Playoffs?! Yes, playoffs. For most of you, Week 14 means the first week of the playoffs and these decisions become even more important. I was traveling last week and hope my absence didn’t make or break your season. I hope not but also selfishly hope you at least noticed I was gone. More than anything, these recommendations should serve as a resource and tool for you when making those tough calls in your lineup. You can always find me on Twitter (@eweiner_bball – a silly name, I know) if you need help with any of your crucial calls. No more chit-chat: Let’s examine Week 14 with a microscope on key players at each position.

Starts Record: 115/174 (66.09%)
Sits Record: 113/155 (72.9%)
Sleeper Record: 39/68 (57.4%)
*Note: These statistics do not include injured players or players who are essentially a wash and did not really help you or hurt you if you started them.
**Assume .5 PPR scoring for any reference to a player’s season-long ranking or in-week ranking

Quarterback

Start: Alex Smith vs. Oakland

Smith exploded as the overall QB1 last week and gets another ideal matchup against the Raiders sieve-like pass defense. These teams combined for 61 total points when they met in Week 7 and this game projects as another shootout with the third-highest implied total of the week (47). Smith shredded Oakland for 342/3 on the road in that one and now gets to play them at home. Smith has become a bit of a boom/bust option this year but this week is setting up for a boom.

Start: Josh McCown @ Denver

Even for someone who’s touted McCown in this column several times, this fact is hard to comprehend.

While starting McCown on the road against Denver might be hard to stomach, Denver has allowed the most passing touchdowns in the league while McCown has lived off touchdowns all season long, sneakily rushing for five on the season. Averaging more points than Drew Brees, McCown is officially in the circle of trust until further notice. He’s still a top-12 option this week. Per Graham Barfield, over the past five weeks the Broncos have allowed a passing gain of 20+ yards on 14% of passing attempts, second-worst in the league.

Other Recommended Starts:

Philip Rivers vs. Washington: Per Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar, Washington has allowed top-five QBs in four of its last seven games while Rivers is coming off three straight QB1 performances. If we like Keenan, Melvin, and Hunter Henry‘s matchups this week, it makes sense to like Rivers as well. Another top-12 week is on the docket. 

Sit: Cam Newton vs. Minnesota

With everyone worrying about whether to bench Russell Wilson (I wouldn’t unless you have a clear-cut better option), Cam is actually who I’m most worried about this week. With Greg Olsen questionable and Devin Funchess sure to lock horns with Xavier Rhodes, Cam won’t have any useful receiving options outside Christian McCaffrey, which could result in many stalled drives. Minnesota has allowed the fourth-fewest points to opposing quarterbacks, but even more notably the Vikings have allowed the fewest quarterback rushing yards on the year (56). That’s concerning for Cam who has averaged 8.6 rushing points per game over the last seven games, using his legs to boost a shaky passing floor/ceiling combo. Cam’s only a 2QB-league option for me this week.

Sit: Kirk Cousins @ Los Angeles Chargers

Full disclosure, I’d be playing Cousins in the 2QB-league where I have him if I wasn’t on bye (sorry for the humble brag). But it’s important we considerably lower expectations this week against a Chargers defense that’s playing its best defense of the season and has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. Cousins has only been a top-12 QB in two of his last six games and none of his pass catchers have particularly enticing matchups. He’s more of a 2QB-league option this week if you have a safer option like Rivers.

Streamers/Sleepers:

Jimmy Garoppolo @ Houston: Maybe it’s not ideal to stream Jimmy G in the first round of the playoffs, but he’s a legit streaming and cheap DFS option against a Houston defense allowing the second-most points to quarterbacks. He managed 293 yards and 7.9 YPA against a much tougher Chicago defense last week and SF plays at an elevated pace to raise his numbers. 260 yards and 2 touchdowns isn’t unrealistic. 

