It’s Week 15 of the fantasy season and if you are still playing at this point you know how critical it is to roll out your best lineup. Before I offer my two cents on which quarterbacks and defense/special teams (DSTs) to start and which to sit, let’s take a look back and see how I on or off I was with my Week 14 advice.
Start Matt Ryan (21.48 fantasy points) – Ryan is having a MVP-like season and the Falcons are heading for the playoffs.
Start Matthew Stafford (16.42 FP) – Mr. Comeback now has eight come-from-behind wins this year.
Sit Dak Prescott (6.7 FP) – It was time for Prescott to have an off game, facing the Giants for a second time.
Sit Marcus Mariota (7.32 FP) – Somehow the Titans still managed to beat the Broncos 13-10.
Start Jameis Winston (8.96 FP) – Winston should have lit up the poor Saints D at home, but the Bucs will still take the win.
START THESE QBS...
Colin Kaepernick, SF (at ATL)
Kaepernick has been up and down as of late despite hitting the ground running after he took over the starting job. This coming week, he’ll have an outstanding matchup against the Falcons’ defense, which has allowed 19.72 fantasy points per game to QBs this year. Moreover, Atlanta’s offense should be able to jump out to an early lead, forcing the 49ers to throw the ball a lot. Kaepernick is shaping up as a low-end QB1 for the week.
Tyrod Taylor, BUF (at CLE)
Taylor hasn’t been nearly as great this year as he was in 2015. However, this offense is looking complete with LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins both healthy. More importantly, the Bills get the Browns at home, so you know it’s a good matchup. The Browns have allowed 19.58 fantasy points to QBs on average, second highest for any defense. This makes Taylor a low-end QB1 for this week.
Joe Flacco, BAL (vs. PHI)
Flacco has averaged 18.1 fantasy points in seven games in Baltimore this season, while the Eagles have surrendered almost 22 to opposing QBs on the road. The only QB to not score fewer than 17.3 points at home against Philadelphia was Jay Cutler in Week 2, a game in which he got hurt.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Eli Manning, NYG (vs. DET)
Manning has had a rough two-game stretch, only managing nine and 11 fantasy points against Pittsburgh and Dallas, respectively. These two defenses have been pretty solid against the pass, so it doesn’t make this lull unexpected. Prior to that, Manning had been on a streak of four straight games with at least 17 fantasy points and multiple touchdown passes. You can expect a return to this form against Detroit, which is in the bottom 10 teams in fantasy points allowed to QBs thanks to a below-average passing defense. Manning is a low-end QB1 this week.
SIT THESE QBs...
Matthew Stafford, DET (at NYG)
Stafford has been a steady quarterback this year, but the days of him throwing the ball 60 times look to be over. The offensive scheme under coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has been much more conservative, as the Lions have not abandoned the run despite their struggles. Combine this with a Giants defense that has emerged in a big way and you have a bad matchup for Week 15. New York is second only to Denver in fewest fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks (12.81 per game). Stafford also will be outside in wintry weather of MetLife Stadium. If you have a better option this week, I would leave Stafford on the bench.
Marcus Mariota, TEN (at KC)
Mariota ran into the buzz saw that is the Denver pass defense last week, finishing a brutal 6-of-20 for 88 yards. There’s nowhere to go but up, but unfortunately for Mariota, he has another difficult matchup on tap this week. The Chiefs' overall numbers against QBs aren't all that great, but in four of the last five weeks they've held Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Matt Ryan and Derek Carr in check, and they're at home where that intimidating pass rush is all the more dangerous. Unless you are in a 2-QB league, I'd stay away from Mariota this week.
Phillip Rivers, SD (vs. OAK)
Rivers has thrown for a combined 10 touchdowns in his last four games, but he's also turned the ball over 12 times and has scored fewer than 15 fantasy points in each of the past two games. Also, fantasy fans should keep in mind that the Raiders have allowed an average of just 14.5 fantasy points to quarterbacks over their last five games.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Andrew Luck, IND (at MIN)
Luck struggled last week against Houston in a game that likely ended the Colts’ playoff hopes. This week, Indianapolis will travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings’ stout defense. Minnesota has been solid all season, giving up 13.45 fantasy points per game to QBs, which puts the Vikes third behind the Broncos and Giants. The Colts are banged up along their offensive line and at wide receiver, which is a bad combination. Minnesota’s defensive line could have a field day at home. Luck is merely a QB2 for this tough Week 15 matchup.
Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)
START THESE DSTs...
Buffalo Bills (at CLE)
The Browns are a prime matchup for NFL teams and in fantasy, so it’s no surprise to see any Bills in the “Start ‘Em” sections. Over the last four weeks, DSTs have averaged 18 fantasy points per game against Cleveland. That's not a combined total either, that is the average. Buffalo is a virtual must-start DST in all fantasy formats.
Houston Texans (vs. JAC)
The Texans’ defense hasn't been great in recent weeks, scoring an average of just four fantasy points over their last four games. However, an upcoming matchup against Blake Bortles and the Jaguars should be good for what ails Houston. Back in Week 10, this defense recorded a solid 10 fantasy points. I'd roll with the Texans.
SIT THESE DSTs...
Philadelphia Eagles (vs. BAL)
The Eagles finished with a solid 10 fantasy points in last week's loss to the Redskins, and their defense now ranks sixth at the position. Regardless, this unit has been awful on the road, which is where the Eagles will be on Sunday. DSTs also have averaged just 3.7 fantasy points versus Joe Flacco and the Ravens since Week 11.
Carolina Panthers (vs. WAS, Mon.)
The Panthers finished with an impressive 18 fantasy points in a win over the Chargers last week, thanks to Philip Rivers’ five turnovers. This week's matchup is much more difficult, however, as opposing DSTs have managed just 3.5 fantasy points per game against Kirk Cousins and the Redskins’ high-octane offense. Sit Carolina this week.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.