The amount of information you need to sift through on a weekly basis to build some competitive lineups can seem overwhelming. You’re in the right place to get through all of that information in no time, and we have another tool for you to add to your arsenal. Each week, we’ll break down the best and worst rushing and passing matchups for Sunday’s main slate of games.
This will allow you to quickly zero in on the top anchors for your lineups, and we’ll also point out which players you’ll want to avoid as you fill out the rest of your roster. There’s a ton of choices to examine on a weekly basis. The goal of this article is to help you narrow the field of targets down substantially.
Let’s get right to it, starting with the week’s top matchups.
Matchups to Exploit
Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Passing Defense
When it comes to the Cleveland Browns, there’s not a whole lot for fans of the franchise to get excited about. An 0-12 record can have that effect on a fanbase, and there’s no clear signs that things will be turning around anytime soon. The franchise remains in a perpetual state of transition, and there’s just not enough pieces in place at key positions. All that said, we’re more than happy to glean some fantasy gold from an appealing matchup when one appears on the docket. That appears to be the case for the Browns this week.
The Green Bay Packers are coming to town, and they’ve been struggling mightily against the pass of late. In the last two weeks alone, the Packers have given up 621 yards and six scores through the air. If DeShone Kizer can hang onto the football - 15 interceptions and eight fumbles on the year - the stars align for a potentially fruitful day for the Browns passing game. The dynamic Josh Gordon returned last week to much fanfare, and he was targeted 11 times. If he sees the same amount of volume this week, he can do some serious damage.
Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Passing Defense
After a few lifeless weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs offense came back to life in a big way against the New York Jets in Week 13. Alex Smith had one of his finest games of the season, as he threw for 366 yards and four scores while tacking on a 70-yard run for good measure. It seems like a lifetime ago at this point, but Smith was in the MVP conversation as the Chiefs erupted to a 5-0 start. The club has dropped five of six from that point, and a playoff berth is far from a given. The team has an opportunity to make some headway in the race for the AFC West crown when they welcome the Oakland Raiders to town on Sunday.
It’s probably not a coincidence that the offensive renaissance coincided with Andy Reid’s decision to cede play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. That’s not a slight against Reid, but rather an acknowledgement that something was broken and needed some fixing. It looks like it’s been fixed for the time being, as Smith, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill all had fine days against the Jets. The trio is in line to pull the same trick against the Raiders, a team that has been torched by opposing signal callers a number of times this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense vs Detroit Lions Passing Defense
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the midst of a challenging season that has seen the club struggle to a record of 4-8. Jameis Winston seems to have hit a bit of a wall in his development, and he’s also lost a couple of games due to injury. He was back in the saddle last week, and he delivered a productive day in a losing effort to the Green Bay Packers. Winston completed 66 percent of his passes while throwing for 270 yards and two scores. It was an encouraging sign to see Winston perform so well in his first game back, and he may be able to make it two strong games in a row when he faces off against the Detroit Lions.
The Lions were actually doing a solid job against the pass in the early part of the season, but the bottom has fallen out in recent weeks. Similar numbers to last week for Winston aren’t out of the question, but pinpointing a stacking option to pair up with him is a little tricky. Mike Evans remains the top option in the passing attack, but he’ll likely be tied up with Darius Slay. The Lions have been struggling against tight ends of late, so Cameron Brate or OJ Howard make for interesting under the radar pivots.
Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense
Jordan Howard has been hit or miss this season. The talent remains there in abundance, but there’s only so much he can do in an offense as unproductive as the one that the Chicago Bears boast. Howard has exceeded the 100-yard threshold on four occasions this season, and those have all come in tilts in which the game script has worked in the favor of the Bears. When the stars align for a close affair that allows the team to employ a ground and pound attack, Howard can be quite productive.
