Number crunch: Best, worst Week 15 fantasy matchups

What truly defines a "productive fantasy player"? Math geeks know that simply considering the old industry standards of "Fantasy Points Against" and "Player Cumulative Fantasy Points" will leave way too much to error to be statistically reliable.

That's why I helped create a system that predicts player performance and provides the actual strength of an opponent and actual player production values. When used, this sytem has proven to be up to 37 percent more accurate than the metrics that everyone else in your league is using.

The system gives you a "Player Rating," "Defense Rating," and a "Matchup Rating." The ratings are based on the most advanced and accurate mathematical algorithm in fantasy football, and take into account the following factors:

» Adjusted Player scoring based on strength of their previous opponents *
*» Adjusted Defense scoring based on the strength of the players they have faced at each position *
*» Whether the player and/or defense plays better at home or away *
*» How the player compares against other players within their same position *
*» How defenses compare against other defenses against the same positions *
*» ... and many more!

Sound complicated? Don't worry -- it's simple to understand. All you need to know is that the player, defense or matchup with the higher rating is the better option. That's it. Leave the number crunching to the geeks.

Use this system as the basis for your fantasy decisions to take the guesswork out of winning in fantasy football and get the edge on the competition.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The defense ratings for this week are based on numbers from the first 13 weeks of the 2014 regular season. "Statistically" a three week data sample out of a 16 week fantasy season is enough to draw valuable conclusions. The data continues to become more accurate each week. Plan on coming back for fresh algorithm-based ratings that you cannot get anywhere else!

Weekly Matchup Ranges

This chart shows the BEST and WORST defensive ratings against each position as of Week 14. The higher the number, the better the matchup:

Legend

Here's an easy breakdown of how each player module works. When these terms are mentioned in the text (i.e. "best") they are corresponding to these ratings and colors:

Expect More:

Players who could fall short of expectations this week based on the strength of their opponent compared to their inability to overcome a strong opponent.

QB

Jay Cutler has been taking a ton of heat from Bears fans and even his own teammates lately. But fantasy owners secretly love him. After all, he is the ninth-most productive fantasy quarterback this season, which is not bad considering he was the 14th quarterback taken in most fantasy drafts last summer. Cutler is on pace for 4,200 passing yards and a new career-best 32 touchdowns. Cutler may also be breaking records for most production in garbage time this season, but fantasy owners simply do not care as long as he scores fantasy points. The knock on Cutler has been the fact that he leads the league in turnovers, but his Week 15 opponent, the Saints, have only eight interceptions all season and only two over their last five games. Over the last three games, the Saints gave up an average of 298.3 passing yards per game, fourth-highest in the league over that stretch. They also allow the deep ball quite a bit, with a 12.3 yards per completion average by opponents which is second only to the Falcons. Cutler does a great job against easy matchups and the Saints are the third-easiest rated matchup for fantasy quarterbacks. This will be the easiest rated matchup Cutler has had all season, giving owners confidence that he should be able to rack up enough fantasy points to be worth of a fantasy playoff start this week. Forecast: Cutler's next two matchups are both among the top 10 toughest for fantasy quarterbacks. If you have other alternatives, then you should consider them next week as the Bears host a Lions defense that has been the second-toughest matchup for fantasy quarterbacks all season. [Recommended Usage: QB1]

Eli Manning loves a good matchup. Manning has one of the widest margins of fantasy production, averaging 25 fantasy points against "better" or "best" rated defenses while only 11 fantasy points against "bad" or "worst" rated ones. This week Manning faces his best matchup of the season in a Redskins defense that he shredded for 30-plus fantasy points back in Week 4. Washington's horrible secondary has not trended any better since that game, either. Over the last three games, the Redskins allow opposing quarterbacks an average of a 129.2 passer rating, second-highest in the league over that span and their 109.1 opposing passer rating is the highest average in the league on the season. Eli's best game of the season came against the Redskins in their first meeting and he has a strong chance to best that mark against a Washington secondary even more weakened by injury this week. Forecast: Eli is a matchup play and although his Week 16 matchup, the Rams, rate as a top-15 easy matchup on the season, over the last five games they are the toughest matchup for opposing fantasy quarterbacks. Avoid them at all costs. [Recommended Usage: LOW QB1]

