Stewart, Hightower have fantastic matchups in Week 15

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Start 'em, sit 'em is the ultimate look at weekly matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy team. Sleeper alert features a player who's under the radar and could produce good numbers. Owners beware features a player who's a regular fantasy starter but could fail to meet expectations. For your final lineup decisions, check our lineup rankings.

Start of the week

Jonathan Stewart vs. Cardinals: Stewart has been on fire in recent weeks, averaging better than 100 rushing yards in his last three games. His statistical rise to stardom should continue against the Cardinals -- their defense has allowed more fantasy points to opposing running backs than any other team in the National Football League.

Quarterbacks - start 'em

Matt Schaub at Titans: Schaub had a brutal start to the season, but he's been far more productive in recent weeks. In fact, Schaub has averaged 19 fantasy points in his last five games. Considering that the Titans are 26th in pass defense, it's pretty apparent why the veteran quarterback should remain a productive option in Week 15.

Matt Ryan at Seahawks: Ryan hasn't put up great numbers on the road, but how can you pass on a matchup against the Seahawks? Their defense has struggled against the pass, as opposing quarterbacks have scored an average of close to 17 fantasy points per game against them. That makes Ryan a very solid option.

David Garrard at Colts: Garrard hasn't put up enormous numbers in recent weeks, but he is averaging close to 18 fantasy points in his last six games. This week he faces a Colts defense that he shredded for three total touchdowns and close to 25 fantasy points back in Week 4, so Garrard is a viable option.

Josh Freeman vs. Lions: Fantasy owners in need of a quarterback this week should consider Freeman, who has been a nice option in his first full season as an NFL starter. He has a good matchup upcoming against the Lions, who have allowed an average of close to 16 fantasy points per game to opposing signal-callers.

Jon Kitna vs. Redskins: Kitna might not be Tony Romo, but he's still putting up some terrific totals. In fact, the veteran has scored 15 or more fantasy points in four of his last five games. The Redskins have surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, so Kitna is worth a look if you're in a pinch.

Sleeper alert - Kerry Collins vs. Texans: If you've been playing the matchups at the quarterback position, you know that facing the Texans is quite an advantage. That is the situation with Collins, who faces their porous pass defense in Week 15. The Texans will be even more vulnerable without DE Mario Williams, who is done for 2010.

Quarterbacks - sit 'em

Kyle Orton at Raiders: Orton had been one of the more pleasant surprises in fantasy football, but he's been terrible in recent weeks. In fact, he's posted a combined 1.82 fantasy points in his last two games. With a championship berth at stake and Tim Tebow waiting in the wings, it's just too risky to start Orton against the Silver & Black.

Joe Flacco vs. Saints: Flacco is in the midst of his best statistical season, throwing for 3,223 yards with 21 touchdowns after 13 games. However, he's still subject to the matchups in fantasy leagues. This week he faces a Saints defense that has allowed a league-low eight touchdown passes, so Flacco could be in for a difficult afternoon.

Mark Sanchez at Steelers: Sanchez's 2010 season has been full of statistical ebbs and flows. Unfortunately, he's hit a major ebb at the start of the fantasy playoffs. In his last three games, he's thrown one touchdown pass and committed a total of six turnovers. Couple that with a game against the Steelers, and Sanchez needs to be benched.

Ryan Fitzpatrick at Dolphins A fantasy hero earlier in the season, Fitzpatrick's recent numbers have turned him into more of a goat. He's scored 14 or more fantasy points just once in his last six games, and this week's game against the Dolphins isn't favorable. Their defense has allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to signal-callers.

Alex Smith at Chargers (Thurs.): Some owners could be looking at Smith's three-touchdown performance last week and think he's a viable fantasy starter. Think again. The veteran quarterback has a much tougher matchup on Thursday night, facing a Chargers defense that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in 2010.