Wide Receiver

Start: Sterling Shepard vs. Dallas

The Giants have smartened up and announced Eli Manning as the Week 14 starter. What a world. We have a limited sample, but Shepard has hung 7/44, 5/70 and 11/142 when Shepard and Eli have played together without Odell Beckham Jr. in the lineup. Dallas has been shredded by slot options all year long and even gave up the aforementioned 7/44 to Shepard in Week 1. Shepard should be locked into lineups with a shot at 10+ high-efficiency targets in a great matchup. Dallas is allowing the third-most points to receivers on the year. It’s worth pointing out Shepard didn’t practice on Wednesday with a hamstring injury, so make sure to monitor his status throughout the week.

Start: Josh Gordon vs. Green Bay

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Gordon looked #back last week and parlayed 11 targets into 4/85 against Casey Hayward‘s sticky shadow coverage. As pointed out in a tweet below, he became only the second receiver on the year (along with Odell) to reach 85 yards against the Chargers, and, per Rotoworld’s Evan Silva, Hayward said he was his toughest cover on the year despite always facing off with a team’s number one receiver. The Packers are an inviting matchup for receivers and just placed solid rookie corner Kevin King on IR (shoulder). This is a scrumptious spot for arguably the league’s hungriest receiver.

Other Recommended Start:

Michael Crabtree @ Kansas City: Not revolutionary but just a reminder to insert Crabtree back into your lineup coming off his one-game suspension. Kansas City will be without Marcus Peters (suspension) and has nobody capable of slowing down Crabtree, while his target share will be elevated if Amari Cooper (concussion, ankle) is limited or can’t go. I’ll have him in most of my DFS lineups.
Larry Fitzgerald vs. Tennessee: Incredibly the per-game WR9 on the year, Larry Fitz gets a gorgeous matchup against a Titans defense that’s struggled in the slot and will likely be without top corner Logan Ryan (concussion). There’s no reason to bench Fitz as Gabbert has shown a willingness to target him relentlessly.

Sit: Devin Funchess vs. Minnesota

Xavier Rhodes reminded us why he’s one of the best shutdown corners in the league by holding Julio Jones to 2/24 on six targets last week. In case you’d forgotten, Devin Funchess is not Julio Jones. Funchess has been great lately but hasn’t had to battle with a true shutdown corner while compiling those numbers. Here’s betting Rhodes holds him below 50 yards and out of the end zone.

Sit: Josh Doctson @ Los Angeles Chargers

The stellar play of corners Trevor Williams and Casey Hayward means the Chargers have allowed the 11th-fewest points to receivers this season.

Doctson looks like he belongs on the field, but he’s no Odell Beckham or even Josh Gordon at this stage of his career. With very little else on the outside, Doctson will either have to tussle with Hayward’s shadow coverage or get an equal dosage of Hayward and Williams. I’m not chasing that and neither should you.

Other Recommended Sits:

Doug Baldwin @ Jacksonville: This is only if you have a clear-cut better option, but Baldwin’s matchup is concerning against this shutdown defense. Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye’s stellar play has overshadowed slot corner Aaron Colvin, who has held slot options below expectation all year long. Baldwin is more of a boom/bust WR3 this week as opposed to a high-end WR2. 

Streamers/Sleepers:

Marquise Goodwin @ Houston: Maybe Goodwin has even surpassed streamer status. Known purely as a deep threat, Goodwin corralled all eight of his targets for 99 yards in Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start. Houston presents a much better matchup and has specifically been stung by speedy options throughout the season. Goodwin is a good bet to lead the Niners in targets again on Sunday.

Running Back

Start: Lamar Miller vs. San Francisco

Locked into volume, Miller is averaging 21 touches per game since rookie D’Onta Foreman lost his season to a torn achilles. At home as a 3-point favorite, Miller has a juicy matchup against a San Francisco defense that ranks bottom-five in rushing yards, receiving yards and fantasy points allowed to running backs. Houston may lean heavily on its running game this week with Bruce Ellington (hamstring), Will Fuller (ribs), CJ Fiedorowicz (concussion) and Braxton Miller (concussion) all potentially out or limited. With guaranteed volume and red zone usage, Miller is at least a top-14 option this week.