Other good QB matchups:Peyton Manning at SD, Drew Brees at CHI, Andrew Luck vs. HOU

RB

Chris Ivory has barely won the Jets fantasy running back battle this season by averaging two more fantasy points per game than backfield-mate Chris Johnson. The Jets gave Ivory and Chris Johnson both 16 carries last week but Ivory got red-zone work. The reason this all becomes important this week is because the Jets face one of the easiest matchups in the league in the fifth-easiest rated Titans run defense. Tennessee leads the league in opponent rushing yards per game with an average of 141.5 per game on the season. The Titans have also given up the second-most touchdowns to running backs of any defense all season (14) and 6 of them over their last five games. This bodes well for the Jets running back who receives the most opportunities this week and that looks like it will be Ivory. Thanks to his great matchup, Ivory could help bolster your flex spot or daily fantasy roster this week. Forecast: Next week Ivory has to face the Patriots defense that has been the toughest matchup for fantasy running backs over the last five weeks. [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

Last week Isaiah Crowell posted his third double-digit fantasy scoring effort in the last five weeks. Listed as questionable, Crowell conceded the "start" to Terrance West. West was Cleveland's primary back for most of the first half, but was replaced in the red zone by Crowell, who ended up doubling West's fantasy point production in the two-way timeshare. Crowell has scored double-digit fantasy points in every easy matchup he's faced over the past five weeks, which makes him the Cleveland back to start against Bengals third-easiest rated defense this weekend. The Bengals have given up two touchdowns per game to running backs over the last five weeks and have actually been the second easiest rated matchup during those games. This matchup is trending the right direction and Crowell has proven he can produce for your fantasy team even when splitting carries. The numbers add up to Crowell being a solid RB3 for your fantasy playoff roster in Week 15. Forecast: Next week the Browns travel to Carolina to face a Panthers defense that has been a "worst" rated matchup for fantasy running backs over the last five weeks. [Recommended Usage: RB3]

Other good RB matchups:Jamaal Charles vs. OAK, Matt Forte vs. NO, Arian Foster at IND, Le'Veon Bell at ATL

WR

Fantasy owners have all but forgotten about Sammy Watkins since he faded after the Bills' bye week, but the rookie showed he still has some production left this season after going over 100 yards last week for the first time since Week 8. Even though a lot of that damage was done in garbage time, Watkins still produced against a formerly tough Denver defense. However, one of the easiest matchups for fantasy receivers over the last five games has been Watkins' Week 15 opponent, the Green Bay Packers. Hidden amidst all the Packers' offensive scoring has been a secondary that cannot stop opposing wide receivers. The Packers just allowed Julio Jones to post the best performance by any wide receiver all season and that was not an anomaly. Green Bay has given up the most touchdowns to fantasy receivers all season (20) and amazingly, 8 of those touchdowns have come over the last three games alone. Watkins has not had many easy matchups at all this season but the matchup this week against the third-easiest rated Packers' defense should lead to a ton of garbage time production for him as the Bills will pass to keep up with a red-hot Aaron Rodgers. Forecast: Next week the matchup with the Raiders may seem tempting because of their "better" rating for the season, but over the last five weeks Oakland has been the third-toughest matchup for opposing receivers. [Recommended Usage: WR3]

Odell Beckham owners may not need much encouragement to start the breakout rookie this week but, if you want to really get excited about him then look at the matchup. Beckham has now appeared in just nine NFL games and is still the sixth-highest algorithm-rated receiver in fantasy. Beckham has actually scored TWICE as many fantasy points against bad rated matchups as he has against good ones. Much of that has to do with the fact that all his good matchups were in the first few weeks after he joined the team. As of late, Beckham has been matchup-proof and the Giants showed confidence in him as they moved him all over the formation during Sunday's win at Tennessee. Beckham's matchup this week against the Redskins is as close to a perfect statistical storm as one can get. Washington is the algorithm's easiest-rated matchup for fantasy wide receivers and only five receivers have an algorithm rating higher than Beckham. The Redskins have given up four touchdowns to receivers in just the last three games and have been pulling cornerbacks from their practice squad and off the street to cover their weekly injuries. This will be the first time Washington has seen Beckham and he has provided nothing on tape that should make them think they could stop him. Owners should start Beckham with confidence this week in what could be as good of a matchup as it gets. Forecast: The Beckham show should continue all the way through Week 17 as he gets two more easy matchups against the Rams and Eagles to finish off his amazing second half of the season. Keep him locked in on your championship roster. [Recommended Usage: WR1]

