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Fantasy Football Week 15 Rankings: Matchups We Love and Player Stat Projections

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2015

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton leads the way in Week 15 matchups to love.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton leads the way in Week 15 matchups to love.Bob Leverone/Associated Press

Matchups might be the single most important component going into the meat of Week 15. 

The wild slate of games started Thursday between the St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Most probably figured it a fantasy wasteland, but some couldn't ignore Tampa Bay rookie quarterback Jameis Winston in a great matchup.

Those who didn't got 18 points.

It's but a brief example of what the week has to offer. Below, let's take a look at rankings for each position and point out top matchups.

Week 15 Schedule

Saturday, Dec. 19Time (ET)
N.Y. Jets at Dallas8:25 pm
Sunday, Dec. 20Time (ET)
Carolina at N.Y. Giants1:00 pm
Tennessee at New England1:00 pm
Kansas City at Baltimore1:00 pm
Atlanta at Jacksonville1:00 pm
Chicago at Minnesota1:00 pm
Houston at Indianapolis1:00 pm
Buffalo at Washington1:00 pm
Cleveland at Seattle4:05 pm
Green Bay at Oakland4:05 pm
Cincinnati at San Francisco4:25 pm
Denver at Pittsburgh4:25 pm
Miami at San Diego4:25 pm
Arizona at Philadelphia8:30 pm
Monday, Dec. 21Time (ET)
Detroit at New Orleans8:30 pm
ESPN

Quarterbacks

RankPlayerProjected Points
1Cam Newton18
2Russell Wilson18
3Tom Brady17
4Matthew Stafford16
5Carson Palmer12
6Alex Smith12
7Drew Brees11
8Aaron Rodgers10
9Derek Carr10
10Blake Bortles10
11Ben Roethlisberger10
12Eli Manning10
13Tyrod Taylor9
14Philip Rivers8
15Ryan Fitzpatrick8
Author's projections. *If he plays

It took some time, but Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is now fantasy's second-highest scorer at the position behind Tom Brady.

Newton's having an MVP-caliber year even without wideout Kelvin Benjamin. This makes him an obvious play any week, though this week is especially worth pointing out thanks to a game against the New York Giants.

First, understand that Newton has 17 or more points in all but one game since a Week 5 bye. Two, those Giants allow the sixth-most points to quarterbacks. In a shootout, Newton should be able to use his legs and arms to post one of his highest totals of the season.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith might be in for a season high, too.

It's probably easy for owners to scoff at Smith, but he's quietly posted 13 or more points in every game except one this season. Two of his past three outings have gone for 21 or more points as he leans on big weapons such as Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce.

Next up for Smith is the Baltimore Ravens, a team allowing the second-most points to quarterbacks, having just coughed up five touchdown passes last week to Russell Wilson.

Smith might not hit that mark, but it's easy to see why owners can lean on him.

Running Backs

RankPlayerProjected Points
1Adrian Peterson16
2DeAngelo Williams15
3Devonta Freeman13
4LeSean McCoy13
5Jeremy Hill12
6Tim Hightower12
7Latavius Murray11
8Chris Ivory11
9Jonathan Stewart*11
10Lamar Miller11
11Denard Robinson10
12Frank Gore9
13David Johnson9
14Brandon Bolden9
15Charcandrick West8
16Eddie Lacy8
17Matt Forte8
18Javorius Allen8
19DuJuan Harris7
20Giovani Bernard7
21Darren McFadden7
22Danny Woodhead7
23C.J. Anderson7
24Matt Jones6
25Darren Sproles6
26Melvin Gordon6
27Spencer Ware*6
28James White6
29Shaun Draughn6
30Theo Riddick6
Author's projections. *If he plays

It's about time Jeremy Hill's name moved back into the "usual suspects" placement on the scoring list. 

The Cincinnati Bengals lead back hasn't been able to live up to his rookie outbursts, but does have five trips to double digits this season. That figure is pretty remarkable given how much the Bengals have leaned on the pass this year.

Until now.

Now the Bengals are without quarterback Andy Dalton, meaning a renewed focus on the running game to help protect inexperienced backup AJ McCarron. This means Hill gets guaranteed touches against the San Francisco 49ers, the team allowing the most points on average against backs, with the last two backfields encountered posting 29 or more points.

Chris Ivory of the New York Jets is also in a great situation. He has seven double-digit outings this year and figures to make it eight against the Dallas Cowboys.

Those Cowboys allow the sixth-most points to the spot and last week managed to give up 43 points to Green Bay running backs, a team otherwise known for its passing.

Ivory's been a bit hit-or-miss this year despite surefire usage. In great matchups, though, he's one to trust.

