking for cover.

The Schedule: Is this when UCLA take a huge leap forward under Jim Mora, or is it going to be inconsistent again as it tries to navigate its way up through a rough Pac-12 schedule? Starting out against Nevada isnt going to be a breather, but theres a week off to figure out what needs working on before a huge date at Nebraska. Win that, and 5-0 is a must with New Mexico State up next before an off week to prepare for easy games against Utah and Cal forget about last year; beating the Bears shouldnt be a problem.

As if having to play Stanford and Oregon from the North wasnt bad enough, the games are back-to-back and on the road. Fortunately, three of the next four games are at home and the trip to Arizona is the only remaining game outside of Los Angeles. Colorado, Washington and Arizona State are all winnable home games to crank up the record, but the South title should come down to the showdown at USC.

Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Brett Hundley. At this time last year, Hundley wasnt even assured of winning the starting job over veterans Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut. Today, hes one of the top young passers in America, an emerging star with a bright NFL future. As a rookie, Hundley quickly digested Noel Mazzones offensive system, and began to slowly add his name to the school record books. The terrific all-around athlete completed 318-of-478 passes for 3,740 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while also rushing for 355 yards and nine scores. Best of all, hes just getting started with his evolution.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Anthony Barr. Barrs story was one of the strangest and most improbable of the entire 2012 season. He began it as a converted fullback, a journeyman whod never approached his vast high school potential. He ended it as a target of NFL teams and one of the most feared pass-rushing linebackers this side of Athens. Shifting to defense was a stroke of genius for the 6-4, 245-pound guided missile. Barr was an unstoppable blend of closing speed and explosiveness, racking up 83 tackles, 21.5 stops for loss, 13.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and five pass breakups.

Key players to a successful season: Sophomore offensive tackles Simon Goines and Torian White. Its been well-documented that the Bruins did a horrid job in pass protection in 2012, and must improve in 2013. Now, the interior of the line should be fine with LG Xavier Sua-Filo and C Jake Brendel. But the edges are vulnerable. Although Goines and White brim with potential and physical attributes, theyve also had injury issues, and need to clean up their fundamentals when the quarterback drops back to throw.

The season will be a success if ... UCLA represents the South in the Pac-12 title game for a third straight year. Lofty, maybe, but why not? The division is up for grabs, especially since USC remains unsettled, still lacks depth and will be breaking in a replacement for Matt Barkley at quarterback. The Bruins will face a wicked schedule that includes back-to-back road trips to Stanford and Oregon, and a telltale November slate. Despite all of the personnel changes, the program believes itll be even better in its second year with the same coaching staff.

Key game: Nov. 30 at USC. Oh, for so many reasons, this is the game of the year in Los Angeles. Its an intense rivalry with 82 unique chapters in the annals, and one that many of the West Coasts best recruits will be watching very closely. It might also determine who faces the North Division champ a week later for a trip to the 2014 Rose Bowl. The Bruins rolled last year, TKO-ing Matt Barkley in the process, which will add a little more fuel to the Coliseum crowd.

With Golson Out, What's Next For Irish?

If any team is built for the loss of a dynamic starting quarterback, its Notre Dame. If you're going to count out the Irish in 2013, like you probably did in 2012, it's probably not going to be because of the absence of No. 5 - both of them.

With Everett Golson suspended for the fall semester and no longer enrolled at the school, all of a sudden the offense and the team take on a different shape.

This was supposed to be the year when Golson took his game to another level. A terrific baller and playmaker, he might not have been the most efficient passer, completing only 59 percent of his throws, and he might have had coaches and fans doing the no-no-no-YES thing when throwing into traffic a bit too much, but he only threw six picks on the season and scrambled and ran his way into big moments. He was expected to become a more complete passer this season under Brian Kelly, while also providing the running and improvisational element the coaching staff was looking for at quarterback.

Now, with Golson out of the equation, the Irish will have to do some scrambling of their own, and theyre equipped for it.

First and foremost, this happened in late May and not in late August. Just as if Golson had gone down with some sort of injury, now the team has to adapt and move on, but theres an entire summer and a fall camp to find the right fit. Theres plenty of time to figure out what the next move is, and remember, its not like Golson was the be-all-end-all No. 1 starter with a firm grip on the job and the team. Kelly brought in several top talents over the last few years, and while it wouldve been nice to have Gunner Kiel around as an option, there are still others waiting in the wings.

Kiel took his talents to Tommy Tuberville and Cincinnati, but Notre Dame still has Tommy Rees who knows a little something about offseason off-the-field controversy and has more than enough time logged in to be a capable and effective starter. Two-Minute Tommy has been at his best off the bench in clutch situations, but now a senior, dont discount him taking a step up in his play and consistency if he gets the responsibility of having to take the team on his shoulders. The problem, though, is his penchant to throw the bad interception to go along with his lack of mobility. Kelly wants a dual-threat option, and thats where Andrew Hendrix comes in.

Hendrix, a senior, blew off Florida, Ohio State, Miami and Wisconsin for the Irish, and even though the talent is there to be the face of the program, he hasnt been able to rise above the fray with just 304 career passing yards. Brilliant two years ago in an attempt to bring the team back against Stanford, he finished 2011 with 162 rushing yards with 111 yards against Air Force, he could be the spark with the opportunity there. However, he might have to fight off the new guy.

True freshman Malik Zaire is the X-factor. A terrific dual-threat option, the 6-2, 190-pounder is a smart, accurate passer with great running skills and a way of making things happen on the fly. Kelly isnt above throwing an inexperienced new guy on the field, and at the very least he could be a part of a rotation to get his speed and athleticism into the offense.

But its going to be more than just the quarterback situation for the Irish. Losing Golson might hurt, but the 2013 team, like the 2012 squad, will mostly work around a tough defense and an opportunistic offense that keeps the mistakes to a minimum and controls the clock and the game. The hope was for Golson to be a catalyst who could start winning big games on his own, and his leadership and confidence are a part of the puzzle, but its not like USC losing Matt Barkley last season or if Louisville lost Teddy Bridgewater this year life will go on for Notre Dame without Everett Golson.

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