Players I think have favourable/unfavourable match ups heading into week fifteen.
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(CHI) QB Jay Cutler @ (CLE) – It has been confirmed that Jay Cutler will get the start in place of Josh McCown now that he is healed and ready to go, and I think he should be started with similar confidence. He may be coming back from an injury and have a penchant for turnovers, but he also has some all-star weapons at his disposal in Marshall, Jeffery and Forte. Alshon Jeffery is looking like he is going to be a premier wide receiver in the NFL, if not already and has only made an already potent offence even better. The Bears defence is still awful and will allow points, which has meant the Chicago offence is going to have to continue to be great if they want to make the playoffs; something that is pretty much never said of a Bears team.
(MIA) QB Ryan Tannehill vs. (NE) – Tannehill is having the best streak of his career, with two games of over 300 yards in his last two starts and a three-touchdown effort against the Steelers defence last week in Pittsburgh. The Dolphins have had a pretty distracting year as we all know but are still in the thick of the race for the final wild card spot. They are sitting at 7-6 and have a chance to be beat a Gronk-less Patriots team that has been fighting for wins. They also close out the season against the Bills and Jets, two very winnable games for the ‘Fins. I expect the Dolphins to come out swinging against the Patriots and am looking for another 250+ yard game from Tannehill with two touchdowns with the potential for more.
(IND) RB Donald Brown vs. (HOU) – Brown has been very up and down in recent weeks, getting 14 carries twice in the last four weeks but only getting six in the other two games. If you look closer though you will see that he excelled in the soft matchups against the Titans and was bad against good run defences in the Cardinals and Bengals. This weekend he gets the Texans, a team that is close to being in the bottom ten in fantasy at opposing the run. Houston has also allowed close to 500 yards receiving to opposing running backs and three passing touchdowns to the position. I like Brown’s chances of getting 14+ touches again and getting a touchdown.
(NO) RB Pierre Thomas @ (STL) – The Rams have struggled against the run for most of the season and have now dropped into the bottom-five in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. Quite a few teams have allowed more yards than the Rams but only two teams (WAS, TEN) have allowed more touchdowns (Rashard Mendenhall again has a great matchup). Thomas is a tough guy to count on but if you are in a pinch for a running back or flex option due to losing Adrian Peterson or something of that nature, then I think Thomas has a great chance to get you double-digit fantasy points. He is rarely a 100-yard rusher but has the ability to catch passes and is solid at the goal line; I like his odds to find pay dirt.
(BAL) WR Torrey Smith vs. (DET) – Here I go again… I continue to have terrible success with Smith when putting him on either my start ‘em or sit ‘em list, but am going back to this poisoned well once again. Perhaps the trend is that Torrey excels in tough matchups and slacks off in tough ones, but I got to think he is going to have a big play or two against the Lions this Monday night when playing under the lights. The Lions have a very beatable secondary, especially for someone with the body and skill set of Torrey Smith. The Ravens are currently in the #6 wild card spot and will looking for a big win over the unpredictable Lions on the road in order to help secure the spot and I think will need to throw the ball deep a few times to get the job done. Rice continues to look sluggish and the Lions have a solid run defence, so I don’t see them doing it by pounding the ball. Tight end Dennis Pitta is my biggest concern as he saw 11 targets in his return from injury, but am going to count on Torrey for about five catches with at least one of them being for 40+ yards and hopefully a touchdown. C’mon Torrey, can’t we just get along?
(JAC) WR Cecil Shorts vs. (BUF) – The Jaguars are on a roll having won 4 of their last five while the Bills are the opposite, losers of five if their last six. The Bills also have a terrible secondary, having allowed more than 2400 yards and 17 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers, good for third worst in the NFL. After a six-week slump without a touchdown, Shorts now has a score in his last two games. The Jaguars are playing with effort and pride lately, something I can’t say about the Bills; I think Shorts takes advantage of the matchup and finds the end zone for the third straight week.
(MIA) TE Charles Clay vs. (NE) – Clay has been great for the Dolphins this season with almost 700 yards and six touchdowns so far this season. He is coming off a two-touchdown performance last week against the Steelers and has three games of 80 or more yards in his last four starts. I like the chances of the hot streak continuing for Clay this week against the rival Patriots in a very important game for Miami.
(ARI) QB Carson Palmer @ (TEN) – Other than getting burned by Peyton Manning last weekend the Titans have been a very tough team against opposing quarterbacks this season. They had only allowed eight touchdowns to quarterbacks before Manning torched them for four. Palmer had been great for the Cardinals before having a tough game against the Rams last week and should have another weak performance against Tennessee this weekend. I have a very tough time thinking that Palmer will be able to throw his way into the top-12 at his position.
(WAS) QB Kirk Cousins vs. (ATL) – As bad as the Falcons defence has been this year, I would not suggest starting a quarterback who is seeing his first action of the season against them this weekend. Obviously there are very few circumstances that would have people considering starting him, but perhaps the odd RGIII owner who was looking at the great schedule that Washington has the rest of the way, and figured perhaps Cousins can have some solid outings. The only trend that intrigues me has been the first-start success of many quarterbacks this season (Keenum, Glennon, Foles), but I want nothing to do with the Washington debacle if playing a playoff matchup. I would only consider Cousins as a low-end starter in two quarterback leagues.
(TEN) RB Chris Johnson vs. (ARI) – Since breaking out against the Rams about a month and a half ago, Johnson has been much better for fantasy owners than he had been the first few months of the season, but has still struggled to put up numbers at times. Since the Rams outburst, he has scored three more touchdowns, but two of them came in the same game against the Colts (he has five total touchdowns in three different games). He was able to score last week against the Broncos, but the Broncos have allowed a ton of value to opposing running backs, and Shonn Greene scored twice in that game. Johnson tends to play okay in good matchups but sucks in bad ones; the Cardinals are a bad one. Johnson puts up single-digit points this week.
(NYJ) RB Chris Ivory @ (CAR) – Ivory is coming off a solid performance against the Raiders but will be in tough on the road against the Panthers this weekend. The Panthers have one of the best run defences in the league and are especially tough when playing at home. It also doesn’t help that the Panthers are still attempting to beat out the Saints for the division and cannot endure another loss with the Saints holding the tie-breaker. I think the Panthers win big in this one and Ivory is limited in his opportunities to run the ball.
(NYG) WR Victor Cruz vs. (SEA) – Cruz has just four touchdowns on the season but three of them came in week one against the Cowboys. Since then he has just one score that came back in week four; he also has just one 100+ yard game I that span. Against the very tough Seahawks secondary I see no reason to think that Cruz will be able to provide the needed production for fantasy owners this week. What a massive disappointment the Giants wide receivers have been in 2013.
(ARI) WR Michael Floyd @ (TEN) – What to know a weird trend? For the last eight weeks Floyd has scored in every other game. The good news is that this week is a scoring week for him if you stick with that trend, but is also a terrible matchup for him and he is being bothered by an ankle injury at the moment. I think it might be best to keep Floyd on the bench this weekend against a very tough Titans secondary. Floyd was absent from practice Wednesday and was limited on Thursday due to the ankle.
(CHI) TE Martellus Bennett vs. (CLE) – Bennett had thee touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season but has just two scores since. He game-high this season is 90 yards and that came back in week four against the Lions secondary. Over his last six games he is averaging just over 38 yards per game and has one touchdown. I think you can do better if you need a big game from a tight end, two that come to mind are Coby Fleener and Delanie Walker for this week.