Start’Em Sit’Em Week 15
If your team is still competing in the fantasy postseason, then your boundless diligence, which inspired you to devote months of planning toward the assembly and management of a winning roster, has guided you to the verge of securing a fantasy championship. Even though that has been your unwavering objective, the path toward achievement can be laden with countless hurdles. But now, in the aftermath of your extensive planning, including preseason research, mock drafts, the actual draft process, and the careful management of your rosters since the regular season began; the goal that once was so far removed is now tantalizingly close.
With so much effort already expended, you do not want to unwittingly lay the foundation for your team’s demise by failing to continue the thorough preparation that you have undertaken for nearly a year. This playoff edition of Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em will carefully examine the Week 15 matchups, assist your decision-making process, and help you construct the best lineup for this week’s crucial contests.
With that groundwork established, let’s progress to my Start ‘Em and Sit ‘Em recommendations for Week 15. As always, no space will be devoted to elite players that you should already be planning to deploy. Instead, the focus will remain on the Start and Sit options that are more uncertain. Good luck to everyone this week, and remember to enjoy the experience.
Start QB Kirk Cousins vs. Panthers
Owners have multiple reasons to entrust Cousins during this critical week, which he enters with the third highest yardage total among all quarterbacks (4,045). He has achieved that by producing at least 260 yards in 11 of Washington’s 13 contests and has also surpassed 300 yards six times. He has produced multiple touchdowns in eight games and has accomplished it in five of his last six contests.
This week, he has the opportunity to present owners with another highly productive outing, when he lines up against a Panther pass defense that ranks 30th and has exhibited consistent shortcomings throughout the season. Carolina deserves credit for generating five turnovers against San Diego in Week 14 while taking advantage of inexplicable mistakes by Philip Rivers, inefficiency along his offensive line, and the absence of a ground game following Melvin Gordon’s hip injury. However, Cousins and the Redskin offense should perform far more proficiently this week. As even with the emergence of rookie James Bradberry, Carolina’s corners have been eminently beatable.
The Panthers are allowing 272 YPG through the air, and have been shredded for 24 touchdowns, including 20 in their last ten contests. They are also yielding the third-most fantasy points to opposing signal callers (23 PPG), as Matt Ryan and Drew Brees both stockpiled four touchdowns against this unit, while joining Derek Carr, Carson Palmer, and even Blaine Gabbert, in amassing multiple scores through the air. Seven different signal callers have also exceeded 275 yards during their matchups with Carolina, while Ryan, Brees, Carr, and Palmer all eclipsed 300. Expect Cousins to reward owners with excellent numbers while performing at home on Monday Night.
Sit QB Matthew Stafford at Giants
Stafford has assembled a 22:7 touchdown to interception ratio, following a Week 14 performance that produced a mixture of positive and troublesome results for those who started him. While he did generate his first rushing touchdown of the season, Stafford also tossed multiple interceptions for the first time since Week 4. It is the torn ligaments in the middle finger of his throwing hand that will cause the most consternation for his owners. That said, the injury did not sideline him during his matchup with Chicago, and it should not prohibit him from taking the field this week.
At this point of his eighth NFL season, he now exhibits sufficient leadership and proficiency to merit starting him, unless his matchup is problematic. Unfortunately for his owners, that is the scenario being faced this week. Only one team has surrendered fewer touchdowns through the air than the Giants (13), who are allowing the second fewest fantasy points to opposing signal callers (17.8 PPG). Big Blue has yielded multiple touchdowns just three times (Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger), and no member of that trio manufactured more than two. They also limited Rodgers to 259 yards, and Brees to 263 during their matchups, while only yielding three 300-yard performances all season. Cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are capable of limiting the production of Stafford’s receiving options to sizable degrees, which places his owners at significant risk of subjecting themselves to modest production. It is wise to consider an alternative option, considering the stakes that exist with your Week 15 matchup.
