In this article we assume that you are starting your WR1s regardless of the matchup.
Each week we will analyze the defenses and provide our take on which WRs you should start and which should be benched based on matchups with stout run defenses, stubbed toes, potential weather problems, conduct code violations etc.
The following Defenses are allowing 16 or fewer fantasy points per game to opposing pass catchers (over the past 5 weeks): Miami, Cincinnati, Seattle, Arizona, Chicago and Pittsburgh. It’s worth noting that the stout secondaries in Seattle and Pittsburgh will both be missing key pieces in week 15. Steeler shutdown CB Ike Taylor will miss at least two games with a leg injury elevating Miles Austin to solid WR2 status. Brandon Browner dropped his appeal and will miss the final 4 games of the season after testing positive for PEDs (fellow CB Richard Sherman will play as he intends to appeal). An injured Stevie Johnson is just a desperation play as Seattle CB Richard Sherman has allowed just 1 TD on the season. Despite Patrick Peterson impressive season, he should not be left alone with Megatron. Chicago held A-Rod to just 219 yards and one TD in the week 2 meeting in Lambeau and the Pack will likely be without Jordy Nelson in the rematch with Greg Jennings expected to get the start in a very difficult matchup.
On the flip side, these defenses (Tampa, Houston, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Oakland, and Dallas) have been shredded by passing games and are allowing 27 or more fantasy points per game to opposing WRs (over the past 5 weeks). Marques Colston / Lance Moore should bounce back this week against a very generous Tampa secondary. Reggie Wayne, Donnie Avery and TY Hilton are all worth considering against a Houston secondary that is ranked worst in the NFL in fantasy PPG allowed to WRs over the past 5 games (Jonathan Joseph is far from 100%). Mike Wallace could build on his 2-TD performance last week against a Cowboy secondary that has regressed big time in the 2nd half of the season.
A few big name pass catchers will be dealing with bumps & bruises in week 15. The Packers Jordy Nelson will miss his 2nd straight game after reinjuring his hamstring in week 13. Greg Jennings and James Jones should see additional targets but the difficult matchup with Chicago limits both to just WR3 status. Dwayne Bowe’s anemic season could be in jeopardy as he’s been ruled out for week 15 with a rib injury. Jon Baldwin will assume the #1 WR role but is just a desperation play with Brady Quinn under center. Dez Bryant’s fractured finger had some suggesting his season was over earlier in the week but he has returned to practiced and seems likely to be in uniform against Pittsburgh. Cecil Shorts missed week 14 with a concussion but the 2nd year breakout star has been cleared and is likely to return for the matchup with a Miami defense that has been stingy to opposing WRs over the past month. Sidney Rice suffered a foot injury and was in a walking boot forcing him to miss Wednesday’s practice. Despite scoring 5 TDs over the past six weeks, fantasy owners should look elsewhere in week 15 as Rice will be hobbled and faces an emerging Buffalo pass defense.
As always, injuries will surely play a role in your lineup decisions. Be sure to check out our interactive INJURY REPORT with fantasy advice to stay up to date on all of the fantasy relevant injuries.
Wide Receiver Upgrades
Steve Smith (@ San Diego): The 33-year-old WR from Utah has posted back to back 100 yard performance and could be primed to top the century mark again this week as the Panthers face a favorable matchup against a slow-footed and aging Charger secondary that ranks 22nd against the pass (243 YPG).
Smith is averaging 77 YPG but has just 2 touchdowns on the season. Fantasy owners should ride the hot hand this week as the Chargers are allowing the 8th most fantasy PPG to WRs over the past 5 weeks.
Lance Moore (vs Tampa Bay): The 7th year wideout from Toledo layed an egg in week 14 against the G-men as he finished with just 1 catch for 26 yards. On the season, Moore is averaging 71 YPG with four touchdowns and had topped 50 yards in 5 straight before last week’s dud. This week the Saints will be fighting for their playoff lives in a matchup with Tampa’s league worst pass defense (312 YPG). Moore exploded for 9 catches and 121 yards in the October meeting with Tampa when they still had CB Eric Wright (now suspended) and Aquib Talib (traded to the Pats. The downfield threat should be positioned for a major bounce back performance in a dream matchup.
