Analysis Paralysis: Week 14 Start & Sit
Three months after we all left our drafts thinking we had the best team in our league, here we are. The pinnacle of the fantasy football season. Whether you drafted well and hit on all your sleepers, lost all your stars to injury and made great waiver pickups, or just ran into some good schedule luck, you've made it to the fantasy playoffs (or have one crucial game left to do so).
Now don't screw it up!
The decisions you make this weekend will decide whether or not you advance, and there's no room for error. Whether you went undefeated or you barely squeak into the playoffs, you won't have any lineup decisions to make next week if you don't make the right ones this week.
I'm not trying to scare you, I just want to see you all back here next week, so I'm giving it to you straight. Just keep doing what you've been doing to all season to make it this far and crunch as many numbers as you can, get as much input as you can, and use as much different information as you can to help lead you to the right decision. No pressure or anything.
(In all seriousness, though, these next few weeks are why we spend all season agonizing over every piece of fantasy minutiae, so make sure you take it all in and have some fun with it - no matter how stressful Sunday and Monday are going to be.)
And with that, here are the Week 14 players who I think deserve to be in your lineup (or on your bench):
12-Pack of Goodness
(12 players who are primed to outplay their normal value this weekend)
Joe Flacco: Don't look now, but Joey Football (I just made that up) is leading his team to another late-season run and is getting one of his favorite weapons back this weekend in Dennis Pitta. Factor in a matchup that is the best possible fantasy matchup that a quarterback can have, and you've got a week in which Joe Flacco is a Top 12 quarterback in my book.
EJ Manuel: I can't say that I would bet my mortgage on Manuel having a good game this weekend, but I would say that the odds are in his favor against a Buccaneers defense that has allowed 20.8 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks over its past eight games. Manuel is coming off two straight games with 17-plus fantasy and should be able to find himself at least 15 points against the Bucs.
Ray Rice: I should just dig up what I wrote about Rice three weeks ago when he played the Bears, but I'll try to rephrase it just to keep things fresh. If you were thinking about benching him out of spite this week, please don't. I know his 2.9 yards per carry stink. I know he's only scored four touchdowns. I know he's only scored double-digit fantasy points three times all season. But he's playing a Vikings defense that has allowed more than 135 yards on the ground each of the past two weeks and should be able to come close to the 20 points that he put up against a bad Bears run defense.
Steven Jackson: Jackson is probably a start in most people's minds, but I figured I'd include him just in case you're still feeling jilted from his season-long struggles. SJax finally reminded us all why we drafted him so early with back-to-back productive weeks and gets to face a Packers run defense whose wheels are falling off right now. The Cheeseheads have allowed 150-plus rushing yards to opposing running backs in four of their past five games and were absolutely dominated on the ground in their last two games, allowing more than 200 rushing yards in each. Feel free to start Jackson with confidence this week.
Willis McGahee: With Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo out for the season, the Patriots can't stop anyone on the ground right now. They've been absolutely gashed by Knowshon Moreno and Ben Tate over the past two weeks, and while McGahee isn't in the same ballpark as either of those players, he should be able to provide some value if he comes close to the 14 carries that he had last week.
Roddy White: Like his Steven Jackson, White is another player who his gun-shy owners might be wary about starting. Well, don't be a worry wart about White (say that five times fast) as he finally looks healthy, is coming off a big game in which he caught 10 passes and faces a bad Packers pass defense this week. Roddy could a sneaky Top 15 wide receiver this week and reward his patient owners who were starting to think that they had wasted their third or fourth round pick.
Kendall Wright: The targets have been there. The receptions have been there. The yards have been there. But the the touchdowns haven't. If Kendall Wright had four more touchdowns this season, he'd be up there in points with Wes Welker, Victor Cruz, Larry Fitzgerald, and Pierre Garcon. But he doesn't and that's mainly because his red zone targets have been limited. He's seen an uptick in his red zone usage over the last four weeks, however, and should be able to capitalize on a matchup with a Broncos defense that has allowed an average of 26 fantasy points to opposing receivers over its past two games.
Dwayne Bowe: I think this is the fourth straight week that I've written about Bowe, and he still hasn't let me down yet. Before you start telling me that he only had five points last week, let me point out that he had a touchdown called back by a holding penalty, so he still (sort of) did his job. Bowe posted 51-57 yards each of the past three weeks and would have a touchdown in each of those games if you give him the touchdown from last week. The Chiefs face a sieve-like Redskins pass defense this week, and Bowe should be able to post the 11 fantasy points he has (or should have) posted each of the last three weeks.
