January 16, 2021

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Start and Sit: Week 15

14 min read
Start and Sit: Week 15


It has been a difficult December for the fantasy players waiting for reinforcements in the form of Drew Brees, Christian McCaffrey, and Kenny Golladay. But for the teams still alive in the fantasy playoffs, there are a number of matchup-boosted options at every position this week that can keep fill their holes and hopefully help advance you to your championship games.

The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him within a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven) — home and road and dome and outside — the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.

You can see our full weekly projections with projected stats, matchup adjustments and fantasy points by subscribing to FO+.


Quarterbacks

Best Week 15 Matchups – Quarterbacks
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
D.Carr LV 1 LAC Rk 21 14 14 12  
Pts   +1.3 0.0 +0.9 +2.2
K.Murray ARI 1 PHI Rk 3 2 2 2  
Pts   +1.1 0.0 +0.6 +1.7
M.Trubisky CHI 0 MIN Rk 19 15 15 13  
Pts   +0.9 0.0 +0.4 +1.3
J.Goff LAR 1 NYJ Rk 19 17 18 15  
Pts   +0.7 0.0 +0.3 +1.0
J.Herbert LAC 0 LV Rk 10 10 10 10  
Pts   +0.8 0.0 +0.1 +0.9

The Raiders play the Chargers tonight, so we already know for sure that Henry Ruggs’ placement on the COVID reserve list will force him to miss the contest. But even lacking one of his best playmakers, Derek Carr should enjoy the biggest matchup boost of the week at quarterback. The bulk of that comes from his home venue. Carr has averaged 4.1 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road since 2017, the third-biggest differential among current starters. And while he hasn’t spent all of those seasons in the Raiders’ new stadium in Las Vegas, that split is typical for a quarterback who plays his home games in a dome. Meanwhile, Carr faces a Chargers’ defense ranked 22nd in DVOA. They are better against the pass (No. 17) than the run (No. 31), but that latter weakness has helped boost their opponents’ passing touchdowns by 29% per attempt even while their rates of completion and yards per target have landed closer to neutral. All told, Carr jumps from 21st to 12th for the matchup this week, and he nearly catches his opponent Justin Herbert in the rankings despite Herbert’s own projected benefits from the dome matchup.

Mitchell Trubisky had a pair of notable plus matchups the first three weeks of the season. He took advantage in Week 1 in Detroit with 242 yards and three touchdowns. And the latter in Week 3 in Atlanta resulted in 188 yards and three touchdowns … for Nick Foles. It’s probably best to keep Trubisky’s tenuous claim of the Bears’ starting job in mind in consideration of his matchup-boosted ranking of 13th at the position. The Vikings are a top-five increaser of opposing yards and touchdowns per pass attempt and 7% and 22%, respectively, and so Trubisky seems more likely than usual to be good this week. He just may not be afforded the chance to recover if he struggles early, and that may be a reason to avoid an otherwise borderline QB1/QB2 if his bad scenario could knock your team from the fantasy playoffs.

Worst Week 15 Matchups – Quarterbacks
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
J.Allen BUF 0 DEN Rk 4 7 7 8  
Pts   -0.5 -0.4 -1.1 -2.0
B.Mayfield CLE 0 NYG Rk 22 27 28 27  
Pts   -0.5 -0.4 -0.3 -1.2
C.Newton NE 0 MIA Rk 13 17 16 20  
Pts   -0.4 +0.1 -0.7 -1.0
T.Tagovailoa MIA 1 NE Rk 12 13 13 17  
Pts   -0.4 0.0 -0.6 -1.0
A.Rodgers GB 1 CAR Rk 7 9 9 8  
Pts   -0.2 -0.3 -0.2 -0.7

Most outdoor quarterbacks perform better for fantasy at home versus on the road. And as such, our projections apply the broader trends to Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, and Cam Newton even though all three have averaged more fantasy points per game on the road than at home since 2017. Even if you feel differently about that piece of their projection pies, you should likely fade their Week 15 chances for typical success. Allen and Mayfield may have escaped the Buffalo and Cleveland winters for the week, but their forecasts in Denver and New York are hardly better with predicted sub-40-degree temperatures. Meanwhile, the Broncos, Giants, and Dolphins are all top-five decreasers of touchdowns per pass attempt. That drops the streaking Mayfield from fantasy consideration. And while Allen and Newton cling to QB1 and QB2 status despite their projected losses, they may need to run in some touchdowns to support spots in your starting lineups.


