Start’em Sit’em Week 15
Start’em Sit’em is back for Week 15 of the NFL season and hopefully you have moved on to the next round of the fantasy football playoffs. If you’re reading this, I genuinely hope that this column this year has been a part of your success and either, I look forward to finishing what we started and bringing you home a title. Along with the other fine tools provided by Gridiron Experts, this article is here to help guide you on who to start and who to sit as you head towards victory in your Week 15 Fantasy Football matchups. There are several matchups worth discussing and we will go through those matchups now. One friendly reminder heading into this Week 15 Start Sit article is that this is the last week of Thursday night football games and starting next week, we will have NFL action on Saturday.
Recapping Last Week
Last week, I made three bold claims as to whom you should sit. While Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley proved to be solid sit suggestions, suggesting to sit Drew Brees could not have gone any worse for me. This past Sunday, Brees looked like the Brees of old and had his second top-5 week of the season. Other suggestions that worked out in what was a whacky week was the suggestion to start Kareem Hunt and Zach Pascal. The latest results have me determined to continue on delivering you the best picks that Week 15 has to offer, so let’s get started. As always, if you any other start or sit questions that are not answered here, please feel free to reach me on Twitter.
- Scoring and stats are based on half-point per reception scoring and come from fantasydata.com
- Start percentages originate from ESPN.com
- Start options range from 0-60%
- Sit options range from 50-100%
The following are my Start’em Sit’em Week 15 recommendations:
Start’em Sit’em Week 15 Quarterbacks
49ers vs. Falcons
ESPN Starting Percentage: 18.7%
No matter how much Stephen A. Smith and the rest of the critics want to question Jimmy Garoppolo’s ability to carry a team, it is becoming hard to ignore just how much Garoppolo is helping the 49ers and your fantasy football lineups. After having just one QB1 performance in the first seven weeks of the season, Garoppolo has been a QB1 in four out of the last six weeks. This would include his signature performance against the New Orleans Saints this past week where he threw for 349-yards along with four touchdowns and an interception. Also during his recent stretch of strong play, Garoppolo has had three games in which he has thrown for a career-high four touchdown passes. The 49ers signal-caller will have every opportunity to keep his hot streak alive when the 49ers welcome in the Atlanta Falcons this weekend. This is a Falcons defense that is allowing the third-most points to the quarterback position and this would include being in the top-5 in points allowed to the position in two out of the last three weeks. If the Falcons ultimately want to put the ball in Jimmy Garoppolo’s hands, we now know what he is capable of doing with it.
Titans vs. Texans
ESPN Starting Percentage: 24.7%
What a difference a year makes. Ryan Tannehill goes from being released by the Miami Dolphins to a difference-making quarterback for a Tennessee Titans team that is very much in the playoff race. While Tannehill is doing everything he can to get the Titans into the playoffs, if you choose to start him in Week 15, he could be helping you march closer to a fantasy football title. It is almost weird to see Tannehill with a starting percentage as low as it is as he has finished as a QB1 in five out of his last six games played. That stretch would include two 300-yard passing performances along with 13 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. As if that isn’t enough, the Titans quarterback has also had three rushing touchdowns. Up next for Tannehill is a matchup against a Texans team that is one of just six teams that has allowed more than 25 passing touchdowns this season. Add in the fact that the Texans have been in the top-10 in points allowed to quarterbacks in three out of the last four weeks and it should come as no surprise that the Texans are allowing the sixth-most points to the position. We have a situation in Week 15 where a quarterback who is on a roll is playing a secondary that is reeling, it almost seems too easy to capitalize on that.
Packers vs. Bears
ESPN Starting Percentage: 75.9%
This past weekend, if you started Aaron Rodgers, your playoff Sunday was a living nightmare. With just 195-passing yards and a touchdown against the Redskins, Rodgers would finish the week outside of the top-20. Let’s suppose though that you had a great supporting cast around Rodgers that still managed to carry you to a fantasy football playoff win. If that is the case and you are moving on, I would highly recommend sitting Aaron Rodgers in Week 15. This Sunday, the Packers will welcome in a Chicago Bears defense that is allowing the sixth-fewest points to the position. All the way back at the start of the regular season, we would see the Packers and the Bears kick things off and in that matchup, Rodgers’ numbers were eerily similar to this past week. Back in that matchup, Rodgers would throw for just 203-passing yards and a touchdown which would obviously be enough to put Rodgers outside of the top-20. On top of that, Rodgers has had just one QB1 performance against the NFC North this year. Perhaps it is play-calling or maybe it is father-time but either way, Rodgers has gone from fantasy superstar to boom or bust candidate.