Jared Cook: Does Chip Kelly play fantasy football? Zach Ertz and Brent Celek tested out the "start your tight ends against the Cardinals" theory last week and it paid off with three touchdowns split between the two tight ends. Cook and the Rams get the Cards this week, and while Cook scares the bejezus out of me, he's still getting targets and has a touchdown in two of his past four games. I feel pretty good about following the theory again this week.
Ladarius Green: Speaking of bad against tight ends, the Giants (the Chargers opponent this week) have allowed three touchdowns to tight ends over the past two weeks. The Chargers played Green and Antonio Gates in a two-tight end set for the majority of the game last week, and Green responded to his increased playing time with 45 yards and a touchdown (to go along with 80 yards and a touchdown from the previous week). Green has seen five and six targets, respectively, in his last two games and should be able to produce low-end TE1 numbers if he sees a similar amount of looks this week.
Raiders D/ST: Remember when I used to make fun of the Jaguars and tell you to start whichever D/ST was playing them that week? Well the Jets have become the new Jaguars, and the Raiders get to benefit from that matchup this week. I wouldn't call the Raiders are a great defense, but if the Jets last three weeks are any indication, the Black and Silver should give you at least 15 points this week (I know it doesn't work like that, but still... ).
Falcons D/ST: All bets are off if Aaron Rodgers plays, but it's looking like he won't, so I'd have you think back to what was on TV while you were eating turkey and stuffing last week (hint: it was Matt Flynn absolutely stinking up the joint). The Packers offense allowed 21 fantasy to Detroit last week, and while the Falcons defense is just plain bad, they should be able to take advantage of Flynn (assuming he starts again).
6-Pack of Sorrow
(Six players you should think about benching if you have better options)
Colin Kaepernick: If I told you that you got 9-10 fantasy points out of your quarterback in your fantasy playoff matchup, would you be happy? Well, that's average of what the Seattle defense has allowed to opposing quarterbacks per game this season and Kaepernick put up less than that (five) the when the 49ers player the Seahawks in Week 2. I know you drafted him in the first five or six rounds, but there are better quarterback options than Kaepernick this week. Trust me.
Andrew Luck: Luck is finishing his 2013 campaign on a bit of a downswing, as he's now scored 13 fantasy points or less in three of his past four games. Luck has the misfortune of having to visit Cincinnati this week, and before you Cincinnati-ians (is that a word?) get mad at me, I'm not making fun of your city (I love your chili). I'm just looking at how the Bengals are only allowing an average of eight fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks when they play at home this year. I'd probably pick Luck as one of the first players to start an NFL franchise with right now, but I wouldn't want him quarterbacking my fantasy team in Week 14.
Any Saints Running Back: Can you predict which Saints running back will be the most productive this week? If you just answered yes, I'm also looking for someone to manage my 401K, so please shoot me an email. Outside of the fact that it's basically impossible to predict whether Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, or gulp, Mark Ingram will be Saints running back to own this week, they have to face a Cardinals defense that is the only team in the league that has held opposing fantasy running backs to an average of single-digit point totals each week. Thanks, but no thanks.
Marques Colston: He's finally seeing targets, but Colston just still isn't really producing. He's put three straight games of single-digit fantasy points and only has two games in double-digit points all season. The Saints also face a Panthers defense that has only allowed three touchdowns to wide receivers all season, and Colston doesn't exactly make me feel all warm and fuzzy about him being the guy that scores the fourth.
Charles Clay: I'm the treasurer of the unofficial Charles Clay Fan Club, but even I'm sitting Clay this week. The Steelers are the fifth-best defense against fantasy tight ends and have held opposing tight ends to a "whopping" 2.67 fantasy points per game over the last three weeks. The only tight end that has really had a good game against the Steelers is Rob Gronkowski. And as much as I like Clay, he is no Rob Gronkowski.
Titans D/ST: You want an average of 0.2 fantasy points out of your D/ST each week? Pick up and start whichever D/ST is going up against the Broncos every weekend. The Titans have the misfortune of being next on the list of Peyton Manning's victims and don't belong anywhere near your starting lineup.
That's it for this week, but leave any start/sit questions you have in the comments section below and I'll make sure to get back to you before Sunday. Good luck in your playoff matchups this weekend!