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
Los Angeles Chargers Passing Offense at New York Jets Passing Defense
Heading into last week’s matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Los Angeles Chargers were one of the hottest teams in the league. The Chargers had ripped off four straight wins, and Philip Rivers was playing some lights out football. During the streak, Rivers threw eight scores and no picks, and he tossed for 300+ yards in three of those outings. He looked primed to pull the same trick in the road tilt against the Chiefs, but he came back to earth as the home club put forth a strong defensive effort. Rivers is in a prime bounce back spot as the Chargers head East to face off against the New York Jets.
The Jets have been a whole lot more competitive than any rational observer expected them to be in 2017, but the clubs passing defense has been quite porous throughout the season. The inexperienced secondary is being beaten pretty regularly, as evidenced by the fact that the Jets have allowed multiple passing touchdowns in 10 games. Strong passing games are poised for big games when the Jets are on the docket, and Rivers and company certainly fit the bill. Keenan Allen is the safest stacking option based on volume, while Antonio Gates is an intriguing contrarian option now that Hunter Henry has been shut down for the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense at Carolina Panthers Passing Defense
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are plodding through a disappointing season, but Jameis Winston has been really coming along over the past three weeks. During that span, Winston has thrown for seven touchdowns versus two picks, and he's thrown for 270+ yards in all three games. Typically, when Winston is playing well, one would assume that top target Mike Evans is knocking it out of the park as well. Evans delivered a nice game last week - 5/79/1 - but he’s left a lot to be desired on the season as a whole. Evans is averaging just 65 yards per game, and he’s found the end zone only five times. The targets have been there, but he’s just not putting it together like he did in 2016.
For the season as a whole, Buccaneers receivers have hit paydirt nine times, while the team’s tight ends have scored 13 touchdowns. Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard have six scores a piece, but Brate should be in line for even more targets now that Howard has been shut down for the season. This week’s opponent, the Carolina Panthers, has been having some struggles containing opposing passing games of late. The Panthers have allowed multiple passing touchdowns in five of the last six games, and Winston could be in line to make it six out of seven.
Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense
While the Buccaneers passing game has been performing well as the season winds down, the same can’t be said for the team’s rushing defense. Last week, Devonta Freeman managed to post 194 combined yards and find the end zone once. All told, the Buccaneers have allowed opposing running backs to find the end zone seven times over the last four games, and Jamaal Williams and Tevin Coleman joined Freeman in racking up a healthy amount of yardage over that span. In short, this is a unit to target as the season gets long in the tooth.
On the season, the Panthers running game is one of the top units in the league, but a lot of that success can be attributed to the fact that the team has taken the kid gloves off of Cam Newton. The dual threat extraordinaire has rushed for 50+ yards in each of his last three games, and he has four outings with 70+ rushing yards on the season. Christian McCaffrey has proven to be quite adept in the passing game, but he has yet to have what can be considered a breakout game on the ground. That said, he brings a nice floor to the table on a weekly basis due to his pass catching upside. Jonathan Stewart delivered a monster performance in Week 14 against the Minnesota Vikings - 103 yards and three scores - and he deserves consideration along with McCaffrey as you build out your lineups.
Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense
After a stellar start to his rookie campaign, Kareem Hunt seemed to have run into a wall during the middle part of the season. He's had little trouble smashing through whatever has been in his way over the last two weeks. Andy Reid has handed over play calling duties to Matt Nagy, and Nagy has responded by giving significant volume to Hunt. In Week 14, Hunt toted the rock 25 times for 116 yards and a score, and he would haul in three passes for another 22 yards. Week 15 was even more productive, as Hunt produced a line of 24/155/1 while hauling in seven passes for 51 yards and a score.
Hunt’s ascent could continue this week, as he faces off against a Miami Dolphins club that has been struggling against the run all season. The Dolphins have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing backs, who have been averaging 4.3 yards per carry to boot. The defensive line of the Dolphins has been decent, but Ndamukong Suh can’t get it all done by himself. Once opposing backs make it to the linebacking corps, all bets are off as the unit has struggled through a challenging season. Hunt deserves a prime spot on your shortlist in Week 15, as he could be in line for a third stellar game in a row.