Other good WR matchups:Antonio Brown at ATL, Calvin Johnson vs. MIN, Dez Bryant at PHI

TE

Larry Donnell has certainly cooled off since being one of the early season's best fantasy surprises. Donnell hasn't scored in three straight weeks and has regressed down to a low-end TE1 with Odell Beckham dominating the Giants' targets. However, Donnell's best fantasy outputs have come against his best matchups, leaving him with a top 10 tight end algorithm rating. His best performance of the season came in Week 4 against the Redskins and this week he gets to face them again. The Redskins are the algorithm's second-easiest rated matchup for fantasy tight ends coming into Week 15. Over the last three weeks, the Redskins lead the NFL with four total touchdowns and 228 total receiving yards given up to opposing tight ends. It has been part of the opposing offense's game plans all season to get the tight end involved in the passing game when playing Washington. The Redskins' ability to cover the tight end has been getting worse week by week. Donnell may not score three touchdowns against the Redskins again this week, but the numbers certainly point to him scoring at least one, making him startable for your fantasy playoff roster. Forecast: Next week. Donnell will have to deal with a Rams defense that has been the single worst matchup for fantasy tight ends. If you advance, you should look for another tight end for Week 16. [Recommended Usage: LOW TE1]

Other good TE matchups:Jimmy Graham at CHI, Martellus Bennett vs. NO, Delanie Walker vs. NYJ

D/ST

BAL vs. JAC: When the matchup is right, the Ravens fantasy defense can really produce. Seven positive outings this season have all come against forgiving offenses. This week they have a home game against the league's most mistake-prone offense, the Jaguars. The Jags are a no brainer matchup as they concede on average four sacks and a league-leading 1.3 interceptions per game.

CAR vs. TB: The Panthers defense has been a huge disappointment for fantasy this season, coming nowhere near their 2013 production. However, this week they are the home team hosting a Buccaneers offense that has given up 18 sacks in the past five weeks including six last week. The Bucs have also given up 10 interceptions in the last six games, making them a tasty matchup for a Panthers fantasy defense that is likely sitting on your waiver wire.

NYJ at TEN: Relying on any Jets for the fantasy playoffs will make one queasy, but what about their defense? This week the Jets play a Titans offense that has given up 17 sacks and six interceptions over the last three weeks. Jake Locker returns to the helm in what should be a feast for a Jets defense that will spend a ton of time on the field because of their own inept offense.

Expect Less:

Players who could fall short of expectations this week based on the strength of their opponent.

QB

Colin Kaepernick's horrible history against the Seahawks is well publicized, but in case you are still considering relying on him for the fantasy playoffs, here's a deeper look at the numbers. Kaepernick is 1-3 versus the Seahawks with a completion percentage of just 51.6 percent in those games. Kaepernick targets his receivers under 10 yards from the line of scrimmage on about 57 percent of his throws over his career, but against Seattle that number goes up over 62 percent. It is also notable that Richard Sherman has given up no completions of 15 yards or longer over the past three games. Kaepernick's yards per attempt against Seattle is just 5.5 as opposed to 8.0 against all other teams, and his touchdown to interception ratio against the Seahawks is 2:7 compared to 44:12 when facing any other defense. If that is not enough to convince you, don't forget Kaepernick completed just 16 of 29 passes for 121 yards and got intercepted twice by Sherman when these teams last played, which led to a season-low 36.7 passer rating. The Seahawks are the toughest-rated matchup for opposing fantasy quarterbacks, but no other quarterback has produced so little against them on a regular basis than Kaepernick. Forecast: You might want to put Kaepernick on your bench for good. Neither of his matchups after this week are favorable as both defenses have been among the top-10 toughest against fantasy quarterbacks over the last five weeks. [Recommended Usage: SIT]

