Start’Em Sit’Em Week 14
Amazingly, 13 weeks of what was once a highly anticipated fantasy football season have transpired quickly, and we have now reached a critical juncture. As it is officially time to begin examining your lineup options for the fantasy playoffs. Congratulations to those of you who have meticulously planned your drafts, adeptly modified your rosters throughout the regular season, and are now being rewarded for your diligence through participation in the postseason.
You should be acutely aware that it is critical to invest time toward examining the individual matchups for each performer on your roster. If you have multiple players that will be contending with unfavorable situations, it is unwise to underestimate the situation by deciding that they will still produce at a high level for you, simply 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 become accustomed to. This is not a recommendation for you to overreact to the point of thoughtlessly benching your proven starters that are facing formidable defensive units. But you should analyze the matchups, and strongly consider avoiding lineups that consist of too many players who are dealing with these arduous matchups.
Before we proceed to the Gridiron Experts Start’Em Week Sit’Em Week 14 recommendations, it is important to acknowledge anyone who will not have teams involved in the playoffs but is currently reading this column. You might have been negatively impacted by the seemingly unending cluster of injuries to critical players that have occurred this season. Maybe your team 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 will prohibit you from participating in this year’s fantasy postseason, thank you for reading this column. Remaining positive, and starting the process of preparing for 2018, could easily pay much larger dividends for you next year.
As we now focus on the roster decisions that are specific to Week 14, this Gridiron Experts Start’Em Sit’Em Week 14 column will assist with the process that is involved with finalizing your lineups. As it is designed to provide a strategic approach toward recommending your best starts, along with the players that should be excluded. Remember that the enhanced level of importance to this week’s planning process, and the various emotions that you might experience along the way, provide some of the most compelling aspects to being involved in fantasy football. Kickoffs are approaching, so let’s examine the players that are featured in this Start’em Sit’em Week 14 column. Remember to enjoy the games and good luck to everyone in Week 14.
THE FINAL CALL PODCAST EP14: Start’em Sit’em Week 14
Start’em Sit’em Quarterbacks for Week 14
Philip Rivers vs. Redskins
Just one week ago, Rivers was included among the starts in this column, prior to his favorable matchup against Cleveland’s 22nd pass defense. Rivers ultimately generated 344 yards and one touchdown against the Browns, and now enters Week 14 with the league’s fourth most passing yards (3,292), and the fourth highest YPG average (274). He has also amassed 250+ yards in seven different games, while also producing multiple touchdowns in seven contests. Now, owners can confidently use him as their starting quarterback for their critical week 14 matchups, as he should be highly productive during his. When he faces a Washington pass defense that has now surrendered 20 touchdowns, including 14 in their last seven games. The Redskins had also yielded the second most fantasy points to opposing signal callers from Weeks 7-11, before facing the bottom 10 passing attacks of the Giants and Cowboys.
This unit has also allowed at least 268 passing yards to six different quarterbacks, as Carson Wentz (268 yards/4 touchdowns), Russell Wilson (297 yards/2 touchdowns), Case Keenum (304 yards/4 touchdowns), and Drew Brees (385 yards/2 touchdowns) have all flourished against the Redskins since Week 7. Rivers should surpass 300 yards for a third consecutive game, and produce multiple touchdowns for the third time in four contests during this matchup.
Also Start: Alex Smith vs. Raiders, Dak Prescott at Giants
Cam Newton vs Vikings
You have not been starting Newton strictly as the result of his passing numbers. As he resides just 23rd among all quarterbacks in YPG average (215), is 15th in passing yards (2,583), and has only constructed a 16:11 touchdown to interception ratio. While he did generate 671 yards and six touchdowns in Weeks 4-5, he has averaged 192 YPG since that time, while failing to exceed 183 in four of his last five games. Plus, even though he has produced multiple touchdowns in five contests, he has not registered a score through the air in five different games. Since Week 6, Newton has rushed for 425 yards and three touchdowns, but the production through the air cannot be disregarded. Plus, Carolina’s steadily diminishing receiving weaponry provides yet another legitimate reason for concern. As the theoretical primary weapon, Greg Olsen has been hobbled, leaving Devin Funchess and Christian McCaffrey to supply Newton with his only dependable options in the aftermath of Kelvin Benjamin being jettisoned to Buffalo, and the abrupt conclusion to Curtis Samuel’s season (ankle). Blend these unfavorable factors with Sunday’s daunting matchup, and owners are presented with massive incentive to avoid using him this week. As he must contend with a Minnesota pass defense that has yielded the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing signal callers. The Vikings have also limited opponents to just 12 touchdowns through the air this season, have permitted multiple touchdowns to be generated just once since Week 3, and have also surrendered 300 yards only twice. They also limited Matt Ryan to just 173 yards with no touchdowns last Sunday, and anyone who starts Newton should prepare for only modest production.