New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense
The Buffalo Bills started off the season by boasting one of the league’s better run defenses, but the unit fell off a cliff after the Marcel Dareus trade. From Week 9 forward, the Bills have been shredded by opposing backs, with the notable exception of holding the Kansas City Chiefs in check in Week 12. Outside of that anomaly, this has been a unit to target for fantasy purposes. This week’s opponent, the New England Patriots, demonstrated that fact back in Week 13.
In that game, the duo of Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis racked up 170 yards and two scores. Burkhead is out of the equation with a knee sprain for this week’s tilt, so that points to Lewis receiving the majority of the carries. That said, this is the Patriots we’re talking about, and the running back rotation for the team is notoriously unpredictable. We can expect to see James White worked into the mix - especially on passing downs - and we could even see Mike Gillislee receive some work now that Burkhead is out of the way. Those warnings aside, Lewis appears to be the safest choice for DFS purposes, while White deserves consideration as a salary-saver option on full-PPR sites.
Matchups to Avoid
New York Jets Passing Offense vs Los Angeles Chargers Passing Defense
Bryce Petty has stepped in to take over for the injured Josh McCown, and he had a rough go of things last week against the New Orleans Saints. He completed 19 of 39 passes for 179 yards, one touchdown and two picks, and the offense as a whole was only able to generate 19 points. The Saints have really stepped it up on the defensive side of the ball in 2017, but this was still a shaky performance from Petty. Things won’t get any easier when the Los Angeles Chargers come to town, as the visitors boast an imposing pass rush and strong play in the secondary. We can pass on Petty and company this week.
San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense
Jimmy Garoppolo has looked great since taking over as the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He’s thrown for 1,008 total yards in his three games at the helm while tossing two scores and a pair of picks. Garoppolo has shown that he’s an excellent fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and the future suddenly looks a whole lot brighter in San Francisco. However, there’s a really good chance he’s going to regress this week when he faces off against the league’s top passing defense. The Jacksonville Jaguars defense has been truly exceptional in 2017, and multiple sacks and turnovers are nearly a given regardless of the opponent they are facing. It’s a good week to fade Garoppolo and his targets, but there’s a good chance we’ll be looking their way often come 2018.
New York Giants Rushing Offense at Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense
The New York Giants passing game came to life in a big way against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, but the running game didn’t participate in the festivities all that much. Wayne Gallman and Orleans Darkwa had anemic production while essentially splitting carries. Granted, the Eagles boast one of the league’s top run defenses, but the Giants running game hasn’t been making much of anything happen all season. There’s nothing to suggest that the light bulb is going to come on this week either, as they’ll be lining against an Arizona Cardinals squad that has been strong against the run.
San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense
We touched on the strength of the Jaguars passing defense above, and the team’s run defense has been playing at a high level as well. Quite simply, there aren’t any weaknesses for opposing coaching staffs to exploit. Whether we’re talking about the front four, the linebacking corps, or the secondary, the Jaguars have all of the bases covered. For some perspective on the strength of the Jaguars run defense, the club has only surrendered five rushing touchdowns to opposing backs all season, and only two opposing backs have topped the 100-yard threshold. It’s not looking likely that Carlos Hyde will be the third.
Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense
The Washington Redskins were already looking like they would have a challenging day running the ball against the Denver Broncos, but the outlook got even bleaker when Samaje Perine suffered a groin injury in practice. Washington’s backfield has been absolutely decimated by injuries this season, and we could be looking at Kapri Bibbs being thrust into a big workload if Perine is unable to suit up. The Broncos defense has been a bit of a roller coaster this season, but the pieces remain in place for this to be one of the league’s top units. They’ve demonstrated that by completely holding their last two opponents in check on the ground, and they should have little trouble doing the same this week as well.
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.