Start RB Jordan Howard vs. Packers[the_ad id=”66786″]During that span, they have been gashed by DeMarco Murray (156 total yards – 1 touchdown), and Rob Kelley (137 rushing yards – 3 touchdowns). The Packers also surrendered 174 total yards to Ezekial Elliott in Week 6, and could easily yield sizable yardage to Howard this week. As another 100+ yard rushing performance is a distinct possibility.The Bears rookie could not replicate his 117-yard, three touchdown performance of Week 13, but he still rumbled for 86 yards on 13 attempts (6.6 YPC) against a Detroit run defense that had not allowed an opposing rusher to reach 40 yards since Week 8. Howard has now assembled five different 100-yard performances on his 2016 resume while rushing for 80+ in seven different contests. His least productive outing since Week 4 occurred against the Packers in Week 7, when he surprisingly was out-touched by Ka’Deem Carey. But the following week, he recaptured the feature back role and is easily the Bears’ most critical offensive weapon as owners progress through the fantasy postseason. Howard should perpetuate his productive ways during this week’s rematch with a Green Bay unit that has yielded the fifth most fantasy points to opposing backs since Week 9 (20.7) PPG.
Start RB LeGarrette Blount at Broncos
New England’s Week 14 matchup with Baltimore appeared to necessitate a pass-heavy approach, since the Ravens top-ranked run defense was allowing 73.8 YPG, and was yielding the fewest fantasy points to opposing rushers. But even though Tom Brady launched 38 passes, those were his fewest attempts since Week 10. Meanwhile, Blount carried 18 times, rumbled for 72 yards and generated just the fourth touchdown that the Ravens had surrendered to an opposing runner this season. It was also the sixth time in the Patriots’ last seven contests that Blount has been allotted at least 18 attempts, despite the formidable nature of Baltimore run defense. Owners can now eagerly anticipate this week’s matchup, as the game script will be considerably more desirable. Because it will behoove the Patriots to pound the ball repeatedly with Blount against Denver’s 29th ranked run defense, rather than attack the NFL’s premiere pass defense with great frequency. The Broncos are yielding 127 YPG, and have surrendered 12 touchdowns on the ground. Denver has also allowed the sixth most fantasy points since Week 9 (20.6 PPG), and has been gashed twice by Melvin Gordon (27- 94), (23-111), along with Jeremy Hill (17-97-2), Devonta Freeman (23-88-1), Latavius Murray (20-114-3), and DeMarco Murray (21-92-1). This matchup is configured perfectly for Blount to accumulate sizable yardage, and he should also add to his league leading touchdown total (14).
Sit RB Doug Martin at Cowboys
Since returning from his hamstring issue in Week 10, Martin has been allotted over 20 carries in three of Tampa Bay’s last five contests and averaged 21 attempts during that time. However, he has also averaged 2.9 YPC or worse in four of those games. Including Week 14, when he manufactured 66 yards on 23 carries against the Saints. Even though Martin’s touches were not pilfered by Jacquizz Rodgers as had been speculated (two carries – zero yards versus New Orleans), he is not a desirable option this week. As he will be contending with a strong Dallas run defense that currently ranks second overall. The Cowboys are allowing just 83 YPG, and have only yielded five touchdowns on the ground all season. Only two teams have permitted fewer fantasy points to running backs than the Cowboys, who have allowed just 14.3 PPG. Since Week 1, only Carlos Hyde and Darren Sproles have exceeded 65 rushing yards against Dallas, while Le’Veon Bell and Isaiah Crowell are the only two backs to surpass 57 receiving yards since Week 2. If you have legitimate alternatives at the running back position, you should utilize them this week.
Sit RB’s Mark Ingram / Tim Hightower at Cardinals[the_ad id=”63198″]Ingram owners have been forced to cope with more uncertainty than they would prefer in recent weeks. First, what had been a huge workload (15+ carries in Weeks 3-7), has devolved into a time share with 30-year old Hightower during New Orleans last seven contests. Which has resulted in Ingram being allotted nine carries per game during that span. He has also battled foot and knee issues, which has impacted his usage, and made it exceptionally difficult to determine whether he should be utilized in fantasy lineups. However, Ingram’s involvement has been sufficient to limit Hightower’s viability for his owners, as it has been virtually impossible to ascertain whether he (Hightower) will receive enough touches to justify deployment in their lineups.