Also Sit: Jared Goff vs. Eagles, Marcus Mariota at Cardinals
Start’em Sit’em Running Backs for Week 14
Dion Lewis / Rex Burkhead at Dolphins
Since he gradually confiscated the role as New England’s primary ball carrier from the formerly relevant Mike Gillislee in Week 6, Lewis has been allotted double-digit carries in seven consecutive games (11/13/15/14/10/15/15). During which, he has assembled 491 yards, averaged 5.3 YPC, and generated two touchdowns. That includes the season-high 112 yards that he produced in Week 12 against Miami. Owners should maintain optimism that he can sustain his recent workload while joining Burkhead as the only Patriot backs worthy of consideration in lineups. Burkhead bolted for two touchdowns while amassing 53 total yards against the Dolphins during that same matchup, then manufactured a season-high yards 103 total yards and two more touchdowns on the ground against Buffalo last Sunday. Both backs should flourish this week during their rematch with the Dolphins.
As Miami currently ranks 22nd against the run and has surrendered the third most fantasy points to opposing running backs since Week 8. During that span, they have also yielded a league-high rushing yards (675+), while being gashed by Lewis, Alex Collins (143 total yards), Marshawn Lynch (63 total yards/2 touchdowns), Jonathan Stewart (110), and C.J. Anderson (110 total yards). There’s absolutely no reason to hesitate using Lewis (RB2), and Burkhead (RB2/Flex) in your starting lineups this week.
Peyton Barber vs. Lions
Anyone who entered the fantasy postseason with concerns about their running back situation, yet were also able to secure Barber for their rosters, will very likely have a viable starting option at the position this week. The 23-year old back entered Week 13 having garnered just 34 touches and accumulated 129 total yards all season. But he was named the starter for Tampa Bay’s matchup with Green Bay several hours before kickoff, then instantly emerged as a high-end RB3/Flex option by rumbling for 143 total yards – even as he remained available on numerous waiver wires. While Doug Martin’s status should be monitored this week, Barber will be presented with an excellent opportunity to exploit an increasingly vulnerable run defense.
As the Lions have now yielded the third most fantasy points to opposing running backs, along with the second most rushing touchdowns to the position (13). They have also been frequently gashed for significant yardage totals, interspersed with those touchdowns. As Devonta Freeman (138 total yards/1 touchdown), Tevin Coleman (89 total yards), Mark Ingram (150 total yards), Alvin Kamara (87 total yards), Isaiah Crowell (95 total yards/1 touchdown), Duke Johnson (88 total yards), Jordan Howard (125 total yards/1 touchdown), Latavius Murray (84 rushing yards/1 touchdown), and Alex Collins (75 rushing yards/2 touchdowns). There will be an inherent risk, as Barber will be operating within an offense that can be negatively impacted by the questionable decision making of Jameis Winston. Plus, Martin could return from concussion protocol this week. However, Barber’s performance was significantly more effective than any outing that Martin has delivered this season. Which should ultimately allow owners who enter their critical postseason matchups without reliable starters at the running back position to deploy him this week.
Barber was mentioned in our Week 14 Waiver Wire Article.
Also Start: Lamar Miller vs. 49ers, Marshawn Lynch at Chiefs
Jordan Howard at Bengals
Some of you drafted Howard as your RB1, and have occasionally reaped the statistical benefits of his most productive outings. But even though you benefitted from his four games with 140+ rushing yards, your team’s scoring total has also been affected by the six weeks in which he has failed to exceed 54 yards. Which includes Weeks 12-13 when he only manufactured a dismal 48 yards in both games combined. He also averaged a paltry 1.9 YPC during those contests and has now failed to exceed 3.1 in five different games. The fact that he could only accumulate 38 yards on the ground against a San Francisco run defense that entered the encounter ranked 27th, is concerning. Plus, since Howard is essentially a non-factor in Chicago’s passing attack (17 receptions/86 yards), the impact of any substandard rushing totals becomes enhanced significantly.
This week, Howard will be contending with a Cincinnati unit that does not present an overly formidable match up. However, while the Bengals have only permitted seven touchdowns on the ground, they have also yielded the 10th most receptions to opposing backs. Which expands the possibility that Tarik Cohen will garner more touches, while simultaneously supplying Howard owners with yet another reason for concern. Another disconcerting outing from Howard this week could play a major role in concluding your season sooner than you would prefer. Which should induce owners to seriously consider an alternative option.
