Fantasy Football Matchup Upgrades and Downgrades: Week 15

I'm not here to tell you if and when Christian McCaffrey and Michael Thomas have good or bad matchups, because you're starting them each and every week. While it's good to know the strength of matchups for all of your players, it's much more valuable in relation to the fringe starters and high-end bench players than it is for your studs. Matchups should be one of the final components in making roster decisions, whether drafting for season-long strength of schedule or making a start/sit decision. It's a piece of the puzzle, but it should not be a primary consideration.

This series looks at borderline start/sit players and identifies particularly good or bad matchups that could influence those decisions. These are not specifically start/sit recommendations, as the alternative options are always relevant. This advice needs context, but it can be used to upgrade or downgrade players in your weekly rankings.

For Week 15, I will be using players near the start/sit cutoff in the FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings and comparing them to numberFire's weekly rankings (both half-PPR). The start/sit cutoffs assume 12 teams, starting 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, and 1 flex. With that established, let's look at some borderline options with significant upgrades and downgrades.


Good matchup: Baker Mayfield (at ARI) - Mayfield has been a roller coaster ride for those who boarded the hype train and drafted him inside the top-five quarterbacks in fantasy drafts. However, a matchup with the Arizona Cardinals should cure what ails Mayfield, as no team is allowing more passing yards this season than Arizona. The Cardinals are also tops in the league with 32 passing scores surrendered, which works out to just under 2.5 per game. The Cardinals also rank near the bottom of the league in both quarterback hurries and pressures, and they are below average in sack rate. The 8.4 yards per attempt allowed by Arizona is tied for second-highest in the league. Mayfield should be in store for a solid, efficient game for the fantasy semifinals.

Bad matchup: Aaron Rodgers (vs. CHI) - There are still a lot of folks who just assume Rodgers is an elite passer in the league, but he has been merely above average this season. Rodgers ranks outside the top-10 passers in true completion percentage and yards per attempt, as well as just 10th in touchdown percentage. Rodgers's passer rating and QBR rank him 9th and 15th, respectively. He's still a good quarterback, but far from elite in 2019, and he faces off with the division rival Chicago Bears, who are strong against the pass. The Bears are just better than average in terms of raw yardage allowed, mostly due to more attempts, but they rank fourth-best in the league in yards per attempt against and also fourth-best with just 14 passing scores allowed. The Bears are also top-10 in pressure rate and top-5 in hurry rate. Don't be caught off guard if you start Rodgers this week and end up with a down week.

Running Back

Good matchup: Sony Michel (at CIN) - After suffering through a streak of bad weeks thanks to the tougher schedule and game script, Michel owners (if still alive) can bask in the glory that is the Cincinnati Bengals matchup for Week 15. The Bengals are leading the league in rushing yards allowed by a wide margin, which is really all that matters for Michel, who has just 16 targets on the season and offers basically nothing in the passing game. The Bengals are also top-five in yards per carry allowed and rushing touchdowns surrendered, so if you're not using Michel this week, you might as well drop him. This is finally the week for Michel to feast on the ground, especially with lower risk of being game-scripted out of the contest.

Bad matchup: Marlon Mack (at NO) - Mack's return to action last week had him salvaging a bad day with a short touchdown run but otherwise recording just 38 rushing yards on 13 carries and no targets. Mack has just 14 targets on the season, so he offers little in the passing game, which is bad news for Week 15, as he faces off with a New Orleans Saints defense that is top-five in rushing yards allowed at under 100 per game. The Saints are also top-10 with just nine rushing scores surrendered on the season. Meanwhile, Mack has just five touchdowns, thanks in large part to just two goal-line carries in 2019, which is a very low mark for a primary back. Mack is likely in for tough sledding in Week 15, especially given the risk of a negative game script.

Wide Receiver

Good matchup: Darius Slayton and Golden Tate (vs. MIA) - Regardless of which quarterback the New York Giants roll out this week, the wideouts for the Giants should have a field day against the Miami Dolphins, who struggle to defend opposing receivers. Miami is top-10 in passing yards allowed and has allowed 31 passing scores, the second-most in the league. Of those, a league-leading 23 have gone to opposing wide receivers. Even with Tate coming off of a down game (in which Slayton went completely nuts), the matchup for Week 15 is great for both players and both can be considered viable WR3s. They slot in at 30 and 31 in numberFire's projections for the week.

Bad matchup: Cole Beasley (at PIT) - Beasley has been the only reliable pass-catcher for the Buffalo Bills of late, but a matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers this week will do him no favors. The Steelers have allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards on the season and just 12 passing scores to wideouts in 13 games. Beasley has become the favorite red zone wide receiver for Josh Allen, but owners will pretty much be banking on a touchdown here. Since acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Steelers have been a vastly improved pass defense. Beasley should be held in check and limited to underneath routes by the Steelers, so it may be worth considering other options with better matchups. The Steelers have smothered the pass this season.

Tight End

The tight end position remains brutal, so if you have a reliable option, start him. There are seven must-starts this week thanks to the return of Austin Hooper (this assumes Mark Andrews plays), and then TE8 through TE20 are projected within a range of just over two points from top to bottom. If you start any of the streaming options, just hope he falls into the end zone. For those in need, Ian Thomas is a priority if available (25% of receiving yardage against the Seattle Seahawks goes to tight ends), and Noah Fant should be grabbed as well (the Kansas City Chiefs lead the league in percentage of yards allowed to the tight end position). If the situation is more dire, David Njoku faces off with the Arizona Cardinals, and O.J. Howard should see a target bump with Mike Evans sidelined. Otherwise, don't overthink it, as there are not enough reliable options at the position.