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Week 15 fantasy football matchups, starts and sits

It's officially the fantasy playoffs for pretty much every league. If not ... well, your league is weird. Anyway, it's Star Wars week (huzzah!) and I want to get out of the office ASAP to get to the theater. So, end of the intro. Let's get on to the matchups.

As always, this is where I go game-by-game and player-by-player for every Week 15 contest. Those looking for quick-hitting start/sit/flex/stream analysis will find that listed for the main players for every team. Below that, I do my best to preview the game with additional insight, stats, and analysis to contextualize my recommendations.

This column wouldn't be possible without our incredible research teams, both @NFLResearch and the fine folks at Next Gen Stats. So thanks to all of you and all that you do.

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m. ET on FOX

 » Jared Goff, QB: STREAM
 » Todd Gurley, RB: START
 » Sammy Watkins, WR: SIT
 » Cooper Kupp, WR: FLEX
 » Robert Woods, WR: START
 » Rams TEs: SIT
 » Rams D/ST: SIT

Jared Goff has been an OK fantasy play, with multiple touchdown passes in five of his last six games. The Seahawks defense could be without Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright this week, adding to their already lengthy list of key injuries. Goff doesn't have week-winning potential on the road here, but should offer a safe floor. Todd Gurley is a must-start and that's all I'll say on that. Robert Woods returning is good news for this offense. He'd posted four-plus catches in six straight games prior to suffering his shoulder injury, and averaged 86 yards per game in that span. It's always a bit of a risk starting players fresh off a length injury, but Woods almost played last week and has a prominent role in one of the league's highest-powered offenses. Sammy Watkins is the big loser here in terms of fantasy outlook. Cooper Kupp's target share will dip, but he was a decent PPR flex with Woods healthy. In that same sixgame span mentioned above, Watkins averaged just four targets, two receptions and 33 yards per game. We're not starting the Rams tight ends and I'd look elsewhere for a defense to stream. The Rams are on the road, just lost one of their top corners for the year (Kayvon Webster) and must face the most electric quarterback in the league right now.

 » Russell Wilson, QB: START
 » Mike Davis, RB: FLEX
 » Doug Baldwin, WR: START
 » Paul Richardson, WR: FLEX
 » Tyler Lockett, WR: FLEX
 » Jimmy Graham, TE: START
 » Seahawks D/ST: SIT

Russell Wilson has failed to score 20-plus fantasy points just once in his last eight games (he scored 19.42) and he has multiple touchdown passes in all eight. He is the only QB to score more than 20 fantasy points against the Jaugars. He's a must-start. Mike Davis is the closest thing we're going to get to a featured back in the Seattle offense (he handled 16 touches last week). He's in a solid spot here against a Rams defense that has allowed 489 rushing yards to opposing backs over the last four games. Doug Baldwin's volume has dipped recently, as he's averaging just 5.6 targets per game over his last five. He's been a steady fantasy producer, though, with 78-plus yards and/or a touchdown in four of those five. Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett can both be flexed as the Rams secondary will be piecing itself back together after losing Kayvon Webster to an Achilles injury last week. I'd prefer Richardson over Lockett, as his air yards and targets have both been consistently higher. Jimmy Graham surprisingly ghosted us last week, but is still a must-start at tight end. In a potentially high-scoring game he'll have a good chance to bounce back. Typically we want to start the Seahawks defense in fantasy at home, but with so many injuries mounting there's a lot of risk in riding with this unit in the fantasy playoffs.

Tennessee Titans at San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS

 » Marcus Mariota, QB: SIT
 » DeMarco Murray, RB: SIT
 » Derrick Henry, RB: SIT
 » Corey Davis, WR: SIT
 » Rishard Matthews, WR: SIT
 » Delanie Walker, TE: START
 » Titans D/ST: SIT

I really wish I could trust this offense. But they're running an uninventive scheme and are piloted Marcus Mariota playing the worst football of his career (he's on pace for career lows in yards per game, touchdowns, yards per attempt and passer rating). Making matters worse is a backfield where the clearly superior player at this point, Derrick Henry, continues to play less often and see fewer touches than DeMarco Murray. I'd love to live in a world where Henry saw 15-20 touches a game and was an upside flex play, but right now Mike Mularkey's offense isn't exotic or smashing anyone in the mouth. Rishard Matthews returned to the lineup and led the position in playing time (78 percent) but saw just five targets and accumulated 19 yards. The only Titans player I'd remotely trust this week is Delanie Walker. He's posted 63-plus yards in six of his last seven games and has four or more receptions in all seven.

 » Jimmy Garoppolo, QB: STREAM
 » Carlos Hyde, RB: FLEX
 » Marquise Goodwin, WR: START
 » Trent Taylor, WR: FLEX PPR
 » George Kittle, TE: SIT
 » 49ers D/ST: STREAM

I love Jimmy Garoppolo as a streaming option this week. He's due for some positive touchdown regression with only one score on 70 attempts in his first two starts in San Francisco, plus he's averaging over 300 passing yards per game. Tennessee allows the 11th most passing yards per game (249.5) and is tied with the fourth-most touchdown passes allowed (22). Carlos Hyde rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown last week, but it was concerning that Matt Breida got 12 carries as well. I'm OK with flexing Hyde again here as he's been the far more productive back and his double-digit touches in eight straight games. Marquise Goodwin has seen eight and 12 targets in Garoppolo's two starts, posting lines of 8-99 and 6-106 respectively. He's a solid WR2 this week. Trent Taylor posted just two catches for 11 yards after a strong initial outing with Garoppolo (6-92), so he'll be much more of risky flex play in PPR leagues. Each of the last five defenses to face the Titans has finished as a top-12 unit that week, but the 49ers have scored more than five fantasy points just once in the last eight games. I'd consider them a low-end streamer.

