Week 15 matchups to exploit or avoid

Posted Dec. 14, 2011 @ 11:53 a.m.
Posted By William Del Pilar

Every start has to matter, especially with DeMarco Murray, Matt Forté and Greg Jennings out and Andre Johnson probably missing as well. It's a week in which Rex Grossman has another great matchup, while Ryan Fitzpatrick will probably lead you to an exit. Crunch the numbers and realize the ramifications of players who have a matchup to exploit versus those that are Hail Mary plays.


QB Rex Grossman (at Giants)
Grossman is playing pretty solid football the last four weeks with a four-game average of 269.75 yards, 1.5 TDs and 1.25 interceptions. However, he's averaging two TDs per game if you remove the Week 13 matchup against the Jets, one of the league's best. He's facing the Giants, easily in the bottom 10 against opposing QBs the past four weeks. They're allowing more than 300 passing yards and 3.5 TDs in their past four games. Grossman warrants consideration in larger leagues, two-QB leagues and even some 12- and 14-team leagues.

RB Kahlil Bell, Bears (vs. Seahawks)
Bell is a bit of a long-shot play if you choose to go this way. He saw 14 utilizations last week (9-40-0 rushing and 5-24-0 receiving on five targets) and is facing a Seahawks defense that has faltered over the last four weeks but is still tough. They're allowing only 90.8 rushing yards to opposing RBs the past four weeks but also 54.8 receiving yards to the position. Bell is the team's pass-receiving back and has a window of opportunity this week to post enough numbers to be seen as an injury fill-in. Fantasy owners in larger leagues can consider him, as he can exploit this matchup with his hands.

RB Ryan Grant, Packers (at Chiefs)   
Grant had his best fantasy production of the season last week with two TDs and his second-highest rushing total of the season (10-85-2 rushing and 1-13-0 receiving). There is no word yet on John Starks (ankle) returning, but he's likely to be a late-week decision if not game day. If Starks can't go, look for Grant to carry the load. He's facing a Chiefs squad that has gotten worse the past four weeks, allowing 172.5 yards from scrimmage to opposing backs the past four weeks. That could mean another productive week for Grant.

WR Eric Decker, Broncos (vs. Patriots)
Decker has been in a slump, as his most recent game (3-33-0 on seven targets) shows. He's also taken a back seat with the emergence of Demaryius Thomas, who continued to play well in Week 14 (7-78-1 on 13 targets). However, QB Tim Tebow has shown the team he can pass better than when he first took over as the starter, and he is facing the Patriots. Whether they like it or not, the Patriots' biggest weakness is against the pass. Eagles QB Vince Young did not run much during his stint as a starter, and when he played the Patriots, he threw for 400 yards against them. Decker can exploit this.

WR Kevin Walter, Texans (vs. Panthers)
There's no word yet on whether Andre Johnson (hamstring) will play, but it looks like a late-week decision. However, the Texans have clinched the AFC South and they may view resting him as the better option. That means Kevin Walter, who had a great Week 14 (6-76-1 on 10 targets) will have another opportunity against a bad Panthers defense. They're allowing opposing WRs 191.3 yards and 1.8 TDs per game over the last four weeks, making them one of the league's worst. Despite QB T.J. Yates' inexperience, he should have a few opportunities to connect with Walter this week. He can exploit this matchup for larger-league owners.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders (vs. Lions)
Heyward-Bey came through for the few fantasy owners that played him in Week 14 (5-78-0 on 11 targets). There is still no word if Jacoby Ford (foot) or Denarius Moore (foot) will return. While Heyward-Bey posted solid numbers last week, the room for improvement is high. However, over the past four weeks, the Lions are allowing 176.5 passing yards and 1.5 TDs per game to opposing WRs. That puts them in the bottom 10 against opposing WRs the past four weeks. Heyward-Bey could exploit this matchup.

