Posted: Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Welcome to the fantasy playoffs! This is the Fantasy Football Nerd's look at the best and worst matchups for Week 15 of the 2017 NFL season. Decisions are based upon the FFN rankings and matchup analysis. Given the known conditions, these matchups are the ones to watch and/or avoid.
Please Note: This list does not generally include the elite players that you are going to start regardless of matchup. You don't need us to tell you to start Drew Brees, Rob Gronkowski, or Antonio Brown. Instead, we take a look at other players on your team that we believe either have great matchups or should be avoided for multiple reasons. Factors like opposing defense, performance trending, and peer comparisons may influence our decisions.
Start 'em Aaron Rodgers (GB, QB)
No other question has been asked more this week than whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers. The answer is...yes. Don't get cute here. He's still an elite QB even in a tough matchup. Rodgers is ranked 7th this week against a Carolina defense that gives up the 7th-fewest yards per game, but he's still Aaron Rodgers and he's got some very talented folks around him.
Start 'em Cam Newton (CAR, QB)
Suiting up across the field from Aaron Rodgers is Cam Newton. He's ranked 5th against a Packers secondary that surrenders an average of 20 fantasy points per week to quarterbacks. The Pack gives up the 9th most yards per game through the air (240). If the Green Bay front can't put pressure on Newton, expect to see him gouge them on the ground and through the air.
Start 'em Kenyan Drake (MIA, RB)
We recommended Kenyan Drake last week and he delivered nicely on Monday night. He's ranked 11th this week and has rejuvenated the Miami offense. The Bills give up the 6th-most yards on the ground and an average of 13 fantasy points each week. Drake should be a solid start for your fantasy playoffs.
Start 'em Latavius Murray (MIN, RB)
The Bengals defense has been riddled with injuries this year. Nobody gives up more yards on the ground than Cincy. They also give up the 5th-most fantasy points to running backs. Jordan Howard returned to fantasy relevance last week against them (2-scores), so there's no reason that Latavius Murray can't put up a solid stat line this week.
Start 'em Jordy Nelson (GB, WR)
The return of Aaron Rodgers should be a blessing to Jordy Nelson owners, but we may have to temper our expectations. It's a difficult matchup. Carolina gives up just an average of nine fantasy points to wide receivers each week, but starting wide receivers have consistently put up double digit points on them. We just need to see if it's going to be Adams or Nelson who emerges as the top option with Rodgers back under center. Jordy is ranked 25th this week (ppr) making him a low-end WR2 or a high end WR3/Flex.
Start 'em Marqise Lee (JAC, WR)
The Texans give up the fifth most fantasy points to wide receivers this year and Marqise Lee has done very well averaging 6 catches for 75 yards and .5 scores over the past two weeks. The Houston secondary has been very favorable to wide receivers (Goodwin 16 pts, Fitzgerald 24 pts, Woods 37 pts, Hilton 34 pts). Lee is ranked 22nd this week making him a low-end WR2.
Start 'em Jack Doyle (IND, TE)
Wide receivers have struggled against Denver, but the Broncos have surprisingly been susceptible to the tight end position surrendering the 5th-most fantasy points to them this year. Julius Thomas, Travis Kelce, Gronk, Hunter Henry, Evan Engram, Charles Clay, and Jason Witten didn't struggle to put up double digit fantasy points. Keep Doyle locked in.
Start 'em Jason Witten (DAL, TE)
It took until the 4th quarter before Jason Witten was even targeted, but when he was, he found himself in the endzone. There's a very good chance that he finds himself in the endzone once again this week against a Raiders defense that gives up the 7th-most fantasy points to the position.
Start 'em New Orleans Saints (NO, DEF)
If you're looking for what defense to stream this week, pay attention to the QB situation. No other situation cries out for consideration than the Saints and their matchup with Bryce Petty and the Jets. Expect lots of pressure and turnovers in Petty's first start this year.
Start 'em Matt Prater (DET, K)
Matt Prater has been a Top 10 fantasy kicker this season and we expect that trend to continue in Week 15. The Bears have surrendered an average of 9 fantasy points to kickers this season (7th-most).
Sit 'em Alex Smith (KC, QB)
Ranked 14th this week is Alex Smith facing a Chargers defense that has been brutal to quarterbacks this year. Los Angeles gives up the 3rd-fewest yards per game and the 3rd-fewest fantasy points to signal callers. Over the last three games, the Chargers have surrendered just 8 fantasy points on average.
Sit 'em Jameis Winston (TB, QB)
It's tough to trust Winston right now - particularly in the fantasy playoffs. Winston has more turnovers than he has career starts. Atlanta gives up the 6th-fewest yards per game making this a tough matchup. Fitzpatrick put up just 13 fantasy points in Winston's place in Week 12 and only two QBs have managed to score more than 20 fantasy points.
Sit 'em Frank Gore (IND, RB)
On a short week and against a tough defense, it's a risky call to start Frank Gore on Thursday night. Denver gives up the 4th-fewest yards on the ground and the 6th-fewest fantasy points to running backs. It's a tough matchup. He's ranked 28th this week and will be lucky to hit double digit fantasy points even in PPR formats.
Sit 'em Matt Forte (NYJ, RB)
The loss of Josh McCown hurts everyone on the Jets. Bryce Petty will be under center against an improving New Orleans defense. The Saints give up the 11th-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backs. Forte is ranked 33rd this week putting him in RB3/flex territory.
Sit 'em Sterling Shepard (NYG, WR)
Eli Manning is back under center, but the matchup with the Eagles is not particularly pretty. Philly gives up the 12th-fewest fantasy points and has been pretty brutal on slot receivers this season. They also surrender the 6th-fewest touchdowns to wide receivers. With a struggling Giants offense, now is not the time to trust anyone from New York (not named Evan Engram) even if they are the starting WR.
Sit 'em Robby Anderson (NYJ, WR)
Fantasy owners have been happy with Robby Anderson this year. With the exception of last week, he's been one of the hottest names in the game. The Saints gives up just 8 fantasy points (ppr), so a tough matchup with a terrible backup QB under center is not the kind of situation that's going to help get you into the fantasy championship. Temper your expectations here.
Sit 'em Greg Olsen (CAR, TE)
We recommended sitting Greg Olsen last week and that was definitely the right call. Even though Olsen played 92% of the snaps last week against the Vikings, he ended the day without a single catch. Even though HC Ron Rivera indicated that Olsen's role will grow, can you really trust him against a Packers defense that has given up the 2nd-fewest fantasy points per game to the tight end position?
Sit 'em Eric Ebron (DET, TE)
There's a phrase for fantasy owners who are considering starting Eric Ebron this week: recency bias. Do not let his 17 fantasy points last week (ppr) fool you. He'll come back to Earth this week against a Bears defense that has given up just 2 fantasy points on average to TEs the past two weeks and just 5.92 points on the season.
Sit 'em Houston Texans (HOU, DEF)
In what many thought would be an easy matchup, the Texans defense could not put away Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners. If San Francisco's offense could shut them down, what's going to prevent the Jaguars from doing so as well? Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville offense is more potent than San Fran's. Houston is ranked 27th this week - well outside starting territory.
Sit 'em Steven Hauschka (BUF, K)
Given the weather conditions, it's no wonder that Steven Hauschka couldn't put up any points last week. Unfortunately, this week isn't going to be much better. The Dolphins have allowed just two kickers all year to see double digit fantasy production. Hauschka is outside the Top 12 making him a tough start.