[dropcap]A[/dropcap]large part of being successful in fantasy football is being able to determine the better match-ups in your lineup. Every week fantasy owners debate what players are the better starts for their team. The difference in choosing one player over another at just one position could easily cost someone a win on any given week. Each week I feature three quarterbacks, three running backs, three wide receivers, two tight ends and two defenses/special teams with a favorable match-up.
My attempt is not to name the guys you drafted in the first couple rounds that you should be starting every week no matter who they’re playing. These choices are almost exclusively based on the weekly opponent.
Note: scoring is PPR-based via FFToday.
Matt Ryan @ Green Bay
Last week breathed life back into the previously comatose Matt Ryan. While he did manage just one touchdown, Ryan threw for over 300 yards for the first time since week 8 against the Cardinals. His match-up this week is against a Green Bay defense that is tied for the fourth most passing touchdowns allowed (22).
The Falcons have really been forced to throw a lot this season due to frequently falling behind. Ryan has attempted 490 passes in 2013, second most in the NFL behind Matthew Stafford. Sunday should be no different. The Falcons are no strangers to playing catch-up, plus their main mode of production is through the air. The Packers have surrendered 22.5 fantasy points per game (FPPG) to quarterbacks through 12 games. Matt Ryan should be a nice start for those who are in, or on the brink of, the playoffs.
Josh McCown vs. Dallas
Coming off a season-best game against the Vikings, Josh McCown looks to maintain that momentum against the Dallas Cowboys, the league’s worst fantasy pass defense. McCown threw for 355 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday and may see similar numbers against an atrocious Dallas squad that gives up 26 FPPG to quarterbacks. The Cowboys are second worst in the league in passing yards allowed (3,728) and have allowed the fourth most passing touchdowns (22). That’s even after Raiders’ quarterback Matt McGloin put up a goose egg against them a week ago. McCown is at worst a Top 15 quarterback option in Week 14.
Eli Manning @ San Diego
Let’s be honest, there probably aren’t many of us who are starting Eli Manning this week with the playoffs on the line. Nevertheless, he does have an enticing match-up against the Chargers. San Diego’s 3,431 passing yards allowed is the fifth most in the NFL and the 23.3 FPPG they allow to quarterbacks is eighth highest in football. It’s been a season to forget for Manning, but he has an opportunity to make people remember this game for a while.
Le’Veon Bell vs. Miami
If Le’Veon Bell is good to go this week after suffering a concussion on Thanksgiving against the Ravens, he has a tasty match-up against Miami. With how good the Dolphins have been against the pass this year, they’ve been just about as bad against the run. They are allowing running backs 26 FPPG and currently have allowed the seventh most rushing yards in the league at 1,276 and 106 rushing yards per game. Even more promising for Bell is that running backs catch the ball a lot against the Dolphins. Miami allows over five catches a contest to running backs and Bell plays an important role in Pittsburgh’s passing game. Again, as long as Bell is healthy, he’s a great start against the Dolphins.
Ray Rice vs. Minnesota
There aren’t many weeks in which I would have included Ray Rice in this column throughout the season, but this is one of those weeks. It may be difficult to start Rice in the playoffs or with the playoffs in sight, but listen to me… you can do this. If my encouragement isn’t enough to entice you, then read the following:
Through 12 games, the Vikings are the second worst PPR fantasy rush defense, averaging 22.2 FPPG to running backs. What really helps Rice’s cause this week is the 79 catches Minnesota has given up to backs. That’s more than six receptions per game. Between the 11 rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns, the Vikings easily give up more than one score per game to running backs.
This is the week to start Ray Rice and if he disappoints, forget I ever wrote this…
Steven Jackson @ Green Bay
Um, wow, Mr. Jackson where did that come from? The surprise I’m referring to is Steven Jackson’s 84 yard, two touchdown performance in the Falcons’ overtime win against the Bill. It was by far Jackson’s best outing of the eight games he’s played this season. The 23 rushing attempts Jackson had were also a season-high. In fact, over his last two games, Jackson has toted the ball 39 times. He has clearly taken over primary running back duties in Atlanta’s backfield.
The momentum should continue for Jackson this week against the Packers, who allow running backs 24.3 FPPG. The 1,328 rushing yards Green Bay has allowed are fourth most in the NFL, averaging out to 110 yards per game. Steven Jackson could be a Top 20 RB in Week 13.
Vincent Jackson vs. Buffalo
While Vincent Jackson was held out of practice on Wednesday, it sounds like it was just precautionary due to a minor leg injury. He should be good to go against the Bills on Sunday. That’s great news for those who roster Jackson, as the 6’5” receiver goes up against a Buffalo defense allowing 41.3 FPPG to receivers. Where the Bills are particularly giving is in the touchdown category, allowing up 16 scores in 12 games to receivers. If Jackson doesn’t get at least three end-zone targets on Sunday, Schiano needs to leave town on that basis alone. Jackson is easily a Top 10 WR in my book this week.
DeSean Jackson vs. Detroit
DeSean Jackson had one of his worst outings of the season on Sunday, totaling three catches for 36 yards on six targets. It was a far cry from three consecutive games of at least 80 yards. The Lions are a great defense to get back on track against as they allow 39.1 FPPG to wide receivers. Additionally, the 16 touchdowns Detroit has allowed to the position are tied for second most in the league behind the Eagles themselves. If any Week 13 game is destined for a shootout, one could easily argue that this would be the one. That would especially benefit Jackson. He’s a viable WR1 against the Lions.
Kendall Wright @ Denver
It seems like half of these columns I’ve written have included Kendall Wright, but that’s not without warrant. He’s been a sophomore breakout player this year and has undoubtedly made himself the Titans’ number one receiving threat. That being said, the weather outside will be frightful in Denver on Sunday, but that shouldn’t keep the Titans from having to play catch-up against the most potent offense in football. Wright, as usual, should be the main benefactor of said catch-up playing, especially when the Broncos allow 38.3 FPPG to wide receivers.
Denver has also surrendered the fifth most receptions to the position at 159. This statistic specifically should benefit Wright, who is seventh among wide receivers in receptions so far this season with 71. Consider him a low-end PPR WR2 this week against the Broncos.
Garrett Graham @ Jacksonville
I was going to feature Delanie Walker here, but alas, he was not cleared to practice following a concussion last week. Chin up; Garrett Graham makes for a nice match-up as well against the lowly Jaguars. Jacksonville currently possesses the second worst fantasy defense against tight ends, allowing 16.2 FPPG. He’s no Delanie Walker, but he’s a nice low-end TE2 this week.
Heath Miller vs. Miami
While he hasn’t scored since October 20th against the Ravens, Heath Miller has put together some nice games over the last three weeks, averaging seven catches for over 64 yards on just over eight targets. He doesn’t drop a lot of balls and that trend should continue against a Miami defense allowing 14.8 FPPG to tight ends. Start Miller as a low-end TE2 as well.
Cardinals vs. St. Louis
The Rams’ offense, aside from Zac Stacy and Tavon Austin, has been non-existent since Sam Bradford tore his ACL in Week 7. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have maintained one of the more formidable defenses in the league (except against tight ends). Expect Kellen Clemens to have a lot of face-to-face interaction with the turf on Sunday.
Ravens vs. Minnesota
Matt Cassell is the likely starter for the Vikings this week after Christian Ponder suffered a concussed head in Week 12. Minnesota has given up the fifth most FPPG to opposing defenses and a backup quarterback won’t help that cause, even if they do have Adrian Peterson as their running back.