The worst part of every week for fantasy players is that moment they stare down at their lineup and see one of their star players or most consistent performers is faced with a difficult matchup.
It's a classic debate every week—do you trust the player more or the matchup? Which players have matchup-defying talent? Is their opponent really that stingy, or have they faced inferior players at the position that have made them look better?
It's a struggle we all know all too well. This week, I've taken a close look at four players facing tough matchups and broken down why you can trust them or, gasp, why you can't.
Note: Stats via standard-scoring leagues. All points-against stats via ESPN.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Matchup: New England Patriots, giving up 11.2 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks per week, tied for third-best in NFL.
Analysis: It's not as though Brees has been scoring fantasy points at will against bad defenses. He put up 31 fantasy points on the Arizona Cardinals, 32 on the Miami Dolphins and 19 on the Chicago Bears. Now, he faces a Patriots defense that has been stingy against opposing quarterbacks and has allowed just four passing touchdowns on the year, tied for fourth in the NFL.
Long Verdict: Unless you also have either Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or Aaron Rodgers on your roster—and if you do, can I play in your league next year?—you can't sit Brees. He's pretty much a must-start every week.
Short Verdict: Start
C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
Matchup: Cincinnati Bengals, allowing 13 fantasy points to opposing running backs per week, tied for 10th-best in the NFL.
Analysis: There isn't a lot to like about this matchup for Spiller.
The Bengals are allowing just 95.6 rushing yards per game (10th in the NFL) and have given up just two rushing touchdowns (tied fourth). Fred Jackson will continue to steal touches from Spiller. He's recovering from an ankle injury. And with a new quarterback starting in Thad Lewis, fresh off the practice squad, the Bengals won't be afraid to stack the box to stop the running game.
This is a "yikes" matchup all around.
Long Verdict: It's hard to sit a first-round pick, especially one with big-play potential every time he touches the ball. But if you have alternatives on your bench you are comfortable starting, sit Spiller—there are too many factors stacked against him this week.
Short Verdict: Sit
DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Matchup: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, allowing 15.8 fantasy points to opposing wide receivers per week, tied for seventh-best in the NFL.
Analysis: Nick Foles starting at quarterback won't hurt Jackson—as backup quarterbacks go, Foles is about as good as they get. But facing a Tampa Bay defense that has been tough against wide receivers and given up just five passing touchdowns on the season (tied for seventh in the NFL) will.
Not only that, but the Buccaneers will probably have Darrelle Revis shadow Jackson the entire game, seeing as the Eagles don't have any other major threats in the passing game. A trip to Revis Island is never good for a player's fantasy prospects.
Long Verdict: The temptation to start Jackson will be there, given how explosive he and the Eagles offense has been. In deeper leagues he's probably still a flex play, but if you can afford to sit him, this is the week to do so.
Short Verdict: Sit
Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns
Matchup: Detroit Lions, allowing 5.4 fantasy points to opposing tight ends per week, seventh-best in the NFL.
Analysis: Yes, the Lions have been stingy against opposing tight ends, but keep in mind that the best player they've faced at the position thus far is Jermichael Finley of the Green Bay Packers. And yes, Cameron had just three receptions last week for 36 yards, surely fueling fears that he will slink back into obscurity with Brandon Weeden as his quarterback.
Stop worrying—Weeden was his quarterback in the first two weeks, and he still caught 14 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown.
Long Verdict: Until further notice, you should be starting Cameron every week. If you are nervous about his production moving forward, trade him—his value remains sky high.
Short Verdict: Start
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