Ranking the Week 15 defensive matchups
All of a sudden, several NFL defenses have stepped up over the past couple of weeks. All season long, offenses have seemed to do whatever they want against opposing defenses. Teams like the Chiefs, Saints and Rams seemed to score at will. But then we had the Cowboys completely shutdown Drew Brees and the Saints, and the Bears did the same thing to Jared Goff and the Rams on Sunday night. Have defenses caught up to their counterparts? Probably not. Brees may just have had one bad game against a very good defense and the Bears may have the best defense in the game, and perhaps the Rams didn’t enjoy playing in the cold weather of Chicago in a night game. I’m not letting a couple of outlier results change how I approach my Fantasy lineups. Good luck this week.
As always, the top of this list are teams to make sure you start players against, while the bottom are defenses you want to start.
- Philadelphia Eagles (against Rams): The Rams should get healthy here and rebound off of a poor performance versus the Bears last week. The Eagles can’t stop the run or the pass. I’m starting Josh Reynolds here along with the usual suspects in Todd Gurley, Brandon Cooks and Robert Woods, as points will be put up on the board.
- Los Angeles Chargers (against Kansas City): As of this writing we don’t know if Spencer Ware will be able to start, and even if he does, will he finish the game? Ware hasn’t practiced as of yet and will be a risky start even if he does play. If I had a player on my roster that was comparable with him, I’d lean in that direction. If Ware is out, Damien Williams becomes a low-end RB2. Tyreek Hill is also hobbled but should play for the Chiefs, which means he starts for you. I’m not starting Kelvin Benjamin unless I just don’t have anyone left on my roster and am looking for a dart throw.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (against Baltimore): Lamar Jackson will once again start at QB for the Ravens. Only Gus Edwards is worth a start here. As for Kenneth Dixon, he’s going to steal some touches from Edwards, which really just hurts the value of both, as Edwards is now on the border of a RB2/Flex play.
- San Francisco 49ers (against Seattle): I won a playoff matchup by less than two points last week in an industry league because my opponent started Doug Baldwin. This is why I don’t take chances, especially during the Fantasy playoffs, as Baldwin didn’t play in the game. It’s unlikely that I’ll start Baldwin this week, either. Tyler Lockett is in play, however. As for Russell Wilson, he’s not in my Top 12 at QB. The Seahawks just don’t throw the ball enough anymore, and it would seem unlikely that they would need to change their winning formula to beat the 49ers on Sunday.
- Cleveland Browns (against Denver): We may like the matchup here, but, outside of Phillip Lindsay, there are no guarantees. Courtland Sutton should get his share of targets and comes in as a WR3, but there is still some risk here.
- Green Bay Packers (against Chicago): The Bears are a difficult team to judge for Fantasy. Their pass catching back, Tarik Cohen, is more valuable than their standard back, Jordan Howard. The QB can be dangerous because of his legs but may not be asked to throw the ball 25-plus times because of the defense. I’m still willing to start Mitch Trubisky here along with Allen Robinson and possibly Anthony Miller, as I do like the matchup.
- Cincinnati Bengals (against Oakland): All of a sudden, Doug Martin is scoring TDs. Here’s to thinking he gets another one here. Jalen Richard could also be a play if you’re desperate in a PPR league.
- Oakland Raiders (against Cincinnati): It’s the Raiders so you want to start any player going up against them. Joe Mixon is of course a start here and so is Tyler Boyd, but I’m also willing to bet Joe Ross gets into the end zone once again this week.
- Indianapolis Colts (against Dallas): Imagine how good Dak Prescott might be if he learns to connect with any WR outside of Amari Cooper? As it is, Cooper is a must-start and Prescott is approaching such status. I do wonder if this will be a let down game for Dallas, as they really don’t have much to play for. They clinch the East with a win or a WAS and PHI loss. WAS would seem unlikely to win another game until next season and PHI is playing against the Rams. Dallas will start to rest players shortly and Zack Martin could get that treatment this Sunday.
- New York Jets (against Houston): Lamar Miller has become a must-start, but is anyone else that way outside of the obvious? Demaryius Thomas has been a disappointment since being acquired from Denver and seems to be used more to take away defensive attention from DeAndre Hopkins. Thomas is no more than a WR3/4.
- New England Patriots (against Pittsburgh): Ben Roethlisberger will start this week for Pittsburgh and is safe to start for you Fantasy team. What may not be safe is the RB situation. James Conner has a chance to play but probably won’t. If Conner is out, you start Jaylen Samuels, problem solved. But if Conner starts, you’re probably forced to start him, and it’s anyone’s guess if he can make it through the entire game. If you own both backs, you should probably be hoping that Conner is inactive.
- Arizona Cardinals (against Atlanta): The only definite starts I have in this game are Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Austin Hooper. I’m not interested in Tevin Coleman or Ito Smith; there is just nothing happening there. As for Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley, they have been awfully quiet as of late and I’m not banking on big games from either one in Week 15.
- Pittsburgh Steelers (against New England): James White has been the odd man out in the run game since Rex Burkhead returned. With James Develin vulturing TDs, the only usable RB has been Sony Michel, and even he’s dropped down to a mid-range RB2. This can change, of course, under Bill Belichick, but I’m not playing that game. Here is to hoping Rob Gronkowski doesn’t have to tackle anyone ever again.