Josh Gordon (vs Washington): The rookie supplemental pick from Baylor is locked in as Brandon Weeden’s go-to WR as he leads the team with 33 targets since the week 10 BYE. Gordon has amassed 14 catches for 202 yards over the past two weeks and appears positioned to approach the 100 yard mark again this week against a Redskin secondary that is allowing the 3rd most fantasy PPG to opposing wideouts on the season. Washington’s 31st ranked pass defense is allowing 289 YPG and have yielded a league high 27 TDs through the air.
Wide Receiver Downgrades
Kenny Britt (vs NY Jets): Britt is an ultra talented WR but multiple off the field issues and a slow recovery from an ACL injury and pedestrian QB play have sapped his production before his week 14 breakout performance against Indy (8 catches for 143 yards).
In 11 games, the 4th year WR from Rutgers is averaging just 47 YPG with 3 TDs. A likely meeting with shutdown CB Antonio Cromartie makes Britt a player to avoid unless you are completely strapped by injuries. The Jets pass defense is ranked 3rd (196 YPG) and has allowed the 4th fewest fantasy PPG to WRs on the season. Britt is always a threat in the red zone but is a major risk in a very difficult week 15 matchup.
Stevie Johnson (vs Seattle in Toronto): The 26-year-old WR from Kentucky signed a 5-year $36 million contract extension this offseason but has not done much to justify the payday (of course sub par Ryan Fitzpatrick under center is not helping matters). Johnson is averaging 60 YPG with just 5 TDs through 13 games (just one TD since week 7). A showdown with physical CB Richard Sherman will also not help SJ snap out of his season long funk. Sherman held Larry Fitzgerald to 1 catch for 2 yards in week 14 and has allowed just one TD all season. The Seattle pass defense ranks 4th against the pass (196 YPG) and they have allowed the fewest TDs through the air (12). This figures to be a low scoring game leaving Johnson as a lower tier WR3 best left on the fantasy pine.
Torrey Smith (vs Denver): The 2nd year WR from Maryland has been slumping recently as he’s been held to 33 yards or less in three of the last four games. A matchup with Champ Bailey is not exactly the recipe for a slump buster. The Broncos 7th ranked pass defense (216 YPG) paired with pressure from Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil will likely give the mediocre Joe Flacco fits. Denver has allowed the 10th fewest fantasy PPG to opposing WRs over the past 5 weeks. Smith does have 7 TDs in his sophomore season but Bailey has allowed just 1 score all season in his coverage. This is another potential dud performance for the slumping Terrapin.
Wide Receiver Sleepers:
Michael Crabtree (@ New England): With Colin Kaepernick under center, the 10th overall pick of the 2009 draft has enjoyed a productive 2nd half of the season. He has totaled 16 catches for 194 yards over the past two weeks
Crabtree has evolved into the 49ers surefire #1 WR with CK at QB as he’s seen 35 targets (next highest is Vernon Davis with 19). He is positioned to produce solid WR3 numbers in week 15 against New England’s 29th ranked pass defense (276 YPG). Crabtree lines up in the slot enough that he should avoid CB Aquib Talib for most of the day elevating his fantasy potential in Foxboro.
Brian Hartline (vs Indianapolis): The 26-year-old PPR favorite has had a mediocre season when you eliminate his monster 253 yard performance against Arizona in week 4 (only reached 100 yards once since that fantasy game for the ages). On the season, the Buckeye alum is averaging 5 catches for 71 YPG but has only reached pay dirt once all season. Despite his pedestrian production in recent weeks, the matchup with Jacksonville’s 24th ranked pass defense (249 YPG) could bring Hartline back onto the WR3 radar especially in PPR leagues.
TY Hilton (@ Houston): The rookie speedster from Florida International has posted four 100 yard games this season with three TDs over the past month. He should produce solid numbers this week against a struggling Texan defense. Over the past 5 weeks, Houston is allowing the most fantasy PPG to opposing WRs. Hilton plays the slot more than Avery and the Texans recently lost slot CB Brice McCain to a foot injury. Hilton’s big play ability (averaging 16 YPC) makes him a solid option with Andrew Luck firing on all cylinders.