That could be the case this week when the Bears travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. The game checks in with a projected total of 38.5 points, and the forecast calls for rather chilly temps at kickoff. If the Bears can keep the game close, we could be looking at a smashmouth-style game that favors their offense. The Bengals run defense has been on the decline as the season has moved along, and there’s a chance they’ll be without the services of defensive stalwart Vontaze Burfict for this one. Howard deserves a spot on your short list as you build lineups this week.
Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense
There hasn’t been a whole lot to love about the Indianapolis Colts running backs for fantasy purposes this week, but we can’t look past the recent play of its opponent. Outside of the Week 12 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buffalo Bills have been getting shredded on the ground. Over the past five games, the Bills have allowed an astonishing 809 yards and 11 scores on the ground. Numbers such as that certainly make you perk up and take notice, even when we’re talking about an opponent that’s having its own fair share of problems.
It’s been a challenging season for the Colts - to say the least - and the club just hasn’t been able make much noise offensively. Jacoby Brissett has done as well as can be expected since being thrust into the starting role, but subpar play from the offensive line certainly isn’t helping matters. Despite the negatives, there’s simply too much appeal in this matchup to pass up. Frank Gore remains the primary ball carrier, but intriguing rookie Marlon Mack provides some sparks off the bench. This is another opportunity for him to cement his standing as a weapon of the future for the Colts.
Matchups to Avoid
Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense
The Chicago Bears haven’t been asking Mitchell Trubisky to do all that much since handing him the keys to the offense. The rookie has only topped 200 passing yards in just one of his eight starts, and there’s nothing to suggest that the Bears have had an epiphany on the offensive philosophy front over the past week. Trubisky is an easy fade most weeks, and it’s even easier to pass on him for this week’s matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have been stingy against opposing signal callers, as only four have managed to throw for multiple scores. We don’t anticipate Trubisky becoming the fifth.
Los Angeles Rams Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense
What a difference a coach makes. The offense of the Los Angeles Rams has been lights out this season, and the success of the club has been one of the more fascinating turnarounds to watch in recent years. Sean McVay has demonstrated that he has the magic touch with Jared Goff and company, and the Rams look primed to make the playoffs. However, there’s a big old roadblock straight ahead in the form of the defense of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles passing defense has been outstanding this season, and it seems to be getting better as the season moves along. It’s tough to pass on an offense as productive as the Rams, but the numbers point to it being a wise call.
Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense
Russell Wilson is in the midst of an outstanding season, and it’s not hyperbole to say that he is the offense of the Seattle Seahawks. Wilson has accounted for 29 of the team’s 30 offensive touchdowns, as well as 80 percent of the clubs total offensive yards. He’s passed for at last 225 yards and multiple scores in seven consecutive games, but the bubble may be about to burst - at least for a week. The Seahawks travel East for a date with the league’s top passing defense in the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it’s hard to see even a productive quarterback like Wilson having success against them. We’ll pass on Wilson and the Seahawks pass catchers this week.
Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense
From a yardage standpoint, the Carolina Panthers rushing offense is ranked fifth in the league with an average of 127.8 rushing yards per game. A lot of that can be attributed to the fact that Cam Newton is making things happen with his legs once again, as Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey have been up and down this season. McCaffrey has been productive in the passing game, but he’s not getting a ton of opportunities to tote the rock outright. In any event, the Panthers ground game is in for a long day when they face off with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are allowing only 77.7 rushing yards per game, and we can safely cross Panthers backs off of this week’s list as a result.
Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense
Since bursting out of the gate with three stellar games in the first six outings of his career, Leonard Fournette has tailed off. He missed a couple of games to injury and another to an unexpected suspension, and he has only managed one 100+ yard performance since Week 6. He’s going to have a tough time achieving liftoff this week as well, as the Seattle Seahawks boast one of the league’s top rushing defenses. No running back has been able to cross the 60-yard since Week 4. Beyond being impressive, that tells us all we need to know for fantasy purposes when it comes to scouting opposing running backs. We can find much safer ways to spend our salary cap dollars in Week 14.
Enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck with your lineups. Feel free to hit me up anytime via email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.