Owners beware - Ben Roethlisberger vs. Jets: Over the last three weeks, Roethlisberger has endured a busted foot, a broken nose and countless pressures behind what is a porous offensive line. He's also thrown just one touchdown pass in that time. Facing what will be an aggressive Jets defense, Big Ben is a big risk for fantasy leaguers.

Running backs - start 'em

Tim Hightower at Panthers: Hightower is coming off a monster game, rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout win over the Broncos. With Beanie Wells all but out of the backfield mix in recent weeks, Hightower should see the lion's share of the carries against the Panthers and their swiss cheese run defense in Week 15.

Ryan Torain at Cowboys: Torain is not the most durable runner, but he makes plays when he's on the field. That was evident last week, as he rushed for 172 yards against the Buccaneers. This week's matchup against the Cowboys makes Torain a borderline No. 2 fantasy back or flex starter, and he's still a free agent in many leagues.

LeGarrette Blount vs. Lions: Blount has shown major potential at the NFL level, and this week's matchup against the Lions makes him a nice option for fantasy owners. Their defense has surrendered the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, so Blount should find success on the ground - and in the stat sheets -- this week.

Brandon Jacobs vs. Eagles: Don't look now, but Jacobs is starting to put up some very nice fantasy totals. He's rushed for 100-plus yards and scored three touchdowns in his last two games, averaging a stout 19.9 fantasy points along the way. The Eagles haven't been great against the run, so keep Jacobs active in this NFC East clash.

Ronnie Brown vs. Bills: Brown has been a major disappointment this season, rushing for a mere 644 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games. But if you're in serious need at the running back or flex positions, he's worth a look against the Bills. Their defense has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing runners in 2010.

Sleeper alert - Javarris James vs. Jaguars: With Joseph Addai and Mike Hart injured, James has seen his role in the Colts backfield grow exponentially in recent weeks. In fact, he's the clear-cut goal-line back at this point. With a favorable matchup against the Jaguars up next, James has flex-starter value in deep leagues.

Running backs - sit 'em

Rashard Mendenhall vs. Jets: Most fantasy owners can't afford to bench Mendenhall, and you shouldn't make the move unless you have other viable options. But don't be shocked if he struggles against the Jets and their stout run defense. Mendenhall, who has scored double-digit fantasy points once in his last five games, is clearly a risk.

LaDainian Tomlinson at Steelers: Remember when everyone was singing the praises of Tomlinson earlier in the season? Well, he's starting to look like the washed-up back of 2009 again. In his last three games, L.T. has averaged 5.9 fantasy points. He needs to be benched against the Steelers and their ultra-formidable run defense.

Marshawn Lynch vs. Falcons: Lynch was one of the hottest names on the waiver wire last week after posting three touchdowns against the Panthers, but he reverted to his old, unproductive self in last week's loss to the 49ers. Lynch won't bounce back against the Falcons, either, so keep him on the sidelines unless you're in dire straits.

Jahvid Best at Buccaneers: Best has a terrific matchup against the Buccaneers this week, so why would he be in the sit 'em portion of this column? Well, considering his overall lack of production since Week 2 - not to mention the 11 carries he lost to Maurice Morris against the Packers - and it's easy to see why Best is a risky option.

Pierre Thomas at Ravens: Thomas, who had missed most of the season due to an injured ankle, returned to action last week without much fanfare. In fact, he scored a meager 6.8 fantasy points on NFL.com. With Chris Ivory and Reggie Bush in the backfield mix and a matchup against the Ravens up next, Thomas needs to be on fantasy benches.

Owners beware - Adrian Peterson vs. Bears (Mon.): It is impossible to bench Peterson, and I'm not suggesting that you make that move. However, I wouldn't be shocked if his numbers are unimpressive if the Vikings are forced to start Joe Webb at quarterback. If that's the case, look for the Bears to load up the box to stop Peterson all night.

