Fantasy Playoffs Best-Worst Matchups Week 15 2017

By Evan Tarracciano
Evan Tarracciano
The prefix “semi” is Latin, meaning “half, partially, incompletely, or somewhat”. Therefore, Fantasy Football owners who have reached the semi-finals should be thrilled with their success this season, but realize that the journey is only half or partially, complete. The tides of fate are incredibly fickle, and plenty of owners will share horror stories of how their formerly dominant team fell short in the playoffs, felled by a very inferior (but lucky) opponent. Don’t take things for granted.

Last week we shared a list of players that stood to either benefit or suffer based upon their matchups against the opposition. Upon a quick revisit, most of the recommendations stayed true to form, with a notable exception being Jonathan Stewart somehow finding the end zone three times against the Minnesota Vikings. As a whole, the list of “every week starters” that I shared were extremely successful, and the vast majority of matchups in Week 14 ended up in shootouts, especially the Eagles vs. Rams and Ravens vs. Steelers games.

Looking ahead to Week 15, here is a quick breakdown of matchups against the top and bottom defenses (based upon their rolling prior four week averages in a PPR format), and what players stand to be impacted:

Worst DSTs vs. RBs:
1. Buffalo – (vs. Miami) We discussed Kenyan Drake’s easy upcoming schedule on my “7 at 7” segment with Bob Harris and Mike Dempsey. Drake has been running wild since taking over the job in Miami, and this weekend will be no different. The Bills have also allowed the most rushing TDs in the league. Drake is a mid-range RB1.
2. Detroit – (vs. Chicago) As if you needed another reason to start Jordan Howard. After running wild against the Cincinnati Bengals last week, expect this one to be no different. You’d have to imagine the Bears coaching staff gives him another healthy dose of carries, and he is likely to replicate his Week 11 numbers against the Lions (125 yards rushing and a score).
3. Cincinnati – (vs. Minnesota) Normally I wouldn’t advocate to start multiple RBs in a given week, but this is a unique situation where both Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray have a solid chance of finding pay-dirt. The team is coming off of a dismal effort against the Carolina Panthers, where they only attempted 16 running plays. Expect that number to dramatically rise. Murray is a RB2, while McKinnon is an upside FLEX in PPR formats.
4. San Francisco – (vs. Tennessee) Though Carlos Hyde has failed to reach the 100 yard rushing mark since Week 2, he has bolstered his stats with 4-5 receptions each week. The emergence of Jimmy Garoppolo and the passing attack will force defenses to not stack the box with as many defenders, making Hyde an under-the-radar upside play. Should the team opt to give him 15 or more carries, he will certainly score this week.
5. Green Bay – (@Carolina) As I mentioned earlier, few could have predicted that Jonathan Stewart would have his first three touchdown performance of his CAREER against the Minnesota Vikings last week. Prior to Week 14, Stewart was a boom-or-bust option at the RB position, taking a backseat to Christian McCaffery, especially in PPR formats. Though I doubt he has multiple scores again, numbers similar to his Week 12/13 performances are within reach (around 13 carries for 40 yards and a score).

Best DSTs vs. RBs:
1. Minnesota – (vs. Cincinnati) The Vikings DST is sure to come out with their hair on fire in this matchup, especially given the massive letdown performance last week against the Panthers. Joe Mixon recently returned to practice on Thursday, but is still questionable to play this week. Should he take the field, he would find it difficult to find any room between the tackles, and is also set to lose snaps to Giovani Bernard, who played well in his absence. Mixon would be a borderline RB2.
2. Philadelphia – (@New York Giants) The major storyline for the Eagles this past weekend was losing Carson Wentz with an ACL tear, and being forced to use Nick Foles moving forward. That aside, the Eagles defense hasn’t received nearly enough praise for taking major steps forward in 2017, especially up front. Owners who were considering using Orleans Darkwa as a FLEX this week should look elsewhere, as he has failed to top 32 yards rushing the last three weeks, and is going against a front that allows less than four yards per carry. I’ll pass.
3. Denver – (@Indianapolis) Frank Gore was already going to have a difficult time this week, coming off of a career high 34 carries in the Buffalo blizzard. Facing the Broncos defense who allows the sixth-fewest rushing yards to RBs this year won’t help matters. This is a game where Marlon Mack figures to see an increase in snaps, with the Colts opting to utilize Jack Doyle as much as possible.
4. Seattle – (vs. Los Angeles Rams) Last week Todd Gurley rushed for two touchdowns and nearly 100 rushing yards against the Eagles, so downgrading him too much due to the matchup with Seattle would be a mistake. In their prior matchup this season Gurley did post the lowest rushing totals of 2017 (14 carries for just 43 yards), but this coaching staff knows that their success flows through him. His rushing totals might not break 50 again, but his ability to catch passes will supplement his point totals.
5. Carolina – (vs. Green Bay) I want to keep a really close eye on this game, and not just for the return of Aaron Rodgers and the impact on the Packers passing game. A major question will be just how much work will Jamaal Williams get, especially if (and assuming, when) he struggles against the Panthers stout front. Williams has scored a rushing touchdown in each of the past three weeks, a streak which is in serious jeopardy, given the expected gameflow.