Start’em Sit’em Week 15 Running Backs
Browns @ Cardinals
ESPN Starting Percentage: 51.6%
Since coming off of his suspension, Kareem Hunt has been a name that has frequented this column. When taking a look at what he has done in that time, it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone. In the last five games since Hunt’s return, he has seen 10 or more total touches. What is even bigger for Hunt is the fact that he has scored a touchdown in each of his last three games. Those touchdowns have propelled Hunt to 10 or more fantasy points in each of his three last starts and mind you, those are half-point per reception numbers. While he might be a thorn in the side of the Nick Chubb owner, there is no denying that Hunt has a clear cut roll on this team and I see that bleeding into the Browns Week 15 matchup against the Cardinals. While the Cardinals were able to contain the Steelers’ running attack, the Cardinals have still been pretty vulnerable to opposing running backs. In four out of the last six weeks, the Cardinals have been in the top-10 in most points allowed to the position. What might be even better for Hunt is how the Cardinals have played against pass-catching backs. So for this season, the Cardinals are tied in allowing the eleventh-most receptions to opposing backs with 71. Along with that, the Cardinals are also allowing the seventh-most receiving yards to the position. Standard scoring, you might want to see if there are more effective plays but in any sort of point per reception format, Hunt deserves serious flex consideration.
49ers vs. Falcons
ESPN Starting Percentage: 3.1%
I’m completely aware that starting 49ers running backs in 2019 is equivalent to fantasy football Russian roulette. That being said though, I’m more than willing to go out on a limb and say that Raheem Mostert is in line for more production in Week 15. The reason being is that two weeks ago against the Ravens, the 49ers coaching staff had declared that Mostert’s team-leading 19 carries was due to the fact that the offense was riding the hot hand. It seemed pretty clear that the hot hand logic bled into the 49ers next game, the battle in the bayou against the Saints. In last week’s matchup, Mostert would again lead the 49ers in carries and would finish the week as the fourth-best running back in fantasy. I’m starting to believe that the hot hand scenario wasn’t as much as a game script as it was until further notice. With that in mind, up next for Mostert and the 49ers is a matchup against the Falcons. While the Falcons have only had three weeks in which they have been in the top-10 in points allowed to the position, this is a 49ers team that is ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards on a per-game basis. Among the teams in top-10 in rushing yards per game, four out of those five teams that have played the Falcons have finished that week inside the top-15 in running back fantasy points scored. Case in point, the Falcons might be decent against the run, but certainly not impenetrable.
Raheem Mostert might be the #49ers' best story of 2019. Four teams in two years before finding a home in San Francisco. From special teams ace to arguably the team's most effective rusher over the past two seasons:
— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) December 9, 2019
Broncos vs. Chiefs
ESPN Starting Percentage: 64.8%
I know that at 64.8%, I’m breaking the rules in nominating Phillip Lindsay as a start candidate. That being said, rules are made to be broken and I just can’t help myself in suggesting that you play Phillip Lindsay in Week 15. This week the Broncos will welcome in a Chiefs team that is allowing the second most fantasy points in the NFL to opposing running backs. This would also circle back to Week 7 when the Chiefs played the Broncos and allowed the eighth-most points to the position. While Lindsay only scored 3.7 fantasy points in that matchup, that was prior to the Broncos coaching staff announcing that Lindsay would start to see the majority of the backfield work in Denver. In each of the last four weeks, Lindsay has had 13 or more attempts and has also been targeted 10 times. On top of an increased workload and the Chiefs having eight games inside the top-10 in most points allowed, there is also Broncos quarterback, Drew Lock who threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns against the Texans last week. If defenses start to soften up on stacking the box and begin giving Lock a little more respect in the passing game, that could open lanes up for Lindsay this weekend. With all of this mind, I think that Lindsay is a slam-dunk play in Week 15.