Wide receivers - start 'em

Hakeem Nicks vs. Eagles: Nicks made a successful return to action on Monday night, catching seven passes for 96 yards in a win over the Vikings. With Steve Smith out for the season and Mario Manningham at less than 100 percent, Nicks should see more than his share of targets from Eli Manning against the Eagles. Get him into your lineup.

Kenny Britt vs. Texans: Unlike Nicks, Britt's return from injury wasn't nearly as successful. However, the fact that he made it though an entire contest without any incident was a positive. The Rutgers product should make some noise this week against the Texans, who have surrendered the second-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts.

Miles Austin vs. Redskins: With Dez Bryant out for the season, Austin is once again the clear-cut No. 1 wideout in the Cowboys offense. That's good news for fantasy owners, especially with a favorable matchup against the Redskins up next. Austin has torched their defense for 19 catches, 238 yards and one touchdown in their last two meetings.

Deion Branch vs. Packers: An afterthought for much of his time with the Seahawks, Branch's value has been resurrected in New England. In his last three games, he's averaged a stout 18.9 fantasy points on NFL.com. This week's matchup against the Packers isn't favorable on paper, but Branch will be tough to bench as a No. 3 wideout.

Pierre Garcon vs. Jaguars: Garcon is back at 100 percent and making some noise, averaging 17 fantasy points in his last two games. He has a great matchup this week against the Jaguars, who have surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season. Feel free to start Garcon has a No. 2 or 3 fantasy option.

Sleeper alert - Santana Moss at Cowboys: Moss isn't your traditional fantasy sleeper, but this week's matchup against the Cowboys makes him especially attractive as a starter. The Polks have given up more fantasy points to wide receivers than any other team in the league, and Moss has a strong track record against this NFC East rival.

Wide receivers - sit 'em

Brandon Lloyd at Raiders: Like his quarterback, Orton, Lloyd has been one of the most pleasant surprises in fantasy football. Unfortunately, Orton's recent lack of success has meant hard times for Lloyd as well. In his last two games, the veteran has recorded a combined 6.30 fantasy points. Now he gets to face Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha.

Sidney Rice vs. Bears (Mon.): Unless word comes down before your lineup deadline that either Brett Favre or Tarvaris Jackson will start for the Vikings on Monday night, I don't see how you can start Rice (or any Vikings) with confidence. The prospect of Webb throwing the football outdoors in bad conditions against the Bears isn't very attractive.

Braylon Edwards at Steelers: Edwards has done quite the Houdini act over the last three weeks, scoring a combined 7.6 fantasy points on NFL.com. With Sanchez throwing picks like they're going out of style and a road game against a tough Steelers defense next, there's no way you can trust Edwards to produce in what could be a low-scoring affair.

Michael Crabtree at Chargers (Thurs.): What in the world happened to Crabtree last week? Despite Smith posting a huge stat line against a bad Seahawks defense, he was still held to one catch. Simply put, you can't trust Crabtree to produce against a Chargers defense that has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to wideouts this season.

Steve Smith vs. Cardinals: Smith has a solid matchup this week against a Cardinals team that has allowed a ton of points to the opposition. But how can you trust him? The veteran hasn't scored double-digit fantasy points since Week 2 thanks to his woeful quarterbacks. If you do decide to start Smith, it's a major roll of the fantasy dice.

Owners beware - Greg Jennings at Patriots: If Aaron Rodgers is able to start against the Patriots, put Jennings into your starting lineup and don't think twice about it. But if he is inactive and Matt Flynn gets the start, it's time to be concerned. Without his No. 1 quarterback under center, Jennings will be a risk for fantasy owners.

Tight ends - start 'em

Jacob Tamme vs. Jaguars: Tamme has been in a bit of a slide in recent weeks, catching just eight passes for 83 yards with no touchdowns in his last two games. Still, it's hard to bench him with a tasty matchup against the Jaguars next on the schedule. Their defense has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends this season.