New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS

 » Tom Brady, QB: START
 » Dion Lewis, RB: FLEX
 » Rex Burkhead, RB: FLEX
 » Brandin Cooks, WR: START
 » Chris Hogan, WR: FLEX
 » Danny Amendola, WR: SIT
 » Rob Gronkowski, TE: START
 » Patriots D/ST: SIT

Tom Brady has disappointed the last two weeks, but don't overreact and bench him here. Over the last three weeks the Steelers have allowed Brett Hundley, Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco to finish as the QB8, QB6, and QB14, respectively, with seven touchdown passes and one interception. The Steelers allow a passer rating of 95.5 on deep passes this year, ranking near the bottom of the league. Brady and this entire offense should be able to put up points, which also puts Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis back on the radar as low-end RB2s/flex plays. Burkhead seems to be the stronger option though, as he has six total touchdowns in his last five games. Chris Hogan returned last week for the first time since Week 8 and played 89 percent of the snaps, but caught just one of five targets for one yard. Brandin Cooks disappointed last week, too, hauling in just one of seven looks for 38 yards. Both should find more space to roam against a Steelers secondary badly missing Joe Haden. I'm not chasing Danny Amendola's production from last week (6-76-0), as that was just the second time he had more than five catches and more than 60 yards since Week 5. Rob Gronkowski is returning to the Patriots starting lineup which means he returns to your starting fantasy lineup. This game figures to be an absolute score-fest which means we should stay far, far away from the fantasy defenses.

 » Ben Roethlisberger, QB: START
 » Le'Veon Bell, RB: START
 » Antonio Brown, RB: START
 » JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR: SIT
 » Martavis Bryant, WR: SIT
 » Steelers D/ST: SIT

After starting out the season rather poorly, Ben Roethlisberger has been incredible since the team's Week 9 bye. He's thrown 14 touchdowns with just four interceptions in that span and averaged 336.4 yards per game. At home versus a Patriots defense that was just carved up by Jay Cutler, he's a top-five start this week. Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown never leave starting lineups, so there's nothing else I need to say there. JuJu Smith-Schuster will return from his suspension for this game, but will be a risky play in the fantasy playoffs. He's caught eight of 13 targets for 64 yards in the two games prior to his suspension. So much of this offense funnels through Brown and Bell that it's hard for any other players to thrive as reliable contributors for fantasy purposes. Again, we're avoiding fantasy defenses here, so sit the Steelers.

Dallas Cowboys at Oakland Raiders, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC

 » Dak Prescott, QB: START
 » Alfred Morris, RB: FLEX
 » Rod Smith, RB: FLEX
 » Dez Bryant, WR: START
 » Jason Witten, TE: SIT
 » Cowboys D/ST: SIT

Dak Prescott looks to be turning a corner with five touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last two games. He'll face an Oakland secondary that's struggled to stop anyone all year, and is a top-10 play this week. Alfred Morris has 17-plus carries in three of the last four games and is a fine flex play in standard, though he offers little upside in PPR with just five catches and seven targets on the entire season. Rod Smith popped up for a huge game last week (160 total yards, two touchdowns) and has four touchdowns in his last three games. He's right behind Morris in playing time, too, and is a fine flex option. Dez Bryant has 61 or more yards and a touchdown in back-to-back games, and should have no problems knifing through the Oakland secondary. Jason Witten has a touchdown catch in each of the last two games ... but that was his only catch in each game. There are probably streamers available with more upside. The Raiders offense is broken, but doesn't give up many sacks or turnovers, making them a tough streaming target. If Dallas was at home I'd be into this, but on the road I'd look elsewhere.

 » Derek Carr, QB: SIT
 » Marshawn Lynch, RB: FLEX
 » Michael Crabtree, WR: START
 » Amari Cooper, WR: SIT
 » Jared Cook, TE: STREAM
 » Raiders D/ST: SIT

The Cowboys defense certainly has its weaknesses, but I'm not going to trust Derek Carr with my fantasy playoff hopes. He has thrown multiple touchdowns just twice in his last 10 games and will almost assuredly be without Amari Cooper again. That means good things for Michael Crabtree, who should be showered with targets once again (he saw 13 last week). Let's just hope he can do more damage on his opportunities than he did against the Chiefs -- seven catches, 60 yards, no touchdowns. Over his last five games Marshawn Lynch has scored five touchdowns and averaged 87 scrimmage yards per game, making him a decent RB2/flex play against a Dallas defense that's allowing over 4.5 yards per carry during their last four games. With Amari Cooper out last week, Jared Cook popped back up with a 5-75-1 line after managing just two catches for 11 yards in the two weeks prior. With so few reliable options at tight end and a decent target share likely to come his way, I'm fine with streaming Cook this week.