Wide Receivers

RankPlayerProjected Points
1Larry Fitzgerald15
2Calvin Johnson15
3Antonio Brown15
4A.J. Green14
5Julio Jones13
6Brandon Marshall12
7Jarvis Landry11
8Doug Baldwin11
9Allen Robinson10
10Alshon Jeffery10
11Odell Beckham Jr.10
12Michael Crabtree10
13DeAndre Hopkins8
14Alshon Jeffery8
15Amari Cooper8
16Kamar Aiken8
17Stevie Johnson*8
18Martavis Bryant8
19Eric Decker8
20Golden Tate8
21Sammy Watkins8
22Danny Amendola8
23John Brown7
24Michael Floyd7
25Brandin Cooks7
26Demaryius Thomas7
27Brandon LaFell6
28DeSean Jackson*6
29Emmanuel Sanders6
30T.Y. Hilton6
31Allen Hurns6
32Dez Bryant6
33Anquan Boldin6
34Marvin Jones6
35Travis Benjamin6
Author's projections. *If he plays

It's not hard to figure out who the top scorers at wideout will be most weeks, but it's a tad more difficult to sift through all the names and figure out who really has the top matchup.

This week it looks like Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald. Owners might shy away from the veteran because he has four consecutive single-digit outings, but if he's to break the streak, it will happen this weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles simply cannot defend wideouts. Since a Week 8 bye, the unit has managed to give up 13 touchdowns to the position and at least 12 catches in every game. Fitzgerald's likely to go off, especially with a quarterback such as Carson Palmer under center.

One of the more difficult names to figure out this year has been Seattle Seahawks wideout Doug Baldwin.

In a matter of weeks, he's gone from irrelevant to a must-own commodity. Now, he's a name owners must trot out this week thanks to a matchup with the Cleveland Browns, which is about as simplistic as it sounds.

The Browns allow the sixth-most points to the position. Pair it with the fact Seattle now touts a pass-first offense that has helped Baldwin score eight touchdowns over his past three games and really, what's not to love?

Tight Ends

RankPlayerProjected Points
1Rob Gronkowski14
2Greg Olsen*13
3Julius Thomas10
4Richard Rodgers8
5Tyler Eifert*8
6Benjamin Watson8
7Delanie Walker8
8Jordan Reed7
9Eric Ebron7
10Zach Ertz6
11Gary Barnidge6
12Jason Witten6
Author's projections. *If he plays

Outside of the obvious man at the top, this week is all about Newton's favorite target, Greg Olsen.

The reliable veteran has six double-digit outings this year and it could have been seven if he hadn't left with an injury early last week despite posting five points beforehand.

Olsen is back and practicing without issue, which is nothing but a good sign as he goes into a matchup with the Giants, the team also happening to allow the third-most points to tight ends.

If one connection has the ceiling to perhaps outdo Newton-Olsen, it's the Rodgers-Rodgers show in Green Bay.

Aaron Rodgers hasn't leaned on Richard Rodgers often this year, but the tight end remains a TE1 with four double-digit performances to his name. He'll be the focal point of the attack against the Oakland Raiders, the team allowing the second-most points to the position.

Oakland has allowed eight sets of opposing tight ends to reach at least 10 points. Rodgers will do this on his own given a game plan sure to focus on exploiting the weakness.

Defense/Special Teams

RankUnitProjected Points
1Seahawks9
2Panthers9
3Jets9
4Steelers8
5Jaguars7
6Broncos7
7Eagles6
8Packers 6
9Cardinals6
10Bengals6
Author's projections.

Surprised?

Look, normal weeks it would be simple to focus on any other unit. But this week? Seattle hosting Cleveland writes itself.

The Browns allow the most points to opposing defenses, meaning the offense is so putrid it gifts points like it's, well, the holidays.

Seriously, though, Seattle has 10 interceptions this year, five defensive touchdowns, 32 sacks and five trips to double digits. Now the unit hosts a Johnny Manziel-led Browns team that has to hit the road and somehow overcome the Seahawks.

It's going to be quite ugly, which is nothing but a good thing for those who own Seattle.

Kickers

RankPlayerProjected Points
1Stephen Gostkowski8
2Graham Gano8
3Cairo Santos8
4Nick Novak8
5Kai Forbath8
6Brandon McManus8
7Mike Nugent7
8Caleb Sturgis7
9Dan Carpenter7
10Steven Hauschka6
Author's projections.

It's another Cairo Santos week, folks.

Santos is one of the most explosive kickers around, with two of his four double-digit outings this year going for 20 or more points.

If Smith and the Chiefs are a team to target against the Ravens, so too is the high-upside Santos.

In fact, the Ravens allow the fourth-most points to kickers this year, having coughed up six occurrences of 10 or more points to the position. Santos will likely make it a seventh in what figures to be quite the ugly showdown.

All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as is points-against info and ownership stats as of December 18.

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