This is the Fantasy Football Nerd's look at the best and worst fantasy football matchups for Week 15 of the 2014 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.
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 Peyton Manning, Jimmy Graham, or LeSean McCoy. 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 - Ben Roethlisberger (PIT, QB)
We didn't expect much from Ben Roethlisberger last week and he pleasantly surprised us with a really solid performance. Against the Falcons who are fresh off a Monday night loss, Big Ben should be able to put up big numbers. Atlanta gives up the 9th-most fantasy points to QB's this year. Expect a shootout.
Start 'em - Matt Ryan (ATL, QB)
Across the field from Big Ben will be Matty Ice who is coming off 2 straight 300+ yard games. Pittsburgh gives up the 7th-most fantasy points to opposing QB's meaning that a lot damage is going to be done through the air in this one. Keep an eye on Julio Jones though.
Start 'em - Isaiah Crowell (CLE, RB)
The fact that Isaiah Crowell is splitting carries with Terrance West certainly impacts his potential, but that doesn't mean that he's not a good start this week. The Bengals give up the 2nd-most yards from scrimmage, at least 1 rushing score/game, and the 5th-most fantasy points (ppr) to RB's. It's a good matchup.
Start 'em - Jonathan Stewart (CAR, RB)
With DeAngelo Williams out, Jonathan Stewart roared to a monster day last week racking up 155 yards and a score. While that kind of performance has not been the norm for J-Stew, he should have a solid outing against the Bucs who give up the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing RB's. Without Cam Newton, the Panthers should lean on Stewart even more.
Start 'em - Sammy Watkins (BUF, WR)
The Packers are on a roll and the Bills will likely be playing from behind. If the Pack gets out too far, the Bills will have to throw and that means that Watkins, who has been inconsistent this year, could have a big game. Nobody gives up more passing TD's to WR's than Green Bay and the Packers also give up the 5th-most fantasy points (ppr). Watkins is a risk/reward play with upside.
Start 'em - Steve Smith (BAL, WR)
With Torrey Smith not fully 100%, Steve Smith became the go-to guy for Joe Flacco last week racking up 7 for 70 yards and a score. Against Jacksonville this week, Smith could be in for another solid day. Baltimore needs to pick it up to get themselves into the playoffs and Smith could be the guy to help them here.
Start 'em - Antonio Gates (SD, TE)
Philip Rivers' safety blanket remains a good start among the TE position where injuries and disappointment have reigned supreme this year. Denver gives up the 5th-most fantasy points to tight ends this year (ppr) and it's a safe bet that San Diego will have to throw to keep up with Peyton and company.
Start 'em - Larry Donnell (NYG, TE)
What Larry Donnell lacks in consistency, he makes up for in potential. With Odell Beckham commanding the secondary's attention and Eli Manning finally putting up some numbers, Donnell is primed for a big game against a Washington team that gives up the 2nd-most fantasy points to TE's.
Start 'em - Baltimore Ravens (BAL, DEF)
At #1 in this week's DST FFN rankings, we'll find the Baltimore Ravens who face a Jacksonville team that gives up the 2nd-most fantasy points. We're expecting a ton of pressure on Blake Bortles this week and would not be surprised to see a ton of sacks and even a defensive score in this one.
Start 'em - Adam Vinatieri (IND, K)
When it comes to fantasy playoff success, a veteran like Adam Vinatieri can certainly help you out. Even though Houston has been brutal to kickers this year, the potent offensive machine in Indy will give Vinatieri plenty of opportunities to put numbers up on the scoreboard.
Sit 'em - Ryan Tannehill (MIA, QB)
Ryan Tannehill comes into this week's FFN rankings at #21 which means that unless you're in a 2-QB league, he shouldn't be your starting QB. The Patriots give up the 11th-fewest fantasy points to QB's and Tannehill has been on a cold streak as of late.
Sit 'em - Colin Kaepernick (SF, QB)
One of the more frustrating quarterbacks this year has been Colin Kaepernick. Playing against the Seahawks isn't going to help make the situation any better. Seattle gives up the fewest passing yards and fantasy points to opposing QB's, and Kaep's history playing against them makes him a risky play in the playoffs.
Sit 'em - Frank Gore (SF, RB)
This one should begin with an apology. Gore's matchup last week should have produced a solid stat line, but the 49ers are frustratingly obtuse. They don't use Gore nearly as often as they should and the matchup this week against Seattle is brutal.
Sit 'em - Ryan Mathews (SD, RB)
I am one of those fantasy owners who held onto Mathews during his injury expecting him to be a productive starter when he got back. I think he's still one of those guys, but not this week against the Broncos who give up the 13th-fewest fantasy points. At #25 in the FFN rankings, Mathews could still be a flex start for you though.
Sit 'em - Michael Crabtree (SF, WR)
Michael Crabtree has played second fiddle to Anquan Boldin all year and remains both a real and a fantasy disappointment. San Francisco has been terrible throwing the ball this season and has relegated guys like Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Frank Gore to the fantasy benches.
Sit 'em - Larry Fitzgerald (ARI, WR)
With Carson Palmer under center, Larry Fitzgerald was generally a WR1 for most teams. With Drew Stanton under center, Fitz's production has suffered. He has only seen the endzone twice this year so any expectation that he'll do so against the Rams should be tempered. Fitzgerald is ranked 44th among WR's on FFN this week making the flex spot a long shot.
Sit 'em - Jason Witten (DAL, TE)
While Antonio Gates is successfully reprising his role of safety blanket for Philip Rivers, Jason Witten - the longtime security blanket for Tony Romo - has regressed to the point where we can no longer trust his production. He has struggled against Philly much as every other TE has this year. The Eagles give up the 7th-fewest fantasy points (avg 4.74 in ppr) to tight ends making Witten a tough start.
Sit 'em - Vernon Davis (SF, TE)
Peruse the Sit portion of this column and you'll notice the starting lineup of the 49ers are all here. While Seattle has been favorable to TE's this year, Davis has been MIA - so much so that you can't trust him to produce even in a favorable matchup.
Sit 'em - Miami Dolphins (MIA, DEF)
If your fantasy defense is playing either the Packers, Patriots, or Broncos, it's not going to be a pretty day. The Dolphins have played very well this year and their defense has shut down a number of QB's, but Brady and the Pats are rolling right now. New England gives up the 3rd-fewest fantasy points to opposing DST's.
Sit 'em - Phil Dawson (SF, K)
We have a 49ers QB, RB, WR, and TE on this list. Why not complete the circle by putting Phil Dawson here as well? This isn't a slight against San Francisco who has normally been a fantasy juggernaut, but the Seahawks gives up the 3rd-fewest fantasy points to kickers and San Fran is just not firing on all cylinders right now.
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