- Kansas City Chiefs (against Chargers): Melvin Gordon is a game-time decision. If he starts for the Chargers, he starts for your Fantasy team, but yeah, there is risk. If he’s out, you can just go with Justin Jackson. Like with the Chiefs’ and Steelers; RB situations, if you own both backs, you just want clarity. You would be better off if one is inactive.
- Denver Broncos (against Cleveland): A friend just texted me to ask if he should start David Njoku over Zach Ertz? I like Njoku, and he’s a start Sunday, but not over someone like Ertz. Baker Mayfield could also be a start here as the Broncos’ secondary is still missing its best CB in Chris Harris. I probably can’t go with Antonio Callaway, however, not unless I’m looking for a home run play.
- New Orleans Saints (against Carolina): Cam Newton has a bum shoulder. You’re likely still starting him, but it’s no longer a no-brainer. While that shoulder makes throwing the deep ball difficult for Cam, it shouldn’t hurt underneath routes. The Saints are very good against opposing TEs, but Ian Thomas has just been seeing so many targets since taking over for the injured Greg Olsen. Thomas is a Top 10 TE this week.
- Carolina Panthers (against New Orleans): Just the big four here: Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.
- Seattle Seahawks (against San Francisco): Matt Breida is questionable to play Sunday. If Breida starts for the 49ers, he should start for your Fantasy team, although, like with any player coming off injury, there will be some risk involved. If Breida is out, Jeff Wilson is a solid RB2. As for the passing game, Nick Mullens had a big game in the first meeting between these two teams, but, outside of George Kittle, I’m going to stay away here.
- Tennessee Titans (against Giants): Odell Beckham was a surprise inactive last week, and the Giants still scored 40 points at Washington. They will not score 40 this week. Odell is practicing in a limited fashion Wednesday and it’s once again just Odell and Saquon Barkley that you want to start Sunday.
- Miami Dolphins (against Minnesota): We’ll see what the change in OC does for the offense here. One thing I can almost guarantee is that they will run the ball more. Dalvin Cook should have a good game here. Am I starting Kirk Cousins? Probably, but it will depend on what your other options are.
- Atlanta Falcons (against Arizona): David Johnson isn’t practicing due to a quad injury and if he happens to miss this game then you should stay far away from any Cardinal player.
- Washington (against Jacksonville): Leonard Fournette is a certain start and the only other player I’m considering is Dede Westbrook. The only problem is the limited upside here.
- Dallas Cowboys (against Indianapolis): The Cowboys’ defense presents a problem here, but you’re still starting Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron. Marlon Mack worries me the most. He has been trending down of late as it is and will likely need a TD to pay off here.
- New York Giants (against Tennessee): Yeah, you probably should start Derrick Henry this week. Not so much because he rushed for over 200 yards in Week 14, but because he has scored a TD in five of his last seven games and the Giants are Top 10 in giving up rushing TDs. Henry is not a must-start, however. The rest of the offense, however, can stay on the bench.
- Los Angeles Rams (against Philadelphia): It looks like Carson Wentz will miss this game due to a back injury. Even though Nick Foles did lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl win last season, the only pass-catcher I will feel comfortable in starting is Zach Ertz. As for the run game, there could be quite a few passes to Darren Sproles in the flat and if the Eagles decide to try and eat as much clock as possible, Josh Adams should have a big game against one of the league’s worst run defenses.
- Baltimore Ravens (against Tampa Bay): Jameis Winston wasn’t the same QB in the second half last week after tweaking his knee at the end of the first half. The knee may be better, but even if it is, this isn’t the greatest matchup. Winston doesn’t come in as a Top 10 QB this week. I’m not confidently starting any pass catchers other than Mike Evans, and Cameron Brate, but Adam Humphries is a possibility. I’ll pass on Peyton Barber.
- Chicago Bears (against Green Bay): We all saw what the Bears’ defense did to the Rams last week. This game could be eerily similar. You’re likely still starting Aaron Rodgers but you shouldn’t expect big things. The same can be said for Aaron Jones. As for Davante Adams, he’s the only Packer I feel good about, as he should see plenty of targets coming his way.
- Detroit Lions (against Buffalo): Just say no. I’ll pass on any Bills in this game. I know Josh Allen has been running like crazy of late, but it’s hard to rely on that week in and week out, and the Lions are also one of the best at limiting a QBs rushing ability.
- Minnesota Vikings (against Miami): The Dolphins may not like Kenyan Drake, but I do. I’ll start him, but that’s it.
- Buffalo Bills (against Detroit): Kerryon Johnson is not practicing and seems unlikely to play Sunday. This may just about eliminate any Lion player from your Fantasy roster here, and that includes Kenny Golladay.
- Houston Texans (against Jets): What I just wrote about the Bills also goes for the Jets. They have several injuries to their RBs and at this point we don’t know who will start. It doesn’t matter; Elijah McGuire and/or Isaiah Crowell wouldn’t make for anything more than a Flex play in this game.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (against Washington): With Jordan Reed out with a toe injury, Vernon Davis could make for a dartboard throw at TE. It’s him or nothing.
As always feel free to follow me on Twitter and ask any questions you, @georgekurtz.