C.J. Anderson / Devontae Booker vs. Jets
Trusting any member of the Denver backfield requires an excursion into a multi-layered minefield for owners of either back. As the ambiguous nature of their workload distribution, combined with an unsightly collapse of the entire team, presents an excellent case for owners to avoid Anderson and Booker completely. Anderson had averaged 49 snaps between Weeks 1-4, but that number steadily declined to just 19 in Week 12. However, he reemerged as the team’s feature back last Sunday, while procuring 19 touches and generating 110 total yards. This represented a considerable departure from the pattern of involvement that had occurred from Weeks 8-12 for Booker. Which peaked with his season-high 19 touches in Week 11. However, he has only been allotted a grand total of 11 in his last two games, including a microscopic three last Sunday against the Dolphins. As a result, several weeks after it appeared that he was primed to become the Broncos’ feature back, with sufficient talent and opportunity to potentially help owners when their league championships, his value has degenerated so substantially that he can now be dropped.
Although, that does not mean Anderson is a viable starter this week either. Providing that he even sustains his Week 13 workload. As he must attempt to operate within Denver’s now highly dysfunctional offense. While attempting to generate yardage against a resurgent Jet run defense that has yielded the sixth-fewest fantasy points to running backs since Week 8. Savvy owners will avoid the potential for a nightmarish point total and locate another option.
Also Sit: Carlos Hyde at Texans, Adrian Peterson vs. Titans
Start’em Sit’em Wide Receivers for Week 14
Sterling Shepard vs. Cowboys
When the second-year receiver returned to New York’s lineup in Week 9 following a three-game absence (ankle), he proceeded to collect 16 receptions for 212 yards during his next two games. But once his unfortunate migraine issues surfaced, Shepard was sidelined again in Weeks 11-12. However, he recaptured the Giants’ WR1 role last Sunday against Oakland and overcame the presence of Geno Smith under center to collect three receptions for 56 yards. Shepard owners should be ecstatic that Eli Manning will rightfully return to spearhead the Giant passing attack, which will only increase Shepard’s chances of thriving against a Dallas unit that ranks 21st versus the pass while surrendering the third most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.
The Cowboys have also allowed a league-high 17 touchdowns to the position, although the insertion of rookie cornerback Chidobe Awuzie into the Week 13 lineup did provide a boost to their secondary. While Shepard manufactured 44 yards when facing this unit in Week 1, his role has expanded significantly. Plus, the Giants can deploy Shepard in both the slot and the perimeter during this matchup. Although they may be sufficiently enticed to utilize him extensively in the slot – where a collection of receivers have scorched the Cowboys – Larry Fitzgerald (13 receptions/149 yards/1 touchdown), Cooper Kupp (5 receptions/60 yards/1 touchdown), Keenan Allen (11 receptions/172 yards/1 touchdown). and Jamison Crowder twice (9 receptions/123 yards and 5 receptions/67 yards), Shepard should garner a favorable numbers of opportunities, and will benefit by having Manning targeting him. Enabling owners to start him without hesitation.
Marquise Goodwin at Texans
Also Start: Tyreek Hill vs. Raiders, Josh Gordon vs. Packers
Doug Baldwin at Jaguars
Virtually all Baldwin owners have habitually preserved his spot among the weekly starters in their lineups, and he has largely delivered acceptable numbers. Even though he does not dwell within the top 15 in major receiving categories beyond receptions (63). But it will be difficult for him to match his 2016 yardage total (1,128), even though he could still attain a third consecutive 1,000-yard season. While his failure to exceed 40 yards during his matchups in Week 11-12 had been disconcerting, he rebounded last Sunday by accruing 84 and a touchdown against the Eagles. But even though it is understandable for owners to be resistant toward sitting Baldwin, it is also essential to remain cognizant of the daunting task that awaits him. Then you can determine if keeping him in your lineup is worthy of the explicit risk. Slot corner Aaron Colvin has been discussed multiple times in this column, as he is nearly as stringent in coverage as teammates Jaylen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye have been throughout the season when providing unyielding coverage on the perimeter. Colvin’s impressive resume includes the constrained yardage totals of Eric Decker (32), Jeremy Maclin (8), JuJu Smith-Schuster (58), Jeremy Kerley (37), Cooper Kupp (35), and Keenan Allen (48). Plus, it is possible that Ramsey will be deployed to shadow Baldwin, as he did Larry Fitzgerald in Week 12 – when Ramsey limited the 34-year old to an anemic 12 yards. It is very conceivable that Baldwin’s numbers will be among his lowest of the season. Owners should contemplate whether they are willing to risk that likelihood by starting him.
