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Spoiler Alert! Favorable Matchups to Avoid

Lucas. The Replacements. Me, Myself and Irene. Hollywood is full of underdogs who finally had enough and made it known, "Don’t test me!" It seems the script is now taking effect in the 2018 NFL with teams such as Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Arizona, and yes, even Oakland, that they are not just going to lay down and be trampled.

Whether it be Arizona going into Green Bay and beating the Packers outright or Oakland beating the Steelers last week, where we once saw teams seemingly tanking earlier in the season, we now see them trying to play spoiler lately. Sure, it is great to see teams actually put forth an effort to win but it may not be so good for your attempt to stream players against them the way we had originally thought. Players like Phillip Lindsay and Philip Rivers in plus matchups last week did not pan out to the monster performances we expected and instead left us hanging our heads in wonderment of what happened. Rivers came in under 12 points and Lindsay, against a bad San Francisco defense, only got us 15, mainly thanks to a rushing touchdown.

Setting your lineup is not as simple as finding the "bad" teams and streaming an offensive player or a DST against them. Sometimes you have to look further into the stats to make sure the perceived advantage actually is an advantage because it is not always the case, especially late in the season. Let's look at some potential spoilers and players that could let us down in favorable matchups.

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Pushovers Pushing Back

Tevin Coleman has a juicy game at home against an Arizona defense who is ranked fourth-worst in points allowed to the running back position but don’t forget, Tevin Coleman has been quite bad this season. In 13 games, he is only averaging 10 rushes per game with 138 rushes for only 559 yards on those carries. Is this the type of player, especially in the playoffs, you want to trust? Not in my book. Look to a player who, although seen as a disappointment this season, is still a much better bet this week. David Johnson, in the same game, has 220 rushes this season for 810 yards and six touchdowns while adding an additional 340 yards and two touchdowns on 43 receptions.

While the above example may seem relatively easy to determine, what about those decisions which may be less cut and dry?

Let’s take a scenario in which two of these teams play each other this week. The Raiders travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. The Bengals are coming off a hard-fought loss against the Chargers while the Raiders are coming off their stunning win over the Steelers. While both of these offenses have been inconsistent, is there a reason to play either one of these defensive units? Jeff Driskel is at quarterback for the Bengals and A.J. Green is out for the season at wide receiver, but the Raiders defense has only garnered 11 sacks, 10 interceptions and three recovered fumbles all year. They have also not given up fewer than 14 points in any game this season while allowing over 35 in three different games, which does not help you if you are in leagues who offer negative points for defenses.

On the other side of the ball, the Raiders offense has been getting better and the Cincinnati defense has been steadily getting worse as 2018 draws to a close. And no, it is not all due to Hue Jackson’s arrival. In the Week 14 matchup against a Steelers defense which is ranked 11th-worst against fantasy quarterbacks, Derek Carr put up 320 passing yards and two touchdowns despite having no real weapons at wide receiver or running back to work with. Now, he faces the Bengals and their defense which ranks second-worst and we can see an even better game. This means that although both teams are bad on offense, the defenses in this game are still units to avoid playing.

In another game featuring a bad team, you may try to exploit is the Buccaneers traveling to Baltimore to play the Ravens who are hungry and looking for a win to stay in the playoff hunt. The new hotness right now is Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards. But do we really want to play them? Well, in a plus matchup last week against the 31st ranked rush defense in the NFL, Gus Edwards busted for 67 rushing yards on 16 carries. The other problem with Edwards is that he is not a pass catcher as he did not even receive a target against the Chiefs last week.

The other player to be cautious when considering is Lamar Jackson. We know he can run the ball, this is for certain, but there are two things he sorely needs to learn. The first is to hold on to the ball as he has 11 fumbles total this season and nine of those have come in the last three weeks as the starter. This is not good for someone who throws for under 200 yards a game, especially since the rushing yards can be fluky. He is going to have to eventually start throwing to help the Ravens win and make the needed playoff push they are looking for so John Harbaugh can save his job. A bad first half could result in Joe Flacco under center, so there is more risk than usual with Jackson.

In a final example, look to Buffalo against the Lions this weekend. Matthew Stafford has been a disappointment all year and since the trade of Golden Tate, nothing has gone right for Detroit. From Marvin Jones Jr. going on injured reserve to Kerryon Johnson missing time, leaving a devastated running game in his wake. Kenny Golladay is this season’s young stud, but he cannot do it himself and this has been apparent including last week against a terrible Cardinals team in which the Lions put up 14 points. No, the Bills are not a talented offensive team, but as far as their defense goes, this is a different story. The Bills are ranked number one overall against fantasy quarterbacks and number three against fantasy wide receivers, meaning a lot of points are not going to be coming the way of your team if you try to start a player against them based solely on win-loss record.

Looking forward to the matchups against some of these bad teams, it is going to be tempting to play against them, but you have to be careful. Don’t base your lineup decisions solely due to matchup and forget about the players who got you there in the first place.

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