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Monday)

 » Matt Ryan, QB: START
 » Devonta Freeman, RB: START
 » Tevin Coleman, RB: SIT
 » Julio Jones, WR: START
 » Mohamed Sanu, WR: LOW-END FLEX
 » Austin Hooper, TE: SIT
 » Falcons D/ST: STREAM

After a hot stretch Matt Ryan went cold as ice the last two weeks, posting a combined 394 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in that span. Fortunately for him, the Buccaneers defense is here to help, as no team allows more passing yards per game than Tampa Bay. With the playoffs on the line, I'd expect Ryan to sling it and post a top-12 fantasy performance. Devonta Freeman returned to his RB1 ways last week, handling 24 rushes for 91 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. It was good to see this version of Freeman back in action, as he has an excellent matchup this week against a Buccaneers defense that's allowed over 90 scrimmage yards to a running back in four straight weeks to go along with six touchdowns as well. Tevin Coleman was still in concussion protocol on Thursday, so his status will need to be monitored. Julio Jones ripped up the Bucs for 253 yards and two scores the last time they faced off, and in his career he averages 123.5 yards and 0.9 touchdowns per game against them. Mohamed Sanu has 64-plus yards and/or a touchdown in six of his last eight games and remains a solid floor play in the flex. Jameis Winston has been sacked 15 times over his last four games with seven turnovers and four touchdowns in that span. Even on the road, I think the Falcons are a solid streamer.

 » Jameis Winston, QB: SIT
 » Doug Martin, RB: SIT
 » Peyton Barber, RB: SIT
 » Mike Evans, WR: FLEX
 » DeSean Jackson, WR: SIT
 » Cameron Brate, TE: SIT
 » O.J. Howard, TE: STREAM
 » Buccaneers D/ST: SIT

Jameis Winston is playing poorly and with an injured shoulder. Sure, he has two touchdowns in each of his last two games, but I would stream several quarterbacks over Winston this week (Garoppolo, Bortles, Keenum). Doug Martin got the start and touchdown last week, but was eventually benched for Peyton Barber. An unpredictable backfield on a mediocre offense is not a recipe for fantasy success. Mike Evans has target totals of six and five the last two weeks, tying and setting a season-low. He's averaged nearly 88 yards per game against the Falcons during his career, though, and if his volume ticks back up he could post big numbers. I'd consider him a WR3/flex option. I'm done with the DeSean Jackson experience in Tampa Bay. If you want to start him, feel free, but I'd rather chase production elsewhere. O.J. Howard has 52-plus yards in three of his last four games with a touchdown in two of those outings as well. For now, it looks like he's the more reliable streaming option in this group, as Cameron Brate caught just one pass again last week, giving him five one-catch outings in his last six. That lone outlier was his random two-touchdown game against the Packers. The Buccaneers defense could be without


Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts, 8:25 p.m. ET on NBC

 » Trevor Siemian, QB: SIT
 » C.J. Anderson, RB: DEEP FLEX
 » Demaryius Thomas, WR: START
 » Emmanuel Sanders, WR: SIT
 » Broncos D/ST: STREAM

Those playing in very deep or two-quarterback leagues could consider streaming Trevor Siemian. He played OK last week, and the Colts have allowed 300-plus passing yards and/or two touchdowns in all but three games this year. I'd look elsewhere if possible. C.J. Anderson has handled 43 touches the last two weeks, so the volume is there for him to post reasonable numbers as a flex option. I have serious trust issues with this backfield (and offense in general), otherwise, I'd offer a stronger endorsement for Anderson. Prior to their snowpocalypse game last week, the Colts run defense had allowed just 3.5 yards per carry over their last four games against good running teams (Jaguars, Titans, Steelers, Texans). The sky seemed to be falling for Thomas after posting a 5-18-0 and 2-27-0 line in consecutive weeks, but he bounced back big-time with eight catches, 93 yards and a score against the Jets. The volume has been there for Thomas (eight-plus targets in seven straight), and in that same span, he's scored four times. He's a great start against a Colts secondary that's been just decimated with injuries. Emmanuel Sanders, on the other hand, has struggled mightily over the last month as he battles through poor quarterback play and an ankle injury. In the four games since his six-catch, 137-yard performance against the Patriots, Sanders has managed just eight catches for 54 yards. He'll be tough to trust here in the fantasy playoffs, even in a great spot. The Broncos took advantage of a great situation last week, and could be a strong streaming candidate here as well. Even on the road, they get to face the league's most sacked quarterback in Jacoby Brissett one week after posting four sacks (which tied for their season high).

 » Jacoby Brissett, QB: SIT
 » Frank Gore, RB: FLEX
 » Marlon Mack, RB: SIT
 » T.Y. Hilton, WR: SIT
 » Jack Doyle, TE: START
 » Colts D/ST: SIT

It's hard to take too much from last week's snow game, but in the two games prior Jacoby Brissett managed just one passing touchdown and two interceptions while completing 58 percent of his passes and averaging 185 yards per game. Frank Gore saw a career-high 36 carries last week, and now needs his 34-year-old body to recover on a short week before facing Denver. Gore should still see some volume and should be considered a low-end flex play, but I'd try to break ties against starting him if you can help it. Marlon Mack may see more work to help spell Gore, but that's just conjecture. T.Y. Hilton has posted under 50 receiving yards in six of his last eight games. I'm not starting him against the Denver secondary. Jack Doyle, on the other hand, is a solid option. He'd seen five-plus targets in 10 straight games before the snow game, and Denver remains one of the worst defenses at covering tight ends, allowing the third-most touchdowns on the year (eight) to the position and the fourth-most yards per game (63). The Colts defense has simply suffered too many injuries to be considered as a fantasy option.

