By Marcus Drake
For most fantasy leagues, Week 14 is a special time of the year. Now surely you didn’t work so hard and study your team all year long to ensure a playoff spot just to lose in the first round, did you? Of course not.
I’m here to inform you of the players with low-risk matchups, as well as players with unfavorable matchups, because nobody likes to see 3 points on the scoreboard in that flex spot (other than your opponent).
Of course, this article will not include players such as Antonio Brown and Todd Gurley, so a hint of common sense is required to make full use of this article. If one of these “starts” is, say, a bruising running back that loves Skittles, you shouldn’t start said Skittles lover over Gurley just because his name is in this article. You must evaluate your team and this article and figure out if any guys here have a home on your starting lineup.
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Start ‘Em Quarterbacks
Alex Smith (KC vs. OAK) — Last week, Smith exploded to the tune of 366 yards and 4 touchdowns, not to mention a uncharacteristic 70-yard rush. While I don’t think quite that kind of production is in store this week, it’s a good matchup going up against a porous raiders secondary that has allowed over 20+ per game to quarterbacks on average this year. Let’s not forget what Smith did to the Raiders in Week 7 — 342 yards and 3 touchdowns would be a performance any fantasy GM would be smiling about.
Philip Rivers (LAC vs. Redskins) — How about them Bolts?! At the beginning of the year, this team looked like they were headed for a top 10 draft pick. Now the Chargers could very well end this week atop the AFC West. With a plus matchup at home this week against the Redskins ,who are surrendering on average 19+ points a game to opposing quarterbacks, look for Rivers to stay hot as he looks to lead his team, and yours, through the playoffs.
Sit ‘Em Quarterbacks
Cam Newton (CAR vs. Vikings) — This is a tough pill to swallow for a fantasy owner, I get it. Cam just isn’t trust-worthy enough going up against the Vikings this week for me. Last week against the Saints, he put up a nice 24 points but that was only the second time he cracked the 20+ threshold in his past 6 games. Going up against a Mike Zimmer defense that is playing really well, averaging a staggering low 14.5 points a game to quarterbacks this year. If I own Cam I’m looking elsewhere for this pivotal Week 14 matchup.
Marcus Mariota (TEN at Cardinals) — Talk about unreliable … Hopefully you’re not in the fantasy playoffs without another option here. He had over 20 last week against Houston but that was only the second time all season. He’s also only had two multi-touchdown games all year and to top it all off, he’s gone two games in a row with 185 passings yards or less. Add all that up and you’ve got a player that should be in the deepest spot on your bench for the playoffs.
Start ‘Em Running Backs
Marshawn Lynch (OAK at Chiefs) –– Beastmode has finally returned! He has 48 touches his last two games, which were against the Giants and Denver. In those two games combined he has over 34 points. And with a Chiefs matchup where they have allowed a rushing touchdown in 5 of their last 6, I expect Lynch to find the end zone and have a busy afternoon. Oh, yes, and Lynch was ejected the first time these two teams met for making contact with a official, so maybe he’s got a little extra motivation going into Arrowhead this week.
Alfred Morris (DAL at Giants) — Last week, anyone that picked this guy up to replace Zeke or just to find a productive running back for the playoffs couldn’t have asked for much more from Morris: 27 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown. I’ll take that everyday of the week and as many times as possible on Sunday. Now, with a matchup against the Giants in store, this recent success should continue as the Giants have surrendered back-to-back 100 yard games to Samaje Perine and Marshawn Lynch and I’m calling for a 3rd this Sunday.
Sit ‘Em Running Backs
Demarco Murray (TEN at Cardinals) — At some point this year I expected Henry to take over, but it’s been a pretty even split which, unless you’re the Saints, usually means you destroy the value of either running back. Murray has been banged up a bit this year, but even still he has just one game with double digit fantasy points in his past 6 games and his yards per carry average this year is abysmal. He’s going into a tough matchup against the Cards, who are the 5th best team in the NFL against the run. Murray is a soft flex play with some upside but if you have Henry, I like him over Murray this week and beyond.
Orleans Darkwa (NYG vs Cowboys) — Darkwa has been one of the best waiver pickups of the season. This week, though, with Sean Lee returning to the Cowboys, I expect running room to be scarce, as this guy is a real difference maker for the defense. Also, over the last two games, Darkwa has only 12 points between the two contests. He’s merely a flex play for me this week.
Start ‘Em Wide Receivers
Josh Gordon (CLE vs. Packers) — The Alpha Dawg returns the pound! Last week, Gordon had 11 targets for 85 yards in a bad matchup against a good Chargers defense. This week, he draws the Packers on his home field, and Green Bay is 4th against opposing wide receivers. Look for Gordon to put on a show for the home crowd that has sorely missed him on the playing field.
Mike Wallace (BAL vs. Steelers) — Revenge game? Wallace has really come on as of late, scoring a touchdown or eclipsing the century mark in 3 of his last 4. With Maclin banged up this week, an uptick in volume could be looming for Wallace, who has emerged as the No. 1 target for Flacco. Also worthy of note is that the Steelers will be without star linebacker Ryan Shazier. While this might not directly affect Wallace, it will greatly weaken the defense as a whole and make life easier for Flacco.
Sit ‘Em Wide Receivers
Josh Doctson (WAS at Chargers) — Yes, the TCU product is getting some touchdowns but nothing else. It seems like every game he has 4 targets 2 catches for 25 yards and a touchdown. While there is nothing wrong with 9 points in the flex, you really are looking for a more reliable play this week and that is not a word associated with Doctson at this point in his career.
Demaryius Thomas (DEN vs. Jets) — This one boils down to quarterback play, and Trevor Siemian just hasn’t been able to consistently make it work with Thomas this season. Thomas hasn’t hit paydirt nine games this season with Siemian. While it is a good matchup against the Jets, I can’t bring myself to trust him in Week 14. He’s nothing more than a WR3 for me this week.
Start ‘Em Tight Ends
Hunter Henry (LAC vs. Redskins) — Man, how good has this kid been recently? In his past two games, he has 12 catches on 14 targets for 157 yards and a touchdown. With a red hot Rivers throwing him the ball in a good matchup against the Redskins, who have allowed a tight end score in 4 of the past 5 games. He should continue to produce at a high level and is a must start this week.
Cameron Brate (TB vs. Lions) — This guy missed Winston maybe more than anyone else on the team. With Fitzpatrick throwing him the ball he had 2 catches on 8 targets over 3 games. With Winston back now, Brate swiftly became the red zone monster he was in the beginning of the season I don’t see that changing and as long as Winston stays healthy he’s a must start.
Sit ‘Em Tight Ends
Charles Clay (BUF vs. Colts) — It looks like Nathan Peterman will draw the start as the Bills quarterback this week against the Colts. If that wasn’t enough cause for alarm, Clay, since returning from his own knee injury, has had a combined 11 fantasy points over his last 4 games. He’s not trustable in the playoffs.
Tyler Kroft (CIN vs. Buccaneers) — He’s a very touchdown dependent tight end that excels in good matchups. He doesn’t have a great matchup this week against the Bears and without the plus-matchup feeding his touchdown upside, he’s simply too risky of a play for me.