With another week of NFL action behind us, and another week of fresh data to analyze and consider, I’m here to help you with some of your toughest fantasy football start/sit decisions.
If you’re ever stuck between a few players, please feel free to reach out to me on twitter (@ScottBarrettDFB) early in the week, and I’ll try to do my best to fit them into that week’s column. Here were some of your most frequently mentioned players for Week 14.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers (@ Houston) – In Garoppolo’s first start with San Francisco and only the third start of his career, he was our third-highest-graded passer in Week 13 against the Bears. Chicago has been a difficult matchup for quarterbacks all season, while his matchup this week (Houston) has been one of the easiest. Houston is allowing the most fantasy points per dropback and ranks second-worst in fantasy points per game over expectation to opposing quarterbacks.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Baltimore) – While Roethlisberger is still undoubtedly a risky play, I’m higher on him than most of my peers, ranking him as my No. 7 quarterback of the week. The matchup looks tough on paper, but Roethlisberger is at home and Baltimore will be without our No. 13-graded cornerback Jimmy Smith. Since 2014, Roethlisberger averages 14.6 fantasy points per game on the road and 23.9 fantasy points per game at home. Since 2014, (in games against Baltimore), Roethlisberger averages 11.5 fantasy points per game on the road, and 29.4 at home.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks (@ Jacksonville) – While Wilson has been the league’s best fantasy quarterback this season, leading all quarterbacks in fantasy points per game by over 2.0, Jacksonville has been the league’s toughest matchup for opposing quarterbacks. Jacksonville ranks best in fantasy points per game over expectation and best with an opposing passer rating of 65.2, which leads the league and ranks top-seven this past decade. I can get cute trying to come up with excuses to play Wilson – like how Jacksonville's two worst fantasy games to quarterbacks have come over their last three games – but really this goes back to just starting your studs, and remembering Wilson always carries additional value as runner.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Chicago) – Bernard saw 100 percent of the team's running back touches and snaps after rookie Joe Mixon left with a concussion in Week 13. If Mixon is inactive this week, Bernard teleports to the fringe-RB1-tier of my rankings. Bernard leads the team in yards per carry (4.2), while all other Bengals running backs to play a snap this year (Mixon and Jeremy Hill) combine to average just 3.3 yards per carry. The matchup is neutral at best, but Bernard should still rise far above it given a likely massive workload if Mixon can't suit up (and Hill on IR).
Alfred Morris, RB, Dallas Cowboys (@ NY Giants) – Dak Prescott injured his throwing hand in Week 13 and Jason Garrett coincidentally said on Wednesday he'd like to see Morris again receive 27 carries. Morris is averaging 5.4 yards per carry on the year and draws a Giants defense seven yards away from allowing the most rushing yards to opposing running backs this season. Rod Smith is a concern to steal work if the game tilts in favor of the Giants, but that seems unlikely with Vegas favoring Dallas by 4.0.
Mike Davis, RB, Seattle Seahawks (@ Jacksonville) – Davis was injured on the third play of the third quarter in Week 11 and played all four quarters in Week 13. Outside of that, he hasn’t recorded a snap all season. If we say he’s played just six quarters this season, he’s averaging 16.5 expected fantasy points and 14.7 actual fantasy points per four quarters. As we mentioned earlier, Jacksonville has been fantastic against the pass, but ranks fourth-worst in yards per carry (4.56). Davis is a sneaky bet for RB2 production this week.
Rex Burkhead, RB, New England Patriots (@ Miami) – Last time Rob Gronkowski sat out, James White saw nine targets (his second-highest total this season). Over the past few weeks Burkhead has assumed both the White role and the Mike Gillislee role, seeing heavy usage near the end zone (top-five in opportunities inside the 5- and 10-yard lines over the past four weeks) and as a receiver. Burkhead is due for some touchdown regression, but his current role is too valuable to pass up in a game New England is favored by 11.0 and leads the week in Vegas implied point total.
Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns (vs. Green Bay) – Start him. You can read my love letter here, but basically volume was fantastic in his first game back, as was efficiency (relative to matchup). This week he takes on a Green Bay defense allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to outside wide receivers, and that just lost cornerback Kevin King for the rest of the season and might also be without starter Davon House.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Philadelphia) – Watkins saw nine targets in Week 12 with Robert Woods out, catching four for 82 yards and a score. In Week 13 he saw four targets while shadowed by Patrick Peterson on 85 percent of his routes. Cooper Kupp has seen four more targets (17 total) over this stretch, but trades places with Watkins in drawing the tougher matchup this week. Kupp draws Patrick Robinson, our No. 4-graded cornerback and an Eagles defense allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per game to slot wide receivers. Watkins, meanwhile, runs 71 percent of his routes outside and Philadelphia is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to outside wide receivers. He’s a high-end WR3 for me this week.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, San Francisco 49ers (@ Houston) – Goodwin had a tough matchup last week, running 58 percent of his routes from Garoppolo’s left, while Chicago has given up the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing left wide receivers. Still, he rose above it, catching all eight of his targets for 99 yards. Goodwin has a strong matchup this week, as Houston is giving up the ninth-most fantasy points per game to outside wide receivers, and the fourth-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers on deep passes. Goodwin ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at his combine and leads the 49ers in deep targets. He’s a mid-range WR3 for me this week.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Detroit) – Jackson has been inconsistent for fantasy owners this season, and hasn’t flashed his typical upside yet this year. Still, I like his chances of producing against the Lions. Detroit ranks second-worst against expectation to opposing WR2s, and has given up the second-most plays of 30 or more yards (19) to opposing receivers this season. With Mike Evans shadowed by No. 12-graded cornerback Darius Slay, more targets should be funneled in Jackson’s direction this week. He’s a low-end WR3 for me this week.
Stephen Anderson, TE, Houston Texans (vs. San Francisco) – Anderson saw 12 targets in Week 13, worth 24.9 expected fantasy points, which would be the second-most by any tight end in any week this season. With C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin, and Bruce Ellington out, and Will Fuller questionable, the Texans will have little choice but to feed Anderson again. He’s a fringe-TE1 for me this week.
Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Detroit) – Brate scored two touchdowns in a difficult matchup against the Packers (fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends) last week. With Jameis Winston back under center (good for a 5.2 boost in expected fantasy points), Brate should be started with confidence as a low-end TE1 against a Lions defense allowing the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins (@ LA Chargers) – With Trent Williams and Morgan Moses failing to practice on Wednesday, it seems plausible that the only Week 1 starting offensive linemen to play in Week 14 will be Brandon Scherff. The Chargers rank third-best in opposing passer rating, fifth-best in passing yards allowed per game, and fifth-best in fantasy points per game over expectation to opposing quarterbacks.
Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings (@ Carolina) – We like to target Murray in games Minnesota is projected to hold a sizeable lead or against defenses susceptible on the ground. Carolina qualifies in neither category, allowing the sixth-fewest rushing fantasy points per game to opposing running backs and Vegas spotting them only 3.0 points.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos (vs. NY Jets) – Last week against Miami, Anderson saw his highest snap share since Week 4, totaling 15 carries and seven targets. Still, Anderson should ride the bench this week, given the tough matchup – no running back has scored more than 12.0 fantasy points against the Jets since Week 4.
Josh Doctson, WR, Washington Redskins (@ LA Chargers) – This week we're projecting our No. 1-graded cornerback Casey Hayward to shadow Doctson. Hayward has played on 92 percent of the team's snaps since Week 6, and is allowing just 3.8 fantasy points per game into his coverage over that stretch, despite shadowing some of the league's best receivers.
Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans (@ Arizona) – If Rishard Matthews plays this week, Davis likely returns to his low-upside role on a run-first team that likes to evenly distribute the ball amongst its receivers. If Matthews plays, Patrick Peterson likely sticks to his side. If not, Peterson might shadow Davis. Either way, Davis hasn’t had a double-digit fantasy outing since Week 1, and ranks third-worst of 88 qualifying wide receivers in WR Rating. He's better left on your bench this week.
Vernon Davis, TE, Washington Redskins (@ LA Chargers) – Over the past two weeks, Davis has seen only three targets to fellow tight end Niles Paul‘s eight. That alone would keep him out of consideration, but the matchup is difficult as well, considering the Chargers are allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Continuing with our theme of benching players on the Redskins, Davis should not be started this week.
Jared Cook, TE, Oakland Raiders (@ Kansas City) – Cook totaled just 3.1 fantasy points over the past two weeks, against two teams ranking bottom-five in fantasy points allowed over expectation to the tight end position. So, obviously, he’s not in play against the team ranking best by the same metric.