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions, 4:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network (Saturday)

 » Mitchell Trubisky, QB: SIT
 » Jordan Howard, RB: START
 » Tarik Cohen, RB: SIT
 » Dontrelle Inman, WR: SIT
 » Bears D/ST: SIT

The Bears smashed the Bengals last week but fantasy managers should not chase that production. The Bears 482 total yards were their most since Week 5, 2016, and this was the first time they'd scored 28-plus points since Week 10, 2015. This was just the second time in nine starts where Mitchell Trubisky has thrown for over 200 yards, and the first time all year he's scored multiple touchdowns. Jordan Howard bounced back big-time with 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and should remain locked into lineups against the Lions. Over the last four weeks, only the Bills have allowed more rushing yards or touchdowns to the position. This was just Tarik Cohen's second game with double-digit touches since Week 6. Bafflingly, Dontrelle Inman saw zero targets while Kendall Wright popped up for 10 catches and 107 yards. It'd be best to avoid this passing attack if at all possible. The Bears defense on the road isn't really an option for fantasy, especially against a potent offense like the Lions.

 » Matthew Stafford, QB: START
 » Ameer Abdullah, RB: SIT
 » Theo Riddick, RB: FLEX
 » Golden Tate, WR: START
 » Marvin Jones, WR: START
 » Kenny Golladay, WR: SIT
 » Eric Ebron, TE: SIT
 » Lions D/ST: STREAM

Matthew Stafford played through his hand injury last week and notched 381 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Another week removed from this ailment should put him in position to post solid totals at home against the Bears. He tagged them for 299 yards and two touchdowns in Chicago earlier this year. If Ameer Abdullah sits again due to injury or performance reasons, Theo Riddick will be a strong flex play. In the past two weeks with more of a featured role he's scored three touchdowns and averaged 77 scrimmage yards per game. If Abdullah returns, though, workload concerns will once again rear their ugly head in this backfield. Riddick's averaged 15 touches per game over the last two, but had hit double digits just twice in the 11 games prior. Whether or not Abdullah plays shouldn't change his status -- he needs to be benched in fantasy. Marvin Jones and Golden Tate are both in play, as usual, though Tate has been heating up with eight-plus catches in each of his last two games. Eric Ebron popped up with an outrageous 10 catches for 94 yards on Sunday, after managing 12 catches for 121 yards in his three games prior. I'm not chasing this performance. The Lions defense had five turnovers last week, which was more than they'd accumulated in the six games before that. I'd consider them a low-end streamer at home against Trubisky and the Bears. The rookie has been sacked two-plus times in seven of nine starts, and seven of the nine defenses to face him have scored six-plus fantasy points.

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:25 p.m. ET on NFL Network (Saturday)

 » Philip Rivers, QB: START
 » Melvin Gordon, RB: START
 » Austin Ekeler, RB: SIT
 » Keenan Allen, WR: START
 » Hunter Henry, TE: START
 » Chargers D/ST: START

Philip Rivers might be the hottest quarterback in the league over the last month, as he's averaged 337 yards per game over his last four with eight touchdowns and no picks. He's a must-start against a Chiefs secondary that can be picked on by capable quarterbacks. Melvin Gordon should never leave starting lineups based on volume alone. He has just one game this year with fewer than 15 touches, and eight with 20-plus. His 10 total touchdowns trail only Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara at the running back position. Austin Ekeler's touches have decreased in three straight weeks (nine, six, four) and he's looking harder to trust with Gordon maintaining his workhorse role. Over the last four weeks Keenan Allen has racked up 39 catches, 547 yards and four touchdowns. He's crossed 100 yards in each game, tying Antonio Brown for the longest active streak in the NFL. Hunter Henry has four-plus receptions and 50 or more receiving yards in three straight games, with two touchdowns as well. He's emerging as one of the more reliable fantasy tight ends (finally) and should be started against the Chiefs. The Chargers defense has one-plus sack in every game this year and has scored eight-plus fantasy points in every game since their Week 9 bye. Their matchup isn't as great on the road in Kansas City, but I'd be comfortable sticking with them against an offense we've seen fold up plenty of times lately.

 » Alex Smith, QB: SIT
 » Kareem Hunt, RB: FLEX
 » Tyreek Hill, WR: FLEX
 » Travis Kelce, TE: START
 » Chiefs D/ST: SIT

The Chiefs offense has rebounded with offensive coordinator Matt Nagy calling plays, but I'm not trusting Alex Smith this week. He's posted under 14 fantasy points in three of his last four games, has failed to throw a touchdown in two of those, and has five touchdowns and four interceptions. Oh, and he has to face a Chargers defense that hasn't allowed multiple touchdown passes in a game since Week 5. Kareem Hunt scored his first touchdown since Week 3 and posted his first 100-yard game since Week 5, which is encouraging. A matchup with the Chargers defense, is not. They've allowed the 10th fewest rushing yards over the last four weeks with only two touchdowns. The volume should be there for Hunt, as has been the case for most of the year, and he's at home, but there are serious concerns he could fall right back into the same fantasy hole that swallowed him up for the past 10 or so weeks against this fierce defense. Tyreek Hill beat the Chargers for 77 yards and a touchdown on five catches when these teams met back in Week 3, and he'll have his usual ceiling in this game. Given how well the Chargers defense has played of late, though, Hill carries a bit more risk than usual. Travis Kelce was this close to having an epic fantasy outing last week. He remains a must-start at tight end regardless of the matchup. The Chiefs defense cannot be trusted against the league's hottest offense.

