Start Eric Decker over Demaryius Thomas in Week 17

Unfamiliar with the SAP Player Comparison Tool? Well it's about time you get acquainted! The tool can be a great asset for those tough roster decisions, whether you're dealing with start/sit conundrums, trade comparisons, or decisions on which players to pick up on the waiver wire, you can benefit by learning the ins and outs of the customizable tool. This week in what we like to call Fantasy Football Audibles, we take a look at three player comparisons to help you take some of the guesswork out of those mind-boggling roster determinations.

Here's a quick primer in the factors that the SAP Player Comparison Tool takes into consideration when analyzing players:

»Performance:player performance (NFL statistics and Fantasy points) from the current season
»Matchup:opponent-specific fantasy points against (FPA) data and matchup analysis
»Consistency:stability of historical player fantasy point production
»Upside:potential for significant fantasy point performance
»Intangibles:additional factors including injury status, weather, game location, team support and player rest

Who should I start at QB: Matt Ryan or Cam Newton?

While this was actually a real question that someone asked ahead of Week 17, it really shouldn't be a question at all.

Matt Ryan is averaging nearly 10 fewer fantasy points per game than Cam Newton has this season. The Falcons' 21.5 points per game average this season is the lowest of the Matt Ryan era (since 2008), and the team hasn't scored over 25 points in a game since Week 5. He's also thrown the fewest touchdown passes (19) this year since 2009 and has nearly the same amount of interceptions (15). That's not a guy you want leading your fantasy squad in a Week 17 final. With 214.58 fantasy points on the season, Ryan ranks as 2015's QB19. That means that he's barely a starter in a 10-team two-quarterback league. The only real upside with Ryan this week is his matchup against the Saints who have allowed a record number of touchdown passes (43) this season. So he's got that going for him. Still, the lack of weapons in the Atlanta offense, save for Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, makes Ryan an unattractive option this week if you're looking to win your league.

Cam Newton on the other hand. Well. If you really had to ask yourself if you should bench the number one quarterback in fantasy for the likes of someone such as Matt Ryan, there's no amount of analysis or tools that can really help you now, not even the Player Comparison Tool (which hasn't done us many favors this year anyway). With 41 total touchdowns on the season, including eight rushing scores, Newton is by far one of the most valuable fantasy assets of the season. And the Panthers will be playing angry after having their perfect season spoiled last Sunday by the lowly Falcons (see above). Carolina is also playing for home field advantage in the playoffs, and should get back to their winning ways in front of a home crowd.

Just one more stat to put this Ryan/Newton comparison into perspective before we wrap up: Last week, both quarterbacks finished with the same amount of fantasy points, 16.3. The number of weeks this year that Ryan has posted a higher total that he did last week is six. The number of weeks that Newton recorded more fantasy points than the 16.3 mark from last week is 12.

The Player Comparison Tool is really going out with a YOLO kind of bang in Week 17, so it seems. Don't pay attention to it in this case, unless you want to lose.

Who should I start at WR: Eric Decker or Demaryius Thomas?

At the start of this season, this wasn't even a decision. But this is what we've come to in Week 17. Yet again, I'm going to have to argue against the Player Comparison Tool's recommendation of Demaryius Thomas over Eric Decker this week.

It's obvious that Decker has been the more consistent fantasy wideout all season thanks to his 11 touchdowns. Decker has failed to score in only three games all season, and while he has fewer targets, receptions and yards than Thomas does this year, Decker still ranks as a top 10 fantasy receiver for the season while Thomas is fantasy's WR16. Decker has thrived in New York opposite Brandon Marshall as the Jets receiving duo is the most productive in the NFL this season with a combined 280 targets, 176 receptions, 2,353 yards and 24 touchdowns between them.

Thomas has seen a major dip in touchdown production (five TDs through Week 16), as it's the first season that he will finish with single-digit scores dating back to 2011 when he only played 11 games. He has over 1,100 yards but his lack of scoring has lowered him down to more of a fantasy WR2 than the elite WR1 status we're used to seeing from him in years past. Much of his slowdown has to do with Peyton Manning's decline earlier this season, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak's commitment to run the ball more and the greater success of the ground game with Brock Osweiler under center. Since Osweiler took over, Thomas has seen fewer targets, receptions and receiving yards per game than he had with Manning.

Since this is your last shot at fantasy glory, and the Jets are playing for their playoff lives, I can't see a reason you'd slot Thomas into your lineup over Decker unless it was a full-point PPR situation. But even in that scenario, Decker's consistent touchdown scoring is a difficult thing to turn your nose up at.

Who should I start at RB: Tim Hightower or Latavius Murray?

OK so the Player Comparison Tool didn't come to work today. Fortunately, I did.

First of all, contrary to what the tool shows, Tim Hightower actually has a better matchup against a Falcons run defense that's allowed the fifth most fantasy points to running backs this season and has played increasingly worse over the last five games. Latavius Murray will face a Kansas City defense that has allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. So the matchup advantage is in Hightower's favor.

While it's tough to compare season-long performance since Hightower has only started the last three games for the Saints, he's been extremely successful during that stint. And over the last four weeks, during one of which he recorded just one carry because Mark Ingram was still healthy, he's out-produced Murray who has been the Raiders feature back for all four of those weeks with no fewer than 16 attempts in a game. Hightower has also gotten into the end zone three times in the last three games, including two scores last week. In Week 15 against the Lions, he punched one in but it was called back on a penalty, but he still posted 8.5 fantasy points in that game with 85 total yards. While both backs may see similar volume, Hightower's situation is much better than that of Murray's as the Saints are second in the NFL in total offense this year. Murray has just two 100-yard games all season and has been an extremely inconsistent in terms of weekly fantasy production.

Other than Murray's 20.9-point game when he posted 140 yards and a touchdown back in Week 3 against the NFL's worst run defense in the Browns, his ceiling capped off at 17 points, which he recorded last week, 16 games into the season. In just three games from Hightower, we have already seen a 28-point game. I think my job is done here.

Player Comparison Tool, you can take the offseason to rest up and recharge, seems like you need it.

Matt Franciscovich is an associate fantasy editor at NFL.com. He considers this version of "Cortez The Killer" by Dave Matthews Band (feat. Warren Haynes) one of the all time great live cuts. Hit Matt up on Twitter @MattFranchise for music recommendations and fantasy advice.

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