Running Backs

Best Week 15 Matchups – Running Backs
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
D.Henry TEN 1 DET Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   +0.3 0.0 +1.7 +2.0
J.Taylor IND 1 HOU Rk 12 12 12 7  
Pts   0.0 0.0 +1.2 +1.2
A.Jones GB 1 CAR Rk 5 4 5 4  
Pts   +0.3 -0.1 +0.6 +0.8
J.Dobbins BAL 1 JAX Rk 25 25 25 23  
Pts   +0.2 0.0 +0.5 +0.7
M.Davis CAR 0 GB Rk 6 6 6 5  
Pts   -0.2 -0.1 +0.7 +0.4

The Week 15 slate is full of mismatches, and so Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, Aaron Jones, and J.K. Dobbins all enjoy projected boosts in carry volume as their teams face off against inferior opponents. For Henry, Taylor, and Dobbins, their opposing Lions, Texans, and Jaguars are top-six increasers of run plays. That entrenches the three backs in the top seven at the position this week.

Jones’ Packers may not have quite as easy a time even at home against the Panthers. Carolina’s 4-9 record belies a middling 17th ranking in DVOA, and they have played close games against both the Saints and Chiefs in the last two months. But that could be good news for Jones’ touch volume since Jamaal Williams has enjoyed his biggest workloads when Green Bay has blown out the likes of the Texans, Bears, and Lions in recent weeks. The more he plays, the more Jones can take advantage of a Panthers defense that boosts yards and touchdowns per carry by 7% apiece. And Mike Davis could have it about as good even on the road. The colder weather should shift some of the Panthers workload to the ground, and the Packers complement Davis’ strengths in the red zone and as a receiver as top-four increasers of rushing touchdowns per carry and receiving yards and touchdowns per target for running backs.

Worst Week 15 Matchups – Running Backs
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
D.Cook MIN 1 CHI Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   -0.1 0.0 -1.1 -1.2
C.Edwards-Helaire KC 0 NO Rk 17 19 19 20  
Pts   -0.2 0.0 -0.6 -0.8
E.Elliott DAL 1 SF Rk 13 13 13 16  
Pts   -0.1 0.0 -0.6 -0.7
J.Robinson JAX 0 BAL Rk 8 8 8 10  
Pts   -0.1 0.0 -0.5 -0.6
T.Gurley ATL 1 TB Rk 28 28 28 30  
Pts   -0.1 0.0 -0.4 -0.5

Dalvin Cook overcame the first of his three difficult fantasy playoff matchups with 110 total yards and a touchdown in Tampa Bay. By his lofty standards, that is a middling performance, but it also explains why Cook retains his No. 1 ranking even while he projects to lose another 1.2 fantasy points against the Bears’ No. 5 DVOA run defense this week.

In terms of lineup decisions, I’m much more concerned about Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Todd Gurley. The former travels to New Orleans, and while that should benefit him a bit because of the dome, the Saints cut run plays by 11% and rushing yards and touchdowns by 15% and 44% per attempt. The Chiefs have a way of overcoming difficult matchups, but that tends to come on the arm of Patrick Mahomes and does not necessarily benefit his running backs. Meanwhile, Gurley draws that Bucs run defense that remains second in DVOA. Despite that ranking, the Bucs haven’t been as bad a matchup for opposing backs as the Saints have. They incite a similar drop in rushing efficiency, cutting yards by 26% per carry. But they have been neutral for rushing touchdown rate. Still, Gurley has fallen short of 10 carries in three straight games as he has ceded more and more work to teammate Ito Smith. That isn’t the trend Gurley’s fantasy players want to see with him about to face the No. 2 cutter of run plays. It’s enough to drop him to 30th at the position this week.