Worst DSTs vs. WRs:
1. Tampa Bay – (vs. Atlanta) Though Julio Jones has largely been a major disappointment this season from a touchdown perspective, owners would do well to remember what happened the last time he took on the Bucs – 12 receptions for 253 yards and two touchdowns. We can’t guarantee that is going to happen again, but he is primed for another major game. Don’t be surprised if Mohamed Sanu also finds the end zone here – he has averaged 5 receptions for 63 yards the past three weeks, and is a favorite of Matt Ryan’s.
2. Kansas City – (vs. Los Angeles Chargers) The Chargers receiving core should really be entitled “Keenan Allen and Co.”, as he is the only consistent option among them. Tyrell Williams is capable of making a big play or two each week, but Mike Williams and Travis Benjamin are largely afterthoughts. Allen has four consecutive games of over 100 receiving yards – a trend that will definitely continue. During their prior matchup this season Allen caught just 5 passes for 61 yards, but doubling both those totals is within reason.
3. New England – (@Pittsburgh) For all the talk about New England’s defense improving after the first few weeks, owners tend to overlook their propensity to get torched against WR1s. Enter Antonio Brown. Look, we all know that Bill Belichick’s M.O. is to take away the oppositions best offensive threat, but regardless of if he’s been double, triple or quadruple teamed in the past, Brown still produces. Be prepared for another huge game from him. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant will likely also see their fair-share of targets as well, but it is a coinflip to see which will be the most productive one. Regardless, this one should be a shootout.
4. Dallas – (@Oakland) The tandem of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper have been a major disappointment in 2017, but they have the opportunity to erase some memories with this contest against Dallas. Cooper enters the week still considered day-to-day nursing a high ankle sprain, but is likely to try and tough it out. I’d look to view Crabtree as a WR3, and Cooper as a FLEX option if he starts.
5. Green Bay – (@Carolina) Since the departure of Kelvin Benjamin, the Panthers WR core is essentially a one man band in Devin Funchess. Even against one of the best corners in the league last week in Xavier Rhodes, Funchess still managed to find the end zone. Given that he is sure to lead the team in targets and that the Packers tendency to failure covering wideouts, he is in the WR2 discussion for Week 15.