Chris Cooley at Cowboys: Cooley has found the end zone just twice this season, but he's still ranked 10th in overall fantasy points at his position on NFL.com. The veteran out of Utah State should remain active this week against the Cowboys -- he's recorded a combined 30 receptions in his last five games against this NFC East rival.

Kevin Boss vs. Eagles: Boss isn't the most consistent tight end, but he has scored a touchdown in four of his last six games, including one last week against the Vikings. With Smith out and a great matchup against the Eagles next on the slate, Boss makes for a viable fantasy starter if you need a tight end.

Zach Miller vs. Broncos: For the first time in what seems like forever, Miller shed his role as a blocker and posted a useful fantasy stat line in Week 14. With so many tight ends injured, Miller is now a low-end starter against the Broncos. Their defense has allowed 8.2 fantasy points per game to his position.

Owen Daniels at Titans: Like Miller, Daniels made a much-welcomed return to fantasy relevance last week with five catches and 91 yards against the Ravens. Now that it looks like he's shed his nagging hamstring issue, Daniels is worth starting if you need a tight end. The Titans have allowed the second-most yards to his position.

Sleeper alert - Anthony Fasano at Bills: Make no mistake, Fasano has not been a reliable option for fantasy owners this season. But if you're in a deeper league and need a tight end for one week, the Notre Dame product is worth a look. The Bills defense has surrendered the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2010.

Tight ends - sit 'em

Dustin Keller at Steelers: If anyone knows where Keller has gone in his last nine games, please tell his fantasy owners. He's been in an extended drought in the stat sheets, scoring a combined 33.5 points since Week 4. With a matchup against the Steel Curtain next on the schedule, Keller is simply someone you can't trust to produce.

Benjamin Watson at Bengals: One week after re-vitalizing his sagging fantasy value with 16 points against the Dolphins, Watson put up a .80-point stinker against the Bills. Now he faces the Bengals, who have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends and held Watson to a mere six fantasy points in Week 4.

Aaron Hernandez vs. Packers: Hernandez has all the talent in the world, but it's impossible to lean on him during the fantasy postseason because of his unpredictable role in the offense. Last week against the Bears, he played in just 10 of the Patriots' 77 offensive snaps. By comparison, Rob Gronkowski was on the field for 71 snaps.

Brent Celek at Giants: Just when we thought Celek was back on the fantasy radar, he stuck us with a big, fat zero in last week's win over the Cowboys. Whether Michael Vick looks his way or not against the Giants remains to be seen, but keep in mind that Celek was held without a single catch in his last meeting with Big Blue (Week 11).

Visanthe Shiancoe vs. Bears (Mon.): Shiancoe, who was one of the top tight ends in fantasy football last season, has seen his numbers sink like the Titanic in 2010. In his last five games, Shiancoe has averaged a mere 2.26 fantasy points on NFL.com. Those are not the type of numbers you want from your tight end in the fantasy playoffs.

Owners beware - Kellen Winslow vs. Lions: Winslow has scored a touchdown in two of his last three games, but he's also averaged just three catches in those contests. This week Winslow faces the Lions, who have surrendered an average of just 4.8 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Don't be shocked if Winslow disappoints.

Kickers - start 'em

Sebastian Janikowski vs. Broncos: Janikowski has been in a bit of a slump, averaging 4.5 fantasy points in his last four games. However, owners should stick with Sea Bass against the Broncos -- their defense has allowed an average of close to nine fantasy points per game to kickers. Janikowski also scored 11 points against them in Week 7.

Dan Carpenter vs. Bills: Carpenter, like Janikowski, as struggled to produce in recent week with a combined 10 fantasy points in his last two games. Despite those unimpressive totals, owners should continue to start him this week against the Bills. Their defense has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing kickers in 2010.

Neil Rackers at Titans: Rackers has failed to score double-digit fantasy points in each of his last five games, but he still ranks an impressive eighth in points among kickers on NFL.com. He could improve on that status further against the Titans, who have allowed an average of close to 10 fantasy points per game to his position.