Wide Receivers

Best Week 15 Matchups – Wide Receivers
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
A.Robinson CHI 0 MIN Rk 12 9 9 6  
Pts   +1.3 0.0 +1.3 +2.6
B.Aiyuk SF 0 DAL Rk 10 7 7 7  
Pts   +1.3 0.0 +1.0 +2.3
K.Allen LAC 0 LV Rk 6 5 5 5  
Pts   +1.5 0.0 +0.5 +2.0
T.Hilton IND 1 HOU Rk 31 24 24 24  
Pts   +1.1 0.0 +0.2 +1.3
H.Renfrow LV 1 LAC Rk 51 45 45 44  
Pts   +0.8 0.0 -0.4 +0.4

With Deebo Samuel on the field, Brandon Aiyuk was ostensibly the 49ers’ second receiver. That didn’t seem to impact his fantasy production — he’s top-five among all wide receivers with a 30.5% target share and 20.6 PPR points per game since Week 7. Aiyuk may draw some extra defensive attention now that Samuel is out for the rest of the year. I just don’t think that will hurt his production this week. The Cowboys are a top-seven booster of No. 1 receiver yards and touchdowns per target, and Aiyuk should counterbalance playing on the road with the benefits of the Cowboys’ dome stadium. I rank him seventh at the position this week.

T.Y. Hilton has been similarly productive to Aiyuk of late, but he owes much of that breakout to a few deep touchdowns. Hilton’s 22.1% target share since Week 12 is just 26th-best at the position. That explains why Hilton lands at 31st in my true-talent receiver rankings, but it won’t matter as much this week since his Texans matchup boosts him to WR2 status. The Texans have the No. 26 DVOA pass defense, and they are a top-10 booster of yards and touchdowns per target to both No. 1 and No. 2 receivers. For now, that should ease any concerns you might have about Michael Pittman’s priority in the Colts playbook.

As an exclusive slot receiver, Hunter Renfrow won’t directly replace Henry Ruggs in the Raiders lineup tonight. But he may be the biggest beneficiary of the latter’s absence. In Weeks 3 and 4 with Ruggs sidelined, Renfrow enjoyed two of his just three games all season with eight or more targets. And while their opponents have not relied as heavily on slot receivers as they have against other teams, the Chargers are a top-six booster of slot receiver yards and touchdowns per target. Subjectively, I like Renfrow even more than his 44th-place ranking would on its own suggest.

Worst Week 15 Matchups – Wide Receivers
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
C.Beasley BUF 0 DEN Rk 36 36 40 52  
Pts   -0.1 -0.5 -1.8 -2.4
S.Diggs BUF 0 DEN Rk 2 4 4 8  
Pts   -0.7 -0.1 -0.6 -1.4
M.Jones DET 0 TEN Rk 40 43 44 43  
Pts   -0.3 -0.1 -0.4 -0.8
T.McLaurin WAS 1 SEA Rk 21 24 24 25  
Pts   -0.4 0.0 +0.1 -0.3
T.Higgins CIN 1 PIT Rk 46 47 46 41  
Pts   -0.3 0.0 +0.2 -0.1

In general, I prefer Cole Beasley to Renfrow with 36th versus 51st true-talent rankings. But the Bills slot receiver’s better production has come from higher highs, not greater consistency. Since Week 7, Beasley has seesawed with four games of 10 or more targets and three games of four or fewer targets. This week, I wouldn’t be surprised to see another dip. The Broncos are a top-seven cutter of slot receiver yards and touchdowns per target. And their weaker run defense (25th in DVOA) than pass defense (eighth) motivates their opponents to shift more plays to the run (11% increase). This may be one of the few times the Bills roll with a balanced offense. And that strategy could hurt the fantasy value of Beasley and No. 1 receiver Stefon Diggs.

Marvin Jones has excelled as the Lions’ de facto No. 1 receiver as Kenny Golladay’s hip injury has lingered. But Jones relies on his No. 1 quarterback Matthew Stafford to produce at that accustomed level. When Brandon Allen replaced Joe Burrow in Cincinnati, his relative inefficiency cost his receivers close to a yard per play, and it also cost them play volume — Allen has averaged 28 pass attempts per game as the Bengals starter, 12 fewer than Burrow did. I expect Jones to suffer from a similar decline going from Stafford to Chase Daniel in Detroit. As such, Jones falls to 40th in my true-talent rankings, and he drops even more this week facing the strength of Tennesse. The otherwise underwhelming Titans pass defense (28th in DVOA) cuts No. 1 receiver yards and touchdowns by 16% and 27%, respectively. Like Tee Higgins, Jones belongs on your fantasy benches in shallow formats this week.


