Sneaky Fantasy Football Match-Ups: Week 15

By Jared Dang
December 17, 2011 12:22 pm
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On Thursday night, Roddy White and Julio Jones combined to do something against the Jaguars they couldn't have done six weeks ago. In Week 9 the Jaguars possessed one of the league's strongest pass defenses, anchored by cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox, one of the league's top-5 cornerback duos. However, Mathis was sent to the I.R. on November 14th after tearing his ACL in Week 10 and Cox joined Mathis on the I.R. a week later. The next week, backup cornerback Will Middleton suffered a knee injury and he too found himself on the I.R. It should come as no surprise that the Jaguars' defense would give up a combined 93 points in its next three games, much of the damage done through the air. Had Mathis, Cox and Middleton stayed healthy, who knows if Matt Ryan's Thursday night drubbing of Jacksonville would have happened. The Jaguars' woes are not uncommon and many teams (Rams, Bengals, and NY Giants in particular) have suffered significant injuries in their secondaries, and wise fantasy owners have taken advantage of these very exploitable match-ups. It's playoff time and exploiting favorable fantasy football match-ups and watching out for unfavorable ones should be on every fantasy owner's mind.

*All #1 WR and #2 WR statistics provided by FFchamps defensive stats tool.

Favorable Match-Ups

1. Eric Decker, WR, Broncos
There are two types of Tim Tebow passes, one of them that favors Demaryius Thomas and the other Eric Decker. We are all familiar with the Demaryius Thomas pass, which usually is the result of Tebow running aimlessly for 5-10 seconds before he finds an open wide receiver. Two of Thomas' three touchdowns over the last two weeks have occurred in this fashion. The other type of Tebow pass is the designed pass, in which Tebow releases the ball within a couple seconds of the hike. This pass is often thrown to Eric Decker, who has scored multiple times on it this year. With the Patriots' pass rush nowhere near the level of Chicago's, expect Tebow to have more time in the pocket to throw these designed passes to Decker, who should find himself wide open against a New England pass defense that ranks dead last in the league. Another reason to expect more from Decker is that Patriots Pro Bowl cornerback Devin McCourty recently returned from injury and will likely shadow Thomas the majority of the game. On the opposite side of the field Decker will be matched up with Kyle Arrington who has been burned plenty of times this year and is questionable heading into Week 15. Another stat: The Patriots allow the 4th most points to opposing #2 receivers.

2. Jerome Simpson, WR, Bengals
Believe it or not, opposing #2 WRs have scored more than opposing #1 WRs against the St. Louis Rams this year. According to FFChamps defensive stats tool, the Rams are allowing 11 points per game (standard scoring) against #2 WRs and only 8 points to opposing #1 WRs.


3. Robert Meachem, WR, Saints
Injuries to CB Antoine Winfield, S Tyrell Johnson, FS Husain Abdullah as well as CB Chris Cook's absence have decimated the Vikings' secondary and explain why the Vikings have given up the most receiving touchdowns in the league. Over the past five weeks the Vikings' secondary has been particularly vulnerable to speedy #2 and #3 receivers like Titus Young (4 rec, 87 yards, 1 TD), Demaryius Thomas (4 rec, 144 yards, 2 TDs), Harry Douglas (2 rec, 45 yards, 1 TD) and Jordy Nelson (5 rec, 63 yards, 2 TDs). Meachem fits the speedy #3 type of receiver that has burned the Vikings so much this year (allowing the 2nd most fantasy points to the #3 WR) and the Vikings will already be pre-occupied with trying to stop Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham. Then again, Lance Moore could come out of nowhere and score multiple touchdowns. The Saints' receivers are a pain like that.

4. Anthony Fasano, TE, Dolphins
Fasano has received 14 targets over the past two weeks and the Bills have allowed 5 touchdowns to opposing tight ends over the last four games. Furthermore, Fasano caught a touchdown against the Bills in their last meeting on November 20th. Many former Fred Davis owners are deciding between the likes of Jermaine Gresham, Dustin Keller, Brent Celek and other worse options. When the waiver wire is this thin, owners are really betting on which tight end is most likely to sneak in a touchdown. If the match-ups tell fantasy owners anything, it's that Fasano has the highest chance of scoring.

5. Ben Tate, RB, Texans
Even if Cam Newton keeps the Panthers competitive against Houston, Tate should still see at least 10 carries against the Panthers' 31st ranked run defense. Tate is worthy of flex play consideration and is possibly a #2 RB option in deeper leagues.

Unfavorable Match-Ups

1. Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers
Even more discouraging than Ben Roethlisberger's health should be Wallace's matchup with Carlos Rogers, who's done an excellent job this season shutting down opposing #1 WRs not named Larry Fitzgerald. Odds are the Steelers will want to capitalize on Antonio Brown's match-up with Tarell Brown on the other side of the field. Working in Antonio Brown owner's favor is that according to FFChamps' defensive stats tool, the 49ers rank 32nd against #2 wide receivers, and 8th against #1 WRs. Wallace may be the top receiver for Pittsburgh, but it will most likely be Brown that produces like the #1.

2. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys
No quarterback besides Aaron Rodgers has surpassed 250 yards or reached three touchdowns against Tampa Bay since Drew Brees did it in Week 9. This is not a credit to the Tampa Bay pass defense, but rather a testament to how horrible their run defense is, which has allowed opposing running backs 29 carries for 147 yards and 1.42 touchdowns on average over the last seven games. Also not working in Romo's favor are statements from Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones that hint at a heavy workload for Felix Jones.

3. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

Aqib Talib vs #1 WRs
Week Player Rec Yards TD
Wk9 @ Marques Colston (Saints) 5 52 0
Wk10 @ Jacoby Jones (Texans) 2 87 1
Wk11 @ Greg Jennings (Packers) 2 6 0
Wk12 @ Nate Washington (Titans) 1 12 0
Wk13 vs Steve Smith (Panthers) 2 32 0
Wk14 @ Mike Thomas (Jaguars) 1 2 0

Cornerback Aqib Talib will most likely end up going to the Pro Bowl this year for his outstanding coverage of opposing #1 WRs. Not one receiver matched up on Talib has scored over the past six weeks (Talib was not matched up with Jacoby Jones on his 80-yard TD) and that streak will likely continue with Talib already stating he will be matched up with Dez Bryant on Saturday. With the Tampa Bay run defense as bad as it is and with Miles Austin and Laurent Robinson also threats in the passing attack, expect Romo to ignore Bryant.

4. C.J. Spiller, RB/WR, Bills
Right now, ESPN projects Spiller to reach 91 total yards and a touchdown on Sunday but we al know that is stupid because the Miami defense gives up the 2nd least fantasy points to running backs and hasn't allowed more than 87 yards rushing to a running back since Week 8. Odds are that Spiller doesn't even come close to that total. After all, LeSean McCoy could only muster 42 yards on 30 carries last week (although he did score two TDs) and Michael Bush could only find 18 yards on 10 carries. Unless your league counts points per reception, it would be best to steer clear of Spiller and his surprisingly awful match-up.

5. Frank Gore
Frank Gore can no longer qualify as a stud considering his four-week stretch from Week 10-13 in which he scored a total of 18 points. It doesn't matter that he scored a touchdown against Arizona last week, there's no reasonable explanation for playing him against a Steelers run defense that hasn't allowed as much as a nosebleed over the past six weeks

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By Jared Dang
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