Start’Em Sit’Em Week 14
Another fantasy football season has unfolded, seemingly at a breakneck pace. As the spring and summer that were packed with draft preparation then evolved into a regular season that transpired with greater swiftness than many of us might prefer. Yet, here we are, face-to-face with the postseason. For those of you who did, in fact, begin planning your 2016 drafts immediately after the 2015 season ended, you are commended for your efforts. As months of planning included research, mock drafts, and any other tools that you could access, which eventually escorted you into the actual draft process.
Then, you spent the past few months meticulously managing your rosters. All toward the goal of winning fantasy championships. Some of you have taken a critical step toward accomplishing that objective by qualifying for the playoffs, with many leagues beginning their postseason this week, while others will commence in Week 15. Congratulations to all of you who will be participating. This initial postseason version of Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em is designed to help construct your best plan for this week’s crucial contests. This is also the case if you who are in a position to seize a spot in the playoffs by winning this week.
With so much effort already expended, you do not want to unwittingly lay the foundation for your team’s demise by failing to continue the thorough preparation that you have undertaken for nearly a year. Which leads us to my ongoing recommendation that you carefully examine your matchups this week even more than ever. Make sure that you are completely confident in starting any of your players that have difficult matchups this week. If there are more than two players in this category, it is unwise to underestimate the situation by deciding that they will still produce at a high level for you, just because they have performed effectively during most weeks of the regular season. That in itself is not a guarantee that they will deliver the level of fantasy points that you have grown accustomed to. This is not a recommendation for you to panic and mindlessly bench your proven starters if they are facing formidable defensive units. But you should examine the matchups, and strongly consider avoiding lineups that consist of too many players who are dealing with these unfavorable situations.
Before we proceed to the Week 14 Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em, it is important to acknowledge those of you who will not have teams involved in the playoffs but have still chosen to read this column. You might easily have been negatively impacted by the inordinate number of injuries to critical performers that have occurred this season. Maybe your teams had the unwelcome distinction of leading your league in points allowed. Or possibly, you were a victim of other inexplicable developments that you could not control as an owner. If too many hurdles conspired to keep you from this year’s fantasy postseason, thank you for reading this column. Remaining positive, and starting the process of preparing for 2017, could easily pay much larger dividends for you next year.
Now, let’s progress to my Start ‘Em and Sit ‘Em recommendations for Week 14. As always, no space will be devoted to elite players that you should already be planning to deploy. Instead, the focus will remain on the Start and Sit options that are more uncertain. Good luck to everyone this week. And remember to enjoy the experience, regardless of whether you are in playoff games, are one win away from the postseason or are finishing your season this week.
Start QB Jameis Winston vs. Saints
Winston has developed into a dependable fantasy option in his second season, as his 3,180 passing yards place him 11th among all quarterbacks, and his 23 touchdowns are the league’s eighth highest total. He has also produced multiple touchdowns in five of his last seven games, while forging a 14:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio during those contests. Plus, he has surpassed 260 yards in seven games, including three times since Week 10. Winston also benefits from the exceptional talent of his primary target, as Mike Evans consistently wins his matchups with opposing defensive backs, and fortifies Winston’s weekly scoring by accumulating sizable numbers on a consistent basis. This week, Winston should locate Evans and Cameron Brate with repeated success, when he directs the Buccaneer offense against division rival New Orleans. The Saints’ pass defense is less vulnerable than last year’s burnable unit that surrendered a league-worst 45 touchdowns. However, they still rank just 30th, and have allowed 277 YPG. After being shredded by Matthew Stafford for 341 yards and two scores in Week 13, this unit has surrendered multiple touchdowns to eight different quarterbacks (including Jared Goff), and has been scorched for 300-plus yards six times. Winston should be ecstatic with this Week 14 matchup.