Fantasy owners may be eyeballing Andy Dalton this week after he blew up with a big 30-point fantasy game against Pittsburgh. Last week was Dalton's third 300-yard game of the season, but just his first since Week 5. Dalton was also playing a top-10 easy rated defense last week, but this week owners need to consider his matchup in what could be a perfect lesson on why not to chase points. Dalton faces a Browns defense this week that holds opposing passers to a league low 56.65 percent completion percentage on the season and just 53.54 percent over the last three games. Cleveland also holds opposing quarterbacks to a league-low 72.6 passer rating as a season average. That passer rating average was likely impacted by Daltons epic meltdown against the Browns back in Week 10, when the Bengals and Dalton got destroyed at home and Dalton scored negative fantasy points. Now Dalton travels to Cleveland and the Browns are the second-toughest rated matchup for fantasy quarterbacks overall. Dalton has averaged just five fantasy points against bad rated defenses all season. The numbers all add up (or subtract) to an expectation of another low fantasy scoring game from Dalton this week. Forecast: Dalton could be a surprise stash in deeper leagues for the next couple weeks. He plays two defenses that have been among the top-10 easiest-rated against fantasy quarterbacks over the last five weeks. If you start two quarterbacks, lock in Dalton as your second after this week. [Recommended Usage: HIGH QB2]

Other bad QB matchups:Tom Brady vs. MIA, Matthew Stafford vs. MIN, Ryan Fitzpatrick at NE

RB

Ryan Mathews has been producing rather well against tough matchups since his return from injury in Week 11. Last week, he got off to a decent start, but suffered a leg injury and was limited in the second half. Mathews could miss practice time, but should be fine for his Week 15 matchup against the fifth-toughest rated Broncos run defense. This will be the toughest matchup that Mathews has faced since his return. Denver allows the second-fewest rushing yards per game (72.8) and only 3.5 yards per carry on the season. The key stat with the Broncos is that over the last three games, opposing offenses have only attempted an average of 17.3 rush attempts per game, which could be a concern for Mathews. Even though Mathews has done a decent job against tough matchups, this one still looks like a game where the Chargers may have to pass more than run which could mean that Mathews' fantasy points per touch value of 0.70 could end up being more in the neighborhood of the 0.55 number that the Broncos defense allows. With 14 touches being the most Mathews has seen all season, these numbers add up to a potential output of around seven fantasy points this week. Forecast: Some of the toughest-rated opposing defenses await Mathews after this week. His easy matchups are long gone and his remaining opponents will likely not yield championship production for Mathews as he finishes his season.  [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

Other bad RB matchups:Eddie Lacy at BUF, Tre Mason vs. ARI, Kerwynn Williams at STL, Giants RBs vs. WAS

WR

What can you expect from Josh Gordon this week? Well, Gordon is not on any snap count after three games back with the Browns. Last week he saw a season-high 79.4 percent of the snaps playing on 54 of the Brows' 68 offensive snaps. For most receivers that is more than enough opportunity to produce, yet Gordon has eight total fantasy points over his last two games against two tough-rated defenses. Last week, Gordon couldn't produce fantasy-wise even though he tied for the team-lead in targets with seven against a Vontae Davis-less Colts secondary. The Colts were the third-toughest rated defense for receivers but this week the Browns face the toughest-rated matchup for receivers in the Bengals. Cincinnati has only given up two touchdown receptions and the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to receivers over the last five weeks and should prove to be the toughest matchup that Gordon has faced since his return. The Bengals are susceptible to a long ball every now and then but we have no evidence yet that the NFL version of Johnny Manziel can throw one nor that the 2014 version of Gordon can catch one. Take the name off the stats and look at the matchup on its own. Would you still think of starting this receiver against the Bengals in such an important fantasy playoff game? Probably not. Forecast: Things could get a lot easier over the next two weeks as Gordon plays nothing worse than a "better" rated defense to finish the season. If he clicks with Johnny football in this week's tough matchup, he should be safe for you to start next week.  [Recommended Usage: WR3]