Start: Giovani Bernard vs. Chicago

On a short week, it’s unlikely Joe Mixon is able to clear the concussion protocol. Per Rotoworld, Bernard played every single snap after Mixon left last week’s game and turned his resulting 15 touches into 96 yards. Mixon had 8 touches prior to leaving the game. With Jeremy Hill (ankle) on IR, Bernard is in line for 20+ touches in a game the Bengals are six-point home favorites. Though it’s been a solid run defense, Chicago has allowed the ninth-most rushing touchdowns on the year. Bernard is a solid RB2 if Mixon sits and he’s trending in that direction after missing Wednesday’s practice.

Other Recommended Start:

Theo Riddick at Tampa Bay (If Ameer Abdullah sits): With Abdullah out last week Riddick saw season highs in snaps and touches (14) while finding the end zone once. With Stafford (hand) banged up, it would make sense for the Lions to get the ball out of his hands quickly and focus on the running game. Packers RB Jamaal Williams had been averaging 3.2 YPC as a starter before exploding for 21/113/5.4/1 against the Bucs crumbling run defense last week. Even in standard leagues, Riddick will be a low-end RB2 if Abdullah sits. 

Sit: CJ Anderson vs. New York Jets

I don’t recommend chasing CJA’s volume and numbers from last week. He’d been losing snaps and touches to Devontae Booker for five straight weeks and we’ve since found out that Booker had the flu last week and therefore played considerably less. The Broncos are 1-point underdogs despite playing at home and the offense just seems broken without a true quarterback leading the way. The Jets have allowed the ninth-fewest points to running backs.

Sit: Mike Davis @ Jacksonville

It’s pretty clear Davis is the best pure runner in the Seahawks backfield, a welcome deviation from the dumpster fire headlined by Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls. Davis makes for a nice pickup with a date against the Rams struggling run defense in Week 15, but Jacksonville has seemingly fixed its run deficiencies by adding Marcel Dareus. In seven games before adding Dareus the Jags allowed 5.27 YPC and four rushing touchdowns, but in the five games since adding him the Jags have allowed just one touchdown and 3.39 YPC. Davis saw 20 touches last week but Seattle led for nearly the entirety of the game. This week Seattle enters as 3-point underdogs in a game with a very low implied point total (39).

Streamers/Sleepers:

Frank Gore @ Buffalo: No team has given up more points and touchdowns to running backs than the Bills have. Getting gashed on the ground since trading difference-making NT Marcel Dareus to the Jags, it’s unlikely the Bills maintain a lead with Tyrod Taylor (knee) questionable and likely banged up. With Taylor’s status up in the air the spread has yet to be released for this game, but it’s notable Gore has averaged 19.1 touches per game in one-score games and only 12 touches per game in blowouts. Old Man Frank impressively ran for 4.7 ypc against the Jags improved run defense last week. Gore makes for an intriguing cost-saving option who’s sure to go overlooked in DFS. 

Tight End

Start: Jason Witten @ New York Giants

Start tight ends against the Giants; lather, rinse, repeat. Clive Walford had 10 receiving yards all season before exploding for 4/57 against the G-Men last week. Need I say more? The TE11 on the season, Witten is a solid option for Gronk and Ertz owners in need of a replacement.

Start: Hunter Henry vs. Washington

Henry has had some maddening usage throughout the year, but per Rotoworld’s Evan Silva, he’s played over 70% of the snaps in consecutive weeks and just saw a season-high nine targets last week. Washington ranks bottom-six in yards, touchdowns and fantasy points allowed to tight ends this year. Henry has hit at least 8.5 fantasy points in four of five home games this year, establishing a solid floor to go with a high ceiling in good matchups like this one.