Winston’s Upcoming Schedule:
- Week 15 – at Cowboys
- Week 16 – at Saints
Sit QB Marcus Mariota vs. Broncos
I am among the owners who seized him for their rosters and proceeded to reap significant benefits from Weeks 5-12. As Mariota passed for 21 touchdowns during those eight contests, and has now produced multiple touchdowns through the air in 10 of Tennessee’s 12 games, including each of the last eight. All of which has helped him build an impressive 25:8 touchdown to interception ratio. He has also averaged 25.8 YPG on the ground while establishing himself as a reliable QB1 in almost any matchup. However, I will not be starting him this week, and recommend that you utilize an alternative. Because he will be presented with the most difficult challenge of his breakthrough season.
Denver’s top-ranked pass defense yields just 193 YPG, is allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing signal callers (16.9 PPG), and has already limited Derek Carr, Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, and Cam Newton to less than two hundred yards this season. Allow that accomplishment to sink in, if you are still considering Mariota. Drew Brees is the only signal-caller to eclipse 300 yards against the Broncos (303), and joins Rivers as the only quarterbacks to produce multiple touchdowns against this stellar unit (during Rivers’ second matchup with the Broncos). Mariota could eventually secure a spot among the elite at his position. But any expectations that he can dissect Denver’s defense this week would be premature. Owners who keep Mariota in their lineups, are destined to absorb his lowest production since Week 4.
Mariota’s Upcoming Schedule:
- Week 15 – at Chiefs
- Week 16 – at Jaguars
Start RB Jordan Howard vs. Lions
The Lions currently rank 13th against the run and have allowed 16 fantasy points per game to running backs since Week 8. But owners should not bench Howard just because Detroit currently does not reside among the league’s most vulnerable run defenses. Instead, there is every reason to maintain confidence that Howard will take advantage of extensive volume to deliver another highly productive outing this week.
Howard’s Upcoming Schedule:
- Week 15 – Packers
- Week 16 – Redskins
Start RB Matt Forte at 49ers
He has rushed for exactly 100 yards twice this season and has generated 90+ yards on the ground in five contests. However, Forte owners have also been forced to endure several brutal outings, including three games in which he averaged 2.1 YPC or lower – Week 4 against Seattle (14 carries – 27 yards) Week 6 in Arizona (9 carries – 19 yards) Week 12 versus the Patriots (13 carries – 27 yards). But your season-long journey with the nine-year veteran should now pay dividends at the most critical time when he lines up against the NFL’s worst run defense on Sunday. San Francisco continues to anchor the bottom of NFL rush defense rankings while allowing 169 YPG. The 49ers are also yielding 4.9 YPC, and have permitted a league-high 17 touchdowns on the ground. That includes the trio of touchdowns that Howard amassed against this unit during their snowy Week 13 matchup. As a result, the 49ers have surrendered the most fantasy points to opposing rushers (28.3 PPG), which is 5.1 PPG more than the next worst run defense.
With Bryce Petty under center, the Jets will have sizable justification to place additional emphasis on their ground game and allow Forte to capitalize on San Francisco’s deficiency. There is nothing for owners to think about here, Forte should be in all lineups.
Forte’s Upcoming Schedule:
- Week 15 – Dolphins
- Week 16 – at Patriots
Sit RB Jay Ajayi vs. Cardinals
Since Week 9, Ajayi has been forced to contend with three of the NFL’s top four run defenses (Ravens, Jets, Chargers), and will be confronted by another formidable unit when Arizona journeys eastward this week. He did become one of just two backs to eclipse 100 yards against the Jets (111), manufactured 79 in San Diego, and accrued 61 yards on just 12 attempts versus Baltimore. Still, those astronomical numbers that he delivered in Weeks 6-7 (418 yards-3 touchdowns), are a distant memory, as daunting matchups and the tribulations of laboring behind an injury-depleted offensive line have negatively impacted his output. Plus, it remains noteworthy that his worst performance since Week 5 occurred when he lined up against the league’s 32nd ranked rush defense, as he only generated 45 yards against San Francisco. Even though he maintains a highly favorable workload, owners are at risk of receiving only modest results this week if they choose to deploy him. As Arizona’s aforementioned run defense has consistently restricted the yardage totals of opposing runners.
