Start 'Em Sit 'Em Week 15: Who to Feature and Avoid in Fantasy Playoff Matchups

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVDecember 14, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 01:  Mike Wallace #11 of the Miami Dolphins in action against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 1, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

For a select few fantasy owners in each league, it's playoff time. Decisions to start or sit certain players could mean the difference between a championship and an early postseason exit.

There may be a player on your bench who is gearing up for a breakout game that you can't miss out on or a perennial starter who is set up for failure. Whatever the case may be, the stakes are infinitely high, so don't be lazy and start the guys you've been going with all season—look into matchups and recent trends before going chalk.

Here's a look at the most important start and sit decisions heading into Week 15.

 

Start: Zac Stacy, RB, Rams

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 08:  Running back Zac Stacy #30 of the St Louis Rams high steps into the endzone for a touchdown past Dan Williams #92 of the Arizona Cardinals during the fourth quarter of their NFL football game at University of Phoenix Stadium o
Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Stud Rams running back Zac Stacy has fallen back down to Earth a bit after exploding in the middle of the season, but that had much more to do with facing the Cardinals and 49ers than his own play. 

He'll return as a formidable fantasy starting option this week against the Saints, who have allowed their last two opponents to surpass 120 yards on the ground—one of which was a lopsided win. 

Even though the Saints may cruise to victory on the road, the Rams won't ditch Stacy after seeing the success that New Orleans' recent opponents have had on the ground as of late. The Saints give up 114.3 yards per game on the ground. 

 

Sit: Victor Cruz, WR, Giants

Nov 24, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) is unable to catch a pass while defended by Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) in the first half during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robe
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

Very few receivers in all of the league have as much raw talent as Cruz, but it hasn't turned into fantasy success, especially in recent weeks. It will only get tougher in Week 15.

The Giants host Seattle over the weekend. Most people are aware of the Seahawks secondary's prowess, but in case you aren't, they're atop the NFL, giving up 175 yards per game through the air. 

Cruz has only notched one 100-yard game since Week 4 at Kansas City and hasn't caught a touchdown since that day. Despite that, 80 percent of ESPN leagues have him in a starting spot.

Look at Cruz's recent shortcomings and the beast of a defense they're facing, and realize that an average bench player would be better suited in your starting spot. 

 

Start: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins

Dec 8, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is sacked by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley (56) during the second half at Heinz Field. The Dolphins won the game, 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TO
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Fairly quietly, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is becoming relevant in fantasy, and it's boiling to the surface this week with a suddenly favorable matchup against the Patriots.

New England boasted a turnover-hungry secondary early in the season but have been allowing more and more from opposing QBs this season. Against the hapless Browns last week, the Pats gave up almost 400 passing yards and three touchdowns to Jason Campbell. Jason Campbell. 

Tannehill has been noticeably efficient in recent weeks. He posted 200 yards through the air and three scores last week against a decent Pittsburgh defense while pouring in 56 rushing yards. In the two games prior, he surpassed 300 passing yards. 

If you don't have a top-flight passer this week and Tannehill is on your bench, give him a hard look. 

 

Sit: Chris Johnson, RB, Titans

Dec 8, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) reacts on the sidelines late in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Titans 51-28. Mandatory Credit: R
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn't been a season to remember for Chris Johnson, which is starting to become commonplace for the embattled Titans running back. It won't get any easier in Week 15.

The Titans travel to Arizona over the weekend to face one of the most daunting defensive lines in the NFL. The Cardinals give up just 84.5 yards per game on the ground—third in the league. Just as well, Shonn Greene has been getting more looks in the red zone, so CJ is much less of a touchdown factor than he was early in the season. 

If the Titans have any shot at knocking off the red-hot Cards, it will take a major game from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Not Chris Johnson.

 

Start: Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots

Dec 8, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) is tackled by Cleveland Browns defensive back Johnson Bademosi (24) during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Somebody has to catch passes from Tom Brady, and it's not going to keep being running back Shane Vereen, who was thrown to 17 times last week against Cleveland. The obvious choice is Julian Edelman.

The talented slot receiver has amassed nearly 300 receiving yards over the last three weeks, scoring three touchdowns in that span. Without Rob Gronkowski, expect Brady to go to one of the few trusted receivers he has left. 

Plus, the Pats face the Dolphins, who have been average against the pass but gave up 349 yards and three touchdowns to Ben Roethlisberger last weekend. 

 

Sit: Mike Wallace, WR, Dolphins

Nov 24, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace (11) stiff arms Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (41) in the second half of a game at Sun Life Stadium. The Panthers won 20-16. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-US
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Few fantasy players have proven more frustrating for owners than Mike Wallace this season, and that came to the surface in a huge way in Week 15.

After two straight weeks of impressive performances—127 yards vs. Carolina and 82 yards vs. the Jets with TDs in both games—Wallace laid an egg against the Steelers last week. He caught just two passes for 19 yards.

It may be confusing that Tannehill is a good play and Wallace isn't, but the young QB has proven to have a consistent year with guys like Brian Hartline and Charles Clay even when Wallace isn't on.