Sleeper alert - Jay Feely at Panthers: Feely won't ever duplicate the ridiculous 27.50 fantasy points he scored against the Broncos last week, but this week's matchup still makes him a viable option. The Panthers have allowed an average of close to nine fantasy points per game to kickers this season, so feel free to use Feely in Week 15.

Kickers - sit 'em

Mason Crosby at Patriots: Crosby has plenty of name value, but he's not even in the top 12 in fantasy points at his position on NFL.com. His fortunes aren't likely to change against the Patriots, who have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to kickers. Crosby's prospects will be even worse if Rodgers is declared inactive for the contest.

Robbie Gould vs. Vikings (Mon.): The addition of Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator was supposed to mean good things for Gould, but that hasn't been the case. In his last three games, he has scored a combined 16 fantasy points. With a tough matchup against the Vikings in what could be nasty weather conditions, Gould should be benched.

Olindo Mare vs. Falcons: Mare has been an all-or-nothing fantasy kicker this season. Since scoring a combined 31 fantasy points in Week 10 and 11, he's put up a mere 16 fantasy points in his last three games. His fortunes aren't likely to change in Week 15 against the Falcons, who have allowed the fewest fantasy points to kickers in 2010.

Owners beware - Nick Folk at Steelers: Despite talk of the Jets trying out new kickers in recent weeks, Folk has remained atop the depth chart -- he even ranks in the top six in fantasy points at his position on NFL.com. But against the Steelers, who allowed an average of just 6.4 fantasy points to kickers, Folk is an obvious risk for owners.

Defenses - start 'em

Bears defense at Vikings (Mon.): Over the last three weeks, the Bears defense has scored a combined 12 fantasy points on NFL.com. Despite that lack of production, this unit is still a solid option in Week 15. With the possibility of Favre and Jackson both being out for the Vikes, the Bears could turn out a great fantasy performance.

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Patriots defense vs. Packers: In the event that Rodgers is unable to play due to the effects of a concussion, the Patriots defense will be an unbelievably good play in fantasy leagues. Flynn was unable to lead the Packers offense to any sort of statistical success in Rodgers' absence last week, and the Pats defense has been hot recently.

Cardinals defense at Panthers: The Cardinals haven't had much success on the defensive side of the football from a fantasy perspective, but this unit is still well worth starting against the Panthers in Week 15. Defenses facing rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen and his shaky offense have combined to score the most fantasy points in 2010.

Sleeper alert - Raiders defense vs. Broncos: I'm not sure what has happened to Orton and the Broncos offense, but it's looked miserable over the last two weeks. In fact, defenses have combined to score an impressive 36 fantasy points against them in that time. That makes the Raiders defense a very interesting option in all leagues.

Defenses - sit 'em

Giants defense vs. Eagles: The G-Men have been a nice option for fantasy owners when the matchup is right, but that's not the case in Week 15. Vick has the Eagles offense flying high and scoring a ton of points, so even Big Blue could be in for a tough weekend. If you can add a defense with a better matchup, it's a good idea to bench the Giants.

Titans defense vs. Texans: The Titans were one of the better defenses in fantasy football earlier this season, but that's changed in recent weeks. Since Week 7, this unit has scored double-digit fantasy points just once. Schaub and the Texans have also been putting up a ton of points lately, so the Titans should be avoided in all leagues.

Ravens defense vs. Saints: The Ravens have been scoring more fantasy points as a defense in recent weeks, but is that enough to start them against Drew Brees and the Saints? Not in my opinion. Despite their recent success, the Ravens still can't seem to stop the pass. That's very bad news when a quarterback like Brees comes to town.

Owners beware - Packers defense at Patriots: The Packers defense has been solid all season, scoring the second-most fantasy points at the position on NFL.com. However, Tom Brady and a red-hot Patriots offense makes this unit a major risk in Week 15. Don't drop the Packers altogether, but seek a better option if at all possible.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com!

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