Week 15 Start 'Em Sit 'Em: Smart Matchup Plays, Sleepers and More
This past weekend reinforces the notion that while it takes skill to get into the playoffs, it's often more luck to get to the fantasy championships.
The weather outside was frightful, and though it made for some fun football, it messed with some players' production and might have cost some of you the season.
There's no logic to it, because while Calvin Johnson had the rare poor game because of a blizzard, LeSean McCoy went off in the snow, as did rookie Cordarrelle Patterson.
So you can't overthink it, because your studs are still your studs and you start them.
As always, it's the fringe players—like Patterson—who can make the difference in these games.
So let's take a look at whom you—weather permitting—should be starting and whom you should avoid in Week 15.
START: Philip Rivers at Denver Broncos
Last time out, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had a so-so game, throwing for only 218 yards and a touchdown against a Denver defense which often gives up more to quarterbacks.
This week, expect Chargers head coach Mike McCoy to be aggressive and attack the Denver secondary. The Chargers have to try to get out ahead early against a Broncos team which will definitely put points on the board.
Denver's defensive front will attack the offensive line again—it notched four sacks against a San Diego offensive line which is still a weak spot for the Chargers—so expect Rivers and McCoy to get the ball out quickly to negate the rush.
A big difference between now and the last game between these two teams is the play of rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen. Over the last three weeks, Allen has been on a tear, totaling 289 yards and a pair of touchdowns (both scored in Week 14), making for some very dominant games.
While the Broncos do have a solid secondary, it’s also banged up. With Allen attracting attention, other players like Vincent Brown and Antonio Gates will have more room to work.
The Broncos will almost certainly win Thursday night , but Rivers will have a solid game for his fantasy owners as well.
SIT: Lamar Miller vs. New England Patriots
After a solid game against the New York Jets, Lamar Miller was basically replaced by fellow running back Daniel Thomas.
Thomas took most of the snaps and ended up with 105 yards and a touchdown at the end of the day.
Miller saw just six carries and ended up with 33 total yards, including a pair of catches.
Normally, this would be a decent matchup for Miller, but his situation fluctuates too much. You can't tell week to week what the offense will do.
Will Miller get another six carries? 16? None?
It’s too unpredictable, and the last thing you want when you're one game from the fantasy championship is to add another element of unpredictability.
START: Roddy White vs. Washington
After back-to-back solid games it is safe to say “Roddy White’s back.”
White is facing a defense which has allowed a lot of yards this year.
Though Washington hasn’t allowed a 100-yard receiver since the Chargers’ Keenan Allen in Week 9, San Francisco 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin still torched the Washington secondary for 94 yards and two scores in Week 12, and the Redskins are reeling with problems both on and off the field.
The Falcons offense has put together a string of decent games and Washington is collapsing.
It seems as if there is plenty of room for a solid performance from White. Maybe not as a No. 1 receiver, but as a solid No. 2 or No. 3.
He should finally pay off for those of you who hung in there.
SIT: Eli Manning vs. Seattle Seahawks
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning continues his inconsistent and frustrating fantasy season, still throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and failing to crack 300 yards in games during a season where throwing for 300 yards has practically become the norm for other quarterbacks.
The Seattle Seahawks would be a tough matchup even if Manning were at the top of his game—which he is most assuredly not.
Worse, the Seahawks are coming off a tough loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners had moderate success through the air, but not much, instead moving the chains with running back Frank Gore and some opportune Colin Kaepernick scrambles.
The Seahawks are middle-of-the-road against the run, but the No. 1 defense against the pass.
So on top of Manning’s struggles and the tough defense, you have to figure the Giants spend more time attacking on the ground than risking interceptions through the air.
It’s a good week to keep Manning out of your lineups.
START: Shane Vereen at Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins have done a decent job containing the run the last few games, but New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen is just too good to keep on your bench.
Don’t worry about the ground game, because Vereen is going to get you a ton of receiving yards regardless.
The key will be where you start him in your lineup.
Don’t expect a repeat performance of last week's explosion in which he totaled 153 receiving yards, but a good 40-to-50 yards on the ground and 50-to-60 through the air?
Start him as a low-end No.2 running back or an outstanding No. 3 with huge upside.
SIT: Chris Ivory at Carolina Panthers
The New York Jets are a tough run defense, but you know who is even tougher?
Their opponent this week, the Carolina Panthers.
On top of having the top-ranked run defense in the NFL, the Panthers are coming off an embarrassing loss to the New Orleans Saints and will be looking to take out some anger on their next opponent.
They know that Jets quarterback Geno Smith will be hard-pressed to beat them in the passing game, so they will look to shut down the run and force him to try.
Chris Ivory has been merely “OK” since his 98-yard, one-touchdown performance in Week 11 against the Buffalo Bills. His offense struggled against both the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins, so he, in turn, also had subpar outings.
That's not going to be different here, as he'll see stacked fronts and clogged running lanes again this week.
While Ivory is normally good for a No. 3 running back or flex spot, this week is a bad time to risk another low-output game.
Keep him on your bench.
START: Nick Foles at Minnesota Vikings
Yes, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles had his worst game since taking over as the starter in Week 9.
In a blizzard.
So, let’s not overreact and throw Foles out with the bathwater.
The Minnesota Vikings are ranked No. 30 in the NFL against the pass and have allowed a staggering 29 touchdown passes—most in the league.
You don’t even need to worry about the weather, since it’s in a dome in Minnesota.
This is a great matchup for Foles, and he’ll get back to producing those big numbers again this week.
SIT: Zac Stacy vs. New Orleans Saints
After a tremendous stretch of games early on, St. Louis Rams rookie running back Zac Stacy has come crashing back down to earth.
While he does look a bit worn down and may have hit the “rookie wall,” he is also suffering from a lack of a strong supporting cast.
Stacy doesn’t have the experience—and perhaps lacks the ability—to carry the whole offense and overcome stacked fronts.
So when defenses will not take the passing offense seriously and instead focus on the run, he can only make so much headway.
Stacy’s also got defense and special-teams units which routinely leave him very long fields to work with.
It’s not that Stacy is bad—it’s mostly that there is nobody to make his life easier.
The New Orleans Saints aren’t tremendous run-stoppers, but they can get the job done, at least enough to keep Stacy from having much success.
Last week, Stacy’s fantasy production was saved by a touchdown.
If you survived the first round of your playoffs, you can’t risk him missing the end zone and leaving you with the two points you would have otherwise had.
Keep him on your bench.
START: Michael Floyd at Tennessee Titans
This past week was a rough one for Arizona Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd, as he had an off week from a production standpoint and looked like he was favoring his ankle, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.
The Tennessee Titans are a bit up-and-down when it comes to pass defense, but they can be tough, the recent Peyton Manning decimation notwithstanding.
Still, before this past week, the offense—and Floyd—was humming.
If Floyd is practicing Thursday and Friday, he’ll be a solid start as a No. 3 wide receiver.
SIT: Andy Dalton at Pittsburgh Steelers
After three straight average (or worse) outings, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton lit the Indianapolis Colts up to the tune of 275 yards and three touchdowns.
At best, the Colts are a middling pass defense and the last few games have looked worse than that.
Yes, Dalton did a great job in bad weather—spreading the ball around with efficiency and wisely avoiding big mistakes.
He’s still just a matchup fantasy quarterback, though, and is facing a far tougher pass defense in Pittsburgh.
One game does not make a trend, and Dalton is just as likely to revert to low yardage and interceptions as he is to repeat his Week 14 numbers.
In the fantasy playoffs, you want consistency as well as high upside.
Dalton is too risky to start if you have any better matchups this week.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.