Saints vs. Colts
ESPN Starting Percentage: 90.4%
This selection is a lot like when I suggested sitting Saquon Barkley last week. While I proved to be right as Barkley finished the week just outside the top-30 in running back scoring, I know that there is an understandable trepidation in sitting these high profile names. That being said, I’m still using the same sort of logic with Alvin Kamara in Week 15 as I did with Barkley last week. If you are still in the fantasy football playoffs, it isn’t because of Kamara, it is in spite of him. While it should be pointed out that Kamara has played in 11 games due to injury, he has managed just two touchdowns this season. That is fewer touchdowns scored than names like David Johnson, Duke Johnson, and Damien Williams. Last week, while the Saints and 49ers game turned out to be an absolute shootout, Kamara had 17 total touches and still managed to finish as the fifty-fifth best running back on the week. Latavius Murray, Kamara’s partner in the Saints backfield, finished the week as the twenty-third best running back. The schedule won’t get much easier for Kamara and the Saints in Week 15 when they take on a Colts team that is allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. That ranking would include the Colts being one of just four teams to allow less than five rushing touchdowns as well as having just three weeks in which they have been in the top-10 in points allowed to the position. Again, I totally understand that there is some reluctance in sitting a guy in Week 15 that you drafted in the 1st round back in August. That aside, if you do play him, you might be shaking your head, again.
Falcons @ 49ers
ESPN Starting Percentage: 73.0%
I’m going to keep things in the NFC South and select Devonta Freeman as a player that should be sitting in Week 15. Much like the previously mentioned Alvin Kamara, Freeman is staring down the barrel of a bad matchup as the Falcons head to Santa Clara to take on the 49ers. This is a 49ers defense that is third in fewest points allowed to the position this season and they have had just two weeks, that came consecutively, in which they were in the top-10 in most points allowed. As far as Freeman goes, this past week, Freeman was able to score a touchdown and would finish inside the top-12 for just the second time this season. Not to rain on his parade but that finish came against a Panthers team that is number one in fantasy points allowed to running backs. With the 49ers are the only team in the top-5 in fewest points allowed to the position to allow over 1,100-yards rushing this season, some running backs are able to find production against this defense. That being said, in Week 15 and with a back who has underperformed as much as Freeman, I would look elsewhere for some running back production.
Start’em Sit’em Week 15 Wide Receivers
Colts vs. Saints
ESPN Starting Percentage: 13.0%
I would still consider this a conditional suggestion that will depend on the availability of T.Y. Hilton but as of this writing, I have no qualms about plugging Zach Pascal back into my fantasy lineups in Week 15. Last week, with a fantastic fantasy matchup against the Buccaneers, Pascal would finish as the number 11 receiver on the week as he hauled in five of nine targets for 74-yards and a touchdown. While the matchup isn’t as sweet as last week and while the return of Marlon Mack will slow down this Colts passing game a bit, I still like for Pascal to return flex worthy value against the New Orleans Saints secondary. Unless you are living under a rock, it should come as no surprise that the Saints were number one in points allowed to wide receivers last week as they were in a fire-fight against the 49ers. As if that wasn’t enough, in the past four weeks, the Saints have been inside the top-10 in points allowed to the wide receiver position. Sure, names like Saints defensive back, Marshon Lattimore might frighten some but when we are headed into Week 15 and the Saints are allowing the second-most points to wide receivers, it might be time to throw name value out the window.
49ers vs. Falcons
ESPN Starting Percentage: 28.1%
Just a couple of days prior to the 49ers and Saints matchup, Jimmy Garoppolo spoke about just how important of a player with the experience of Emmanuel Sanders is to the 49ers down the stretch. Those words couldn’t have translated any stronger during the 49ers first offensive drive of the game against the Saints in which Garoppolo would target Sanders on his first two passes for 50-yards. Sanders would go on to have 157-yards receiving, as well as a passing touchdown, and would finish as the number two wide receiver on the week. Case in point, sometimes in fantasy, you simply need to follow what a team is saying. Dare I say, sometimes there isn’t a need for analytics. While Garoppolo has played well as of late, there is still no denying that like most quarterbacks, he plays better when he is comfortable. Nothing will make Garoppolo more comfortable down the stretch than to target Sanders early and often and that will continue this Sunday against the Falcons. Headed into Week 15, the Falcons are twelfth in points allowed to the wide receiver position. Even though the Falcons have tightened things up and have been in top-5 in the fewest points allowed to receivers in each of the last two weeks, I still fully expect this 49ers offense to impose their will against the Falcons defense.
— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) December 5, 2019
Odell Beckham Jr.
Browns @ Cardinals
ESPN Starting Percentage: 74.3%
While this is something I did not anticipate doing prior to this season, for the second week in a row I have Odell Beckham as a player that you should be sitting. Forget about the reports that Beckham is whispering to other teams to ‘come and get him’, Ian Rapoport had reported this weekend that Beckham has been playing through a sports-hernia injury. This could be coinciding with the injury but we now stand at 10 games with Odell Beckham finishing outside the top-20 among his position. Odell Beckham is a lot like what I was saying with Alvin Kamara earlier. If you are still in the fantasy football players, it is not because of Beckham, it is in spite of him. So even with the fact that the Cardinals are fifth in points allowed to wide receivers this season, at this stage of the game, I cannot bank on Beckham and neither should you.
Start’em Sit’em Week 15 Tight Ends
Falcons @ 49ers
ESPN Starting Percentage: 49.6%
On the surface, allowing the fourth-fewest points to the tight end position, the 49ers might appear as a bad matchup for Austin Hooper. That ranking though at this point in the season is a little misleading. So far this season, the 49ers have allowed six touchdowns to the position and five of those have come since Week 10. With that bit of information, it should come as no surprise to hear that in three out of the last five weeks, the 49ers defense has been in the top-6 in most points allowed to the tight end position. On top of the 49ers linebackers having their issues with opposing tight ends, I also believe that the ribs injury to Jaquiski Tartt also looms large over this matchup. If Tartt is out again, that only makes me more confident in starting Hooper. In his return from a knee injury, Hooper was held in check by Luke Kuechly. Now more than ever, you need to remember recent trends over seasonal trends and recently, the 49ers have been bad against tight ends.
While #49ers are a top team in fewest #FantasyFootball points allowed to TEs, they have now given up 5 TDs since Week 10 and at least one TD in 3 of past 5 games in that timespan, after giving up only one TD to a TE in through the first nine weeks to open the season 🏈
— Anthony Cervino (@therealNFLguru) December 8, 2019
Vikings @ Chargers
ESPN Starting Percentage: 42.4%
Currently, there are no players that are being started in 50% or more of leagues that I would sit. With that in mind, I’m going to dip a little bit lower in starting percentages and select Kyle Rudolph as a player that you should consider sitting in Week 15. After being on an absolute tear for the last handful of weeks, Rudolph was held in check by the Detroit Lions last week as he had two receptions for 11 yards. While I do think that Rudolph will manage more than 11 yards this week, I do think that he will have trouble against a Chargers defense that is allowing the seventh-fewest points to the position. On top of that, the Chargers have had only two weeks in which they have been in the top-10 in most points allowed to the position. The other thing to keep an eye on this week is Adam Thielen as he continues to deal with his hamstring injury. If Thielen is finally able to play, that could limit Rudolph’s targets as well. Either way, Kyle Rudolph is a player that I would sit in Week 15.
Start’em Sit’em Week 15 D/STs
Bills @ Steelers
ESPN Starting Percentage: 43.9%
With the Bills going up against the Ravens this past Sunday, it was safe to say that most people did not believe that the Bills would be a smart D/ST play. That proved to be a smart move as for just the second time in the six weeks, the Bills D/ST would finish outside of the top-10 in scoring. While the Bills D/ST has never had consecutive weeks of finishing outside the top-10, Week 15 seems like a great time to plug the Bills back into your starting lineups as they prepare to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are one of three teams that has allowed 12 or less touchdown passes and will take on a Steelers offense that has scored over twenty-points once in their last five games.
**If you’re looking for a D/ST end this week, I do not have any recommendations this week. Everyone remotely near the required percentage is a D/ST that I would start, not sit.**
Good Luck and Thanks for reading Start’em Sit’em Week 15!