Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 15
Fantasy football can be so, so cruel.
Bad beat stories have become common in our game, and I experienced my fair share of them in Week 14. Hitting the Le'Veon Bell buzz saw last week left owners with an empty feeling in their stomachs -- after scoring the most points in the league but failing to get a bye thanks to a flawed head-to-head system in fantasy football, a stupid one-game playoff has you watching your idiot leaguemates competing for the title.
I promise I'm not bitter after Week 14. I promise.
Those of you reading this column are still competing, more than likely because you either avoided Bell last week, own Bell, or didn't draft Peyton Manning to watch him score 2.7 fantasy points in the first round of the playoffs. (Again, fantasy football can be so, so cruel.)
Luck - not Andrew, but success or failure brought on by chance - will always be part of fantasy football in one way or another. But that doesn't mean you can't improve those chances by making logical, sound decisions. Let me help you do that in Week 15.
Start Eli Manning - It's not going to feel great trusting Eli in your fantasy semifinal, but the matchup is one you really can't ignore. The last time Manning faced the Redskins, he threw for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns, and was able to find the end zone on the ground, too. That performance is one of five top-five quarterback games against Washington this year.
The Redskins have the worst secondary according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, and have allowed at least one touchdown pass in every game this season. The floor is there, and considering his first contest against Washington, clearly the ceiling is there for Eli this week as well.
Sit Andy Dalton - The Browns' secondary has been great this season, and the unit now ranks fourth in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP. In 13 games, no signal-caller has finished higher than 10th in weekly quarterback scoring when facing Cleveland, and that 10th-ranked finish (Andrew Luck in Week 13) was the only time a passer scored more than 17.4 fantasy points.
Andy Dalton's an inconsistent fantasy quarterback to begin with, and there's no chance I'd trust him in a tough divisional matchup.
Start Johnny Manziel - So here's the deal. The matchup for Manziel isn't ideal, as the Bengals have the 12th-best secondary in the NFL according to our schedule-adjusted metrics, allowing the 8th-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this year. Four the of last seven quarterbacks who've faced Cincinnati walked away with a single-digit fantasy total.
But Manziel's upside doesn't come from his arm. It comes from his legs. The Bengals have faced two "mobile" quarterbacks this season in Cam Newton and Jake Locker. They allowed over 100 rushing yards to Newton in five quarters, and 50 more to Locker. That coincides with their poor 30th-ranked rush defense.
Manziel's rushing potential in his first NFL start is through-the-roof high, making him a nice option in fantasy this weekend.
Sit Ryan Tannehill - Tannehill's barely scored over 20 points combined over the last two weeks, despite having two really good matchups against the Jets and Ravens. He'll face the league's best pass defense - according to NEP - in New England in Week 15. Don't get cute.
Start Joique Bell - While one Bell has been the talk of fantasy football over the last few weeks, another one has performed admirably, too. Joique - the Bell in Detroit - has ranked as the fourth- and third-best running back in PPR leagues over the last two weeks, scoring 55 fantasy points. He's now posted an RB1 (top-12) performance in three of his last four games.
The Lions will face a Vikings rush defense that ranks 26th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP, and 24th in terms of fantasy points against. Back in Week 6, Joique was able to score 17.7 PPR points against the unit. He could do it again in Week 15.
Sit Tre Mason - There's no doubt that Mason will get the most carries in the Rams' backfield this week, but I'm afraid it won't equate to fantasy success. Arizona's rush defense ranks 11th in terms of Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP, and only Jamaal Charles has been able to score more than 15.5 PPR points against the group. Mason's not the worst option in the world on volume alone, but you're going to need a touchdown for him to really be valuable.
Start Latavius Murray - It took four touches for Latavius Murray to be a top-five running back against Kansas City just a few weeks back. No, it's not time to extrapolate his 4-carry, 112-yard performance over 17 touches, but there's a reason he was able to take advantage of the Chiefs a few Thursdays ago: they're not very good at stopping the run.
The Chiefs have given up at least one RB2 (top-24) performance each week since Week 8, doing so to backs like Chris Johnson, Bryce Brown and Kerwynn Williams. Despite reports entering last week, Murray is clearly Oakland's number-one back, touching the ball a total of 25 times in the team's win against San Francisco. Expect him to have a nice Week 15.
Sit Frank Gore - Gore was featured in this week's 15 Transactions column, and the advice was to drop him. Why? Because he's not the same runner fantasy footballers have grown to love. He hasn't topped the 6.3 fantasy points he scored last week since Week 11, and has more single-digit PPR games this season than double-digit ones. The matchup doesn't even matter for Gore anymore -- but he's facing Seattle this week, for what it's worth. Playing Frank Gore will get you a first-class ticket to the offseason.
Start LeGarrette Blount - Since becoming a Patriot three weeks ago, Blount has a total of 42 carries, good for 14 per game. That's more than any other Patriot back by far.
New England will host Miami this weekend in what's now become a plus-matchup for fantasy backs. The Dolphins rank in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points against to the position, and have fallen to the 23rd-ranked rush defense in the NFL according to our metrics. The Dolphins' pass defense is still a top-five one, albeit falling, so attacking them on the ground makes perfect sense. And Bill Belichick knows this.
