Thursday Night Football
Arizona @ St. Louis
Cards-Rams projects as a low-scoring defensive struggle. Both teams start backup quarterbacks. The over-under is 40 points, second lowest of Week 15. The good news is this game will be played indoors. The bad news is, the best plays on either side are the fantasy D/STs. ... The Rams have a league-high 34 sacks since Week 7, climbing to seventh in the NFL sack rankings (35) after a painfully slow start to the season. Over the past five weeks, St. Louis has held opposing quarterbacks to 144-of-214 passing for 1,196 yards (5.59 YPA) and a 3:9 TD-to-INT ratio. Drew Stanton got the "win" over Kansas City last Sunday, but has engineered two touchdown drives over Arizona's last 15 quarters and has a 4:5 TD-to-INT ratio over his last four games. Avoid Stanton in two-QB leagues. ... St. Louis has been similarly stout versus the run, holding enemy running backs to 322 yards and two touchdowns on 92 attempts (3.50 YPC) over the past month and a half. This is a rough matchup for Arizona's post-Andre Ellington backfield triumvirate. Stepfan Taylor got the nominal Week 14 start, but played only 26% of the Cards' offensive snaps and handled seven touches. Marion Grice played 19% of the downs and touched the rock three times. Practice squad callup Kerwynn Williams (19-100) showed the hottest hand, but only played 36% of the snaps. Williams would appear to be the best bet for Week 15 production, but you'd have to be in a major bind to pin hopes on him in a bad matchup during fantasy semifinals week.
Stanton's target distribution with Larry Fitzgerald (knee) rejoining the lineup in Week 14: Fitz 9; Michael Floyd 7; John Brown 4; Jaron Brown 3; Ted Ginn, Taylor, Rob Housler, and John Carlson 1. ... Fitzgerald is now playing on a short week after returning from his MCL sprain and managing 34 yards on last week's nine targets. He did go 9-112 when these clubs played in Week 10, but is tough to support as more than a high-risk WR3 in this projected low-scoring affair. ... Running low-percentage routes that render him boom or bust -- and mostly bust with inefficient quarterback play -- Floyd has cleared 60 receiving yards once over his last ten games, with a pair of goose eggs mixed in. He's a WR4/5 in fantasy. ... John Brown failed to reel in any of his four Week 14 targets and is in a similar boat to Floyd as primarily a perimeter receiver in a dysfunctional passing attack. Brown has 4.34 wheels and plenty of big-play potential, but needs better quarterback play to realize it. ... Jaron Brown had the most productive Week 14 fantasy line (2-48-1), but is now the Cardinals' No. 4 receiver with Fitzgerald back. He isn't even worth a fantasy roster spot. ... Cardinals tight ends should always be avoided. That is particularly the case against a Rams defense that allows the fourth fewest fantasy points to tight ends and held previously red-hot Jordan Reed to a 3-25-0 line on seven targets last week.
The Cardinals play top-six run defense and limit running backs to 3.77 yards per carry on the season. They're No. 4 in Football Outsiders' run-defense DVOA. Arizona has given up some big runs lately, however, conceding a 63-yard touchdown to Jamaal Charles in Week 14 and a 55-yarder to Steven Jackson the Sunday before. Joique Bell broke a 33-yard run against the Cardinals in Week 11. This isn't a good matchup for Tre Mason, but his steady workload raises his floor. He has at least 17 touches in seven of his last eight games and totaled a passable 81 all-purpose yards on 18 touches when these clubs met in Week 10. Mason should be viewed as a limited-ceiling RB2 in this matchup. ... There's less to like about Shaun Hill in this game. The Cardinals have held opposing quarterbacks to a 10:12 TD-to-INT ratio over their last nine games, and DC Todd Bowles' blitz-based defense has 23 sacks over the past five weeks. Utilized as a low-ceiling game manager by the Rams' coaching staff, Hill has attempted more than 30 throws in just 1-of-6 games this season. He's a low-end two-quarterback-league play against Arizona. If forced to choose between Hill and Stanton in this game, I suppose I'd still rather roll dice on Hill.
Hill's target distribution since he resumed starting four games ago: Stedman Bailey and Jared Cook 20; Kenny Britt 19; Tavon Austin 14; Benny Cunningham 13; Mason 10; Lance Kendricks 7. ... After logging consecutive stat lines of 7-89-1 and 5-100 in Weeks 12-13, Bailey took a Week 14 step back, managing 47 yards on two targets. He only played 59% of St. Louis' offensive snaps and still hasn't graduated to full-time receiving duties. Bailey goes 5-foot-10, 193 and wins with quickness and route running as opposed to size and deep speed. I do think he has a more favorable draw than Britt (6'3/218) against Arizona's long, size-gifted cornerback duo of RCB Antonio Cromartie (6'2/208) and LCB Patrick Peterson (6'0/219). If Cromartie (ankle) can't play, it's also conceivable the Cardinals would stick Peterson on Britt for all of this game, allowing Bailey to go to work against some combination of Jerraud Powers and special teamer Justin Bethel. Bailey has a sneaky-good Week 15 matchup, but limited usage renders him a dicey WR3. ... Cook's stat lines in Hill's last four starts are 3-19-0, 3-27-0, 0-0, and 4-61-2. Last week's two-touchdown game against the Redskins essentially came out of nowhere. The Cardinals do allow the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends, and Cook has a history of success against them, recording receiving lines of 2-84-1, 3-49-0, and 7-141-2 in three meetings with Arizona since signing with the Rams in 2013. Cook is worth a look as a TE1 streamer.
Score Prediction: Rams 17, Cardinals 13