Best DSTs vs. WRs:
1. Jacksonville – (vs. Houston) It would be foolish to downgrade DeAndre Hopkins too much, but squaring off against the best secondary in the league isn’t something to sweep under the rug. Regardless of who has been at the quarterback helm this season, Hopkins will see double-digit targets, and is to be considered a top-flight WR1 option. Outside of Hopkins, we couldn’t recommend even considering Will Fuller or Braxton Miller.
2. Denver – (@Indianapolis) The Colts were already considered one of the least potent offenses in the league, and squaring off against the Broncos won’t help matters. Donte Moncrief has already been ruled out of this contest with an ankle injury, which leaves T.Y. Hilton and Chester Rogers at the position. Hilton’s 2017 campaign can best be described as Jekyll or Hyde, with mostly Hyde. Since Week 6 he has failed to surpass 51 receiving yards in all but one game. Denver’s secondary has allowed an average of just 176 yards to WRs the past four games, and just four receiving TDs.
3. Cincinnati – (@Minnesota) Adam Thielen was amongst my “every week starters” in the last edition of this column, and little will change from that front. From a volume-based standpoint he is about as sure of a thing as there is in the league, and he holds a 10 point PPR floor securely. Stefon Diggs has turned into more of a possession-option than downfield threat, and has only one receiving touchdown since Week 3. In the past month the Bengals have only allowed two touchdowns to WRs, though they don’t have a true shutdown cornerback on the team. Thielen is still a low-end WR1 with Diggs a WR3.
4. Baltimore – (@Cleveland) Welcome back, Josh Gordon! May I be one of the first to say that it is great having you back on the field. Though Gordon only has seven catches total and is still working his way back into “gameshape”, it is clear that the talent is still there. He and Corey Coleman present a major challenge for Baltimore, considering the absence of Jimmy Smith. Both are likely to be peppered with targets from DeShone Kizer. Neither option may catch more than five receptions, but both are at minimum WR3s.
5. Miami – (@Buffalo) If the Dolphins can make Tom Brady look as frustrated, just imagine what it will do to Nathan Peterman. Look, this one is pretty simple. The Bills only have one WR threat in Kelvin Benjamin, and he enters this contest as a touchdown-or-bust option. The Dolphins are one of the best streaming defenses to consider this week, in seasonal long or DFS contests.

Worst DSTs vs. TEs:
1. New York Giants – (@New York Giants) Start Zach Ertz. He has been cleared through the concussion protocol, and even with Nick Foles now at quarterback, is the most “no duh” start of the week. He is going to go OFF.
2. Cleveland – (vs. Baltimore) Though this is a good matchup on paper against a weak defense, it will be hard to truly endorse Benjamin Watson as anything more than a Hail Mary dart-throw. Watson has caught three receptions or less in five of the past six games, and hasn’t broken the 50-yard mark since Week 2. He just isn’t a major part of this offense.
3. Washington – (vs. Arizona) This is another example of a team squaring off against a defense poor against TEs, with very little talent at the position to exploit the matchup. Owners rushed to the waiver wire to grab Ricky Seals-Jones after his three touchdown outburst in Weeks 11-12, but he has done little since. Again, he is a total upside play and little more at this point.

Best DSTs vs. TEs:
1. Pittsburgh – (vs. New England) Strength on strength. The Steelers are the best defense in the league against tight ends, but Rob Gronkowski isn’t your normal tight end. We all know that he is one of the league’s best red zone options, and that the Patriots are coming off of an embarrassing letdown against the Miami Dolphins. He might not have a ton of volume in this game per se, but saying that Gronk will definitely be held completely in check is a gross assumption.
2. Green Bay – (vs. Carolina) Greg Olsen returned off of the I.R. back in Week 12, but has just one reception since for 10 yards. All of this is especially puzzling, given the rapport that he has with Cam Newton. Now that Aaron Rodgers is back in Green Bay and set to rejuvenate their offense, Olsen will need to be more involved for this to be a competitive game. He is still inside my top 12 rankings for the week, but there are more intriguing, lower owned options elsewhere.
3. Carolina – (@Green Bay) Even with Aaron Rodgers back, it is unlikely for either Lance Kendricks or Richard Rodgers to find much Fantasy relevance. Each is good for a reception or two each week but nothing more. In case this wasn’t already an obvious pass, let me say it again. Pass.

Other players to consider:

RBs with an easy Week 15 schedule
Derrick Henry/DeMarco Murray (@SF)
Marshawn Lynch (DAL)

RBs with a tough Week 15 schedule
Matt Forte/Bilal Powell (@NO)
Theo Riddick/Ameer Abdullah (CHI)

WRs with an easy Week 15 schedule
Doug Baldwin/Paul Richardson (LAR)
Dez Bryant (@OAK)
Golden Tate/Marvin Jones Jr. (CHI)

WRs with a tough Week 15 schedule
Brandin Cooks/Chris Hogan (@PIT)
Sterling Shepard (PHI)
Sammy Watkins/Robert Woods (@SEA)

TEs with an easy Week 15 schedule
Delanie Walker (@SF)
Hunter Henry (@KC)
Kyle Rudolph (CIN)

TEs with a tough Week 15 schedule
O.J. Howard/Cameron Brate (ATL)
Tyler Kroft (@MIN)
Stephen Anderson (@JAX)