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Fantasy Football Week 14: Start ’em, sit ’em

Sit and start is relative and league dependent, so consider some of these suggestions more “fliers” and “fades” (note that some are targeted for DFS).

Good luck with your Week 14 lineups.

Las Vegas Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs

Start in DFS: Josh Jacobs ($17), Tyreek Hill ($30)

Jacobs led all running backs in target share (25 percent) last week when he racked up a career-high nine catches. With Kenyan Drake suffering a season-ending ankle injury (and Jalen Richard on the COVID list), Jacobs should continue to see a greater role as a receiver moving forward (especially with Darren Waller banged up). Kansas City’s defense has played better recently, but they also just allowed Javonte Williams to finish as fantasy’s top-scoring back last week. Jacobs’ salary is a bargain given his new expanded role.

There’s an argument Kansas City’s defense is better than its offense right now, but the one good game over the last six from Patrick Mahomes came against this Raiders defense, whose defensive coordinator Gus Bradley seemingly refuses to change schemes (Cover-2 has been slowing KC). Hill is coming off a quiet performance but averaged 12.5 targets over his previous four games, and these teams employ two of the fastest paces in the league. In a DFS slate with fewer top options than usual, Hill’s salary is worth paying up for.

New Orleans Saints @ New York Jets

Start: Taysom Hill, Keelan Cole

Hill’s risky while playing through a finger injury, but he finished as the QB6 last week despite throwing four picks in his first start while also missing his center and tackle against a tough Dallas defense. The Jets struggle mightily stopping the run, and the Saints enter off a mini-bye having last played Thursday. Because of his running, Hill is among the all-time leaders in fantasy points per dropback, so he’s hard to sit if active in a terrific matchup (Hill could lead New Orleans in rush attempts Sunday with Mark Ingram and Ty Montgomery on the COVID list and Alvin Kamara coming off missing a month with a knee injury).

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This is more of a deep flier (or DFS $10 minimum play), but if Elijah Moore sits, Cole becomes an option with Corey Davis also sidelined and facing a pass-funnel Saints defense that ranks first against the run in DVOA while allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to receivers. Zach Wilson showed signs of life producing three touchdowns over the first 20 minutes of last week’s game too.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans

Sit: Everyone but James Robinson

Robinson is likely to get fed after last week’s debacle and Trevor Lawrence publicly backing him, but all other Jacksonville players are thin fantasy starts given the coaching situation and quarterback play. While Robinson remarkably leads all players in rushing yards over expectation, Lawrence has been the league’s worst “pure dropback” passer by a mile.

The Titans are also tricky for fantasy managers despite the ostensibly favorable matchup, as the team’s backfield could easily become a three-way committee with Jeremy McNichols rejoining D’Onta Foreman and Dontrelle Hilliard and is up against a Jacksonville defense that defends the run well. Moreover, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine is tough to recommend as a sleeper with Julio Jones expected back, while Jones is tough to trust before a “prove it” game in which he actually lasts four full quarters.

Someone on Tennessee will have a nice fantasy game this week, but good luck guessing whom.

Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns

Start: Devonta Freeman, Jarvis Landry

Freeman somehow finds himself the clear lead back on a Baltimore team struggling to pass. He’s one of only three RBs in the league with 100+ touches without a fumble or drop this season. Freeman is a top-20 fantasy back this week.

Baltimore Ravens' Devonta Freeman

Devonta Freeman seems to be the undisputed lead back on Baltimore’s offense. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

Baltimore’s secondary took yet another hit with Marlon Humphrey suffering a season-ending injury last week (joining Marcus Peters on IR), and the Ravens have become arguably the league’s top pass-funnel defense. While Cleveland will try to run, it’s also possible Baker Mayfield emerges from the bye healthier.

Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Austin Hooper are all sneaky fantasy options this week given Baltimore’s decimated secondary.

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers

Start: Russell Gage, Panthers D/ST

Stephon Gilmore covered Kyle Pitts plenty when these teams met earlier this season, whereas Gage’s matchup looks favorable; Carolina has allowed the second-most fantasy points to the slot over the last month.

The Panthers enter with the second-best pressure rate and getting the fourth-best EPA/play on defense this season, and they face DVOA’s 31st ranked offense at home. The Falcons have allowed the most fantasy points to defenses this season and will still be missing Calvin Ridley, while Carolina’s defense enters healthy coming out of a bye.

Matt Ryan has a 1:5 TD:INT ratio (with four fumbles) over the last four games, so I have the Panthers ranked as my No. 2 D/ST this week.

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Football Team

Start: Ezekiel Elliott, J.D. McKissic

Elliott looks like a shell of his former self while playing through a knee injury, but any thoughts about benching him should end with news of Tony Pollard’s foot injury, which certainly seems likely to keep him out of Sunday’s game (or limit him at best). Washington’s defense has played much better lately, but Elliott will benefit from Dallas’ offense finally getting fully healthy (other than Pollard).

You’ll need to monitor McKissic’s status while returning from a concussion, but he’ll be a sneaky fantasy start if active. Antonio Gibson has been worked extremely hard recently, and Sunday’s game script should call for more passing-down work from McKissic with Washington underdogs.

Seattle Seahawks @ Houston Texans

Sit: Russell Wilson

Start: Texans D/ST

Wilson continued to struggle, managing just 6.2 YPA last week and refuses to run this season. Houston ranks No. 6 in pass defense DVOA, and game script could be a problem with Seattle content to run while the Texans fail to score many points.