TE Jermichael Finley, Packers (at Chiefs)
Finley's fantasy owners who took him early have to be filled with envy after seeing Rob Gronkowski add two more receiving TDs in Weeks 14 for 15, while Finley had his worst game of the season (0-0-0 on one target) and only has one TD the past five games. However, that can change this week. With the knee injury to Greg Jennings, Finley could see more looks and the Chiefs are allowing 59 yards and 0.8 TDs to the position over the past four weeks. Finley's talent can exploit a weakness in the Chiefs' defense. 


QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs. Dolphins)
Fitzpatrick owners can't catch a break. After an outstanding Week 12 against the Jets, when he threw three TDs, many hoped he was bouncing back. How many QBs throw for three TDs against the Jets? He now has a two-game average of 232 yards and 0.5 TDs and one interception. The Dolphins area allowing 230.5 yards and 1.25 TDs to the position over the past four weeks. This deep in your fantasy playoffs is not the time to take this kind of risk. Avoid this matchup.

RB Peyton Hillis, Browns (at Cardinals)
The Cardinals may be inconsistent at best on offense, but defensively they're doing very well against opposing RBs. Over the past four games they're only allowing 119.8 yards from scrimmage, making them a top-10 fantasy defense in that span. The Browns feature a three-headed RB monster when Hillis is not at 100 percent, which could be the case this week if the team feels he can't handle the full load. Even if healthy, this will be a tough matchup against a team that held Frank Gore (10-72-1) in check last week. Hillis had a subpar outing in Week 14 (10-25-0 rushing and 0-0-0 receiving on one target) and could have another one unless the team feels he's 100 percent. Hillis may not be able to exploit this matchup, so avoid it if you can.

RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (at 49ers)
Mendenhall hasn't had a 100-yard game since Week Six and has a four-game average of 16.75 attempts for 59.25 yards and one TD. However, in that span his four TDs came in two games against the Bengals. He's also facing an elite run defense against opposing backs in the 49ers. They're allowing 57 rushing yards and no TDs per game to the position the past four weeks. If you can, avoid this matchup.

WR Early Doucet, Cardinals (vs. Browns)
Doucet may have had a phenomenal Week 14 (3-73-1 on four targets) by his standards, but in the two games prior, he had just 14 yards on three catches with no TDs. I know those in larger leagues may be viewing him as a potential start. However, in Week 13, it was Andre Roberts (6-111-0) who had the big game. The only consistent WR to own is Larry Fitzgerald. The Browns are also one of the better defenses against opposing WRs. Over the past four weeks, they're allowing 150.5 yards and 0.5 TDs per game to the position. While there's a window of opportunity, Doucet may not have the talent to exploit it. Avoid this matchup.

WR Anquan Boldin, Ravens (at Chargers)
Boldin has 19 targets the last three weeks, leading all Ravens receivers, and despite a three-game average of 3.7 catches for 50.7 yards and no TDs on 6.3 targets, the targets give him value. However, the Chargers look to be on another impressive late-season surge as they try to back door their way into the playoffs. However, they're playing stout football only allowing 128.8 yards per game to opposing WRs the past four weeks. Boldin is always worth consideration, but if you can, avoid this matchup.

WR Michael Crabtree, 49ers (vs. Steelers)
Crabtree had another solid week (7-63-0 on 12 targets) and has a two-game average of 5.5 catches for 79.5 yards and 0.5 TDs. QB Alex Smith did take a step back last week, throwing for 175 yards, and now he has the Steelers come to town. They're only allowing 108 yards and 0.3 TDs per game to the position over the past four games. There may not be much of an opportunity for Crabtree this week, as this should be a low-scoring affair. If you can, avoid this matchup.

TE Brent Celek, Eagles (vs. Jets)
Celek's been struggling the past few weeks, and Week 14 (4-39-0 on five targets) may have convinced his owners to waive him. He has a two-game average of 3.5 catches for 30 yards and no TDs on 5.5 targets. This week he's facing the Jets who are only allowing 41.8 yards and no TDs to the position. It's a tough assignment and he could always find the endzone on a cheap TD, but in general, he'll struggle this week. Avoid this matchup.