There are certain players, no matter what the matchup, that you start every week. Guys like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham should never see the bench unless they are hurt or on bye.
But there are always certain excellent fantasy options that have brutal matchups and are hard to recommend for fantasy owners. Let’s take a look at one player at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end that will be tough for owners to sit but have limited upsides due to a tough matchup.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Opponent: Carolina Panthers
Analysis: There are a lot of very good quarterbacks with tough matchups, but none are a tougher call than Brady.
On one hand, owners will be optimistic after he torched the Pittsburgh Steelers for 432 passing yards and four touchdowns in Week 4. His main weapons in the passing game, Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, are healthy, and he has shown chemistry with rookie Aaron Dobson in recent weeks.
But goodness, this is a brutal matchup. The Panthers allow just 201 passing yards per game (tied fourth) and haven’t yet allowed more than 15 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in any one game.
When confronted with these sort of brutal matchups, trust the trends. This year, Brady has trended down, and while I think he’ll have a big second half of the season, you shouldn’t trust him against one of the league’s best defenses.
Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
Opponent: New York Jets
Analysis: The New York Jets give up the fewest rushing yards per game in the NFL (73.8) and allow a paltry 11.1 fantasy points to opposing running backs per week. Now imagine those 11.1 points split between Spiller and Jackson, and you have a pretty good idea of what their upside is this week.
At this point, Spiller is one of fantasy’s biggest disappointments and continues to be unpredictable, rushing for 23 yards on Sunday a week after going off for 116 yards on the ground.
Meanwhile, after registering double-digit fantasy points in five straight weeks to start the season, Jackson has done it just twice in Buffalo’s last five games. If you are going to start one of these players it is Jackson, but with a brutal matchup there is no need to roll the dice on either.
Verdict: Sit Both
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Opponent: Cleveland Browns
Analysis: Why in the world would anyone think of sitting Green? How crazy would you have to be to sit a player that has reached double-digit points in five straight weeks?
Wait, what’s that? He’ll be shadowed by Joe Haden this week, who held him to seven receptions for 51 yards earlier this season?
Oh, I see.
Let’s take a look at what the top receiver from each opponent of the Browns have done from a fantasy perspective:
- Mike Wallace: One reception for 15 yards on five targets.
- Torrey Smith: Seven receptions for 85 yards on 13 targets.
- Greg Jennings: Three receptions for 43 yards on six targets.
- A.J. Green: Seven receptions for 51 yards on 15 targets.
- Steve Johnson: Two receptions for 19 yards on three targets.
- Calvin Johnson: Three receptions for 25 yards on eight targets.
- Jordy Nelson: Five receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown on six targets.
- Dwayne Bowe: One reception for eight yards on two targets.
- Torrey Smith: Five receptions for 78 yards on eight targets.
I still think you have to start Green given his current hot streak—and he’s always just a touchdown away from a solid afternoon—but Haden severely limits his upside this week.
Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos
Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs
Analysis: The Chiefs are giving up a remarkable 2.1 fantasy points to opposing tight ends per week, easily the best mark in the NFL. If there was ever a week to bench Thomas, it would be this one.
But given the way he’s started the season—and given how incredibly thin the tight end position is in general—there is never a week to sit Thomas. Besides, the Chiefs have only faced two top-notch tight ends this year—Jason Witten and Jordan Cameron—and Cameron had four catches for 81 yards against them.
But honestly, people—you can’t sit a guy that has nine touchdowns in nine games and is a key member of the league’s best passing game. He’s becoming a matchup-proof player, and it’s far better to take your chances with Thomas this week than some scrub you add on waivers.
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