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. ET on FOX

 » T.J. Yates QB: SIT
 » Lamar Miller, RB: SIT
 » DeAndre Hopkins, WR: FLEX
 » Will Fuller, WR: SIT
 » Stephen Anderson, TE: SIT
 » Texans D/ST: SIT

The Texans are starting their third quarterback this year, T.J. Yates, and must face a Jaguars defense allowing just 15.5 points per game, and 291.6 total yards per game. This is a disaster waiting to happen and the only player we can even remotely trust with trips to the fantasy football championships on the line is DeAndre Hopkins. His volume alone should help him reach a decent fantasy floor. When these two teams met in Week 1 (and the Jaguars stomped the Texans 29-7), Hopkins saw 16 targets, catching seven for 55 yards and a touchdown. Hopkins has received double-digit targets in all but three games this year, and in two of those, he saw at least eight. Outside of Nuk, though, fantasy managers should avoid this offense.

 » Blake Bortles, QB: START
 » Leonard Fournette, RB: See below
 » Marqise Lee, WR: START
 » Dede Westbrook, WR: FLEX
 » Jaguars D/ST: START

Believe it or not, but Blake Bortles is back as a fantasy stud. He's scored 16-plus fantasy points in five of his last six games with nine total touchdowns and just three picks in that span. The Texans defense remains susceptible to the pass, and with quarterback options thinning with each passing week, he's looking like a top-12 option this week. Leonard Fournette finally delivered a performance that reminded us of the world-beater he was early in the season, rushing for 101 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks. Fournette has 100-plus yards and/or a touchdown in three of his last four games, but he's missed practice all week with a quad injury and appears to be in jeopardy to miss this game as well (the latest reports are that he'll be OUT). Follow his status throughout the weekend and add Chris Ivory/T.J. Yeldon where you can. If you throw out the game against Arizona where Marqise Lee was shadowed by Patrick Peterson, he is averaging nearly 10 targets, over six catches and 65 yards per game over his last five, with three touchdowns in that span. Dede Westbrook is a name to circle for the fantasy playoffs and next year. The rookie has increased his yardage output in each of the four games he's played, and has seen eight-plus targets in each of his last three. Scott Fish of Fanball uncovered a great gem for this matchup too, as speedy wide receivers have given Houston trouble all year. Five wideouts with a sub-4.40 40-yard dash time have gone for over 100 yards against the Texans, with three of those receivers nabbing two touchdowns, as well. Westbrook ran a 4.34 40, and is a great sleeper target this week. If you need me to tell you to start the Jaguars defense against T.J. Yates you need more help than this column can offer.

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET on CBS

 » Joe Flacco, QB: SIT
 » Alex Collins, RB: START
 » Jeremy Maclin, WR: SIT
 » Mike Wallace, WR: FLEX
 » Benjamin Watson, TE: SIT
 » Ravens D/ST: START

Has the Ravens passing offense found its stride? That's the question you'll have to ask yourself if you're considering streaming Joe Flacco in a solid matchup against a Browns secondary tied for the league lead with 26 passing touchdowns allowed. Flacco has posted 269 passing yards (season-high) and two touchdowns in each of the last two weeks, which were also his highest fantasy outputs of the season (18.66, 16.76). Alex Collins has been a true revelation since assuming the starting gig in Baltimore. He has a touchdown in four straight games and is tied for seventh among running backs in big plays (20-plus yard receptions or 10-plus yard runs) with 27. He's had 17-plus touches in five of his last six games, so the volume is consistent, as well. Mike Wallace has emerged as the team's No. 1 wide receiver down the stretch, at least in terms of productivity and air yards. He trails Jeremy Maclin by one target since the team's Week 10 bye (29 to 28), but Wallace has more catches (17), yards (292), and touchdowns (one) than Maclin in that span, and owns 40.8 percent of the team air yards versus 29.2 percent for Maclin. Wallace is a decent WR3/flex option against the suspect Browns secondary, though Maclin should be left on the bench. The Ravens defense was whooped by the Steelers in Pittsburgh last week, but a date with the Browns should present far more opportunities for sacks, turnovers, and fantasy points.

 » DeShone Kizer, QB: DEEP STREAM
 » Isaiah Crowell, RB: FLEX
 » Duke Johnson, RB: FLEX
 » Corey Coleman, WR: SIT
 » Josh Gordon, WR: START
 » Browns TEs: SIT
 » Browns D/ST: SIT

DeShone Kizer has thrown four touchdowns in his last two games, and could be considered a SUPER deep streamer for those in large leagues. Baltimore's defense has given up nearly 800 passing yards the last two weeks with Jimmy Smith mostly out of the lineup (Achilles), and that trend could continue this week. Kizer may be a better daily fantasy dart throw than a season-long starter, though. Isaiah Crowell has turned into a relatively reliable fantasy starter of late, with 95-plus scrimmage yards in four of his last six games. The Ravens are allowing just 3.6 yards per carry over the last two weeks, but have conceded six total touchdowns to running backs. Crowell and Duke Johnson should both be viewed as low-end flex plays. Josh Gordon has looked great in his return to the football field, and should be an OK start this week against Baltimore. He's seen 17 targets the past two weeks, and the loss of Smith is a big one for the Ravens defense. Corey Coleman found the end zone last week against Green Bay, but I'd be hesitant to roll him back out again. The Browns continue to use their tight ends in confounding ways for fantasy football purposes, so I'd avoid starting either of David Njoku or Seth DeValve.

Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. ET on FOX

 » Aaron Rodgers, QB: START
 » Jamaal Williams, RB: START
 » Aaron Jones, RB: SIT
 » Jordy Nelson, WR: FLEX
 » Davante Adams, WR: START
 » Randall Cobb, WR: FLEX
 » Packers D/ST: SIT

Aaron Rodgers is back, y'all. Unfortunately, he doesn't get a cushy welcoming party as he must face the Panthers stout defense in Carolina. However, that group has been showing some cracks of late, allowing an average of 285.3 passing yards and two touchdowns per game since their Week 11 bye. The last time Rodgers returned from a prolonged injury absence (2013, collarbone), he threw for 318 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. It's always dicey starting players returning from several weeks away, but Rodgers isn't most players. He's a low-end QB1 this week. Over the last three weeks, Jamaal Williams has accumulated 376 total yards (fourth-most in the league) and scored five touchdowns. He has a stranglehold on the featured back workload in an offense that's about to get a whole lot better with Rodgers under center, and is a solid start even in a tough matchup against a Panthers front the just held the Vikings backs to 60 yards on 16 carries. With Rodgers back, his entire corps of wideouts is back in the fantasy mix. Davante Adams remains the best wide receiver on the team, and his hot streak under Brett Hundley should continue with Rodgers' return. Jordy Nelson was the WR5 in fantasy before Rodgers' injury, and we know the duo owns a unique mind-meld, especially near the end zone. I'm comfortable flexing the veteran this week. Randall Cobb feels a bit riskier, but he might have the best on-paper matchup against the Panthers. He plays 72 percent of his snaps from the slot, and Carolina allows the 11th most receiving yards to slot wideouts, along with five touchdowns on the year (tied for third-most). The Packers defense should not be started on the road against Cam Newton.

 » Cam Newton, QB: START
 » Christian McCaffrey, RB: FLEX
 » Jonathan Stewart, RB: SIT
 » Devin Funchess, WR: START
 » Greg Olsen, TE: SIT
 » Panthers D/ST: SIT

Since his Week 11 bye, Cam Newton has averaged just 163 passing yards per game and thrown three touchdowns and one interception. He's averaged 50 rushing yards per game, though, keeping his fantasy production afloat. The good news for Newton is he now gets to face a Packers defense that allows the seventh-most passing yards per game and just let DeShone Kizer throw three touchdowns against them. Jonathan Stewart has two 100-plus yard games in his last four, and the Packers have allowed a back to rush for 95-plus yards in three straight games. Stewart feels like a risk, but with the Packers run defense having issues right now, Stewart could offer a reasonable floor. Christian McCaffrey is the better play, though, even in standard. He's second in the NFL in receptions among running backs, and the Packers have been gashed by receiving backs over the last month. They've allowed the most catches (37) and yards (281) to opposing backs over the last month. Devin Funchess accounts for over 46 percent of Newton's passing yards since Kelvin Benjamin was traded. He and Newton own the third-highest passer rating of a QB-WR duo in that span as well, with a sterling 130.8. Greg Olsen played 92 percent of the snaps last week but saw just one target. The team claims Olsen's role will expand soon, but he's simply too tough to trust as we're in the midst of the fantasy playoffs. Aaron Rodgers could be rusty and commit a few turnovers (he threw two picks in his first game back from a broken collarbone in 2013), but it's generally a best practice to not start defenses against him in fantasy.

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. ET on CBS

 » Jay Cutler, QB: SIT
 » Damien Williams, RB: SIT (INJURED)
 » Kenyan Drake, RB: FLEX
 » DeVante Parker, WR: SIT
 » Jarvis Landry, WR: FLEX
 » Kenny Stills, WR: FLEX
 » Julius Thomas, TE: SIT
 » Dolphins D/ST: SIT

I'm not buying into Jay Cutler after last week's impressive performance (263 yards, three touchdowns, 22.92 fantasy points). That was just his second game with over 15 fantasy points all season, and the Bills secondary has played over the last month allowing just over 200 passing yards per game with four touchdowns conceded and two interceptions. Kenyan Drake has been a fantasy revelation the last two weeks, compiling a whopping 334 total yards on 56 touches. That volume should hold this week, as Damien Williams still looks like he'll be out. Drake has a prime matchup against a Bills defense that continues to get smashed via the ground game (341 rushing yards allowed in the last two weeks, most in the league). DeVante Parker's 40 receiving yards last week were the most he's had since Week 10. He's not trustworthy. Jarvis Landry remains the safest play of this group, but don't overlook Kenny Stills in deeper leagues. He leads the team in targets (17) and receiving yards (116) over the last two weeks (since Cutler returned from his concussion). Julius Thomas has four or fewer targets in three of his last four games. There are better streaming options available. Tyrod Taylor has been a full participant in practice this week and should be back under center for the Bills. If he suffers a setback and has to sit, the Dolphins defense becomes a great streaming option against Joe Webb (Nathan Peterman is still in concussion protocol as I write this).

 » Tyrod Taylor, QB: SIT
 » LeSean McCoy, RB: START
 » Zay Jones, WR: SIT
 » Charles Clay, TE: SIT
 » Bills D/ST: STREAM

Normally, Tyrod Taylor at home would put him on the streaming radar. However, considering he's playing through a knee injury and facing an improving secondary (one touchdown, five interceptions the last two weeks), his typically safe floor feels frighteningly low, especially if he isn't as mobile as usual. LeSean McCoy is averaging 116 total yards per game since Week 10 and remains a weekly must-start. I'm out on the Bills pass-catchers, plain and simple. The Bills defense could be a solid start at home, especially if Jay Cutler turns back to his old self. He's been sacked twice in each of his last two games and has thrown at least one interception in all but three games this year.

Cincinnati Bengals at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET on CBS

 » Andy Dalton, QB: SIT
 » Bengals RBs: See below
 » A.J. Green, WR: START
 » Tyler Kroft, TE: SIT
 » Bengals D/ST: SIT

Andy Dalton and the Bengals just got smacked by the Bears and now must travel to face the Vikings, whose defense ranks in the top five in nearly every statistical category. With Joe Mixon (concussion) ruled OUT, Giovani Bernard will be a decent volume-based flex play, but expectations should be tempered. A.J. Green has 28 targets over the last two weeks and has seen seven-plus in each of his last five. He's good enough to produce against Xavier Rhodes, and the volume will help, too. The Vikings have fast, capable coverage linebackers and one of the best safeties in the game (Harrison Smith), so I'm not even considering Tyler Kroft. The Vikings offensive line lost three starters during last week's game and will be lining up a new left tackle for at least this week, but I'm still not bold enough to start the Bengals defense on the road. Odds are the Vikings control this game and that will severely limit any scoring upside for the Bengals from sacks/turnovers.

 » Case Keenum, QB: START
 » Latavius Murray, RB: START
 » Jerick McKinnon, RB: FLEX
 » Stefon Diggs, WR: START
 » Adam Thielen, WR: START
 » Kyle Rudolph, TE: SIT
 » Vikings D/ST: SITART

Case Keenum is averaging nearly 21 fantasy points per game since his Week 9 bye, and has multiple touchdown passes in all but one of those games. The last three quarterbacks to face the Bengals have all finished in the top-10 in weekly scoring, and two of them were DeShone Kizer and Mitchell Trubisky. The Vikings rushing attack stalled last week against the Panthers, but this should be a solid game for Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon to get back on track. Over the last four games, backs have averaged 4.94 yards per carry against the Bengals and no team has allowed more total yards to the position (781). Adam Thielen remains a weekly must-start as Keenum's top target. Thielen has nine-plus targets in seven of his last eight games, with three 100-yard games and four touchdowns in that span. Since returning from an early-season groin injury, Stefon Diggs has just one touchdown and has a high yardage total of 78 (both came in the same game). Diggs popped back up with 10 targets last week, an encouraging sign, but had averaged just six per game in the previous five. It's not unreasonable to sit Diggs if your bench is deep, but I'm keeping him in lineups this week as the Vikings should handle the Bengals with ease and could light up the scoreboard. Kyle Rudolph was seen at practice in a walking boot this week, so his status will need to be monitored closely. He was reported to be OUT earlier in the week, but on Saturday was upgraded to questionable?! I have no idea how to read this situation and would err on the side of caution and sit him. If Rudolph does end up being out, expect a target bump for Diggs and Thielen, but we shouldn't chase his backup. The Vikings are heavy home favorites against a team that could be on the precipice of a total collapse. They're a fine start.

Arizona Cardinals at Washington Redskins, 1 p.m. ET on FOX

 » Blaine Gabbert, QB: STREAM
 » Adrian Peterson, RB: SIT
 » Kerwynn Williams, RB: FLEX
 » Larry Fitzgerald, WR: START
 » Ricky Seals-Jones, TE: SIT
 » Cardinals D/ST: STREAM

Blaine Gabbert fell flat in a strong spot last week, posting 8.32 points against the Titans. Risk-taking streamers could consider Gabbert again this week, as Washington's defense has been generous to opposing passers. Five of the last six passers to face this defense have thrown two or more touchdowns, and four have passed for 297-plus yards. Adrian Peterson doesn't look like he'll play again this week, which opens up a prime opportunity for Kerwynn Williams. Williams has performed well in relief the last two weeks, managing 170 yards on 36 carries (4.7 ypc) and will face a Washington defense that has conceded the most rushing yards to opposing backs over the last four weeks (569) to go along with five total touchdowns. Gabbert's struggles last week impacted Larry Fitzgerald (as one would expect), though Fitz' volume (seven targets) helped him at least offer some sort of a floor (five catches, 44 yards). Washington is one of the best matchups for opposing fantasy tight ends in the league (second-most yards per game allowed, 64.7, tied third-most touchdowns allowed, eight), but the Cardinals don't have a locked-in No. 1 fantasy tight end. Ricky Seals-Jones crashed back to Earth with one catch for 19 yards on three targets. He's yet to be on the field for more than 28 percent of the offensive plays, though, so streaming him carries a ton of risk. Kirk Cousins has been sacked 12 times and committed five turnovers in the last three weeks. The defenses to face him in that span have ranked fourth, second and ninth in weekly scoring. Even on the road, the Cardinals are a decent streaming choice.

 » Kirk Cousins, QB: SIT
 » Samaje Perine, RB: FLEX
 » Jamison Crowder, WR: FLEX
 » Josh Doctson, WR: SIT
 » Vernon Davis, TE: SIT
 » Redskins D/ST: STREAM

Kirk Cousins' fantasy output has decreased in each of the last five weeks, resulting in a single-digit outing during the first week of the fantasy playoffs. The injuries on his offense seem like too much to overcome, and now he has to face a Cardinals defense that's allowing 195 passing yards per game with four touchdowns and five interceptions over the last four weeks. After ripping off 100-plus yards in each of his first two starts, Samaje Perine has disappointed mightily, combining for just 121 total yards in his last two games. The volume is there for Perine to have a chance to produce (he's averaged 22 touches per start), though the matchup against a tough Cardinals run defense (75.8 yards per game allowed, fifth-fewest). As the Washington offense has struggled, so too has Jamison Crowder. He figures to be in the better matchup here, as Josh Doctson is more likely to draw Patrick Peterson's coverage, but Arizona has only allowed two touchdowns to slot wideouts on the season. With lines of 5-67 and 3-34 in his last two games, it's understandable if you have trust issues with starting Crowder. Personally, I'd probably break ties against starting him, as I have a bad feeling this unit is spiraling the wrong direction as injuries mount. I'm sitting Josh Doctson against Patrick Peterson. With Jordan Reed on injured reserve, Vernon Davis is now officially the guy for the rest of the season. Of course, he's been "the guy" over the last three weeks and has only managed four catches. Blaine Gabbert has been sacked 15 times the last two weeks, and the Washington defense has two-plus sacks in every game but two this year. They'll be a fine streaming option at home.

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, 1:00 p.m. ET on FOX

 » Nick Foles, QB: STREAM
 » Eagles RBs: See below
 » Alshon Jeffery WR: START
 » Nelson Agholor, WR: SIT
 » Zach Ertz, TE: START
 » Eagles D/ST: START

Those reeling from losing Carson Wentz could turn right to Nick Foles as a solid stop-gap streamer. The Giants are tied with a league-worst 26 passing touchdowns allowed, and Foles is a capable veteran who knows Doug Pederson's system. Jay Ajayi led the backfield in playing time (48 percent) and touches (16) last week and could be a nice upside play in the flex. The Giants allow the most scrimmage yards per game to the position, 161.9. Corey Clement and LeGarrette Blount are just too risky to start in the playoffs with up-and-down workloads. It's tough to project how a backup will distribute his passing targets when starting under center, but the safest plays here are Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz. Nelson Agholor has 23 targets over the last two weeks, but those are his only two games with year with double-digit looks. Jeffery will have a favorable matchup out wide, while Ertz gets to face the league's worst team at covering tight ends (a team he beat for 55 yards and a touchdown when they played earlier this year). I'm not totally against starting Agholor this week based on his recent run of production, but I have enough concern to try and lean against it. Even on the road, the Eagles defense should be a top-10 play against the Giants moribund offense.

 » Eli Manning, QB: SIT
 » Giants RBs: SIT
 » Sterling Shepard, WR: SIT
 » Evan Engram, TE: START
 » Giants D/ST: SIT

The Giants just need this season to end. The only possible starters on this offense from a fantasy perspective are Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram. Shepard has managed just five catches for 72 yards over his last two games since returning from a hamstring injury, and presents a massive risk in the fantasy playoffs. Engram has been picking up the slack with 11 catches for 153 yards and a touchdown in that same span. He also has seven of his last eight games, which is volume worth trusting at the tight end position.

New York Jets at New Orleans Saints, 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS

 » Bryce Petty, QB: SIT
 » Matt Forte, RB: SIT
 » Bilal Powell, RB: SIT
 » Robby Anderson, WR: LOW-END FLEX
 » Jermaine Kearse, WR: SIT
 » Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE: SIT
 » Jets D/ST: SIT

We in the Fantasy Stronghold here at owe Jets fans an apology. For much of the offseason, we derided this offense in fantasy with the hashtag #NeverJets, only to have them throw that in our face thanks to the great play of Josh McCown, Robby Anderson, and for a brief spell, Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Well, with McCown now on injured reserve and Bryce Petty set to start, the era of #NeverJets is now officially upon us. The only possible player I'd consider for the Jets on the road against a strong Saints team is Anderson, as he performed well with Petty last year (averaged 11.67 PPR points per game). However, Anderson is still playing with a hamstring injury and will likely draw coverage from Marshon Lattimore. We know Anderson has big-play potential, but this game could be a total disaster for the Jets and that worries me.

 » Drew Brees, QB: LOW-END START
 » Mark Ingram, RB: START
 » Alvin Kamara, RB: START
 » Michael Thomas, WR: START
 » Ted Ginn, WR: SIT
 » Saints D/ST: START

The Jets present a great matchup for Drew Brees at home, but there are legitimate reasons to worry about his fantasy outlook. The Saints are huge favorites, but this remains a run-first team and Brees only has four games with multiple touchdown passes since the team's Week 5 bye, while averaging 270 passing yards per game. If Alvin Kamara (who's set to return) and Mark Ingram get all of the work done on the ground, Brees could sink plenty of fantasy playoff hopes. Speaking of Kamara and Ingram, there's never any reason to take them out of starting lineups. The Jets run defense has been one of the team's best units this season, but the Saints running backs are matchup-proof. Michael Thomas remains one of the most consistent wide receivers in all of fantasy, though he's been surging a bit with touchdowns in back-to-back games. He hasn't seen fewer than eight targets in a game since Week 6 and is a solid start as usual. I'd sit Ted Ginn in what should be a blowout for the Saints. Bryce Petty threw an interception once every 19 attempts last season, and the Saints get to face him on their home turf. They're one of the top defensive plays of the week.

*-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar or "Like" his page on Facebook for more NFL and fantasy analysis. *

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