- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
You know it's been a crazy fantasy football season when it's Week 15 and you're considering not one, but two players with the surname Bush for inclusion among your top 10 running backs. But that's the case as we head to the second week of the fantasy playoffs. Oakland Raiders running back Michael Bush is ready to exploit the Detroit Lions, and believe it or not, Reggie Bush of the Miami Dolphins continues to show he's legit, and this week's matchup against the Buffalo Bills is pretty sweet.
Many fantasy owners want to stick to the fellows that got them this far, but the truth is both Bushes have been good enough to get their fantasy teams to meaningful mid-December games. There's still no telling when or if Darren McFadden returns to the Raiders, and Michael Bush bounced back in Week 14 with 14 fantasy points in the blowout loss at Green Bay. Despite facing a strong passing offense and falling behind very early, Michael Bush rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown. He's been at 14 fantasy points or better in five of six weeks. I ranked him in my top 10 for the week, and ESPN Fantasy projects 17 fantasy points.
On the other hand, Reggie Bush isn't waiting for his competition to return from injury. In fact, Dolphins rookie Daniel Thomas plays every week, but he continues to be inconsistent, while Reggie Bush has been anything but. Thomas ran seven times for 4 yards in Miami's Week 14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He ran well in Week 13 against the Raiders, but the week prior produced two fantasy points. The Dolphins are going nowhere, but there's little indication Reggie Bush is going to lose touches. He's rushed for 100 yards each of the past two weeks, and three times for the season. The Bills have allowed the fourth-most points to opposing running backs. ESPN Fantasy projects 16 fantasy points for Reggie Bush, and again, I concur. He barely missed my top 10 for Week 15.
Matchups continue to play a critical role in my running back choices for the week. A week ago, who would have thought Felix Jones of the Dallas Cowboys would be in demand? Well, DeMarco Murray breaks his ankle and Jones gets to face the worst run defense in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Get him active. The second-easiest team to run on is the Carolina Panthers; Arian Foster of the Houston Texans should have fun this week, but I also ranked Ben Tate as a strong flex choice.
Another team getting run all over is the Indianapolis Colts. Erratic Chris Johnson ran 14 times for 34 yards on the Colts in Week 8, so he's no lock against them this coming week. In fact, I'm not sure I can remember a stretch like what Johnson has produced of late, the quintessential all-or-nothing running back, going from 130 rushing yards in Week 10 (at Carolina) to 13 yards (at Atlanta) to 190 yards (versus Tampa Bay) to 153 yards (at Buffalo) to 23 (versus New Orleans). It's incredible. ESPN Fantasy projects more than 100 rushing yards this week, and I agree.
Here are some other thoughts about the Week 15 rankings:
Quarterback: I've written and spoken highly of Titans rookie quarterback Jake Locker this week, and when push came to shove, he was my No. 14 option. Perhaps it's too much trust for someone who has yet to start an NFL game, but he's looked good in a few relief outings ... and he's facing the Colts. Plus, this didn't feel like a deep week for passers after the top nine or 10. I ranked Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets only one spot behind his Week 15 foe, Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles, and neither in the top 10. That probably says more about my lack of faith in Vick than trust in Sanchez. I also didn't give Texans rookie T.J. Yates a great rank. He's 24th. I expect 200-plus rushing yards from Foster/Tate this week.
Running back: Beanie Wells has struggled the past two weeks, averaging fewer than 3 yards per carry, but now he gets to face the Cleveland Browns, the team that has allowed the second-most rushing yards in the league. Then again, nobody can throw on the Browns, so they face more run-oriented game plans; nine teams have allowed more than Cleveland's 4.5 yards per rush. I didn't rank Wells as if I expected a monster, top-10 game, but he made my top 20. So did Marion Barber. I've had enough of considering top-20 status for BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and I don't particularly like the matchups for LeGarrette Blount and Rashard Mendenhall.
Wide receiver: The poor Kansas City Chiefs have to face Aaron Rodgers and his crew. With Greg Jennings out, I ranked James Jones better than Donald Driver. I just expect more big plays from Jones. As for other teammates, I'm also sticking with Demaryius Thomas over Eric Decker, DeSean Jackson over Jeremy Maclin, and Dez Bryant as the top Cowboys wide receiver at No. 19. Then again, I've got Laurent Robinson at No. 20 and Miles Austin 21. Flip a coin with these guys, but don't forget about Robinson. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has completed all six of his end zone throws to Robinson, but is only 8-for-26 when targeting all other receivers.
Eric Karabell analyzes this week's rankings decisions, including some good news for both Reggie Bush and Michael Bush.