Start Keenan Allen - No, Keenan Allen hasn't been the kind of wide receiver most of us thought he could be in his sophomore campaign, but don't take that as his play being just average. Against the toughest secondary in the NFL last week, Allen wasn't able to do much of anything, but not many wide receivers can against New England.
The fact is, since Week 7, Allen's been a great fantasy asset. He's seen nine or more Philip Rivers targets in all but one game (last week against New England), and has failed to reach 11.8 PPR fantasy points just twice (once against New England, of course, and the other coming against the top-five rated Miami secondary).
The last time Allen faced Denver, he was targeted 13 times, caught 9 passes and scored 22.3 PPR fantasy points. Considering he's been a top-25 wide receiver in four of the last six weeks, I don't see how you'd bench him in any normal league.
Sit Michael Crabtree - Crabtree's 14 targets and 9 receptions last week may place him in your Week 15 consideration set, but please, not against Seattle. I beg you.
Crabtree had 10 yards against the Seahawks the last time they faced off, and no wide receiver has ranked higher than 37th against Seattle since Week 11. What's more ridiculous is the fact that, if you can look past the Seahawks' game against the Giants, Seattle's allowed zero start-worthy (top-24) wide receiver games since Week 5 concluded. That's silly.
Start Marquess Wilson - One of my favorite waiver wire claims this week was Marquess Wilson, who should be stepping into Brandon Marshall's role in the Bears offense. Expecting double-digit targets from a guy who's suited up in just 14 NFL games would be foolish, but the matchup against the Saints is gold.
Assuming Wilson sees snaps that a number-two receiver would see in a Marc Trestman offense (a lot), he should be in good shape. The Saints not only rank 31st against the pass per NEP, but aside from their two games against Carolina, they've allowed at least nine wide receiver receptions in every contest this season. They've also surrendered 12 or more to the position in 8 of their 13 games. Considering Wilson should be on the field for most of the game against New Orleans, that means he'll have plenty of opportunity.
Sit Mike Wallace - It's a little odd, but there may be no more touchdown-dependent wide receiver in fantasy football than Mike Wallace. And, just as strange, Wallace doesn't really have a good ceiling -- his highest total of the season was a 19.1 PPR outing in Week 1.
Teammate Jarvis Landry started seeing consistent volume in the Dolphins' offense around Week 9, which is where Wallace started seeing a dip in production -- his floor has been fine, but he's yet to go for more than 69 receiving yards since that time. Against New England's top-ranked secondary this weekend, I'd pass.
Start Kenny Stills - Fantasy owners are understandably not going to want to use Saints offensive players this week after their dumpster fire of a game in Week 14, but if there's one Saint that I'd feel OK rolling out, it'd be Stills.
His four targets last week was the lowest we've seen since New Orleans faced Cincinnati in Week 11, and as a result, Stills had his lowest fantasy output since Week 5. However, Chicago's secondary - and defense - has been porous all season long, and has surrendered 11 top-30 wide receiver performances in PPR leagues over their last seven games (at least one in each contest). A top-30 game typically hovers 13 to 15 PPR fantasy points, and if a Saints wide receiver is going to hit that mark, it's Stills. I think he has a decent floor, and considering the game's high over/under, his ceiling isn't too shabby, either.
Start Delanie Walker - The Jets have been a plus matchup for opposing tight ends all year, and Walker is one of the few healthy pass-catchers for the Titans. Last week was a disappointment against the Giants, but he still saw 10 targets, a mark that happens an average of 2.78 times per week at the position in 2014 -- 10 targets is a lot for a tight end.
There's also the fun fact that, in Jake Locker's three games with significant pass attempts, Walker totaled 25 targets and scored an average of 17.2 PPR fantasy points per game. He's a great play this week.
Sit Owen Daniels - At one point this season, Daniels was a plug-and-play tight end in fantasy. Over the last four weeks, he's seen a combined 14 targets, scoring no more than 5 fantasy points in a single game in PPR formats. Matchup aside, Daniels' little involvement in the Ravens offense makes him too risky of a play.
Start Jared Cook - There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and Jared Cook doing work against the Arizona Cardinals.
This is the equivalent to any batter versus pitcher argument you'd find in fantasy baseball, but Cook has 19 targets, 12 receptions, 274 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Cardinals over the three games he's faced them since becoming a Ram. More importantly though, quarterback Shaun Hill seems to favor Cook, who's averaging almost six targets per game with the veteran under center. He's worth a dart throw if you're struggling at the tight end position.
Start the New York Giants - The Redskins are an absolute mess, and it really doesn't matter who's under center for them to make the Giants a viable fantasy play. Only two defenses haven't finished in the weekly top 15 against Washington this season: Jacksonville and...Seattle. The Seahawks were still playing far below expectation when they faced the Redskins though, so perhaps we can give them a pass.
The fact remains that defenses like Indianapolis, Tennessee, New York (Giants), Minnesota and Tampa Bay have all finished with top-10 fantasy scores against this pitiful Washington team this year. The Giants should be able to take advantage of them (again).
Sit the Indianapolis Colts - At first glance, a game against Houston may appear like a plus matchup for the Colts. But the Texans actually are the seventh-worst opponent for fantasy defenses to face this year, as only one defense (the Giants) has ranked higher than 11th against them in weekly scoring. The Colts defense is mediocre to begin with, meaning they should stay on the waiver wire.
Other Defenses to Start: Baltimore Ravens, Carolina Panthers
Other Defenses to Sit: San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins