Each week of the regular season in "Fantasy Audibles" I'll use the SAP Player Comparison Tool to help you make the right decisions when it comes to difficult lineup dilemmas. The tool uses several factors to help make an educated suggestion, including past performance, matchup, consistency, upside, and intangibles. It finally appears as if the tool is fully operational (though not 100 percent reliable), so I'll use a combination of the tool and old-fashioned fantasy methods to help make a determination on four difficult Week 14 matchup decisions below. Let's take a look at the start/sit questions haunting some of our fantasy readers and try to help them set a winning lineup.
Who should I start at QB: Matt Ryan or Andrew Luck?
Matt Ryan was enjoying early-season MVP talk as he piled up fantasy points with reckless abandon. However, Ryan has failed to score 19-plus fantasy points in each of his last three games after crossing that threshold in seven of his first nine games. He's facing a Rams defense that boasts a good fantasy points against rating but has been whooped by elite quarterbacks (Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, etc.), so that ranking is a bit of a misnomer. However, more concerning for Ryan's fantasy outlook this week is the combination of Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu being injured (both missed practice Wednesday), and the Rams featuring an abysmal run defense. Over the last month, Los Angeles allows roughly 5.95 yards per carry on the ground and has conceded four total touchdowns to the position. With two of Atlanta's top pass catchers ailing and opportunities available in the ground game, the Falcons could turn to a run-heavy approach -- especially in a game they are expected to win.
Luck's first game back from a concussion was a clinic in quarterbacking, as he dropped dimes all over the Jets' woebegone secondary en route to a QB1 finish on the week. Next up, his task gets tougher as he has to tango with the Texans sturdy pass defense in Week 14. The Texans allow just 208.4 passing yards per game this year (fifth-best in the NFL), though Luck managed 252 the last time these teams squared off. That was without Donte Moncrief, however, whose return has been a big boost to the Indianapolis passing attack. Between Moncrief, T.Y. Hilton and his talented tight end duo, Luck has a bevy of ways to beat opposing defenses through the air. Add in the fact that this matchup is in Indianapolis, and everything is coming up roses for Luck.
Verdict: This one is pretty cut and dry in favor of Luck. His ceiling is usually higher than Ryan's anyways, but the fact that the fantasy trajectories of these quarterbacks are pointing in opposite directions makes this one a landslide in favor of Luck.
Who should I start at RB: LeGarrette Blount or Thomas Rawls?
For those who waited to draft running backs, LeGarrette Blount has been a revelation. His 13 rushing touchdowns lead the league, though he could find himself in a tough spot to score on Monday night against the Ravens. Baltimore allows the fewest rushing yards per game (65.8) and has conceded a league-low three rushing touchdowns to backs in 2016. The Patriots are at home and expected to win, but this game should be close which doesn't favor Blount as much. Typically, he's been at his best in fantasy when salting away leads and earning numerous scoring chances. If the Ravens keep this game competitive, the Patriots offense will run through Tom Brady's right arm, and not Blount's legs. That could turn more touches to Dion Lewis and James White, further depressing Blount's upside.
Thomas Rawls, now the unquestioned king of the Seattle backfield, is entering an interesting matchup against the Packers, as it's been a tale of two seasons for their run defense. In Weeks 1-5, they allowed a league-best 42.8 rushing yards per game, but since Week 6 that figure has plummeted to 118 per game (23rd). However, as Rich Hribar of Rotoworld noted, they've allowed 60-plus yards to just two individual backs in their past seven games. Working in Rawls' favor is the fact that Green Bay will be without Nick Perry (injury) and Mike Pennel (suspension) for this game, potentially weakening the run defense. Perhaps the most appealing part of Rawls' outlook is the lack of competition he has for touches. The team only really turned to Troymaine Pope and George Farmer last week was the game was out of hand. If this game remains competitive as expected, Rawls could be in line for a sizeable amount of opportunities.
Verdict: While Blount has been great in fantasy this season, there are too many factors working against him this week to trust over Rawls.
Who should I start at TE: Delanie Walker or Ladarius Green?
Delanie Walker has, as expected, been one of the most consistent tight ends in fantasy. He's scored a touchdown in three of his last four games and owns a 23 percent target share in that span. Next up for Walker is a date with the dominant Denver defense. Denver is one of four teams to allow a catch rate under 60 percent to the position while allowing just 52.8 yards per game. Only two touchdowns have been scored against the Broncos by tight ends, too. Walker's target volume and attachment to a high-powered offense are reasons for optimism, but the Denver defense is nothing to trifle with, considering the fantasy playoffs are on the line.
We finally got a glimpse of what a healthy Ladarius Green looks like in the Steelers offense last week when he racked up 110 yards and a touchdown on six catches (11 targets). The Steelers are using Green's size-speed combo to make him a downfield mismatch, as he has four receptions of over 30 yards in the last two weeks. This sets up perfectly for his matchup with the Bills, who allow the most yards per target (9.9) to tight ends in the NFL. With Green emerging as the second option in the Pittsburgh passing attack after Antonio Brown and heading into a great matchup, his outlook is sky high.
Verdict: Walker remains the safer play, but it's worth chasing Green's upside in a great spot. His playing time is trending up, as he was on the field for as many snaps in Week 13 as he had the previous three weeks combined. Denver's defense will also be a great litmus test for Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense. While that will be fun to watch from a real football perspective, it carries a bit too much risk in the fantasy postseason.