Tight Ends

Best Week 15 Matchups – Tight Ends
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
D.Waller LV 1 LAC Rk 2 2 2 2  
Pts   +0.5 0.0 +0.7 +1.2
M.Andrews BAL 1 JAX Rk 3 3 3 3  
Pts   -0.2 +0.1 +1.0 +0.9
T.Hockenson DET 0 TEN Rk 4 4 4 4  
Pts   0.0 +0.1 +0.4 +0.5
D.Arnold ARI 1 PHI Rk 24 23 23 21  
Pts   +0.3 0.0 +0.2 +0.5
I.Smith MIN 1 CHI Rk 27 26 26 24  
Pts   +0.1 0.0 +0.3 +0.4

T.J. Hockenson faces some of the same concerns Jones does with the switch from Stafford to Daniel. But as a shallow and intermediate target, Hockenson seems more likely to retain his volume of catchable targets and is more likely to excel on however many catchable targets he does see. The Titans allow the highest DVOA to opposing tight ends, and they boost yards and touchdowns to the position by 13% and 31%, respectively.

If you don’t have one of the top four tight ends, you could be in for a rough week. But what else is new for tight ends in 2020? Among the longer shots, I expect Dan Arnold and Irv Smith to better their typical production this week. Arnold’s top-10 fantasy production since Week 11 is a product of his four touchdowns in as many games — his 8.5% target share in that time is just 32nd at the position. But maybe he can continue his scoring streak facing an Eagles team that boosts tight end touchdown rate by 47%, sixth-most in football. Meanwhile, the Bears have been a similar boon for tight end scoring (40% boost) — that may be the only hole in their top-10 DVOA pass defense. And Smith just had his best game of the season with 63 yards and a touchdown in teammate Kyle Rudolph’s first absence since 2014 and could enjoy another as the Vikings’ featured tight end since Rudolph has yet to return to practice. Both Arnold and Smith are TE2 options this week.

Worst Week 15 Matchups – Tight Ends
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
T.Kelce KC 0 NO Rk 1 1 1 1  
Pts   -0.3 0.0 -0.7 -1.0
D.Sample CIN 1 PIT Rk 24 26 26 28  
Pts   -0.1 0.0 -0.5 -0.6
R.Tonyan GB 1 CAR Rk 6 5 9 9  
Pts   -0.1 -0.3 -0.2 -0.6
D.Goedert PHI 0 ARI Rk 6 5 5 8  
Pts   -0.1 0.0 -0.3 -0.4
H.Henry LAC 0 LV Rk 5 5 5 7  
Pts   -0.2 0.0 -0.2 -0.4

You should obviously never sit Travis Kelce in a traditional format. And at this point, I feel the same about Robert Tonyan, Dallas Goedert, and Hunter Henry with the lack of heavy-volume options behind them. Even in bad matchups, those latter three players remain in my top 10 at the position this week. But in shallow formats, you probably should sit Drew Sample. With a top-10 17.4% target share, he has emerged as a back-end TE2 since Brandon Allen has taken over at quarterback. But this week, Sample will have to contend with a Steelers defense that is No. 1 in DVOA against the pass and No. 1 against tight ends. And after allowing an outlier day to Logan Thomas in their first loss of the season, the Steelers snapped back to form in holding Dawson Knox to just four catches and 34 yards in Week 14.


Kickers

Best Week 15 Matchups – Kickers
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
G.Zuerlein DAL 1 SF Rk 16 11 9 9  
Pts   +0.3 0.0 +0.1 +0.4
C.Santos CHI 0 MIN Rk 23 19 20 14  
Pts   +0.1 0.0 +0.2 +0.3
D.Carlson LV 1 LAC Rk 14 11 9 9  
Pts   +0.2 0.0 +0.1 +0.3
M.Gay LAR 1 NYJ Rk 16 14 14 11  
Pts   +0.2 0.0 +0.1 +0.3

As has become tradition in this article, domes motivate the kicker matchup boosts this week. Greg Zuerlein, Daniel Carlson, and Matt Gay should each enjoy their normal boosts at home, and Zuerlein and Gay should see further boosts from matchups with the 49ers and Jets that increase long field goal attempts by 20% and 23%, both top-five in football. Cairo Santos may not be as comfortable as that trio on the road in Minnesota. But at least he has a dome, and his opponent matchup is the best of all of them. The Vikings are a top-10 increaser of both short and long field goal attempts.

