Success in the fantasy playoffs is as much about playing the matchups as it is about the quality of the players themselves. For example, Jim McMahon was a very good quarterback, but he never could have defeated a team comprised entirely of mini Mike Ditkas.
Here we take a good, hard look at the matchups and find one player at each major position whom you need to start in Week 15.
These are four bold predictions which defy some conventional wisdom, whether it's because of benching rumors, injury uncertainty, a logjam at the position or a poor outing in Week 14.
QB: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
UPDATE: Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins (fantasy gambler's special)
Yes, Robert Griffin III got benched for Kirk Cousins early in the fourth quarter in Week 14. Griffin had struggled against the Chiefs defense for much of the day, and the game was unwinnable anyway—Washington trailed 38-10 at halftime.
Don't worry, this isn't the last we've seen of RG3 in 2013. UPDATE: Oh, actually it is.
Head coach Mike Shanahan had said he's considered benching Griffin for the remainder of the season to preserve the fragile health of the franchise player. Via Frank Schwab of Yahoo! Sports, Shanahan stated,
I think that's the most important thing going into the offseason, that he has his first full offseason being healthy. If he did play and something happened to him, I think it would set our franchise back...I'll think about it these next 48 hours and make a decision on Wednesday.
For what it's worth, Griffin revealed his feelings on possibly being benched to finish the season to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, saying, "It’s not who I am. It’s not who any competitive football player is. You want to play, so we’re going to finish out the year."
The notion of a preventative benching is somewhat ludicrous, as it amounts to saying that any team eliminated from playoff contention should rest all its marquee players to avoid injury. Maybe Shanahan is guilty about leaving Griffin out there to get injured further last season, but to sit him now would fly in the face of sportsmanship and competition, not to mention the integrity of fantasy football.
C'mon Mike, some people drafted this guy in the first round!
November was actually Griffin's most efficient month this season in terms of quarterback rating and protecting the ball; he threw five TDs to three INTs. This was despite the fact that he was sacked 14 times in the month, equal to the combined total from September and October. Moreover, those sacks are a large reason for the QB change.
Instead of RG3, Kirk Cousins faces an Atlanta Falcons defense that has collected only seven interceptions all season and given up 25 touchdowns. Atlanta also has next to no pass rush with 27 sacks, ranking it 27th in the league.
The Falcons have allowed the opposing QB more than 230 passing yards 10 times this season, and they had been victimized for at least two scores through the air in 10 of their first 11 games until they ran into EJ Manuel and Matt Flynn, who notched one apiece.
With Atlanta's light pass rush and inability to corral interceptions, Cousins should have some time and room to work. This is a sad case of a QB handcuff, but he could turn into the Josh McCown of Week 15.
RB: Chris Ogbonnaya, Cleveland Browns
Chris Ogbonnaya should get the start in a jackpot matchup against the woeful Chicago Bears run defense.
Willis McGahee suffered a concussion late in the fourth quarter of Cleveland's loss to the New England Patriots, so Ogbonnaya figures to start at the moment.
At 225 pounds, Ogbonnaya has the physicality to run against tough defenses, evidenced by his 69 yards and 8.6 yards per rush against the stout Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11. He is a weapon in the passing game too with 41 receptions and a pair of touchdowns.
Keep an eye on this situation as the week progresses, since McGahee could be active for the game depending on how the mandatory battery of concussion tests go. Whoever is slated to carry the rock for the Browns, get them in there against a Bears defense that's yielded 153.6 yards per game and 15 touchdowns in just 12 contests.
Just don't bother with Fozzy Whittaker, as he is the handcuff's handcuff.
WR: Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
Cordarrelle Patterson might seem like a gadget receiver at first glance, but he totaled 258 all-purpose yards in the Minnesota Vikings' narrow loss to the Baltimore Ravens. If your league gives points for return yardage, then this is a no-brainer as he returned four kickoffs for 111 yards.
Patterson has seen a robust 32 targets in his last four games, and he has big-play potential, as shown in his 79-yard catch-and-run against Baltimore. He has even been a weapon in the ground game, and he scampered for a 33-yard score in the Week 13 overtime win against the Chicago Bears.
In Week 15, the Vikes get a Philadelphia Eagles defense that has been terrible against wide receivers, making it a nice matchup for Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson. The Eagles have the second-worst pass defense in the league, allowing 285.3 yards per game, and opposing WRs have snagged 203 receptions against them this year, meaning there will be plenty of points to go around.
If you have any Minnesota receiver this week, start him. If you have Patterson, do a little dance and then text your opponent some trash talk.
TE: Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
Don't be fooled by the goose egg that Zach Ertz posted on Sunday against the Detroit Lions. The boys in silver and blue have been one of the league's stingiest defenses against tight ends this season.
Ertz torched the Arizona Cardinals for 68 yards and two touchdowns in Week 13. In Week 15, he will face the second-worst defense against TEs, the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikes have allowed opposing tight ends to collect 67 catches and 11 TDs on the season.
Ertz has found a rhythm with Nick Foles, who has been nothing short of fantastic since replacing Michael Vick under center. And don't bother with Brent Celek, as Ertz is significantly more talented as a pass-catcher.