Welcome to Week 15 of the Fantasy Football Matchup Machine. This is a feature Chet started using to help me out over at thefakebasketball.com in our daily fantasy basketball matchups. It proved highly effective for us on the NBA side of things, so we adapted it to the NFL. You will see a writeup on some of the more fantasy-intriguing NFL Matchups, then a chart examining exactly which players have the easiest defensive matchups each week.
DEN @ BAL
The Broncos were awfully disappointing from a fantasy perspective last Thursday night against the lowly Raiders other than Knowshown Moreno and his career-high workload. Peyton Manning should bounce back in this one as the Ravens aren’t nearly as daunting a defensive matchup as they have been in years past and are still likely going to be missing Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs for this one. I don’t expect Peyton to throw it a ton again as they have been looking to ride Moreno as much as they can, but that should help with his efficiency. Look for Manning to be a middle of the pack QB1 in this one, hitting a couple big plays to Demariyous Thomas and probably a short touchdown to Eric Decker or Jacob Tamme. I like Decker as a WR2, I think he’s too good to sit with Manning throwing to him, while I think you can do better than Tamme with someone like Tony Scheffler possibly on the waiver wire.
Baltimore’s offense may finally be unleashed this week with Cam Cameron being fired after last week’s game. Joe Flacco still needs to prove it to me before I trust him in the playoffs and I would totally avoid him in this matchup if at all possible. I do like Ray Rice a bit more as the Ravens look to avoid the pass rush of Von Miller and the coverage of the Broncos elite corners. I think Torrey Smith is just a boom or bust WR3 in this one and I wouldn’t get duped by Anquan Boldin‘s fluke game last week, leave him on your bench. Dennis Pitta is an intriguing matchup, but remember when we said that about Brandon Myers last week? He could be asked to block a lot to fend of Von Miller, much like Myers was last week.
TB @ NO
Josh Freeman heads into the dome at New Orleans this week after torching the Saints on his home turf last time these two teams met. Freeman should be good for QB1 numbers once again and should be the choice in most decisions between him and a similar level signal caller. Doug Martin is maybe my favorite running back play of the week and he should continue to put fantasy teams on his back down the stretch. Vincent Jackson has the looks of an elite WR1 play this week and Mike Williams has been one of the better fantasy WR3s in the league this year. I think we are going to get a surprise big game from one of the Bucs complementary receivers or a tight end, but I wouldn’t be willing to gamble on who it was going to be.
Drew Brees should find his true bounce back game in this one and I would find it impossible to bench him this week if you managed to survive with him the last two weeks. The Saints running game continues to look good, but Darren Sproles is the only trustable fantasy play this week for me as the Bucs continue to completely shut down opposing runners. Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham should get back on track along with Brees in this one and also need to be in almost every starting lineup against the Bucs poor pass defense. Lance Moore is a great bet to have huge game for the Saints this week slicing and dicing over the middle.
SF @ NE
This is one I’m really interested to see what gives between the Niners defense and the Patriots offense. I expect Colin Kaepernick to continue to improve and post one of his better games this season against the New England bend, but don’t break secondary. Frank Gore is shouldering the great majority of the load for the Niners with Kendall Hunter done for year and he looked as explosive as I’ve seen him the last two weeks. Michael Crabtree makes for an interesting play going over the middle agains the soft Pats pass defense, I like him quite a bit this week. Mario Manningham continues to be a favorite target of Kaepernick and one of these weeks he is going to go off, he’s got a good floor to ceiling ratio this week in my eyes if you are looking for a replacement this late in the season. I think Vernon Davis continues to struggle and I also like Scheffler, who I mentioned above, over him as well this week.
The Patriots face a tough task to duplicate what they did last week against one of the top defenses in the league. Steven Jackson and others have proven you can run on them this season, so I think you still have to start Stevan Ridley unless you have multiple top 10 options. This is definitely a week to fade Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen though. Tom Brady should do his Tom Brady things and approach 300 yards with 2 touchdowns, so don’t worry too much about him. I am very interested to see how the 49ers aim to take away Aaron Hernandez as he was clearly the best player on the field last Monday night and is easily the top TE option this week. Brandon Lloyd rose from the dead and did all sorts of good things for fantasy owners last week. He looks like a must-start player finally until Gronk returns. Wes Welker dropped a few passes last week, but should continue to see his 10-12 targets per game and should be peppered in this game with the 49ers solid pass rush.
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