Fantasy football matchups: Take a seat, Matthew Stafford

BY John Halpin • December 14, 2016

It’s time for your league semifinals – maybe even if you started Melvin Gordon or Drew Brees last week. Hopefully, our Week 15 fantasy football matchup recommendations can help.

Remember that you’ll rarely see suggestions here to start studs like Le’Veon Bell and Odell Beckham Jr. The recommendations below generally aren’t for must-start or must-sit types – they’re borderline players in most cases.

Note: The fantasy points per game allowed (FPPG) referenced below are from standard leagues.

Thursday game: Rams at Seahawks

Saturday game: Dolphins at Jets


Stay away: Matthew Stafford, Lions (at Giants)

The Giants’ D ranks second with 12.8 FPPG allowed to opposing fantasy quarterbacks. They’ve given up just 209.8 passing yards per outing over the last five games, and they’ve been racking up the sacks. Stafford would be in a difficult spot in a normal week, but his injured right middle finger makes him close to a must-bench for Week 15. I’ve got Stafford at QB23, and might substitute Alex Smith or Trevor Siemian for him in one of my fantasy playoff matchups. Terrifying, isn’t it?


Over the last four weeks, the Texans have allowed three touchdowns and an average of 209.5 passing yards per game against the quartet of Philip Rivers, Derek Carr, Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers. You’re not going to consider Blake Bortles against them, even for a second.

Play, play, play: Tyrod Taylor, Bills (vs. Browns)

It’s been productive to pick on the Browns this season in just about all circumstances. Taylor isn’t your typical fantasy quarterback – with subpar passing totals and great wheels – but he’s still a solid option against a Cleveland D that ranks 31st with 19.6 FPPG allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Taylor is averaging 21.2 FPPG and should get near that solid number in Week 15.


Did you know that Siemian has averaged 303.8 passing yards over his last five games? Not being able to run will force a team to throw regardless of who its quarterback is (and Siemian is underrated, to be fair). Siemian isn’t a must start against the Patriots’ 23rd-ranked fantasy defense (17.4 FPPG to opposing QBs), but he’s in the same neighborhood as guys like Marcus Mariota and Eli Manning.

(Note: I have pegged Mariota incorrectly in approximately 115 percent of fantasy weeks this season. He vexes me. You’ve been warned.)

Running backs

Stay away: Ryan Mathews, Eagles (at Ravens)

Mathews should remain busy with Wendell Smallwood on injured reserve and Darren Sproles possibly out with a concussion. Unfortunately, he’s about to visit a Ravens defense that ranks second in FPPG allowed to opposing runners (13.4) and first in both rushing yards per game (75.5) and yards per carry (3.4) allowed. Mathews is a very shaky Week 15 flex play.


Mark Ingram has seen single-digit carries in three of his last four games, while Tim Hightower has run EIGHT times in the last two weeks. Look to avoid both in this week’s road matchup with the Cardinals’ top-ranked fantasy defense (13.3 FPPG allowed to opposing RBs).

Play, play, play: Kenneth Farrow, Chargers (vs. Raiders)

If Melvin Gordon (hip) misses Week 15 as expected, Farrow figures to lead the Bolts’ backfield with an assist from Ronnie Hillman. The San Diego Union-Tribune warns of a possible “platoon” due to Farrow’s pass-protection issues, but you have to figure that Farrow will get the bulk of the early-down work.

If he does, he’ll have a solid matchup against a Raiders’ defense that has allowed five rushing touchdowns in its last three games and ranks 30th with 21 FPPG allowed to opposing running backs. View Farrow as a low-end fantasy RB2 – he’s 23rd in my weekly RB rankings.

Wide receivers

Stay away: Chris Hogan, Patriots (at Broncos)

Hogan has 13 receptions in his last three games and is coming off a huge 5-129-1 performance against the Ravens. However, as we remind you every week, the Broncos’ defense is where fantasy QB and WR stats go to die. Denver’s pass defense has been stunningly good, as they’re allowing 183.5 passing yards per game, a 67.4 QB rating, and 13.6 FPPG to opposing wideouts. You can consider Julian Edelman this week, but Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell are both on the fantasy no-fly list.

(Yes, I said where “QB and WR stats go to die.” I still have Tom Brady ranked at QB7.)

Tyreek Hill Week 15 fantasy football matchup

Play, play, play: Tyreek Hill, Chiefs (vs. Titans)

Has Hill earned must-play status? Maybe in PPR leagues, but owners in standard formats need to consider that for all Hill’s explosiveness, he has averaged just 56 receiving yards over his last four games.

That worry can be dismissed against a Titans’ defense that ranks dead last with 26.9 FPPG allowed to opposing wide receivers and is coming off a game in which it allowed double-digit receptions and 100-plus yards to TWO different Broncos receivers. Start Hill with confidence in all leagues.


Rishard Matthews got shut down by the Broncos in Week 14, but posted a 25-350-5 line in his previous five outings. Consider flexing him against a Chiefs’ defense that ranks 30th with 26.3 FPPG allowed to opposing wide receivers.

Tight ends

Stay away: Coby Fleener, Saints (at Cardinals)

Yeah, this is an obvious one. So is Dennis Pitta, as he and Fleener face fantasy’s two best defenses against opposing tight ends. The season-long data also argues against Jimmy Graham and Delanie Walker, but ... nah.

Play, play, play: Greg Olsen, Panthers (at Redskins)

Also obvious? Not for the Olsen owner worried that he’s been TE15 in PPR leagues and TE16 in standard formats over the last four weeks. Things should be looking up for Olsen, as he has a Monday night date with a Redskins defense that has allowed more receptions (7.2) and yards (70.8) per game to opposing tight ends than any other team. If Olsen hasn’t killed your fantasy season yet, now isn’t the time to bail on him.


Need a deeper option? If we use the “pick on the Browns” rule, Charles Clay faces a Cleveland defense that ranks 31st (11 FPPG) against opposing tight ends. But because you need to consider the actual player in addition to the matchup, Clay is TE18 on my board.