DeAndre Hopkins is an algorithm-rated top 15 fantasy receiver this season, yet he was unable to produce big numbers against a "better" rated Jaguars defense last week. If you look at the numbers from that game you will find that Ryan Fitzpatrick only needed thirteen completions for the Texans to beat Jacksonville and four of those went to Hopkins. Savvy fantasy owners are looking at the potential absence of Andre Johnson (and his nine targets per week) as a good reason to start Hopkins this week. Owners should use caution as Hopkins has a matchup against a tough Colts defense waiting for him in Week 15. The Colts are the third-toughest rated matchup for fantasy receivers. Over the last five weeks, the Colts have only allowed one touchdown to an opposing wide receiver and have held all receivers to just 461 total receiving yards over that span, which is the second-lowest total behind only the Seahawks. Last week the Colts were without star corner Vontae Davis and the Browns were supposed to take advantage of that weak spot. Instead the Colts defense came to play and no Browns receiver (including Josh Gordon) scored more than four fantasy points against them. Forecast: Hopkins should go right back into your lineup next week as he gets a "best" rated matchup against a Ravens secondary that has been getting torched all season by fantasy wide receivers. [Recommended Usage: FLEX]

Other bad WR matchups:Charles Johnson at DET, Anquan Boldin at SEA, James Jones at KC

TE

Dwayne Allen has been a poor man's Julius Thomas this season with seven total touchdowns in the nine games he has played. Touchdowns account for 53 percent of Allen's total fantasy point production this season which is the epitome of touchdown dependency. If you want a touchdown from a player like Allen, then you need the matchups to be in your favor. This week, Allen faces a Texans' defense that is the third-toughest rated against fantasy tight ends. Even worse for Allen's touchdown prospects is the fact that the Texans have only allowed three touchdowns to tight ends all season and zero over the last five weeks. Houston has only allowed 2.2 receptions to tight ends over that same period, the second-fewest in the NFL. Allen has been a mid-range TE1 whenever healthy this season, but if you take his touchdowns away he only averages three fantasy points per game. This week the matchup could keep Allen out of the end zone for the second week in a row, making him a less than desirable start. Forecast: Next week, Allen gets a matchup with the Cowboys who have been giving up plenty of touchdowns to fantasy tight ends recently and are a top-10 rated opponent worthy of a fantasy championship start. [Recommended Usage: LOW TE1]

Other bad TE matchups:Rob Gronkowski at SD, Greg Olsen at NO

D/ST

BUF at GB: The Bills have been nothing short of dominant as a fantasy defense this season so there is a strong chance you have not had to carry another D/ST since their Week 9 bye. Yet, this week's matchup against Aaron Rodgers is going to be brutal. Rodgers simply does not throw enough interceptions (0.3 average per game) nor do the Packers turn the ball over (league leading plus-16 turnover differential) enough to make this a matchup to trust in the playoffs. Look elsewhere unless your league gives extra points for having 30-plus points and 400-plus yards hung on your defense.

MIA at NE: This rematch might be tempting after the Dolphins defense kicked off their season in Week 1 with a four sack performance against Tom Brady. However, the Patriots have only given up four sacks in the past six weeks and have cleaned up their offensive line play. Averaging over 380 yards and 30 points per game, the Patriots offense has been wrecking opposing D/STs.

HOU at IND:J.J. Watt and the Texans defense have been on a roll for fantasy purposes, with five out of their last six outings bearing fantasy fruit. However, this week they get a rematch on the road against Andrew Luck, who held the Texans fantasy defense in check back in their Week 6 meeting. Luck has been sacked 10 times in the last four weeks so there may be a few points to be had, but note that the Colts average 430-plus yards and 30-plus points per game if your league scoring system penalizes your defense for that.

-- Chris Anthony is a guest contributor to NFL.com, hailing from Fantasy Omatic. You can follow him on Twitter @FantasyOmatic. Be sure to check back each week for more analytics-based analysis as the algorithm will only get more accurate over time!

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