Demaryius Thomas / Emmanuel Sanders vs. Jets
This presents a perfect example of owners needing to disregard the brand name of the players, and pivot toward focusing on their actual production. Thomas has now failed to reach 30 yards in his last two contests, is just 25th among all receivers with 678 yards, and has scored just three times. All despite being ninth overall with 107 targets. Meanwhile, Sanders has now been limited to just 38 yards in his last three games combined. Which included exceptional matchups against the burnable secondaries of Oakland and Miami. But the cautionary tale regarding Thomas and Sanders is largely based upon Denver’s dreadful situation at quarterback. In which three deficient signal callers have each possessed their own unique inadequacies that have blended to create an ongoing horror show for anyone who has a rooting interest in the success of this increasingly moribund offense. Which includes their collective failure to guide a proficient passing attack or utilize the skills of Denver’s veteran receivers.
Even though attacking New York’s 20th ranked pass defense is more logical than attempting to exploit the Jets’ improving run defense, recent performance dictates that neither receiver should be trusted to deliver acceptable production. Any owners who are still unsure regarding whether to start either member of the Bronco receiving tandem should ask themselves whether they can depend on apparent Week 14 starter Trevor Siemian (11 touchdowns/132 interceptions) to proficiently locate and accurately target Thomas or Sanders. Because you have far too much on the line this week to simply elevate either receiver into your lineup.
Also Sit: Devin Funchess vs. Vikings, Cooper Kupp vs. Eagles
Start’em Sit’em Tight Ends for Week 14
Jason Witten at Giants
Witten has managed to remain among the top seven in receptions among all tight ends during his 15th professional season (51), although he is currently beyond the top 10 in receiving yards (437), and touchdowns (4). Still, that level of production has enabled him to reside among the low-end TE1s, even though he has surpassed 61 yards only once all season. However, owners could not possibly ask for Witten to procure a more favorable matchup at the onset of their fantasy playoffs. As he will run routes against a Giant pass defense that ranks 30th overall and has failed consistently to restrict the production of opposing tight ends. As New York has surrendered both the most fantasy points, the most yards (834), and a league-worst 10 touchdowns to the position.
Witten amassed 59 yards and a touchdown against the Giants in Week 1, which places him among an expanding group that has tortured the overmatched unit this season – Eric Ebron (42 yards/1 touchdown), Zach Ertz (55 yards/1 touchdown), Cameron Brate (80 yards/1 touchdown), O.J. Howard (63 yards/1 touchdown), Hunter Henry (42 yards/1 touchdown), Jimmy Graham (51 yards/1 touchdown), Garrett Celek (67 yards/1 touchdown), and Travis Kelce (109 yards), and Clyde Walford (57 yards). If you own Witten, you can eagerly await his enticing matchup, and focus on other lineup decisions that are more problematic.
Also Start: Austin Seferian-Jenkins at Broncos, Cameron Brate vs. Lions
Vernon Davis at Chargers
Anyone who knowingly embraced the intrinsic risk that exists when drafting Jordan Reed should now be acclimated to the weekly process of locating an alternative tight end as their starter. As the talented, yet frequently unavailable Reed has now been sidelined since the second quarter of Washington’s Week 8 matchup. Many of you possessed the acumen to secure Davis for your rosters since Reed’s protracted absence has become highly predictable. But after Davis averaged 72 YPG from Weeks 9-11, he has managed a grand total of two receptions for 15 yards during his last two contests. It is equally alarming that Kirk Cousins has only targeted him three times during both games combined. As the belief that Davis can function as a dependable weekly starter is now in question. Now, this week’s matchup gives owners yet another legitimate reason for concern. As Los Angeles’ sixth-ranked pass defense had yielded the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season, before allowing David Njoku to accumulate 74 yards and a touchdown in Week 13. Still, The Chargers have only allowed two touchdowns to the position all season, have kept Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz from scoring, and have only permitted three tight ends to exceed 57 yards. The ongoing scarcity of reliable options at the tight end position could easily leave Davis owners without a satisfactory alternative. But that does not alter the fact that he should be avoided. As the insufficient level of production that he has supplied since Week 12 will continue this week.
Also Sit: Kyle Rudolph at Panthers, Jared Cook at Chiefs