It’s Week 15 and the fantasy playoffs are in full effect! Before we dive into this week’s start/sit fantasy advice for quarterbacks and defense/special teams (DSTs), let’s take our customary look back at Week 14.
Start Ryan Fitzpatrick (24.82 fantasy points) – He’s becoming one of the most consistent fantasy QBs out there.
Start Russell Wilson (32.28 FP) – Another five touchdown passes. Can he keep this up?
Sit Matt Ryan (5.86 FP) – The Falcons stink and Matt Ryan is the reason why.
Sit Derek Carr (13 FP) – By now you should know not to start any QB against the Broncos’ defense. Or should you? (see below)
Sit Marcus Mariota (22.36 FP) – Who knew he’d catch a 41-yard touchdown pass?
START THESE QBs...
Russell Wilson, SEA (vs. CLE)
Wilson remained red hot with five more TDs against the Ravens in Week 14 and has now thrown for three-plus in four straight games. In his last four games, Wilson has 16 TD passes and one rushing score. Of course you are going to start Wilson this week as not only can he single-handedly win you your fantasy football championship the way he is playing, he’s also back at home against the Cleveland Browns. Plus, Thomas Rawls is out for the season with a broken ankle and Marshawn Lynch still isn’t ready to return so that means the only running backs Seattle has left are Fred Jackson, the recently signed Bryce Brown and now Christine Michael, So you know that the Seahawks are going to let Wilson win them the game. Don’t be surprised to see Wilson score another 30 fantasy points on Sunday.
Drew Brees, NO (vs. DET, Mon.)
Brees played very well last week in Tampa considering it was on the road, outdoors and he barely had a running game. That’s back-to-back games of 20-plus fantasy points for Brees and you can count on him make it three such performances in a row as he returns home to face the Detroit Lions in the Monday night spotlight. The Lions are rather tough against the run and since Tim Hightower is the starting RB somewhat by default, it will be up to Brees to win the game. That shouldn’t be a problem against the Lions, who are currently among the top 10 most generous defenses (ninth) when it comes to fantasy points allowed to QBs.
Matthew Stafford, DET (vs. NO, Mon.)
If Drew Brees is going to have a big game against the Lions, you know that means that Stafford will probably do the same. This matchup has all the makings of another high-scoring affair like the one the Giants and Saints had back in Week 8. The Saints did manage to slow down Jameis Winston last week, but that’s more on Winston than the Saints’ defense. Plus since Detroit changed offensive coordinators, Stafford has been playing some of his best football, throwing for nine touchdowns in his last three games. The Saints still have the league’s worst pass defense and are allowing the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks so you can bet that Stafford will have another 300-yard, three-TD showing.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (vs. DEN)
Most of the time you would sit any quarterback going up against the Broncos’ vaunted pass defense. However last week Derek Carr showed that there are some kinks in their armor and Roethlisberger is better and has considerably more experience than Carr. Plus Big Ben is playing at home and he has just too many weapons at his disposal for the Broncos to stop. Big Ben did kill a lot of fantasy teams last week with his performance, but he will bounce back this week because the Steelers need to win to catch the Bengals in the AFC North title race.
SIT THESE QBs...
Eli Manning, NYG (vs. CAR)
Manning is coming off a huge game Monday night where he scored 27.28 fantasy points, thanks to 337 yards and four touchdowns. It sure doesn’t hurt that he has Odell Beckham Jr. to throw the ball too. Even though the Giants are in a must-win situation this week to keep pace in a crowded NFC East, Manning has a terrible matchup as the Carolina Panthers come to town. The Panthers have one of the best defenses in the league with the best shutdown corner in Josh Norman. Norman will take Beckham Jr. out of the game causing Manning to struggle and to finish with fewer than 15 fantasy points.
Marcus Mariota, TEN (at NE)
Mariota is having a fine rookie season and each week he looks more and more like a real franchise quarterback. He’s scored 20 or more fantasy points in his last three games, but that is a little deceiving. Last week he didn’t throw a touchdown pass and would have had a terrible showing if it wasn’t for a gimmick 41-yard touchdown reception, that’s not going to happen every week. This week he and the Titans travel to New England to face the Patriots, who are giving up the ninth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and you can bet that Bill Belichick is going to come up with a game plan to shut Mariota down.
Sam Bradford, PHI (vs. ARI)
Bradford was supposed to be the missing link that took Chip Kelly’s high-octane Eagels offense to the next level. Instead, Bradford and the entire offense has been a major fantasy disappointment. Since returning from injury Bradford has been fantasy irrelevant, scoring 12.7 and 13.18 fantasy points in his past two games. This week the Eagles welcome Arizona to town. The Cardinals are tough on signal-callers, allowing just 18 touchdown passes and an average of fewer than 15 fantasy points per game to the position in 2015. Bradford is a must-sit this week.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ (at DAL, Sat.)
If you omit Russell Wilson, Fitzpatrick has been the best fantasy quarterback over the last three weeks. In his last three games he’s scored 29.18, 25.8 and 24.82 fantasy points respectively thanks to nine touchdown passes in those three games. He also has Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker healthy and playing at their absolute best as well. The only reason that Fitzpatrick isn’t a must-start this week is the the Jets are traveling to Dallas play a Cowboys defense that has been keeping their team in games week in and week out. The Cowboys have given up the sxith-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks on the year and will look to slow the whole game down to a snail’s pace, which means fewer opportunities for Fitzpatrick to make plays to Decker and Marshall. Don’t be surprised to see Fitzpatrick finish with fewer than 15 fantasy points.
Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)
START THESE DSTs...
Kansas City Chiefs (at BAL)
Over the last four weeks, the Chiefs DST has scored a combined 56 fantasy points. There's no reason to think this type of production won't continue against the Ravens, who have been more than generous to fantasy DSTs. Whether it's Matt Schaub, Jimmy Clausen or Ryan Mallett under center, Kansas City should dominate.
New York Jets (at DAL, Sat.)
Matt Cassel is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, and that's been enough to make for a favorable defensive matchup in fantasy football. In fact, opposing DSTs have averaged 10.46 fantasy points per game when facing the Cowboys. That's enough reason to start the Jets, who are a streamable asset this week.
SIT THESE DSTs...
Philadelphia Eagles (vs. ARI)
The Eagles might field a top-10 fantasy DST, but this unit has scored six or fewer fantasy points in three of the last games including two performances with negative points. If that weren't enough to sit 'em, Philadelphia also faces a Cardinals offense that has not been very generous to opposing DSTs this season.
Minnesota Vikings (vs. CHI)
The Vikings DST has struggled to produce in recent weeks, due in part to injuries to some of the unit’s best players. So while a matchup against turnover-prone Jay Cutler seems to be favorable, it's tough to promote Minnesota's DST when it is at far less than 100 percent. There are better options to use.
— 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.