Worst Week 15 Matchups – Kickers
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
N.Folk NE 0 MIA Rk 16 19 20 28  
Pts   -0.1 0.0 -0.4 -0.5
S.Gostkowski TEN 1 DET Rk 16 19 18 27  
Pts   -0.1 +0.1 -0.4 -0.4
J.Slye CAR 0 GB Rk 12 18 18 20  
Pts   -0.2 0.0 -0.1 -0.3
G.Gano NYG 1 CLE Rk 11 9 9 14  
Pts   +0.1 -0.1 -0.2 -0.2

Nick Folk and Stephen Gostkowski draw the likely two most difficult opponents for kickers. The Dolphins and Lions are both top-three reducers of short and long field goal tries, the former likely because of their defensive excellence (11th in DVOA) and latter likely because of their defensive failures (31st) that allow teams to finish most of their drives with touchdowns. If I had to start one, I’d side with Gostkowski. It seems possible that the Lions’ switch to Chase Daniel could lead to more Titans drives and more of those drives starting with good field position after turnovers.

Joey Slye and Graham Gano don’t have the same extreme opponent factors to deal with — although the Packers and Browns are top-six decreasers of long field goal tries. Instead, they will have to contend with the worst of the Week 15 weather. The former is forecasted to have the coldest weather of the week with 31-degree kickoff temperatures in Green Bay, and the latter has cold temperatures and a chance of rain in New York. If the rain happens, it would be a particular burden. Precipitation cuts long field goal attempts by 11% and increases those misses by 36%.


Defenses

Best Week 15 Matchups – Defenses
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
Steelers DST PIT 0 CIN Rk 2 2 2 1  
Pts   -0.1 0.0 +1.3 +1.2
Dolphins DST MIA 1 NE Rk 11 10 10 7  
Pts   +0.1 0.0 +0.9 +1.0
Browns DST CLE 0 NYG Rk 7 6 6 4  
Pts   -0.2 +0.1 +0.9 +0.8
Rams DST LAR 1 NYJ Rk 6 6 7 3  
Pts   -0.4 0.0 +1.1 +0.7

The plus-matchup defenses in Week 15 are usual suspects, and so too are their offensive opponents. Really, I’d comfortably start any defense against the Bengals with Brandon Allen at quarterback and the Jets with, well, anyone at quarterback. But it’s really a no-brainer when those defenses are the Steelers and Rams, ranked first and third in defensive DVOA. Meanwhile, the bad New York weather is another reason to rely on the Browns defense, which would be a strong option in any case facing a Giants offensive line that ranks 25th in adjusted sack rate and promotes sacks per pass attempt and tackles for losses by 47% and 40%, respectively.

Worst Week 15 Matchups – Defenses
Player Tm Hm Opp Lbl TT Ven Wea Def Tot
Raiders DST LV 1 LAC Rk 17 24 24 24  
Pts   -0.4 0.0 -0.7 -1.1
Saints DST NO 1 KC Rk 27 28 28 30  
Pts   -0.3 0.0 -0.6 -0.9
Packers DST GB 1 CAR Rk 13 11 10 19  
Pts   +0.1 +0.1 -0.6 -0.4
Vikings DST MIN 1 CHI Rk 13 20 20 19  
Pts   -0.4 0.0 0.0 -0.4

The Saints are the No. 2 DVOA defense, just between the Steelers and Rams. But this week will test their status as every-week starters in fantasy. Frankly, I would look elsewhere. Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs have scored 26 or more points in all but two weeks this season, including against the Bucs and Dolphins (ranked fifth and 11th in defensive DVOA) in the last three weeks.

The Saints are an obvious sit, and so too are the Raiders and Packers facing Chargers and Panthers offenses ranked 19th and ninth in offensive DVOA. The bad-matchup defense you might be tempted to play is the Vikings since the Bears are just 26th in offensive DVOA. I’d look for other options. The Bears have made marked offensive line improvements this year to land at 17th in adjusted sack rate. Meanwhile, the Vikings’ relative defensive weakness against the run (20th in DVOA) versus the pass (12th) should play into the Bears’ preference for a conservative, run-focused game plan that could limit their turnovers.

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/start-and-sit/2020/start-and-sit-week-15