However, this week’s unfavorable matchup should compel owners to avoid using either member of the tandem. The Cardinals demonstrated their ability to contain opposing ground games once again in Week 14, when they limited Jay Ajayi to 48 yards on 20 carries (2.4 YPC) in Miami. While Arizona yielded a total of three touchdowns to Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in Week 12, the NFL’s 10th ranked run defense has only allowed one other score on the ground since Week 8. Arizona is also limiting running backs to 3.7 YPG, and has permitted the second fewest fantasy points to the position this season (14.1 PPG). Owners should resolutely sidestep the entire situation, and locate an alternative back this week.
Start WR Sammy Watkins vs. Browns
Watkins merits inclusion with this week’s starters, since many owners are still questioning whether to deploy him. As always, his talent is undisputed, which was demonstrated when he collected 35 receptions, averaged 113 YPG, and scored six times during his final six games of 2015. That sent his stock soaring to the verge of WR1 status entering 2016. Until offseason foot surgery created uncertainty regarding where to draft him, while those who did were forced to endure a lingering recovery that has limited Watkins to just six games. Since his return in Week 12, he has averaged 57 YPG, and just generated his first touchdown of the season last Sunday. There is a great likelihood that his big-play capabilities could pay immense dividends this week when he lines up against Cleveland’s highly deficient pass defenders.
The Browns have been shredded for a league-worst 30 touchdowns, while yielding multiple scores through the air in 11 different contests. This unit has also allowed the seventh most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers (25.1 PPG), while being tortured on a routine basis. As Jordan Matthews (7-114-1), Jarvis Landry (1-120-1)), Chris Hogan (4-114), Kendall Wright (8-133-1), A.J. Green (8-169-1), Quincy Enunwa (4-93-1), and Odell Beckham Jr. (6-96-2), have scorched the vulnerable Browns during their matchups. Any concerns about snaps counts should be eliminated, after he was on the field for 49 of Buffalo’s 52 offensive snaps last Sunday. Watkins can ignite for big plays against the overmatched Browns, and instantly boost your team’s scoring. During a week in which you desperately need it.
Start WR Tyreek Hill vs. Titans
Concerns about snap counts, target percentages, the status of Jeremy Maclin, and whether or not Andy Reed will be willing to deploy Hill sufficiently within his strategic approach have all been eviscerated. Because after receiving just 17 targets in his first six games, Hill has garnered 51 during his last seven contests, parlaying those expanded opportunities into a 60 YPG average, and exploding into a more secure spot within the fantasy landscape due to his big-play capabilities. He now leads the Chiefs with six receiving touchdowns, and is primed to roast a vulnerable Titan unit that has been shredded for 275 YPG through the air. Tennessee’s 31st ranked pass defense has also yielded the second most fantasy points to wide receivers (26.3 PPG), while being burned for 22 touchdowns.
The Titans returned from their Week 13 bye and promptly surrendered a combined 226 yards and a touchdown to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders last Sunday, and have also been scorched for significant yardage by Stefon Diggs (7-103), Marvin Jones (8-118), Michael Crabtree (8-102), T.Y. Hilton (7-133-1), Allen Hurns (7-98-1), Jordy Nelson (12-126-1), Davante Adams (6-156), and Marquess Wilson (8-125-1). Tennessee does not possess a corner that can neutralize Hill, which enables all owners to confidently start him as their WR3 during this appealing matchup.
Sit WR DeAndre Hopkins vs Jaguars
Hopkins appeared to have seized a place among the league’s elite wideouts after his stellar 2015 season. But as his owners know all too well, his exceptional talent has been wasted in 2016, in great part due to the significant shortcomings of his quarterback. As a result, the same receiver who finished third overall in targets, receptions, and yardage last season, currently enters Week 15 just 40th+ among in yardage (701), and 31st in receptions (60). Worse, the sizable statistical degeneration has taken his distressed owners on a tremendously unpleasant season-long ride. As he has now failed to reach 60 yards in 10 of Houston’s 13 games this season. If he is still under consideration as a starter within your lineups, then you almost assuredly have been deploying him as a WR3. But even that would be unwise this week. As Jacksonville’s fourth-ranked pass defense has performed proficiently, even as the team continues to struggle through the malaise of a disheartening 2-11 season.