The Cardinals currently allow the second fewest fantasy points to the position (14.1 PPG), while limiting backs to the fifth lowest YPC average (3.8). LeSean McCoy (110 yards – two touchdowns), Jonathan Stewart (95 yards – two touchdowns) and Carlos Hyde (114 total yards – one touchdown) did successfully navigate through this unit. Although, Stewart (3.8 YPC) and Hyde (3.5 YPC) required a massive workload to attain their output. Otherwise only one other back has rushed for 70 yards, and none have amassed 50 yards as a receiver. While Ajayi can conceivably produce respectable results, his ceiling will be compressed. Which is not the preferred scenario for owners during this critical week.
Ajayi’s Upcoming Schedule:
- Week 15 – at Jets
- Week 16 – at Bills
Sit RB LeGarrette Blount vs. Ravens
Unsurprisingly, the Ravens are yielding the fewest fantasy point to running backs (13 PPG). While three rushers have attained 97+ yards against this unit (Ezekial Elliott, Matt Forte, Isiah Crowell), the Ravens have regularly stifled opposing runners throughout the season. Including Le’Veon Bell (14 carries -32 yards), Latavius Murray (8 carries -19 yards), Chris Ivory (12 carries -14 yards), Matt Jones (14 carries – 31 yards), Jeremy Hill (12 carries – 21 yards), and Crowell during Baltimore’s rematch with Crowell and the Browns (9 carries- 23 yards). If you aren’t comfortable sitting Blount, do not expect one of his most productive outings.
Blount’s Upcoming Schedule:
- Week 15 – at Broncos
- Week 16 – Jets
Start WR’s Demaryius Thomas / Emmanuel Sanders at Titans
Both Bronco wideouts have performed adequately for owners this season while maintaining reception, yardage and touchdown totals that are relatively even. Owners have been able to rely upon the tandem consistently, even though their yardage totals have fluctuated during the year. While Thomas has exceeded 85 yards in four contests, he has also failed to attain 50 yards four times. Meanwhile, Sanders has 115+yards in two games, and has eclipsed 80 yards five times, but has also fallen short of 50 yards in five contests.
Even though Jaguar cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Prince Amukamara limited Denver’s duo to a combined 89 yards in Week 13, Thomas and Sanders should win their collective matchups with Tennessee’s beatable corners, as the Titans’ 26th ranked pass defense is allowing 270 YPG, and has surrendered 21 touchdowns this season. This unit has yielded the fifth most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers during the season (25.8 PPG), and from Weeks 9-11 led all teams in points allowed, permitting an enormous 35.2 PPG. During that three-game sequence, Tennessee was torched by Jordy Nelson (12-126-1), Davante Adams (6-156), T.Y. Hilton (5-97-1), Marquess Wilson (8-125-1), and a combined 121 yards by Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman. The Titan secondary has also been shredded for 100+ yards by Hilton (133), Stefon Diggs (103), Marvin Jones (118), and Michael Crabtree (102), and owners should enjoy having such sizable rationale for locking Thomas and Sanders into this week’s lineups.
Thomas / Sander’s Upcoming Schedule:
- Week 15 – Patriots
- Week 16 – at Chiefs
Start WR Julian Edelman vs. Ravens
Those who invested an early pick in Edelman have been forced to endure through a long, frustrating season. Edelman was ranked just 46th among all receivers in yardage through eight contests and did not generate his first touchdown until Week 8. But New England’s team leader in receiving yardage and receptions is also the most targeted Patriot, averaging 11 since Week 7, including a team-high 12 versus Los Angeles in Week 13. Edelman also reached 100 yards for the first time this season when facing the Rams, while collecting exactly eight receptions for the third consecutive week. He will receive a massive number of opportunities again this week, as it is significantly easier to achieve success attacking Baltimore’s pass defense than it is to produce yardage against their top-ranked run defense.
The Ravens have yielded 20.6 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers while allowing 18 touchdowns to the position. Edelman will maintain his integral role within this week’s game plan, and should be highly productive when operating from the slot. As he will draw coverage from the burnable Raven corner Jerraud Powers, whose deficiencies have been exploited throughout the season. Owners should not be deterred by Powers’ interception last Sunday. As Edelman should deliver excellent numbers, and could easily exceed 100 yards once again.