It’s unclear how much the finger injury is to blame, but Wilson’s struggles have Seattle’s offense looking truly broken at times. The Seahawks have allowed the second-highest sack rate this season, so Houston is a widely available flier and a cheap contrarian DFS ($12) option this week.

Detroit Lions @ Denver Broncos

Start: Amon-Ra St. Brown

Start in DFS: Javonte Williams ($26)

St. Brown has a 95%+ snap share in each of the last two games while emerging as Detroit’s WR1, including a top-12 finish in WOPR last week. D’Andre Swift is out again, while T.J. Hockenson is questionable, so Brown could once again be looking at double-digit targets in a game in which Detroit is double-digit underdogs.

The all-time leader in fantasy points per game started, Williams is going to be in pretty much all DFS lineups if Melvin Gordon sits again this week. The rookie more than lived up to the hype last week and leads all runners in missed tackles forced per attempt this season. This week the Broncos are 10-point home favorites against a Detroit team coming off its first win of the season and allowing the third-most fantasy points to running backs.

Especially in a slate missing a bunch of the usual DFS stars (Jonathan Taylor, Dalvin Cook, Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, Gardner Minshew), Williams is an option even if Gordon returns (possibly in a limited capacity).

New York Giants @ Los Angeles Chargers

Sit: All Giants but Saquon Barkley

Start: Chargers D/ST

It will be either Mike Glennon without practicing or Jake Fromm at QB, making it tough to use Giants skill position players who are less than 100 percent (their entire WR room). That also includes Barkley, who’s worth bench consideration while continuing to battle an ankle injury that was wrapped heavily this week in practice and facing an LAC defense defending the run better lately.

The Chargers are dealing with a COVID outbreak, but $13 screams out for a team that’s double-digit home favorites. The Giants have been destroyed by injuries on offense and got just 3.9 yards per play while failing to score a touchdown last week.

Buffalo Bills @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Start in DFS: Stefon Diggs ($29), Tom Brady ($34)

In a matchup with this week’s highest total (53.5 points) and with Buffalo underdogs and almost no chance of running with any success, it’s easy to project a dozen targets for Diggs. He’s averaging 89.8 yards on the road this season (59.8 at home), and Sunday’s weather forecast looks nice in Tampa Bay. Diggs has a strong argument to be ranked as fantasy’s WR1 this week.

Brady was the No. 2 fantasy QB in Week 13, and yet his salary is nearly 20 percent lower despite returning home, where he’s thrown six more touchdowns in two fewer games than on the road. Buffalo comes in with the league’s top-rated pass defense but has benefitted greatly from the NFL’s easiest schedule and is now missing star corner Tre’Davious White. The Bills will be traveling after playing a crazy Monday night game, while Brady is averaging four TD passes and 316.8 passing yards at home this season (and historically performs significantly better when he has Rob Gronkowski).  

San Francisco 49ers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Start: Jeff Wilson

Start in DFS: Tee Higgins ($19)

Wilson comes with risk, but he’s an option as the favorite to start Sunday while the 49ers deal with so many injuries in their backfield. Wilson’s knee flared up last week just a little more than six months removed from meniscus surgery, but he’s been practicing fully. Wilson is a clear downgrade from Elijah Mitchell but an upgrade over JaMycal Hasty and capable of playing all three downs (and has dominated GL work in the past), so he’s a sleeper with Kyle Shanahan wanting to run every play.

George Kittle ($23) has been getting the money targets and is in another possible eruption spot

Ja’Marr Chase ($28) is also a strong play and due for a blowup game after suffering a bad drop last week, but his salary is 33% higher despite Higgins having a higher target share since returning in Week 5. Since Cincinnati’s Week 10 bye, Higgins’ air yards share (43%) has blown away Chase’s (28%). Higgins has also been targeted more on a per route basis this season. Joe Burrow’s finger didn’t look ideal last week, but he’s been throwing without issues in practice. The 49ers just lost their top corner Emmanuel Moseley and enter ravaged by injuries in their secondary.

Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers

Sit: All Bears but David Montgomery

Start: Packers D/ST

Darnell Mooney can be used if needed, but his outlook got worse with Allen Robinson returning to practice and Justin Fields returning to play QB. Green Bay is playing good defense and is the biggest favorite of the week coming out of its bye for a home game on primetime Sunday night.

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Justin Fields has a bright future, but he’s totaled just five touchdowns with 10 turnovers while taking 29 sacks over eight starts. He’ll also be playing with limited practice and lingering pain from his cracked ribs, so the Packers are my top fantasy defense this week.

While both Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon can be started in this matchup (although Akiem Hicks returning to practice doesn’t help), Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a flier after more than doubling Davante Adamsair yards share over the last two games (and Adams is currently dealing with a hamstring injury).

Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona Cardinals

Start: Sony Michel

Sit: Zach Ertz

Even if Darrell Henderson returns Monday night, he may have lost the Rams’ feature back job to Michel, who had more carries last week (24) than Henderson has ever had in a game during his career. He’s a risk given the uncertain Henderson situation, but Michel led the NFL in yards per touch last season and appears to be a better fit for Sean McVay’s system. The Cardinals rank third in pass defense DVOA yet have allowed the second-most YPC (4.7) this season, so Michel has the right matchup to run away with LA’s lead role.

Ertz remains a top-10 TE in ECR despite reaching double-digit PPR points just once since Week 7 (admittedly, he was fantasy’s TE1 that game). The Cardinals now have a healthy Kyler Murray, but that resulted in just two targets for Ertz last week with DeAndre Hopkins returning as well. I like the Cardinals on Monday night, but I don’t have Ertz as a top-15 TE this week.

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