The Jaguars have allowed just 196 YPG, and only six teams have yielded fewer touchdowns through the air (16). This unit is also yielding the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers (20.4 PPG), and corners Prince Amukamara, and Jalen Ramsey can both minimize Hopkins’ production while he operates under the impediments that a Brock Osweiler-led passing attack provides. Do not accentuate the anguish of your season long ownership by absorbing one more underwhelming performance during this critical week.
Sit WR Malcolm Mitchell at Broncos
After entering Week 11 with just seven receptions for 95 yards on the season, Mitchell has amassed 21 receptions for 263 yards and four touchdowns during New England’s last four contests. As Mitchell’s opportunities have soared, he has quickly evolved from a rookie with potential, to a reliable target for Tom Brady, while establishing himself as a trustworthy WR3. Unfortunately for owners who were hoping to embed him in their postseason lineups, Mitchell’s troublesome Week 15 matchup will diminish his ceiling to an uncomfortable level. As he must deal with a Denver’s stifling secondary, whose formidable presence was mentioned earlier.
Despite Mitchell’s success in recent weeks, there is no way to circumvent the likelihood that this week’s output will be underwhelming. As the Broncos remain cemented as the NFL leader in pass defense (183 YPG), and have yielded the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers (14.3 PPG). This unit has also permitted only one receiver to exceed 77 yards since Week 1, and has surrendered just six touchdowns to wideouts all season. Mitchell will likely contend with Aqib Talib in coverage, which presents him with the most unfavorable matchup among Denver corners. He has been an outstanding late season addition for his owners, but will be unable to supply the results that are needed during this crucial week.
Start Ladarius Green at Bengals[the_ad id=”63198″]In Weeks 12 -13, Green secured eight of his 14 targets, for 177 yards and a touchdown. But inclement weather, and a franchise record performance by Le’Veon Bell, enabled Pittsburgh to rely heavily on their ground game in Week 14. That limited Ben Roethlisberger to only 31 passing attempts and the 13-year veteran only launched two of his throws toward the Pittsburgh tight end. However, the 6’6″, 240 pound Green remains in excellent position to rebound this week. As he will lineup against a Cincinnati defense that has performed more proficiently in recent weeks, yet still encounters difficulty when attempting to contain opposing tight ends. As the Bengals have allowed the third most fantasy points to the position this season (10.6 PPG).
Prior to limiting Gary Barnidge during a snowy, windy matchup with Cleveland last Sunday (3-27), the Bengals allowed sizable production to Zach Ertz in Week 13 (9-79-1), were tortured by Rob Gronkowski in Week 6 (7-162-1), and were shredded by Jordan Reed (9-99-1), and Vernon Davis (5-93) in Week 8. Green will create a matchup problem for this unit, and should accrue favorable numbers. Making him worthy of use as a low-end TE1.
Sit TE Delanie Walker at Chiefs[the_ad id=”58837″]This will be exceedingly difficult for Walker owners, as he is tied for first among all tight ends with six touchdowns, is fourth with 687 yards, and is eighth with 51 receptions. He is one of the few reliable options at the position, and under normal circumstances, there would be no thought whatsoever to benching him during the fantasy playoffs. However, at this point in your attempt to secure a fantasy championship, it is risky to dismiss an extremely imposing matchup thoughtlessly. Which Walker will be confronted with this week. If you are planning to keep him cemented in your lineups, you should minimally consider this a bust alert. As it is important that you understand the degree to which Kansas City has prohibited tight ends from generating yardage and touchdowns throughout the regular season.
The Chiefs are allowing the third fewest points to the position, while yielding an infinitesimal 5.1 PPG. This unit has not permitted anyone to reach 45 yards,and has surrendered just two touchdowns in 13 games. Among the more notable tight ends who have been contained by KC this season are Greg Olsen (5-39), Antonio Gates (3-20), Cameron Brate (2-18), and C.J. Fiederowicz (1-1). If you are totally committed to starting Walker, or genuinely cannot locate a feasible alternative, that is understandable. But you should be realistic about the number of fantasy points that Walker can deliver for you this week.
Have Fun This Week!