Edelman’s Upcoming Schedule:
- Week 15 – at Broncos
- Week 16 – Jets
Sit WR Allen Robinson vs. Vikings
Robinson owners have endured discomfort with sizable frequency this season. Both when questioning whether or not to start their under-performing receiver, and after he has failed to deliver satisfactory output when they have entrusted him. Unfortunately, that uncomfortable process continues this week, after Robinson was limited to 31 yards in Week 13. He has now manufactured anemic 73 yards on eight receptions in his last three contests combined, and his lone 100-yard performance in Week 10, continues to reach a larger degree of insignificance with each passing week. Worse, Robinson should contend with coverage from a formidable secondary once again this week. Minnesota’s fourth-ranked pass defense is yielding an even 200 YPG, and has surrendered 14 touchdowns.
The Vikings have permitted the second fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, and have not allowed a 100-yard performance this season. Only four receivers have reached 70 yards against this unit, and none have generated multiple touchdowns. Xavier Rhodes is the most likely candidate to draw coverage against Robinson and is fully capable of neutralizing him to the degree that owners would receive minimal production. Minnesota has also collected 31 sacks and should supply prolonged pressure that will only add to the myriad of concerns regarding Blake Bortles’ ability to successfully locate Robinson.
Robinson’s Upcoming Schedule:
- Week 15 – at Texans
- Week 16 – Titans
Sit WR DeVante Parker vs. Cardinals
Parker’s Upcoming Schedule:
- Week 15 – at Jets
- Week 16 – at Bills
Start TE Zach Ertz vs. Redskins
Entering Week 9, Ertz had been targeted 20 times, had only manufactured 150 yards on 15 receptions during the entire season, and failed to produce a touchdown. But during Philadelphia’s last five contests, Ertz has garnered 47 targets (9.4 per game), which has resulted in his most productive sequence of performances the season. As he has collected 32 receptions for 302 yards, and two touchdowns during that span. That includes the season high nine catches for 79 yards and a score that he accumulated last Sunday in Cincinnati. Ertz’ statistical surge has propelled his reemergence as a viable option for owners that had been without a consistent presence at tight end, now have concerns about their previous starter’s Week 14 matchup. He should deliver another productive outing this week, versus a Redskin unit that has recently struggled when attempting to contain opposing tight ends. Since Week 8, Washington has surrendered the most fantasy points to the positon (13.3 PPG), while being scorched by Tyler Eifert (9-102-1), Jared Cook (6-105-1), and Kyle Rudolph (5-69-1), and even yielding 52 yards to Jermaine Gresham in Week 13. Owners can start Ertz with conviction, as Carson Wentz should locate him repeatedly during this matchup.
Ertz’s Upcoming Schedule
- Week 15 – at Ravens
- Week 16 – Giants
Sit TE’s Dwayne Allen / Jack Doyle vs. Texans
Forecasting which tight end might receive the most opportunities this week can be problematic, but it is doubtful that either member of the duo will accomplish anything of significance during this difficult matchup. The Texans pass defense has performed proficiently, ranking fifth overall, while allowing just 208 YPG. They have also contained opposing tight ends consistently, yielding the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position (5.1 PPG). While Eric Ebron accumulated 79 yards against this unit, only one other tight end has exceeded 35 this season. Houston has contained Travis Kelce (5-34), Delanie Walker (2- 34), Zach Miller (3-14), and Martellus Bennett (2-10) while Rob Gronkowski was on a strict snap count in Week 3. Doyle did generate 53 yards and a touchdown against Houston in Week 6, but Allen was sidelined early in that contest (ankle). Plus, that was a rare touchdown, as the Texans have permitted just three to the position this season. You should avoid overreacting to their accomplishments against a Jet defense that underperformed on Monday Night. Instead, you simply must find a better option this week. Allen’s / Doyle’s Upcoming Schedule Week 15 – at Vikings Week 16 – at Raiders
Good Luck this week!
Before you go, are you streaming Fantasy Defenses or Kickers this week? Might want to check out our week 14 waiver wire and playoff advice article here. Also, it’s never too late to get your Fantasy league to vote on the purchase of league Trophy. Check out our top suggested fantasy football trophy ideas here.