Other Recommended Starts:

Cameron Brate vs. Detroit: Brate has backfired on me in this spot before, but we saw last week his fantasy value is inextricably linked to Jameis Winston playing. When Jameis is on the field he clearly looks for Brate in the red zone. With Jameis back last week Brate saw his highest target total since Week 7 and scored two touchdowns. Detroit has allowed the tenth-most points to tight ends and just allowed a touchdown to Ben Watson last week. Brate’s a top-ten option this week.

Sit: Kyle Rudolph @ Minnesota

Rudolph has really picked it up over the second half of the season, but he’s still been somewhat matchup dependent and concerningly has only seen nine targets combined over the last two weeks. Carolina has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points and fewest receiving yards allowed to tight ends this year, rendering Rudolph a touchdown-or-bust option this week. This game has a low implied point total (41) and doesn’t project as a shootout.

Sit: Greg Olsen vs. Minnesota

You’re on your own starting Olsen this week. I’m always in prove-it mode with players returning from long injury layoffs and it’s incredibly concerning that Olsen was forced to leave Week 12 and then sat out last week with the same foot injury that shelved him for eight weeks. All of that is before acknowledging Minnesota has the eighth-best tight end defense on the year. Even if Olsen plays, it’s unlikely he’ll play a full complement of snaps.

Streamers/Sleepers:

Trey Burton @ Los Angeles Rams (If Zach Ertz sits): Ertz left last week with a concussion which is his second documented one, meaning it’s likely he misses this week. Burton dropped 2/41/1 when Ertz sat in Week 9 and managed a solid 4/42 line on seven targets last week after Ertz left. Even in a tough matchup, Burton is a solid play in a great offense in a game with the second-highest implied point total on the week. A 5/50/1 line isn’t out of the question.
Stephen Anderson vs. San Francisco: The Niners appear to be a tough matchup on the surface but dig deeper and you’ll see they’ve been creamed by tight ends since both starting safeties were lost to broken arms. With Ellington, Fiedorowicz, Fuller and Miller all limited or out, Anderson should be in line for a large target share in a good matchup. He saw season highs in targets (12) and snaps last week on his way to a stellar 5/79/1 line. Anderson was a receiver in college and has the athleticism to make plays. 

Defense

Start: New England @ Miami

Enjoying a complete 180 since their early season woes, New England has become a strong fantasy defense and checks in as the fourth-best unit over the past four weeks. Hitting its stride at the right time, this D scored 17 points in its last matchup with the Dolphins. Whether you think Jay Cutler is an upgrade over Matt Moore is up to you, but it’s not a debate that Cutler is someone we want to attack for fantasy purposes. New England is a top-ten option this week.

Start: Green Bay @ Cleveland

Even at home, Cleveland is an offense we can attack with fantasy defenses given DeShone Kizer‘s tendency to take sacks and force turnovers. The Packers had seven sacks last week and have the talent to take advantage of an offensive line missing Joe Thomas. Playing their best ball of the season, the Packers make for a top-12 option this week.

Sit: Baltimore @ Pittsburgh

It’s tough to sit the second-best fantasy defense on the season, and I don’t recommend dropping them with juicy matchups for the rest of the playoffs (@CLE, IND). But if you have the bench spot, it’ll be smart to keep the Ravens on the pine on the road against the Steelers. Not only has Baltimore struggled much more on the road this year outside of a date with Brett Hundley, but the Ravens just lost stud corner Jimmy Smith (achilles) for the year. That’s not a good recipe for stopping Antonio Brown.

Sit: Philadelphia @ Los Angeles Rams

Philly proved it’s certainly not matchup proof on the road last week and now gets a much tougher test in the Rams’ league-best offense. Given they’re ability to get at the quarterback Philly should maintain an alright floor, but they still don’t project as a top-12 option this week on the road in a tough matchup. This game has the second-highest implied point total of the week and projects as a shootout.

Statistics courtesy of nfl.com, rotoworld.com, Yahoo.com, fantasylabs.com, teamrankings.com, footballguys.com, footballoutsiders.com, profootballfocus.com and pro-football-reference.com

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